Posts Tagged ‘archaeology’
A rare find of tremendous historical significance has been discovered in Jerusalem: a fragment of a stone engraved with an official Latin inscription dedicated to the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
Researchers say this is among the most important Latin inscriptions ever discovered in Jerusalem.
The fate of Jerusalem following the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE) and prior to the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-136 CE) is one of the major issues in the history of the city and in terms of the Jewish people’s connection to it.
In the past year, the Israel Antiquities Authority has carried out salvage excavations in several areas north of the Damascus Gate to the Old City of Jerusalem. It was in one of those areas that the stone fragment bearing an official Latin inscription from the Roman period was discovered.
According to IAA excavation directors Dr. Rina Avner and Roie Greenwald, “We found the inscription incorporated in secondary use around the opening of a deep cistern.
“In antiquity, as today, it was customary to recycle building materials and the official inscription was evidently removed from its original location and integrated in a floor for the practical purpose of building the cistern. Furthermore, in order to fit it with the capstone, the bottom part of the inscription was sawed round.”
Upon finding the inscription it was immediately clear to the excavators that they had uncovered an especially significant discovery, as indicated by the size and clarity of the letters.
The inscription, consisting of six lines of Latin text engraved on hard limestone, was read and translated by Avner Ecker and Hannah Cotton of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The English translation of the inscription is as follows: (1st hand)To the Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, son of the deified Traianus Parthicus, grandson of the deified Nerva, high priest, invested with tribunician power for the 14th time, consul for the third time, father of the country (dedicated by) the 10th legion Fretensis (2nd hand) Antoniniana.
According to Ecker and Cotton, “This inscription was dedicated by Legio X Fretensis to the emperor Hadrian in the year 129/130 CE.” Their analysis shows that the fragment of the inscription revealed by the IAA archaeologists is none other than the right half of a complete inscription, the other part of which was discovered nearby in the late nineteenth century and was published by the pre-eminent French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau. That stone is currently on display in the courtyard of Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum.
Only a small number of ancient official Latin inscriptions have been discovered in archaeological excavations throughout the country and in Jerusalem in particular.
There is no doubt that this is one of the most important of them.
The significance of the inscription stems from the fact that it specifically mentions the name and titles of Hadrian who was an extremely prominent emperor, as well as a clear date. The latter is a significant and tangible confirmation of the historical account regarding the presence of the Tenth Legion in Jerusalem during the period between the two revolts, and possibly even the location of the legion’s military camp in the city, and of one of the reasons for the outbreak of the Bar Kokhba revolt several years later and the establishment of ‘Aelia Capitolina’.
Even after 2,000 years the inscription is in an impressive state of preservation. Once the excavation findings are published, the inscription will be conserved and put on display for the public.
The events of the Bar Kokhba revolt are ascribed to the reign of the emperor Hadrian. He is remembered in Jewish history for having issued dictates imposing the persecution and forced conversions of Jews, which the sources referred to as the ‘Hadrianic decrees’.
A rare silver coin with an inscription form the period of the Bar Kochba revolt is on display at the Israel Museum through the week-long Sukkot holiday, which begins Wednesday night.
The rare cache of Byzantine-era antiquities discovered in 2013 will be on display through the Sukkot holiday.
The writing on the coin with a depiction of the Four Species used on Sukkot indicates that it was written by Bar Kochba or in his name and illustrates the effort spent to supply the Four Species to Bar Kochba’s soldiers in the rebellion against the Roman conquerors.
The exhibition includes the largest gold medallion with Judaic symbols known in existence. Among the archaeological finds on view are gold coins and silver and gold jewelry, in addition to the sizable medallion, measuring four inches in diameter.
The treasures were found in a Byzantine period public building near the southern wall of the Temple Mount during excavations led by Dr. Eilat Mazar, of Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, together with a team from Oklahoma’s Ambassador College.
The unique medallion has, in its center, a seven-branched menorah. On the left is a shofar, the ram’s horn traditionally blown on the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement. On the right is an unidentified object, possibly a bundle of myrtle, willow and palm branches, being three of the four species used during the Sukkot holiday and common Jewish symbols of the period, or perhaps a uniquely fashioned Torah scroll of unknown design from this period.
The unusually large size of the medallion raises important questions about its use. Some scholars believe it was used to decorate a Torah or piece of furniture, while others argue that it was simply a large ceremonial ornament. Like many finds from this period, the medallion’s combination of symbols reflects the timeless notion of Jewish yearning for the restoration of the Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.
One of the two cloth pouches in which the hoard was found held thirty-six gold coins, decorated on one side with portraits of Byzantine-era emperors over a period of 250 years, together with their names and titles; on the back there are crosses or images of gods. The latest coin is dated 602 CE, indicating that the cache was hidden at the beginning of the 7th century, possibly during the Persian invasion of 614 CE.
