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December 1, 2015 / 19 Kislev, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘archaeology’

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.

Under the Temple Mount

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

Republishing our 2012 archaeological exploration under the City of David.

A 45-minute tour underneath the walls of Jerusalem and uncovering the ancient history of Jerusalem.

Palmyra ‘Arch of Triumph’ Latest Casualty of ISIS

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

The Da’esh (ISIS) terror group has blown up another priceless archaeological treasure in its quest for the world’s attention.

According to Syrian chief of antiquities Ma’amoun Abdulkarim, the Arch of Triumph at the 2,000-year-old city of Palmyra was destroyed on Sunday, local witnesses attested.

The group had already blown up two temples at the Roman-era UNESCO World Heritage site, which it captured from Syrian government forces this past May.

Other monuments and historic buildings at the ancient site, which the group considers to be sacrilegious, have been mined.

“It’s as though there is a curse that has befallen this city,” Abdulkarim told Reuters. “I expect only news that will shock us. If the city remains in their hands the city is doomed.”

But he added that he does not believe the destruction is driven by idealism alone at this point.

“It is now wanton destruction … their acts of vengeance are no longer ideologically driven because they are now blowing up buildings with no religious meaning,” he said.

In August, the terrorists blew up two pagan temples – the temple of Ba’alshamin, and then the Temple of Bel – one of the best preserved Roman-era sites.

Earlier this month it was confirmed that Da’esh had demolished some of the best preserved of Palmyra’s funeral towers. These were sandstone mausoleums built to hold the remains of the ancient city’s richest families.

UNESCO — the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — describes the Arch of Triumph that graced the colonade entryway to Palmyra as “an outstanding example of Palmyrene art.”

An outraged UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova called the destruction of Palmyra’s architectural gems by Da’esh, “a war crime.”

In August, the terrorists beheaded venerated chief archaeologist of the ancient city, 82-year-old Khaled Asa’ad, after interrogating him for more than a month.

Asa’ad was executed in a main square of the historic site. His body was then hung from one of the 2,000 year old columns, his family said.

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/second-temple-era-podium-may-be-discovery-in-city-of-david/2015/08/31/

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