’97 Dig Opportunities
1988 Excavation Opportunities
1990 Excavation Opportunities
1991 Excavation Opportunities
1993 Excavation Opportunities
1994 Excavation Opportunities
1996 Excavation Opportunities
A Guide to ’98 Digs: The Volunteer's View
Alter vs. Kugel
An Odyssey Debate
Ancient Musical Instruments
Assessing the Jehoash Inscription
BAR's 20th Anniversary
BAR's Tenth Anniversary Section
BAR’s 20th Anniversary
Battle Over Bones
Battle Over Jericho Heats Up
Battling Over the Jesus Seminar
Caesarea: Herod and Beyond
David’s Jerusalem: Fiction or Reality?
Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea Scrolls Research Council: Fragments
Dead Sea Scrolls Update
Dig In: A Guide to ’99 Digs
Digs and Digging 1980
East Meets West: The Uncanny Parallels in the Lives of Buddha and Jesus
Elgin Marbles Debate
Excavation Opportunities 1985
Excavation Opportunities 1986
Excavation Opportunities 1989
Excavation Opportunities 1995
Frank Moore Cross—An Interview
Has Richard Friedman Really Discovered a Long-Hidden Book in the Bible?
In Private Hands
Israel Comes to Canaan
Jerusalem Explores and Preserves Its Past
Jerusalem’s Underground Water Systems
Jonah and the Whale
Megiddo Stables or Storehouses?
Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling
New Directions In Dead Sea Scroll Research
One if by Sea…Two if by Land: How Did the Philistines Get to Canaan?
Pilate in the Dock
Point/Counterpoint: Pros and Cons of the Contemporary English Version
Portraits In Heroism
Redating the Exodus—The Debate Goes On
Rewriting Jerusalem History
Riches at Ein Yael
Scholars Disagree: Can You Name the Panel with the Israelites?
Sea Peoples Saga
Should the Bible Be Taught in Public Schools?
Special Bible Section
Spotlight on Sepphoris
Temple Scroll Revisited
The Age of BAR
The Amman Citadel: An Archaeological Biography
The Babylonian Gap Revisited
The Bible Code: Cracked and Crumbling
the Brother of Jesus
The Dead Sea Scrolls
The God-Fearers: Did They Exist?
The Jacob Cycle in Genesis
The Minoans of Crete: Europe’s Oldest Civilization
The Most Original Bible Text: How to Get There
The Pools of Sepphoris: Ritual Baths or Bathtubs?
The Search for History in the Bible
What Was Qumran?
Where Was Jesus Born?
Where Was the Temple?
Who Invented the Alphabet
Guide to Sites
Here’s a brief look at the sites that will be accepting volunteers for the 1999 season, some of the important discoveries made in the past and what the dig directors plan for the upcoming season. Pertinent past BAR articles on the sites are listed at the end of each entry, since familiarity with a site will add immeasurably to your enjoyment and understanding of what you see and do. Even if you’re unable to join a dig, you may still visit many of the sites. We’ve noted when the sites are open to tourists and whether guided tours are available.
Tell Abu al-Kharaz
Located in the Jordan River valley about 9 miles east of Beth-Shean, Abu al-Kharaz, Jordan, might be the Jabesh Gilead of the Bible (Judges 21 and 1 Samuel 11) and the city where King Saul was buried (2 Samuel 2:4–7). The site was occupied from the Early Bronze Age to the early Arab period. In past seasons, excavators, under director Peter M. Fischer (Gothenburg Univ., Sweden), have found fortifications from the Bronze and Iron Ages, domestic architecture from all periods of occupation, a bronze statue of a warrior god, seals and Egyptian imports. Fischer plans to continue to excavate on the Bronze and Iron Age remains in 1999. The site is open to the public, and guided tours are available on request.
A major Philistine city, Ashkelon is mentioned frequently in the Hebrew Bible: Samson, in a rage, killed 30 men there (Judges 14:19); “Proclaim it not in the bazaars of Ashkelon,” David lamented 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 prophet Jeremiah, in his oracle against the Philistines, declared that “Ashkelon has perished” and that “the sword of the Lord,” in the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army, was drawn “against Ashkelon and against the seashore” (Jeremiah 47:5–7). Situated on the Mediterranean coast about 45 minutes south of Tel Aviv, Ashkelon was a significant seaport, first for the Canaanites (3000–1200 B.C.) and then for the Philistines (1200–604 B.C.).
Previous work at Ashkelon has uncovered a vast array of remains: the world’s oldest arched gateway (featured on the
BAR articles: Lawrence Stager, “The Fury of Babylon: Ashkelon and the Archaeology of Destruction,” BAR 22:01; “Eroticism and Infanticide at Ashkelon,” BAR 17:04; “Why Were Hundreds of Dogs Buried at Ashkelon?” BAR 17:03; “When Canaanites and Philistines Ruled Ashkelon,” BAR 17:02.
Called Caesarea Philippi in the Gospels, Banias is closely associated with the Galilean ministry of Jesus (Matthew 16:13; Mark 8:27). Located at the foot of Mt. Hermon near the source of the Jordan River, the city was occupied from the early Roman to the Ottoman period; excavators in previous seasons have found the early Roman city, with a palace and arched storerooms. A large nearby spring gushes from the Cave of Pan, a sanctuary established in the third century B.C. and mentioned by many ancient writers.
In 1999 Vassilios Tzaferis (director of field excavations, for the Israel Antiquities Authority) plans to expose more of the first-century A.D. palace. The site is open to visitors year-round.
BAR article: John F. Wilson and Vassilios Tzaferis, “Banias Dig Reveals King’s Palace,” BAR 24:01.
An important city in southern Israel during the Roman period, Beit Guvrin was named a polis (city-state) in 200 A.D., when Emperor Septimius Severus (193–211) granted it the largest amount of land of any city in Palestine. The site has yielded extensive remains from the Roman period (including an amphitheater, public baths, mosaics and tombs), Crusader fortifications and a church. In 1999 dig directors Amos Kloner (Bar-Ilan Univ.) and Michael Cohen (Haifa Univ.) will continue to investigate the urbanization of the site. The site is open to the public, but guided tours are not available. (Nearby is the site of Maresha, the City of Cave Dwellers, famed for its 3,000 man-made caves—which functioned as chalk quarries, dovecotes, dwellings, storage areas and tombs—and also excavated by Kloner.)
BAR article: Amos Kloner, “Underground Metropolis—The Subterranean World of Maresha,” BAR 23:02.
The Gospels mention Bethsaida more often than any other town except Jerusalem and Capernaum, but Bethsaida was lost to the modern world until archaeological excavations began there in 1987: An important city in the first century A.D., Bethsaida was destroyed by 050the Romans during the First Jewish Revolt (66–70 A.D.) and never rebuilt. Bethsaida (the name means “House of the Fisherman”) was the birthplace of the apostles Peter, Andrew and Philip and was the town where Jesus restored a blind man’s sight (Mark 8:22–26) and fed the multitude (Luke 9:10–17). Earlier, Bethsaida may have been the location of the capital of the kingdom of Geshur. Rami Arav (Univ. of Nebraska, Omaha) found the city using probes and surveys; he was responsible for literally putting Bethsaida on the map—the official map of Israel—in 1989.
Located on the east side of the Jordan River, slightly north of the Sea of Galilee, Bethsaida has yielded Roman and Hellenistic houses, an unusual statue of the Egyptian god Pataekos (shown on the
Beth-Shemesh originally stood on the western border of Judah and, as a frontier city, played a role in the creation of ancient Israel. Beth-Shemesh is where the Philistines gave the Ark of the Covenant back to the Israelites (1 Samuel 6); it was also a significant part of King Solomon’s administrative organization (1 Kings 4:9). Later, Beth-Shemesh was the site of several battles between the Philistines and the Judahites. It was destroyed by the Assyrians in 701 B.C.
Located in the lowlands about 16 miles southwest of Jerusalem, Beth-Shemesh has yielded a number of finds dating 051the time of the early kings of Israel, including massive fortification systems, a huge cross-shaped underground rock-cut reservoir, an early Israelite village, a storage facility and olive oil extraction facilities. Dig directors Zvi Lederman and Shlomo Bunimovitz (both of Tel Aviv Univ.) hope to uncover the destruction level of the Canaanite city, the Iron Age (Israelite) village and parts of the city’s fortification system. In the last few days of the 1998 season, excavators discovered a royal storage facility packed with broken pottery vessels; volunteers will continue work on that area in 1999.
