Fr Stephen Smuts

Posts Tagged ‘Jerusalem

Was One of Jerusalem’s Greatest Archaeological Mysteries Solved?

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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.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

November 3, 2015 at 18:24

Seal from Time of David Discovered in Temple Mount Debris

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A rare cone-shaped stone seal dating to the 10th century BCE – the time of the Biblical kings, David & Solomon. This is the first seal of its kind found in Jerusalem

This is a fine discovery. As reported over on the Bible Places Blog:

Archaeologists have been sifting debris discarded from illegal excavations on the Temple Mount for more than a decade now. Yesterday they announced the discovery of a seal dating to the 10th century BC. From a press release from the Temple Mount Sifting Project:

“The seal is the first of its kind to be found in Jerusalem,” stated Dr. Gabriel Barkay, the co-founder and director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project. “The dating of the seal corresponds to the historical period of the Jebusites and the conquest of Jerusalem by King David, as well as the construction of the Temple and the royal official compound by his son, King Solomon… What makes this discovery particularly significant is that it originated from upon the Temple Mount itself.”

The seal was discovered by Matvei Tcepliaev, a ten year old boy, visiting the Temple Mount Sifting Project from Russia, and was only recently deciphered by archeologists. Since the project’s inception in 2004, more than 170,000 volunteers from Israel and around the world have taken part in the sifting, representing an unprecedented phenomenon in the realm of archaeological research.


“The discovery of the seal testifies to the administrative activity which took place upon the Temple Mount during those times,” said Barkay. “All the parallel seals with similar stylistic designs have been found at sites in Israel, among them Tel Beit Shemesh, Tel Gezer, and Tel Rehov, and were dated to the 11th – 10th centuries BCE,” asserted Barkay.

“Upon the base of the seal appear the images of two animals, one on top of the other, perhaps representing a predator and its prey. Additionally, the seal is perforated, thus enabling one to hang it from a string,” said Barkay.

Aside from the seal, which was likely used to seal documents, hundreds of pottery sherds dating to the 10th century BCE have been discovered within the soil removed from the Temple Mount. Additionally, a rare arrowhead made of bronze and ascribed to the same period by its features, has been discovered.

The press release includes photos of the seal and other finds from the same period. The organization recently released a video which documents the success of the project in a bid to raise additional funds.

It’s so sad that this archaeological destruction has taken place on the Temple Mount, and that systematic archaeological excavations are simply not possible. Instead, archaeologist are forced to sift through the rubble for finds such as these.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

September 26, 2015 at 11:54

Hoard of Jewish Revolt Coins Discovered Near Jerusalem

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The World of the Bible:

On the outskirts of Jerusalem, near the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway, Israel Antiquities Authorities (IAA) archaeologists uncovered a trove of bronze coins dating back to the Year Four of the Jewish Revolt against Rome (around 70 AD). The hoard appears to have been buried only a few months before the fall of Jerusalem, perhaps by someone who anticipated the imminent turmoil of the region. A total of 114 coins was found. Each of the coins is decorated on one side with a chalice and the inscription “To the Redemption of Zion” in Hebrew, and on the other side with palm branches and citrons, as well as the Hebrew inscription “Year Four.” The coins could have been a form of pro-rebellion propaganda. The palm trees stamped on the coins, for instance, symbolize the land of Israel. The site of the discovery, today known as Hirbet Mazruk, used to be a Jewish stronghold during the Revolt, and as a result was entirely destroyed by the Romans.

For more information:


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

August 10, 2014 at 15:39

Dedication of the Holy Sepulchre: First and Foremost a Place of Worship

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From the Custos earlier this week:

Every fifteenth of July the Diocese of Jerusalem commemorates the day that the Crusaders’ Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre was consecrated as a religious building. In the same way as the Church joins together every November 9th to celebrate the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, all the parishes and Catholic communities present in the Holy Land celebrate the Dedication of the Holy Sepulchre. As mass is sung daily by the Franciscans in front of Christ’s tomb in the small hours of the morning, the Latin Church of Jerusalem joined the conventual community to celebrate this anniversary.

