The first week of our 2016 season was different than our normal first week—we had a rare weather event. For the first time in 14 seasons of excavating at KeM in May, we experienced heavy rain. On Tuesday, May 24, it rained hard enough that the dig team had to take shelter in the cavern that was excavated several years ago. We were very thankful for that cavern because there is no other shelter on the site. After a while it was obvious that it was not going to stop, so dig director Scott Stripling called off work and sent the team back to headquarters in Jerusalem. As if missing a half day of work wasn’t enough, it was necessary to take the next day off in order to allow the site to dry out. To make up for the lost day we worked on the following Sunday.
In spite of the interruption, exceptional finds were made this week.
Fortress Phase, Middle Bronze III-Late Bronze I
(The Ai of Joshua 7-8, ca. 1500-1406 BC)
Before it started raining on the third day in the field, sharp-eyed square supervisor Mark Hassler spotted a gate socket stone a short distance from his square. Upon investigation, a nearby large stone, when turned over, turned out to be another gate socket stone. They are located some 150’ north of the fortress gate. They were most likely from the northern (outer) gate entrance way. The two socket stones for the inner gate entrance were discovered in 1995 and 1996.
The gate socket stones shortly after discovery: Scott Stripling, Mark Hassler and Bryant Wood. Photo: Michael Luddeni
Bryant Wood started Square C17 on the southern side of the site in 2015 and finished it up this week. There, an interior fortress wall intersects with the main fortification wall. A great amount of flint was found in this square. Flint experts from Ben-Gurion University concluded that it came from a flint workshop where small tools were being made, with no evidence for the manufacture of agricultural tools or military weapons.
Square-supervisor-in-training Hannah Terry excavated a jumble of megalithic stones, the largest of which is 6’10" long. More digging is required to understand the significance of these stones. One possibility is that they are from a large tower which collapsed in antiquity, perhaps from an earthquake.
Tumbled megalithic stones in Square AB23 on the south side of the site. Photo: Michael Luddeni
Additional segments of the northern fortress wall were found in Boyd Seevers’ square west of the gate, where it is 12’6"-12’10" wide, and in Brian Peterson’s square east of the gate.
Iron Age I (Time of the Judges, ca. 1200-1000 BC)
One of the major discoveries of week one was a nearly complete pithos (large storage jar) found by Boyd Seevers embedded in the floor of a house built into the ruins of the northern wall of the fortress. This type of vessel is a marker for Israelite occupation. Although, as far as we know, our site is not mentioned as being occupied by Israelites in the Old Testament, the archaeological evidence suggests that Benjaminites occupied our site during this period.
Large Israelite storage jar found in Boyd Seevers’ Square S12. Photo: Michael Luddeni
First-Century Town (Ephraim of the New Testament,
John 11:54?; AD 1-69)
We are finding that the town of the first century was quite substantial. It was protected by a city wall, including a tower on the north side which is being excavated by Mark Hassler, The tower is one of the largest, if not the largest, found in Israel. It measures 52’ x 98’ and was three to four stories high. The homes in the town included underground installations, such as a plastered cistern excavated by Abigail Leavitt in Square Q22. Numerous small finds were made, including 82 coins, a bronze plow tip (?) and a small basalt table. One unique find was a drain pipe found by Suzanne Lattimer in Square P24, indicating that the people of KeM were just as modern as the city folk in Jerusalem.
Ceramic drain pipe from Suzanne Latimer’s Square P24. Photo: Michael Luddeni
Byzantine Church, Mid Fourth-Sixth Century AD
Based on previous evidence, we believe that a single-apse church was built on the site in the mid-fourth century AD and destroyed by earthquake in AD 383. The church was then rebuilt as a tri-apsidal church. Sealed deposits below previously-excavated flagstone floors were examined by Steve Rudd. A total of 26 coins were recovered which will provide valuable evidence for dating the first single-apse phase. Many other small finds were made, including a fragment of a chancel screen seen below.
Fragment of a marble chancel screen which divided the nave of the church from the altar area. Photo: Michael Luddeni
(Reported by Bryant Wood, Ceramic Typologist, Square Supervisor, and Director Emeritus)