Bible Archaeology

Two Thousand Year Old Evidence of the Siege in Jerusalem

Some more Biblical Archaeology with which to starts the day (depending on where on earth you live). Far better than the other filth doing the rounds. In an archaeological excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority near the Western Wall:


The Antiquities Authority on Thursday unearthed for the first time a small  2,000-yearold cistern near the Western Wall that connects an archeological find  with the famine that occurred during the Roman siege of Jerusalem during that  era.

The cistern – found near Robinson’s Arch in a drainage channel from  the Shiloah Pool in the City of David – contained three intact cooking pots and  a small ceramic oil lamp.

According to Eli Shukron, the excavations  director for the Antiquities Authority, the discovery is  unprecedented.

“The complete cooking pots and ceramic oil lamp indicate  that the people went down into the cistern where they secretly ate the food that  was contained in the pots, without anyone seeing them,” he said. “This is  consistent with the account provided by Josephus.”

In his book The Jewish  War that describes the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Jewish scholar  Josephus detailed the resulting hunger that ensued.

In his account,  Josephus, also known as Yosef ben Matityahu, wrote of Jewish rebels who sought  food in the homes of other starving Jews confined to the city. Fearing these  rebels would steal their food, many Jews used cisterns to conceal their meager  provisions, and later ate in hidden places within their homes.

“As the  famine grew worse, the frenzy of the partisans increased with it,” Josephus  wrote.

“For as nowhere was there corn to be seen, men broke into the  houses and ransacked them,” he continued.

“If they found some, they  maltreated the occupants for saying there was none; if they did not, they  suspected them of having hidden it more carefully and tortured  them.”

Josephus recounted that many Jews suffering from starvation would  barter their possessions for small quantities of food in order to stay  alive.

“Many secretly exchanged their possessions for one measure of  corn-wheat if they happened to be rich; barley if they were poor,” he  wrote.

“They shut themselves up in the darkest corners of their houses,  where some, through extreme hunger, ate their grain as it was; others made  bread, necessity and fear being their only guides. Nowhere was a table  laid.”

The artifacts will be on display during a July 4 conference on the  City of David, organized by the Megalim Institute.

Earlier in the week,  the Antiquities Authority uncovered in Beit Hanina a well-preserved section of  an 1,800- year-old road leading from Jerusalem to Jaffa during a routine  excavation prior to the installation of a drainage pipe in the northern  Jerusalem neighborhood.



Bible Archaeology

Israeli Shot and Killed Near Western Wall

Reuters has the breaking news:

A security guard shot and  killed an Israeli man on Friday at one of Judaism’s holiest  sites in Jerusalem, the Western Wall, which was immediately shut  to visitors, police said.

The guard opened fire after the man, in an adjacent  restroom, was heard shouting “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is  greatest”, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Rosenfeld said the guard opened fire with his pistol because  he suspected the man was a Palestinian militant. “The fact he  shouted Allahu Akbar, that seems to be why the security guard  drew his weapon and fired a number of shots at him,” he said.

The incident occurred in one of Jerusalem’s most sensitive  areas. The Western Wall is one of Judaism’s holiest sites and a  place where thousands worship each week.

The plaza where the wall is located is next to the Temple  Mount, revered by Jews as the place where two biblical temples  stood, and the site of Islam’s third holiest mosque, al-Aqsa.

ynet news adds:

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch expressed deep sorrow over the death of a Jewish man who was shot by a security guard in the Western Wall Plaza’s public toilet. The rabbi said he has confidence in the police and added, “regardless of the circumstances, such a case is a terrible tragedy.”



Israel: Women of the Wall

Israeli security guards at the Western Wall on Friday searched women worshippers arriving at the holiest place where Jews can pray for a seemingly inoffensive object – the Jewish prayer shawl, which under the Orthodox tradition can be worn only by men.

Once the shawls were found, dozens of women had to deposit them before proceeding to pray in the section reserved for women. A few, who managed to sneak the shawls in under their coats and wrapped them around their shoulders, were promptly evicted or detained.

Similar scenes have played out almost a dozen times every year since the group known as Women of the Wall was first established nearly 25 years ago.

Its members have endured arrests, heckling and legal battles in a struggle to attain what they consider their inalienable right – to pray and worship at the Western Wall like men do.

Under Israel’s predominantly Orthodox Jewish tradition, only men may wear a prayer shawl, a skullcap and phylacteries. Liberal Reform Judaism, marginal in Israel but the largest denomination in the United States, allows women to practice the same way as men do in Orthodox Judaism: they may be ordained as rabbis, read from the Torah, the Jewish holy book, and wear prayer shawls.

The multi-denominational Women of the Wall adheres to that liberal stream. Since 1988, its members have come to the holy site 11 times a year to pray on the first day of the new Jewish month, except on the New Year.

The police know they are coming and are on the lookout. The group’s members have been repeatedly detained, as soon as they are perceived to be offending Orthodox sensibilities – such as carrying a Torah scroll or if they try to drape themselves in the shawls. They are usually released after a few hours.

They have never been charged – evidence, the women say, that what they are doing is not illegal.

“We want to have the ability to pray out loud, to wear a prayer shawl, to read the Torah. And we want to do it without fear at the Western Wall,” said Anat Hoffman, the group’s chairwoman…

Read on in the Huffington Post.


Bible Archaeology

Western Wall Passes Annual Health Check

Ahead of Judaism’s High Holy Days when hundreds of thousands will visit the holy site, engineers inspect Western Wall to ensure stability • Office of the rabbi of the Western Wall confirms that site is safe and ready to receive the faithful.

