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January 21, 2017 / 23 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Israel Antiquities Authority’

Hasmonean Period Stone Bowl Engraved with Rare Hebrew Inscription ‘Hyrcanus’ Discovered

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

A stone bowl engraved with a rare Hebrew inscription – “Hyrcanus” – dating to the Hasmonean period was discovered in the archaeological excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Givʽati Parking Lot at the City of David at the Jerusalem Walls National Park. “Hyrcanus” was a common name of the time, as well as the name of two kings of the Hasmonean dynasty.

According to researchers, “This is one of the earliest examples of the appearance of chalk vessels in Jerusalem. In the past, these vessels were widely used mainly by Jews because they ensured ritual purity (stone vessels never receive tumah).”

The Givati Parking Lot excavation in the City of David.

The Givati Parking Lot excavation in the City of David.

Who was “Hyrcanus,” whose name is engraved in Hebrew on a 2,100-year-old stone bowl from Jerusalem? In 2015 a fragment of a bowl fashioned from chalk (a type of limestone) was unearthed in the IAA excavation in the Givʽati parking lot. The find was published on Thursday and immediately aroused the curiosity of researchers.

According to Dr. Doron Ben-Ami of the IAA and Professor Esther Eshel of Bar-Ilan University, “This is one of the earliest examples of chalk vessels to appear in Jerusalem. These stone vessels were extensively used by Jews because they were considered vessels that cannot become ritually unclean.”

The bowl was discovered during an archaeological excavation beneath the foundations of a miqvah-ritual bath, dating to the Hasmonean period, which was part of a complex of water installations used for ritual bathing. The Givʽati parking site in the City of David is among the largest excavation areas to be opened to the public so far in Jerusalem. The excavations at the site, sponsored by the Ir David Foundation, have so far uncovered a wealth of artifacts from different periods. Of these, those that arouse special interest are the objects with traces of writing on them, especially when they can be deciphered.

According to the researchers, it is difficult to ascertain whether Hyrcanus, whose name is engraved on the bowl, was a high-ranking person or an ordinary citizen during the Hasmonean period. Since there are only a few vessels in the archaeological record of this period which are engraved with names, it is not known whether this type of engraving was a routine act or a special tribute.

“The name Hyrcanus was fairly common in the Hasmonean period,” say Dr. Ben-Ami and Prof. Eshel. “We know of two persons from this period who bore this name: King Yohanan Hyrcanus, who was the grandson of Matityahu the Hasmonean and ruled Judea from 135–104 BCE, and King Yohanan Hyrcanus II, who was the son of King Alexander Yanai and Queen Shlomtzion; however, it is not possible to determine if the bowl belonged specifically to either of them.”

About a year ago, remains from the Helenist-Syrian Seleucid Akra were exposed in the Givʽati parking lot at the City of David. This was the famous fortress built by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in order to control the city and monitor the activity in the Temple, and which was eventually conquered by the Hasmoneans. Interestingly, the bowl was found a short distance from where the remains of the Akra had been revealed.


Tomb Raiders Caught Red-Handed in Northern Israel

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

by Ilana Messika Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Border Police officers thwarted last weekend a cell of tomb raiders at “Horvat Maskana,” an excavation site north of the Golani Junction, in the lower Galilee.

Three men from the village of Tur’an in the Northern District were caught digging in an ancient burial cave in search of valuable artifacts, causing extensive damage to the archaeological layers and to the buried.

“‘Horvat Maskana’ was a Jewish village during Roman times,” said Nir Distelfeld, an inspector of the IAA Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery. “The community of ‘Maskana’ is mentioned within the Jerusalem Talmud (second century compilation of discussions on Rabbinic Law) as a Jewish village situated midway between Sephoris [in central Galilee] and Tiberias [on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee]: ‘Two who departed, one from Tiberias, one from Sephoris and who arrived simultaneously at Maskana’,“ he quoted.

According to Distelfeld, the robbers were hunting for objects frequently used in burial ceremonies which can often be found in burial caves in perfect condition due to the protection afforded by the heavy stone that has been preserving them for thousands of years. The artifacts are extremely valuable in the antiquities market.

“These criminals are destroying our peoples’ history and erasing pieces of the country’s archaeological puzzle,” he said.

