Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Gezer 2015 – And that’s a wrap

By Gary D. Myers 

The work is never truly complete at an ongoing excavation. Always more work to do next year. Dig directors have to decide when it is best to stop excavation and focus on washing, reading and recording all the pottery. That moment came today. Around 12:40 p.m. today, the digging team was notified to complete its work by 1:30 p.m. 

For all intents and purposes, the 2015 Gezer Water System Expedition has come to an end.
The next few days will involve hours of cleanup, reading and recording pottery and the taking of final photos. Reports will be completed and the tools will be stored.

June 8: First Water, Then Rocks
The deep water threw the dig team a curve on June 7. It is difficult to work all day in shin-deep water. The plague of the water was followed by the plague of the rocks. For several days we had been dealing with a substantial level of rocks. But by June 8, it had become almost in possible to stick your shovel in the ground without hitting a very large stone. We had to stop for a while and measure the area and look at the stones closely to determine if these could be from an unknown structure. After careful examination it was determine to be rubble which tumbled or was thrown into the system. 

Our work on June 8 resulted in the largest bag count of this season – 51 bags. We turned to the north to remove a large area of dirt and debris between the center point of the basin and the northern wall. The goal was to find the floor all the way across the width of the basin. We didn’t make on the June 8, but there was still time Tuesday.

Work in Eli’s House also came to a close. The team made great progress this season and learned more about the site near the Canaanite gate. They also encountered large areas of fill dirt and pottery from R.A.S. Macalister’s dig in the early 1900s. 

June 9: Washing Dishes
Eighty pottery buckets were waiting on the dig team when they arrived this morning. With such a large backlog, almost everyone had to wash pottery before anything else could be dug or sifted. Each piece of pottery is scrubbed with a small brush, inspected for inscriptions and place in a box to dry. Before 9:30, all the pottery was washed and we were all back to our original work spots.

Two team members started the day in the cavern behind the water system. The two were investigating the source of the dirt intrusions in the cavern. The goal was to find a crack which may be allowing dirt intrusions into the cavern. No crack was found. However, the area was covered with clear vinyl sheeting in hopes of catching a cone of dirt intrusion before the next dig season to help isolate such a crack. 

For Emotional Health, We Needed to Find the Floor
In the remaining time this morning, the team began searching for the floor in the middle of the basin. We knew that this would be our last digging day, so we dug as fast as possible this afternoon. It was as if our sanity or emotional health depended on reaching the floor from the center of the basin to the north. We have exposed a good amount of floor along the southern wall, this would give a new look at the basin. We were almost there when we got word to stop digging by 1:30. We dug feverishly and found the floor [more about that in later blogs].

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Gezer 2015: The things you find at the bottom of a water system

A beautiful morning at Tel Gezer.
By Gary D. Myers

R.A.S. Macalister. I feel your pain. I guess I should have expected water at the bottom of a water system, but I don’t like it any more than you did.
For the past three work days, the diggers at the bottom of the Gezer Water System have been battling water just like Macalister, the original excavator of the system, did in 1908. The Irishman wrote about his experience with the water at Gezer in his final published volume about the dig, The Excavation of Gezer: 1902-1905 and 1907-1909:

The staircase terminates at a pool of unknown depth—a long crowbar failed to reach the bottom—now full of soft watery mud. Water stands wherever this mud is dug away, and the level of the water remains constant no matter how much be taken away. The first day on which the water was found it was uncertain whether it was a spring or merely accumulation of rain water. Buckets were provided, and at least two hundred gallons of water drawn of and poured away, without making the smallest impression on the level. (R.A.S. Macalister, 261)

Macalister, believing he would need divers to excavate the pool, deemed it “archaeologically unprofitable” and moved on to explore the cavern. That helped us have untouched material to excavate under Macalister’s causeway of stones.

Three days ago, some 3 meters under the surface that Macalister laid across the pool area to access the cavern, we encountered water. The first day it wasn’t so bad, but by Friday, the water was affecting our work. When we arrived at the tel this morning, the pool area had much more water than it did Friday.

The bottom after removing 100+ gallons of water.
Using three 20 liter jugs, the team removed close to 140 gallons of water. The jugs were placed in a bag and winched to the platform to be hauled out with the crane and dumped. It took nine trips to remove that much water. Unlike Macalister, we could see the difference in the water level—it did shrink considerably. However, we abandoned that effort after lunch without clearing out all the water. The rest of the afternoon was spent digging further into the pool area. We moved much mud and rock in the afternoon as well as two large stones, possibly rumble from buildings in the city above.

So, where is the water coming from? Most likely, it is rainfall seeping through the many layers of dirt and debris. But why did Macalister encounter so much more water in 1908 (he was in this deep water 8-9 feet above where we are)? Has mechanical pumping lowered the water table? We don’t know all the answers. It is easy to see why Macalister gave up on the pool, but we won’t give up. On we dig.

The Unsung Heroes of the Dig
One can never fully emphasize the importance each person’s role on this dig. Each position in the water system dig is vitally important to our success. We have diggers, winch hook workers, safety gate operators, a winch operator, platform workers who unhooks the bags from the winch and hooks them to the crane, signal engineers (those who alert the crane operator to pull up bags), a crane operator, and sifters. We cannot do the task without all of these people in place. Then we wash pottery at the dig tent and keep records about the finds we make. We need about 18 people to successfully operate this portion of the dig. We appreciate the contribution each individual makes each day. Thank you for what you do and the way you do it

Eli’s House
I didn’t make it to "Eli's House" today due to the issue with the water down below, but I hear things are going well. Eli Yannai and a small team are examining the connection between the houses at the Canaanite gate area and the water system. Yesterday, during our tour of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, we were able to see the two gold goddesses discovered in “Eli’s House,” by a team of American archaeologists in the 1970s. Amazing find.