Posts Tagged ‘Israel Antiquities Authority’

3,000-year-old earthenware was first brought up in fisherman’s net many years ago.


The ancient jugs that were found at sea.

A unique collection of ancient earthenware vessels found in the Mediterranean Sea has been turned over to the Israel Antiquities Authority, following the death of the fisherman who originally brought them up in his nets many years ago. The oldest vessel in the collection is estimated to be about 3,000 years old.

Osnat Lester of Poriya Ilit contacted the Antiquities Authority a few days ago to say that she had several old jugs in her storage closet that had been left to her by a relative who was a fisherman. Two archaeologists from the authority went to her house to check out the collection, and were stunned to discover a real archaeological treasure.

The cloth-wrapped vessels displayed the characteristic pitting of artifacts that have been underwater for many years. The archaeologists said they probably came from some of the ships that have been wrecked off the coast throughout history.

Among the most stunning findings was a unique storage vessel characteristic of the late Biblical period, some 3,000 years ago. It has high basket handles and impressive dimensions. There were also vessels from the Roman period, some 2,000 years ago, as well as the Byzantine period, about 1,500 years ago. The vessels held wine and other products.

“He was a naïve fisherman whose entire world was fishing,” Lester said. “He loved whatever he drew from the water. The fish he ate, and the vessels he kept. He thought they were pretty and could perhaps decorate the house. He never imagined that they were ancient vessels.

“When I saw them, I also thought they were perhaps 100 years old,” she continued. “The only thing we’ve asked of the Antiquities Authority is to tell us where the vessels are going, so that we can visit them with the grandchildren.”

Seaborne trade along what is now the Israeli coast began in the Bronze Age, some 5,000 years ago. Throughout most of history, the eastern Mediterranean has served as a maritime passage between Egypt and Lebanon, and many vessels have sunk there. It’s rare to find a relatively intact wreck from which antiquities can be removed. But fisherman who use nets occasionally dredge up pieces of these wrecked ships.


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Which is a fantastic archaeological site by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Dr Aren Maeir (HT) notes:

Dr. Ofer Sion, who is the head of the survey department at the IAA, sent out an email today from which I first saw the excellent website of the Archaeological Survey of Israel. On this site (here is the Hebrew version and here is the English one [which is still listed as a beta version]), you can get online versions of 83 survey maps that have been published so far, including those that were published in hard and electronic forms. There are maps, photos, pottery plates, and most important, accessible summaries, and hard data, from all these maps.

Do check this out – it is an outstanding resource!

That it is! Enjoy.


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The stone burial box bearing the inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”

A modest limestone casket could be the first object ever found from the  family of Jesus Christ.

The stone burial box bearing the inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother  of Jesus” has been hidden from public view at the Israel Antiquities Authority  since 2003.

Tel Aviv antiquities collector Oded Golan retrieved the burial box from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

But now it has been released to be displayed around the world, following a  10-year legal battle in which Israeli authorities failed to show that Tel Aviv  collector Oded Golan faked the ancient Aramaic lettering on the box.

Golan bought the box for a pittance in the 1970s from an East Jerusalem  antiquities dealer and had it for more than 25 years before Sorbonne professor  Andre Lemaire pointed out the staggering significance of the letters scratched  in the side.

Close-up of the Aramaic inscription 'James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus' engraved on the side of the stone burial box

Close-up of the Aramaic inscription ‘James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus’ engraved on the side of the stone burial box.

“I never knew that Jesus had a brother,” said Golan.

The box is just 20 inches long and one foot wide, carved from a single piece  of reddish limestone with a flat lid — typical of the burial boxes used by the  Jews of first-century Palestine.

Close-up of the word ‘Jesus’ in the Aramaic inscription engraved on the side of the stone burial box. If authentic, it is the earliest known example of the name of Jesus

It was last displayed in Toronto in 2002, causing a worldwide sensation. But  the celebrations were short-lived.

The Israeli Antiquities Authority seized the ossuary, and its experts said  the words “brother of Jesus” had been added to the original inscription. Golan  was arrested in 2003 and put on trial.

Tel Aviv antiquities collector Oded  Golan retrieving the burial box with the inscription ‘James, son of Joseph,  brother of Jesus’ from the Israel Antiquities Authority. The IAA seized and held  the box throughout a ten-year investigation and trial. Golan was acquitted in  2012.

In March 2012, Golan was acquitted of forgery, but some experts still  maintain the box is a fake. Golan and other experts are convinced it is the real thing.

In an exclusive interview Golan said it is time for people to hear the whole  story.”The inscription is ancient for sure. We proved that at the trial,” he said.  “It’s time to have this debate in a public exhibition, and let people decide for  themselves.”

In their zeal to prove their allegations, the Israeli authorities may have  wrecked the chances of conclusive scientific tests.

“It’s not in the same condition as before the trial. The inscription was  defaced, contaminated,” Golan said. “I have to evaluate the damage, see if it  can be restored and if there is the possibility of carrying out further tests on  the inscription in future that will allow us to show its authenticity.”

Golan says he won’t be parting with it again – no matter how much he is  offered. “In the long term it will remain in Israel,” he vowed.

The whole piece with more photos here.


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The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a preliminary list of archaeological excavations in Israel for 2014:

This list of archaeological expeditions which accept volunteers is compiled by the Israel Foreign Ministry as a service to the public, and is not an endorsement of any of the projects listed. The excavation details below been published by the archaeologists in charge of the individual expeditions, who bear responsibility for their contents.

Check them out here.


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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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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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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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