The Best of Archeology in the Holy Land in 2005
By Robert D. Mock MD
There is nothing more fundamental to the image of the ancient glories given by the God of Israel to the Hebrews than the glory of the temple of Solomon and the glories told in songs, psalms, prose and stories of the days of David and Solomon in the United Kingdom of Israel.
The last century has been one assault after another seeking to destroy any credibility of that literal and legendary land of Israel when the Shekinah glory resided in that golden ark in the Holiest of Holies. Of most recent have been the verbal, spiritual and physical assaults on the Temple Mount by the Mufti of Jerusalem and the Moslem Waqf, guardian and the Islamic organization the control the Temple Mount They claim that there never was a temple built for the God of Israel near this site in Jerusalem.
Even the recent archeologists and academic scholars of the Jews have sought to degrade the Biblical story of the lives of King David and Solomon that are part of the integral part in Israeli history. Instead they claim that these stories, such as that day when David met Goliath or the love of David for Bathsheba are the substance of fiction and fable. At the forefront of these critics is the Copenhagen School fronted by Keith Whitelam who promoted the thesis of “biblical minimalism” in his most cited book, “The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palestinian History.”
Even the chairman of the Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology, Israel Finkelstein, has championed the “scientific dating method” called “lower dating” that puts the Davidic dynasty to such a late date that David and Solomon were demoted to “hill country chieftains” and Jerusalem an obscure tribal village. To him, the “myth” of King David was a cultic creation of the priests of Israel to “create” a glorious and ancient history.
And then there arose a gutsy archeologist with a vision dedicated to her ancestral forefathers that their history was literal and was true. Dr. Eilat Mazar, now the leading authority on the ancient history of Jerusalem. She has literally taken King David from the scrolls and parchments of their ancient historians and chronologers and is restoring him to a living reality. According to Finkelstein, though the archeological structure is for real, Mazar’s interpretations are part of the recent “messianic eruptions” whose intent are to elevate the image of David as the ruler of an ancient civilization, known only in myths and the fables of the past.
In the shadow of the southern wall of the Temple Mount lying undisturbed under rubble for 3,000 years is a massive building. The building, that is being resurrected by the archeologist’s brush and pick, is according to the beliefs of Dr. Eilat Mazar the fabled “Palace of David and Solomon called the House of Forest of Lebanon.” Here is the home of the poet-warrior who in the Jewish Scripture states with clarity and conviction consolidated the tribes of Israel and Judah and forged them into the United Monarchy of Israel around the 10th century BCE. It was this David that built the first monarchial dynasty of Israel.
As one ascends up the slope from the Old City’s Dung Gate, there is an extensive building of antiquity that is being resurrected from the rocky hillside. Rows of thick stone walls, shards (clay fragments) of ancient pottery, bulla (clay signet stamps) and other remains are being exhumed from a narrow terrace at the edge of the Kidron Valley. Above the Old City of David, on a terraced cliffside, an ancient monumental building is being exposed and brought into living reality. This city, the city of Ir David, was fought over by every imperial force for three millenniums. This includes the contested neighborhoods of the Arabs and the Jews that surround it. This contested city is finally revealing the home of her most famous sons, Kings David and Solomon.
Dr. Eilat Mazar is the head archeologist of the Shalom Center Institute of Archaeology and granddaughter of the legendary Israeli archeologist, Benjamin Mazar. It was he who excavated the southern wall next to the Western Wall, the most revered site in Judaism. Now his granddaughter, Eilat Mazar, now 48 years old, has gone for the prize, to find the Palace of David.
Dr. Eilat worked for a decade with Yigal Shilo in the city of David. It was in one of his supervised digs that they discovered a huge retaining wall called the “stepped-stone structure.” This wall was believed to have protected David’s royal palace or the ancient Jebusite fortress that David conquered. This Jebusite fortress existed for 3800 years from the days of Melchizedek, the king of Salem who met Abraham after he conquered the invading five kings of the East.
The debate on where the Palace of David was located has raged in archeological circles for years. The consensus of the experts was that King David built his house inside the fortified walls of that ancient citadel of that powerful Canaanite tribe called the Jebusites, even though it was only nine acres in size. Yet there was no evidence in Ir David (City of David) for such a structure.
Dr. Mazar went back to the history books in the TaNaKh (Old Testament) and there she found the evidence; the Palace of David was outside the walls of that ancient fortress. This fortress palace was above the city fortress on a higher plateau.
11 Samuel 5:9-10,17 – “Then David dwelt in the stronghold, and called it the city of David. And David built all around from the Millo and inward. So David went on and became great, and the Lord God of hosts was with him…
Now when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. And David heard of it and went down to the stronghold.”
