A small pottery jar containing four pure gold coins dating from the Early Islamic period was unearthed during archeological excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), as part of the Jewish Quarter Development Corporation’s plan to build an elevator and make the Western Wall Plaza more accessible. The jar was found by IAA inspector Yevgenia Kapil and, some weeks later, excavation director David Gellman found the coins inside it. “To my great surprise, along with the soil, four shiny gold coins fell into my hand,” said Gellman. “This is the first time in my archeological career that I have discovered gold, and it is tremendously exciting.”
According to IAA coin expert Dr. Robert Kool, “The coins date from a relatively brief period, from the late 940s to the 970s CE. This was a time of radical political change, when control over Eretz Israel passed from the Sunni Abbasid caliphate, whose capital was Baghdad, Iraq, into the hands of its Shiite rivals, the Fatimid dynasty of North Africa, who conquered Egypt, Syria and Eretz Israel in those years.”
According to Kool, “Four dinars was a considerable sum of money for most of the population, who lived under difficult conditions at the time. It was equal to the monthly salary of a minor official, or four months’ salary for a common labourer. Compared with these people, the small handful of wealthy officials and merchants in the city earned huge salaries and amassed vast wealth. A senior treasury official could earn 7,000 gold dinars a month and receive additional incomes from his rural estates amounting to hundreds of thousands of gold dinars a year.”
Jerusalem on erev Sukkot, Oct. 2: Keren Hayesod Street (above), the Mamilla open-air mall and the First Station complex (both below). Normally, these places are full of people, especially the day before a holiday. However, for the foreseeable future, Israel is on a total lockdown – the country has one of the highest per capita COVID-19 infection rates in the world. Traffic around the country and in the cities has been exceptionally light, as people are only allowed to travel to essential work or to buy necessities at supermarkets and drugstores.
An aerial photo of the remains of a 3,200-year-old Canaanite fortress built near today’s town of Kiryat Gat. (photo by Emil Aladjem/IAA via Ashernet)
The Kiryat Gat fortress site, which was opened to visitors this week, was prepared by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Jewish National Fund (KKL).
According to archeologists Saar Ganor and Itamar Weissbein of the IAA, “The fortress we found provides a glimpse into the geopolitical reality described in the Book of Judges, in which the Canaanites, Israelites and Philistines are fighting each other. In this period, the land of Canaan was ruled by the Egyptians and its inhabitants were under their control. During the 12th century BCE, two new players entered the game: the Israelites and the Philistines. This led to a series of violent territorial disputes. The Israelites settled in non-fortified settlements at the Benjamin and Judean mountains. Meanwhile, the Philistines accumulated power in the Southern Coastal Plain and established cities such as Ashkelon, Ashdod and Gat in an attempt to conquer more areas. The Philistines confronted the Egyptians and the Canaanites on the borderline, which probably passed at the Guvrin River, between the Philistine kingdom of Gat and the Canaanite kingdom of Lachish. It seems that the Galon fortress was built as a Canaanite/Egyptian attempt to cope with the new geopolitical situation. However, in the middle of the 12th century BCE, the Egyptians left the land of Canaan and returned to Egypt. Their departure led to the destruction of the now-unprotected Canaanite cities – a destruction that was probably led by the Philistines.”
The dimension of the fortress is 18 metres square and watchtowers were built in the four corners. A threshold, carved from one rock weighing around three tons, was preserved at the entrance of the building. Inside the fortress was a courtyard paved with stone slabs and featuring columns in the middle. Rooms were constructed on both sides of the courtyard. Hundreds of pottery vessels, some still whole, were found in the rooms.
The remains of the fortress were uncovered with the help of students from the Israel studies department at Be’er Sheva’s Multidisciplinary School, students from the Nachshon pre-military preparatory program and other volunteers. This was done as part of the IAA’s policy to bring the general public, and especially the younger generation, closer to archeology.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin with firefighters near the Gaza border earlier this week. (photo from IGPO via Ashernet)
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin visited the Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA) at the Erez border crossing point and sites where fires have been set in the area by incendiary-laden kites and balloons. The president thanked the firefighters for their determination and dedication.
“You have to deal with threats that deliberately and consistently harm Israeli citizens going about their daily lives,” the president told them. “Terrorism using incendiary devices is terrorism just like any other…. We have nothing against the people living in Gaza. On the contrary, we want them to be able to live in peace and quiet and raise their children. But they are being held hostage by Hamas, which also thinks it has us in its control. Hamas should know that this is not a game. The time will come when they must decide and, if they want war, they will get war.”
Speaking about the damage done by the fires, he said, “There is nothing more painful than seeing this good earth go up in flames. I want to offer my support to the farmers at this difficult and painful time, when they must deal with the threat of fires as well as with the economic crisis from corona. The way the residents, the farmers, the civilian security forces and you, the firefighters, stand firm is an inspiration for us all.”
