News on chopping from our Prehistoric neighbors

A new and very interesting article was just published on the technology of the use of stone choppers at the Acheulian site of Revadim, which is located just to the north of Tell es-Safi/Gath. The Revadim site is an extremely important Lower Paleolithic site, which was excavated about 15 years ago, and has been mentioned here previously.

The paper is:

Venditt, F., Agam, A., Tirillò, J., Nunziante-Cesaro, S., and Barkai, R. 2020. An Integrated Study Discloses Chopping Tools Use from Late Acheulean Revadim (Israel). PLoS ONE 16(1): e0245595. (free online access)

And here is the abstract:

Chopping tools/choppers provide one of the earliest and most persistent examples of stone tools produced and used by early humans. These artifacts appeared for the first time ~2.5 million years ago in Africa and are characteristic of the Oldowan and Acheulean cultural complexes throughout the Old World. Chopping tools were manufactured and used by early humans for more than two million years regardless of differences in geography, climate, resource availability, or major transformations in human cultural and biological evolution. Despite their widespread distribution through time and space in Africa and Eurasia, little attention has been paid to the function of these items, while scholars still debate whether they are tools or cores. In this paper, we wish to draw attention to these prominent and ubiquitous early lithic artifacts through the investigation of 53 chopping tools retrieved from a specific context at Late Acheulean Revadim (Israel). We combined typo-technological and functional studies with a residue analysis aimed at shedding light on their functional role within the tool-kits of the inhabitants of the site. Here we show that most of the chopping tools were used to chop hard and medium materials, such as bone, most probably for marrow extraction. A few of the tools were also used for cutting and scraping activities, while some also served as cores for further flake detachment. The chopping tools exhibit extraordinarily well-preserved bone residues suggesting they were used mainly for bone-breaking and marrow acquisition. We discuss the data and explore the tool versus core debate also in light of a sample of 50 flake cores made on pebbles/cobbles retrieved from the same archeological layer. The results add further pieces to the puzzle of activities carried out at Revadim and add to our knowledge of the production and use of these enigmatic tools and their role in human evolutionary history.

As those who have worked with know, these below to PI periods – that’s “Pre-Interesting”… :-)

Nevertheless, it is quite interesting…:-)

Check it out.

Philistines and the American Civil War

A very interesting tidbit of information arose from a review of a book – and afterwards looking at the actual book – Byrd, J. P. 2021. A Holy Baptism of Fire and Blood: The Bible and the American Civil War. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

In it, the author discusses how Confederate Christian preachers in the American Civil War identified the Yankees as Philistines – even connecting between specific events and characters.

Another, very nice example of the pejorative use of the term Philistine in modern contexts.

HT: Jack Sasson

Lisa, Johanna and Yael on Santorini dating

A really important article by Lisa, Johanna and Yael, on the complexity of dating of an olive branch from the Santorini/Thera volcanic eruption has just appeared.

The full reference is:

Ehrlich, Y., Regev, L. & Boaretto, E. Discovery of annual growth in a modern olive branch based on carbon isotopes and implications for the Bronze Age volcanic eruption of Santorini. Sci Rep 11, 704 (2021).

As I’m sure you know, Lisa and her team have done a lot of work (past, present and future) on various finds from Tell es-Safi/Gath.

Way to go!

Check it out!

New article on giants at Gath and among the Philistines

A new article just appeared, in which I discuss how, in my opinion, the biblical traditions about giants from Gath and among the Philistines in general, developed.

The article is:

Maeir, A. M. 2020. Memories, Myths and Megalithics: Reconsidering the Giants of Gath. Journal of Biblical Literature 139(4): 675–90.

Here’s the abstract:

In this article I suggest that the biblical narratives on giants (such as Goliath) deriving from Philistine Gath, and related stories, may very likely have originated from the impressive Iron Age megalithic architecture from Tell es-Safi/Gath, which was visible, on the surface, long after the destruction of Gath. These impressive remains perhaps served as a factor in the creation of the biblical myths of peoples of large size originating in Gath.

I guess this explains, why, despite being asked about this continuously (more like again, and again, and again…) for the last 25 years, we haven’t found any evidence of a large-sized population at the site…:-)

Video of workshop on the “Global Turn in Archaeology”

In March, 2019 (when we could still meet, face to face…), a very interesting workshop was held at the Albright Institute in Jerusalem (as previously noted), where Prof. Oystein LaBianca, then the Frerichs Annual Professor at the Albright, along with Prof. Terje Stordalen of the University of Oslo, spoke about their very interesting and provocative views on A “Global Turn” for the archaeology and history of the Southern Levant.

As part of the workshop, Prof. Ann Killebrew, and yours truly (Aren Maeir), were invited to respond.

The video of the workshop has now been put online, and you can watch it below. Ann’s comments start at 1:05:57, and my comments appear from 1:13:00.

Check it out – very interesting!

Zoom lecture on the MB and LB at Safi

This evening, I gave a zoom lecture on the MB and LB at Tell es-Safi/Gath in its regional context, for a seminar of Prof. Oded Lipschits, part of the TAU International School MA archaeology program.

In the lecture, I presented an overview of the MB and LB at Safi, and also discussed the changing role of Safi in its regional context during these periods.

The lecture went very well, and there was a great discussion at the end.

Always nice to do a favor for a neighbor (that is Oded, being the excavator of nearby Azekah)!

Thanks to Oded for inviting me to present to his great seminar!

Here’s a screenshot (courtesy of Oded) from the lecture:

Nice Podcast on archaeology, Tell es-Safi/Gath, the Philistines, and more!

Check out this great podcast (see below), where Amanda Borschel-Dan, of the Times of Israel (who has written about and visited the excavations, more than once), interviews me about archaeology in general (including why I became an archaeologist!), new directions in archaeology, the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath, the Philistines and their relations with the Israelites, and some of the new and most recent studies deriving from our project.

Very nice! Thanks Amanda!

Or this?

For those wondering what this is, it is a copy of one of the covers of the anthropomorphic coffins from Beth Shean, which for many years were thought to represent tombs of Philistines. This interpretation is not accepted nowadays and it is more likely that Egyptians serving in the Egyptian garrison at Beth Shean were buried in these coffins. The copy was given to the Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavation Project lab by the Philistine Museum at Ashdod, when the copies of the coffins that had been exhibited in the museum were taken down.

And for health reasons, due to the Corona Crisis, we put on it a mask…:-)