Wednesday, June 12, 2013

June 12: The Dig is Complete - Update 12

The 2013 Gezer Dig has come to an end. As I write, the last pottery is being sort and the site is being cleaned and secured. As Dr. Dan Warner mentions in the video, the project will take one more year to complete. However, we made tremendous progress this year's dig was a huge success. We have dateable pottery to analyze and a plan of attack for next season. Keep an eye on the blog for additional updates. We will release an article on this year's dig in the coming weeks and we will announce the dates for next year's dig as soon as those are available.

We want to offer our most gracious thanks to Dr. Tsvika Tsuk, chief archaeologist for the Israel Nature, who has co-directed the dig and to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority which has partnered with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in this endeavor. Dr. Tsuk has shared his time and talents at the dig site and in the lecture hall, imparting his knowledge of archaeology with our group. We are thankful to count Tsvika Tsuk as a colleague and a friend.

In the coming days the members of our group will board jets headed for happy reunions with loved ones. Please pray for safe returns for the entire Gezer team.

Monday, June 10, 2013

June 10: Ditto – Update 11

By Gary D. Myers

Ditto yesterday’s post.

That is about all that would be needed to describe the work today. It was just about the same as yesterday. Work continued in all the same areas today – in the probes at the bottom, at the sifting table, at the pottery washing station and in the conservation areas. We did add one new wrinkle today. We started marking all the pottery found underneath MacAlister’s “causeway.” This pottery, sealed off from all the years of backfill after MacAlister, will be analyzed and used to date the water system.

Several of the probes at the bottom of the water system continue to render amazing amounts of pottery. The dig leaders are thrilled with the volume of pottery and other items coming out of the pool area under the causeway. In his writings, MacAlister noted that the pool area was very deep. He tried to measure the depth with a six-foot-long crowbar, but found that the pool was deeper than six feet. We are finding that he was correct about the depth of the pool at the bottom of the tunnel. It is very deep. Our crews have yet to find the bottom in two of the probes.

So tomorrow will probably be a lot like today and the day before. Digging, shifting, washing, sorting and marking. But this is real progress. All the previous dig seasons at the Gezer water system were leading to this moment. Hopefully, as the pottery is analyzed, conclusions can be reached about who built this impressive water system and when they built it. For now, we continue on, probing the depths of the Gezer water system.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

June 9: The End is Near – Update 10

By Gary D. Myers

Work has slowed considerably as the focus of the digging shifted to the three probes at the very bottom of the water system. Last Wednesday the team cut through what is believed to be a causeway of stone laid be R.A.S. MacAlister more than 100 years ago which enabled him to cross the very muddy, watery spot at the bottom. These three probe areas, untouched by MacAlister, have been fruitful in providing material that could help the team date the system. It will be some time before the dig leaders draw any conclusions from the material they have found. The pottery, seeds, charcoal and other items will all be studied and analyzed. Lab work is a very important part of any archaeological endeavor. So, as unfortunate as it is, it may be some time before the dig leaders can draw real conclusions about the site.

We want people here to know about this wonderful ancient water system and word is getting out. Today the site was visited by one of the Israeli television stations. A cameraman interviewed Tsvika Tsuk and shot video in the tunnel. We are hopeful that the Gezer dig will be featured on the news tonight or tomorrow.

Watching the Pros
For those of us on the dig who are amateur archaeologists, it has been a real treat to watch the professionals work (Tsvika Tsuk, Dan Warner, Jim Parker and Dennis Cole). Archaeology includes discipline, precision and creativity. It is both a science and an art. Archaeologists read the clues they are given like a detective, pulling out details from the evidence. They must have the ability to propose theories, hold those theories loosely, and revise them as needed. The goal is to let the material in the ground lead to the conclusions.

