Tel Kabri (Israël): The 2013 Excavations

Noah Wiener  

Source –


Katherine Crawford excavating in D-South.

I’ve written a couple of posts about the life of an archaeologist working at Tel Kabri, and you can read more about previous seasons’ fieldwork here, including the discovery of unique Aegean-style art and architecture at the Bronze Age site in Israel.

But the most exciting thing about publishing directly from the field is the ability to share the goals and discoveries of our current excavations in the summer of 2013. As I’ve written previously, we have big shoes to fill. Since the current dig began in 2005, excavations have uncovered extensive remains of the Canaanite palace, including the one-of-a-kind orthostat building uncovered last season. So what are we looking for this year?

Our excavations are divided into three areas: D-West, D-West-East and D-South (following area labels established by earlier excavations, published by Aharon Kempinski’s team). Here’s what we are looking for in each area:


Area Supervisor: Inbal Samet

The team in D-South has been working their way through dirt that is chock-full of mudbrick debris, with limited pottery or architecture to slow them down (so far!). Working adjacent to monumental buildings uncovered between 2005 and 2011, they are now digging contemporaneous buildings that are likely to be monumental public structures as well. The neighboring buildings range in type, from a thick-walled and buttressed palatial structure to a thinner-walled public building. Each stands out from domestic buildings uncovered in other areas of the site; the walls are thicker and more regular, and stone stairs and a drain (even on the smaller structure) suggest more planned construction. Public buildings range from palaces and temples to administrative buildings, and related structures in this newly opened area could very well be monumental parts of the palace complex.

While the decaying mudbrick remains could point to a collapsed superstructure of public buildings that lie below the surface, there is another possibility. A massive rampart surrounded the site at its peak. If the team is working through a layer of the rampart (which was built out of layers of various materials), Middle Bronze Age remains that predate the monumental buildings would lie below. In either case, the team is working down to a level of walls, floors and occupation levels discovered in previous seasons, and D-South promises to yield insights into one of these fascinating aspects of the site’s history.


Area Supervisor: Alexandra Ratzlaff


Amanda Gaggioli and Jordan Roth creating a section in D-West-East.

D-West-East, which is located in a late palatial area not previously excavated, has already reached plaster floors and in situ pottery amid surface and collapse material. It is hoped that the area, which includes a palatial wall from an early construction phase, will reveal new palatial structures and domestic spaces. The team will be working through walls both old and new: They will investigate very early palace walls, the exterior of late palatial walls and even work their way underneath much later (possibly Ottoman) terrace walls.

The team has made a great deal of progress through challenging soil, exposing plaster floors that may run through several of their excavation units. The area may feature Middle Bronze Age domestic spaces inside the palace, as well as pre-palatial domestic buildings from an earlier building phase in the Middle Bronze Age. One unit may have uncovered hints of an upper courtyard similar to one excavated at the large western palace. Already well into occupation layers after a single week, the team working in D-West-East will likely reveal the architecture and narratives of various occupation areas in a central part of the site.


Area Supervisor: Nurith Goshen

I’ll start this off with a confession: I have been working in D-West, and being part of a fantastic team that has moved countless buckets of dirt (and shed countless buckets worth of sweat) may make me a tad prideful here. But I don’t feel like I’m individually biased; anyone in our area feels the same way. It has been a blast working with Nurith Goshen and Kyle Leonard, who keep us on our toes with their archaeological insights, and keep us laughing with their good cheer. Our team has done some amazing work. Knowing the determination and character of the rest of the Kabri team, I can be sure that those working in D-South and D-West-East would say the same about their areas.


Area supervisor Nurith Goshen cleaning a complete storage vessel in D-West.

In 2011, when the team was searching for the edge of the palace in order to establish the relationship between the palace and town, they came upon the orthostat building (read more about it here in the BAS Library). The structure is astounding, but does not answer the initial research questions. Would there be open spaces near the orthostat building, as we know from Aegean monumental architecture? Would there be domestic architecture near the public buildings, as we’ve seen recently at Megiddo?

In D-West, we are going to finish excavating the northwest corner of the orthostat building, as well as the general area to the west of the excavated monumental complex. The area has later intrusions, including an Iron Age pit, a looter’s trench and a later terrace wall, and we’ve been careful to document each of these areas while working towards the Bronze Age occupation. In the southern part of the area, we are examining a narrow wall outside the orthostat building (which in turn has walls narrower than those of the palace). We’ve seen a great deal of chalky material from collapsed mudbrick, which is visible in a lot of our sections. Our most exciting discovery so far is a complete storage jar found in situin the mudbrick collapse (see photo above, right). Excavations at Tel Kabri have never uncovered such an in situ vessel in collapsed material in such good condition before. The proximity to the recently discovered orthostat building and architecturally- and artifactually-rich finds make D-West a fantastic place to work, and each morning I look forward to uncovering the mysteries that lie in the soil beneath our feet.

Over the next few weeks, visit the Tel Kabri page for frequent updates on the dig, including a day in the life in the field, videos on archaeological technique, guest blogs by student volunteers, reports on visits to ancient sites in Israel and the latest discoveries—right as they come out of the ground.