Workshop on Hazael Destructions – Jan. 19, 2017

Please reserve the date for an upcoming workshop (for researchers and graduate students in the field), the first of the RIAB Minerva Center for this academic year, which will be held at BIU on Thursday, Jan. 19th, 2017.

The workshop, organized by Dr. Amit Dagan and Dr. Omer Sergey, will deal with sites in southern Israel at which there is possible evidence of a “Hazael destruction” – as well as some more or less contemporaneous sites. The workshop will include short presentations about the various sites and then a hands-on “table-top” presentation of ceramic assemblages from the relevant sites.

More details will be posted in the future. In the meantime – save the day!

Delegation of All-China Youth Federation visits the lab

Today, we hosted a delegation of the “All-China Youth Federation” in the lab, coordinated by Dr. Danielle Gurevitch, of BIU. The All-China Youth Federation is a government organization that coordinates most of the foreign programs and activities of Chinese students outside of China.

During the visit, I explained to them about the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath and showed and explained to them about some of the finds. In addition, we discussed the possibility of having Chinese students join us in the dig (and also the possibility of Israeli students participating in archaeological excavations in China!).

Here’s a few pictures of the visit:


New article on Philistine names

A new article dealing with Philistine names and terms, jointly written by Aren, Brent and Louise, has just appeared!

See here a link to the final proofs of the article (as I do not have permission to post the final version)

The full title is:

Maeir, A. M., Davis, B., and Hitchcock, L. A. 2016. Philistine Names and Terms Once Again: A Recent Perspective. Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage 4(4): 321–40.

And here is the abstract:

In the last decade or so, new data and interpretations on the onomastics of Iron Age Philistia have appeared.In this article, we review, discuss, and suggest some insights regarding some of these Philistine personal names (e.g., Goliath), names of deities (e.g., PTGYH), and terms (e.g., seren). We assess them from linguistic, cultural, anthropological, and historical points of view. We then propose how they can be understood within the wider socio-cultural context(s) of Iron Age Philistia specifically and the wider eastern Mediterranean in general, and how they can be incorporated into efforts to understand the origins, development, and transformation of the Philistines and their culture(s).

Article on the EB in the Shephelah by Ayelet Levy

Dr. Ayelet Levy, who was on a Safi team back in the first years of the project, and wrote her PhD under my supervision on the Early Bronze settlement in the Judean Shephelah (foothills), has just published an article (in Hebrew) that summarizes the main points of her dissertation.

The title of the article is:

Levy, A. 2016. Settlement Processes during the Early Bronze Age in the Judean Shephelah. Cathedra 161:37-7 (in Hebrew with English abstract).

Congratulations to Ayelet!


Safi posters at the ASOR meeting

In addition to the Safi-related lectures to be presented at the ASOR meeting in San Antonio this coming week (see here), three posters on Safi-related research are being presented.

See below *.jpg versions of the posters:

A poster by Tina Greenfield et al. on the spatial analysis of the Early Bronze Age neighborhood in Area E (see here for the pdf version):








A poster on analysis of “heavy fraction” from the flotation of sediments, by Annie Brown et al.






And a poster on the stratigraphic sequence in Area F, by Jillian Mather et al. (see here for the pdf):







All very nice!!!




Safi related lectures at ASOR and SBL

For those of you who will be at the ASOR and SBL meetings next week in San Antonio, here is a list of presentations that are either directly related to the Safi project, or given by people that are, or have been, involved in the Safi project:

Safi-related talks (and by Safi-related people) at the ASOR meeting (San Antonio, Nov. 16-19, 2016 – for full program – see here)

Thursday, Nov. 17th, 2016:

Session: 1D. Archaeology of Israel I, San Antonio Ballroom D & E

9:45 Aren Maeir (Bar-Ilan University), “Excavation Results at Tell es-Safi/Gath and their Implications: An Update for the 2015 and 2016 Seasons” (15 min.)

Session: Archaeology and Biblical Studies I

9:05 Chris Mckinny: “Struck Down for Error”: A Discussion of Two Early Iron Age Israelite Temples and Their Possible Connection to the Movements of the Ark of Covenant in Samuel

Session: 1H. Art Historical Approaches to the Near East I, San Antonio Ballroom I

9:25 Linda Meiberg (University of Pennsylvania), “Decorative Motifs on Philistine Pottery and Their Cretan Connections” (25 min.)

Session 2E. History of Archaeology, San Antonio Ballroom F

11:10   Christina Olson (East Carolina University), “Lost Among Treasures: An Analysis of Forgotten Pots in the Albright Attic” (25 min.)


Session 3D. Archaeology of the Near East: Bronze and Iron Ages I

2:00     Haskel Greenfield (University of Manitoba), “The Early Bronze Age Domestic Neighborhood at Tell es- Safi/Gath, Israel: An Update on Recent Research” (15 min.)

