Saturday, July 6, 2013

We have reached the half-way point!

Our apologies for not keeping up better with the blog, but now is a good time to summarize where we are in the process of excavation after two weeks. Hopefully you have "Liked" us on Facebook and are following us at http://www.facebook.com/AbelBethMaacah

We have averaged around 35 team members (not including staff), enough for us to dig two fields - both of which are located in the lower city. Based on the May 2012 survey, Area A in the east and Area F in the south produced architecture and pottery from the Iron Age; a period that interests the primary investigators. Our working assumption has been that Abel Beth Maacah was the capital of the Aramean kingdom of Maacah, known to us from a few brief passages in the Bible. Since so little is known about these Iron Age kingdoms, we hope that our work here can shed more light on this important city bordering Aram, Israel, and Phoenicia.

Area A: In the 2012 survey at least three phases were identified in a cut made by the eastern approach road to the village of Abil el-Qamh. The upper phase appeared Iron IIA in date (10th-9th cent. BCE) and the two phases below this appeared to be Iron I (12th-11th cent. BCE). It was the lowest of these three phases that produced the ring flask featured on our website and Facebook page. Only a broader exposure can confirm or revise these proposed dates. After removing over a meter of agricultural soil, we reached well preserved Iron Age domestic architecture. And by the end of the second week, we have reached the floors of these buildings, or in some cases, we are very close to the floors. The best assemblage of finds so far have come from a square at the southern edge of Area A where team members found an intact dipper juglet and nearly intact storage jar. Interestingly, the architecture of this phase covers the uppermost Iron IIA phase identified in the road cut. Though we suspect we are still in Iron IIA (no 8th century types have been identified to date), we have several cooking pot rims that look closer to Iron I types (even though such rims are known to continue into Iron IIA). We also found the rim of a collared rim pithos, which is usually dated to the 12th century BCE in Cisjordan. Clearly, we will need to study the entire assemblage before we draw any definitive conclusions about the date of this stratum.

Area F: In the May 2012 survey, team members found a north-south wall line of three worked stones measuring approximately 0.90 m in width. A broken Iron Age IIA store jar was incorporated into this wall. During the first week of excavations a fourth stone was found, and in the second week, an east-west wall was uncovered that made a corner with the first wall. So far only these two walls which form an L-shape have been found of this massive structure. It seems that the remaining walls were robbed, though this still needs to be checked by further excavation. With so little preserved, it is hard to date this structure with certainty, though the exposure of better preserved remains below should provide us with a reasonable terminus post quem date. The Scythian-style arrowhead found by Adam last week lay close to the foundations of this structure; however, the reliability of their association remains in question. We should have a clearer picture of the Area F stratigraphy by the end of the season in another two weeks.

The directors and staff have been very pleased with our progress, due in large part to our remarkable, hard working crew. Moreover, the weather has been remarkably kind. After working for so long in the "blast furnace" of the Beth Shean Valley, it has been nice to excavate in a cooler climate and to see so many green fields and the pictureseque Lebanese town of Addaisseh nearby. We have also benefited from the capable hands of our administrator, Dr. Oren Gutfeld of Israel Archaeological Services. His co-workers, Shmulik and Mansour, have worked hard to keep our shade cloths functional, our tools in repair, our dumps in order, and much, much more. We highly recommend Oren to anyone who needs a capable majordomo that is also an archaeologist and understands the needs of an archaeological expedition.

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