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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The Philistines at Ashkelon!

An American archaeology student unearths a skeleton during excavation works at the first-ever Philistine cemetery at Ashkelon National Park in southern Israel June 28, 2016 REUTERS/Amir Cohen

American archaeology students unearth a skeleton during excavation works at the first-ever Philistine cemetery at Ashkelon National Park in southern Israel June 28, 2016 (REUTERS/Amir Cohen) REUTERS/Amir Cohen

One of the well known stories from the Bible involve a shepherd boy named David and a Philistine giant named Goliath. The story unfolds in 1 Samuel 17.  New excavations over the last three years at Ashkelon may unlock some mysteries about who these “Philistines” were.

Philistine

A Philistine warrior as depicted on the walls of the Luxor Temple in Egypt.

A few weeks ago now, archaeologists digging at Ashkelon (a site along the Mediterranean Sea just north of Gaza) published a remarkable find that they have been “keeping under raps” for a few years now.  What they uncovered were the skeletal remains of nearly 200 ancient people who were none other than Philistines!

In Biblical times, the Philistines (“Sea Peoples” as described by the Egyptians to the south) were the archenemy of the Israelites for about 200 years.  Most likely coming from the Aegean Sea region of modern-day Greece, the Philistines inhabited and controlled the coastal region of Israel. According to the Bible, their 5 primary cities were Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath.  They are best known as battling Saul in the Elah Valley (1 Samuel 17, as mentioned above – when David defeats the Philistine giant named Goliath from Gath), and for killing Saul on Mt. Gilboa. They also stole the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 4) from Shiloh, but returned it two chapters later to Beth Shemesh. During David’s reign in Jerusalem, they continually advanced east towards the Hill Country of Judah in order to attack Jerusalem.

Philistine skeleton

An American archaeology student unearths a skeleton during excavation works at the first-ever Philistine cemetery at Ashkelon National Park in southern Israel June 28, 2016 REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Ashkelon has been a primary archaeology site now for decades.  Over the last 30 years, teams of archaeologists from a number of colleges and universities (Harvard University, Boston College, Wheaton College in Illinois and Troy University in Alabama) have been digging almost yearly here. About the Philistines who lived here, Lawrence Stager (who has recently retired from teaching at Harvard for 40 years) said, “The Philistines have had some bad press, and this will dispel a lot of myths.” Daniel Masters, professor of archaeology at Wheaton College commented, “After decades of studying what Philistines left behind, we have finally come face to face with the people themselves. With this discovery we are close to unlocking the secrets of their origins.”

HERE is a great article that tells the whole story about this ancient cemetery. I am sure in the coming weeks and months more will be published about the skeletons found at Ashkelon.

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Oct-Nov 2015 Israel Tour Day 3

DAY 3 – WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 28:

The standing stones at Gezer

The standing stones at Gezer

What a great new day here in Israel. We were greeted by some sun and clouds over the Med Sea, with temps in the 60s. Highs would be in the 70s today.

Following a great breakfast, we loaded the bus and headed to our first site, Gezer. It is the first of five Old Testament cities we would see today here in the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah. Located in the Ajalon Valley, Gezer is mentioned 14 times in Scripture. We learned of the city’s geographical importance, guarding the natural route from the south to the north. Solomon fortified the city here (1 Kings 9). We also read from Ecclesiastes 3 about the “seasons” (matching quite closely the Gezer Calendar that was found here.   On the site, we saw the Canaanite wall and tower complex the water system, and an Israelite/Iron Age gate build by Solomon, and messabot (“standing stones”) probably used for cultic purposes.

Cistern at Beth Shemesh

Cistern at Beth Shemesh

Next in the Sorek Valley, we made a brief stop to Beth Shemesh. This is where the Ark of the Covenant was returned from the Philistines. We read from 1 Samuel 6, complete with “sound effects” (e.g. “mooing” like cows). Besides some archaeological structures dating to this time period, we also descended into a cistern used in ancient days to contain water.

Continuing south in these “lowlands” of Judah is the Elah Valley. We visited a fairly new archaeological site, Kh. Qeiyafa, another site not visited by any groups. We stood in the Israelite/Iron Age “chambered gate” (the city had to of them actually) while we read from 1 Samuel 17. It was in the Elah Valley below where David fought Goliath, the Philistine giant from Gath. From here we cold also see Tel Azekah. Gath was located only a few miles west of Azekah.

Israelite gate at Kh. Qeiyafa

Israelite gate at Kh. Qeiyafa

Continuing south, we enjoyed lunch at Beit Guvrin. Following our introduction to the “Israeli sandwich” (called a falafel), we visited the Roman ruins and the amphitheater here (one of only two in Israel). From here we visited the Maresha Caves (in the Beit Guvrin Valley). Of the hundreds of caves carved here by ancient Roman quarrying, we entered two of them, the columbarium (for raising pigeons), and the bell cave. We read from Micah 1 & 5 (Micah as from Maresha), listened to Shlomo play a song for us on his recorder, and sang a few songs together. The acoustics were amazing. We also saw a young Jewish couple taking their wedding pictures here.

Bell Caves at Maresha

Bell Caves at Maresha

Our last site of the day is Lachish (in the Valley of Lachish), a city that was attacked by the Assyrians (2 Chronicles 32, Isaiah 36) and later conquered by the Babylonians.  We heard about the famous “Lachish Letters” and ”letter #4,” specifically telling us that Lachish and Azekah were the two lasting-standing Judean cities (Jeremiah 34:7). We also climbed the tel to see the place probably built by King Rehoboam (2 Chr. 11), and the city wall & gate structure.

We end the day by driving south to Beersheba located in the Negev. We enjoyed dinner and a meeting afterwards. Before retiring for the night, some enjoyed a walk around this city of 200,00 people.

DAY 4 – THURSDAY, OCTOBER 29: BEERSHEBA, SDE BOKER, WILDERNESS OF ZIN, ARAD, JUDEAN DESERT

(Regions to be visited (Negev, Wilderness of Zin, Judean Desert)

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