Category Archives: Israel

Byzantine compound discovered during construction

Many significant archaeological discoveries are made during construction. This can be private construction, road work, improvement of water or gas lines, or large construction projects.

The most recent announcement comes from the area of Beth Shemesh (Bet Shemesh, Beit Shemesh). The Israel Antiquities Authority released the following information Thursday.

An archaeological survey conducted on foot along the hills south of Bet Shemesh brought to light remarkable finds. During the survey blocked cisterns, a cave opening and the tops of several walls were visible on the surface. These clues to the world hidden underground resulted in an extensive archaeological excavation there that exposed prosperous life dating to the Byzantine period which was previously unknown.

The compound is surrounded by an outer wall and is divided on the inside into two regions: an industrial area and an activity and residential area. An unusually large press in a rare state of preservation that was used to produce olive oil was exposed in the industrial area. A large winepress revealed outside the built compound consisted of two treading floors from which the grape must flowed to a large collecting vat. The finds revealed in the excavation indicate the local residents were engaged in wine and olive oil production for their livelihood. The impressive size of the agricultural installations shows that these facilities were used for production on an industrial-scale rather than just for domestic use. In the residential portion of the compound several rooms were exposed, some of which had a mosaic pavement preserved in them. Part of a colorful mosaic was exposed in one room where there was apparently a staircase that led to a second floor that was not preserved. In the adjacent room another multi-colored mosaic was preserved that was adorned with a cluster of grapes surrounded by flowers set within a geometric frame. Two entire ovens used for baking were also exposed in the compound.

The directors of the excavation believe the site is a monastery from the Byzantine period. The photo below provides an aerial view of the complex.

Byzantine compound near Ramat Bet Shemesh. Photo: Griffin Aerial Photography, IAA.

Byzantine compound near Ramat Bet Shemesh. Photo: Griffin Aerial Photography, IAA.

Based on the driving instructions provided by the IAA, I can show you the general area. My photo was made from the top of Tel Azekah. The road below the tel runs across the Valley of Elah. In the distant left you will see a white area on the hill with high-rise apartments under construction. The discovery was made near this large construction area. Left of the construction, Tel Yarmuth (Jarmuth, Joshua 10:3, 5, 23; 12:11; 15:35) rises above the trees. Khirbet Qeiyafa is on the hill in the right of the photo.

View from Azekah toward Bet Shemesh and Tell Yarmuth (Jarmuth). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View from Azekah toward Ramat Bet Shemesh and Tel Yarmuth (Jarmuth). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, made May 4, 2013.

The next photo is a zoom shot of the construction area in May, 2013, from Tel Azekah. Tel Yarmuth is just off the left of the photo, as well as the town of Ramat Bet Shemesh.

The construction area from Azekah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The construction area from Azekah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation has been concerned about this new community and its possible encroachment upon the site. Luke Chandler reported on the threat here.

 

The Route of the Exodus and the Location of Mount Sinai

Over the past 48 years I have had the opportunity to visit almost all parts of the Bible World. I certainly have not solved all of the problems that are raised about locations of certain events, but I have tried to look at the major claims whether it is the location of Cana, the site for the baptism of Jesus, the place of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, the location of Ararat, or the route of the exodus and the location of Mount Sinai, et al.

In this post I have pulled together a list of some things I have written about the route of the Exodus and the location of Mount Sinai. I hope you will find the posts helpful when you study this subject.

  • Pharaoh’s chariot wheels and other things that won’t float – Examining the claims of the late Ron Wyatt here.
  • Location of the Red Sea crossing and Mount Sinai here.
  • Location of Mount Sinai here.
  • Solomon’s Seaport at Ezion-geber here.
  • Sharks at Sharm el-Sheikh in the Sinai here. Sharm el-Sheikh is at the Straits of Tiran.
  • “Cracked Pot Archaeology” here.
  • Pseudo Archaeologists here.
  • Goshen and the Great Bitter Lake here.
  • Another day in Goshen here.

Below are a couple of photos that show the changing scenery that one sees in the Sinai Peninsula.

Sinai Peninsula near the Gulf of Eilat or Aqaba. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sinai Peninsula near the Gulf of Eilat or Aqaba. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Read some scholarly presentations on the subject. Such as these recent Bible atlases.

  • Beitzel, Barry J. The New Moody Atlas of the Bible, 106-114.
  • Currid, John D. and David P. Barrett. Crossway ESV Bible Atlas, 77-91.
  • Rasmussen, Carl G. Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, 100-105.
Wadi Feiran in the Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wadi Feiran in the Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Or books such as…

  • Hoffmeier, James K. Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition, chs. 8-9.

The Associates for Biblical Research includes several articles about the Exodus at their website here.

  • Is Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia? here.
  • Mount Sinai is Not Jebel Al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia here.

