web analytics
February 27, 2015 / 8 Adar , 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘archaeology’

Ancient Grape Seeds in Negev May Help Re-Create 1,500-Year-Old Wine

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Archaeologists have discovered 1,500-year-old grape seeds in the Negev Desert for the first time and which were used to produce “the Wine of the Negev” — one of the finest and most renowned wines in the whole of the Byzantine Empire.

A joint study by University of Haifa and the Israel Antiquities Authority at the Byzantine city of Halutza (found the seeds that were of a variety that did not survive to present days.

“Our next task is to recreate the ancient wine and perhaps we will then be able to reproduce its taste and understand what made the wine of the Negev so fine,” said the excavation director, Prof. Guy Bar-Oz of the University of Haifa.

“The vines growing in the Negev today are European varieties, whereas the Negev vine was lost to the world. Our next job is to recreate the ancient wine, and perhaps in that way we will be able to reproduce its taste and understand what made the Negev wine so fine,” he added,

Archaeologists know of “the Wine of the Negev” or “Gaza Wine” — named for the port it was sent from to all corners of the empire — from historical sources from the Byzantine period. This wine was considered to be of very high quality and was very expensive.

No one knows what made it so fine because the variety did not survive.  In earlier excavations in the Negev, archaeologists found the terraces where the vines were cultivated, the wineries where wine was produced, and the jugs in which the wine was stored and exported, but the grape seeds themselves were not found until the new discovery.

The archaeologists found the ancient grape seeds in one of the Halutza refuse dumps that were preserved almost completely intact and now mark the boundaries of the ancient city.

The researchers found a particularly high concentration of fragments of pottery vessels used for storage, cooking and serving, which included a significant number of Gaza jugs used for storing the ancient Negev wine. The archaeologists also found a wealth of biological remains, including bones of Red Sea fish and shellfish from the Mediterranean that were imported to the site, which indicated the vast wealth of the Byzantine city residents.

The next stage of the study is to join forces with biologists to sequence the DNA of the seeds to discover their origin.

The archaeologists are asking, “European varieties require copious amounts of water. Today it is less of a problem thanks to technology, but it is unlikely that was the case 1,500 years ago. It is more interesting to think of local grape varieties that were better suited to the Negev. Maybe the secret to the Negev wine’s international prestige lay in the method by which the vines were cultivated in the Negev’s arid conditions.”

Ancient Leviathan Fossils Found in Arava Valley

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

The land that runs along the edge of the southern end of the Dead Sea, near a certain section close to Masada, is soft and white. Although there are steep mounds of chalky white deposits that seem to stand guard along a path that moves inward towards the cliffs that rim the sea, they too are brittle, delicate and soft. They crumble at a touch.

One can climb those mounds, reach the top and then slide down just for fun. Desert tour guides sometimes take their private clients there to do just that – especially if there are children along for the tour.

The entire area, you see, was actually an ancient seabed. So it should come as no surprise that the remains of what may have been the Leviathan were found in southern Israel, researchers announced Tuesday.

Thirty fossilized remnants of the Elasmosaurus, described by Dr. Sarit Ashckenazi-Polivoda in an interview with The Jerusalem Post as the “cousin of dinosaurs” were found in the Arava Valley between 2012 and 2014.

During the period from which the fragments came – some 85 million years ago – the area was covered in ocean water 200 meters deep, the researcher said. “All of Israel was under water until 20-30 million years ago,” she told the Post. “The sea had a lot of algae and plankton that bloomed then, that attracted a lot of fish that fed on the algae, which the reptile ate.”

No one knows how or why the creatures from that period became extinct, but they disappeared about 66 million years ago, she said. Global changes such as volcanic eruptions that warmed and cooled the environment and caused changes in the ocean, as to the fish and algae, certainly could have contributed.

A dinosaur footprint was also found in Jerusalem in the 1980s, she said, and a 75 million-year-old reptile skeleton was found in the Negev in 2005.

The Elasmosaurus remains are currently on display at Hebrew University.

