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Mycenaean Imports Early in Jerusalem’s History

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Don’t get our newsletter? No problem! We send out a newsletter about our project every three or four months (no spamming I promise) with updates about our research, special artifacts, conferences, and other events. It is really interesting, and you can subscribe to be on our list HERE. Below is an extended version of our “Finds from the Lab” feature from the July issue of our newsletter.

Imports

It is amazing how sometimes it only takes three or four small pieces of broken pottery to alter our archaeological knowledge and previous assumptions. We have three pieces of imported pottery from the Late Bronze Age (LB) – the 14th century BCE. Two are Mycenaean, from Greece (see below) and one is Cypriot. This tells us that there was at least some trading activity during that time period in Jerusalem.

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Late Bronze Age Imported Mycenaean (Greek) Pottery

The Late Bronze Age, associated with pre-Israelite Canaanite culture and settlement, is archaeologically elusive in Jerusalem, and demonstrates that archaeological finds do not always reflect the historical reality. In other words, since there are no destruction layers or dramatic changes from this time period in Jerusalem, the archaeological material from the Late Bronze Age is pretty sparse.

However, lack of evidence is not evidence in and of itself. Despite the lack of physical evidence from the Late Bronze Age, we know from historical documents like the Amarna letters and a cuneiform tablet found in the ‘Ophel Excavation that Jerusalem was indeed a city with a king, a palace, and an advanced society.

Imported pottery in general indicates advanced trade routes and an advanced economy, which was common in cities, among other things.

Very little imported Late Bronze Age pottery was found during previous excavations in ancient Jerusalem and most of what has been researched and published originates from mixed contexts. Significant quantities of such vessels were found only within a couple of tombs outside of the city. The first was on the Mount of Olives (Dominus Flevit), and the second in the Nachalat Aḥim neighborhood (about 4 km North-West of the City of David). The relation of these tombs to the city of Jerusalem remains unclear.

Because there is so little evidence of imported pottery or of a “city” in Jerusalem, every tiny pottery sherd that we find is important. Therefore, our three pieces contribute to the study of Bronze Age Jerusalem and further substantiate the written historical record.

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Indicative Late Bronze Age Canaanite bowl

Other Finds

Our project has also discovered a small amount of local Canaanite pottery from the Late Bronze Age. It is often difficult to differentiate between Late Bronze and Early Iron Age (Israelite Settlement period) local ware because some of the Late Bronze traditions continued into the Iron I in style and morphology (especially among cooking pots). Our project has also recovered scarabs, a possible fragment of an Egyptian statue, and an amulet naming Thutmose III, which all constitute evidence for Egyptian influence in the Late Bronze Age.

The contrast between the lack of archaeological material from this period and the written account in the Amarna letters led Tel-Aviv University historian, Professor Nadav Na’aman, to claim that the archaeological evidence does not always aptly reflect the intensity or size of any given site, and that archaeology should be complemented by additional textual sources (Check out the article HERE). This helped refute the theory advocated by Professor Israel Finkelstein and others that the United Monarchy of Kings David and Solomon was insignificant.

As a result, Finkelstein and others promoted a new theory that was meant to respond to Na’aman’s claim, and suggested that Jerusalem’s Late Bronze Age remains have not been discovered because they lie under today’s Temple Mount, which cannot be excavated. They suggested that the Temple Mount is the location of Jerusalem’s ancient Tell, and was the center of the Bronze Age city. This would mean that, as Na’aman said, “the most important area for investigation…remains terra incognita“. Consequently, the Bronze Age artifacts from our sifting project take on even more significance and importance.

The Sifting Project has recovered a massive amount of pottery and other artifacts dating from the Iron age IIA until modern times, truly validating our historical knowledge about the main periods of occupation on the Temple Mount. Yet even with the large amounts of pottery recovered in our project, the Bronze Age artifacts (pre-Iron IIA) take up only 0.5% of the total amount of artifacts found by the project. The percentage is much greater in the City of David area.

Eastern Slope of the Temple Mount

This holds true also when studying pottery from the eastern slopes of the Temple Mount (the western bank of the Kidron valley), where very few pre-Iron IIA pottery sherds were found. This data, along with many other archaeological arguments, validates the historical sources that indicate that the pre-First Temple city was located to the south of the Temple Mount, while the main activity at the Temple Mount began only during the Iron Age IIA (the First Temple period). The pieces of imported pottery and other artifacts from the Late Bronze Age indeed imply that there was an important city in the area which tapped into international trade routes reaching as far as the Mycenaean centers, but the city’s main occupation area was not on the Temple Mount, but rather near it.

