Satellite Images for the Sea of Galilee Project

By Ken Dark

The Sea of Galilee Project is an archaeological analysis of the Roman-period and Byzantine landscape surrounding the Sea of Galilee. It involves both new survey and new analysis of data derived from earlier work by other scholars. The Project has been supported by the Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF) through two grants.

The first of these provided funding towards fieldwalking in the Ginosar Valley on the western side of the ‘Sea’ in 2012, on which an interim report appeared in the Palestine Exploration Quarterly (PEQ) in 2013. The second grant, the subject of this note, funded the use of satellite imagery to seek new evidence of settlement location and landscape organization dating to the Roman or Byzantine periods around the ‘Sea’. Whereas fieldwalking produced surprisingly extensive evidence for Roman-period and Byzantine activity, satellite imagery has yielded disappointingly few new data.

The Sea of Galilee. Copyright Ken Dark.

The Sea of Galilee. Copyright Ken Dark.

A field-by-field search of the area around the lake-edge using satellite imagery revealed two main categories of features on the west and north of the ‘Sea’: pre-modern water-courses (of natural origin), and undated relict field boundaries (mostly linear strips and rectilinear enclosures, perhaps for olive-groves). However, there are no similar features to the east of the ‘Sea’, which may be explained by the relative proximity of high hills to the shore, allowing little room for agriculture. There is no evidence of unknown occupation areas on any of the satellite images examined so far.

That is, both conventional fieldwalking by this project in 2012 and surface surveys previously conducted by other scholars, have seemingly been far more effective as means of identifying the Roman-period and Byzantine settlement-patterns than using satellite images. This raises interesting methodological questions about the limitations of satellite archaeology overall. While a useful tool, details of topography, present landscape-use and geoarchaeological considerations may all limit its effectiveness. It also raises questions about landscape organization around the ‘Sea’: were there really no more Roman-period and Byzantine settlements than those already recognised?

 

In the footsteps of “Sitt Halima”

By Rosanna Sirignano

(Continued from “Introducing ‘Sitt Halima‘”)

Those who have women as informants are in a specially favourable position; the women are very much interested in their conditions and linger with pleasure over things which men glide over lightly.” (Granqvist 1931: 22)

Having obtained PEF support to go to Artas, I travelled there this October. After spending a couple of days in Jerusalem I left for Bethlehem together with my husband. Fadi Sanad, president of the Artas Folklore Center, welcomed us at Bab al-Zqaq from where we took a shared taxi to the village. He had arranged everything for us: the first two weeks we stayed in an apartment provided by Abu Sway family. Thanks to their hospitality and open mindedness we soon felt part of the community. The night we arrived women from Sanad family encouraged me to wear a traditional Palestinian dress and to attend a henna party.

En route to the henna party. Photo: R. Sirignano.

En route to the henna party. Photo: R. Sirignano.

Women dance with a basket full of sweets during a wedding. Photo: R. Sirignano.

Women dance with a basket full of sweets during a wedding. Photo: R. Sirignano.

A few days later Fadi´s younger brother got married. I had the privilege of getting involved in wedding preparation from the women’s side, while my husband enjoyed the atmosphere from the men side. When my husband left, I moved to Fadi Sanad´s mother´s place. She lived with three unmarried and beautiful daughters. Here my field work really began.

My research assistants were children from Abu Sway and Sanad family. They helped me to learn the local dialect and find my research participants, and they assisted me in doing the interviews.

I interviewed eleven women from 50 to 97 years old belonging to some of the families described in Granqvist´s work.

One of my research participants in her courtyard. Photo: R. Sirignano

One of my research participants in her courtyard. Photo: R. Sirignano

An old Artas women during the olives harvest. Photo: R. Sirignano

An old Artas women during the olives harvest. Photo: R. Sirignano.

I explained frankly the purpose of my research to all my participants at the beginning of the interview process. They had a similar attitude toward wailing songs (in Arabic tanāwiḥ) and they didn’t feel comfortable speaking about it because they considered it sinful (ḥarām) and shameful (cēb). It seems that the Prophet Muhammad recommended to not express grief with loud wailing, beating one´s chest or cheeks, tearing off the clothes etc.

While my participants had never sung or wailed during a funeral, they have seen this practice at least once. Because of contrasting information they gave it was difficult to establish how common the practice had been and when exactly it disappeared. Some women preferred referring to wailing as a very old and uncommon practice in Artas. Some others admitted that it was a common practice which disappeared only ten years ago.

I was a little bit discouraged, but I could not give up. I had to think up a way to complete my wailing songs mission. I thought: Why don’t I ask “Sitt Halima” and their patient collaborators for help?

Granqvist's house in Artas. Photo: R. Sirignano

Granqvist´s house in Artas. Photo: R. Sirignano

I began to show the women Granqvist´s collection of wailing songs in Arabic. Most of them were very happy to see that someone had recorded part of their cultural heritage so carefully. Although they recognized only one song, transcribed below, they quoted other songs that I have still to analyse.

