Going Vertical to Dig a Little Deeper at Tel Dan

Thomas and the quadcopter

By: Thomas Beyl, 2012 Heritage Fellow

2012 marks my second season of digging at Tel Dan. Thanks to the ASOR Heritage Fellowship, I had the great opportunity of opening a door to a whole new horizon of future field research. I returned to Tel Dan to continue supervising excavation activities begun in 2008 in Area A. The goal of this season was to complete excavation of Roman material overlying Iron II remains, and to hopefully find architectural elements related to an undated gate structure previously excavated in 1993. Thanks to the ASOR Heritage Fellowship I was also able to explore the use of an RC quadcopter for aerial photography on site. I have flown RC helicopters for over six years, and have built several custom aircraft with the hope of using it in the field. As soon as I had the Heritage Fellowship in hand I contacted a couple of Israelis who do aerial photography as a hobby on a forum to inquire about equipment and customs. A very generous man named  Guy Garber offered to let me use his equipment in the field. Thanks to Guy we were able to take some great aerial photos, get a real look at what is needed in the field, and plan for future equipment and software. I am now working to learn more about photogrammetry and aerial photography for use in future digs.

Regarding field work, we were digging only 10 meters from where the largest fragment of the Tel Dan inscription was found in 1993. So while we worked hard, the hope of finding more fragments of the inscription was an ever present motivator. We reached Iron II levels in the 3rd week, and discovered a very short course of stones abutting one of the towers of the gate structure to the east. This very short course of stones was only a meter in length, and there was no evidence of continuation. A complete lack of indicative sherds and the highly eroded state of the ceramics in this area suggests that this gate lied beyond the reaches of most of the settlement activity. Preliminarily, it is believed this gate structure was never completed. The question raised at the end of this season is whether this was a failed six chamber gate project?  Thanks to the aerial photos taken in my area we were able to identify more elements of the gate structure that had been reused in the latter walls of the huzzot just north of the gate towers. These elements have been clearly visible for more than 15 years, but their association with the gate structure was never realized. However, with an aerial perspective we were able to dig a little deeper into past. Many thanks to those who contributed generously to the ASOR Heritage Fellowship, and made this season’s dig exceptional.


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2 thoughts on “Going Vertical to Dig a Little Deeper at Tel Dan

  1. Fantastic Thomas! I’m always amazed that a field so concerned with the past has so often been on the cutting edge of technology. Keep up the great work! I look forward to seeing it in person at some point (I’ve been to Tel Dan 3 times since 2001).

  2. Tommy: Excellent report and photo. It was so great to see you at Tel Dan and work along side you. Keep up the great work.

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