Archaeology in Israel Update--July 2012
By Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg
W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research
Mount Carmel Caves on UNESCO World Heritage List
At its meeting on 29th June at St Petersburg, the World Heritage Committee agreed to place a set of four Carmel caves on its Heritage List. The document read, The four caves are located in one of the best preserved fossilized reefs of the Mediterranean region, and contain artifacts covering 500,000 years of human evolution, from the Lower Paleolithic era till today.
They are the Nahal Meorot caves of Tabun, Jamal, El-Wad and Skhul. The Tabun and other caves were first investigated by Dorothy Garrod in 1929-34 and she found there a complete skeleton of a Neanderthal woman, which was dated from 60,000 to 50,000 BP (before Present). The Jamal cave is a single chamber cave, while El-Wad has an entrance chamber that leads to five others that contain stone house remains and a cemetery with skeleton fragments of a hundred individuals. The listing includes the terraces to the caves that display evidence of artistic activity and agriculture. The caves reflect mans prehistoric culture and his transformation from hunter-gatherer to agriculturalist that occurred over hundreds of years. The credit for bringing the caves to the attention of UNESCO must go to Prof. Mina Weinstein-Evron of Haifa University, who has been passionate in preserving the evidence of the caves over many years.
Bethlehem Church on UNESCO List
At the same meeting, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was also placed on the World Heritage List in the name of the Palestine Authority. The PA claimed that the Church was in danger, but in fact the Church is in fairly good condition, although repairs are needed to the roof. The Greek Orthodox and Armenian Church Patriarchs had opposed the original listing application but the PA has provided written guarantees that it will not intervene in the internal affairs of the site, in particular the status quo agreement which defines the full autonomy of the three churches (including the Roman Catholics) in the management of the site.
Early Synagogue at Huqoq
At Huqoq, a village mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud, archaeologists Jodi Magness, with David Amit and Shua Kasilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), have found remains of a large synagogue of the late Roman period of the 4th century CE, a time which saw a great increase in synagogue building in the Galilee and the Golan. The synagogue has a mosaic floor that includes an inscription alongside two faces, one of them destroyed, but the other is female, very graphic and most unusual for a synagogue. There is also a depiction of the story of Samson sending flaming torches tied to the tails of foxes into the fields of Philistine standing corn (Judges 15:4ff), which is again used as a mosaic subject in another recently discovered synagogue at nearby Wadi Hamam. The richness of the mosaics and the fact that remains of the structure show impressive use of large ashlar stonework is surprising in a small village setting and indicates the affluence of the area, which was watered by a spring, near a trade route, a centre of fertile land and famous for its mustard plants. I guess mustard was lucrative said Jodi Magness.
Crusader Coins Found at Appollonia
At Tel Arshaf, on the coast north of Herzliya, in the course of a three-year dig headed by Prof. Oren Tal of Tel Aviv University, a large cache of golden coins of the Crusader period has been uncovered. The coins had been placed in a sand-filled pottery vessel, now broken, under the floor tiles of the castle, and it looked like a deliberate act of concealment, probably made by the defenders during a prolonged siege by Muslim troops. The excavation has also uncovered arrowheads and catapult stones, evidence of the Arab siege. The Crusaders, who called their castle Apollonia, held the stronghold in the 13th century, when it was eventually conquered and razed to the ground by the Mamluks, who failed to check under the floor tiles. The hoard is of 108 gold coins minted around 1,000 CE in Egypt, and is today valued at over $100,000. After cleaning, the hoard will be put on exhibition.