ḥabībti w ana ḥabībtha

ištāk kalbi la zyāritha

yiṣcab calēyya yōm furkitha

 

She is my beloved and I am her beloved

My heart has pined for her visits

My heart suffered when I had to depart from her

(Granqvist 1965:199)

L. Baldensperger handwritten notes in Granqvist´s archive at the PEF. Photo: R. Sirignano.

L. Baldensperger handwritten notes in Granqvist´s archive at the PEF. Photo: R. Sirignano.

Haddad's notes with Granqvist's interlinear transcription (PEF archive). Photo: R. Sirignano.

Haddad’s notes with Granqvist’s interlinear transcription (PEF archive). Photo: R. Sirignano.

References/Further reading

Gamliel, Tova 2014. Aesthetics of Sorrow: The Wailing Culture of Yemenite Jewish Women. Wayne State University Press.

Granqvist, Hilma 1931. Marriage Conditions in a Palestinian Village, vol.I, Helsinki, Societas scientiarum fennica, commentationes humanarum litterarum.

Granqvist, Hilma 1965. Muslim Death and Burial: Arab Customs and Traditions Studied in a Village in Jordan, Helsinki, Societas Scientiarum Fennica, Commentationes Humanarum Litterarum.

Wickett, Elizabeth. 2010. For the Living and the Dead: The Funerary Laments of Upper Egypt, Ancient and Modern. I.B.Tauris.

 

Excavating a Medieval Village in Jerusalem – Khirbet Beit Mamzil, 2015

By Bethany J. Walker 

For the best part of the last twenty years I have been doing archaeological fieldwork in Jordan, where I have sustained a long-term interest in the Mamluk period (13th-16th centuries CE). What drives much of my research today is to better understand how villages functioned in the medieval Islamic period and how farmers made use of their land and limited water resources. In 2013, while excavating a medieval castle and village in the Madaba Plains, I received a call from Jerusalem: “Bethany, there is site over here you might want to take a look at. It seems to be a Mamluk-era farmstead, similar to what you are digging now!”

As I had been working in central and northern Jordan, I was most anxious to see a contemporary rural site outside the country, and immediately made the trip across the Allenby Bridge. I was not disappointed. The architectural remains were spectacular. Mazmil was once part of an extensive rural site outside the Holy City. The standing architecture, which is largely preserved from floor to roof, is a walled agricultural-domestic complex of the Early Modern (Ottoman) period, conforming to the form and layout of the seasonally inhabited farmstead (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 - Field C domestic complex (courtesy author)

Fig. 1. A domestic complex in Field C, Mamzil. Photo: B. J. Walker.

It makes use, however, of many walls and structures from earlier periods (Byzantine, Crusader, Mamluk), and has a reservoir and many large cisterns. What is left of the site of Khirbat Beit Mazmil, large portions of which have been scarred by demolition and suburban construction, offered me a unique opportunity to investigate the physical and functional transformations of a single household of farmers and its household economy in the Judean highlands (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2 - Mazmil aerial_detail (courtesy author)

Fig. 2. Mamzil from the air. Photo: B. J. Walker.

Our current excavations, which began this year and are co-directed with Dr. Benjamin Dolinka of the Israel Antiquities Authority, are the only ones today devoted to the study of the Jerusalem hinterland in the medieval Islamic period. We are most grateful to the Palestine Exploration Fund for helping to finance our fall excavation season.

Urban archaeology is a new experience for me. I have excavated in the middle of “living” villages before, and certainly in remote locations, but being in the middle of an urban environment created many new challenges and, yes, opportunities. There is constant noise, dust, and traffic. However, I can also get to the site with the light rail, rather than a four-wheel drive. Fieldwork each day was made ever so much smoother with one of the best field crews with whom I have had the pleasure to work (Fig. 3). The young men, and their foreman, from Ramla, were well trained technicians, loved archaeology, and had solutions for every problem that presented itself.

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Fig. 3. Our work team. Photo: Benjamin Dolinka.

Excavating in a city also means you get many visitors. Ours largely came to help and volunteer, doing everything from drawing architecture, to washing and processing pottery, and excavation. Our visitors lived in the surrounding apartment complexes and in the village of Ein Karem. They were extremely supportive of our plans to develop the site into an archaeological park, preserving and restoring the historical architecture, and to save this precious green space from further urban development.

The final days of the excavation found the team fighting one of the worst dust storms the region has faced in recent history. Our end-of-season photos are largely orange in hue, a permanent reminder of the realities of working outdoors (Fig. 4). We plan to return to the site in September 2016 and continue excavation for another several seasons.

A dust storm at Mamzil. Photo: B. J. Walker.

Fig. 4. A dust storm at Mamzil. Photo: B. J. Walker.

Introducing “Sitt Halima”

By Rosanna Sirignano

“I needed to live among the people, hear them talk about themselves in Artas, make records while they spoke of their life, customs and ways of looking at things. For that reason I decided to remain in Palestine.” (Granqvist 1931: 2)

Hilma Granqvist (nicknamed ‘Sitt Halima’ in Palestine) was born in 1890 in Sipoo, in the UUsimaa region in the eastern neighbour of Helsinki. Her family were Swedish-speaking Finns, a minority ethnic group in Finland.

