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September 27, 2016 / 24 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Israel Antiquities Authority’

Netanyahu Issues Stop-Work Order against Waqf Temple Mount Bathrooms

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

On Tuesday the PM’s office instructed the City of Jerusalem to issue a stop-work order against a project that has been under construction for two years, converting an ancient Ottoman structure near the compound’s wall into bathroom stalls and showers for use strictly by Muslim worshipers.

According to Israel Radio, Prime Minister Netanyahu on Tuesday assembled Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan, and Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev, to discuss the offensive Waqf project on the Temple Mount, because it endangers rare archaeological treasures.

The move was appropriate, especially since the Waqf had been constructing those bathrooms, as well as carrying out other projects for two years now without a license. The only question was how come the PM’s office waited for two years to act, after being bombarded with complaints by archaeologists, including the Israel Antiquities Authority, regarding the irreparable damage caused by the Waqf?

It was Yehuda Glick, now an MK, who in 2014 caught Waqf officials red-handed in the act of drilling through the ancient stones of the holy site, using heavy machinery. “They saw me coming and immediately tried to hide. It set off warning bells for me and I started filming straight away,” Glick related back in 2014. “They tried to hide, and then shouted to the policeman who was there that I could not take pictures without their permission. The policeman ignored them.”

David Israel

IAA Plans to Excavate Judean Desert Caves, Save Scrolls from Robbers

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

The Israel Antiquities Authority is promoting a national plan for comprehensive archaeological excavations in the Judean Desert caves, and for rescuing the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are among the earliest texts written in the Hebrew language. The plan is carried out in cooperation with the Heritage Project in the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs, and Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev (Likud).

Israel Hasson, director-general of the IAA, said in a statement, “Tor years now our most important heritage and cultural assets have been excavated illicitly and plundered in the Judean Desert caves for reasons of greed. The goal of the national plan that we are advancing is to excavate and find all of the scrolls that remain in the caves, once and for all, so that they will be rescued and preserved by the state.”

Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev said in a statement, “The antiquities robbers are plundering the Land of Israel’s history, which is something we cannot allow. The Dead Sea scrolls are an exciting testament of paramount importance that bear witness to the existence of Israel in the Land of Israel 2,000 years ago, and they were found close to the Return to Zion and the establishment of the State of Israel in the Land of Israel. It is our duty to protect these unique treasures, which belong to the Jewish people and the entire world. I will work to increase the punishment against those that rob our country’s antiquities.”

The cave where the archaeological excavation is being conducted is situated c. 80 meters from the top of the cliff and c. 250 meters above the base of the canyon. Photographic credit: Guy Fitoussi, courtesy of the IAA Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery.

The cave where the archaeological excavation is being conducted is situated c. 80 meters from the top of the cliff and c. 250 meters above the base of the canyon. Photographic credit: Guy Fitoussi, courtesy of the IAA Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery.

Last week, the IAA took a first step in the plan by commencing a complicated and extraordinary archaeological excavation in search of scrolls in Nahal Tse’elim. A team from the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery accompanied by researchers from the Caves Research Center of the Hebrew University and hundreds of volunteers from across the country is participating in the excavation, which is taking place with the support of the Heritage Project in the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs. The excavation is being directed by archaeologists Dr. Eitan Klein, Dr. Uri Davidovich, Royee Porat and Amir Ganor. For many years, IAA inspectors have been proactively enforcing the law in the desert, during the course of which they have made a number of seizures and foiled bands of antiquities robbers that sought to become rich through the detrimental exposure of items of great historical importance. However, these actions are a mere drop in the ocean and the IAA stresses that only by excavating all of the scrolls in the ground and transferring them to the state, will it be possible to ensure their well-being and preservation for future generations.

In November 2014, inspectors of the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery apprehended a band of robbers, residents of the village of Sa‘ir near Hebron, in the act of plundering the contents of the Cave of the Skulls in Nahal Tse’elim. The suspects who were caught “red-handed” were arrested on the spot, interrogated, and later sentenced and served a prison sentence, and are required to pay the State of Israel a fine of $25,000. At the time of their arrest they were in possession of important archaeological artifacts that date to the Roman period, c. 2,000 years ago, and the Neolithic period, c. 8,000 years ago.

Access to the cave is complicated and for safety’s sake requires the use of rappelling equipment. Photographic credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the IAA.

Access to the cave is complicated and for safety’s sake requires the use of rappelling equipment. Photographic credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the IAA.

