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November 25, 2014 / 3 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘IAA’

Archaeologists Uncover Tale of Ancient Mikveh and WWII Australian Soldiers

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Archaeologists excavating a construction site near the Ha’Ela Junction have uncovered a curious tale that entwines the fate of an ancient mikveh with that of two Australian soldiers who somehow ended up in the same spot in World War II.

The ancient ritual pool (“mikveh” in Hebrew) was recently uncovered at the Ha’Ela Junction during the routine excavations that are always carried out prior to construction in Israel, in this case to widen Highway 38.

Nearby, an enormous 1,700-year-old water cistern was also revealed, with graffiti scrawled on the ceiling of the reservoir, apparently by Australian soldiers during World War II.

The excavations are being carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority and are financed by the Netivei Israel Company, which is involved in the construction.

Yoav Tsur, IAA excavation director at the site, explained, “We exposed a mikveh in which there are five steps, with the fifth step being a bench where one could sit at the edge of the immersion pool.

“We found fragments of magnificent pottery vessels there, dating to the second century CE – among them lamps, red burnished vessels, a jug and cooking pots.

“Apparently the mikveh ceased to be used during the second century CE, perhaps in light of the Bar Kokhba revolt.

“A rock-hewn opening was exposed south of the mikveh, which appears to have been the entrance to a large water cistern. It seems that in an early phase it was a smaller reservoir and functioned as the “otzar) (water collection area) for the mikveh. When the mikveh ceased to be used, the cistern’s original cavity was increased to its current large dimensions and an extensive surface was built nearby, which facilitated drawing water.”

The archaeologists were also surprised to find during their excavations some graffiti engraved on the ceiling of the cistern, indicating that the site had been exposed at least until the 1940s.

Graffiti carved into ceiling of ancient cistern by Australian soldiers during World War II.

Graffiti carved into ceiling of ancient cistern by Australian soldiers during World War II.

The inscriptions were read by Assaf Peretz, an archaeologist and historian with the Israel Antiquities Authority, who said that two English names were carved in the rock: Cpl Scarlett and Walsh.

“Next to the names are caved the initials RAE and two numbers: NX7792 and NX9168. The date 30/05/1940 appears below the graffiti.”

The IAA inquired with authorities who confirmed that the numbers engraved in the cistern were indeed serial numbers of two actual soldiers, and that RAE stands for Royal Australian Engineers.

A search in government archives revealed that Corporal Philip William Scarlett was born in Melbourne in 1918, was drafted into the army in 1939, survived the war and died in 1970, shortly before his fifty-second birthday.

His comrade, Patrick Raphael Walsh, was born in 1910 in Cowra, was drafted in 1939, survived the war and passed away in 2005 at the age of 95.

It seems the two were members of the Australian Sixth Division. They were stationed in the country at the time of the British Mandate and undergoing training prior to being sent into combat in France.

Because France surrendered before the troops were ready they were ultimately sent to Egypt in October 1940 where they fought at the front in the Western Desert.

The archaeologists added, “If the relatives of these people are acquainted with the story, we’ll be happy if they contact us and we’ll share with them the warm greetings left behind by Scarlett and Walsh.”

Tsur pointed out that the finds from the excavation tell an exciting tale indeed: they “allow us to reconstruct a double story – about the Jewish settlement in the second century CE, probably against the background of the events of the Bar Kokhba revolt, and another story no less fascinating, about a group of Australian soldiers who visited the [same] site c. 1,700 years later and left their mark there.”

Israel Antiquities Authority Director, Shuka Dorfman, 64, z’l

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

The man who has led the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) into the future of hi-tech since November 2000, Shuka Dorfman, passed away today (Thursday) at 64 after a serious illness.

He will be laid to rest Friday at 2 pm in Gedera.

Dorfman served his country as a military attache to South Korea and Japan following an honorable discharge from the IDF as Israel’s top artillery officer, then worked in the private sector until he accepted the directorship of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Just 18 months ago, Dorfman was responsible for uploading 5,000 images of the famed Dead Sea Scrolls to an Internet library in a partnership with Google. One year prior, the Israel Museum collaborated with Google in a similar project to upload five of the scrolls to the Internet.