BAR article: Shlomo Bunimovitz and Zvi Lederman, “Beth-Shemesh: Culture Conflict on Judah’s Frontier,” BAR 23:01.
One of the most spectacular of ancient Israel’s sites, Caesarea Maritima is where the apostle Paul was imprisoned (Acts 23–26) and where the apostle Peter first converted gentiles to Christianity (Acts 10). Occupied from the fourth or third century B.C. through the Crusader period, Caesarea reached its zenith in Byzantine times. According to the first-century A.D. historian Josephus, Herod built the city between 22 and 10 B.C. on the site of an earlier Phoenician and Hellenistic trading station known as Strato’s Tower and named it in honor of his patron, Caesar Augustus. The large artificial harbor Herod built there made the city a major port, the only all-weather haven for ships on his 053kingdom’s Mediterranean coast. The harbor could hold the entire Roman fleet and was noted in antiquity as an engineering marvel. Caesarea continued to serve as a port for a thousand years.
Since the 1950s, the site has yielded a vast assortment of statuary, inscriptions (including one bearing the name of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate), coins, mosaics and ceramics as well as botanical and zoological samples. Recent excavations have centered around the harbor, where divers have uncovered Herod’s original harbor and later harbors that were built on top of it. On land, excavators have found the ancient city’s street plan, a well-preserved aqueduct system, a theater, a circus, a waterfront warehouse complex, baths, shops, dwellings, and the remains of an early Christian church built over the ruins of Herod’s temple to Roma and Augustus. Splendid Crusader fortifications—the ruins of medieval Caesarea—have long been uncovered.
Dig directors Kenneth G. Holum (Univ. of Maryland, College Park) and Avner Raban (Univ. of Haifa) will continue their work at three sites: the Roman through early Islamic warehouse and dwelling quarter, the Roman temple later converted to a church, and the harbor itself. Caesarea Maritima is a national park, so it is open to visitors year-round, and guided tours are available through various Israeli agencies. No appointment is necessary.
BAR articles: “Caesarea Maritima Yields More Treasures,” BAR 20:01; Barbara Burrell, Kathryn Gleason and Ehud Netzer, “Uncovering Herod’s Seaside Palace,” BAR 19:03; Kenneth G. Holum, “From the Director’s Chair: Starting a New Dig,” BAR 17:01; Lindley Vann, “Herod’s Harbor Construction Recovered Underwater,” BAR 9:03; Robert L. Hohlfelder, “Caesarea Beneath the Sea,” BAR 08:03 and Robert J. Bull, “Caesarea Maritima—The Search for Herod’s City,” BAR 8:03.
The political fortunes of Dor have shifted mightily over the years. One of the Canaanite cities defeated by Joshua (Joshua 12:23), the coastal city was founded as early as 1900 B.C. Dor fell to the Sikils—a Sea People tribe, like the Philistines—in about 1200 B.C. The Phoenicians (Canaanites pushed north by the Sea Peoples) reconquered the city in 1050 B.C. and dominated its culture for the next 800 years. Politically, however, Dor fell under Israelite control. It became the capital of one of Solomon’s administrative districts and played an important role in ancient Israel’s economy. The Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III (744–727 B.C.) conquered Dor in 732 B.C. and made it an Assyrian administrative center. In the Hellenistic period, Dor was a fortress. In 137 B.C. the Syrian king Trypho fled there and withstood a siege by Antiochus VII before managing to escape 054(1 Maccabees 15:10–14, 25, 37–39). Dor continued to thrive during the Roman period, and its last occupation is marked by the ruins of a Crusader fortress from the 13th century. Today the site, located about 25 miles south of Haifa, is one of Israel’s largest archaeological excavations.
Ephraim Stern (Hebrew Univ.) directs the Dor dig; however North American volunteers may join one of two American teams. One of these teams will be led by Andrew Stewart (Univ. of California, Berkeley) and Rainer Mack (Univ. of California, Santa Barbara), the other by Jeffrey Zorn of Cornell University. Stewart and Mack will continue exploring Tel Dor’s Roman, Hellenistic and Persian levels in and around the temple and acropolis area. Zorn’s primary goal is to elucidate the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Iron Age. Past excavations have revealed gates and fortifications from the Hellenistic, Persian and Iron Age cities; sling stones from the siege of Antiochus VII; and an aqueduct, the main street, sanctuaries, basilicas, a forum and a stoa from the Roman period city. Archaeologists have also found early Phoenician artifacts and what seems to be evidence of a destructive earthquake during Iron Age I, including a skeleton crushed beneath a fallen wall. The discovery of an inscribed cow’s collarbone found at the site was reported in the 1995 Jan./Feb. BAR (see “Prize Find: Recovery Of A Harbor Scene At Dor,” BAR 21:01). The unfenced site is open to visitors, but guided tours—only available in the summer—are by appointment only.
