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November 26, 2014 / 4 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Israel Antiquities Authority’

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.”

National Treasures from Israel Antiquities Authority Now Accessible Via Internet

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Thousands of archeological artifacts presently stored in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem will be made available online through a new initiative called the National Treasures Online project. This new project and the Rockefeller Museum Online project are just two online projects undertaken by the Israel Antiquities Authority. These new ones join the Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, the National Archives and the Survey Maps online.

The National Treasures Online site includes objects from collections of the National Treasures, from prehistoric periods through to the Ottoman period. It currently includes 5,700 artifacts and is continuously updated.

Artifacts are arranged both according to the time period and according to the type of artifact, which is a huge gift for all but the most sophisticated observers. The information provided for each treasure is fairly extensive and includes the materials used, the dimensions of the object and where it was discovered.

The NTO project was launched with the financial assistance of David Rockefeller, son of John D. Rockefeller, JR, who established the museum. It marks the first time the entire collection on display of a museum in Israel is being photographed and made available online.

Having the hi-resolution images and accompanying information available to millions of people anywhere in the world is a huge boon to everyone interested in the archaeology and history of Israel.

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.

Ancient Water Tunnel Discovered in Jerusalem

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

This discovery was first announced in JewishPress.com in April 2013.

The longest water tunnel ever discovered in Israel is being excavated in Jerusalem, near the train station in the southern part of the city. Both the tunnel and a stone column head at its opening, belonging to a state structure dating back to the kings of Judea, are considered proof that the tunnel digging was done during the First Temple period.

Running 700 feet, the tunnel was discovered several weeks ago during an excursion organized by the Kfar Etzion Field School, according to a report Friday in the Israeli daily Ma’ariv.

Yaron Rosenthal, who runs the school for the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, said instructors chanced upon the tunnel just east of the security barrier which separates Israel from Palestinian population centers in Judea. Rosenthal estimated the structure predated 586 B.C. He said the tunnel is one of the longest tunnels in the Holy Land used to transport spring water.

He said that markings, stairs and aesthetic relief carved into the stone suggested that the tunnel belonged to a Judaean king.

“We entered a 15-foot shaft through a very narrow entrance and headed eastward underground,” Rosenthal recalled. “We were amazed at the beauty of the structure we were in, whose corridor is built from huge slabs of more than a cubic yard. At the end of this construction, a simpler path begins and a neat staircase leads to that part.”

The tunnel’s ceiling varies between five and nine feet and it is two to three feet wide, he said. The tunnel is within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, according to Ma’ariv.

The Israel Antiquities Authority conducted preliminary checks in the region three years ago but decided not to excavate, according to Ma’ariv.

Highway Work Uncovers 900-Year-0ld Fountain in Garden

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Construction of a modern highway once again has exposed an ancient site, this time a 900-year-old fountain in a garden, the first time a fountain has been discovered outside the known wealthier districts of Old Ramle

The excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority were carried out at the entrance to Ramle, in an area where a bridge is slated to be constructed as part of the new Highway 44 that will pass over e railroad tracks and relieve drivers from a bottle neck and very long delays during rush hours.

Two residential rooms were exposed of a wealthy estate that was built of ashlar stones. Archaeologists date the structure to the Fatimid period (late 10th century and first half of the 11th century CE).

A fountain made of mosaic covered with plaster and stone slabs was uncovered west of the building. A system of pipes consisting of terra cotta sections and connectors made of store jars led to the fountain. A large cistern and a system of pipes and channels that was used to convey water were discovered next to the residential building. A smithy’s forge built of bricks and used for manufacturing iron tools was exposed c. 20 meters south of the structure.

“It seems that a private building belonging to a wealthy family was located there and that the fountain was used for ornamentation,” said Hagit Torgë, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “This is the first time that a fountain has been discovered outside the known, more affluent quarters of Old Ramle. Most of the fountains that we are aware of from this period in Ramle were concentrated around the White Mosque, which was the center of the Old City of Ramle.

“In addition, this is the first time that the fountain’s plumbing was discovered completely intact. The pipes of other fountains did not survive the earthquakes that struck the country in 1033 and 1068 CE.”

It seems the entire area was abandoned in the mid-eleventh century CE, probably in the wake of the earthquake.

Ramla was established at the beginning of the eighth century CE. Its founding is ascribed to the ruler Suleiman Ibn ‘Abd al-Malik, and it was built as the district capital (Jund Filastin) and in certain periods its importance even eclipsed that of Jerusalem. Ramle grew and expanded during the Abbasid and Fatimid periods, and it was an important economic center in Israel as a result of its strategic location on the road from Cairo to Damascus and from Yafo to Jerusalem.

Numerous oil lamps, a baby’s rattle and parts of dolls made of bone were discovered in the excavation area.

Upon completion of the archaeological excavation, the fountain, which was in an excellent state of preservation, was removed from the area and was relocated in the Pool of the Arches compound in the city where it will be displayed.

Stone Age, Canaanite, Arrowheads and Blades Found in Judean Foothills

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Archaeological excavations which were conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Judean foothills moshav (cooperative village) of Eshta’ol, before laying a sewer line, have unearthed evidence that the area where the moshav houses sprawl started attracting agricultural entrepreneurs as far back as 9,000 years ago.

Benjamin Storchen holding up a bronze period bowl.

Benjamin Storchen holding up a bronze period bowl.

According to Benjamin Storchen, the excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “the ancient findings we unveiled at the site indicate that there was a flourishing agricultural settlement in this place, and it lasted for as long as 4,000 years.”

The archaeological artifacts discovered in the excavation site indicate that the first settlers arrived here about 9,000 years ago. This period is called by archaeologists the Pre-Ceramic Neolithic period, which includes the earliest evidence of organized agriculture.

The site continued to flourish, and reached the peak of its development in the early Canaanite period, about 5000 years ago. This period is characterized by the consolidation of large rural communities, which were dispersed all across the country. The economy of these villages relied on field crops, on orchards and on livestock farming, which continue to characterize in today’s typical Mediterranean agriculture.

This period is credited with some technological innovations in agriculture which upgraded man’s ability to process extensive areas of crops more efficiently.

It appears that the Canaanite site being excavated at the moshav Eshta’ol was part of a large settlement bloc, which came to an end for reasons that are not sufficiently clear some 4,600 years ago.

Stortz’n explains that “these findings indicate a broad and well-developed settlement in the area of the Judean foothills, near the spot where two local rivers, the Kislon and the Ishwa, meet.”

He claims that “these two riverbeds, which today are dry, were alive with streaming water in ancient times, which provided the necessities of life for the local community and allow them to develop thriving agricultural systems alongside an economy based on hunting. The evidence to that are flint warheads, discovered in the same excavation.

These early farmers developed a rich culture, which was reflected, among other things, in the plan of the Canaanite residence exposed at the site, right next to one of the moshav homes. There’s also an abundance of findings: pottery and stone tools, flint tools, including those used to harvest wheat and for housework, and arrowheads used for hunting animals and as weapons, as well as beads and bone artifacts.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/stone-age-canaanite-arrowheads-and-blades-found-in-judean-foothills/2013/06/30/

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