Conferences and Lectures

Keep track of the latest national and international lectures and presentations from members of the Tel Azekah team!

American Scholars of Oriental Research Conference (ASOR): November 15-17

November 17: Tel Azekah Session, 10:40am-12:45pm. 

CHAIRS: Yuval Gadot (Tel Aviv University) and Manfred Oeming (Heidelberg University)

Oded Lipschits (Tel Aviv University): “Fortifications, Destructions, and the Life in Between: Azekah after Five Seasons of Excavations”

In this introduction I will present the main finds from the five seasons of excavations conducted at the site, and summarize their implications for the history of the site from the first settlement during the Early Bronze Age III period, through the Middle Bronze Age, when the site was fortified with a mud brick city wall on a solid stone foundation, and mainly during the Late Bronze Age, when remains were found in almost all the excavated areas. I will focus also on the Iron Age IIA and IIB periods, from which remains were also found in most parts of the site, while, as in other sites in the Shephelah, remains dating to the seventh century, the Iron IIC, are not as common as before. An important part of the presentation will be the next settlement peak at the site that happened during the Persian period and continued into the Early Hellenistic period, while during the Late Hellenistic and Roman periods the settlement shifted eastward and northward, before the upper tell was totally deserted.

Joshua Errington (Tel Aviv University), “Processes in the Site Formation of Tel Azekah: A Test Case for the Modification of Landscape in the Longue Durée

Tel Azekah (Tell Zakariya) was occupied at least as early as the Early Bronze Age through to the Roman, Byzantine, and possibly into the Early Islamic periods. Throughout the millennia, Azekah’s occupants dramatically altered the topography of what was once a natural hill to fit their defensive, architectural, and domestic requirements, making the city serviceable, safe, and visually imposing. This paper presents evidence for the alterations imposed on Tel Azekah’s landscape period-by-period, from initial settlement during the Early Bronze Age until modern times. An assessment of the scale and layout of earthworks and construction of monumental architecture, and the reasons behind such labours, is provided for each period of occupation, in addition to a topographic reconstruction of the natural hill form and its evolution thereafter.

Critical to this study were the published results of Bliss and Macalister’s three seasons of excavation in the late 19th century as part of the Palestine Exploration Fund’s four tells project, combined with archaeological survey results and five seasons of excavation data provided by the current Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition. This study is therefore invaluable in re-evaluating and incorporating the results of early excavations into modern study. Furthermore, it brings under evaluation the changing understanding in site formation processes and their relationship to archaeological stratigraphy, which has been developing as a discipline from the late 19th century into the modern day.

Sabine Kleiman (Tel Aviv University) & Maya Hadash (Tel Aviv University), “Azekah’s Regional and Inter-regional Connections during the 13th and 12th Centuries B.C.E.: A Narrative from Its Ceramic Evidence”

Tel Azekah has long been overlooked as a major player in the string of sites in the Shephelah during the Late Bronze Age. The site’s archaeological record bears witness to its significance during the 13th and 12th centuries B.C.E., as it became a regional center possessing regional and intra-regional connections. Especially intriguing is the fact that Azekah survived the collapse of the international trading system at the close of the 13th century and thrived throughout the first half of the 12th century. A new network of regional connections had to be developed as new centers replaced old ones that disappeared.
This paper will focus on the ceramic evidence from the Late Bronze Age strata of Tel Azekah. An investigation of the imported Cypriot ceramics will be utilized to illustrate Azekah’s strong economic relations during the 13th century. We will then present the results of the investigation of the exceptionally rich pottery assemblage, dating to the last third of the 12th century, that was found in the destruction of the city and was exposed in eight of the ten excavated areas. The ceramic finds exhibit a large variability of local types as well as several vessels of non-local fabrics and shapes. This evidence shows on the one hand the strong and highly developed local ceramic tradition at Tel Azekah, and on the other hand its lasting regional economic ties that reached as far as the Egyptian administrative centers.

Lyndelle Webster (Tel Aviv University), “A Radiocarbon-Based Chronology for Late Bronze Age Tel Azekah”

Southern Levantine chronology of the Late Bronze Age is heavily based upon Egyptian chronology—utilizing material culture connections that are limited in number, indirect in nature, and often imprecise. Robust radiocarbon sequences covering large portions of the Late Bronze Age are currently lacking in southern Israel, and fresh data are needed to provide a firm, locally based absolute chronology. Excavations in the extramural quarter of Tel Azekah have uncovered a Late Bronze Age occupation sequence extending from LB IIA to the end of LB III. This sequence is an ideal subject for a radiocarbon dating project that will help fill the current research gap.