BAR articles: Ephraim Stern, “Buried Treasure: The Silver Hoard from Dor,” BAR 24:04; “Priestly Blessing of a Voyage,” BAR 21:01; “The Many Masters of Dor,” parts 1–3, “The Many Masters of Dor,” BAR 19:01, “The Many Masters Of Dor, Part 2: How Bad Was Ahab?” BAR 19:02 and “The Many Masters Of Dor, Part 3: The Persistence of Phoenician Culture,” BAR 19:03.
Ein Gedi has been under excavation only since 1995, but it has already yielded what may have been a first- to second-century A.D. Essene settlement at the highest point of the Ein Gedi oasis. The nearby village, which was originally built during the Roman period on the western coast of the Dead Sea between Masada and Qumran, relied primarily on the production of balsam—a highly valued aromatic oil—for subsistence. According to the first-century A.D. historian Josephus, the Queen of Sheba brought balsam trees to Israel and presented them to King Solomon. In the Talmud, balsam oil is identified as the balm of Gilead (Jeremiah 8:22).
Besides the possible Essene settlement, past excavations have uncovered the village’s balsam-processing installation, a Jewish ritual bath (mikveh), the remains of a Roman bathhouse, water installations, two flour mills, ancient terraces, a synagogue, streets and shops. Dig director Yizhar Hirschfeld (Hebrew Univ.) plans to continue excavation of both the village and the settlement. The site is open to visitors during the work week by appointment. Guided tours may be arranged.
BAR article: “The Balm of Gilead,” BAR 22:05.
Es-Safi has been identified as the city of Gath, one of the five royal cities of the Philistines. The home of Goliath and Achish, Gath is mentioned more times in the Bible than any other site in Philistia. In addition, it is most likely the city called Gimti in the 14th-century B.C. Amarna tablets.
Es-Safi has been continuously inhabited from the Chalcolithic era until modern times. The site was first excavated for two weeks in 1899 by Frederick Bliss and R.A.S. Macalister. The current dig is expected to continue for ten years under the leadership of Aren Maeir (Bar-Ilan Univ.) and Carl S. Ehrlich (York Univ., Canada). So far, the excavation has concentrated on Iron Age levels. Finds include a number of well-preserved buildings destroyed by a violent fire. In 1999 Maeir and Ehrlich plan to continue working on the Iron Age levels in both the upper and lower city and to explore a monumental siege system that surrounds the city, concentrating on tenth- to ninth-century B.C. material, since that time span is not well represented at other Philistine sites.
Tell es-Safi is located halfway between Jerusalem and Ashkelon, on the border of the coastal plain and the Judean foothills.
The history of Gamla begins in glory and ends in devastation: During the Early 056Bronze Age, when Gamla was first settled, it was one of the largest cities in the Golan. Located on a narrow spur far above the Sea of Galilee and surrounded on three sides by steep ravines, Gamla was easily defended. A crucial battle fought here during the First Jewish Revolt resulted in Gamla’s annihilation by the Romans in 67 A.D.
Previous excavations have revealed the remains of this battle—including over 1,600 iron arrowheads, 1,000 basalt ballista stones, pieces of Roman armor, a destroyed tower and breached walls; excavations have also uncovered the earliest known synagogue, Jewish ritual baths, olive oil presses, Roman villas and other dwellings. In 1999 dig director Danny Syon (Israel Antiquities Authority) plans to extend the excavated areas along the planned visitors’ trail. He will also continue excavating a villa found last year and will start work on what may have been a public building. The site is open to visitors daily, but there are no guided tours.
BAR articles: Danny Syon, “Gamla—Portrait of a Rebellion,” BAR 18:01; Shlomit Nemlich and Ann Killebrew, “Rediscovering the Ancient Golan—The Golan Archaeological Museum,” BAR 14:06; “Gamla: The Masada of the North,” BAR 05:01 and Flavius Josephus, “The Fall of Gamla,” BAR 5:01.
