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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Israel Antiquities Authority’

Artifact Found in Time for Shavuot Proves Bethlehem Existed During First Temple

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

In a press release issued on Wednesday, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Ir David Foundation announced that a clay seal was discovered bearing the name of the city of Bethlehem, evidence that the city existed during the period of the First Temple in Jerusalem.  The find fortuitously coincides with the upcoming holiday of Shavuot, during which time Jews from around the world focus on the story of the biblical figure Ruth, set in the city of Bethlehem.

The 1.5cm seal – called a bulla – was discovered during sifting of soil removed from the archeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out in the City of David, just outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.  The sifting is underwritten by the Ir David Foundation, which treated The Jewish Press to a private tour.

The clay bulla was meant to seal a document or object, used as a way of showing that the private item had not been tampered with.

The new bulla bears the words:   בשבעת   Bishv’at    בת לים    Bat Lechem [למל[ך   [Lemel]ekh

Eli Shukron, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said “it seems that in the seventh year of the reign of a king (either Hezekiah, Manasseh or Josiah), a shipment was dispatched from Bethlehem to the king in Jerusalem.”

“The bulla we found belongs to the group of “fiscal” bullae – administrative bullae used to seal tax shipments remitted to the taxation system of the Kingdom of Judah in the late eighth and seventh centuries BCE,” Shukron said.  “The tax could have been paid in the form of silver or agricultural produce such as wine or wheat”.

According to Shukron, this is the first time the name Bethlehem has appeared in an inscription from the First Temple period, proving that Bethlehem was a city in the Kingdom of Judah, and possibly in earlier periods.”

The first mention of Bethlehem in the Bible occurs in regard to the matriarch Rachel, wife of Jacob, sister of Leah, and mother of Joseph, who died while giving birth to Benjamin “in Ephrat, which is Bethlehem, and was buried there (Genesis 35:19; 48:7).

In later generations, when the region was settled by the descendants of Jacob and Leah’s son Judah, a man named Boaz made Ruth, a Moabite convert and daughter-in-law of Naomi, his wife (Book of Ruth).  The couple’s great-grandson, David, became the most celebrated king in Jewish history, and made his capital in Jerusalem, on the site of the modern day “Ir David” – City of David.

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.”

Israel Seizes Two Smuggled Egyptian Sarcophagi Covers Where Mummies Once Slept Eternally

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Inspectors of the Israel Antiquities Authority recently seized two covers of Egyptian sarcophagi that contained ancient mummies in the past. The covers were confiscated by inspectors of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery while checking shops in the market place of the Old City in Jerusalem. The ancient covers, which are made of wood and coated with a layer of plaster, are adorned with breathtaking decorations and paintings of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. The coffins were taken for examination on the suspicion they might be stolen property.

After undergoing examination by experts, which included among other things a Carbon 14 analysis for the purpose of dating the wood, it was unequivocally determined that these items are authentic and thousands of years old: one of the covers is dated to the period between the 10th and 8th centuries BCE (Iron Age) and the other to between the 16th and 14th centuries BCE (Late Bronze Age). Because these are rare artifacts made of organic material, they are being held for the time being in custody, under climate-control conditions, in the laboratories of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem. Wooden sarcophagi of this kind have only been found in Egypt so far, and were preserved thanks to the dry desert climate that prevails there.

It is suspected that Egyptian antiquities robbers plundered ancient tombs in the region of the Western Desert in Egypt, and afterwards unknown persons smuggled the wooden covers from Egypt to Dubai, and from there they found their way to Israel by way of a third country in Europe. Evidence of their having been smuggled is indicated by the sawing of the covers into two parts, which caused irreparable damage to the ancient items. This was presumably done to reduce their dimensions and facilitate concealing and transporting them in a standard size suitcase. Covers of this kind usually enclosed a sarcophagus made of palm wood c. 2 meters long, which contained the embalmed remains of a person. It is unclear what happened to the mummy and the sarcophagus.

The Israel Antiquities Authority reports that until recently antiquities dealers and other entities have exploited loopholes in the law whereby they brought antiquities into the country for the purpose of “laundering” them. These antiquities, which are alleged to have been plundered in Middle Eastern countries and illegally exported from them, were imported to Israel by local antiquities dealers. In Israel the stolen ancient artifacts were provided documentation that allowed them to be exported and sold abroad to the highest bidder. During the marketing and sales process the dealers would report these antiquities as artifacts that were ostensibly of Israeli provenance.

Regulations regarding the importation of antiquities into Israel were recently amended. The new regulations, which will take effect toward the end of April 2012, require a customs declaration for the importation of antiquities and a preliminary inspection of the items by the Israel Antiquities Authority for the issuance of an import license.

The Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Customs and Tax Authority, will prevent the importation of antiquities into the country without proper documentation that indicates they were legally exported from the country of origin, and thereby significantly reduce the process of “antiquities laundering” and the trade in stolen antiquities in the Middle East.

