1993 Excavation Opportunities
Casting Call for the World’s Longest-Running Drama
“All the world’s a stage,” Shakespeare declared. Few places, however, provide a more dramatic backdrop for history making events than the Near East. Birthplace of the three major Western religions, much-traveled roadway for bloody conquerors and pious pilgrims alike, the jewel-in-the-crown of many an empire and also the undoing of those very same empires, the Near East overflows with history.
As a volunteer on a dig, you can play your part in one of the world’s most exciting productions: an archaeological excavation. Unlike the glittering stages of Broadway or London’s West End, however, the rich setting of the Near East is not reserved solely for international stars but open to people of all ages and backgrounds. No academic endeavor invites—indeed, relies on—the participation of just plain ordinary folks the way archaeology does. If Oscars were awarded in archaeology, no doubt the winners for Best Supporting Actor and Actress would be the volunteers who perform the basic duties upon which every dig depends.
Your accommodations, alas, will be nothing like a star’s dressing room; instead you will most likely have to make do with plain shelter and less-than-gourmet cooking. And if there will be no swooning fans waiting at the stage door for your autograph, at least you will have the satisfaction of knowing that your role, however humble, helps keep the drama of rediscovery running year after year.
Summaries of the sites, giving their historical significance and their connection with the Bible, follow. Here is your opportunity to bound out of your seat in the audience and take your place with the cast on stage. Curtain’s going up!
Ashkelon was a major seaport of the Canaanites and Philistines from 3000 to 604 B.C. The Bible frequently mentions the Philistine city at the site. Samson went there in a rage and killed 30 men (Judges 14:19); David lamented, “Proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon,” when he learned of the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, slain by the Philistines at the Battle of Gilboa (2 Samuel 1:20); and the seventh-century B.C. prophet Zephaniah predicted that “Ashkelon shall become a desolation” (Zephaniah 2:4).
Previous work at this large seaside site located in a National Park uncovered a vast array of remains: the world’s oldest arched gateway; Canaanite ramparts and monumental buildings; remains of the last Philistine city, destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 604 B.C., including the royal winery and warehouse; a Phoenician dog cemetery with more than 700 burials; a Roman and Byzantine bathhouse and bordello; oil lamps bearing erotic art; and a unique Canaanite cult object from the second millennium B.C., a tiny calf fashioned from bronze and silver, featured on the cover of
In 1993, director Lawrence E. Stager (Harvard Univ.) will continue excavation of the Canaanite arched gateway and ramparts, of the 604 B.C. destruction remains, and of the dog cemetery, and will search for the city’s ancient harbor installation.
The site is open to visitors only by appointment through the excavation office at the Shulamit Gardens Hotel. Guided tours are available by appointment.
(See the following 1991 BAR articles by Lawrence E. Stager: “When Canaanites and Philistines Ruled Ashkelon,” BAR 17:02; “Why Were Hundreds of Dogs Buried at Ashkelon?” BAR 17:03; “Eroticism and Infanticide at Ashkelon,” BAR 17:04.)
Lying at the foot of Mount Hermon, Banias overlooks the Jordan Valley’s fertile northern end, an area of lush vegetation and abundant opportunities to walk and swim. A large, nearby spring gushes from the mouth of the famous Cave of Pan, mentioned by many ancient writers. As the Greek historian Polybius tells, Antiochus the Great defeated Egypt in an important battle at Banias in about 200 B.C. Jesus visited the area (Matthew 16:13; Mark 8:27), and many important Roman buildings were erected here. Josephus, the first-century A.D. Jewish historian, records that Herod the Great built a temple to Augustus at Banias and that Herod’s son Philip enlarged and beautified the city, which he renamed Caesarea Philippi.
Two separate excavations are working at Banias, one at the site of the ancient city and the other at the Hellenistic-Roman cult site in the grotto of Pan. The excavation of the City, now in its fifth season under the direction of Vassilios Tzaferis (Israel Antiquities Authority), has brought to light the remains of an early Roman basilica and a large Roman building containing 12 arches. In the coming season, Tzaferis plans to expose more of the Roman city and of the building with 12 arches.