The dedication goes back to the year 1149, when the Crusaders consecrated the altar and sprinkled holy water in the newly rebuilt basilica. As Fra Stéphane reminds us, “We are not celebrating the glory of the Crusades. When the Franciscans came here in the 14th century and began to serve in the Holy Sepulchre, they were inserted into the country with their own values and ways of behaving: respect for others, dialogue and perseverance. This dedication recalls the primary purpose of the basilica—celebrating worship, a worship to which all the Christians in the world are invited.”

The Custos of the Holy Land being on a pastoral visit to Syria and Cyprus at the moment, the Custodial Vicar, Fra Dobromir Jasztal, officiated for the celebration. In his homily, Fra Dobromir recalled that over the centuries there have been several dedications. Orthodox Christians commemorate, for example, the dedication of the Byzantine basilica by Constantine on September 14th. “Several dedications, several basilicas, but only one tomb and one mystery; that is the essence,” he declared. Pilgrim or parishioner, everyone who prays at the Holy Sepulchre becomes a “witness of the Resurrection,” he concluded.

This mystery of the Lord is celebrated every day in the Holy Sepulchre in different languages and according to different rites, as defined in the Status Quo of 1842. The worship is sometimes “inconvenient” or at least surprising to the crowd of impatient pilgrims waiting to enter the tomb who quickly move to one or another of the chapels or simply remain in place in pious silence. This Dedication of the Holy Sepulchre reminds us that public worship takes priority over the private desires of individuals: a precious time of encounter in the place where God renewed his covenant with his people.

… public worship takes priority over the private desires of individuals.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

July 18, 2014 at 11:12

Temple Mount Flyover

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While flying over the Old City of Jerusalem is not allowed, permission for this video was granted and done by a remote control helicopter. It is slow, but really nice.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

July 17, 2014 at 16:49

‘Extraordinarily Rare’ Crusade-Era Seal Discovered in Jerusalem

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Discovery News reports on the find:

A rare Crusade-era lead seal used to secure a letter was uncovered in an ancient farmstead in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced today (May 27).

The 800-year-old seal was likely once fixed to a document delivered to the farm from a sprawling cliffside monastery in the Judean Desert that was founded by Saint Sabas (“Mar Saba” in Aramaic) and once housed hundreds of monks.

“This is an extraordinarily rare find, because no such seal has ever been discovered to date,” Benyamin Storchan and Benyamin Dolinka, excavation directors from the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement.

This type of ancient seal was also known as a bulla in Latin. It consisted of two blank lead disks that would have been hammered together with a string between them. Opening the letter would cause obvious damage to the bulla, which was intended to discourage unauthorized people from breaking the seal.

One side of the seal bears the image of the bearded Byzantine-era Saint Sabas, who is wearing a himation (essentially a Greek version of a toga), brandishing a cross in his right hand and perhaps holding a copy of the gospel in his left hand. The other side of the seal is etched with a Greek inscription, translated as: “This is the seal of the Laura of the Holy Sabas.” (The monastery was also called the “Great Laura” of Mar Saba. A laura, or lavra, is a type of Orthodox Christian monastery that has a cluster of caves for hermit monks.)

“The Mar Saba monastery apparently played an important role in the affairs of the Kingdom of Jerusalem during the Crusader period, maintaining a close relationship with the ruling royal family,” Robert Kool, a researcher with the Israel Antiquities Authority who examined the seal, said in a statement. “The monastery had numerous properties, and this farm may have been part of the monastery’s assets during the Crusader period.”

The seal was uncovered during excavations in 2012 in southwestern Jerusalem’s Bayit VeGan quarter. The farm site was established during the Byzantine period (5th–6th centuries A.D.) and resettled during the Crusader period (11th–12th centuries A.D.).

A document in the archives of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem refers to a farming settlement known as Thora that was sold to the Mar Saba monastery in 1163–1164. The location of that farm was lost to history, but the Mar Saba seal could link the recently excavated farm to Thora, explained Storchan and Dolinka in a statement.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

May 28, 2014 at 21:43

Palestine 1896

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Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

February 24, 2014 at 15:31


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