Located about 12 miles southwest of Beer-Sheva, Halutza was occupied from the third century B.C. (the middle of the Hellenistic period) to the eighth century A.D.(the Byzantine period). There are no direct Biblical connections for this site, but the town is mentioned in midrashic sources (rabbinic expansions of Biblical stories). So far, volunteers working under directors Haim Goldfus and Benny Arubas (both of Ben-Gurion Univ.) have excavated the only theater found in the Negev Desert and an early Christian cathedral. The site is open to the public year-round, but much of it is often covered over for protection. Guided tours are available by arrangement.
Whether or not Har Karkom was Mt. Sinai, as dig director Emmanuel Anati (Centro Camuno di Studi Preistorici, Brescia, Italy) believes, Har Karkom—a sacred mountain with numerous ceremonial sites, altars and other places of cultic activity—was one of the major “high places” of the Bronze Age in the Sinai Peninsula. A Paleolithic shrine (30,000 B.C.) indicates that the mountain was sacred from the earliest times. Bronze Age geoglyphs (large pebble drawings) on the mountain appear to be offerings to an invisible sky entity. The 75-square-mile area around the site boasts 40,000 petroglyphs—the largest concentration of rock art in the Negev—and 892 individual archaeological sites. The remains of a large Bronze Age campsite have been found in the mountain’s foothills. Har Karkom still serves as a popular gathering place for nomads, just as it has over the millennia.
After 20 years of study, the Har Karkom excavation has produced enough material to fill four volumes and will probably require six more to hold the 22,000 photos, 10,000 pages of text and hundreds of plans, drawings and tracings. The 1999 expedition will study Paleolithic sites with flint workshops and fireplaces, investigate stone-built sites from the Bronze Age and record rock art. But be forewarned—a dig in the heart of the desert requires particular dedication. The team will camp at the foot of the mountain in the middle of the Sinai Desert. Every drop 057of water, fuel and other daily necessities are brought from Eilat, more than 60 miles away, by desert vehicles. Despite these hardships, the site is open to the public by appointment, and guided tours are available.
BAR articles: Emmanuel Anati, “30,000-Year-Old Sanctuary Found at Har Karkom,” BAR 19:01; Israel Finkelstein, “Raider of the Lost Mountain,” BAR 14:04; Emmanuel Anati, “Has Mt. Sinai Been Found?” BAR 11:04.
“Hazor is unparalleled by any other site in the country,” Yigael Yadin wrote in one of his popular books, because of its “enormous size and peculiar features.” Yadin, probably Israel’s most famous archaeologist, directed excavations at Hazor in the 1950s. Another reason he found Hazor so fascinating was the number of references to the city in extra-Biblical sources, making Hazor “almost unique among Palestinian cities.” The Egyptians wrote about Hazor in their Execration Texts (c. 19th–18th centuries B.C.), which curse Hazor as an enemy of Egypt. At about the same time, a tablet from the royal archive of the Mesopotamian city of Mari notes that Hammurabi, the king of Babylon (1792–1750 B.C.), had ambassadors residing in Hazor.
Located about 20 miles north of the Sea of Galilee, 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 burnt it (Joshua 11:1–13). Jabin also appears in the prose story of the battle between Deborah and Sisera (Judges 4). Excavations at Hazor have discovered a cuneiform fragment of a royal letter addressed to “Ibni,” a name similar in derivation to Jabin. 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).
The site contains a wide variety of Canaanite and Israelite structures, including an underground water system, palaces, temples, dwellings, fortifications and administrative buildings. Cuneiform tablets, sculptures and jewelry have also been discovered. In 1999 dig director Amnon Ben-Tor (Hebrew Univ.), who cut his archaeological teeth with Yadin at Hazor, wants to further his excavation of the Bronze Age Canaanite palace and fortifications. The site is a national park and is open to visitors every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; tours are not available.
