Gath Dig – Day 5 – Friday, June 29

Gath Dig – Day 5

Today was my last day of digging at Tel es Safi/Gath. All went well, with some very confirming things discovered in our area. Once again, the sun was bright and temps were about 90.

Confirmation of a Gate?

Gath

The digging starts!

Most things discovered in archaeology boils down to how one interprets what is found. This implies that certain presuppositions go into deciding both where to dig and also what to dig for. One of the primary objectives in Area D East was to determine whether the hypothesis of locating the city gates here is correct. With this being the 4th season of digging in this area, the question was whether the walls and other stone (and mud-brick) structures uncovered the last three years were indeed part of a gate? So far after this first full week of digging, signs are favorable that this working theory is correct.

What was discovered specifically in our area (as well as in the adjacent square to the east of us) was a series of stones that seem to be patterned in a way that resembles both a chamber of a gate as well as the floor & steps leading into the gate. Some of these stones were massive, perhaps used as a sofsal (bench) were the gate keeper, official, or judge. Other stones were small, perhaps suggesting that these were used as the pavement or steps leading up into the city.

Gath

The digging continues

The dating of all of this covers three apparent phases: Iron Age I (the 11th century wall), Iron Age I A (the stone gate, 10th century, incorporated into the 11th century wall), and later int he Iron Age I (the mud-brick walls that, as it is suggested, were temporary walls built across the entrance of the stone gate for extra fortification against Hazael. See 2 Kings 12:17. These walls that date to the 9th century). This means that these structures are built by the Philistines who lived here up until 830 BC when Hazael destroyed the city. Incidentally, much of our work in this square was to actually remove most of this 9th century mud-brick wall in order to find out what is underneath. This wall was also built on simple fill, suggesting that built quickly.

Both archaeologists (Dr. Maier and Dr. Chadwick) are quite optimistic about what was uncovered this first full week of digging.

flint at Gath

A serrated flint piece

Among some of the finds in our square included a lot of pottery again, another oil lamp, and a flint stone used as a utility knife.

The Site Tour

Gath

The digging ends

Before leaving the site, we were led on a site tour of all the areas being excavated. We visited Areas K and M. These were brand new areas just opened up this week. By the use of magnetometryit is possible to actually see walls may be located under the ground. So far in just a week, the top of one of these stone wall structures was found just about a foot under the ground. These stone structures also link us to the Philistines.

Return to the Kibbutz

We returned to the kibbutz at 1:20. It was a successful week of digging at Gath! We left behind a huge dirt pile of earth removed from our squares. But we took with us a sense of understanding biblical history that much more! Once again, archaeology continues to confirm the historicity of the Bible!

For updates on the rest of the trip, go HERE. This site will be updated periodically over the next few weeks.

For more pictures from today, see below.

Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018
Gath es Safi archaeological dig Israel June 2018

 

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Gath Dig – Day 4 – Thursday, June 28

Gath Dig – Day 4

Iron Age wall Gath

Iron Age fortification wall at Gath

Today was another dig day. This means an early start at 5:20, arriving at the site by 5:30, and digging shortly before 6 a.m. The weather was again sunny, with morning/late morning temps in the high 80s.

Archaeological Approach

dirt pile Gath

Our growing pile of dirt at Gath

When we arrive at the site each morning, the procedure is this: Put up breakfast/break canopy; unlock chairs and tables and put them up too (seating for lunch and breaks); take all metal tools out of there trailer and that them to the area; raise the dig canopy over our area; map out a game plan for your square (in conversation with the area supervisor), and begin digging. Biblical archaeology is not rocket science, but it is science.

Archaeology is done in a way where there is certain way to dig, a certain time to use picks, hand tools, brushes, etc… There is a time to go down quickly (e.g. in order to find lower levels that may be stone walls, etc…) and a time to excavate more slowly. At all times, we are on the careful lookout for pottery, bones, and special objects.

grinding stone

A grinding stone

We also set loci (location levels) and gather pottery (and bones) into buckets from that locus. Based on the pottery and architecture uncovered (e.g. walls, whether they are mud-brick or stone), we gain a good sense of the stratification of each level we are digging through.

