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October 29, 2016 / 27 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Archaeologists’

Archaeologists Restore Second Temple Courtyard Flooring with Help from Mathematician

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

Archaeologists from the Jerusalem-based Temple Mount Sifting Project are confident that they have successfully restored a unique architectural element of the Second Temple: a series of regally decorated floor tiles that adorned the porticos atop the Temple Mount, which were likely featured prominently in the courtyards of the Second Temple during the rule of King Herod in Jerusalem (37 to 4 BCE).

Frankie Snyder, a member of the Temple Mount Sifting Project’s team of researchers and an expert on ancient Herodian style flooring, said he succeeded in restoring the ornate tile patterns “using geometric principles, and through similarities found in tile design used by Herod at other sites.” Snyder, who has an academic background in both mathematics and Judaic Studies, explained that “this type of flooring, called ‘opus sectile,’ Latin for ‘cut work,’ is very expensive and was considered to be far more prestigious than mosaic tiled floors.”

Assortment of Herodian floor tiles / Courtesy City of David

Assortment of Herodian floor tiles / Courtesy City of David

“So far, we have succeeded in restoring seven potential designs of the majestic flooring that decorated the buildings of the Temple Mount,” said Snyder, who noted that there were no opus sectile floors in Israel prior to the time of King Herod. “The tile segments were perfectly inlaid such that one could not even insert a sharp blade between them.”

“It enables us to get an idea of the Temple’s incredible splendor,” said Dr. Gabriel Barkay, co-founder and director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project. The restored tiles will be presented to the general public on September 8, at the 17th Annual City of David Archaeological Conference.

Zigzag Module, Herodian floor tiles / Courtesy City of David

Zigzag Module, Herodian floor tiles / Courtesy City of David

“This represents the first time archaeologists have been able to successfully restore an element from the Herodian Second Temple complex,” said co-founder and director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project Zachi Dvira.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project was established in response to the illegal removal of tons of antiquities-rich earth from the Temple Mount by the Islamic Waqf in 1999. It is located in the Tzurim Valley National Park, and is supported by the City of David Foundation and the Israel Archaeology Foundation. The initiative is run under the auspices of Bar-Ilan University and the Israel Parks & Nature Authority.

To date, approximately 600 colored stone floor tile segments have been uncovered, with more than 100 of them definitively dated to the Herodian Second Temple period. This style of flooring is consistent with those found in Herod’s palaces at Masada, Herodian, and Jericho, as well as in majestic palaces and villas in Italy, also attributed to the time of Herod. The tile segments, mostly imported from Rome, Asia Minor, Tunisia, and Egypt, were created from polished, multicolored stones cut in a variety of geometric shapes. A key characteristic of the Herodian tiles is their size, which corresponds to the Roman measurement of one foot, approximately 29.6 cm.

Herodian floor tiles Opus Collection / Courtesy City of David

Herodian floor tiles Opus Collection / Courtesy City of David

The possibility that large expanses of the Temple Mount during the Second Temple were covered with opus sectile flooring was first raised by archaeologist and director of the Jerusalem Walls National Park with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority Assaf Avraham in 2007.

Avraham’s theory was based on a description given by the Romano-Jewish historian Josephus (1st Century CE) who wrote, “… the uncovered [Temple Mount courtyard] was completely paved with stones of various types and colors…” (The Jewish War 5:2). Additionally, Talmudic literature records the magnificent construction of the Temple Mount, describing rows of marble in different colors — green, blue and white.

“Now, as a result of Frankie Snyder’s mathematical skills, we have succeeded in recreating the actual tile patterns,” said Dr. Barkay, stressing that “this represents the first time that we can see with our own eyes the splendor of the flooring that decorated the Second Temple and its annexes 2,000 years ago.”

Barkay related that in describing the Temple that Herod built, “the Talmud says that ‘Whoever has not seen Herod’s building has not seen a beautiful building in his life,'” so that although our generation has not yet merited to see the Temple in its glory, “with the discovery and restoration of these unique floor tiles we are now able to have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Second Temple, even through this one distinctive characteristic.”

Since the Temple Mount Sifting Project’s inception in 2004, more than 200,000 volunteers from around the world have taken part in the sifting, representing an unprecedented phenomenon in the realm of archaeological research.


2700 Year-Old Inscription in City of David Excavations

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

Archaeological excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the area of the Gihon Spring in the City of David, in the Walls around Jerusalem National Park, have unearthed a layer of rich finds including thousands of broken pottery shards, clay lamps and figurines. Most intriguing is the recent discovery of a ceramic bowl with a partially preserved inscription in ancient Hebrew. While not complete, the inscription presents us with the name of a seventh century BCE figure, which resembles other names known to us from both the Biblical and archaeological record (see examples below) and providing us with a connection to the people living in Jerusalem at the end of the First Temple period.

This fascinating find will be presented at Megalim’s Annual Archaeological Conference which will take place on Thursday, August 29th in the City of David.