The excavation of the religious sanctuary in the grotto of Pan, directed by Zvi Ma‘oz (Israel Antiquities Authority) and Andrea M. Berlin, has uncovered the temple to Augustus that Herod built, as well as other temples and shrines; lifesize marble heads of Athena, Zeus and Aphrodite; decorated altars; architectural sculptures; and Greek and Latin inscriptions. In the coming season, they will clear and excavate the area of the original Hellenistic phase of the cult inside the grotto and clear destruction debris from Herod’s temple to Augustus.
The city excavation is open to visitors all year, but the excavation at the sanctuary of Pan is closed to visitors.
After Saul and his sons were slain on Mount Gilboa, the Philistines displayed Saul’s body on the city wall of Beth-Shean (1 Samuel 31:8–10). The site of Beth-Shean marks one of the longest, essentially unbroken occupations in Palestine, stretching from the fifth millennium B.C. to the Byzantine period (324–640 A.D.). The city served as an Egyptian stronghold during Egypt’s domination of the region in the Late Bronze Age, and it resisted the Israelite attack during the Canaanite occupation. King David, however, conquered the city when he expanded his kingdom northward (1 Kings 4:12).
The site is noted for its Canaanite temples and for the abundance of cult objects unearthed by previous expeditions. In its first four seasons, this new expedition led by Amihai Mazar (Hebrew Univ.) discovered a 15th-century B.C. Canaanite temple and an Egyptian residence from the 12th century B.C. In the coming season, work will continue on the Late Bronze (Canaanite-Egyptian) levels, as well as on the Early Bronze and Hellenistic levels.
The site is open to visitors.
(See “Glorious Beth-Shean,” BAR 16:04.)
Once a major Canaanite city-state and later an Israelite royal administrative center, Tel Beth-Shemesh has several significant Biblical associations. Located in the Shephelah about 16 miles west of Jerusalem, it stood close to Judah’s border with Philistia. When the Philistines gave back the Ark of the Covenant, which had plagued them during the seven months since their capture of it at the battle of Ebenezer (1 Samuel 4), they returned it to the Israelites at Beth-Shemesh (1 Samuel 6:1–16). The city also hosted the battle (2 Kings 14:11–14 ) in which King Jehoash of Israel (800–784 B.C.) defeated and captured the over-ambitious King 036Amaziah of Judah (798–769 B.C.). The last Biblical reference to Beth-Shemesh (2 Chronicles 28:18) tells us that the Philistines seized the city during the reign of King Ahaz (733–727 B.C.). Sennacherib, the Assyrian emperor, destroyed Beth-Shemesh during his campaign of 701 B.C., and the city lost its importance thereafter.
Excavations have revealed massive fortification systems and domestic and public structures from the Late Bronze Age (1550–1200 B.C.) and Iron Ages (1200–586 B.C.). The site includes one of the earliest known olive-oil production centers and many metal artifacts, pieces of jewelry and seals and tablets with Ugaritic and paleo-Hebrew writing. In 1993, directors Zvi Lederman (Harvard Univ.) and Shlomo Bunimovitz (Bar-Iran Univ.) will conduct a multidisciplinary field school where volunteers will have the opportunity to uncover the final destruction of the Canaanite city and explore parts of the fortification system and a possible city gate from the early Biblical period.
The Gospels mention Bethsaida more often than any other town except Jerusalem and Capernaum. The birthplace of the Apostles Peter, Andrew and Philip, Bethsaida was where Jesus restored a blind man’s sight (Mark 8:22–26) and fed the multitude (Luke 9:10–17). In addition, Josephus led forces that clashed with the Romans here during the First Jewish Revolt (66–70 A.D.).
