Khirbet el-Maqatir, Winter 2018: Week One Report

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Excerpt Nine ABR team members arrived in Israel on Tuesday evening, December 26, 2017, and another three on Wednesday the 27th to begin our first week of processing objects from ABR's dig at Khirbet el-Maqatir... Continue reading

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Nine ABR team members arrived in Israel on Tuesday evening, December 26, 2017, and another three on Wednesday the 27th to begin our first week of processing objects from ABR's dig at Khirbet el-Maqatir. When we landed at Ben Gurion International Airport, Don McNeeley and I rented vehicles. We hit the ground running. Wednesday morning we quickly arranged our office (war room) at The Jerusalem Ritz (5 minutes from the Old City), activated our phones, and headed down toward the Dead Sea to the Israel Antiquities Authority offices at Mishor Adummim – about a 15 minute drive. To my pleasant surprise, the staff there was expecting our arrival and was somewhat organized. This is not usually the case in the Middle East. After an obligatory cup of tea, we got right to work, emptying our large storage container of 21 years of objects and pottery from ABR's dig at at Khirbet el-Maqatir. Although these finds were carefully processed when they were excavated, it is critical for us to double-check all of our data prior to final publication. We set up in a covered breezeway, with the objects on one end and the pottery on the other end.

Abigail Leavitt, Objects Registrar, and Don McNeeley, IT Director, coordinated with several volunteers to locate and arrange all 3,300 objects. They carefully checked the data before our small finds experts, Frankie Snyder and Pertez Reuven, confirmed or corrected the identification.

Boyd Seevers Consults with Frankie Snyder

LEFT: Boyd Seevers consults with Frankie Snyder

For example, what was previously thought to be a piece of black bitumen flooring changed to a piece of a fancy first-century table. Melody Bogle efficiently and magnificently draws the objects, and Michael Luddeni, the best in the business, photographs them. Miriam, the IAA curator, then assigns K-Numbers (permanent government numbers) to the objects of greater importance.

Miriam Assigns K-Numbers


RIGHT: Miriam Assigns K-Numbers

Along the way, we sometimes decide to remove items from the object list, while at the same time adding new ones that emerge from the final pottery analysis that I am doing, with Peretz, at the other end of the breezeway. We save only about 10% of the pottery that we excavate in the field for further analysis. At this final reading, we reduce the remaining pottery by 75%. This is what will appear in the two volumes of our final publication. The pottery and objects together, along with various scientific tests, enable us to date the critical strata at Khirbet el-Maqatir, and thus, accurately tell the history of biblical Ai (Joshua 7-8) and Ephraim (John 11:54).

We “rested” from work on Shabbat and hiked to Alexandrium, the most remote of the Herodian fortresses. It proved to be the most challenging and rewarding off-road adventure that I have had in Israel. We drove as far as we could up the Jordan Valley and then hiked uphill for 2.2 miles and then back down 2.2 miles. The path was treacherous, causing several of us to slip on the way down. We all slept well that night!


LEFT: Alexandrium

We worked Sunday as usual and enjoyed wonderful weather, just as we had the previous days. However, Monday brought cooler weather and some much needed rain for the land. This, however, resulted in less than comfortable conditions for those of us working outside. With extra tea and coffee, and a couple of space heaters, we persevered. Tomorrow’s weather looks like more of the same, but after that, the conditions should gradually warm over the next few days. So far, we have processed half of our objects and about 75% of our pottery.Processing Objects


RIGHT: Processing Objects

We hope to finish at the end of this week so that we can do a little touring over the weekend before heading home early Tuesday morning, January 9.

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