Picture 2

Hilma Granqvist during the harvest (PEF archive).

Picture 3

Between 1925 and 1931, she carried out a field research in the West Bank village of Artas. “Sitt Halima” soon became part of the community. Thanks to her work, Artas is the most well documented village in Palestine before 1948. Her five ethnographical monographs about marriage, childhood and burial customs, have a unique place in Palestinian studies because of the detailed descriptions of women´s lives under the British Mandate.

I am currently carrying out a PhD research at Heidelberg University on Hilma Granqvist´s Arabic field notes in Arabic. When I first discovered her biography during my BA dissertation, I was immediately fascinated. Her courage, perseverance, patience and stubbornness in the face of difficulties, marked her as a painstaking researcher, determined to achieve her goals.

The Palestine Exploration Fund now holds the material resulting from her field work, including more than a thousand papers containing the original Arabic version of the texts. In 2011 I visited the PEF and with the help of Felicity Cobbing and Ivona Lloyd-Jones I photographed all of Granqvist’s Arabic field notes. My MA research focused on the transcription and translation of texts about childhood.

Granqvist´s field notes in Arabic at the PEF.

Granqvist´s field notes in Arabic at the PEF.

Funded by the PEF, I have recently been investigating what are known as ‘wailing songs’ – performed by women lamenting and bewailing the deceased. These songs are a long-standing tradition in Israel\Palestine. We can find traces even in the Old Testament, for example, in Jeremiah 9:17-20 God calls mourning women to raise a lament over the besieged people of Judah (Granqvist 1965: 194). The practice of wailing can also be found in other part of the world.

Women in mourning (PEF archive).

Women in mourning (PEF archive).

s

Women sing and distribute food (PEF archive).

For the PEF project I focused on songs performed at women´s death. These were dedicated to a stranger woman, a good wife, a good mother, a neighbour and friends (Granqvist 1965:199-201). Their contents recall some aspects of the deceased’s life, or express feelings of loss and sadness. In some cases women give a voice to the deceased, for example:

“The beloved ones passed me by

They have crossed the border of the country

They have gone far away from me” (Granqvist 1965: 201)

Picture 7

Arabic original version of the song, PEF archive. Photo: R. Sirignano.

The file n.22 from Granqvist´s PEF archive contains different original Arabic version of the songs. Three people helped Granqvist in taking notes: Louise Baldensperger, Elias Haddad and Judy Farah Docmac. Each of them used a different system to reproduce the variety of Arabic spoken by Artas villagers. Sometimes it is very hard to interpret the text, and this is my main research problem: how could I reconstruct the musicality and rhythm of the songs to show their artistic value?

To be continued…

Picture 8

Artas landscape today. Photo: R. Sirignano.

References / Further reading

Claasens, L. Juliana M. 2010. Calling the Keeners: The Image of the Wailing Woman As Symbol of Survival in a Traumatized World. Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 26 (1): 63–77.

Granqvist, Hilma 1931. Marriage Conditions in a Palestinian Village, vol.I, Helsinki, Societas scientiarum fennica, commentationes humanarum litterarum.

Granqvist, Hilma 1935. Marriage Conditions in a Palestinian Village, vol.II, Helsinki, Societas scientiarum fennica, commentationes humanarum litterarum.

Granqvist, Hilma 1947. Birth and Childhood Among The Arabs. Studies in a Muhammadan village in Palestine, Helsingfors, Sӧderstrӧm & Co. Fӧrlagsaktiebolag.

Granqvist, Hilma 1950. Child Problems among the Arabs, Copenhagen, Munksgaard.

Granqvist, Hilma 1965. Muslim Death and Burial: Arab Customs and Traditions Studied in a Village in Jordan, Helsinki, Societas Scientiarum Fennica, Commentationes Humanarum Litterarum.

Naïli, Falestin 2007. L’oeuvre de Hilma Granqvist: L’Orient imaginaire confronté à la réalité d’un village palestinien, Revue d’Etudes Palestiniennes, 105, 74-84.

Seger, Karen (ed.) 1981. Portrait of a Palestinian village, the photographs of Hilma Granqvist, London, The Third World Centre for Research and Publishing.

Weir, Shelagh 1975. Hilma Granqvist and Her Contribution to Palestine Studies, Bulletin of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies 2/ 1, 6-13.

Visiting Azekah, Lachish and J. L. Starkey’s resting place

By Abigail Zammit (continued from The Lachish Letters in Jerusalem)

Apart from my museum visits, my next important objective for the trip was to dedicate an entire day to scouting two particular sites. With four litres of water, sun lotion, hat, scale rods, a compass, a GPS, north-points, photographic equipment, and a tripod, I travelled south-west of Jerusalem to visit the archaeological sites of Azekah (Tel Azekah) and Lachish (Tell ed-Duweir/Tel Lachish), to photograph key features and points of interest at both tells. These sites were, after Jerusalem, the two most important and last remaining strongholds during the Babylonian invasion of Judah, in the early 6th century B.C.E. (Jeremiah 34:7).

