Eric H. Cline on the First Two Weeks at Tel Kabri

During the third week of the Tel Kabri excavations, BAS web editor Noah Wiener sat down with Professor Eric H. Cline (The George Washington University) to discuss the progress made at Tel Kabri so far this season. Stay tuned for future updates on the second half of the field season from Assaf Yasur-Landau (University of Haifa) and Andrew Koh (Brandeis University). Visit the Biblical Archaeology Society Tel Kabri blog for more posts on the 2013 excavations, or click here to read more about previous discoveries at the site. Click here to read the results of the 2013 excavations.

Eric H. Cline teaching the Tel Kabri team about archaeological photography. Preserved pottery lies beneath each of the sandbags that dot the site.

I’m pleased with what we’ve found so far. We have more architecture than I would have expected. And while there haven’t been many surprises yet, there are some very interesting things that will be coming up soon. Near the orthostat building, we are getting a real storage area complete with large vessels discovered in the context where they fell. For the most part, the rest of the palace is lacking in major possessions—the residents were able to remove most of the objects from the palace when it was abandoned. We are only now exposing the tops of the pottery, but it’ll be very interesting to see if they are on the floor, or in collapse. Residue analysis will let us see what they were holding. Our pottery finds in the past have ranged from great sherds (including imported wares) to pieces that crumble in your hands. Sometimes the avocado trees and water protect the finds, and other times they damage them. In D-South, we’ve found more painted plaster, which was unexpected underneath a whole area of mudbrick collapse. But it was uncovered at such a great depth that we’ll have to hold off and leave it for another season.

Area D-West-East has proven interesting. It is a new area for us, which links the area where Kempinski stopped digging with the area that we dug in 2005. For instance, Kempinski dug the westernmost part, so we are partly uncovering his finds from the backfill, and partly uncovering the area that continues to the east—which he never touched. We are working from the known to the unknown—from the edge of his excavations to an untouched part of the palace—which is what you do in archaeology. One of the big rooms, which we just uncovered at the threshold of Kempinski’s excavations, turns out to be so large and extends so far to the east that it extends to the edge of an excavation that we conducted in 2005 in D-North. We’ve potentially uncovered the eastern edge of a large hall that links the two excavations. In 2005, we found some impressive pottery on the eastern end of the room. Based on the room’s architecture and artifacts, the area has many different potential functions. We are going to open up one final square between our old excavations and Kempinski’s later this week to establish the last link in the palace room.

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Professor Eric H. Cline welcomes some of the first session staff to the…

This is the best team we’ve ever had. They are having fun, working hard together and having a great time. The change at the end of the first session is always an interesting one. The new volunteers are fresh and ready to go, and the old members have already formed their bonds and friendships. They are a bit tired, but know exactly what they are working on. This season, two thirds of the team is staying the entire season. We only have a dozen or so new people joining the team at the start of the second session. We’ll be able to continue; while we’ll lose some good people, the core remains in tact.

Honestly, one of the biggest surprises of the season is our accommodation. Our usual place was not available, but as we are talking right now, we are basking in the Mediterranean sun, listening to waves crash in the background. If I had known this would be our lifestyle, I would have advertised the dig differently: “Come live in an idyllic seaside fieldschool (and excavate a Middle Bronze Age palace).”
As a whole, the season has been interesting so far. Nothing earthshattering yet, but interesting, and we’ve uncovered a lot of architecture. We found 6 pieces of painted plaster—in 2009, that would have been tremendous—but now we’ve come to expect that. Not that we are jaded; this is still exciting. But we know that we’ll be finding it throughout the palace. Still, we are looking forward to the see what comes up in the second session. The best things are always found on the last days of the dig, and there’s still a good amount of time ahead of us.

Editor’s note: Since Eric H. Cline shared this testimony with BAS, the team has expanded the excavation of the storage area. Stay tuned for more updates on the 2013 excavations at Tel Kabri—new discoveries in D-West may lead Dr. Cline to rethink the statement “nothing earthshattering yet…”

Update: Click here to read the results of the 2013 excavations.

Visit the Tel Kabri page for additional updates on the dig, and read more about Tel Kabri in Bible History Daily.

BAS Library Members: Read Eric H. Cline and Assaf Yasur-Landau, Aegeans in Israel: Minoan Frescoes at Tel Kabri as it appears in the July/August 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, as well as “Your Career is in Ruins” by Eric H. Cline and Assaf Yasur-Landau as it appeared in the January/February 2006 issue of BAR.

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