In 2009 an ancient papyrus that was written in Hebrew and dates to the Year Four of the Destruction of the House of Israel (139 CE) was seized. The papyrus was confiscated in a joint operation by the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery and the Israel Police during a meeting with antiquities dealers in which the papyrus was offered for sale for the amount of $2 million. The investigation of the robbers revealed that this papyrus had also been discovered in Nahal Tse’elim. The contents of it, which mention the towns and settlements in the area of the Hebron hill-country, suggest that the papyrus was part of an archive of documents belonging to Jews who fled to the desert from the Hebron area after the Bar Kokhba uprising. Now, the IAA hopes to find similar documents.

The Cave of Skulls, where the excavation is taking place, is located about 80 yards from the top of the cliff, and about 750 ft above the base of the canyon. Because of the difficulty in reaching the site, the IAA obtained a special permit from the Nature and Parks Authority to construct an access trail, which requires the use of rappelling equipment for the safety of the participants in the excavation. More than 500 volunteers and field personnel from Israel and abroad were required for the undertaking, and they are sleeping and living in a camp in desert field conditions. Many requests by individuals offering to participate have been denied because of the lack of infrastructure to provide for such a large group of archaeologists, volunteers and interested parties. The current excavation season will end in another two weeks, assuming this will be sufficient time in order to extract the valuable archaeological information from the cave.

The ancient text that dates to the Year Four of the Destruction of the House of Israel (139 CE), which was seized in a joint operation by the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery and the Israel Police. Photographic credit: Shai Halevi, courtesy of the Leon Levy Digital Library, IAA.

The ancient text that dates to the Year Four of the Destruction of the House of Israel (139 CE), which was seized in a joint operation by the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery and the Israel Police. Photographic credit: Shai Halevi, courtesy of the Leon Levy Digital Library, IAA.

According to Amir Ganor, director of the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, “The excavation in Nahal Tse’elim is an operation of extraordinary complexity and scope, and one that has not occurred in the Judean Desert in the past thirty years. Despite the rigorous enforcement actions taken against the antiquities robbers, we still witness acts of severe plundering that unfortunately are possible in such large desert expanses. There are hundreds of caves in cliffs in the area, access to which is both dangerous and challenging. In almost every cave that we examined we found evidence of illicit intervention and it is simply heart-breaking. The loss of the finds is irreversible damage that cannot be tolerated.”

Israel Hasson, director-general of the IAA, added, “It is exciting to see the extraordinary work of the volunteers, who have lent a hand and participated in the excavation in complicated field conditions, out of a desire to join in an historic undertaking and discover finds that can provide priceless information about our past here. The time has come for the state to underwrite broad action so as to rescue the cultural assets of enormous historical importance while they still remain in the caves. Substantial amounts need to be allocated which will allow the IAA to embark upon a large-scale operation for studying the desert, including the caves, and excavating the artifacts. After all, the Dead Sea scrolls are of religious, political and historical importance to Jews, Christians and all of humanity.”

JNi.Media

Divers Discover ‘Spectacular’ Cargo of Ancient Shipwreck in Caesarea Harbor

Monday, May 16th, 2016

A fortuitous discovery before the Passover holiday by two divers in the ancient port of Caesarea has led to the revelation of a large, spectacular and beautiful ancient marine cargo of a merchant ship that sank there during the Late Roman period, about 1,600 years ago.

As soon as they emerged from the water, divers Ran Feinstein and Ofer Ra‘anan of Ra‘anana contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority and reported the discovery and the removal of several ancient items from the sea.

The rare bronze artifacts that were discovered in Caesarea. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The rare bronze artifacts that were discovered in Caesarea. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

A joint dive at the site together with IAA archaeologists revealed that an extensive portion of the seabed had been cleared of sand and the remains of a ship were left uncovered on the sea bottom: iron anchors, remains of wooden anchors and items that were used in the construction and running of the sailing vessel. An underwater salvage survey conducted in recent weeks with the assistance of many divers from the Israel Antiquities Authority and volunteers using advanced equipment discovered numerous items that had been part of the ship’s cargo.

Many of the artifacts are made of bronze and are in an extraordinary state of preservation: a bronze lamp depicting the image of the sun-god Sol, a figurine of the moon goddess Luna, a lamp in the image of the head of an African slave, fragments of three life-size bronze-cast statues, objects fashioned in the shape of animals: a whale, and a bronze faucet in the shape of a wild boar with a swan on its head. Fragments of large jars were found that were used for carrying drinking water for the crew on the ship. One of the biggest surprises was the discovery of two metallic lumps composed of thousands of coins weighing about 45 lbs., Shaped like the pottery vessel in which they had been stored.