Confused? Is lack of, or little evidence, evidence? Or not evidence?

Well, this is an example of the complexity of archaeological interpretation. There is a big difference between evidence such as architectural remains and rich finds that originate from a clear context (and which can be assigned to the end of a period or a transition from one period to the next), and scarce pottery sherds, coins, and other finds originating from a site’s topsoil. Such finds are considered as reliable statistical indicators of the main activities and occupations that took place at the site. Bronze Age pottery sherds are abundant in the topsoil and fills in the vicinity of the City of David, and support the widely-held premise that the pre-First Temple period City of Jerusalem was in the City of David rather than on the Temple Mount.

ISIS-Style Destruction of Antiquities, Right Here in Israel

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A week and a half ago, our staff had a fun day. As archaeologists, we obviously decided to go visit some archaeological sites, but we had no idea what we were about to see.

One of our stops on our trip was at the site of Archelais, which is north of Jericho. It is an ancient site that was built by King Herod’s son Archelaus (who then named the site after himself). Josephus mentions that Archelaus “magnificently rebuilt the royal palace that has been at Jericho, and he diverted half the water with which the village of Neara used to be watered, and drew off that water into the plain, to water those palm trees which he had there planted: he also built a village, and put his own name upon it, and called it Archelais.” (Antiquities 17.340)

In the Roman world, the dates from Archelais and the surrounding region were greatly admired. Pliny the Elder (NH 9.13) describes them as “highly esteemed – the more remarkable quality of these is a rich, unctuous juice; they are of a milky consistency, and have a sort of vinous flavour, with a remarkable sweetness, like that of honey” and they were bequeathed by Salome, King Herod’s sister to Livia, wife of Augustus Caesar (antiquities 18.31). Today, the area still boasts large tracts of date palms.  The site of Archelais proper is identified with the ancient ruin of Khirbet el-Beiyudat.

That is until recently.

Archelais was excavated from 1986 to 1999 by Hananya Hizmi who is now the Head Staff Officer of Archaeology for the Israeli Civil Administration in the District of Judea and Samaria. Since that excavation, the site has been left mostly untouched until recent construction by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to turn the surrounding area into a resort.

While this was unfortunate construction encroaching on the archaeological site, the construction stayed to the edges of the site. However, it seems that the men who were brought in to bulldoze the area for the construction realized that the land they were digging was rich with archaeological artifacts. It seems as though they decided to come back and see what they could find and in a short period of time, perhaps days, the almost the entire site was marred by bulldozers, and mass looting for the illicit antiquities market.

What we saw, and what you can see in these pictures is not Syria or Iraq. It’s right here in Israel.

 

This is quite possible the biggest archaeological destruction  in Israeli history. While the Temple Mount may be a more important site rich in antiquities from all different time periods, in size, the whole-sale destruction, covering about 100 dunams (about 25 acres of land) in Archelais is much larger than that of the south-eastern corner of the Temple Mount. We were shocked. We never saw such massive destruction, and we’ve been working with the Temple Mount material for 13 years. There were hundreds of pits, many trenches, and the entire site was turned over by bulldozers looking for archaeological “hot spots.” We could see many archaeological artifacts strewn across the site, including ashlar stones, pieces of architecture, column drums, and farming tools.

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So, let’s do a brief history. According to the Oslo Accords, Judea and Samaria is now separated into three areas: Areas A, B, and C. Area C is under the jurisdiction of Israel with full administrative and security control. Area A is under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority with full administrative and security control. Area B is jointly administered with the Palestinian Authority in charge of administration and Israel in charge of security. The Oslo Accords also call to protect and safeguard archaeological sites, prevent damage, respect academic freedom, and grant excavation licenses to archaeologists on a non-discriminatory basis.

It seems that the main problem is that the Archaeology Department of the Civil Administration has little manpower and it seems, little interest in this area of Israel. They have only one person in charge of antiquities robbery, construction supervision, and excavations for this district that encompasses over 3000 sites. This district covers the entire Jordan Valley and southern Samaria. In the Israel Antiquities Authority, on the other side on the “Green Line” there would be 60-70 people in charge of a district of comparable size.

It is a huge problem that Israel is not investing its resources to preserve archaeological sites in Judea and Samaria in areas C or B. The Palestinian Authority also has few staff and lacks resources in their archaeology department.

This type of destruction cannot be allowed to continue or to happen again elsewhere. We brought this destruction to the attention of Channel 2 News in Israel. They interviewed our staff members and an expose was aired last Friday night. The report also had a brief update about the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

We can do better in protecting our archaeological heritage in Israel. We need people who care to speak up and force the government to allocate the necessary funding and resources to the preservation and conservation of archaeological sites throughout Israel.

