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Israel & Palestine: Archaeology & Archaeological Findings


Gone But Not Forgotten
Aug 7, 2001
Ancient church found on jail site

Israeli officials say they have discovered what may be the oldest Christian Church in the Holy Land - on the site of a maximum security prison.
Israel's Antiquities Authority said the church at the Megiddo jail dated back to the third or fourth century AD and was "a once in a lifetime find".

It contained a mosaic bearing the name of Jesus Christ in ancient Greek, fish murals and an altar, officials said.

The dig took place near the biblical site of Armageddon in northern Israel.

'Great discovery'

"This is a once in a lifetime find and the inscriptions are very rare," excavation supervisor Jotham Tefer told Israel's Channel Two television.

"This is a very ancient structure, maybe the oldest in our area," he said.

Mr Tefer added that the discovery could help shed new light on an important period of Christianity, which was banned by the Romans until the fourth century.

"Normally we have from this period in our region historical evidence from literature, not archaeological evidence," he said.

"There is no structure you can compare it to, it is a very unique find."

The Vatican's ambassador to Israel, Pietro Sambi, described the find as a "great discovery".

Megiddo is Hebrew for Armageddon, the site which Christian teachings say will herald the final battle before the coming of the messiah.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle ... 411286.stm
Ancient biblical waterworks found in Israel
Wed Aug 23, 2006 8:42 AM ET

By Corinne Heller

RAMAT RACHEL, Israel (Reuters) - Archaeologists in Israel have unearthed an ancient water system which was modified by the conquering Persians to turn the desert into a paradise.

The network of reservoirs, drain pipes and underground tunnels served one of the grandest palaces in the biblical kingdom of Judea.

Archaeologists first discovered the palace in 1954, a structure built on a six-acre (2.4 hectare) site where the communal Ramat Rachel farm now stands.

Recent excavations unearthed nearly 70 square meters (750 square feet) of a unique water system.

"They had found a huge palace ... even nicer than the palaces in Jerusalem, (dating) from the late Iron Age to the end of the biblical period in the 7th century," Oded Lipschits, a Tel Aviv University archaeologist, said.

The infrastructure of the palace was remodeled throughout the centuries to fit the needs of the Babylonians, Persians, Romans and Hasmoneans who ruled the Holy Land, said Lipschits, who heads the dig with an academic from Germany's University of Heidelberg.

But it was the Persians, who took control of the region around 539 BC from the Babylonians, who renovated the water system and turned it into a thing of beauty.

Lipschits said they added small waterfalls to try to turn a desert into a paradise.

"Imagine on this land plants and water rushing and streaming here," Lipschits said. "This was important to someone who finds aesthetics important, for someone who wanted to feel as though they are not just in some remote corner in the desert."

Yuval Gadot, a biblical archaeology expert from Tel Aviv University who is taking part in the excavation, said it was unclear exactly how the water system worked.

"Probably rainwater came down on the roof of the houses (in the palace complex)," he said. "From there, it was collected by drains into pools or to the underground reservoir and taken to nearby fields for crops or nice gardens."

For centuries water supplies have been one of the most sensitive issues in the Middle East, where most of the region is desert.

4,000-Year-Old Tombs Found Near Jerusalem Mall
Mati Milstein
for National Geographic News

November 21, 2006
Not far from Jerusalem, Israel's biggest shopping mall, builders accidentally uncovered a 4,000-year-old cemetery last summer. This month the ancient site began yielding jewelry, armaments, and ritual offerings.

The cemetery find suggests that the Canaanites—a Semitic people who inhabited ancient Palestine and Phoenicia beginning about 5,000 years ago—had a much more extensive settlement in the city than previously thought (Jerusalem map and facts).

"Usually you find such sites completely looted, but here many of the tombs were discovered with all the artifacts inside them," said Gideon Avni, the Israel Antiquities Authority's director of excavations and surveys. "This is one of the largest concentrations [of artifacts] from this period."

Fittingly, the site was until recently the home of a sprawling, 1960s model of ancient Jerusalem. The model was moved to the city's Israel Museum in preparation for new construction.

Bronze Age Insights

Excavation team leader Yanir Milevsky says the new findings contribute greatly to the archaeological knowledge of the village areas surrounding Bronze Age Canaanite Jerusalem.

"Jerusalem's agricultural settlement area [during the Bronze Age—roughly 4000 B.C. to 1000 B.C.] was much wider than what we thought up until now," Milevsky said.

The 30 to 40 excavated tombs are on the edge of the Bayit Vagan neighborhood, overlooking Jerusalem's Emek Refaim ("valley of the ghosts").