Lumps of coins that were discovered at sea, weighing a total of c. 20 kilograms. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Lumps of coins that were discovered at sea, weighing a total of c. 20 kilograms. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

This discovery comes a year after the exposure by divers and the IAA of a treasure of gold Fatimid coins, which is currently on public display at the “Time Travel” presentations in Caesarea harbor.

According to Jacob Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Dror Planer, deputy director of the unit, “These are extremely exciting finds, which, apart from their extraordinary beauty, are of historical significance. The location and distribution of the ancient finds on the seabed indicate that a large merchant ship was carrying a cargo of metal slated for recycling, and apparently encountered a storm at the entrance to the harbor and drifted until it smashed into the seawall and the rocks.”

A preliminary study of the iron anchors suggests there was an attempt to stop the drifting vessel before it reached shore by casting anchors into the sea; however, these broke – evidence of the power of the waves and the wind which the ship was caught up in.

Fragment of a life-size head of a statue. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Fragment of a life-size head of a statue. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Sharvit and Planer stress that “a marine assemblage such as this has not been found in Israel in the past thirty years. Metal statues are rare archaeological finds because they were always melted down and recycled in antiquity. When we find bronze artifacts it usually happens at sea. Because these statues were wrecked together with the ship, they sank in the water and were thus ‘saved’ from the recycling process.” Sharvit and Planer added that, “in the many marine excavations that have been carried out in Caesarea only a very small number of bronze statues have been found, whereas in the current cargo a wealth of spectacular statues were found that had been in the city and were removed from it by way of the sea. The sand protected the statues; consequently they are in an amazing state of preservation – as though they were cast yesterday rather than 1,600 years ago.”

A figurine of the moon goddess Luna. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

A figurine of the moon goddess Luna. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The coins that were discovered bear the image of the emperor Constantine who ruled the Western Roman Empire (312–324 CE) and was later known as Constantine the Great, ruler of the Roman Empire (324–337 CE); and of Licinius, an emperor who ruled the eastern part of the Roman Empire and was a rival of Constantine, until his downfall in the 324 CE Battle of Adrianople that was waged between the two rulers. Following the battle at Adrianople, Constantine moved to besiege Byzantium.

The ship’s anchor as it was discovered in the sea. Photographic credit: the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The ship’s anchor as it was discovered in the sea. Photographic credit: the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

According to Sharvit, “In recent years we have witnessed many random discoveries in the harbor at Caesarea. These finds are the result of two major factors: the absence of sand on the seabed causing the exposure of ancient artifacts, and an increase in the number of divers at the site. In this particular instance, the divers demonstrated good citizenship and are deserving of praise. They will be awarded a certificate of appreciation and invited to tour the storerooms of the National Treasures. By reporting the discovery of the marine assemblage to the IAA they have made it possible for all of us to enjoy these spectacular remains from antiquity.”

Exemplary citizenship: the divers, Ran Feinstein (right) and Ofer Ra‘anan after the discovery. Photographic credit: The Old Caesarea Diving Center

Exemplary citizenship: the divers, Ran Feinstein (right) and Ofer Ra‘anan after the discovery. Photographic credit: The Old Caesarea Diving Center

The Rothschild Caesarea Foundation is a major supporter of the conservation and development of the secrets of ancient Caesarea throughout the ages. The Israel Antiquities Authority, the Nature and Parks Authority and the Caesarea Development Corporation continue working intensively on major projects around the harbor. Michael Kersenti, director-general of the Caesarea Development Corporation, notes that the recent discoveries “reiterate the uniqueness of Caesarea as an ancient port city with a history and cultural heritage that continues to surprise us, as parts of the mysteries of its past are revealed in the sea and on land. These and the cultural treasures which will be discovered in the future will be made available for viewing by the numerous visitors who come to Caesarea each year.”

JNi.Media

Teenagers Deface 1,300-Year-Old Fortress on Passover, Brag on Social Media

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

By Michael Zeff/TPS

A group of Israeli high schoolers held a so-called “paint fight” inside an ancient archaeological site during passover break, vandalizing the stone walls of an early dark ages seaside fortress at the site of Ashdod-Yam on Tuesday.

“If these kids don’t come forward soon by their own volition to the Israel Antiquities Authority, we will bring in the police,” Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) Spokeswoman Yoli Shwartz told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) today.

Ashdod-Yam, which means “sea Ashdod,” is an archaeological site on the southern coast of Israel. Ashdod-Yam was a thriving port town from the Late Bronze Age to the Middle Ages and it now neighbors the modern city of Ashdod.

