Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

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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If correct, the decryption attests to an organized administration and system in which people were literate, and had a system for classifying wine by quality.


A possible decryption of the oldest inscription ever found at an archaeological site in Jerusalem has interesting implications. If correct, the decryption attests to an organized administration and system in which people were literate, and had a system for classifying wine by quality.

The inscription was found in the Ophel area, south of the Temple Mount, at an archaeological dig run by Dr. Eilat Mazar, from the Archaeological Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The inscription, uncovered six months ago, is etched into a remnant of what was a large clay pitcher, and is eight letters long. It is dated to the second half of the 10th century BCE, the days of King Solomon.

Most scholars who have examined the inscription determined that it was written in an ancient near eastern language, and not in Hebrew.

An article recently published by Professor Gershon Galil from the department of Jewish History at Haifa University, however, suggests a new analysis of the inscription.

Galil suggests that it is written in ancient Hebrew. “The writing itself is unimportant, in Europe, there are currently many languages that use Latin letters,” explains Galil. The word that Galil deciphered, which suggests that the inscription is written in ancient Hebrew is “yayin,” which means wine.

“Here we see the word ‘yayin.’ When you check how all the languages from that period and region wrote ‘wine,’ you see they wrote it with one ‘yud,’ – the same in Samarian northern Hebrew. The Phoenicians wrote it the same way as well. Aside from the southern Hebrew of that time, even the scrolls found in Qumran preserve the same spelling of the word,” explains Galil.

According to Galil, the inscription should be read “in the year [… ]M, wine, part, m[…]”

Galil posits that the inscription can be divided into three parts that describe the wine stored in the pitcher. The first letter is a final “mem”, perhaps the end of the word for twenty or thirty – as in the twentieth or thirtieth year of the kingdom of Solomon. “Wine part” is the kind of wine, and the “mem” represents the place from which it was brought to Jerusalem.

“Wine part” is a term that is known from the Ugarit language from northern Syria, which is the lowest of three categories used to define wine: “good wine,” “no good,” and “partial.”

“This wine wasn’t served to Solomon’s emissaries, or in the temple, but apparently was for the slave construction workers who worked in the area,” says Galil.

From other, later sources, archaeologists know that the low quality wine was given to soldiers or forced laborers. The fact that the wine was of low quality is also logical considering that it was stored in a large vessel that did not keep it very fresh.

This new theory regarding the inscription will no doubt cause a big stir among the archaeological community, regarding the periods of Kings David and Solomon. Many archaeologists claim that during biblical times, Jerusalem was not a large or important city, despite the way it was described in Biblical literature.

Professor Galil and other supporters of the Biblical accounts see the Bible as a historical document, and this particular interpretation of the inscription supports the existence of a complex administrative system, as well as a hierarchical society with regulated shipping from far off places. These claims support the Biblical version of the story, which describes Jerusalem as a large, important city, that ruled over significant kingdoms.

The inscription, according to researchers who support the Biblical version of the history, supports the theory that Jerusalem expanded during King Solomon’s time, from the City of David to the Temple Mount.


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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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Discovery News has the exciting discovery:

Archaeologists have unearthed traces of a previously unknown, 14th-century Canaanite city buried underneath the ruins of another city in Israel.

The traces include an Egyptian amulet of Amenhotep III and several pottery vessels from the Late Bronze Age unearthed at the site of Gezer, an ancient Canaanite city.

Gezer was once a major center that sat at the crossroads of trade routes between Asia and Africa, said Steven Ortiz, a co-director of the site’s excavations and a biblical scholar at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

The remains of the ancient city suggest the site was used for even longer than previously known.

The ancient city of Gezer has been an important site since the Bronze Age, because it sat along the Way of the Sea, or the Via Maris, an ancient trade route that connected Egypt, Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia.

The city was ruled over many centuries by Canaanites, Egyptians and Assyrians, and Biblical accounts from roughly the 10th century describe an Egyptian pharaoh giving the city to King Solomon as a wedding gift after marrying his daughter.

“It’s always changed hands throughout history,” Ortiz told LiveScience.

The site has been excavated for a century, and most of the excavations so far date to the the 10th through eighth centuries B.C. Gezer also holds some of the largest underground water tunnels of antiquity, which were likely used to keep the water supply safe during sieges.

But earlier this summer, Ortiz and his colleague Samuel Wolff of the Israel Antiquities Authority noticed traces of an even more ancient city from centuries before King Solomon’s time. Among the layers was a section that dated to about the 14th century B.C., containing a scarab, or beetle, amulet from King Amenhotep III, the grandfather of King Tut. They also found shards of Philistine pottery.

During that period, the ancient site was probably a Canaanite city that was under Egyptian influence.

The findings are consistent with what scholars suspected of the site, said Andrew Vaughn, a biblical scholar and executive director of the American Schools of Oriental Research, who was not involved in the study.

“It’s not surprising that a city that was of importance in the biblical kingdoms of Israel and Judah would have an older history and would have played an important political and military role prior to that time,” Vaughn told LiveScience. “If you didn’t control Gezer, you didn’t control the east-west trade route.”

But once the location of that major road moved during the Roman period, the city waned in importance. It was later conquered and destroyed, but never fully rebuilt.

“Just like today when you have a ghost town — where you move the train and that city goes out of use,” Ortiz said.


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In the local Southern Cross:

The Holy Land is sometimes called the “Fifth Gospel”. It is an apt term as the land of Christ, his blessed mother, the apostles and the prophets tells the story of our faith in ways the traditional Gospels cannot.

Pilgrims at the Mount of Temptation, near Jericho in the West Bank.

The Gospels tend not to give us much information about the places they mention. The Fifth Gospel brings Scripture to life through the senses. Actually seeing the theatre of the gospels enhances one’s relationship with the Scriptures immeasurably.

In the Holy Land we are able to locate the physical Christ, the physical Mary, the physical disciples. In some places we can even pinpoint their presence with accuracy, supported by archaeology, history, and ancient texts.

It is a folly to imagine, as some do, the Holy Land as a spiritual Disneyland, its shrines founded on pious legend, misunderstood tradition and pure deception.

We can be certain that a flight of steps on Mount Zion, which dates at least to Herodian times, was walked on by Jesus.

We can be certain that the fourth-century synagogue in Capernaum stands on the still visible foundation of the synagogue in which Jesus taught (Jn 6:30-59) and healed (Mk 1:21-27), and that the ruins of a nearby house are those of St Peter’s residence, because ancient texts making the claim are supported by credible archaeology.

And we can be certain that the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem covers Golgotha, the hill of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

These certainties are not a matter of excitable pieties but the result of serious scholarship.

And yet, the veracity of sites which Holy Land pilgrims visit is not as important as the spiritual recalibration which prayer at these shrines makes possible. In the Holy Land, pilgrims experience a transfiguration which may not always be immediately apparent, but is no less profound for it…

Read on here.


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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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Ancient Europeans, researchers say:

Israel may not be the most obvious place to study pigs, given that religious strictures in both Judaism and Islam forbid their consumption.

But Israeli researchers involved in a lengthy project whose goal is to reconstruct ancient Israel have now established that the pigs here are of European stock, unlike their Middle Eastern counterparts elsewhere in the region, and that they probably arrived with the non-kosher Philistines about 3,000 years ago.

In the highlands west of the Jordan River associated with the early Israelites, archaeological studies have shown there are almost no ancient pig bones. The exceptionally high number of pig bones found in the lowlands, at what were urban Philistine sites like Ashkelon and Ekron, has given rise to the theory that the Philistines, sea people who migrated here from the Aegean basin, brought their culinary and husbandry habits with them.

A new study based on DNA testing of modern and ancient pigs has revealed that the European emigrant pigs became prominent during the Iron Age, around 900 B.C., and eventually took over the entire wild boar population in the area that is now Israel.

The study, published Monday in the journal Scientific Reports, is part of a long-term project in which Israeli researchers are examining the large migrations, trade, climate changes and other forces that shaped and changed the Levant in antiquity.

Understanding human and animal movement is crucial to that process, said Israel Finkelstein, a professor at Tel Aviv University’s Institute of Archaeology, who directs the project. “We archaeologists know that pigs and pork consumption are two very good markers of ethnicity and identity,” he said, given the pig taboo in ancient Israel.

Waste-eating pigs may have been good for keeping ships clean, he said, but they could not move great distances over land, so raising pigs might have become a marker distinguishing the Israelites, who were originally pastoral nomads, from sedentary societies. When animosity developed between the highlands and the lowlands, as depicted in biblical stories like the battle between David and the Philistine giant Goliath, pigs could have symbolized a “we and they” theme, Professor Finkelstein said, as in, “They eat pork, and we don’t.”

The researchers began more than two years ago by mapping the modern wild boar population of Israel. Meirav Meiri, an expert in ancient DNA, tested preserved pig samples from all over the country — a piece of an ear, a sliver of skin — and found that all possessed the European gene signature. That came as a surprise, she said, given that studies of pigs in nearby countries like Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey had shown they were all of a Middle Eastern gene type.

European and Middle Eastern pigs do not look much different, but the DNA results raised the question of how the “Ashkenazi” pigs of European stock got here.

Working back through centuries of pig bones and teeth gathered from various collections and archaeological sites, Dr. Meiri painstakingly tested 177 ancient samples, including 34 with DNA preserved well enough to determine their genetic origin.

Large numbers of European pigs appeared in Israel around 900 B.C. and became more and more dominant until they had taken over completely. “Once we had a local signature,” Dr. Meiri said of the genetic makeup of the pigs found here in antiquity, but that “no longer exists.”

The researchers assume that the Philistines brought domesticated pigs with them and that some of those pigs ran off into the wild and mixed with the local population. But for the European pigs to have taken over so completely, the experts say, there may have been more waves of emigrant pigs from Europe, from the time of the Romans onward.

“Here, there’s an island of pigs with European ancestry,” said Steve Weiner, a professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, who is a partner in the project, which is funded by a grant from the European Research Council. “We don’t know if Napoleon brought pigs, or the Crusaders, or if they all did.”

“Archaeologists,” he concluded, “take pigs very seriously.”


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