The 2003 season at Gesher (G-29/03; map ref. NIG 252/723; OIG 202/223) was carried out during June–July 2003. The excavation, on behalf of Montana State University, with the cooperation of the Israel Exploration Society, was directed by Susan L. Cohen, assisted by J. Rosenberg (surveying), as well as J.L. Baker, W. Wieckowski, D. Phelps, E. Steinbach, T. Estrup, M. Gaugnin, L. Anderson and E. Christensen.
Four burials (Fig. 1) and their associated grave goods were uncovered, including a total of 17 complete or partial vessels, and two bronze spearheads, all of which are typologically consistent with the ceramic repertoire of early MB IIA phases.
Burial 1 was located in Sq 3; its discovery followed the removal of topsoil and the fill layer beneath. This burial was very poorly preserved and most probably was in a secondary deposition, because of movement down the hill due to erosion. Fragments of the cranium and several of the long bones were present; some bones were articulated, but the skeleton was incomplete. A large one-handled jar with a trefoil mouth was uncovered at least 10 cm above this burial and is presumed to be associated with it. A small carinated bowl to the east of the cranium remains and a small handleless store jar with a triangular rim, which was at the same level as the cranium pieces and long bones, were also attributed to this burial. The store jar was revealed only after the majority of the skeletal material was excavated.
Burial 2 was located in the northwestern corner of Sq 2. Two large fieldstones oriented east–west were on the north of the burial and may have marked the initial tomb; no pit or shaft lines were discerned in the fill matrix. A broken juglet was located in the erosion to the north of the burial, which contained a female interment in a flexed position, with the head to the southeast, facing east. A large store jar was near the feet, though at a higher level than the skeleton. Remains of a second jar were also detected in this area at a higher level than the skeleton itself; the storage jars’ association with the burial is not entirely certain. The arms of the interred were flexed in front of the body, over the chest and an intact carinated bowl was in front of them. The cranium was mostly intact, although badly preserved. A large platter bowl was turned on one side near the head of the interred. The bowl was broken and its fragments were close to one another, yet at different levels and often as far as 10–15 cm apart in location and in depth. Several fragments of red-painted pottery were excavated in association with Burial 2.
Burial 3 was set against the eastern balk of Sq 3. Like the former two, it was poorly preserved and traces of a pit or shaft were not discerned in the surrounding fill. The individual was flexed, with the head to the southeast and the face turning east. At the feet of the individual were two vessels, a store jar and a one-handled jug with painted decoration. Relative elevations and the placement of this burial indicate that a spearhead, found earlier during the excavation in Sq 1 on the south side of the stones, should be associated with this burial. It seems clear that the spearhead was originally located to the northeast of the cranium and should be considered part of the overall burial assemblage. A large, broken but whole, platter bowl was to the north of the stones, but no other ceramics or skeletal remains were found with it.
Burial 4 was located against the middle of the western balk in Sq 1. The interred was in a flexed position, with the head to the southeast, facing east. The skeletal remains in this burial were somewhat better preserved than in the other three; almost all of the cranium was still extant, including the facial bones, the maxilla and mandible, and most of the teeth. As with the other burials, however, the smaller bones of the hands and feet were missing, as well as most of the joints; only one patella survived. Due to the location of the individual against the western balk and its flexed position, parts of the spine and the lower limbs were in the balk and thus, unrecoverable. Four ceramic vessels and a second spearhead were associated with this burial. A large two-handled storage jar with a slightly everted and rounded rim was in front of the legs; the spearhead was near the base of the storage jar. A small bowl with a low carination angle was discovered c. 15 cm to the east of the jar and spearhead, also near the legs of the individual, next to a large, unworked basalt stone. A large platter bowl was lying near the chin of the interred, in front of the arms that were folded against the chest. This bowl yielded some very small fragments of animal bones, though no complete food offerings. The fourth vessel––a small hemispherical bowl––was placed to the east of the cranium’s top.
The skeletal remains from these burials, as well as the pottery assemblage add to the available data from this period and confirm the dating of this cemetery to the early phases of the MB IIA period.