From left to right: Dr Kira Westaway, Lyndelle Webster and Dr Yann Tristant
From left to right: Dr Kira Westaway, Lyndelle Webster and Dr Yann Tristant

A new chronology for the Ancient Near East

How do we know when things happened in the distant past? One researcher at Macquarie University is doing some ground-breaking research for her PhD to find out. Combining her twin passions for archaeology and physics, Lyndelle Webster is using both radiocarbon (C14) and Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) to date organic remains and pottery at the site of Tel Azekah in Israel. In doing so, she expects to solve some long-standing chronological problems that affect much of the region of southwest Israel during the 2nd and 1st millenia BCE.

Lyndelle is pursuing her studies under a co-tutelle between Macquarie and Tel Aviv universities, continuing the research begun in her Research Masters for which she won prestigious scholarships from ANSTO and the Wenkart Foundation. Her Macquarie supervisors are Dr Yann Tristant, an archaeologist, and Dr Kira Westaway from the Department of Environmental Sciences, both of whom bring enormous expertise in archaeological science. At Tel Aviv University, she is working under Dr Yuval Gadot, co-director of the Tel Azekah excavations.

The site in Israel is located in the Judean foothills, 27km southwest of Jerusalem. It is famous for being where David fought Goliath (1 Samuel 17), but Lyndelle explains its greater significance for her work. “Tel Azekah sat astride important trade routes and was constantly being sacked by invading armies. It has a continuity of strata from the Early Bronze Age through to Roman times, and this is amazingly useful for constructing a scientifically-based chronology to compare with the historical accounts and dating built up from pottery typologies”.

Macquarie University has been cooperating with Tel Aviv University at Tel Azekah since excavation commenced four years ago. This is a key part of the Ancient Israel Program developed by Dr Gil Davis in the Department of Ancient History. Over 20 students will go to Israel this year to take part in excavations.