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.

Posted by: itellhalif | June 28, 2016

Out of the Field

Every good thing comes to an end.  We are out of the field.  We know that there are many more things to be found and questions to be answered, but we had to make a decision not to get involved in situations we cannot complete before departure.  So, here are the last shots of the loom weights we discovered yesterday as we were ready to call it quits.



We recovered all of these loom weights and many more that were in somewhat higher levels.  Not to worry, we documented them all.  We took out the mortar because we worried that someone else might fancy it.  However, we still don’t know how deep goes the pillar next to the mortar.


Another view of the loom weights.

We completed drawing the sections, top plans, and collected the tools and equipment to be stored.  The final few days will be devoted to making sure we leave everything in order for future work.

Posted by: itellhalif | June 27, 2016


This little room (and it’s only a part of it) produced a large collection of materials.


See for yourselves and look at what we got.


There are two dipper juglets, an oil lamp, loom weights,a pounder, jars, and a bone spatula used in weaving.

However, the biggest surprise turned up this morning.  The area between the two pillars with the mortar on its floor was ready for photography.


The area was cleaned and…


the plan was that as soon as photography took place the destruction debris overlaying it would be removed and we would be done with this area.



as this working photograph shows, rows of loom weights started popping up and we ended up getting the area ready for photography tomorrow morning.  Then, the systematic removal of the loom weights will begin as we will number, measure, and wrap in foil each loom weight to be examined later by an expert.  We hope that this information, together with plotting the exact location of each weight, will enable the determination of what kind of cloth was woven here.

Posted by: itellhalif | June 26, 2016

Final Photos

We planned to take final photos this morning, but it’s not the finale.  As you can see from the photo below, we were fogged in and had to wait quite a while for the fog to lift off enough for us to take pictures.



We took aerial photos of the excavated areas and close up photos of certain features.  But the finds keep coming and we cannot leave them behind, so we are making a push to get as much as we can out of our Pillared House before ending the season.


Here is a good view of Area A7.  Left of the meter stick is an pit which today yielded pieces of metal.  So much work is still left to be done with this pit, which possibly contains remains of metallurgical activities.


Area A8 is full of surprises.  The probe between the pillars produced elements of several floors with pottery and loom weights sandwiched in between.  The so-called mortar (can be seen above the two large stones above the meter stick) could be a base for a warp-weighted loom.  (for details see photo below.)

The room in the bottom left located in Area A9 has on its floor much pottery including two dipper juglets, storage jar, and an oil lamp.  Tomorrow after photographing it in situ we’ll collect all of this.


The so-called mortar in Area A8.


On the whole, this season in Field V was incredible because we succeeded to accomplish our goal of joining Fields IV and V and uncovering the pillared house these two fields share.  While there is still some work to be done during the rest of the week, and although we might not recover every bit of information related to this house, we are satisfied in what we managed to accomplish.


So, here is Field V North with its neighbor Field IV South.

Posted by: itellhalif | June 24, 2016

End of Week 4

Hard to believe but we are getting to the end of week 4.  As I promised yesterday, we removed the bin and found below a typical Iron Age II cooking pot lying in a context of ash that was probably the result of the open fire in which it was used.


We continued to explore the area between the two pillars in the same house.


In the lower left corner of the cut it is possible to discern a mortar only half of which is visible in this photo.  It is surrounded by loom weights some of which are complete.  Since this assembledge belongs to an earlier phase of occupation in this house the question is what was the reason for covering it and creating a new floor.


Further down (west) we are uncovering another room (see lower right) where much whole pottery, including two dipper juglets, was uncovered.  We plan on photographing it on Sunday.

So, in the meantime, have a good weekend.

Posted by: itellhalif | June 23, 2016

Going Down

“Going down” is the motto of every excavation and we are not different.

Look at the bin in this picture.  It is gone.  And underneath lies a floor with a smashed cooking pot and other ceramics.  You’ll see it tomorrow.