"The cemetery sprawls over more than half an acre [0.2 hectare] and, according to evidence at the site, burials there were carried out primarily during the Bronze Age between 2200 and 2000 B.C. and 1700 and 1600 B.C.," Melinsky and colleague Zvi Greenhut said in a press statement.

The site's "shaft tombs"—tunnels dug into the bedrock leading to burial caves—were common during these periods.

Among the wide variety of artifacts found are copies of Egyptian scarabs used as talismans by the area's residents.

Avni says the scarabs might have arrived in Jerusalem via commercial exchanges or with Canaanite tourists returning from Egypt.

"It's not uncommon here to find all kinds of ornamentation brought from outside the region," he said.

Other objects found at the site include metal weapons, tools, and jewelry as well as fully preserved earthenware vessels.

Burial Rituals

Sheep and goat bones found in the cemetery are believed to have been used in burial rituals.

The animal remains and foodstuffs, likely stored in earthenware containers, are known as "food for the dead" and were meant to serve the deceased after their passing.

"This is another piece in the puzzle," Avni said. "The Emek Refaim area was extensively inhabited during this time.

"We have evidence from the Mount of Olives area of similar tombs, and the city proper—the City of David site—was inhabited. [Bayit Vagan] was part of the peripheral network around Jerusalem."

Archaeologists say the site could be even larger than what has been uncovered so far.

But no final decision has been made on how to handle the site once the excavations ar complete. Artifacts will likely be moved to the Israel Museum, Avni says, and the site itself would probably be reburied.


Jerusalem Tunnel Linked to Bible (September 11, 2003)

Tombs Found in Syria Hold Riches, Signs of Ritual Sacrifice (October 24, 2006)

Jerusalem Mall
That's very interesting. It's a shame they may have to rebury it, but I guess it is an issue of space.

With any luck the artefacts will be in the museum by the time I get there next year!
Heres an interesting one: a tunnel which may have been used by Jewish rebels to escape from the Roman Occupation Forces. It may even be the tunnel portrayed in The Life of Brian where the various Liberation Fronts bump into each other and start fighting.

Remember, who is the main enemy?


Source: Israel Antiquities Authority
Date: September 10, 2007

Ancient 'Escape Tunnel' Discovered In Israel

Science Daily — In excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting in the City of David in order to expose the main road of Jerusalem from the time of the Second Temple period, the city’s main drainage channel was discovered. According to the writings of Josephus Flavius, the residents of the city fled to this channel at the time of the revolt in order to hide from the Romans.

This channel may have been used for escape from the Romans. The channel is built of ashlar stones and is covered with heavy stone slabs that are actually the paving stones of the street. (Credit: Copyright Israel Antiquities Authority) In excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is jointly carrying out with the Elad Association in the Walls around Jerusalem National Park, approximately 70 meters of Jerusalem’s main drainage channel from the time of the Second Temple period have been exposed so far. The channel is located along the route from the Temple Mount to the Shiloah Pool. The channel, which passes beneath the main road of the city and apparently continues to Nahal Kidron on its way to the Dead Sea, drained the rainfall of ancient Jerusalem; the Jewish quarter, the western region of the City of David and the Temple Mount.

The channel is built of ashlar stones and is covered with heavy stone slabs that are actually the paving stones of the street. In some places the channel reaches a height of about 3 meters and is one meter wide, so that it is possible to walk in it comfortably.

According to the excavation directors, Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa and Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in the last two thousand years the valley has become blocked with thick layers of alluvium and collapse. Therefore the Israel Antiquities Authority was asked to excavate some 10 meters for the purpose of uncovering the main road of Jerusalem and the channel below it.

“There is evidence in the writings of Josephus Flavius, the historian who described the revolt, the conquest and the destruction of Jerusalem, that numerous people took shelter in the channel and even lived in it for a period until they succeeded to flee the city through its southern end”, they added.

Pottery shards, fragments of vessels, and coins from the end of the Second Temple period, prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70 CE, were discovered inside the channel.

The northern part of the channel, which is still unexcavated, apparently reaches the area of the Western Wall where in the past a large drainage channel was found that is the continuation of the channel that was exposed in the southern part of the City of David. The construction of the channel is characterized by its advanced technology. The further south one goes in the channel the deeper it is below the surface level so as to allow the rainwater to flow to Nahal Kidron.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Israel Antiquities Authority.
I wonder if it was that the People's Liberation Front of Judea or the Judean People's Liberation Front who used that tunnel?
SameOldVardoger said:
I wonder if it was that the People's Liberation Front of Judea or the Judean People's Liberation Front who used that tunnel?

It was built by them when they were part of the same organisation but then they split...
Hmmm, The Life of Brian could have included a Pagan Liberation Organisation.

