Recent Archeological Discoveries
by Hillel Geva
Pekiin: A Karstic Cave
A karstic cave near Pekiin in the Galilee was used for burials in the Chalcolithic period (4th millennium BCE). The cave contains a large number of clay ossuaries (chests for storing human bones) with painted decorations, several of them representing human faces. They attest to a highly artistic society and provide evidence of the burial customs and the spiritual life of the Chalcolithic people.
Maresha: A Hellenistic Measuring Table
A unique Hellenistic measuring table, carved from a soft limestone block, was found in the remains of a second century shop. The tables front is decorated with lions heads and four funnels of unequal size are carved into its top; the capacity of each funnel is inscribed in Greek around the rim. A Greek inscription above the lions heads reads: Year 170 (of the Seleucid era = 143 BCE), agoranomoi (market inspectors), Antipatros son of [...]doros and Aristodomos son of Ariston[...]
The table was probably part of the official equipment used by inspectors to check the measuring tools for liquids, such as wine and oil, of the merchants of Maresha.
Kastra: An Ancient Bread Seal
A bread seal from the Late Roman-Byzantine period was found in excavations at Kastra. It bears the word Seventh and was probably used in the Shmitta (sabbatical) year. According to Halacha (Jewish religious law) the fields of the Land of Israel have to lie fallow every seventh year, and crops have to be specially handled.
An Early Islamic Fortress at Ashdot Yam
The fortress is located on the shoreline, some 30 km. south of Tel Aviv. It was excavated between the years 1997-1999.
The rectangular fortress (60x40 m.) is built of well-dressed kurkar stones bonded with mortar. The walls, preserved to a height of 8 m., are 2 m. thick and reinforced on the outside by a series of piers, 3-4 m. apart. Eight towers protect the fortress: the western towers, facing the sea, are square; the eastern towers are round. Two pairs of semi-circular towers guard the two gates leading into the citadel.
Vaulted rooms were built aong the walls of the central courtyard. A small bathhouse, consisting of a well, two bathtubs and a furnace for heating the water, is located in the northern part of the courtyard. In its center stood a small mosque (13x3 m.), its mihrab (prayer niche) facing Mecca.
Two Engraved Bronze Plaques from Tel Dan
Fragments of two engraved bronze plaques, dated to the 9th century BCE, were recently found at Tel Dan in northern Israel. The fragments, each about 9 cm. in diameter, were discovered in a well-planned building of several rooms situated in a large paved courtyard outside the city walls of biblical Dan. The building was probably part of a hutzot, a market place outside the city walls; the term hutzot (Heb. lit. "outsides") appears several times in the Bible, e.g. I Kings 20:34.
On the right side of one plaque is a scene depicting a human figure (king?) with upraised arms, standing behind a table covered with cloth; on the left is a throne, probably of a god or goddess, and at top center is the royal symbol of the winged sun-disk. A bull is depicted in the lower part of the second plaque, with a human figure with outstretched arms standing on it; wings appear to spread from this figure - probably the depiction of a goddess; to the left stands another human figure with outstretched arms.
Many parallels of such scenes are known from Neo-Hittite art, which was widespread in the Aramean Kingdoms (northern Syria today) during this period.
The Davidson Exhibition and Reconstruction Center in Jerusalem
The newly opened Davidson Center is located at the entrance to the Jeruslaem Archeological Park, near the Dung Gate of the Old City. Located in the 7th-century Umayyad Palace, the center presents the 5,000-year-old history of Jerusalem through archeolgoical exhibits and audio-visual presentations. Especially noteworthy is the virtual reality reconstruction of the Temple Mount, allowing visitors to enjoy a "real-time" tour of the area.
For further information, see the park's website: www.archpark.org.il
Credits: Israel Information Center, Jerusalem 2003 No. 8
Hillel Geva studied archeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, participated in excavations in the Jewish Quarter and the Citadel in Jerusalem, and is author of the entry "Jerusalem" in the New Encyclopedia of Archeological Excavations in the Holy Land and editor of Ancient Jerusalem Revealed.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs