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The Tel Burna Archaeology Project has been widely covered in scholarly articles and mass media sources. This archeological site is located in the Shephelah region, and the project is directed by Itzhaq Shai under the sponsorship of The Institute of Archaeology, Ariel University. The first expeditions began in 2009. It should be noted that Tel Burna is a unique project since it provides the general public an opportunity to participate in different stages of excavation. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the importance of the Tel Burna site, the methodology employed by the archeologists, and the contributions made by the project.
Description and Importance
Tel Burna is a site that has already been researched by many scientists; these studies have had theoretical significance. The team of archeologists intends to either prove or invalidate the hypothesis made during previous investigations. The excavation, under the supervision of Itzhaq Shai, is being carried out near the historical place called Nahal Guvrin (Shai & Uziel, 2016). This area is related to the contemporary Qiryat Gat. The site has a flat-topped shape, which conveniently allows the research team to use various excavation tools to study the area. Nevertheless, its extensive size implies that more time will be needed to research distant parts of the location.
The overall purpose of the Tel Burna Archaeology Project is to determine the sequence of settlement history in this region. The team hopes to find elements of daily life such as utensils and other common tools used by people residing in this territory. Also, the findings can provide new insights into the habits, way of life, and customs of this population (Shai & Uziel, 2016). The importance of the project lies in the fact that it will provide the scientific community with evidence to support their assumptions about this location and the people inhabiting it. Another aim of the project is to engage the general community in investigating the cultural and historical heritage of the region, boosting their feelings of self-identity.
The project also has an important cultural and religious meaning. It has been assumed that the site can be referred to as one of the Kohanic cities. The project intends to find further proof that this location is described in biblical texts (Shai & Uziel, 2016). The goal is to validate that the fortification found in the area was once the town called Libnah.
Historical Background of the Culture
The Tel Burna site is believed to have a long history dating back to the Bronze and Iron Ages, serving as a frontier between two areas, the kingdoms of Judah and Philistia (“About Tel Burna,” n.d.). Many researchers suppose that this site belongs to the Judean culture; therefore, the place researched by the team will be referred to as a Judean stronghold if excavations can prove this assumption (Shai & Uziel, 2016). Apart from its political significance, the location served as a bread basket as well. Tel Burna was once a fertile spot, and the site was used for agricultural purposes. It is believed that agricultural products gathered from this place were spread across the entire southern region.
Importantly, this area has already been researched, and other archaeologists have hypothesized that the fortifications and other buildings could date back to Iron Age II. As mentioned above, the purpose of the Tel Burna Agriculture Project is to either prove or invalidate the hypothesis that this place was Libnah (“About Tel Burna,” n.d.). According to the Bible, Libnah was a city of high importance; thus, if the project provides evidence that this assumption is true, the site will contribute greatly to the local and regional cultural and religious heritage. Experts in the field have assumed that Tel Burna could be related to the cities described in biblical writings since previous excavations have shown that these constructions belonged, as mentioned, to the Iron Age (Shai & Uziel, 2016). Thus, the project aims to find the range of settlements and determine the dates when they were made. Also, the archaeology project will assist greatly in building the sequence of human activity in that area.
It is worth noting that the methodology used by the team is unique in that the general public has been invited to engage in research and excavation. Since the site is extensive in size, it has been divided into three main areas (A1, A2, B), each of which is being excavated in several stages. Overall, five seasons will be devoted to the investigation of the location. A1 is the upper part of Tel Burna, and the excavations are proceeding along its eastern slopes. A2 is the central part of the site, where the stronghold is located (“About Tel Burna,” n.d.). The dimensions of this area are 70 meters x 70 meters. Area B is located to the east of the fortress, where the team is investigating the buildings, as well as other related surfaces, to find as much evidence as possible. The researchers are also searching for various artifacts that can be found inside the stronghold, for instance, “chalices, goblets, cup, and saucer vessels, zoomorphic vessels and ceramic masks” (Shai & Uziel, 2016, p. 59). Notably, the team has already found multiple well-preserved remains.
According to the article by Shai and Uziel (2016), it was decided to engage the surrounding community in investigations since many artifacts can be easily found in the vicinity of Tel Burna. The goal of this activity is to raise awareness about this historically and culturally significant site and boost individuals’ identification with the place. Therefore, the Tel Burna project provides open access to all volunteers who are willing to make a personal contribution (Shai & Uziel, 2016). Besides, the area serves as a perfect place to demonstrate to the population the life and dwellings of the people who lived there many years ago.
Thus, the remains of the town are being investigated by non-academic volunteers as well as experts in the field. Researchers from the United States, European countries, and Canada are coming to the site to explore the remains of the possibly biblical Libnah (Shai & Uziel, 2016). Also, university students and staff are participating in excavations as part of their studies and work. Importantly, the general public is participating in small- and middle-scale excavations using the tools provided to them; they are also searching for artifacts and small items. However, full excavations are being carried out by the professional team. This setup is justified by the fact that archeological remains are fragile and specific safety measures must be applied to avoid ruining these precious findings.
The preliminary results of the project have revealed what the investigation had hoped to find. Two excavation seasons (every six weeks in duration) have already been conducted. The findings have allowed important conclusions to be drawn about the sequence of the settlement history of the Judean territory. The archeologists have examined multiple layers and found a domestic area on the western part of the site. A wall and a tabun have been discovered in this section (“About Tel Burna,” n.d.).
The non-academic volunteers have found elements of pottery and decoration (for instance, pieces of masks). Outside the stronghold, the team found vessels that require restoration. These findings are significant since they indicate that the settlement extended outside the fortress. It has been assumed that it was also expanded to the east. The fortification has been exposed as well. The excavations have revealed that the premises were used in the 9th century BCE (Shai & Uziel, 2016). Besides, the findings indicate that the stronghold had a regular construction scheme and a typical shape with two parallel walls linked to form a rectangle. The excavation has shown that the walls were buried in the ground to a depth of 2 meters.
These results have pushed the archeologists to establish new goals. The team intends to continue their search in November 2017 (“About Tel Burna,” n.d.) with a plan to examine the lower slopes of the site to determine how widely the landscape was used (Shai & Uziel, 2016). Also, research on the Judeo–Philistine border is planned. The team wants to determine how the border used to function and the type of relationship that existed between the neighbors. However, more importantly, these further excavations will help to resolve whether Tel Burna used to be one of the biblical towns.
Thus, it can be concluded that the Tel Burna Archeology project has an important meaning for society in general as well as the academic community. Several excavation sessions have been implemented, and they have resulted in finding significant evidence and artifacts. Nevertheless, new investigations are planned for the future, and they will facilitate determining whether the Tel Burna site belongs to the group of Kohanic cities.
About Tel Burna. (n.d.). Web.
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Shai, I., & Uziel, J. (2016). All for archaeology and archaeology for all: The Tel Burna Archaeology Project’s approach to community archaeology. Journal of Community Archaeology & Heritage, 3(1), 57–69.