Update and photos re: newly-discovered Lachish entrance(s)

This post has some clarifications on the entrance architecture uncovered at Tel Lachish this season. I described the entrances as “gates” but the excavators prefer a different term for one of them. Here is the text of a message I received from Yossi Garfinkel regarding these openings in the city wall.

Finally we completed the last points we needed to check before closing the season. Because of the fighting we were not permitted to take aerial photos of the site.

I read your blog and you can correct the information about the “gates” and their dating. Gate is a big word, and usually a gate has chambers on both sides. Currently we do not have indications of chambers, so we might have simple openings in the city wall rather than official gates.

The earlier one, already identified and published by Olga Tufnell as “blocked Iron Age,” is probably a Middle Bronze blocked gate. Next season I hope to excavate it and verify its plan.

The second opening in a city wall was found this season. It is dated to Level I (Persian) and Level II (586 BC destruction), so this opening is not “Early Iron Age” as you wrote.

To sum up, we have a newly-discovered Iron Age entrance that dates to the late-6th century BC and afterward. The “early” IA dating was a misunderstanding on my part. Another entrance below it has been preliminarily re-dated from the IA to the Middle Bronze Age. It was noted in the 1930’s but never excavated. Both entrances are located in the city wall on the NE corner of Tel Lachish, fully opposite from the known IA gate complex associated with Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar’s campaigns. The IA opening so far shows no evidence of gate chambers or related architecture. The IA and MB entrances are to be explored in the 2015 season and beyond.

This architecture is significant. There appears to be a significant gap (ca. 1000 years) in the dates of these two entrances. Perhaps we will find something in the next year or two that fills in the blank. Architecture from the earlier Iron Age, particularly Level 5, has been elusive so far and there is much debate about the habitation of Lachish between the 10th and 8th centuries BC. If the NE corner was an entrance to the city during and after the Middle Bronze period, we may find some answers in the near future.

Here are photos of these entrances.

The re-dated entrance at the end of the second excavation week of the 2014 season. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

The re-dated (Middle Bronze?) entrance at the end of the second excavation week of the 2014 season. The opening is blocked by collapsed stones. The line of the entrance runs down the center of the photo. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

 (Photo courtesy of the Fourth Tel Lachish Expedition)

The re-dated entrance after further cleaning. This blocked gate was first mentioned by Olga Tufnell from the First Lachish Expedition in the 1930’s. She classified it as a blocked Iron Age gate but the expedition never excavated further. Work in this area during the 2014 season has led Garfinkel to re-date it from the Iron Age (the biblical “Kingdom Period”) to the Middle Bronze Age (ca. the time of the biblical patriarchs). (Photo courtesy of the Fourth Tel Lachish Expedition)

 (Photo courtesy of the Fourth Tel Lachish Expedition)

The newly-discovered entrance that lies above the blocked Middle Bronze (?) gate. This entrance appears in a large wall but there is currently no indication of gate architecture. This is currently dated to Levels I and II in the Lachish strata. The 2015 excavation season should provide more information about this entrance and anything else around or just below it. (Photo courtesy of the Fourth Tel Lachish Expedition)

 (Photo courtesy of the Fourth Tel Lachish Expedition)

The newly-discovered Iron Age entrance at the end of the 2014 season. This is a ca. 3-meter opening in the wall on the edge of the NE slope, but appears to lack interior chambers. Excavators prefer to label this as an “entrance” rather than an official city gate. (Photo courtesy of the Fourth Tel Lachish Expedition)

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Location of the new gates at Tel Lachish

Here is a photo showing the northeast corner of Lachish, where Garfinkel has identified new entrances to the ancient city. These entrances are on the opposite side of the site from the late Iron Age gate discovered in the 1930’s.

Aerial view of Tel Lachish looking west. New excavations along the northeast corner have produced numerous finds, including new city entrances with preliminary dating to the Iron Age and Middle Bronze periods. (Photo courtesy of Ferrell Jenkins)

Aerial view of Tel Lachish looking west. New excavations have identified ancient openings in the city walls along the northeast corner, highlighted in the photo. Fresh excavation in and around the highlighted area has produced numerous finds. (Photo courtesy of Ferrell Jenkins)

As mentioned in my previous post, the newly-identified entrances have preliminary datings to the earlier Iron Age and the Middle Bronze periods. Readers can read about other special finds from the 2014 season here, here, here, and here. Garfinkel plans to begin excavation of the newly-discovered entrances in the summer of 2015.

Other areas along the slope and near the summit were excavated during the 2014 season. If you plan to be in San Diego for the annual meetings (BAS, ASOR, SBL, et al.) this November, keep an eye open for some informative sessions on Lachish.

