September 27, 2008

Back to the Threshing Floor

It had been a long time since I thought about the actual excavations during the 1971 season at Gezer. Most of my memories of that summer revolve around my family who were with me in Israel but not at the dig. I visited them on the weekends and we enjoyed a wonderful vacation in Israel and Greece after the excavation season. So finding pictures of Gezer Field VI, area 15 Northwest, among the slides I am scanning provided a reminder of why we were there in the first place.

Duane at Gezer in 1971

That's me with my back to the camera, my best side if I do say so myself. I was an area supervisor. Like all areas, my area was a four meter square separated from adjacent squares by unexcavated balks one meter thick. Well, at least, archaeologists don't excavate the balks right away. I am spraying a fine mist of water on the east balk to improve contrast in preparation for photography. Notice that to the right a part of the balk is largely gone. I'll discuss that later. Often archaeologists systematically removed the balks to expose the general plan of the excavated field and to understand features that are largely in the balk. They do this only after carefully drawing and photographing the balks. But, generally one wants to maintain the balks as long a possible. They provide control and show the details of the stratigraphy in a very clear way.

[Because of the relatively high graphics content of this post and to better manage bandwidth, the remainder of this post is below the fold.]

There are several interesting things visible in this balk but I will only discuss one of them now. Here's a close-up of a section of the balk that I was preparing for photography.

Close up of Gezer, VI, 15NW 1971

The layers are the result of agricultural activity. They are the remains of threshing floor if you like. The each complex layer consists of burnt agricultural residue probably doused with water and then covered with dirt. They likely represent annual activity cycles. The best interpretation is that those who used this area burnt the remains of their agricultural activity to protect against vermin, then doused the fire with water and covered it with dirt both to put out the fire completely and to prepare the area for the next year's work.

A team of paleobotanists excavated that missing section of balk and using a very messy proceed extracted the biological remains from these layers. Here's what they found.

Seed found in Gezer threshing floors material

Note: the lentils came from a store jar in the granary, I think it was the granary, and not from the threshing floor. I believe that most of the material from the threshing floor was wheat and barley.

They also found pollen from the same plants. My own guess is that the ancients used this rather extensive area for other agricultural activity like sun drying and not just for threshing.

These threshing floor deposits are associated with the granary that I mentioned several days ago. And like that granary, Dever, et al., 9, 73, dated this threshing floor complex to the early Iron I Age (early to mid 12th century BCE) and associated it on the basis of pottery finds with "Philistine" culture.


Dever, William G. and H. Darrell Lance (plus 11 contributors), Gezer IV: The 1969-1971 Seasons in Filed VI, the "Acropolis", Part I, Text, Jerusalem: Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology, 1986.

Posted by Duane Smith at September 27, 2008 1:48 PM | Read more on Archaeology |

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