The three suspects were detained at the police station, interrogated and released on bail. The case will be transferred to prepare for an indictment. The penalty incurred for illegal digging can amount to three years in prison and for the crime of damages to antiquities, five years.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Israel Conserves Seal of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, Builder of the Jaffa Clock Tower

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

The familiar seal of sultan Abdul Hamid II, builder of Jaffa’s clock tower, is once again on display on the city’s famous landmark.

Over the past year, Jaffa’s clock tower has undergone conservation measures and engineering reinforcement implemented by the Ezra u-Biratzon Company of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality. In the course of the project it became apparent that the original marble seal (tughra) bearing the symbol of Sultan Hamid Abdul II (ruler of the Ottoman Empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) was in bad need of preservation. Not only had the marble long since lost its original color and it was no longer possible to identify the relief on it, but the seal’s plaque, located 36 ft. above the sidewalk, was in danger of collapsing. The marble was cracked and partly detached from the wall, and its surface was crumbling.

The marble plaque bearing the sultan’s seal after conservation.

The marble plaque bearing the sultan’s seal after conservation.

This seal, located on the southern side of the tower, was the last original seal out of a total of four to be preserved on the structure. In 2001, three glass replicas adorned with the sultan’s seal were installed there in place of the marble plaques that did not survive. Conservators at the Israel Antiquities Authority who examined the last original marble seal that remained on the tower determined that its critical condition required it be saved. Tt was detached from the wall using chisels and transferred to the conservation laboratory in Jerusalem. There, conservator Mark Avrahami performed the conservation and restoration work: a new support for the seal was created, the seal, which had faded completely, was accentuated utilizing pigments, and upon completion of the work, the marble plaque was returned to its original location two weeks ago.

Faina Milstein, the IAA conservation architect in Old Jaffa, said in a statement: “The clock tower, which is in the center of what is today Clock Square, was built next to Jaffa’s monumental sites: the Qishla – the Ottoman period police station, and the Saraya – the Turkish government house. More than one hundred clock towers were constructed throughout the Ottoman Empire in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, of which six clock towers are in Israel: at Jaffa, Acre, Jerusalem, Haifa, Tsfat and Shechem. A seventh tower, which may not have been a clock tower, is located in Nazareth.”

According to Dr. Yoav Arbel, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The tughra first appeared as the seal of the second Ottoman sultan, Orhan (1326-1362 CE) and has since represented the sultans of the Ottoman Empire, as well as the kingdom itself. The tughra is a monogram that incorporates the sultan’s name, his titles, his father’s name and blessings, along with symbolic characteristics of the Ottoman Empire. It served as the sultan’s official seal for use on documents, public buildings, coins etc.”

The tughra also appears at the top of the Qishla, near the clock tower, and above the impressive sabil (a public fountain) called Suleiman’s sabil, in front of the city gate, which was also treated in recent years by the conservators of the IAA.


Minister Regev Presents 67 CE ‘Great Rebellion’ Coin at Cabinet Meeting

Monday, December 12th, 2016

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev on Sunday presented at the start of the cabinet meeting a coin discovered by a team of her office about a month ago, as part of the preparation for the public revelation of the Pilgrims’ Road which was recently unearthed at the City of David. The presentation and the planned public event mark the coming jubilee of the liberation and unification of Jerusalem.

The coin bears on one side a vine leaf and the statement “Freedom of Zion.” On the opposite side it bears a standing cup and the statement “Second year of the great rebellion” – the year 67 CE.

“Precisely 1,900 years later, in 1967, the paratroopers entered the Old City of Jerusalem and renewed her and our freedom, returning Jewish sovereignty to Jerusalem,” Minister Regev said. “We dumped in history’s trash bin the coins minted by [General and later Roman emperor ] Titus following his victory over the rebels [with the statement] ‘Judaea Capta’ (Captive Judea),” she added, “and we returned to liberated Judea, to free and unified Jerusalem, and this is how it will remain for eternity.”

Regev mocked the infamous UNESCO resolution this fall that the Jewish people have no historic connection to the Temple Mount and even the Western Wall, saying Israel’s return to the Biblical sites of Judea and Samaria, which are drenched in Jewish history, repudiate that grotesque resolution.

