Category Archives: ISRAEL

1,400-year-old Byzantine Hammer and Nails Discovered in Ancient Jewish Village of Usha

1,400-year-old Byzantine Hammer and Nails Discovered in Ancient Jewish Village of Usha

During a Sukkot holiday, some 8,500 individuals were participating in the IAA archeological excavations and activities, but none of them anticipated to discover the most closely associated with building the Sukkah – the hammer and the nails – from the Byzantine period, about 1400 years ago.

Aerial view of the winepresses and the adjacent ritual bath at Ancient Usha

This was the luck of a Tur’an family who participated in a Usha dig in the lower Galilee.

“About 20 iron hammers are recorded with the records of the Israeli Antiquities Authority, of which only six are from the Byzantine period,” according to Yair Amitzur and Eyad Bisharat, the directors of the excavation for IAA.

“It is already known that Usha settlers produced large quantities of glass vessels, as we find several wine glasses and glass lamps together with raw material glass lumps, and the discovery of the hammer, nails, and the adjacent iron slag tells us that they also made iron tools on the site.”

Some of the 15,000 pupils who participated in the archaeological excavations at Usha over the past year

Alongside these industries, complex pressing installations for the production of olive oil and wine indicate that the primary occupation and source of income of the Usha inhabitants was the large-scale processing of the agricultural produce of the olive trees and the vines that they cultivated on the surrounding gentle hillslopes.

Adjacent to the oil and winepresses were exposed two rock-hewn ritual baths with plastered walls and steps, dating to the Roman and Byzantine periods, about 1800 years ago.

The discovery of the ritual baths indicates that the Jewish press workers took care to purify themselves in the ritual baths in order to manufacture ritually-pure oil and wine.

The 1,400-year-old iron hammer and nails that were found at Usha

The main ‘workforce’ excavating the site are school children, youth and volunteers, who participate in the excavations thanks to the Israel IAA’s policy of bringing the community closer to its own cultural heritage.

Over the past year, more than 15,000 youth and families have taken part in the educational venture at Usha, digging and exposing the fascinating past of the site.

Amitzur also said that the town of Usha had been mentioned in Jewish sources since the first century CE.

“The settlement of Usha is mentioned in the Jewish sources many times in the Roman and Byzantine periods, as the village where the institution of the Sanhedrin was renewed, after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and after the failure of the Bar Kochba Revolt in 135 CE”.

“The Sanhedrin was the central Jewish Council and Law Court, and it was headed by the President, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel the Second, who both presided in Usha, and then his son Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi”.

“Here in Usha, the Rabbis of the Sanhedrin made decrees to enable the Jewish people to recover after the war against the Romans, and to reconstruct Jewish life in the Galilee”.

Ancient wine glasses found at Usha

“The Jewish sources mention that Rabbi Yitzhak Nafha was an inhabitant of Usha, and his name ‘Nafha’, meaning ‘the blower’ indicates that he probably worked as a glass manufacturer”.

“The many delicate wine glasses, glass lamps, and glass lumps indicate that Usha inhabitants were proficient in the art of glassblowing. The ritual baths adjacent to the presses indicate that the Sanhedrin Sages paid particular attention to issues of ritual purity”.

The excavations at Usha are part of the Sanhedrin Trail Project that was initiated by the IAA, crossing the Galilee from Bet Shearim to Tiberias, following the movement of the Sanhedrin sages who finally convened in Tiberias.

The excavation is underway, continuing throughout the year with the participation of thousands of school children, youth and volunteers.

Also planned are special activity days open to the general public.  

Well-Preserved Byzantine Church Uncovered in Israel

Well-Preserved Byzantine Church Uncovered in Israel

The Church of the Byzantine Age was discovered by Israeli archeologists on Wednesday in a neighborhood west of Jerusalem.

The Israel Antiquities Authority showed some of the objects of the almost 1.500-year-old church after three years of excavations.

During this discovery, scientists found many sophisticated mosaics depicting birds, fruit and plants and vivid frescoes on the church walls.

The church was also elaborately designed, including a marble chancel and a calcite flowstone baptismal.

One floor mosaic contains an eagle, a symbol of the Byzantine Empire.

“We know of a few hundred churches in the Holy Land but this church by far surpasses most of them by its state of preservation and the imperial involvement which funded it,” said Benjamin Storchan, the excavation’s director.

One of the Greek inscriptions said the church was dedicated to an unnamed ‘glorious martyr’

Mystery martyr

An inscription in the courtyard says the site is dedicated to a “glorious martyr,” although researchers are still puzzling over their identity.

An underground crypt below the main area of the church is believed to have contained the martyr’s remains.

“The martyr’s identity is not known, but the exceptional opulence of the structure and its inscriptions indicate that this person was an important figure,” Storchan said.

