Downtown Gath

Those of you who keep up with the blog on a regular basis know that Aren has mentioned Area D – the lower city various times in his posts. As the supervisor of Area D, I figured it would be nice to fill you in on what happened there our first season. In fact, even many of the people who visited the site last summer have no idea what Area D is – they usually just stopped to ask directions to the other areas (actually, Aren is the one who told them to do that).

Area D is located north of the tell, next to the southern bank of the Ela River. Aren’s decision to excavate there (as far as I know) was based on the following:

– the survey findings, which led us to believe that there was an extensive lower city to the north of the tell during the Iron Age.

– reports that Moshe Dayan did some excavations of his own near our excavation area.

– the presence of several walls, visible on the modern-day surface, include what may be the line of the city fortifications.

while only having excavated one season in Area D, it seems that Aren was right all along – there is an extensive lower city at Gath dating to the Iron Age II, making Tell es-Safi/Gath one of the largest cities in Ancient Israel!!!

In our first season we opened five squares. We discovered vessels similar to those found int he 9th Century BCE destruction level in Area A, as well as several mudbrick walls dating to the period. This is hopefully just the beginning of great things to come in Area D!!!

Blanche Garde

Since Aren is quite busy, I (Joe) have decided to post something on the blog – which I haven’t done in a long time. I was thinking of what I could post about, and the truth of the matter is that I had trouble coming up with something that I could write about which Aren hasn’t written about already.

I decided to write about the Crusader period at Safi – something which is quite far from my field of expertise (if I have one of those at all :-)). I looked through the posts on the blog, and noticed that we haven’t written too much about this – primarily due to the fact that not much had been excavated at the site dating to the period. this has changed in the past couple of seasons, with the discovery of part of the Crusader Castle uncovered in Area F (the circular structure in F Upper which you can see in this picture), as well as various finds (for example see this post by Aren on Crusader buttons).  In addition, A quarry was found along the cliffs of the tell which was used in order to build the castle.

The finds from the Crusader Period at the tell are much less extensive than those of the Bronze and Iron Ages.  The Crusader Castle, built at the top of the tell, in an attempt by the Crusaders to surround the Fatimid stronghold of Ashkelon.  The name of the castle – Blanche Garde (meaning something along the lines of the white guard) – is related to the white cliffs surrounding the tell.  These cliffs seem to have been the source for the name of the site in various periods, including the Arabic “Safi” (shining).

I’m sure that there is much more to say about the Crusader period at Tell es-Safi, but that is all that is coming to mind right now.  If anyone wishes to add (or correct) anything to this, please feel free to add comments.


The Bi-Weekly Lab Talk

Today, the Safi staff held one of its bi-weekly lab meetings, albeit in an alternate location (since our lab is still damaged from the flood). The meeting this week focused on two subjects – a pre-excavation meeting, and a lecture by Rona Avissar-Lewis.

In the pre-excavation meeting, Aren spoke about what the different staff members would be doing at the dig. As things look right now, a large group of people from around the world will be participating in the excavation of at least five different areas of excavation, covering a time span from the Early Bronze Age III through to the Late Iron Age. Other periods may also be excavated as well. In addition, the team of archaeological scientists from the Weizmann Institute and the new joint Bar-Ilan/Weizmann program in archaeological science will continue their work on the site.

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The Tell es-Safi Survey

Since Aren complained that I haven’t posted anything in a while, and the fact that I have some time free at the moment (Dora the Explorer is keeping the kiddies busy) , I thought I’d write a short post on the survey which was conducted at the site in the 1996 and 2001 season.  as part of the current project, an intensive surface survey began prior to the commencement of excavations, and was completed in 2001, after the first part of the survey revealed that the site was much larger than originally thought.  For those not familiar with archaeological surveying, the idea is that you walk around the site (or a predefined area) and pick up any artifacts that are on the ground.  By dating those artifacts, it is possible to know when a site – or a specific part of a site – was settled.  This is the primary tool that Aren uses in determining potential excavation areas.  One does need to take into consideration that artifacts move (the same way that they manage to float to the surface from deeper levels).  So it is important to carefully analyze what really belongs and what has been “moved”. 

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A Glacis is Born!!!

The 2006 season at Tell es-Safi was blessed with many finds. One of the most surprising finds of this season was the discovery of a Middle Bronze Age Glacis in Area F. The Rampart and Glacis are unique structures, known as hallmarks of the Middle Bronze Age. These structures were constructed by dumping various layers of earth and stone, in order to create an artificial slope. There has been debate regarding the function of these structures – some suggest that they were used for defensive purposes, while others prefer a more social explanation, making them more comparable to monuments.

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Gath flourished in the Early Bronze Age

It’s been a while since the blog has updated – apologies for the dormancy. You are all probably wondering what’s been going on! Well, we are back at work in the lab full swing, and hopefully we’ll get back to the way things were (after recovering from the summer and the upcoming holiday season (that is the Jewish holiday season). Just to give ou all a taste of what happened at Safi this season, in Area E, a lot of work was done, particularly in order to prepare for a substantial expandion of the Early Bronze Age III stratum. While the primary aim was not actually to uncover tis level, but rather to remove the LB above it, however, in certain areas, the EB popped out right under the LB level. In the pictures here, the upper part of a typical late EB storage jar begins to appear. The jar is a classic form, and this is just a taste of the EB that voluteers working in Area E will discover next season!!! (photos courtesy of Rotem).


Egyptian Gods at Safi

213880562.jpgAn interesting set of finds from this summer’s excavation is a set of five amulets/figurines discovered in Area T. The five figures depicted are of Egyptian dieties. Found in a Late Iron Age I/early Iron Age II context, it can be connected to the appearance (or reappearance) of Egyptian finds at nearby Ekron at the same time (St. IV). Most likely, this is to bedsc00985.JPG related to the “reentering” of Philistia into the eastern Mediterranean “World System” in the late 11th and early 10th centuries. This is seen as well with the beginning of the appearance of Cypriote, Phoenician and Greek pottery in this region. The dieties are (from left to right) Ptah, Sekhmet, Hathor, Sekhmet, and Isis and Horus. Needless to say, finding of these little pretty things can bring the toughest guys to lay down and meditate!!!

Meet the Staff -Area E

004262.JPGThis weeks staff spotlight is on the Area E staff, of which I am a part of. The area E staff has been mentioned many times on this blog, particularly revolving around Elmo. Most of you probably feel that the subject of Elmo has been discussed enough, and you're probably right. So I intend to present other aspects of this team. Keep in mind however that these are the people who spent a whole summer playing with a child's doll (present company included).

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