During Hanukkah, the Ministry of Culture and the Israel Antiquities Authority will hold an event revealing the streets of ancient Jerusalem, where the Maccabees once strolled, and celebrating 50 years since the liberation of the city. The event will open to the public ancient Jerusalem’s main street and its commercial hub, which was used by the pilgrims on the holidays to come up from the Pool of Siloam on the southern slope of the City of David, up to the courtyard of the Temple Mount.


Spectacular 3,800 Year Old Pottery Vessel Excavated near Tel Aviv

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

A small, extraordinary jug from the Middle Bronze Age was revealed with the help of high school students who take Archaeology classes, in a recent Israel Antiquities Authority excavation in the town of Yehud just outside Tel Aviv. In ancient-treasure laden Israel, such excavation are routinely launched ahead of construction projects.

According to Gilad Itach, excavation director on behalf of the IAA, “It literally happened on the last day of the excavation, when right in front of our eyes and the of the thrilled students, an unusual ceramic vessel c. 18 cm high was exposed, bearing the image of a person. It appears that the jug, which is typical of the period, was prepared first, and afterwards the unique sculpture – the likes of which has never before been discovered – was added.”

“The level of precision and attention to detail in creating this almost 4,000 year old sculpture is truly impressive,” Itach noted, adding that “the neck of the jug served as a base for forming the upper portion of the figure, after which the arms, legs and a face were added to the sculpture. One can see that the face of the figure seems to be resting on its hand as if in a state of reflection. It is unclear if the figure was made by the potter who prepared the jug or by another craftsman.”

The jug, which was broken when it was found, being restored in the laboratories of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem.

The jug, which was broken when it was found, being restored in the laboratories of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem.

Efrat Zilber, coordinating supervisor of the Land of Israel and Archaeology matriculation stream in the Ministry of Education, emphasized that “the archaeological excavations provide an opportunity for an intensive and direct experience that connects the pupils with our country’s past. An experiential learning experience involving research methods employed in archaeology takes place while revealing the artifacts. The students meet experts in a variety of fields who share their knowledge with them, enriching them and their world”.

In addition to the unique pottery vessel, other vessels and metal items were found in the site, such as daggers, arrowheads, an axe head, sheep bones and what are very likely the bones of a donkey. According to Itach, “It appears that these objects are funerary offerings that were buried in honor of an important member of this ancient community. It was common in antiquity to believe that the objects that were interred alongside the individual continued with him into the next world. To the best of my knowledge, such a rich funerary assemblage that also includes such a unique pottery vessel has never before been discovered in our country.”

In addition, a variety of evidence regarding the kind of life that existed in the area 6,000 years ago was exposed – among other things, pits and shafts were revealed containing thousands of fragments of pottery vessels, hundreds of flint and basalt implements, animal bones, and a churn – a unique vessel that was widely used in the Chalcolithic period for making butter.

High school students working at the Yehud excavation.

High school students working at the Yehud excavation.

The students of the Land of Israel and Archaeology matriculation stream participate in excavations as part of the new training course offered by the IAA and the Ministry of Education, which seeks to connect them with the past and help prepare the archaeologists of the future. Students who choose this course as part of their alternative evaluation for high school matriculation take part in a week of excavation. They experience the variety of jobs involved in the excavation, discuss questions regarding research and archaeological considerations and document the excavations in a field diary as part of their research work.

“Suddenly I saw many archaeologists and important people arriving who were examining and admiring something that was uncovered in the ground” recalls Ronnie Krisher, a student at the Ha’Roeh religious girls’ high school in Ramat Gan. “They immediately called all of us to look at the amazing statuette and explained that this is an extremely rare discovery, one that’s not encountered every day. It is exciting to be part of an excavation whose artifacts will be displayed in a museum.”


Court Rejects Freedom of Information Request to Shield Archeologists from BDS Attacks

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

The Jerusalem District Court on Monday rejected a petition filed by two extreme-left, anti-Zionist NGOs, Yesh Din and Emek Shaveh, against the Archeology Department of the IDF Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, demanding to know the names of archeologists working in digs around the liberated territories. District Court Judge Yigal Marzel ruled that publicizing their names would expose these archeologists to academic boycotts as well as possibly sabotage Israeli government archeological projects in Judea and Samaria.

Judge Marzel accepted the State’s argument that the archeologists, who testified in a separate hearing without the petitioners’ presence, would be exposed to academic boycotts should their names be published. Such boycotts could prevent the archeologists from publishing their findings in international academic journals, and they could be shunned by their foreign peers, seriously damaging their professional careers.