The most similar name to our inscription is Zechariah the son of Benaiah, the father of the Prophet Jahaziel. The name Zechariah the son of Benaiah appears in 2 Chronicles 20:14 where it states that Jahaziel, son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, prophesized before the Biblical King Jehoshaphat before the nation went off to war against the ancient kingdoms of Ammon and Moab.


Pottery Sherd of a Bowl from the end of the First Temple Period, bearing the inscription "ryhu bn bnh". Photo: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority

Pottery Sherd of a Bowl from the end of the First Temple Period, bearing the inscription “ryhu bn bnh”. Photo: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority


Israel Antiquity Authority archaeologists Dr. Joe Uziel and Nahshon Zanton, who discovered the bowl while excavating remains associated with the First Temple period destruction, explained that the letters inscribed on the shard likely date to the 8-7th centuries BCE, placing the production of the bowl sometime between the reign of Hezekiah and the destruction of Jerusalem under King Zedekiah. The archaeologists also explained that the inscription was engraved on the bowl prior to firing, indicating that the inscription originally adorned the rim of the bowl in its entirety, and was not written on a shard after the vessel was broken.

While the purpose of the inscription on the bowl is unclear, archaeologists have posited that the bowl may have contained an offering, likely given by the individual whose name was inscribed on the bowl, or alternatively given to him. Inscription Analysis

The first letter of the ceramic bowl’s partially preserved inscription in ancient Hebrew script is broken and is therefore difficult to read, but appears to be the letter ר. The next three letters יהו constitute the theophoric suffix (the component in which the name of the deity appears as part of the first name, such as Yirme-yahu and Eli-yahu, etc). These letters are followed by בנ (the son of) after which appears the patronymic name composed of the three letters בנה. According to archaeologists Uziel and Zanton, “If we consider the possibility that we are dealing with an unvowelized or ‘defective’ spelling of the name בניה (Benaiah), then what we have before us is the name “…ריהו בן בניה”

Many of the first names mentioned in the Bible contained the theophoric component יהו, as is the case of this inscription from the City of David. Besides the biblical references, other examples of this have also been found in archaeological excavations, written on a variety of objects such as seals, bullae, pottery vessels or even carved on rock. Noteworthy among the many names that end with the theophoric suffix יהו are several prominent examples that were previously discovered in City of David by Professor Yigal Shiloh, such as Gemar-yahu the son of Shaphan, Bena-yahu the son of Hoshayahu, etc. which were also found in the destruction layer and the ruins of the Babylonian conquest.


Jewish Press Staff

Archeologist Discover ‘Gates of Hell’ in Turkey

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Archaeologists say they have discovered the Greek and Roman mythical entry into the underworld, popularly known as the “Gates of Hell,” Discovery News reports.

Legends from both ancient Greece and Rome record stories of mortals who entered or were abducted into the netherworld through such gates. The god Hades kidnapped the Goddess Persephone led her to the underworld through a crack in the earth’s surface. The musician Orpheus traveled to the Greek underworld in search of Eurydice by entering a cave at Taenarum or Cape Tenaron on the southern tip of the Peloponnese. Hercules entered Hades at that same spot. Aeneas entered the region through a cave at the edge of Lake Avernus on the Bay of Naples, and Odysseus through Lake Acheron in northwest Greece.

The newly proposed site of Pluto’s Gate—Ploutonion in Greek, in the ancient city of Hierapolis, now Pamukkale, in southwestern Turkey, is reported to be a close match to historical descriptions of the Greek and Roman “gates.” Describing the site, the Greek geographer Strabo said 2000 years ago: ‘This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground. Any animal that passes inside meets instant death. I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell.”

Sounds dangerous.

The site excavation.

The site excavation.

Italian Archaeologist Francesco D’Andria from the University of Salento claims his team has discovered what they believe to be the ruins of the actual site.

Prof. D’Andria told a conference on Italian archaeology in Istanbul that he and his team had pinpointed the location by reconstructing the route of a thermal springs.

Among the ruins the archaeologists found a cave with Ionic semi columns with inscriptions of dedications to the gods of the underworld Pluto and Kore.

D’Andria also found the remains of a temple, a pool and a series of steps placed above the cave — all matching the descriptions of the site in ancient sources.

“We found the Plutonium by reconstructing the route of a thermal spring, Pamukkale’ springs, which … originate from this cave,” D’Andria told Discovery News.

“People could watch the sacred rites from these steps, but they could not get to the area near the opening. Only the priests could stand in front of the portal,” D’Andria said.

According to the archaeologist, the place was popular with the tourists of the ancient world, the pilgrims. Pilgrims took the waters in the pool near the temple, slept not too far from the cave. Small birds were given to visitors to test the deadly effect of the cave, while hallucinated priests sacrificed bulls to Pluto. The fumes coming from the depths of Hierapoli’s phreatic groundwater produced hallucinations, and the pilgrims would swear they received visions and prophecies..

The ceremony included leading the animals into the cave, and dragging them out dead.

About as entertaining as Sunday Football, but a tad more lethal.

Yori Yanover

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/archeologist-discover-gates-of-hell-in-turkey/2013/04/02/

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