Category Archives: ISRAEL

A ‘game-changer’: Vast, developed 9,000-year-old settlement found near Jerusalem

9,000-Year-Old City Just Unearthed Near Jerusalem Is A ‘Game Changer’ For Archaeologists.

A ‘game changer’: Vast, developed 9,000-year-old settlement found near Jerusalem
The excavation uncovered large buildings, alleyways, burial plots, and countless artifacts like arrowheads and beads.

An archeologist excavation project in Motza near Jerusalem has uncovered an extensive 9,000-year-old settlement called “a game-changer.” The site was saved when builders surveyed it before their planned construction of a highway, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The Neolithic settlement predates Britain’s Stonehenge monument, during which time “more and more” human populations transitioned from continuous migration to more permanent communities.

Co-director of the Motza excavations, Jacob Vardi, claimed the knowledge gathered from this discovery gives archaeologists their “Big Bang” moment regarding this particular stage of human history.

“It’s a game-changer, a site that will drastically shift what we know about the Neolithic era,” said Vardi. The research team estimated a population between 2,000 and 3,000 people once lived in the settlement — “an order of magnitude that parallels a present-day city,” the team said.

The Israel Antiquities Authority asked to survey the area before a highway was built atop, which is when this priceless settlement was discovered.

Spanning dozens of acres, the town sits about three miles northwest of the center of Jerusalem. According to The Times Of Israel, most experts thought the area was uninhabited during this particular prehistoric period — until just recently.

“So far, it was believed that the Judea area was empty and that sites of that size existed only on the other bank of the Jordan river, or in the Northern Levant,” a joint statement by Vardi and archaeologist Hamoudi Khalaily read.

“Instead of an uninhabited area from that period, we have found a complex site, where varied economic means of subsistence existed, and all these only several dozens of centimeters below the surface.”

Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily (left) and Dr. Jacob Vardi (right) at the Motza site. The team plans on publishing several papers on the discovery for the public and installing some of the artifacts in museums.

For Lauren Davis, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority, the site is a wealth of contextual data — and one that will reap priceless rewards yet unknown.

“This is most probably the largest excavation of this time period in the Middle East, which will allow the research to advance leaps and bounds ahead of where we are today, just by the amount of material that we are able to save and preserve from this site,” she said.

In terms of the actual remnants and excavated artifacts produced by the dig, the team exposed sizable buildings, alleys, burial plots, and evidence of fairly sophisticated urban planning. The team also found storage sheds that held miraculously well-preserved lentil seeds and legumes.

“This finding is evidence of intensive practice of agriculture,” the Israel Antiquities Authority said.

Thousands of these arrowheads, as well as a collection of flint tools, axes, sickle blades, and knives, were discovered at the site.

Thousands of arrowheads, a collection of flint tools, axes, sickle blades, and knives were discovered at Motza, as well. Alongside evidence of domesticated animals, the uncovered artifacts indicated a people in transition — teetering between hunter-gatherer and agricultural lifestyles.

“Animal bones found on the site show that the settlement’s residents became increasingly specialized in sheep-keeping, while the use of hunting for survival gradually decreased,” the organization said.

The ancient people of Motza also kept domesticated goats, which researchers theorized were traded with people in Turkey, Jordan, and around the Red Sea. Signs of cow and pig farming were found, too, while the animal remains showed these people hunted gazelle, deer, wolves, and foxes.

The unexpectedly large buildings uncovered in this dig included areas for rituals, with some even containing plaster floors. The alleyways between structures denoted an advanced level of city design for the time, which was another welcome surprise for the excavation team.

A 9,000-year-old figurine in the shape of an ox was recovered at Motza, among countless other evidence of a domesticated culture.

As might be expected in the discovery of an ancient community’s settlement, evidence of human burials — replete with offerings postulated to accompany the dead into the afterlife — were found, as well. Some of these goods, like obsidian beads, came from Turkey, while others, like some seashells, came from the Red Sea many miles away.

“Based on the data that we have and from the fauna, we have a pretty good notion that the people at the site were farmers and they were specialists in what they did,” said Vardi, adding that it was clear why this area was so desirable.

The Motza site — which is about 30 to 40 hectares big, or one-tenth of a square mile — is near a large spring of freshwater, with a few smaller ones scattered about nearby.

As it stands, the excavation project is far from finished. The team plans on publishing numerous research papers and articles for the public on its website, while some of the priceless artifacts are installed in yet-to-be identified museums.