Ruins of a pagan temple from the second century A.D. have been unearthed in the heart of a Jewish capital that existed during Israel's Roman period.

In its heyday, the temple sat within a walled courtyard abutting the most centrally-located homes in the ancient city of Zippori, about halfway between Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) and the Mediterranean.

Archaeologists discovered the temple's foundations under the ruins of a Christian church that had been built on the site during the Byzantine period, which spanned the fifth and sixth centuries.

Although pagan artifacts have been found in Zippori before, the temple represents the first significant structural evidence of a pagan settlement in the capital.

"We have textual accounts from the second century indicating the presence of a pagan population in Zippori," said Zeev Weiss, lead archaeologist of the Noam Shudofsky Zippori Expedition at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Based on the new find, "it is clear [the pagans] had the influence and the ability to erect this temple in the center of the city."

Zippori was a thriving multicultural center where tens of thousands of pagans, Jews, and Christians lived and worshipped, the researchers say.

Temple of the Gods

The newfound temple measures about 40-by-78 feet (12-by-24 meters). It was built just south of the decumanus, a colonnaded street running east to west that served as the main thoroughfare in most Roman cities.

The temple originally had a decorated façade, but its walls were plundered in ancient times and only the foundations have survived.

No archaeological evidence was found to indicate the nature of pagan rituals carried out in the temple. The structure was not built like a Jewish synagogue, and formal Christian churches did not exist until at least the third century A.D.

Coins minted in Zippori that date to the time of Antoninus Pius, who ruled Rome from A.D. 138 to 161, depict a temple to the Roman god Jupiter and goddess Fortuna.

Various pagan populations throughout the Galilee region and beyond were known to have adopted Roman gods or integrated aspects of Roman religion into their practices.

"Roman religion of the time was complex and variegated and involved civic religions, mystery religions, personal religions. Romans could function in different religious contexts," said Ed Wright, director of the University of Arizona's Center for Judaic Studies.

Experts don't know exactly when the newly discovered structure ceased to function as a pagan temple.

But the large church built above its foundations indicates that the site maintained its sacred, religious character throughout the various periods of Zippori's history.

The temple "is a testament to the cosmopolitan nature of what was going on at that site," Wright added.

Religious Tension

Beth Nakhai, also at the Arizona center, noted that significant tension existed between Jews and pagans in the period leading up to the second century A.D.

During the second and first centuries the Jewish Hasmoneans attempted forced conversions of pagans to Judaism.

"The problems between Romans and Jews culminated in the destruction of the Galilee [region] and of the first Jewish temple, and pagans often were at the vanguard and worked with the Romans," she said.

Under Roman command, pagan mercenary soldiers often led violent attacks on Jews.

"However, by the end of the second century the Jews understood they needed to live together with the Romans and pagans," said Weiss, the excavation leader.

In fact, the pagan population between the second and fourth centuries had a certain amount of influence on Jewish culture.

A fifth-century synagogue uncovered earlier in Zippori, for example, was found to include a mosaic with an image of Helios, the Greek sun god.

"Interpretation of the textual evidence," Weiss added, "indicated good ties between the Jews and the pagans."
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... 92480.html

Edit to amend title.
Isn´t pagan a rather ill-defined term? It doesn´t seem to say exactly what religion they were.
Xanatico said:
Isn´t pagan a rather ill-defined term? It doesn´t seem to say exactly what religion they were.

I suppose it is. However from the Jewish or Christian persapective they would have been regarded as Pagan.
Yes but saying they are non-jewish still leaves open a lot of possibility. I´d like them to say a bit more specific what they were.
It's Roman. The 'exciting' thing is that it's the first one they have found in that city, which until then they thought was Jewish only. Not the most exciting story really lol
Prehistoric Funerary Precinct Excavated In Northern Israel

Prehistoric Funerary Precinct Excavated In Northern Israel: Grave Goods Include Phallic Figurines, Sea Shells

(Sep. 2, 2008) — Hebrew University excavations in the north of Israel have revealed a prehistoric funerary precinct dating back to 6,750-8,500 BCE.

The precinct, a massive walled enclosure measuring 10 meters by at least 20 meters, was discovered at excavations being undertaken at Kfar HaHoresh. The Pre-Pottery Neolithic B site in the Nazareth hills of the lower Galilee is interpreted as having been a regional funerary and cult center for nearby lowland villages.

Prof. Nigel Goring-Morris of the Hebrew University's Institute of Archaeology, who is leading the excavations, says that the precinct is just one of the many finds discovered at the site this year – including remains of a fully-articulated, but tightly contracted 40 year old adult male.

