End of the 3rd week of the 2017 season

Yesterday, Friday, July 21st, 2017, was the last day of the 3rd week of the season. While we are still in the field next week, main activities will be a bit of excavation, and a lot of cleaning and photography – and not to mention packing up and sending materials and equipment to BIU and for storage.

Thus, what we have uncovered by now is more or less what we will have for this season – and all in all it has been a great season!

Here are some of the main points in the various areas:

Area A: In the two squares that were excavated by Louise and her team, in the eastern square then went through the early Iron I levels in what seems to be a courtyard, and had some nice Iron I finds. And on the very last day, the got through to the EB levels below this, including a restorable complete EB platter bowl. Area A, which had been excavated from the very first excavation season (1997) will be closed after this season.

Area D: Amit and his team had quite a season! In the western side, excavations in the metallurgical area revealed more and more evidence of the metal working area, including a large fragment of a bronze crucible, many tuyerres, slag, hammer-scale, and quite a nice amount of bronze and iron objects. Just next to the metal working area an additional section of the Iron IIA destruction was revealed, including an additional collection of astragali bones. And on Friday, right next to the astragali, a very unique figurine was uncovered (see pictures below). In the eastern side of the area, the area of the fortifications and possible gate continued to be excavated. These features are turning out to be so large and so complex (with at least three phases) and with many finds, that it is clear that it will take some time before we fully understand what is going on here. This is real monumental stuff! The excavations in Area D demonstrate clearly that the lower city of Gath was settled from the late 12th/early 11th cent. BCE and onwards, to be destroyed ca. 830 BCE by Hazael. And one of course should mention the very interesting inscription that was found in this area.

Area E: Shira and Haskel and their team had a very successful season. In addition to the complete donkey skeleton (the 5th or 6th that we have found) that was deposited below one of the floors of the houses in this neighborhood, we dug a deep sounding in the area. Surprisingly, even though we reached a depth of over 2.5 meters, we did not yet reach bedrock – and in fact we still were in the EB III levels! In addition to this, numerous floors, walls, contexts and installations relating to the various levels in this area were uncovered, as well as some very interesting finds (such as two bulla and a sheep figurine). Area E will also be closed after this season – although a small team may return sometime in the next few months to complete the sounding.

Area F: Jeff and his team attained all the objectives this season – and more! Levels dating to the Iron IIB, Iron IIA, Iron IB, Iron IA, LB, MB and EB were excavated. In particular, the MB and EB levels were important, as they clarified the relationship between the inside of the city and the city wall. This includes, in the last few days, clear evidence of any EB structure within and abutting the EB wall. Area F will also be closed at the end of this season.

Area J: Jill’s team opened this area this season, with the aim of defining the possible line of fortification that was seen on surface. And in fact, this is just what they did! The excavated the width of the wall in two squares, and while they did not reach floors of structures within the wall, the plan of the wall, and the clean EB pottery, enables to ascertain that this is the wall of the EB city – all the way at the bottom of the eastern side of the upper tell! And in addition, Jill’s team found a beautiful Iron Age bronze bowl near surface. Area J will also be closed at the end of the season.

Area K: Eric’s team expanded the area that was opened last year, and discovered additional walls, features, and finds relating to the final phase (Iron IIA) of the lower city. The extent of the finds makes it clear that the Iron IIA city extended far to the eastern side of the lower city. It is not clear yet whether there are earlier levels (as in Area D) below this, but time will tell. There were quite a few interesting finds from this area, including a scarab found in the last week. Needless to say, we will continue working in Area K in future seasons.

Area K2: Brent and his team worked on what looks more and more like the monumental fortifications of the eastern side of the lower city. It is comprised of three lines of almost cyclopean like stones. Interestingly, between the lower and middle lines, Brent and his team excavated strata of collapsed mudbricks and other deposits, dating to the Iron IIA destruction, possible evidence of a structure (a casemate?) between these walls. This is only the very beginning of the work in this area and we will continue working on this in future seasons.

Remote Sensing: Andy and his team did some great work this season, using magnetometry to help us understand the plan of the lower city, as well as other features in and around the site. Several very interesting features were seen the lower city, between Areas D and K, indicating the high potential future excavations in other portions of the lower city! We hope to continue conducting various remote season in and around the site and in particular in the lower city.

All in all – some great results of the season (and perhaps some more by the end of the coming week) with much promise for future seasons.

If all goes as planned, this will be the last season of excavations in the upper tell, and as of next year, we will focus on work in various areas in the lower city.

Needless to say – all the excellent work and results was possible only due to the excellent and dedicated work of the team!

Here is a field photo of the figurine:


Update for Thursday, July 20, 2017

We had a very successful day at the dig today, with some very interesting finds. In addition, we had quite a few visitors, including Ami Mazar, David Ussishkin, Lily Singer-Avitz, and Assaf and Sabine Kleiman.

This evening we will be having the end of the 3rd week party – and a lot of the team will be leaving (we will “only” be 75 next week…). So we will have an opportunity to thank all of those that are leaving for all their hard and dedicated work!

Area A: Louise’s team is deep in the Iron I in both squares, and a lot of Philistine pottery is coming out.

Area D: Various elements in the gate area are being exposed and are more and more impressive. A lot of Iron I vessels are coming up, including from very nice Philistine 1 and 2 vessel types.

Area E: A very nice zoormorphic figurine (a sheep according to Haskel) was found in today, right next to where the bullae were found yesterday! In addition, an impressive floor with a large amount of phytoliths was excavated. And, when taking down a balk, a circular installation, possibly a silo, was discovered.

