Archive for July, 2013

Press unearthed as scientists dug out remains from grounds upon which a student dormitory will be built.

In the Jerusalem Post:


Scientists from the Antiquities Authority discovered an ancient olive press  during an excavation in Jerusalem, the authority announced on  Tuesday.

The archeologists uncovered the press – ensconced in a karst  cave – while digging out the grounds upon which a student dormitory will be  built for the nearby Jerusalem College of Technology, the Antiquities Authority  said.

“This ancient press for producing olive oil, whose date could not  be clearly ascertained, was in all likelihood one that belonged to an old town  or a farm that was on these premises,” read a statement from the  authority.

“It joins another olive press that was discovered a few years  ago in the nearby Beit Hakerem neighborhood on the other side of the Rakafot  River. These presses are testament to the centrality of the olive trade to the  agrarian economy of Jerusalem and its surroundings.”

The Jerusalem  College of Technology and the Antiquities Authority plan on turning the site  into a rest area where students and visitors can learn about how the press was  operated in ancient.



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Christian News:

TELL ES-SAFI, Israel – A large archaeological team is currently in the middle of a month-long project to excavate and study the remains of Gath, the ancient hometown of one of the Bible’s most famous villains: Goliath.

Since the last day of June, an international team of archaeologists has been carefully studying Tell es-Safi, a historic civilization site located halfway between Jerusalem and Ashkelon. The excavations are directed by Dr. Aren Maeir, a professor at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University who has spent over 15 years studying the ancient settlement.

Many historians and archaeologists believe the Tell es-Safi site is where the ancient Philistine city of Gath was located. Though experts are quick to point out that no “incontrovertible proof” of Tell es-Safi’s identity has been discovered, it is still the general consensus among most scholars, and the location is now commonly referred to as “Tell es-Safi/Gath.”

“Although there once was a bit of a controversy regarding the exact location of Gath,” the Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavation’s blog explains, “based on present evidence, most scholars believe that it was located at the site known as Tell es-Safi. The tell, which is situated approximately halfway between Jerusalem and Ashkelon, is one of the largest biblical sites in Israel. Settled continuously from the Chalcolithic period (5th mill. BCE) until modern times, it is a veritable mine of archaeological evidence from all periods.”

In the Bible, Gath is mentioned a number of times in the Old Testament, most notably as the hometown of the famous giant Goliath (1st Samuel 17). However, Gath is also described in the Scriptures as an important Philistine city (Joshua 13:3), a place where David took refuge (1st Samuel 21:10), and a temporary home for the Ark of the Covenant (1st Samuel 5:8).

Over the years, members of Dr. Maier’s excavation team have found many historical relics, such as an ancient, man-made trench most likely used for siege purposes. In 1998, hundreds of pottery vessels from shortly after the time of David and Solomon were discovered, which strongly confirmed the Biblical narratives found in the books of 1st and 2nd Kings.

“Recently, some scholars have questioned the veracity of the description of the events in this period as portrayed in the Bible,” an article on the excavation team’s blog reads. “Accordingly, it is claimed that there is little if any non-biblical archaeological and historical evidence to that relates to this period. But in light of the extraordinarily rich finds that were discovered at Tall es-Safi/Gath, it would appear that at least from an archaeological point of view, this period is in fact well represented at this site.”

In 2005, archaeologists at the site unearthed an ancient inscription from around the time of David that mentions two Philistine names reminiscent of the original form of the name “Goliath.” Three years later, remarkably preserved remnants of the “lower city” portion of Gath were discovered.

However, several findings this year shed light on Gath’s destruction in the late 9th century B.C. by Syrian’s King Hazael, as described in 2nd Kings 12:17. Remains of siege fortifications have been uncovered, as well as plentiful evidence of a destructive fire most likely brought upon the city by Hazael. In addition, there are several indications that a powerful earthquake once struck the area, potentially the same one that is mentioned in Amos 1:1.

Ultimately, although Dr. Maeir is personally hesitant to call the Bible “an infallible text,” he recognizes that the Scriptures are an invaluable tool for their excavation studies, and has said that it would be “ludicrous” to not use the Bible as a reference.

“We’re here not to prove or disprove the Bible,” he told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “We’re here to illustrate the cultures in which the biblical text was formed.”


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Take a virtual tour of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount here. (It’s in Hebrew.)


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According to the IAA press release, a palace and storehouse have been uncovered at Khirbet Qeiyafa.

