Lachish Excavation 2014
Lachish was the second most important city in the kingdom of Judah, after Jerusalem. It lies about 40 km SW of Jerusalem, atop a tel that is about 18 acres in size. It was founded sometime in the 4th millennium BCE, became a good-sized city already in the 3rd millennium, and was well fortified by the middle of the 2nd millennium. In the Late Bronze Age (16th – 13th centuries BCE), Lachish was a major Canaanite city-state.
Lachish appears in the biblical record already as early as Joshua 10, where its destruction at the time of the Israelite conquest is described. Excavations confirm that the city was indeed destroyed about this same time (12th century BCE). It seems to have lain in ruins for a couple of centuries and then been rebuilt around the time of Solomon (10th century BCE). At this time it was surrounded by two massive walls, one part-way up the side of the slope and the other at the top. A classic city gate protected the city’s main entrance, and a large palace-fort crowned the centre of the city.
Many people know Lachish best as one of the cities destroyed by the Assyrian army under Sennacherib in 701 BCE as part of the brutal suppression of King Hezekiah’s revolt. Vivid stone-cuts of the siege and destruction of the city filled an entire room of the Assyrian palace at Nineveh. In the 1840s, those panels were excavated—very crudely, by today’s standards!—by a British adventurer, in one of the first archaeological projects in Mesopotamia. They now fill a room in the British Museum.
Lachish was rebuilt and then conquered again, this time by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in 588-86 BCE. Fragmentary letters—in Hebrew—that were sent to the city’s military commander during this siege were found in the mid-20th century, corroborating the report of this event in Jeremiah 34.
This year, 2014, marks the start of the fourth archaeological expedition at Lachish. It was first “dug” in the 1930s by James L. Stuckey. A major expedition led by David Ussishkin between 1973 and 1987 made much more substantial progress. Further work, including the restoration of the city’s gate, continued until 1994.
Lachish has been one of the most exciting, productive, and significant archaeological sites in Israel. Concordia Lutheran Seminary is delighted to take part in the very beginning of this fourth Lachish excavation in 2014, under the leadership of Dr. Yosef Garfinkel. He and his colleagues at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, along with other North American partner-schools (including especially Southern Adventist University , Collegeville, TN), has a great deal to experience and wisdom to share with our team.
To supplement the brief information provided here, prospective participants are invited to consult the fine collection of articles about Lachish at: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/biblical-archaeology-sites/lachish/.
Tues 8 July 2014 leave Edmonton (or other point of departure)
Weds 9 July arrive Tel Aviv, bus to Jerusalem
Sun 13 July bus, Jerusalem to Kedma Village (our “home” during the dig)
Sun 13 July – Thurs 17 July first week of excavation
Fri 18 July – Sat 19 July touring, southern Israel & Negev desert (likely an overnight stay)
Sun 20 July – Thurs 24 July second week of excavation
Fri 25 July – Mon 28 July touring, northern Israel & Galilee (perhaps 3 nights?)
Mon 28 July leave Tel Aviv, fly home
Description of the trip
Participants will fly as a group from Toronto to Tel Aviv, then travel by bus to Jerusalem for 4 days’ touring. On Sunday 13 July a bus will take us from Jerusalem to our “dig HQ” at Kedma Village, a former kibbutz that houses a program for at-risk young people during the year but, during the summer, when that program is finished, houses the Lachish dig team.
Our primary contacts on the dig team will likely be with Dr. Yosef Garfinkel, his colleagues, and people like us who are volunteering through the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Accompanying this group will be a good-sized contingent from Southern Adventist University in Tennessee. Two professors there, Drs. Michael Hasel and Martin Klingbeil, co-direct the project with Dr. Garfinkel.
Before starting work, the team will probably spend several days (July 9-12) exploring the historical and archaeological sites of Jerusalem. Dr. Chambers has visited the city numerous times and loves to poke into both the obvious and well-known sites, and out-of-the way corners. Between the first and second weeks of work, the hope is to tour major archaeological sites south of our base at Kedma, including the abandoned cities of the Negev desert and their astonishing Byzantine churches (5th – 7th centuries CE). Dr. Chambers knows these sites quite well too.
Following the second week of excavations, our group will have an opportunity to spend several further days touring. Details are not settled, but the goal would be to make several day-trips out from a base in the Galilee. Again, Dr. Chambers is well-acquainted with this part of the country, having travelled in it extensively in connection with four previous archaeological trips in this area.
Goals of the trip
The archaeological program of the seminary, in partnership with Hebrew University of Jerusalem, introduces participants to the science of archaeology in the Middle East through hands-on experience with the techniques of the discipline. (Translation: It’s going to be dirty but fun!)
Broadly speaking, this includes experience in the excavation, recovery, documentation, and preservation of material remains, and—as opportunity presents—acquaintance with the use of material remains in the interpretation of Biblical writings. (Translation: We’ll get a better feel for how archaeology helps us understand the Bible and early Israelite history.)
These field experiences will be supplemented with touring, occasional lectures by archaeologists and visiting scholars, and recommended reading (including pre-trip reading), in order to provide a reasonably comprehensive introduction to the land and its material remains.
a) Students at Concordia Lutheran Seminary
All CLS students are invited to take part in the excavation, which—along with reading and writing assignments—comprises PRX-573 (Field Archaeology). Those who register for this program are eligible to receive financial aid. However, the dig is a rigorous activity requiring robust health. Students should consider their physical stamina when deciding whether to join the team.
b) Adult volunteers
This archaeological project relies heavily on adult volunteers (age 18 and over, as of 1 July 2012). Although the physical demands of archaeological work are significant, work will be tailored where possible to individual ability and interest. Most adults work alongside college and/or seminary students; as opportunity allows, some may engage in slower and more delicate work.
c) Passport requirements
Each participant must hold a valid passport with at least six months’ validity beyond the expected date of departure from Israel. In other words, your passport must expire on or after 15 January 2015. Earlier expiration dates will not be accepted.
Estimated fees per person
a) Important notes regarding fees:
• All of the following estimates are extremely tentative at this point! The only purpose in sharing them is to give you a very rough idea of what the final costs might be. Costs certain to change, depending on airfare fluctuations as well as the exchange-rates between three currencies: US dollar, Canadian dollar, and Israeli shekel.
• Each participant’s actual fees for “local costs” (see below) will be calculated on the basis of the exchange rates in effect when Concordia Lutheran Seminary issues his or her invoice (likely in mid-March).
• The “sample airfare” listed (section “c” below) is based on the route Edmonton-Toronto-Tel Aviv, as of mid-November 2013. Departure from cities other than Edmonton is possible, but the price from other cities will differ from the sample fare shown. Please also note that this is one of the lowest quotes I have ever received! We should probably expect to pay about $250 – 300 more than this, at actual time of booking.
• In addition to the costs below, participants will need to pay for a number of meals while touring—perhaps 2 daily meals for 9 days. I would suggest about $15-20 per day for this.
b) Local costs
Registration fee (non-refundable) $150 CAD
Room and board at Kedma (10 days) $850 CAD
Jerusalem (4 days) $500 CAD
Southern Israel / Negev (2 days) (incl. pass to national parks) $190 CAD
Northern Israel / Galilee (4 days) $650 CAD
Total, this group: $2340 CAD
c) Sample airfare
Return fare, Edmonton – Tel Aviv, 8-28 July 2014 (quoted, 14 Nov 2013) $1,930 CAD
(As noted above, this fare is extremely low; the actual cost could be $250 – 300 more.)
d) Estimated fees (local costs + airfare only; 9 days’ meals not incl.) $4,270 CAD