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Breaking News

War Update



September 6, 2006

The fighting in northern Israel and in Lebanon has had a major impact on archaeological work in the area. We have asked several dig directors, in both Israel and Lebanon, to report to our readers on the situation at their excavations.


Tel Dan, September 6, 2006

Last week, Rahamim Goren, our camp administrator, went up to Tel Dan to bring our equipment back to Jerusalem. The tell is undamaged, though brushfires from Katyusha rockets have left numerous burnt swathes across the surrounding landscape. There isn't much damage to buildings, however.

—David Ilan, Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem

Lebanon, August 30, 2006

Damage to the site of Baalbek was evaluated by the General Director of Antiquities of Lebanon, M. Frederic Husseini, and the Lebanese Minister of Culture, M. Tarek Mitri, who toured Baalbek on August 18th. M. Husseini and M. Mitri expressed relief that the Roman cultic complex was not directly hit. Damage to the complex included fallen stones from shock waves of the bombs. One stone fell from the south-east wall of the hexagonal courtyard, and there was broken window glass in the newly established museum, located in a subterranean gallery under the great courtyard of the Temple of Jupiter. Fortunately, there was no visible damage to the Temple of Bacchus, contrary to earlier reports (see our posting dated August 14th). International experts are expected to arrive in Lebanon to conduct a full assessment of the damage. M. Mitri also noted that UNESCO generously offered technical assistance for any future restoration work in Baalbek. We remind the readers that the World Bank gave 5 million USD during the past year to restore ancient ruins in Baalbek.

The major damage in Baalbek appears to have taken place in the old souk (market) where restoration work funded by the Lebanese Ministry of Public Affairs and the city of Baalbek was completed on July 12th after two years of work. Its aim was to integrate the traditional bazaar into a tourist route that would offer visitors further explorations of Baalbek beyond the Roman temples. Damage to the old souk (according to the Lebanese newspaper website An-Nahar: http://www.annaharonline.com/htd/BEA060824-1.HTM) resulted from one single “heavyweight” bomb that completely wrecked 10 old shops and two traditional Lebanese houses. M. Mitri said that he will submit a full report on this to the World Heritage Fund. He will also conduct a fundraising campaign to help restore the old souk. He expressed hope that the executive committee of UNESCO will create a special fund dedicated to salvaging and restoring archaeological and historical sites affected by the war.

Amid these difficult circumstances came two pleasant discoveries: the discovery of 2 necropolii: one Roman (with lead and clay sarcophagi) in the heart of Beirut (brief report in the Lebanese French-speaking newspaper l’Orient-le-Jour dated August 30th http://www.lorient-lejour.com.lb/page.aspx?page=article&id=320860) and one yet-undated in the village of Shebaa near the Lebanese-Israeli border.

—Hanan Charaf, University Paris I


Lebanon, August 13, 2006

The Temple of Bacchus in Baalbek, which many historians consider the best-preserved Roman temple of its size, has suffered numerous cracks due to Israeli airstrikes on August 12th, according to the president of the town council. M. Mohsen al-Jamal told the Lebanese French-speaking newspaper L’Orient-le-Jour that two “extremely violent” raids on the old town center of Baalbek (in the vicinity of the three temples) have caused cracks in the structure. He also adds that many stones have fallen from multiple buildings of the Roman cultic complex. The raids have also devastated the old souk of Baalbek, where restoration work has just been completed (information taken from the website http://www.lorient-lejour.com.lb/page.aspx?page=article&id=319796).

Temple of Bacchus.
Temple of Bacchus.

Temple of Bacchus—Interior.
Temple of Bacchus—Interior.

Following an attempt to destroy the Roman bridge of Arqa on August 5th (see our report of August 11th), the IAF (Israeli Air Force) tried again to destroy this archaeological structure on August 8th. We have not been able to obtain more precise information as some people (not Hizbollah supporters, as some might suspect, but merely concerned citizens) are adamant in not providing any information that could help the Israelis assess the location or damage sustained to any bridge.

Hopefully, on the day that marks the cessation of hostilities according to UN resolution 1701, this will be my last report on any destruction of historical or archaeological bridges in Lebanon. However, I fear that assessing the destructions to other cultural structures, especially in the south of Lebanon and in the Bekaa Valley, will lead to painful discoveries.

