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October 20, 2014 / 26 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘archaeology’

PA Caught Digging in Area of Maccabee Era Artifacts

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

The Palestinian Authority for years has been trying to destroy evidence of the existence of the Holy Temples, and new fears have arisen that they may try to the same in a Gush Etzion location of artifacts from the Hashmonean Dynasty, when the Miracle of Hanukkah occurred.

Artifacts and remnants of a fortress dating back to the period are located at the site that is being excavated near Bethlehem in an area where Israelis have not officiallyvisited for 20 years due to restrictions written in the Oslo Accords.

The Kfar Etzion Field School received special permission to visit the archaeological site and discovered that the Palestinian Authority has been organizing digs there, leading to fears that artifacts will be lost forever. A large fortress was uncovered at the site in the 1980s, and archaeologists have said it was built after the battle in which Judah the Maccabee was killed.

Archaeologists Discover 10,000 Years of History near Beit Shemesh

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Israel Antiquities Authority excavations prior to the widening of a highway in Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem, have uncovered rare finds of a 6,000 year old cultic temple, the first 10,000 year old building to be discovered in the Judean plain and a nearby cluster of rare axes

The large excavation area will be open to the public on Wednesday.

Settlement remains were unearthed at the site, the earliest of which dates to the beginning of the eighth millennium BCE and latest to the end of the fourth millennium BCE.

The finds revealed at the site range from the period when man first started to domesticate plants and animals, instead of searching for them in the wild, until the period when of the beginnings of proper urban planning.

The oldest artifacts that were exposed at the site are ascribed to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period of approximately 10,000 years ago.

“This is the first time that such an ancient structure has been discovered in the Judean Shephelah (plain),” according to Drs. Amir Golani, Ya‘akov Vardi, and Ron Be’eri and Binyamin Storchan, excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority,

The building, almost all of which was found, underwent a number of construction and repair phases that offer evidence that whoever built the house did something that was totally innovative because up until this period man migrated from place to place in search of food.

The cluster of nine flint and limestone axes that were discovered lying side by side near the prehistoric make it “apparent that the axes, some of which were used as tools and some as cultic objects, were highly valued by their owner,” the archaeologists said.

“Just as today we are unable to get along without a cellular telephone and a computer, they too attributed great importance to their tool,” they added. “Based on how it was arranged at the time of its discovery, it seems that the cluster of axes was abandoned by its owner for some unknown reason,”

In the archaeological excavation conducted at Eshta’ol, an important and rare find from the end of the Chalcolithic period in the second half of the fifth millennium BCE was discovered in the adjacent area.

During the course of the excavation, 6,000-year-old buildings were exposed and a stone column was discovered alongside one of them. The standing stone is 1.30 meters (51 inches) high and weighs several hundred pounds.

“The standing stone was smoothed and worked on all six of its sides, and was erected with one of its sides facing east,” according to the excavation directors.”

“We uncovered a multitude of unique finds during the excavation,” said Dr. Amir Golani, one of the excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “The large excavation affords us a broad picture of the progression and development of the society in the settlement throughout the ages. Thus we can clearly see that in the Early Bronze Age, 5,000 years ago, the rural society made the transition to an urban society.

“We can see distinctly a settlement that gradually became planned, which included alleys and buildings that were extremely impressive from the standpoint of their size and the manner of their construction. We can clearly trace the urban planning and see the guiding hand of the settlement’s leadership that chose to regulate the construction in the crowded regions in the center of the settlement and allowed less planning along its periphery.

“It is fascinating to see how in such an ancient period a planned settlement was established in which there is orderly construction, and trace the development of the society which became increasingly hierarchical.”

Aerial view of excavations prior to widening the highway at Beit Shemesh,

Aerial view of excavations prior to widening the highway at Beit Shemesh,

Archaeologists Find Largest, Oldest Near East Wine Cellar in Israel

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

Archaeologists have unearthed what may be the oldest — and largest — ancient wine cellar in the Near East, containing forty jars, each of which would have held fifty liters of strong, sweet wine, archaeologists from George Washington, Brandeis and Haifa universities announced late Friday,

The amount of wine estimated to have been stored in the cellar would fill approximately 3,000 modern bottles, and there probably are other wine cellars waiting to be unearthed.

