Friday, May 30, 2014

Gezer 2014 - Week One Video Update

Gezer 2014 - Ready to Dig Deep

Day Five

By Gary D. Myers

After a long week of work, we finally cleared the entire causeway early Friday morning. It was great to see this white layer across most of the pool. When Macalister laid these stone across the pool, “He did us a favor,” to quote Dr. Dan Warner. By sealing the pool Macalister preserved critical data (pottery and other material) that may help us date the water system.

In the photo above you can see last year’s northeast probe just behind Amy and the southeast probe to the right. The southwest probe, near the bottom step, is filled with debris and is very hard to discern in this photo. The causeway is clearly visible – in some places it appears as a flat layer of chalky stone melded together by time and pressure, in other spots, you can see the rough individual stones. We believe the causeway that Macalister mentioned is the only possible explanation for this layer.

Once the causeway was cleaned, we took time to photograph it and film the week one video update. Hopefully we will be able to post the video tomorrow (it will take several hours to upload through the wifi at the hotel). After lunch we began cleaning the southwest probe and removing the causeway. Sunday we will begin sifting all the material we remove from the pool in hopes of establishing a date. With the sifting operation running it will be all hands on deck at the dig site. Everyone will busy throughout the rest of the dig.

Health and Hotel News
Many of us are still battling allergy/cold/sinus symptoms, but it seems that most no longer have issues with sore throats. So while there is quite a bit of sniffling and sneezing, it could be worse. The issues this year are nothing like the flu that swept through our group during the 2011 dig. We greatly appreciate the prayers offered on our behalf.

For most of last week more than half of our team had to stay at another hotel (closer to Jerusalem and farther from Gezer) due to a scheduling mix up at Neve Shalom. Friday, we were able to get the whole group to Neve Shalom. We love Neve Shalom and are happy to have the whole team here. Goodnight until the next update.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Gezer 2014 – And the fun begins

Day Four

By Gary D. Myers

Readying the site for our work took much more time than we anticipated, but late yesterday we uncovered the bottom step of the water system across the width of the tunnel. Today we removed the remaining layers of dirt from Macalister’s causeway and then meticulously cleaned the stones with trowels and brushes. This was slow tedious work, but it is important that we photograph the extent of the causeway to prove that it sealed the material below from contamination.

If you are reading this and thinking, “Who is Macalister?” or “What is this causeway they keep mentioning?” then I need to help you get up to speed. Read the following Baptist Press article from last year’s dig: This will give you the background needed to understand what we are doing.

Tomorrow, after we finish bushing the causeway and photographing it, we will remove the causeway and begin removing the pool/basin contents. These will be wet shifted in search for dateable material.

I need to keep it short tonight, because I am under the weather along with several others on the team. We are experiencing stuffy noses and sore throats – maybe we are allergic to the pollen here or we have caught head colds. Nevertheless, rest is needed so good night. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Gezer 2014 - Things are looking up at Tel Gezer

NOBTS student Ben Browning works the winch rope in the hot afternoon sun.
Day Three

By Gary D. Myers

I cannot move past the handholds that dot the walls of the water system. When I put my hands in these holds, I marvel at the people who first used them and wonder about lives. Who were they? What were they like? Many of those answers depend on the date of the water system.

Designed and carved thousands of years ago – maybe as early as 1800 BC -- the holds served the residents of Gezer for many years. Each day they placed their hands in these same holds as they walked up and down the steps of the water system. It is hard for people today to get any glimpse into the daily lives of these ancient people. The Gezer Water System provides us with a glimpse – incomplete, yes, but it is a glimpse. This massive rock-hewn water system shows the great lengths these people had to go to secure a daily water supply. On a daily basis, people walked the 80 something steps down to the pool with water vessels and toted out the water they needed. Speaking from experience, walking up and down the system is no walk in the park. The angle is steep, about 38 degrees. The steps, carved into the floor, are uneven.

The people who carved the handholds and used them on a daily basis couldn’t comprehend our modern world. Water is on tap for modern Israelis, but the daily need for water remains. The residents of Gezer were also well aware of foreigners. Travelers and traders often made their way to this city near the Via Maris. But they could not comprehend the fact that people from thousands of miles away would board a contraption and fly to their land to study their stuff of daily life. Image what they would think of our computers, iPads and fancy cameras.

Who knows how these people of Gezer felt about the water system. Maybe the pagans in the city held the system in some sort of reverence or dedicated it to some deity. Maybe they viewed it as a mundane part of their daily life the way we look at our morning commutes. I can’t speak for anyone else on the dig, but these thoughts and questions that motivate me as I seek to understand the people who lived during Biblical times. Thoughts like these sustain me as we seek to date the water system.

Progress update
After more tunnel cleaning (picking up rocks and filling sandbags) early on, we were working to clear the bottom step across the entire width of the water system by mid morning. The main objective today was to locate the step and clear all the material down to the level of Macalister’s causeway and we were very close to reaching that goal. The step is clear all the way across (sorry, no photo) and some the the causeway is visible. Tomorrow we will continue cleaning the causeway area for a good set of photos. Then we will remove the causeway and begin working to clear out the entire pool area. All the material below the causeway will be sifted and the pottery and other material remains found at the sifting table will be marked and sent to a lab for analysis. The coming days will be busy and exciting. Anticipation is in the air. We will try our best to keep you posted.

