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October 6, 2015 / 23 Tishri, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘archaeology’

Rare 1,500-year-old Mosaic Featured on Sukkot at Kiryat Gat Industrial Park

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

A rare 1,500-year-old mosaic discovered two years ago during an archaeological excavation in the Kiryat Gat Industrial Park is being revealed to the public for the first time during the Sukkot holiday.

The mosaic, which depicts a map with streets and buildings, was exposed during a dig conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority together with school children and employees from the industrial park.

IAA workers conserving the mosaic.

“The appearance of buildings on mosaic floors is a rare phenomenon in Israel,” commented IAA archaeologists Sa’ar Ganor and Dr. Rina Avner. ““The buildings are arranged along a main colonnaded street of a city, in a sort of ancient map. A Greek inscription preserved alongside one of the buildings exposed in the mosaic indicates that the place which is depicted is the settlement Chortaso, in Egypt.

“According to Christian tradition, the prophet Habakkuk was buried in Chortaso. The appearance of this Egyptian city on the floor of the public building in Kiryat Gat might allude to the origin of the church’s congregation”.

Great artistry and fine detail was used to conserve the mosaic.

“The mosaic pavement was part of the floor of a church that did not survive, the IAA explained. Two sections of the mosaic were preserved; animals such as a rooster, deer and birds, and a goblet with red fruits are portrayed on one part of the pavement.

Buildings were among the images depicted in the excavated mosaic conserved in the Kiryat Gat Industrial Park.

Nile River landscape in Egypt consisting of a boat with a rolled-up sail, streets and buildings is depicted on the second carpet. The buildings are portrayed in detail and in three dimensions, with two and three stories, balconies and galleries, roofing, roof tiles and windows.

The artist utilized ‘tesserae’ of 17 different colors in preparing the mosaic,” noted Ganor. “The investment in the raw materials and their quality are the best ever discovered in Israel.”

For the first time, the “Factories from Within” Festival will be held in the Kiryat Gat Industrial Park during Chol Hamoed Sukkot. The entire industrial park will become an event-filled arena on October 1, including one-time performances in unconventional locations with rare visits inside of some of the best-known factories in Israel.

Unique 1,800-Year-Old Sarcophagus Found at Ashkelon Building Site

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

A unique and extremely impressive stone sarcophagus approximately 1,800 years old has been exposed at a building site in a new neighborhood being built in Ashkelon.

This occurred during an overnight operation between Tuesday and Wednesday carried out by inspectors of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, the Southern District of the IAA, and patrol officers and detectives from the Ashkelon police station.

The find is among the rarest sarcophagi ever discovered in Israel. The coffin, made of hard limestone, weighs approximately two tons, is 2.5 meters long, and is sculpted on all sides. A life-size figure of a person is carved on the lid of the sarcophagus.

A wreath coming out of the upper edge of the sarcophagus, which is decorated with bulls’ heads. The wreath consists of acanthus leaves together with pinecones and fruit. A grape cluster is in the center of the wreath, and a rose-like decoration is also displayed in it.

A wreath coming out of the upper edge of the sarcophagus, which is decorated with bulls’ heads. The wreath consists of acanthus leaves together with pinecones and fruit. A grape cluster is in the center of the wreath, and a rose-like decoration is also displayed in it.

The unique artifact was repeatedly struck by a tractor in different places, scarring the stone and damaging the decorations sculpted by an artist on its sides. The irreparable damage was caused by the contractors who encountered the impressive sarcophagus during the course of their work.

They decided to hide it, pulling it out of the ground with a tractor while aggressively damaging it, and then concealing it beneath a stack of sheet metal and boards. They poured a concrete floor in the lot so as to conceal any evidence of the existence of the antiquities site.

Information received by the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery about unlawful activities at the construction site led to a nighttime search being conducted in the area. A close examination of the area revealed the sarcophagus and the lid concealed there.

The sarcophagus lid and the sarcophagus during the initial cleaning.

The sarcophagus lid and the sarcophagus during the initial cleaning.

