Presenting the First Lecture in our Excavations Lecture Series, Fall-Winter 2019-2020 at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research
The Austrian-Israeli Expedition to Lachish After Three Years of Excavation
with Felix Höflmayer, Katharina Streit, & Lyndelle Webster
Thursday, October 31, 2019
W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research
26 Salah ad-Din Street, Jerusalem
Since 2017, a joint team of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and Hebrew University of Jerusalem are excavating at Tel Lachish. A key aim of the excavation is to gain a better understanding of the Middle and Late Bronze Age at the site. Two excavation areas, Area P in the northern, and Area S in the western part of the site are currently being excavated.
Felix Höflmayer studied Egyptology and Archaeology at the University of Vienna and joined the Austrian Academy of Sciences in 2006, working on his PhD in the framework of the SCIEM 2000 project and graduated in 2010. Felix teaches at the Institute of Old Testament Studies and Biblical Archaeology, the Institute of Oriental Studies, and the Institute of Egyptology at the University of Vienna and serves as an editorial board member of the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research.
Katharina Streit is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Martin Buber Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, researching development and changes in material culture from the Middle to the Late Bronze Ages. She co-directs the Tel Lachish excavations with Felix Höflmayer and Ilan Sharon.
Lyndelle Webster is currently a PhD candidate of the University of Vienna and Area Supervisor of Area S. Lyndelle comes to the project from Australia, with a multi-disciplinary background in physics, engineering and archaeology. Her research interests lie at the intersection of these disciplines.
…And that’s a wrap! Thursday marked the end of our 2019 season at Tel Lachish with our excellent volunteers leaving us on Friday morning to either begin their journey home, to start a tour of the country, or even head straight to another project! We made sure they were busy in their final week though with a lecture given by Jared and Lyndelle on Tuesday night about our digital documentation system. Meanwhile Katharina gave a presentation about our current excavation at Moshav Lachish. Wednesday was our Open Day which was very successful with a large turnout from many colleagues within academia as well as friends from throughout the country including the Austrian Ambassador Martin Weiss, who after three years will not be returning to Tel Lachish as he moves on to Washington D.C. at the end of this year, as well as Consul Johannes Korherr and Cultural Attaché Arno Mitterdorfer. On Thursday night, after our last day of excavating, we held our traditional end of season barbeque which was enjoyed by all.
In addition to our open day we had a lot of visitors to site during our last week. These included Angelika Berlejung from the University of Leipzig, Gunnar Lehmann from Ben Gurion University, Manfred Oeming who is from the University of Heidelberg and is the co-director of the Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition, Tsvika Tsuk who is the head archaeologist of the Israel Nature and Park Authority, Eliezer Oren professor emeritus of Ben Gurion University, Aren Maeir from Bar-Ilan University and the excavation director of Tell es-Safi/Gath, and Omri Barzilay from the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Despite how busy our week was socially we managed to have a very productive and exciting week of archaeology. We reached floor levels in the Middle Bronze Age palace in Area P and in the early Late Bronze Age in Area S. In typical excavation style Area S also had some great small finds in the last few days of digging. They found not one but two scarabs and as if that was not enough they also found a hieratic inscribed bowl fragment. Perhaps less glamorous but just as interesting, over in Area P the Iron Age retaining wall is getting bigger – we stopped excavating for the season at c. 2.20 m!
This season was a success and lots of fun but now it’s time to begin our staff week, finish documentation, take last aerial pictures, prepare walls and features for conservation and finally start planning next year!
The start of the third week marked the halfway point for this season at Tel Lachish and as we dig further into the past our method grows more futuristic. This week in Area S we trialed the printing of QR coded stickers as a replacement for tags for our in-field documentation which can then be scanned during our daily pottery reading sessions.
In typical excavation fashion the third week has resulted in lots of progress and some beautiful small finds. In Area S some more substantial architecture from the Late Bronze Age has been revealed that appears to be part of the city’s fortification system. Also found in Area S was a decorated piece of bone inlay. Over in Area P the team continued to excavate the substantial Iron Age retaining wall that appears to be part of the Judean palace/fort’s architectural layout. Another substantial wall has been unearthed in Area P, this time it appears to be Early Bronze Age! It was found directly underneath the Middle Bronze Age palace floor levels and is an unexpected yet very interesting find for the season. In other parts of Area P we have reached the destruction layer of the Middle Bronze Age Palace (level P-4). In one of these destruction layers, within a Middle Bronze Age room, some substantial charcoal remains were found that still had preserved tree rings. The presence of the tree rings will help us get a precise radiocarbon date by using wiggle matching.
