Category Archives: Israel

Rare hoard of coins from pre-AD 70 discovered near Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway

The Israel Antiquities Authority announces today the discovery of a box containing 114 bronze coins dating to Year Four of the Great Revolt (Jewish Revolt against the Romans). The discovery was made several months ago during work on the new Highway 1 project (between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv).

Coin hoard as it was found in the excavation. Photo Vladimir Nuhin, IAA.

Coin hoard as it was found in the excavation. Photo Vladimir Nühin, IAA.

According to Pablo Betzer and Eyal Marco, excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The hoard, which appears to have been buried several months prior to the fall of Jerusalem, provides us with a glimpse into the lives of Jews living on the outskirts of Jerusalem at the end of the rebellion. Evidently someone here feared the end was approaching and hid his property, perhaps in the hope of collecting it later when calm was restored to the region”. All of the coins are stamped on one side with a chalice and the Hebrew inscription “To the Redemption of Zion” and on the other side with a motif that includes a bundle of lulav between two etrogs. Around this is the Hebrew inscription “Year Four”, that is, the fourth year of the Great Revolt of the Jews against the Romans (69/70 CE).

The hoard was concealed in the corner of a room, perhaps inside a wall niche or buried in the floor. Two other rooms and a courtyard belonging to the same building were exposed during the course of the archaeological excavation. The structure was built in the first century BCE and was destroyed in 69 or 70 CE when the Romans were suppressing the Great Revolt.  Early in the second century CE part of the building was reinhabited for a brief period, which culminated in the destruction of the Jewish settlement in Judea as a result of the Bar Kokhba rebellion. This is attested to by three complete jars that were discovered embedded in the courtyard floor.

It seems that the residents of this village, like most of the Jewish villages in Judea, were active participants in both of the major uprisings against the Romans – the Great Revolt and the Bar Kokhba Revolt. As a result of their involvement the place was destroyed twice, and was not resettled.

The Israel Antiquities Authority and Netivei Israel Company are examining the possibility of preserving the village remains within the framework of the landscape development alongside the highway.

Pablo Betzer, IAA District Archaeologist for Judah, with a coin from Year Four of the Great Revolt. Photo Vladimir Nühin, IAA.

Pablo Betzer, IAA District Archaeologist for Judah, with a coin from Year Four of the Great Revolt. Photo Vladimir Nühin, IAA.

This discovery might remind Bible readers of the illustration used by Jesus.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44 ESV)

HT: Joseph Lauer

More artifacts of the Tenth Roman Legion

We had a good response to our recent posts, here and here, about the Roman Tenth Legion in Jerusalem.  I will post a few photos of other artifacts that are readily available for those who visit Israel.

The first is an inscription of the eighth cohort of the Tenth Legion. According to the accompanying sign in the Israel Museum this limestone inscription comes from Jerusalem or Samaria and belongs to the first or second century A.D. The inscription reads “LEG X FRE COH IIX” and is decorated with dolphins and a wild boar, symbols of the legion.

Inscription of the Eighth cohort of the Tenth Legion. Israel Museum.

Inscription of the eighth cohort of the Tenth Legion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

About halfway between Jerusalem and Bethlehem is the site of Ramat Rachel. It was first occupied in the 7th century B.C. Stratum III revealed evidence of a Roman villa dating to the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. Some of the clay tiles from the villa are displayed in the hotel at the site.

Information about Ramat Rachel is available on the Archaeological Project website here.

Tile of the Tenth Legion from Ramat Rachel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tile of the Tenth Legion from Ramat Rachel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Finally, here is a tile fragment with a stamp of the Tenth Legion. The inscription reads “LG X F.” A wild boar and a battleship are the symbols on this one. The Israel Museum says this tile dates to the 1st-2nd century A.D.

Tenth Legion tile in the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tenth Legion tile in the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman period in the Holy Land is usually dated from about 63 B.C. to A.D. 323. This includes the entire period of Jesus, the early church, and the New Testament, but it also includes the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the period when Jerusalem was rebuilt by the Emperor Hadrian and named Aelia Capitolina.

