The First Week at the Dig

Trip Start Jul 05, 2012
Trip End Jul 26, 2012

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Bet Mier Hostel

Flag of Israel  , Jerusalem District,
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 10th Khirbet Qeiyafa 2012 Excavation

On Sunday morning we visited the Temple Mount.   It was my second time to be here.  Once we got arrived the three of us separated and went our own way and met up at the end.   Again I enjoyed walking the entire perimeter and standing on the Eastern Gate ramparts looking at the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives.  Again I was amazed at the piles and piles of rubble on almost the entire eastern side of the temple Mount.  I even snapped a picture of a worker digging in the debris with an old rusty shovel.

  It is now Tuesday,  July 10th.  Three out of ten days on the dig have passed.  We began Sunday afternoon about 1pm.  The first day was extremely exciting.  We had  met the  bus close to the Central Bus Station and along with almost 100 other students, professors, adventures, and archaeologists from around the world.  They came from the US, Korea, Belgium, and of course Israel.    After lunch on Sunday, we boarded busses and took the 20 minute ride to the site,  Khirbet Qeiyafa, an ancient ruin (Khirbet) on top of a hill overlooking the valley of Elah where the battle between David and Goliath took place.   

Yosi Garfinkel the dig director met with the newcomers and gave us some background and assigned us our task.  This Iron Age 1 fortification had the classic Judean casemate walls.   Casemate walls were very indicative of Judean / Israelite walls.  An outer wall approximately 2 feet wide and a second wall of similar thickness divided by a chamber approximately five feet wide.  The theory says the chamber could be used for storage and easily filled with interior stones in case of attack to make a massive 10 foot thick wall!   Every 15 or so feet the walls were connected with a perpendicular wall that created  an inner chamber that either opened to the left or to the right.  The orientation of the openings reversed at the two gates and now it was time to see where the two met between gates and see what was there.  They had hypothesized tested and failed to find this meeting place,  so then moved to another square in between.  As of yet the meeting place had not been discovered.  Today a new square of section F would be prepared and we would begin digging tomorrow to see if the answer was there.  

That first day as we helped in another square in section F, we watched as an excavator removed the top foot of soil on the square we would begin on Monday.  On this first day we watched as items were unearthed that had been sitting there over 2000 years.  A hand-sized clay maybe perfume or oil vessel,   lots of pottery shards,  an intact lamp from the Persian period.  We wondered if anyone would uncover a major discovery such as the hand-sized clay shard uncovered in 2008 here that contained the earliest known example of Hebrew known to date and noow known as the Qeiyafa Ostracon.  This first evening we packed our tools as the sun set over the Plains of the Philistines.  Sunsets were a special treat reserved for Sundays.  On the rest of the dig days we enjoyed the sunrises as they appeared on the Judean foothills at the beginning of the day. 

  The setting for the dig was an ancient fortified city known as Khirbet Qeiyafa, (biblically Sha'arayim) This city sets on the strategic border between Israel and Philista.   The Bible lets us know that the Philistines (the Sea People) who had immigrated to this area from what may have been Phoenicia and the Israelites who came sweeping into the Levant from Egypt and their 40 years in the wilderness took part  in a bloody struggle of conquest over the Canaanite peoples that is described in Joshua and Judges.   For a long time the better side of the struggle was in Philistine hands as seen in I Sam 17 with the Judean cities of socho and Bethleham as garrison cities of the Philistines.   KQ sits on a strategic knoll opposite and to the east of the Philistine city of Azekiah and can easily see a Philistine army marching from the plain down the valley before it came into contact with ephes damin (the edge or border of blood) on its way into the Judean foothills.   KQ lies also opposite and to the NW of the Judean city of Socho which I Samuel tells us was the location of the Philistine army and its champion Goliath while the Israelite army was on the hill opposite.   So with very little conjuncture we can place KQ as the very location of the Israelite camp where the young  David came bringing cheeses for his brothers and confronted the Philistine champion with the valor and faith.

Yossi Garfinkel and Saar Ganor have excavated here since 2008 including this year for five summers.   Yossi has made some pretty spectacular scientific conclusions about the site.  That is is an Iron age I casemate city likely constructed by King David,  that it was a Hebrew city, and a city that practiced a pretty purified Hebrew religion.  These conclusions are based on evidence such as several olive pits that were carbon 14 dated,  while lots and lots of bones have been found on-site, so far none have been pork bones.  Also several cultic (Religious) containers were unearthed last summer that contained no central icon or deity as has been unearthed in other ancient sites.  These are conclusions that corroborate the Biblical account and refute the current minimalist concept in archaeology that states that the King David of the Bible is largely or completely created and that Judah or Israel of the time was  a relatively small tribal society.(An update,  Yossi Garfinkel visited the campus of VCU in the Winter of 2013 and shared that he had just received results from dating several olive pits found in 2012 that corroborated the previous dating).
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Sarah on

Why does JOAB have a mine detector? Should I up the life insurance?

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