2:20     Shira Albaz (Bar-Ilan University), “Foundation Deposit as Domestic Ritual in EB III at Tell es-Safi/Gath” (15 min.)

3:20     Josephine Verduci (University of Melbourne), “Metal Jewelry of the Southern Levant and its Western Neighbors: Surprising Results Concerning Cross-Cultural Influences during the Early Iron Age” (15 min.)

3:40     Jeffrey Chadwick (Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center), “The 54 cm Canaanite Cubit in Bronze Age Canaan and Iron Age Israel, Judah, and Philistia” (15 min.)

Session 3G. Material Culture and Identities in the Eastern Mediterranean III, San Antonio Ballroom H

3:15 Louise Hitchcock (University of Melbourne) & Aren M. Maeir (Bar-Ilan University), “Pulp Fiction or Tangible Connections?” (20 min.)

Friday, Nov. 18th, 2016:

Session 6A. Object Biography for Archaeologists III, San Antonio Ballroom A

11:15 Brent Davis, A Temple Foundation Peg

Session 6B. The Archaeology of Feasting and Foodways, San Antonio Ballroom B

11:30 Elizabeth Arnold (Grand Valley State University), “Animal Production Over- Consumption? How Stable Isotopes of Animal Remains Can Address These Questions” (20 min.)

11:55 Tina Greenfield (University of Manitoba), “Late Bronze Age Feasting in Canaan: A View from Tel Burna” (20 min.)

Session 6E. Archaeology of the Southern Levant, San Antonio Ballroom F

11:05 Itzhaq Shai (Ariel University), “Two Cypriot Pithoi from Late Bronze Age Tel Burna” (20 min.)


Safi-related talks at the SBL Meeting (San Antonio, Nov. 19-23, 2016 – for a search engine of full schedule, see here)

Saturday, Nov. 20th, 2016:

Session: Wisdom of the Ages, 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM, Theme: The Rise of Israel: Historical Theory and Practice in the First and Second Temple Periods in honor of Lester Grabbe

Aren Maeir, Bar-Ilan University, Respondent (15 min)


Sunday, Nov. 21st, 2016:

Session Hebrew Bible, History, and Archaeology, 9:00 AM to 11:15 AM, Theme: History and Memory

Aren Maeir, Bar-Ilan University, Keys to the past? Archaeological Correlates of Social and Cultural Memory from the Ancient Levant (20 min)

Session: Archaeology of the Biblical World, 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM, Room: 217A (2nd Level – West) – Convention Center (CC), Theme: New Insights on the Iron Age IIB in the Shephelah (Eric Welch, University of Kansas – Lawrence, Presiding)
Aren Maeir, Bar-Ilan University, New Insights on the Iron IIB in the Shephelah: The View from Tel es-Safi/Gath (20 min)
Itzick Shai, Ariel University Center of Samaria, New Insights on the Iron IIB in the Shephelah: A View from Tel Burna (20 min)
Cynthia Shafer-Elliott, William Jessup University, Insights on the Iron IIB from Tel Halif: Household Archaeology on the Shephelah’s Periphery (20 min)

My thoughts on the UNESCO decision regarding Jerusalem

“Building Peace in the Minds of Men and Women”?  Is UNESCO Fulfilling its Constitution?

Aren M. Maeir

The lofty goals of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as defined in its constitution are: “… to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations”, or as succinctly summarized on the UNESCO website – “Building Peace in the Minds of Men and Women.”

But are these goals being attained? And is UNESCO acting in a manner that will build peace for men and women?

The recent, and much debated, UNESCO decision regarding cultural heritage in Jerusalem, Gaza and Hebron, seems to indicate otherwise. The decision, which was crafted by various Arab states, accepts the Arab/Palestinian narrative on a broad range of issues relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in particular, on issues regarding the historical and cultural heritage significance of the most important site in Jerusalem – the Temple Mount/Haram esh-Sharif. This location is holy to Judaism, Christianity and Islam (which is stated briefly in the beginning of the UNESCO text), but throughout the extended discussion in this decision about this site, including various factually false claims of Israeli mis-doings, it is never called the “Temple Mount” (as Jews call it) but only “Haram esh-Sharif (as Muslims do). In addition, when referring to the “Western Wall” – currently the most important religious site for most Jews, this site is referred to as the “El Buraq Plaza” (the Muslim term for this area) – with the term “Western Wall” appearing only with quotation marks.

This, and other points, in this decision, point to an extremely one-sided approach to the contentious issues at hand, issues relating to probably the most complex issue, in a region wrought with complexities. The across-the-board condemnation of this decision by just about all Israelis – including by groups such as “Emek Shaveh” that are usually very critical of Israeli activities in east Jerusalem – is particularly telling.

But more so, this is unfortunate, and so nonconstructive, to the prospects of building, sustaining and hoping for a peace process, especially coming from an organization that professes to “build peace for men and women.”

