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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘archaeology’

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.

NY Court to Decide Dispute over ‘Holocaust-Ancient Assyrian Link’

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

The fate of a tiny gold tablet in the possession of the estate of a Holocaust survivor and claimed by a Berlin Museum now is in the hands of seven judges on the New York Supreme Court.

The table, if it’s not a hoax, could be worth millions of dollars. It belonged to Holocaust survivor Riven Flamenbaum of Great Neck, New York and was inherited by his children. The history of the tablet is certain as far back as 100 years ago but may go back 3,200 years – or it may not.

German archaeologists discovered it approximately 100 years ago in the Assyrian city of Ashtur, in what is now northern Iraq, Long Island Newsday reported. It went missing after it has been displayed at the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin in 1934 until the end of the war, when the museum’s artifacts were inventoried.

It next showed up in the hands of Flamenbaum, a native Poland who obtained it by trading “either for two packs of cigarettes or a piece of salami,” according to one of his daughters, Hannah Flamenbaum.

After her father died in 2003, his son Israel told the German museum about the presence of the tablet, and it sued for its return. The lower court in New York ruled in favor of the estate, but an appeals court overruled the decision, and the New York Supreme Court concluded hearings on the case Tuesday. A ruling is expected in four to six weeks.

It is not known if the tablet is a forgery or not. His daughter Hannah said her father tried to sell it to an auction house in 1954 but was told it was a worthless forgery.

Her brother Israel disagreed with her account including of the estate and informed the museum of the tablet’s presence, setting off the legal war.

Hannah and a sister claim that so much times has passed since the disappearance of the tablet that the museum has no rightful claim.

Their lawyer says that if the tablet turns out to be true ancient artifact, it could be worth approximately $10 million.

Proof of ‘Solomon’s Copper Mines’ Found in Israel

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Tel Aviv University archaeologists claim that recent excavations prove that copper mines in Israel thought to have been built by the ancient Egyptians in the 13th century BCE actually originated three centuries later, during the reign of the legendary King Solomon.

The description of “King Solomon’s copper mines” is based on a novel that placed them in the Israeli kingdom, but archaeologists, until now, have dated them to ancient Egypt.

“The mines are definitely from the period of King Solomon,” says Dr. Ben-Yosef. “They may help us understand the local society, which would have been invisible to us otherwise.”

Based on the radiocarbon dating of material unearthed at a new site in Timna Valley in Israel’s Arava Desert, the findings overturn the archaeological consensus of the last several decades. Scholarly work and materials found in the area suggest the mines were operated by the Edomites, a semi-nomadic tribal confederation that according to the Bible warred constantly with Israel.

Now a national park, Timna Valley was an ancient copper production district with thousands of mines and dozens of smelting sites.

Last February, Ben-Yosef and a team of researchers and students excavated a previously untouched site in the valley, known as the Slaves’ Hill. The area is a massive smelting camp containing the remains of hundreds of furnaces and layers of copper slag, the waste created during the smelting process.

In addition to the furnaces, the researchers unearthed an impressive collection of clothing, fabrics, and ropes made using advanced weaving technology; foods, like dates, grapes, and pistachios; ceramics; and various types of metallurgical installations.

The world-renowned Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at the University of Oxford in England dated 11 of the items to the 10th century BCE, when according to the Bible King Solomon ruled the Kingdom of Israel.

The archaeological record shows the mines in Timna Valley were built and operated by a local society, likely the early Edomites, who are known to have occupied the land and formed a kingdom that rivaled Judah. The unearthed materials and the lack of architectural remains at the Slaves’ Hill support the idea that the locals were a semi-nomadic people who lived in tents.

The findings from the Slaves’ Hill confirm those of a 2009 dig Ben-Yosef helped to conduct at “Site 30,” another of the largest ancient smelting camps in Timna Valley. Then a graduate student of Prof. Thomas E. Levy at the University of California, San Diego, he helped demonstrate that the copper mines in the valley dated from the 11th to 9th centuries BCE — the era of Kings David and Solomon — and were probably Edomite in origin.

The findings were reported in the journal The American Schools of Oriental Research in 2012, but the publication did little to shake the notion that the mines were Egyptian, based primarily on the discovery of an Egyptian Temple in the center of the valley in 1969.

The Slaves’ Hill dig also demonstrates that the society in Timna Valley was surprisingly complex, and the smelting technology and the layout of the camp reflects indicate that thousands of people were needed to operate the mines in the middle of the desert.