Located on the east side of the Jordan River, slightly north of the Sea of Galilee, Bethsaida has yielded a house of a fisherman from the time of Jesus; a large, early Roman-period building (possibly a synagogue); and an Iron Age temple and palace, possibly the residence of the king of Geshur, Talmai the son of Ammihud, who gave sanctuary to Absalom (2 Samuel 13:37). Director Rami Arav (Univ. of Haifa) will excavate more of the large Roman-period building and of the Iron Age temple and palace in 1993.
The site is open to visitors all year.
A marvel of ancient engineering, Caesarea’s harbor could hold an entire Roman fleet. Herod the Great built the city and harbor between 22 and 10 B.C. on the site of an earlier Phoenician and Hellenistic trading station known as Strato’s Tower. A major port for over 1,000 years, Caesarea reached its zenith during the Byzantine period (324–640 A.D.), when it was the largest city in Palestine. Pontius Pilate resided in the City, and an inscription bearing his name has been found here. Peter’s conversion of Cornelius, a Roman centurion (Acts 10:1-48), and Paul’s brief imprisonment (Acts 23–25) also occurred in Caesarea.
The site has well-preserved ancient aqueducts, a Roman theater in use once again for summer music and dance performances, imposing fortifications from Crusader times and the remains of many other ancient buildings. One of the largest and richest sites in Israel, Caesarea has yielded a vast assortment of statuary, inscriptions, coins, mosaics, ceramics and other finds.
In 1993, directors Kenneth G. Holum (Univ. of Maryland) and Avner Raban (Univ. of Haifa) plan to continue excavating the domestic quarter and to undertake a large excavation of the Herodian warehouse complex. Underwater work will focus on the lighthouse ruins, the harbor breakwaters and the inner harbor.
The site is open to visitors from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
(See the following BAR articles: Kenneth G. Holum, “From the Director’s Chair: Starting a New Dig,” BAR 17:01; Lindley Vann, “Herod’s Harbor Construction Recovered Underwater,” BAR 09:03; Robert L. Hohlfelder, “Caesarea Beneath the Sea,” BAR 08:03; Robert J. Bull, “Caesarea Maritima—The Search for Herod’s City,” BAR 08:03.)
A major Mediterranean port from the Bronze Age through the Roman period, Dor was one of the Canaanite cities defeated by Joshua (Joshua 12:23). Today Tel Dor is the site of one of Israel’s largest excavations. Founded by the Canaanites as early as 1900 B.C., Dor fell to the Sikils—a Sea People tribe—in 1200 B.C. The Phoenicians reconquered the city in 1050 B.C. and dominated its culture for the next 800 years. Dor soon came under Israelite control, became the capital of one of Solomon’s administrative districts and played an important role in ancient Israel’s economy. After its conquest by Tiglath-Pileser III in 732 B.C., it served as an Assyrian administrative center. Dor became a major fortress in the Hellenistic Age. In 137 B.C., the Syrian king Trypho took refuge there and withstood a siege by Antiochus VII before managing to escape (1 Maccabees 15:10, 1 Maccabees 15:14, 1 Maccabees 15:25, 1 Maccabees 15:37–39). The excavations have uncovered slingstones from that siege. Dor continued to thrive in the Roman period, and a Crusader fortress in the 13th century was the last occupation of the site.
Excavations led by Ephraim Stern (Hebrew Univ.) at this beautiful site have revealed the main street, forum, sanctuaries, stoa, basilica and aqueduct of the Roman city and gates and fortifications from the Hellenistic, Persian and Iron Age cities. Archaeologists have also found two Iron I destruction levels with Philistine pottery, early Phoenician artifacts and a skeleton crushed beneath a fallen wall. The upcoming season will bring further work on the Iron I destruction layers in the city center and continued excavation of a Roman temple.
The site is open to visitors all year through the archaeological center at Kibbutz Nasholim. Guided tours are available.
(See the first part of Ephraim Stern’s three-part article, “The Many Masters of Dor,” in this issue.
A major Canaanite harbor city at the mouth of the Yarkon River, a few miles from Tel Aviv, Tel Gerisa was founded in the Early Bronze Age (3150–2200 B.C.) and occupied until the ninth century B.C. In the Late Bronze Age to Iron I period (1550–1000 B.C.), it was a Philistine village.