“We have succeeded in recruiting the best minds and technological means to preserve this unrivaled cultural heritage treasure which belongs to all of us, so that the public with a touch of the screen will be able to freely access history in its fullest glamour,” Dorfman exulted at the time.

Only five conservators worldwide are actually authorized to handle the Dead Sea Scrolls, he noted. But, “now everyone can touch the scroll on screen around the globe.”

It was Dorfman who was responsible for the Spice Route, Masada and Akko being designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. His vision and understanding that technology would shape the future enabled the Authority to upgrade its rate of rescue excavations to ensure that archaeological excellence would not be abandoned in the headlong rush to complete development projects. As a result, numerous archaeological sites were made available for public access that might otherwise have simply been ground into dust.

May his memory be for a blessing.

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.

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.

Section of 1,800-Year-Old Road Discovered in Jerusalem

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Archaeological excavation prior to the installation of a drainage pipe has exposed for “the first time…such a finely preserved section of the road in Jerusalem,” the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday.

The ancient road leading from Yafo [Jaffa] to Jerusalem dates to the Roman period of the 2nd-4th centuries was exposed in the Beit Hanina neighborhood in northern Jerusalem.

The wide road of approximately 26 feet was bounded on both sides by curbstones and was built of large flat stones fitted to each other in order to create a comfortable surface for walking. Some of the pavers were very badly worn, indicating the extensive use that was made of the road, and over the years the road also underwent a series of repairs.

“Several segments of the road were previously excavated by research expeditions of the IAA, but such a finely preserved section of the road has not been discovered in the city of Jerusalem until now ,” according to David Yeger, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“The Romans attached great importance to the roads in the empire,” he added. “They invested large sums of money and utilized the most advanced technological aids of the period in order to crisscross the empire with roads. These served the government, military, economy and public by providing an efficient and safe means of passage.

“Way stations and roadside inns were built along the roads, as well fortresses in order to protect the travelers. The construction and maintenance of the roads was assigned to military units, but civilians also participated in the work as part of the compulsory labor imposed on them by the authorities.”

The road section that was discovered is part of the imperial network of roads that led to Jerusalem from the coastal plain and which are known from both historical sources and archaeological excavations.

Two main arteries led from Yafo to Jerusalem during the Roman period. One is the road that passes through Bet Horon and the other runs via Sha’ar HaGai, west of Jerusalem. This particular segment belongs to the Bet Horon road. The road began in Yafo and passed through Lod where it split it two different directions: one to Sha’ar HaGai and the other by way of Modi’in along the route of what is today Highway 443 to Bet Horon.

From there the road continued until it merged with the highlands road that led to the Old City of Jerusalem.

Hebrew Seal Dating Back to First Temple Period Discovered

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), in its continuing archaeological excavations of the drainage channel between the City of David and the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden, has uncovered a Hebrew seal dating back to the First Temple period.

The seal was discovered on the floor of the remains of a building also dating to the end of the First Temple period; a building that IAA said was the closest one to the First Temple found thus far in excavations. According to a statement released by IAA, the seal “is made of a semi-precious stone and is engraved with the name of its owner: ‘Lematanyahu Ben Ho…’ (‘למתניהו בן הו…’ meaning: ‘Belonging to Matanyahu Ben Ho…’). The rest of the inscription is erased.”

At an early stage of the excavations, which is underwritten by the Ir David Foundation, the archaeologists involved recognized the potential for significant discoveries in the area, and thus decided that they would painstakingly sift through any soil removed from the site. This decision was vindicated, as the seal was discovered during the sifting process.

Seals were used by individuals in the First Temple period to sign letters and identify their owner, and were set in a signet ring for convenience.

Eli Shukron, the excavation director, said: “the name Matanyahu, like the name Netanyahu, means giving to God. These names are mentioned several times in the Bible. They are typical of the names in the Kingdom of Judah in latter part of the First Temple period – from the end of the eighth century BCE until the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE.

“To find a seal from the First Temple period at the foot of the Temple Mount walls is rare and very exciting,” he added. “This is a tangible greeting of sorts from a man named Matanyahu who lived here more than 2,700 years ago.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/hebrew-seal-dating-back-to-first-temple-period-discovered/2012/05/01/

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