BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

Excavate Israel’s “Mini-Pompeii”

Reveal Tel Azekah’s incredible biblical and archaeological history

Home to a vast expanse of human history, Israel is a country rich with opportunities for archaeological excavation. Yet while there are opportunities to dig from north to south, none quite rival the untapped potential of Azekah. Having completed nine dig seasons since excavations began in 2012, the team is returning for their tenth season at Azekah 2022!

Tel Azekah aerial view

Ariel view of Tel Azekah during the 2021 excavation season.
Credit: Courtesy of the The Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition

In preparation for their 2022 dig season, scheduled for July 17–August 12, Biblical Archaeology Review spoke with one of the directors of the project, Professor Oded Lipschits of Tel Aviv University, to learn more about the unique site.

Student from Tel Aviv University excavating at Tel Azekah

Student from Tel Aviv University excavating at Tel Azekah.
Credit: Courtesy of the The Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition


What archaeological finds from Azekah should people know about?

 

Our excavation is known for two particularly interesting finds. The first is a massive destruction layer dating to the end of the Late Bronze Age (c. 1130 B.C.E.). In this layer we have found beautifully painted ceramics, jewelry made from gold and precious stones, amulets, scarabs, and even the remains of people from this period. The quality of finds and the preservation has given Azekah the nickname of Israel’s “Mini-Pompeii.” The second group of finds attest to Azekah’s biblical past. We have two destruction layers from the 701 B.C.E. siege of Sennacherib and the 586 B.C.E. Babylonian destruction, both of which are mentioned in the Bible (Jeremiah 34:7). Azekah is also known from the story of David and Goliath as the battleground for this historic tale (1 Samuel 17:1).

 

What is the most interesting or exciting thing you’ve uncovered at Azekah?

 

Not everyone finds the same things exciting, but we are lucky at Azekah to have found such varied archaeological remains that everyone has something to love! From pottery to coins to gold treasures and temples, there is always something fascinating to be found at Azekah. Each season, we take the most interesting finds as inspiration for the dig shirts for our next season. Some of our favorite finds to appear on shirts so far include an Egyptian amulet, Late Bronze Age painted pottery, bronze arrowheads, and Iron Age rosette stamp impressions. Who knows what we will find next!

 

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What made your team want to dig at Tel Azekah?

 

Interest in excavating Azekah began with several textual sources (including the Bible) which referred to the site as an important place in the ancient history of Israel. This interest also spurred the initial excavations of the site in 1899, which were said to have destroyed much of the archaeological remains at Azekah. In the 21st century, our team returned to excavate hoping that these early excavations didn’t destroy as much of the site as previously believed and that some of Azekah’s fascinating past could still be found. Luckily, we were correct and even after nine seasons we are still finding incredible artifacts and architecture!

 

What periods do you plan to excavate and what are your main research questions for this dig season?

 

In 2022, the Azekah excavations will focus on the Middle Bronze Age, the Late Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. Plus, we are looking to open some new areas that have never been excavated! Our main questions focus on understanding the site in greater depth. We are especially interested in understanding the nature of the site during the Middle Bronze Age (c. 2000–1550 B.C.E.), a great period of urbanism in the Levant, and how this period came to an end as Azekah transitioned into the Late Bronze Age. We’re also very excited to expose more Iron Age architecture and hopefully find the famed Iron Age gateway!

student workers at Tel Azekah

Summer of smiles; students at Tel Azekah.
Credit: Courtesy of the The Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition


You can learn more about how you can take part in the excavations at dozens of archaeological sites around the Middle East on our Digs page. To learn more about Tel Azekah, be sure to check out their website.


Read more about Azekah in Bible History Daily:

The Cruel End of Canaanite Azekah

 

All-Access members, read more in the BAS Library:

The Last Days of Canaanite Azekah

Lachish and Azekah Were the Only Fortified Cities of Judah That Remained” (Jeremiah 34:7)

Not a BAS Library or All-Access Member yet? Join today.

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