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.”
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.
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.
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.
A 1,400-year-old hammer and nails, found at the ancient city of Usha. (photo by Yoli Schwartz/IAA via Ashernet)
An Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) excavation some 15 kilometres east of Haifa at the ancient city of Usha revealed a 1,400-year-old hammer and nails, confirming that the ancient inhabitants of Usha manufactured iron tools.
The IAA’s community excavation, carried out predominantly by youth and volunteers, has exposed part of a Jewish settlement with ritual baths, oil presses and winepresses. Indications are that the primary occupation of the Usha inhabitants was the large-scale processing of the olive trees and vines they cultivated on the surrounding hills. The discovery of the ritual baths indicates that the Jewish press workers took care to purify themselves in the ritual baths in order to manufacture ritually pure oil and wine.
According to Yair Amitzur, director of the excavation and of the Sanhedrin Trail Project for the IAA, “the settlement of Usha is mentioned in the Jewish sources many times in the Roman and Byzantine periods, as the village where the institution of the Sanhedrin was renewed, after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and after the failure of the Bar Kochba Revolt in 135 CE. The Sanhedrin was the central Jewish council and law court, and it was headed by the president, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel the Second, who presided in Usha, and then his son, Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi. Here, in Usha, the rabbis of the Sanhedrin made decrees to enable the Jewish people to recover after the war against the Romans, and to reconstruct Jewish life in the Galilee.”
Dozens of undamaged pottery vessels have been discovered so far at the site.(photos from Israel Antiquities Authority via Ashernet)
In 2015, archeologists began an excavation in the Judean Foothills, between Kiryat Gat and Lachish. In research conducted in a cooperative venture by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, the archeologists believe they have found the Philistine town of Ziklag. Dozens of undamaged pottery vessels have been discovered so far at the site, and it has been determined that the vessels are at least 3,000 years old.
Ziklag is a Philistine name, given to the town by immigrants from the Aegean. It is mentioned many times in the Bible in relation to David (in both Samuel I and II). According to the biblical narrative, Achish, king of Gat, allowed David to find refuge in Ziklag while fleeing King Saul and, from there, David departed to be anointed king in Hebron. Ziklag was also the town that the Amalekites, desert nomads, raided and burned, taking women and children captive.
The stamp of “Ikar, son of Matanyahu.” (IAA photos courtesy Ashernet)
The 2,600-year-old stamp of “Ikar, son of Matanyahu” was among the artifacts uncovered in archeological excavations at the Givati Parking Lot, in City of David National Park in Jerusalem. The dig was conducted by archeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Tel Aviv University and, according to TAU’s Prof. Yuval Gadot and IAA’s Dr. Yiftah Shalev, the artifacts were found inside a large public building that was destroyed in the sixth century BCE, probably during the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE. Large stone debris, burnt wooden beams and numerous charred pottery shards were discovered, all indications that they had survived a fire.
The stamp and bulla (seal impressions), which are about one centimetre in size, were deciphered by Dr. Anat Mendel-Geberovich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Centre for the Study of Ancient Jerusalem. “The name Matanyahu appears both in the Bible and on additional stamps and bullae already unearthed. However, this is the first reference to the name Ikar, which was unknown until today,” said Mendel-Geberovich.
According to Gadot and Shalev, “These artifacts corroborate the highly developed system of administration in the Kingdom of Judah and add considerable information to our understanding of the economic status of Jerusalem and its administrative system during the First Temple period, as well as personal information about the king’s closest officials and administrators who lived and worked in the city.”
An inscription (top of above photo and below), written in Greek, was translated by Prof. Leah Di Segni of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Dated to the early fifth century CE, it says, “Only God helps the beautiful property of Master Adios, amen.” (photos from IAA courtesy Ashernet)
New neighbourhood construction in the southern part of the Sharon Plain of central Israel has revealed an estate, some 1,600 years old, which was determined by Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologists to have been the property of a wealthy Samaritan. The discovery reinforced evidence that, at one time, the area was extensively populated by the Samaritans, who claim they are Israelite descendants of the northern Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. An inscription, written in Greek, was translated by Prof. Leah Di Segni of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Dated to the early fifth century CE, it says, “Only God helps the beautiful property of Master Adios, amen.” According to Dr. Hagit Torge, director of the excavation on behalf of the IAA, “The inscription was discovered in an impressive winepress [near the top of Tel Zur Natan, where remains of a Samaritan synagogue were found] that was apparently part of the agricultural estate of a wealthy individual named Adios. This is only the second such winepress discovered in Israel with a blessing inscription associated with the Samaritans. The first winepress was discovered a few years ago in Apollonia near Herzliya.” The Samaritans were originally brought to the region as part of Assyrian policy, and first settled on and around Mount Gerizim.
A Hellenistic-era golden earring, discovered in the Givati Parking Lot in the City of David National Park. (photo from IAA courtesy Ashernet)
A Hellenistic-era golden earring, featuring ornamentation of a horned animal, was discovered in the Givati Parking Lot in the City of David National Park encircling the Old City walls. The discovery was made during archeological digs carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University. According to the researchers, “It is unclear whether the gold earring was worn by a man or a woman, nor do we know their cultural or religious identity, but we can say for certain that whoever wore this earring definitely belonged to Jerusalem’s upper class. This can be determined by the proximity to the Temple Mount and the Temple, which was functional at the time, as well as the quality of the gold piece of jewelry.”