In other words, at some point, you’ll hopefully be able to see the 9,000-year-old things you’ve just read about for yourself.

Newly discovered 1,600-year-old mosaic sheds light on ancient Judaism

Stunning 1,600-yr-old Biblical Mosaics Found in Ancient Galilean Village

Full mosaic depicting Jonah being swallowed by a giant fish in the ancient Huqoq synagogue. 

In an excavation led by Professor Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a 1,600-year-old biblical triptych of mosaics made of small stone cubes (or tesserae) was found in a synagogue in the ancient Galilean village of Huqoq in Israel.

“We’ve uncovered the first depiction of the episode of Elim ever found in ancient Jewish art,” said Dr. Magness.

This comes on the heels of earlier mosaic discoveries at this site which include depictions of The Tower of Babel, Jonah, and the Giant Fish, and the Parting of the Red Sea.

Dr. Magness together with a team of researchers and students uncovered the first ancient Jewish depiction of the Elim episode from the Book of Exodus.

The mosaic depicts the experience of the Israelites camping at Elim after leaving Egypt and wandering in the wilderness without water, which is described in Exodus 15:27.

The 15th chapter and 27th verse describe the site of Elim in which exiled Egyptians sought refuge after exhaustive travel.

The parting of the Red Sea mosaic in the ancient Huqoq synagogue.

Magness said that the Elim panel “is interesting as it is generally considered a fairly minor episode in the Israelites’ desert wanderings, which raises the question of why it was significant to this Jewish congregation in Lower Galilee.”

A mosaic depicting the building of the Tower of Babel in the ancient Huqoq synagogue.

Dr. Magness told the Jewish Press, “The mosaic is divided into three horizontal strips or registers. We see clusters of dates being harvested by male agricultural workers wearing loincloths, who are sliding the dates down ropes held by other men.

The middle register shows a row of wells alternating with date palms.

On the left side of the panel, a man in a short tunic is carrying a water jar and entering the arched gate of a city flanked by crenelated towers. An inscription above the gate reads, ‘And they came to Elim.’ ”

A detail from the newly-discovered Elim mosaic.

It is the ninth year that the university has been digging at the site. Other mosaics have been uncovered.

Another important discovery:  “Chapter 7 in the book of Daniel describes four beasts which represent the four kingdoms leading up to the end of days,” Dr. Magness said.

“This year our team discovered mosaics in the synagogue’s north aisle depicting these four beasts, as indicated by a fragmentary Aramaic inscription referring to the first beast: a lion with eagle’s wings.

The lion itself is not preserved, nor is the third beast. However, the second beast from Daniel 7:4 – a bear with three ribs protruding from its mouth – is preserved. So is most of the fourth beast, which is described in Daniel 7:7 as having iron teeth.”

Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Briton Rivière, 1890

The historical record for an exodus of Jews from Egypt has been much discussed. The May/June 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review addresses both questions—“Did the Exodus happen?” and “When did the Exodus happen?” In the article, evidence is presented that generally supports a 13th-century B.C.E. Exodus during the Ramesside Period, when Egypt’s 19th Dynasty ruled.

Disturbing Instances Where Ancient Egyptian Curses Seemed To Come True

The article examines Egyptian texts, artifacts, and archaeological sites, which demonstrate that the Bible recounts actual memories from the 13th-century B.C.E. For example, the names of three places that appear in the Biblical account of Israel’s exodus correspond to Egyptian place names from the Ramesside Period.

The Biblical mosaics have been removed from the site for conservation, and the excavated areas have been backfilled. Excavations are scheduled to continue in the summer of 2020. Sponsors of the project are UNC-Chapel Hill, Austin College, Baylor University, Brigham Young University and the University of Toronto.

This Is the Oldest Known Inscription Bearing the Full Name of Jerusalem

This Is the Oldest Known Inscription Bearing the Full Name of Jerusalem

The oldest discovered inscription of “Jerusalem” found to date
The oldest discovered inscription of “Jerusalem” found to date

The Israel Museum unveiled a pillar from the 2nd Temple period bearing a 3-line inscription, the earliest stone inscription of the full modern Hebrew spelling of “Jerusalem.”

“Hananiah son of Dodalos of Yerushalayim [the way the ancient Jewish city is written in Hebrew today]” was discovered during a salvage excavation earlier this year of a large Hasmonean Period Jewish artisans’ village near what is today’s western entrance to the city.

In an interview with The Times of Israel, Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Danit Levi said when her team alerted her to the find.

