Shawn Bubel began the next lecture I attended, “The Late Bronze-Iron Age Transition at Tel Beth-Shemesh: New Finds from the Northern Slope“.
Working backwards in time, downwards through strata, he showed evidence for 3 olive-oil installations & animal pens situated inside the city in strata 4 (1050-950) & 5 (1100-1050), a pillar-base patrician house with gold jewelry in stratum 6 (1150-1100), a bronze ball weight & painted chalice in stratum 7 (1200?-1150; sorry, I wasn’t writing quick enough to get the other dates; that’s the reason for the question marks), a donkey burial in stratum 8 (1250?-1200?), & a kitchen in the northeast square of stratum 9 (1300?-1250?). (He focused on the Late Bronze & Early Iron ages, but gave the following dates for the 3 earlier strata: 3) 950-800, 2) 800-701, 1) 650-635. The published abstract began by mentioning the earlier strata:
“An undisturbed stratigraphic sequence of five successive strata, spanning the transition from the Late Bronze to the Iron Age has been exposed during the 2004-2006 seasons of the renewed excavations at Tel Beth-Shemesh. This sequence complements earlier work (1990-1996) at the northern slope of the site that concentrated on the Iron Age I levels, and provides a vivid picture of Canaanite cultural continuity in the northern Shephelah from late 13th to early 10th centuries BCE. The main feature of the excavated area is a series of well-preserved spacious buildings. In the earliest building exposed thus far (dating from the end of 13th century) a donkey burial, presumably a foundation deposit or a testimony for another Canaanite sacrificial ritual, was found under the floor. Nearby, a typical lamp-and-bowl deposit was exposed under a door’s threshold. Later building phases indicate normal development leading peacefully from the Late Bronze settlement to the Iron Age one. These finds contradict the paradigmatic picture of destruction and change painted by the Haverford expedition in its 1928-1933 excavations at Tel Beth-Shemesh. The search for the northern confines of the Late Bronze/Iron I settlement lead to another important discovery – the massive Middle Bronze Age city-wall, first exposed by D. Mackenzie in 1911-12. Sections of the wall and its gate were revealed in a southern area of the mound in 2001-2005, but the northern section was hidden from modern scholarship for almost a century.”
[Note: In the middle of this lecture, my black-ink pen expired, & I switched to blue. This, in combination with the stressful decisions between the lectures, the stress over what to say & do in the midst of these eminent scholars, & the mad rush between lectures mentioned in my previous blog, caused me to start sweating to the point where I wrote a note that my underarm deodorant had also expired, & I wanted to remind myself to apologize to everyone I encountered thereafter or who had the misfortune of sitting near me that evening!]
After Bubel had spoken for 10 minutes, he turned the podium over to Dale Manor, who focused strictly on the curious donkey burial. It had lived about 4 years, & its spine had been broken in 2 places. He showed photos of it & other similar burials from elsewhere.
He ended up listing 4 possible explanations for it:
1) Maybe it just died that way. He rejected this possibility since a regular death would not have been cause for burying it inside the city.
2) Maybe it was offered as a ritualistic sacrifice. Again, the context of its location gave no evidence to substantiate this, so he rejected it.
3) He noted that Level 8 followed a destruction level, & this donkey could’ve been related to a covenant or treaty such as one found at Shechem. He considered this a valid option.
4) Another valid possibility might have been related to Exodus 13:13:
“And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck; & all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem.”
Being an ASOR conference filled with scholars who believe Exodus was composed during or after the late Iron Age as a piece of fiction, he did not emphasize the possibility that its source material could’ve been written in the Late Bronze or Early Iron ages (i.e., the time of this burial).
He concluded his very interesting, & well-organized 15-minute presentation with the question: “Who were these people?“
This turned out to be a fun session! When I noticed my long-time LMLK penpal, Dr. Robin J. DeWitt Knauth, I totally forgot about my earlier plan to race back upstairs & catch Chang-Ho Ji! She’s one of the few professors in the world who knows the importance of LMLK handles, & emphasizes them in one of the classes she teaches. The last time we had spoken, she had just returned from excavations in Cyprus. She introduced me to David Price, who had participated in the excavation of the famous Gezer city-gate in the 1970s. I also chatted with her after the next lecture, & when we parted, I told her I hoped to cross paths with her again the following week at the SBL conference. She doubted that would happen since her area of interest was limited/specialized, but we actually did meet on the final day I was there, & it turned out to be extremely fortunate too! More about that later…
I followed Aren Maeir outside the lecture hall, grabbed one of his arms, twisted it up behind his back, slammed him against a wall, & demanded at the top of my voice that he autograph his premier article on Safi in an old BAR magazine for me! … The crowd gasped… OK, so maybe I just asked him politely, & he acquiesced without a struggle! I try to make this blog a little interesting…
He had been chatting with another LMLK penpal whom I had looked forward to meeting–Oded Borowski, co-excavator of Tell Halif (Biblical Rimmon). It was nice to greet him; he had already autographed a magazine for me via mail a few years ago.
I meandered over to the room for the Zayit Stone session & met Steven Feldman, web editor for the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS). I find it a highly suspicious coincidence, but when I introduced myself, his reaction was nearly identical to that of Hershel Shanks (BAS founder, BAR magazine editor) earlier in the day: “Not to offend, but I thought you were older!”
I got a big kick out of this! But is it really such a crime to be immature? Anyway, I surprised him by asking for his autograph (everyone who publishes LMLK material is a celebrity to me); he authored a nice article about LMLK VIP, Avraham Biran–excavator of Aroer, in the Jan/Feb 2002 issue of BAR (vol. 28 #1). This is a very special issue because it appeared right at the time I decided to construct the LMLK Research website. If I recall correctly, this was the first entire LMLK handle in color that I had seen up to that point (a spectacular Z2U–see p. 53).
I had just finished explaining to him my quest for Mr. Shanks’ signature, & my encounter with him earlier in the day (& another where he walked so briskly, I could hardly keep pace), when in he walked. Earlier in the day, he had tripped over me while passing through an aisle, so this time when he approached me to speak to Steve, I stood up, even though he wasn’t actually going to sit there–he just wanted to instruct a lady regarding photos. I showed him my copy of the first issue of BAR (March 1975), & as he was signing it for me, Steve was surprised to see one, & asked if it was just a copy. I quickly said, “No, it’s an original,” & Mr. Shanks said, “We never made any copies of it.”