We have now started our second week at Khirbet el-Maqatir. Much to Dr. Bryant Wood's chagrin, we have not made much progress on the LB I fortress (the Ai of Joshua).
What we hoped was a substantial wall of the fortress (this wall straddled Jim Luther's square and mine) was apparently a later agricultural terrace wall, but we are not quite yet to bedrock. The wall line of the house where Dr. Wood found the infant burial two years ago did not continue into Suzanne Lattimer's square, where she has reached bedrock.
Brian Peterson continues to excavate inside what seems to be a room (he has excavated two of the wall lines with a third being about a meter away and the fourth being already identified in Dr. Merrill's square). It appears Brian is on the floor of that room in a number of locations, but it is from a later period. Dr. Merrill has the continuation of one of Brian's walls and that fourth wall in his square, along with that doorway-like thing that appears to continue to expose doorposts below the lintel. Next to that doorway, but not in situ (in its position of use), was a door socketstone, apparently from an earlier period, turned upside.
Joel Kramer and Titus Kennedy continue to excavate inside the Hasmonean fortress and have what appears to be a substantial structure that we would like to think might be a synagogue. BUT, I did not say it is a synagogue—just that I want it to be one! Stay tuned.
Actually the most exciting stuff the last few days has been in the monastery. It is generally understood that the Byzantines built churches and monasteries at locations they believed represented Old or New Testament events. Since there is not much information on Jesus doing anything in this area, we are thinking this monastery represents an Old Testament story. It is our belief that it may represent either the second recorded place that Abraham pitched his tent and built an altar in the Holy Land (between Bethel and Ai; Genesis 12:8) or Joshua's defeat and capture of Ai (Joshua 8). A mosaic inscription in the church floor to the fact would be really nice.
To date, Scott Stripling has uncovered half of the church's central apse and what we are pretty certain was a secondary apse to the south (with a presumed corresponding one to the north). There is also a surprising spring of an arch in the chancel area. Immediately beneath the arch is a plastered installation that was apparently beneath the church's floor. I think Scott has now collected something like 11,000 tesserae (mosaic paving stones) from the monastery complex. I am not sure when he found the time to count them all, but that is what he says!
Not exactly what we were planning, but this is what is here and we are grateful to have the opportunity to be here and do this. Thanks for your prayers; I assure you, they really help.
To see pictures on the ABR Facebook page, click here: ABR Facebook Photo Album.