Saturday, June 4, 2011

Week Two Update (May 29-June 3)

By Dr. Dan Warner
Even though this was a challenging week between many still being sick and other various activities (like giving tours to several groups at the site i.e. archaeologists from Hebrew University and special invited guests from the Israel National Parks and the Israel Antiquities Authority) we still managed to average going down over a meter (3ft) per day. Even though we went down over 15 ft. we still have not located the entrance to the cavern which is the source for the water tunnel. Several reasons account for this one being the measurements of the original excavator Macalister, whose plans we have been following are off. We have come to realize that his calculations do not exactly fit our revised measurements and some of his own measurements do line up. So we are not exactly sure of the depth of this cavern from the surface, it could be off as much as 10 ft.  Our projections right now put us somewhere between 4-10 ft. to the entrance of the cavern with one more week to go to reach it before the season shuts down.

But we have learned some things as we continue to penetrate the tunnel, one being that the limestone is softer as we go down, which may account for the large amount of ribbing like features in the roof of the tunnel. Another word’s,  as one looks up in the ceiling one notices a series of cuts that continually go down creating a reverse set of steps but up in the roof, hence one could theoretically hit their head on them if they did not duck. These ribbings looked like steps on Macalister’s plans (since he did not give us a clear isometric view) but we now know they are in the ceiling and not a part of the floor. As well they have no structural significance since the limestone is softer, the original tunnel makers, as they chipped their way down, chunks of this soft limestone fell from the ceiling creating these series of ribs and we believe the tunnelers just continued on down to the next level.    
In addition we are not at this time uncovering the entire system down to the steps (which are about 3-4 ft. below our feet).  This is because we are still conducting a probe to make sure that once we reach the cavern opening  it has not totally collapsed so that we cannot enter the cave. We believe that this will not be the case and that next week which is our final week, we can reach it. One of the favorite quotes in archaeology is “the best finds always come on the last day”, we hope this is not the case this year.


The Gezer Water System project is co-sponsored by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary under the direction of Tsvika Tsuk, chief archaeologist at INPA, and Dan Warner, co-director of the Center for Archaeological Research at NOBTS.

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