Two royal public buildings, the likes of which have not previously been found in the Kingdom of Judah of the tenth century BCE, were uncovered this past year by researchers of the Hebrew University and the Israel Antiquities Authority at Khirbet Qeiyafa – a fortified city in Judah dating to the time of King David and identified with the biblical city of Shaarayim.

One of the buildings is identified by the researchers, Professor Yossi Garfinkel of the Hebrew University and Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority, as David’s palace, and the other structure served as an enormous royal storeroom.

Today (Thursday) the excavation, which was conducted over the past seven years, is drawing to a close. According to Professor Yossi Garfinkel and Sa’ar Ganor, “Khirbet Qeiyafa is the best example exposed to date of a fortified city from the time of King David. The southern part of a large palace that extended across an area of c. 1,000 sq m was revealed at the top of the city. The wall enclosing the palace is c. 30 m long and an impressive entrance is fixed it through which one descended to the southern gate of the city, opposite the Valley of Elah. Around the palace’s perimeter were rooms in which various installations were found – evidence of a metal industry, special pottery vessels and fragments of alabaster vessels that were imported from Egypt. The palace is located in the center of the site and controls all of the houses lower than it in the city. From here one has an excellent vantage looking out into the distance, from as far as the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Hebron Mountains and Jerusalem in the east. This is an ideal location from which to send messages by means of fire signals. Unfortunately, much of this palace was destroyed c. 1,400 years later when a fortified farmhouse was built there in the Byzantine period”.

A pillared building c. 15 m long by 6 m wide was exposed in the north of the city, which was used as an administrative storeroom. According to the researchers, “It was in this building the kingdom stored taxes it received in the form of agricultural produce collected from the residents of the different villages in the Judean Shephelah. Hundreds of large store jars were found at the site whose handles were stamped with an official seal as was customary in the Kingdom of Judah for centuries”.

The palace and storerooms are evidence of state sponsored construction and an administrative organization during King David’s reign. “This is unequivocal evidence of a kingdom’s existence, which knew to establish administrative centers at strategic points”, the archaeologists say. “To date no palaces have been found that can clearly be ascribed to the early tenth century BCE as we can do now. Khirbet Qeiyafa was probably destroyed in one of the battles that were fought against the Philistines circa 980 BCE. The palace that is now being revealed and the fortified city that was uncovered in recent years are another tier in understanding the beginning of the Kingdom of Judah”.

The exposure of the biblical city at Khirbet Qeiyafa and the importance of the finds discovered there have led the Israel Antiquities Authority to act together with the Nature and Parks Authority and the planning agencies to cancel the intended construction of a new neighborhood nearby and to promote declaring the area around the site a national park. This plan stems from the belief that the site will quickly become a place that will attract large numbers of visitors who will be greatly interested in it, and from it one will be able to learn about the culture of the country at the time of King David.

More photos here.


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By Professor Oded Lipschits (PhD) and Ido Koch: The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem.

Learn about Judah under Babylonian rule.

Starts Oct 1st 2013 (6 weeks long).


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By Prof Aren Maeir:


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Matthew Kalman reports:

Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar says she has unearthed the earliest alphabetical written text ever uncovered in the city, the university announced Wednesday.

The inscription is engraved on a large pithos, a neckless ceramic jar found with six others at the Ophel excavation site below the southern wall of the Temple Mount. According to Dr. Mazar, the inscription, in the Canaanite language, is the only one of its kind discovered in Jerusalem and could be an important addition to the city’s history.

The inscription is engraved in a proto-Canaanite / early Canaanite script of the eleventh-to-tenth centuries BCE, which pre-dates the Israelite rule and the prevalence of Hebrew script.

Reading from left to right, the text contains a combination of letters approximately 2.5 cm tall, which translate to m, q, p, h,n, (possibly) l, and n. Since this combination of letters has no meaning in known west-Semitic languages, the inscription’s meaning is unknown.

Dated to the 10th century BCE, the artifact predates by 250 the earliest known Hebrew inscription from Jerusalem, which is from the period of King Hezekiah at the end of the 8th century BCE.

The university says it is therefore “from the time of Kings David and Solomon.”

Jerome Murphy-O’Conner was so right when he made his pronouncement: ‘Archaeology in Israel never stops’.


Dr Eilat Mazar unveils the earliest alphabetical inscription ever found in Jerusalem in a video:

HT: Brent Nagtegaal



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