The cellar was discovered in Tel Kabri, located near the northwestern coastal city of Nahariya and the site of a ruined palace of a sprawling Canaanite city in northern Israel and dating back to about 1,700 B.C.

The archaeological site is located near many of Israel’s modern-day wineries, such as Carmel Mizrachi in Zichron Yaakov, near Haifa.

“This is a hugely significant discovery — it’s a wine cellar that, to our knowledge, is largely unmatched in age and size,” said Eric Cline, chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations of at The George Washington University.

He teamed up with excavation co-director Assaf Yasur-Landau, chair of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa, co-directed the excavation. Andrew Koh, assistant professor of classical studies at Brandeis University, was an associate director.

Koh, an archaeological scientist, analyzed the jar fragments using organic residue analysis. He found molecular traces of tartaric and syringic acid, both key components in wine, as well as compounds suggesting ingredients popular in ancient wine-making, including honey, mint, cinnamon bark, juniper berries and resins. The recipe is similar to medicinal wines used in ancient Egypt for two thousand years.

Koh also analyzed the proportions of each diagnostic compound and discovered remarkable consistency between jars.

“This wasn’t moonshine that someone was brewing in their basement, eyeballing the measurements,” Koh noted. “This wine’s recipe was strictly followed in each and every jar.”

Yasur-Landau said, “The wine cellar was located near a hall where banquets took place, a place where the Kabri elite and possibly foreign guests consumed goat meat and wine.” The team discovered two doors leading out of the wine cellar—one to the south, and one to the west, and pending more digging in two years, it is assumed that  both doors probably lead to additional storage rooms.

A large part of the palace was destroyed approximately 3,600 years ago as a result of an earthquake or some other disaster, according to the archaeologists.

Dr. Koh told reporters that the presence of tartaric acid  means it was used for grape juice or wine, and several ingredients are the same as those found in winemaking recipes that previously have been found in ancient texts from ruins in what is now Syria,

Luscious grapes grown in Israel are recorded in the Biblical narrative of the “12 spies” who traveled from the Sinai Desert after the Exodus to the area of Hevron to report back to Moses what the People of Israel could expect when entering. The grapes and pomegranates that the spies brought back from the Hevron area supported the promise that Israel indeed is a land of “milk and honey,” but 10 of the spies also said that the local Canaanites were giants living in fortified cities. The report sent fear into the Children of Israel who rebelled against their mission, for they were punished to remain in the desert and die by the end of 40 years after leaving Egypt, except who were under the ago of 20 at the time of the Exodus and except for the two spies who tried to persuade the people that they could overcome Canaan with God’s help.

Fine wines have been become a booming industry in recent years, with the grapes of the southern Hevron Hills and the Golan Heights being used for dry wines considered some of the best in the world.

Archaeologists Find Shiloh Altar Used During Temple Era

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

A dramatic discovery at the ancient site of Shiloh, located in Samaria, provides the first–ever evidence that it continued to be a religious center after it was destroyed by the Philistines and Jews returned to the city, home of the Tabernacle.

The altar is thought to have been used to offer sacrifices even after the First Temple was built in Jerusalem.

The stone from the Iron Age, coinciding with the period of the first kings of Israel, was found in a wall built later in the Byzantine period.

Archaeologists think that Byzantines took the stone altar from its original site, which might have been in the same location as the Tabernacle. There are two conflicting theories on its location, one stating it is on the northern side of ancient Shiloh and the other placing it on the southern side.

Avital Faleh, administrator of the Tel Shiloh site, told The Jewish Press Wednesday that the wall was on the southern side and that it is more reasonable that the Byzantines carried the altar from nearby rather than several hundred yards, which would be the case if the Tabernacle were located on the northern side.

The stone was measured at two feet by two feet and almost 16 inches high.

Other altars used for sacrificial worship during the First Temple era have been discovered in Be’er Sheva and near Arad in the south and in Tel Dan and near Shiloh in the north. Faleh explained that the stone altar is almost identical with others that have been discovered.

The revelation on Tuesday of the discovery at Shiloh is the first evidence of post-Tabernacle sacrificial worship at the same site where the Bible states the first Tabernacle was erected after the Jews entered Israel following the Exodus from Egypt and the 40 years of living in the Sinai.