In September, 2004, BibleSearchers researched the potential site of the Palace of David in an article titled, “The Tomb of David and the Nazarene Synagogue (Cenacle).” Exploring the ruined city of David through the eyes of the Persian governor Nehemiah, the site of the Palace of David was explored. As written:
BibleSearchers - The second site (for the Tomb of David) is a series of diagonal shaft tombs built into the mountain at the base of the southeastern corner of the City of David. This site was below the site of the Citadel of David with breathtaking views in a panorama looking over the Valley of Hinnon to the southwest, the Tyropean Valley along the western wall and the mighty Valley of the Kidron to the east.
It is the Fountain Gate that is most intriguing in this passage. According to a three part article of Bill Lavers, Locating Jerusalem’s Fountain Gate, the gate appears to be associated with access in and out of the city to the only living spring in Jerusalem, the Gihon Springs. Within the ancient writings, the Gihon Springs is called by many names: the Fountain of YHVH, the Fountain of the High Priest, the Fountain of Israel, the Fountain of Life, the Fountain of the Steps, the Virgin’s Fountain and the Fountain of Shiloah…
From the vantage point of the elevation of the walls of the city of Jerusalem, King David could have looked down upon the Kidron Valley to the Gardens of David below. To the north was the Gihon Springs at the base of Mount Moriah where Solomon would soon build a temple to the Lord of hosts. The overflow water from the Gihon Springs would cascade downwards to the south of the city and resided in lower pool called the Pool of Siloam. It appears that somewhere in this region were the tombs of the kings of Judah and the Tomb of David.”
To Mazar, the historical clue became her stroke of genius for believing in the Hebrew Scripture. This story was recorded by the Jewish World with Aish.com the Jewish mega-site with over 150,000 subscribers. In the November 8, 2005 article called, The world of archeology is rocked by evidence of King David's palace unearthed in Jerusalem,” it states:
Jewish World - Mazar says she was confident in her assessment of where the palace would be. What she discovered was a section of massive wall running about 100 feet from west to east along the length of the excavation (underneath what until this summer was the Ir David Visitors Center), and ending with a right-angle corner that turns south and implies a very large building.
Within the dirt fill between the stones were found pottery shards dating to the 11th century BCE, the time when David established his monarchy. Based on biblical text and historic evidence, Mazar assumed that David would have built his palace outside the walls of the fortified but cramped Jebusite city which existed up to 2,000 years before; and in fact, the structure is built on the summit of the mountain, directly on bedrock along the city's northern edge, with no archaeological layers beneath it -- a sign that the structure constituted a new, northward expansion of the city's northern limit. What most amazed Mazar was how close the building is to the surface -- just one to two meters underground. "The cynics kept saying, 'there will be so many layers, so many remnants of other cultures, it's not worth digging, it's too far down.' I was shocked at how easy it was to uncover it, and how well-preserved it was, as if it were just waiting 3,000 years for us to find it," Mazar said.
Mazar snickers at the idea that she is some sort of divine emissary revealing the eternity of David's kingdom. "I am a scientist, not a philosopher. My focus is on how magnificent and enduring these complex structures are, that they were preserved and protected for so many generations. In truth, when I began to excavate, I had to be prepared for any result. I even had to be prepared to accept Finkelstein's hypothesis if that's what the facts indicated. Still, I am a Jew and an Israeli, and I feel great joy when the details on the ground match the descriptions in the Bible. Today it's become fashionable to say there was no David, no Solomon, no Temple, no prophets. But suddenly the facts on the ground are speaking, and those outspoken voices are stammering."
According to David Hozony, the editor-in-chief with the Azure publication, he wrote on September 1, 2005 an article titled, “Facts Underground:”
David Hozony – “According to the book of Samuel, when David conquered the Jebusite city of Jerusalem around the year 1000 BCE, he did not destroy it, but instead left it standing, including its great citadel to defend the city along its northern approach. In this city, today known as the City of David, a neighborhood just to the south of Jerusalem’s Old City, he added a few things as well–most notably a palace, built by master craftsmen sent by the Phoenician king Hiram of Tyre, who had concluded an alliance with David against their mutual enemy, the Philistines.
According to archaeological evidence, Jerusalem was already an ancient city, founded some two thousand years before David arrived, and fortified with walls as much as one thousand years before. Because of its unique topography–a high hill nestled between two deep valleys that converge at its southern point, graced with abundant water from the Gihon spring, and exposed to attack only along a ridge from the north–the location was ideal for the capital of David’s kingdom.”