The Day’s Highlights

Today’s highlights in the square where I was working in were a few. First, we were able to dig through about a foot and a half of dirt today. Our objective is to hopefully find part of the gate structure that is believed to be still under us. Along the way, I have a basaltic grinding stone. This is classified as a special object. Levels were taken where it was uncovered, along with publishable pictures. Finding grinding stones is not that uncommon, but it was the first object found in our area so far.

Philistine pottery

Philistine flask

We continued to find lots of Philistine pottery as well. All totaled, we collected about 4 full buckets of pottery today, with lots of rims, bases, and bi-chrome ware. We even found a very nice top of a flash again (pictured). If we are digging in a chambered gate, the volume of pottery we are pulling from this area (maybe the gate?) should not be surprising. By the way, Philistine pottery is much different than Israelite pottery.

In our square and in the square next to us, we are hopeful that we both will be excavating down to the other side of the gate. This is at least the theory. While my last day is tomorrow, the dig continues for 3 more weeks. So hopeful some confirmation will eventually come to prove the theory correctly. 🙂

Pottery Washing & Reading

pottery from Gath

One day’s worth of pottery drying in the sun

After our watermelon break at 11 a.m., we continued to dig for another hour before packing it in for the day. We returned home for lunch and pottery washing in the afternoon. We also had our first pottery reading as well, with the experts (Dr. Erin Maeir) sitting around the table and identifying all the pottery food so far.

We also enjoyed a pizza party for dinner. Given how below par the food has been all week so far, the pizza was enjoyed by all!

Bedtime came early for most of us although some stay up and watch a World Cup soccer match. Not for this old guy! 🙂

Here are all the pictures from today.

Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018 Philistine pottery
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018 grinding stone
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018 grinding stone
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018 Philistine pottery
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018 pottery bucket
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018 fortification wall
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018 watermelon break
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018 bulk lines
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018

 

Tomorrow is my last day to dig. An update will be shared.

 

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Gath Dig – Day 3 – Wednesday, June 27

Gath Dig – Day 3

Today was another early alarm clock day, getting up about 4:45 and leaving the kibbutz around 5:20. The day would be warm, with highs in the 90s. This is one reason why all excavations take place during the morning and early afternoon hours.

Highlight Discoveries

Clay flask

A spout of a Philistine clay flask

In the square where I am digging, we have an Israeli gal (Ahuva), a German gal (Ericka), and an New Zealander (John). We are digging inside an area where there may be the outer gate of the city. It it believed that already two chambers of this outer gate were uncovered in the last few seasons. Below our square is a 12th century wall (Iron Age I or IA I – 1,200 – 1,000 BC). However, towards the end of the IA I period and into the IA II period (1,000 BC – 586 BC), a gate may have been part of the fortification wall in this location.

Gath es safi dig

Work in our square (Ericka from Germany and John from New Zealand)

We moved a lot of dirt again today, much more than every other square in Area D East. We found about 10 bases of small storage jars, a rim of an oil lamp, and a spout of a flask. All totaled, our square yielded 2.5 buckets of pottery, more than any other square in our area. All of it was either IA I or IA II.

Once again, we started digging around 5:45, with a 10 minute coffee break at 7 a.m. and breakfast at 9 a.m. At 11 a.m. is our “melon” break (watermelon and cantaloupe). While working under the shade of the canopy, the air is hot. So the fruit is a nice refreshing snack!

Pottery Washing

Philistine ware

Philistine ware

We returned back to the kibbutz for lunch. At 3 p.m., we all joined in with pottery washing. Together we scrub all the pottery from the buckets taken from the site yesterday (they sit in water for a day). Not a lot of pottery was pulled yesterday, so it did not take too long. Washing pottery is a very important task, for it’s the pottery that helps us date structures (e.g. stone or mud-brick walls, and other architecture).

The rest of the day was for napping, relaxing, dinner and going to bed early! It all starts again tomorrow at 4:45 a.m.!

For all the pictures from today:

Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation Philistine pottery
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation Philistine pottery
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation Gate chamber?
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation oil lamp
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
spout flask Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation pottery washing
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation pottery washing
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation Philistine ware
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation pottery guide

 

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s update!

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Gath Dig – Day 2 – Tuesday, June 26

Gath Dig – Day 2

Today was the second day of the Gath dig and first real excavating day. We again left at 5:20 and arrived at the site for sunrise to the east. It would be a productive day of getting into our squares.