May 2018 bring us the protection we need for our archaeological sites and our heritage at risk in Israel.

Click here to See Video from Channel 2.

 

 

Top 10 Topics from 5777

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I can’t believe that another year has passed. As Rosh Hashanah approaches, I want to take a minute to look back at the crazy year we have had. To be honest, we have had a lot of ups and downs, but through it all, our biggest strength has been our supporters. Your generosity and messages of encouragement have helped us to continue our important work and have helped us climb those mountains of bad news that have faced us this past year. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

So let’s take a look at the past year! I went through our English Facebook Page (follow us if you haven’t already!) and tallied up the posts that made the most impact: most likes, shares, views, and comments. From finds, to videos, to urgent appeals for support, you have stood by us and shared this with us.

10. Early Islamic Artifacts

This post talked about some Early Islamic Period artifacts and linked to our blog post about the possible destruction layer we uncovered.

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Golden Mosaics from the Dome of the Rock

9. Evidence of the Greeks on the Temple Mount

This post celebrated the holiday of Channukkah and talked about Greek finds on the Temple Mount including a coin with the face of Antiochus Epiphanes IV who is the villain of the Channukkah story. Check out the whole story HERE.

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Greek coin with the face of King Antiochus Epiphanes IV

8. Archaeologists Restore Temple Mount Flooring from Waqf’s Trash

This was an article about our reconstructed Second Temple floor patterns published by Haaretz. Our floors have always been a popular topic. 🙂 Here is a link to the whole article: http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/archaeology/1.740548

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7. Lost and Found: A modern day bracelet

We found a modern day 10K gold bracelet and are (still) trying to find the owner. It has an Israeli girl’s name written in English letters. It is very small and may have belonged to a child. It was lost on the Temple Mount before 1999. Share the story and help us find the owner!

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6. Our video asking you to “Join Us” in our Annual Appeal.

Thank you to everyone who liked, shared, and donated in our Annual Appeal. Knowing that we have consistent supporters really makes us feel like you are part of our Sifting Project Family. Don’t forget, it’s an annual appeal so you will be hearing from me again ;).

5. Six-Day War Artifacts in the Temple Mount Soil.

Machine gun magazines, bullets, Jordanian coins, and uniform badges were found in sifting the soil from the Temple Mount. The artifacts tell the story of the unification of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War. Check out the whole article in the Times of Israel and watch the video we put together in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Unification of Jerusalem.

4. Evidence of the Jewish Temples on the Temple Mount

Last October, UNESCO adopted a biased and political resolution that disregarded Judaism’s historic connection to the Temple Mount, cast doubts regarding the Jewish connection to the Western Wall, and protested against the Israel Antiquities Authority’s attempts to supervise construction work on and around the Temple Mount in order to preserve the antiquities and other archaeological data. In response to this resolution, we wrote a blog post that outlined a lot of the archaeological evidence that we have of the Jewish temples on the Temple Mount. This was widely shared and is one of the most important posts we have written. Please read and share because the Temple Denial Movement is real and we have to know how to respond to it with educated answers. Click here for the full text of the post.

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Artifacts from the First and Second Temples

3. The Most Powerful Video about UNESCO and the Temple Denial Movement

This video was put out by Channel 2 News here in Israel. Seen in Hebrew by more than 1 MILLION people on Facebook alone, we added English subtitles so that it could be shared with people around the world. It is important to respect the narratives of people today, but this needs to be in addition to, and not at the expense of, real history. It is also easier to find common ground when relating to each other through facts and history than solely through hard-won respect for beliefs and narratives. Please watch and share.

2. Our Temple Mount Tour videos

Over the past few weeks, we have posted 11 (so far) videos touring the Temple Mount with Dr. Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira and talking about different features on the Temple Mount. All of these videos have been very popular and we promise to keep making them. Here is a link to the whole playlist on YouTube.

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1. Closing the Sifting Project

When we were forced to stop sifting the Temple Mount material this past April, we were all in shock. How were we going to move forward? How were we going to continue our research? We turned to you and let you know about the situation. You shared the video hundreds of times and it reached more than 34,000 people. We were able to raise over 200,000 shekels and because of that we were able to continue our research this year while we try to come up with the funding to resume the sifting. We cannot thank you enough for your support. At our darkest hour, you made such a difference to us and to our project. Government help takes a long time to initiate and we aren’t in the clear yet, but knowing that we can count on you makes all the difference.