Fig. 1. The author standing outside the park entrance to Tel Azekah.

Fig. 1. The author standing outside the park entrance to Tel Azekah. Photo: A. Zammit.

My first stop was Azekah (Fig. 1). The name of this ancient fortress features in ostracon Lachish 4, the writer of which expressed that he and his men could not see Azekah, but were looking for the beacon or fire-signals of Lachish. At Azekah, I could see fenced-off open trenches and general work-in-progress from the Lautenschläger Azekah Archaeological Expedition, a joint project between Tel Aviv University and the University of Heidelberg, which has been underway since 2012. Azekah is fairly large in size, but not as massive or imposing as Lachish, which dominates its surrounding countryside and vineyards.

Lachish was, of course, my next and last stop. For my research purposes, the main point of interest there is the so-called “guardroom”, the eastern room or tower upon entering the outer-gate to the fortress. The guardroom yielded sixteen of the Lachish Letters in the excavation season of 1935. Like Azekah, Lachish has now been turned into an Israeli National Park; the guardroom and most of the gateway area, also highly relevant to my research, have been lately reconstructed or restored by incorporating stone material, cobbles and gravel to the original walls and ruins in situ.

As a nod to Rev. Charles Bernard Mortlock’s 1935 photo of British archaeologist James Leslie Starkey at Lachish (Fig. 2) I took a similar photo of myself on site to indicate the findspot of the Lachish Letters inside the guardroom (Fig. 3). Other points of interest at the tell include the inner gate, which is partly fenced off, the palace ruins at the centre of the mound, and the saddle area at the southwestern corner of the tell.

Fig 2. James Leslie Starkey at the Lachish letters find site,  photograph taken by Rev. Charles Bernard Mortlock in 1935 (PEF-P-Portrait-Starkey). Copyright Palestine Exploration Fund.

Fig 2. James Leslie Starkey at the Lachish letters find site, photograph taken by Rev. Charles Bernard Mortlock in 1935 (PEF-P-Portrait-Starkey). Copyright Palestine Exploration Fund.

Fig 4. The author standing in the reconstructed guardroom at Lachish and pointing to the findspot of the Lachish Letters, view south.

Fig 3. The author standing in the reconstructed guardroom at Lachish and pointing to the findspot of the Lachish Letters, view south. Photo: A. Zammit.

In the late 7th and early 6th centuries B.C.E., a series of domestic units or storerooms was built alongside the east wall of the ruined Palace C. Two of the Lachish ostraca (Lachish 20 and 21) were recovered from one of these rooms (L12:1065) in 1938, among the ashes of the destruction left by the Babylonian army. Most of these areas are today covered by lush overgrowth. Around different parts of the tell, I came across fenced-off areas which are currently excavated by the Fourth Expedition to Lachish, a joint project between The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Southern Adventist University, which commenced in 2013.

Back in Jerusalem, I didn’t miss the opportunity to visit the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) headquarters at the Rockefeller Museum, namely the Archives and the Library. Moreover, I went to the National Library of Israel to access two articles on the Lachish Letters, by H. Torczyner (later N. H. Tur-Sinai) and A. Bergman respectively, that appeared in the daily journal Ha-‘aretz of 1936, today preserved on microfilm.

Nearing the end of my research trip, I toured the Old City and took the opportunity to visit the resting place of none other than archaeologist James Leslie Starkey (mentioned above; Fig. 2), who was buried at the Mount Zion Protestant Cemetery in Jerusalem on January 11th 1938 (Fig. 4). Starkey directed the British Mandate excavations of Lachish from 1932 until his murder on January 10th 1938. While at the Cemetery, I walked a few paces and climbed a few steps to an eastward upper field, to visit the grave of Starkey’s teacher, British Egyptologist Sir Flinders Petrie. This meaningful visit was a fitting conclusion to a most rewarding academic experience in Israel.

Fig 4. The author standing next to James Leslie Starkey’s tombstone, at the Mount Zion Protestant Cemetery, Jerusalem.

Fig 4. The author standing next to James Leslie Starkey’s tombstone, at the Mount Zion Protestant Cemetery, Jerusalem. Photo: A. Zammit.

I returned from my productive journey with 5GB of data, which scream “Well worth the trip!”. I also took with me fond memories of Jerusalem and of the several places of archaeological interest I explored. My heartfelt thanks and appreciation go to the Palestine Exploration Fund for providing me with financial support to conduct my research in Israel, which proved to be a truly enriching and worthwhile opportunity.

Cite this article as: [Author], "Visiting Azekah, Lachish and J. L. Starkey’s resting place," in Palestine Exploration Fund Blog, 1 July 2015, https://www.pef.org.uk/blog/visiting-azekah-lachish-and-j-l-starkeys-resting-place/.