Caveat: I will emphasize (as in this post and the previous one) that the gate discovery and dating is preliminary. Only excavation can confirm these conclusions. It is good to focus interest and enthusiasm on these finds, but it is also wise to patiently await the results of the 2015 season!

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New Gate Discovered at Tel Lachish

Prof. Yosef Garfinkel states that current excavations at Tel Lachish have discovered a new, earlier entrance to the city on the northeast side of the tel. This is the opposite side of the mound from the known Iron Age gate.

People who have visited Tel Lachish will recognize the Iron Age gate in the photo below. It lies on the southwest side of the tel and was discovered in the 1930’s by Starkey and Tufnell. This gate and its approach ramp relate to the city levels destroyed by Sennacherib of Assyria in 701 BC and Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 587/6 BC.

The gate associated with levels 2 and 3 at Tel Lachish. The gate for earlier levels has not yet been located. (Photo by Catherine Bishop)

The gate at Lachish associated with the Iron IIB and C periods. Entrances from earlier periods of habitation have eluded discovery until the new expedition in 2014.  (Photo by Catherine Bishop)

Garfinkel believes the northeast section of the tel would have been a natural entrance point to the city in earlier times. The 2014 excavations exposed and clarified ancient fortifications in this area. Garfinkel gives the newly-discovered entrances a preliminary dating to the early Iron and Middle Bronze ages. (Biblically, this is the period ranging from the early kingdom years back to the Patriarchs.) The 2014 season at Lachish was cut short by the Israel-Hamas conflict, so these new entrances will be excavated in the 2015 season.

A newly-excavated mud brick wall  (Photo by Luke Chandler)

A newly-excavated mud brick wall along the northeastern side of Tel Lachish. Some individual mud bricks can be seen below the sandbags. Notice the blackened destruction layer at the bottom of the photo. A similar layer of ash was found in numerous excavation squares in 2014, indicating a widespread burning of the city. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Gates are important discoveries for several reasons. They are key fortification points and can provide useful data on the defenses and layout of related city levels. City gates were also centers for trade, exchange, tax collection, worship/cultic practice, legal matters, and record keeping. Traces of these activities may be unearthed through excavation and illuminate much about ancient cultures. One prime example is the famous collection of Lachish Letters found in the southwestern gate of Tel Lachish back in the 1930’s.

Photos of the new northeast entrance(s) may become available later this year. This blog will monitor and provide updates as they become available.

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A Day of Biblical Sites – and Relaxing Along the Sea of Galilee

After a weekend at the Dead Sea, we began our final morning there with worship at 6:45am. We then began our trek north to Galilee and visited great sites along the way.

We stopped at Qumran, the site linked to the Dead Sea Scrolls, then went to Jericho and its ancient spring. We continued north to the Harod Valley and visited the Harod Spring (Gideon’s 300 men) and Tel Jezreel, an area linked to King Saul, David, Ahab, Jezebel, Jehu, and Elisha. We finished with a drive around Mount Tabor (Deborah and Barak) and went into Tiberias to eat a well-deserved dinner.

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Gideon’s battlefield as viewed from above the Harod spring cave. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Our evening has ended gently at our nice hostel along Galilee’s shore. This establishment has a private beach on the Sea of Galilee and several in our group enjoyed a swim.

Timothy Chandler, Todd Chandler, and JT Ray relaxing in the Sea of Galilee at sunset. Tiberias is in the background. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Timothy Chandler, Todd Chandler, and JT Ray relaxing in the Sea of Galilee at sunset. The city of Tiberias is in the background. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Wayne and Dave Galloway sit along the Sea of Galilee after enjoying a swim. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Wayne and Dave Galloway sit along the Sea of Galilee after enjoying a swim. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

This gentle evening will be followed by a full day of sightseeing tomorrow. Until then!

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July 4th at Lachish

lukechandler:

I remembered this post from Ferrell Jenkins a couple of days ago when someone noted that July 4th was near. It recounts a July 4th from 1980, during the previous evacuation at Lachish. Ferrell actually re-posted the story today on his blog. Here it is for your reading enjoyment.

Originally posted on Ferrell's Travel Blog:

In the previous post I mentioned that several former students and friends are participating in the dig at Tel Lachish this year.

Six years ago on this day I wrote about Lachish on July 4th, 1980. Since we have many more readers now I think it appropriate to re-post that entry here.

— • —

On July 4, 1980, I was participating in the excavation at Tel Lachish in Israel along with three of my colleagues from Florida College (James Hodges, Phil Roberts, and Harold Tabor). There were sizable numbers of participants from Israel, United States, Australia, South Africa, and Germany. In addition to the hard work out in the sun, we had some fun. On the morning of July 4th a few of the guys got an American flag and put together a drum and bugle corp and marched across the tel. Note especially the plastic bucket being used…

View original 413 more words

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Lachish Field Report #2: Ancient Jewelry, a Scarab, and more

Today was a very good day at the Tel Lachish archaeological excavation. Our volunteers discovered gold jewelry from the Late Bronze Age plus an Egyptian scarab that may be inscribed with a Pharaoh’s name.

