What is a Typical Day Like on an Excavation? (or, A Day in the Life… Again??)

Rebekah Dutton has a new post titled “Archaeology Dig – A Day in the Life” describing a typical dig day at Ashkelon. It may be fun to compare it with this post of mine from July, 2009, describing a typical day at Khirbet Qeiyafa. Curiously, we chose similar titles for our posts. (Are we all Beatles fans?) Notice the similarities – and differences – in our daily schedules. Both posts have photos.

Some of you may be aware of a new story on Khirbet Qeiyafa that was announced by the IAA a few hours ago. The Israeli press already has the story along with a blog or two. Its headline guarantees it will hit the US/UK media quickly. I’ll have my own comments and some photos posted shortly.

Posted in Ashkelon, General Archaeology, Israel, Khirbet Qeiyafa, Links to interesting stuff | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Short Video: From Jericho to Masada at the Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is always an enjoyable place to visit. I make a point of going there during every trip to Israel. A warm float in the Dead Sea and the fresh, cool waterfalls of Ein Gedi wash away every trace of working at a dig.

Here is some new video of the area outside Jericho and in front of Masada.

  • See the relationship of Jericho to Jerusalem.
  • Gain an idea of the descent/ascent between the two cities.
  • Note how close the Dead Sea is to Jericho.
  • See the border region between Israel and Jordan. (Or is it ancient Judah and Moab?)
  • Enjoy a great view of Masada and its snake trail to the top.
  • Consider whether David may have spent time at Masada while fleeing from Saul.

Those who have not yet visited the Dead Sea region can gain a good idea of the relationships between the various dots on a Bible map. There is nothing like actually being there, but this video may tantalize you.

The whole video is just under six minutes in length.

Posted in Bible comments, Interesting places to visit, Israel, Jerusalem, Jordan, Overseas trips, Short videos, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Day with the Duttons (or, How Much Can Gentiles Pack Into a Sabbath?)

Last weekend I had the privilege to be with Trent and Rebekah Dutton. The Duttons are a great couple with an interesting story. Both are computer programmers with experience in military applications. Their interest in biblical geography and archaeology grew as they taught Bible classes at church, and piqued after a tour of Israel with Ferrell Jenkins in 2012. In short, they made a career change and are starting the two-year process to earn an M.A. in Biblical Archaeology at Wheaton College. (They were both accepted to Wheaton and are going through the program concurrently.) The first stage of their program is to excavate at Ashkelon with the Leon Levy Expedition for its full six-week season, followed by a semester of coursework in Jerusalem. They will then move to the Chicago area for the remaining 1-1/2 years of the program (with another Bible Lands dig next summer to boot.)

They and I have mutual friends who helped us to connect in Israel and spend part of a weekend together.

Trent and Rebekah Dutton enjoying the waterfalls and pools of Ein Gedi. Rebekah did, in fact, stand under one of the waterfalls. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Trent and Rebekah Dutton enjoying the waterfalls and pools of Ein Gedi. A few seconds after this photo was taken, Rebekah went over to a waterfall and allowed it to drench her. Trent got some excellent photos of the experience which will no doubt be posted on their joint blog. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

After Ein Gedi we went to the Dead Sea for a long, relaxing float as the sun began to set. I’m afraid I have no photo of that experience since my camera batteries had died, though the Duttons were able to get some nice shots of their first experience in the water. We enjoyed a quiet Friday evening by the Dead Sea as Shabbat (Sabbath) began and rested for our adventures the next day.

Our Sabbath morning began by driving south along the Dead Sea and then moving up into the Negev toward the ancient city of Arad.

We drove up from the Dead Sea to the ancient fortress of Arad. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

The ancient fortress of Arad. During the time of Moses, Arad’s king attacked the Israelites and took captives. Later, the descendants of Jethro (the Kenites) settled in this area.  During the Iron Age (kingdom period) the fortress protected the border against Edom and the Amelekites. Arad was destroyed several times in the kingdom period and has produced ostraca (inscriptions on pottery) that reveal something of the development of Iron Age Hebrew. The fortress has been restored to appear as it did during the time of the kingdom of Judah. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

After Arad we drove WNW to Beersheba (Beer Sheva). This city was considered the southern boundary of Israelite settlement. (“From Dan to Beersheba…”) Abraham spent a number of years around Beer Sheva and no doubt would have entered the city from time to time for trade, consultations, negotiations for water/grazing rights, etc.