She could not believe that the word “Yerushalayim” could be on an ancient pillar and that it must be graffiti.

Danit Levy, director of the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, inspects the inscribed column in the field.

When she saw the expertly chiseled Hebrew lettering in the 31.5-inch tall column, she dusted it off and began to read.“My heart started to pound, and I was sure everyone could hear it. My hands were trembling so badly I couldn’t properly take a picture,” she said.

Levi believes the column and inscription date back to 100 BCE, and belonged to or was built with money from Hananiah son of Dodalos—Dodalos being a nickname used at the time to refer to artists, based on the Greek myth of Daedalus.

Levi said the column was located in a Jewish village, but that it was found in a ceramic construction workshop used by the Tenth Roman Legion—the army that would eventually destroy Jerusalem and exile the Jews—evidently being reused in a plastered wall.

There is a disagreement among experts as to whether the word “Yerushalayim” was etched in Aramaic or Hebrew. While the bar is the Aramaic word for “son,” the Aramaic pronunciation of Jerusalem was “Yerushalem,” whereas the word in the inscription was written “Yerushalayim,” just like in Hebrew.

The artisan village was located near a natural source for clay, water, and fuel, along the main arter leading to the Temple, which, as noted by IAA’s Jerusalem Regional Archaeologist Dr. Yuval Baruch at the event, is still in use today as a roadway to the Old City.

The artisan village is situated on a massive 200-acre plot, likely in order to accommodate the needs of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who would ascend to the Temple three times a year during festivals, as well as the 50,000 residents of the city at the time.

The column is currently on display at the Israel Museum in the Second Temple period exhibit.

Though this is the first inscription of its kind in stone, the full spelling of Jerusalem has been seen before, including on the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were written as early as 400 BCE.

Source: livescience

Ancient 3,000-year-old tablet suggests Biblical king may have existed

Ancient 3,000-year-old tablet suggests Biblical king may have existed

The pieced together remains of the ninth century B.C. inscribed tablet known as the Mesha Stele.
The pieced together remains of the ninth century B.C. inscribed tablet known as the Mesha Stele.

A new reading of an ancient tablet that is hard to decipher suggests that the biblical King Balak may have been a real historical person, suggests a new study.

But the study’s researchers recommend that people take this finding “with due caution,” and other biblical experts agree.”As the authors admit, this proposal is very tentative,” said Ronald Hendel, a professor of the Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the study. 

The tablet in question is known as the Mesha Stele, an inscribed 3-foot-tall (1 meter) black basalt stone that dates to the 2nd half of the 9th century B.C. The 34 lines on the Mesha Stele describe how King Mesha of Moab triumphed over the Israelites. The inscription is written in Moabite, which is very close to Hebrew.

However, the Mesha Stele is extremely cracked and parts of it are challenging to read because of that damage. When Westerners became aware of the tablet in the 1860s, several people tried to buy it from the Bedouins, who owned the stone.

As negotiations dragged on, 1 Westerner was able to get a paper rubbing of the Mesha Stele; that paper was torn during an ensuing fight, according to a 1994 report in the journal Biblical Archaeology Review.

In the meantime, negotiations soured between the Bedouins and the prospective buyers, who included people from Prussia (North Germany), France and England, in part because of political affiliations with an Ottoman official, whom the Bedouins disliked. So, the Bedouins smashed the Mesha Stele into pieces by heating it up and pouring cold water on it.

Since then, archaeologists have tried to reassemble the smashed tablet by connecting the broken pieces. Now, the Mesha Stele is on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris; about two-thirds of the tablet are made of its original pieces, and the remaining one-third is made of modern writing on plaster, which was informed by the torn paper rubbing, according to the 1994 report.

What does it say?

Researchers have spent countless hours trying to decipher the tablet’s challenging portions. For instance, in the mid-1990s, it was proposed that line 31 referred to “the House of David,” that is, the dynasty of the biblical king.

But some experts are skeptical of this interpretation. In the fall of 2018, the France Secondary School (College de France) had an exhibit on the Mesha Stele, showing a high-resolution, well-lit image of the rubbing. “And of course, we wished to check the validity of the reading ‘House of David,’ suggested for this line in the past,” said study co-researcher Israel Finkelstein, a professor emeritus at the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University in Israel.

The text contained a definite “B,” Finkelstein said. The earlier interpretation was that this stood for “Bet,” which means “house” in Hebrew. But Finkelstein and two colleagues thought that it stood for something else: Balak, a Moab king mentioned in the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Numbers.