Accompanying grave goods include a sickle blade and a sea shell, while a concentration of some 60 other shells were found nearby. The sea shells provide evidence for extensive exchange networks from the Mediterranean and Red Seas. Symbolic items include small plain or incised tokens. An entire herd of cattle was also found buried nearby.

While fertility symbols during this period are often associated with female imagery, at Kfar HaHoresh only phallic figurines have been found to date, including one placed as a foundation deposit in the wall of the precinct.

Exotic minerals found at the site include malachite from south of the Dead Sea, obsidian (natural volcanic glass) from central Anatolia, and a votive axe on serpentine from either Cyprus or northern Syria.

"Cultic artifacts, installations and their contextual associations attest to intensive ritual practices in the area," says Prof. Goring-Morris.

Burials at the site now total at least 65 individuals, and display an unusual demographic profile – with an emphasis on young adult males. Graves occur under or associated with lime-plaster surfaced L-shaped walled structures, and are varied in nature from single articulated burials through multiple secondary burials with up to 17 individuals. Bones in one had been intentionally re-arranged in what appears to be a depiction.

The Pre-Pottery Neolithic B, ca. 8,500-6,750 BCE, corresponds to the period when the first large village communities were established in the fertile regions of the Near East when a wide ranging cultural interaction sphere came into being throughout the Levant.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 085355.htm
Now some phallic figurines have popped up. Full text at link.

Phallic Figurines Found in Israel Stone Age BurialsMati Milstein at Kfar HaHoresh, Israel
for National Geographic News

September 5, 2008

Prehistoric graves with an unusual abundance of phallic figurines and oddly arranged human remains have been found in Israel, archaeologists announced recently.

Near Nazerat (Nazareth), the Stone Age site, called Kfar HaHoresh, dates to between 8,500 and 6,750 B.C.

The site was uninhabited and probably served surrounding villages as a centralized burial and cult center, said excavation leader Nigel Goring-Morris of Hebrew University's Institute of Archaeology.

Archaeologists have primarily found female symbolic figurines in other burials of this time period.

"At Kfar HaHoresh, all the gender-oriented symbolism seems to be male," Goring-Morris said. "Researchers in the past have put more emphasis on the 'mother goddess' of agriculture."

Among other oddities at the newly excavated site are human bones arranged into shapes and even buried with human remains.

(Read about a Stone Age cemetery found in the Sahara desert.)

Very Unusual Site

At least 65 individuals—mostly young males between the ages of 20 and 30—were found buried in plaster-surfaced structures. The largest measures 33 feet (10 meters) by at least 66 feet (20 meters).

"This is not a regular site," said Avi Gopher, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University. "There are many burials and many of them are very unusual."

"Generally, we did not have central cemeteries during this period. … But there may well be places where the emphasis on burial was greater," added Gopher, who is not involved in the excavation.

The period between 8,500 and 6,750 B.C. was characterized by a transition from hunting and gathering to large, village-based agricultural communities that domesticated crops and livestock.

Source: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... rials.html
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Israeli dig finds rare Roman bust

Israeli archaeologists say they have unearthed a rare Roman-era marble statuette in Jerusalem.

The subject is "most likely an athlete, probably a boxer", the directors of the excavation said in a statement.

The finely carved bust, which is 5cm (two inches) high, depicts a man with short hair and a short curly beard.

The 1,800-year-old figurine was found by the Israel Antiquities Authority in a dig in occupied East Jerusalem, just outside the walls of the Old City.

Archaeologists believe the figurine was used as a weight for a set of scales.

Its style is "indicative of an obviously Greek influence", the statement by IAA archaeologists Doron Ben-Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets said.

It can be dated to the Emperor Hadrian's rule in the second or third century, they added, "one of the periods when the art of Roman sculpture reached its zenith".

Nothing similar has been found before in the country, the statement said.
Old coins force re-think on Jerusalem's Western Wall
ReutersReuters – 2 hrs 19 mins ago

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli archaeologists Wednesday said they had found ancient coins that overturned widely-held beliefs about the origins of Jerusalem's Western Wall, one of Judaism's holiest sites.

For centuries, many thought the wall was built by King Herod - also infamous, in the Christian tradition, for his efforts to hunt down the baby Jesus in the original Christmas story.

But archaeologists said they had found coins buried under the wall's foundations minted 20 years after King Herod's death in 4 B.C., showing the structure was completed by his successors.

The find will mean a re-think for the city's army of tour guides.

"Every tour guide ... grounded in the history of Jerusalem" had replied "Herod" when asked who built the wall, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement.

"This bit of archaeological information illustrates the fact that the construction of the Temple Mount walls and (the adjacent) Robinson's Arch was an enormous project that lasted decades and was not completed during Herod's lifetime," the Authority added.

