Sunday, November 25, 2007

ASOR 2007 (p. 10)

Next, Avraham Faust gave a presentation entitled simply, "The Tel 'Eton Excavations":

"Tel 'Eton is a large site in the eastern Shephelah, just below the Hebron hill-country. Small-scale salvage excavations were carried out at the site during the 1970's by the Lachish expedition (under David Ussishkin and Eitan Ayalon), and a number of nearby tombs were also excavated in salvage excavations in the past. In the summer of 2006, the new expedition to Tel 'Eton conducted the first season of excavations at the site, and the second season is planned for the summer of 2007. The excavations were preceded by a detailed survey of the tel, which was divided into 39 units; each unit was surveyed separately, and this was followed by shovel-testing. The 2006 excavations were carried out in three areas, and exposed a well-preserved 8th century destruction layer on the higher parts of the site (in two excavation areas), as well as an Iron I level in the western slope, and pits from the Persian-Hellenistic period on the northern slope. The project also includes a survey of the region, in which hundreds of tombs were already identified. The lecture will present the results of the first two seasons of excavations."

Though it's not mentioned in the abstract, Dr. Faust began the lecture by mentioning that the site is generally identified with Biblical Eglon (Joshua 10, 12:12, & 15:39; Judges 3). A few tombs were excavated in the 1900s, & in the 1970s David Ussishkin dug near the upper part of the tel (I was unaware of this).

Again, though the abstract doesn't mention it, a major point emphasized in his discussion was that this region was "extensively robbed during the 70s & 80s". It contains "several thousand caves", of which the thieves have already "uncovered hundreds". He showed photos of holes dug by the robbers, & explained how they clear the caves of their artifacts when they find one.

He mentioned that this site borders on the Highlands region, which compared to the Shephelah itself is a place that contains sites "relatively untouched", so by scientifically excavating Tel Eton, he's "trying to correct this bias."

Thus far his team has surveyed 39 sub-units of what he described as "probably the largest necropolis in Israel". He used a term I had not heard of previously--a "shovel test"--which is apparently the same as an "examination survey", & his presentation included very well-done 3-dimensional illustrations (isometric drawings) & maps.

"90%" of the artifacts recovered are dated to the Iron Age II period, but he stated there were none belonging to the 7th century due to a destruction layer dated to the "late 8th". Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, & Mamluk items comprised the remaining 10%.

The most interesting one for me was a completely intact jar of the "LMLK family", but without any seal impressions on its handles. The tops of 2 more were found below it, but as it was late in the excavation season, & because they wanted to pay particular attention to the meticulous recovery of them, he decided to cover them back up & do a careful job of removing them next year.

Of particular importance were the traces of jar-contents found--lentils, olives, wheat, grapes, & garlic--though none were actually in the vessels.

Overall it was an excellent lecture. Unlike most, he spoke from his extensive knowledge rather than reading a paper, but had to speed up near the end of his time limit, & he went rapidly past a slide showing a magnificent jar handle stamped with an iconic impression of a person.

I had wanted to speak to Dr. Faust afterwards to ask about any LMLK handles found at the site during earlier surveys reported in Andy Vaughn's corpus; but alas, I left, & our paths never crossed during the subsequent days at the conferences.

G.M. Grena

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