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Archaeological Impressions: Week 4

Kent V. Bramlett

Kent V. Bramlett, Chief Archaeologist Jillian Logee, Photographer

This week each excavation field has made significant progress toward their objectives. We are glad for this because already we realize we have to gauge our expectations against the limited time remaining. It seems like we just began, but now we have only one more full week left.

Field A team of participants including visiting Larry Geraty Stamped jar handle with cartouche of Pharaoh Thutmose IIIField A is excavating the burned mud-brick and other destruction debris to reveal the fourth house in the village from 1200 BC. Craig Tyson and Murray Brandstater succeeded in reaching the floor of their section against the western perimeter wall. It was an area partly obscured by a balk from the previous season. Meanwhile, most of the other team members worked on the big dig in the destruction layer below where the Iron IIB house formerly stood. Right at the top of the destruction debris, Stephanie’s team found a jar handle stamped with what appears to be the cartouche of Thutmose III. A careful cleaning of the artifact has allowed us to confirm this reading. This interesting find is the second such stamp from ‘Umayri. The other one was published in the second volume of MPP by Egyptologist, Donald Redford. A similar stamped jar handle was also Emerging north wall of Building D from 1200 BCfound during excavations at Sahab to the east of Umayri. While scarabs and stamps of powerful Pharaohs occasionally turn up in Levantine contexts long after their reigns (Thutmose III reigned 250 years before the ‘Umayri Iron I village), the continued curation, copying, and use of the seals as talismans or symbols of authority indicate a degree of continued interaction with Egyptian power in the Levant. Sashiere, Vera, Audrey, Tevin, and Murray, continued each day to excavate hundreds of baskets of burned mud-brick and collapsed wall stones from Building D. By week’s end, they discovered the tops of walls dividing the interior space into different areas. However, not enough is uncovered to really understand all that is going on; next week they expect to reach the floor. Additionally, Nicole Lalonde from Field H joined with Cassandra Huson and began excavating the north balk which is just beginning to reveal the interior face of the building’s north wall.

Field H team at work Larry Murrin and Carolyn excavating the broad room in Field HIt was a seminal week for Field H. With the completed tracing of bits and pieces of the west floor of the Iron I house, work moved to clearing the broad room at the south of the building. New questions arose with the discovery of very thin walls subdividing that area into something akin to a small animal pen, only, we all agree, it would be knocked over by any animals, so perhaps the area served in some storage capacity. Two probes were opened against opposite corners of the largest walls of the building. This is something we have been wanting to do, to test our theory that the largest walls may be reused from an earlier, possibly Bronze Flimsy walls in broad room in Field HBeginning of probe in NE corner of building in Field HAge, building. On Friday, the probes laid that theory to rest. All four main walls are founded at floor level with scarcely any foundation. It is clear the building was constructed as a unit: walls, floors, and interior divisions. But this is how archaeology works. We have theories, and we try to disprove them until we find the most solid interpretive model that withstands all the evidence. 

Beginning of probe in SW corner of building in Field H

Burned mudbrick in probe in NE corner of building in Field H But the probes showed more exciting things. Below the building floor was another floor which is associated with a wall unrelated to the building. This must be a slightly earlier stratum. And just beneath that layer is a thick layer of very burned mud-brick identical to the great destruction found in Fields A and B from the village of 1200 BC. This confirms that the Field H house is a bit later in the Iron I period, and also indicates that the earlier village was extensively destroyed across a wide area, perhaps a total destruction of the entire town.

Part of Field L team at workField L large storage jars emergingSurprises were in store for Field L. Having removed the last of the Hellenistic farmstead walls and obtained an integrated perspective of the late Iron II/Persian period walls, Field L concentrated on three probes to test the date of the megalithic stone construction as well as a wall tentatively dated to the Iron I in 2008. This seemed a straightforward process until Erin Matthews and Leon Kent along with help from Deirdre Hackleman discovered the tops of two large storage jars in situ. Interestingly, one is a hole-mouth style that dates in the late Iron II/Persian, and the other is our typical Hellenistic style. Large storage jars can be used for generations before they break. It is possible that we have a late Persian dwelling that overlaps some traditional Iron Age and Hellenistic forms. A complete oil lamp found near the jars also suggests this late Persian transitional period. Meanwhile, the megalithic stones are still going down and we don’t know if they date to this period, or earlier. Next week we should have the answers!

Bottom of Field L lamp

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