I have seen Grid 51 and can report that it does exist. I don't yet have proof but I have been promised some which should arrive in the not to distant future. I do know that they are hard at work excavating Islamic period robber trenches -- which consistently produce some of the best Islamic period ceramics on site -- as well as earlier Roman and/or Byzantine period architecture. Just this past week they uncovered a fabulous basin with mosaic flooring which has led to all sorts of interesting questions.
Our dig photographer assures me she has over 300 photos of Grid 51 and will be sending some of them my way soon. I may even enlist a volunteer from the Grid to write about some of their work -- just to make things a little more interesting. As always, stay tuned.
Meanwhile, back in Grid 47 we can't seem to stick a pick in the ground without uncovering some more of the later Islamic period reuse of the odeon. It all started when Adam came to dig with us for a day...
Adam joined volunteers in Ryan's square working in the area of a mosaic floor that had been cut and damaged by later activity. We originally thought the cut might have been made by a robber's trench. In other words, by people looking for rocks to use in the construction of new buildings. Turns out, that wasn't the case at all. It wasn't too far into the day before Adam and the volunteers believed they had uncovered a well.
It was a good theory.
And it took us another day or two to determine it was an incorrect theory.
Here you can see Josh standing in the "well" which cut through and damaged the earlier mosaic floor. We discovered, as it turns out, as we got deeper down and the pottery we collected from within the pit started looking a little yellowish and a little greenish that it wasn't a well. The pit was, in all liklihood, a sump or catch basin or some such construction associated with waste collection and/or storage. And it was a big one. In this picture Josh's head still sticks up above the upper courses of stone. He has dug further down since then and found some interesting objects in the process: glass, bone, pottery (including an almost complete juglet) and a mysterious, very cool object that we have not yet identified (how is that for a tease?).
Josh's pit is not the only construction we can associate with waste management in the grid. And, as it turns out, it isn't the only "treasure" pit either.
Just south of Josh's pit, and you can even see Josh in the upper left corner of this photo, is another sump that was excavated by Scott. This sump was actually discovered last season -- as all such things do it sits directly on top of the line separating two squares -- and partially excavated. Scott completed the job last week and in the process collected a large amount of pottery including many pieces of Islamic period glazed wares.
There is more...
When we expanded the grid prior to the start of the season we exposed more of the second and third walls of the odeon's seating area. While cleaning the area up we discovered an installation built in between the two walls. The interior of the stones looked like they had been burned and there were smalls bit of charcoal leading us to believe that we had uncovered some type of installation used for burning. We put Steve to work expecting him to clean it out quickly so that we could move on to the next project. The dirt doesn't always cooperate, however, and our "quick" little project turned into something else. As it started going deeper and we started pulling up the type of conglomerates that are often found coating the sides of drains we realized that we were dealing with another sump, catch basin or similar type of construction. And then came the yellowish and greenish pottery and there could be no doubt, more waste management.
As with the other two pits, this one was full of things to find: restorable jublets, an almost intact juglect you see Steve holding, carved bone, coins, a bead, glass and lots of fish bone. What came out of this drainage shaft was not the most interesting thing about it though. While going down, and he hasn't reached the bottom yet, Steve found a gap between two stones. What is behind that gap is the most interesting thing about Steve's pit and I'll write more about it just as soon as I have some photos...
Lest you think "potty pits" are all we dig in Grid 47, I can happily confirm that is not the case. Right now we are dating all of these constructions to the later Islamic period reuse of the area of the odeon. Along with these waste management system elements, we also have one for water. It too is a fabulous construction which you can see below.
The cistern is the thing that looks like a spaceship that crashed into the dirt towards the left side of the picture.
And while we work to uncover and interpret the late period material overlaying the odeon, we are still working to identify key elements of the odeon and map its full limits.
Check back and check often. Coming soon, what is behind the rocks in Steve's pit? What does Grid 51 look like, who works there and what are they finding? And we'll check back in with Grid 38 which is also finding some very interesting material.
It's a busy season at Ashkelon and we're having lots of fun!