So a Congressman, a Senator, and an Archaeologist walk onto the Temple Mount…

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We’ve been hinting at some big stuff happening in our office. Well two weeks ago we had some very special guests. Dr. Barkay gave a tour of the Temple Mount to five members of the US Congress; Mac Thornberry, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Henry Cuellar, Tom Graves, Steve Russell, and Oklahoma Senator James Lankford, as well as their families.

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Temple Mount Tour Group

The Temple Mount, especially recently, has been at the center of many disputes and violence. Our guests thought that it was important to include the Temple Mount in their trip so that they could get a much better idea of the realities of the situation, and they weren’t wrong. Actually seeing the Temple Mount and the people who pray there, the guards, the police, the visitors, and the interactions among them all is a useful tool for better understanding the complexities of today’s political situation on the Temple Mount. Additionally, the Temple Mount is beautiful and every building and stone has a rich and fascinating history that makes the site better than some museums for understanding the history of Jerusalem.

We are so grateful to the delegation for choosing to tour with us. They asked really insightful questions and I think that they learned a lot from Dr. Barkay’s immense knowledge of history. Unfortunately, at 1:30 in the afternoon, the Temple Mount is only open to visitors for an hour. After going through security, we only had 40 minutes to spend on the Mount itself. Though as Dr. Barkay said, “I could spend weeks here talking about this place,” he did a very thorough, though brief, tour of all the major monuments and sites upon the Mount, and best of all, I got it on camera. We now have more videos (to be edited) and added to our Temple Mount Tour series on YouTube. At the end of our Temple Mount Tour, Gaby was asked about our project. Check out his answer!

Our Job

Part of our job as archaeologists is to make sure that people understand the past. We have a unique ability to share the history of the Temple Mount and will happily share that with anyone who is willing to listen. We are actively working to share our research in order to combat the Temple Denial Movement and make sure that people recognize the Jewish and Christian connection to the Temple Mount and that it isn’t ignored or overlooked. Our research can provide the evidence necessary to help people respond to the Temple Denial movement. It is part of our mission to have our scientific research encourage educated discussion on the history of the Temple Mount. We do this through the blog, our YouTube channel, and we hope to be able to publish our research soon.

If you support our mission, please consider donating to help our project continue doing it’s important research.

To get involved, go to www.half-shekel.org.

Our (Virtual) Cabinet of Curiosities

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Hi everyone,

       We are hard at work in the lab continuing our research on the thousands of artifacts we’ve recovered from the Temple Mount. We’ve accomplished a lot in the last few months and we have catalogued most of our pottery and started working on drafts of the various chapters we hope to publish.

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Imported Mycenaean pottery

With so much going on and so many new discoveries every day, “Oh look! We have a gorgeous piece of imported Mycenaean pottery” and so forth, it’s always interesting when we find something in the storeroom that no one is able to identify. We have an amazing team of researchers who specialize in all different kinds of materials and all different time periods, so it takes a lot to stump us, but it does happen. To help us with our research on these “stumpers,” we created a website and a forum for people to see our unidentified finds and help us out.

Do you collect teacups? Are you an expert in Japanese imports from the last 200 years? Well this might be the day you can really help us out.

Do you hail from the great city of New Orleans or have a secret (or not so secret) collection of Fleur de Lis belt buckles? If you do, can you tell us when this style became popular, where these might have been sold, or have an idea about how this ended up on the Temple Mount? We think it might be Crusader.

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Example of gadi material

It’s amazing, but you really can help. Our intern last year, Hannah, decided to tackle what we were calling “gadi material,” since one of the examples had two incised symbols that resembled the ancient Hebrew letters ג and ד. We’d found a number of small fragments and had no idea what to make of them. We had some great suggestions on our website: “The object is probably an internal skeleton of a cephalopod like a squid known as a belemnite. It received mystical powers and was used as amulets for luck and success. A specimen found in Tiberas (751 AD) with the inscription of an Arabic name was analyzed by me (in press) based on the origin of this belemnite species form northwestern Europe. The present object is corroded and needs to be observed from all sides for possible identification and additional inscriptions. -Z. Lewy.” Based on the picture, this was a really insightful comment, but in the end, after we tested the material, Hannah found that it was not organic, but slate. These were fragments of “pencils” used for writing on slate writing boards and can be dated to the last couple hundred years. More on this in future posts 😉 .

See? Students! If you need a project, let us know!

I just uploaded a few more unidentified finds to our growing database. Definitely take a minute to check it out HERE and see if you can help us identify those artifacts that have us scratching our heads. Or, see if there is a project you want to tackle using our material. Either way, it’s a cool website to learn about the strange things found on the Temple Mount.

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Like what you see? Support research like this at www.half-shekel.org!

 

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