Discoveries in past seasons include a large palace and dwellings from the Late Bronze 037Age (1550–1200 B.C.); Middle Bronze (2200–1550 B.C.) fortifications and storerooms; a water system hewn in rock; Philistine pillared houses and cult room; and Canaanite and Philistine figurines, seals and tools.
Director Ze’ev Herzog (Tel Aviv Univ.) hopes to expand the excavation area of the Late Bronze Age palace and to investigate its neighboring structures in 1993. He also plans more excavation of the water system.
The site is open to visitors all year.
The Bible refers to the area east of the Sea of Galilee as Geshur, an Aramean kingdom (2 Samuel 15:8) that fell under the military control of King David (2 Samuel 8:3–8). Absalom, David’s son by a Geshurite princess, fled to Geshur and spent three years there after having his brother Amnon killed for the rape of their sister (2 Samuel 13:1–39).
A part of the Land of Geshur Regional Project, which is conducting the first excavations of the Biblical period in the Golan, Tel Hadar was a Geshurite stronghold in the late 12th to late 11th centuries B.C. The site features an 11th-century B.C. palace that may have belonged to Talmai, King David’s father-in-law (2 Samuel 3:3). The Canaanites also occupied the site as early as the 16th century B.C. Other finds at Tel Hadar include an intact granary with one room still filled with wheat, massive basalt fortifications, a building with a pillared hall, and Aramean inscriptions and figurines.
In the coming season, directors Moshe Kochavi (Tel Aviv Univ.), Ira Spar (Ramapo College) and Timothy Renner (Montclair State College) will excavate the 11th-century B.C. gate and administrative quarters.
(See Moshe Kochavi, Timothy Renner, Ira Spar and Esther Yadin, “Rediscovered! The Land of Geshur,” BAR 18:04.)
Excavations since 1976 have uncovered remains from all stages of Tell Halif’s habitation, from its settlement sometime before 3000 B.C. to modern times. The 1977 discovery of a unique ceramic bowl with a molded pomegranate at its center supports speculation that this was the Biblical city of Rimmon (Hebrew for “pomegranate”), mentioned in Joshua 15:32 and Zechariah 14:10. Other evidence suggests the site may be Biblical Ziklag, which King Achish of Gath gave to David (1 Samuel 27:5–6). After a band of Amalekites burned Ziklag and captured its people, David pursued and defeated them, recovering all that they had taken (1 Samuel 30:1–20). Ziklag was also the place where David’s supporters assembled as an army before David became king (1 Chronicles 12:1).
Work in past seasons has uncovered major town sites from the Early and Late Bronze Ages and more than 200 fragments of figurines from the Persian period (539–332 B.C.). In 1993, directors Paul Jacobs (Mississippi State Univ.) and Oded Borowski (Emory Univ.) will excavate broadly in the domestic quarter of the eighth-century B.C. town. They also plan to completely excavate a Chalcolithic (4500–3100 B.C.) cave site.
The site is open to visitors all year. Guided tours are available by arrangement.
Boasting 35,000 petroglyphs—the largest concentration of rock art in the Negev—and 892 archaeological sites, the 75-square-mile survey in the vicinity of Har Karkom provides a rich field for exploration. Subject of a heated debate in BAR, Har Karkom is identified by archaeologist and dig director Emmanuel Anati (Centro Camuno Di Studi Preistorici) as a holy site from the time of the Exodus, perhaps even Mt. Sinai, but in the view of archaeologist Israel Finkelstein, it was simply a popular gathering place for nomads over the millennia. Whoever is right, the site has abundant pottery, altars, standing stones, campsites and tumulus gravesites dating from about 3000–2000 B.C.
