Thursday, May 30, 2013

May 30: Look what we found – Update 4

By Gary D. Myers

The work week closed on a high note this first week of the Gezer Water System Expedition. May 30 brought an exciting find.

Shortly before lunch. The workers at the bottom of the tunnel found the elusive last step. Another thrilling discovery. The step was not clean enough to photograph today. Hopefully we will be able to get a good photo early next week. Once the step is cleaned and photographed, the team will begin removing the causeway of stone laid by MacAlister. The dig leaders hope to find datable material, undisturbed by MacAlister, under those stones. This would be helpful in establishing a date for the water system.

Breaking through
The team cutting a vertical probe near the southern wall of the cavern made a break through into the open part of the cavern. The team will continue digging as close to the wall as possible in hopes of discovering an exit. May 30 turned out to be a great day on many fronts at the dig site.

Surprise Visit
At lunch the group received a surprise visit from Mr. Clay Corvin, Vice President for Business Affairs at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Corvin loves the land of Israel and often leads pilgramages visiting biblical sites throughout the country. It was great to see him at Gezer.

Housekeeping Items
The plan is to upload select first week’s photos over the weekend. Our work week will begin June 2. Look for a new blog on June 2.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 29: Spreading out – Update 3

Sifting for artifacts

By Gary D. Myers
In the last blog I detailed the various areas at which we have been working. Work continued on the conservation of the wall/Canaanite gate area. Digging continued near the location of the elusive bottom step. This team encompasses the largest group people because of the number of workers required to loosen and bag material and run the winch, crane and dumping operation.  And a small team continued to dig to probe/test pits inside the cavern.

Today, we added more work stations and tasks. The team working to reach the steps split due to the lack of digging space. The three that split off of the steps team began cutting a vertical probe along the southern wall of the cavern. This will extend the first vertical probe launched two years ago before the decision was made to angle toward the northern wall where a large open space in the cavern was discovered. The hope is that an exit will be discovered along the Southern wall similar to the exits found at some other ancient water systems. Because this material is from the cavern, the decision was made to sift samples of the dirt to search for pottery. The bag dump team at the top added a few members and is now charged with sifting the material.

With five different operations going on simultaneously, the bag count dropped today. Forty-eight bags of debris were removed – not one of our highest totals, but we are really getting to the most important parts of the dig. Hopefully, we will have news of the step in the near future. Once that is found, focus will shift the area that MacAlister covered with a stone “causeway.” This is the area most likely to render significant artifacts that were left untouched by MacAlister and could help establish a date for the system.

Otherwise, it was another great day at Tel Gezer. The team is working well together and there is a great spirit of fellowship among the group. It is hard, hard work but we are enjoying every minute of it.

Today’s Gezer Passage
Joshua 16:1-10
“(1) The allotment for Joseph began at the Jordan, east of the springs of Jericho, and went up from there through the desert into the hill country of Bethel. (2) It went on from Bethel (that is, Luz ), crossed over to the territory of the Arkites in Ataroth, (3) descended westward to the territory of the Japhletites as far as the region of Lower Beth Horon and on to Gezer, ending at the Mediterranean Sea. (4) So Manasseh and Ephraim, the descendants of Joseph, received their inheritance. (5) This was the territory of Ephraim, according to its clans: The boundary of their inheritance went from Ataroth Addar in the east to Upper Beth Horon (6) and continued to the Mediterranean Sea. From Mikmethath on the north it curved eastward to Taanath Shiloh, passing by it to Janoah on the east. (7) Then it went down from Janoah to Ataroth and Naarah, touched Jericho and came out at the Jordan. (8) From Tappuah the border went west to the Kanah Ravine and ended at the Mediterranean Sea. This was the inheritance of the tribe of the Ephraimites, according to its clans. (9) It also included all the towns and their villages that were set aside for the Ephraimites within the inheritance of the Manassites.( 10) They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor.


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.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In the groove – Update 2

By Gary D. Myers

Building on the momentum from Monday afternoon (May 27), the team established routines and mastered individual jobs on May 28. And though they were digging through difficult, stony material at the bottom of the tunnel, the team pulled out 44 bags before lunch. Things slow considerably after lunch and when the short afternoon session was complete, the daily bag total reached 58. According to some of the veteran diggers at Gezer, the material encountered today was some of the most difficult material to remove – tightly packed cobble stones with very little dirt. No sign of that elusive last step.

Conservation work continued today on the Canaanite gate/wall area and the team’s work is beginning to show. Hopefully in the next few days we will post before and after photos of their progress.

A small team of four begin digging test pits/probes inside the cavern/cave. One probe was started last year late in the dig, a second was started today. The goal is to take these meter square probes all the way to bedrock. Today the probes yielded very little pottery. The one clearly datable piece dated to the Iron Age.
Work will continue on all three fronts tomorrow – the step, the wall conservation, and the cavern probes.

A Little Background
Hopefully the blog is building new readership this year. Since our newer followers may not know much about the Gezer Water System, some background may be in order. Here is a brief explanation of the water system:

Many rock-hewn water systems have been discovered in Israel. The water system in Gezer shares some characteristics with the other water systems like the ones at Hazor and Meggido. These tunnels were built to provide water for the inhabitants of a city during a siege. Even with the similarities, the Gezer system is unique.

