Archaeologists Welcome Volunteer Help at Biblical Site

Archaeologists in Israel are allowing the general public to help uncover the remains of what they believe was once Libnah, an ancient city that overlooked biblical giant Goliath's hometown of Gath.

The Tel Burna Excavation Project is honed in on the Shephelah region of Israel, an area that once served as a border between the kingdoms of Judah and Philistia, according to the project's website. One of the long-term goals of the project is to gain a greater understanding of how ancient borders worked and how the communities near them functioned.

Archaeologists from Bar-Ilan University have completed several seasons of excavating in Tel Burna, uncovering some artifacts that date as far back as the 13th Century B.C., though there is likely much more to uncover. Itzhaq Shai, program director for the project, hopes even people who aren't archaeologists will develop an interest and help with the dig.

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"One of our goals is to open the excavation to the public," Shai told "Unlike most excavations, we are looking for people come to participate for even just a few hours. Hopefully they will be captivated and come back."

In addition to making the dig more accessible to those outside the archaeological world using the "community archaeology" approach, the project's website says those overseeing the operation are also working to preserve and reconstruct certain parts of the site to make it "more understandable and interesting to visitors."

Shai says archaeologists have known about the site for many years but did not excavate there because they thought there would be little to uncover. Since the project began in 2009, however, they have uncovered several large structures, including walls and silos, as well as smaller artifacts, such as pottery, flint blades and loom weights.

"We found jar handles with the stamped seal that is unique to the administration of Judah in the 7th century," Shai told "Because of this, we are able to identify the [human] remains we found as belonging to the administration of the kingdoms of Judah."

They also discovered fortifications that were likely used during the 8th and 9th Centuries.

"The fortified sites along the western border of Judah appear to have been a strategic placement along the conflict zone with one of their primary adversaries – the Philistines," states an article co-written by Shai that appeared in the Israel Exploration Journal. "Such fortifications, dating from the Iron Age IIA, have been found throughout the Shephelah."

Tel Burna is approximately an hour drive southwest of Jerusalem. The archaeological dig is a project of The Institute of Archaeology of Bar Ilan University and the Israel Heritage Department of Ariel University.

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