The authority said academic historians were already aware of an account by the Jewish historian Josephus that the wall was completed by Herod's great grandson.

But that report had done nothing to dispel the popular story that Herod completed the wall and the coins were the first hard evidence to back up Josephus's version.

The Western Wall was a perimeter wall of the Second Jewish Temple destroyed by Jerusalem's Roman conquerors in 70 AD.

Herod still keeps the credit for driving the expansion of the compound of the Biblical Jewish Temple, beginning what Josephus described as "the largest project the world has ever heard of."

The temple compound is now home to the al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock shrine and is revered by Muslims as the "Noble Sanctuary."
Jerusalem Markings From Ancient Past Stump Archeologists

JERUSALEM -- Mysterious stone carvings made thousands of years ago and recently uncovered in an excavation underneath Jerusalem have archaeologists stumped.

Israeli diggers who uncovered a complex of rooms carved into the bedrock in the oldest section of the city recently found the markings: Three "V" shapes cut next to each other into the limestone floor of one of the rooms, about 2 inches (5 centimeters) deep and 20 inches (50 centimeters) long. There were no finds to offer any clues pointing to the identity of who made them or what purpose they served.

The archaeologists in charge of the dig know so little that they have been unable even to posit a theory about their nature, said Eli Shukron, one of the two directors of the dig.

more here, but they're still stumped...
I've been mulling over multiple news postings about these 'markings', and I don't believe they were carved as signs or symbols at all.

Their location on / in the stone floor and their notable depth (circa 5 cm) lead me to believe they served some sort of structural or functional purpose (rather than a strictly symbolic one).

Some of the news stories have cited a suggestion they may have been slots for supporting (e.g.) wooden panels - perhaps the base for some tall object. This strikes me as the best suggestion so far.

I'm also struck by the fact that one of the pictured V-holes has rectangular depressions at its open ends. These could have been fittings for posts associated with whatever might have been mounted in the slots. However, I tend to suspect these extra depressions were intended to catch some sort of fluid spillover.

This leads me to wonder if they (or at least that one) would have served as a mold for casting something.
King David's palace found, says Israeli team

King David's palace found, says Israeli team
July 21st, 2013 in Other Sciences / Archaeology & Fossils

This undated aerial photo released by the Israel Antiquities Authority shows the archeological site in Khirbet Qeiyafa, west of Jerusalem. A team of Israeli archaeologists say they have discovered a palace used by King David at the site, a historic discovery that was quickly disputed by other members of the country's archaeological community. (AP Photo/SkyView, HOEP)

This undated aerial photo released by the Israel Antiquities Authority shows the archeological site in Khirbet Qeiyafa, west of Jerusalem. A team of Israeli archaeologists say they have discovered a palace used by King David at the site, a historic discovery that was quickly disputed by other members of the country's archaeological community. (AP Photo/SkyView, HOEP)

(AP)—A team of Israeli archaeologists believes it has discovered the ruins of a palace belonging to the biblical King David, but other Israeli experts dispute the claim.

Archaeologists from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Israel's Antiquities Authority said their find, a large fortified complex west of Jerusalem at a site called Khirbet Qeiyafa , is the first palace of the biblical king ever to be discovered.

"Khirbet Qeiyafa is the best example exposed to date of a fortified city from the time of King David," said Yossi Garfinkel, a Hebrew University archaeologist, suggesting that David himself would have used the site. Garfinkel led the seven-year dig with Saar Ganor of Israel's Antiquities Authority.

Garfinkel said his team found cultic objects typically used by Judeans, the subjects of King David, and saw no trace of pig remains. Pork is forbidden under Jewish dietary laws. Clues like these, he said, were "unequivocal evidence" that David and his descendants had ruled at the site.
Critics said the site could have belonged to other kingdoms of the area. The consensus among most scholars is that no definitive physical proof of the existence of King David has been found.

Biblical archaeology itself is contentious. Israelis often use archaeological findings to back up their historic claims to sites that are also claimed by the Palestinians, like the Old City of Jerusalem. Despite extensive archaeological evidence, for example, Palestinians deny that the biblical Jewish Temples dominated the hilltop where the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam's third-holiest site, stands today.

In general, researchers are divided over whether biblical stories can be validated by physical remains.

The current excavators are not the first to claim they found a King David palace. In 2005, Israeli archaeologist Eilat Mazar said she found the remains of King David's palace in Jerusalem dating to the 10th century B.C., when King David would have ruled. Her claim also attracted skepticism, including from Garfinkel himself.

Using carbon dating, the archaeologists traced the site's construction to that same period. Garfinkel said the team also found a storeroom almost 15 meters (50 feet) long, suggesting it was a royal site used to collect taxes from the rest of the kingdom.

Garfinkel believes King David lived permanently in Jerusalem in a yet-undiscovered site, only visiting Khirbet Qeiyafa or other palaces for short periods. He said the site's placement on a hill indicates that the ruler sought a secure site on high ground during a violent era of frequent conflicts between city-states.

"The time of David was the first time that a large portion of this area was united by one monarch," Garfinkel said. "It was not a peaceful era."

Archaeologist Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University agreed that Khirbet Qeiyafa is an "elaborate" and "well-fortified" 10th century B.C. site, but said it could have been built by Philistines, Canaanites or other peoples in the area.

He said there was no way to verify who built the site without finding a monument detailing the accomplishments of the king who built it. Last week, for instance, archaeologists in Israel found pieces of a sphinx bearing the name of the Egyptian pharaoh who reigned when the statue was carved.
Garfinkel insisted that critics like Finkelstein are relying on outdated theories.

"I think other people have a collapsed theory and we have fresh data," he said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

"King David's palace found, says Israeli team." July 21st, 2013. http://phys.org/news/2013-07-king-david ... -team.html
Finding the Ironsides
Evidence of the Roman legion military camp found in Israel

For the first time, the camp of the Sixth Roman Legion may have been located. Analyzing an enhanced high-resolution satellite photo, archaeologist Yotam Tepper of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in collaboration with the Jezreel Valley Regional Project, identified what he believes to be the camp’s square-shaped boundary. The team conducted ground-penetrating radar and electromagnetic testing and subsequently carried out excavations at the site. They uncovered the base of a battery or wall, a moat surrounding the camp, water pipes, a covered sewage channel, coins, tiles and a shingle decorated with the legion’s symbol. These discoveries seem to support Tepper’s identification of the site as the camp of the Sixth Legion. The site sits between Tel Megiddo (Biblical Armageddon) and the oldest known Christian house of worship, located half a mile south of the camp, which was abandoned by the end of the third century.

According to historical sources, the Legio Sexta Ferrata, known as the “Ironsides,” was based in the Galilee in the second century A.D. The Sixth Legion was most likely stationed there in response to the Jewish antagonism that eventually resulted in the Second Jewish Revolt of 132–136 A.D. From their headquarters, 3,500 Roman soldiers ruled over Galilee and part of Samaria. The city that grew around the camp became known as Legio during the Roman Empire and later as Lajjun after the arrival of Muslim forces in the seventh century. The actual camp site of the Sixth Legion, however, remained unknown. According to Matthew Adams, director of the Jezreel Valley Regional Project, “If [Tepper’s] right and we locate the camp archaeologically, it will be the first time in the archaeology of the Roman Empire that a Roman camp of this period has been excavated in the Eastern half of the Empire!”

http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/dail ... ironsides/

World's Oldest Masks Modeled on Early Farmers' Ancestors

Sculpted stone faces—9,000 years old—represented family links to the land.

Like most of the pieces in the exhibit, these masks from the Judean Hills or southern Judean foothills display skull-like features.

A. R. Williams
National Geographic

A dozen of the world's earliest known masks have been brought together for the first time for an exhibition at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The rare stone artifacts were sculpted by early farmers whose immediate ancestors had given up hunting and gathering and settled in the Judean Hills, the location of the modern city of Jerusalem, and in the fringes of the nearby Judean Desert.

That momentous change in lifestyle, along with the first stirrings of organized religion, may have prompted the farmers to create the stark stone images for their cult rituals.

Debby Hershman, curator of the museum's Prehistoric Cultures Department, has spent the last decade conducting the first comprehensive study of the 15 known stone masks from the Neolithic era—those on exhibit plus three others. "Many of them look like dead people," she says. "In fact, I think they're portraits of specific people—probably important ancestors."

This limestone mask was reconstructed from 12 fragments that archaeologists found in the Nahal Hemar cave.

The ancestral images were likely powerful symbols for families who had recently put down roots and who now needed to defend their claims to the cultivated fields they depended on for survival.

"These people had no writing," explains Hershman. "Their only connection to the land was through genealogy—your grandfather and great-grandfather lived here, and that means the land is yours."

Few of the masks come from sites excavated by archaeologists, so it's impossible to say for sure how they were used. But Hershman believes they served as more than just practical links to property. They had a spiritual dimension too, worn as evocative regalia in rituals associated with ancestor cults.

In 1983 Hershman was part of a small team of archaeologists led by Harvard prehistorian Ofer Bar-Yosef who excavated a recently looted cave in the southern Judean Desert. Known as Nahal Hemar, the site appears to have been used to store thousands of objects from an ancestor cult. The scientists uncovered rope baskets, wooden beads, shells, flint knives, figurines carved from bone, human skulls decorated with molded asphalt, and embroidered textiles that may once have been ritual costumes.