Area F: Jeff’s team is excavating in a lot of periods, but perhaps what is most exciting is the possible wall from the EB, built up against the inside of the EB city wall.

Area J: The city wall is more than 3 meters thick! Looks like we can say that we have found the EB wall in this area!

Area K: Various finds, floors and installations, but the nicest find for the day, without a doubt was a nice scarab (see picture below).

Area K2: Final straightening and cleaning in the area, as Brent is leaving tomorrow…

And here are some pictures:

Update for Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

We had a very busy day today – lots of finds – and lots of visitors…

Area A: Louise and her team took down an Iron IIA wall and revealed the Iron I wall beneath it, and are now pushing for the final probe into the early Iron I levels.

Area D: Amit and his team had quite a day. In the metallurgy area they found a large piece of a crucible, and in the gate area, various very interesting Iron I objects, including several very special cultic objects.

Area E: Several very interesting floors, features and installations were found – and in addition, two clay bulla, one with an imprinted design, were found!

Area F: The are reaching to the EB levels inside the wall, and some nice MB pottery (including Tell el-Yahudiyeh ware) was found in association with the MB glacis. In addition, Iron IIA, LB and MB are being excavated.

Area J: The EB wall is getting bigger and bigger…

Area K: Iron IIA destruction galore – and all kinds of very cool finds!

Area K2: It seems that the two levels of restorable pottery between two of the walls both date to the Iron IIA!

Here are some pictures:

2nd day of digging of third week

Very nice day today (and a lot less hot…), and all the areas made a lot of progress!

Area A: Louise and her team are digging in Iron I in both squares and have found some very nice decorated Philistine pottery

Area D: The metallurgy area is producing a lot of evidence of metal working and next to it, the Iron IIA destruction level is full of finds! In the fortifications on the west side of Area D, a very nice Iron I Philistines bird head was found. On the eastern side of Area D, the fortifications are expanding and becoming more and more impressive!

Area E: The sounding is so deep that we have to temporarily stop until we get a bigger ladder – and we it seems that we are still not yet close to bedrock! In addition, all kinds of new walls, floors and contexts are coming up!

Area F: It seems that under the evidence of the MB construction (including a possible lime kiln and kurkar used for the glacis), the F team may have reached EB contexts inside of and right up against the EB city wall. If so, this is the first time we will have this on the tell! In addition, the F team is digging in Iron IIA, Iron I, LB and MB contexts!

Area J: The EB wall is getting bigger and bigger. Jill’s team was joined by a large group of YU students for the day, and they made a lot of progress in the area.

Area K: The Iron IIA destruction is popping up in just about all the squares – as well as walls, installations and other interesting contexts.

Area K2: Several restorable vessels were excavated today from two levels, one Iron IIA and one late Iron I, that are located between two of the very large walls if the fortification in this area.

In addition, we have various visitors – including Zvi Greenhut and Baruch Brandl from the IAA, Drs. Hong and Choi from the Korean team at Lachish, and most importantly, my three sons (who are old-time participants on the dig from years back…) and my grandson Hillel!

Here are some pictures:

Update – first day of 3rd week

The third week started with a boom – as we found a nice little inscription yesterday (as mentioned previously). Today, the 3rd week of digging started and things went very well. It was unbearably hot – but the team was determined and we weathered it out!

Here are some of the new finds:

Area A: Louise and her team are deep into the Iron I in both squares, with some new architecture and pits.

Area D: In the western side, Amit and his team had quite a few very nice finds. A whole bunch of metallurgy related finds came up, including slag, tuyerres, hammer scale, iron and bronze objects and more.

In addition, some more of the Iron II destruction was found, including a bunch of vessels, a cluster of loomweights, and a nice collection of astragali.

In the eastern part of D the gate area is getting more and more impressive!

Area E: The deep sounding is almost reached the Pacific Ocean (:-) – and we are  still getting architecture and clear layers! A very nice EB votive juglet was found, as well as a couple of floors, walls, etc. Haskel and Shira’s team are at full speed ahead!

Area F: Jeff and his team are deep in the Iron II, Iron I, LB, and MB, and today worked on the area which appears to have a plaster kiln.

Area J: More and more parts of the wall are appearing in Jill’s area and things look more and more complicated…

Area K: It’s Iron IIA destruction galore – with finds in just about every square. Vessels, loomweights, installations, walls – you name it! Eric’s team is going great!

Area K2: Brent and his team now seem to have two Iron I levels, including complete vessels from between two of the walls in the area, providing more and more evidence that this is a fortification that was in use (and perhaps founded) in the Iron I.

Add to that – we had quite a few visitors today (including Sam and Ruth Marshal)- so by the end of the day – everybody was quite tired… (including a field trip to Tel Burna!).

Here are some pictures:


What a way to start the week!!!!

An inscription was found (by Hannah) during pottery washing, earlier today.

So far, all I will say is that it is quite similar, in its general characteristics, to the “ALWT/WLT” inscription that we published about a decade ago.

Any more information, at this stage, is compartmentalized…

I know, I am a terrible tease… :-}


Great group picture of the team at the end of the 2nd week of the 2017 season

See below a great picture of the superb Safi team (actually, a few are missing…) at the end of the 2nd week of the 2017 season. What a great team! Highly motivated, excellent field work, high spirits – and true camaraderie!

As the project director I would like to stress – I could not ask for a better group!

Thanks so much to all of you!!!!

(and thanks to Katja Soennecken for taking the picture!)

2017 2nd week_group picture Safi