"We have great faculty who are not just great at teaching archaeology and teaching the Bible, but they are great archaeologists."
Cameron Coyle, 2013 Field Archaeologist
Project Goals and Strategy
Tel Gezer, the most important site in the northern Shephelah region of Israel, is an ideal site to address several issues arising from current research. Since the last excavations in the 1970s, several debates and trends have arisen concerning the nature and chronology of the rise of the Israelite State and Iron Age ceramic chronology. Research paradigms in Syro-Palestinian archaeology are currently addressing revisionist trends, ethnic and social boundaries, and redefining the Iron Age cultural horizon in the Levant. Although previous excavations have revealed much of Gezer's history, there are still many issues regarding Gezer's stratigraphy and chronology left unresolved and debated in the scholarly literature. Previous excavations have revealed that Gezer contains several continuous Iron Age phases and cultural horizons.
In addition to these broad research trends in Iron Age stratigraphy and chronology, research projects in the northern Shephelah and Philistine Coast are focusing on ethnic and political boundaries in the Judean Hills and the Philistine coastal plain during the Iron Age. This regional geo-political dynamic between Judah and Philistia during the Iron Age is currently being investigated by the Tel Beth Shemesh Archaeological Project of Tel Aviv University and the Tel es-Safi Archaeological Project of Bar Ilan University. The results of these projects when coalesced with the results of previous excavations in the region (e.g. Tel Batash, Tel Miqne) are demonstrating that there was a see-saw effect between the hill country and the coastal plain.
Surveys in the Aijalon Valley have shown that the Gezer vicinity was continually occupied throughout the Iron Age even though it did not contain the best natural resources (Shavit 2000).
Nearly half of Tel Gezer was extensively excavated by the Macalister excavations during 1902-1909. While these excavations have provided an overview of the major fortification systems, the results are enigmatic and do not provide for an accurate reconstruction of the various cultural horizons of the ancient city. The Hebrew-Union excavations in the 1960s and 1970s under the direction of William G. Dever and associates addressed this problem in their research design that defined the stratigraphic overview of the site with an emphasis on methodology. This emphasis on methodology did produce an excellent overall stratigraphic analysis of the site, but it did not allow for an appropriate accumulation of ceramic data to make a well-defined ceramic typology. Excavations in 1984 and 1990 were designed for limited excavations in single seasons to address specific issues of dating the fortifications of Tel Gezer that arose after the excavation reports of the Hebrew Union excavation project (ie. Dating of the outer wall and Solominic Gate).
The current debate mostly centers on the ceramic record. Issues over the dating of ceramic forms and even ceramic horizons have dominated historical reconstructions of the archaeological record. In spite of the well-defined stratigraphic analysis of previous excavations, the projects did not focus on obtaining an extensive ceramic database in which to make statistical inferences on the chronology of regional Iron Age assemblages. Ironically, two of the three fields that were designed for a broad horizontal exposure (Field VI and VII) demonstrated that the site has remains of well-stratified sequence of architecture and material culture remnants. Results in Field VII (Gitin, Gezer III) located in the south-central part of the tel, indicate that beneath a Hellenistic occupation, there is a sequence of Iron Age strata in which the Phase II excavations stopped excavation at late Iron Age II occupation. Excavations in 1984 and 1990 in Field III demonstrated that to the west of the Field III gate complex there is also preserved a sequence of Iron Age occupation, specifically two destruction layers dating to the late 10th and 8th c. BCE.
The main goals of our project are to excavate a large horizontal exposure on the south-central part of the tel to excavate a sequence of Iron Age cultural horizons and obtain a obtain a sequence of well-stratified cultural horizons of the Iron Age in order to establish a ceramic database of the Iron Age strata. order to better understand the relationship of the various Iron Age fortifications and buildings.wall systems to Field VII and Palace 10,000 and to. This database will aid in our attempt to clarify current issues concerning the history of Gezer and also contribute to the current Iron Age chronological debate. These research goals will be achieved by examining the nature of the Iron Age cultural horizons of the ancient city and collecting ceramic data from a broad cultural context that can be analyzed statistically.