This paper presents the new radiocarbon data and Bayesian modeling from Late Bronze Age Azekah, based primarily on the extramural quarter (Area S2), but complemented by final LB III destruction contexts elsewhere on the tell. The results confirm the thriving nature of Tel Azekah from the 14th century B.C.E. until deep in the 12th century B.C.E., when the site was destroyed and abandoned for several centuries. Consistency with radiocarbon data from Megiddo is evident, as well as with the more limited dataset of Lachish, for which Bayesian modeling is offered. The new data from Azekah add fresh input to the debate over the arrival of Philistine culture. Particularly interesting is the difficulty reconciling with radiocarbon-based chronological models from nearby Tell es-Safi, as the Tel Azekah model yields markedly lower dates for LB IIB-III phases, from which Philistine 1 pottery is notably absent. 

Karl Berendt (University of Alberta), “The People Left Behind: Disaster Skeletal Assemblage at Tel Azekah, Israel”

Azekah was a Canaanite city in the southern Levant. Following many years of prosperity, Azekah reached a disastrous end in the late 12th century B.C.E. as part of the Late Bronze Age Collapse. In this destruction, traces of which are found all across the site, the remains of four adolescents were found beneath the rubble of a burned domestic complex. It appears that as this dwelling burned, dozens of massive ceramic vessels storing oil caught fire and exploded, and the building collapsed. This caused the inhabitants to be quickly buried and burned, where they remained untouched for more than 3000 years.

It is currently unknown whether these individuals reflect Azekah’s ancient inhabitants, or how they fit into the greater cultural framework of the ancient Levant. Here I present the first results of osteological analysis of these skeletons. I review evidence from skeletal morphology about the individuals’ age at death and biological sex. Pathology, stature, and musculoskeletal stress are analysed to complete this basic osteobiography. This information provides valuable clues on how they lived their lives, and how this might reflect on Azekah’s ancient society. Using a forensic archaeological perspective, burning, scavenging, and other taphonomic processes are discussed to reconstruct the events surrounding their deaths. This information will be taken into context with what is known about the site to provide the first human perspective on Azekah’s Late Bronze Age society, before its violent destruction.

Ido Koch (Tel Aviv University) and Sarah Richardson (University of Manitoba), “A Late Bronze Age III Workshop at Tel Azekah”

The remains of a Late Bronze Age III structure in Area T2 at Tel Azekah include a court with several installations, dozens of pottery containers, and a grinding kit assemblage with several implements and pigments. Pieces of the assemblage were analyzed using FT-Infrared Spectroscopy to determine material, to narrow provenance, and to suggest possible functions. In this paper, we will present the various architectural features of the complex, possible associated pottery and other finds, and the results of the material analysis. Based on these criteria we will suggest the possible types of productions of this workshop.

Alexandra Wrathall (Tel Aviv University), “The Resettlement of Azekah: The Iron Age IIA-IIB Ceramic Transition”

The transition between the Iron Age IIA and IIB periods (ninth-eighth centuries B.C.E.) is a decisive moment in the history of Judah as a kingdom, as it expanded westward and southward into the Shephelah and the Negev. As is often the case in archaeology, the finds, deriving from destruction layers at Tell es-Safi/Gath, Lachish, and Beer-sheba, only expose the end results, and not the long-term process. In the absence of transitional destruction layers, this paper will endeavour to bridge this gap through an analysis of a ceramic assemblage, which post-dates the destruction of Tel es-Safi/Gath (825 B.C.E.) and pre-dates that of Lachish III (701 B.C.E.), recovered from a pit at Tel Azekah.

This research project will integrate ‘garbology,’ spatial distribution, and site formation theory, to provide an archaeological assessment of the pit’s creation, function, and terms of disuse. Within the pit, which is indicative of short-term use, over 40 complete and semi-complete vessels were recovered and restored. The vessels represent a variety of types and decoration technologies. It will be argued that the assemblage attests to the late Iron Age IIA–early IIB transition, a period where hand-burnished ceramics were still in use alongside recently produced wheel-burnished vessels.

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