In 2003, we continued intensive excavations at the multi-component sites of Gegharot and Tsaghkahovit.
At Gegharot, our first priority during the 2003 season was to continue the operations initiated during the previous season. Thus we resumed excavations in operation T02E on the western terrace and expanded work in T02D on the southern edge of the summit to the south to include a new quadrant, T-2D/e (90m2). On the lower western slope of the hill, we excavated a series of exploratory trenches. Excavations in T02E revealed an extraordinarily well-preserved Late Bronze Age shrine. The shrine included a curvilinear clay altar or basin set atop a clay platform and on the eastern side of the altar was a single standing stone stela. We also recovered smashed, but in situ, vessels from the floor, three clay “idols”, several polished oval stone pendants, 55 carnelian beads, numerous bone tools and personal ornaments, a number of cut antlers, and several striated astragali, numerous clay spools, and a bronze tack, the central portion of a tri-partite jewelry mould (a similar mould was found in T15), a crucible, and several bronze artifacts.
Excavations at Tsaghkahovit on the summit and terraces of the fortress conducted in 2003 opened a total area of 313.5m2. Our first priority in these investigations was to continue the exploration of the east side of the citadel begun in 2002. These excavations were particularly concerned to explore the monumental architectural remains (wall WC301) located in 2002 and to chart the stratigraphic relationship between the Late Bronze and Middle Iron Age levels in the area. All three integrated walls, WC301, WC601, and WC1001 are constructed of cyclopean dry masonry with well-dressed stones set in regular courses supplemented by a cobble fill. It appears that Middle Iron Age construction on the citadel dug into pre-exiting levels, reusing the massive earlier wall as a support for several irregular walls or partitions and leaving few clues to the institutions that once occupied the structure. Excavations were also initiated in the area of the south lower town three soundings (SLT 1, 2, and 3). The aim of this complementary research program has been to locate and uncover a Late Bronze Age lower town and elucidate the impact of sociopolitical developments in the Tsaghkahovit Plain on grassroots populations.