Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hasan Awad Probably Found It

Last week's riddle was admittedly difficult. The easy one this week will boost everyone's Biblical archeology confidence. In fact, it's so easy, I'm going to disqualify Todd Bolen since he knows Bible places so well, & his participation simply wouldn't be fair to my other 3 readers.

This photo shows (presumably) a recreation of one of the most important Biblical archeology discoveries ever.

My main purpose in violating the publisher's copyright herewith is to give some prominence to the man who (again presumably) made the discovery, Hasan Awad (Hanajreh Bedawy). I keep repeating "presumably" only because if someone other than Hasan had made the discovery, surely he, she, or they would've been shown in the photograph. Makes sense, right? If I had made one of the most important & exciting finds like this, I couldn't imagine letting someone else be in the main publication photo ... the only possible exception would be if there were a beautiful young lady on the site, then I could imagine the director wanting to use her to promote the discovery, but Hasan was obviously not a beautiful young lady, so there goes that theory!

Oddly enough, I was not able to find any mention of him apart from this photo in the excavation report. (Granted, I did not spend an exorbitant amount of time researching it, so I'll invite knowledgeable readers to correct me.) And I only found a handful of substantive references about Hasan on the Internet, but none pertaining to this important discovery. I'll share just a couple for your convenience.

In BASOR 144 (Dec. 1956, p. 9) G. Ernest Wright wrote, "Mr. Hasan 'Awad of the Jordan Department of Antiquities served ably as foreman..." during the first excavation campaign at the site of ancient Shechem (Tell Balatah). The photo above & discovery I'm posing as a riddle is completely unrelated to this occasion.

The longest reference appears in "The Antiquities of Jordan" by G. Lankester Harding published in 1959. (Note: Now there's a cool coincidence for you, three guys with "G." for their first initial have now written about Hasan!) In the book's Introduction, he recalls 2 decades of work in Jordan from 1936-1956:

"My equally faithful and indeed indispensable companion on all these trips was Hasan Awad, whom I had first known as a small boy aged about thirteen or fourteen in 1926, and who had grown up in archaeology. He has a remarkable flak for it and a very sharp eye for ancient remains; many a prehistoric site was first discovered by him. He is also one of the finest excavators I know, with a delicacy of touch and a patience that must be seen to be believed, and great ingenuity in overcoming difficulties of all kinds."

So Hasan would've celebrated his 100th birthday this year or next (assuming he isn't still alive, & if you know he is, please tell him somebody still cares about his work). Happy birthday Hasan, wherever you are, & thanks for your excellent work over the years!

I'll give readers a week to post guesses about what Hasan found, & will elaborate on the artifact's details (which is well known to most people anyway) in my next post. Here's another clue: This discovery was not considered worthy of inclusion in the Biblical Archaeology Society's 2011 publication, "Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries", which were:

  • The Nag Hammadi Library

  • The 'Ain Dara Temple

  • The Tel Dan ("David") Stela

  • Mona Lisa of the Galilee

  • "Yahweh and His Asherah": The Kuntillet 'Ajrud Ostraca

  • St. Peter's House

  • The Siloam Pool

  • Ashkelon's Arched Gate

  • Jersualem's Stepped-Stone Structure

  • Jerusalem's Babylonian Siege Tower

I would argue that to even be considered for a list of the most important such discoveries, the artifact would need to be something mentioned in the Bible, or something contemporary with & directly related to something mentioned in the Bible, or be an early text of the Bible. I understand why BAS chose their 10 things, but several of them don't meet my criteria. Hasan's discovery does.

Taking a break from Heritage Singers this week to play three other G-men, providing you with a dead-giveaway clue to the riddle in the chorus.

G.M. Grena


Todd Bolen said...

I'm glad that George has re-qualified me. When I first read the post, I didn't know what it was (and I didn't listen to the song). But this week I was doing something on Lachish and the answer then became obvious - this is the discovery of the Lachish Letters, with #4 being the most significant for biblical studies (and about which I taught last night at church). Great background information on Hasan Awad. Thanks, George!

G.M. Grena said...

Thanks, Todd! You're the big winner of nothing but my admiration! As the experientialists would say, I knew you knew that you knew that you knew!

For the record, this photo appears on p. 222 of "Lachish I (Tell ed Duweir): The Lachish Letters" by Harry Torczyner, Lankester Harding, Alkin Lewis, J. L. Starkey, published for The Trustees of the Late Sir Henry Wellcome by the Oxford University Press, London, New York, Toronto, 1938. The full caption under the photo reads:

"COURT OR GUARD ROOM (F. 18C) IN EASTERN TOWER ADJOINING OUTER GATE. Late Judaean period. Discovered after removal of later Persian ruin. Hasan Awad (Hanajreh Bedawy) clearing burnt deposit in which "The Lachish Letters" were found. Inner city gate left, with ruin of flanking tower. City wall against skyline. Photograph by R. Richmond Brown"

I cropped the sides of the photo so it would only be enough to qualify as fair use for scholarship or research, or simply to give Mr. Awad some deserved publicity.

J.L.S. authored "The Discovery" section spanning pp. 11-4, in which this section of the 5th paragraph elaborates:

"The first room to be examined was Fig. F. 18c, underlying the foundation courses of a Persian structure, possibly a tower, which had not been affected by fire, and it was not until the last course was removed that any burnt debris became visible. At first this consisted of limestone flakes in pinky-yellow earth, derived from mud brickwork. At this point the top of a stone bench was exposed against the south wall; just below this the colour changed to grey, and the lower levels were quite black. The soil contained much carbonized vegetable matter; in the upper zone of this deposit, close under the east wall, fragments of 16 of the Lachish Letters were found."

I will have much more to say along with what I believe to be an intriguing possibility for finding many more of these Lachish Letters in a future blog post. Oh, & for all the rebellious, young, liberal musicians who may read this, Pinky-Yellow Earth is still available as a name for your band, along with a matching dotcom domain (hyphenated or not).

Wendy Slaninka said...

It was Hasan Awad who found the Letters. I have a letter from Olga Tufnell to my grandmother Mrs. J.L. Starkey stating so. Olga, who produced the remaining set of the Lachish Books does list him in her people she thanks but still she does not say why she thanks him or confirms that it was he who found the letters, so all credit goes to the Expedition Leader, Mr. J.L. Starkey, my grandfather. I feel it is very unfair but that's how it was in those days. After all it was not Howard Carter himself who found Tutankhuman's tomb but the young water boy. And even things my grandfather discovered whilst working for Petrie - all credit goes to Petrie.

G.M. Grena said...

Thank you, Ms. Slaninka, for taking the time to share this with us. Do you have any plans to sell or donate the letter or a photo of it for preservation? I currently own 2 Tufnell autographs, which I'm planning to publish in a book about these important (& somewhat obscure) 19th-20th-century archaeologists. I currently do not own any of Mr. Starkey (obviously rare due to his short life), so please don't discard his if you still have them.