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Gezer VI: The Objects from Phases I and II, 1964–1974

Gezer VI: The Objects from Phases I and II, 1964–1974

By Garth Gilmour (Annuals of the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology 10). Pp. xv + 407, pls. 52. Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, Ind. 2014. $99.50. ISBN 978-1-57506-312-6 (cloth).

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Gezer VI presents the small finds from the first two phases of the excavations of Gezer in Israel between 1964 and 1974 by Hebrew Union College (HUC). While some of the site’s small finds appeared in Gezer I to V, and VII, this volume does not republish any of those figures. It does include the finds, however, in the data set presented here, except for the small finds from the burial cave in Field I that were published as Gezer V. This volume, a culmination of work by the author since 2003, therefore completes the publication of the nonarchitectural small finds.

The work is divided into three chapters and eight appendices. Chapter 1 is a brief introduction to the volume, while chapter 2 reviews Gezer’s stratigraphy as established by the HUC expedition, referencing earlier publications. Chapter 3, authored by Gilmour and representing the central contribution, is organized by the objects’ composition: (1) bone and ivory, (2) ceramic, (3) faience and frit, (4) figurines, (5) inscriptions and seal impressions, (6) loomweights, (7) metal, (8) shell, (9) stone, and (10) whorls and buttons. Like the appendices, this presentation of finds is accompanied by quite lengthy and detailed tables that permit the localization of finds and that account for 152 of the chapter’s 178 pages. The reader will find little, however, that alters extant discussions and earlier results concerning these finds, and neither the editors nor the author assert otherwise. Still, there is considerable potential for recontextualizing these finds using methods such as GIS, which might identify distinct activity areas. It is regrettable, however, that so many of these artifacts lack photographs or illustrations. The only finds for which photographs appear in the chapter are the lamelek jar handles (figs. 3.5A–K) and a first-century B.C.E. lead agoranomos plaque (fig. 3.7).

The eight appendices in the volume constitute specialist studies of other artifact types. In contrast to chapter 3, the appendices provide photographs of many artifacts alongside their discussion, though in some instances the items discussed in the appendices occur on several different plates, complicating their consultation. In the case of the plaque figurines (appx. F), these might more logically have been kept with the figurines (ch. 3, sec. 4). The discussion of the appendices below is arranged to emphasize several themes.

One particular theme raised by the appendices concerns the identification of artifacts as Egyptian or Egyptian style, the implications of which have become quite significant recently with respect to identifying the artifacts’ owners and their relationship to Egyptian communities during different periods. The artifacts affected by such questions include a variety of amulets and figurines. Appendix A, by Herrmann, reviews eight faience and one glass Egyptian amulet from Gezer, providing extensive parallels. In some cases (e.g., Objects 262 and 1289A) it appears that the use of faience was the primary marker qualifying an object as Egyptian, which seems overly simplistic and at best signifies its locus of production. The chapter presents Egyptian-style figurines that are deserving of greater consideration. Such considerations are accounted for in Keel’s discussion of stamp-seal amulets in appendix E, a large proportion of which were scaraboid (pl. 50). These should be considered with amulets in appendix A in assessments of Egyptian cultural contexts or influence in Gezer. Appendix F, by Cornelius, likewise presents 14 plaque figurines distinguished from the figurines discussed in chapter 3. These are largely reckoned as Egyptian in style, although most were identified in earlier Gezer publications as Astarte plaques (e.g., Gezer I: Preliminary Report of the 1964–66 Seasons [Jerusalem 1970] pls. 25A, 25B), but Cornelius suggests the term “Qedeshet” (274 [with bibliography]), variants of which are now more prevalent (e.g., “Qudshu”).

The remaining appendices address fairly ubiquitous finds that are difficult to date typologically or appear unchanged over many periods. Beads and pendants of faience, glass, and various other materials (some of which may have functioned like amulets) are presented in appendix B by Spaer. Chipped-stone finds, which are typologically indistinguishable from the Middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age, are published by Rosen and Gotesman in appendix H, with the exclusion of the so-called Gezer flint caches previously addressed by Rosen.

The remaining appendices address artifacts more common from the Classical period and later, with some exceptions. In appendix C, the late Barag presents the 24 coins recovered during the HUC excavations at Gezer. The coins range from the Seleucid to the Ottoman period and, as such, mirror the temporal distribution encountered by Macalister in earlier excavations at the site. Barag also authors appendix D, on eight glass vessels that originate from Late Bronze II to medieval contexts excavated by HUC. Ariel discusses 19 stamp seals, 15 of which were previously unpublished, in appendix G; they range in date from the late third to the late second century B.C.E.

The volume is meticulously edited, and few, only insignificant, errors were encountered. Yet, despite the work’s immense value, a number of items might have made it more user friendly. There is no list of figures or plates at the beginning of the volume. Figures, where they exist, appear within each chapter, and on a few occasions are not referenced in the catalogue entries, though plates are. In all, there are too few artifact photographs. In chapter 3, only inscribed artifacts feature photographs, while almost all of the appendices are provided with photographs. The plates, which are organized roughly according to the discussion in chapter 3, do not have individual captions. This may be because of the irregular collection of artifacts on any given plate, as all items of a type do not consistently appear together, nor is any other governing principle in this organization readily apparent. Plaque figurines, for example, are scattered among various plates with references to catalogue numbers in appendix F. These are, nonetheless, small issues that can be readily overcome as the volume is consulted by those interested in particular artifact types and still others who might endeavor to analyze the distribution of the finds by examining this volume against the stratigraphic discussions in the earlier volumes.

While Gezer VI adheres to a fairly traditional approach to the publication of excavated artifacts from the southern Levant, a number of developments in the field during the past 20 years make the publication of such data sets crucial to improving understanding of these artifacts. As such, it is a much-anticipated volume that will permit the interpretations of contexts that final reports are intended to facilitate.

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

Book Review of Gezer VI: The Objects from Phases I and II, 1964–1974, by Garth Gilmour

Reviewed by Aaron A. Burke

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 121, No. 1 (January 2017)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1211.Burke

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