Last year the expedition found a site believed to be a sanctuary from the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic, about 30,000 years ago. This site included about 40 large flint boulders with quasi-anthropomorphic shapes (see the sidebar “30,000-Year-Old Sanctuary Found at Har Karkom,” in this issue), numerous flint implements from the Near Eastern Aurignacian culture, 220 anthropomorphic-shaped pebbles bearing evidence of human modification, and drawings formed by arrangements of pebbles on the ground (perfectly preserved, most likely by a sand dune that once covered them). The discovery of this Paleolithic site suggests that Har Karkom had acquired its sacred quality far earlier than previously believed, perhaps as early as the first appearance of Homo sapiens.
In 1993, Anati will continue to survey the area, excavate selected sites and record the rock art.
The site is open to visitors by appointment during the excavation season. Guided tours are available.
The largest Canaanite city in southern Israel, Tel Haror has been identified as Biblical Gerar, where Abraham and Isaac both tried the same ruse: pretending to the Philistine king Abimelech that their wives were really their sisters (Genesis 20 and Genesis 26). Excavations at this site in the western Negev desert have unearthed impressive remains from the Middle Bronze Age to the Persian period (17th to fifth centuries B.C.). Among the remains are a Hyksos temple with a large collection of votive objects, a rich Philistine settlement with painted pottery, Hebrew and Aramaic inscriptions and well-preserved Assyrian fortifications from the Late Iron Age.
In 1993, director Eliezer D. Oren (Ben-Gurion Univ.) will expand the excavation of the Hyksos temple complex and the Philistine settlement.
The site is open to visitors by appointment during the excavation season.
Located in northern Galilee, Hazor was the site of an important dig and the subject of a popular book by the late Yigael Yadin, one of Israel’s most famous archaeologists. For its “enormous size and peculiar features,” Yadin said, “Hazor is unparalleled by any other site in the country.” Yadin also noted that the wide geographical and temporal range of the numerous references to the city in extra-Biblical sources made Hazor “almost unique among Palestinian cities.
Hazor played an important role in Joshua’s conquests. Its king, Jabin, gathered together a league of kings to oppose Joshua. Consequently, when Joshua defeated them, he singled out Hazor and burned it (Joshua 11:1–13). Jabin also appears in the prose story of the battle between Deborah and Sisera (Judges 4). Solomon apparently rebuilt the city (1 Kings 9:15), which finally disappears from the Biblical record after its conquest by the Assyrian ruler Tiglath-Pileser III in 732 B.C. (2 Kings 15:29). Extra-Biblical references to Hazor include the Egyptian Execration Texts (c. 19th–18th centuries B.C.), which curse Hazor as an enemy of Egypt; and tablets from the royal archive at the Mesopotamian city of Mari, one of which notes that Hammurabi, the king of Babylon (1792–1750 B.C.), had ambassadors residing in Hazor.
The site contains a wide variety of Canaanite and Israelite structures, including temples, fortifications and a water system. Director Amnon Ben-Tor (Hebrew Univ.) plans to expand the excavated area in the center of the upper city in 1993 in 039order to expose extensive remains from the Israelite period (tenth-eighth centuries B.C.) as well as the underlying remnants of a Canaanite temple and palace.
The site, located in a national park, is open to visitors daily, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
(See the following BAR articles: Hershel Shanks, “Ben-Tor, Long Married, Will Return to Hazor,” BAR 16:01;
If you want to dig in a real archaeological excavation without spending your whole vacation doing it, Heritage Excavations has a solution. Working in cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority, this private company offers an opportunity for persons to dig for just one day at an official, ongoing excavation in Israel. Participation is limited, however, to groups of four or more persons.
A professional archaeologist will meet you at the site you select (from the more than 50 available) and will tell you about the history, excavations and discoveries at your site. Your archaeologist will then assign you to the area where you will dig and, at the end of the day, will examine your finds and explain their nature and significance.
A Byzantine church from the sixth century A.D. stands on Horvat Karkur, a small tell in the Negev, about four miles north of Beer-Sheva. Excavations at the church have uncovered inscriptions, 15 graves, a baptistery in a mosaic-paved side-chapel and large storage jars in an annex room. Director Pau Figueras (Ben-Gurion Univ.) plans to complete excavation of the west side, including a cistern, and of the annex rooms on the south side in the coming season.
The site is open to visitors all year.
The exploration of Tell Jawa, located six miles south of Amman, Jordan, began in 1989. The ceramic finds show evidence for 040occupation from the Middle Bronze Age (2200–1550 B.C.) to the early Abbasid period (750–1258 A.D.). Although the ancient name of this town is not yet known, the figurines and black burnished bowls found in the Iron II (1000–586 B.C.) levels are typical of the Ammonite cultural tradition. In addition, the site was well fortified during the Iron Age by a casemate wall system visible on the surface for its full length. During the first three seasons, excavators focused on Iron Age II domestic structures, including part of a four-room house. A second domestic area contained five baking ovens and a representative collection of food preparation and cooking utensils.
In 1993, director P. M. Michele Daviau (Wilfrid Laurier Univ.) will concentrate on extensively exposing the Iron Age town, including houses and public buildings. Work will also continue on a Byzantine-early Islamic building that yielded lamps, glass vessels and mosaic tesserae.
The deadline for application information is February 15, 1993. Security forms must be submitted by March 5, 1993.
The site is open to visitors Sunday through Thursday, but an appointment is preferred. Guided tours are available.
Either King Omri (882–871 B.C.E.) or King Ahab (871–852 B.C.) and his wife Jezebel built Jezreel as a second capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. Standing on a spur of Mount Gilboa, at the edge of Jezreel Valley, it served primarily as a winter residence for the royal family. This is the place where Naboth was framed by Jezebel and executed so that Ahab could take possession of Naboth’s vineyard; as a result, Elijah cursed Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings 21). Later, during his coup d’etat in 842 B.C., Jehu took over Jezreel and there killed Jezebel and King Jehoram, Ahab’s son.
During the first three seasons of work at the site, dig directors David Ussishkin (Tel Aviv Univ.) and John Woothead (British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem) completely excavated the eastern tower of the enclosure, reached the bottom of the moat, located the city gate and exposed a Crusader church. In 1993, they will excavate the city gate, locate the western corners and begin to investigate a large building.
The site is open to visitors all year.
Tel Kabri, in the western Galilee, may be identified with Rehob, one of the cities given to the tribe of Asher (Joshua 19:30). Last season’s excavation revealed impressive remains of fortifications and houses dating to the Iron Age and included a large quantity of pottery and others finds associated with the Phoenicians. In another area of the excavation, archaeologists have found a Middle Bronze Age palace with a Minoan painted-plaster floor and fresco. The dig has also uncovered tombs and other architectural features from the Early Bronze Age and Neolithic period.
In 1993, Aharon Kempinski (Tel Aviv Univ.) and W. D. Niemeier (Heidelberg Univ.) will direct the eighth season of excavation at the site.
The site is closed to visitors.
A large Israelite and Byzantine community near Tel Arad in the eastern Negev, Kerioth was the hometown of Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus (Iscariot means “the man from Kerioth”). The Books of Jeremiah (48:24) and Amos (2:2) also mention the Moabite city at Kerioth in connection with the Lord’s judgment against the Moabites. The site features a Byzantine church with mosaic floors, inscriptions, various artifacts and a tomb beneath the floor of the narthex. In the coming season, dig directors Steven Derfler (Hemline 041University) and Yehuda Govrin (Israel Antiquities Authority) hope to finish excavating the church and to begin excavation of an adjacent site dating to the Middle Bronze Age (2200–1550 B.C.).
The site is open to visitors by appointment through the Arad Archaeological Center, 38 Hen St., Arad, Israel (tel: 057–954-445).
One of the largest Iron Age sites in Israel, Tel Miqne is identified with Biblical Ekron, one of the five capital cities of the Philistines. When the Philistines captured the ark, they carried it to a number of their cities, including Ekron (1 Samuel 5:10). A powerful, independent city-state, Ekron threatened the existence of the indigenous Canaanites and the newly settled Israelites in the early 12th century B.C. For most of the ensuing 600 years, Ekron was a major Philistine political and commercial center. It came under the shadow of the kingdom of Judah in the tenth century B.C., however, and had become a vassal city-state of the Neo-Assyrian empire by the seventh century B.C. In 603 B.C., the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Ekron and the last vestiges of Philistine culture.
Excavations under the direction of Trude Dothan (Hebrew Univ.) and Seymour Gitin (Albright Institute) have shed new light on four dramatic chapters in Ekron’s history. The first was the Canaanite settlement of the second millennium B.C.; the second, a large fortified city founded by the Sea Peoples/Philistines in the 12th and 11th centuries B.C., which contained metal and other industries, a large palace and a hearth sanctuary with Aegean affinities. The third occurred in the tenth through eighth centuries B.C., when the city was reduced in size and conquered by the Neo-Assyrian king Sargon II in 712 B.C. The fourth took place when the city expanded and became one of the most important olive-oil production centers in the ancient Near East. Excavations have also yielded more than 1,000 restorable vessels, a unique assemblage of four-horned altars, inscriptions to the goddess Asherah and four caches of jewelry and silver ingots.
The 1993 season will focus on investigating the urbanization process in the Iron Age and the factors that determined Ekron’s growth and decline as a major border city in the Iron Age.
(See Trude Dothan and Seymour Gitin, “Ekron of the Philistines, Part I: Where They Came From, How They Settled Down and the Place They Worshiped In,” BAR 16:01, and “Ekron of the Philistines, Part II: Olive-Oil Suppliers to the World,” BAR 16:02.)
Tel Nessana (Nizzana)
Tel Nessana stands near the junction of two ancient routes: “the way to Shur,” leading to Egypt, and a branch of the Via Maris, running from the Mediterranean shore at Gaza to the Gulf of Elath. Founded by the Nabateans in the second half of the second century B.C., the settlement flourished from the first century B.C. through the first century A.D. During the second to fourth centuries A.D., the city suffered a decline when trade with Elath was diverted from the Gaza route to a new route to Damascus. A Byzantine settlement including four churches, built in the first quarter of the fifth century, thrived until the Arab conquest and continued to exist until the eighth century.
Discoveries at the site include a late Roman fort and papyri of a Greek dictionary of Virgil’s Aeneid and of a fragment of the Aeneid. A previously unknown Byzantine-period monastery and the second largest church in the northern Negev have also come to light recently, as well as an elaborate sixth-century house known as “the Fresco House.” In the coming season, directors Dan Urman (Ben-Gurion Univ.) and Dennis E. Groh (Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary) will continue excavation of the Fresco House and other public and private structures on the site.
The site is closed to visitors.
(See Avraham Negev, “Understanding the Nabateans,” BAR 14:06.)
First identified by J. L. Burckhardt in 1812 and used as a locale in the third Indiana Jones movie, Petra, in Jordan, is the most famous Nabatean site. It features spectacular temples and tombs sculpted from red sandstone cliffs by the Nabateans, who occupied the site from about the fifth century B.C. to 551 A.D. Less well known are the remains of the Iron Age Edomite stronghold and of the Roman and Crusader occupations. Artifacts found at the site include tools, epigraphic material, coins, pottery, and cultic objects. Last season, a shrine was discovered in the residential quarter. Director Philip C. Hammond (Univ. of Utah) will continue to excavate a temple in 1993.
The site is open to visitors all year, and guided tours are available during the excavation season.
The traditional birthplace of Mary, mother of Jesus, Sepphoris has been continuously occupied from the Iron Age to the present. During the Roman period, Sepphoris was rebuilt in grand style by Herod Antipas. In the first century A.D., Josephus testified to its beauty, calling it “the ornament of all Galilee.” After the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (132–135 A.D.), Sepphoris became, for a time, the seat of the Sanhedrin, the central legal and spiritual council of the Jewish people. In about 200 A.D., Rabbi Judah Hanasi (Judah the Prince) compiled in Sepphoris the collection of rabbinical legal rules called the Mishnah. The city continued to serve as a major regional capital until the invasion of the Arabs in 640 A.D.