To Be or Not To Be

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Professor Israel Hershkovitz (above) of the David-Manot Cave project compares a Neanderthal skull (R) and a Homo Sapiens skull (L), outside the excavation cave in Manot, Western Galilee in Northern Israel, on January 28, 2015.

Manot Skull 2

Archaeologists discovered a 55,000-year-old human skull in the Manot cave, which is the earliest fossilized evidence of an anatomically modern human skull outside Africa, and sheds light on human evolution, proving that modern humans migrated from Africa to the rest of the world, through the Middle East.

Archaeologist, Omer Barzilai (below) holds the recently discovered human skull in the Manot cave, in the Western Galilee, North Israel.

Manot Skull 3

Fragment of 1,700-Year-Old Menorah-Adorned Bracelet Discovered on Hanukkah

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

The Israel Antiquities Authority has uncovered during Hanukkah a fragment of a 1,600-year-old glass bracelet, adorned with  motifs of the seven-branched menorah used in the Holy Temples.

The discovery at Mount Carmel National Park was made in an excavation prior to the construction of a water reservoir for the city of Yokniyam, east of Haifa.

An industrial region and refuse pits found during the excavation were part of a large settlement that existed in the Late Roman and Early Byzantine periods, end of the 4th century to the beginning of the 5th century.

Limor Talmi and Dan Kirzner, excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said,  “Last Thursday, at the end of the excavation, we began the initial processing of the finds.

“While examining the contents of one of the boxes which contained hundreds of glass fragments that had been discarded in the refuse pit, we found to our surprise a small fragment of a bracelet. Naturally it was extremely dirty, but still, you could see it was decorated.

“After cleaning, we were excited to discover that the bracelet, which is made of turquoise colored glass, is decorated with symbols of the seven-branched menorah – the same menorah which according to tradition was kept alight in the Temple for eight days by means of a single cruse of oil.”

The researchers said, “It seems that the bracelet was embossed with the decoration while the glass was still hot. Stamped impressions of two menorot survived on the small fragment that was found – one a plain seven-branched menorah, of which only the surface of the menorah is visible and the other one consisting of a seven-branched menorah with flames depicted above its branches.”

According to Yael Gorin-Rosen, head of the Ancient Glass Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “Bracelets and pendants made of glass that are decorated with symbols of a menorah or lion or different images of gods and animals, are known during these periods in Israel, Lebanon and Syria. So far, three fragments of bracelets with menorah decorations have been discovered in archaeological excavations in the country: in an excavation at Bab el-Hawa in the northern Golan Heights, at Banias, and another bracelet that was discovered years ago in the excavations at Shiqmona, Haifa.

The Shiqmona bracelet is also adorned with an image of a menorah that has flames above it.” Rosen-Gorin added, “Jewelry such as this was found in excavations, usually in the context of funerary offerings. It is unusual to find such objects in settlement strata, and even rarer to discover them in an ancient refuse pit.”

“The question now is – Is this definite proof that Jews lived in the ancient settlement?” according to the researchers.

But it is also possible that Samaritans resided there or a pagan or Christian population.

Another hypothesis suggests that the bracelet comes from a workshop operating in the area and was intended for other markets. This possibility is based on other glass debris that was exposed in the refuse pit, among them beads and bracelets. Glass jewelry was used extensively in the Late Roman period.

It  can reasonably be assumes that “those items that were specially decorated were more expensive than the plain unornamented ones,” the IAA experts added. “The refuse that was discovered in the pit included numerous glass vessels and fragments of glass window panes, as well as a selection of jewelry, indicating of a population that lived a life of comfort and affluence. Conceivably, the large industrial area that was located there supported the residents of the nearby settlement.”

Unique 65-Foot Long Entrance Discovered at Herodian Hilltop Palace

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Archaeologists have discovered a monumental 65-foot long by 20-foot wide entryway to the Herodian Hilltop Palace at the Herodium National Park.