Such an organization, with such lofty and admirable aims, must exercise a much more level-headed approach when dealing with a complex and contested narrative. The very fact that the recent UNESCO decision is seen as very one sided by most Israelis, creates a situation where the average Israeli will feel that the UN (or other international institutions) are not “fair brokers.” If the UN, and UNESCO, aim to have a potentially constructive role in moving the Middle East, and Israelis and Palestinians, towards a process of rapprochement and peace, this is not the way.

Without a doubt, over more than a century, archaeology has been used and misused for political purposes, in the Middle East in general and Israel/Palestine in particular. Already in the 19th cent., the archaeological expeditions of various European colonial powers in the Middle East were a reflection of this, in which archaeology was but a thin camouflage for colonial intentions. And since then, in some cases until this very day, the various national ideologies and subsequent nation states (such as Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan) have used and/or misused the archaeological remains to push their national agendas.

As an Israeli archaeologist it is clear to me that archaeology was, and is, a central part of the Zionist ideological narrative, and very often, the Jewish historical roots in Israel/Palestine were accentuated, at times exaggerated, and occasionally, done so at the expense of other historical narratives. This situation continued during the first decades of the State of Israel and many examples abound. Nevertheless, despite claims to the contrary, throughout the history of modern Israel/Palestine, archaeologists (including Israelis) have excavated, researched, published and developed archaeological remains relating to a broad range of cultures, periods and heritage narratives.

An excellent example of this can be seen in Jerusalem itself, where a previously unknown, important phase in the history of Jerusalem, during the early Islamic Period was revealed by Israeli archaeologists working just outside the Temple Mount/Haram esh-Sharif, with the discovery of a previously unknown series of palaces of the Umayyad caliphs (ca. 8th century CE).

Nowadays, most Israeli archaeologists have chosen to have a much more inclusive approach to the archaeological sites. Monuments and remains from all periods of the history of Israel/Palestine, from early Prehistoric to Modern are actively and intensively excavated and studies.

Nevertheless, politics and archaeology can be enmeshed – and in particular when politicians attempt to use the archaeological evidence to push their agendas. But this is not only an Israeli problem – it can be seen throughout the Middle East, and in fact, throughout the world.

To illustrate this how archaeological can and should be conducted in an inclusive manner, I can give an example that is close to home. The excavation that I have been directing for the last twenty odd years – at Tell es-Safi/Gath ( – is at a site that was settled, virtuously continuously, from late Prehistoric times (ca. 5000 BCE) until modern times, with cultural remains from many periods, and heritage that can be connected to many different groups. In our research and excavation, while focusing, for the most part, on the Bronze and Iron Age remains (due to research foci), we just as carefully and meticulously excavate and study Crusader and early Islamic levels as those of other periods, or the remains for the village and cemeteries of the Palestinian village of Tell es-Safi, which existed at the site until 1948, as those of the Philistines of the “biblical period.”

Similarly, the team that works on the site is a multi-national team, with participants of many religious, political and ideological backgrounds. On a regular basis, during our summer season, you can find Jews, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, and an occasional Buddhist, working together in the same excavation square, and people with very different life styles and political views developing close friendship and long-lasting camaraderie. All this done through a policy of mutual respect and inclusiveness. And as we are now in our 21st year of the project – it is clear that this works!

In fact, I would argue that despite the dangers of enmeshing archaeology and politics, archaeologists, as custodians of the past, should not hesitate to utilize the archaeological remains to teach about, and forge connections, between communities of today, and the heritage and cultural memory of the past (even if this is at times fabricated). The human need to search for one’s roots, and to find meaning today – based on the past, can be seen in all societies throughout the world. This gives archaeologists a unique role, enabling them to utilize the archaeological remains to enrich the meaning and group cohesiveness of peoples today. Enabling a young Jewish child to connect to her history by holding a coin from the time of Maccabees, or a Christian boy through learning about tombs from the time of Jesus, or a Muslim girl by showing remains from the time of Muhammad, can have an enormous impact on the development of their cultural roots and identity. Anyone who has ever seen the excited eyes of someone discovering an archaeological object that can be connected to a tangible past and one’s personal identity, well knows the power of this educational tool. Without a doubt, this is one of the major ways in which archaeologists can “give back” to the societies that enable them, the archaeologists, to study the past. One should not let the misuse of the archaeological remains for political ideologies let us shed these tangible educational opportunities. But we must make sure that this is done in a manner which respects, and does not deny, the various, and at times conflicting narrative. This may be difficult – but it can be done!

So then, in the end, what’s the problem(s) with the UNESCO decision? By choosing a non-inclusive approach to the complex problems of heritage, politics and identity that exist in Jerusalem (and the Middle East in general), and by opting for the easy way out, and caving in to the demands of one of the sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they have not helped move the peace process, or any aspect of reconciliation, forward. In fact, paraphrasing UNESCO’s own credo, more than anything else they are “Building Discord in the Minds of Men and Women.”

Too much is at stake, and too many live are in danger, for such an organization to take such an irresponsible stance.