Archive for August, 2013

A BAR advertisement has been labeled “defamatory” by 16 faculty members of Tel Aviv University’s Institute of Archaeology.

Via The Biblical Archaeology Society:

The ad, placed in repeated issues of BAR, features a picture taken at a lecture given by Tel Aviv University professor Yuval Goren reporting on his excavation at Tel Sochoh, about 29 miles southeast of Tel Aviv. In the picture, Professor Goren stands beside a screen showing a mechanical excavator, often referred to as a backhoe or bulldozer, in operation at the site.

In the latest version of the ad, the picture is headed: “Cater-Pillaging—The Stratigraphy of Tel Socoh,” a pun on the name of the Caterpillar company that manufactures bulldozers, backhoes and similar equipment, and characterizes Professor Goren’s excavation as pillaging.

The advertisement in BAR was paid for by Robert Deutsch, a leading Israeli antiquities dealer, a lecturer at Haifa University, a former member of the staff of Tel Aviv University’s excavation at Megiddo, a sometime BAR author and a recently acquitted defendant in the famous forgery trial in Jerusalem clearing him of all charges.

The use of mechanical equipment in a professional archaeological excavation is usually considered a cardinal sin, although it is permitted in some circumstances, such as the clearing of topsoil, not involving actual archaeological excavation.

Professor Goren maintains in a statement that his use of a backhoe occurred not on the tell at Tel Sochoh, but “in a valley south to it,” where he had found “waste remains of a ceramic workshop.”  His first attack on this area (Area B) was to measure standard 5x 5 meter squares, one of which can be seen in the picture, followed by careful excavation by hand. After a week of digging and finding nothing, Goren decided to finish the job with “a [mechanical] digger to make sure that no archaeological remains existed at what was apparently virgin soil.”

The statement by Tel Aviv University archaeologists states that “There was no use of a mechanical excavator on Tel Socoh. The slide shown in the ad illustrates work carried out in a wadi (valley) near the mound, as a sequel to a systematic manual excavation from the surface. . . This is a common method in archaeology.”

“Is it in the wadi?” Deutsch responds. “Or is it on the slope of the tell,” where it is clear from the picture that the excavation was begun in a standard five-meter square? Deutsch adds that if, as Goren claims, it is so common to use these mechanical diggers, why is it that in 20 years at Megiddo, the university’s major excavation where he worked, he never saw a bulldozer, “not on the tell and not on the lower terraces.”

Perhaps some of our readers who are better informed on archaeological practice will weigh in on whether bulldozers are justified—or common—in the circumstances described at Tel Sochoh.

 

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Researchers from Tel Aviv University have unearthed the remains of massive ancient fortifications built around an Iron-Age Assyrian harbor in present-day Israel.

At the heart of the well-preserved fortifications is a mud-brick wall up to more than 12 feet wide and 15 feet high. The wall is covered in layers of mud and sand that stretch for hundreds of feet on either side. When they were built in the eighth century B.C.E., the fortifications formed a daunting crescent-shaped defense for an inland area covering more than 17 acres.

The finding comes at the end of the first excavation season at the Ashdod-Yam archaeological dig in the contemporary Israeli coastal city of Ashdod, just south of Tel Aviv. Dr. Alexander Fantalkin of TAU’s Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures is leading the project on behalf of the Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology.

“The fortifications appear to protect an artificial harbor,” says Fantalkin. “If so, this would be a discovery of international significance, the first known harbor of this kind in our corner of the Levant”…

Source and more.

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Live Science:

How far would you go to get your cinnamon fix? If you lived in the Levant 3,000 years ago (a region that includes modern day Israel), very far indeed new research indicates.

Researchers analyzing the contents of 27 flasks from five archaeological sites in Israel that date back around 3,000 years have found that 10 of the flasks contain cinnamaldehyde, the compound that gives cinnamon its flavor, indicating that the spice was stored in these flasks.

At this time cinnamon was found in the Far East with the closest places to Israel being southern India and Sri Lanka located at least 3,000 miles (nearly 5,000 kilometers) away. A form of it was also found in the interior of Africa, but does not match the material found in these flasks.

