Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Israel Antiquities Authority archeologists at the site of an ancient Roman theater in the tunnels under the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, October 16, 2017.

The Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology (JJAR), an open-access, peer-reviewed, multi-disciplinary journal that publishes original papers on the archaeology and cultural history of the Levant and adjacent regions, has published Volume 4 of its series of papers on the archaeology of Jerusalem that began in 2021. You can access the complete works here.

The 2023 volume includes articles covering the synthesis of the accumulated archaeological finds in Jerusalem; Incense from Sheba for the Jerusalem Temple; The Decorated Stone Tools from an early bronze age site in the Jordan Valley; and early evidence of city planning in the Kingdom of Judah.


In “The Diachronic Archaeological Record of Ancient Yehud: From the Late Chalcolithic to Modern Times,” Gilad Itach of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Bar Ilan University argues that the accumulated data from numerous digs in ancient Jerusalem reached a critical mass where it is possible to produce a broad synthesis of the finds.

“Excavations in the city, located in Israel’s central coastal plain, revealed a patchy history of human settlement, ranging in date between the Late Chalcolithic and Ottoman periods, with lengthy periods of sparse residential use, when the site was variably utilized for funerary, industrial, agricultural, or other types of yet unidentified activities,” Itach writes. “This comprehensive synthesis unravels the archaeology and history of this little-known site, located at the heart of a region that has undergone major social transformations and historical upheavals during the period in question. The information on Yehud is contextualized with up-to-date knowledge of the archaeology of the central coastal plain, especially concerning Yehud’s hinterland within the Ayalon valley.”

A typical geological section of the central Ayalon Valley. / Oren Ackermann and Gilad Itach

Daniel Vainstub writes in “Incense from Sheba for the Jerusalem Temple” that a partially preserved inscription engraved on the shoulder of a pithos (Greek for a large storage container) was found in 2012 in Eilat Mazar’s excavations in the Ophel in Jerusalem, in a context dated to the 10th century BCE.

“Although close to a dozen interpretations of the inscription have been offered over time, its reading remains highly disputed. All of these interpretations consider the script to be Canaanite. In this study, it is argued that the inscription was engraved in the Ancient South Arabian script and that its language is Sabaean. The inscription reads “]šy ladanum 5.” The aromatic ladanum (Cistus ladanifer), rendered as lḏn in the inscription, is most probably שְׁחֵלֶת (šǝḥēlet), the second component of incense according to Exod. 30:34. The inscription was engraved before the locally made vessel was fired, leading to the conclusion that a Sabaean functionary entrusted with aromatic components of incense was active in Jerusalem by the time of King Solomon.

The inscription engraved on the shoulder of a pithos. / Illustration: Daniel Vainstub

In “Why Painted? The Decorated Stone Tools from Fazael 4, an Early Bronze Age I Site in the Jordan Valley,” Karolina Hruby, Shay Bar, and Danny Rosenberg introduce three painted ground stone tools from the Early Bronze Age rural settlement Fazael 4. All three items are utilitarian and potentially linked to food processing. Their working surfaces were brush painted with a basket-like design composed of intersecting lines.

“While the decorations are frail, the items are complete and suitable for use, implying that the painting deliberately took them out of service,” write the three researchers. “So far, this phenomenon is unparalleled in the contemporary southern Levant. We suggest that it underscores the tools’ social and symbolic significance as food processors and discuss this hypothesis as part of a broader phenomenon of food processing tools’ secondary use and decoration observed throughout late prehistory.”

Close-up view of the painted pattern on the upper grinding stone. / Karolina Hruby

Finally, in “Early City Planning in the Kingdom of Judah: Khirbet Qeiyafa, Beth Shemesh 4, Tell en-Naṣbeh, Khirbet ed-Dawwara, and Lachish V,” Yosef Garfinkel of the Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, notes that the earliest fortified sites in the kingdom of Judah in the early 10th century BCE feature a casemate city wall lined with an abutting belt of houses, which incorporate the casemates as rear rooms.

“This urban plan is clearly recognized in the sites of Khirbet Qeiyafa, Tell en-Naṣbeh, Khirbet ed-Dawwara, and, as discussed in detail, Beth Shemesh,” Garfinkel continues, pointing out that “recently, excavations at Lachish, Level V, uncovered a similar pattern comprising a peripheral belt of structures abutting the city wall. This city wall was solid with no casemates.”

“These sites have far-reaching implications for understanding the urbanization process, urban planning, and borders of the earliest phase of the kingdom of Judah,” Garfinkel argues.

Lachish, Area CC, the previously unknown city wall, looking south. / Emil Aladjem

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