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May 24, 2016 / 16 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘archaeology’

1,700-Year-Old Gravestones of Unknown Rabbis Uncovered in Northern Israel

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Three 1,700-year-old burial inscriptions in Aramaic and Greek have been uncovered in the northern Israeli community of Tzipori.

The discovery came after residents of the moshav found pieces of the stone and called the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology at Kinneret Academic College.

Researchers from the college excavated the site together with archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The two Aramaic inscriptions mention individuals referred to as “rabbis” who were buried in the western cemetery of Tzipori; their names have not yet been deciphered.

According to Dr. Motti Aviam of the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology, “The importance of the epitaphs lies in the fact that these reflect the everyday life of the Jews of Tzipori and their cultural world.

“Researchers are uncertain as to the meaning of the term ‘rabbi’ at the time when Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nasi resided in Tzipori together with the Tannaim and after him by the Amoraim – the large groups of sages that studied in the city’s houses of learning.

“One of the surprises in the newly discovered inscriptions is that one of the deceased was called ‘the Tiberian’. This is already the second instance of someone from Tiberias being buried in the cemetery at Tzipori.

“It is quite possible that Jews from various parts of Galilee were brought to Tzipori to be buried in the wake of the important activity carried out there by Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nasi.

“Another possibility is that the man moved to Tzipori and died there, but wanted to be remembered as someone who originally came from Tiberias,” he explained.

In the second Aramaic epitaph the word ‘le-olam’ (forever) appears for the first time in inscriptions found at Tzipori. The term le-olam is known from burial inscriptions in Beit She‘arim and elsewhere. “It means that the deceased’s burial place will remain his forever and that no one will take it from him. Both inscriptions end with the Hebrew blessing ‘shalom,’” Aviam explained.

Greek inscription on ancient gravestone found in Moshav Tzipori in northern Israel.

Greek inscription on ancient gravestone found in Moshav Tzipori.

“The Greek inscription mentions the name Jose, which was very common amongst Jews living in Israel and abroad.”

So far, 17 epitaphs were documented in the Tzipori study, most of them written in Aramaic, which was the everyday language of Jews in Israel at that time.

Contrasting this are the funerary inscriptions found in Tiberias – the second capital of the Galilee – which were mainly written in Greek.

Several of the ancient inhabitants from Tzipori are mentioned in these inscriptions, which include the names of rabbis and often have the names of the professions they were engaged in. Aramaic was the everyday language used by the Jews in the period of the Mishnah and Talmud, but some of them also spoke and read Greek, and thus there are also burial inscriptions in that language.

Tzipori was the first capital of the Galilee from the time of the Hasmonean dynasty until the establishment of Tiberias in the first century CE. The city continued to be central and important later on and was where Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nasi resided and compiled the Mishnah.

Jewish life in the city was rich and diverse, as indicated by the numerous ritual pools (mikvahs) discovered in the excavation.

At the same time the influence of Roman culture was also quite evident as reflected in the design of the town with its paved streets, colonnaded main roads, theater and bathhouses.

The wealth of inscriptions from the cemeteries attests to the strong Jewish presence and the city’s social elite in the Late Roman period.

Hana Levi Julian

Byzantine-Era Lamb Sculpture Discovered at Caesarea Port

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

Archaeologists discovered a Byzantine-era marble sculpture of a lamb Thursday morning in excavations at Caesarea port in the Caesarea National Park,

Experts suggested that the lamb served as part of the decoration in the 6th-7th century CE church that was discovered adjacent to the ancient port.

 

Jewish Press News Briefs

1,500 Year Old Hebrew Inscription Discovered on East Coast of Sea of Galilee

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

An inscription in Hebrew letters engraved on a large, 1,500-year-old marble slab, first of its kind to be found in Israel, was excavated in the Kursi Beach National Park on the east coast of the Sea of ​​Galilee. The inscription confirms for the first time that the ancient settlement in the area was Jewish or Jewish-Christian. The common assumption has been for years that this was the location of the settlement of Kursi or “Land of the Gergesenes,” which is mentioned in Matthew 8:28. Now, that assumption has received significant support.

