Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tel Halif

Tel Halif is outside Kibbutz Lahav, near Beer Sheva. We left early and the mist on the way out was very thick. There were parts of Route 6 that looked spooky indeed. By the time we arrived at Lahav, much of the fog had cleared and the sun was out.

Tel Halif "may" be the biblical city of Rimon (mentioned five times in the bible). The site has been occupied from the Chalcolithic (3500BCE) through to modern times. There have been a number of digs over the years, and there looks like there will be another this summer. A number of Bronze age remains have been uncovered, as well as a Late Bronze Egyptian residence. The Iron Age town was probably destroyed by Sennacherib, the Assyrian King, during his 701 BCE campaign.

Before it's destruction by the Assyrians, it appears the city was a typical Judean town. In one of the more recent digs a "shrine room" was uncovered. The room was part of an ordinary house, and it contained some cultic artefacts, amongst them the head of a goddess - probably "Asherah". There is a ongoing debate over whether the Judahites of this time were practicing both a form of Judaism that included the worship of idols (or perhaps this was syncretism - melding of both Judaic and Canaanite cultic practices). There is a nice paper, along with links to pictures of the finds here.

To be honest, I am not sure we actually found the site of the Tel Halif. We climbed the Tel and did find some excavations (see the pictures below), but there are no signs or very specific directions anywhere - and there are a lot of ruins in the area.
That's the tel. We made our coffee on one of the picnic tables below and then struggled up. It was quite a climb. The recent rains have covered the area in bush and wild flowers. This I think is very different from how this near desert area looks in mid summer. Sorry about the sun in your eyes, but it would have been hard to move the tel to a more convenient angle.
We got quite a surprise when we arrived at the top of the tel only to find a bunch of camels. Well, we have seen all sorts of wildlife on our Saturday morning excursions, but this is our first close up camel. This was as close as the camel would come to the boy. At this point it stretched its neck and let out a huge raspberry "ththththththththth". We let it be.

There were quite a lot of these corrugated iron reinforced ditches all over the top of the tel. I thought at first that they were old excavations, but now I think they look more like army bunkers. I have no idea.
These are the recent excavations. They are already pretty well overgrown because of all the winter rains. I am sure they will be bare by the summer.
Another look at the excavations. The tel is really quite large and we only found a smallish area that had been dug. I am not sure if there are more. It was tough going on the top of the tell as the bush had grown quite high and we really had to fight our way through. The inconsiderate camels had not made a lot of tracks for us to follow.
Spring is still here and the wildflowers are in full bloom. One more week like this last one and I am sure they will be done. By the time we left it was already quite hot. There are a lot of sites in the area and we will be back.

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