Five Palestinian Arab construction workers from the Hebron area were detained who were sleeping at the building site. During investigation of the laborers at the Ashkelon police station, it became clear that the sarcophagus was excavated last week. When questioned, they showed the investigators photos and videos taken at the time of the sarcophagus’ discovery and while removing it from the ground.

Later that night, two building contractors were detained who are residents of the city and were responsible for the construction work at the site. The contractors were questioned under caution on suspicion of not reporting an ancient discovery and on suspicion of damaging an antiquities site and its artifacts – an offense punishable by five years imprisonment.

“This is an extremely serious case of damage to a rare antiquity of unprecedented artistic, historical and cultural importance,” said Amir Ganor, head of the Inspection Department at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“The IAA is attentive to development needs and the needs of the public, but will strictly enforce the law against those who knowingly damage antiquities, which are assets belonging to us all.

“Out of consideration for the owners of the lots, we permitted building in the new neighborhood of villas, on condition they would report any discovery of antiquities in the area right away and immediately halt work until the arrival of our representative.

Palmyra’s Ancient ‘Temple of Bel’ Destroyed in New Blast

Monday, August 31st, 2015

A new blast ripped through central Syria late Sunday, notifying local residents that another majestic tribute to their history had been blown into rubble.

The Temple of Bel, an even larger prize that one taken a week prior, became the latest casualty of the radical Islamist hordes that are now known as “Da’esh to the Middle East — and by various names elsewhere around the world: ISIS, ISIL, or Islamic State. It matters little.

One cannot replace destroyed antiquities, the record of a people’s past.

The extent of the latest damage to the priceless 2,000 year old UNESCO World Heritage Site is not yet clear, because it is beyond dangerous to approach the area. But it is certainly clear the destruction was extensive.

Da’esh operatives practice an extremist form of fundamentalist Islam and have stated their commitment to smashing any idols they encounter, regardless of historic value as museum pieces or archaeological artifacts.

The only exceptions have been stolen pieces the group has sold on the black market in order to fund its activities — but the nature of those looted items is not clear, nor does anyone really know which pieces were sold, nor to whom.

Local residents near Palmyra described the mammoth explosion that shook the ground where they were, according to the BBC. One resident told the Associated Press it was “total destruction,” adding that “bricks and columns are on the ground.”

Reporters were told that only the wall of the temple, which was dedicated to the Palmyrene gods and was one of the best preserved parts of the ancient site, remains.

Just one week ago, the terrorist group blew up another temple in the ruins of the ancient city they had seized in May.

Da’esh terrorists beheaded the chief archaeologist of Palmyra, 82-year-old Dr. Khaled Asa’ad less than two weeks ago after having first interrogating and torturing him for a month.

They hung his bloodied, headless body from one of the 2,000 year old columns in the ancient city after executing him in the main square of the historic site.

Syrian state antiquities chief Ma’amoun Abdulkarim said in a statement quoted by Reuters, “The continued presence of these criminals in this city is a curse and bad omen on (Palmyra) and every column and every archaeological piece in it.”

Syrian officials led by Asa’ad had managed, however, to move out hundreds of the ancient statues that were in Palmyra but were not part of its Roman-era structures, before the site was captured by the Da’esh terrorists.

It was for this reason he was tortured: Da’esh wanted to know the location of the treasures from Palmyra, said a Syrian source. Asa’ad denied them this prize.

Second Temple-Era Podium May Be Discovery in City of David

Monday, August 31st, 2015

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has made an exciting announcement: A 2,000-year-old podium may have been found in the City of David section of the Old City of Jerusalem.

A unique stepped structure exposed on the street ascending from the ‘Siloam Pool’ to the Temple Mount is raising questions among the researchers at IAA.

The intriguing, impressive pyramid-shaped staircase is constructed of large ashlar stones. It was uncovered during a current IAA archaeological excavation in the Jerusalem Walls National Park in the City of David.

The area of the excavation is the site of ancient Jerusalem, and the dig is being carried out in cooperation with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the City of David Foundation.

This structure is situated alongside the 2,000 year old Second Temple stepped street, which carried pilgrims on their way from the Shiloah (Siloam) Pool to the Temple, which stood atop the Temple Mount.

