Update from Khirbet el-Maqatir (Ai?) Excavations
After nine years of being unable to excavate Khirbet el-Maqatir because of its location near Palestinian cities in Israel, the Associates of Biblical Research has resumed work on the site under the direction of Bryant Wood. Wood believes that the site may be the city of Ai destroyed by Joshua in the Israelite conquest of the land (Joshua 7-8). A brief report of the first week’s excavations is now online, along with some photos.
Efforts this season are focused on the west, south and east walls, and several structures inside the fortress. On the east, Eugene Merrill (Dallas Theological Seminary) discovered a pavement which may be a section of a ring road which circled the site inside the fortress wall. On the west, Pastor James Luther (Florida) uncovered a 5 meter long section of a one meter wide wall that is part of a substantial structure inside the fortress. Dig director Bryant Wood exposed several walls that were part of a building complex just inside the main gate on the north side of the fortress. One of the guest volunteers working in Dr. Wood’s square found a large section of a pithos rim and neck which can be accurately dated to the 15th century BC, the time of the Conquest.
Wood’s latest article explaining the rationale for identifying Kh. el-Maqatir as Ai is given in an article in Critical Issues in Early Israelite History (Eisenbrauns, 2008), available online in pdf format here.