There is a song you may remember from the early 1980s—“One Thing Leads to Another.” The concept often plays out in archaeology—as we saw at our Tel Gezer Water System Project excavations, carried out by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Israel Nature and Parks Authority and Liberty University’s School of Divinity. By simply following the trail, we made significant findings near a water system that appears to be the largest and oldest in the ancient Near East.
We have now been clearing the monumental water system at Tel Gezer for seven years. After removing more than 550 tons of thick black mud—with boulders in almost every shovelful—we are currently at a depth of about 145 feet. Even after all this mudslinging, we still lack answers to some of our fundamental questions: How much deeper to the bottom of this water system? When was this monumental work hewn?
R.A.S. Macalister, the Director of Excavations for the Palestinian Exploration Fund, discovered the system in the early 1900s and dated it to between 2000 and 1800 B.C.E. Since then, dating suggestions have been all over the place.