The Lachish Letters in Jerusalem

By Abigail Zammit

In May 2015, I made a short research visit to Israel, made possible by a student travel grant from the Palestine Exploration Fund. This trip will feed into my doctoral research, entitled The Lachish Letters: A Reappraisal of the Ostraca discovered in 1935 and 1938 at Tell ed-Duweir.

I’d examined seventeen of the so-called “Lachish Letters” held in London, with the permission of the Trustees of the British Museum, in February 2015.  I then set out to visit Israel to examine the remaining four Lachish Letters held there, discovered during the Lachish excavations which took place between 1932 and 1938 during the British Mandate period.  The “Letters” are ostraca – inscribed pottery sherds, in this case bearing handwriting in Palaeo-Hebrew script, written in iron carbon ink.   Alongside the other seventeen, there were three ostraca from 1935 (Lachish 3, 4 and 6) and one ostracon from 1938 (Lachish 19) in Jerusalem. I hoped to obtain a well-rounded first-hand examination of all twenty-one ostraca from the Mandate period.  This I did, with satisfying results.

With the permission of the respective curators of the Israel Museum (IMJ),  the Rockefeller Museum (RMJ),  and the Bible Lands Museum (BLMJ) in Jerusalem,  I examined and photographed the four ostraca in question: Lachish 3, held at the IMJ, is a long letter by one servant Hoshaiah (hwš‘yhw), which mentions “the prophet” (hnb’) (Fig. 1); Lachish 4 and 6 are displayed on a current exhibition, entitled “By the Rivers of Babylon”, at the BLMJ.

Figure. 1 Examining ostracon Lachish 3, at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Photo: A. Zammit.

Figure. 1 Examining ostracon Lachish 3, at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Photo: A. Zammit.

Both Lachish 4 and 6 comprise a long message giving reports of an apparent military nature, but both remain controversial in their interpretation (Fig. 2). Lachish 19 is a rather faded list of personal names and hieratic numerals, held at the RMJ (Fig. 3).

Figure. 2 Examining ostraca Lachish 4 (in hand) and Lachish 6 (on the table), at the Bible Lands Museum, Jerusalem. Photo: A. Zammit.

Figure. 2 Examining ostraca Lachish 4 (in hand) and Lachish 6 (on the table), at the Bible Lands Museum, Jerusalem. Photo: A. Zammit.

Figure. 3 Photographing ostracon Lachish 19, at the Rockefeller Museum, Jerusalem. Photo: A. Zammit.

Figure. 3 Photographing ostracon Lachish 19, at the Rockefeller Museum, Jerusalem. Photo: A. Zammit.

With these examinations and the newly acquired data, I will be able to confirm, revise or debunk my palaeographic readings of the Lachish Letters where possible, and add additional observations to my hand drawings of the ostraca, to be ultimately presented in my thesis. I was amazed to look upon these ostraca for the first time in Jerusalem. Prior to my visit I had only seen them in published black and white photographs or low quality colour images on the internet. I guess it is true in my case that “Seeing is believing”. Having the opportunity to examine these inscriptions and the ceramic sherds themselves in hand changes one’s outlook and perception completely, and at times for the best!

Lachish 3 particularly struck me, as I realized upon close examination that the burnished obverse of the ceramic sherd helped preserve most of the writing in iron-carbon ink. I also carefully scrutinized certain readings of all four inscriptions to confirm or dismiss any suspicions I may have had, especially wherever the ink is fading or has faded badly.

It’s also worth mentioning the sheer size of each individual ostracon. All four vary in size – similar to the variations in size of the average smartphones. It made me appreciate and mull over the scribes’ conveniently chosen sizes and shapes of pottery sherds (as writing surfaces) for easy hand-held use, regardless of whether one was right- or left-handed.

To be continued…

The Secrets Between the Old Pages

By Dr. David Gurevich

“You are like Indiana Jones!”, a random visitor to the PEF archives commented on hearing the purpose of my work. I was standing behind a tripod that fixed my camera above a thick open file (Fig. 1). The well-aged pieces of paper contained the text of a manuscript written over 130 years ago. It was composed in Jerusalem and submitted as a report to the PEF office in London. “It’s so interesting. Perhaps you’ll find something!”, she continued.

The author examining plans at the PEF archives.

Figure 1. The author examining plans at the PEF archives.

Normally I would object at being compared to that iconic Hollywood character. The “treasure hunters” reputation of archaeologists was denounced in my eyes long ago. It happened during my first year of undergraduate studies. In the first introductory lecture it was explained that archaeologists do not hunt for treasures, causing a serious disappointment amongst the somewhat-naive audience. Having said that, today, after becoming a Fulbright post-doc research fellow at Harvard University, I do find myself in some way looking for a “treasure”, but of a different type – information and means that would help us to understand better ancient Jerusalem. This time I came after them to London.

