The 2004 season at Gesher (G-37/04; map ref. NIG 252/723; OIG 202/223) was carried out during July–August 2004. 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 W. Wieckowski, E. Christiansen, T. Estrup, D. Phelps, O. Cannon, and J. Baker. Three students from Montana State University also participated in the excavations.
Four burials (B 5–8; Fig.1), following Burials 1–4 excavated last season, and associated material culture were uncovered, including a total of nine complete or partial vessels, and one bronze spearhead. As with the material from previous seasons, the vessels are typologically consistent with the ceramics repertoire of the early MB IIA period.
Burial 5 was located in Sq 1, directly to the east of where the square has been cut by the road. The burial was incomplete and was most probably in a secondary deposition, similar to Burial 1 from the 2003 season. The bones were extremely poorly preserved; the small bones from the hands and feet were missing, and the cranium had been placed over the long bones, with the mandible in between them. Two fragmented complete vessels were found in association with this burial. A large open bowl with a wide grooved rim that was broken in several large pieces, mixed with the sherds of a jar. Both vessels were found to the east of where the bones were piled.
Burial 6 was located in the center of Sq 1. It was poorly preserved, and analysis was possible only while the bones were in the ground; all skeletal remains crumbled when removed from the surrounding dirt matrix. Despite the poor preservation, it was, however, possible to identify almost the entire skeleton. The individual, most probably an adult female, was lying in a flexed position, with the head to the east and the face toward the north. Two vessels were associated with this interment. A broken complete store jar that was placed near the feet of the individual, and a large open bowl placed in front of where the arms were folded, in front of the chest. Faunal remains were found within the bowl.
Burial 7 was in the eastern part of Sq 1, close to and south of Burial 5. The majority of this burial must have been, in fact, destroyed by the road that cut the site, as only a few portions of the skeleton were preserved; those portions that had become visible in the cut through continued erosion were completely desiccated and damaged. No traces of the cranium were discerned, only some long bones, a few remains of the pelvis and sacrum, and some other bones. No ceramics were found in association with this individual, which should probably be attributed to the destruction by the road cut or to erosion. A bronze spearhead was found in Burial 7, although the damage to the skeleton made it impossible to determine the original relationship of the weapon to the body. Despite the inconclusive evidence, it is possible that this individual was an adult male.
Following the excavation of Burials 5–7, a stone wall was uncovered while removing sterile fill in Sq 3. This wall (length c. 1 m, width 0.40 m), roughly aligned southeast–northwest, was built of unhewn fieldstones, and leaned slightly from south to north.
Burial 8, located to the north of this stone wall, was the best preserved interment found during the 2004 season. The individual was aligned east–west, lying on the left side of the body, with the head to the east and the face to the south. Almost the entire skeleton was preserved, save most of the left arm and part of the left foot. Initial analysis indicated that the individual was an adult male. The area in which the body lay was slightly softer than the surrounding matrix, but no clear pit lines marking the burial were discernable. Two vessels were associated with Burial 8. A medium-sized handleless store jar was placed near the lower legs and feet of the individual, and an open bowl, containing faunal remains was found near the arms.Following the removal of the four burials, an additional extension in Sq 2 was opened, attempting to locate more interments. Although no further burials were detected, three more vessels were excavated from this area. The first was a small carinated bowl, found in the eroded material close to the slope of the hill near the road cut. The two other vessels were slightly to the west of the bowl, also quite close to the disturbed/eroded area. A small jar or juglet was found lying on its side within a large open bowl. The juglet was poorly preserved and deteriorated further as it was excavated and removed. No human remains were associated with these three vessels. The associated skeletal material may have completely deteriorated prior to the excavation, noting the poor preservation of bones from the site in general, or perhaps were lost due to erosion on the hillside.
The skeletal remains from these burials and the associated grave goods indicate that this site should be placed in the early phases of the MB IIA period, thus making Gesher one of the earliest MB IIA sites in the northern interior of Canaan.