Check out another Gezer blog
Marjorie James, on her second Gezer Water System dig, is also writing a blog about our work and the fun things we do while we are here. Check out her blog at

Monday, May 26, 2014

Gezer 2014 – Making Progress

Day Two

Gary D. Myers

Day two brought more set-up activities at Tel Gezer. The morning was spent setting up the shifting tent, hanging lighting, making sandbag steps, securing the rope handrail and clearing debris from the water system floor to start dragging bags from the bottom. After lunch, the crew began pulling out the bags of dirt and rocks left from the team sent by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority to remove the three to four feet of dirt our team left untouched in our pursuit of the dateable material in the pool area at the bottom. This proved to be a bigger job than we expected.

Since last summer much dirt has fallen back down in the pool area on top of Macalister’s causeway (a series of stones laid across the pool area by Irish archaeologist R.A.S. Macalister in the early 1900s) that we exposed last year. The important work will start only after all the bags and the fallen debris is removed – hopefully tomorrow. When that time comes, we will continue to probe the pool area and sift the dirt found there seeking dateable material – mainly pottery pieces.

Today was a great test run for each of the operations we will be using the rest of our time in Gezer. Our system has four distinct operations (1) digging and filling bags at the bottom, (2) hoisting the bags from the bottom with a winch, (3) pulling the bags from the water system with a crane, and (4) wet shifting dirt from the pool area and dumping bags of dirt rocks and debris. Each area requires multiple workers to function properly. The old timers who have come to Gezer for years helped the newbies learn the ropes. The team looked ready for action by the end of the day.

The team also tested the new shifting equipment constructed by our crane operator, Asi Geno. The new screens are built into metal frames which attach to the side of a trailer. The crew worked on a way to power wash the initial pile of dirt. Breaking up the muddy dirt from the bottom with a simple garden hose, proved to be difficult in previous years. After a bit of trial and error the sifting crew worked out a way to use the power washer to break up the wads of dirt. They are ready to begin sifting for pottery.

Get a Grip
One of the things uncovered this spring was a series of evenly spaced handholds that the ancient people who constructed the system used to help them climb the steps. The handholds (pictured above) make the trip up the steps surprisingly efficient. Whoever designed and created this water system was mighty clever … the handholds are the latest items to prove this point.

Check out another Gezer blog
Marjorie James, on her second Gezer Water System dig, is also writing a blog about our work and the fun things we do while we are here. Check out her blog at

Good Night
Night has fallen over Neve Shalom and morning will come quickly for our tired bodies. Today many of us found muscles we did not know we had. Once we found those muscles, we quickly strained them. So I will sign off and recharge for the morning. Good night here! Good day to our friends and family back home!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Gezer 2014 – Set-up Day

Editor’s note: I expected to arrive in Israel 12 hours earlier that I did. However, I, like many other 2014 Gezer team, experienced flight issues that kept me from arriving on time. During that extra time I expected to talk the dig directors and prepare a start-of-the-season blog about the goals and expectations of this year’s dig. Hopefully, I will be able to write and post that blog later this week. For now, read about the first day.

By Gary D. Myers

For most people, the first day is the second worst day of a dig. Clearly the worst day is the last day – cleanup day. You’ve worked hard, seen amazing things, developed friendship and hopeful discovered something new. Then after several weeks of excitement, it is time to empty sandbags, tear down tents, and pack up the tools. The sun just seems hotter and the clock ticks slower on cleanup day. But, set-up day is no walk in the park. It’s hard work for volunteers who are still trying to shake the jet lag and adjust to the new time zone. At the same time, the volunteers are amped up with dreams and expectations about the dig. Set-up doesn't necessarily fit well with those dreams and expectation. Well, today was set-up day. And while many of us were still reeling from long flights, missed flights, rescheduled flights, lost luggage and the lack of sleep, the dig must go on.

Nothing really exciting happened today, so a list will serve well for this first blog:

  • Gathered supplies from storage at Neve Shalom 
  • Cleared rocks from the road, walking path and tent area 
  • Trimmed weeds along trails and near camp 
  • Placed rocks around parking area and long barrier fences 
  • Gathered supplies for storage container near the site 
  • Erected tent at camp 
  • Drove fence posts for camp barrier fences 
  • Filled sandbags 
  • Filled sandbags (I typed it twice because we filled a lot of sandbags) 
  • Made path border with sandbars 
  • Installed power cords for tunnel lighting 
  • Installed steps from viewing platform down to water tunnel 
  • Cleaned ancient steps in the water system (to be covered with sandbags) 
  • Cleared loose stones and debris from water system 
  • Covered pottery washing hose with grass to keep the temperature down 
  • And other things that I’m too tired to remember. 
There was one exciting moment … even though it is dry and windy, a farmer decided to set a controlled fire in the field adjacent to our site. During lunch we noticed a plume of smoke rising in the distance. The fire was barely controlled at the time. Later it raged to the point that we thought it might jump the road and encroach on the tel. The fire had nearly burned itself out by the time the fire department arrived, but they stayed on to make sure it didn’t flare up again. Now, we have a phone number for one of the area fire officials just in case we need it.

The exciting thing is that we are here and we get to participate in this wonderful dig. More set-up tomorrow, but we should be digging by the afternoon. We can't wait.