Today, the special issue of the Israel Journal of Earth Sciences (56 (2-4): 2007) dedicated to “Archaeological Science in Israel” has appeared. This triple issue, which was edited by Elisabetta Boaretto, Ruth Shahack-Gross, Sariel Shalev, Ehud Weiss and Steve Weiner, contains a collection of articles that summarize what’s happening in Israel in some of the main fields of archaeological science (see table of contents here).
In the latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (34/5, Sept/Oct 2008) there is a humorous short piece that I wrote on why I strongly believe that Dr. Jones should recieve tenure at Marshall College.
Basically, I argue that although archaeology is represented in the Indiana Jones movies has little to do with actual archaeological practice, these movies have served a very important role of igniting the public’s interest in archaeology. Something, that unfortunately, many of my colleagues do not take seriously enough.
One of the most fascinating, and probably promising avenues for the study of human antiquity is the study of ancient human genetics. These studies have opened up fanstastic windows to the past, relating to diverse aspects such as unique populations groups, origin of modern humans, development of language, etc (see an example of these studies here and here). As usual, along with the interesting and important studies, there has been a lot of “bunk”, which some of you may have already come across..
In recent years there has been quite an intense ongoing discussion, and debate, regarding studies on the genetic origins of the jews and other related populations. In fact, even Nadia Abu el-Haj (know from other aspects) has been involved in this … (see some of these discussions, here and here). Also in this case, a lot of good science, and lot of very bad science, has been intertwined …
Just now, a fascinating study on the genetics of the Druze has just appeared (and summarized briefly here), which demonstrates that they are a unique, and very old “genetic refuge” – which offers a fascinating glimpse of the genetic makeup of the near east thousand of years ago.
One of the most useful tools for the analysis of complicated archaeological stratigraphy is the well-known “Harris Matrix,” developed by Edward Harris, and well-known through his important book:
Harris, E. C. 1989. Principles of Archaeological Stratigraphy. 2nd ed. London: Academic.
This last monday, Amit Dagan, one of the regular Safi staff, and graduate student at Bar-Ilan University, gave a talk about his MA thesis research, one of the regular bi-weekly talks at the lab.
Amit is researching and will publish the finds from a small site that is located about 1.6 km to the east of Tell es-Safi/Gath, which was excavated about 5 years ago by Yigal Yisraeli of the Israel Antiquities Authority. This site is apparently a small rural site dating to the Iron IIB (ca. 8th cent. BCE).
At long last, as mentioned before, the article by David Ben-Shlomo, Itzhaq Shai, Alex Zukerman and yours truly on Philistine cooking pots has appeared in the newest issue of the American Journal of Archaeology (aka AJA).
Yesterday (10/2/08) we had two noteworthy events in the lab.
The first one is that we celebrated Shira’s b-day (I believe she was 18 years old … :-), and here is a picture of her happinly cutting her b-day cake.
Shira and her cake
Following that event, Alex gave a very interesting talk about problems and issues relating to the publication of archaeological excavations. This is VERY relevant to what all of us on the Safi staff have and will continue working on for a long time, how to publish, in the most efficient but meaningful manner, the finds from an archaeological excavation. In particular, he discussed the problematic issues of the different emphases that can be placed on stratigraphic and/or architectural analysis, and how this effects the character of the archaeological report. He also discussed the very well-known, but extremely complicated issue of why and how we make typologies of various classes of archaeological finds – in particular relating to pottery.
Alex – enthusiastically waiting to start his lecture …
Today, an article appeared in the Hebrew internet newspaper YNET, which is the net version of the best selling paper Yediot Ahronot, which deals with the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath, and after giving some background information, focuses on the two phallic shaped, cultic objects from the tell. Although not all the article is completely accurate in the details about the excavation, as a wise man said, at least they spelled my name correctly (which is a lot easier in Hebrew). As usual, the best part of the article are the very funny talkbacks that go along with it, showing, once again, the special combination of humour, insanity, and border-line personality disorder that professional talkbackers uniquely display…
Always a lot of fun …
Following my faux pas in the last post, let’s try moving on to something else …
Yesterday, I received digital copies of a new article on the Safi finds that has just appeared:
Maeir, A., and Shai, I. 2007 An Iron Age IIA Phoenician-Style (?) Fluted Ceramic Bowl from Tell es-Safi/Gath: A Ceramic Imitation of a Metal Prototype. Journal of the Serbian Archaeological Society 23: 219–26.
The article deals with a unique ceramic bowl that was found in the 2001 season in the Stratum A3, Iron Age IIA destruction level, dating the late 9th cent. BCE (which we connect with Hazael’s destruction of Gath, as mentioned in the II Kings 12:18).
In the last few days, the web has been busy (such as here and here and here and numerous others) with discussions of the new Iron Age II seal that was just reported from Jerusalem, from the City of David excavations conducted by Reich and Shukron. The seal bears an interesting Hebrew name which has been read as Repaihu (ben) Shalem. Besides the various issues that were discussed regarding this seal (and the name on it), I wanted to point out one interesting point that relates to Philistine Gath and the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath.
Notice the name Rapaihu – basically it means the Rapa of Yahu. How does that connect to Gath and Safi?
Well, here it is: In the late 9th century BCE, Stratum A3, at Tell es-Safi/Gath (the level which we believe was destroyed by Hazael of Aram), a short 3-4 letter post-firing, incised inscription (as yet not fully published), was found on the body of storage jar, which has preliminarily been read as rpa’. This reading is reminiscent of the connection in the biblical narrative between the Rephaim and the Philistines in general, and the association of the enigmatic yldy hrph (roughly, “the offsprings of the rph) to several figures originating from the city of Gath (e.g., II Sam 21: 16-22).
Now isn’t that cool?!