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July 24, 2016 / 18 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘IAA’

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

Archaeologists Reveal Another Ancient, Luxurious Mosaic in Lod

Monday, November 16th, 2015

Second Impressive Mosaic Uncovered in Lod

A second impressive mosaic discovered by archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority is ready to be publicly displayed this week for the first time ever.

In June–November 2014 a team of IAA archaeologists directed a large excavation in the Neve Yerek neighborhood of Lod. It is an area where a breathtaking mosaic that served as the living room floor in a villa some 1,700 years ago was previously exposed.

Ancient Mosaic uncovered in Lod

Ancient Mosaic uncovered in Lod

The aim of the excavation was to prepare the ground for construction of a visitor center, to which the beautiful mosaic will be returned when it completes a series of exhibitions in museums around the world.

Important artifacts were discovered in the new excavation, the most notable of which is another colorful mosaic (11 × 13 m) that was the courtyard pavement of the magnificent villa that had the famous mosaic in its living room.

IAA mosaic of fish uncovered in Lod.

IAA mosaic of fish uncovered in Lod.

According to Dr. Amir Gorzalczany, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The villa we found was part of a neighborhood of affluent houses that stood here during the Roman and Byzantine periods. At that time Lod was called Diospolis and was the district capital, until it was replaced by Ramlaafter the Muslim conquest. The building was used for a very long time.”

The northern part of the complex, where the “Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center” will be constructed, was exposed when the Israel Antiquities Authority was inspecting development work being carried out in the early 1990s prior to the construction of Highway 90.

Detailed mosaic in Lod showing gazelles.

Detailed mosaic in Lod showing gazelles.

The mosaic, which was discovered and excavated at that time by the late Miriam Avissar, is among the most beautiful in the country, and has been exhibited in recent years in some of the world’s leading museums, including the Metropolitan, the Louvre and the State Hermitage etc. It is currently on display at the Cini Gallery in Venice, Italy, and in the future it will be housed in the main building to be erected in Lod.

The southern part of the complex was exposed in the current excavations. Among other things, it includes a large magnificent courtyard that is paved with a mosaic and surrounded by porticos (stoas–covered galleries open to the courtyard) whose ceiling was supported by columns. According to Dr. Gorzalczany, “The eastern part of the complex could not be completely exposed because it extends beneath modern buildings in the neighborhood.”

The scenes in this mosaic depict hunting and hunted animals, fish, flowers in baskets, vases and birds. Dr. Gorzalczany added, “The quality of the images portrayed in the mosaic indicates a highly developed artistic ability.”

Numerous fragments of frescoes (wall paintings prepared on wet plaster) reflect the decoration and the meticulous and luxurious design, which are in the best tradition of the well-born of the period. In light of the new discoveries, this part of the villa will also be incorporated in the visitor center.

Archaeologists Hagit Torgë, Uzi ‘Ad, Eriola Jakoel and Yossi Elisha of the Israel Antiquities Authority participated in the excavation.

Hana Levi Julian

Unique 1,800-Year-Old Sarcophagus Found at Ashkelon Building Site

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

A unique and extremely impressive stone sarcophagus approximately 1,800 years old has been exposed at a building site in a new neighborhood being built in Ashkelon.

This occurred during an overnight operation between Tuesday and Wednesday carried out by inspectors of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, the Southern District of the IAA, and patrol officers and detectives from the Ashkelon police station.

The find is among the rarest sarcophagi ever discovered in Israel. The coffin, made of hard limestone, weighs approximately two tons, is 2.5 meters long, and is sculpted on all sides. A life-size figure of a person is carved on the lid of the sarcophagus.

A wreath coming out of the upper edge of the sarcophagus, which is decorated with bulls’ heads. The wreath consists of acanthus leaves together with pinecones and fruit. A grape cluster is in the center of the wreath, and a rose-like decoration is also displayed in it.

A wreath coming out of the upper edge of the sarcophagus, which is decorated with bulls’ heads. The wreath consists of acanthus leaves together with pinecones and fruit. A grape cluster is in the center of the wreath, and a rose-like decoration is also displayed in it.

