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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Excavating Tel Kabri: The Aegean Connection

Did the Minoans walk the ancient land of Canaan? No one can say with certainty, but new evidence is emerging that further supports the possibility. Directors Eric Cline of the George Washington University and Assaf Yasur-Landau of Haifa University, will be leading an excavation this summer that will shed new light on this, and many other questions about the ancient inhabitants who once occupied the site of Tel Kabri.

Located in the western Galilee region of modern Israel, Tel Kabri was the center of a Canaanite polity during the Middle Bronze Age. Excavations conducted by Aharon Kempinski and Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier from 1986-1993 revealed the remains of a palace dating to the Middle Bronze period (ca. 2000-1550 BCE). Tel Kabri has now been revealed to be a large site (more than 200,000 sq. m.) with a continuum of strata from the Neolithic Period to the Iron Age. Most significant are the Middle Bronze Age remains, which include massive fortifications, residential architecture and tombs, and a large palace, as well as an Iron Age fortress with imported Greek pottery and additional evidence for the presence of Greek mercenary soldiers which was partially excavated at the highest part of the Tel.

A rare discovery was made within the palace at Tel Kabri: a floor and walls decorated with paintings done in Aegean style. The painted floor was found within a ceremonial room and was decorated with floral and marbled motifs. The thousands of fragments from one or more wall frescoes included boats, griffin wings, and houses that bore much resemblance to the miniature frescoes found on the Greek island of Santorini. Kabri is one of only four sites in the Eastern Mediterranean to have such Bronze Age Aegean-style paintings and may well be the earliest. Such evidence for artistic connections between the Aegean culture of ancient Crete and the Cyclades with the Canaanites and other inhabitants of the ancient Near East is unique in Israel. It is also very rare elsewhere, existing outside the Aegean only in Egypt at Tel el-Dab’a, the capitol of the Hyksos, and at the sites of Alalakh and Qatna in Syria.

The 2011 Season

The 2011 season will focus on continued excavation of the palace, with the goal of investigating its life cycle, from its humble beginnings to its destruction three centuries later.

Directors Cline and Yasur-Landau are now calling for students and volunteers to help continue the discovery process this summer. If you are interested in being a part of this cutting edge research, go to digkabri.wordpress.com for more information. It may well be an experience you will never forget.

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