This discovery “raises the intriguing possibility that long-range spice trade from the Far East westward may have taken place some 3,000 years ago,” researchers write in a paper to be published in the journal Mediterranean Archaeology andArchaeometry. Although cinnamon can be purchased today at any grocery or bulk food store, 3,000 years ago, people in the Levant would have needed to take part in trade that extended beyond the edge of the known world in order to acquire it, something this discovery suggests they were willing to do.

This trade may go back ever further into antiquity and involve other goods and parts of the Middle East. The researchers note, for example, that black pepper from India has been found in the mummy of Ramesses II, a pharaoh of Egypt who lived more than 3,200 years ago…

Rest here.

 

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Discovery News:

A huge building which during the Crusader period was the largest hospital in the Middle East has been discovered in the heart of Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced on Monday.

Located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, the 1,000-year-old hospital was identified following a decade-long reconstruction operation.

“Until a decade or so ago the building served as a bustling and crowded fruit and vegetable market. Since then it stood there desolate,” the IAA said in a statement.

According to Renee Forestany and Amit Re’em, the IAA excavation directors, the structure, only a small part of which was unearthed in the excavation, spread out over more than 150,000 square feet.

It featured massive pillars, ribbed vaults, rooms, smaller halls and ceilings as high as 20 feet.

The hospital was established between 1099 and 1291, with permission from the Muslim authorities, by a Christian military order called the Kinghts Hospitaller. Its members vowed to care for pilgrims who came to Jerusalem to die.

“We’ve learned about the hospital from contemporary historical documents, most of which are written in Latin,” Re’em and Forestany said.

The accounts mentioned a sophisticated structure that was “as large and as organized as a modern hospital,” the archaeologists said…

Rest here.

The IAA report with more photos is here.

The Jerusalem Post also covers the news.

 

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By the Samford University team:

An archaeological expedition directed by Samford University religion professor James Riley Strange has uncovered the remains of a Jewish village in the Galilee sector of Israel.

Strange announced the discovery along with fellow directors Mordechai Aviam of the Institute for Galilean Archaeology at the Kinneret Academic College in Israel and David Fiensy of Kentucky Christian University.

The remains include an ancient synagogue, houses and massive evidence of pottery production in the ancient Jewish village of Shikhin, near the ancient Jewish city of Sepphoris (Zippori). The site is important because it teaches about Galilean Jewish village life and its economy at the birth of both Christianity and the Judaism of the Talmud, according to Dr. Strange. The sites are about five miles northwest of Nazareth.

“The site of the discovery has been abandoned, except for agriculture, ever since the mid-fourth century A.D.,” said Strange. “The buildings came down and people used its stones in other nearby buildings, then those buildings were destroyed and the stones were re-used again.”

He and his colleagues worked with a team of college students on the dig. Samford students Jonathan Sansom and Richard Shaw worked on the dig. Aaron Carr, a 2012 Samford graduate who has dug on teams led by Strange since 2009, is a staff member of the dig. Samford alumnus Kay Clements is a volunteer.

Strange has taught archaeology courses at Samford since 2007, and taken Samford students on archaeological expeditions to Galilee since 2009. He and the students have worked at the Shikhin site since 2011.

“We surveyed the site in 2011 and made the first excavation at the site in 2012,” he said.

The excavators noted that the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, mentions Shikhin as one of the earliest Jewish settlements in the Galilee at the time of the Hasmonaean dynasty, which ruled in about 140-63 B.C.. The Talmud mentions it as a village of potters near Sepphoris.

The team was surprised by the large number of molds for making oil lamps (seven) found at the site, proof that the village potters produced various types of oil lamps in addition to many common pottery forms. One small fragment of an oil lamp is decorated with a Menorah and Lulav (palm branch).

The Excavations at Shikhin are part of a cultural heritage project to preserve the site of Shikhin, located at the northern edge of Zippori National Park.

“The remarkable discovery at Shikhin by Dr. James Strange and his collaborators is the fruit of many months of skilled and patient effort,” said Samford provost and executive vice president J. Bradley Creed. “I am particularly grateful that under Dr. Strange’s tutelage, Samford students have been involved in the project which has been a once in a lifetime experience for them and an incredible learning opportunity. This international, cultural heritage project is a boon to the field of archaeology and historic preservation as well as a significant contribution to a richer understanding of human civilization and society.”

For more information on the Shikhin archaeological dig, go to www.samford.edu/shikhin

 

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