Prof. Michal Artzi of the Institute for Maritime Studies at Haifa University said that “this first evidence of the existence of a Jewish settlement strengthens the theory, which until now was considered folklore, that the settlement is Kursi.” Artzi is the director of the excavation, along with Dr. Haim Cohen, in collaboration with the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

The existence of an ancient settlement at the site, on the northeastern coast of the Sea of ​​Galilee, was already known in the 1960s, when the remains of a large pier were discovered below sea level. Later, a short distance away, the remains of a city were found, whose main characteristics made it appear like a Byzantine Christian site. The entire complex became a national park in 1980, and was given the name Kursi, after a nearby Syrian village. The sharp drop in the water level of the Sea of Galilee allowed researchers to return to the location of the breakwater, and after intensive work they realized that the ancient harbor is much bigger than they had thought, and may even be a separate settlement. They were surprised to find there a 59.05 by 27.6 inches marble tablet, with an Aramaic inscription in Hebrew letters. Two of the words on the tablet are “Aman” and “Marmaria.”

Apparently the Hebrew inscription was probably engraved in 500 CE, and according to the researchers, there was a Jewish settlement there which evolved into a mixed town. “The existence of a Jewish settlement on the eastern shores of the Sea of ​​Galilee is a very rare thing. Until now we had no proof that Jewish settlements, which have disappeared over the years, actually existed during that period on the shores of the Sea of ​​Galilee, except for the town of Migdal,” said Prof. Artzi.

Besides its testimony of the existence of the Jewish roots of the excavated settlement, the tablet is unique in other ways: it is the first of its kind found in Israel. Most inscription tablets of that period were made of mosaic; this is the first ever inscription on a slab of marble, specially commissioned from Greece. The inscription is at the entrance to an interior room in a building which probably was a synagogue.

“The inscription consists of eight lines, which means it is very detailed,” said Prof. Artzi. “Usually you won’t find so many words in Hebrew letters engraved in stone, so that the person to whom it was dedicated had to have had a huge impact on the local people. There is no comparable dedication in details and cost in all the archaeological discoveries found in Israel to date.”

Jewish Press News Briefs

King Hezekiah’s Seal Discovered in Jerusalem

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

(JNi.media) The City of David excavations of the Jerusalem Hebrew University on Mount Ophel, at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount compound, have yielded a sensational discovery: a seal (bulla) with the name of King Hezekiah (727-698 BCE). This external evidence further establishes the veracity of the biblical account of the nation of Israel’s empires going back some 3,000 years.

The seal is oval, with the dimensions of 8.6 by 9.7 mm, impressed on soft clay (Bulla) of 12 by 13 mm, about three millimeters thick. The bulla was used originally to sign a document written on papyrus and kept rolled and tied with thin twine whose subtle marks can be seen on the back of the bulla. The seal was discovered along with many pottery shards and various figurines and seals.

King Hezekiah’s bulla was discovered in a garbage heap that was dumped during or shortly after Hezekiah’s time, from a royal building that was used to store food. This building is part of a series of buildings, including a gate and towers, which were built in the second half of the tenth century BCE (the time of King Solomon), as part of the Ophel fortifications of the new government complex that connected the city of David with the Temple Mount.

Another imprinted 33 seals were unearthed along with the bulla, some of them bearing Hebrew names, marked in their backs by coarse canvas and thick wires, which apparently were used to seal sacks containing food products. Each seal is surrounded by a sunken border left by the seal’s frame. The Hezekiah seal bears the inscription: “Hezekiah (son) Ahaz King of Judea,” with an emblem of the sun emblem with tilted down wings and two icons of the Ankh (symbol of life).

According to Dr. Eilat Mazar, “despite the fact that seals bearing Hezekiah’s name have been seen on the antiques market since the 1990s, some with the symbol of a winged scarab (dung beetle) and some with a winged sun symbol, this is the first time that a seal of a King of Israel or Judea was found in a scientific archaeological excavation.”

