News / Blog

Nearing the End

Dear Readers,

The amount of finds has made the excavators concerned about publishing pictures before items go through scientific analysis and review. If they have not, anyone can publish a scientific paper about it before the editio princeps is prepared. And mistakes are often made in early assumption. Therefore this blog went through an edit before posting – and the delay was necessary.

Since writing this I have completed my month on site and brought the Mermelstein family of Los Angeles to dig with us. I hope some of the many who promised to write to the blog will, but the intensity of the effort in the closing weeks means single minded focus – and exhaustion! Reports will continue to filter in…


A month in, it seems we have always been here. Discoveries every day, working down to floor levels, discoveries of material items and structures that it is to early to tell of, and an absolutely wonderful esprit de corps between people from many walks of life and many countries. Who can think of it ending?

Photos are coming to give you a taste of the discovery, intensity of focus, and smiles in the working environment.
As there is one real week of digging left, the general approach will be to expand existing layers, finish up promising areas, and only in certain points make a surgical incision to go deeper.
I spent an hour this morning cleaning animal bones with Curator Leora, which will go to the lab for identification, and yesterday observed pottery reading from the top of the hill, Ido’s layer, where there is enough material found in “good context” that many pots will go to be reconstructed. Leora came over this morning out of the office to show a beautiful clay jar stopper, somewhere between 3000-4000 years old. It was placed over a material and laid on the storage jar as wet clay, thus making a very tight fit.
The weekly roundup tour took place this morning and you can see the pictures on facebook, together with contributions from various volunteers, including my son Nachliel who came for two days. Look them up!
Dr. Dudu Cohen, a master guide in Israel and an historical geographer, has not worked in a dig for 30 years, but moved several tons of earth personally from the dig site to the dump site. Everyone enjoyed his humour, erudition, and may have accepted his suggestion that a certain wall is an agricultural terrace. It was great having him.
I have completed my study month at the dig, I hope to visit in the coming two weeks and keep reports and interviews coming to you.

Meet Our Volunteers: Graham Walker, England

Graham Walker

Age 64

Aldershot, Hampshire, England

Profession: Builder, Food Distributor

AZK: What have you been doing in the excavation and how did you get here?

GW: Digging holes in the ground,  moving buckets of earth! This is my first dig. Two years ago I was talking to Ronnie McCracken about his Ramat Rachel excavation experience. He said he was going again now, wanna come? I said I’d love to, and here I am.

AZK: How would you define your experience?

GW: Exhilarating. Hard work, well worth it. It supports Israel, Jews, and involves the bible and history. I looked up all the scriptures before I came.

AZK: What do feel when you are attaching the earth and moving out the layers you do so well?

GW: I feel association with Israel. Digging for history. That is the key. Exciting.  If my wife lets me out, I’ll be here again. I was lucky to be in on the very start of this. It will progress and everyone will see it; I want to see the progress too. It’s a shame I am only here for 2 weeks.

AZK: What have you found?

GW: Well, we’re seeing a wall appear, it seems the first stones on the top. It is built with the slope, a support wall (currently, week 4, we associate it with  the fortress excavated on the top of the hill by Bliss and Macalister). Tomorrow I will move to the next square over to see if I can find the continuation of that wall. There’s a mud brick wall on one side, and a stone wall. Now, today’s pottery came up totally different than before; a thinner finer pottery. I dug only 10 cm. down today and it is a complete change of pottery.

AZK: As a builder do you have a different view in any way?

GW: When I approach how to dig my experience stands me in good stead. Keep it level, that’s the easiest route to dig. Fill in the buckets. pull ’em and stand ’em up, expend the least energy. Tracking the difference in soil levels- I’m used to doing that – filling in land before foundations; making marker posts.

AZK: Have you been here before?

GW: This is my third time to Israel. It is well worth coming. The first time I came, I had a fantastic feeling when being in the land,  in the bible. You can begin walking in areas where Jesus walked.- albeit a lot higher than that historical level….

AZK: What are your thoughts about the experience of excavating at Tel Azekah with this group?

I am sorry to leave and go home. It would be nice to stay longer but I miss the family. I belong to Tongham Christian Fellowship, .a non denominational church started 15 years ago; now with 80 people. I plan to encourage the teenagers of our church to come out – it will do them a lot of good.

I enjoy hearing the bible from Jewish perspective. We have a debt to Jews for keeping the bible intact for us. Those who bless the Jews get blessed, those who curse get cursed. Rome lost its empire, for example.

It is a very precious time to be here.

Week 4 new pics

Sunday starts off with a group tour. Oded is constantly visiting the five areas with Manfred Oeming and Yuval Gadot, CoDirectors, and snapping away at us. He posts them to facebook-

It is going to be a great week !!

Posted by The Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition on Sunday, August 5, 2012

Days 18-19 The World Around Us

“We have achieved 250 percent of what we expected.” “What you have here in Area E- Azekah East- would satisfy me for the end of the season. Here we are with three weeks still to go!” Comments like these by Prof. Oded Lipschits in the past few days give a taste of the way we feel.

I write these words in the dig office surrounded by stamped jug handles, animal bones, weights, coins, and other objects, and an army of Survivor iPads recording the myriad details of the dig: What was in this defined area- locus, what was above, what was below it, around it, what were the special finds in them and at what height were they found so that scholars decades from now will be able to accurately retrace, understand, and argue about conclusions, and find parallels to explain their own dig.

Usually we dig incrementally. In Azekah we also dig excrementally. I do not mean to be crude, but listen:

On top of the tel in Area T, an ancient building was sliced through; a very deep cut that took days to clear out. We thought we finally hit a trench made by Bliss and Macalister 110 years ago, but it did not seem as wide as their descriptions of their work. The archaeologist working with parks visited and explained it was a latrine pit of the Israeli army in the 1960s!

