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April 18, 2015 / 29 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘archaeology’

Archaeologists Discover Egypt Occupied Tel Aviv 5,000 Years Ago

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Excavations at an office construction site in downtown Tel Aviv have unearthed evidence that Egypt occupied the “city that never sleeps” 5,000 years ago, more than a millennium before the Jews left slavery in ancient Egypt and proceeded to the Promised Land.

Fragments of ancient pottery vessels used to prepare beer were discovered in excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) is conducting in conjunction with a construction project by the Rubenstein Company, according to excavation director Diego Barkan.

The construction site is located next to the Ma’ariv Bridge in downtown Tel Aviv.

Barkan said:

We found seventeen pits in the excavations, which were used to store agricultural produce in the Early Bronze Age (3500-3000-BCE). Among the hundreds of pottery sherds that characterize the local culture, a number of fragments of large ceramic basins were discovered that were made in an Egyptian tradition and were used to prepare beer….

On the basis of previously conducted excavations in the region we knew there is an Early Bronze Age site here, but this excavation is the first evidence we have of an Egyptian occupation in the center of Tel Aviv at that time.This is also the northernmost evidence we have of an Egyptian presence in the Early Bronze Age I. Until now we were only aware of an Egyptian presence in the northern Negev and southern coastal plain.

Beer was the “national drink of Egypt” in ancient times and was made from a mixture of barley and water that was partially baked and then left to ferment in the sun.

Various fruit concentrates were added to this mixture in order to flavor the beer. The mixture was filtered in special vessels and was ready for use.

Animal bones from 5,000 years ago that were discovered in the excavation.

Animal bones from 5,000 years ago that were discovered in the excavation. Credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

 

 

Hikers Find Cache of Rare Coins from 2,300 Years Ago

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Three hikers have discovered a cache of rare coins and silver and bronze objects 2,300 years old in a cave in one of the important discoveries in northern Israel in recent years, according to Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

The uncovering of the treasure chest came one month after the discovery of the gold treasure by divers off the coast of Caesarea.

Two weeks ago Reuven Zakai, his son Hen Zakai and their friend Lior Halony, members of the Israeli Caving Club, set out to make preliminary preparations for a visit by the club in one of the largest and well-hidden stalactite caves in the north, the IAA said Monday.

The three lowered themselves down in the ground, into the stalactite cave, wriggled through a narrow passage in front of the cave and wandered and crawled between the different parts of the cave for several hours.

The youngest member of the group, Hen, 21, says he forced his way into one of the narrow niches when he suddenly caught sight of a shining object. He discovered two ancient silver coins, which it later turned out had been minted during the reign of Alexander the Great who conquered the Land of Israel at the beginning of the Hellenistic period (late fourth century BCE).

Several pieces of silver jewelry were found alongside the coins, among them rings, bracelets and earrings, which were apparently concealed in the cave, together inside a cloth pouch some 2,300 years ago.

“The valuables might have been hidden in the cave by local residents who fled there during the period of governmental unrest stemming from the death of Alexander, a time when the Wars of the Diadochi broke out in Israel between Alexander’s heirs following his death,” IAA archaeologists said.

“Presumably the cache was hidden in the hope of better days, but today we know that whoever buried the treasure never returned to collect it,” they added.

The hikers realized they found an important archaeological discovery and reported it to inspectors of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery in the IAA, whose officials later entered the cave together with members of the Israeli Caving Club and confirmed the evidence of human habitation in the cave over extended periods.

At this point, they believe they have found artifacts in the cave that first date to the Chalcolithic period c. 6,000 years ago; from the Early Bronze Age c. 5,000 years ago, the Biblical period 3,000 years ago and the Hellenistic period approximately 2,300 years ago.

Numerous pottery vessels were also discovered in the cave.In some regions of the cave ancient pottery vessels were found on which stalagmites had developed.Some of the pottery vessels had bonded with the limestone sediments and cannot be separated.

The finds in the cave will allow the researchers – archaeologists and geologists alike – to accurately date both the archaeological finds and the process of stalactite development.

Amir Ganor, director of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery commended the three members of the caving club, saying, “They understood the importance of the archaeological discovery and exhibited exemplary civic behavior by immediately bringing these impressive archaeological finds to the attention of the IAA.After the gold treasure from Caesarea, this is the second time in the past month that citizens have reported significant archeological finds and we welcome this important trend.

“Thanks to these citizens’ awareness, researchers at the Israel Antiquities Authority will be able to expand the existing archaeological knowledge about the development of society and culture in the Land of Israel in antiquity.”

Two coins of Alexander of Macedon, three rings, four bracelets, two decorated earrings, three other earrings (probably made of silver) and a small stone weight. Clara Amit, courtesy of the IAA

Two coins of Alexander of Macedon, three rings, four bracelets, two decorated earrings, three other earrings (probably made of silver) and a small stone weight. Clara Amit, courtesy of the IAA

1,000 Year Old Gold Treasure Found by Divers in Caesarea

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

The largest hoard of gold coins ever discovered in Israel was found in recent weeks on the seabed in the ancient port of Caesarea. The treasure was discovered by a group of divers which reported their findings to Israel’s Antiquities Authority.

Tazpit News Agency spoke to Zvika Fayer, one of the divers which participated in the discovering of the gold coins. “We went diving on February 7, as we do almost every Saturday. We were diving 12, maybe 12.5 meters under sea surface. I saw a flickering on the bottom of the Mediterranean, so I swam there and started digging with my bare hands. Other members of my diving group joined me and we discovered a significant amount of coins. After the dive was over we contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority and notified them about our discovery,” Fayer told Tazpit News.

Fayer and his diving group went back into the Mediterranean alongside a diving crew from the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “We led the divers from the Antiquities Authority to the location of the gold treasure, we were very pleased to assist them,” Fayer told Tazpit.

Tazpit News Agency spoke to Dr. Robert Kool, an expert numismatic from the Israeli Antiquities Authority, about the historical background that lead such a treasure to the cost of Caesarea. “The coins date back to the Fatimid Caliphate which conquered Israel near the end of the 10th century AD. The Fatimids controlled a vast empire, from Morocco in the west, to Iraq in the east. They controlled trade routes all over the Mediterranean, bringing gold from West Africa to Europe and the Middle East. Gold was extremely important in the 10th and 11th centuries, because it was the currency of the Fatinid’s monetary system,” Dr. Kool told Tazpit News Agency.

Dr. Kool states that the treasure is “the largest I’ve seen found in an Israeli archaeological excavation. Nevertheless, I don’t think it is of exceptional size considering the Fatimid’s trade system. We assume the treasure arrived from Egypt, and was part of a payment for trade services,” Dr. Kool told Tazpit News.
The treasure contains approximately 2,000 gold coins of different denominations: a dinar, half dinar and quarter dinar. They are of various dimensions and weight. The earliest coin discovered in the treasure is a quarter dinar, minted in Palermo, Sicily, which was part of the Fatimid Caliphate.

Dr. Kool points out an entertaining fact, “some of the coins have teeth marks on them. Apparently, that was a common way to check the true value of coins, in the heyday of the Fatimid Caliphate.”

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.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/fragment-of-1700-year-old-menorah-adorned-bracelet-discovered-on-hanukkah/2014/12/23/

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