Showing posts with label israel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label israel. Show all posts

Friday, June 29, 2012

More of Tel Dan Temple is Unearthed

Steps leading to the temple platform.

Discoveries continue at the northern Israel site of “Tel Dan” near Mount Hermon and the location of one of the region’s greatest ancient temples. Late Neolithic people first settled the area as early as 4500 BC, and Bronze Age inhabitants constructed the world’s oldest known gated archway.
According to Popular Archaeology:
Known today as Tell el-Qadi, more popularly as "Tel Dan", the site is located near Mount Hermon in Northern Israel adjacent to one of the sources of the Jordan River. The 'Tel', or mound, was defined very early on during the Middle Bronze period when massive defensive ramparts were constructed, encircling the city. 
It was first identified based on historical records as the city of Laish, a town allied with the Phoenician Sidonians and later renamed "Dan" after the early Isrealite tribe of Dan, which conquered and settled it as documented in the Book of Judges. 
Thanks to a bilingual Greek and Aramaic inscription found at the site in 1976, this city name has been confirmed. Translated, that inscription reads, “To the God who is in Dan, Zoilos made a vow.”
Ancient Egyptian texts and cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia document Dan’s significance during the second millennium BC.  Later, during the Iron Age, Aramaeans, Israelites, and Assyrians battled over the city. Dan was a recognized cultic center even into the Greco-Roman period.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ancient Israelites Worshipped Both God and His Wife

Asherah, or Ishtar, on 2nd millennium BC terracotta relief.

Findings that the ancient Israelites worshipped Asherah ~ the wife of Yahweh, the Israelites’ god ~ is gaining new prominence among biblical scholars. Accounts of Yahweh and Asherah are in the Old Testament’s Book of Kings.

The first historian to mention that the ancient Israelites worshiped both Yahweh and Asherah was Raphael Patai in 1967. The theory has gained new prominence due to the research of Francesca Stavrakopoulou, who began her work at Oxford and is now a senior lecturer in the department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter.

According to Discovery News:
"You might know him as Yahweh, Allah or God. But on this fact, Jews, Muslims and Christians, the people of the great Abrahamic religions, are agreed: There is only one of Him," writes Stavrakopoulou in a statement released to the British media. "He is a solitary figure, a single, universal creator, not one God among many ... or so we like to believe."
"After years of research specializing in the history and religion of Israel, however, I have come to a colorful and what could seem, to some, uncomfortable conclusion that God had a wife," she added.
Stavrakopoulou bases her theory on ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed primarily in the ancient Canaanite coastal city called Ugarit, now modern-day Syria. All of these artifacts reveal that Asherah was a powerful fertility goddess.

Asherah's connection to Yahweh, according to Stavrakopoulou, is spelled out in both the Bible and an 8th century B.C. inscription on pottery found in the Sinai desert at a site called Kuntillet Ajrud.

J. Edward Wright, president of both The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies and The Albright Institute for Archaeological Research, told Discovery News that he agrees several Hebrew inscriptions mention "Yahweh and his Asherah."
"Asherah was not entirely edited out of the Bible by its male editors," he added. "Traces of her remain, and based on those traces, archaeological evidence and references to her in texts from nations bordering Israel and Judah, we can reconstruct her role in the religions of the Southern Levant."
Asherah ~ known across the ancient Near East by various other names, such as Astarte and Istar ~ was "an important deity, one who was both mighty and nurturing," Wright continued.

Click here for the complete article.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Jericho Tower Purpose Linked to Dwindling Daylight

Section of ruins of Neolithic tower at Tel Jericho.

Two archaeologists from Tel Aviv University believe the purpose of the mysterious stone tower at Tel Jericho ~ one of the earliest stone monuments yet discovered in the human history ~ is linked to the summer solstice.

According to Live Science:
Now, after studying how the sun setting on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, interacted with the tower and the landscape around it, two archeologists from Tel Aviv University have concluded the 28-foot (8.5 meter) tower symbolized power and might.
"We suggest that the tower was built not just as a marker or a time-keeping device, but as a guardian against the dangers present in the darkness cast by a dying sun's last rays of light," write the researchers, Roy Liran and Ran Barkai, in the journal Antiquity. (After the summer solstice, the nights begin to grow longer.)
Their reconstruction revealed that, as the solstice sun set, the shadow of a hill to the west fell exactly on the Jericho tower before covering the village, suggesting the monument and the start of longer nights were linked.
The tower was built approximately 11,000 years ago as hunter-gatherer society in the region was moving toward an agricultural society.

"This was a time when hierarchy began and leadership was established," Barkai told the Jerusalem Post. "We believe this tower was one of the mechanisms to motivate people to take part in a communal lifestyle."

Click here for the Live Science article.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

King Herod's Private Theater Box is Located

Frescos found in the once-extravagant theater in Herod's palace.

Archaeologists in the Judean desert have excavated a lavish, private theater box in King Herod's winter palace. The room provides further proof of Herod’s thirst for extravagance, say the archaeologists from Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Herod was ruler of the Holy Land under Roman occupation from 37 to 4 B.C. He is known for his extensive building throughout the area, including the 400-seat theater where his private box was found.

Herod commissioned Roman artists to decorate the theater walls with elaborate paintings and plaster moldings around 15 B.C. Upper portions feature paintings of windows overlooking a river and a seascape with a large sailboat.

Click here for the Associated Press article.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pagan Altar Found in Ashqelon

A 24-inch-high, 2,000-year-old granite structure ~ adorned with carvings of three bull heads, ribbons, and laurel wreaths ~ was found last week in the southern Israel city of Ashqelon.

One of the oldest port cities in the Holy Land, Ashqelon may have been inhabited as early as the Neolithic period, which began around 9,500 B.C. The cemetery where the altar was found served Ashqelon's general pagan population.

The newfound altar was probably imported to the city from elsewhere in the Roman Empire by an upper-middle-class family and placed at their family burial plot. The altar's bulls’ heads probably represented the god Zeus, authorities believe.

Click here for the National Geographic article.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Jesus-Era Dwelling Unearthed in Nazareth

A priest examines the excavation of the 2,000-year-old dwelling.

Archaeologists yesterday unveiled the first dwelling in Nazareth dating to the era of Jesus. At the time Jesus is believed to have lived, Nazareth was a hamlet of around 50 impoverished Jewish families. Today the ornate Basilica of the Annunciation marks the site, and Nazareth is the largest Arab city in northern Israel, with about 65,000 residents.

Two thousand years ago there were no Christians or Muslims ~ the Jewish Temple stood in Jerusalem ~ and tiny Nazareth stood near a battleground between Roman rulers and Jewish guerrillas. The Jews of Nazareth duggrottos to hide from Roman invaders, said archaeologist Yardena Alexandre, excavations director at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

According to the Associated Press:

Based on clay and chalk shards found at the site, the dwelling appeared to house a "simple Jewish family," Alexandre added, as workers carefully chipped away at mud with small pickaxes to reveal stone walls.

"This may well have been a place that Jesus and his contemporaries were familiar with," Alexandre said. A young Jesus may have played around the house with his cousins and friends. "It's a logical suggestion."

Archaeologist Stephen Pfann, president of the University of The Holy Land, noted: "It's the only witness that we have from that area that shows us what the walls and floors were like inside Nazareth in the first century."

Alexandre said workers uncovered the first signs of the dwelling last summer, but it became clear only this month that it was a structure from the days of Jesus.

Alexandre's team found remains of a wall, a hideout, a courtyard and a water system that appeared to collect water from the roof and supply it to the home. The discovery was made when builders dug up the courtyard of a former convent to make room for a new Christian center, just yards from the Basilica.

It is not clear how big the dwelling is. Alexandre's team has uncovered about 900 square feet of the house, but it may have been for an extended family and could be much larger, she said.

Click here for the Associated Press article.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Stone Mug Bears Mysterious Script

The stone mug with its inexplicable carvings.

Ten lines of script carved into a 2,000-year-old stone mug found on Mount Zion are mystifying archaeologists, who believe the inscription may provide details about ancient Jewish life.

"These were common stone mugs that appear in all Jewish households" of the time, lead excavator Shimon Gibson of the University of North Carolina told National Geographic. "But this is the first time an inscription has been found on a stone vessel."

