New article published online – on the environmental effects of Hazael destruction on the environs of Tell es-Safi/Gath

An article, whose research and publication was spearheaded by Oren Ackermann (our geoarchaeologist) – and a big team of collaborators (including yours truly), has just been published online in the journal Anthropocene.

In this article we discuss evidence retrieved from a deep section which was cut in a valley to the east of the site. The sediments in this pit were analyzed by a very broad team of experts in may fields (and thus, the long list of co-authors). From this study, which builds on earlier research which we conducted in and around the tell, we see that the destruction of Tell es-Safi/Gath by Hazael (ca. late 9th century BCE) had a significant anthropogenic effect on the landscape. Among other aspects, evidence shows that the sedimentation rates increased after the destruction of the site. We suggest that this can be used in other cases as well in which the correlation of a high sedimentation rate and an anthropogenic marker in the sediment, with a documented human event, may enable the deciphering of anthropogenic fill.

The full title of the article is:

Ackermann, O., Greenbaum, N., Ayalon, A., Bar-Matthews, A., Boaretto, E., Bruins, H., Cabanes, D., Horwitz, L. K., Neumann, F., Porat, N., Weiss, E., and Maeir, A. M.
2015. Using Palaeo-Environmental Proxies to Reconstruct Natural and Anthropogenic Controls on Sedimentation Rates, Tell es-Safi/Gath, Eastern Mediterranean. Anthropocene (doi:

The online, pre-proofs version of the article can be found at:


Lecture by Ami Mazar on the Rehov apiary

Today, Prof. Amihai Mazar (HU), have a very interesting lecture, with his up-to-date thoughts on the apiary (honey producing installation) which he and his team discovered at Tel Rehov. The lecture was given as part of the departmental seminar of the Dept. of Land of israel Studies and Archaeology at BIU.

As usual, Ami was stimulating, interesting and threw out quite a few interesting ideas!

Visit to Tell Rumeideh and Hebron,

Today, I had the opportunity to visit Hebron and Tell Rumeida. Not only did I get a chance to see, once again, the antiquities on Tell Rumeida (including the new excavations) and the Al Haram el-Khalil/Tomb of the Patriarchs site, I had a very interesting tour with Thomas, a former member of the TIPH observer group, who showed us around central Hebron through his perspective – which is not one that you get to hear very often.

As you may know, Hebron is one of the most highly debated, and some say craziest, places on this planet, and to hear a slightly different perspective from those that I’ve heard until now (including both Israeli and Palestinian views of all kinds) on someone’s daily experiences in Hebron was very interesting.

Here are some pictures next to the EB and MB fortifications on Tell Rumeideh, which I took today:

photo 2 photo 4

And just for fun, here is a photo of Jeff Chadwick, aka Achish Melekh Gath, posing at the same place, way before the most recent excavations, when he was MUCH younger… :-)



The Elephant from Revadim…

A very interesting study has been published by colleagues from TAU, BGU and other institutions, on evidence of early butchery of elephants found at the prehistoric site near Kibbutz Revadim (about 1/2 a km to the east of the kibbutz, just to the south of Route 3), where the Safi team stays during the season. This site, the Revadim Quarry site, is of the late Acheulian cultural complex, of the Lower Paleolithic period, and dates to ca. 500-300 thousand years ago.

Various aspects about this site have been published in the past (such as herehere and here), but this new study shows some very interesting evidence of early human butchery of elephants, and even more interestingly, animal fat residue on stone tools relating to this.

So, while dealing with much earlier periods than those that we usually deal with at the Tell es-Safi/Gath excavations, this is quite an interesting aspect of the early history of this region.


“…and the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye”!

Today (March 20th, 2015) I visited the tell with some friends (and my son Noam) and we walked around the for a couple of hours. While the damage from the winter rains was a bit too much to make one happy, it nevertheless was great to get out to the site. As always, the site during the winter is quite a site to see – completely green – so different from colors in the summer.

What was particularly astonishing, and in fact I don’t remember this from past years, was the massive growth, and in particular the height of the thistles and thorns that were growing all over the tell.

To paraphrase the the song from the movie “Oklahoma” – they were as high as an elephant’s eye!

Here are some pictures of the greenery on the tell. For those of you familiar with the tell and how it usually looks, notice the colors, the massiveness of the growth, and how the paths are completely encroached by the growth! Notice how the remains of the village mosque are almost covered over by the bushes!

photo 5 photo 4 photo 3 photo 2 photo 1

And just in case you don’t remember the song “Oh what a beautiful morning” from “Oklahoma,” here it is:



Completely missed my point on the destruction of Mesopotamian culture heritage – but what’s new…

I was interviewed by the Jewish Chronicle Online regarding the destruction of cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq, even if the interviewer was interested more in the possible Jewish heritage being destroyed. I tried to explain that the Jewish side of this tragedy was rather limited, and that the general destruction of cultural assets is the problem (and even more so – the horrible acts of barbarism to the people living in these areas).

For some reason what was understood was that I was more upset about the destruction of the artifacts than the sites…

Well, at least they spelled my name correctly – oh, actually – they did not even do that… :-)


Reading an interesting book: “Disasters in Field Research”

I’m reading a very interesting book – “Disasters in Field Research: Preparing for and Coping with Unexpected Events“, authored by Ice, Dufour and Stevens.

Disasters in research cover page picture

This book is an excellent basic handbook on how field researchers in various fields (e.g. archaeology, anthropology, geology, biology, etc.) can prepare for the various types of mishaps – and in some cases – disasters, that can occur out in the field, and what to do when these things do actually happen.

The book covers a wide range of materials, scenarios, problems and solutions. While a lot what is covered is not new for someone who has been in the field in various places for many years (and add to that several years in army service), there are some great points even for an “old timer”.

And needless to say, those who are relatively new at doing research out in the field – this is a treasure trove of healthy and sound advice. I would read it – this may help you recover from various screw ups in the field – and even save your life in others.

A good thing to remember in any case, and this shines through in this book as well, is the well-known “Murphy’s Law“: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong…