2012 Excavation Team

2012 Kedesh excavation team, posing with Archaeology magazine article on the site.

When we left Kedesh in July 2010, we hadn’t planned to excavate any further in the Persian and Hellenistic Administrative Building, but a few nagging issues from study season kept arising as we prepared for publication, and we felt it was important to solve them so our final report would be as complete as possible.  Therefore, we returned in 2012 with two specific excavation and conservation agendas: to determine the function of the northeast corner of the building, which was largely unexcavated, and to date the mosaic floor of the reception rooms, which we believed to be the earliest floor of its kind known in Israel.

After years of looking for the entrance, in 2010 we finally exposed one side of the entryway for the Hellenistic phase of the building, located in the middle of the north wall of the building.  Ironically, this was more or less the area we had been using to enter the excavation area for years – and it was a few feet below us, all along.  But one half of the entrance wasn’t enough: we wanted to know how wide the entrance was and how it was constructed, so we would have a sense of what types of peoples, animals, and portable goods could have come inside.

Turns out, we think that quite large animals, maybe even horses, came inside the building.  Excavating in the northeast sector of the building, we found several rough dirt surfaces but very few walls, just off the entrance.  This open area (which we have named the Northeast Courtyard) might have served as stables for pack animals bringing grain and other goods to the administrative building; the rooms to the south which we originally thought were residential space might instead be informal offices and work areas for the hoards of visitors to the building, quite distinct from the elaborately decorated reception rooms used to entertain more elite visitors, and the functional administrative areas (like the archive and storage rooms) even further from this busy, dirty, smelly entrance hall.  This gives us a very different impression of the type of people in the building and what they did once they were there.

Kedesh 2012 master plan

Plan of the Persian and Hellenistic Administrative Building at the end of the 2012 season.

But archaeology isn’t always quite so dramatic, and our second major operation, the removal of part of the mosaic floor in the reception area, was less conclusive.  Because the mosaic floor was so well made and preserved, it sealed everything underneath from any kind of later disturbance.  Therefore, anything found under the floor must date to a time before the floor was built, or, put another way, the floor is by definition later than anything found under it (this is called the terminus post quem in archaeology-speak). The best sort of post quem objects are coins or stamped amphora handles – objects which often have a specific date or date range inscribed on them.  Imported fine ware pottery and lamps and certain types of glass or metal can be a good substitute.  We found none of them under the floor, not really.  However, because we know the chronologies of many types of pottery found at Kedesh so well (thanks in part to work during the 2010 study season), we know that the types of ceramics we did find date into the early 2nd century BCE: therefore, the mosaic floor was built sometime after this.  The partial destruction and abandonment of the building in the 140s provides the ante quem of the floor, the time before which it must have been built.

Peter picking

Ceramicist Peter Stone helps remove the mosaic floor.