Heritage Grant Recipient Julie Miller Describes her Summer at Tel Gezer

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Dig Participants Moving the Base of an Olive Press

I participated for five weeks in the dig at Tel Gezer, located on the western approach from the coastal plain to Jerusalem. This site has been dug by multiple teams from 1902 until present, each focusing on their own particular goals for their season(s). The Tel Gezer Excavation Project is in its fifth season and is sponsored by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Israel Antiquities Authority. Co-directors Wolff and Ortiz participate with a consortium of academic institutions for staffing and expertise. Since part of the current debate on the Tel Gezer site is the ceramic record, and acquiring an extensive ceramic database, we methodically collected pottery! Our goals included excavating a sequence of well-stratified cultural horizons of the Iron Age in order to establish a ceramic database of the Iron Age strata and to better understand the relationship of the various Iron Age fortifications, wall systems and buildings.

In my 4 m X 4m square, we removed approximately 1 meter of vertical material. Much of that material was fill left by previous excavations but we did encounter some undisturbed surfaces and ended the season on what we think is a 10th century floor. Along the way we encountered a cobble floor, destruction layers that included ash and stone tumble, walls, pillars and their bases, doorways and of course an assemblage of material culture from loom weights, beads, coins, flint tools, bones, whole vessels, a possible shofar and thousands of pieces of pottery.

I acquired skills with tools I had never used such as a transit level, turia, trowel, patische and guffa and realized that archaeology is not for sissies! Often there is little to do but carefully and systematically remove dirt and that makes for long hours of hauling it out of the square and up to the dump pile. It’s hard to get a sense of the story one or two squares has to others but the field archaeologists, directors and site supervisors involved the volunteers in their postulations and the weekly site tours helped to connect the pieces.

My involvement with the dig gave me an appreciation of how the science of archaeology reveals the stories of a site’s occupation and use. The insights into the history then inform my understanding of the ancient near east and the world of the Bible. I participated in discussions with Israelis over their skepticism of the accuracy of the reporting and disclosure of the findings, as some findings would not support the Biblical record and I saw nothing in the collection or recording in our dig that would have warranted skepticism. What I did find were a number of area supervisors, directors, lab staff and support staff that were passionate about archaeology and the emphasis of this dig as a teaching classroom.

Sylvan and Julie at Caesarea on a Dig Field Trip

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