BAR articles: Amnon Ben-Tor, “Big Game Hunting,” BAR 24:01; Bonnie Rochman, “The Pride of Hazor: Lion Statue Regains Its Long-Lost Mate,” BAR 23:06; Hershel Shanks, “Archaeological Hot Spots,” BAR 22:06; “Babylonian Tablet Confirms Biblical Name,” BAR 20:05; Shanks, “Ben-Tor, Long Married, Will Return to Hazor,” BAR 16:01, and
Jaffa (Tel Yaffo)
The archaeological mound of ancient Jaffa is located in Old Jaffa, a neighborhood in southwestern Tel Aviv. Founded in the early second millennium B.C., the ancient city flourished in the Late Bronze Age, when it became the administrative headquarters for local Egyptian rulers. Gate lintels bearing the name of Ramesses II, pharaoh of Egypt during the 13th century B.C., date to this period. Jaffa, then called Joppa, is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as a border city of the original territory of Dan before it moved to the north (Joshua 19:46). Jaffa served as a port for shipping timber from Lebanon to Jerusalem for construction of the Temple (2 Chronicles 2:16); it is also the port where Jonah hired his ship to avoid going to Nineveh, in defiance of God’s instructions (Jonah 1:3). When the ancient city was first excavated, from the 1950s through the 1970s, archaeologists found a Middle Bronze Age earthen glacis (a sloped rampart), a Late Bronze Age gate and a temple attributed to the Sea Peoples as well as occupational remains from the Iron Age and the Persian and Hellenistic periods. In 1997, when excavation director Ze’ev Herzog (Tel Aviv Univ.) conducted a short trial dig at the site to determine its state of preservation, he exposed additional portions of the gate’s entrance floor and the destruction debris above it and cleaned the tops of some Iron Age walls north of the gate. In 1999 Herzog will explore the governmental stronghold of the Ramesside period and 059will expose fortification walls, the inner fortress and the gate.
The site is open to the public, but there are no guided tours.
Jebel Hamrat Fidan
Located in Biblical Edom, 35 miles north of Petra, Jordan, Jebel Hamrat Fidan is one of the oldest sites in the Levant. It was occupied from the pre-pottery Neolithic period through the Bronze Age. In past seasons, excavators have found large-scale metallurgical installations. In 1999 dig directors Thomas E. Levy (Univ. of California, San Diego) and Russell B. Adams (Univ. of Bristol, U.K.) hope to clarify the role of mining and early metallurgy in social change in the southern Levant from the Neolithic period through the Iron Age. Future seasons will examine the role of metallurgy in the rise of the Edomite state during the Iron Age. The site is not open to visitors.
Tel Kedesh, about 22 miles north of Tiberias, was first occupied during the Bronze and Iron Ages, then again in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The Bible mentions Kedesh in Joshua 20:7, where Joshua names Kedesh as a “city of refuge” for those who accidentally cause the death of another. According to 1 Maccabees 11:73, it was the site of a siege during the rise of the Hasmoneans, and Josephus writes about Kedesh in Antiquities of the Jews and The Jewish War. Past finds include a house with objects strewn about the floor, apparently abandoned during the battle between Jonathan the Hasmonean and the Seleucid king Demetrias. In 1999 dig directors Sharon Herbert (Univ. of Michigan) and Andrea Berlin (Univ. of Minnesota) will concentrate on the Hellenistic village. The site is not open to the public.
One of the earliest sites settled by the Israelites, Tel Masos is located about 9 miles east of Beer-Sheva. The town was occupied in the Middle Bronze and Iron Ages. This summer, director Shmuel Givon (Bar-Ilan Univ.) will look for the beginning of the Israelite settlement. The site is open to the public while it is being excavated, and guided tours are available.
BAR article: Aharon Kempinski, “Is Tel Masos an Amalekite Settlement?” BAR 7:03.
Madaba Plains Project—Tall Jalul
This year, the Madaba Plains Project will concentrate all its efforts on Tall Jalul, the largest and most centrally located site of 060the Madaba Plains in central Jordan. Occupied from the Early Bronze Age to the late Iron Age II-Persian period, the site lies 3 miles east of Madaba and 20 miles south of Amman. Previous excavations have uncovered a massive destruction during Iron Age I, two superimposed paved roadways leading to a gate, three piers of an early Iron Age II outer gatehouse, the foundation of an inner gatehouse and a late Iron Age II pillared building. Smaller objects unearthed include pottery, a necklace of glass and semiprecious stones, fine clay figurines in Egyptian style, seals engraved in Ammonite script and an incense stand from the Persian period. Dig directors Randall W. Younker and David Merling (both with Andrews Univ.) plan to expose more Iron Age areas this year. The site is open to visitors weekdays during the season. Guided tours are available; appointments are helpful.