Shade Canopy Raising

Gath

Raising of the shade canopy at Area D at Gath

Shortly after arriving and unloading the equipment & tools for the day, we raised the shade canopy. Supported by about 25 poles and tension lines, we all together raised our poles and up went the canopy. Each square now in Area D is now shaded from the hot Israel sun.

The Digging Begins

So with tools in hand (picks, tareas -hoes, hand tools, spades, and brushes, etc…), we began to dig. Each square is managed by a square supervisor. The square where I am digging is located just inside the 12th century BC fortification wall. It shows promise that this was also the location of a city gate. But we’ll see what is discovered over the next 3.5 weeks. The area supervisor is Dr. Jeff Chadwick from BYU University here in Jerusalem.

Philistine ware Gath

Philistine ware

The digging begins within each square by first getting elevation readings and then determining how to continue to dig down based on last year’s records. The objective (and hope) in our square is to get down to a level that matches the possible two “chambers” protruding from the opposite wall. By the end of the day we dug down about 8-10 inches.

Of course a dirt pile was started. We discard dirt from the squares by using small buckets. We then carry them to the wheel-barrows and then dump it in one pile. From early morning to when we left the site at 1 p.m., the dirt pile is off to a good start. :). It’s getting bigger and bigger. This is the non-glamorous part of archaeology.

Buckets for pottery and bones are also used. Each piece of pottery that comes from the squares is collected in buckets and recorded. “Special finds” (e.g. objects) will get their own identification. In our square we filled about 1.5 buckets with pottery. Some pieces were large jar handles, while other pieces were classic 2-color bi-chrome ware. This type of pottery is Philistine from the 10th century. Reddish pottery (9th century BC) is also Philistine in nature.

Back to the Kibbutz

Re returned back to the kibbutz by 1:30 for lunch. We brought back the buckets of pottery from each of the squares. We filled the buckets with water and will wash and sort this pottery tomorrow. A few lectures took place this afternoon and evening.

For a complete collection of pictures from the day:

BIT_0086
BIT_0088
BIT_0094
BIT_0096
BIT_0090
BIT_0098
BIT_0102
BIT_0106
BIT_0116
BIT_0118
BIT_0122
BIT_0090
BIT_0132
BIT_0128

 

More updates tomorrow.

 

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Gath Dig – Arrival Day – Sunday, June 24

Gath Dig – Arrival Day

Today was “arrival day” at the Gath (Tel es Safi). This is the 23rd season for this archaeological excavation. The Director for the dig is Israeli archaeologist Dr. Erin Maeir. Gath is located in the Shephelah of Judah.

Arrival

Philistines at GathWe arrived at Kibbutz Manachem. Most arrived at around noon. Some of the projects of the afternoon were to transfer the tools and equipment for the site from the storage containers near by. We also checked into our rooms, met some of the staff of the excavations, and lunch.

Tour of the Site

At 3 p.m., we bussed to the site of Gath. The tour of the entire tel was led by Dr. Maeir. We walked to the top of the site from the northern side. The site has occupation levels from Early Bronze/Canaanite (3,500 – 2,050 BC) through the Late Bronze/Canaanite (2,050 – 1,500 BC) and Iron Age I & II/Israelite periods (1,200 – 586 BC). The site of Gath was a massive city occupied by both Canaanites and Philistines. When the Philistines were here (from 1,200 – 830 BC when the city was destroyed by Hazael, the Aramean king from the north (2 Kings 12:17). The tour took nearly two hours.

Tel Gath

Tel Gath / es Safi

We returned to the kibbutz for dinner. Since we bus to the site at 5:20 a.m. tomorrow morning, it’s early to bed for most of us!

The area of excavation will be on the lower portion of the site, concentrating on Iron Age/Israelite. It is a privilege and honor to dig here this summer!

Below are more pictures from today’s tour of the site.

Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018

 

Updates will be posted every day.

 

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May 2018 Extensive Israel Tour Summary – Day 3

DAY 3 – MONDAY, MAY 7: GEZER, BETH SHEMESH, GATH, KH. QEIYAFA & ELAH VALLEY, BEIT GUVRIN, LACHISH, BEERSHEBA

(Theme of the Day: Standing strong in God) 

Today was our first full day in Israel. We were greeted with mild temps, with highs in the 70s. The morning was overcast (with a few brief showers), but the afternoon was partly sunny. Leaving our hotel along the Med Sea in Tel Aviv shortly after 7:30, we drove to the Shephelah (lowlands of Judah). We would spend the entire day here.