The site was likely a popular destination for pilgrims and was well-funded by the Byzantine empire

Another inscription on the site revealed that Byzantine emperor Tiberius II Constantinus helped fund the church’s expansion.

Researchers believe the site was likely a popular destination for pilgrims until it was abandoned during the Muslim Abbasid caliphate in the 9th century AD.

Following the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, the entrances to the church were sealed with large stones.

Excavators were able to move the heavy stones, revealing glass lamps and a piece of the vault where the nameless martyr is believed to have been buried.

Archaeologists may have discovered the village where Jesus is said to have appeared after he was crucified.

Archaeologists may have discovered the village where Jesus is said to have appeared after he was crucified. 

In accordance with Luke’s Gospel. Following the crucifixion of Jesus, two of his disciples went to Emmaus, and a stranger walked by them on their way to the village, asked them what had just happened in Jerusalem.

The stranger disclosed that he was Jesus in this biblical story only when they reached Emmaus and stopped for supper.

Two archeologists suggest that an archeological site known as the Kiriath-jearim might be the Emmaus in a document released in the sequence “New Studies of Archeology of Jerusalem and its Region.”

The location of Emmaus has long been a topic of debate, with a few different sites proposed in the past. 

While biblical scholars generally agree that Jesus was a real person, they’ve long debated which stories in the Bible actually occurred and which ones did not. The story of Jesus reappearing at Emmaus may have never happened. 

The Shmunis Family Excavations at Kiriath-jearim

Complicated proposal

Several clues point to Kiriath-jearim being Emmaus. For instance, the Gospel of Luke says Emmaus is “60 stadia” from Jerusalem, a distance about equal to the 8 miles (13 kilometers) that separates Kiriath-jearim from the Old City of Jerusalem, wrote Israel Finkelstein, professor emeritus at the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University in Israel, and Thomas Römer, a professor of biblical studies at Collège de France, in the forthcoming article.

Recent excavations at Kiriath-jearim have also uncovered a series of fortifications that were renovated during the first half of the second century B.C., and according to the Book of Maccabees, the Seleucid Empire (an empire ruled by the descendants of one of Alexander the Great’s generals) controlled much of the region, fortifying several sites, including Emmaus. 

Excavations indicate that these fortifications at Kiriath-jearim were renovated about 2,200 years ago, an event that appears to be described in the Book of Maccabees. Emmaus was one of the sites that were mentioned as being fortified at that time.

The researchers can’t be completely certain that Kiriath-jearim is Emmaus and not another site fortified by the Seleucids.

But the fact that the site is located 60 stadia from Jerusalem supports the proposal. Additionally, the other sites mentioned in the Book of Maccabees that the Seleucids fortified don’t appear to match up well with Kiriath-jearim.

Adding more evidence for the proposal, pottery found at Kiriath-jearim suggests that the site was inhabited around the time that Jesus is said to have lived. This means there would have been an active village at the site for Jesus’ disciples to visit and where Jesus could have appeared. 

Problems with identification

There are, however, problems with the idea that Kiriath-jearim is Emmaus, the researchers wrote. For instance, there doesn’t seem to be any linguistic connection between the names Kiriath-jearim and Emmaus, the researchers noted. Also, other sites do have at least tenuous links to Emmaus: A fourth-century historian named Eusebius wrote in his book “Onomasticon” that Nicopolis is Emmaus. 

Other sites also have potential. For instance, Josephus, a historian who lived during the first century, wrote that retired Roman soldiers settled at Emmaus, which he claimed was only 30 stadia from Jerusalem, at a site located near Qaluniya (a village that was not abandoned until 1948). 

Finkelstein and Römer are co-directors of excavations at Kiriath-jearim. After their paper is published, scholars not affiliated with the research project will be able to evaluate the proposal’s evidence. 

Archaeologists claim 2,200-year-old ruins in Israel could be the remains of the biblical town Emmaus where Jesus travelled after his resurrection

Archaeologists claim 2,200-year-old ruins in Israel could be the remains of the biblical town Emmaus where Jesus travelled after his resurrection

In Israel, archeologists claimed to have found the Actual location of the biblical town of Emmaus, where Jesus first appeared to two followers after being crucified and resurrected.

Researchers have uncovered the remains of a 2200-year-old fortification at Kiriat-Jearim, a hill on the outskirts of Abu Ghosh, a town near Jerusalem.

It is believed that the massive wall of the Hellenistic forts was built by the Seleucid general who defeated Judah the Maccabee, the Jewish leader has spoken of in the Hanukkah story.

Archaeologists believe that the remains of a 2,200-year-old fortification at Kiriath-Jearim (pictured), a hill on the outskirts of Abu Ghosh, a village near Jerusalem, prove that the hill and village are the biblical towns of Emmaus
Emmaus is significant in Christianity as Jesus appeared to two of his apostles on the road to the town after his crucifixion and resurrection

Tel Aviv University professor Israel Finkelstein, who leads the archaeologist project with Thomas Romer and Christophe Nicolle of the College de France, now claims that the hill and village should be identified as Emmaus.  

