• Name: Paul McLerran
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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

In the Field: Bethsaida Week One

Throughout the coming summer months, I will post weekly or periodic progress/activity updates for several digs in diverse parts of the world as they unfold during their summer 2005 seasons. It is hoped that the continuing updates will afford readers (especially those who are not able to participate in digs at this time) a taste (albeit "virtual") of what it is like to be on a dig, and also a chance to share in the excitement of discovery as it occurs in the field.......so watch for the postings entitled "In the Field" for the latest activities, large and small, before they hit the press!

Soon to be posted at the Bethsaida website, here is the most recent report from a key Bethsaida Excavations Project volunteer. Bethsaida, the famous ancient fishing town near the Sea of Galilee in present day Israel, was frequented by Jesus during His ministry. It was mentioned often in the Bible's New Testament account, and has been under archaeological excavation for a number of years. It has yielded numerous important finds bearing on the ancient Geshurite Kingdom of the time of David and Solomon and, of course, the town that Jesus and the apostles knew:

Wow, the '05 season opened on May 23rd. Rami Arav (Excavations Director) & Elizabeth McNamer brought groups from their respective schools and additional volunteers joined from other parts of the USA. The first main objective was to further our knowledge of the Hellenistic and Roman periods. It is hoped to do this by exposing the northern section of the upper area just across from the "clinic house". Another objective is to continue expanding (after 9 years) the area of the beautiful iron age main gate of the city. This will be accomplished by digging in the gate chamber 2 through different strata. By doing this we hope to see what the inner city gate looked like in earlier times. We'll dig the ancient city wall east of the city gate to get down to the bedrock of the ancient city that was destroyed in 732 BCE. We'll also extend the cobblestone street that approaches the city gate from the north. The street was excavated during the period of 2000 through 2001 when the rubble (with very large basalt boulders from the toppled 25 foot thick city wall) was cleared off of the beautiful cobblestone street and was walked upon for the first time in thousands of years! Ground penetrating radar has shown that the street continues northward about another 50 meters, so it appears that we have another couple of years of work just in this area. Come and join us to share in the adventure !

Sunday evening orientation and introductions were conducted at the main room at the dormitory of the Ginosar Inn. Monday morning we drove out to the site which is about 10 miles (17 kilometers) north of kibbutz Ginosar. Rami explained about the site and the rest of the morning was spent cleaning up the area and setting up the shade awnings, sifters and the pottery washing area. During the course of the week the outer city wall next to the bastion to the east of the main city gate was uncovered. We continue to look for the bedrock base of the most ancient iron age walls of the city. Good progress was made taking off the top layer of dirt from the continuation of the cobblestone street leading to the city from the north. The top layer of dirt was also removed from the northern section of the upper area ("C").

Two coins were found; one apparently medieval and the second probably Roman. The "find of the week" was a beautiful bead that was discovered while sifting dirt. This illustrates how important every aspect of the work is, from digging out the dirt and rocks and putting all interesting items into the "find" bucket to sifting the dirt and lastly washing all the items in the "find" bucket. What is missed during the 1st stage can often be picked up during the sifting or washing.


---- Shai Schwartz

See the Bethsaida website for more information about the Bethsaida Excavations Project.

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