Archive for May, 2013

Newser:

Parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls are up for sale—in tiny pieces. Nearly 70 years after the discovery of the world’s oldest biblical manuscripts, the Palestinian family who originally sold them to scholars and institutions is now quietly marketing the leftovers—fragments the family says it has kept in a Swiss safe deposit box all these years. Most of these scraps are barely the size of postage stamps, and some are blank. But in the last few years, evangelical Christian collectors and institutions in the US have forked over millions of dollars for a chunk of this archaeological treasure.

This angers Israel’s government antiquities authority, which holds most of the scrolls and threatens to seize any more pieces that hit the market. But William Kando, a member of the family that first sold the scrolls, isn’t worried. “If anyone is interested, we are ready to sell,” he says. Written mostly on animal skin parchment about 2,000 years ago, the manuscripts are the earliest copies of the Hebrew Bible ever found, and the oldest written evidence of the roots of Judaism and Christianity in the Holy Land.

Dead Sea Scrolls are currently located in the following collections:

— Israel Antiquities Authority (More than 10,000 scroll fragments)

— Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum (Seven of the most complete Dead Sea Scrolls)

— France National Library (377 scroll fragments representing 18 scrolls)

— Amman Museum (fragments of 20 scrolls, including the Copper Scroll)

— Heidelberg University in Germany (four phylactery pieces)

— Franciscan private museum in Jerusalem’s Old City (two fragments)

— Terre Sainte Bible Museum in Paris (two scroll fragments)

— University of Chicago (one fragment)

— McGill University in Montreal (a few fragments)

— St. Mark’s Syrian Orthodox Cathedral in Teaneck, N.J. (fragments of three scrolls)

— Schoyen Collection in Oslo, Norway (115 fragments)

— Asuza Pacific University in Asuza, Ca. (5 fragments)

— Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Tx. (3 fragments)

— Green Collection in Oklahoma City, Ok. (12 fragments)

— Private collection of Spaer family, Jerusalem (2 fragments)

— Private collection of Kando family in Bethlehem, West Bank (the family does not reveal how many fragments remain in its collection, but estimates range between 20 and 40.)

Some fragments have gone missing, including three large fragments of the Book of Samuel and two pieces from the Book of Daniel which were stolen from the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum in 1966 during a tour of international diplomats. Their whereabouts are still unknown.

The Dead Sea Scrolls main collection is online here.

 

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Dr Lawrence Schiffman writes:

Why are literally hundreds of thousands of people streaming to exhibits of the Dead Sea Scrolls all over the United States and the rest of the world? Why should anyone even care about these remnants of close to 900 scrolls from the second and first centuries BCE and the first century CE? What possesses some of us in academia to devote our professional careers to teaching and research about the Scrolls?

Answers here.

 

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And despite the secrecy, interest builds around the mysterious find. The Times of Israel reports:

A mysterious First Temple-era archaeological find under a Palestinian orchard near Bethlehem is increasingly gaining attention — despite attempts to keep it quiet.

In February, a tour guide leading a group through an underground tunnel in the rural West Bank, not far from Jerusalem, was surprised to stumble upon the remains of a unique carved pillar.

The pillar matched monumental construction from the 9th or 8th centuries BCE — the time of the First Temple in Jerusalem. That signaled the presence of an important and previously unknown structure from that period.

Buried under earth and rubble, the pillar was now two yards below the surface.

The guide, Binyamin Tropper, notified antiquities officials. He was surprised when they encouraged him to leave the subject and the site alone, said Tropper, who works at an educational field school at Kibbutz Kfar Etzion.

“They told me — we know about it, keep it quiet,” he said.

The remains are in the politically charged West Bank, on the outskirts of an Arab village and on land privately owned by a Palestinian — all reasons the Israeli government might deem attempting an excavation there a major political headache to be avoided.

When it became clear that antiquities officials did not intend to excavate what he believed to be a potentially huge find, Tropper went to the Hebrew press, where several reports have appeared on inside pages in recent weeks.

Tropper has kept the location secret to avoid attracting the attention of antiquities thieves.

Early this month, several prominent Israeli archaeologists were brought to inspect the site. Among them was Yosef Garfinkel, an archaeology professor from Hebrew University.

There is no doubt the remains are those of monumental construction from the time of the First Temple, Garfinkel said.

The top of the pillar, known as a capital, is of a type known as proto-aeolic, he said. That style dates to around 2,800 years ago.

The pillar marks the entrance to a carved water tunnel reaching 250 yards underground, he said, complex construction that would almost certainly have been carried out by a central government. At the time, the area was ruled by Judean kings in nearby Jerusalem…

More here.

 

 

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Over at NBC News:

It’s been decades since the first pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the caves of the Judean desert, but yet another piece of parchment bearing 2,000-year-old scriptures – verses from the Book of Leviticus – was found just recently. Such finds demonstrate that the Holy Land can still produce ancient treasures, thousands of years after the events described in the Bible…

You can check them out here.

 

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It’s Byzantine and it’s spectacular:

A magnificent 1,500-year-old mosaic floor has been uncovered by archeologists  near Kibbutz Beit Kama in the south, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced  Sunday.

The mosaic was the most outstanding find in a Byzantine-era village unearthed  in the Negev during a survey conducted prior to construction of a highway.

The village, which thrived from the 4th through 6th centuries C.E.,  encompassed about six dunams – or an acre and a half – and was discovered under  the fields of the kibbutz. Among the finds was a public building measuring 12  meters by 8.5 meters (about 40 feet by 26 feet) containing the mosaic floor.  Archaeologists assume the building was a public one due to its size and relative  opulence.

The colorful mosaic includes geometric motifs and features amphorae – wine  containers— in the corners, as well as a pair of peacocks and a pair of doves  pecking at grapes on grapevines. The combination of so many motifs in one mosaic  is unusual, say Israel Antiquities Authority officials.

The building also features a system of water channels, pipes and water pools.

The site, situated on an ancient road that led north from Be’er Sheva, apparently included a large estate with a church, residential buildings, storerooms, a large water cistern, a public building and agricultural fields equipped with irrigation pools. One building appears to have served as a hostel for travelers passing through the area, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority…

The official IAA press release with more photos is here.

 

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