Prof. Yossi Garfinkel and others examining the gold jewelry found by Wayne Galloway at Tel Lachish. More details and a photo will come at a later date. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Prof. Yossi Garfinkel and others examining the gold jewelry found by Wayne Galloway at Tel Lachish. This find obviously generated interest among everyone at the site. If inscribed with a Pharaoh’s name, it may be useful in dating (or confirming the date of) the city level in which it was found. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

An upper grinding stone made of basalt. This was used for grinding grain. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

An upper grinding stone made of basalt, used for making flour from grain. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Imported pottery from Cyprus, discovered at Tel Lachish. Imported Cypriot ware tends to be well-made and beautifully decorated. Canaanite and Israelite pottery, on the other hand, is usually of a lower quality.  We do enjoy finding Cypriot vessels. (Photo by Luke Chandler).

Imported pottery from Cyprus, discovered at Tel Lachish. Imported Cypriot ware tends to be well-made and beautifully decorated. Canaanite and Israelite pottery tends to be less impressive. We do enjoy finding Cypriot vessels. (Photo by Luke Chandler).

Scarabs are usually small, oval, and double-sided. One side is carved to look like a dung beetle and the other side frequently contains Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Why a dung beetle, of all things? The British Museum explains:

The image of the scarab beetle (Scarabeus sacer) is prominent in the royal funerary decoration of the New Kingdom (about 1550-1070 BC). After laying its eggs in a ball of dung, the scarab beetle rolls the ball before it wherever it goes. When the young beetles hatch they appear, apparently miraculously, from the dung. Thus to the ancient Egyptians the scarab beetle was a symbol of rebirth and represents the god Khepri, who was thought to push the sun disc through the morning sky, as a scarab beetle pushes its ball of dung.
Views of an Egyptian scarab similar to the one just found at Tel Lachish. Notice (Courtesy of the Oriental Institute)

Views of an Egyptian scarab similar in some ways to one found at Tel Lachish in 2014. Notice the top view (L) and side view (R) showing features of a dung beetle. (Courtesy of the Oriental Institute)

Detailed photos of the jewelry and scarab will be published later, following cleaning and analysis.

The gold jewelry was found by Wayne Galloway, one of the members of my group. The scarab came out of a square manned by two other group members. Not surprisingly, we are all fairly excited. Tomorrow is our last day with the excavation before moving on to several days of touring other sites throughout the country. While we are ready to connect with more biblical places, we cannot help but wonder what will be discovered at Lachish after we leave. In any case, our two weeks at Tel Lachish have been more productive than anticipated, and we still have one more day to go!

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Archaeology: an Ancient Destruction Layer at Lachish

One of the most exciting things to find on an archaeological dig is a destruction layer. A city level destroyed by fire tends to produce rich finds. Valuable things are trapped under ash and debris just waiting to be found. We can usually subject burnt seeds, grain, olive pits, et al. to carbon-14 tests and get an approximate date for the destruction.

Pottery vessels crushed and burned in an ancient destruction level. We often find food particles, animal bones, weapons, and other interesting things in the ash. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Pottery vessels crushed and burned in an ancient destruction level. We often find food particles, animal bones, weapons, and other interesting things in the ash. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

What does a destruction layer look like? We found one in my square at the ancient biblical city of Lachish. Here is a short video highlighting a newly-discovered destruction level.

 

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Why a Fourth archaeological expedition to Lachish?

Why undertake a fourth archaeological expedition at Tel Lachish? This is a good question since this site has been previously excavated over a number years, most recently in 1994. What does our new expedition hope to achieve?

Tel Lachish has multiple layers with remains of different civilizations going back thousands of years. Even after previous work at the site, important questions remain about the history of this biblical city. One key debate involves the dating of several Iron Age (biblical kingdom period) levels at the site. Here is a sketch of the most recent levels of the site’s occupational history according to current scholarship. Beginning with the top and working down to earlier periods:

Level 1: Persian (after Babylonian Exile – see Nehemiah 11:30; site permanently abandoned in 2nd century BC)

Level 2: Iron Age (destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon)

Level 3: Iron Age (destroyed by Sennacherib of Assyria)

Level 4: Iron Age (dating disputed)

Level 5: Iron Age (dating disputed)

[Site abandoned for a period of time]

Level 6: Late Bronze (ca. Joshua’s time)

Scholars debate the beginning and end of Levels 5 and 4. Some believe the level 5 city began in the time of David and Solomon (early-mid 10th century BC), but others place its beginning in the time of Rehoboam (late 10th century BC) or the time of Joash (late-9th century BC). Another school of thought proposes that level 5 was more akin to an unfortified village, and that level 4 represents the first true Iron Age city. In short, scholars contest both the date and the character of the level 5 city.