Joshua 18:1 states, “The whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh and erected there the Tent of Assembly, and the land was conquered before them.” The Tabernacle remained at Shiloh for 369 years, according to the Talmud.

The Philistines went to war against the Jews, destroyed the city, and captured the Holy Ark. The Tabernacle probably had been removed before the end of the war but was not used when sacrificial offerings were later offered at two other places, Nov and Gideon, until King Solomon built the First Temple.

However, it took years before Jewish communities, especially Shiloh that was the home of the first sacrifices Israel, adjusted to the cultural and religious change.

In July, archaeologists  said they believed they discovered the remains of the Biblical tabernacle site, after finding holes carved into the rock and which may have been used to hold beams for the Tabernacle.

The Jewish Press reported here in January, that the discovery of  an uncovered broken clay pitcher, embedded in a layer of reddish ashes, is from the time of the devastation of Shiloh, offering detailed evidence of the destruction.

Shiloh was the most significant religious center for Israel before the Philistines destroyed it. The Jewish people offered mandatory sacrifices, and it was there that lots were cast for tribal areas and the cities of the Levites.

Deuteronomy 12:4-7, states,  “You should not do any [act of sacrificial worship] to God, your God, other than at the site which God, your God will choose, to place His Name there, from amongst all your tribes. You should seek out His dwelling [place in the Tabernacle at Shiloh] and come there. You should bring there your burnt offerings, and your [obligatory peace] offerings, your tithes, [first fruits] lifted from your hand [by the priests]—your vows, your pledges, and the firstborn of your cattle and of your sheep [which are to be given to the priests]. [It is] there that you should eat [your sacrifices] before God your God. Then you and your households will rejoice in all the work of your hands. [You should bring offerings according to the means with] which God, your God, blesses you.”

PA Archaeological Thief Caught Red-Handed Digging Up Artifacts

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Israel’s Antiquities Authority IAA) has caught a Palestinian Authority Arab thief red-handed while digging up ancient artifacts in the Jerusalem Hills.

The IAA’s theft-prevention unit told Tazpit News Agency that the robber, from the village of Hussan in Gush Etzion, was caught trying to dig up and steal artifacts at the “Bohan Ruins.”

Earlier the same day, an inspector of the Nature Reserves Authority and the IAA chased away a gang of robbers from the “Toora Ruins” in the Nahal Soreq area, west of Jerusalem. Artifacts from the Second Temple-era of Herod and Hashmonean times are located there, and the thieves caused extensive and irreversible damage to the sites by reckless digging.

Information acquired by the theft detention unit enabled officials to set up a lookout and spot the gang while it was hiding in nearby bush.

During the day, the gang had proceeded on foot to the Bohan Ruins, the location of a village from the Byzantine period and where a church stood as its center. The gang, which had brought along sleeping bags and food, then worked under the cover of dark and at one point reached only a few feet from the theft-prevention unit.

One of the robbers was caught red-handed looking for artifacts with an advanced tool for locating metal objects, particularly ancient coins. The suspect was remanded in a Jerusalem court, and prosecutors are preparing indictments,

Dr. Eitan Klein, deputy director of theft-prevention unit, said, “The gang, in its greed for money, caused damage to a large number of archaeological sites in the Jerusalem Hills, including destruction of pieces of our historic puzzle. The Jerusalem Hills, and Nahal Soreq in particular, are rich in archaeological artifacts that are evidence of varied cultures and the history of Israel, and two of these sites were damaged over the weekend,”

IAA spokesmen also told Tazpit News Agency, that the Antiquities Authority is investing resources to protect the inheritance of the Land of Israel and emphasized that digging in archaeological sites without permission is a serious crime that can land culprits In prison or up to five years.

The IAA said it hopes that the arrest will help put an end to the latest wave of thievery of Israel’s ancient history.

Carmel Caves Declared UNESCO Heritage Site

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

The Carmel Caves in northern Israel were recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a heritage site in a special ceremony on the Carmel Wednesday.

The caves were recognized for the exceptional per-historic archaeological findings found in the caves which represent at least 500,000 years of human evolution.

The Carmel Caves join the White City of Tel-Aviv, the Biblical Tels [archaeological sites]of Megiddo, Hazor, Beer Sheba, the Incense Route and Desert Cities in the Negev, the Bahá’i Holy Places in Haifa and the Western Galilee, Masada and the Old City of Acre as the seventh site to be recognized as a UNESCO Heritage site in Israel.

