Tel Burna 2015: The Specialists

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The Tel Burna Archaeological Project is exposing a Canaanite town in the Shephelah region of Israel believed by some scholars to be Biblical Libnah. Below, excavation staff member Chris McKinny introduces us to the specialists at Tel Burna.

The Tel Burna Archaeological Project, like other projects, has a group of specialized professionals that form an integral part of the excavation and post-excavation process. In this post, we would like to highlight the work of our amazing team of specialists who are participating in this season’s excavations.



Tina and Ladislav using the XRF scanner to test the chemical composition of some of the faunal remains from Tel Burna. Photo: Courtesy Tel Burna Archaeological Project.

Zooarchaeology: Dr. Tina Greenfield, University of Manitoba

Tina is our project’s zooarchaeologist. She has worked on archaeological sites in Canada, Europe, Israel, Kurdistan, Southern Iraq, South Africa and Turkey. This past year, Tina completed her Ph.D. dissertation on ancient animal economies of early empires at the University of Cambridge. She is also codirector of the Near Eastern and Biblical Archaeology Lab (NEBAL) in Winnipeg, Canada.

This season, Tina is focusing on analyzing the animal bones from the large cultic public building in area B1. Together with our past analysis of the ceramic assemblage and other finds, which appears to point to both administrative and cultic activity (i.e. feasting), the faunal assemblage in area B1 should provide us with many insights regarding the eating habits and local economy of the Canaanite inhabitants of Tel Burna in the 13th century B.C.E.



Andrea with the remains of a flotation sample to be analyzed for micro-faunal remains. Photo: Courtesy Tel Burna Archaeological Project.

Archaeobotany: Andrea Orendi, University of Tübingen

Andrea studied pre- and protohistory and Medieval archaeology at the University of Tübingen (Germany). Andrea has worked for several years as an assistant in the archaeobotanical laboratory in Tübingen, where she is pursuing a Ph.D. in the field of archaeobotany under the direction of Dr. Simone Riehl. Her thesis will include archaeobotanical material from Tel Burna.

This season, Andrea is sampling many different contexts at Tel Burna, including the Late Bronze Age (Area B1), the Iron II fortifications (Area B2), an Iron II silo (Area B2), an Iron IIB public building and tabun (Area A2), and an area near several agricultural installations that seem to date to the Iron II (Area C). Every afternoon of the excavation season, Andrea can be found (usually covered in mud) “floating” soil samples while looking for micro-faunal and micro-botanical remains that help us reconstruct the daily life and agricultural practices of the ancient inhabitants of Tel Burna.

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Glyptics: Dr. Antonio de Freitas, Universidade do Minho

Antonio is a scholar in the fields of ancient Near Eastern languages (e.g., Egyptian, Hittite, etc.) and epigraphy. Among many other research interests, Antonio has written extensively on ancient Near Eastern cosmogonies.


One of the seals/scarabs from Area B1 that is being studied by Antonio. Photo: Courtesy Tel Burna Archaeological Project.

This season, Antonio is examining the seals and scarabs that have been uncovered at Tel Burna in past seasons. We are hoping that he will have many more to examine after this season.

X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) Analysis: Dr. Michal Hejcman, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague and Dr. Ladislav Šmejda, University of West Bohemia

Michal is a professor of Ecology at Czech University of Life Sciences Prague. He studies a wide range of topics related to both modern and ancient ecological and agricultural practices. Ladislav is a professor of archaeology at the University of West Bohemia, where he focuses on various topics related to archaeological research, but especially archaeological surveys of Bronze Age civilizations and ancient funerary practices.


Michal using the XRF scanner to examine tabun fragments in Area A2 while Ladislav records the data. Photo: Courtesy Tel Burna Archaeological Project.

This season, Michal and Ladislav are using a portable XRF scanner in order to compare the wide-scale human civilization at Tel Burna and its surroundings with their past research in the Czech Republic and other areas of Europe. This investigation is carried out through the scanning of various types of archaeological deposits (e.g., tabun, surfaces, fill layers, etc.) to the surrounding agricultural soils on the slopes (likely related to grape and olive production) and the valleys (grain and barley production). Beyond this overarching study, this season, we have clearly seen the importance of this technology in the hands of trained professionals, as they can often provide immediate chemical results through a simple scanning of either an archaeological deposit or artifact.

Next time, we will look at Tel Burna’s unique field registration method, which uses an adaptation of a construction app and a GoPro camera to create our daily top plans.

chris-mckinnyChris McKinny is the supervisor of Area B1 at Tel Burna. Chris is a Ph.D. candidate at Bar Ilan University and an adjunct professor at The Master’s College. To follow his research, visit his page.


More on the 2015 field season at Tel Burna:

Tel Burna: An Introduction to the Biblical Town

Opening New Squares with People from All Over the World

iPads, PlanGrid and GoPro

Team Impressions

The Iron II Fortifications in Areas A1 and B2

Area A2—A Judahite Administrative Building?


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