I am hopeful you will browse through this material and remember to examine it more closely the next time you study Exodus.

London and the British Museum

We finally reached the third of the big three museums with Ancient Near Eastern collections that we had planned to visit. We spent large portions of two days in the museum. The museum is open every day of the week. Closing time is 5:30 p.m. every day except Friday when the time is 8:30 p.m. There is no required entry fee, but a request is made for a £5 (about $8.50) or more donation.

I have emphasized the crowds in the Pergamum Museum, and the Louvre. The same was true in the British Museum. The photo below was made a few years ago at the end of September. Once school is in session one should be able to find times without hugh crowds. Many galleries have natural light that comes in. Some photos are better with the natural light and others are better with the artificial light, depending on the glare on the case.

British Museum entrance on Great Russel Street, London. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

British Museum entrance on Great Russell Street, London. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The British Museum was founded in 1753 to house the collection of Sir Hans Sloane which had been left to the nation. It is now among the greatest museums of the world.

Each of the big three museums has a specialty depending on the areas where the country has done archaeological work. The Pergamum museum is loaded with material from Mesopotamia and Turkey. The Louvre has a fabulous collection from the Levant, especially Syria, and Iran (Persia). The British Museum is big on the Levant, Egypt and Mesopotamia. All three have nice Roman and Greek galleries.

I knew that the Cyrus Cylinder had been part of a traveling exhibit for a few years. When we got near the Ancient Iran Room I told my wife that I would make a quick run to see what was there. I was delighted to see the Cyrus Cylinder prominently displayed.

Cyrus Cylinder in the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cyrus Cylinder in the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Cyrus Cylinder is important to Bible students because Cyrus is the Persian king who allowed the Judeans to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:  “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up.’” (2 Chronicles 36:22-23 ESV; cf. Ezra 1:1-4).

Some artifacts that I had expected to see were not on display. Cases are changed and artifacts are moved around. Sometimes there will be a sign saying that the items is on loan, being photographed, or studied. In other instances there is no reference to the removed item. One significant item that I missed seeing in its usual place is the Babylonian Chronicle that gives the date of the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem in 597 B.C. Another missing item was the Standard of Ur.

A BBC report says that the 80,000 artifacts displayed in the British Museum amount to only 1% of the artifacts held by the Museum. On several occasions I have made inquiry about an artifact and been given a time when someone would be available to show it to me.

The British Museum web site provides information about planning a visit, and it also includes an online collection with photos.

Paris and the Louvre

Paris is known as the City of Light. From the roof of our hotel in the St. Michel area we could see some of the significant monuments. This photo, made without tripod, shows the Eiffel Tower. I think the building to the left is the Hotel des Invalides which among other things is the burial site of Napoleon Bonaparte. The building to the right is St. Germain des Prés. In the opposite direction from the hotel we had a nice view of the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

Paris at Night. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Paris at Night. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We were able to spend two of our Paris days in the Louvre. This museum displays excellent collections of archaeological artifacts from Mesopotamia, Persia (Iran), the Levant (Syria, Jordan, some sites of the current West Bank), Greece, and Rome. There is an Egyptian collection, but I do not find it as satisfactory as the other collections.

The Louvre is always closed on Tuesday and certain rooms may be closed on other days, or a half day. Years ago I learned to have two or three days in Paris in order to be able to visit all of the galleries I wanted to see. Yes, we saw the Mona Lisa, too.

The lines to get tickets for the Louvre are long. The photo below shows two of the six or more places to buy tickets, in addition to automated machines, under the great pyramid. It is best to buy tickets online or from one of the shops such as the Tourism office near the Opera. Tickets are about $20.00 per person for each day of entry. Those with tickets are able to enter through a short line while long lines wait outside just to get into the building to wait in line to buy tickets. The Museum web site explains about advance tickets under “Plan Your Visit” here.

One of the ticket lines at the Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

One of the ticket lines inside the Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There were large crowds in the Louvre. Some galleries attract guides with tour groups. It’s fun to watch. The guide is nearly running with an umbrella or flag. The tourists are trying to keep up, but snapping their cameras or cell phones at busts they probably will not be able to identify once they are at home. I saw a young lady making a photo of the Roman Diana. I assume she had been at Disneyland Paris a day or two earlier. She did a nice job of composing her photo. When I saw her later and noted that she was a young teenager I was impressed that she wanted to visit the Louvre.

Euro Disney one day; the Louvre the next day. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Euro Disney one day; the Louvre the next day. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I have been to China, but I think most of the citizens have come to Berlin, Paris, and London to visit the museums.

Photography is permitted in the Louvre. I even made a few shots using flash when I thought it would not damage the artifact. None of the guards seemed to object. Items behind glass always create a problem for photographers. By visiting the museum two days I was able to check the first photos to be sure they were sharp. On the second day I was able to remake some of those that were not good.

