Public Lectures

Open Lecture by Project 1

Archaeological Excavations at Tel‘En Gev and Tel Rekhesh

Date: 2010/06/19 14:00 − 16:00
Place: Room M1, Meitoku-kan 1F, Imadegawa Campus, Doshisha University
Lecture: Noritsugu YAMAUCHI, curator, Tenri University SANKOKAN Museum
While the lecturer, Mr. Noritsugu Yamauchi, is specialized in Japanese archaeology, he has also made considerable contribution to archaeological excavations in Israel. In this lecture, he gave an account of the results of the excavations he joined at Tel’En Gev and Tel Rekhesh, which are two of the three sites in Israel where Japanese expeditions conducted large-scale excavations (The remaining site is Tel Zeror—where the Society for Near Eastern Studies in Japan started excavations in the 1960s but had to discontinue them in 1974 for political reasons).
These ruins are located in the Galilee region in the northern part of Israel near the border with Syria and Lebanon. This region is home to Lake Galilee, the largest freshwater lake in Israel, fed by the Jordan River, which flows down southward and empties into the Dead Sea. The Jezreel Plain, which offers convenient access between the Mediterranean Sea and Asia, is also in the vicinity of these ruins.
The ruins at Tel’En Gev are located on the eastern shore of Lake Galilee, with a history spanning from Iron Age II in the 10th century B.C., through the Hellenistic Age, to the Roman Age. Tel’En Gev is supposedly the location of Aphek mentioned in the Book of the Kings in the Old Testament. While its outline was only dimly revealed by the trial excavations undertaken by an Israeli team in 1961, the excavations carried out by the Japanese expeditions from 1990 to 2004 made many important discoveries. (In 2009, a research team from Keio University carried out additional excavations).
The site has the form of a tel (ruin mound), which is not so high, about 4–5 meters in height and about 200 meters and 120 meters in width, south-north and east-west respectively. Discoveries of special importance made during the excavations by the Japanese expeditions include: some casemate walls (double castle walls filled with earth) and two remains of a colonnaded building uncovered from the stratum of the Iron Age (dating to the 10th century B.C. and the 8th century B.C., respectively); and a group of buildings with a total of 26 rooms from the stratum of the Hellenistic Age. The colonnaded buildings are supposed to have been used as a distribution station of goods (“Entry pod”). Cypriot earthenware pieces dating to around the 9th century B.C. were also unearthed.
Due to the fact that any ruins dating earlier than the Iron Age were not discovered and that the castle walls and the buildings were constructed precisely along the south-north axis, these structures are considered to have been built hurriedly in the 10th century B.C. for political purposes. This reasoning is supported by the discovery of what are considered to be the remains of towers in the north-east corner of the site, which could be the first to be attacked by the enemy from Syria (the Kingdom of Aram).
From the upper layer of the stratum of the Iron Age, which dates to the Persian Age, only pits (perhaps used for waste disposal) were uncovered. In the Hellenistic Age, probably, this site was part of a port town of Hippos, one of the Decapolis cities located between the site of the ruins and the Golan Heights.
Tel Rekhesh is located southwest to Lake Galilee, where the tribe of Issachar, one of the 12 tribes depicted in the Old Testament, is considered to have settled. No excavations were conducted in this site (though some earthenware pieces and other artifacts were collected on the surface of the ruins) until the Japanese expeditions carried out five excavations between 2006 and 2009. With Mt. Tavor to its north, this site is located on an oval-shaped natural hill, measuring 350 meters south-north and 250 meters east-west, sandwiched between Tavor River and Rekhesh River. It had long been contended that this is the site of Anaharath, a town of the tribe of Issachar described in the Old Testament, and this contention was almost evidenced by the recent analysis of the clay bodies of the Amarna letters (clay tablets unearthed in Egypt). The site dates back to the early Bronze Age to the Roman Age, and is considered to have been at the peak of its prosperity from the late Bronze Age to the early Iron Age. The most distinctive discoveries that characterize this peak period are round remains that are considered to have been olive oil mills. A total of five mills, including a rectangular mill dating to the end of the Iron Age, were unearthed from this site, which indicates that the production of olive oil was the major industry in those days and that olive oil was traded with Egypt and other cities (As this site was under Egyptian rule during the late Bronze Age, artifacts that are considered to have been imported from Egypt were also discovered). Other discoveries include: remains of what is considered to have been ritual facilities; masks with similar characteristics to those unearthed in Lebanon; and jars with handles decorated with a design depicting the date palm (all of them date back to the Iron Age). The date palm, as a symbol of fertility, could be the origin of the “Tree of Life” depicted in the Old Testament.
However, there seems to have been a discontinuity between the Iron Age and the Hellenistic Age, as there were no ruins dating to the latter. In the stratum of the Roman Age, few artifacts were uncovered, including stone measuring cups used for Judaist rituals and mortars used to grind wheat, which indicates that this site was just a small village during that period. Since the Roman Age, this site had been deserted.
During the lecture, Mr. Yamauchi showed many slides of the ruins and artifacts unearthed during the excavations, as well as maps and other materials, and shared the latest archaeological insights about ancient Israel in a very easy-to-understand manner.

Tadashi Nakatani
(Research Fellow, CISMOR, Doshisha University)
*Admission Free,No reservation necessary
*This lecture is given in Japanese. *Inquiry: 075-251-3972 (CISMOR)