The high schoolers are from a local high school in Ashdod and they decided to use the Passover break to have a class paint fight. They ran around the site of Ashdod-Yam, spraying paint at each other and on the walls of the fortress. The teenagers even posted photos of their exploits and their vandalism all over social media later that day.

“The Municipality of Ashdod looks very gravely at this incident and we will deal with it with all the means at our disposal, including the issuing of fines to the people involved,” commented an official with the Ashdod Municipality.

“The municipal education supervisor and the school principal have already contacted the guilty parties and their parents and have made the gravity of their situation clear,” he added.

“They have 48 hours to come forward willingly to the IAA and we will instruct them on how to correctly undo the damage they caused,” IAA Chairman Israel Hason asserted. “If they do not take responsibility, we will have no choice but to press criminal charges and involve the police.”

According to Hason, vandalizing a archeological site is a serious criminal offense.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Impressive Farmstead, Ancient Monastery, Colorful Mosaics Exposed at Rosh Ha’Ayin

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

Impressive archaeological finds have been uncovered in extensive excavations being carried out by in Rosh Ha’Ayin by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The work is being done at the initiative of the Ministry of Construction and Housing and the city municipality prior to the building of new neighborhoods.

So far, scores of teenagers from preparatory programs and youth villages have participated in the excavation as part of the Israel Antiquities Authority policy of increasing public awareness of the state’s cultural heritage.

During the excavation an impressive 2,700 year old farmhouse (30 × 50 meters) and a 1,500-year-old church with colorful mosaics and inscriptions in it were uncovered.

Remains of the ancient farmstead and monastery uncovered in Rosh Ha'Ayin.

Remains of the ancient farmstead and monastery uncovered in Rosh Ha’Ayin.

According to Amit Shadman, excavation director for the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The large farmhouse was preserved to a height of more than two meters. The building is 2,700 years old and included twenty-four rooms constructed around a central courtyard.

“A large storage compartment (silo) meant to protect the grain was exposed in the courtyard. It seems that carbohydrates were as popular then as now, and the growing and processing of grain were fairly widespread in the rural-agricultural region. This was corroborated by other discoveries in the field that included numerous millstones which were used to grind the grain into flour.

“In addition, we found simple rock-hewn oil presses used in the production of olive oil”.

Among the other artifacts that were exposed in the farmhouse were two silver coins from the fourth century BCE that bear the likenesses of the goddess Athena and the Athenian owl.

According to Shadman, this farmstead and other similar ones operated for centuries until the region was abandoned during the Hellenistic period. Many hundreds of years later, in the fifth century CE, a Christian settlement wave arrived in the area and changed the landscape. Among other things, the rapid spread of Christianity at that time is apparent from the many impressive rural churches and monasteries that have been uncovered.

A monastery dating to the Byzantine period was exposed on one of the hills in the area and included a church, an oil press, residential quarters and stables equipped with mangers and troughs, etc. The floors of the church that was built in the monastery were made of colorful mosaics that included geometric and other designs.

In addition, a Greek inscription ascribed to a priest named Theodosius (a common name in the Byzantine period) was revealed in one of the mosaics.

“This place was built under Theodosius the priest. Peace be with you when you come, peace be with you when you go, Amen”.

Hana Levi Julian

Rare 1,500-year-old Mosaic Featured on Sukkot at Kiryat Gat Industrial Park

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

A rare 1,500-year-old mosaic discovered two years ago during an archaeological excavation in the Kiryat Gat Industrial Park is being revealed to the public for the first time during the Sukkot holiday.

The mosaic, which depicts a map with streets and buildings, was exposed during a dig conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority together with school children and employees from the industrial park.

IAA workers conserving the mosaic.

“The appearance of buildings on mosaic floors is a rare phenomenon in Israel,” commented IAA archaeologists Sa’ar Ganor and Dr. Rina Avner. ““The buildings are arranged along a main colonnaded street of a city, in a sort of ancient map. A Greek inscription preserved alongside one of the buildings exposed in the mosaic indicates that the place which is depicted is the settlement Chortaso, in Egypt.

“According to Christian tradition, the prophet Habakkuk was buried in Chortaso. The appearance of this Egyptian city on the floor of the public building in Kiryat Gat might allude to the origin of the church’s congregation”.

Great artistry and fine detail was used to conserve the mosaic.

“The mosaic pavement was part of the floor of a church that did not survive, the IAA explained. Two sections of the mosaic were preserved; animals such as a rooster, deer and birds, and a goblet with red fruits are portrayed on one part of the pavement.

Buildings were among the images depicted in the excavated mosaic conserved in the Kiryat Gat Industrial Park.

