Archaeology in Israel Update—April 2013
By Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg
W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research
Early Ritual Bath in Jerusalem
Last April a Miqve of the Second Temple period was uncovered in Jerusalem, in the western suburb of Kiryat Menahem , in a rescue dig conducted before the construction of a major roadway project. The ritual bath is unique in that it was located underground in a cave, and the natural water was supplied by rain onto three basins and channels carved into the roof of the cave, an unusual feature. The area of the bath was rendered in a type of waterproof plaster, according to excavator Benyamin Storchan of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). It is not clear how the Miqve was dated to the Second Temple period. After the bath went out of use, the basins and channels were filled with earth, a hole was cut in the roof and the cave acted as a local cistern. The local authority are interested to have it restored to the original Miqve structure with the three water basins and channels, and they believe it will serve as an attraction to local residents and visitors.
Battles in Syria Topple Ancient Minaret in Alleppo
The ongoing battles in Syria have claimed another ancient monument, this time the nine-storey tower Minaret of Aleppo's Mosque, allegedly of the Umayyad (661-750 CE) period. The tower had an internal stair to a high- level canopied viewing gallery surmounted by a miniature replica mosque and Islamic crescent moon finial. The mosque stands in the Old City of Aleppo, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The collapse has been blamed by both sides of the conflict, the State saying that it was due to rebel fire, and the rebels blaming it on Government tank shelling. At present large areas of Aleppo are in rebel hands but the State troops remain in control of many other sectors of the city. Much of the original Mosque has been destroyed as well as the medieval stone-vaulted Suk or market.
The Gabriel Revelation Stone
In conjunction with the present Herod the Great Exhibition (which is proving very popular) the Israel Museum is displaying an unusual artifact. It is a long and narrow slab of stone inscribed in ink in two columns and dated by its calligraphy to 1st century BCE. It was found in 2007 on the east side of the Dead Sea and is on loan to the museum by the Jesselsohn family of Zurich. It is in two pieces which together make up 87 lines in neat square Hebrew script of the Herodian period, but with many lines unclear. The text purports to be written by the angel Gabriel in the first person, in conversation with a human being whom he warns of the destruction of Jerusalem but with the hope that God will save the city for the sake of the angel Michael and God's servant David. The final lines are unclear and may have referred to the destruction of the city or its survival. The back of the stone is smooth but not inscribed and the lower section is soiled, so it appears as if the piece was mounted against a wall with its base set into the ground. The artifact is exhibited together with early manuscripts relating to the angel Gabriel, and part of the War Scroll from Qumran, which uses a similar script, and the exhibit will remain open until mid February 2014.
Byzantine Mosaic Floor in Northern Negev
A mosaic floor was recently found in the grounds of Kibbutz Beit Kama, twenty km. north of Be'ersheba, where the area is being prepared for the extension of the Trans- Israel Highway (Motorway 6) to Be'ersheba and Elath. The mosaic floor is virtually complete in size but some portions are badly damaged, though the colors are vivid and the portrayal of doves, peacocks, jars of wine and vine branches is clear. The large square area is bordered by a heavy guilloche frame in black, red and white tesserae, set around a circular centerpiece with the four corners, between round and square, portraying stylized amphorae. According to the excavator, Dr. Rina Avner of the IAA, the mosaic floor belonged to a public building that had evidence of a complex water supply. In view of the emphasis of the mosaic on drink, it was perhaps a hostelry, that was part of a large Byzantine settlement of the fourth to sixth centuries, spread over 6 hectares alongside the ancient roadway to Be'ersheba from the north.