The Bible text states that Rehoboam “built” Lachish and other cities for defense in 2 Chronicles 11:5-9. This indicates major construction in the late-10th century BC but does not rule out the prior establishment of an Iron Age city/town at the site. Does the level 5 city belong to Rehoboam? Was it rebuilt as a much smaller city than the previous one, such as level 10 at Hazor?

Adding to the debate is the incomplete publication of the first large-scale excavations of Lachish in the 1930’s. Some of the excavated areas along the northern slopes were never published. We thus lack a good picture of the site in some important areas.

Our new excavation aims to locate the Iron Age levels and gather evidence, including carbon-14 datable materials, to help resolve the beginning and end of levels 5 and 4. This has implications in the debate over the existence and nature of the early biblical kingdoms. Did a centralized government/kingdom exist in Judah the 10th century BC, in the time of David, Solomon, and Rehoboam? Evidence regarding this lies in ancient sites such as Lachish.

We hope to gain other insights during this project, including the location of the city gate during the Early Iron and Middle/Late Bronze periods. (The current visible gate is linked to levels 3 and 2.) After just a week and a half, we have already collected a substantial amount of new data with (re)dating implications for some of the previously excavated architecture.

 

The gate associated with levels 2 and 3 at Tel Lachish. The gate for earlier levels has not yet been located. (Photo by Catherine Bishop)

The gate associated with levels 2 and 3 at Tel Lachish. Any gates for earlier levels have not yet been located at the site. (Photo by Catherine Bishop)

More to come in later posts…

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An ancient grinding stone perfectly designed for a woman’s hand

We finished our first week of the Tel Lachish excavation with some nice finds, including the perfectly-designed grinding stone shown in the video below. Women’s hands in the Late Bronze age (ca. 1400-1200 BC) were apparently the same size as many women’s hands today. Cindy Fite, one of the members of my group this year, explains and demonstrates:

This kind of stone (also called a millstone) was used to create flour from grain. Millstones/grinding stones are common finds in archaeology. They were among the day-to-day sounds of home life, as we perceive from this prophecy of doom in Jeremiah 25:10.

I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the millstones and the light of the lamp.

There is nothing like digging something out of the ground that was last seen thousands of years ago. Whose was this? What things were talked about by the people who last used this object? What personal or family stories were connected to this object? We will never know the answer to these kinds of questions, but we are illuminating the daily life of ancient people. Excavators become part of the history of these objects from archaeology.

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The Tel Lachish Excavation: Field Report from Week 1

We have almost finished the first excavation week and have already (quickly!) found notable things. The first week in an archaeological dig can often be slow. One has to remove topsoil and gradually work down to the remains. Those interested in biblical periods may have to wait longer for the “good stuff” since many sites have remains from later centuries covering those layers. One may have to excavate Ottomans, Mamlukes, Crusaders, Arabs, Byzantines, and others before arriving at a layer from biblical times.

So how was our first week at Lachish? On the first day, we discovered a city wall dating back to biblical periods. On the second day we discovered a bronze figurine (idol) dating to the Late Bronze Age (aka the time of Joshua).  The figurine must undergo cleaning in a laboratory before its identification will be confirmed. On the third day we unearthed a large vessel whose contents included burnt seeds from a destruction layer in the city. This find is especially valuable because the seeds can be tested for Carbon-14 and produce a date for the destruction. (I will point out that all three of these finds happened in squares manned by my group.) On the fourth day we finally had “normal” results with “normal” finds including pottery, more architecture, household items, weapons/tools, and so on.

On an interesting note, it took six full seasons of work on our previous dig at Khirbet Qeiyafa to find a single vessel full of burnt seeds for radiometric dating. With this first season at Lachish, it took a total of three days. Could this be a good omen?

Collecting large quantities of burnt seeds from a vessel at Lachish. These may help to resolve a debate about when certain biblical layers of the city came into/fell out of use. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Collecting large quantities of burnt seeds from a vessel at Lachish. These may help to resolve a debate about when certain biblical layers of the city were built and destroyed. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

I will update soon with more news from the field. Many of the most interesting discoveries cannot yet be shown since the archaeological staff has the right and responsibility to publish them first. The finds mentioned and shown on this blog are presented with the permission of the Fourth Expedition to Tel Lachish. I can update with more details and photos at a later date.

Today’s post will conclude with a photo showing the versatility of archaeological field work.

Tal, one of our square supervisors, at work in his field office. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Tal, one of our square supervisors, at work in his field office. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

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