Gezer

Gezer

Gezer and Solomon’s gate (I Kings 9)

Tel Gezer was our first stop. Located along the Aijalon Valley, this archaeological site connects us to both the ancient Canaanites and Israelites. We read from Ecclesiastes 3 (“there is a season for everything) and I Kings 9 (about Solomon refortifying the city). Among the ruins we saw the Canaanite tower, wall, 6-chamber gate, and the water system. From the Israelite period we saw the 6-chamber gate attributed to Solomon. We even saw a replica of the Gezer Calendar discovered about 100 years ago here. Leaving the site we saw the standing stones of Gezer, most likely part of the Canaanite cultic practices.

Beth Shemesh 

Sorek Valley

The Sorek Valley from Beth Shemesh

Driving south to the Sorek Valley, we made a brief stop at Beth Shemesh. Reading from 1 Samuel 6 about the return of the Ark of the Covenant from the Philistines, we could see this incredible story come to life!  Samson was also from this area (Zorah). Although he married Delilah (from Timnah just a few miles west in the valley), God used him in amazing ways!

Gath

Gath

Gath, the Philistine city of Goliath

Continue south to the Elah Valley, we made a brief stop at Gath (Tel es-Safi). This was where Goliath was from. We also read from 2 Kings 12 about Hazael, the Aramean, who surrounded and conquered this city.  Here we saw some of the lower ruins of the city.

Qeiyafa

Qeiyafa

Qeiyafa and the Elah Valley (1 Samuel 17)

One of the newest archaeological sites is Kh. Qeiyafa. This was our next stop. Standing inside one of the city’s two chamber gates, we had a great view of the Elah Valley below. This was where David defeated Goliath. Reading from I Samuel 17, we took great joy in knowing that God helps us fight our battles of life when we entrust the difficult circumstances of life to His sovereign care. Passing by many of the ruins and casemate fortification wall, we exited through the other chambered gate. It is possible that this site was Shaaraim of ! Samuel 17:52.

Guvrin

Bell cave

The “bell cave” at Beit Guvrin

After eating lunch, we visited Beit Guvrin. This was our first national park. We walked to two caves. The first was the columbarium (designed for raising pigeons). The second was one of the bell caves. Here we listened to Shlomo share a song on his recorder. We also blended our voices together with two worship songs. The acoustics were fantastic! We also read form Micah 1 and 5 as this prophet was from this city (formerly called Moreshah).

Lachish

Lachish

Lachish

Our last stop was Lachish. This was both a Canaanite (conquered by Joshua in two days, see Joshua 10) and Israelite city. In the late 8th century BC, the city was conquered by the Assyrians. Over 100 years later, the Babylonians came and destroyed the city for good. We read from Jeremiah 34:7, a text that matches perfectly with what one of 20 ostraca (Lachish Letter #4) said. Climbing the site, we saw the double walls and gates as well as the palace (probably built by Rehoboam, see 2 Chronicles 12).

Beersheba

Following a drive of about 50 minutes, we arrived in Beersheba, the primary city of the Negev. We checked into our hotel and enjoyed dinner. We also met briefly for a time of worship.

DAY 4 – TUESDAY, MAY 8: BEERSHEBA, SDE BOKER, WILDERNESS OF ZIN, AVDAT, ARAD, JUDEAN DESERT

(Theme of the Day: Finding God in the Desert) 

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Travel to Israel’s North (en route to the June 2014 Dig)

Sunday, June 22 (travel day up to northern Israel) The morning began from Jerusalem.  I, along with Chilton and Tom, rented a car for the next 3 days en route to the north.  We left Jerusalem at 9:30 or so, and headed south and then west to two archaeological sites rarely visited.  Located between Azekah and Socoh in the Elah Valley (we first climbed Azekah for a panaramic view of the Elah Valley) is the site of Qeiyafa.  This was apparently an Israelite military outpost guarding any eastern entrance into the Hill Country of Judah and Jerusalem.  The site dates to the First Temple period, perhaps starting with David or Solomon’s reign.  The site was large, with impressive fortification walls … Continue reading