Can You Dig It?

Gezer 2015: Update Ten

By Gary D. Myers

The things you find at the bottom of a water system

A beautiful morning at Tel Gezer.

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.