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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘archaeology’

Rare Ancient Coffin in Jezreel Valley Holds Egyptian Pharaoh’s Signet Ring

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

A gold signet ring bearing the name of Egyptian Pharoah Seti I was among the personal belongings of a wealthy Canaanite recently discovered in a 3,300-year-old coffin at the foot of Tel Shadud in the Jezreel Valley.

The archaeological dig took place at a site where construction was to begin on a pipeline carrying natural gas to Ramat Gavriel by the Israel Natural Gas Lines Company.

The Israel Antiquities Authority usually carries out an excavation at construction sites before any project begins. Often, unusual discoveries are made, and this time was no exception.

Excavation directors Dr. Edwin van den Bring, Dan Kirzner and the IAA’s Dr. Ron Be’eri said, “We discovered a unique and rare find: a cylindrical coffin with an anthropoidal lid – a cover fashioned in the image of a person – surrounded by a variety of pottery consisting mainly of storage vessels for food, tableware, cultic vessels and animal bones… it seems these were used as offerings for the gods and were also meant to provide the dead with sustenance in the afterlife.”

The skeleton of an adult was found inside the clay coffin. Next to it was more pottery, a bronze dagger, bronze bowl and hammered pieces of bronze.

Rare 3,300 year old coffin of a wealthy Canaanite uncovered in the Jezreel Valley.

Rare 3,300 year old coffin of a wealthy Canaanite uncovered in the Jezreel Valley.

“Since the vessels interred with the individual were produced locally, we assume the deceased was an official of Canaanite origin who was engaged in the service of the Egyptian government.”

Also found next to the deceased was an Egyptian scarab seal, encased in gold and affixed to a ring. This item is used to seal documents and objects.

The name of the crown of Pharaoh Seti I, who ruled ancient Egypt in the 13th century BCE, appears on the seal. Seti I was the father of Ramses II, identified by some scholars are the pharaoh mentioned in the Biblical story of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt.

The Egyptian coffin lid after it was cleaned up. Photo by: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

The Egyptian coffin lid after it was cleaned up.
Photo by: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Already in the first year of his reign (1294 BCE) a revolt broke out against Seti I in the Beit Shean Valley, but he conquered that region and established Egyptian rule in Canaan.

Seti’s name on the seal symbolizes power and protection, and the reference to him on the scarab found in the coffin aided the researchers in dating the time of burial. A cemetery dating to Seti I’s reign was previously uncovered at Beit Shean, the center of Egyptian rule in the Land of Israel, and similar clay coffins were exposed.

This new discovery, however, surprised archaeologists.

Tel Shadud preserves the Biblical name “Sarid” and the mound, located in the northern part of the Jezreel Valley close to Kibbutz Sarid, is often referred to as Tel Sarid.

The city is mentioned in the Bible among the settlements of the Tribes of Israel, with Sarid included in the territory of the Tribe of Zevulun as a border city. It is mentioned in the Book of Joshua:

“The third lot came up for the Tribe of Zevulun, according to its families. And the territory of its inheritance reached as far as Sarid . . . (Joshua 19:10)

The researchers add that only a few such coffins have been uncovered in this country – the last one found at Deir el-Bala about 50 years ago.

Archaeologists Inaugurate King Solomon’s Coronation Site

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

In a secret ceremony held Tuesday, officials inaugurated the  site of King Solomon’s coronation in the City of David.

The massive Canaanite fortress, built some 3,800 years ago, protects the Biblical Gihon Spring by allowing access to the water solely through a western entrance from within the city.

In the Book of Samuel (Shmuel) II, Chapter V, King David conquered the Zion Fortress from the Jebusite king and his men. Archaeologists believe it is possible they have discovered the fortress referred to in the Biblical passage, entered by King David’s soldiers as they conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites.

At the beginning of the Book of Kings I, the prophet Nathan and Tzadok HaKohen describe the coronation of King Solomon as having taken place “on Gihon.” Researchers believe the ceremony took place at the heart of the Spring House, over the gushing Gihon Spring.

“When we open the Bible and read about King Solomon who was crowned here, on the Gihon Spring, today you can come and see that this is where it all started,” said Oriya Desberg, director of development at the City of David.

It took archaeologists 15 years to uncover the structure in one of the most complex and digs ever undertaken in the State of Israel.

The Spring House is a massive Canaanite fortress built in the 18th century BCE and is the largest such structure ever uncovered from the pre-Herodian period.

The archaeological dig from which the fortress emerged was led by Haifa University’s Professor Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“In order to protect the water source, they built not only the tower, but also a fortified passageway that allowed the city residents a safe access to the water source,” explained archaeologist G. Uziel. The passageway continued to operate until the end of the Iron Age, the archaeologist said, “and it was only when the First Temple was destroyed that the fortress collapsed into ruins and was no longer used.”

The walls  – 23 feet (seven meters) thick – were built with stones that are about ten feet (two to three meters) wide, and no mechanical tools were used in the construction.