“If Balak is indeed mentioned in the stele as the king of Horonaim [a city in Moab], this is the 1st time in which he appears outside of the Bible, in real-time evidence, that is, in a text written in his own time, in the 9th century BCE.

But this is just one idea, and it might not be correct, Hendel said.”We can read one letter, b, which they are guessing may be filled out as Balak, even though the following letters are missing,”

“It’s just a guess. It could be Bilbo or Barack, for all we know.”Moreover, the Bible places King Balak about 200 years before this tablet was created, so the timing doesn’t make sense, Hendel said.

The authors acknowledge this gap in the study: “To give a sense of authenticity to his story, [the Mesha Stele’s] author must have integrated into the plot certain elements borrowed from the ancient reality.”

In other words, “the study shows how a story in the Bible may include layers (memories) from different periods which were woven together by later authors into a story aimed to advance their ideology and theology,” Finkelstein said. “It also shows that the question of historicity in the Bible cannot be answered in a simplistic ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.”

Ancient Jewish village unearthed in eastern Jerusalem

Ancient Jewish village unearthed in eastern Jerusalem

Many archeological excavations have been performed in the Old City of Jerusalem over the past 150 years, some of which have caused enormous controversy.

The first excavation was carried out by the British royal family in the 1870s. But just days ago, the remains of an ancient Jewish village from the Hasmonean period has been discovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The 2,000-year-old remains were discovered in the Sharafat neighborhood of Jerusalem. An elementary school was meant to be built on the site before this important discovery.

The excavation, which was funded by the Moriah Jerusalem corporation, found the remnants of a large wine press that contained fragments of many storage jars, an olive press, a huge columbarium cave (rock-cut dovecote), a ritual bath (or mikveh) of immense proportions, rock quarries, a water reservoir and installations.

The fact that an extravagant burial estate was excavated at this site makes the discovery very significant. During the excavation, it was found that this extravagant estate had a corridor that led to a large courtyard chiseled into the bedrock.

The archaeologists noted that the courtyard had an encompassing bench, with the entrance to the burial cave from its facade.

A picture taken on March 27, 2019 shows weight stones that were part of an ancient olive press at the site of the remains of a Jewish village from the Hasmonean period (approximately 2000-years-old), which are currently being uncovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA)
A picture taken on March 27, 2019 shows weight stones that were part of an ancient olive press at the site of the remains of a Jewish village from the Hasmonean period (approximately 2000-years-old), which are currently being uncovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) 

They also found that the cave comprised numerous chambers, each with oblong burial niches chiseled into the walls. According to the archaeologists, the cave was sealed as a mark of respect for the buried parties, which was in accordance with the Orthodox restrictions of disturbing burials.

Ya’akov Billig, director of the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, told Israel National News: “it looked like the burial site served the prominent or wealthy family during the Hasmonean period and that using burial estates was popular among people who lived in that period.”

While discussing this significant discovery, the archaeologists explained that the earth which covered the burial estate’s courtyard contained huge stones, some of which they believed are elaborate architectural elements common during the Second Temple period. While a few cornice fragments were found, a Doric capital of a heart-shaped pillar was also found.

The quality of the craftsmanship on the heart-shaped pillar is rare, and is usually found in important buildings or burial estates in the Jerusalem area, such as the burial estate of the clerical family of Benei Hazir in the Kidron valley and several tombs in the Sanhedriah neighborhood.

The Dome of the Rock (Qubbet el-Sakhra) is one of the greatest of Islamic monuments. It was built by Abd el-Malik. Jerusalem, Israel
The Dome of the Rock (Qubbet el-Sakhra) is one of the greatest of Islamic monuments. It was built by Abd el-Malik. Jerusalem, Israel

While the excavation is ongoing, it has been revealed that there is possibly a larger village south of the excavation site. With the small part excavated so far, Israel National News reported that it seemed the village was agricultural, and among other things produced olive oil and wine, while doves were also reared. Doves were important as people consumed their meat and eggs, and also used them for sacrificial offerings at the temple.

The droppings from the doves were utilized as manure for agricultural purposes. Columbarium caves, designated installations used for rearing the doves, were a regular sight in the Jerusalem area.

According to the Biblical Archaeology Society, Jerusalem is thought to have expanded from about 5,000 residents who lived around the City of David to 25,000 residents during the Hasmonean period, which led to increased agricultural activities in the city.

Source: israelnationalnews