The interior of a dolmen (ancient burial chamber built of rocks) with symbols overlaid on the image for clarity. (photo by Yaniv Berman/IAA via Ashernet)
There are many such dolmens in the Galilee and the Golan, all of which date back more than 4,000 years. An inspector of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority has identified engravings of horned animals, leaves, fertilizers and wild cows in one dolmen; a human face in another; and a panel with geometric shapes in yet another.
On July 6, using a Shavit-2 rocket, Israel successfully launched the Ofek 16 reconnaissance satellite into Earth’s orbit. The first Israeli satellite (Ofek 1) was launched in 1988. Investment in this field produces strategic defence systems, but also innovations that assist industries in coping with various technological obstacles. Israel is one of 13 countries in the world with full space capabilities (launching satellites), alongside the United States, Italy, France, Japan, India, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and South Korea.
A human jawbone found in the Misliya Cave on Mount Carmel near Haifa. (photo by Israel Hershkowitz, Tel Aviv University via Ashernet)
A human jawbone and other fossils found in the Misliya Cave on Mount Carmel near Haifa indicate that human migration from Africa occurred during the Ice Age, approximately 200,000 years ago, which is contrary to the popular theory that the freezing conditions and dryness of the Ice Age periods deterred human migration between continents.
These recent findings were published in the Journal of Human Evolution by Dr. Lior Weissbrod of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Prof. Mina Weinstein-Evron of the Zinman Institute of Archeology at the University of Haifa, and they build on work previously published by Weinstein-Evron and Prof. Israel Hershkowitz of Tel Aviv University in Science.
In addition to the jawbone, Weissbrod said, “The fossils now being investigated were identified as belonging to 13 different species of rodents and small insect eaters, some of which now live in high and cold regions, in the Zagros Mountains of northwestern Iran and in the Caucasus Mountains.”
This means that, “in Israel, cold conditions prevailed that allowed such animals to survive. Finding the human jawbone in the same layer where the rodent lived, suggests that these early humans survived under these conditions,” changing existing perceptions on human evolution.
The tablet found by Imri Elya. (photo by IAA via Ashernet)
Imri Elya was on an outing with his parents at Tel Jemmeh archeological site near Kibbutz Re’im when he picked up the square clay object. His parents contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and they handed over the item to the authority’s National Treasures Department.
According to archeologists Saar Ganor, Itamar Weissbein and Oren Shmueli of the IAA, the artifact was imprinted in a carved pattern, and the artist’s fingerprints even survived on the back. The tablet depicts the scene of a man leading a captive. According to the researchers, “The artist who created this tablet appeared to have been influenced by similar representations known in Ancient Near East art. The way in which the captive is bound has been seen previously in reliefs and artifacts found in Egypt and northern Sinai.”
They date the artifact to the Late Bronze Age (between the 12th and 15th centuries BCE) and believe that the scene depicted symbolically describes the power struggles between the city of Yurza – with which Tel Jemmeh is identified – and one of the cities close to the Tel, possibly Gaza, Ashkelon or Lachish, or the struggle of a nomadic population residing in the Negev. The researchers believe that the scene is taken from descriptions of victory parades; hence, the tablet should be identified as a story depicting the ruler’s power over his enemies. This opens a visual window to understanding the struggle for dominance in the south of the country during the Canaanite period.
In central Tel Aviv, a driver slotted their car in between two properly parked vehicles. (photo from Ashernet)
Traffic density on Israel’s roads averages about 2,800 vehicles per kilometre, worst of all the OECD countries, for which the average is around 800 vehicles/kilometre; after Israel, Spain comes in at number two, with 1,300 vehicles/kilometre. As both the standard of living in Israel and the country’s population increase rapidly, the road and rail infrastructure, as well as the development of public transportation, are not keeping pace, even though there is a high price to pay for congestion. Israel’s Ministry of Finance put the cost of congestion in Israel at approximately $10 billion per year.
Avigail Landman, right, and Rawan Halabi with an experimental prototype device. (photo from Ashernet)
Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed a prototype system for efficient and safe production of hydrogen using only solar energy. Published in the journal Joule, the study was led by Avigail Landman, a doctoral student in the Grand Technion Energy Program, together with Rawan Halabi, a master’s student from the faculty of materials science and engineering, under the joint guidance of Technion and University of Porto (Portugal) professors. The system contains a tandem cell solar device. Some of the sun’s radiation is absorbed in the upper layer, which is made of semi-transparent iron oxide. The radiation that is not absorbed in this layer passes through it and is subsequently absorbed by a photovoltaic cell. Together, the two layers provide the energy needed to decompose the water into hydrogen and oxygen. The innovation is a continuation of the theoretical breakthrough by the Technion research team presented in a March 2017 article in Nature Materials. Hydrogen is a highly sought-after material in many areas of our lives and, today, most of the world’s hydrogen is produced from natural gas, but this process emits carbon dioxide, whose environmental damage is well known.