The ancient city of David was centralized around the ancient citadel of the Jebusites and on the mount to the north the spectacular temple of Solomon was later built. It was in this city that King David built his palace and its fame became almost as legendary as the temple which he laid the foundational plans. Here he established the vision of his empire in stone and brought the Tabernacle of the Lord originally built over 400 years prior in the plains around the mount called Sinai, and housed in its premises. Here he made this city, Jebu-Salem, the spiritual and economic capital of the world.
The Fortress Palace of King David unearthed by Dr. Eilat Mazar
According to Jewish tradition, David fulfilled the master plan given to him by the God of the hosts and established a dynasty that would last until the final Redemption of Israel. There the prophecies center on the fact that his descendant, the Messiah ben David will arise and establish an everlasting kingdom. Today, three family genealogies boast that the male lineage of King David has not broken to this date.
According to Scott Wilson, a Washington Post Foreign Service journalist posted the article in the Washington Post on December 2, 2005 titled, “A Dig Into Jerusalem's Past Fuels Present-Day Debates.” In this article he posted this debate:
Scott Wilson with Washington Post – “Mazar's find is emerging at the nexus of history, religion and politics, volatile forces that have guided building, biblical scholarship and war in this city for millennia. Even before the findings have been assembled in a scientific paper, the discovery is prompting new thinking about when Jerusalem rose to prominence, the nature of the early Jewish kingdom, and whether the Bible can be used as a reliable map to archaeological discovery.
Only a small fraction of the structure has been exposed. But it is yielding rare clues to the early development of Jerusalem, long debated within Israel's university archaeology departments. Some archaeologists believe Jerusalem was no more than a tiny hilltop village when it served as David's capital. The discovery of a palace or other large public building from David's time would strengthen the opposing view that he and his son, Solomon, presided over a civilization grander than the collection of rural clans some historians say made up the Jewish kingdom.
Whether David was a tribal chieftain or visionary monarch matters deeply to the Jewish historical narrative -- the story of a single people, once ruled by kings and later dispossessed of its homeland until the modern state of Israel was created nearly 2,000 years later following the horrors of the Holocaust. Palestinian leaders, who also claim Jerusalem as their capital, dismiss the ancient story as politically useful fiction. But given the palace's location on land Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war, its discovery could be used to bolster the Israeli claim to the East Jerusalem neighborhood and increase Jewish settlement in the area.”
This edifice that Mazar uncovered was not the home of a tribal chieftain’s fortressed village but a mammoth construction of engineering excellence that according to the scriptural history was constructed by his friend, Hiram, King of Tyre, his Phoenician ally.
Dr. Eilat Mazar - "The construction that we found was a complicated and intricate engineering operation that must have required immense resources, and the dating matches," says Mazar. "This is the kind of step one would expect of a new ruler who wants to turn the city he conquered into his permanent residence, and who has an exceptional vision of the future development of the city."
According to Archeologist Mazar, the “Palace of Cedars of Lebanon” was used by all the kings of Judah until the city of Jerusalem and the First Temple built by Solomon was destroyed about 450 years later. As this article was going to print, according to Todd Bolen with BiblePlaces, his two photos demonstrate that a permanent and protective display arena is being prepared for these archeological ruins. Todd posted these photos and comments in “More on the "Palace of David”
Todd Bolen – “I was at the site last week and noticed that the entire excavation area is being covered with steel girders, probably both for protection of the remains and to allow the modern courtyard above to be completed.
According to David Hazony who posted an article on December 5, 2005 with the Cleveland Jewish News, he made this observation to the American Jewish population, many of whom are sympathetic to the mythical and non-literal history of the Jews. In this article, “Amazing discovery in heart of biblical Jerusalem,” he writes:
with the Cleveland Jewish News – “The evidence she found is
remarkable: A section of a massive wall, which runs about 100 feet from
west to east before making a right-angle turn heading south, implies the
existence of a very large building. Other findings include pottery shards,
discovered in the dirt fill between the stones of the wall, which were dated
to the 11th century B.C.E., the earliest possible date of the building’s
Additionally, the building is positioned directly on bedrock along the city’s northern edge with no archaeological layers beneath it. This implies that the structure, built two millennia after the city’s founding, constituted a new, northward expansion of the city’s limits, as described in the biblical account. It is located at what was then the very summit of the mountain, a reasonable place for the palace from which David is said, to have “descended.”…
The evidence seems to agree surprisingly well with Mazar’s claim that this could be David’s palace. The location, size, style, and dating of the building all match the textual description. Moreover, there are no finds that suggest the contrary, such as the idolatrous statuettes or ritual crematoria found in contemporary Phoenician settlements. Furthermore, the building appears in an ancient world where such constructions were extremely rare and represented the greatest sort of public works. Finally, the evidence fits well with previous archaeological finds from the site.”