About a year ago I visited the PEF for the first time. The modest entrance to its 2 Hinde Mews establishment hardly prepares the visitor for what he is about to discover behind the doors. Being a scholar in the field of Jerusalem studies, I had encountered the PEF’s pioneering work from the very beginning of my scientific career in archaeology. Actually, a significant amount of data that I analyzed in my doctoral dissertation came from the reports of Charles Wilson, Charles Warren and Conrad Schick who all explored Jerusalem on behalf of the PEF in the 19th century. As surprising it might be, several sites in Jerusalem have not been visited by any scholar since then. Such is the case, for instance, of Birket Israil, a huge ancient pool that abuts the northern wall of the Temple Mount. Warren conducted probe excavations inside the pool between 1867 and 1870, but in the 1930s the pool was filled with soil and a modern parking lot was created on top. Nowadays, this site of antiquity is buried deep below the surface, and keeping in mind all the political sensitivities there is no a chance to conduct new excavations. Warren’s data, therefore, was the primary source for my research.

Back to my first visit in the PEF archive. For the first time in my life I was examining the original letters sent from Jerusalem to London in the 19th century (Fig. 2): plans with signatures of Warren, notes written in old-style handwriting of Schick, yellowish pieces of paper with editorial remarks in red ink… I indentified a portion as unpublished material. How many secrets might these records still reveal? But it was also evident that I would need much more than a day to work on these precious materials. Thanks to the PEF grant program I was provided with an opportunity to come again recently, this time for over a week. My goal was to systematically review all the materials concerning the water systems of ancient Jerusalem. “Digging” for “mysteries” in the archives. In some way, similar to Indiana Jones.

Figure 2. Old letters are carefully arranged in archival files, titled by subjects. For instance, "PEF/JER/WIL" stands for materials related to the work of Sir C. Wilson on Jerusalem.

Figure 2. Old letters are carefully arranged in archival files, titled by subjects. For instance, “PEF/JER/WIL” stands for materials related to the work of Sir C. Wilson on Jerusalem.

The first thing you notice spending time in the PEF offices is a unique working environment. Whenever I took a short break, I wandered around the premises just to inspire the atmosphere. Each item bears a story. Here sits an old brown suitcase storing notes sent by the expedition of the historical Survey of Eastern Palestine. The suitcase seems also to be from the same period. In the main hall one notices an exhibition of artefacts obtained by the PEF through the years. Here are exhibited a few Crusader “grenades” (aka sphero-conical vessels) that were retrieved by Warren’s excavations. Nearby, one finds a few of the famous Shapira’s Moabite figurines (Fig. 3. Wilhelm M. Shapira was a controversial character in 19th century Jerusalem. He was an antiquities dealer, who is most known for his proposition to provide to the British Museum an “authentic scroll of Deuteronomy written by Moses”. The fragments of scrolls were, by the way, offered on “sale” – just one million pounds. And the Museum almost bought it.

Figure 3. Shapira's Moabite items exhibited in the PEF office.

Figure 3. Shapira’s Moabite items exhibited in the PEF office.

“Whenever you finish working with a plan, just put it please on the Temple!”, Ms. Felicity Cobbing, the Curator of the PEF, instructed me. “The Temple” refers to the model of Herod’s Temple constructed by Johann Martin Tenz which is kept inside a big glass case. Tenz was one of the gifted students in the handcraft workshop organized by the Jerusalem’s Anglican Missionary in the 19th century. And as my week in the PEF office went on, the pile accumulated on “the Temple” raised up higher and higher. Even when using the PEF’s loo, one encounters the archaeology: while sitting in-a-process, you notice a photograph on the wall. This depicts the Iron Age toilet from Jerusalem that is provided with a kind explanation of its function. Know your ancestors!

Perhaps the most exciting moment for me was when I came across a single short letter from 1901 (Fig. 4). It was written by Conrad Schick in Jerusalem, where he had resided permanently since 1846. In the last years I have studied his works systematically. The PEF has in possession probably hundreds of his letters, but this particular letter was different. “I am now about to prepare Plan and Section of the Jeremia’s Grotto for Sir Wilson, as my health in thanks to God, still good”, wrote Schick with his impressive cursive handwriting. Not so long after, he passed away at the age of 79. I was holding one of his very last letters. Definitely, a touching moment.

Eventually, my task in London was completed. I departed with a flash drive holding copies of many old documents taken for more careful examination. My goal is to discover what kind of answers these may bear. After “digging”, now comes the stage of processing the data. I’m looking for fragments of information that back in the 19th century were considered irrelevant and therefore were omitted from the published reports. Today these fragments may reveal shed new light on the archaeology of Jerusalem. Stay tuned!

C. Schick's letter to the PEF from July 22, 1901.

Figure 4. Conrad Schick’s letter to the PEF from July 22, 1901.

 

 

Surveying Umm at Tawabin, a Roman military site

By Alexandra Ariotti

Over the course of two to three days in January 2015, myself and Jordanian surveyor, Qutaiba Dasouqi, mapped the large Roman military camp of Umm at Tawabin (‘mother of bread ovens’ in Arabic) located on the south side of the Wadi al-Hasa, overlooking the town of Ghor as-Safi and the Wadi ‘Arabah in Jordan (Figs 1 and 2).