Arabs Caught Red-Handed Stealing Second Temple Coffins

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Israel and Palestinian Authority Arabs were caught red-handed a last Friday in the process of stealing 11 ancient coffins from a magnificent ancient burial cave in the Jerusalem region and which the Jewish population used for burial in the Second Temple period.

Some of the ossuaries, chests that were frequently used for re-burial where space was scarce, still contained the skeletal remains of the deceased.

Israel Antiquities Authority detectives and police arrested several suspects early Friday morning, and the arrest were kept under was until Monday morning,

The suspects  are residents of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Arab village of Abadiyah, in the vicinity of Bethlehem and were caught as they were closing a deal to sell the ossuaries to Jewish merchants, near the Hizma checkpoint north of Jerusalem.

It is suspected the ossuaries were recently looted from an ancient burial cave in the region of Jerusalem.

The Jewish population used stone ossuaries for secondary burial during the Second Temple period and they were very common from the second century BCE until the first century CE. The ossuaries are decorated with typical Jewish symbols, among them the lily flower, the six-petal rosette and other symbols. The decorations adorning the ossuaries were a major element of the Jewish art of the period.

Shallow engravings, etched in the past by means of a sharp stylus, were found on the walls of two of the seized ossuaries. They cite the names of the deceased whose bones were collected in the coffins. One of the engraved ossuaries that were found bore the name “Ralfin,” written in squared Hebrew script characteristic of the Second Temple period.

This name is apparently a Hebraized form of an unusual Roman name. “This is the first time this name appears on an ossuary from the Land of Israel,” according to Dr. Eitan Klein, deputy director of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, who examined the ossuaries.

On the other ossuary is a Greek inscription that could not be deciphered, and below it the name “Yo‘azar”, in squared Hebrew script. The name Yo‘azar is a common Jewish name in the Second Temple period, and occurs in contemporary written sources, such as Josephus’ writings. The name appears in this form and a slightly different form – “Yeho‘azar” – on numerous Jewish ossuaries from this period.

Some of the ossuaries were engraved with inscriptions in squared Hebrew script, characteristic of the Second Temple period and some bore Greek inscriptions, including the names of the deceased.

“These are singular finds,” Dr. Klein said. “The inscriptions on the ossuaries provide us with additional characters and names from amongst the Jewish population in the Second Temple period, and the motifs adorning the ossuaries will supplement our knowledge with new information about the world of Jewish art in this period.

“There is no doubt that the ossuaries were recently looted from a magnificent burial cave in Jerusalem. Remnants of paint remained on top of the ossuaries and the containers themselves belong to the group of “magnificent Jerusalem” ossuaries that were manufactured in the city in antiquity.” The Israel Antiquities Authority reports that the bones found inside the ossuaries will be turned over to the Ministry of Religious Affairs for burial.

Antiquities robbery is a serious offense punishable by five years in jail, and the unlicensed trafficking in antiquities is a criminal offense punishable by law by a prison sentence of three years.

US Donation to Israel for Largest Middle East Archaeology Library

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

The Mandel Foundation of Cleveland is funding a new library for archeology to be built on the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Schottenstein National Campus next to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The IAA announced the gift from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation to establish the Mandel National Library for the Archaeology of Israel and Mandel National Archaeological Archives, which is being designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie.

The campus, designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, will serve as the new education, research, conservation and illumination center and as headquarters of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The complex will house nearly 2 million archaeological objects, among them 15,000 Dead Sea scrolls, viewable conservation and restoration laboratories, an auditorium, special study galleries, an archaeological education center, roof top exhibition gardens and a café.

The 35,000-square-meter campus is scheduled to be inaugurated in April 2016.

The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel National Library for the Archaeology of Israel, located within the complex, will house nearly 150,000 volumes, including 500 rare books, and over 1,000 periodicals. The adjacent National Archaeological Archives will contain the Israel Antiquities Authority Archive, the British Mandatory Archive as well as maps, permits, plans and publications of excavations from the Mandatory Period through today.

The library and archives will be the largest of their kind in the Middle East. Morton L. Mandel, Foundation chairman and CEO said, “We welcome the opportunity to support the Israel Antiquities Authority in its mission to excavate, research, conserve and educate the public about the archaeological and historical heritage of the Land of Israel spanning the past 10,000 years.”

Oldest Known Masks in the World on Display in Israel

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

A new display in Jerusalem is showcasing the oldest-known masks in the world, believed to have originated 9,000 years ago, long before Purim.

The 11 masks are made of stones and were discovered in the Judean desert near Jerusalem. Experts believe the masks were meant to look like skulls, with each displaying a unique personality via emotional expressions of shock or grinning.

“When you go back to objects that are this old, that are so much before the theology that becomes Judaism, Christianity and then Islam, to feel that there is a kind of a connection, that this is all part of a continuous story, is something that is pretty thrilling,” said Israel Museum director James Snyder, the Associated Press reported.

The custom of mask making and wearing dates back at least 25,000 years although no masks that old have been found, according to exhibit curator Debby Hershman, with the earliest masks most likely made of animal materials. Later, stone masks originated at the time when humans living in the Fertile Crescent adopted agriculture.

