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Gezer VII: The Middle Bronze and Later Fortifications in Fields II, IV, and VIII

Gezer VII: The Middle Bronze and Later Fortifications in Fields II, IV, and VIII

By Joe D. Seger (Annual of the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology 9). Pp. xx + 411, figs. 100, b&w pls. 75, tables 6. Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, Ind. 2013. $99.50. ISBN 978-1-57506-268-6 (cloth).

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Gezer VII is the latest in a series of excavation reports published since 1970 that stem from the excavations between 1964 and 1974 by Hebrew Union College (HUC) of the site of Gezer, Israel. The present volume addresses the excavations of the fortifications dated to the Middle and Late Bronze Ages, as well as more limited remains from the Iron Age and Hellenistic and Roman periods. The work consists of an overview of the excavation’s history (ch. 1), the cultural and historical context of the fortification systems (ch. 2), a stratigraphic summary (ch. 3), analysis of the ceramics (ch. 4), studies of the artifacts (ch. 5), and specialist studies, including analysis of 14C and shell remains (ch. 6). Appended to these is a thorough locus list. In addition to plans and figures throughout the text, a CD-ROM is also provided, including large-format plans and field photographs.

The volume is particularly important because of its place within the complicated and rather unclear situation concerning the transition between the Middle Bronze Age and Late Bronze Age (i.e., Middle Bronze [MB] IIC/Late Bronze [LB] IA). But it also affords insights into one of the most extensively excavated Middle Bronze Age fortification systems. Major contexts discussed in the stratigraphy of field IV include Tower 5017 (properly speaking, a bastion fortress constructed into the city wall), the Southern Gate of the six-pier type, the fortification wall connecting these features, the glacis, and the Intramural Complex, all of which date to the latter half of the Middle Bronze Age. Further elements of the fortifications were exposed in fields II and VIII, where they are overlain by some Hellenistic remains. Most of these features are well known from attention they have previously received in preliminary publications and journal articles. However, the intramural storage complex of phase 5a to the west of the gate complex has received perhaps less attention than it deserves, given the extent of its preservation, which this volume reveals. There, fieldstone-constructed walls stood to about 2 m in many places and include the preservation of a doorway with lintel still intact. It was within some of these rooms that a series of pithoi inscribed with Proto-Canaanite letters were recovered from the destruction debris dated to the end of the Middle Bronze Age. Additionally, in the four rooms of this complex, scale weights, loomweights, weight stones, and a small hoard of metal items, including two gold-foil figurines, were discovered. In one room, an individual was found buried under the debris of the stratum XVIIIA (field IV, phase 5a) destruction, a grizzly testament to the demise of Middle Bronze Age Gezer. The proximity of this complex to the gate and the nature of the finds may suggest that it belonged to the administrative apparatus of Middle Bronze Age Gezer. Unfortunately, no pattern emerged in the distribution of inscribed vessels within the complex (194).

Despite massive architectural features and some occupational remains, the excavations, unfortunately, do not afford the types of data required to improve our understanding of the chronology, namely 14C dates. This is despite the pithoi (some used to store grain), a dung pile, and beaten-earth floors that were identified in the phase 5A complex just inside the gate (91–7). Even so, the careful attention to stratigraphic detail permits the recognition of a more complicated reality for Late Bronze Age urbanism in Canaan during Egyptian New Kingdom rule. That is, some Canaanite sites such as Gezer were indeed fortified, contrary to the prevailing view. The evidence from Gezer suggests that fortifications of the site continued through or were reconstructed in LB II during phase 14 (stratum XVI), as contended previously by the expedition (113; see also 31–2).

Gezer VII is very well edited, and only one error stood out, namely, a reference to the 17th century as the “seventh century” in the discussion of MB IIC (27). Readers will find it useful that the entire corpus of HUC photographs are provided on a CD-ROM at the back of the volume, along with large-format plans. However, no list of photographs exists from which to determine what loci and features appear in these photographs. Furthermore, not all the photographs in the text feature boards on which the photograph number is usually listed. This could have been partly remedied by including the number in the captions (an uncommon but useful practice), or at least by providing a table of figures or an appendix of photograph descriptions that would permit them to be consulted apart from being encountered in the body text and in the descriptions of loci (from 109 on). Photograph numbers are included, however, in the captions for R.A.S. Macalister’s photographs from the Palestine Exploration Fund archive that are integrated throughout.

While the conclusions presented in the volume may not alter the longstanding interpretations of the site’s fortification systems during the Middle and Late Bronze Ages, this is only because these results were faithfully made available through preliminary reports and peer-reviewed articles by the project that permitted prior syntheses. The volume is, nonetheless, an indispensable addition to the final reports for this important site, located as it is on the main historical route connecting Jaffa and Jerusalem. It not only reveals the meticulous manner in which the HUC excavations operated but the extensive efforts made by the expedition to incorporate the findings of Macalister from 1902 to 1909. Similar efforts in recent years at Megiddo, Jerusalem, Beth-Yerah, and Jaffa reveal the realities of modern archaeological work in Israel, which requires systematic integration of earlier excavations of a site. Macalister’s excavations not only exposed massive portions of Gezer down to its earliest levels, if not bedrock, he also systematically backfilled trenches, complicating reassessments of the site. Trenching along the face of walls, as also attested recently in Jerusalem, where Macalister also worked, created additional challenges to the HUC’s efforts to clarify the phasing and construction of the fortifications (e.g., 79). The final result is therefore an excellent example of the usefulness of revisiting former excavations and the inherent importance of such an effort to understanding not only a site but a region’s historical and cultural development.

Aaron A. Burke
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
The University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California 90095

Book Review of Gezer VII: The Middle Bronze and Later Fortifications in Fields II, IV, and VIII, by Joe D. Seger

Reviewed by Aaron A. Burke

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 118, No. 4 (October 2014)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1184.Burke


Subsequent communication with one of the authors clarifies some information that will be useful to future users of the volume: "... while the photos on the CD are referenced only by their Field numbers, The loci they show can be tracked via the Locus Lists where these numbers are referenced as "FP" i.e. "Field Photos" (while those in the text are noted as "TXP i.e "Text Photos"). So the loci pictured on the CD can at least be traced from one end of the stick."

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