Despite its name, Nazareth Farm is inside the modern city of Nazareth. The farm was occupied from late Hellenistic through Crusader times. In past years, excavators have found a number of agricultural structures, including three watchtowers, a double wine press and olive crushers. The 1999 season will be devoted to excavating the watchtowers, the terraces, and the structures of the wet farm (watered by irrigation) and dry farm (dependent on rainfall). Stephen Pfann and Ross Voss (both from the Univ. of the Holy Land) are directing the excavation. The site is open to the public by appointment, and guided tours are available.
Petra is surely one of the most dramatic ancient sites in the Near East: Approached through a narrow ravine, the entire city is carved out of living sandstone. Though it was occupied from the Iron Age to the 20th century, Petra is best known as the capital of the Nabateans, who settled here during the Hellenistic period. The city is located in Jordan, about 48 miles south of the Dead Sea.
Discoveries at Petra include the Treasury of Pharaoh (a spectacular edifice carved into a cliff wall, which was actually a royal tomb), a Roman-style theater and a necropolis, but few private buildings. The focus in 1999 will be the Temple of the Winged Lions, under excavation since 1974. Dig directors Philip C. Hammond (Arizona State Univ.) and David J. Johnson (Brigham Young Univ.) will consolidate and conserve recently excavated areas, though they will also expose some new areas. Petra is open to the public year-round, and guided tours are available.
BAR articles: Hershel Shanks, “The Petra Scrolls,” BAR 23:01; “The New Barbarians,” BAR 22:05; Avraham Negev, “Understanding the Nabateans,” BAR 14:06; Philip C. Hammond, “New Light on the Nabateans,” BAR 07:02 and Judith W. Shanks, “A Plea for the Bedoul Bedouin of Petra,” BAR 7:02.
Tel Rehov was one of the largest Iron Age cities in the Beth-Shean Valley in Israel, but it was occupied relatively briefly—only from the Middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age.
Since excavations began at the site in 1996, archaeologists have found several successive occupation layers containing a number of large, well-preserved buildings that appear to be the remains of the Iron Age II city, which was destroyed by the Assyrians in the eighth century B.C. A unique pottery cult stand from the tenth century B.C. and clay figurines are among the artifacts discovered. In 1999 dig director Amihai Mazar (Hebrew Univ.) will continue work on the five areas opened last season, with special attention to the tenth-century B.C. strata.
Leonardo’s Mona Lisa may sit in the Louvre, but the Mona Lisa of the Galilee, a mosaic of a strikingly lovely woman, resides in Sepphoris. The city, “the ornament of all Galilee,” in the evocative description of the first-century A.D. historian Josephus, was primarily the handiwork of Herod Antipas, heir of Herod the Great. Although Sepphoris is located just 5 miles north of Nazareth, it is not mentioned in the New Testament. According to extra-Biblical Christian tradition, however, Mary was born here. Following the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (132–135 A.D.), Sepphoris became the seat of the Sanhedrin, the central legal 061and spiritual council of the Jewish people. In about 200 A.D., Sepphoris resident Rabbi Judah ha Nasi (Judah the Prince) compiled the Mishnah, the first major collection of rabbinical legal rules and the core of the Talmud. The city continued to serve as a major regional capital until the Arab invasion in 640 A.D.
So rich a site is Sepphoris that various expeditions have dug here in recent years, with teams led by Ehud Netzer and Zeev Weiss (Hebrew Univ.); Carol and Eric Meyers and Kenneth Hoglund (Duke Univ.); and James F. Strange (Univ. of South Florida). Sepphoris is particularly known for its mosaics, including a colorful synagogue floor depicting the zodiac, and a basilical building from the first to fourth centuries A.D. with mosaics featuring events associated with Dionysus (the “Mona Lisa” appears on the border of this mosaic). Other finds include a Roman villa, tower, theater, reservoir and aqueduct; there are also ritual baths for the Jewish inhabitants. In 1999 dig director James Strange plans to finish excavating the basilical building. The site is a national park, open to visitors for a fee, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. every day. Guides may be hired at the park. No appointment is necessary.
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; “Mosaic Masterpiece Dazzles Sepphoris Volunteers,” BAR 14:01.