According to National Geographic:

Working on historic Mount Zion ~ site of King David's tomb and the Last Supper ~ the archaeologists found the cup near a ritual pool this summer. The dig site is in what had been an elite residential area near the palace of King Herod the Great, who ruled Israel shortly before the birth of Jesus.

From the objects that surrounded it, Gibson determined that the cup dated from some time between 37 B.C. and A.D. 70, when the Romans nearly destroyed Jerusalem after a Jewish revolt.

Such stone mugs were popular among Jews at the time because of the culture's purity rules. According to tradition, a pottery cup that had been contaminated by contact with a forbidden food had to be broken and discarded, according to National Geographic.

Click here for the National Geographic article.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Early Depiction of Menorah is Discovered

The seven-branched menorah is carved at the base of this stone.

Israeli archaeologists have uncovered one of the earliest depictions of a menorah ~ the seven-branched candelabra that has come to symbolize Judaism ~ in a 2,000-year-old synagogue recently discovered by the Sea of Galilee.

The synagogue dates to the period of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem, where the actual menorah was kept. A small number of depictions of the menorah have surfaced from the same period, according to the Associated Press, but this one was unique because it was inside a synagogue and far from Jerusalem, illustrating the link between Jews around Jerusalem and in the Galilee to the north.

The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by Roman legions in 70 A.D. Most other depictions of the menorah were made only after the temple's destruction, and if this finding is indeed earlier it could be closer to the original, said Aren Maeir, an archaeology professor at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

"If you have a depiction of the menorah from the time of the temple, chances are it is more accurate and portrays the actual object than portrayals from after the destruction of the temple, when it was not existent," he said.

The menorah, depicted atop a pedestal with a triangular base, is carved on a stone which was placed in the synagogue's central hall.

Click here for the Associated Press article.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ancient Egyptian Fragment Points to Israel Ties

English and Israeli archeologists have discovered a rare, four-centimeter-long stone fragment at the point where the Jordan River exits Lake Kinneret. The piece ~ part of a carved stone plaque bearing archaic Egyptian signs ~ depicts an arm and hand grasping a scepter and an early form of the ankh sign.

It is the first artifact of its type ever found in an archaeological site outside Egypt and has been attributed to the period of Egypt's First Dynasty, at around 3000 BC.

Earlier discoveries, both in Egypt and at Bet Yerah, have indicated that there was direct interaction between the Israel site and the Egyptian royal court. The new discovery suggests that these contacts were of far greater local significance than had been suspected.

Click here for the Jerusalem Post article.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Remains of Aphrodite Cult Are Found

Remains of an ancient cult that worshipped the love goddess Aphrodite have been unearthed in the southern Golan Heights.

Archaeologists there have discovered a cache of three figurines of Aphrodite ~ whom the Romans called Venus ~ dating back about 1,500 years. The figurines, made of clay, are about 30 centimeters tall. They depict the nude goddess standing, with her right hand covering her private parts ~ a type of statue scholars refer to as "modest Venus."

According to Greek mythology, Aphrodite was born of the ocean foam at the place where the testicles of the Titan Uranus were cast into the sea by his son Cronus, who castrated him. According to another story, she is the daughter of Zeus, king of the gods. Aphrodite was a popular goddess, represented in statues all over the Greek and Roman world. The best known of these is is the Venus de Milo, on display at the Louvre.

"Aphrodite was the goddess of love, but also the goddess of fertility and childbirth," Professor Arthur Segal of the University of Haifa told

"Pregnant woman hoping for a safe birth would sacrifice to her, as would young girls hoping for love. Mainly, flowers, rather than animals, would be sacrificed to Aphrodite,” he said. “The figurines we found were made in a mold in rather large numbers. They would be offered to the goddess in a temple by supplicants, or kept above one's bed."

Click here for the complete article.
Photo shows a similar Aphrodite statue in the "modest Venus" pose.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Huge Manmade Cavern Found in Jordan Valley

Archaeologists explore the one-acre former Christian hideout.

A 2,000-year-old underground chamber recently discovered in the Jordan Valley is being called the largest human-made cave in Israel. The one-acre space likely began as a quarry but later may have served as a monastery, hideout for persecuted Christians, or Roman army base, experts say.

Archaeologists found the cave in March. As they were about to enter, two Bedouins appeared and warned that hyenas and wolves inhabited the cave. But team leader Adam Zertal told National Geographic that once underground "our eyes opened to see something unimaginable."