The unique complex was uncovered by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology during excavations by The Herodium Expedition in Memory of Ehud Netzer over the past year, as part of a project to develop the site for tourism.

The main feature of the entryway is an impressive corridor with a complex system of arches spanning its width on three separate levels. These arches buttressed the corridor’s massive side-walls, allowing the King and his entourage direct passage into the Palace Courtyard. Thanks to the supporting arches, the corridor has been preserved to a height of 65 feet..

Hebrew University archaeologists Roi Porat, Yaakov Kalman and Rachel Chachy suggest that the corridor was built as part of Herod’s plan to turn Herodium into a massive artificial volcano-shaped hill, a vast and impressive monument designed to commemorate the architect-King.

Surprisingly, during the course of the excavations, it became evident that the arched corridor was never actually in use, as prior to its completion it became redundant. This appears to have happened when Herod, aware of his impending death, decided to convert the whole hilltop complex into a massive memorial mound, a royal burial monument on an epic scale.

Whatever the case, the corridor was back-filled during the construction of the massive artificial hill at the end of Herod’s reign. The upper section of a new monumental stairway stretching from the hill’s base to its peak, constructed during the course of this building phase, appears to have been built over it.

The excavators point out that not only was the arched corridor covered over in the course of the construction of the hill-monument, but also were all the structures earlier built by Herod on the hill’s slopes, including the Royal Theater uncovered by the expedition in 2008.

The only edifice not covered over was the splendid mausoleum-style structure, identified by Netzer, now deceased, and the expedition as Herod’s burial-place. Together with the monumental cone-shaped hill, this constituted the unique Herodian Royal burial-complex.

During the course of the current excavations, the original impressive Palace vestibule, blocked when the corridor became redundant, was also exposed. This entry-room, decorated with splendid painted frescoes, had a magnificent entryway leading into it, and offered evidence of the rebel occupation during the Great Revolt (66-71 CE), including Jewish Revolt coinage and crude temporary structures.

In addition, the excavations in the arched corridor also turned up impressive evidence from the Bar Kokhba Revolt period (132-135/6 CE): hidden tunnels dug on the site by the rebels as part of the guerilla warfare they waged against the Romans.

Supported in part by wooden beams, these tunnels exited from the hilltop fortress by way of the corridor’s walls, through openings hidden in the corridor. One of the tunnels revealed a well-preserved construction of 20 or so cypress-wood branches, arranged in a cross-weave pattern to support the tunnel’s roof.

In the future, according to Mr. Shaul Goldstein, Director of Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority, the excavation of the arched corridor will allow visitors direct access to the Herodium hilltop palace-fortress, in the same way that Herod entered it two thousand years ago.

There are also plans to provide tourists direct access from the structures on the slope, the Royal Theater and the Mausoleum, via the earlier monumental stairway, to the hilltop Palace.

Unique palace entry complex discovered at Herodian Hilltop Palace by Hebrew University archaeologists.

Entranceway at Herodian Hilltop Palace.

Aerial view of Herodian.

Aerial view of Herodian.

archaeology herdo aerial viet tazpit aerial

Centuries before Hanukkah: Remains of 8,000-Year Old Olive Oil Found in Galilee

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

The earliest evidence for the use of olive oil in the country, and possibly the entire Middle East, was revealed at an antiquities site in the Lower Galilee, Israel Antiquities Authority wrote contend in the Israel Journal of Plant Sciences.

Dr. Ianir Milevski and Nimrod Getzov directed an archaeological salvage excavation in 2011–2013 at “En Zippori” in the Lower Galilee, prior to the widening of a highway, and their findings and research indicate that olive oil was already being used in the country 8,000 years ago.

Getzov and Milevski methodically sampled the pottery vessels found in the excavation in order to ascertain what was stored in them and how they were used by the site’s ancient inhabitants. Together with Dr. Dvory Namdar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Earth Sciences, they took small pieces of pottery and utilizing chemical methods for extraction and identification examined the organic remains that were absorbed in the sides of the vessel.