Added Note: See the helpful comments by Tom Powers below. Tom is licensed as a guide in Israel, but is no longer living there. Here is the photo he mentions in the comment about the reused stone in the wall of the Old City near Jaffa Gate.

Partial stone bearing inscription of the Tenth Legion reused in the wall of the Old City near Jaffa Gate. Photo by Tom Powers.

Partial stone bearing inscription of the Tenth Legion reused in the wall of the Old City near Jaffa Gate. Photo by Tom Powers.

IAA Director General Dorfman died today at age 64

The Israel Antiquities Authority announces the passing of Yehoshua (Shuka) Dorfman today, July 31, 2014, at the age of 64. His passing came after what is described as a long battle with a serious illness.

Dorfman’s academic training was in Political Science. He served in a variety of military roles reaching the rank of Brigadier General. He was appointed director of the IAA in 2000.

IAA Director Shuka Dorfman. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority.

IAA Director Shuka Dorfman. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

The Tenth Roman Legion in Jerusalem

Students of the Bible are aware that the city of Jerusalem, including the Herodian temple, was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. Vespasian commanded the Romans in the north of the country. When he learned of the death of Nero he began his return to Rome and left his son Titus in command of the military forces.

When Titus began to position his forces around the city of Jerusalem, he called the tenth legion from Jericho to come up to the Mount of Olives and take their position there.

and as these were now beginning to build, the tenth legion, who came through Jericho, was already come to the place, where a certain party of armed men had formerly lain, to guard that pass into the city, and had been taken before by Vespasian. These legions had orders to encamp at the distance of three quarters of a mile from Jerusalem, at the mount called the Mount of Olives, {c} which lies opposite the city on the east side, and is parted from it by a deep valley, interposed between them, which is named Kidron. (Josephus, Jewish Wars 5:69-70)

Jesus had prophesied about forty years earlier that the Holy City would be surrounded by armies.

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. (Luke 21:20 ESV)

The word used for armies (stratopedon) is used in literature of the time to specify a legion or a camp (see BDAG and MM).

Archaeological discoveries have supplemented the writings of Josephus to provide evidence of the presence of the tenth legion in Jerusalem. In addition to the column near Jaffa Gate that we mentioned in the previous post, we here call attention to some other evidence that is readily available for anyone who wishes to see it. Here, I call attention to a Roman milestone.

Roman milestone found near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem mentions Vespasian, Titus, and the Tenth Legion. Displayed in Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman milestone found near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem mentions Vespasian, Titus, and the Tenth Legion. Displayed in Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Israel Museum sign associated with the milestone reads,

Near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a milestone bearing a Latin inscription was discovered. The inscription mentions both the Roman emperor Vespasian and his son Titus, commander of the Roman army at the time of the suppression of the Great Revolt and had been deliberately effaced, seems to have mentioned the name of Flavius Silva, procurator of Judea and commander of the Tenth Legion, responsible for both the destruction of Jerusalem and the conquest of Masada. The inscription was carved by soldiers of the Tenth Legion.

I have a few more photos of artifacts mentioning the tenth legion that I hope to post soon.

More on Roman Roads and Milestones

We have had a few follow-up questions from our post on Roman Roads and Milestones. One reader asked on Facebook, “Is the milepost inside Jaffa Gate for real??”

If you enter the Old City of Jerusalem at Jaffa Gate you should turn left on the second street (lane would be better). You may not see the name, but it is Demetrius Street. A column, now serving as a lamppost, is actually a portion of an inscribed Roman column. Jerome Murphy-O’Connor (Holy Land, 5th edition) says the Latin inscription reads,

M(arco) Iunio Maximo leg(ato) Aug(ustorum) Leg(ionis) X Fr(etensis)—Antoninianae—C. Dom(itius) Serg(ius) str(ator)eius.

