The 9th season of the Associates for Biblical Research’s (ABR) excavation at Khirbet el-Maqatir was held in May and June, 2011. All 9 seasons have been sponsored by ABR and under the direction of Dr. Bryant Wood. Located 9 miles north of Jerusalem in Israel’s West Bank, we call this dig “The Search for Joshua’s Ai at Khirbet el-Maqatir”.

While a “tell” (Arabic; although sometimes “tall” as in neighboring Jordan) is an artificial mound consisting of layers of human occupation, a “khirbet” (Arabic) is a low ruin. Our site, covering about 10 acres, is a series of low ruin piles sitting directly above bedrock.

This year’s focus was three different time periods in three different parts of the site.

1.) The 4th-6th century AD Byzantine monastery on the rise to the northwest

2.) The 2nd century BC through 2nd century AD Hellenistic/Roman settlement on the low rise to the northeast

3.) Our major focus and the reason for choosing Khirbet el-Maqatir in the first place, the 15th century BC fortress of Ai from Joshua’s time in the saddle between these other two sets of ruins

To our disappointment, three squares which we hoped would identify remains of city walls or interior structures from Joshua’s time went to bedrock without finding any architecture of significance. But in the other nine squares, we found interesting material related to our other two focus periods.

Excavated eastern wall of the basilica style church of the Khirbet el-Maqatir monastery.

Unfortunately, for the first time since we began excavating at Khirbet el-Maqatir, Dr. Bryant Wood was not in the field with us. He was home recouping from a recent stem cell transplant procedure and chemotherapy. His health continues to improve and his spirits are good. (Please continue to lift him up in prayer). But this year he is getting his information from square supervisor reports and analysis, back home, of the objects and pottery we found.

This writer was with Dr. Wood when he first stepped on the site in 1994, and has participated with him in every dig season since. Consequently, it was my responsibility to lead the team in his absence. Every digger understood the situation and did their part to make things run smoothly. Of course, without Dr. Wood, it didn’t (!), but excavation results were still quite meaningful – no doubt empowered by the prayer support of folks back home.

Our major interest in Khirbet el-Maqatir is the fortress of Ai from Joshua’s time. That period is also my special area of interest, so no one was any more disappointed than I when we did not find any architecture associated with Joshua’s Ai. I have been known to suggest that the Hasmonean, Roman and Byzantine periods are just modern history and not that interesting! But this year’s finds from these periods actually turned out to be pretty interesting, even to me….

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