While the bin is gone, the probe on the right between the upright pillar (top) and the large stone (middle), which might be a pillar base, is yielding remains suggesting that another floor lies below.  This one would date to a somewhat earlier time in the 8th century BCE.


Evidence from the adjacent area (A7) suggests that pottery making might have taken place there.  We found large amounts of processed clay, parts of ovens, and much ash all of which can be related to pottery making.

Upon the news, the group jumped from joy.


Posted by: itellhalif | June 22, 2016

Getting to the Bottom of Things

One of the interesting things we encountered in our work this summer is the pillar featured in this photo.


This pillar is buried on all sides by a series of floors, one of which is cobbled and can be seen here. The cobbled floor and the surrounding area produced large numbers of tanur fragments suggesting that cooking and baking took place in this area that appears to have been outside the house.  One of the floors had a hearth in it (see earlier note, June 16) and when investigated it was found to have contained a bowl placed on a few stones.  Below is a close up.


We are still trying to determine the foundation level of the pillar.

However, in the meantime the neighboring square yielded a very interesting vessel that was discovered lying on the floor of the house destroyed at the end of the 8th century BCE.


Here it is in context in front of the meter stick.


Here is a close up.


Tomorrow morning we will photograph the round bin, which is later than the destruction level, and then remove it to see if the cobbled surface between the grinding installation (bottom left) and the bin continues under the stone fill we have been clearing.

Posted by: itellhalif | June 21, 2016

We Are Working

The morning starts like this.  Nice and calm.


Beautiful sunrise every morning, sometimes it’s foggy or cloudy and sometimes clear and warm and then we know that it’s going to be a hot day.  We get organized for  work quickly; assignments are made and people take their positions right away.  We set up the transit, our elevation measuring instrument, and get busy.  If we have to take close up photos we wait until we have the appropriate light; otherwise we get the drone ready and take some pictures showing what was accomplished the day before.



It is becoming clear that the cobbles above the grinding installation and left of the leaning pillar belong to a surface;the question is whether the circular feature above the cobbled surface is intentional or of our creation.  We are checking it.  In the meantime we verified that the wall on the left has courses from the floor up, and that the wall on the right continued further down.  We are doing the same with the wall on the left and the circular installation in-between.


In the area next to the upright pillar, here at the bottom of the photo, where the hearth was discovered (see earlier notes), we found an interesting feature which we cannot explain (yet!).  Below the surface of the hearth we found a bowl placed on a base made of a couple of stones and surrounded by mud brick.  This lies almost at the founding level of the pillar, which we haven’t reached yet.  It was covered by a series of floors and is adjacent to a cobbled surface the extent of which we don’t know yet.

Tomorrow morning we will photograph this feature, remove it and see what we can learn from the remains below.

Posted by: itellhalif | June 20, 2016

Week 4

Back from the trip over the long weekend, everyone got back to work with gusto.  There are too many things still needing clarification.  This morning we took another series of drone photos and the one below contains most of the elements we are investigating.


Let’s start from the top.The square stone in the middle is the top of a pillar we are trying to find out the depth of its foundations.  As of now, it appears that it was used in more than one phase of occupation of the house.  The stones above it to its right seem to form some kind of a pavement which we are trying to identify its limits.  The dark circle on the upper left of this pillar seems to be the remains of a hearth we discussed earlier.

In the middle of the photo there is another pillar, which is leaning.  BTW, that’s why we refer to this type of house as “Pillar House.”  To its left we removed a series of floors, and a late wall (possibly from the Roman period), all of which were built on a destruction layer from the late 8th century BCE.  We removed most of the destruction layer that contained a “yuge” amount of restorable ceramics (storage and wholemouth jars, bowls, kraters, jugs, cooking pots, etc.).  We are exposing the installation surrounding the large grinding stone with a wholemouth jar still standing next to it.

Another circular installation is being exposed further down at the edge of the digging area (square) and we are trying to expose the rest of the wall running up-down on the right side of the photo.

Yes, the photo tomorrow will show that we made some progress.  Tune it.

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