Can You Dig It?

Gezer 2014 – Update Three

By Gary D. Myers

Things are looking up at Tel Gezer

NOBTS student Ben Browning works the winch rope in the hot afternoon sun.

I cannot move past the handholds that dot the walls of the water system. When I put my hands in these holds, I marvel at the people who first used them and wonder about lives. Who were they? What were they like? Many of those answers depend on the date of the water system.

Designed and carved thousands of years ago – maybe as early as 1800 BC -- the holds served the residents of Gezer for many years. Each day they placed their hands in these same holds as they walked up and down the steps of the water system. It is hard for people today to get any glimpse into the daily lives of these ancient people. The Gezer Water System provides us with a glimpse – incomplete, yes, but it is a glimpse. This massive rock-hewn water system shows the great lengths these people had to go to secure a daily water supply. On a daily basis, people walked the 80 something steps down to the pool with water vessels and toted out the water they needed. Speaking from experience, walking up and down the system is no walk in the park. The angle is steep, about 38 degrees. The steps, carved into the floor, are uneven.

The people who carved the handholds and used them on a daily basis couldn’t comprehend our modern world. Water is on tap for modern Israelis, but the daily need for water remains. The residents of Gezer were also well aware of foreigners. Travelers and traders often made their way to this city near the Via Maris. But they could not comprehend the fact that people from thousands of miles away would board a contraption and fly to their land to study their stuff of daily life. Image what they would think of our computers, iPads and fancy cameras.

Who knows how these people of Gezer felt about the water system. Maybe the pagans in the city held the system in some sort of reverence or dedicated it to some deity. Maybe they viewed it as a mundane part of their daily life the way we look at our morning commutes. I can’t speak for anyone else on the dig, but these thoughts and questions that motivate me as I seek to understand the people who lived during Biblical times. Thoughts like these sustain me as we seek to date the water system.

Progress update

After more tunnel cleaning (picking up rocks and filling sandbags) early on, we were working to clear the bottom step across the entire width of the water system by mid-morning. The main objective today was to locate the step and clear all the material down to the level of Macalister’s causeway and we were very close to reaching that goal. The step is clear all the way across (sorry, no photo) and some the causeway is visible. Tomorrow we will continue cleaning the causeway area for a good set of photos. Then we will remove the causeway and begin working to clear out the entire pool area. All the material below the causeway will be sifted and the pottery and other material remains found at the sifting table will be marked and sent to a lab for analysis. The coming days will be busy and exciting. Anticipation is in the air. We will try our best to keep you posted.