A team of engineers closely examined Jerusalem’s Western Wall — a remnant of the ancient Temple destroyed in 70 C.E. — on Tuesday. The inspection is carried out annually to the check stability of the site ahead of the High Holy Days.

With less than two weeks to go before the Jewish New Year and the start of the most important days in Judaism ahead of Yom Kippur, when hundreds of thousands of people are expected to visit the site, engineers examined the ancient stones.

The office of the rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, said there were no abnormal findings in Tuesday’s test. Tests in previous years have uncovered stones damaged by bad weather, but no problems were found this year.

In 2003 an engineering survey of the Western Wall was undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority which mapped the stones in the wall and physical problems, and undertook to monitor the state of the wall’s preservation. A survey by engineers in 2009 spotted detached building material and found that stones in the upper courses of the wall were in danger of falling. Conservation efforts were undertaken to remove hazards and stabilize the original stones. The wall was stabilized and annual maintenance is now carried out to monitor the situation.

Source:  Israel Hayom


Bible Archaeology

Western Wall Plaza Excavation Results

Writes Todd Bolen over at the Bible Places Blog:

Over the yearsI’ve mentionedthe excavation at the “back” of the Western Wall prayer plaza. The latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review has a report by the excavators on their discoveries at the site from 2005 to 2010. Since I expect some curious student to ask me in a couple of days about the big hole in the ground, the article arrived at a good time for me. I made a few notes as I read the article that I thought I’d share here.

The earliest remains at this spot indicate that it was used as an Iron Age quarry.

Later in the Iron Age, a four-room house was constructed here. This was a Jerusalemite’s home sometime after Hezekiah fortified the Western Hill with a new wall (part of which is known today as the “Broad Wall.”) The house may have been destroyed by the Babylonian assault in 586, but this is not certain. Several personal seals were found in the building, including one depicting an Assyrian-style archer.

Curiously, there is no evidence of occupation at the site in the Babylonian, Persian, or Hasmonean periods (586-50 BC).

In the New Testament period, the Lower Aqueduct ran through this area, bringing water from “Solomon’s Pools” to the Temple Mount. The only other discovery from the 1st century was a ritual bath (mikveh).

The most impressive remains at the site are that of a monumental street. This cardo is similar in size and design to its counterpart to the west, located today in the heart of the Jewish Quarter, but the archaeologists say that the eastern cardo was constructed in the Roman period by Hadrian (whereas the southern extension of the western was built by Justinian c. 530).

All the details are presented in a much more interesting style in the January/February 2012 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. The article, with all of its illustrations, is currently available online, no subscription required.

Bible Archaeology

Mughrabi Bridge Demolition Delayed

Jordan, Egypt warned Israel taking down bridge that connects Western Wall, Temple Mount may spark regional protests.

Anything for a good protest in Jordan and Egypt…

In any event, The Jerusalem Post reports:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday delayed plans at the last minute to  start rebuilding the Mughrabi Bridge linking the Western Wall Plaza to the  Temple Mount because of Egyptian and Jordanian concerns, Channel 2 reported  Sunday.

According to the report, work on the bridge – which received approval in March – was to have begun early Sunday morning. The initial work of  demolishing the existing structure would have necessitated the deployment of  large IDF and security forces in Jerusalem and around the Temple Mount, as well  as stepped-up army preparedness in the West Bank.

Channel 2 reported  Cairo and Amman warned Jerusalem the work would likely lead to “disruptions” in  both Jordan and Egypt.

Officials in both the Prime Minister’s Office and  the Jerusalem Municipality refused Sunday night to comment on the  reports.

Previous work on the bridge caused widespread rioting in  neighborhoods throughout the Jerusalem area and in Jordan.

Jordan’s Awkaf  Islamic Affairs and Holy Places Ministry warned that were Israel to begin to  take down the Mughrabi Bridge, the move would likely ignite protests throughout  Jordan, which could eventually spread to the West Bank, according to the Channel  2 report.

Under the plans, a permanent bridge is to be built to replace  the current temporary wooden structure that has been in use since a 2003  earthquake and winter storm caused part of the original bridge to collapse. The  bridge is used as the main entry point for non-Muslim tourists and security  forces entering the Temple Mount.



King Herod Didn’t Complete the Construction of Jerusalem’s Western Wall

As was as expected, a new archaeological announcement has been made about the Western Wall in Jerusalem: Apparently, King Herod didn’t complete the construction:

Recent archeological excavations in Jerusalem show that, contrary to popular understanding, King Herod was not solely responsible for constructing the Western Wall.

Israel’s Antiques Authority announced Wednesday that the discovery of a mikveh (ritual bath) alongside Jerusalem’s ancient drainage channel challenges the conventional archaeological perception that Herod built the wall in its entirety, saying it is now evident that construction was completed at least 20 years after Herod’s death (believed to be in 4 BCE).

The excavations, directed by IAA archaeologist Eli Shukron with assistance from Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, revealed three clay oil lamps of a type that was common in the first century CE as well as seventeen identifiable bronze coins. According to Dr. Donald Ariel, curator of the IAA numismatic collection, the latest four coins were struck by the Roman procurator of Judea, Valerius Gratus, sometime around 17 or 18 CE – about 20 years after Herod’s death.

“This bit of archaeological information illustrates the fact that the construction of the Temple Mount walls and Robinson’s Arch was an enormous project that lasted decades and was not completed during Herod’s lifetime,” said the IAA, adding that the find confirms descriptions by the Jewish historian Josephus, which state that it was only during the reign of King Agrippa II (Herod’s great-grandson) that the work was finished.”

A full report by the Israel’s Antiques Authority is here.

Todd Bolen asks if the IAA is desperate for headlines?

And another pic of the bedrock: