Posted by: itellhalif | June 28, 2017

Last Week

This is the last week of our 2017 summer study session.  We are now in the process of putting away the materials, equipment, and supplies in a way that will make it possible for us next summer to pick up were we left and continue our work.

The effort this summer was divided into three parts: Distributing samples to specialists for analysis; conducting some on-site studies; and restoring pottery.  Samples distributed included animal bones, shells, and organic matter.  On-site analyses included lithics, stone and clay figurines (to be continued), and grind stones and tools.  We still need to have samples taken from certain figurines to determine whether they were locally produced.

While restoring pottery we encountered some difficulties, especially when we didn’t have all the pieces.  In these instances, we needed to build wooden contraptions to hold the vessels together until further completion.

See this for example:

Storage jar reconst_0002.JPG

Or this one:

Storage jar reconst_0001.JPG


The largest vessel we partially restored is this holemouth.  We hope more of it is in sealed boxes we did not open this time but will next summer.

Holemouth reconst_0005.JPG

Posted by: itellhalif | June 28, 2017

Last Week

Here we are in our final week of the 2017 summer study season.  We are in the process of cleaning up and putting away the materials, equipment, and supplies.  This summer we worked on three topics: delivering samples for analyses; conducting specific studies; and reconstructing pottery.

Samples distributed for analysis included animal bones, shells, and organic matter.  Studies conducted on site included lithics, stone and clay figurines (to be continued), and ground stones and tools.  Samples for source analysis of clay for the figurines are still to be taken to help find out whether the figurines were locally made.

Pottery reconstruction was done mostly on vessels recovered from the A8 House.  Some of the reconstruction could not be brought to completion because not all pieces were available.  We had to resort to using contraptions for support with the hope that next year we can find the rest of the jars.

Storage jar reconst_0001.JPG

Here is another example:

Storage jar reconst_0002.JPG

The largest, though incomplete, jar we reconstructed is this holemouth storage jar that was used most likely for storage of grain.

Holemouth reconst_0006.JPG

Posted by: itellhalif | June 22, 2017


Because of special requests, I am re-posting some figurine photos of the more interesting ones.

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Head of a priest

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HerculesObj 3793-3.JPG

Bull’s head

Obj 3795-3.JPG


Obj 3816-16 copy.jpg

Pillar Figurine

Obj 3818-2 copy.jpg

Head of Pillar figurine

Obj 3820-7 copy.jpg










Posted by: itellhalif | June 22, 2017


At the end of our third week, we can show some results.

Tim w:jar_0005.JPG

Tim, who is in charge of the pottery reconstruction process, is proudly holding a partially reconstructed four-handled, lmlk-type storage jar.  You can see how intricate the job is, but looking at it from  another (inside) angle you might get more impressed.

Restored storage jar_0006.JPG

There are a few more pieces that belong to this jar; however, the problem is to find the place where they can be attached safely.

One of the vessels presently under reconstruction is a wide-mouth cooking pot.  The difficulty is in the make-up of the vessel that is very brittle and hard to glue together.

Restored cooking pot_0002.JPG

Cynthia is working on it with much patience.


The collection we are working on includes all sorts of domestic vessels.  Here is a bowl held by Timothy while it is drying and waiting for further reconstruction.

Restored bowl_0001.JPG



Posted by: itellhalif | June 20, 2017

The Saga of Pottery Reconstruction

Pottery reconstruction is an important step in processing the excavated finds and preparing them for publication.  Putting the ceramic pieces together gives us an idea of what types of vessels were present at the excavated location; in our case, domestic structures.  These would include store jars, bowls, jugs and juglets.  The nature and number of the vessels can tell us a lot about daily life of the inhabitants.  Since the site was violently destroyed, the vessels were smashed on the floors of the houses; however, when we excavated the houses we knew that pottery reconstruction would be one of the acts we would perform, we collected the sherds in a methodical way that makes it easier to reconstruct them.

When we reached a floor and realized that it was covered with smashed pottery, we laid on it a 50cm x 50cm grid.  Each square was numbered and its pottery was collected into a separate basket.  In the lab, the pottery was unpacked and laid in a way that resembles the relationship of the baskets in the field.

To be reconstructed_0006.JPG

Each sherd is marked with the basket number and is numbered.  This establishes the identity of the sherds.  Now starts the process of putting the puzzle together.  Usually it begins with selecting a diagnostic sherd such as a rim or a bottom and the reconstruction begins.


Sometimes  pieces belonging to the same vessel would be found in different pottery baskets so it is important to maintain the field relationship in the lab.

Not all reconstructions produce the whole vessel, but the important thing is to get enough of the vessel that would give us the profile.

Reconstructed jars_0007.JPG

In the short time we have been here, we managed to reconstruct quite a few vessels.  We have a storage room were the finished ones are awaiting the next step, drawing.  Hopefully we will be able to do it next summer while continuing to reconstruct the broken vessels.

Jars on shelves_0011.JPG



Posted by: itellhalif | June 13, 2017

Continuing to Work

After four days of intensive work our figurine specialists went back to Cyprus to continue their work there.  They will be back at Lahav next summer to continue (and hopefully finish) examining our figurines.

