Tel Anafa, its excavation and publication

Tel Anafa is a small mound in the Hula Valley of northern Israel. People lived here sporadically over an exceptionally long range of time, beginning in the third millennium BCE and lasting until c. 1948. The mound was the site of two concentrated bursts of occupation, first in the late Hellenistic period (c. 125-80/75 BCE), when a sizeable villa and outbuildings were constructed, and then in early Roman times (c. 10 BCE – 40/50 CE), when it was a small border outpost probably connected with nearby Caesarea Philippi.

The Tel Anafa excavations took place over the course of ten seasons between 1968 and 1986, first under the direction of Saul Weinberg of the University of Missouri at Columbia, and then under Sharon C. Herbert of the University of Michigan. They were a pioneering project in their day: the first total-retrieval excavation in Israel; the first to investigate a small, anonymous, rural site rather than a major urban center; the first to focus on a classical site without biblical or Christian associations.

The excavations were also unusually careful, with meticulous daily record-keeping and pottery reading, such that every artifact could be mapped and every soil deposit interpreted – an approach that ultimately created a deluge of data that led to organizing artifacts by category and parceling them out to numerous specialists. There was minimal integration between scholars and categories, and publication took a long time. Vol. 1, on the site’s stratigraphy and architecture, with additional studies on stamped amphora handles, coins, faunal remains, and geology, appeared in 1994. Vol. 2.1, on the ceramics associated with the main periods of occupation, appeared in 1997. Vol. 2.2, on the glass, lamps, metal, and stone objects, appeared in 2012. Vol. 2.3, the final installment, with studies of the painted wall stucco, figurines, weaving tools, glass and stone jewelry, and remaining pottery studies, came out in winter 2018, 50 years after excavations began.

In these past 50 years, the field has caught up to the ideals of the original excavators. Study of Near Eastern and Levantine societies and cultures in the eras after Alexander the Great’s epic conquests is an expanding field. Scholars seek information from small and non-urban sites, and appreciate quotidian objects, especially those from reliable chronological and spatial contexts. The remains from Tel Anafa are newly pertinent to many current scholarly conversations and investigations. The goal of this portal is to begin to make these remains accessible, understandable, and relevant. Here we present individual objects from multiple perspectives, in hopes of bridging the gap between artifacts and the histories they can inform.

The Tel Anafa Final Reports

TA I, i: Sharon C. Herbert, Tel Anafa I, i and ii: Final Report on Ten Years of Excavation at a Hellenistic and Roman Settlement in Northern Israel. Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series 10. Ann Arbor 1994.

  • Sharon C. Herbert, “Introduction” and “Occupational History and Stratigraphy,” pp. 1-182.
  • Donald T. Ariel and Gerald Finkielsztejn, “Stamped Amphora Handles,” pp. 183-240.
  • Ya’akov Meshorer, “Coins,” pp. 241-260.
  • Alla Kushnir-Stein, “A Tyrian Sealing,” pp. 261-264.
  • William Farrand, “The Geological Setting,” pp. 265-278.
  • Richard Redding, “The Vertebrate Fauna,” pp. 279-322.

TA II, i: Andrea M. Berlin and Kathleen Warner Slane, Tel Anafa II, i. The Hellenistic and Roman Pottery. The Plain Wares and The Fine Wares. Sharon C. Herbert, ed. Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplement Series 10.2.1. Ann Arbor 1997.

  • Andrea M. Berlin, “The Plain Wares,” pp. ix-246.
  • Kathleen Warner Slane, “The Fine Wares,” pp. 247-406.
  • Leslie Cornell, “A Note on the Molded Bowls,” pp. 407-416.

TA II, ii: Andrea M. Berlin and Sharon C. Herbert, eds. Tel Anafa II, ii. Glass Vessels, Lamps, Objects of Metal, and Groundstone and Other Stone Tools and Vessels. Kelsey Museum Fieldwork Series. Ann Arbor 2012.

  • David Frederick Grose, “The Pre-Hellenistic, Hellenistic, Roman, and Islamic Glass Vessels,” pp. 1-98.
  • John J. Dobbins, “The Lamps,” pp. 99-212.
  • Gloria S. Merker, “The Objects of Metal,” pp. 213-280.
  • Andreas H. Vassiliou, “The Chemical Nature and Probable Origin of a Metallurgical Slag from Tel Anafa,” pp. 281-286.
  • Mattew J. Ponting, “Chemical Analysis of Copper-alloy Metalwork from the Roman Contexts,” pp. 287-298.
  • Martin Wells, Erin Haapala, Keith Cogshall, and Jessie Weaver, “Groundstone and Other Stone Tools, Vessels, and Miscellaneous Objects,” pp. 299-338.

TA II, iii: Andrea M. Berlin and Sharon C. Herbert, eds. Tel Anafa II, iii. Decorative Wall Plaster, Objects of Personal Adornment and Glass Counters, Tools for Textile Manufacture and Miscellaneous Bone, Terracotta and Stone Figurines, Pre-Persian Pottery, Attic Pottery, and Medieval Pottery. Kelsey Museum Fieldwork Series. Ann Arbor 2018.

  • Benton Kidd, “Wall Plaster and Stucco,” with Catalogue adapted from Robert L. Gordion, Jr., pp. 1-78.
  • Katherine A. Larson, “Personal Adornment: Glass, Stone, Bone, and Shell,” pp. 79-136.
  • Katherine A. Larson, “Glass Counters,” pp. 137-144.
  • Katherine A. Larson and Katherine M. Erdman, “Tools for Textile Manufacture,” pp. 145-216.
  • Adi Erlich, “Terracotta and Stone Figurines,” pp. 217-260.
  • William Dever and Ann Harrison, “Pottery of the Bronze and Iron Ages,” pp. 261-334.
  • Ann Harrison and Andrea M. Berlin, “The Attic Pottery,” pp. 335-358.
  • Adrian J. Boas, “Medieval Ceramics,” pp. 359-365.

What you’ll find on this portal

The authors* of the essays on this portal seek to press individual objects found at Tel Anafa for insights about the past, to consider these items from multiple perspectives so as to extend their utility for historical and cultural inquiry. The goal is to go beyond classification and description, to interrogate the ways that objects can reveal the behavior and values of their ancient owners, and to enlist them in stories that make them live again. The authors take advantage of the innate power of physical remains to evoke sensation, create connection, and inspire understanding via the approaches of materiality, embodiment, and imagined narratives (essays in the form of imagined narratives carry a light yellow background). We believe that, in the end, history is a compilation of individual stories. Objects make stories real, and stories make objects matter.

Andrea M. Berlin, December 5th, 2019

* Lolly Burrows, Neil Creveling, Sasha Nixon, Sarah Reetz, and Colleen Terrell wrote their essays in the fall 2017 semester, for a seminar taught by Andrea M. Berlin at the Bard Graduate Center.

*  Hallie Baggaley, Scott Chase, Maggie Evans, Grady Gillett, Evan McDuff, Elizabeth Neill, Cait Parker, Jasmine Shevell, Yarden Tsfoni, and Qi Zheng wrote their essays in the fall 2019 semester, for a class taught by Andrea M. Berlin at Boston University.