Roman column near Jaffa Gate. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman column near Jaffa Gate. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Murphy-O’Connor explains,

The inscription honours Macus Junius Maximus, Legate of the Augusts (i.e. the emperor Septimius Severus and his eldest son Caracalla), which implies that he was the governor of the province of Judaea, and Legate of the Tenth Legion Fretensis.

The column was erected about A.D. 200. Hoade (Guide to the Holy Land) says the once-taller column “was scalped by a bomb in 1948.” [See comment below by Tom Powers, with link to a photo of the column made in the 1930s.] This column is comparable to a milestone but apparently never served that purpose. The camp of the Tenth Roman Legion was immediately south of this place in the area now occupied by the Armenian Quarter. After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, Titus allowed the Tenth Legion to remain in Jerusalem.

[Titus] … permitted the tenth legion to stay, as a guard at Jerusalem, and did not send them away beyond the Euphrates, where they had been before; (Josephus, Wars of the Jews 7:17)

Close-up of Roman column mentioning 10th Roman legion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Close-up of Roman column mentioning 10th Roman legion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

What is a mile? Another reader asked, “How does the mile mentioned in the NT (I would assume the Roman mile) compare in length to our mile?”

The Greek term used in Matthew 5:41 is milion. BDAG says the term is used of “a Roman mile, lit. a thousand paces, then a fixed measure = eight stades = 1,478.5 meters.”

But the term used in Luke 24:13 and John 6:19 is stadion. This term is defined as “a measure of distance of about 192 meters, stade, one-eighth mile” (BDAG). This word also came to mean “an area for public spectacles, arena, stadium.” This is the term translated race in 1 Corinthians 9:24.

Our English versions typically adapt the Greek term stadion “to familiar measurements of distance” (Louw-Nida).

When is a gate not a gate? Rethinking the Lachish discovery

Last Monday, following material posted by Luke Chandler, I posted a blog here with this heading: “Have new gates been discovered at Lachish?”

Yesterday Luke posted a clarification here that was sent to him by the Fourth Lachish Expedition director Yossi Garfinkel. Garfinkel suggests that the new architectural features discovered at Lachish probably should not be called “gates.” He says there are no chambers on both sides of the opening. He says, “so we might have simple openings in the city wall rather than official gates.” The first opening had already been noted by Olga Tufnell after the first expedition at Lachish by Starkey. Tufnell said it was a “blocked Iron Age” gate. Garfinkel thinks it “is probably a Middle Bronze blocked gate.”

Prof. Garfinkel says the second opening found this year is “dated to Level I (Persian) and Level II (586 BC destruction), so this opening is not ‘Early Iron Age’ as [Chandler] wrote.”

This illustrates one of the reasons archaeologists often withhold their findings from the public until they can be more certain about what they have, and even then they point out that the findings are preliminary.

I have dabbled in archaeology enough through personal study, participation at Lachish in 1981, and attendance at the annual meetings of the professional societies fairly regularly for the past 40 years, to know that interpretations change from day-to-day, and season-to-season. Patience is recommended.

Chambered gate at Gezer. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Chambered gate at Gezer. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

Have new gates been discovered at Lachish?

Luke Chandler has reported the identification of new entrances to the ancient city of Lachish here. The late Iron Age gate where the Lachish Letters were discovered is marked by an oval (almost circle). This is the entry to the site used by tourists who visit.

The newly-identified entrances are in the area of the rectangle marking. This is the area where most (or all) of the current excavations have been conducted.

Aerial view of Lachish showing Iron Age gate (oval), and the earlier gate (rectangle). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Lachish showing Iron Age gate (oval), and the earlier gate (rectangle). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Chandler says that the newly-identified entrances have preliminary dating to the earlier Iron Age [1200-900 BC, the period of the Judges and the United Kingdom] and the Middle Bronze periods [2050-1550 BC, the period of the Patriarchs]. He says this is where Prof. Yosef Garfinkel plans to begin the 2015 season of excavations.

