Friday, May 9, 2014

Summary of papers on Abel Beth Maacah presented in a conference at Tel Hai Academic College

On May 1, Tel Hai Academic College held their Annual Galilee Research Conference. This year’s symposium included a session on Abel Beth Maacah. The conference was well-attended by students and faculty of Tel Hai Academic College and other local academic institutions. There was also a solid representation of interested locals from nearby kibbutzim, moshavim and towns. The Tel Abel Beth Maacah session included four lectures. What follows is a summary of each presenter’s main points.

Prof. Nadav Na’aman (Professor Emeritus at Tel Aviv University) analyzed the various written and archaeological sources relating to the history of the kingdoms of Geshur and Maacah as remembered in biblical tradition. Na'aman stressed that the location of these independent Aramean kingdoms on the northern border of Israel was known only vaguely to the Judean scribes operating in Jerusalem long after their existence, which is why the information appears so conflicting and inexact. For this reason, archaeological data is key to understanding the economic and political relationships between these two kingdoms at the beginning of the first millennium BCE, especially for Maacah, which is even less well-known than Geshur; a kingdom whose capital was apparently located at the site of et-Tell (Bethsaida). The current excavations at Tell Abil el-Qameh should shed light on whether this was the capital of the kingdom of Maacah or a satellite town within the realm of Geshur.

Dr. Nava Panitz-Cohen and Ruhama Bonfil (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) surveyed the historical geography of Tel Abel Beth Maacah and presented the main results of the 2012 survey and 2013 excavations. This included the architectural remains in two excavation areas (domestic in Area A and secondary occupation adjoining an earlier fortification in Area F), photos of the accompanying finds, and a chronological summary of each area (Iron Age I in Area A and Late Bronze Age in Area F). They also presented the goals for the upcoming 2014 season, including the expansion of Areas A and F, as well as the possibility of a new area on the upper mound.

Dr. Nimrod Marom (Haifa University and Tel Hai Academic College) is the zooarchaeologist who is analyzing the fauna from Abel Beth Maacah. He gave an interesting survey of how animal bones augment our understanding of many social and economic aspects of occupation at ancient sites. He then presented the data collected from Area A in 2013. Despite the collection’s small size, Marom pointed to a number of interesting trends: (1) the inhabitants did not practice herding and probably obtained their animals as meat for consumption from other sources; (2) a lion bone (a rare find), as well as two gazelle and antelope bones, indicate the possibility of hunting, an elite practice at the time; (3) he noted a preference for left hind limbs in the faunal record, with possible cultic connotations based on comparative data from nearby Dan and more distant sites.

Dr. Naama Yahalom-Mack (Weizmann Institute of Science and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) is the archeometallurgist for Tel Abel Beth Maacah. She presented a preliminary analysis of the silver hoard found in Area F in 2013. Her study shows that the earrings in the hoard are paralleled by earrings from the Late Bronze Age; a date corroborated by the jug in which they were found, as well as the archaeological context. The hoard consisted of complete and broken earrings, a piece of scrap metal, a piece of ‘chocolate-shaped’ hacksilber and an ingot, each of which had a particular technological and socio-economic implication. Within the context of other such hoards found in Israel, the one from Abel Beth Maacah is apparently the earliest to contain ‘chocolate-shaped’ hacksilber, typically used as a form of payment in the Iron Age pre-monetary economy. Chemical and lead isotope analysis of four of the pieces in the hoard showed that the source of the silver might have been Huelva, Spain. This might be related to Phoenician expansion to the west that began as early as Iron Age I. If Spain was the origin of the silver in the Abel Beth Maacah hoard, this westward expansion might be dated even earlier.

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