In September of last year I posted and briefly commented on a report in the Baptist Press concerning the recent and ongoing re-excavation of the Gezer water system. In the comments to that post Gary Hurt and I got into a discussion of concerning sifting (screening). Gary, who has excavated several native American sites, was concerned that the current Gezer excavators might be losing important data by not sifting.
Well, one of the excavators has joined the conversation. Here is what Daniel Warner, Associate Professor of Old Testament and Archaeology, Don and Helen Bryant Chair of Archaeology, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Orlando FL Campus, emailed me. I quote Daniel with his permission.
[A]s one of the directors for the Gezer Water System Project I assure you we are sifting, not on a grand scale yet but this next season (2012) you will see water sifters like the ones Gabriel Barkay (one of my prof’s by the way while a student at Jerusalem University College) is using for the Temple Mount salvage operation. As well just for you information, I was trained at Florida State in antho/archaeology and completed my PHD at the Univ. of Bristol. Besides digging for over 25 years in Israel, I worked for several years in the State of FL, doing surveys and yes sifting for Seminole Indian remains or the like, just to let you know. So, we are taking as much care as we can with such a massive operation not to miss any critical information that may help understand its usage and date.
As some may know the water shaft was totally exposed by the Irish archaeologist R. Macalister in the early 1900’s. Within a few weeks of his operation, a massive storm came and collapsed the sides of the tunnel opening sending his fill back into the tunnel (see his photo on our blog). It filled up so much he did not attempt to reopen it, as well he also ran out of money. Nevertheless, we are back after 100 years opening it again, and we presently are only clearing half the width of the tunnel (due to lack of manpower or women power) to reach a cavern to which Macalister said contained the source of the water. We reached the opening to the cavern last summer, and with this exposure, we will begin to sift on a more grander scale and with any luck, discover added information. As well once, we expose more of the cavern, learn more about how the system functioned. [link added; because this is a new post I deleted “Interesting comments so far,” at the beginning of the Daniel’s remarks –des]
All this is good to hear. Despite having worked at Gezer myself for three seasons and having walked by the water shaft at least twice a day for one of those summers, I had not heard (or didn’t remember) the story of the storm that refilled the shaft shortly after Macalister cleared it.