Gezer: Iron Age Excavations
The Iron Age horizon at Gezer has been excavated in many areas (e.g. Fields I, II, III, VI, VII, and X) during various phases of excavation (Hebrew Union College Excavations Phase I by W.G. Dever and Phase II by J. Seger, and the 1984 University of Arizona Excavations by W. G. Dever). While the results have revealed that there are over ten strata dating to the Iron Age period, only two of the three areas yielded broad exposures. These two areas date to the early Iron Age I (Field VI) and the late Iron Age (Field VII). None of these excavations have provided an appropriate amount of ceramic data for a complete reconstruction of the site during the Iron Age cultural horizon.
The research design will focus on three major domains of inquiry: 1) publication and analysis of the western expansion of Field III from the 1984 and 1990 excavations (Palaces 8000 and 10,000), 2) excavation of a new field (Field XII), which is an expansion and broad exposure of the area between Field VII and Field III, 3) and to investigate specific problems concerning the relationship of Iron Age fortifications (e.g. the relationship between the "Outer Wall" and the Field III 6-chambered gate complex and casemate fortifications).
- Publication of Palaces 8000 and 10000
The co-directors have received permission from W. G. Dever to publish, along with Dever, the 1984 Excavations of Palace 10,000. This area is located immediately west of the Field III Iron Age four entryway gate complex. These excavations yielded six strata dating to the Iron Age II. The publication of Palaces 8000 and 10,000 is significant to the integration of all Iron Age occupation on the eastern slope of the Western Hill (Fields II, VII, and X) and the Iron Age fortifications of Field III. The publication will also help integrate previous excavations into the database and research design of the new excavation project.
- Field XII—New Field between Fields VII and the Gate and Palace Complex
We propose to cut back the balks of Field VII, not only to provide us with a window on what we should expect to encounter in the new field to the south, but also to enable us to continue excavation in Field VII with the purpose of revealing Iron I levels. Based on the results of previous excavations (Gezer Phase II and Gezer 1984) it is anticipated that this area of the site will yield a sequence of Iron Age strata and provide a serious of superimposed cultural horizons of the Iron Age city.
We also hope to excavate probes in Palace 10,000 to reveal earlier strata. These probes may enable us to better understand the chronology of Palace 10,000, the casemate wall system, and the "Solomonic" gate.
- Iron Age Casemate Fortifications
The area located to the south of Field VII has not been disturbed by prior excavations, with the exception of HUC's Field X, which consisted of one square. The goals of excavating this area are to link Field VII with the wall systems and to expose and hopefully date more of these wall systems. This will include seeking the westward extension of the casemate wall system, previously revealed in Field III and Palaces 8000 and 10,000, and reputed to have been revealed in Field X and Field II. Locating and understanding the casemate wall system will help determine whether there is any reality to Z. Herzog's suggestion reconstruction of a tenth century (according to traditional chronology) casemate fortress, or whether it is fanciful.
The project is currently in contact with Tsvika Tsuk, of the National Parks Authority, Peter Weiss and Shimon Binoun of the Gezer Regional Council, and local kibbutz representatives regarding site preservation and development. The Tel Gezer Project will also apply for a National Park permit in conjunction with the permit application to the IAA. Project co-director Ortiz has met with Dr. Tsuk and has seen the preliminary National Parks plan to preserve and develop the site. The research project design will not impede any proposed development work on the site.
The Tel Gezer Project is planning to participate with the National Parks Authority to develop the site as funding permits. Currently, the relationship and plans focus on logistics of the fieldwork and research design (e.g. use and development of pedestrian and vehicular traffic on the tel, location of various dumps, bathrooms, parking, storage containers, etc.) and conservation of fields excavated by the new project.
It is our intention to preserve any feature deemed worthy of preservation, and to fill in the remaining excavated area with our backfill at the end of the project, thus preventing further erosive damage to the site.