In Christianity, Emmaus is significant as Jesus appeared to two of his apostles on the road to the town after his crucifixion and resurrection. 

In Luke 24:13-35, the town is described as being fortified and about seven miles west of Jerusalem. 

This matches the location of Kiriath-Jearim, Abu Ghosh and Jerusalem, as well as the distance between them. 

However, Benjamin Isaac, emeritus professor of ancient history from Tel Aviv University, warned that there are at least two other sites nearby which also have strong claims to be Emmaus.

He said: ‘Finkelstein and Römer have a good case archaeologically, geographically, and topographically.

‘However, it is a hypothesis and remains a hypothesis.’ 

Kiriath-Jearim is also described in the Bible as one of the places where the Ark of the Covenant stood before King David took it to Jerusalem.  According to the Bible, Moses had the Ark of the Covenant built to hold the Ten Commandments. 

Judah the Maccabee, a priest who led a Jewish revolt against the Seleucid empire, was defeated and killed at Kiriath-Jearim in 160 BC by the Seleucid army led by general Bacchides. 

Tel Aviv University professor Israel Finkelstein claims that the hill and village the project is working on should be identified as Emmaus

Bacchides fortified the towns surrounding Jerusalem with large walls, including the biblical town of Emmaus. Archaeologists believe they have found the walls built to fortify Emmaus. 

Describing the site, Finkelstein told Haaretz: ‘The importance of this site, its dominant position over Jerusalem, was felt again and again through time: in the eighth century B.C.E., and then again in the Hellenistic period and then again after the First Jewish Revolt and the sack of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.’

The latest research, including the claims about Emmaus, are detailed in a forthcoming paper published in the journal ‘New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region.’

In Luke 24:13-35, the town is described as being fortified and about seven miles west of Jerusalem. This matches the location of Kiriath-Jearim, Abu Ghosh and Jerusalem, as well as the distance between them

The project at Kiriath-Jearinm is being run by Tel Aviv University and the College de France. It is being supported by the Shmunis family from San Francisco. 

Finkelstein told Fox News: ‘The finds at Kiriath-Jearim hint at its long-term role as guarding the approach to Jerusalem.

‘The Hellenistic and Roman period remains shed light on the much-debated issue of the location of the New Testament’s Emmaus.’

Romer added: ‘Geographically I think that the distance to Jerusalem fits well, so I do think that Kiriath Yearim could have been the Emmaus of the New Testament.’ 

Scientists have found that the tomb of Jesus Christ is far older than people thought

Scientists have found that the tomb of Jesus Christ is far older than people thought

The shrine (sometimes called the Edicule) that holds the tomb of Jesus is seen in this photograph. The shrine is located within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Scientific studies indicate that a tomb that, according to legend, held Jesus Christ’s body dates back nearly 1,700 years.

It is unknown whether the tomb ever really kept Jesus ‘ body. The limestone bed dates back to nearly 300 years after Jesus ‘ death. In addition, several other sites claim to hold the “tomb of Jesus.”

Jesus ‘ tomb is covered by a shrine (sometimes called the Edicule) in Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulcher Church.

According to legend, Helena, the mother of Roman emperor Constantine the Great (reign ca. 306-337), discovered the tomb around the year 327.

Constantine legalized Christianity throughout the Roman Empire and supposedly converted to Christianity before he died.

The legend says the Romans protected the tomb of Jesus by building a shrine over it as well as a church.

This church has been destroyed, renovated and rebuilt several times over the past 1,700 years.

Today, the shrine that covers the tomb is in poor shape and is in danger of collapse. To help save it, a team that includes scientists supported by the National Geographic Society has been conducting conservation work in the shrine and its tomb.

During this work, the archaeologists opened the tomb of Jesus for the first time in centuries — it has been sealed with marble slabs since at least A.D. 1555 to prevent damage from visitors — and excavated the tomb.

They found the remains of what appears to be a limestone bed that, as legend says, may have held the body of Jesus.

Tests using a technique called optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) of mortar from the limestone bed revealed when the quartz within the masonry was last exposed to light.

Candles placed on top of the tomb after its restoration.

The results showed that the bed was constructed around A.D. 345, during or shortly after the reign of Constantine the Great. The test results were released by the National Geographic Society.

“Obviously, that date is spot-on for whatever Constantine did,” archaeologist Martin Biddle, who has studied the tomb extensively, told National Geographic.

Today, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a site of pilgrimage for Christians.

A study reporting the test results will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. When the conservation work is complete, scientists hope that the marble cladding that hid the tomb will be replaced with a material that will allow visitors to see inside the tomb.