Construction workers southwest of Jerusalem have discovered a huge stalactite cave located near the Tzur Hadassah community, on the western side of Gush Etzion.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority has not disclosed the exact location because of dangers of entering the area. Officials also want to take step to preserve and map the cave, which rivals the size of the Sorek cave, officially known as the Avshalom Cave, between Ramle and Beit Shemesh, southwest of Jerusalem.
Stalactite caves are formed when limestone rocks are slowly dissolved as rainwater seeps in through crevices of a cave, and the site at Sorek is one of Israel’s most popular natural wonders.
It was discovered in 1968 after an explosion carried out by a quarry.
The Sorek Stalactite Cave is approximately 100 yards long and maintains a temperature of 22 degrees C) all year. The stalactites are in a variety of mineral-based colors and are in endless shapes.
Pottery sherds, or fragments, discovered by an Israel Antiquities Authority inspector several months ago, during extensive work by the Netivei Israel – National Transport Infrastructure Company, Ltd. on the new Highway 1 project resulted in an archaeological excavation. A previously unknown settlement from the Late Second Temple period was discovered, as well as a rare hoard of coins that was found in one of its houses along the new highway connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The hoard, which was kept in a ceramic money box, included 114 bronze coins dating to the Year Four of the Great Revolt against the Romans. This revolt led to the destruction of the Temple on Tisha B’Av (the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av), 2,000 years ago.
“One of the significant points of the find is that all the coins were all dated to the same year and each have the same worth,” Pablo Betzer, one of the excavation directors of the Israel antiquities Authority told Tazpit News Agency. “The location of the find is also significant as it was found outside Jerusalem.”
According to Betzer and Eyal Marco, the other excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the hoard appeared to have been buried several months prior to the fall of Jerusalem. “It provides us a glimpse into the lives of Jews living on the outskirts of Jerusalem at the end of the rebellion.”
“Evidently someone here feared the end was approaching – perhaps he could see the advancing Roman army and did not want to take a chance. He hid his property in the hope of collecting it later when calm was restored to the region,” Betzer told Tazpit.
All of the coins are stamped on one side with a chalice and the Hebrew inscription “To the Redemption of Zion” and on the other side with a motif that includes a bundle of lulav between two etrogs. Around this is the Hebrew inscription “Year Four”, that is, the fourth year of the Great Revolt of the Jews against the Romans (69/70 CE).
The hoard was concealed in the corner of a room, perhaps inside a wall niche or buried in the floor and was discovered after three weeks of digs in the area. Two other rooms and a courtyard belonging to the same building were exposed during the course of the archaeological excavation. The structure was built in the first century BCE and was destroyed in 69 or 70 CE when the Romans were suppressing the Great Revolt. Early in the second century CE part of the building was reinhabited for a brief period, which culminated in the destruction of the Jewish settlement in Judea as a result of the Bar Kokhba rebellion. This is attested to by three complete jars that were discovered embedded in the courtyard floor.
It seems that the residents of this village, like most of the Jewish villages in Judea, were active participants in both of the major uprisings against the Romans – the Great Revolt and the Bar Kokhba Revolt. As a result of their involvement the place was destroyed twice, and was not resettled.
The Israel Antiquities Authority and Netivei Israel Company are examining the possibility of preserving the village remains within the framework of the landscape development alongside the highway.
A rare 800-year-old Christian monastery lead seal was discovered in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Bayit Ve’Gan, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced Tuesday.
The seal – or bulla, as it is known in Latin – was found during an excavation in the summer of 2012 at the Horbath Mizmil archaeological dig, and has since been identified as belonging to the Saint Sabas monastery. The site was abandoned at the end of the Byzantine period and resettled during the Crusader period (11-12 CE) and reached maximum population during the Mamluk period (13-15 CE). Artifacts discovered during the excavations reflected daily life in a farmstead there – and the seal.
S. Sabas – or Mar Saba, in Syriac – was an important leader among the Christian monasteries during the Byzantine period in the area of the Judean Desert.
The seal bears an inscription for Mar Saba, the saint, in Greek, with his likeness, on one side, and a second inscription attributing the item to the saint’s largest monastery, the ‘Great Laura’ during the Byzantine period in the Jerusalem area. The two parts of the seal, which are meant to be pressed together, are connected by a single thread.
Dr. Yuval Baruch, IAA regional archaeologist for Jerusalem and surrounds, presented the unique find to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, who noted its importance for the history of Christianity in the Holy Land and its significance for archaeological research.
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.
“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.
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.