—Hanan Charaf, University Paris I


Kinneret, August 11, 2006

Sunrise above the Golan and the Lake of Tiberias. View from the excavation site.
Sunrise above the Golan and the Lake of Tiberias. View from the excavation site (photographed by Patrick Wyssmann on 22.8.2005; © Kinneret Regional Project).

At this time we would have proudly announced the 2006 field- and study-season of the German-Finnish-Swiss excavations at Tel Kinrot on the North-western shore of the Sea of Galilee, which was supposed to take place from August 6 to August 25, 2006. 24 volunteers and 22 staff-members originating from 10 different countries were curiously awaiting another exciting and enlightening dig.

All our plans, investments and hopes, however, did not materialize for obvious reasons and we had to cancel this year's expedition without substitution (the current situation does not even allow a small group of specialists working at the site).

Instead of that, we changed our publication plans and are now intensively working on the publication of Kinneret II, which is supposed to go to the printer before the next excavation season scheduled to take place in August/September 2007.

We hope that those of you working and/or living in the region are in safety.

With our best personal wishes,

—Stefan Münger, Juha Pakkala, Jürgen Zangenberg, Wolfgang Zwickel Kinneret Regional Project


Scanty news from archaeological sites in Lebanon, August 9, 2006

Hanan Charaf, University of Paris I, with the collaboration of Laure Salloum, archaeologist in Beirut.

Rare information is available on possible destruction of archaeological sites. The destruction of more than 80 bridges and hundreds of roads across Lebanon have made it impossible to circulate. This is what I have been able to find out so far:

Kamed el-Loz
In an email message from Dr. Marlies Heinz, excavator of Tell Kamed el-Loz (ancient Kumidi, south of the Bekaa Valley, 115 km/90 miles east of Beirut), dated to August 2nd, she informs me that the ancient tell has not (yet) been hit based on a phone conversation with a villager in Kamed el-Loz. The German team was not excavating this year due to institutional delays.

Sidon
See report of Sarah Collins dated August 1st on this webpage

Tell Arqa
On August 2nd, two raids completely destroyed the modern bridge of Arqa (ancient Irqata), 100 km/80 miles north of Beirut) which lies only 70 ft south of the ancient mound.

EBIV remains at Arqa with the modern bridge in the background to the right.
EBIV remains at Arqa with the modern bridge in the background to the right.

The conflagration from these 5,500 pound bombs have caused damages on top of tell: in a phone conversation with the site guard the same day as the two raids, he informed us that all the window glasses of the dig house were smashed but wasn’t able to tell us if the archaeological pots displayed on shelves fell down on the floor. It is likely that many (if not all) fragile pots (like the MBII carinated bowls or piriform juglets or the Early Bronze IV miniature vases) displayed on these shelves were broken.

Hellenestic and Iron Age pots on a display shelf near a window.
Hellenestic and Iron Age pots on a display shelf near a window.

EBIV pots on display on a shelf in the dighouse.
EBIV pots on display on a shelf in the dighouse.

Damage to the site itself occurred with the destruction of the glass display window installed last year in area 1 (western area of the tell) to protect one of the best archaeological sections in the Levant. It was meant to protect the archaeological layers while offering the visitor a chance to look at the impressive destruction of the Early Bronze IV level.

Display window on the tell showing EBIV layers.
Display window on the tell showing EBIV layers.

Undoubtedly, the excavation team of this site headed by Dr. Jean-Paul Thalmann of the University of Paris I who was scheduled to begin work on August 1st will find shrapnel next season scattered all over the excavation area which directly overlooks the destroyed bridge.

On August 5th, a raid by the IAF (Israeli Air Force) attempted to destroy the Roman bridge of Arqa. This bridge lies east of the ancient tell and still holds remains of the Roman aqueduct.

It is noteworthy to mention that the Lebanese police asked all the villagers to evacuate Arqa in fear of more raids. Since then, it became very difficult to obtain any valid information on this area.

Even though no archaeological news is yet available from Tyre and Baalbek, which have been under curfews and intense bombings for ten days, one should expect damage to archaeological layers beneath destroyed areas. Infrastructure work in Baalbek (Roman Heliopolis, known for the impressive temples of Jupiter and Bacchus, 86 km/65 miles NE of Beirut) over the past 5 months has led to multiple discoveries (Roman burial chambers and mosaics) lying only three feet under the top soil. These findings were all reported by us at the time of their discoveries in David Meadows's Explorator web list. One must fear that the 18 foot craters that bombs are creating on the ground are causing inevitable damage to the archaeological layers underneath. Assessing the possible damages to Tyre (65 miles south of Beirut, famous for its Roman remains with one of the largest Roman hippodromes in the world and for its king Hiram who provided King Solomon with cedar wood and craftsmen to help build the Temple of Jerusalem) is also impossible at the moment due to heavy bombings. Both Baalbek and Tyre are on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.