 

Figure 1. Myself and Qutaiba planning the site.

Figure 1. Myself and Qutaiba planning the site.

Figure 2. Umm at Tawabin on its west side facing north.

Figure 2. Umm at Tawabin on its west side facing north.

My goal was to document this historically significant site by photograph and by producing a topographical plan of its extensive enclosure wall encircling at least two forts, a possible observation post or tower, a likely barracks area, a citadel, and the numerous circular stone enclosures on the site’s west side, from which the site gets its name (Figs 3 and 4).

Figure 3. Planning the site with Qutaiba, the Jordanian surveyer.

Figure 3. Planning the site with Qutaiba, the Jordanian surveyer.

Figure 4. Main enclosure wall of Umm at Tawabin facing SE.

Figure 4. Main enclosure wall of Umm at Tawabin facing SE.

Over this period, I also collected some surface pottery, to be published, together with the site plan and photos, to learn more about the site’s chronology. Umm at Tawabin was first discovered in the 1980s and has since been described only briefly in a couple of past survey reports. We know it was an important site by virtue of its large size (880 x 453 m), by the number of its associated fortified structures made clear during the time we were planning the site, and by such historical sources as the Notitia Dignitatum Orientis (c. 400 C.E.) which lists the equites indigenae sagittarii, a Roman cavalry unit comprising native mounted archers based at Zoara (modern-day Safi) from the third to fifth centuries C.E. In this period, this military camp sat at the crossroads of the north-south and east-west communication routes flanking both sides of the strategically important Wadi ‘Arabah where the many east-west running arteries, roads and arable lands could be monitored, protected and policed.

Fuel Provision for the Copper Industry in Islamic Period Southern Jordan

By Ian Jones

This study, supported by the Palestine Exploration Fund, is part of the broader University of Californa, San Diego Edom Lowlands Regional Archaeology Project (ELRAP), directed by Prof. Thomas E. Levy and Dr. Mohammad Najjar. The focus of this study, in particular, is fuel provisioning for the Middle Islamic period (1000-1400 AD) copper industry in Faynan, based on analysis of material from ELRAP excavations at Khirbat Faynan (KF, Fig. 1) and Khirbat Nuqayb al-Asaymir (KNA, Fig. 2).

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Fig 1. A view of Wadi Faynan from the Middle Islamic slag mound at Khirbat Faynan. Sources of wood suitable for charcoal are not particularly plentiful in this landscape.

Fig. 2. The mountains around Khirbat Nuqayb al-Asaymir, as seen from the highest point of the site.

Fig. 2. The mountains around Khirbat Nuqayb al-Asaymir, as seen from the highest point of the site.

Faynan presents some interesting challenges and opportunities to archaeologists. While things like pottery are surprisingly rare at many sites in Faynan, copper smelting debris is plentiful, to say the least. Luckily for this project, charcoal, in particular, preserves quite beautifully in Faynan (Fig. 3). This fact often prompts our field school students to ask, “Where did all of this charcoal come from?”  It’s an excellent question, too. Looking around Faynan, it’s difficult to avoid noticing that there aren’t all that many trees. In much earlier periods, the landscape was much wetter, but during the Middle Islamic period, Faynan probably looked similar to the way it looks today. Producing even a small amount of copper, however, can require a surprising amount of wood. Current estimates for the ratio of tons of charcoal consumed to tons of copper produced range between 10:1 and 100:1.

Fig. 3. Former UCSD undergraduate Kat Huggins excavating a pit feature filled with charcoal and kitchen waste.

Fig. 3. Former UCSD undergraduate Kat Huggins excavating a pit feature filled with charcoal and kitchen waste.

So, where did it all come from? Work in the 1980s by a German team led by Hans Baierle showed that the Middle Islamic charcoal from KF was made up mostly of oak and juniper, trees that grow on the plateau to the east, but not in the lowlands of Faynan. The first radiocarbon sample that we processed at KNA, however, was a piece of charcoal from white saxaul, a desert shrub that can still be found growing at the site. This led us to wonder whether the use of plateau species at KF was the result of the environmental impacts of Roman copper smelting. Baierle’s analysis of the Roman charcoal from KF showed the presence of a number of desert species, such as saxaul and acacia, that simply don’t show up at the site during the Middle Islamic period. Were the populations of these plants near KF overexploited during the Roman period to the point that Middle Islamic smelters were forced to obtain trees from the plateau, while those near KNA, 7 km to the north, were left relatively intact?

The charcoal identification, being performed by Dr. Brita Lorentzen is still ongoing, but the results we have now suggest a more complicated picture. Desert species are not entirely absent at Middle Islamic KF — although white saxaul is — but they are quite rare. At KNA, desert species, and especially saxaul, show up much more commonly than at KF. All of that is basically as we expected. Surprisingly, though, copper smelting contexts at KNA also contained a good deal of oak and juniper charcoal. While it is possible that stands of juniper existed closer to KNA, the closest source of oak was probably the plateau, more than 10 km to the east. It seems, then, that the populations of saxaul and acacia in Wadi Faynan had not yet recovered after their exploitation by the large Roman copper industry of the early 1st millennium AD, but also that these plants were not a sufficient source of fuel even at KNA. Continuing analysis of this material will allow us to make more definite conclusions about fuel provisioning by the Middle Islamic copper industry, and will hopefully also allow us to discuss shifts in these provisioning strategies over time, as we compare the charcoal identifications to our radiocarbon dates and ceramic analysis.