Measuring 12 feet wide by 24 feet tall, the Gezer system is massive - much larger than the other water systems in Israel. The tunnel, cut at the 39 degree slope, stretches over 130 feet to the bottom. Some archaeologists believe this water system was cut by the Canaanites. Others date it much later to the time of Ahab. One goal of the current expedition is to settle this debate. So far, the team has not found conclusive evidence to support either theory.

The Process for removing debris from the tunnel
Newer readers will also be interested in knowing how debris is moved from the bottom of the tunnel. The work is accomplished in five steps.

  1. Three to five people use picks and shovels to loosen the dirt, mud and rocks and from the tunnel.
  2. The debris is loaded into large fabric bags. Each bag holds approximately 400 lbs. of material.
  3. At the mouth of the water system a large winch is used to drag the bags up the steep grade of the tunnel. Two people are needed to bring the cable down to the work area, another person operates the winch.
  4. At the mouth a crane is used to pull the bags up to the dump site. One person attaches the bag to the crane hold and two are need to signal the crane operator.
  5. The bags are dropped at the dump site where two people work to empty the bags. At the current dump site another spotter is needed to facilitate the drop.
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.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Gezer 2013: Moving dirt again – Update One

By Gary D. Myers

Team Gezer did its share of prepping, waiting, and digging during the second day of the 2013 dig. Fewer people were struggling with lingering jet lag and we were able to accomplish a lot of work.

The Prepping
The morning started with more sandbags. We prepared about 30 sandbags for the steps inside the tunnel. Filling the bags was hard work, but carrying the bags down into the tunnel was downright difficult. Just as we finished placing the bags to create a fine looking set of steps, a group of geologists arrived to inspect the cave/cavern at the end of the water system and work halted.

The Waiting
The men inspected the cavern and offered safety pointers in shoring up the ceiling in a few locations. The geologists said that, for the most part, the ceiling was stable. Dr. Jim Parker still had lingering doubts about the origin of the cavern – namely whether or not it was natural. After going back and forth on the issue last dig season, the consensus fell in favor of a natural cave. R.A.S. MacAlister, who cleared the water system in the early 1900s, believed that it was natural. And with so much roof collapse in the past 100 years, the cavern’s origin was difficult to determine. Parker still had reservations. After careful study that lasted several hours, the geologists concluded that the cavern is most likely man-made. This new development was worth the wait and posed many additional questions and possibilities which I hope to address at a later date.

The Digging
After lunch the team divided. Some continued work on conservation and restoration of the Bronze Age Canaanite gate system and wall. Others began removing dirt from the tunnel. The first task on this year’s agenda is to search for the bottom step of the tunnel. The tunnel has 84 rock-hewn steps leading from the top down to the water source at the bottom. Last year, near the end of the dig the team found the large rocks MacAlister laid across the pool (which he called a causeway). Today the team dug back toward the tunnel opening (opposite the cavern opening) working all the way down to the stones MacAlister placed over the water source. By repeating this process for several more feet, the team should reach that bottom step. In fact, we are very optimistic about reaching the step by tomorrow or Wednesday. If you have followed this blog in past years, you will know that we have been optimistic before only to be disappointed. We’ll keep you posted. Nevertheless, it will be thrilling to find that step. Eventually we will remove the causeway stones and search the dirt below for datable objects. Plans also call for additional probes in the cavern.

Even though we were training a new work crew and only removed dirt for half a day, we were able to remove 32 bags of material – mostly rocks and stones. All in all it was a great day at the tel.

Time has been in short supply, hopefully we can upload more photographs tomorrow.

Today's Gezer Passage
Joshua 10:31-33
“Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Libnah to Lachish; he took up positions against it and attacked it. The Lord gave Lachish into Israel’s hands, and Joshua took it on the second day. The city and everyone in it he put to the sword, just as he had done to Libnah. Meanwhile, Horam king of Gezer had come up to help Lachish, but Joshua defeated him and his army—until no survivors were left.”


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.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Let the Digging Begin -- Update .5

The 2013 season of the Gezer Water System Expedition sponsored by New Orleans Baptist Theological  eminary and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority has begun. This first update will be very brief – not even worthy of being called Update One. Instead we’ll call this Update .5. It is short, first and foremost, due to the fact that today was a set up day at the dig site. The first timers spent over an hour touring Tel Gezer while those who had been before retrieved items from the storage unit near the tel. We moved chairs, tables, tools, buckets, shade cloth, and many other items to the base tent. Then, as the tour group finished, everyone began the task of installing the safety measures – catch fences and sand bags (lots of sand bags) – on the fences and paths leading to the mouth of the water system. After lunch, set up continued inside and outside the tunnel. And more set up awaits us tomorrow.

One exciting development of this year’s dig is that our team will participate in conservation work on sections of the Bronze Age, Canaanite gate complex and walls near the mouth of the water system (see photo). Conservation work began today. Look for more information on this conservation work in a later blog.

Another reason the blog is short is due to the serious case of jet lag the blog’s author is experiencing. My flight arrived at 5 p.m. May 25 and we were headed to the dig site this morning at 6 a.m. Any typos you see here probably have little to do with jet lag, but I will blame those on my tired eyes and aching head.

Thank you for following the Gezer Dig blog this dig season. Please subscribe to the blog via to receive notifications as soon as our blogs post each day. And please, feel free to share the post with anyone who may have an interest in archaeology and biblical studies. We are trying to get the word out about this fabulous water system.

Hopefully tomorrow will bring more news. Until then … shalom.