New BIU project – Tel Timna Excavations

This summer, Dr. Dvir Raviv of the Martin (Szusz) Dept. of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology is starting a new excavation project at Tel Timna (Tibna). This summer, the excavation season will be from July 24th to August 19th, with the possibility of credits through BIU.

If you are interested in joining them, check out their facebook page, and the information page below:

Article on the sourcing of Herod’s royal baths!

I’m pleased to provide the link (see here) to a new article (not Safi related) that has just appeared online in the prestigious journal Scientific Reports.

This study, spearheaded by Ayala Amir, and based on a portion of her MA thesis at BIU, examines the provenance of two alabaster baths of Herod the Great (from Herodium and Kypros). In this study we demonstrate, somewhat surprisingly, that the alabaster was not from Egypt, but is rather of local southern Levantinian origin.

The full title is: 

Amir, A., Frumkin, A., Zissu, B., Maeir, A. M., Goobes, G., and Albeck, A. 2022. Sourcing Herod the Great’s Calcite Alabaster Bathtubs by a Multianalytic Approach. Scientific Reports 12: 7524.

The article’s abstract is:

Herod “the Great”, king of Judea in the second half of the first century BC, was known for his building projects, wealth, and political power. Two of his personal calcite-alabaster bathtubs, found in the Kypros fortress and the palace of Herodium, are among the very limited archaeological evidence of his private life. It seemed plausible that they were imported from Egypt, the main source of calcite-alabaster in ancient periods. Yet, the recent identification of a calcite quarry in the Te’omim cave, Israel, challenges this hypothesis. Here, we developed an approach for identification of the source of calcite-alabaster, by combination of four analytical methods: ICP, FTIR, ssNMR and isotope ratio. These methods were then applied to Herod’s bathtubs demonstrating that they were indeed quarried in Israel rather than in Egypt.

Safi 2022 spring season begins!

Today, we started the short Safi 2022 spring season. The team got together early in the morning on a beautiful day!

We started excavating two squares inside of the gate in Area D East, and by the end od tbe day were on clean Iron IIA surfaces.

We also used our new battery operated weed wacker to cut down vegetation, in preparation for the remote sensing team.

Follow our work this week!

Here are some pictures from today:

New video interview on the Philistine phenomenon!

Check out this very nice video interview, conducted for the great “History Channel of Israel“, in which I discuss my ideas about the Philistines, their culture and their role in the Late Bronze/Iron Age transition and what happened with them during the Iron Age and afterwards.

I did have a little blooper at the end, where for some unexplained reason (temporary insanity?), I mention “Cincinnati” as a name of a Native American tribe…:-(

Short season at Safi/עונה קצרה בצפית

Next week (May 8th-13th), we will be conducting a short season at Tell es-Safi/Gath. It will include a small excavation in Area M, remote sensing in the lower city, aerial photography, and collecting samples for various analyses (paleomagnetic dating, brick composition study, and geomorphological studies). We will be out in the field from 6 am to 14:00 everyday. If you are interested in joining us (you have to get there on your own, and bring your own food and water), you can contact Shira (052-5221016) to coordinate this (please don’t come without first coordinating with her).

בשבוע הבא (8-13 למאי) אנחנו נבצע עונה קצרה בתל צפית. זה יכלול חפירת בדיקה קטנה בשטח M, חישה מרחוק בעיר התחתית, צילום אויר, ואיסוף דגימות לאנליזות שונות (תיארוך פליאו-מגנטי, חקר הרכב לבנים, ומחקר גיאומורפולוגי). אנחנו נהיה בשטח כל יום, מ-6:00 עד 14:00. אם אתם מעוניינים להצטרף (הגעה עצמאית, ולהביא אוכל ומים), צרו קשר עם שירה (052-5221016) ותתאמו את הגעתכם (אנא אל תגיעו ללא תיאום מראש)

New paper on LIDAR scanning at Tell es-Safi/Gath

A paper on using LIDAR scanning as a tool for heritage management has just appeared. The paper, spearheaded by Haskel Greenfield, discusses use and applications of a ground based LIDAR scanner that was used at Tell es-Safi/Gath Gath as part of the SSHRC grant for studying the Early Bronze Age at the site.

The full title of the paper is:

Greenfield, H. J., Wing, D., and Maeir, A. M. 2022. Terrestrial LiDAR Survey as a Heritage Management Tool: The Example of Tell es-Safi/Gath. Pp. 135–51 in Challenges, Strategies and High-Tech Applications for Saving the Cultural Heritage of Syria: Proceedings of the Workshop Held at the 10th ICAANE in Vienna, April 2016, ed. M. A. Silver. Oriental and European Archaeology 21. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

Check it out!


Safi lecture at the Annual Archaeological Congress in Israel

Today, the 47th Annual Arcaeological Conference was held at Tel Aviv University. The conference a huge success, with many great lectures and picture perfect organization.

I gave a lecture on 25 years of the Tell es-Safi/Gath Project. The lecture was the final lecture in the last session, abd started at 7:15 pm!

So, to wake up the crowd, I started off with a video clip, with music, of the Gath Jerusalema Challenge!

Definitely woke everyone up!

And then I gave an lively lecture!

My preliminary views on the new Ebal inscription (in Hebrew)

Yesterday, I was interviewed in the Safi lab by the great באים אל הפרופסורים team, which, led by Alex Tseitlin, has put up scores upon scores of videos on various historical issues (mainly ancient history, archaeology, Bible, but other topics as well), and have now started an English version of this channel (the History Channel of Israel, with the first video by Eric Cline).

They interviewed me about Philistine-related stuff (it was planned in English and Hebrew, but so far only the English was recorded), which should be posted soon. Following the interview, Alex asked me if I would be willing to say something, in Hebrew, about the new Ebal inscription, which can be seen in this short video.

Since it’s in Hebrew, here’s a brief summary of what I said in English:

Without having any unpublished knowledge on the inscription, my “gut feeling” is that it is in fact an important, bona fide, inscription. I think it is important as it nicely corroborates that the Ebal site is a cultic site (as most scholars believe), that Yahu was the main god of the Israelites in the early Iron Age (as most scholars believe), and that this may very likely be the earliest mention of this god in an inscription from the Land of Israel (even if there are other, earlier ones), and that there was some knowledge of writing and scribal practice in the early Iron Age in the highlands.

That said, based on the limited information that I know from the various press announcements, various things going around the web, and discussions with my friend, Gershon Galil, I don’t think:

  • This will prove that the site can be clearly identified as Joshua’s altar as depicted in Deut 11 (and that the text in Deut 11 accurately depicts this site);
  • That this shows that the appearance of the Israelites can be dated to before the very late 13th century BCE;
  • At this stage, one can’t be sure that the inscription is in fact in Hebrew, and not in some similar, but not necessarily identical, NW Semitic language (such as Canaanite);
  • That the literary abilities seen in this inscription demonstrate that the biblical text was already being written down at this stage of the Iron Age;
  • Also, I find it hard to believe that one find can overturn all that we know in biblical, archaeological and historical research about the early history of Israel. I could very well be that the the fact that a curse ארור appears several times in this text, as in Deut 11 indicates that there was a memory of a cultic site on Mt. Ebal (but the biblical memory placed it on the wrong side of the mountain), and that rituals related to curses were connected to it.
  • Finally, I hardly think the inscription, and/or Deut 11, reflect accurate and fully historically reliable corroboration between the two; rather, Deut 11 most likely reflects vague memories of this site, written down, and embellished, at a later time.

That said, once the find is fully published, I’d be more than happy to change my views – if the data supports this.