Work, Work, Work
Conservation work continued on the Bronze Age gate and the Canaanite wall today.  Both areas look remarkable. The work accomplished in the short time has been amazing. These areas, along with the Solomonic gate, the high place/standing stones and the water system, illustrate just how much potential there is at Gezer. This really is a great site with good exposure to multiple occupations from Canaanite to Israelite.
The most happening place on the entire dig site now is the shifting tent. For three days the shifting team has been busy finding objects dug from beneath the “causeway.” All these items are being carefully catalogued and will be analyzed as described above. Because the area is filled with mud, the team has to wet shift. It is a wet, muddy job.

The days are quickly ticking away. Everyone seemed tired today … not too tired to work, but some volunteers had a bit less spring in their steps. This seems to happen each year late in the dig as we all begin to feel the pull of home. Soon we will all be on our way back to our loved ones and all of our responsibilities back home. We have enjoyed our stay, but it will be good to be home. The majority of the group will be leaving this Friday and Saturday. Please pray for our safe returns.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

June 6: Digging Deeper – Update 9

By Gary D. Myers

Today was a great day at Gezer. The layers under R.A.S. MacAlister’s “causeway” of stones are yielding quite a bit of interesting pottery. The diggers excavating the three probes in the presumed water source sent a healthy supply of bags to the sifters today. The amount of material found in these areas is a great encouragement for the whole team.

Many questions remain at the Gezer water system and our team is working diligently to answer these questions. Is there an exit from the bottom of the system? Will we locate the water source? Is water still flowing at the bottom? Can a date for the construction of the water system by firmly established?

A Quick Survey
This year an NOBTS student (David) with a land survey background joined the dig team to gather data information about the water system. He will produce new drawings of the system. He spent the better part of week two establishing benchmarks and recording information about the top of the tel, the water passage (main shaft) and the cavern. Only here for one week, David has worked diligently to complete this time consuming job. Dig leaders believe the survey work will provide valuable information that will help them understand the water system.

Conservation and Cleaning

Larry and Paulette continue to work with the professional conservators at the Bronze Age wall/wall room restorations. The job is slow and requires a much attention to detail, but their work is becominh more noticeable each day.

Work continues at the Bronze Age gate complex as well. The team completed the cleaning of the third of five gate sections today. The team is hopeful that the whole gate cleaning project can be completed before the dig ends.

Both areas of conservation and cleaning are important examples from the time when Canaanites occupied Gezer. The TLC given at these locations will insure that generations to come will have the opportunity to see this wall section and learn about the people who once called Gezer home.

Final Stretch and Group Dynamics
It is hard to believe that only a week remains for this year’s Gezer water system dig. Time flies when you are having fun and when you are working hard.

We may not know how many of the questions about the water system will be answered or how many projects we will complete. One thing is sure, this group will work very hard these last days and will complete as many projects as possible in the time that is left. This group works hard and gets along well. It was exciting to see team fellowship and companionship develop over the past two weeks. The group members have been great Christian ambassadors in their interactions with each other and with the Israeli people. 

It is evident that our team members truly care about each other and want to be a part of the tasks we have been given. A small group of college students and recent high school graduates joined the dig this year and they have injected fresh joy and vibrant life into our work at Gezer and our leisure times as we fellowship together at Neve Shalom and tour the country. And while we will all be ready to return to our families, we will miss the new friends we have made and the old friendships we have rekindled during this dig.

Today’s Gezer Passage
2 Samuel 5:22-25

Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of the Lord, and he answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” So David did as the Lord commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.


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.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

June 5: A Picture says a Thousand Words – Update 8

By Gary D. Myers

They say that a picture says a thousand words, so instead of typing a lot of words, here are “four thousand words” to start today’s post.

Cleaning the Causeway
MacAlister's Causeway
Probe 2 in the Cavern
Paulette at the wall

Today the team continued to work on the three causeway probes. By lunchtime, most of the causeway stones had been cleared and the team began digging. Soon they were finding lots of datable pottery. More on that in tomorrow.

Important Visit
Yesterday was a very important day for the Gezer Water System dig. Shaul Goldstein, General Director of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, toured the Gezer site with Tsvika Tsuk and the NOBTS dig leaders. The tour finale was a trip into the impressive water system. Goldstein seemed impressed with the site and the work being done there. We are grateful that he took time to visit us at Gezer and we are grateful to Tsvika Tsuk for facilitating such an important visit.