Trent at Beer Sheva. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Trent Dutton at Beer Sheva. He is standing next to a replica of an altar that was destroyed during Hezekiah’s religious reforms. The original altar was part of a high place in the city and is on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Iron Age Beer Sheva had casemate walls with private dwellings abutting the inner wall. This architectural style did not exist in Philistea, Canaanite cities, or in northern Israel. In Canaan, this design was unique to Judah and can be found at other southern sites such as Khirbet Qeiyafa and Tel en-Nasbeh (Mizpah).

Rebekah examining Iron Age casemate walls at Beersheba. Visitors are required to wear hard hats to enter the underground water system that was carved into the bedrock during the early Iron Age. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Rebekah examining Iron Age casemate walls at Beersheba. She is standing in an Israelite house that abutted the city wall. Noticing her hard hat? Visitors at Beer Sheva are required to wear hard hats to enter the underground water system that was carved into the bedrock during the early Iron Age (kingdom period). Photo by Luke Chandler.

After Beersheba we drove north to the Judean foothills (Shephelah). Most restaurants are closed on Saturdays due to Shabbat, so we enjoyed a nice gas station lunch by the Elah Valley consisting of sandwiches, chips, and chocolate. As it happens, Khirbet Qeiyafa was just a few minutes from our lunch spot…


Our gourmet lunch from an Elah Valley gas station. It actually turned out quite nicely. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

After giving the Duttons a tour of Khirbet Qeiyafa, we drove to the coast, to the land of the ancient Philistines, where they gave me a tour of Ashkelon.


The Canaanite rampart and gate (under the roof) at Ashkelon. This rampart circled Ashkelon on three sides (the fourth side was the beach) and protected the city in the Middle Bronze Age – around the time of the Patriarchs. Philistines moved in centuries later and became the new proprietors. This was the city where Samson killed thirty Philistines and took their clothes to satisfy a bet he lost in Judges 15. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

The view from the top of the rampart by the gate. Yes, there are far worse places to excavate than on a beach with an ocean breeze. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

The view from the top of the rampart by the gate. Yes, there are far worse places to excavate than along a picturesque beach with an ocean breeze. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Trent and your truly standing next to Crusader walls at Ashkelon.

Trent and your truly standing next to the ruins of Crusader walls at Ashkelon. Ashkelon was a major base and port for the early Crusaders. Richard III (Lionheart) stayed here for a time during his campaigns against Saladin. The Muslims eventually leveled the entire city to prevent it from ever again being used by crusading Europeans. From an archaeological perspective, this protected the site from further development and preserved many nice things for us to find. (Photo by Rebekah Dutton)

We ended our day with a hot meal by the beach in modern Ashkelon. The Duttons went to their excavation hotel to rest up for work the next day while I drove back to Jerusalem that evening. From the Dead Sea to the Negev, to the Shephelah, to the coast, to Jerusalem – with numerous site visits – all in one day. And with great company.

As I write this, the Duttons are in their last week with the Ashkelon excavation. You can follow their blog as they wrap up the dig and prepare for a semester in Jerusalem.

Posted in Biblical Archaeology, Christians in Other Places, General Archaeology, Israel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Let’s Go to Gezer Together (with video)

Archaeological teams often take field trips to other sites during excavation season. Last Thursday afternoon, we went to the biblical city of Gezer. This site has seen the best of times and the worst of times. What does that mean? Check out this short video of our visit.

Joshua defeated Gezer’s army in the field but did not capture or occupy the city itself (Joshua 10:33). Gezer remained an independent Canaanite city until the time of Solomon, when the Egyptians destroyed it and gave it to Solomon as a dowry for his marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter (1 Kings 9:16). Solomon rebuilt it as an administrative center as he reorganized Israelite society from one of  tribal networks to centralized governorships (1 Kings 9:15; 4:7-19).

How did Gezer retain its independence from Israel for so long? We don’t have all of the story, but one reason may be economic. As you see in the video, it was a very well-located city at a crossroads of Philistine, Israelite, and Judahite territories. Gezer sat along key highways for commerce and could have easily disrupted the economy of any local aggressor. Add substantial defenses against a siege and you have a tough nut to crack. Governments in Canaan probably found it easier and safer to work with the Canaanites in Gezer.

The Bible doesn’t give us details on Egypt’s destruction of Gezer and its handover to Solomon, but perhaps we can speculate. Egypt had been embroiled in the internal strife of its Third Intermediate Period and an energetic Pharaoh seeking to reassert Egypt’s influence might have found Gezer an attractive way to seize control of key trade routes and reestablish a base of influence in Canaan. Such a move would have carried great risk given Israel’s dominance in that period, along with the reality of Egypt’s decline. Turning Gezer over to to Solomon, along with an Egyptian princess to boot, would be a good way to make nice with an angry Israelite monarch. (Foreign kings didn’t just marry daughters of Pharaoh.) Jerome Murphy-O’Conner comments on this possibility in his book, The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide (highly recommended for Bible students who visit Israel).

