We continued to work at Tel Gezer, Israel
This year, with the help of an ASOR scholarship, I participated in an archaeological excavation at Tel Gezer, Israel. This season (no.7 done by Southwestern Baptist Seminary/The Tandy Institute) was different from the other seasons due to the war with Gaza; several foreign excavation projects ceased digging due to their proximity to the Gaza strip. Since Tel Gezer is not located near major populated areas (between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem), we continued to work, despite hearing sirens on a daily basis and witnessing the Iron Dome intercepting the incoming rockets. Our team consisted of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish staff and volunteers. There was a wide spectrum of beliefs, yet the staff focused on the scientific investigation of the ancient city.
Our dig site is located on the southern part of the Tel, next to the Solomonic or six chamber gates (10 century B.C.E.), which was previously excavated by archeologists, Macalister and Dever. We had two fields, field East and field West. In field East we found toppled building stones, a probable sign of Shishak’s (Egyptian pharaoh) destruction around 918 B.C.E., mentioned in 1 Kings 14:25-26. In one of the 10th and 9th-century B.C.E. rooms, we excavated a museum piece, an extremely rare ivory-carved game board. The discovery is a well-known game from the ancient world (Levant, Cyprus) called, “The Game of 20 Squares.” Just west of the six chamber gate next to the casemate fortification wall, we discovered a large courtyard area with a tabun (clay cooking oven), storage jars, and cooking pots. Another interesting find in field East was a zoomorphic image of a bull, which we called the “Texas Longhorn.”
The ancient city of Gezer was built on a slope (west to east) with unequal stratigraphy; therefore, in field West, we focused on the entire field rather than individual squares, as in field East. This year, with the help of the ASOR scholarship, I purchased a quadrocopter with an attached high definition camera that captured an extraordinary aerial view, allowing us to better visualize and understand the stratigraphy and architecture of the ancient Tel. Field West did not fall short in finds, compared to field East, this season. The excavations revealed pre-Solomonic building remains, with the most impressive finds from this period (12th and 11th centuries B.C.E.), including a perfectly preserved bronze spearhead, the head of a Philistine-type (“Ashdoda”) ceramic figurine, and my favorite find this season, the ceramic six-toed foot possibly of a lion figurine.
The Tel Gezer excavation project plans to return to Israel next summer in 2015. We will continue to excavate 10th-century B.C.E. stratum to further clarify the earlier Iron Age stratum (12th and 11th centuries) and continue to expose elements of the 14th century Late Bronze Age stratum. However, before next season starts, a conservation team will begin restoration of an 8th-century Israelite four-room house and strengthen the exposed walls of the 10th-century stratum, providing additional viewing highlights for visitors of the national park Tel Gezer.
I would like to thank Dr. Steven Ortiz from Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth and Dr. Sam Wolf from Israel Antiquities Authorities in Jerusalem for leading a successful team and season at Tel Gezer, keeping us all calm and focused on our goal, and most of all, safe, despite the events that took place just 40 miles away. I would also like to thank all the participants of the excavation, it would not have been as fun without you! Lastly, many thanks to ASOR for awarding me the scholarship and allowing me to participate on a dig! All the best!
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