Sha’ar Ha-Golan’s excavators have called the site, located 1 mile south of the Sea of Galilee, a “prehistoric art center” because of the abundance of figurines and other nonutilitarian objects found there. A Neolithic people, representatives of Yarmukian culture, lived at Sha’ar Ha-Golan and produced the bulk of the artifacts recovered so far: anthropomorphic figures made out of river cobbles and clay figurines, including a very large female figure, possibly a goddess, which was recently displayed at the Israel Museum. Decorated pottery vessels, stone bowls and weights, and numerous lithics, some made of imported obsidian, have also been found. Recent dig seasons have uncovered monumental architectural complexes with stone and mudbrick walls.
In 1999 dig directors Yosef Garfinkel (Hebrew Univ.) and Michele Miller (Boston Univ.) plan to continue excavation of two areas of Yarmukian occupation. The site is near the Kibbutz Sha’ar Hagolan, which has a museum largely devoted to finds from the dig site. Visits, including tours, should be arranged through the museum.
BAR article: Yonathan Mizrachi, “Mystery Circles,” BAR 18:04.
Water installations, fishponds, a bath and mosaics have been discovered in previous seasons at this site on the Mediterranean coast 3 miles north of Caesarea Maritima. Tanninim was occupied from the Persian period to Crusader times, but because it is a relatively new dig (1999 will be its fourth year), much remains to be learned about it.
Dig director Robert R. Stieglitz (Rutgers Univ.) plans to uncover the lower levels of the site. Visitors are welcome year-round without an appointment, but no guided tours are available.
Yavneh-Yam (Biblical Jamnia) loomed large in the second-century B.C. Maccabean Revolt, when Jews struggled to free themselves from their Greek rulers. The Jewish leader Judas Maccabeus pursued the army of 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). The Book of Judith (2:28) mentions the city as one of several terrorized by Nebuchadnezzar’s general Holofernes.
Yavneh-Yam lies 12 miles south of Tel Aviv and was occupied from the Bronze Age through the Middle Ages. Excavations have revealed remains mostly from the Hellenistic and Byzantine periods. Under expedition leader Moshe Fischer (Tel Aviv Univ.), finds from the Hellenistic quarter have included an inscription, sherds of Greek red-figure pottery and a statuette of a girl playing a stringed instrument. Byzantine installations have also been uncovered.
The site is open to visitors year-round, and guided tours are available.
Evidence of habitation at Yin’am begins with the Neolithic era and continues through the Roman period. The earliest known iron smelter found in the Middle East was unearthed at Yin’am, as was the earliest plow point. Yin’am is identified with Biblical Jabneel, cited in Joshua 19:33 as a boundary marker for the tribe of Naphtali. Yin’am must have been a city of some wealth: Excavators have uncovered unique imports from Greece and Egypt and a gold figurine from the Middle Bronze Age. In the 1999 season, dig directors Harold Liebowitz and Anne M. Dehnisch (both of the Univ. of Texas) will excavate a Late Bronze Age domestic structure and the underlying Middle Bronze Age temple. The site, 8 miles southwest of Tiberias, is open to visitors by appointment on Wednesday mornings; guided tours are available.
If you’ve ever wanted to work at an archaeological dig from the very beginning, this may be your chance: Tel Zayit, or Zeitah, has never been excavated before. Located about 20 miles east of Ashkelon and the Mediterranean Sea, the site was occupied from the Late Bronze Age to the Mamluk period (1250–1517 A.D.). Zayit is near the Biblical city of Libnah, in ancient Judah, which is mentioned several times in Joshua, 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Isaiah and Jeremiah. Dig director Ron E. Tappy (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary) plans to start by identifying the stone structures now visible in the lower settlement and will begin excavation on the acropolis and eastern slope. The site is open to visitors during the excavation season, though Tappy requests that visitors make an appointment before coming.
Here’s a brief look at the sites that will be accepting volunteers for the 1999 season, some of the important discoveries made in the past and what the dig directors plan for the upcoming season. Pertinent past BAR articles on the sites are listed at the end of each entry, since familiarity with a site will add immeasurably to your enjoyment and understanding of what you see and do. Even if you’re unable to join a dig, you may still visit many of the sites. We’ve noted when the sites are open to tourists and whether guided tours are […]