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October 24, 2016 / 22 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘excavation’

Rare Cache of Silver Coins From Hasmonean Period Found in Modi’in

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

More proof that Jews lived and prospered in the Land of Israel long before the so-called “Palestinian Arabs” ever walked this piece of real estate…

During the time of the Hasmoneans, a Jewish family of means owned an estate in Modi’in which had an olive grove and a press with which to produce olive oil, as well as vineyards and wine presses for the production of wine. And the family patriarch was a coin collector.

He was clearly a man of means: but something must have happened, and the family was forced to flee. Just before quitting their estate, he hid his coins between the massive stones in a wall, hoping to retrieve them later. But it was not to be, and it is only now, millennia later, his fellow Jews have discovered the treasure, and are learning his story.

* * *

The hoard of silver coins dating to the Hasmonean period (126 BCE) was exposed in April, in an archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority is currently conducting near Modi‘in, with the participation of local youth. The excavation is being carried out prior to the construction of a new neighborhood, at the initiative of the Modi‘in-Maccabim-Re‘ut municipality. The treasure was hidden in a rock crevice, up against a wall of an impressive agricultural estate that was discovered during the excavation there.

 IAA archaeologist Shahar Krispin during the discovery of the silver coin hoard that was found in the estate house in Modi'in.

IAA archaeologist Shahar Krispin during the discovery of the silver coin hoard that was found in the estate house in Modi’in.

Avraham Tendler, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said “This is a rare cache of silver coins from the Hasmonean period comprised of shekels and half-shekels (tetradrachms and didrachms) that were minted in the city of Tyre and bear the images of the king, Antiochus VII and his brother Demetrius II.

“The cache that we found is compelling evidence that one of the members of the estate who had saved his income for months needed to leave the house for some unknown reason. He buried his money in the hope of coming back and collecting it, but was apparently unfortunate and never returned.

“It is exciting to think that the coin hoard was waiting here 2,140 years until we exposed it,” Tendler said.

“The cache, which consists of 16 coins, contains one or two coins from every year between 135–126 BCE, and a total of nine consecutive years are represented, explained Dr. Donald Tzvi Ariel, head of the Coin Department at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“It seems that some thought went into collecting the coins, and it is possible that the person who buried the cache was a coin collector. He acted in just the same way as stamp and coin collectors manage collections today.”

“The findings from our excavation show that it was a Jewish family that established an agricultural estate on this hill during the Hasmonean period,” Tendler added.

Aerial photograph of the Hasmonean estate house in Modi'in.

Aerial photograph of the Hasmonean estate house in Modi’in.

“The family members planted olive trees and vineyards on the neighboring hills and grew grain in valleys. An industrial area that includes an olive press and storehouses where the olive oil was kept is currently being uncovered next to the estate.

“Dozens of rock-hewn winepresses that reflect the importance of viticulture and the wine industry in the area were exposed in the cultivation plots next to the estate. The estate house was built of massive walls in order to provide security from the attacks of marauding bandits.”

Hana Levi Julian

Pharoah Sends Passover Greetings; Rare Scarab Seal Found at Tel Dor

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

A rare scarab seal belonging to a senior Egyptian official of the Thirteenth Pharaonic Dynasty (the 18th-17th centuries BCE) has been found at Tel Dor on Israel’s Carmel Coast. The seal was discovered by Alexander Ternopolsky, a birdwatcher, who handed it over to the archeological team working at the site.

“The scarab must have belonged to a very senior figure in the kingdom, probably the viceroy responsible for the royal treasury,” explains Prof. Ayelet Gilboa from the Department of Archeology at the University of Haifa, who is heading the excavations at Tel Dor together with Prof. Ilan Sharon from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

“The owner of this scarab filled a similar position to that held by Joseph in Egypt after he interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams.”

Rare scarab seal

Rare scarab seal

The coastal city of Dor, at the foot of Mt. Carmel, was a key port city for thousands of years. Until the Romans built Caesarea, Dor was the most important commercial center in the area and served as a hub for commercial and passenger traffic throughout extensive periods in human history. The city is mentioned in Egyptian inscriptions dating back 3500 years, and even in the Books of Joshua, Judges, and I Kings in the Bible.

Excavations began at Tel Dor in the mid-twentieth century and have been directed since 2002 by Prof. Gilboa and Prof. Sharon. Findings include settlements from the Late Bronze Age (the Canaanite period in the second millennium BCE), as well as a Phoenician settlement and Israelite and Assyrian administrative centers (Iron Age); a city and palace from the Hellenistic period, including a splendid mosaic; and monumental remains from the Roman period, including a pair of temples that may have been dedicated to Poseidon, the Roman god of the sea.

