Lawrence T. Geraty, Ph.D., is assistant professor of Old Testament, SDA Theological Seminary, Andrews University.

p>BY NOW, most readers of this journal will know that Andrews University has been sponsoring the archeological excavation of Tell Hesban, the important Biblical site of Heshbon situated within view of Mount Nebo and about fifteen miles southwest of modern Amman, the capital of Jordan.

 

Siegfried Horn, dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, chose the site and directed three successful seasons of work in the summers of 1968,1971, and 1973. Because all the expedition's objectives had not yet been reached, a fourth season of digging took place this past summer between June 26 and August 14.

Dr. Horn's heavy responsibilities precluded his being there the en tire seven weeks. Therefore, as his associate in the Old Testament Department at Andrews University, I was appointed director. Working along with us was a staff of 75 archeologists, including architect-surveyors, photographers, anthropologists, a geologist, and other supporting personnel who came from the United States, Canada, Britain, Denmark, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Jordan.

This group was not only international but ecumenical, including, besides Adventists and Moslems, members of the following churches: Christian Reformed, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Reformed Presbyterian, Christian, Grace Brethren, Baptist, Reformed Church of America, Methodist, Church of Cod, and Roman Catholic. Assisting this group, who volunteered their services free of charge (indeed, many paid to come!), were about 150 hired workmen from the vicinity of Heshbon.

The American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), which has done so much for the progress of Biblical archeology, again cosponsored the excavation, as it has since 1968. Other institutions that helped both with funding and key personnel were the Graduate School of Loma Linda University, Calvin College (Grand Rapids, Michigan), Covenant Theological Seminary (St. Louis, Missouri), Grace Theological Seminary (Winona Lake, Indiana), and Hope College (Holland, Michigan). Even then, the expedition's budget could not have been met without the generous gifts of a number of private donors who see value in the excavation's objectives and results.

Staff Members

In addition to the new director, who has been associated with the project since its inception, and Dr. Horn, who served as adviser and object registrar during the dig's last three weeks, other core staff members included Roger Boraas, of Upsala College (East Orange, New Jersey), chief stratigrapher and coordinator of specialists, and James Sauer, of the American Center of Oriental Research (Amman, Jordan), chief ceramic typologist and area supervisor. Other area supervisors were Bastiaan Van Elderen, of Calvin; Harold Mare, of Covenant; Larry Herr, of Harvard; Robert Ibach, of Grace; and James Stirling, of Loma Linda, who also supervised the anthropological research of the expedition. The other specialists were Paul Denton, of Andrews, chief photographer; Bert DeVries, of Calvin, chief architect-surveyor; Harold James, of Andrews, geologist; 0ystein LaBianca, of Brandeis, zoo-archeologist and ethnographer; and Hester Thomsen, of Greater New York Academy, pot tery registrar.

Remaining staff members (mostly teachers, ministers, and students) supervised and recorded the progress of digging or served in supporting roles both in the field and at headquarters. Among these were: Michael Blaine (Southern California Conference), Paul Bonney (Grand Rapids Junior Academy), Glenn Bowen (AU), Kerry Brandstater (LLU), Suzanne Brandstater (PUC), Theodore Chamberlain (LLU), James Cox (AU), Trevor Delafield (Wisconsin Conference), Gerald and Shirley Finneman (Nebraska Conference), Douglas Fuller (AUC), Kevin and Inge-Lise Howse (AU), Henry Lamberton (Upper Columbia Conference), Robert and Melissa Lloyd (Oregon Conference), Richard Mannell (AU), David Merling (AU), Kathleen Mitchell (Michigan State University), Orlyn Nelson (AUC), John Reeves (LLU), Ralph Stirling (Loma Linda Academy), and George Terzibashian (Middle East College).

This large group was housed at the Amman Training Center for Palestinian Refugees, an institution sponsored by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, located between Amman and Heshbon. The convenient facilities there served well for our headquarters.

Objectives of Fourth Season

Objectives of the fourth season of operations included completing, if possible, the excavation of the Byzantine church on the acropolis of the tell (Area A). This involved locating the narthex at its western extremity. On a level shelf of the tell to the south (Area B) more work needed to be done before what looked like a water reservoir could be confidently associated with the pools mentioned in Song of Solomon 7:4. Especially the foot-thick plaster "flooring" found thirty feet down in one square had to be connected up with the fifty-foot stretch of continuously plastered retaining wall and cut bedrock in adjoining squares to the east. This same area contained the best hints of the earliest occupational evidence so far discovered at the site—Iron I (twelfth-tenth centuries B.C.); these hints begged for further excavation.