In the meantime, after a brief visit to Jerusalem we are back at Lahav working on reconstructing pottery.  BTW, getting into East Jerusalem on Friday was quite a chore because it is Ramadan and thousands of pilgrims came to pray at the mosques on Temple Mount.  The police blocked so many streets that it was hard to get to where we wanted.

When we left Lahav on Friday, some jars were only at the beginning stage of reconstruction.  Here is an example:


In the few days since we returned, this jar received more attention and progress was made in its reconstruction.



And another jar that was further reconstructed.



The rice in these pictures is not leftover from what our forefathers ate, but a way for us to stabilize the parts we glue together.  The white marks  signify each sherd and contain the identity of each by the license number, basket number, and sherd number.  These assure us that we know when and where each piece was found.

Next will be these pieces some of which belong to a jar and others to a bowl.

To be reconstructed_0003.JPGSo, we are chugging along trying to restore/reconstruct as many vessels as possible.

Posted by: itellhalif | June 9, 2017

First Week

It has been a week since we got here.  First thing we did was to set up a lab with work stations.

Lab View_0015.JPG

Lab Overview

We are doing several things simultaneously: recording, arranging samples for distribution to specialists, restoring pottery, studying figurines.

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Figurines Study

As I indicated yesterday, we have high quality figurines and the amazing thing is that at least three were made in the same mold.  We will test the figurines to find the source of the clay and see if they were locally produced or imported.  Either way, it seems that Tell Halif was an important site in the Hellenistic period.


Pottery Sherds to be Reconstructed

We didn’t waste time and we already have some results in the form of reconstructed vessels and parts of vessels.

Restored Holemouth_0002.JPG

Restored Holemouth Jar

Restored  jug_0001.JPG

Restored Jug

So, here is to a successful first week.  Some of us are about to go to Jerusalem for the weekend.


Posted by: itellhalif | June 8, 2017

Back @the Site

We arrived a few days ago (June 2) to the site and immediately set up our work areas.  This summer we’ll be busy processing the finds from previous seasons in preparation for final publication.  This will take some time, but every long march has to start with the first step.  We contacted the local specialists and arranged for delivering to them the samples (animal bones, shells) they need to examine.  By previous arrangement, we are hosting an expert on Hellenistic figurines, who took some time off from her work in Cyprus and with one of her students came to examine the figurines we discovered in the last six seasons.  According to her, some of the figurines are exquisite in terms of themes, quality of clay and artistic execution.  When her report is ready, we hope to publish it.  Same with the other finds.

We are busily working on pottery restoration and description.  Restoration is slow and tedious, but we are making progress.  Unfortunately, our artist couldn’t join us this summer so the drawing of the pottery and other objects will wait for next summer.

Since the figurines are so exquisite, we believe that Tell Halif in the Hellenistic period had an important role to play.  We are making arrangements to have the source of the clay for these figurines identified.  Were they made on site?  If so, there were very capable artists/artisans living here? Or they were itinerant, but as far as we know some of the theme are exclusive to our site.  Were the figurines made elsewhere and imported to our site?  If so, Halif was important enough to attract importation of figurines.

Many questions to answer and we hope to get a picture of what was going on in the period of the figurine production.

Posted by: itellhalif | July 7, 2016

What is this?

When archaeologists find an object they cannot identify they tend to assign it a cultic function.  During the last few days of our work in the Area A8 house we discovered on the floor a ceramic vessel that has a special form and structure.


The vessel in situ

We cannot explain the function of this vessel and invite you to submit suggestions about its use.  Following are three views of the vessels:




Any ideas?

Posted by: itellhalif | June 30, 2016

After the Dig is Over

When most people think of archaeology they think of the aspect of digging and discovering; they don’t realize that before starting to dig there are a lot of preparations and when the season is over there is much to do concerning the documentation of the work, storage of equipment and supplies, and working on the finds and their analyses in preparation for final publication. The end of the season is like trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube.  It’s a long process and has to be done in a certain order.

We finished digging two days ago and since then were doing exactly what I described above.  A few students remained to participate in this part and they have been working hard.  In addition, the storage place we have been using since the 2007 season was taken away from us so today we transferred the materials to the storage place we have been using since 2014.  Everyone worked hard and we accomplished it in no time.

This afternoon we had some extra time so we went to visit one of the wells that supplied the inhabitants of Tell Halif with water through history .


In Arabic the well is known as Bir Khuweilifeh after the name of our tell (see it in the upper left corner) while in Hebrew it is called Beer Ziklag because for a while biblical scholars identified our tell with this biblical site given to David by his Philistine lord Achish.  During the Crusades the well was known as The Round Cistern and was the site of a famous battle in which Richard the Lion-Heart defeated Saladin’s forces on the morning of June 23, 1192 after a long ride from his base in Latrun.

During WW I, after the capture of Beer Sheva, the British forces (including ANZAC) defeated the Turks at Tell Khuweilifeh and then were in control of the wells; that enabled them to water their horses and continue northward to Jerusalem.


During the time of the British Mandate the government protected the well and its users with a concrete cover.  Kibbutz Lahav, that was founded in August 1952 on the southern slope of the tell (see the tell in the upper right corner) used the well in the early days before and in place of other systems.

So, we are almost done with packing and tomorrow night the four remaining students will start their long trip home.  It was an exceptional season and now we are going to begin the long process of analysis.

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