This past week of the Shiloh Excavations we had nine squares open – each 5m x 5m and sitting on a north/south grid. Our goal is to expose the architecture within each square and be able to relate it to what’s found in the next square. Along with the floors and installations associated with these walls, we can know where ancient people lived. But the pottery and artifacts found in the dirt associated with this architecture and installations tells us about how they lived. And we learned a lot about the ancient people of Shiloh in Week Three.
While our dig team is mostly American, people come from around the world – we had folks from Canada, Spain, Ireland and Denmark on our team this year. Virtually every day we have volunteer diggers join us – both locals and visitors from other countries. We also have groups who stop and dig for a day. Just like the Dallas Theological Seminary group two weeks ago, we had a group of Wycliffe Bible translators join us last week.
We also have local specialists on our team: Frankie Synder of the Temple Mount Sifting Project who works with us daily, artifact conservator Orna Cohen stopped by for a visit and ceramic specialists Liora Feund and Perez Reuven who visit and review our pottery finds.
Other archaeological professionals also come to see what we’re doing. Well-known and respected archaeologist Ami Mazar visited two weeks ago, as well as Hillel Richmond – who joined our daily pottery “reading” (analysis). Last week, highly respected archaeologist Aren Maeir stopped to visit and also joined us for pottery reading that day. Every day we “read” the pottery dug and washed from the day before. Weekly, Liora and Perez come and review our reads. They both offer suggestions and will eventually do a final analysis with Scott for publication.
But the Shiloh Excavation team stays busy even when we’re not digging. Besides our weekend bus and van tours all over Israel, last week, a group did an evening tour of the Western Wall Tunnel in the Old City.
Another group visited Khirbet el-Maqatir, about ten miles south of Shiloh and on the road we take to and from Jerusalem every day. KeM is the location of what we believe are Old Testament Ai and New Testament Ephraim – where ABR sponsored and led an excavation for thirteen years under Dr. Bryant Wood and Dr. Scott Stripling.
Also, a small number of the Shiloh dig team joined director Scott Stripling in one of the conference rooms at the Knesset (Israel’s parliament building), where we participated in a Bible study with Christian and Jewish religious leaders. An ongoing effort led by Rabbi and Knesset member Yehuda Glick, the event was cosponsored by the Knesset Caucus for the Encouragement of Bible Study, the Schindler Society and Israel365. Designed to promote our common faith in the Old Testament Scriptures, focusing on what we share in common – not on differences – it was an interesting and meaningful experience.
Now, here’s what happened last week in our nine excavation squares.
In Squares AH29-30, Tim Lopez identified two more walls to add to his wall list – Roman, Iron Age (Israelite) and Middle Bronze Age (Canaanite) – he’s got them all! But on Friday his team (with a little help from the wet sift folks!), revealed an important discovery. The dirt they dug and then dry sifted, was then sent to our new wet sifting station. There, Richard from my square, wet sifted the dirt and recognized an ancient Egyptian scarab. It had a cartouche with an Egyptian pharaoh’s name – but we’re not certain what it said. I thought I could read it, but wasn’t sure. We’ve sent it to an expert…and I’ll let you know how good my knowledge of hieroglyphics really is!
Dr. Boyd Seevers just opened new Square AG29 this week and his team dug almost 2m of fill – before finding a wall-line on Friday afternoon. Still, in all that dirt, his team uncovered a large number of wonderful finds – including seven coins, fragments of nine oil lamps, two slingstones and one stone mortar. Then on Friday his team discovered a ceramic object which no one knew for sure what it was- even our conservator said she had never seen one before! Best guess at the moment…an inkwell.
In Square AF29, Don McNeeley and I had to take down the dirt balks around two sides of our square in order to continue digging deeper in the square. That was unfortunate, because there were multiple broken sherds to a number of vessels broken-in-place that had to be covered up until the take-down was complete. But, in the process, we were able to find two more stones in the interior face of the Canaanite perimeter wall that runs the full width of our square. In the bulk take-down, we did find a number of interesting pottery sherds and small objects – including one coin – which were kept for further study. And, by the end of the week, we were back to uncovering more vessel fragments in the square!
Dr. Mark Hassler and his team, in AC28-89 and AD29, have been excavating a long stretch of the outer face of the 5m-wide Canaanite perimeter wall – and by the end of the week, they found a hole in the wall! Well, not exactly a hole, the wall was just stopped – from top to bottom! Yet it does not appear to be a gateway and neither does it appear to be part of the original Canaanite wall construction. Next week, Mark will have some answers!
In AF27 and AG27, Ruth Vanderford supervised the final clearing of the glacis – a 35-degree sloping earthen rampart constructed around the outside of the ancient perimeter wall. It was designed in antiquity to hinder attacking armies from reaching the wall and to protect the wall’s foundation from being undermined. Directly above the glacis, they found a large amount of disintegrated red mudbrick, apparently the fallen mudbrick superstructure which once sat above the perimeter wall's stone foundation.
In Square AG30, Kevin Larsen and his team have four walls from a Roman house. It includes what looks like a circular stone column drum deliberately set in the corner of one room. In the next room was a restorable whole New Testament era storage jar along with an unusual stone mortar found in situ. While the base was flat, the bowl of the mortar sat at a 30-degree angle, seemingly tilted especially for someone’s convenience while sitting on the floor. Finally, one of the corners in this house is created with well-cut stones – maybe the finest Roman room corner in all Israel – probably not…but it was still really well-constructed!
Suzanne Lattimer’s square AE29, sits next to mine and her team has also uncovered the inner face of the city wall – giving us about 10m of continuous exposure. They have also cleared the wall’s top – almost to the outer face. And, in the process, they found a large dump of Roman pottery – the largest pile of broken pottery we’ve found on the site.
Our wet sift team, led by Greg Gulbrandsen, has already been mentioned a couple of times. They are much appreciated by the rest of us – because they found the stuff in our dirt that we missed in the square and in our dry sift. This week “that stuff” included a clay impression made from an ancient seal, a flint blade, a carnelian bead, an “eye” bead (see below) and the scarab (mentioned above). These folks spend their day making the rest of us look pretty good. For details about our wet sift station, see: Go Now To Shiloh: The 2018 Excavations Week One
In recent years, archaeologists have considered sifting the dump piles left by earlier excavations – because today, building on what they had done, we have better technologies and protocols to identify more efficiently what they couldn’t. With the Danish/Finkelstein dump very close to our new wet sifting station, this week Steve Rudd started the wet sifting process for the first few pails of that dump. Among a number of interesting finds, they found a small “eye” bead – a bead with what appear to be four eyes around it.
And a final shout-out to Ellen Jackson, our metal detectorist, who found most of the fifty-plus coins from the dirt in our squares as well as another ten coins from the Danish/Finkelstein dump. Last year, Ellen found coins everywhere on Tel Shiloh when she turned on her machine. But this year, Scott said only in our squares and the dump. Too many coins from outside our dig area to record, clean, restore and process! Oh, to have such problems!
Of course, the coins don’t belong to us, they are the property of the Israel Antiquities Authority – who gives us our dig permit. So…in order to finance all the good work we’re doing, we still need and appreciate your prayers, help, support... and any coins you would like to send! Thanks for being part of the Shiloh Excavations!
Students from Lee University with Dr. Brian Peterson
(click on the image to view our Shiloh 2018 FaceBook Album).
We will be sharing more of our exciting discoveries in the coming weeks. Please continue to pray for the dig team. You might consider participating in the Shiloh Dig in the summer of 2019. If you wish to support the dig financially, simply follow this link, and specify in the “Instructions” section that you desire to fund the Shiloh Excavations.