In Search of the Late Antique pilgrimage eulogia of Jerusalem

By Lucy O’Connor

During Late Antiquity, large numbers of Christians travelled vast distances from the west and undertook perilous journeys over land and sea to reach the land of the Bible. These pilgrims longed to visit the places described in the Old and New Testaments: Nazareth, Bethlehem, Bethany, Galilee, the River Jordan, to name just a few. The ancient city of Jerusalem was deemed the holiest of all; it was the place where the final events in Christ’s life took place. Pilgrims longed to worship at the site of the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, the place of Christ’s Crucifixion on Golgotha, His Tomb close by, and the site of His Ascension on the Mount of Olives. Lavishly decorated shrines and churches were built at many of these holy places (loca sancta). Some of them such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Fig 1), housing the site of the Crucifixion and the Tomb, accommodated large congregations during special feast days.

Fig 1. An exterior view of the church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo: L. O'Connor, 2014.

Fig 1. An exterior view of the church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo: L. O’Connor, 2014.

Pilgrims travelled to the Holy Land for various reasons: some went to be baptised in the same waters that Christ had been baptised in the River Jordan, some sought healing from sickness, some went to reaffirm their faith in God, whilst others purely wished to worship the ground upon which Christ had walked. Above all these reasons, they went to see and touch. These pilgrims strongly believed that the spiritual power of a holy site, a holy person or a treasured relic was transferrable through touch. Earthly materials were thus consecrated through physical contact with sacred matter.

From the fourth century, contemporary written sources reveal that pilgrims began to collect natural objects from loca sancta that they believed were infused with the holy. These souvenirs or eulogia included pieces of wood, stone, bread, fruit and even fish. By the sixth century, holy oil, water and earth were the more standard souvenirs collected. A new form of art and craft was developed in the Holy Land during this time to contain and transport these sanctified substances. The array of material culture related to Late Antique pilgrimage in existence and the widespread location of their find spots suggests that manufactured eulogia once existed in large numbers and were popular items to collect amongst the pilgrims from this early period.

One popular form of pilgrimage object was tokens, tiny roundels (almost coin-like) that were constructed from holy earth or clay and stamped with images of holy figures and scenes from the life of Christ. Another type of eulogia was flasks or ampullae containing blessed liquids taken from the oil lamps that burned at the holy places or that had passed over the bodies of saints. These were made from a variety of materials such as glass, clay and tin-lead pewter. Like the tokens, they too were decorated with images of saints or scenes from Bible.

My research interests lie in the art of Late Antique pilgrimage and the purpose of my application to the Palestine Exploration Fund’s Travel Grant was to research and document the eulogia held in the museum institutions and church collections of Jerusalem, including the Israel Museum, where many pilgrimage artefacts are held (Fig 2).

Fig. 2: A general view of the Byzantine Gallery. Photo: L. O’Connor, 2014 (Reproduced here courtesy of the Israel Museum).

Fig. 2: A general view of the Byzantine Gallery. Photo: L. O’Connor, 2014 (Reproduced here courtesy of the Israel Museum).

This was actually my third trip to Jerusalem. Although very little of the original church from the fourth century survives, my favourite place to visit in Jerusalem is the church of the Holy Sepulchre. Whenever passing (and if I could spare the time), I always tried to pop in. There were always new sections to discover and the light through the church changed dramatically throughout the day (Fig 3).

Fig. 3: The interior dome of the Sepulchre. Photo: L. O’Connor, 2014.

Fig. 3: The interior dome of the Sepulchre. Photo: L. O’Connor, 2014.

The church was usually always full of pilgrims and huge groups of tourists, which made getting close to the holy sites quite problematic! 6am mass in the tomb helped to avoid the queues! (Fig 3) I also enjoyed coming across groups of pilgrims singing hymns whilst retracing Christ’s final footsteps along the Via Dolorosa.

Fig. 4: Modern-day pilgrims at Christ’s Tomb. Photo: L. O’Connor, 2014.

Fig. 4: Modern-day pilgrims at Christ’s Tomb. Photo: L. O’Connor, 2014.

The souvenir shops that line Christian Quarter Street are filled with candles, rosaries, icons, models of the Holy Sepulchre, and interestingly many share similarities to those from Late Antiquity. There were bottles of various sizes of holy water from the River Jordan, holy oil taken from the lamps at the Sepulchre and small terracotta oil lamps that had been decorated to mimic those from the fourth century. I bought a number of miniature sets of holy oil, water and earth that had been placed in tiny phials. They each came with a card to certify their authenticity, though as many of the bottles could be opened, I didn’t quite trust their “holy” nature…!