Can You Dig It?

Gezer 2012 – Update Thirteen

By Gary D. Myers

Everyone wants to see and tour the Gezer Water System. I’m sure if you are faithful follower of the “Can You Dig It? blog, you would love the opportunity to tour the water system. Each summer, dig weeks two and three bring many visitors to the site.

These aren’t just any visitors. The water system is still closed to most people. Those who tour are archaeologist, geologists, students and other who have a special invitation to tour.

For the past three work days we have had many important guests, but none were more important than two of our Sunday visitors – Rueven Pinsky and Shuka Dorfman. Pinsky is the head of the heritage division in the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Dorfman is the director-general of the Israeli Antiquities Authority. Dorfman, IAA deputy director Uzi Dahari, and other IAA staffers toured the water system with Dr. Dan Warner and Dr. Jim Parker early Sunday morning. Pinsky toured the site just before lunch. It was a great honor for the NOBTS team to host such esteemed guests.

Most of the other guests are fellow archaeologists who are interested in seeing inside the Gezer Water System which, with the exception of a brief time in the early 1900s, has filled with dirt and debris for thousands of years. These archaeologists included Yosef Garfinkel of Hebrew University; Shimon Gibson, a senior associate fellow at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem; and Steve Ortiz from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Two Left Turns

We have been operating under the assumption that our team is digging close to the southern wall of the cave. The team leaders decided that the team should make a 20 degree left turn at the eight meter mark from the cave opening to explore the interior of the cave. On June 10, the team cleared out seven meters of dirt. Dr. Jim Parker ran some calculations and determined the point the team reached before lunch on June 11 could be very close to the northern wall of the cave. So, after lunch the team took another left turn at a 70 degree angle (90 degrees from the southern wall) and began digging in effort to locate the northern wall. Less than an hour into the afternoon they hit the northern side wall of the cave. Now the team will work parallel to the northern wall.

How did the cave fill with dirt?

How the cave filled so thoroughly with slit, dirt and mud has always been a mystery. The Macalister backfill would not be pushed through the tunnel and back so deep in the cave. Dr. Parker and Dr. Warner believe that the fill material could be coming from somewhere else. They developed a theory that a fissure or fissures somewhere in the cave roof could have caused the cave to fill. The geologist who visited the site Sunday confirmed that theory.

Washing, Washing, Washing

The team stays busy and wet at the screens, shifting and washing for pottery shards. This is a wet, time consuming job but it is fun looking for jar handles, rims and painted ware. The team is turning up a number of painted items including a shard of Philistine pottery that was found today (June 11).

Healthy, But Very Tried

The dig will wrap up in a few short days. Wednesday afternoon and Thursday will be spent cleaning up the site and storing the tools for next year. All this time we have been free of sickness unlike last year. We are thankful for a healthy dig team. Even though we have not experience sickness, energy is running low from all the hard work. Please pray for strength and continued health these last few days.

Random Facts

  • At lunch and at the end of the day the team members working at the bottom face a 15-story climb out of the tunnel to the top of the tel.
  • On June 8, 1902 (110 years ago), Irish archaeologist R.A.S. Macalister step up camp at Gezer to begin his excavations.