1050-New American Excavations at Gezer
A new American Excavation has begun at one of the most famous biblical archaeology landmarks, Tel Gezer. The dig is directed by Steven Ortiz of New Orleans Baptist Seminary and Sam Wolff of the Israel Antiquities Authority, both of whom have been on The Book & The Spade in conjunction with other excavations. Given the dire predictions we’ve featured about the future of Biblical Archaeology in recent years, this is a major advance for American activity in Biblical Archaeology. It’s also significant because Gezer is one of the major benchmark sites for Biblical Archaeology.
Excavations first began at Gezer 100 years ago, in 1906. In the 1960’s excavations at Gezer, directed by William Dever, were the first to use college students as excavators. It’s now common practice in Israel archaeology.
The “Solomonic Gate” at Gezer is a major focus of these excavations. Israeli archaeologist Israel Finkelstein has proposed revised dating for Solomon and suggests the gates attributed to him at Gezer, Megiddo and several other sites were built later by Ahab or some other king. Early indications from this summer’s excavation seem to better support the tradition view and undercut Finkelstein’s theory.
This important archaeological site is finally getting the attention its due. The Israeli government is easing access to the Tel and making it easy to visit. It’s a short drive from Ben Gurion airport and would make a great introduction to the archaeology of Israel for any tour. Some well know Bible Scholars, such as Ray Vander Laan already use it in that manner, which you may remember if you’ve seen his “Faith Lessons” video series, also known as “That the World May Know.”
During my work as an archaeology volunteer at Tel Aphek in 1978, we visited Tel Gezer during one of our weekend field trips. Our leader, Wilbur Williams, had procured a guide for us, one of the Tel Aviv University graduate students working on the Aphek excavation. It was Israel Finkelstein, later to become one of the leading figures in Israel archaeology. I still remember a short discussion with him on top of the tell about the differences between the American English and the Israeli English pronunciation of Aijalon, the nearby valley where the sun stood still for Joshua and his army. As I remember, that was right after he had shown us the awesome standing stones on top of the tel.
We will be hearing more about this excavation in the future. It’s also going to be featured in the next issue of ARTIFAX, our quarterly archaeology magazine.
What’s it like to actually do the archaeological digging? The New York Times has a feature on Dig for a Day at Tel Maresha, a site we visited on our 1994 Book & The Spade tour.