The discovery of a royal seal at the Ophel archaeological excavations brings to life in a direct way the biblical stories about King Hezekiah and the national affairs that took place in his days in the Royal Borough of Jerusalem.

The seal was discovered via a process of wet sifting of the layers of soil from the excavation, which was conducted at the sifting facility at Tsurim Valley, run by Dr. Gabi Barkai and Tzachi Dvira and sponsored by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the City of David Fund. The seal was found by Efrat Greenwald, a member of the Ophel team who was responsible for screening the excavation soil. Reut Ben-Arie, who prepared the Hebrew bullas from the Ophel excavations, was first to recognize that the seal belonged to King Hezekiah.

The following is an account of Hezekiah’s life from Kings II, 18, translated by Chabad:

Hezekiah King of Judah

1 And it was in the third year of Hoshea the son of Elah, the king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz the king of Judah, became king.

2 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah.

3 And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, like all that his father David had done.

4 He abolished the high places, and smashed the monuments, and cut down the asherah, and crushed the copper serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the children of Israel were burning incense to it; and he called it Nehushtan.

5 He trusted in the God of Israel there was none like him among all the kings of Judah who were after him, nor were there before him.

6 He cleaved to the Lord; he did not turn away from following Him; he kept His commandments, which He had commanded Moses.

7 Now the Lord was with him: in everything he ventured he succeeded; and he rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him.

8 He slew the Philistines up to Gaza and its boundaries, from watchtower to fortified city.

JNi.Media

Seal of First Temple Era King Discovered in Old City of Jerusalem

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

Archaeologists have discovered a First Temple-era seal with the name of King Hezekiah, who ruled Judea at the time.

Hebrew University Dr. Eliot Mazer, who leads the ongoing excavations at the Old City site, said that the half-inch long seal, or “bulla,” is the “closest as ever that we can get to something that was most likely held by King Hezekiah himself.,” who ruled in the 8th century BCE.

The inscription on the bulla, one of several that have been found in the past several years, reads:

Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz, king of Judah.

The seal was embellished with motifs from Egyptian culture and was used to seal a scroll, indicating that King Hezekiah had signed the document.

He is best known today as for excavating the water channel from Silwan water springs to the Old City, an engineering feat.

King Hezekiah dug the tunnel after the invasion by the Assyrian empire.

The Bible records in 2 Kings 18:5 notes his historical significance:

After him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Eight Is Not Enough: History of the Ancient Candles in Israel

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

(JNi.media) The central commandment associated with Hanukkah, lighting the candles, presents the spiritual redemption of the nation following the victory of the Hasmoneans in their war against the Hellenistic Seleucid empire of Antiochus IV. The additional light we kindle each day of Hanukkah reminds us of the Hellenistic attempt to defile all the oil in the Temple, and the miraculous appearance of a pure oil jug that lasted until we were able to replenish the supply of untainted oil.

The Hanukkah commandment is to light the candles at the front door, or in a window overlooking the street, so they may be seen by passersby, as an announcement of the miracle. The candles light up the darkness, expressing the hope that the goodness associated with light prevail over the evil associated with darkness.

Biblical and Mishna-time candles were different from the candles we know today, notes a recent online exhibition at the Israel Antiquities Authority. The term “candle” was used to refer to a vessel, usually made of clay, which contained the fuel and a fuse. Initially a small clay bowl was used to contain the oil—usually olive oil—and the fuse was typically made from linen. Eventually, artisans pinched a fold in the lip of the clay bowl, for the fuse.

The shapes of ancient candles evolved over the years. During the Early Bronze Age to the Persian period (3500-300 BCE), the most common candles in Israel were open. These were simple, bowl-shaped ceramic lamps, with a pinched lip, made with a potter’s wheel, without decoration.