“In Timna Valley, we unearthed a society with undoubtedly significant development, organization, and power,” says Ben-Yosef. “And yet because the people were living in tents, they would have been transparent to us as archaeologists if they had been engaged in an industry other than mining and smelting, which is very visible archaeologically.”

Archaeologists would probably never have found evidence of its existence if it were not for the mining operation even though the society likely possessed a degree of political and military power.

Ben-Yosef says this calls into question archaeology’s traditional assumption that advanced societies usually leave behind architectural ruins. He also says that the findings at the Slaves’ Hill undermine criticisms of the Bible’s historicity based on a lack of archaeological evidence.

It’s entirely possible that Kings David and Solomon exerted some control over the mines in the Timna Valley at times, he says.

Archaeologists Find Israel Was Land of Milk, Honey – and Cinnamon

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Cinnamon, once thought to have been carried on trade routes in ancient Israel, may have been made along the northern Israeli coast and not just in Africa and India, as previously thought, Israeli researchers told LiveScience.

They analyzed 27 flasks from archaeological sites in Israel dating back 3,000 years and found that the compound that gives cinnamon its flavor was in 10 of the containers.

Cinnamon bark is found in southern India, and another form of the spice is found in China and southeast Asia. It is now yet known the source of the cinnamon in the flasks found in Israel, but the discovery that it probably was made in Israel “raises the intriguing possibility that long-range spice trade from the Far East westward may have taken place some 3,000 years ago,” the Tel Aviv University and Weizmann Institute researchers wrote in a paper to be published in the journal Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry.

“We don’t think they sailed directly [to the Far East]; it was a very hard task even in the 16th century A.D.” Dvory Namdar, a researcher with the Weizmann Institute of Science and Tel Aviv University, told LiveScience in an interview.

Namdar and research colleague Ayelet Gilboa of the University of Haifa said the flasks, which at that time were in area that was part of ancient Phoenicia, feature a narrow opening with thick walls, indicating their contents were highly prized. Flasks with similar shapes previously have been found in temple storerooms and treasuries of ancient kingdoms, the researches added.

They think that the cinnamon bark was brought from the Far East to ancient Israel and mixed with liquids before it was placed in the flasks prior to shipping the spice elsewhere.

Namdar and Gilboa speculate that people of the time mixed the cinnamon in with wine. “If you mix it with a bigger [container of wine], then you get flavored wine,” they said.

Hoard of 1,500-Year-Old Coins Found in Ancient Garbage Dump

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Archaeologists and researchers are trying to figure out why a recently found treasure of 1,500-year-old coins and other artifacts was buried in Byzantine era refuse pits.

The excavations, on behalf of the Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority, are being carried out prior to expanding the city of Herzliya, immediately north of Tel Aviv.

Numerous finds dating to the Late Byzantine period of the 5th-7th centuries were among the antiquities discovered in excavations conducted in the agricultural hinterland of the ancient city of Apollonia-Arsuf, located east of the site.

Among the finds uncovered are installations for processing the agricultural produce such as wine presses, and what also might be the remains of an olive press, as well as remains of walls that were apparently part of the ancillary buildings that were meant to serve local farmers.

“The most intriguing find in the area is a number of Byzantine refuse pits,” said Tel Aviv University Prof. Oren Tal and Moshe Ajami of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“One of them is especially large – more than 100 feet in diameter –  and contained fragments of pottery vessels, fragments of glass vessels, industrial glass waste and animal bones.

“In the midst of the many shards that were discovered in the big refuse pit was a large amount of usable artifacts, whose presence in the pit raises questions. Among other things, more than four hundred coins were found which are mostly Byzantine, including one gold coin, as well as two hundred whole and intact Samaritan lamps, among them lamps that were never used, rings and gold jewelry.”

Noteworthy among the jewelry is an octagonal ring with parts of verses from the Samaritan Pentateuch engraved in Samaritan script on each of its sides. One side reads, “Adonai is his name,” and another side reads, “One God….”

Approximately a dozen Samaritan rings have been published so far in scientific literature, and this ring constitutes an important addition given the assemblage in which it was discovered.

The excavation site once served as the agricultural hinterland of Apollonia-Arsuf, which is located west of the excavation area and what is today the Apollonia National Park. Archaeological excavations conducted there from the 1950s until the present indicate that the site was inhabited continuously for more than 1,500 years – from the Persian period  in the late 6th century BCE until the end of the Crusader period in the 13th century CE.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/hoard-of-1500-year-old-coins-found-in-ancient-garbage-dump/2013/08/07/

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