My participation in the 2011 excavation season at Tel Burna, made possible through the support of the Platt Fellowship from the American Schools of Oriental Research, helped further my research on the socio-political history of the Shephelah. During the Iron Age, Tel Burna was situated in the borderlands of Judah and Philistia, and my work at Tel Burna gave me a better sense for the material culture of this liminal area during the late Iron Age. Furthermore, the excavation allowed me to carefully examine evidence for the transitions that occurred between the late Iron Age to the Persian Period. All of these factors directly contribute to my goal of understanding the cultural and historical identity of Tel Burna against the broader socio-political background of the inner coastal plain in the first millennium BCE.
I worked primarily in Area A2, at the center of the tell’s summit, which consisted of Persian and Iron Age II remains. The principal objective in this area was to understand the late Iron II phase of the tell. At the beginning of the season it was apparent that a 7th century silo cut into the earlier 8th century layers. Although the exact nature of the silo still remains unclear, it stands as one of several silos (discovered in Area A1) that were part of a large-scale rebuilding project in the 7th century. The most productive work in our area focused on understanding the 8th century level(s). The picture that emerged from this period was one of rather intense industrial activity. This season we uncovered paved floors along with the architectural remains of a tripartite-design pillared structure. The area also contained a large number of loom weights that were deposited in specific areas in and around the pillared structure. The data gleaned from our work in Area A2 enables us to reconstruct the transition from 8th to 7th century at the summit of the tell. Furthermore, it provides a detailed picture of this part of the ancient settlement, along with its purpose and function. The industrial section discovered in Area A2 is nestled securely within the fortification network of the upper tell (uncovered in Area A1); together, these factors give me further data for comprehending the wider role of Tel Burna as a border site in the western Shephelah.
The experience of digging at Tel Burna as a Platt Fellow proved memorable. The small staff of experts came from the U.S., Israel, Germany, Korea and Norway, and this multicultural mix made for a tight-knit group that enjoyed working with one another. Finally, I might add, the weather was unexpectedly pleasant during the month of June, as we were greeted each mid-morning by a nice Mediterranean breeze that swept across the coastal plain.
Matthew J. Suriano, 2011 Platt Fellow
University of Maryland, College Park