The third excavation season at Tel Gezer.
This summer a joint Israeli-American expedition conducted its third excavation season at Tel Gezer. In spite of skyrocketing fuel prices and a weak dollar, over 65 students and staff from the United States, Denmark, Canada, Korea, Palestinian Territories, and Israel participated in the excavations which took place from June 23rd-July 25th.
Gezer is situated in the middle of the country, guarding the ancient coastal highway and the pass branching off of it up to Jerusalem. Gezer is mentioned in several historical and biblical sources. 1 Kings 9:15 states that Solomon rebuilt the cities of Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer, implying that Solomon was active in placing fortified cities in key regions throughout his kingdom. In addition, the following verse mentions that an unnamed pharaoh of Egypt conquered Gezer and gave it to Solomon as part of a dowry in the marriage of pharaoh’s daughter to Solomon. Gezer is also mentioned in several New Kingdom documents of ancient Egypt and in Neo-Assyrian texts. Since the ancient city sits in a strategic location, it was always a target for ancient armies marching through the land.
Working under the shade cloth
The excavations, directed by Steven Ortiz of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Samuel Wolff of the Israel Antiquities Authority, continued to expose portions of a massive fortification system and a major destruction of a pillared building in the 8th century BCE, both of which were investigated in previous seasons. Remains of a fierce destruction were found throughout the area of the pillared building. Collapsed burnt mudbrick to heights of a meter and a half were removed, revealing as we descended several storage jars, cooking pots, bowls and kraters—all common domestic ceramic types. The likely culprit of this destruction is Tiglath Pileser III who records his conquest of Gazru (ancient Gezer) in his palace at Nimrud, located in modern-day Iraq. Gezer was one in a series of cities conquered during a military campaign led by this Assyrian monarch. It was during this series of campaigns by Assyria that the northern kingdom of Israel collapsed.
Additional pillared buildings in a domestic quarter and a public-administrative district of the 8th century BCE city were exposed to the east of the destroyed pillared building. The foundations of three large buildings were outlined, averaging about 12 meters by 12 meters each in size. Unfortunately they were in poor condition, having been robbed and exposed in earlier excavations.
The biggest surprise of the season occurred while excavating a small probe that was stratigraphically situated below the city wall dating to the time of King Solomon (or slightly later). There, an American student uncovered a massive pillar base nearly one-meter in diameter. Pottery from this probe dates the pillar base to the Late Bronze Age, around 1300 BC. The project’s strategy has changed with the realization that just beneath the Solomonic city-wall, not far from the edge of the tell, lies a large monumental pillared structure that must be part of an Egyptian or Canaanite palace or temple.
Iron Age II Juglet in Assyrian Destruction
One of the goals of the project is to investigate the history of the ancient city as it transitioned from a Canaanite city to an Israelite city. Gezer sits on a natural border and is a key site to provide data for the relationship between the coast and the hill country. The newly discovered pillar base provides evidence that there was a dramatic change in the city plan during the 10th century BCE from the earlier city that was destroyed.
In addition to its primary sponsors, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Israel Antiquities Authority, the project is supported by several consortium member institutions: Lancaster Bible College, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Marian Eakins Archaeological Museum, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and Lycoming College. An enthusiastic rapport also developed between the project members and the National Nature and Parks Authority and the local residents of Kibbutz Gezer, Karmei Yosef, and the Tel Gezer Regional Council
Aerial of Field A
The Tel Gezer Excavation Project is a long term project that will investigate the growth and development of the ancient city of Gezer. Students participate in an intensive program of archaeological fieldwork with evening lectures and a study course where they travel throughout the various regions of Israel. The project is open to all students and adult volunteers. Information can be obtained from the project Web site: www.gezerproject.org.
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