Wednesday, March 19, 2008

An Early Bronze Day (well, mostly)

Invited for a day out to visit archaeological sites with two friends and colleagues, Yo jumped at the chance to enjoy a spring day visiting new places. Our two leaders of the journey were Dr. B and Dr. vdB. Dr. B is considered one of the leading experts on the Early Bronze Age in the southern Levant, particularly the pottery made during the earliest phases of the EBA. Dr. vdB (seen below) is, in fact, a noted authority on early predynastic Egypt, but has now been working in Israel for some years and has a great deal of expertise in the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze.
Dr. vdB enjoying the tour led by S near Fasa'el.
A beautiful day, with green hills that are usually brown or white, the flowers were thriving and the air was crisp and clear. Our first stop were the excavations directed by a graduate student, Sh., who is excavating sites in the area of Faza'el, an area in the Jordan Valley section of the PA (Palestine Autonomous area), north of Jericho. Excavations at this site exposed remarkably well preserved walls virtually at the ground surface, including curvilinear walls typically of EB I. In addition to the preserved, well-made walls of rooms and alleys, a very nicely preserved silo with the entrance is easy to see.

S., graduate student and director of excavations.

Fossilized ammonites (?) in the excavations - art for the EB folk?

Excavation squares (above); excavated silo (below) with baulk still cutting across the silo.

Nearby there was some sort of Roman structure, unexcavated; you might be able to just make out the line of walls.
Below, you can just make out the large boulders of some Roman enclosure or building.
In the immediate area we also visited a site partially destroyed by the security fence (below) for the local settlement, possibly a Chalcolithic site.

Yo at Fasa'el

After visiting these sites in the immediate area of Fasa'el, we drove back down the Jordan Valley rode toward Jericho. We first stopped in a beautiful little wadi (valley) known as Wadi Uja, with flowing water, some large caves visible up in the cliffs and a riot of wildflowers. We visited a site, probably occupied during various periods, possibly the Chalcolithic, the Early Bronze and porbably some later occupation as well.
Above, looking west up the wadi.
Above: The guys walking back across the site towards the vehicle amid wildflowers.

From there we went back out on the Jordan Valley rode where we visited a site immediately next to the road, just to the west on the hill above. This site, only recently identified and called something like "Hujet Musa", is thought to represent a period around the late Epipaleolithic or very early Pre-pottery Neolithic. The remains of the round stone structures of these hunter-gatherers are easily visible on the surface slope; all around the site are deep holes in the bedrock stone. These holes probably represent what are known as "bedrock mortars", spots where the people used to use long pestles to crush various nuts, grasses and other tasty treats. Over 200 were identified in the immediate vicinity of the site.

Note circular structures at ground surface. Thick line of stones near feet are NOT a wall, but an infilled trial trench.

Below, bedrock mortar

Below, Jordan Valley road with truckload o' cows going by. Next road is security fence and road used by army. Jordan is just across the river to east.

From here we went to Tiberias to visit the salvage excavations led by Dr. Y. A pipeline going in very near the road will destroy the archaeological remains, so Dr. Y's job is to salvage and document all of the ancient remains in that immediate area. His excavations exposed two different levels of occupation; an Early Bronze period which included some large architecture, and a Fatimid (Islamic) period occupation. These revealed an unusual aspect of re-use, where it appears that the Fatimid people re-used the much earlier (c. 4,000 years!?) architecture into their own buildings.
Hey kids! Remember this: good archaeologists don't sit on the ancient architecture!
The view from the excavations in Tiberias - not so shabby!

From Tiberias we went up near the "Golani junction" to have a picnic up in a wooded area. Although we weren't able to find a picnic table for Dr. B, he nevertheless shared an amazing lunch with us. Unfortunately I forgot to take any pictures, but suffice to say, 4 archaeologists sitting around in the woods eating lunch was vastly more pleasurable for us than it would be for you to witness it.

We then made one final stop to excavations in the town of Kfar Kana. We weren't sure exactly where the excavations were exactly, which led to bickering between Dr. B and Dr. vdB that sounded like an old married couple. As we headed into town, one's mood could only lighten in the knowledge that at MonaLiza you could become a new woman.
We eventually did find the excavations, which included more stone walls of various thicknesses. I'm sparing you these particular walls; suffice to say that some were very large, thick walls, possibly fortification walls, except that they are being dated to the earliest phases of the EBA, which makes fortificaiton unlikely.
From Kfar Kana we went to Dr. vdB's new place in the town of Zefat (Safad, and many other spellings), at one time one of the centers for mystical Judaism, and something of a tourist attraction, with a small but thriving arts community. Many of those people have moved on, yet it remains a largely religious town.
We admired Dr. vdB's view over the Sea of Galilee and Tiberias to the south; even though it was quite hazy this day, his view from the backyard is still quite beautiful. After some drinks and a wonderful meal we sat and chatted and listened to music. The next morning I tried a Dutch taste treat for breakfast which I've never had before: chocolate sprinkles on buttered bread. Yum! Quite the tasty way to start the day!

View to the south from Dr. vdB's backyard (above) and his backyard (below).

Chocolate sprinkles, breakfast of champions! YUM!

Many thanks to Drs. B and vdB for inviting me, it was a great trip!


Frances Goodman فرانسيس said...

Wow! I didn't know chocolate sprinkles were invented in the Bronze Age! Cool, man!

Yorke said...

Yeah, thats about the most important thing from the period.

WDW said...

Nice, finally spring has arrived! One question - why are you guys wasting your time with the EB sites when there is a Roman structure just sitting there excavated! All the others in the country have been dug up. Get to it!

MrsGoot said...

The site in the Jordan Valley is Huzuk Musa, Arabic for "Moses' Holes". Nice pics!