The street, a section of which was excavated in the past, is remarkably well-preserved and is built of enormous stone slabs. IAA archaeologists believe the street most likely runs above the 2,000 year old drainage channel, discovered a number of years ago, which carried rain water out of the city.

The street was constructed sometime in the fourth decade of the first century CE, and was one of the largest construction projects undertaken in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period.  Dozens of whole pottery vessels, stone vessels and glassware were found at the foot of the pyramid-shaped staircase.

Coin from the period of the Great Revolt against the Romans, discovered in the destruction layer atop the street from the Second Temple period.

Coin from the period of the Great Revolt against the Romans, discovered in the destruction layer atop the street from the Second Temple period.

“The structure exposed is unique. To date such a structure has yet to be found along the stepped street in the numerous excavations that have taken place in Jerusalem and to the best of our knowledge outside of it. For this reason, its exact use remains enigmatic,” said archaeologists Nahshon Szanton and Dr. Joe Uziel, who are heading the excavation on behalf of the IAA.

“The structure is built along the street in a place that is clearly visible from afar by passers-by making their way to the Temple. We believe the structure was a kind of monumental podium that attracted the public’s attention when walking on the city’s main street.

“It would be very interesting to know what was said there 2,000 years ago. Were messages announced here on behalf of the government? Perhaps news or gossip, or admonitions and street preaching – unfortunately we do not know.

“Bliss and Dickie, two British archaeologists who discovered a small portion of this structure about 100 years ago, mistakenly thought these were steps that led into a house that was destroyed. They would certainly be excited if they could come back today and see it completely revealed,” the archaeologists added.

It is known from rabbinic sources there were “stones” that were used for public purposes during the Second Temple period. For example, one source cites the “auction block” in connection with the street: “[a master] will not set up a market stand and put them (slaves) on the auction block” (Sifra, BeHar 6).

In the Mishnah and Talmud the “Stone of Claims” is mentioned as a place that existed in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period: “Our Rabbis taught: There was a Stone of Claims in Jerusalem: whoever lost an article repaired thither, and whoever found an article did likewise. The latter stood and proclaimed, and the former submitted his identification marks and received it back. And in reference to this we learnt: Go forth and see whether the Stone of Claims is covered” (Bava Metzia 28:B),” an IAA spokesperson added.

Thief Returns ancient Roman Artifacts: ‘They Brought Me Nothing but Trouble’

Monday, July 13th, 2015

By Zack Pyzer/Tazpit News Agency

A pair of ancient Roman trebuchet stones were discovered outside a museum in southern Israel on Monday, accompanied by a cryptic note.

The artifacts were identified as two of the many thousands of such projectiles launched by the Roman legions at Jewish rebels in 67 CE, during a battle for the northern city of Gamla.

The stones were left outside the Museum of Islamic and Near Eastern Cultures in Be’er Sheva. Judging by the content of the note, it seems as though the person who stole them 20 years previously was at last righting his wrong.

The typed message from the unnamed individual was discovered by an employee of the museum, and began, “These are two Roman trebuchet balls from Gamla, from a residential quarter at the foot of the summit.”

“I stole them in July 1995 and since then they have brought me nothing but trouble. Please, do not steal antiquities!”

Explaining the significance of the projectiles, Dr. Danny Syon, from the Israel Antiquities Authority, said “The Romans shot these stones at the defenders of the city of Gamla, in order to keep them away from the city walls.”

“In that way they could approach the wall and breach it with a battering ram. The stones were manually chiseled on site by soldiers or prisoners,” Syon continued.

The trebuchet balls will now be displayed in the National Treasures Department, while many other stones from the Gamla region are already exhibited at the Gamla Nature Reserve.

In a land bursting with archeological treasures, this is not the first time that stolen antiquities have reached the Israel Antiquities Authority in a bizarre manner.

In one case, an Israeli returned a 2,000 year old Jewish coffin to the authorities. It had been kept in a bedroom in Tel Aviv until the man realized the morbidity of the find.

Rare Inscription from King David Discovered in Jerusalem Hills

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

This article has been updated.

A rare inscription from the time of King David was discovered at Khirbet Qeiyafain the Elah Valley, southwest of Jerusalem and near Beit Shemesh.