The four caves are situated on the western slopes of the Mount Carmel range. Ninety years of archaeological research have revealed a cultural sequence of unparalleled duration, providing an archive of early human life in southwest Asia. Evidence from numerous Natufian burials and early stone architecture represents the transition from a hunter-gathering lifestyle to agriculture and animal husbandry. The caves have become a key site of the chrono-stratigraphic framework for human evolution in general, and the prehistory of the Levant in particular.

Dramatic Kinneret Discovery: Climate Crisis Ruined Ancient Empires

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

A study of fossil pollen particles in sediments extracted from the bottom of the Sea of Galilee has revealed evidence of a climate crisis that traumatized the Near East from the middle of the 13th to the late 12th century BCE. The crisis brought about the collapse of the great empires of the Bronze Age.

“In a short period of time, the entire world of the Bronze Age crumbled,” explains Tel Aviv University archaeologist Prof. Finkelstein. “The Hittite empire, Egypt of the Pharaohs, the Mycenaean culture in Greece, the copper producing kingdom located on the island of Cyprus, the great trade emporium of Ugarit on the Syrian coast and the Canaanite city-states under Egyptian hegemony – all disappeared and only after a while were replaced by the territorial kingdoms of the Iron Age, including Israel and Judah.”

The researchers drilled through 300 meters of water in the heart of the Sea of Galilee and retrieved a core of sediments 20 meters long from the bottom of the lake. The goal was to extract from the sediments fossil pollen grains.

“Pollen is the most enduring organic material in nature,” explains Finkelstein’s colleague Dr. Dafna Langgut, who carried out the actual work of sampling. “Pollen was driven to the Sea of Galilee by wind and river-streams, was deposited in the lake and was embedded in the under-water sediments. New sediments that are added annually create anaerobic conditions which help preserve the pollen particles. These particles tell us about the vegetation that grew in the vicinity of the lake in the past and therefore testify to the climatic conditions in the region.”

The chronological framework of the sediment core was established by radiocarbon dating organic materials that were preserved in the sediments. The counting and the identification of the pollen grains revealed a period of severe droughts between ca. 1250 and 1100 BCE. A core of sediments from the western shore of the Dead Sea – also studied by the research group – provided similar results.

“The advantage of our study, compared to pollen investigations carried out at other locations in the Near East, is in the unprecedented resolution of a sample about every 40 years,” says Prof. Finkelstein. “Pollen is usually sampled in a resolution of several hundreds of years, and this is indeed logical when one is interested in prehistoric matters and glacial and inter-glacial cycles. Since we were interested in historical periods, we had to sample in denser resolution; otherwise a crisis such as the one at the end of the Bronze Age would have escaped our attention.”

Another novelty in the current research is in the chronological correlation between the pollen results and two other records of the past. At the end of the Bronze Age many Eastern Mediterranean cities were assaulted and destroyed by fire. The dates of these events indeed fall between ca. 1250-1100 BCE. The same holds true for ancient Near Eastern written documents that testify to severe droughts and famine in exactly the same period. Such documents are known from across the entire region – from the Hittite capital in Anatolia in the north, via Ugarit on the Syrian coast and Aphek in Israel to Egypt in the south.

Reduction in precipitation in the “green” areas of the Near East should not be expected to cause the collapse of great empires.

So what had happened?

Prof. Ronny Ellenblum of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem studied written documents that describe similar conditions – of severe droughts and famine – in the 10th‒11th centuries CE. He showed that in the northern parts of the Near East, such as northern Iran and Anatolia, shrinkage in precipitation was accompanied by devastating cold spells that destroyed crops. Langgut, Finkelstein and Litt propose a similar process for the end of the Bronze Age: Severe cold spells destroyed the crops in the northern parts of the ancient Near East and shrinkage in precipitation damaged agricultural output in the eastern steppe parts of the region.

This brought about the droughts and famine so well-described in the ancient texts, and motivated “large groups of people to start moving to the south in search of food,” says Egyptologist Shirly Ben-Dor Evian of the Department of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/dramatic-kinneret-discovery-climate-crisis-ruined-ancient-empires/2013/10/22/

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