The answer to the last "What, Where, When?" is that the picture was taken standing on top of the remains of an unexcavated church located on the South Tel. The view is looking to the southeast towards what may very well have been the intersection of the city's main north-south road with its southernmost east-west road. The stones at the very bottom of the picture are from one of the church's apses.
This summer we return to Ascalon's city center and a building first discovered by John Garstang in the early 20th century. The building he found was a long rectangle roughly oriented north-south with an apse on its southern end. Garstang believed he had uncovered the city's main basilica with, perhaps, a senate hall or some other type of attached structure. In 2008 we decided to return to the basilica to test the accuracy of Garstang's work and to further expose and examine the monumental structure he unearthed.
Over the course of two seasons of excavation we found that Garstang's work was generally very accurate. What we also found forced a major reinterpretation of the building. It now seems clear that the apse at the southern end of the building is in fact an odeon, a small Roman theatre. What does that mean for the remainder of the building? Is it a basilica? Are we actually looking at one single structure or are we in fact looking at several? How does the odeon fit into the urban plan of Ascalon?
We hope to answer these questions and more as we expand Grid 47 to the east and the south. Moving east is particularly important because we believe it will be an area undisturbed by Garstang's earlier work and, therefore, an opportunity to better understand the occupational sequence in the city center.
In addition to Grids 38 and Grid 47, which I will be supervising, there is one more area that will be excavated. Grid 51 is situated on top of the South Tel near the Mediterranean Sea and was originally opened as an excavation area in order to determine to full extent of the ancient city. In other words, we wanted to know whether or not the area of Grid 51 was inside or outside the city wall. This season work will continue and be expanded under the direction of Dr. Kate Birney with the goal of reaching the 604 BCE destruction of the city.
Three excavation areas, three different periods of the site's occupational sequence, three sets of questions and a world of archaeological exploration. This season promises to greatly expand our understanding of some key aspects of Ascalon's past. It will almost certainly be fun and tiring and fun and exhausting and fun. To those of you joining us, welcome. To those of you thinking about next year, keep an eye on the blog for regular updates. And for those of you just curious about an archaeological excavation and what we do, enjoy.
See you there! One week and counting.
Now, "What, Where, When?"