Damages to ancient harbors?
The bombings of the power plant of Jiyeh (just south of Beirut) hit on July 14th and 15th have sent 110,000 barrels of oil in the Mediterranean. Beaches and rocks are covered in black sludge up to Syria. The ancient harbor of Byblos (the city famous for its Canaanite ruins and where the oldest Phoenician inscription on Ahiram’s sarcophagus was found, (25 miles north of Beirut) is all covered with black heavy oil. It is also feared that the hewn wall carved by the Phoenicians to protect their ships in the city of Batroun (ancient Batrouna/Botrys, 40 miles north of Beirut) is also damaged by the oil spill.

Phoenician wall at Batroun.
Phoenician wall at Batroun.

Oil covering the beach at Byblos with the archaeological tell in the background.
Oil covering the beach at Byblos with the archaeological tell in the background.

Black sea in the ancient harbour  of Byblos with the medieval castle in the background to the far right.
Black sea in the ancient harbour of Byblos with the medieval castle in the background to the far right.


Ramat Rachel, August 5, 2006

Despite the hostilities in the north, the dig at Ramat Rahel in Jerusalem has gone on as scheduled. We just finished the first week of excavations in Ramat Rachel. Great start. We have about 70 people, 55 from abroad (from Argentina to Australia, the US and Germany, Spain and Hong-Kong), with many finds, good food and nice atmosphere.

—Oded Lipschits


Sidon, Lebanon, August 1, 2006

In 1998 the Directorate General of Antiquities (DGA) of Lebanon authorised the British Museum to begin excavations within the city of Saida under the directorship of Dr. Claude Doumet-Serhal. This very successful excavation has been made possible through funding from the British Museum, other British institutions as well as from Lebanese private institutions and individuals. So far seven seasons of excavation have been undertaken (www.sidonexcavation.org). This year fieldwork began on July 3rd on what was intended to be a six week season. Part way into the second week, at midday on Wednesday July 12th, excavation unexpectedly had to stop.

Apart from Claude Doumet-Serhal, the excavation team this year consisted of me, five British men (surveyor, human osteologist, three freelance archaeologists) and several Lebanese archaeologists and university archaeology students. Everything was going well that day and we were all feeling like we were making good progress, having just opened up some new areas as well as continuing from where we left off the previous year. We are normally at the site until 4pm each day but that day at about 12 o’clock we heard shooting and by 12:30 we had stopped work and then headed for home. This year the six of us British were living in a house in a village about 10 minutes north of the excavation site in the centre of town, while Claude was commuting from her home in Beirut. None of us thought for a minute that day that we would not be returning to the site the next morning. Consequently we left everything as it was, with our files and equipment in the DGA building next to the site. However, as the situation worsened we remained in our house for the next three days, listening to the bombing which at that point was mainly of bridges on the Sidon-Tyre road and of fuel depots.

The general British Embassy advice was for people to stay where they were but as the airport was bombed, the air and sea blockade began and the main road from Sidon to Beirut was also bombed we made the decision to move north. On Saturday Claude drove down from Beirut and then drove us to Byblos using an old road through the Chouf mountains.

It was at that point that with crushing disappointment we realised that we would not be continuing the excavation season and we would have to leave the country. For the next four days we stayed in a hotel in Byblos. Initially a very busy holiday season was in full swing and all the hotels were full, but Byblos quickly started to empty and shut down, many people making the dangerous journey to the Syrian border. The six of us in Byblos and Claude in Beirut waited for word from the British Embassy, and on the night of Tuesday 18th we were told to go to Beirut the next morning to begin the evacuation procedure. So we began the process with hundreds of other people (taking minimal luggage and leaving the rest behind) from a large conference centre in Beirut. From there we went with the Royal Navy in HMS York to Cyprus and from Akrotiri Air Force base in Cyprus via a chartered plane back to London, where we arrived on Thursday 20th in the afternoon. We were back less than three weeks since we had departed and we will wait and see what the future of the excavation will be.

