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 3:45 A.M., eat breakfast at 4:15, and be on the bus at 5:00! But the first five days of digging were worth it, producing some AMAZING results.
Sponsored and directed by the Associates for Biblical Research, this was the first season with new dig director Dr. Scott Stripling. As this is his fifth summer dig season with us—along with four 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 eight 6 x 6 m squares, mostly in the New Testament village on KeM's east side.
Of course, Dr. Bryant Wood is here too—now officially known as Director Emeritus and as 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 representation: 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, his students are working in three squares uncovering the New Testament village.
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 hoards.
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.
We're also finding more fragments of stoneware vessels, prominent in the Jerusalem area during New Testament times. Over half a dozen pieces being 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 contributions 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.
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.
We're digging a house from the time of the Judges (12th–11th centuries BC). Our pottery is much older and heavier, and not nearly as pretty as the New Testament-period pieces. But it includes sherds from the earliest periods on the site—from the fortress Joshua destroyed and maybe from 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.
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!