The unique artifact was repeatedly struck by a tractor in different places, scarring the stone and damaging the decorations sculpted by an artist on its sides. The irreparable damage was caused by the contractors who encountered the impressive sarcophagus during the course of their work.

They decided to hide it, pulling it out of the ground with a tractor while aggressively damaging it, and then concealing it beneath a stack of sheet metal and boards. They poured a concrete floor in the lot so as to conceal any evidence of the existence of the antiquities site.

Information received by the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery about unlawful activities at the construction site led to a nighttime search being conducted in the area. A close examination of the area revealed the sarcophagus and the lid concealed there.

The sarcophagus lid and the sarcophagus during the initial cleaning.

The sarcophagus lid and the sarcophagus during the initial cleaning.

Five Palestinian Arab construction workers from the Hebron area were detained who were sleeping at the building site. During investigation of the laborers at the Ashkelon police station, it became clear that the sarcophagus was excavated last week. When questioned, they showed the investigators photos and videos taken at the time of the sarcophagus’ discovery and while removing it from the ground.

Later that night, two building contractors were detained who are residents of the city and were responsible for the construction work at the site. The contractors were questioned under caution on suspicion of not reporting an ancient discovery and on suspicion of damaging an antiquities site and its artifacts – an offense punishable by five years imprisonment.

“This is an extremely serious case of damage to a rare antiquity of unprecedented artistic, historical and cultural importance,” said Amir Ganor, head of the Inspection Department at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“The IAA is attentive to development needs and the needs of the public, but will strictly enforce the law against those who knowingly damage antiquities, which are assets belonging to us all.

“Out of consideration for the owners of the lots, we permitted building in the new neighborhood of villas, on condition they would report any discovery of antiquities in the area right away and immediately halt work until the arrival of our representative.

Hana Levi Julian

New App Puts Dead Scrolls on iPhone and iPad

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

The Dead Sea Scrolls are now available on iPhone and iPad, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced Thursday with the launch of its first App featuring archaeology games and puzzles for kids.

Genesis 1:1 (the account of creation), the Ten Commandments, Psalms, and 11 other 2,000 year old manuscripts are featured in the ”Dig Quest” App that introduces kids ages 7-11 to archaeology with a suite of unique games, featuring beautiful artifacts from the National Treasures of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The App transforms a kid’s iPhone or iPad into an archaeological tool and lets them play games to hone their skills, discover secret meanings, solve puzzles, and piece the past together like true archaeologists. Along the way, they unlock ancient artifacts and create their own personal collection.

The games were developed in collaboration with the IAA’s team of archaeologists and researchers. As the children play, they get a feel for what archaeologists do as they experience the excitement of discovery and the creativity and skills involved in solving mysteries from the distant past.

Players select between two dig sites, each of which has a unique game that puts the player in the driver’s seat and requires using different archaeological skills.

At Lod, you clear the dirt to uncover an ancient Roman period mosaic and then play a fast-paced quiz-style game using your smarts and powers of observation to identify and classify the animals and objects on the mosaic.

In the Qumran caves, you discover fragments of the 2,000 year-old Dead Sea Scrolls that you piece together in a puzzle game. Then you scan the scrolls to reveal their text more clearly, mirroring the advanced spectral imaging process performed by the IAA team in the laboratories.

Dig Quest Israel Dead Sea Scroll Cave No Banner iPad-001

Each site features Discoveries for the user to uncover that tell more about the story of the excavation and the artifacts that are found. Artifacts and discoveries can be collected in a “Collection box.”

The game features:

  • More than 30 levels in two unique games based on two world-famous archaeological discoveries;
  • More than 50 images of historical treasures;
  • Historical and archaeological facts and artifacts;
  • Translated and spoken excerpts from the Dead Sea Scrolls;
  • A Collection box where players store artifacts and discoveries;
  • An archaeologist character host, Gabe, inspired by real IAA archaeologists;

The App is launching with two games, and additional games are planned as well as an Android release.

It can be downloaded the from the App Store .

Jewish Press Staff

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.”

Hana Levi Julian

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.

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

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/rare-800-yr-old-christian-monastery-seal-discovered-in-jerusalem/2014/05/27/

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