—Sarah Collins, British Museum


Sepphoris, July, 26, 2006

Unfortunately we had to stop our work at Sepphoris due to the situation in the Galilee. No rockets hit Sepphoris, but several fell in the vicinity, including Nazareth, which is only 5 km east of the site.

We excavated for two out of a planned four weeks. There were about 50 people, and we conducted work in four areas. We had no foreign participants; we used local workers, Hebrew University students and a group of high school kids.

Two of our areas are on the decumanos [the main east-west street in Roman cities], where in some squares we reached the level of the street. The other two areas are to the south and north of the decumanos, in Lower Sepphoris. On the last day of the dig we came upon a Roman pavement and walls in some squares, but at the moment can't say anything about them. I hope things will get quiet soon so we can resume our work at the site for a short period in order to complete our mission for this season.

—Zeev Weiss, Hebrew University


Ramat Rachel, July, 26, 2006

The Ramat Rahel excavation is going forward as planned.


Apollonia-Arsuf, July, 26, 2006

The Apollonia-Arsuf excavation is still on schedule as planned, but the directors have not yet decided if they will include volunteers from overseas.


Bethsaida, Yavne, Apollonia and Usha, July 23, 2006

Despite the challenges of working in the volatile situation that developed in July, the students and staff from the University of Hartford, University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, University of South Florida, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Drew University and Komex International finished all of our work conducting excavations and surveys at several sites in Israel this summer—a near miracle given the conditions.

The students are coming home now a little ahead of schedule as a precautionary measure, due to the fighting. All of the students will be back in the United States by Monday, July 24th. I and the staff will remain in Israel until early August to finish processing the finds.

We have been conducting ongoing geophysical surveys of the archaeological site at Yavne, about 20 miles from Tel Aviv; Nazareth, in northern Israel; and two months of excavations Bethsaida, on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.

We could hear the rockets at Bethsaida, but it is in the lower Golan and not really near a strategic target. Nazareth did come under attack. Maha Darawsha, a University of Hartford archaeologist working on her doctorate, had already finished in Nazareth for the summer when it was hit. Maha's family is from Nazareth and the area. She lost two cousins (Arab Israelis) in one rocket attack on Nazareth. She had earlier worked on the survey of a mosque complex at Yavne, but she stayed on with us working at Bethsaida. She is still here processing finds with us. That is the work of courageous people.

Our work has produced some exciting results. At Bethsaida, Rami Arav, director of excavations, has had large groups of students from May until July. We have discovered statuettes, coins, bronze bowls from the first-century Temple, jewelry, hundreds of cooking pots, jugs, ritual pottery, burned bones from the ritual area (used for sacrifices), and some new Iron Age architecture.

At Yavne, working with Foundation Stone, Bar-Ilan University and local archaeologists assigned to the site, our geophysical survey revealed new buildings and residences, and surveyed meticulously the Mameluke (13th century) mosque in the center of the city.

At Apollonia, working with archaeologists on the site, we identified a much larger Roman period city than was imagined—complete with theater and many buildings—with aerial photos from balloons and kites and electrical resistivity tomography, which reveal that the city is very near the surface.

At Usha, in Galilee, the site of one of the rabbinic Sanhedrin locations from the second century CE, we came across very large buildings, all buried at a depth of nine feet—all from tomography.

—Richard Freund, University of Hartford


Tel Dan, July 24, 2006

Our expedition was closed down Friday July 14th. We had planned to finish digging Friday July 21st.

Things began to go wrong late Wednesday morning, July 12th, when an Israeli howitzer battery located nearby began firing in the direction of Lebanon. This is not a new experience for Tel Dan veterans—artillery fire from Israeli artillery is a fairly frequent occurrence in the area and can usually can be attributed to maneuvers or single warning shots aimed far away from the site (a 155 mm howitzer has a range of 12 miles).

This time however, the shelling was continuous. Several volunteers began to worry.

I decided to have everyone go back to our lodgings at the Mt. Hermon Field School. Rumors began circulating that the army was asking people in Kiryat Shemona to go down to the bomb shelters. The field school staff members, who have experience with these things, soon left the field school for their homes, leaving us to organize our meals for ourselves. This, of course, sent a negative message to our crew. I gave a snap lecture in the bomb shelter (on pilgrimage to Tel Dan in the Iron Age), after which we set out for a tour of Nimrod’s Castle, at the foot of Mt. Hermon, overlooking the Hula Valley. From this magnificent perch we could see the smoke rising up from brush fires in Lebanon, set by exploding Israeli artillery shells.