Two Items in honor of the Conservation Team
Larry and Paulette are working tirelessly on conservation of the Bronze Age walls. It is a tedious job that requires much attention to detail. As I think about their work, Robert Frost and Ecclesiastes come to mind.

Excerpt from Mending Wall by Robert Frost
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-5
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

June 4: Work, Work, Work – Update 7

By Gary D. Myers
Alyson and Emily at Probe 1

Work continued at the Bronze Age gate, the wall room and MacAlister’s causeway. Before lunch, the causeway was clean enough for photographs and soon the team began cutting through the slabs of stone MacAlister used to cross the soupy area he encountered at the bottom step over 100 years. The team will dig three probe holes through the causeway in hopes of finding material undisturbed by MacAlister.

Traditional archaeology techniques will be used to insure any material found there can be used in dating the water system. One of the main goals of the dig is to find evidence to indicate when the water system was cut and who cut it.

Work also continued on probe 2 inside the cavern. Work on probe 1 was abandoned yesterday because the team encounter multiple layers of chalk about 2 meters into the probe. The probe 2 team also hit a significant layer of chalk (probably roof fall) much deeper into their probe, but dig leaders decided to cut through this layer of chalk in hopes of finding the floor.

Bronze Age Gate
The work area where our efforts are most visible is in the Bronze Age wall rooms. The conservation work is shaping up nicely. In a few days we should have good before and after photos to illustrate the progress. In the other areas, we have many really good starts. In the coming days we hope these good starts will lead to exciting finds. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 3, 2013

June 3: A Step in the Right Direction – Update 6

The Bottom Step
By Gary D. Myers

Only a short blog today because everyone on the Gezer team is tired, very tired. We’ve worked hard and toured hard and today everyone looked a little worn.

The big progress today came in the area of the bottom step of the water system. When the tunnel was cut from the rock a series of steps was cut from the top to the pool below. When MacAlister excavated the system 100+ years ago, he laid a “causeway “ of stone from the bottom step to the mouth of the cavern. Our hope is that ancient material will be found below MacAlister’s causeway. Any material found there could help the team date the water system.  Volunteers also worked to clean the causeway for a photograph tomorrow. After the causeway is thoroughly measured and documented, the team will remove portions of the stones and dig several probes to search for datable artifacts and the water source. Stay tuned.

Week One Video Update with Dr. Dan Warner

The Gezer Team sings “How Great is Our God” in a cistern under the Western Wall in Jerusalem (video courtesy of Brian Mooney)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

June 2: A Very Full Weekend and a Very Full Day – Update 5

By Gary D. Myers
The group had two very long days touring over the weekend. Friday the team tour Caesarea, Megiddo, Capernaum and several other sites near the Galilee. Saturday it was Masada, Swimming in the Dead Sea and Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Both trips were very enjoyable. We ended the evening Saturday with a short worship service back at Neve Shalom.

Sunday, we were back at the Gezer Water System for the first part of a very long day. We worked in the morning at the water system. We worked hard, moved a lot of dirt, but other than that, not much to report.

After lunch and a quick shower, we were off to Jerusalem to the City of David to tour the ancient water system under the oldest part of Jerusalem. It was a very special tour for our guide was none other than Eli Shukron, the archaeologists who excavated the City of David. During the 14 years he excavated there, Shukron found the passage David’s general Joab used to enter the Jebusite city of Jerusalem, the Pool of Siloam and countless other important finds. And the excavations continue. On top of being a the leader of such an important dig, Shukron knows the Bible and believes the stories of the Old Testament. It was a rare treat to spend time with this man.

Near the end of our tour, standing in a cistern below the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, Shukron asked us to sing a song to enjoy the acoustics. We chose “How Great is Our God.” We truly worshiped. The sound of heart-felt worship filled the cistern. And though it was unplanned, it was one of the real highlights of this year’s dig.