New Blog: Tel Dan Excavations

The first excavation in Israel to have a running blog is the The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog.  But it’s been several years and no one else seems to have caught on.  Until now.  The Tel Dan Excavations has started a new blog.  At this point, the blog looks more like a website, with static pages but not daily updates.  Presumably, with the start of the season this summer, they’ll keep us regularly informed of the progress. 

Permit me one comment on the recruiting banner, as they encourage volunteers to sign up.  The slogan says, on top of the graphic: “The 2008 season begins June 22!  Will you find the missing pieces of the David inscription?  Mail your volunteer application soon.”  That’s certainly a tantalizing suggestion.  Even though it’s been 14-15 years since the three fragments were found, there certainly could be more.  And if more are discovered, you can bet that many of the scholarly theories about the Tel Dan Inscription (TDI) will be cast aside.  In fact, here’s something that I had not picked up on until research last week.  Perhaps you know that the TDI was probably written by the Aramean king Hazael and it mentions his killing of King Jehoram of Israel and King Ahaziah of Judah.  This appears to contradict 2 Kings 9 which says that Jehu, not Hazael, killed these two kings.  But here’s what I didn’t realize: the contradiction entirely hangs on two hypothesized words and letters in the TDI (they are reconstructed because the fragment breaks off at these points).  In other words, we only know that it says “I killed Jehoram” because scholars hypothesized the words “I killed.”  Of Ahaziah, it says “killed Ahaziah,” but the “I” is reconstructed.  Whether this is a reasonable or unreasonable guess, it is only a guess.  I sure hope they find more fragments.  Maybe it’ll be you.

Dan marketplace and Iron Age gate, tb052907121
Iron Age gate and plaza at Dan

3 thoughts on “New Blog: Tel Dan Excavations

  1. Hello from Tel Dan!

    We will indeed be blogging daily from Dan once the summer season begins! Feel free to visit us this summer at teldan.wordpress.com.

    Wish us luck!

    Ryan Byrne
    Co-director, Tel Dan Excavations
    Professor of Semitics and Archaeology
    Rhodes College

  2. Maybe Dr. Byrne can clarify something for me. After the original large fragment (A) was discovered on the surface, I was under the impression that a thorough/exhaustive search was conducted for additional pieces matching the stone, & that’s when they found the other 2 fragments (B & C). Is your team planning to dig in a different area, or was the A/B/C area not completely investigated back in the 90s?

    In any event, best wishes to you & the rest of your team, even if you don’t find the rest of the stela!

  3. Area A was not as thoroughly excavated as various publications implied. The excavation of the “outer gate” area was (to my knowledge) prompted by the Parks Authority, which asked Biran to canvass the approach to the Iron Age gate to prepare the path for the new tourist entrance. It was not a salvage excavation per se, but its scope restricted a comprehensive stratigraphic analysis. The larger constructional fill matrix (in which the stela fragments were reused in secondary context) was in fact underexcavated, and I intend to explore the unexcavated in situ fill exhaustively. The Area A extramural complex is poorly understood and we do not yet know its parameters. It is not my intention to go fishing for stela fragments. Rather I wish to clarify the nature of the extramural complex, the execution of which will entail a careful reexamination of the entire area. Of course, many of the decisions related to this season’s research design are tentative; conditions in the field this season will govern the prioritization of activity and objectives. In other words, I’d prefer not to sensationalize this coming season as a full-scale dash to locate certain basalt fragments … we have a host of genuine scientific interests with merit pertinent to the recovery and dignity of a culture otherwise lost to memory.

    Ryan Byrne
    Co-director, Tel Dan Excavations
    Professor of Semitics and Archaeology
    Rhodes College

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About the BiblePlaces Blog

The BiblePlaces Blog provides updates and analysis of the latest in biblical archaeology, history, and geography. Unless otherwise noted, the posts are written by Todd Bolen, PhD, Professor of Biblical Studies at The Master’s University.


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