By this time it was clear that the artillery barrages were part of a longer-term event. When we got back to the field school I called our transport company and asked for a bus to take our volunteers to Jerusalem. In the meantime our faculty members from Asbury Seminary arranged emergency lodgings at the Jerusalem University College, to whom we are indebted for their kind hospitality (they were poised to shut down for summer break). We ordered a bunch of pizzas for dinner and when the bus arrived, loaded up quickly and said hasty goodbyes.

A small contingent of staff and volunteers stayed behind for two more days to take final elevations, clean up, draw new architecture and gather up our equipment. That first night the Katyusha rockets began to fall in the northern Hula Valley. These were (and still are) fairly sporadic and the chances of any particular person being in a rocket’s path are quite small. Still, at least two fell near the tell, setting off fires just north of the site, where I think there must have been a megalithic cemetery in the Bronze Age. Some of us slept in the shelter that night, others didn’t. Most of the racket was caused by the on-again-off-again Israeli artillery fire. By the time we left, on Friday afternoon, the highways were empty and all the shops and restaurants closed. What started as a booming, beautiful, tourist-filled summer in the Galilee panhandle turned into an eerily tranquil, unpopulated twilight zone.

Archaeological excavations are usually goal oriented. Often you know that results will only come after an initial investment of hard work with little to show. We had just about finished the hard work phase and were coming down upon the good Iron Age levels. In Area B, supervised by Greg Snyder of Hebrew Union College, we hoped to expose new architecture that would allow us to create a contiguous plan of 1000 square meters and retrieve Carbon 14 samples from annual seeds that would allow us to date our strata better. In Area L, supervised by Yifat Thareani-Sussely of Tel Aviv University, we were hoping to expose houses and streets of the seventh century BCE, the period of the Assyrian conquest. We were stopped short in both areas. Fortunately, in Area K, supervised by Hal Bonnette (of Reston, Virginia), we managed to do most of what we wanted, almost completely exposing the intact façade of the Middle Bronze Age mudbrick gate and a previously unknown wall of an earlier phase of the Middle Bronze Age.

Will we be digging at Dan again? We probably will, but it’s not clear when and in which format. There are still things we need to clarify as part of the process of final publication. The Tel Dan, Hazor and Kinrot excavations, and many others to a lesser degree, were casualties of Middle Eastern politics of the worst kind. In our case this was particularly ironic because our first two weeks included a group of 40 Arab and Jewish junior high school kids from the Galilean settlements of Shfaram, Kabul, Shaab and Hanita. These great kids and their leaders showed us how we can work together toward common goals, how we can study a common history, even when we agree to disagree. It was a sight to behold and gives me hope for the future, even as the Katushya rockets terrorize the Galilee and Israeli jets wreak havoc in Lebanon.

—David Ilan, Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem


Tel Dor, July 22, 2006

Dor is just south of the currently affected region. When the war began we were in the third week of the six-week season, with about 80 volunteers and 30 staff members. Thus far, we have had no part in the drama, and the only thing marring the tranquility of the site is the constant train of jets and helicopters passing over Dor on their way to the north and back.

As the bombing spread southwards the senior staff conferred amongst themselves and with their institutions, and we implemented the following policy:

a) We will continue the excavation so long as it is feasible to do so and as long as this does not put any team member at risk.

b) We will follow to the letter the Israeli civil-defense and the US State Department recommendations. Currently, the Dor region is in "heightened alert" status (on both agencies' lists)—meaning that life proceeds as normal but all preparations for a worsening of the situation should be made. Ours were as follows:

Bomb shelters in the kibbutz were made ready, staff and volunteers were assigned to shelters, briefed and drilled on what to do in the event of an attack (a stressing but necessary precaution). We constantly monitor Israeli civil-defense instructions via radio, internet and cellphone contact. We also impose strict restrictions on after-work and weekend travel, and maintain a strict communication protocol (via the excavation cellphone network), which is required of every team member (or group thereof) while not either in camp or on the tell.

