The top 5 reasons you HAVE to dig in Grid 47:
1) Everything is BIGGER in Grid 47
2) Music Wednesdays and the chance to listen to music genres you've never even heard of before
3) It's only a 30 second stroll to clean bathrooms with toilet paper
4) Breakfast is only a 20 second stroll away
5) The opportunity to work with someone who has been excavating Ashkelon since before you were born
And if those aren't reasons enough, this summer promises to be a busy one in Grid 47. Measuring approximately 40 x 30 meters, and due for further exapansion this summer, Grid 47 has more work to do then mere mortals such as ourselves can finish in one season (can you say job security). Ultimately, the longterm goal is to expose the odeion, restore it and make it available for tourism. We are, and will be next year too, still in the "exposing the odeion" phase which is, frankly, the best part of the job. Our hard work will allow future visitors to see one of the only Roman period theatres in southern Israel.
The Leon Levy Expedition first returned to the city center, and the site of John Garstang's 1920s excavation, during the 2008 field season in order to reinterprete the buildings, variously called Herod's Cloisters, a basilica or a peristyle with an attached bouleterion, previously excavated by Garstang. What we found was that Garstang was largely correct in his general interpretation of the material remains although he was incorrect in some of the specifics. In other words, he got much of the architecture correct, he just didn't understand exactly what he had excavated. We now suspect that there was an Early Roman peristyle with attached bouleterion that was subsequently replaced by an odeion, a small theatre.
We also found that Garstang failed to recognize the contined occupation and use of the odeion in the Byzantine and Islamic periods. The exact nature of Byzantine reuse, whether the building still functioned as a theatre or was in fact repurposed, is as yet unclear. In the Islamic period it is clear the theatre was out of use and probably not recognized as such. What we see is the insertion of new walls inbetween the walls of the cavea as rooms and cisterns were built reusing the earlier odeion walls. This evidence, together with several wells and other features, suggest the area may have been residential in the Islamic period. As of yet there is no additional evidence for the large congregational mosque Garstang believed was built over the earlier Roman structures and which he identified during excavation.
Our goals this season are to excavate the later Islamic and Byzantine period occupation levels in order to fully expose of the odeion. We also plan to dig several probes in order to better understand the full sequence, from the Hellenistic through Roman periods, of the monumental architecture in Grid 47. Finally, if time allows we will turn to the expanded area of the grid. Our hope there is that we will be outside the walls of the odeion and, therefore, able to investigate its exterior as well as what other architecture might be in its vicinity.
We have ambitious goals this season and it promises to be an exciting one. Did I mention we are real close to the park's cafe where popsicles and cold Cokes are plentiful at the end of the day? See you in a few weeks.
Statue recovered during Garstang's excavation.
Soon, the answer to the May 12th WWWW.