“It’s the most important revolution that ever happened,” Hershman said. The people who fashioned the masks, she said, “are actually the founders of civilization.”

New Texts Found in ‘Dead Sea Scroll’ Caves

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

A major archaeology “discovery” of previously found but unexamined Dead Sea Scrolls has revealed nine new Biblical era documents, the Live Science and Absa Mediterranean website have reported.

Archaeologist Yonatan Adler said, “‘It’s not every day that you get the chance to discover new manuscripts. It’s very exciting.”

The documents have not yet been fully examined and it is not known, so far, what is written in the texts, which were sitting in three tefillin cases that were among the Scrolls pulled out of 11 Qumran caves in the Dead Sea area in the 1950s.

Adler announced his findings at an international conference in Switzerland on Qumran and the Dead Sea region.

The texts that he found in the tefillin cases may shed more light on religious observance in the period of the Second Temple, but they are unlikely to expose major texts such as were found in the Dead Scrolls that already have been examined.

Other tefillin parchments previously have been examined, and the nine newly-found texts, if they can be deciphered, probably will confirm previous findings and the content of several verses of the Torah are written on parchments in tefillin worn by Jews around the world.

Ancient Mikveh Discovered In Spain

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

A 15th century mikveh was discovered at the location of the last synagogue in the old Jewish quarter of Girona in Catalonia, Spain.

The discovery of the Jewish ritual bath is significant since there are very few preserved mikvehs left in Europe, and it further highlights the importance of Girona’s rich Jewish heritage.

Girona is a town near Barcelona which was known for its thriving Jewish community before the expulsion of Spain’s Jews in 1492.

A recent archeological dig permitted the discovery of the mikveh at the site of the synagogue, which was founded in 1435 and abandoned in the summer of 1492, when the expulsion decree was carried out by King Fernando against the Jews of Spain .

It forced the community of Girona, consisting of about 20 families, to sell the synagogue along with the surrounding community spaces before fleeing the country. Thanks to records of the sale, the exact location of the synagogue, which now houses the Museum of Jewish History in Girona, is known.

Israeli ambassador to Spain  Alon Bar attended the public presentation of the finding, along with the Minister of Culture of the Government of Catalonia Ferran Mascarell, and Girona Mayor Carles Puigdemont.

“I commend the discovery of more evidence of a Jewish presence and want to encourage this cultural treasure in order to maintain links between our peoples,” said Bar.

According to officials at the museum in Girona, very few ritual baths of this type have been preserved in Europe and in the Mediterranean area; they have been found in Sicily, Montpellier, and Besalu which is also in Catalonia.

Major 1,500-Year-Old Church and Mosaic Discovered

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Archaeologists digging where a new housing development is to be built have uncovered a 1,500-year-old church and magnificent mosaic with five inscriptions at Moshav Aluma, located between Be’er Sheva and Rehovot.

“An impressive basilica building was discovered at the site, 22 meters long and 12 meters wide,” said Dr. Daniel Varga, who directied the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“The building consists of a central hall with two side aisles divided by marble pillars. At the front of the building is a wide open courtyard (atrium) paved with a white mosaic floor, and with a cistern,” he explained. “Leading off the courtyard is a rectangular transverse hall (narthex) with a fine mosaic floor decorated with colored geometric designs; at its center, opposite the entrance to the main hall, is a twelve-row dedicatory inscription in Greek containing the names Mary and Jesus, and the name of the person who funded the mosaic’s construction.”

The main hall (the nave) has a colored mosaic floor adorned with vine tendrils to form forty medallions. The medallions contain depictions of different animals, including a zebra, leopard, turtle, wild boar, various winged birds and botanical and geometric designs.

Three medallions contain dedicatory inscriptions in Greek commemorating senior church dignitaries, Demetrios and Herakles, who were heads of the local regional church.  On both sides of the central nave are two narrow halls, or side aisles, which also have colored mosaic floors depicting botanical and geometric designs, as well as Christian symbols.

A pottery workshop, mainly for the production of jars, was also uncovered during the excavations and yielded numerous finds, including: amphorae, cooking pots, kraters, bowls and different kinds of oil lamps. Glass vessels typical of the Byzantine period were also discovered at the site. The finds indicate a rich and flourishing local culture.

This church is part of a large and important Byzantine settlement that existed in the region. The settlement was located next to the main road running between Ashkelon on the sea coast to the west, and Beit Guvrin and Jerusalem to the east. Excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority along this road have revealed other communities from the same period, but no churches have been found in them.

The recently uncovered church may have served as a center for Christian worship for all the surrounding communities. Wine presses and pottery workshops found in the region attest to the economy of the local residents during the Byzantine period, who made ​​their living from the production and exportation of wine via the coast to the entire Mediterranean region.

The site will be open to the public Thursday and Friday, Later, it will be covered and preserves for future generations. The magnificent mosaic that has come to light will be conserved, removed from the site and displayed to the public at a museum or visitors’ center.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/major-1500-year-old-church-and-mosaic-discovered/2014/01/22/

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