Biblical Archaeology Review 36:3, May/June 2010

Strata: Tell of Deception

The name Tel Achzib may mean “mount of deception” in Hebrew, but this artificial archaeological site located in Searcy, Arkansas, offers students an authentic archaeological learning experience. Students in Dr. Dale Manor’s Biblical World and Archaeology class at Harding University have an opportunity to put their classroom training to use in the field right in their backyard. Manor, who holds a doctorate in Near Eastern archaeology from the University of Arizona, has designed a four-layer tell that mimics the strata students would find at a site in Israel or Jordan.

Manor spent the fall of 2007 constructing the 35-by-25-yard site near Harding’s campus, burying archaeological evidence of four distinct periods of habitation similar to those found throughout the Levant. The site uses architecture and artifacts, including agricultural and animal remains, to clue students in to the period represented.

The first (top) layer simulates a transient Bedouin encampment. Below this, and partly protruding through the surface, is a layer similar to that of the period of the monarchy in ancient Israel, dating from about 1000 to 586 B.C. As successive semesters of students excavate the site using the archaeological processes learned in Manor’s classroom, they’ll find a habitation layer representing the period of the Judges (1200 to 1000 B.C.) and the Patriarchal period (1900 to 1600 B.C.).

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