Secondly, last Thursday Haim Semach, an experienced builder, looked around to see where an embarrassing smell came from, and no one claimed responsibility. He began to suspect it was coming from the ground. Not meaning a pun, but it is a double entendre, he told the archaeologist., “I smell something here!” ” Go for it!” In Haim’s language that means full force! Within five minutes an opening appeared. And for three days now Omer’s group in the Lower South terrace has been following what he started- there was refuse in an underground area, around and under big boulders, whose nature is still unclear. Omer has been blessed with some of our heaviest hands on the pickaxe and axe.

I have been doing an area by area review as a record of the dig, and have received comments to keep posts short. Let me know your thoughts.

My post title means that in all the areas walls and even some destruction layer floors have appeared that should permanently change the sights visitors will enjoy and enrich the historical record. This is a wonderfully auspicious beginning.

New volunteers have joined us and Bob Cargill traced 14 languages on site this morning. Watch for that video tomorrow!

Day 17 Archaeology in Word and Image by Sanna Miller

The following poem and photographs are by Area S-2 excavator and University of Iowa student Sanna Miller, who reflected on the Azekah excavation thus far.

Buckets. Photo by Sanna Miller
Buckets. Photo by Sanna Miller
Bucket line. Photo by Sanna Miller
Bucket line. Photo by Sanna Miller
Buckets. Photo by Sanna Miller
Buckets. Photo by Sanna Miller
Daybreak. Photo by Sanna Miller
Daybreak. Photo by Sanna Miller
Hoeing. Photo by Sanna Miller
Hoeing. Photo by Sanna Miller
Roots. Photo by Sanna Miller
Roots. Photo by Sanna Miller
Direction. Photo by Sanna Miller
Direction. Photo by Sanna Miller
Azekah morning. Photo by Sanna Miller
Azekah morning. Photo by Sanna Miller
First light. Photo by Sanna Miller
First light. Photo by Sanna Miller
Square. Photo by Sanna Miller
Square. Photo by Sanna Miller
Buckets. Photo by Sanna Miller
Buckets. Photo by Sanna Miller

Our heavy bodies pull themselves into somewhat standing positions as the sky sings four a.m. We make our way to the coffee to the bus to the site to the day.
Like flotsam rolling in from the sea we trudge from the bottom to the top.
And the sound of squeaking plastic rings all round as shade nets prepare the site for the coming sun.  Equipment shuffles and voices scuffle and as we await the arrival of a light, I close my eyes and gain a sort of satisfaction from this standing sleep.  But a satisfaction like this can only last so long before the voice of Omer caws, ‘Okay friends, it’s time to dig.  Yalla.’
Before descending into my square I look to the sky and see that it has changed from dark to light in a matter of moments. Never will I look to a sky and see the beauty that I see here in these early morning hours. Long before the birds come out to coo, long before the motor cars screech and snort, long before he and she and they and them open their eyes good morning, these hours are ours.
While dawn turns to day a chronological time lapse takes us down deeper and deeper, and while we search for the past, we find a way to treasure the present, to understand the future.
We are staring into a life we never knew.  We are standing in the afterbirth of history and the life it never left.  So we seek.

Sanna Miller
August 3, 2012
Tiberias, Israel

Thanks to Sanna for beautiful reflections in both word and pictures on her time at Azekah!

University of Iowa poet Sanna Miller
University of Iowa poet and photographer, Sanna Miller

Day 16 Revelations

Well, the cumulative effort of weeks is showing. A water cistern or water system was detected in Omer’s section close to closing time and will be explored more tomorrow, and maybe for days. A riddle was solved: Why were there Byzantine coins in mud bricks of what was apparently an Iron Age structure? The mud brick wall washed down and later material got stuck in it. This can be seen in the section- the clear cut of the excavation square side. So the wall is indeed from the biblical period.

A gate in the wall my be visible in Keren’s upper southern section. On the west a series of walls and floor and mud brick walls have been found all over the hillside, and seems to be Iron Age or earlier. On top of the hill more and more finds appear, today including great coins. And in the east, we are opening up more areas as some kind of built system or system are being revealed by painstaking slow work.

Future visitors to Azekah will definitely gain from seeing some of these structures dating between 1500 and 3700 years ago and associating them with the historical events and texts.

We have new volunteers from Heidelberg and other German universities, England, and elsewhere. CoDirector Prof. Manfred Oeming’s presence has started to be felt.

Tomorrow the weekly tour visits Socho who finished their first season today.

On our Facebook and Youtube sites you can see a great video Bob Cargill filmed when a lemelekh MMST jar handle came out of a wall and Omer Sergey took the time to explain it.  Enjoy!

French views on Azekah’s expedition

French views on Azekah’s expedition
“Four French students taking part in the dig? We want your thoughts on how it’s going!”
Well, we attended the first two weeks of the dig, and now that we are back in France, here are our answers… without our French accent and rudeness, but still, with honesty!
First we want to thank everyone for their kindness… We even find our supervisors cute!
Our favorite times in the day were the breakfast and the beer after dinner and the lecture in the evening (the food was great, we are impressed). Digging itself was fun, when the sun was not too hot!
We have mixed feelings about the guest lectures and the mid-week tours: for some of us, it’s too much (the schedule is pretty intense), for others, it’s very interesting to have multiple views on how to excavate, how to do archeological research, how to focus on various aspects of the area, and so on.
Our worse moments? Bringing the tools to the digging areas and back, the sporadic WiFi, the warmth during the last hours of the dig… But those are only details, we actually are very thankful to the staff for their incredible work.
We already are trying to plan to come next season.
Camille, David, Guilhem and Sophie
If you read french, please have a look at our blog,
And our home university is the Institut protestant de théologie, in Paris, “