Photo Credit: Gilad Stern, Israel Antiquities Authority
Ninth-graders forge mud bricks for the Canaanite gate in Tel Gezer.

Tel Gezer National Park is a hill dating back to biblical times, considered one of the most important archaeological sites in Israel.

In July 2022, a fire erupted in Tel Gezer, spreading over an area of hundreds of acres. The fire damaged the ancient Canaanite gate structure, and now archaeological conservation work has begun at the site. The project involves the local community, under the guidance of Israel Antiquities Authority conservation experts, with the cooperation of the Tel Gezer Regional Council, and financing from the Heritage Ministry and the Nature and Parks Authority.

Ninth-graders forge mud bricks for the Canaanite gate in Tel Gezer. / Gilad Stern, Israel Antiquities Authority

According to Avi Mashiach, director of conservation projects at the IAA’s Preservation Administration, “Most of the stone finds at the site were not damaged in the fire, but the southern gate was built of brittle mud bricks and was damaged. We detected the crumbling and detachment of bricks, which threatened to deteriorate the built mass. These damages affected the stability of the structure. And that’s when the gate conservation initiative was born. The conservation works are based on archaeological research and are carried out using methods that imitate ancient construction methods. The materials we use are delicate, and integrate well with the original building materials, but incorporate modern technology to ensure the structure’s stability and durability for a long time to come.”

In ancient times, Tel Gezer was located at the central intersection of the coastal highway and the road from Jaffa to Jerusalem. Gezer is mentioned in many historical sources, including in the Bible (Joshua 10:35): “At that time King Horam of Gezer marched to the help of Lachish; but Joshua defeated him and his army, letting none of them escape.”

Orit Bortnik, Director of the Archeology and Heritage Division at the Nature and Parks Authority, explained: “Many finds of cultural significance of unparalleled importance have been discovered In Tel Gezer over more than 100 years of archaeological research. These include inscriptions; a waterworks that has been remarkably preserved, part of which was carved at a depth of 60 meters from the top of the mound; and the remains of towers that are thousands of years old.

“In addition, the archeological excavations revealed a gate structure made of mud bricks that remained standing for 3,500 years old, since the Middle Bronze Age. This gate, which belongs to the internal fortification system of the settlement, consists of two gates, north and south. The southern gate is currently undergoing restoration and preservation.”

Charles Clermont-Ganneau (1846–1923) / Palestine Exploration Quarterly

The archaeological mound was first identified as the biblical settlement of Gezer in 1871, by the French researcher Charles Clermont-Ganneau. In the same year, Clermont-Ganneau identified the Arab village of Abu Shusha as Gezer, he also discovered a tablet with the Temple Warning inscription in Jerusalem. He went on to have four more years of exceptional success in several digs around Eretz Israel.

Based on the many archaeological excavations at the site since that lucky Frenchman first discovered it, archaeologists now believe that the settlement of Gezer began before the Biblical period, during the Chalcolithic period, around the middle of the 4th millennium BCE, and continued through the Roman period.

The Tel Gezer Adoption Project of the residents of the Gezer Regional Council started this year as a pilot that included 9th graders. In March and May, the students participated in sifting the soil of the gate and reusing it to forge bricks to restore and preserve the ancient gate.


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