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Volunteers help uncover Biblical city

Archaeologists in Israel are busy excavating huge, fortified structures in the Biblical city of Libnah, which overlooks the Philistine capital of Gath, home to the tale of David famously slaying the giant Goliath with a well-slung stone. And they could use a little help.

Volunteers help uncover Biblical city
Aerial view of the Tel Burna excavation site [Credit: Skyview Photography Ltd]
"One of our goals is to open the excavation to the public," Itzhaq Shai, program director of the Tel Burna Excavation Project, told "Unlike most excavations, we are looking for people come to participate for even just a few hours. Hopefully they will be captivated and come back."

Archaeology is no longer just for archaeologists, it seems; the initiative by Bar Ilan University is leading experts and volunteers on the excavation of the Biblical Judean city, known today as Tel Burna.

Volunteers help uncover Biblical city
A handle stamped with a seal consistent with the kingdom of Judah [Credit: Itzhaq Shai]
The site of Tel Burna is about an hour drive from Jerusalem and is thought to have served during the Iron Age as a border city between the kingdoms of Judah and the Philistines -- a people remembered chiefly as the bad guys of the Hebrew Bible. The site has been well known since the middle of the 19th century, but excavations only began in 2009.

"No one excavated Tel Burna before because they didn't think there would be too much to find," Shai said.

Volunteers help uncover Biblical city
Volunteers enjoy getting their hands dirty by helping to excavate the Tel Burna site [Credit: Itzhaq Shai]
It appears they were wrong. Since beginning the dig, Shai and his team have uncovered huge fortifications, building structures, idols, decanters, human and animal remains, and pottery with the seal of Judah from the 7th and 8th centuries B.C.E.

"We found jar handles with the stamped seal that is unique to the administration of Judah in the 7th century," Shai explained. "Because of this, we are able to identify the [human] remains we found as belonging to the administration of the kingdoms of Judah."

Volunteers help uncover Biblical city
A statue, possibly an idol, found at the Tel Burna site [Credit: Itzhaq Shai]
"We believe Tel Burna to be the Biblical Libnah for a number of reasons," Shai explains. "Based on the location of the site, the dates of the artifacts we found and the very nice architectural elements that date to the 7th century; adding this all together we believe it to be Libnah."

Recently, a group of high school graduates from Canada participated in a dig at the Tel Burna site

Volunteers help uncover Biblical city
Very unique triplet vessels that were possibly used for cult-like rituals [Credit: Itzhaq Shai]
"I've always wanted to go on an archaeological dig," Jordanna Miller told the Canadian Jewish News. "During the dig I was helping to break down a barrier between areas to uncover a wall. We found lots of pottery shards and some bones. We found the jaw of a goat in three pieces and a rather large storage jar. It was hard work and a lot of manual labor but amazing and I would love to do it again."

"Our jobs included digging for ancient artifacts, sifting through the dirt and dusting off rocks," student Ami Moyal told

Volunteers help uncover Biblical city
Egyptian scarab found at the Tel Burna site [Credit: Itzhaq Shai]
Shai is glad to share the spotlight on the findings; he says people from all over the world volunteer to excavate.

"One of the reasons I chose my job is I get to make the past come alive."

Author: Sasha Bogursky | Source: Fox News [July 11, 2013]

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