Biblical Archaeology

Was One of Jerusalem’s Greatest Archaeological Mysteries Solved?

Leen Ritmeyer reports:

Today the Israel Antiquities Authority announced:

A fascinating discovery recently uncovered in archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting in the Givati parking lot at the City of David, in the Jerusalem Walls National Park, has apparently led to solving one of Jerusalem’s greatest archaeological mysteries: the question of the location of the Greek (Seleucid) Acra–the famous stronghold built by Antiochus IV in order to control Jerusalem and monitor activity in the Temple which was eventually liberated by the Hasmoneans from Greek rule…

Read on here.

 

Bible Archaeology

Ancient Winery Discovered in Central Israel Region During Storm

Large 1,500-year-old winepress unearthed in area once known for wine production.

In the Jerusalem Post:

Israel antique winepress

A large, well-preserved 1,500-year-old winery has been exposed during a violent storm in the Sharon Plain region, located between the Mediterranean Sea and Samarian Hills, the Antiquities Authority announced Monday.

According to IAA archeologist Alla Nagorski, the discovery was made off the Eyal Interchange several weeks ago when flooding and hail disrupted an excavation at the site, where natural gas lines are scheduled to be embedded.

The northern part of the Sharon Plain is considered the most historical wine region in Israel, and is where the first roots of Israeli wine were planted in modern times.

When water was pumped from the site, Nagorski said the well-preserved winery was found. She described it as impressive and rare.

“It is evident that great thought was invested in the engineering and construction,” she said. “The wine press is huge – 3 meters in diameter and 2 meters deep, and could accommodate 20 cubic meters of wine.”

More here.

 

Church

Where Did Jesus Turn Water into Wine?

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”

 —John 2:1-4

Bible History Today:cana-of-galilee

Jesus’ first miracle was performed in Cana of Galilee. When the wedding party in Cana ran out of wine, Jesus commanded the servants to fill up six stone jars with water. After he is offered a cup from one of the jars, the chief steward of the wedding discovers that he is drinking wine (John 2:1–11).

Where did Jesus turn water into wine? Where is Cana of Galilee? There are at least five candidates for Cana in the Bible, but, according to archaeologist Tom McCollough in “Searching for Cana: Where Jesus Turned Water into Wine” in the November/December 2015 issue of BAR, only one site offers the most compelling evidence…

More on that site here.

Bible Archaeology

Ancient Rural Town Uncovered in Israel

On the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Main Entry Image

… archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 2,300-year-old rural village that dates back to the Second Temple period, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced.

Trenches covering some 8,000 square feet (750 square meters) revealed narrow alleys and a few single-family stone houses, each containing several rooms and an open courtyard. Among the ruins, archaeologists also found dozens of coins, cooking pots, milling tools and jars for storing oil and wine.

“The rooms generally served as residential and storage rooms, while domestic tasks were carried out in the courtyards,” Irina Zilberbod, the excavation director for the IAA, explained in a statement.

Archaeologists don’t know what the town would have been called in ancient times, but it sits near the legendary Burma Road, a route that allowed supplies and food to flow into Jerusalem during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The rural village located on a ridge with a clear view of the surrounding countryside, and people inhabiting the region during the Second Temple period likely cultivated orchards and vineyards to make a living, IAA officials said.

The Second Temple period (538 B.C. to A.D. 70) refers to the lifetime of the Jewish temple that was built on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount to replace the First Temple after it was destroyed. Archaeological evidence suggests this provincial village hit its peak during the third century B.C., when Judea was under the control of the Seleucid monarchy after the breakup of Alexander the Great’s empire. Residents seem to have abandoned the town at the end of the Hasmonean dynasty — when Herod the Great came into power in 37 B.C. — perhaps to chase better job opportunities in the city amid an economic downturn.

“The phenomenon of villages and farms being abandoned at the end of the Hasmonean dynasty or the beginning of Herod the Great’s succeeding rule is one that we are familiar with from many rural sites in Judea,” archaeologist Yuval Baruch explained in a statement. “And it may be related to Herod’s massive building projects in Jerusalem, particularly the construction of the Temple Mount, and the mass migration of villagers to the capital to work on these projects.”

The discovery was made during a salvage excavation ahead of a construction project that began last year; a 21-mile-long (35 kilometers) gas pipeline was supposed to run through the site, but engineering plans were revised to go around the ruins, IAA officials said. Salvage excavations are common in Israel to avoid building over ancient sites. For instance, remarkably well-preserved Byzantine church mosaics were recently revealed ahead of the construction of a park, and an ancient Roman road connecting Jerusalem to Jaffa was uncovered ahead of the installation of a drainage pipe.

