Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tel Zayit (and Tel Burna)

This morning I set out alone. My family wanted to sleep in, so I was all on my lonesome. I decided to go check out two tels near Beit Guvrin (around Beit Nir and Gal On). Neither of these are huge and well known sites, but both are interesting in their own light. Both were on, or close to the border between Judea and Philistia during the old days.

I first visited Tell Burna. I came upon the webpage for this tel while looking for interesting places to check out. In June 09, the two guys responsible for the upcoming excavations held a survey. Their website shows some of the results nicely illustrated, using GIS (I assume). They found pottery spanning the Early Bronze Age (3200-2300 BCE) through the Middle and Late Bronze up to the Iron Age I (1200-1000 BCE). They found some Philistine pottery, so even though the city was on the Judean side of the border it seems they interacted with the Philistines.
The tel itself is surrounded by a formidable, if rusty barbed wire fence and seeing I was on my own, and with bso, the fence expert, I decided just to walk around the tel and look at it from all sides. I wish these guys a lot of luck with their dig this summer. It must be exciting to have your "own" site that you can track from idea, through survey to excavation.
My only company at 6:30am was this flock of birds that flitted around from spot to spot just in front of me. Israel is wonderfully green at the moment and the Beit Guvrin Valley is no exception.

After a nice walk around Tel Burna, I drove off to Tel Zayit which is just past Kibbutz Gal On and probably not more than three kilometers down the road. This tel has been excavated a number of times over the last few years and it appears they will be digging there once again this summer. The ancient city on the tel seems to have been a border town with almost continuous occupation from the Middle Bronze Age (around 1800 BCE) to the Ottoman period (1517-1917 CE). Neither of these cities has been officially named, although either one of them could be the biblical Libnah. It's hard to put a definite name to an ancient city unless some writing or other specific characteristic is found on site.

They dug here in 2009. You can see the remains of the excavations.
Most of the site was covered with black plastic, but it seems to have been blown away by the weather in this corner. You can see the stratigraphy in the walls of the pit.
The view from the top of the tel is excellent. If only Israel could stay this green all year long (then it would not be Israel I suppose).
If you look closely at this picture you can see the sandbag staircase the excavators use to climb the tel. It is still in perfectly good condition even though there has been some rain.

I made myself coffee and ate the wife's excellent homemade granola bars for breakfast, while sitting below Tel Zayit. By the time I left, around 8:30am, it was getting quite hot. I like visiting these smaller sites that have not been completely excavated (although nothing is really ever completely excavated), I will go back and visit these once after the digging season. Both sites have good web pages and that makes a lot of difference.

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