People who share the apocalyptic view of the Bible believe that at the time of the end, the God of Israel will demonstrate the evidence that He did redeem a people from slavery in Egypt and guided them to the foothills of that mount called Sinai. There He made a covenant with them to be His chosen ones. He then guided them, in spite of their internal rebellions and wanderings, to the Land He promised to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Part of this evidence is that the high point of their ancient civilization was a United Monarchy that became legendary in international fame. The thesis carried by many archeologists and historians is that this period of grandeur did not exist. To them it was a historiosophic creation of the imaginations of the later priests of Israel. This thesis is no longer valid.
A cousin to Dr. Eilat Mazar, Amihai Mazar, that esteemed scholar of biblical archeology and author of the standard text, “Archeology of the Land of the Bible, 10,000 – 586 BCE,” was recently quoted as saying that the discovery was “something of a miracle.” David Hazony concludes:
David Hazony – “Furthermore, so long as we are willing to admit that possible future evidence may prompt a different conclusion, there is no reason not to identify this building as David’s palace. Put simply, we have before us two things: A biblical text describing in detail the creation of a Phoenician-style palace by David on a particular mountain around the end of the eleventh or beginning of the tenth century B.C.E.; and a grand Phoenician style structure dating from the same time on the summit of that very mountain, located with assistance from the text and previous archaeological discoveries.
Is this absolute proof? No. But surely it is enough to shift the burden of proof. For in the end, the theory that this is David’s palace is thus far the best explanation for the data. As Mazar herself says, “Anyone who wants to say otherwise ought to come up with a better theory.” This is neither wishful thinking nor an imagined past. It’s good science.”
An article was written by Dr. Eilat Mazar for the Biblical Archaeology Review in January/February 2004 about the excavations of the palace of King David. You can read this article by clicking on the title, “Did I find King David’s Palace?”
The Clay “Bulla” of Yehuchal Ben Shelemiah
On the site of the “Palace of David,” Dr, Eilat Mazar found on the 17th of Tammuz (date commemorating the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar before its destruction) as small clay disc called a “bulla.” This was an ancient seal used by a government official used to “seal” a papyrus scroll and emboss on it the “return address” or name of the sender. On this ancient bulla is inscribed the name of Yehuchal ben Shelemiah.
Yehuchal ben Shelemiah is a known name in biblical history as the one of the four Jewish princes who was the royal ministers to the king of Israel. He was sent as an emissary by the last king of Judah, King Zedekiah (Tzidkiyahu), to the Prophet Jeremiah. He beseeched Jeremiah to pray for the people of Jerusalem during the siege of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
Jeremiah 37:3 – “And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah (Yehuchal ben Shelemiah), and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, ‘Pray now to the Lord our God for us.’”
This same royal emissary later turned traitor to Jeremiah and convinced the king that Jeremiah’s prophecies of “doom and destruction” were demoralizing the population sealed behind the walls of Jerusalem in the Babylonian siege and that Jeremiah needed to be killed.
Jeremiah 38:1-4 – “Now Shephatiah the son of Mattan, Gedaliah the son of Pashhur, Jucal (Jehucal) the son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur the son of Malchiah heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken to all the people, saying, Thus says the Lord: ‘He who remains in this city shall die by the sword, by famine and by pestilence; but he who goes over to the Chaldeans shall live; his life shall be as a prize to him, and he shall live.’ Thus says the Lord: ‘This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army, which shall take it.’”
Therefore the princes said to the king, ‘Please let this man be put to death, for thus he weakens the hands of the men of war who remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man does not seek the welfare of this people, but their harm.”
So there on the site of the palace that was the last known residence of the king of Israel and his ministerial staff before being deported to Babylon, this seal was found and nearby a cistern was located, possibly the king’s courtyard. It has been speculated that this “pit” was the site where Jeremiah was lowered into as a hostage of the royalty of Judah.
Jeremiah 38:6 – “So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the king’s son, which was in the court of the prison, and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire. So Jeremiah sank in the mire.
As Mazar said concerning the royal minister of the Nation of Judah, Yehuchal Ben Shelemiah:
Dr. Eilat Mazar – "For me, finding the bulla was tremendous. Yehuchal was no longer just some name in a biblical account that I might not even have been sure was true. He was a real person. We now have his business card. The account is a real account. It is very rare to find such precise evidence for a narrative in the Bible."