If the alert status should go up (the next step is "stay within 1 minute of shelter") operations on the tell would cease immediately, the team assembled in the kibbutz and near the designated bomb shelters, and preparations for evacuation will begin to be made. We have contingency plans for 1) travel from the kibbutz to the airport (provided those leaving are booked on a flight out). 2) from the kibbutz to Jerusalem, with accommodations either in Hebrew University student dorms or hostels. The preferred option (or a combination of both) will be assessed according to the situation on the ground. The chosen plan will be implemented if the "stay near shelters" warning is not lifted within 1-2 days—or, of course, in the unlikely event of a sustained attack on the site or the kibbutz itself.

c) All the staff and volunteers are assembled daily (or as needed) and briefed on the unfolding situation. We constantly stress that being on the excavation—in the best of times and certainly in the worst—is a matter of personal choice. It should be subject to individual mature consideration of benefits versus risks—not only the dramatic wartime ones but also the mundane dangers of ill-health and accident. We urge anyone who is feeling uncomfortable with the situation to withdraw with absolutely no pressure. Our only demand is that he/she present us with a viable plan of action before leaving the excavation's jurisdiction, to avoid the obvious dangers of panic-stricken flight. At least one of the American institutions participating in the project (UC Berkeley) has generously offered to cover extra expenses incurred by its students who choose to withdraw—so that financial hardship should not be a consideration. Students and volunteers have been made aware of all these options. Thus far, about 20 volunteers have chosen to withdraw (counting both no-shows and people who have left prematurely).

d) The policy outlined above is reviewed by the senior staff daily, and/or with any change of the situation. So far, luckily, we have not had to change it, and we pray that we won't have to act on any of our contingency plans. We hope to be able to finish the last two weeks of excavation as planned and send everyone safely back home on their pre-arranged flights.

As far as I know, thus far, no archaeologists (professional, student, or volunteer) has lost life or limb in these tragic events—and though some archaeological sites did sustain hits, there is no direct damage to cultural assets. I am afraid, though, that even if such dreaded events should not come about, there are far-reaching implications to the future of biblical archaeology as a whole.

The timing of this eruption could not have been worse as far as we are concerned. The 2006 excavation season was to mark a significant recovery in archaeological activity after a long slump since the beginning of the 2000 intifada. Moreover, the season was in mid-swing when the tragedy started unfolding. After the current bout of violence ends (sooner—we hope—rather than later) we will have to deal with its aftermath. This will include direct scientific damage due to the fact that excavations have had to evacuate in mid-season - leaving in the field tools, records and unrecorded artifacts and observations. All excavations will have sustained severe monetary losses - due to the fact that the outbreak hit us when most of our financial resources had already been committed, while expected revenues as well as expected scientific goals will materialize only partially, or not at all. Projects with little or no prior financial assets may not be able to weather this setback at all. Even longer-range setbacks may take the form of diminished confidence and participation of foreign institutions, donors and volunteers in archaeological enterprises.

Finally—with all the support that, at least the Israeli among us, feel and express for our fighting forces and beleaguered civilians in the north—we all have colleagues and indeed friends on the other side of the border, whose predicament may be far worse than our own. We pray for the safety and well-being of all archaeologists—Lebanese and foreigners, who are the hapless victims of these events just as much as we are. Our concern for the fate of our own cultural monuments is only matched by our worry about the safety of the material heritage of Lebanon which is important to our own research and precious to our hearts. Like our own, the archaeology of Lebanon was on the brink of fluorescence after many years of financial slump and civil war.

—Ilan Sharon, Hebrew University, Jerusalem


Hazor, July 22, 2004

As rockets were falling all over the place, we were ordered to evacuate the site. The volunteers were taken to a hotel in Tiberias, and when Tiberias came under fire as well, we moved them to a nice house in the Old City of Jerusalem. We had thought that IF hostilities would stop, we would go back to Hazor. We gave the situation ten days to clarify. In the meanwhile the volunteers were offered various activities in Jerusalem (we took care of accommodation and food): lectures, visits to museums, etc.

As I am writing, it seems that we shall not be able to return in the near future, so we shall close for the time being. Tomorrow morning we shall meet with and offer alternatives for those who wish to stay here (volunteer work in the Israel Museum, other digs, etc.). We have things we MUST finish at Hazor, so as soon as the situation admits, we shall return to the site with some of the Hebrew University students (and maybe some hired workers) for a week to ten days.

We are looking forward to a peaceful and rewarding season in 2007. All those who worked with us this year "under fire" and all others—are cordially invited!