Chris McKinny, a staff member of the Tel Burna Excavation Project, discusses the importance of the discovery if one of the gates does prove to belong to the “early Iron Age.” He says,

If this is in fact a gate that can be dated to the “early Iron Age,” then this is a very important discovery for reconstructing Israel/Judah’s geopolitical character in the 10th and 9th centuries BCE.

Read his full discussion at Bible Places.

 

Roman Roads and Milestones

A new website devoted to Roman Roads and Milestones in Judaea/Palaestina has recently come to our attention. This site is co-sponsored by the Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee Department of Holy Land Studies and Tel Aviv University IMC-Israeli Milestone Committee. Most readers will know that Kinneret is the Hebrew name for the Sea of Galilee. The website includes articles by the late Israel Roll and others, as well as maps showing the location of the roads. Many of the articles are in Hebrew or another language other than English. The maps, however, should be useful to those who do not read Hebrew.

The English website is available here. (If it links to the Hebrew page look in the upper left hand corner and click on EN.)

Good Bible atlases include a map of the known roadways. See, for example, the following:

  • Rasmussen, Zondervan Atlas of the Bible. Rasmussen includes a map showing the Natural Routes/Roads, and a discussion of International Routes.
  • Beitzel, The New Moody Atlas of the Bible. Beitzel includes a map showing The Roads of Palestine and a discussion of the principles back of making decisions about the roads.
  • Schlegel, Satellite Bible Atlas. The second map in this atlas shows the Regions and Routes of the Land of Israel.

Our photo below shows remains of the Roman road that Jesus might have taken from near Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee. These roads are often in danger of destruction by careless builders and farmers.

The Roman Road near Golani Junction in Galilee. This road collected Diocaesarea (Zephoris) and Tiberias. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman Road near Golani Junction in Galilee. This road connected Diocaesarea (Zephoris) and Tiberias. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jesus taught His disciples about the attitude they should have toward the Roman authorities.

And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.(Matthew 5:41 ESV)

New Testament writers gave distances in their descriptions of travel from one city to another. Luke says that Emmaus was about seven miles from Jerusalem (Luke 24:13). John says that Bethany was about two miles from Jerusalem (John 11:18).

Milestones were common in Roman times and numerous ones have been found throughout the land of Israel. I understand that the milestone below is from the Jezreel Valley. It is one of many displayed on the grounds of the Beit-Sturman Museum near En Harod.

Roman Milestone from the Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Milestone from the Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Jack Sasson

Gaza is in the news again

After my first tour to the Bible Lands, including Rome, Greece (Athens and Corinth), Egypt, Lebanon, Syria (Damascus), Jordan, and Israel, in April/May, 1967, I decided to make a second tour the following year. For many years, I always added some new places on each tour. In 1968 I added Beersheba and Gaza. The Gaza Strip (named such because of the long, narrow size of the small entity) had been under Egyptian control for several decades until June, 1967
There was not much to see at Gaza. By the time we visited in 1968, Gaza was under Israeli control. We drove to the coast where there were only a few houses and some small fishing boats. This is one of the few slides that I have to illustrate the visit to Gaza.

Gaza on the Mediterranean Sea in May, 1968. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Gaza on the Mediterranean Sea in May, 1968. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Gaza is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. Here is a summary of these references.

  • Gaza was the southwestern boundary of the Canaanites in the table of Nations (Genesis 10:19).
  • The original inhabitants of Gaza were replaced by the Caphtorim, likely the ancestors of the Philistines (Deuteronomy 2:23).
  • Joshua defeated Canaanites “even as far as Gaza” (Joshua 10:41).
  • Joshua eliminated the Anakites except in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod (Joshua 11:21-22). We recognized these cities as later belonging to the Philistines.
  • Gaza is listed as belonging to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:47; Judges 1:18).
  • The Midianites oppressed Israel, “as far as Gaza”, for seven years (Judges 6:4).
  • Samson had contact with the inhabitants of Gaza (Judges 16).
  • Gaza is listed as one of the five Philistine cities in the time of the Israelite Judges (1 Samuel 6:17).
  • Solomon controlled territory as far southwest as Gaza (1 Kings 4:24).
  • Hezekiah defeated the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory (2 Kings 18:8).
  • Jeremiah makes reference to Gaza being conquered by Pharaoh (Jeremiah 47:1).
  • The prophets of Judah pronounced judgments upon Gaza (Amos 1:6-7; Zephaniah 2:4; Zechariah 9:5).