Posted in Biblical Archaeology, Egypt, General Archaeology, Gezer, Inscriptions and Manuscripts, Israel, Short videos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Food Watch: Make fresh Halvah for your kids! (And for yourself)

One of my favorite things about travel is the chance to taste new things. Here’s a favorite dessert that’s natural, healthy, and easy to make. You only need two ingredients. If you have kids/grandkids, they will love you. Your spouse will love you. You may even love yourself. Watch this video and give it a try…

I’ve found halvah for sale in some U.S. grocery stores, usually in an ethnic food aisle. (I’ve also seen Tahini there.) Sometimes halvah is sold as a munchable finger food (kind of like fudge) rather than a spread. Either way, it’s yummy stuff. I plan to make it for my kids when I get home.

Posted in Culture & Cuisine, Israel, Short videos | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fiddler on the Roof meets an Archaeological Dig

I am excavating at Khirbet Qeiyafa in Israel, but am also in the cast of “Fiddler on the Roof” in Florida about four weeks from now. “Fiddler” is about a Jewish community trying to hold on to its traditions in the revolutionary fervor of 1905 Russia. It’s one of my favorite shows and, amid the humor and songs, holds profound spiritual lessons.

For those familiar with the show, I am playing the role of Lazar Wolfe. So how does one prepare for such a role while doing archaeology? The (somewhat-lighthearted) video below demonstrates one way to do this.

If you live anywhere near the Tampa area, come out and see the production on July 26 or 27. We even have lunch/dinner show options. There are advantages to ordering your tickets now. Visit Broadway Comes to Camp for information and ticket orders.

Posted in Culture & Cuisine, Humor, Israel, Khirbet Qeiyafa, Links to interesting stuff, Personal, Short videos | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Video: The Ramparts Walk atop the Walls of Jerusalem’s Old City

Most visitors to Jerusalem never take the opportunity to walk atop the walls of the Old City. For the equivalent of four or five dollars you can walk along the ramparts and enjoy unique views not available on the ground.

The walls are nearly 500 years old and form the perimeter of Jerusalem’s Old City. The Old City consists of four quarters (Christian, Muslim, Armenian, and Jewish) plus the Temple Mount. Most tourists today are familiar with the pedestrian-choked narrow streets lined with shops. The ramparts walk lets you view parts the city you may not otherwise see. It also has a great view south over a biblically historic area. I touch on some of that in the short video below.

I walked along the wall from the Jaffa Gate on the west side to the Dung Gate on the south side. Fantastic experience. See a few highlights on the video.

If you have the opportunity to do this yourself, be advised there are many small flights of stairs along the ramparts. You may get a bit of a workout, especially if you’re carrying a heavy backpack in the summer. (Yes, yes… I know.) The video cannot relate the whole experience. If you legs are in decent shape and you have an opportunity, I recommend doing this.

Post Script: I case you are taken aback by my beard, I am growing it out for a production of “Fiddler on the Roof” in about a month. It will probably return to normal at the end of July.

Posted in Ancient Architecture, Interesting places to visit, Israel, Jerusalem, Short videos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Short Video: David’s battlefield up close

Since this is our last year to excavate in the Elah valley in Israel, I made a short, up-close video of David’s battlefield with Goliath. You can “be there” as we go over the events of 1 Samuel 17.


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The 2013 Khirbet Qeiyafa Excavation – Day #1

We’ve begun the final season of work at Khirbet Qeiyafa. Here are some photos with brief descriptions of what’s going on.

Prof. Yossi Garfinkel giving an overview of the site. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Prof. Yossi Garfinkel giving an overview of the site to the dig volunteers. This group consists of people from their teens to their 60′s. For most of the group, this is their first experience at an archaeological dig. A few of the college students are Archaeology, Anthropology, or Religious Studies majors, but there are also students studying Music (a French Horn player!) and Nursing, among other things. We have educators, a CPA, and even a career chemist who tried it for the first time last summer and got hooked. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

My work square for this week is down the hill a bit from the ancient city. It’s some kind of building that so far dates to around the time of King Josiah in the 7th century BC. This is around 300 years later than the city above. It has some big, heavy stones in the outer walls. Was it a military watchtower? Was it built on top of an older structure? Was it destroyed violently or simply abandoned? What kinds of things are buried inside? Those are some of the questions we’re looking to answer over the next few days.

