The Search for Joshua’s Ai at Khirbet el-Maqatir, 2011: Days Seven to Ten

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Excerpt On Friday June 3, we finished the 9th season of ABR’s Excavation at Khirbet el-Maqatir. Before the day was over, we had been treated to a second breakfast by the Palestinian family who has stored our tools for the last 3 dig seasons, we hosted a visit by the Master’s College IBEX study tour group, we filmed 3 YouTube videos and wrapped up our excavation. Continue reading

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In the monastery, the full central apse was uncovered by Scott Stripling and his team.  Among other interesting finds, they wound up with 7 coins from the excavation.  It will take a few months to properly clean and analyze them, but they seemed to span a couple of centuries. 

In the area of the Hasmonean Fortress at Khirbet el-Maqatir, Titus Kennedy and Joel Kramer excavated their second cistern, this one much earlier than the Roman cistern last week.  In fact our Palestinian host, who as a boy living in the village climbed down into every known cistern at the site, said he had never seen that one before.  It has been buried for a very long time and when cleared out we should have a lot of new insights.     

When we finished the dig on Friday, Drs. Gene Merrill and Brian Peterson thought we had reached the floor of a house from the Roman period, but we will need to do some more work on the pottery to more carefully date it. In the end, it looks like the house may have also had a Byzantine renovation, including an interior “window wall” with a low doorway. Such a feature is known from numerous Roman and Byzantine houses in Israel. In fact, window walls seem to frequently be associated with domestic stables – where animals were kept in part of the house. 

I actually think that such a space was the location of Jesus’ birth in Joseph’s ancestral home at Bethlehem (about 15 miles south of our site).  You can read my take on the idea at  

Unfortunately, while we found pottery from the time of Joshua in almost every square – even one beneath the foundation of the monastery – this season we did not reach architecture from the fortress in any of the squares we excavated.  While that is why we came, as archaeologists doing good science, we simply must deal with what we find under the ground.  We did, and it was very interesting stuff.  We will take many of those squares deeper next season and hope to get down to Joshua’s Ai. 

Archaeology shows us that we can trust the Bible for the past (history). If that is true, then we can also trust it for the future (eternity). From there, we should also learn how to trust it for today – one day at a time.  Archaeology helps make that whole process work for me and that’s why I enjoy digging. Thanks for your help and support this season. Our finds are very meaningful to a better understanding of God’s Word. We will update you on additional developments as Dr. Bryant Wood begins his analysis of our finds. 

Gary Byers

Administrative Director

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