Thursday, April 17, 2014

This summer at Abel Beth Maacah

May 1 is the official deadline date for registration, but now is a good time to start updating everyone on what will take place this summer.

Team members are fortunate to be working with an exceptional team of professionals. The directors (Bob Mullins and Nava Panitz-Cohen) have about 25 years of excavation experience each. Both are former students of Amihai Mazar, professor emeritus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; one of the best known and most respected archaeologists in Israel. The joint Israeli and American staff are very experienced and want to make this an enriching time for everyone.

Last summer we focused in two areas of the lower mound. In Area A we uncovered houses of the 11th century BCE (Iron Age I); in biblical terms, the time of Samuel and Saul. While we cannot independently confirm it yet, the biblical texts suggests that Abel Beth Maacah was an Aramean city, perhaps the capital of "Aram-Maacah". Since little is know about the various Aramean kingdoms bordering Israel, we hope that our work will shed new light on Aramean identity and material culture.

We are also debating the possibility of opening a small area to the west of Area A where the topography is slightly higher. We want to determine whether the 11th century BCE was the latest period of occupation in the lower city (before settlement shifted entirely to the upper tel), or if there is later occupation from the 10th century BCE, also known as the period of the United Monarchy. Whether or not we discover remains from the time of David and Solomon here, it is nevertheless important to determine the latest period of occupation on the lower mound. 

In Area F at the southern end of the tel we encountered a possible tower belonging to a fortification wall that encircled the city. We are not yet sure of its date. (Something you will help us find out this summer!) It may be Middle Bronze Age or Late Bronze Age. It was against the inner face of this tower, in layers dated to the transitional Late Bronze-Iron Age I, that we found the jug containing a silver hoard which included five hoop earrings and bits of scrap silver (hacksilber) used in monetary exchange. Press links to this discovery have been posted in this blog. We even made it into the "La Cucaracha" syndicated cartoon strip.

This season we hope to date when the tower was first built and hopefully determine when it went out of use. We will also expand Area F further to the east in order to find out whether the large features are indeed part of the city's fortifications. If so, then the city wall here may link up with the presumed city gate on the eastern side of the tel.

We finally hope to open a new area on the upper mound. While parts of the upper city are covered by Medieval and modern structures, we think there are places where we can go down and get a sense of the earlier periods of habitation. While we cannot say for sure which periods we will encounter, we would like to find remains of the Iron Age II city destroyed by Tiglath-pileser III in 733-732 BCE.

If the beautiful "donut flask" recovered in the 2012 survey and the silver hoard found in the 2013 season are any indication, Abel Beth Maacah is likely to yield several other hidden secrets this summer that YOU will be part of discovering. To give you a better sense of the story of Abel Beth Maacah, its biblical relevance, and a summary of the results of our past work, I have attached a copy of an article authored by the Abel Beth Maacah Triumvirate - Nava Panitz-Cohen, Bob Mullins and Ruhama Bonfil. Reading this article before you join us this summer will help you to better appreciate the importance of this site - the last major biblical site to be explored in Israel. And you are part of it!

A few other matters of importance:

Passports: To enter Israel, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after your planned departure date. This means that if you are with us for the entire 4 weeks, and plan to leave after the dig closes, your passport cannot expire before January 22, 2015 (6 months after the end of the excavation). If you are from North America you will not need to get a visa to enter Israel in advance. You will get a 3 month tourist visa for free when you go through passport control at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. The current procedure is for passport control to issue you a small card with your visa information on it which you keep inside your passport. Passport control will retrieve this card when you leave the country. This procedure avoids one having Israeli stamps in their passport if they wish to visit a country that does not have diplomatic links with Israel. If you are not from North America you may have to get a visa in advance. Check your nearest Israeli consulate for information.

Team Member Guides: If you haven't yet done so, be sure to check out the "ABM Volunteer Guide 2014" posted on our website in PDF format at www.abel-beth-maacah.org. Click on the "2014" tab to find the link. Many questions that you may have, including what to pack, how to prepare for the dig, and how to get to the site if you are arriving independently are there. Otherwise, if you have specific questions, don't hesitate to write and ask. If this is your first time digging, there is also a document called the "ABM Field Manual" that will introduce you to our methods of excavation. If you have not dug before, don't feel insecure about this. Most people who join us have never dug before. You will be working with a trained staff who will help you and show you what needs to be done. By the end of your time with us you will be seasoned diggers ready to join us again or move onto another project!
 
After registration closes on May 1 we will be posting updates in Facebook and in this blog. We will also send out e-mail announcements to all registered volunteers.