This was a fitting find for this week as the lecture provided at camp (with popcorn!) by Lyndelle Webster was about radiocarbon dating and the issues with the Late Bronze Age and Middle Bronze Age chronology. Visitors to site were in abundance this week with Shai Bar and Inbal Samet from the University of Haifa, Eli Yannai from the Israel Antiquities Authority and who was the former Area supervisor of Area S, and Eran Arie who is the Freider Burda Curator of Iron Age and Persian Periods at the Israel Museum. We also had a site visit from Archie, our youngest team member, and his dad. Archie is the son of Tori, one of our square supervisors in Area P.
We are very much looking forward to our fourth and final week of excavation starting this week as well as our open day which will be on Wednesday the 7th of August starting at 10:30am. If you are around make sure you stop by and see what we have been up to for yourself.
Week two is complete and as the mornings feel earlier and get darker the team is demonstrating their dedication to archaeology (or coffee!). With some serious soil being moved bucket chains are becoming a regular feature at Tel Lachish but with all this practice the buckets are flying high and fast, not unlike our drone! We use a drone on site to capture aerial footage of the Tel which enables us to better understand features within our squares and help with our interpretation of the site as a whole. We are fully underway with the use of photogrammetry and photoscan to create 3D models of the site which are then imported into AutoCAD in order to provide our team with updated plans of both areas as the season progresses.
It has been a busy week in Area P with the appearance of a possible Iron Age retaining wall in one square, the opening of a probe to try and reach earlier strata from underneath the palace in another and the appearance of Middle Bronze Age palace walls across three squares. Area S has been focusing on excavating Late Bronze Age phases in all their squares which is providing invaluable data that is helping to elucidate the greater chronology of the southern Levant.
We were fortunate to host several distinguished visitors this week. Visitors included Ido Koch and Yuval Gadot from Tel Aviv University, Saar Ganor from the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Hillel Geva from the Israel Exporation Society.
This week we handed out our 2019 Tel Lachish project shirts to all volunteers and staff. This year’s design features a drawing of a chalice found in Area P last year and was drawn by Area P square supervisor Mirek Pleska. This post marked the end of the first half of our 2019 season in the field and we are happy to be making lots of progress.
As this season is following a digital trend we decided now was the time for us to join Twitter so follow us @TelLachish and don’t forget we are also on Facebook!
It has begun! We are excited to be back in the full swing of things here at Tel Lachish for our third season!
On Sunday afternoon our volunteers arrived and on Monday morning they had their first taste of our 4:30am wake up for a Tel tour with the sunrise. They are a productive group as by 9am we were excavating in both Area S and P.
In Area S we are currently in Late Bronze Age strata and over in Area P we are covering a lot of bases with Iron Age and Late Bronze Age strata’s as well as some squares working in a Middle Bronze Age palace strata. Area P has grown even more this season with two more squares being opened this week.
We have already had a few visitors to site to see us in action. From the Israel Nature and Parks Authority we had Hagi Yochanan and from the Israel Antiquities Authority Vladik Lifshitz and Yevegny Ivanovsky.
On Thursday we were visited by Brita Lorentzen, from Cornell University. Brita actually took the chance to get some samples of a charred beam for us from Area P and has reported that it appears to be Lebanese cedar.
A blustery day swept us from site early one day last week but luckily we are already in a routine of afternoon activities that include pottery washing, marking, reading, and drawing. For area and square supervisors there is also documentation to work on and this season we are all adjusting to fully digital documentation. This means we have a fantastic FileMaker database that is available in the field via iPads used by all square supervisors. This feat is thanks to the (continuing) hard work by Jared Dye and Lyndelle Webster.
We just finished our staff week and will be back in the field by tomorrow. Before that we visited friends and colleagues at Legio (Matt Adams and Susan Cohen), Tel Kabri (Assaf Yasur-Landau and Eric Cline) and Tell Keisan (Gunnar Lehmann and David Schloen) and welcomed a Czeck team from the University of Pilsen headed by Ladislav Šmejda that untertook soil analysis of ashy layers of Stratum S-2 in Area S. The last couple of days we spent with our Area and Square Supervisors cleaning Area S and Area P, encountering the occasional tortoise and chameleon, setting up shadecloths, getting office and accommodation organized, and training staff in digital documentation. Lyndelle Webster and Brita Lorentzen located more organic samples (both seed and wood) from the excavations of David Ussishkin at Tel Aviv University and we had the chance to discuss our excavation strategies with Amihai Mazar from Hebrew University on the site itself. Today, we enjoyed the traditional 4th of July BBQ with our friends at the Albright Institute and are looking forward welcoming our volunteers, coming from over 15 different countries across four continents!