Judge Marzel ruled that the potential personal harm to the archeologists and their research justifies concealing their names. A few of the archeologists who testified consented to have their names be revealed to the petitioners, and they were.

The court sided with the State regarding the petitioners’ request for information on the location of the discovered archeological finds, accepting the argument that such exposure could lead to the theft of the artifacts.

The court also rejected the petitioners’ demand to review the list of artifacts the Israel Antiquities Authority has lent out for exhibition. Judge Marzel also refused to compel the IAA to hand over the records of specific digs, Tel Batir and Tel Shiloh, in Judea and Samaria.

The court did side with the petitioners’ demand to receive a list of the digs in Judea and Samaria, as well as the dates of their completion an future plan for their use.

Yesh Din’s annual budget, based on its 2014 report to the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits, is $1,565,000. Its donors include the EU, the UK, Human Rights and International Law Secretariat (joint funding from Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands), Norwegian Refugee Council, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), HEKS (Switzerland), Norway, Ireland, Germany, and Oxfam-Novib (Netherlands).

Emek Shaveh’s annual budget, also based on a 2014 report to the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits, is $246,225. Its donors include Switzerland (FDFA – Swiss Foreign Ministry), HEKS (Switzerland), Cordaid (Netherlands), Norway, Ireland, Oxfam GB (UK), CCFD-Terre Solidaire (France), and Oxfam Novib (Netherlands).


3,600-Year-Old Jewels Found in Judean Foothills

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

by Ilana Messika

Israeli archaeologists on Monday announced the discovery of a rare treasure of gold and silver objects dating back about 3,600 years to the Middle Bronze Age, or the Canaanite period. They were found in the archaeological site of the Tel Gezer National Park, in the Judean foothills near Beit Shemesh.

The excavation was conducted by Dr. Tzvika Tzuk, Director of Archaeology for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority in collaboration Dr. Eli Yanai, a retired Israel Antiquities Authority researcher, and Drs. Dan Warner and Jim Parker from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

“This finding is a very significant find to help date the building and show the cultural transparency from Mesopotamia all the way in history down to the State of Israel,” stated Dr. Warner, who is also a historian and Bible teacher.

The treasure constitutes a foundation deposit for the rooms which, according to the archaeologists, represented offerings to deities, a theory supported by the administrative nature of the building and its proximity to the city gates.

“This is a foundation deposit, we found it underneath the house,” Dr. Warner told TPS. “They placed it there to appease the gods so that their house would still stand. These are the tallest preserved walls from this time period anywhere in Israel.”

Researchers managed to separate the findings into five separate parts, while some fragments of silver pieces such as rings and necklace could not be separated due to intensive corrosion.

The central deposit is a pendant with an eight-pointed star within a 3.8 cm diameter disc and a crescent on top of it, which represents a well-known symbol dating more than 1,000 years before that time period. Dr. Irit Ziffer identified the symbol as representing both Ishtar, the Mesopotamian East Semitic goddess of fertility, love, war, sex and power, as well as the Chinese moon god of the Akkadian culture.

The rest of the treasure is comprised of a gold banded scarab from Egypt dated to the Hyksos period, a silver chain, an earing, and another pendant that resembles an arrow.

The treasure was found in one block wrapped in cloth deposited in lidded pottery. Dr. Orit Shamir and Dr. Naama Sukenik of the organic material laboratory of the IAA identified  the cloth as linen cloth according to the shape of the threads and weaving techniques.

Dr. Warner told TPS that the material in which the treasure was wrapped is one of the oldest pieces of fabric found in Israel, apart from the ones discovered in Megiddo, while only two textile samples from the Canaanite period have been found, one in Jericho and one in Rishon LeTzion.

“During the Canaanite period, Gezer was one of the cities of primordial importance in Israel and its significance continued until the moment King Solomon built the city anew ,” said Shaul Goldstein, CEO of INPA.

“This finding is  a significant achievement, which sheds light on the Canaanite culture in Israel more than 3,600 years ago, and further consolidates the position of the Tel Gezer National Park site as an archaeological gem with great significance to Israel,” Goldstein said.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/3600-year-old-jewels-found-in-judean-foothills/2016/11/15/

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