The First Fruits of the 2019 Excavation Season at Khirbat al-Balu’a, Jordan

We are just about to begin the third week of excavations at Khirbat al-Balu’a this summer and are looking forward to what we will find. My sub-team is situated on the North side of a large building called the Qasr (a modern name used for fortress type buildings). The building is quite large and preserved in some places approximately 6 m high. Our goal this season is to determine the founding date of this large building. We do that by locating the foundation of the building and the pottery associated with it, which can be dated with reasonable precision. Like modern builders, ancient builders often laid a foundation by digging a trench and laying courses of stone one which the wall would be built. The foundation was then backfilled (just like we do today) and often pottery falls in from the time of the backfill. Because pottery changes over time, it is one of the key items we use to date layers (strata) that build up over time on a site that is used for hundreds or sometimes thousands of years. In our case, most have suspected that the Qasr was built sometime in the Iron Age II (ca. 1000–586 BC), but we won’t know until we find the foundation.

In the meantime, as we have been working one of the team members (Vera) came across the top of a large storage jar that looked mostly intact. As we excavated downward, it was indeed the case that the whole jar was there (though cracked). In a household context these jars were sometimes buried in the ground up to the neck and then a cover could be put over it to keep dirt out. They were mostly used for the storage of grain in this context, but analysis of the dirt will help get a clearer picture. As you can see from the pictures, the jar is large, about 1 m tall and 60 cm in diameter at is widest. It tapers toward the bottom. Having taken all the dirt out of it, I was able to calculate the volume, which is about 270 liters. Rather large!

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