During the Hellenistic period (third century BCE) — the time of the Hasmoneans — and later, during the Roman, Byzantine and Islamic eras, local artisans began to produce a different kind of candle. the “closed” candle. This lamp was made with a stencil, and is composed of two separate parts, upper and lower, joined together after drying. The top of the candle had two openings: one for melting the fat and the other for laying the fuse; the lower part served as the base and the oil container. The origin of the closed candle was in Greece, and soon it became so common that it replaced the open candle in Israel. The closed candle is characterized by incised decoration, in relief or by drawing on the outside. Occasionally, candles were painted or colored.

The late Islamic period reintroduced the bowl-shaped open candle, made with a potter’s wheel.

The oil lamp provided portable and controlled light for thousands of years, until the invention of electricity. Here are a few candles representing the evolution through the ages in Israel. For a complete display, go to the Israel Antiquities Authority page.

 

Pinched lip candle — 1000-2000 BCE

Pinched lip candle — 1000-2000 BCE

Long nose, corked refill hole, satire decoration — Hellnistic period 337-333 BCE

Long nose, corked refill hole, satire decoration — Hellnistic period 337-333 BCE

Sunburst candle with radial decoration — Hellnistic period 337-333 BCE

Sunburst candle with radial decoration — Hellnistic period 337-333 BCE

JNi.Media

Archaeologists Reveal Another Ancient, Luxurious Mosaic in Lod

Monday, November 16th, 2015

Second Impressive Mosaic Uncovered in Lod

A second impressive mosaic discovered by archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority is ready to be publicly displayed this week for the first time ever.

In June–November 2014 a team of IAA archaeologists directed a large excavation in the Neve Yerek neighborhood of Lod. It is an area where a breathtaking mosaic that served as the living room floor in a villa some 1,700 years ago was previously exposed.

Ancient Mosaic uncovered in Lod

Ancient Mosaic uncovered in Lod

The aim of the excavation was to prepare the ground for construction of a visitor center, to which the beautiful mosaic will be returned when it completes a series of exhibitions in museums around the world.

Important artifacts were discovered in the new excavation, the most notable of which is another colorful mosaic (11 × 13 m) that was the courtyard pavement of the magnificent villa that had the famous mosaic in its living room.

IAA mosaic of fish uncovered in Lod.

IAA mosaic of fish uncovered in Lod.

According to Dr. Amir Gorzalczany, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The villa we found was part of a neighborhood of affluent houses that stood here during the Roman and Byzantine periods. At that time Lod was called Diospolis and was the district capital, until it was replaced by Ramlaafter the Muslim conquest. The building was used for a very long time.”

The northern part of the complex, where the “Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center” will be constructed, was exposed when the Israel Antiquities Authority was inspecting development work being carried out in the early 1990s prior to the construction of Highway 90.

Detailed mosaic in Lod showing gazelles.

Detailed mosaic in Lod showing gazelles.

The mosaic, which was discovered and excavated at that time by the late Miriam Avissar, is among the most beautiful in the country, and has been exhibited in recent years in some of the world’s leading museums, including the Metropolitan, the Louvre and the State Hermitage etc. It is currently on display at the Cini Gallery in Venice, Italy, and in the future it will be housed in the main building to be erected in Lod.

The southern part of the complex was exposed in the current excavations. Among other things, it includes a large magnificent courtyard that is paved with a mosaic and surrounded by porticos (stoas–covered galleries open to the courtyard) whose ceiling was supported by columns. According to Dr. Gorzalczany, “The eastern part of the complex could not be completely exposed because it extends beneath modern buildings in the neighborhood.”

The scenes in this mosaic depict hunting and hunted animals, fish, flowers in baskets, vases and birds. Dr. Gorzalczany added, “The quality of the images portrayed in the mosaic indicates a highly developed artistic ability.”

Numerous fragments of frescoes (wall paintings prepared on wet plaster) reflect the decoration and the meticulous and luxurious design, which are in the best tradition of the well-born of the period. In light of the new discoveries, this part of the villa will also be incorporated in the visitor center.

Archaeologists Hagit Torgë, Uzi ‘Ad, Eriola Jakoel and Yossi Elisha of the Israel Antiquities Authority participated in the excavation.

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/archaeologists-reveal-another-ancient-luxurious-mosaic-in-lod/2015/11/16/

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