The archaeologists peered into a huge hall lined with 22 thick pillars—giving the "impression of a palace," added Zertal, of the University of Haifa in Israel. "We didn't have much light ~ it was complete darkness ~ but even with the torches, we saw how glorious it looks."

Etched into those columns were 31 Christian crosses, Roman letters, a Zodiac sign, and what looks like the Roman army's pennant ~ all of which surprised the researchers.

"It surely was not just a quarry," Zertal said.

Around the first century B.C. and the first century A.D., when the chamber's creation likely began, the Roman-appointed King Herod the Great, who ruled the region from 37 to 4 B.C., had returned from Rome with plans to develop the Jordan Valley.

Click here for the National Geographic article.
Click here for several more photos of the cave.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ancient Jar Handle Bears Hebrew Script

A section of the jar handle with its ancient inscription.

Archaeologists have uncovered a nearly 3,000-year-old jar handle bearing ancient Hebrew script. It was found on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives and is significantly older than most inscribed artifacts unearthed in the ancient city.

The Iron Age handle is inscribed with the Hebrew name Menachem, the name of an Israelite king, as well as a partly intact letter, the Hebrew character "lamed," meaning "to." That suggests the jar was a gift to someone named Menachem, said Ron Beeri, who directed the excavation for the Israel Antiquities Authority.

"It's important because it shows that they actually used the name Menachem during that period," Beeri said. "It's not just from the Bible, but it's also in the archaeological record."

Based on the style of the inscription, he dated the handle to around 900 B.C., the time of the first Jewish Temple in Jerusalem as recounted in the Bible. The vessel the handle was attached to did not survive, so it is impossible to tell what it was used for. Similar vessels were known to have held products like oil or wheat.

Click here for the Associated Press article.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Foot-Shaped Enclosures Symbolized Ownership

One of the sites with a foot-shaped enclosure in the Jordan Valley.

Five archaeological sites surrounded by foot-shaped enclosures are now believed to be among the earliest sites built in Israel, with the odd foot-shaped layout symbolizing ownership of the land.

According to ScienceDaily:

"The 'foot' structures that we found in the Jordan valley are the first sites that the People of Israel built upon entering Canaan and they testify to the biblical concept of ownership of the land with the foot," said archaeologist Prof. Adam Zertal of the University of Haifa, who headed the excavating team that exposed five compounds in the shape of an enormous foot.

The sites are believed to date back to the Iron Age I, around the 13th century BC. Based on their size and shape, it appears they were used for human assembly and not for animals.

Zertal told ScienceDaily that the "foot" held much significance as a symbol of ownership of territory, control over an enemy, connection between people and land, and presence of a deity. Some of these concepts are mentioned in ancient Egyptian literature. The Bible also has a wealth of references to the importance of the "foot" as a symbol of ownership, the link between people and their deity, defeating the enemy 'underfoot', and the temple imaged as a foot.

Click here for the complete ScienceDaily article.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More Evidence of David's Battle with Goliath

David and Goliath by Osmar Schindler, 1888.

The discovery of a second fortified gate at the Elah Fortress near Bet Shemesh, Israel, may be evidence of the Biblical battle between young David and the giant Goliath.

The Bible describes David as battling Goliath in the Elah Valley near Sha'arayim, which means "two gates" in Hebrew, said Hebrew University archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel. "All the sites from this period uncovered so far had only one gate. We have two gates and this is very unusual."

The gate, constructed of stones weighing up to ten tons, is located on the site's eastern side, facing Jerusalem.

The discovery is the second recent find to be made at the Elah Fortress. In October, Garfinkel revealed a 3,000-year-old pottery shard with text believed to be Hebrew—then hailed as the most important archaeological discovery in Israel since the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The fortress is the first site found from the Iron Age in what was once territory controlled by King David. "Everything comes together—the geography, the Bible, and the radiometric dating. It's no coincidence," Garfinkel said.

Click here for the complete National Geographic article.

The massive second gate at the ancient Israeli fortress, indicating it may be the Biblical Sha'arayim, where David battled Goliath.

Aerial view of the Elah Fortress, where artifacts are being unearthed dating back to the presumed time of King David.