A ceramic jar approximately 3,000 years old that was broken into numerous shards was found in 2012 in excavations. Letters written in ancient Canaanite script could be discerned on several of the shards, sparking the curiosity of researchers, Prof. Yosef Garfinkel of Hebrew University and Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Its artifacts department glued together hundreds of pottery shards to form a whole jar and solved the riddle – the jar was incised with the inscription, ” Eshbaʽal Ben Bada.”

Professor Garfinkel and Ganor said:

This is the first time that the name Eshbaʽal has appeared on an ancient inscription in the country. Eshbaʽal Ben Shaul, who ruled over Israel at the same time as David, is known from the Bible.

It is interesting to note that the name Eshbaʽal appears in the Bible…only during the reign of King David, in the first half of the tenth century BCE. This name was not used later in the First Temple period.

[Editor’s note: The name “Eshbaʽal” only appears in Divrei HaYamim (Chronicles) 1-8:34 & 1-9:39 and he is generally identified as Ish Boshet, the son of King Saul.]

They added that the correlation between the biblical tradition and the archaeological finds indicates this was a common name only during that period. “The name Bedaʽ is unique and does not occur in ancient inscriptions or in the biblical tradition,” they added.

The fact that the name Eshbaʽal was incised on a jar suggests that he was an important person, according to the researchers. He apparently was the owner of a large agricultural estate, and the produce collected there was packed and transported in jars that bore his name.

The researchers stated:

This is clear evidence of social stratification and the creation of an established economic class that occurred at the time of the formation of the Kingdom of Judah.

Khirbet Qeiyafa is identified with the biblical city Shaʽarayim. During several seasons of excavation, a fortified city, two gates, a palace and storerooms, dwellings and cultic rooms were exposed.

The city dates from the time of David – the late 11th and early centuries BCE. Unique artifacts that were previously unknown were discovered at the site.

According to Garfinkel and Ganor:

In recent years four inscriptions have been published: two from Khirbet Qeiyafa, one from Jerusalem and one from Bet Shemesh. This completely changes our understanding of the distribution of writing in the Kingdom of Judah, and it is now clear that writing was far more widespread than previously thought.

It seems that the organization of the kingdom required a cadre of clerks and writers and their activity is also manifested in the appearance of inscriptions.


Church from 6th Century Discovered near Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Highway

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Archaeological excavations near the Jerusalem–Tel Aviv Highway 1, at the entrance to Abu Gosh approximately eight miles west of the capital, have uncovered a large Byzantine-period road station that included a church.

The excavations were conducted while upgrading and widening the highway to six lanes.

The site lies next to a seep spring known as ‘Ain Naqa‘a, located on the outskirts of Moshav Bet Neqofa. The current excavation season uncovered a church measuring about 16 meters (52 feet) in length and which includes a side chapel 6.5 m long and 3.5 m wide and a white mosaic floor.

A baptismal font in the form of a four-leafed clover, symbolizing the cross, was installed in the chapel’s northeast corner.

Fragments of red-colored plaster found in the rubble strewn throughout the building showed that the church walls had been decorated with frescoes. To the west of the church were rooms that were probably used as dwelling quarters and for storage. One of them contained a large quantity of pottery tiles.

The excavations yielded numerous different finds, testifying to intensive activity at the site. These included oil lamps, coins, special glass vessels, marble fragments, and mother-of-pearl shells.

Annette Nagar, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said:

The road station and its church were built in the Byzantine period beside the ancient road leading between Jerusalem and the coastal plain. Along this road, which was apparently already established in the Roman period, other settlements and road stations have previously been discovered that served those traveling the route in ancient times.

Included in the services provided along the route were churches, such as the one recently uncovered at the entrance to Abu Gosh. Other churches have been recorded in the past in Abu Gosh, Qiryat Ye‘arim, and Emmaus. This road station ceased to be used at the end of the Byzantine period, although the road beside which it was built was renewed and continued to be in use until modern times.

The excavation site will be covered and preserved for future generations.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/church-from-6th-century-discovered-near-tel-aviv-jerusalem-highway/2015/06/10/

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