A ceremonial costume disguises a member of a modern ancestor cult in West Africa.

They also found fragments of two stone masks, which now belong to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Strands of hair, preserved for thousands of years in the dry climate, were stuck to the masks in clumps. "These were clearly adult males," says Hershman. "Each had a mustache and a beard." Hair may also have been attached to holes at the top of each mask.

A mask from the museum's own collection turned up while a farmer was tilling a field in the early 1970s. The artifact ended up in the hands of a dealer, who sold it to famed Israeli General Moshe Dayan. Dayan was interested in where it came from and convinced the dealer to take him there—a place called Horvat Duma, near Hebron, in the Judean Hills.

"Unfortunately, this kind of accidental find happens all the time in this area," says Hershman, but most artifacts make their way to the antiquities market with no information about where they're found.

That's the case with the exhibit's other masks, which belong to private collectors. To make sure these were not fakes, microarchaeology expert Yuval Goren of Tel Aviv University tested the sediment that had accumulated on each mask over the millennia. He also examined the masks under a microscope to study their crystalline structure and mineralogical composition and to verify that they came from the region around Jerusalem.

With a height of 11.6 inches (29.5 centimeters), the chalk mask at left is the largest of the group. The bags beneath the eyes of the limestone mask at right may have been meant to suggest advanced age.

How Were the Masks Used?

To help answer the question of whether these masks were worn, a team of experts in archaeological computer simulation led by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Leore Grosman scanned them and created 3-D models. Each mask has unique dimensions and characteristics, but all the full-size examples have human proportions and follow the contours of a living face.

"The eye view was key," says Hershman. It was clearly meant for someone to look through. Many of the masks have holes around the edges. Straps or cords may have been attached there and would have tied at the back of a ritual participant's head.

The scans also highlighted the resemblance of several of the masks to skulls, with their prominent cheeks, temples, and eye sockets, and teeth bared in a macabre grimace. Some masks even appear to be modeled specifically on the skulls of old men.

Famed Israeli general Moshe Dayan bought this mask after a farmer’s plow uncovered it in a field near Horvat Duma.

Hershman also weighed the masks for the first time. "They're not that heavy," she says. "Between one and two kilograms (2.2 and 4.4 pounds)." She likens them to the regalia worn by modern participants in ancestor cult rituals in traditional societies in Oceania and Africa. "Every dancer wears a costume that weighs 20 kilos (44 pounds)," she says. "They all dance with masks that are much heavier than the ancient stone ones."

Hershman believes that the stone masks must have been very special objects that were imbued with more prestige than other items of cult regalia. She cites as proof the time and care it took to create such objects of enduring beauty.

Masks worn in modern ancestor cult ceremonies in West Africa weigh every bit as much—or more—than the Neolithic stone masks from the Judean Hills.

She's sure that there are more masks out there waiting for archaeologists to uncover. "Will they be from a special building? A private home? I can't even imagine, but that context is important," she says. "When we find them in situ, we'll learn a lot more about the society they came from."

To share the masks with a global audience, the Israel Museum will soon publish the exhibition catalog in English. Face to Face, the Oldest Masks in the World will explain the importance of the 9,000-year-old stone artifacts and detail the steps that scientists took to authenticate them.
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Ancient 'moon god' monument unearthed in Israel
A structure once believed to form part of an ancient town is identified as a 5,000-year old monument believed to have been used to honour the Mesopotamian moon god 'Sin'
By Inna Lazareva, Tel Aviv
12:55PM BST 17 Sep 2014

A 5,000-year-old stone structure in the shape of the crescent moon in northern Israel has been identified to be an ancient monument, predating much of the construction of Stonehenge in England and Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

The structure, known as Rujum en-Nabi Shua'ayb or Jethro Cairn, is located near the Sea of Galilee.
It was initially discovered in the early part of the 20th century, and was thought to form part of an ancient city's defensive walls.

But doctoral student Ido Wachtel from Hebrew University in Jerusalem recently made a convincing case that the construction served as a monument in its own right.
“The proposed interpretation for the site is that it constituted a prominent landmark in its natural landscape, serving to mark possession and to assert authority and rights over natural resources by a local rural or pastoral population,” Mr Wachtel wrote in a paper submitted to an archaeology conference in Switzerland.

Presenting his findings at the International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, Mr Wachtel said the structure may have been erected to honour the ancient Mesopotamian moon god, ‘Sin’.
One of the most important gods in Mesopotamian mythology, Sin, also known as ‘Nanna’, is symbolised as a crescent moon and is often depicted riding on a winged bull.