Nile River landscape in Egypt consisting of a boat with a rolled-up sail, streets and buildings is depicted on the second carpet. The buildings are portrayed in detail and in three dimensions, with two and three stories, balconies and galleries, roofing, roof tiles and windows.

The artist utilized ‘tesserae’ of 17 different colors in preparing the mosaic,” noted Ganor. “The investment in the raw materials and their quality are the best ever discovered in Israel.”

For the first time, the “Factories from Within” Festival will be held in the Kiryat Gat Industrial Park during Chol Hamoed Sukkot. The entire industrial park will become an event-filled arena on October 1, including one-time performances in unconventional locations with rare visits inside of some of the best-known factories in Israel.

Hana Levi Julian

Arab MKs Warn Giving East Jerusalem Streets Hebrew Names Is ‘Pyromanic’ Decision

Monday, September 21st, 2015

(JNi.media) Arab Knesset members are outraged by the decision of the Jerusalem City Council which on Sunday night approved giving Hebrew names to streets in eastern Jerusalem, Walla reported.

The new names are, in the Silwan neighborhood: Shir La’Ma’a lot, Arugat Ha’Bossem, Malki Tzedek, and Pardes Rimonim; near Shechem Gate: Amir Drori; in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood: Na’hlat Shimon, and Nah’lat Yitzhak; in the Abu Tor neighborhood: Har Ha’Mishkha, and Me’arat Ha’Nevi’im; and in the Ras Al Amud neighborhood: Kidmat Zion.

Many of the names are Biblical; Amir Drori was an IDF general who at one point was on a fast track for chief of staff, then became the founder and the first director general of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Some of the names have a messianic connotation which was probably not missed by the Arab MKs (Har Ha’Mishkha is the Mount of Anointment, Me’arat Ha’Nevi’im is Cave of the Prophets, and Kidmat Zion means East to Zion.

MK Ahmad Tibi said that the new street names are part of the “ongoing attempts to Judaize Al-Quds and falsify history.” Referring to the recent riots in the capital, Tibi added: “Someone decided to add more fuel to the fire of tension in Jerusalem, this decision was pyromanic.”

Chairman of the Joint Arab List, MK Ayman Odeh, said: “We have recently seen aggressive attempts to change the status quo in East Jerusalem and deepen the occupation and dispossession. Choosing street names, while completely ignoring those who built and lived in these streets thousands of years is a lowly attempt to erase the Palestinian national identity.”

For the record, there is no reference anywhere to a Palestinian nation before the 1920s, and, in fact, Arabs are by and large unable to pronounce the name “Palestine,” because the consonant P does not exist in Arabic, which is why, for instance, the Roman name for Shechem, Naples, is pronounced by Arabs as Nablus.

“It seems that returning to the cycle of violence in Jerusalem is in the interests of those who do not want hope for change and a better life for both peoples be here,” Odeh added. “The timing of this unfortunate decision is just more evidence to that. The attempt to erase the Palestinian national identity will not succeed, the occupation will end inevitably.”

Jewish MKs expressed support for the decision. Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) told Walla that the Council’s decision is an important step. “There’s a war on sovereignty in Jerusalem as well as on the historical identity of the city,” she said. “Every Action that strengthens Israel’s sovereignty in the capital of the Jewish people is welcome. The Palestinians have been trying all along to uproot the historical foundation of the Jewish people in general and particularly in the eastern neighborhoods. The municipality’s decision is an important step in the struggle over historical symbols of the Jewish nation belonging to its eternal capital.”

MK Yinon Magal (Bayit Yehudi) also expressed support for the decision. “I welcome the move. I’ve never heard from those who are opposed to it when would be a good time for the process of a Jewish connection to Jerusalem,” he said.

MK David Bitan (Likud) said: “At long last the Jerusalem City Council has recovered and made a decision which had to be made for some time, which is imposing our sovereignty in reality and not just on paper. It is clear that we may give streets Hebrew, Arabic or universal names in any neighborhood, regardless of the identify of the residents. Still, the City Council will be tested with the implementation of the resolution. We have seen many decisions that have been made and not implemented.”

The Council’s decision was made despite the severe security tensions in Jerusalem and against the recommendation of retired Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel, who heads the advisory committee on naming the streets of the capital. A few weeks ago, the Turkel committee recommended “to reconsider whether it is proper at this time, given the complex and delicate situation in East Jerusalem, to give these names to these streets in the proposed locations.”

JNi.Media

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/arab-mks-warn-giving-east-jerusalem-streets-hebrew-names-is-pyromanic-decision/2015/09/21/

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