—Amnon Ben-Tor, Hebrew University, Jerusalem


Megiddo, July 22, 2006

As far as we know, we are the northernmost large dig still working. A few people left, but the majority stayed. We are now about 75 (ca. 50 foreign team members), plus 25 local workers.

—Israel Finkelstein and David Ussishkin, Tel Aviv University


Megiddo and Tel Kabri, July 21, 2006

I am home in Washington DC, George Washington University having ordered me and my students home from digging at Megiddo (biblical Armageddon), where I am Associate Director after Katyusha rockets landed in the Jezreel Valley on Sunday night. We left Tuesday morning, after purchasing one-way tickets out of the region. More rockets landed in Nazareth and Afula, just across the valley from Megiddo, on Wednesday afternoon, so I am content with our decision not to risk our students' lives. However, the excavations at Megiddo continue for another week, primarily with Israeli students, under the direction of Israel Finkelstein and David Ussishkin of Tel Aviv University. I must say, it was interesting to be at Megiddo during this most recent battle of Armageddon (I shall have to put out a revised edition of my book, The Battles of Armageddon, with a new chapter added in!).

My other excavation, at Tel Kabri in the Western Galilee near Nahariya, at which my Co-Director, Dr. Assaf Yasur-Landau of Tel Aviv University, was working with a Polish team conducting a survey and a remapping of the Canaanite Palace, was hit directly at least three times by Katyusha rockets during the past week. Dr. Yasur-Landau and the other members of the team were on their way out to the site at the time that the first missile hit a week ago yesterday. They immediately returned to their base camp and then decided to evacuate, coming to us at Megiddo as refugees for a few days before abandoning all hope of returning to Kabri when the site was hit several more times. The nearby Kibbutz Kabri was also struck numerous times, including a direct hit on the chicken coop, which reportedly killed more than 4,000 chickens (schnitzel, anyone?) We are not certain of the extent of the damage to our site, in particular the Canaanite Palace, which contains Minoan frescoes.

Tel Dan and Tel Hazor were also evacuated; we were scheduled to visit both of them last Friday, as an educational field trip. Needless to say, our trip to visit them was cancelled. I presume that Tel Kedesh, directed by Sharon Herbert and Andrea Berlin, which is located almost on top of the border with Lebanon, was also evacuated—we had visited them just a few weeks earlier.

—Eric Cline, George Washington University

July 27, 2006

Of the Katyusha rockets in the Jezreel Valley, it has been reported that one landed near Afula and another landed near Kibbutz Mizra. I should also add that the co-directors of the Megiddo expedition consulted with the home-front command and were told that it was safe to continue, which is why the decision was made to continue excavating. Indeed, I am happy to report that, even after we left, life at Megiddo and Ramat Hashofet continued to be peaceful, and the 75 people who remained on the excavation—of whom more than 40 were foreign students and staff—had a wonderful time. The dig continued normally and with great results and a happy atmosphere. In the end, despite the hostilities in the north, 2006 has been declared the best season ever at Megiddo.

—Eric Cline, George Washington University


Sussita/Hippos, July 21, 2006

With Israel fiercely attempting to obliterate Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hezbollah rockets raining down in northern Israel, this is our first report from the field.

Sussita/Hippos dramatically overlooks the Sea of Galilee and is the subject of a recent article in BAR. It is on a line with Haifa and Tiberias, both of which have taken hits from rockets fired from Hezbollah-land in southern Lebanon.


Hippos looks dramatically over the Sea of Galilee

Dig director Arthur Segal and assistant Michael Eisenberg, both of Haifa University, report that although more than half of the volunteers from the United States and Poland have returned home, "the rest of the volunteers and the vast majority of the Israeli students are still with us, working and even doubling their efforts, in order to compensate for the lost manpower." The dig is scheduled to conclude on July 27. Segal and Rosenberg say that after their work this season, the site is "more beautiful and exciting" than ever.


Dig Director Arthur Segal takes a rest


The Tell of Hippos/Sussita

Our blogger from Megiddo, Kristine Merriman, has also left the excavation early due to the current hostilities in Israel. Her final installment can be found in our Dig Blog. It’s a shame she had to leave early, but everyone here at BAR would like to thank her and Blade Smith for the wonderful entries that made us all feel, if only virtually, that we were on the ground with them.

 





 

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