 

Bible Archaeology

Ancient Church Mosaic With Symbol of Jesus Uncovered in Israel

Another magnificent archaeological discovery uncovered in the Holy Land:

Archaeologists in Israel have uncovered intricate mosaics on the floor of a 1,500-year-old Byzantine church, including one that bears a Christogram surrounded by birds.

The ruins were discovered during a salvage excavation ahead of a construction project in Aluma, a village about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Tel Aviv, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced Wednesday (Jan. 22). Excavator Davida Eisenberg Degen said the team used an industrial digger to probe a mound at the site, and through a 10-foot (3 meters) hole, they could see the white tiles of an ancient mosaic.

Much of the church was revealed during excavations over the past month. The basilica was part of a local Byzantine settlement, but the archaeologists suspect it also served as a center of Christian worship for neighboring communities because it was next to the main road running between the ancient seaport city of Ashkelon in the west and Beit Guvrin and Jerusalem in the east. [See Images of a Byzantine Mosaic Discovered in Israel]

“Usually a Byzantine village had a church, but the size of this church and its placement on the road makes it more important,” Degen told LiveScience.

Remarkable finds

The excavators plan to keep working on the site for another week, but one of the most remarkable finds so far was a mosaic containing a Christogram, or a “type of monogram of the name of Jesus,” Degen said.

At the time, Byzantine Christians wouldn’t have put crosses on their mosaic floors so as to not step on the symbol of Christ, Degen explained. The Christogram in the mosaic may look like a cross, but it’s actually more like a “chi rho” symbol, which puts together the first two captial letters in the Greek word for Christ, and often looks like an X superimposed on a P. There is an alpha and omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet) on either side of the chi rho, which is another Christian symbol, as Christ was often described as the “”the beginning and the end.” Four birds also decorate the mosaic, and two of them are holding up a wreath to the top of the chi rho.

Inside the 72-by-39-foot (22-by-12-meter) basilica, archaeologists also found marble pillars and an open courtyard paved with a white mosaic floor, said Daniel Varga, director of the IAA’s excavations.

Just off the courtyard, in the church’s narthex, or lobby area, there is “a fine mosaic floor decorated with colored geometric designs” as well as a “twelve-row dedicatory inscription in Greek containing the names ‘Mary’ and ‘Jesus’, and the name of the person who funded the mosaic’s construction,” Varga said in a statement.

The mosaics in the main hall, or nave, meanwhile, are decorated with vine tendrils in the shape of 40 medallions, one of which contains the Christogram. Many of the other medallions contain botanical designs and animals such as a zebras, peacocks, leopards and wild boars, the excavators said. Three contain inscriptions commemorating two heads of the local regional church named Demetrios and Herakles.

Other discoveries

The archaeologists found traces of later occupation on top of the church, including early Islamic walls and Ottoman garbage pits. (Aluma is located near the Ottoman and later Palestinian village of Hatta.) The excavations also revealed Byzantine glass vessels and a pottery workshop for making amphoras, cooking pots, kraters, bowls and oil lamps, IAA officials said.

To avoid building over ancient sites, archaeologists are often brought in for salvage digs ahead of construction projects like this one, sometimes yielding stunning discoveries; for instance, a “cultic” temple and traces of a 10,000-year-old house were discovered at Eshtaol west of Jerusalem in preparation for the widening of a road. And during recent expansions of the main road connecting Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, called Highway 1, excavators found a carving of a phallus from the Stone Age, a ritual building from the First Temple era and animal figurines dating back 9,500 years.

Regarding the new discoveries, the IAA plans to remove the mosaic for display at a regional museum or visitors’ center, and the rest of the site will be covered back up.

Haaretz also has the news with more pics:

Archaeological finds in Lachish

The IAA press release on the find is here.

 

Bible Archaeology

The Archaeological Survey of Israel

Which is a fantastic archaeological site by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Dr Aren Maeir (HT) notes:

Dr. Ofer Sion, who is the head of the survey department at the IAA, sent out an email today from which I first saw the excellent website of the Archaeological Survey of Israel. On this site (here is the Hebrew version and here is the English one [which is still listed as a beta version]), you can get online versions of 83 survey maps that have been published so far, including those that were published in hard and electronic forms. There are maps, photos, pottery plates, and most important, accessible summaries, and hard data, from all these maps.

Do check this out – it is an outstanding resource!

That it is! Enjoy.