So now its time to talk a little more about where exactly we'll be digging. The site is quite large, approximately 150 acres or so. In our almost 30 years of excavation we have excavated only the smallest portion of the site in part because our research design requires depth in our excavation areas and because, as archaeologists, we want to leave research material for future generations that might approach the site with different questions, methodologies and technologies. We still have a lot to learn, however, about our ongoing excavation areas as well as several new ones that we'll be digging this summer.
First up, Grid 51. Located on the South Tell, Grid 51 was first opened in 1997. It is currently, and has been for some time, under the leadership of Kate Birney. Under her direction, excavation has revealed a complete sequence from the Islamic/Crusader period down into the Persian period. Looming large this year is Nebuchadnezzar's destruction of Ashkelon in 604 B.C. In fact, this year for the first time in several years, Grid 51 will have all its squares open. It should be a very exciting year.
Next, the new grid on the North Tell. This is an exciting new project that will be under the direction of Josh Walton. He will be digging a step trench in an attempt to uncover a complete Islamic/Crusader through Bronze Age sequence on the North Tell, something we've never been able to do before. I asked Josh for more information on what he plans to do this summer and here is what he told me:
"A few thoughts on the North Tell: I hope that this step trench will prove interesting for a number of ongoing projects at the site including both the later and early history of the site, although this year we will probably be primarily excavating later levels. The majority of excavation so far at the site has taken place on the South Tell (Grids 38,50 and 51) and outside of the site on the North Tell (Grid 2). The North Tell itself is underexplored, with the primary data coming from Grid 23, which had some nice remains from the hellenistic and later periods, as well as traces of EB pottery. The hope is to get a better understanding of the settlement on the north tell, to fill in some gaps in our understanding of the site. Because we are digging at the edge of the crusader moat we may get some material relating to its construction. For the Islamic and Hellenistic periods any architecture we find can hopefully be linked up with the finds from Grid 23 to help with our understanding of site planning and layout. Since this would have been on the acropolis of the north tell there is also the chance that we find some substantial later period architecture, which is always exciting. In future seasons the hope is to find some remains from the Bronze and Iron Ages, including architecture from the earliest settlement on the site from the Early Bronze Age. But as of this moment the only MB finds we have are from the gate area, and no architecture from within the city to go with it. Any domestic structures from the MB would be very interesting and obviously quite significant. The same is true for the Iron Age, where we know the rampart was refortified and towers were constructed in the Iron IIA, but very little has been found within the site. By excavating here the hope is to add to our knowledge of settlement across the site by getting a complete section of the occupation levels of the North Tell."
A special project will be led by Denys Pringle and Hannah Buckingham in the area of the medieval ramparts. Their work will focus on trying to elucidate the sequence of the fortification system. This project is part of a thorough survey and reassessment of the fortifications, some of the most visible and impressive archaeological remains on site.
Ongoing research and publication projects and several other small projects figure into the mix as well for what promises to be another very busy summer in Ashkelon.