“We have not yet reached the settlement of the 17th century BCE,” Prof. Gilboa explains, “and this is why this finding is particularly important. The rains this past winter must have eroded the soil on the southern slope of the site, and thanks to Mr. Ternopolsky’s keen eyesight, the scarab was discovered and handed over to us.”

The writing on the scarab seal provides important information about its owner.

The writing on the scarab seal provides important information about its owner.

A preliminary study showed that the stone scarab is engraved with the name of its owner, as well as his position and ankh symbols (crosses with a looped head), which symbolized eternal life, and pillar-like djed symbols that emblemized resurrection and stability. The description of the scarab owner’s position includes such phrases as “overseer the treasury,” “bearer of the seal,” and more, but the owner’s name has not yet been deciphered.

“Scarabs were very common objects in ancient Egypt, but the size and quality of this one, its owner’s high-ranking position, and the gold ring in which it is set all make this particular scarab a rare finding in our region,” Prof. Gilboa explains.

The excavators suggest two possible scenarios for the manner the scarab might have reached Dor. The first is that a representative of the viceroy may have come to this important trading city, which was a supply base for spices, resin, and other commodities that were highly valued by the Egyptians, in order to seal a deal for his superior. Accordingly, he would have brought the viceroy’s seal with him (or perhaps even the viceroy himself made the visit).

Side view of scarab seal found on Carmel Coast in northern Israel near Tel Dor.

Side view of scarab seal found on Carmel Coast in northern Israel near Tel Dor.

Hana Levi Julian

1,700-Year-Old Gravestones of Unknown Rabbis Uncovered in Northern Israel

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Three 1,700-year-old burial inscriptions in Aramaic and Greek have been uncovered in the northern Israeli community of Tzipori.

The discovery came after residents of the moshav found pieces of the stone and called the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology at Kinneret Academic College.

Researchers from the college excavated the site together with archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The two Aramaic inscriptions mention individuals referred to as “rabbis” who were buried in the western cemetery of Tzipori; their names have not yet been deciphered.

According to Dr. Motti Aviam of the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology, “The importance of the epitaphs lies in the fact that these reflect the everyday life of the Jews of Tzipori and their cultural world.

“Researchers are uncertain as to the meaning of the term ‘rabbi’ at the time when Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nasi resided in Tzipori together with the Tannaim and after him by the Amoraim – the large groups of sages that studied in the city’s houses of learning.

“One of the surprises in the newly discovered inscriptions is that one of the deceased was called ‘the Tiberian’. This is already the second instance of someone from Tiberias being buried in the cemetery at Tzipori.

“It is quite possible that Jews from various parts of Galilee were brought to Tzipori to be buried in the wake of the important activity carried out there by Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nasi.

“Another possibility is that the man moved to Tzipori and died there, but wanted to be remembered as someone who originally came from Tiberias,” he explained.

In the second Aramaic epitaph the word ‘le-olam’ (forever) appears for the first time in inscriptions found at Tzipori. The term le-olam is known from burial inscriptions in Beit She‘arim and elsewhere. “It means that the deceased’s burial place will remain his forever and that no one will take it from him. Both inscriptions end with the Hebrew blessing ‘shalom,’” Aviam explained.

Greek inscription on ancient gravestone found in Moshav Tzipori in northern Israel.

Greek inscription on ancient gravestone found in Moshav Tzipori.

“The Greek inscription mentions the name Jose, which was very common amongst Jews living in Israel and abroad.”

So far, 17 epitaphs were documented in the Tzipori study, most of them written in Aramaic, which was the everyday language of Jews in Israel at that time.

Contrasting this are the funerary inscriptions found in Tiberias – the second capital of the Galilee – which were mainly written in Greek.

Several of the ancient inhabitants from Tzipori are mentioned in these inscriptions, which include the names of rabbis and often have the names of the professions they were engaged in. Aramaic was the everyday language used by the Jews in the period of the Mishnah and Talmud, but some of them also spoke and read Greek, and thus there are also burial inscriptions in that language.

Tzipori was the first capital of the Galilee from the time of the Hasmonean dynasty until the establishment of Tiberias in the first century CE. The city continued to be central and important later on and was where Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nasi resided and compiled the Mishnah.

Jewish life in the city was rich and diverse, as indicated by the numerous ritual pools (mikvahs) discovered in the excavation.

At the same time the influence of Roman culture was also quite evident as reflected in the design of the town with its paved streets, colonnaded main roads, theater and bathhouses.

The wealth of inscriptions from the cemeteries attests to the strong Jewish presence and the city’s social elite in the Late Roman period.

Hana Levi Julian

Rare 800 Yr Old Christian Monastery Seal Discovered in Jerusalem

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

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.

Hana Levi Julian

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.

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/archaeologists-inaugurate-king-solomons-coronation-site/2014/04/03/

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