Tel Kabri Project

Tel Kabri Project

An explanation of the technology being used in professor Eric Cline’s archaeological work at Kabri, Israel.

Grades

9 - 12

Subjects

Anthropology, Archaeology, Social Studies, World History

The Eastern Mediterranean is one of the oldest continuously inhabited regions on Earth. According to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel has more than a hundred archaeological sites, and Jerusalem alone boasts more than 15. This series of three case studies examines different archaeological sites in Israel, and how historians and archaeologists are using GIS and other technologies to uncover the past. ARCHAEOLOGIST Dr. Eric Cline, professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and co-director of The Megiddo Expedition and the Tel Kabri Project SITE DESCRIPTION Kabri, in the western Galilee region of Israel, is the remains of a Canaanite city that dates back to around 2000 BCE. The remains are surrounded by agricultural land and covered with banana and avocado trees. Among the finds on the site is a 3,500-year-old Canaanite palace. “The interesting thing about the site is that it is basically a one-period site,” Cline says. “It was occupied in the middle Bronze Age and then abandoned for a reason that we still haven’t yet figured out. And then it’s really never re-occupied again.” HIGH-TECH TOOLS “I think the level of technology that we utilize at Kabri is mid-range, not as much as at some digs, but a lot more than others,” Cline says. DISCOVERING THE SITE Kabri was initially excavated by professors Aharon Kempinski and Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier from 1986 to 1993. Using remote sensing in 2003, Cline’s colleague Assaf Yasur-Landau realized there were walls far away from areas excavated on the previous dig. In 2005, Cline and his team came back to Kabri with one primary goal. “Our very first excavation season was really designed just to test whether remote sensing was accurate,” Cline says. The archaeological crew detected what appeared to be walls by using remote-sensing equipment. “They [the walls] were exactly where the remote sensing said they would be, but the remote sensing had not told us how far down they would be,” Cline says. In 2012, Cline and his team used a new remote sensing tool called Multi-Frequency Domain Electromagnetic (MFDEM). This device can look at specific underground layers, allowing archaeologists to skip some sections of earth to focus on others. When Cline and his team looked again at the 2012 remote sensing scans during the excavation season in 2013, they suddenly realized that it had worked. "We just hadn’t known how to interpret them," Cline says. "Where we excavated, it turned out the orange dots were the jars, and the pink lines were the walls. In fact, remote sensing had indeed told us what was down there. We just didn’t interpret it properly." DOCUMENTING THE FINDS Archaeologists at Kabri use pen and paper to record their finds. “At one point, I wanted to go completely digital,” Cline says. “I wanted to only use iPads in the field. I wanted to beam it [information] up to the cloud. We immediately ran into problems. For instance, if you are going to do that at the site, you need a generator of some sort, because you have to get on the Internet. Also, the Internet at the place where we were staying did not have unlimited data. “When we are in the field, we are doing pen and paper,” Cline says. “In the afternoons, we enter the information on the computer into the database, which is the way people have been doing it for a decade or more.” In 2013, the archaeologists used LIDAR at Kabri. LIDAR is a remote sensing technology that measures distance with a laser. Archaeologists at Kabri used it to map a storeroom that contained almost 40 storage jars. The device mapped the room to within three millimeters of accuracy in less than five hours. “This is just another way of recording data that can be accessible to anybody else in case we interpreted it wrong,” Cline says. “Also in case something new comes out in five years. We still have the data in five years.” INTERPRETING THE SITE Cline says they use carbon-14 dating to determine the age of artifacts found at Kabri. The technique finds the approximate age of artifacts by measuring the amount of carbon that has decayed. Carbon-14 dating only works on organic substances—artifacts must contain material that was once alive, such as plant fibers. DISSEMINATING NEW INFORMATION ABOUT THE SITE Cline publishes his work in peer-reviewed academic journals, but he also uses social media to get the word out about Kabri. “I use the WordPress blog mostly before the season, to recruit people,” he says. “During the season, I use Facebook. I post daily pictures of our excavations on Facebook, and I make them public so anyone can access them.” The archaeologist also uses popular presentation software to prepare information for public appearances. “Whenever I give a lecture on Kabri or Megiddo, I’m using PowerPoint, because you can’t talk about a site these days without an image,” Cline says. “In fact, that is what I do in the classroom too. Every idea, every concept, every thought has an image associated with it.”

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Writer
Stuart Thornton
Editors
Jeannie Evers, Emdash Editing, Emdash Editing
Kara West
Producer
National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

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