The only New Testament reference to Gaza is in Acts 8:26. Philip the evangelist was instructed to go south on the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza. English translators struggle with the issue of whether the city was desert, or the road leading to the city ran through a desert area. (I will leave that for some other time.)

The first display one sees as he enters the archaeology wing of the Israel Museum is that of the anthropoid coffins from Deir el-Balah, a site south of Gaza city. The coffins, excavated by Trude Dothan in 1972, bear evidence of Egyptian influence. They date to the 13th century B.C.
Anthropoid Coffins from Deir el-Balah in the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Anthropoid Coffins from Deir el-Balah in the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Reprint from January 7, 2012.

July 4th at Lachish

In the previous post I mentioned that several former students and friends are participating in the dig at Tel Lachish this year.

Six years ago on this day I wrote about Lachish on July 4th, 1980. Since we have many more readers now I think it appropriate to re-post that entry here.

— • —

On July 4, 1980, I was participating in the excavation at Tel Lachish in Israel along with three of my colleagues from Florida College (James Hodges, Phil Roberts, and Harold Tabor). There were sizable numbers of participants from Israel, United States, Australia, South Africa, and Germany. In addition to the hard work out in the sun, we had some fun. On the morning of July 4th a few of the guys got an American flag and put together a drum and bugle corp and marched across the tel. Note especially the plastic bucket being used as a drum in this photo.

"Parade" at Tel Lachish, July 4, 1980

“Parade” at Tel Lachish, July 4, 1980

Lachish is identified with Tell ed-Duweir, located in the shephelah (lowlands) of Judah about 30 miles south west of Jerusalem. It is mentioned in Scripture during the period of the conquest (Joshua 10, 12, 15). Lachish served as one of the Judean store cities during the period of the kingdom Judah. Many of the LMLK jar handles have been found here. The city fell both to the Assyrians and the Babylonians.

Excavations were carried out by the British between 1932 and 1938 under the direction of J. L. Starkey. Starkey was murdered in 1938 while en route to the opening of the Palestine Archaeological Museum (later the Rockefeller Museum) in Jerusalem. Professor Yohanan Aharoni of Tel Aviv University excavated the “Solar Shrine” in 1966 and 1968. A new excavation was begun in 1973 under the auspices of The Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University and The Israel Exploration Society. Dr. David Ussishkin served as the director until 1994.

One afternoon while we were in our tented camp a short distance from the tel, a bus load of Arabs from Jordan arrived. They had once lived in the area, prior to the founding of the State of Israel. Some of the older men had worked with Starkey. This photo which I took shows four of the Arab men and three of the Israeli archaeologists, along with one American. See if you recognize Gabriel Barkay, Richard Whitaker, Adam Zertal, and David Ussishkin.

http://ferrelljenkins.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/lachish_arab-visit_07-1980-t.jpg?w=500

The Arab men enjoyed seeing the old photos from the Starkey excavations and pointing out themselves as much younger men. I think you will see Ussishkin’s head to the left of the Arab, and Barkay on the right.

http://ferrelljenkins.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/lachish_07-1980_arab-visit-photos-t.jpg?w=500

Update (July 6, 2008). Todd Bolen, at BiblePlaces.com has commented on this blog under the title Reminiscences of Lachish. He says he heard Gabriel Barkay tell about this event, but he includes some additional information that I did not know, including the name of the village where the Arabs previously lived.

The town of Qubeibe was leveled by the Israeli military in the 1960s and the stones of the village, probably many taken from the ruins of Lachish, were sold to building contractors.  Who knows but some ancient inscription was unknowing transferred from Lachish to Qubeibe and is now part of a wall in the area?

I recall that Richard Whitaker was the one best able to converse in Arabic.