Archaeology in Israel Update--April 2012
By Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg
W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research
Two Bullae Found in Jerusalem
Another two bullae have been found by Dr. Eilat Mazar in the City of David, one by the Large Stone Structure (which Mazar thinks may have been the palace of David) and one by the northern or Nehemiah's tower. One is in the name of Yehukhal ben Shelemeyahu and the other Gedelyahu ben Pashhur, both known as ministers of King Zedekiah (597-587 BCE). They are two out of the four ministers who asked the king for Jeremiah to be put to death for spreading defeatist sentiments, and when the king said, "Behold, he is in your hands," they threw him into a pit of mire (Jer. 38:1-6) from which he was later rescued.
Egyptian Scarab Found in the City of David
A tiny scarab in the name of the Egyptian god Amun-Ra, written in hieroglyphics and with the imprint of a duck, was found at the Gihon section of the National Park by Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Dr. Joe Uziel. It is only 1.5 cm long and was probably used to stamp documents in the 13th century BCE when Egypt ruled Canaan and, according to the excavators, it is a unique find in the area.
Stolen Sarcophagus Covers Found in Jerusalem
Inspectors of the IAA have recently seized two Egyptian sarcophagus covers from a dealer's store in the Old City. The covers are of wood with the virtual features of the deceased painted and modeled in plasterwork. They were pronounced genuine by the IAA and dated, one to the Late Bronze Age and one to the Iron Age. The covers had been neatly cut into two for easier transportation and the authorities think that they came to Israel via Dubai and Europe. The IAA say that legislation is now in place, since April 20th, to prevent the importation of any antiquities that have not been certified as legally exported from their country of origin. The Egyptian Government is requesting the return of the two covers and negotiations are in progress with the Foreign Ministry.
Translations of the Babylonia Talmud into Arabic
The Middle East Studies Centre based in Amman has published a twenty-volume translation that was produced in six years by 95 translators and scholars. The work was taken on to understand the religious and philosophical roots and thought of the Orthodox Jewish mentality and the translation will, according to the Centre, "open broad horizons for academic researchers to understand Jewish religious thought and its ramifications throughout history."
Dr. Esther Webman, of the Tel Aviv University Dayan Centre for Middle Eastern and Arabic Studies said, "The Talmud in the Muslim world is considered to be the main source of Jewish iniquity. They highlight aspects which are not so flattering ..they use the Talmud to accuse Jews of certain habits and it is portrayed as the epitome of the Jewish and Zionist mentality. It is part and parcel of the expansion of anti-Semitism into the Arab world." Let us hope the positive elements of the Talmud will also percolate through to Islamic scholars.
Syphonic Water Channel at bet Yerah
During the construction of a new water carrier from the south to the city of Tiberias, the remains of an ancient water channel to Tel Beth Yerah, were unearthed and the work was delayed to enable a rescue dig to be carried out. The dig uncovered a pipeline from the ancient 'Berenice aqueduct' to the site of Hellenistic Bet Yerah, on the shores of the Kinnereth, south of Tiberias. The pipeline had to cross the original riverbed of the Jordan, by sinking down to its level and rising on the other side up to the Tel. This was done by means of a syphon built out of substantial interlocking basalt blocks, and the excavators found that this line had been built over an earlier pipeline of short interconnecting clay pipes, that had obviously failed under the considerable water pressure involved. The excavators, led by Yardenna Alexandre of the IAA, found that the large basalt blocks, or at least some of them, had probably been taken from the Early Roman-period syphon of Hippos-Sussita, on the east shore of the Kinneret, when it fell out of use. The basalt blocks, one of which had been carved out of a worn Corinthian capital, had a central channel with a bore of 30cm diameter while the earlier clay pipes were of only 8 to 10cm internal bore. The substantial water supply from the syphon was connected to a luxurious bathhouse adjacent to an early Islamic Ummayad palace, whose remains had been originally misinterpreted as an early synagogue and mikvah. This fact, together with the find of two bronze coins, would date the elaborate syphonic channel to the 7th century CE.