Hellenistic Harbor at Akko
During conservation work to the southern sea wall of the modern harbour at Akko, evidence appeared of large well laid and dressed stones as used in many other installations along the Phoenician coast, and may have indicated the base of a large building or the foundation of a port installation. The finding of a series of mooring stones along the quay makes it clear that it was the latter, and thus was evidence for a large port in the Hellenistic period of 300-200 BCE. The stone floor was littered with fragments of pottery vessels from across the Aegean, from ports such as Knidos (W.Turkey) and Rhodes, by which it could be dated. The flooring had a slight slope to the south and was flanked on two sides by walls built in the Phoenician style, which suggests that the floor was the base of a slipway used to haul ships onto the shore, according to Kobi Sharvit, director of the IAA Marine Archaeology Unit. The section of the harbour uncovered so far indicates that it was a military installation, probably the chief naval base of Coele-Syria (Palestine/Israel) that was deliberately attacked and destroyed by enemies of the Seleucid powers, who could have been Egyptian forces under the Ptolemies, or even the Hasmoneans many years later.
Jars of Burnt Wheat at Tel Hatzor
Excavations at Hatzor have been in progress for many years under Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor of Hebrew University and Dr. Tsvika Tzuk, of the Nature and Parks Authority, who administer the archaeological site. Recently fourteen large pithoi storage jars have been uncovered and found to contain stores of burnt wheat that are dated to the Middle Bronze Age of 2,200 BCE. They were found in the storage room of the monumental building, perhaps a palace, of the Canaanite period. When excavation is complete this season, the jars and contents will be transferred to the IAA laboratories for further investigation and conservation, before being exhibited and then replaced on site.
Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie
On the 70th anniversary of the death of Flinders Petrie a special ceremony was held at his graveside in Jerusalem. This report is by Sam Wolff of the IAA, with an addition in brackets by Shimon Gibson.
On 30 July 2012 an evening gathering was organized by the IAA to commemorate the 70th year of the passing of Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, pioneer British archaeologist and Egyptologist. The well-attended event was held in the courtyard of the former Bishop Gorbat School, current Jerusalem University College, on Mt. Zion, metres away from Petries grave, which is located in the Protestant Cemetery alongside other prominent archaeologists and architects like James Starkey, Clarence Fisher, Conrad Schick. After a brief tour of the cemetery and introductory remarks, Gabriel Barkay delivered an appreciation of Petries achievements. This was followed by a brief lecture by Shimon Gibson which, among other items of interest, included a graphic description of his visit to the Royal College of Surgeons in London in order to confirm the identity of a human head preserved in a jar, reputed to be the head of Petrie (who was an advocate of the Eugenics movement and believed that a measure of human intelligence could be based on the measurement of skulls). The evening ended with a screening of a BBC documentary of Petries life and contribution to archaeology, both in Egypt and in Palestine.
Ancient pool and Bust at Sussita
At the hilltop Hellenistic site of Sussita, overlooking the east shore of the Sea of Galilee, Prof. Arthur Segal has been leading a team from the University of Haifa for thirteen seasons and recent finds include a bust of an unknown worthy dated to the third century BCE, which the archaeologists think had come from a grave monument. In the last season they have also uncovered the well paved floor remains of an early local swimming pool, but no date has yet been given, This is a surprising find as water supply to the high level town must have been severely restricted.
Restoration of the Walls of Jerusalem
The 4 km. of the ancient city walls of Jerusalem have undergone an eight year program of repair and restoration under the supervision of Avi Mashiah of the IAA. The National Parks Authority and the Jerusalem Development Authority were also involved in the work and funding came from the Prime Ministers Office. It is the first time since the British Mandate that the walls as a whole have been surveyed and repaired. The work included restoration of the seven gates of the City and at the Zion Gate nearly 300 bullet holes, dating from 1967, were filled but the evidence left showing for historical accuracy. The work at the Herod and Damascus Gates was carefully coordinated with the local Arab traders who have open stalls at these gates, and much of the work was carried out at night so as not to disrupt trade. At the Damascus Gate the original ornamental high-level carvings were restored, at first to the angry protests of the locals, but it was explained that the original stonework was likely to collapse and now local residents and traders are happy to see the new work, and realize that the bright colors of the restoration will soon fade and blend in with the old. The whole of the walls have now been restored except for the portion at the south east corner, which is under the control of the Waqf, the Islamic administrators of the Temple Mount, who are proceeding with their repairs more slowly.