My work area this week. We're actually digging to the right (east) of this photo. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

My work area this week. We’re actually digging to the right (east) of this photo at the moment. Once we’ve clarified the architecture, we’ll have a better idea of what this may be. Uncovering objects on the floor level will no doubt be helpful. What are we going to find here? (Photo by Luke Chandler)

We started our work just to the right of the above photo. Those large rocks you see on the right side are actually inside the building. We found the last outer wall almost immediately, as you can see below. Once this new area reaches the depth of the rest of the building, we should be close to the floor level and (hopefully) start finding the good stuff.

l (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Our work area. You can see the wall we are uncovering. It sits just below the current ground level, which means nothing has probably been built here since this tower/house was destroyed, probably more than 2,600 years ago. We’ll find out more as we go down.  (Photo by Luke Chandler)

A dig volunteer examining an AD 1st century Jewish coin found on the first day of excavations. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

A dig volunteer examining an AD 1st century Jewish coin found on the first day of excavations. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

(Something’s buggy with the connection here. If the photo below does not appear on your screen, click the space and a nice version should appear for your viewing pleasure.)

The coin from the Jewish revolt against Rome. These kinds of coins were stamped with the year of the war in which they were minted. This one looks to be from either the second or third year of the war - either AD 67 or 68. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

A coin from the Jewish revolt against Rome. These kinds of coins were stamped with the year of the war in which they were minted. This one looks to be from either the second or third year of the war – either AD 67 or 68. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Up on the hill, two groups are finishing up areas from last year. One, Area F, is a building with pillars and a paved floor. This means it’s likely a public building of some kind. It has at least a couple of levels separated by hundreds of years. We’ll know more in a few weeks. The other work zone, Area A, is part of the central fortress from 3,000 years ago. Maybe there’s something really nice inside such an important building.

By the way, my square is Area W. We’re outside the city, which throws off our neat little alphabetic sequence. (We’ve worked areas A, B, C, D, E, F… and W!)

Next year we will begin a new excavation at Lachish, one of the premier archaeological sites in the Bible Lands. If you are interested in being a part of that, start planning now for the possibility. Begin saving some money and plan for a trip around late June or mid-July. The exact dates of next year’s trip are not yet known but they will likely fall within that time frame. Are you wishing you were here digging excavating experiencing the biblical past right now?

Posted in 2013 Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation, General Archaeology, Israel, Khirbet Qeiyafa, Lachish, New Discoveries | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Meeting a behemoth on the way to Israel

I arrived in Israel yesterday to join the last excavation season at Khirbet Qeiyafa. I was originally not able to come but some things unexpectedly changed a few weeks ago. Today is Shabbat (Sabbath) which makes for a good day to explore a bit, get over jet lag, and take care of a few things before going to the dig.

One of my flights here connected in Zurich. I had my first encounter with the world’s largest passenger jet, the new Airbus A380. It caught my attention when it landed and taxied by the terminal. Have you read up on it? It’s simply huge. A double-decker airliner with more-than-average leg room and head room for passengers plus several other comfort-related improvements. The aircraft can hold anywhere from 555 to 853 passengers, depending on the model. Future variants may have seating for 900 passengers. At this time there are just over 100 of these on active duty in the world, none of them (yet) with U.S. airlines.


A Singapore Air A380 at the airport in Zurich, Switzerland. Notice the two full rows of windows. Each level is a complete flight deck with wider seats and more passenger room than most planes. The difference in size is noticeable when parked next to other long-haul jets. There’s big, and then there’s big. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

I certainly hope to ride in one someday, but confess being even more interested in flying on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It’s big, though not as huge as the A380. The Dreamliner doesn’t look that different on the outside but it’s much more innovative under the skin. You can click on the links above and learn more about both planes’ innovations, especially the ones improving passenger experience.

These two new planes reflect different approaches to ferrying passengers. The Airbus A380 is designed for flight models that ferry large numbers to a few hubs, and then to other destinations using smaller planes. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is designed for models that rely less on hubs in favor of more direct point-to-point flights. There is probably room in the market for both approaches.

For me, flying is usually an enjoyable experience. With the current drudges of extra security, higher fees, and fewer services, innovative aircraft like these help to keep things fresh. Now to find a way to actually fly on one of them…

Blogging will probably be sporadic for a few days as I finish up a large, important project. After that I should have more time to post on the trip. It’s going to be interesting! What will we find this year? More 3,000 year-old inscriptions?

Posted in Links to interesting stuff, Tech & Resources, travel | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment