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Field Work

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The AUB Museum has conducted excavations at the following sites in Lebanon and Syria:

TELL EL-GHASSIL - Bekaa (1956-1974 )

The 12 campaigns of the Tell el-Ghassil excavation were conducted by Dr. Dimitri Baramki and Dr. Leila Badre with the help of the AUB Museum team and archaeology students.

The site is located in the University Farm (AREC) in the Bekaa, at 16 km south-west of Baalbek. Eleven archaeological levels ranging from 1800 to 600 BC indicate that Tell el-Ghassil was a rural agrarian site.

 


Excavated area in Tell el-Ghassil during the 1959 season

 

The Beirut Central District excavations. The AUB Museum team conducted excavations on three sites under the directorship of Dr. Leila Badre.

1-      BEY 003 – The Ancient Tell

One of the first three teams to work on the tell of Beirut from October 1993 to July 1995 was the AUB Museum team.
The choice of site was influenced by the interest of locating the “Biruta” of the Amarna texts and in finding out if ancient Beirut existed in the Phoenician period.
The main outcome of the excavation was the discovery of a continuous fortification system that began at the start of the second millennium BC and continued to the Hellenistic period (3rd c. BC).

The major discoveries of the excavation were:
- A small corner of a room that marks the earliest beginnings of urban Beirut in the third mill. BC
- The first city wall is of stone reinforced with a clay glacis or sloping wall; this was a defensive technique also used in ancient Byblos.
- A single settlement mud brick walls built on stone foundations that belonged to a palace, a public place or a domestic habitation.
- A monumental gate protected by a chicane system, along with a dromos and a flight of steps leading up into the city.
- A jar burial was found with the skeleton of a 3 ½ years old girl who was interred with a beautiful necklace of gold, rock crystal and carnelian beads around her neck (1800 BC)
- A hoard of Egyptian objects of alabaster, faience, basalt, bronze and ivory was found on bedrock. A comparison of these objects, with parallels from Byblos suggests that they might belong to a sanctuary.
- The Phoenician glacis, preserved to seven meters high, was found directly underneath the asphalted road. The glacis is built with large pebble stones and roughly cut limestone. 160m of the glacis was still preserved. This glacis follows the same curve as the earlier wall and is parallel to it. Built by the Canaanites in the 13th c. it was still used by the Phoenicians until the 11th c. BC
- A complex of Phoenician casemate wall with storage rooms (8th-7th c. BC). In one of these rooms 13 jars were found broken in situ, one of which was full of burnt raisin seeds. Another commodity ready for export was olive oil. Phoenician inscriptions meaning “for oil” were found on the sherds of two jars. Another storage room yielded 23 jars, which include 2 imported jars from Greece and Cyprus, suggesting international commerce with these two countries.
- The last occupation of the site is the crusader castle, and like those in Byblos and Sidon, was built with huge embossed blocks and reinforced with re-used Roman columns. The castle was demolished during the first project to enlarge the harbor about 1890.

 


The Phoenician glacis found during the excavation


Alabaster offerings found
during the excavation


The entrance gate to the Tell of Beirut

2- BEY 012 – The excavation site of Saint Georges Cathedral of the Greek Orthodox


Excavations were carried out by the AUB Museum team, directed by Dr. Leila Badre and supervised by Nadine Panayot and Rita Kalindgian. Excavations inside the cathedral were completed in September 2001. Eight layers of occupation from the Hellenistic period to the present, including the remains of five, possibly six successive churches were found. 
Results of the excavations yielded the remains of five churches, the oldest being represented by the mosaic floor of the Byzantine church Anastasis. Also found was evidence of a 12th-13th century church that was severly damaged by an earthquake in 1759. The last three churches of 1764, 1772 and 1783 had their altars removed in order to locate the apses of the Anastasis Church. In addition to the five churches, four necropolis (Roman, Medieval, Mameluke and Ottoman) were also discovered. The sixth phase of the cathedral was modified in 1910 and was covered all over with frescoes and following Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war, it was restored by architect Nabil Azar. 


The Saint George Cathedral
during the excavations

                The Crypt Museum of the Saint George Cathedral of the Greek Orthodox

In less than a decade, Dr. Leila Badre opened a second museum (after the AUB Museum) in the Crypt of the St. George Cathedral of the Greek Orthodox in downtown Beirut. It was with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Elias Audi, Archbishop of Beirut, that the excavation project, within the Cathedral, was undertaken by the AUB Museum team.

The idea of conserving all the archaeological remains in a Crypt Museum was introduced by Dr. Leila Badre and suppported with enthusiasm by H.E. Ghassan Tueini. Its financing was made possible thanks to a generous donation from Jacques and Naila Saade Foundation. Yasmine MAkaroun designed its architecture while its museographic concept was created by Dr. Badre and executed by Mrs. Makaroun and her team with the help of the graphic designer Katia Salha. The restoration of the ruins and their conservation in situ were the work of Isabelle Skaff and her team.

Today you can see the Crypt Museum from a glass platform cut in the floor of the cathedral. When you enter the museum you can admire objects from various periods, which are on display in the two showcases. Visitors may then meander along a narrow metal walkway to 12 stops to view church remains: Byzantine mosaic floors, medieval apses and pillars painted with frescoes, tombs and burial chambers. Metropolitan Elias Audi used one of the exhibited medieval benediction crosses, to bless the people during the first mass after the restauration.

The Crypt Museum is open from Tuesday thru Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. A 10 minutes visual presentation on the history of the cathedral is available in English, Arabic and French.


View of the Crypt Museum 
below the Saint George Cathedral of the Greek Orthodox


View of the Cathedral from the Crypt

3- BEY 125 – The archaeological site under an-Nahar Building

The excavations of the AUB Museum team directed by Dr. Leila Badre and supervised by Ms. Nadine Panayot, revealed six distinct levels of occupation down to bedrock. Each layer has been carefully excavated and the material sorted and identified. The finds, dating from the Persian to Byzantine times, indicate that this portion of the city has been continuously inhabited since the fourth century BC.

- A large building from the Persian period (550-330 BC) was found along with four smaller ones. Among the artifacts were fragmented potteries, oil lamps and several fragments of male and female terracotta figurines.
- From the Hellenistic period (330-64 BC) the team found two distinct levels separated by the remains of a fire layer. The fire may be related to the reported destruction of Beirut by Tryphon (ca. 143 BC). Two main paved roads were discovered there. Most of the archaeological material includes several domestic items, oils lamps, figurines, bowls and jars. Bronze coins and bronze arrowheads are evidence of metallurgical standards.
- Remains of the Late Hellenistic period show that rebuilding took place after the destructive fire. The most exciting finds of this period were frescoes from the 2nd and 3rd c. BC, which cover two walls. Geometrical in pattern, the frescoes have alternating red and green panels surrounded by a red frame. A painted plaster floor is associated with the walls.
- The Roman period (64 BC-330 AD) is something of a mystery. Artifacts dating from the first centuries BC and AD were found.
- The early Byzantine period (4th- 5th c. AD) has revealed several buildings and a number of tannours and silos. The paved roads cover a complex water and sewer system.
- Major discoveries from the Late Byzantine period were some mosaics and a well
- The Medieval period (1098-1517 AD) reveals indications of destruction.

 


Byzantine mosaic found in the site of BEY215

 

 


Arial view of the BEY 125 site

TELL KAZEL (South of Tartous - Syria).

The excavation at Tell Kazel has been an ongoing project of the AUB Museum under the directorship of Dr. Leila Badre since July 1985.
Dr Badre and her team have worked on the site every year, uncovering levels from the Mameluk Period down to the Middle Bronze Age. This Tell is very likely the ancient Simyra, a strategic Bronze Age city of the Kingdom of Amurru.

The first soundings at Tell Kazel were carried out in 1956. In 1960-68, excavations by M. Dunand, N. Saliby and A. Bounni uncovered remains from the Middle Bronze to the Hellenistic period.

In 1985, after a break of 17 years, the AUB Museum decided to reactivate the Tell Kazel excavations because the site was important for building up the early history of the region.

Between the years of 1985 to 2009 work was carried out in four areas of the Tell. The major finds were:
- different areas of settlement from the Middle Bronze age to the Hellenistic period
- a Late Bronze age temple and an Iron age temple
- rooms with floors paved with sea shells
- the city’s fortification wall
- storage rooms full of pithoi or other types of local and imported potteries
- a water cistern

In the 2004 season in Tell Kazel, the team organized the display of four cases of excavated objects from Tell Kazel at Tartous Museum. Visitors to the museum can now view artifacts organized according to their location on site, like local and imported potteries from houses or tombs, temple offerings, Barbarian ware and luxury items (faience vessels, necklaces of glass bead, cylinder seals…)

 


The Late Bronze Age excavated in Tell Kazel

 

        KAFTOUN - Restoration of the wall paintings in the church of Mar Sarkis and Bakhos in Kaftoun

The Monastery of the Greek Orthodox in Kaftoun is situated in the deep valley created by Nahr al-Jawz, in the Koura region, below the village of Kaftoun. Built around the second half of the 13th century, it was abandoned during a certain period of time then revitalized since 1977. But the small church of Mar Sarkis and Bakhos stayed abandoned and neglected.

The discovery of the wall paintings in the church of Mar Sarkis and Bakhos in Kaftoun happened during a phase of regeneration of the church, proposed in 2003 by Mr. Saba Sabbagha.
Dr. Leila Badre took the initiative of contacting a team of conservators and archaeologists from the Academy of Fine arts in Warsaw and the University of Warsaw.

The project of restoration was supported by the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology of the University of Warsaw and the Department of Art Conservation and Restauration of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. The project included Krzysztof Chmielewski (project director and restorer, Academy of Fine Arts) and Thomasz Waliszewski (co-director and archaeologist, Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw) and a team of polish archaeologists, restorers and students. With the help of Lebanese archaeologists, the DGA, the nuns from the Theotokos Monastery in Kaftun

The project was generously financed by the Fondation Nationale du Patrimoine. 

 


The church of Mar Sarkis and Bakhos in Kaftoun
during restoration in 2003

 


The first wall painting discovered

 

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