Week one of the 12th season of excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir is over. It is Saturday and we didn't have to get up at 3:45AM, eat breakfast at 4:15 and be on the bus at 5:00! But the first 5 days of digging were worth it, producing some AMAZING results.
KeM surveyors Jerry and Roy hoping to get their equipment working in time to do us some good. Nathaniel is walking by, checking on things. Notice the ladies restroom behind them…nothing but the best for the ladies of KeM!
Sponsored and directed by the Associates for Biblical Research, this was the first season with new dig director Dr. Scott Stripling. His 5th summer dig season with us - along with 4 additional winter dig seasons he also led - the annual dig permit is now in Scott's name with the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Our 60-member dig team is the largest yet, since we renewed excavations in 2009. This week, we opened 8 6x6m squares, mostly in the New Testament village on KeM's east side.
KeM's own tent city. Seven different squares are laid out hereover the New Testament village.
Of course, Dr. Bryant Wood is here, too - now officially known as Director Emeritus and our ceramic typologist. He got to choose his square and has, beneath the New Testament village, what appears to be a house along a street of the Canaanite city of Ai. Stay tuned.
We have a number of schools represented this year, but Lee University in Cleveland, TN has the most - a contingent of 12 wonderful undergraduate students led by Lee professor and KeM Field Archaeologist, Dr. Brian Peterson. While he's studying ancient construction techniques and doing some reconstruction on the New Testament era house he uncovered in 2011, Dr. Peterson's students are working in three squares uncovering the New Testament village.
We start so early that lunch break is at 10:30. Lee University students eating in their square under the sunscreen. Anybody having tuna? (Starting top left and moving clockwise: Madison Vaught, Kory Vance, Haylie Daniels, Brad LaChapell, Cam Hunter, Daniel Glover, Blake McGrath, Valerie Brite, Rachel Gaby, Jodie Rice, Vince Williams, Ruth Vanderford.
From one of these squares a second scarab at KeM was found. Last year's scarab was considered to be the top find of Biblical archaeology in 2013 by Christianity Today Magazine (off-site link). This year's scarab, from soil 15 feet from the first, has already been taken to an expert at Hebrew University for cleaning, restoration and analysis.
Last season at KeM, we found a record total of 205 coins (See the report from 2013). This week, we found 112 coins - from every square but mine! Our numbers are impressive to archaeologists because they're being found individually all over the site and not together in hordes.
Squares led by Dr. Gene Merrill, dig Administrative Director Henry Smith, Abigail Leavitt and Dr. Brian Peterson all have cisterns (plastered and holding water) or silos (not plastered and holding storage jars). Many of our coins come from soil in these subterranean structures.
Look what popped up! Cleaning out a subterranean silo inside the New Testament house. With Lee University Students Haylie Daniels and Rachel Gaby.
We're also finding more fragments of stoneware vessels, prominent in the Jerusalem area during New Testament times. Over half a dozen pieces found this year brings our total count to almost 50 pieces. This is an impressive number for stoneware and is also significant to our colleagues.
Beyond this, we're also finding some interesting metal objects. Many are coming from the appropriate archaeological use of a metal detector, by our veteran archaeological metal detectorist Ellen Jackson.
Square supervisors Steve Rudd, Suzanne Lattimer and Director Dr. Scott Stripling have all made their own contribution to the coin, stoneware and metal object count. Starting new squares in the New Testament village, they are uncovering house walls and, possibly, a narrow street.
Field Archaeologist Suzanne Lattimer excavating a New Testament house wall in her new square.
My square is set apart from all the others. In Biblical terms, I think that makes it 'holy!' We're excavating on the site's northwest side inside the Canaanite city wall.
Happy 'holy' ones - Varya, Matt and Cindi - digging a house from the time of the Judges.
We're digging a house from the time of the Judges (12th-11th centuries BC). Our pottery is much older, heavier, and not nearly as pretty as the New Testament period pieces. But it includes sherds from the earliest periods on the site - both the fortress Joshua destroyed and maybe one of the earliest settlements after the Conquest.
Dig photographer Mike Luddeni helps document what happens in the field every day - hope you enjoy his accompanying photos. Back at dig HQ, IT Director Don McNeeley and Pottery Registrar Lou Klauder are incorporating data coming from the site every day with the accumulated data of the past 11 seasons.
A couple of our neighbors stopped by to welcome us back to KeM. This is the local shepherd, his donkey and two from his flock. With close to 100 in the flock, they pass by every morning.
It's a privilege being here in the Holy Land doing this important work. It's also a great bunch of people - an amazing mix of old and young - and we're all trying to appreciate every moment.
Thanks for your ongoing prayers! While we're getting some wonderful answers here, daily, many aren't of great significance - except to those for whom it happens! Yet we're all seeing God at work in our midst every minute. Now if we could just do something about that 3:45 wake-up call!