These tests revealed that the pottery dating to the Early Chalcolithic period contained olive oil. A comparison of the results of the extraction from the archaeological shards with those of modern, one-year-old oil, showed a strong resemblance between the two, indicating a particularly high level of preservation of the ancient material, which had survived close to its original composition for almost 8,000 years.

Of the 20 pottery vessels sampled, two were found to be particularly ancient, dating to approximately 5,800 BCE. According to the researchers, “In underwater archaeological excavations directed by Dr. Ehud Galili opposite Kfar Samir, south of Haifa, remains of an olive oil industry from this period were previously discovered, whereas now at Zippori, evidence has been found for first time of the use of olive oil.

“Together with the Kfar Samir discovery, this is the earliest evidence of olive oil production in the country, and possibly the entire Levant (the Mediterranean basin).”

Milevski and Getzov said, “It seems that olive oil was already a part of the diet and might also have been used for lighting. Although it is impossible to say for sure, this might be an olive species that was domesticated and joined grain and legumes – the other kinds of field crops that we know were grown then.

“Those crops are known from at least two thousand years prior to the settlement at ‘En Zippori. With the adoption of olive oil the basic Mediterranean diet was complete. From ancient times to the present, the Mediterranean economy has been based on high quality olive oil, grain and must, the three crops frequently mentioned in the Bible.”

 

 

 

‘House of David’ Rock on Exhibit at NY Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

A stone on which is inscribed the earliest known reference to the era of King David is on display at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Dimly lit, the stone slab, or stele, doesn’t look particularly noteworthy, especially when compared to the more lavish sphinxes, jewelry and cauldrons one encounters en route to the room where it is installed.

A Twitter post this fall, art journalist Lee Rosenbaum described the 2750-year-old rock, nearly 13-by-16 inches and which resembles an aardvark or elephant, as “homely.”

What’s significant about this stone is its inscription: “the earliest extra-biblical reference to the House of David.”

“There is no doubt that the inscription is one of the most important artifacts ever found in relation to the Bible,” Eran Arie, curator of Israelite and Persian periods at the Israel Museum, wrote in the exhibit catalog.

The stone is on display as part of the “Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age” exhibit running through January 4.

As is to be expected with a rock nearly three millennia old, the slab is missing considerable portions, and Arie’s translation of the remaining 13 lines of text is full of ellipses and bracketed additions. What is clear is that the Aram-Damascene king Hazael brags of having killed 70 kings, including of Israel and of the “House of David.” Scholars agree that the round figure is probably exaggerated, although Hazael did have a reputation for being ruthless and successful.

The breaks in the stone neither obstruct nor obscure the “bytdvd,” or House of David, inscription, which remains “absolutely intact and clear,” said Ira Spar, professor of history and ancient studies at Ramapo College in New Jersey and a research Assyriologist at the Metropolitan Museum.

Epigraphers and biblical historians agree almost unanimously that the letters “bytdvd” refer to the House of King David, according to Spar.

“While it is clear that David was king of Israel, the archaeological evidence for the extent of his kingdom remains unclear,” he said.

Despite its “extraordinary inscription,” the rock, a seventh century BCE “Annals of Sennacherib” that tells of a siege of Jerusalem mentioned in the Bible, and a 10th-century BCE “Taanach Cult Stand” that may feature a depiction of the Jewish God, have been “curiously” ignored in reviews of the Met’s exhibit, notes the Biblical Archaeology Society website.

In the catalog for the “Assyria to Iberia” exhibit, the Israel Museum’s Arie wrote that the inscription’s matter-of-fact invocation of David’s name just some 150 years after his reign amounts to a “clear indication that the ‘House of David’ was known throughout the region and that the king’s reputation was not a literary invention of a much later period.” This, he adds, “clearly validates the biblical description of a figure named David becoming the founder of the dynasty of Judahite kings in Jerusalem.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/house-of-david-rock-on-exhibit-at-ny-metropolitan-museum-of-art/2014/12/16/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: