|The 2009 Season at Tell es-Safi/Gath – Brief Summary|
The 2009 season of excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath was conducted during the Month of July, 2009, with the participation of professional staff, students and volunteers from Israel and countries throughout the world. The professional staff of the excavations included archaeologists and researchers from Bar-Ilan University, Weizmann Institute of Science, Brigham Young University, University of Melbourne, Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, University of Sheffield, Yeshiva University, University of Barcelona, University of Southampton, and University of Manitoba:
Director: Aren Maeir
Major Domo: Nir Reiss
Volunteer coordinator: Rona Avissar
Registrar: Debi Cassuto
Field Supervisors: Alex Zukerman, Jeff Chadwick, Itzik Shai
Area Supervisors: Louis Hitchcock, Jill Katz, Amit Dagan, Cynthia Shafer-Eliot
Director of Archaeological Science: Steve Weiner
Archaeobotanist: Udi Weiss
Geomorphologist: Ruth Shahak-Gross
Materials Science and Dating: Elisabetta Boaretto, Clive Trueman
Phytolith Analysis: Rosa Albert
Physical Anthropology: Marina Faerman
Zooarchaeologist: Liora Horwitz, Haskel Greenfield, Tina Greenfield
Archaeometallurgy: Naama Yahalom Mack, Adi Behar
Architect: J. Rosenberg
Photographer: Richard Wiskin
Publication staff: Joe Uziel
During the excavation season, two international field schools were conducted in conjunction with the excavations – a field archaeology field school (directed by A. Maeir) and an archaeological science field school (directed by S. Weiner).
The Excavations: The excavations this year concentrated in three primary areas, Areas A and E on the eastern side of the tell, and Area F on the western side, near the summit.
Area A: The excavations in Area A (overall field director – Alex Zukerman) were divided into 4 sub-areas.
1) On the western most part of Area A, Cynthia Shafer-Eliot (University of Sheffield) directed a team which work on two aspects: 1) Excavation below the St. A3 cultic corner (squares 88A/B/C), in what perhaps may be an earlier cultic structure. Although this is not yet clear, the discovery of two well-made stone column bases, and several small pits that might have served as “favissae” hint to the possible cultic function of this pre-A3 structure. Preliminary analysis of this structure, including the column bases and a related wall are somewhat reminiscent of the Tel Qasile, St. X temple. Further excavation of this feature is required to clarify this possibility; 2) In square 88D, the NE corner of the A2 “4 room house” was dismantled, and by the end of the season the excavators had reached the very top of the St. A3 destruction level.
2) In Square 89C, Jill Katz (YU), Steve Weiner (WIS), and Clive Trueman (Univ. of Southampton) jointly directed a high resolution excavation of the St. A3 destruction level seen in this square. As opposed to previously excavated samples of this destruction level, in this case, the excavation of the square and relevant contexts and finds was done in a very gradual and high resolution manner, and multiple sampling for various archaeological science analyses was conducted. While the speed at which the excavation was conducted was substantially slower than in other areas, the preliminary results are very interesting, indicating that the processes involved in the destruction of this stratum are more complicated than previously thought. Preliminarily, it appears that this destruction is far from a single event, but involved differential destruction in different parts of the site, and after the destruction, an apparent period of decay and abandonment.
3) In Squares 80C/D and 90A/B, Louise Hitchcock (Melbourne) and her team excavated remains dating to the late Iron I and early Iron IIA. This included: final excavation and dismantling of the unique Iron IIA hydraulic plaster element (analytic research conducted by Lior Regev, WIS); excavation of a St. A4 hearth and surrounding features, which included a surface made of large sherds, a wall with interesting evidence of masonry, and an apparent ritual pit with the remains of a goat scapula. In addition, her team continued excavating in what appears to be an area with substantial garbage deposits.
4) In Squares 71 and 72, Amit Dagan (BIU) and his team excavated in a portion of Area A that had not been excavated for several seasons. After dismantling various previously excavated features of St. A3 (and in some cases, of A4 as well), they excavated several features, including: 1) in the east of the area, a well preserved stone pavement on which two almost complete Iron I jugs were found. Right next to this pavement a surface with several round pebble hearths were discovered; 2) In the center of this excavation area, an interesting deposit of Iron I finds were discovered. This deposit, which was apparently placed on purpose in a pit, including several Iron I vessels (including two chalices [one with duck heads on its rim] and several bowls) all placed on a scapula bone. The deposit dates to a relatively early stage of the Iron I, as it contained LH IIIC and Philistine Bichrome vessels; 3) In the NE area of the excavation, below the late Iron I levels, the excavation did not discover earlier Iron I remains, but rather appears to have gone into LB levels. Although yet in a limited area, this may indicate that the early Iron I levels will not be found in all of Area A, and perhaps, the LB levels discovered in Area A (the east) will be found in Area A as well.
Area E: In the 2010 season, the excavations in Area E (directed by Itzik Shai [BIU]) were conducted only in a very limited manner. In the previous season, samples taken from the western balk of Area E, at the levels of the late LB building excavated in previous seasons, had hinted to the possible existence of an area with higher than normal levels of copper in the relevant sediments. In light of the fact that this might indicate the existence of functions relating to copper production, and in light of the fact that the SW corner of the LB building had not been excavated, it was decided to excavate this corner with the particular aim of getting to the relevant levels from which these samples had been taken. The corner of the building was excavated. In the excavated room, a pit was found which contained several copper “prills” – which perhaps were the reason for the higher levels of copper detected in the earlier sampling. This context was studied by Adi Behar (WIS) and Naama Yahalom-Mack (TUA), but unfortunately, no direct evidence of copper production was found.
Area F: The excavations in Area F were directed by Jeffrey Chadwick (BYU) and were limited this season to a few specific issues. In the upper part of Area F, a probe was made in the area of the Crusader period tower (in Square 27C) to further elucidate its plan. In addition, a small section of the 8th century BCE levels were excavated in 18A/B, including the possible remains of a mid-8th century BCE earthquake collapse (above the 9th cent. destruction level). If this is in fact an earthquake collapse, it will provide an important facet for the understanding of the Iron II at the site. It indicates that perhaps, after the 9th century destruction there was a period of abandonment, followed by the earthquake, and subsequently, two late 8th century BCE (Judahite) levels. In addition, one can wonder whether this might be evidence of the mid-8th cent. BCE earthquake mentioned in the Bible (such as in Amos 1) In Lower Area F, work focused on the early Iron I levels. This included exposure in Square 16C of several superimposed early Iron I levels, including at least two levels with clear LH IIIC assemblages. In the square above this, early Iron I levels were also excavated, but of a slightly later phase. The exposure and excavation of the early Iron I levels in Area F is of importance, since it provided the first clear cut, multi-phased stratigraphy of the earliest Philistine settlement at Tell es-Safi/Gath.
|Prof. Aren M. Maeir, Director
Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations
The Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology
Bar Ilan University
Ramat Gan, 52900