The Tel Burna Archaeological Project 2019 Season
The site of Tel Burna is located in the Shephelah region, which served as a border between the kingdoms of Judah and Philistia in the Iron Age. A fertile area that supported agricultural production, the region became known as the breadbasket of the south and as suggested before by some scholars, we believe that the site is the best candidate for Biblical Libnah. The tel’s prominence is notable in its flat-topped shape, extensive size, and fortification which are still visible today. Survey finds from the 2009 season indicate that the city was an important entity in the Bronze and Iron Ages.
Ten seasons of fieldwork at the site, including a survey season and nine excavation seasons, have presented us with a coherent picture of the site’s past settlement history. Area A2 is located on the center of the summit of the tel, where a fortification system, which will be discussed in depth shortly, has created a flat, almost square area of 70 by 70 meters. Two areas placed along the eastern and western slopes of the summit (respectively A1 and B2), forming a section of the upper tell. Area (B1) was placed in the terrace just below the summit, to the west of the fortifications. Area G where we assume the gate was located. And Area C located on the eastern slopes of the site, where agricultural installation are seen on surface.
The main feature of the Iron Age settlement at the site is the fortification system, built around the summit. The fortifications of the summit at Tel Burna have been exposed in four squares in Area A1 and in two squares in Area B2. The wall is 1.5m wide and is built of large field stones. It is a casemate wall with approximately 2 meters between the outer and inner walls, the entire fortification system was approximately 6 meters thick, 280 meters long, and while it stands to a height of about 2 meters, it was certainly much taller in antiquity.
8th century BCE remains include not only the fortifications and related surfaces, but a large exposure of architectural elements, including portion of a Four-Room House and a flagstone pavement and beaten earth floor located on opposite sides of a partition wall. It seems these two surfaces belong to a larger structure of this period, which we have begun to expose. Pottery found on these floors includes wheel burnished pottery, Judean folded-rim bowls and LMLK-type jars. Unfortunately, these jars are not stamped, although one was recovered in a fill above these surfaces. The stamp depicts a two-winged emblem, with no writing having survived. Recently, some have suggested dating these types of stamps to the 7th Century BCE, which would be completely possible in the case of the Burna stamp, as there are 7th Century BCE remains in this same area, as will be discussed shortly. The debate on the date of the LMLK stamped handles is beyond the scope of this presentation, particularly in light of the context in which the Burna seal was found.
The 7th Century BCE remains uncovered at Tel Burna consist of a series of silos and related architectural elements. Five such silos, all lined with stone, cut into the earlier remains, and are spread over the summit. In one case, the silo reuses an earlier 8th Century BCE pavement as its flooring, while in another it cuts through the fortifications of the site, as mentioned earlier. Other than 7th Century BCE pottery, the silos yielded grain recovered through flotation of the sediments. Preliminary archaeobotanical analysis of the remains, conducted by Dr. Simone Riehl of the University of Tubingen indicates the presence of a number of crop species, with olive, free-threshing wheat and grass pea constituting the main portion of the assemblage. Other frequent taxa were barley, fig and wild, mostly weedy species. The grain is still under analysis, however, we hope that the finds from these installations will help us gain understanding on the nature and economy of the site in this period.
Area C was opened in 2015 season about 200 meters east of tell Burna’s summit. Few meters from the square on few of its sides there are rock cut installations up to 1 meter in diameter curved into the bedrock. The intention is to check the agriculture installations by the tell and to explore on what periods can we identify human activity in this area. Bedrock was hit between 10 cm to 70 cm below topsoil. Finds included many pottery sherds most of it dated to the Late Bronze and Iron Ages. Basalt grinding stones and flit artifcats were also discovered indicating the area was used as preparations and working area. By the west balk part of a circular crude ceramic installation was found (L67107) with no special finds associated with it.
Summary and Future Plans
The excavations season at Tel Burna began revealing Late Bronze and Iron Age II levels, including the fortifications and a series of silos. They provide the first step in a long-term investigation of the site’s history, particularly stressing its location along the Judean-Philistine border. This coming year, we intend to focus on the following goals:
- Continue excavation in the open squares, in order to verify the dating and relationships of the various features.
- Expanding Area A2 in order to understand the plan of the 8th century BCE building.
- Expanding the section from Area B2 and B1
- Expanding the excavations in Area B2
- Understanding the monumental building in Area G
- Expanding the excavations in Area C