The object shown in the most recent "What, Where, When," is a Fatimid imperial inscription over which a Crusader knight carved his shields. The inscription was found, broken into many pieces, at the bottom of a section of stone talis located just to the west of the main park entrance. The inscription was carved into what excavators suspect was originally a marble tabletop, measuring approximately 1.49 x .63 x .10 m, from the Roman period. The 22 line inscription commemorates the construction of a fortification tower by the local Fatimid governor on the orders of the Grand Vizier in Cairo and even includes the date of the work, 1150 CE.
Just three years later Ascalon would fall to the Crusaders for the first of three times. What happened to the marble slab and the Fatimid inscription after that is unclear until it fell into the hands of a knight named Sir Hugh Wake who went on crusade with Richard earl Cornwall in the mid-13th century. Richard is believed to have built a fortress in Ascalon in the 1240s and it was at that time that Sir Hugh Wake carved his emblem over the earlier Fatimid inscription. The three large shields belong to Sir Hugh Wake, the smaller shields belong to a less important knight accompanying him.
The importance of Sir Hugh Wake's shields on this marble slab cannot be overestimated as to date they are the only direct proof for Crusader occupation in Ascalon in the 13th century. This in spite of the fact that sources record Ascalon was occupied until 1270 CE when it was finally destroyed once and for all by the Mamluks.
For some of us departure to Ascalon and the 2010 field season is only two months away. For the remainder, departure isn't too far behind that so it is a good time to start thinking about the season and our research goals. The longest continually excavated area (including a hiatus of a few years) is Grid 38 which is centrally located near the city center of ancient Ascalon. This summer Grid 38 will be supervised by Joshua Walton, a graduate student at Harvard University. I asked Josh what his goals were for this season and this is what he told me,
"This year in 38 we have three areas of focus. In [square] 74 we will be trying to further understand the LB levels, particularly the domestic structure that was partially uncovered in 2008, and trying to get a better idea of the LB sequence there. In [square] 84 we will be trying to find any evidence for the MB occupation of the site, which was hinted at by the ceramics in some of the deeper probes in 2008, hopefully we will be able to uncover some accompaying architecture. In [square] 85 we will be finishing the excavation of the Iron 2 fills, and hopefully reach the phase 17 and 18 philistine levels, which we will be attempting to connect to the last few years of excavation in [square] 75 to gain a better picture of the philistine domestic structure on the east side of the street. In this area we will also be working with the Weisman institute of archaeological science to try and employ some of their techniques for understanding the philsitine occupation."
In addition to working in Grid 38 Josh will continue to lead the Persian period pottery project. Work began on this project last summer when staff and volunteers processed several industrial sized containers worth of Persian pottery that had been in storage for, well, seemingly forever. More than one scholar has tried to tackle the Persian period pottery project and failed but this time it looks like things are well on their way. After last year's progress this summer Josh tells me the plan is to work on identifying phases, marking the pottery and, if all goes well, to start a general typology.
Josh will also be involved in a pre-season project which will refine pottery readings for some of the earliest Philistine floor assemblages.
That is just one of the excavation areas and some of the projects that we'll be working on this summer. Stay tuned to learn more about what we'll be working on this summer.
Now, "What, Where, When?" This time it's a little different. Where was this picture taken and what does it show? (The photo quality is terrible but you should be able to get the idea.)
Remember, there is still time to apply for our summer field season.