Between Areas A and B lay Area D, the southern access route to the acropolis. In addition to reaching bedrock in its squares and exploring several unentered storage cisterns, an important goal was to connect stratigraphically, if possible, its monumental stairway discovered in 1973 with the Area B plaster layers found in 1968 and 1971 and subsequently interpreted as resurfacings of a roadway or plaza.

Our primary objective in Area C on the mound's western slope was to clarify the extent of previously uncovered Iron Age and Roman fortifications.

Since a great variety of Roman and Byzantine tomb types had been discovered in the Areas E and F cemeteries in 1971 and 1973, we hoped this season to locate tombs from the Iron Age or Old Testament period. We also planned several soundings else where on the tell and in its vicinity (Area G) to see whether their archeological history would agree with that already discovered on the upper part of the ancient mound where excavation from previous seasons had been concentrated.

In 1973 we began an archeological survey of the countryside within a six-mile radius of Heshbon that included the tracing of the Roman road from Tell Hesban (Esbus in Roman times) to Tell er-Rameh (Roman Livias) in the Jordan valley. Another objective of the 1974 season was to complete this survey and then to sound one of Heshbon's satellite communities in order to test the validity of the survey team's method of suggesting the occupation history of a given site on the basis of potsherds collected from its surface.

Results in Terms of Objectives

As usual, these many objectives for the new season were only partially realized. The narthex of the Christian church in Area A proved as elusive as it did in the 1973 season and mostly for the same reason: it was apparently covered by an extremely wellpreserved Mamluk bath complex that was (as it turns out) only partially excavated in 1973. Unexpectedly the team assigned to these squares this season spent most of its time uncovering what proved to be the front half of the establishment, founded on what was probably the southern half of the church's narthex. Work in Area B confirmed the presence of a huge water reservoir, though the crew working there was not able to complete excavation all the way to the reservoir's bottom along the eastern wall. We were successful also in that area in laying bare extensive remains from the period of the Biblical judges. In order to achieve the stratigraphical connections we desired between Areas B and D, a new square was opened last summer, which should be deep enough after another season's work to provide the information we need. Work in Area C success fully uncovered more of the Iron Age and Roman city fortifications, but further excavation is required to see their full extent. Though several new Roman and Byzantine tombs were found, most of them were not excavated in our attempt to Ideate earlier tombs or cave burials; in this endeavor, so largely a matter of chance, we were unsuccessful. Our soundings (Area G) in several spots around the tell con firmed the occupation history already disclosed on the acropolis; hence no evidence for Sihon the Amorite's period (pre-1200 B.C.' or the Late Bronze Age, in archeological terms) came to light. Either we have missed it through the accidents of preservation or discovery, or (as now seems more likely) Sihon's capital was nearby the Israelites moving the destroyed city's name to our site when it was built up in the period of the judges. The survey team was able to complete its work, adding twenty-two new sites to the 103 discovered in 1973, making a total of 125 archeological sites within a six-mile radius of Tell Hesban. They also added the discovery in the Jordan valley of an additional mile of the ancient Roman road that ran between Esbus and Livias. Survey Team Completes Work The latter half of the season was spent pursuing the survey team's second objective: sounding a satellite mound to test the validity of their method. For this they chose Umm es-Sarab (G-8), a small hill at the head of the Wadi Hesban, three miles north of Tell Hesban proper. Though Bronze Age sherds had been found in surface sherding this site, they were found only in mixed contexts when digging. Only Byzantine and Early Roman strata were found in the two six-by-eighteen-foot trenches that were completed to bedrock. In the earliest stratum were two articulated adult burials in the soil, as well as a child burial found in a blocked rock-cut recess. The ratio of sherds from the various periods found while digging proved to be the same as the ratio found in the surface survey, suggesting the soundness of the team's working hypothesis: sherds collected from the surface with sufficient thoroughness reflect a site's occupational history. Next month we will describe the results of this past summer's excavation in greater detail.

To be continued


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Lawrence T. Geraty, Ph.D., is assistant professor of Old Testament, SDA Theological Seminary, Andrews University.

January 1975

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