Finds at Sepphoris include a Roman villa, a large Roman reservoir and aqueduct, a Roman theater, a ritual bath for the Jewish inhabitants (dating from the first to fourth centuries A.D.), a market building with mosaics, bronze statuettes of Pan and Prometheus and a large mosaic floor with mythological scenes including the extraordinary “Mona Lisa of the Galilee,” featured on the
In 1993, two separate teams will excavate at Sepphoris, one from the University of South Florida and one from Duke University. Director James F. Strange (Univ. of South Florida) will continue to work on the market building, trying to locate its eastern extent, exploring its drainage system and exposing more of its mosaics. Directors Carol and Eric Meyers (Duke Univ.) will complete excavation of the western domestic quarter and will explore nearby sites.
(See the following BAR articles: Ehud Netzer and Zeev Weiss, “New Mosaic Art from Sepphoris,” BAR 18:06; Richard A. Batey, “Sepphoris—An Urban Portrait of Jesus,” BAR 18:03; and “Mosaic Masterpiece Dazzles Sepphoris Volunteers,” BAR 14:01.)
Located about 10 miles west of Beer-Sheva, Shiqmim is one of the largest Chalcolithic (c. 4500–3100 B.C.) village sites in Israel. The well-preserved village features residences, alleyways, metalworking areas, public buildings and courtyards. The recent discovery of large underground storage facilities suggests the presence of a network of subterranean rooms and tunnels. Among the important finds uncovered by directors Thomas E. Levy (Univ. of California, San Diego) and David Alon (Israel Antiquities Authority) are copper cultic objects and ivories. The 1993 season will focus on exploration and excavation of the newly discovered underground rooms.
The site is closed to visitors.
(See Thomas E. Levy, “How Ancient Man First Utilized Rivers in the Desert,” BAR 16:06.)
Located about four miles from Caesarea, Shuni served as a hospital and spa for the people of Caesarea during the Roman period. Water festivals were held here at the Roman theater of Maiumas. The site also features a mosaic floor, a public bath and an Asclepion—a building dedicated to Asclepius, the Roman god of medicine. In the coming season, work will continue on the Asclepion under the direction of Eli Shenhav.
The site is open to visitors all year by appointment. Guided tours are available.
The site of ancient Jamnia, Yavneh-Yam lies on the Mediterranean coast, 9 miles south of Tel Aviv. This maritime stronghold of Hellenized Phoenicians played a significant role in the second-century B.C. Maccabean Revolt, the Jewish struggle to free themselves from their Greeks rulers. The Jewish leader Judas Maccabaeus pursued the army 043of Gorgias to the plain of Jamnia (1 Maccabees 4:15) and burned the harbor of Jamnia and the fleet that was in it (2 Maccabees 12:8–9). In other incidents, Gorgias defeated a Jewish army that was marching on Jamnia (1 Maccabees 5:58–61), and Apollonius, governor of Coelesyria, assembled in Jamnia the army that would be defeated by Jonathan at Azotus (1 Maccabees 10:69). The Book of Judith (2:28) also mentions the city as one of several terrorized by Nebuchadnezzar’s general Holofernes.
The first season of excavation, last year, revealed layers from the Hellenistic and Persian periods. Among the finds were sherds of Greek red-figure pottery and a statuette of a girl playing a guitar. Director Moshe Fischer (Tel Aviv Univ.) will continue to excavate the Hellenistic- and Persian-period layers in 1993.
The site is closed to visitors.
“All the world’s a stage,” Shakespeare declared. Few places, however, provide a more dramatic backdrop for history making events than the Near East. Birthplace of the three major Western religions, much-traveled roadway for bloody conquerors and pious pilgrims alike, the jewel-in-the-crown of many an empire and also the undoing of those very same empires, the Near East overflows with history. As a volunteer on a dig, you can play your part in one of the world’s most exciting productions: an archaeological excavation. Unlike the glittering stages of Broadway or London’s West End, however, the rich setting of the Near […]