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Dr Kyle Keimer & Dr Sophia Aharonovich

By Departmental Research Seminar

Tuesday 20 August 2019 (Week 4), 2-3.30pm

The Department of Ancient History in conjunction with the Macquarie University Ancient History Association (MAHA) offers a research seminar series, intended to bring together those within Macquarie and outside who have an interest in the languages, histories, and cultures of the ancient world. View the schedule for the research seminar.

All are welcome! Please arrive on time and join us after the seminar for coffee, tea and biscuits!

Convenor: Dr Alexandra Woods Twitter


Dr Kyle Keimer | Lecturer in the Archaeology and History of Ancient Israel and the Near East, Macquarie University

At the Edge of Chaos: Khirbet el-Rai in the 11th c. BC

The site of Khirbet el-Rai is an impressive and important site in the 11th c. BC in southern Canaan (Israel). The presence of monumental building remains from a period in which such remains are limited, along with the site’s location at an important crossroads indicate that Khirbet el-Rai held an important local and international role in the 11th century. It is this century, in particular, that witnessed the transformation of the southern Levant socially, economically, and politically. Khirbet el-Rai is one of a few sites that provide a glimpse of this generally poorly represented period. In fact, the major site of Lachish, which had been the region’s main settlement throughout the Bronze Age until it was destroyed—and would become the main settlement from the 10th c. Onward—is entirely abandoned in the 11th century. Khirbet el-Rai appears to become the place of prominence as attested not only by the architecture, but also the small finds, including a rare hoard of over 1500 flint sickle blades. When the archaeology, geographic setting, and settlement history of Khirbet el-Rai are considered against the biblical record, it appears that the site should be equated with the site of Ziklag, best known as the site given to king David while he served as a Philistine mercenary. This talk will detail Khirbet el-Rai’s role in the 11th century and articulate the case for it’s identification as biblical Ziklag.

Dr Sophia Aharonovich | Macquarie University

Messages from the beyond: organic microanalysis research of the biblical period sediments from Khirbet el Rai, Israel

Macquarie University is jointly excavating the site of Khirbet el-Rai with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israel Antiquities Authority. The site has been identified as the lost Biblical city of Ziklag, given to David when he was a mercenary for the Philistines before becoming King of Israel. The city has massive buildings and spectacular finds including pottery from its destruction by the Israelites.

The main purpose of organic residue analysis of the Khirbet el-Rai archaeological material is to reconstruct a forensic imprint of the Judean cultural presence at the site and distinguish it from the Philistine culture. Preliminary investigation of the sedimentary samples showed significant differences in chemical composition between different areas of recovered houses at the site as well as differences between public and private zones on the site.

Micro-organic analysis of the Khirbet el-Rai material has great potential to explain the nature of a border town’s population by considering its mixture of sociocultural practices and material culture during the Iron Age. It provides a unique opportunity to study the daily life of the occupants and analyse their anthropogenic footprint on the Shephelah environment. By introducing analytical chemistry analysis on-site at the excavations, we are creating a unique opportunity to sample human activity residue prior to its contamination during sample transportation and before organic compounds disappear in chemical reactions in the oxidised environment.

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