The structure was found close to the ancient Israeli town of Bet Yerah, which translates as "house of the moon god", and is believed to have been linked to the town's religious community.


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldne ... srael.html
Archeologists unearth 3,300 year old complex in Israel

A team of archeologists working in Israel's Tel Burna dig site have unearthed the remains of a large stone complex dating back approximately 3,300 years Information about the finding was presented at the recent European Association of Archaeologists' meeting held in Istanbul.

Initial examination of the ruins suggests the site was an ancient cult complex—a rather large one at that with side walls measuring up to 52x52 feet. Thus far archeologists have uncovered mask fragments (parts that covered the nose), connected cups (their purpose has yet to be discovered), scarabs (stone representations of the beetle typically used as an amulet) and very large vessels known as pithoi.

The relics suggest the site was use as a cult complex, likely dedicated to the worship of a god, though the researchers can't say with any certainty which one that might have been. The most likely candidate, they told the press recently, is the storm god Baal, who was worshiped by many Middle Eastern peoples during the time that the complex was active. Like many others, he was believed to be a fertility deity, one of the most important or popular of the time. Other gods have not been ruled out, including the war goddess Anat. Other evidence of worship was burnt animal bones, suggesting sacrificial rituals. ...

http://phys.org/news/2014-10-archeologi ... srael.html
Topics merged to form new Israel-Palestine: Archaeological Finds topic.
Ancient Place of Worship Found Near Jerusalem Challenges Assumptions About First Temple

Source: haaretz.com
Date: 3 February, 2020

At least the same size as Solomon’s Temple and resembling that structure’s description in the Bible, Motza temple was used for worship of both Yahweh and idols

An ancient temple outside of Jerusalem and from the same period as the First Temple challenges long-held ideas about worship and government in Judea during the Iron Age II period, say archaeologists who recently renewed excavations at Tel Motza.

The structure was uncovered in 2012 during 2012 rescue digs carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority ahead of roadwork in the area.

The current excavation, carried out by the IAA and the archaeology department at Tel Aviv University, is the foundation for an article in the January/February 2020 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review Professor. Written by Oded Lipschits and Shua Kisilevitz, the article is based on the findings of Hamoudi Khalaily, Anna Eirikh and Kisilevitz from research that they launched about a decade ago.

The temple at Tel Motza was first found in the 1990s by Zvi Greenhut, now the head of the IAA’s Artifacts Treatment and Conservation Department. At least the same size as Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and resembling that structure’s description in the Bible, the Motza temple was apparently used for parallel worship of both Yahweh and idols.

New archaeological evidence from Nazareth reveals religious and political environment in era of Jesus

Remarkable new archaeological discoveries in Israel are revealing important details about the religious and political environment in which Jesus is said to have grown up, and which are likely to have influenced his own religious and political outlook.

Detailed new research suggests that Nazareth, which according to Christian tradition is where Jesus grew up, was substantially bigger than previously thought, religiously very conservative and politically very anti-Roman.
(c) The Indepenent '20
Mid 1970's 'O' level R.E. favoured Jesus the Nazarene ( a religious sect) over Jesus of Nazareth (a town that didn't exist in the Roman records until well after the Crucifixion). Guess a lot of what I was taught in 'O' levels is no longer valid.
A network of passages and chambers is being excavated and explored beneath the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Dig near Jerusalem’s Western Wall yields ‘puzzling’ chambers

Israeli archaeologists on Tuesday exhibited a recently uncovered, unusual series of 2,000-year-old chambers carved out of the bedrock beneath the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem.

The Israel Antiquities Authority’s excavations are uncovering new sections of a sprawling network of ancient subterranean passageways running alongside a contested Jerusalem holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. ...

Archaeologists began excavating a large, late Byzantine building located around 35 meters (120 feet) from the base of the wall last year. Beneath the plain white mosaic tiled floor of the monumental structure, they discovered a series of small chambers hewn out of the bedrock. Fragments of clay oil lamps and limestone cups helped date the subterranean rooms to around 2,000 years ago.

Lead archaeologist Barak Monnickendam-Givon said the “very huge investment in rock cut installation work” below ground had never been found before in the ancient city and was “very puzzling.” It remains unclear what the tiny chambers were used for.

The underground archaeological excavation is taking place about six or seven meters (20 feet) beneath the modern street level of the Western Wall plaza. ...

FULL STORY: https://apnews.com/586a7951ef8bf229bec124369c8d4be1

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My guess is storage areas for precious items used in the Temple, and a living area for priests/Temple workers who needed to hide from Roman inspections.