According to Shai Bar-Tura, inspector in charge of overseeing the antiquities trade on behalf of the IAA Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, “Beginning April 20 there will be a new reality in the antiquities trade in Israel. The new regulation will provide us with the tools in order to prevent the importation into the country of antiquities that were stolen or plundered in other countries, thus enabling us to thwart the international cycle of robbery and trade in stolen archaeological artifacts”.

The Israel Antiquities Authority is engaged in a continuing effort to preserve and protect the historical heritage values of the State of Israel, and to assist in the international struggle against the robbery of antiquities in the Middle East.

Recently Egyptian authorities submitted a request asking that the stolen sarcophagus covers be repatriated. The Egyptian request is being taken under advisement by the Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Israel Police and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the legalities are currently being examined in order to return the objects to their country of origin.

Archeologists Find Evidence of 8th Century Fortress Near Ashdod

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

The Israeli Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of massive walls — likely the remains of a fortress — near Ashdod, dated to the eighth and early seventh century BCE, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post.

“There are two possibilities regarding who inhabited the fortress at that time: one possibility is that it was controlled by the Assyrians who were the regional rulers in the Iron Age. Another possibility is that Josiah, king of Judah, occupied the fort at the time, who we know conquered territory from the Assyrians and controlled Ashdod-Yam in the seventh century BCE,” said Sa’ar Ganor, an archaeologist from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“Pure for God” Seal Found in Temple Mount Excavation

Monday, December 26th, 2011

A rare seal certifying the ritual purity of an item to be used in the Second Temple in Jerusalem was discovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority as part of excavations under the Robinson’s Arch right next to the Temple Mount.

The find of the Aramaic inscription, “Pure for God”, occurred during an extensive sifting of soil removed from layers which were once part of a paved Herodian street serving as a main Jerusalem thoroughfare.  The soil dates to the first century CE (late Second Temple period), just prior to – or maybe even during – the Maccabean rebellion celebrated during the holiday of Hanukkah.

The item is stamped with an Aramaic inscription consisting of two lines – in the upper line “דכא” (pure) and below it “ליה” (to God) – and is probably the kind of seal referred to in the Mishnah as a “seal (Tractate Shekalim 5:1-5), according to excavation directors and archaeologists Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that such an object or anything similar to it was discovered in an archaeological excavation and it constitutes direct archaeological evidence of the activity on the Temple Mount and the workings of the Temple during the Second Temple period”, Shukron and Reich said.

Jerusalem District Archaeologist Dr. Yuval Baruch drew a connection between the find and Hanukkah. “It is written in the Gemara (Talmud Bavli, Tractate Shabbat 2:21) that the only cruse of oil that was discovered in the Temple after the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks, “lay with the seal of the High Priest” – that is, the seal indicated that the oil is pure and can be used in the Temple. Remember, this cruse of oil was the basis for the miracle of Hanukkah that managed to keep the menorah lit for eight days”, Baruch noted.

Other items discovered in the excavation included oil lamps, ceramic cooking pots and Hasmonean coins dating to kings Alexander Jannaeus and John Hyrcanus.

The findings were presented Sunday at a press conference attended by Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar at Ir David (the City of David).

Chanukah Special: Biblical Archeology Second Temple Artifact Found

Sunday, December 25th, 2011
In a rare Second Temple (Bayit Sheyni) period archeological find, Israel’s Antiquities Authority announced today that a small, yet significant artifact was found as part of the City of David archeological dig.


The artifact apparently served as authorization that a particular item or food was considered ritually pure for use in the Temple. The item was found underneath the Robinson Arch, 15 meters North of the Southwest corner of the Temple Mount. The item was located in the layers of dirt which covered the foundations of the Western retaining wall of the Temple Mount — which was the primary road during the second Temple period.

The excavated dirt was carefully sifted through by 3,500 volunteers, mostly Israeli high school students in the Emek Tzurim national park. The 2 cm artifact is made from tin, with the Aramaic words on it, “-daka” and “-leh” Daka in Aramaic means “pure” and “Leh” is part of G-d’s name.

According to the directors of the Antiquities Authority, archeologists Dr. Eli Shukrun, and Professor Roni Reich from Haifa University, the words mean, “Holy to God.” The artifact was a type of “bag check” for items brought to the Temple, ascertaining that it was holy and could be used.The Mishna (Oral Torah) in Shekalim, Chapter 5, uses the word “Chotam” — or signet seal. The Mishna lists 5 different types of signet seals, and this particular one is not listed — thereby adding an additional historical fact not detailed in the Mishna. (sources)Happy Chanuka!

 

Postscript: ElderofZiyon proposed an interesting theory:

Wiktionary translates “Daka” as “to cleanse, to purify.”

Intriguingly, Jastrow translates “Daka” as “humble” or “crushed.” And the Genesius Lexicontranslates it similarly:

Is it possible that “Daka l’Ya” doesn’t only mean “pure for God” but perhaps “crushed for God” – meaning it is a seal meant specifically for olive oil produced for the Temple service?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/muqata/chanukah-special-biblical-archeology-second-temple-artifact-found/2011/12/25/

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