This week I joined the archaeological excavation at Tel Burna. I joined in the middle of the dig season because it overlapped with the Shiloh excavation.
Tel Burna is in the Judea foothills south of Jerusalem. It seems to have been a large city in the Late Bronze Age. Later, in the Iron Age II, it was re-inhabited as a smaller city. There are several phases of occupation in the Iron Age II, and there is at least one destruction layer, but probably two. Tel Burna is associated with the biblical city of Libnah.
This season, the Tel Burna team is excavating in five areas at the site. Two teams are excavating the Iron Age II city wall on opposite sides of the site. One team is excavating the city gate from that same period. Two teams are excavating outside the Iron Age II city in areas that were only occupied in the Late Bronze Age.
I joined the team excavating in Area D, which is one of the Late Bronze Age areas. I was excited for the chance to excavate Late Bronze Age material, since I am particularly interested in that period.
There are three and a half squares open in Area D, and I was assigned to one of them for most of the week. It is a shallow square, since bedrock, which marks the bottom of the excavation area, is only a couple of feet below the surface. Someone had already started excavating the square and had gotten down to a layer with a lot of pottery sherds. I worked slowly and carefully to uncover the sherds. They were lying flat, which means that they probably fell on a floor and lay there rather than washing into the area over time. Once I had uncovered the entire surface area and removed the pottery, I moved on and discovered bedrock almost immediately below the floor level.
The square did not have any architecture in it other than a wall running the entire length of the square at its very edge. I did find a ring of stones on the floor. It is hard to tell what its purpose was. Maybe it was a fireplace or a storage pit. I removed the soil from inside it and saved it for flotation.
The Tel Burna team has a nice double-tank flotation system. The purpose of flotation is to find seeds and other organic material in the soil. When the soil is mixed with water the organic material floats to the surface, where the team can skim it off and save it. They also save the material that does not float. They let it dry, and then they carefully look through it in order to find small seeds, bones, and other items.
Sometimes, they also find small objects. For example, one of the girls who was doing flotation told me that she had found a small bead in one of the batches of flotation. In this way, flotation at Tel Burna is similar to wet sifting at Shiloh. Since they do not do wet sifting at Tel Burna, flotation helps them find some of the small items that they would have otherwise missed.
Today I moved to the square next to the one in which I had been working all week. I was surprised at how different it seemed despite being in such close proximity. Instead of a layer of pottery, there were lots of small stones in the soil.
After the dig ended today, I drove back to my apartment in Ariel, where I will spend the weekend before heading back for another week at Tel Burna.