Small awl may provide evidence of the earliest use of metal in Middle East

Copper awl.

The ancient awl. Estimated to be from the end of the sixth or the beginning of the fifth millennium BCE. Photo: Yosef Garfinkel.

The following report is a press notice released by Media Relations of Haifa University, Thursday, August 21, 2014.

An awl-inspiring find at Tel Tsaf: The oldest metal object found to date in the Middle East

According to Dr. Danny Rosenberg of the University of Haifa’s Zinman Institute of Archaeology, the copper awl is a unique and very rare artifact, whose discovery, along with other items during the excavations at Tel Tsaf in the Jordan Valley, indicates that the site was an ancient international commercial center.

A copper awl, the oldest metal object found to date in the Middle East, was discovered during the excavations at Tel Tsaf, according to a recent study published by researchers from the Zinman Institute of Archaeology and the Department of archaeology at the University of Haifa , in conjunction with researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the German Archaeological Institute of Berlin. According to the study, which appeared in the prestigious journal PLOS One, the awl dates back to the late 6th millennium or the early 5th millennium BCE, moving back by several hundred years the date it was previously thought that the peoples of the region began to use metals.

Tel Tsaf, a Middle Chalcolithic village dated to about 5200-4600 BCE, is located near the Jordan River and the international border with Jordan. The site was first documented in the 1950s and excavations there began at the end of the 1970s. From the earliest digs nearly 40 years ago, this area, the most important archaeological site in the region dated to this period, has been supplying researchers with a great deal of valuable data, and continues to do so during this latest research project led by Dr. Danny Rosenberg of the University of Haifa in conjunction with Dr. Florian Klimscha of the Eurasia Department of the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin. For example, the researchers learned of the communites great wealth and the long-distance commercial ties it maintained from the large buildings made of mud-bricks and the large number of silos in which wheat and barley were stored on an unprecedented scale. There were many roasting ovens in the courtyards, all filled with burnt animal bones testifying to the holding of large events and many other findings, among them items made of obsidian (a volcanic glass with origins in Anatolia or Armenia), shells from the Nile River in Egypt and other areas around the Mediterranean, figurines of people and animals, and pottery unlike that found in almost any other location in the region.

But the most important finding to date is only 4 centimeters long. This unique item, a copper awl, which is 1 millimeter thick at the tip that was set in a wooden handle, was actually found during a previous excavation at the site by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel of the Hebrew University. The cone-shaped awl was found in a sealed grave of a woman about 40 years old that was dug inside a silo, and around her waist was a belt made of 1,668 ostrich-egg shell beads. The grave was covered with several large stones, and according to Dr. Rosenberg, its location within a silo testifies to both the importance of the deceased and the importance the community ascribed to the facility in which she was buried.

But while the grave, the woman’s skeleton, and the beaded belt were all previously reported in scientific journals, the little awl was only reported on recently, after its chemical components were analyzed by Prof. Sariel Shalev of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Haifa. As noted, the awl was found to made of copper, and according to Dr. Rosenberg, the fact that it was found just above the skeleton ad in a sealed grave, meant that it was buried with the woman, apparently as a burial offering, and may have belonged to her.

This artifact is important because until now, researchers believed that area residents began to use metals only in the Late Chalcolithic period (during the second half of the 5th millennium BCE, so that this finding moves back the appearance of metal in our region by several hundred years. This has significant impact on our understanding of the developing use of complex technologies and the related social contexts.

But this is not the only reason the awl is significant. The chemical examination of the metal shows it may have come from the Caucasus, some 1,000 kilometers from Tel Tsaf. According to Dr. Rosenberg, while the long-distance commercial ties maintained by village communities in our region were already known from even earlier periods, the import of a new technology combined with the processing of a new raw material coming from such a distant location is unique to Tel Tsaf and provides additional evidence of the importance of this site in the ancient world.

The researchers are still not sure what the awl was used for, but the early use of a metal object, as well as its distant source, also testify to the high social status of the woman and the importance of the building she was buried in.

The appearance of the item in a woman’s grave, which represents one of the most elaborate burials we’ve seen in our region from that era, testifies to both the importance of the awl and the importance of the woman, and its possible that we are seeing here the first indications of social hierarchy and complexity, said Dr. Rosenberg. However, in this area far more is unknown than is known, and although the discovery of the awl at Tel Tsaf constitutes evidence of a peak of technological development among the peoples of the region and is a discovery of global importance, there’s a lot of progress still to be made and many parts of the wider picture are still unknown to us”.

It seems that at least some of the questions raised by this unique item will be answered by an interdisciplinary research project we have been conducting at the site since last year, Dr. Rosenberg continued. This project integrates multi-national archaeologists and researchers from a variety of other scientific disciplines, who will address the even more complex questions that will undoubtedly arise.

HT: Joseph Lauer

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.