In Search of Joshua’s Ai: 11th Season of Excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir

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Excerpt We have just finished our first week of excavation at Khirbet el-Maqatir 9 miles north of Jerusalem in Israel’s West Bank. Dr. Bryant Wood and a team of 41 are staying at the Yad HaShmonah dig headquarters, while other friends have joined the group almost every day. Continue reading

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With 7 squares open the first week, we are finding wonderful architecture and artifacts.  Dr. Wood continues to look for additional understanding about the city gate of Joshua’s Ai, but before he could make any such finds, his team uncovered a massive storage jar (we call it a pithos) buried in the ground with about 75% of it recoverable.


In addition, 12 coins have been found in his square.  Since coinage did not begin until the 6th century BC, none of them related to Joshua’s time.  But we can’t wait to clean them and find out under what ruler they were minted and when.  Never much interested in ancient coins – they are like modern history to him! – Dr. Wood is enjoying the fact that his square has more than everyone else combined (12 of 22 this week).  


Next to him, Jim Luther, Steve Rudd and team uncovered – on the very first day – another lower socket stones from our city gate complex.  Like the other 2, it was also not in its original context, but in secondary use.  In addition, they have the extension of a wall previously identified in an adjacent square that seems to be part of the 15th century fortress of Ai which Joshua captured.   

City of Ai gate socketstone in secondary use.


Pastor Jim Congdon and Regina Brown show off their amazing discovery.

Nearby, Dr. Gene Merrill and Henry Smith’s team discovered a large installation cut into bedrock and sealed closed with a square stone-carved lid!  Dr. Merrill called this the most exciting day of excavation in his life.  While its construction date is still unclear, opening the lid to see what is down inside is going to be very special!


Dr. Merrill’s subterranean structure with square covering stone – we can’t wait to see what’s underneath!

Speaking of opening the lid to a subterranean structure, Dr. Scott Stripling’s crew cleaned out another new one, with a massive round covering stone that took all day to get out of the hole.  Down inside was a mostly dirt and with some Roman pottery.  They also continued to excavate the south wall of the “First Century House” we have been digging for 3 seasons.

Massive covering stone above subterranean silo in the “First Century House”

Massive covering stone and Bob who dragged it out of the hole all by himself (not exactly!)

Dr. Brian Peterson and company are excavating 2 squares within the “First Century House” and have continued to revealed lots of new features and artifacts there.  He found a large shallow storage silo cut into the bedrock, reaching floor level in 3 rooms of the house.  Here they have found iron Roman nails, Roman glass, ritual stone vessels and very rare iron tongs.  Brian’s team is also 2nd in coin collection with 5. 

New Testament period fragments of stoneware vessels from the “First Century House” 


Our youngest and newest square supervisor Abigail Leavitt, a veteran Khirbet el-Maqatir excavator, and is directing her first square.  Her team is excavating the continuation of a stone wall line inside the city Joshua captured.  They are finding lots of pottery from the time of Joshua.  They also have some flint scrapers and blades, as well as Roman nails and sandal tacks.


Don McNeeley and I lead the final square.  We are excavating along the north wall of the Canaanite city Joshua defeated and destroyed.  While the Bible doesn’t speak directly to the fact, excavations suggest that, during the period of the Judges, the tribe of Benjamin settled on the site for a time (Judges 3:15, 20:16; 1 Chr. 12:22).  Our team is excavating one of the houses they built after they excavated, themselves, in the destroyed wall of the Canaanite city.  So far we have a very large grinding stone and the top spot in slingstones with 7 – but who’s counting!  

Seven slingstones from a Benjamite house during the time of the Judges.

One week down and 1 more to go!  This has possibly been our greatest 1st week of finds, ever, at Khirbet el-Maqatir.  But there have been some sickness and injuries among our dig team, so please keep us all in your ongoing prayers.  Thanks for standing with us.  

Lady-sized iron finger ring as it was found in Jim Luther's square, R-19.

See a slideshow of pictures from the 2013 Dig season at Khirbet el-Maqatir on the ABR FaceBook page (you don't need a FB account to see the pictures).

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6/1/2013 3:08 PM #

an hour ago I was praying for Dr. Wood and all the team members. How I wish I could be there, like I was with Don Patton's team last year. Dr. Wood, I am still doing research on the geological evidence for burned limestone at the site. Your work is so exciting. I hope I can come next year!!!!!Tell Steve Rudd to call me when he gets back to Canada.David R. McQueen, MS, EdS, geologist

david mcqueen, geologist, 2012 team - 6/1/2013 3:08:46 PM

6/6/2013 2:24 PM #

Congratulations to the entire team for a job well done. Your efforts certainly seem to have paid off. It's too bad you didn't get another 3 or 4 weeks there to find even more.

Douglas Petrovich - 6/6/2013 2:24:11 PM

6/24/2013 4:29 PM #

Gary, I was hoping to visit the site while I was in Jordan--but the press of business and other obligations kept me here in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Maybe I will be able to do so next year--I may be retired by that time--hope all is well with you, Bryant and everyone else--best regards--Tim

Tim McCormick - 6/24/2013 4:29:42 PM

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