With the skill of an expert, Mazar took this small clay seal and gently with a needle under magnification cleaned off the dust and watched as the ancient script reveal itself. With the help of her family assistants, her three boys aged 11, 13 and 14, the Hebrew text was deciphered. Using their father’s articles, an archeologist in his own right, they learned how to examine and decipher the inscriptions on a clay seal bulla. As Mazar stated:
Dr. Eilat Mazar - "Today the scholarly approach to Tanach (the Bible) is that it's not true unless you can prove it true. Maybe we should do a little reverse. Why don't we say it's true unless we can prove otherwise?"
These were not the only bulla “business cards” that have been found in recent years. In a nearby excavation site of what was believed to be a government public building, over 50 bullas were excavated under the charred layers of Jerusalem that Nebuchadnezzar left in his wake. As the fires razed the city, these clay seals were solidified and found fully legible in excellent condition. Bearing dozens of Hebrew names, the two most prominent were members of the royal staff; one was Gemaryahu ben Shafan, of the royal scribes of King Jehoiakim (Yehoyakim). It was in the chamber of Baruch ben Neria where the rebuke of Jeremiah was read:
Jeremiah 36:10 – “then Baruch read from the book the words of Jeremiah in the house of the Lord, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan (Gemaryahu ben Shafan) the scribe, in the upper court at the entry of the New Gate of the Lord’s house, in the hearing of all the people.
The other known biblical personage who bulla identified him was Azaryahu ben Hilkiyahu, a member of the family of Zadok the high priest of Israel just before the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed.
1 Chronicles 9:10 – “Of the priests: Jedaiah, Jehoiarib, and Jachin; Azariah the son of Hilkiah (Azaryahu ben Hilkiyahu), the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub, the officer over the house of God.
Of course by the anti-biblical scholars and scientists in the world, the findings by Dr. Mazar are “too biblical?” This was not just a happenstance finding but one of careful thought and review. She argued this thesis in a position paper with the Biblical Archaeological Review that upon the completion of the digs in the “stepped stone support wall” by her mentor Yigal Shilo and upon the archeological findings by the famed British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon, she felt her thesis was secure and the place was right. According to Mazar, the last conversation with her famous grandfather, the biblical archeologist Professor Binyamin Mazar ten years ago, he told her, "Kenyon found the protoaeolic capitals (of the decorative Phoenician stone-work), so go and find where she found them, and start there."
Yet it was politically and archeologically incorrect to search much less find the palace of David. The academic world was not only indifferent but biased against the literal glory of the days of Kings David and Solomon. But that day did come and the Shalem Center for archaeological studies funded under a grant by Roger Hertog, an American investment banker sponsored Dr. Eilat Mazar to begin the dig for the royal home of David. As one archeological colleague stated, “It's bad for business to find things from the Bible these days. It makes us look like unsophisticated messianic fanatics.” According to Dr. Mazar, it was time for serious scholars to pursue their research and their archeological dreams without being intimidated.
This rescue project for the temple mount relics of Israel’s ancient past was begun by archeologist Tzachi Twig. In an article written on October 19, 2005 titled, “Volunteers Join Search for Temple Relics” in Israel National News, it stated that the volunteers were working to sift through debris from the interior of the Temple Mount as fast as the Muslim Waqf is illegally disposing of them in various dump sites around the city.
To demonstrate the unsympathetic ears of the Sharon government, the volunteers from Bar Illan University under the supervision of Professor Gabriel Barkay of the University, have had difficulty in obtaining a permit for the dig in the trash heap. They also had difficulty obtaining permission to erect sukkas during the fall festival of Sukkot in October, 2005. It was there that they desired to display the artifacts found in the excavations.
Though the Nature and Parks Authority agreed for the dig and the erection of the sukkos, they had to lodge a petition with the High Court of Justice requesting an injunction against the Jerusalem Police.
In a fascinating article written for the Temple Institute titled, “Piecing Together The Holy Temple,” Tzachi Zweig, an archaeology master's student from Bar Ilan University, is credited to be the first to blow the whistle on the Waqf many months ago, when he discovered Temple artifacts thrown out in junk heaps around Jerusalem. Actually the Moslem Waqf, who was given control of the Temple Mount by the government of Israel since 1967, had been illegally excavating the Mount in order to construct an underground mosque in the southern third of the Haram-esh-Sharif. Day after day, heavy tractors were bringing soil and debris taken from the Temple Mount during the construction and excavation, both of which were done without any supervision of the Israeli Archeological Institute. (See Israeli law concerning the Temple Mount) True to the nature of the Jerusalem Mufti since the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and their allegiance with Hitler’s “Final Solution,” the action of the Islamic Waqf is consistent with their history; to deny the relationship of the people of Israel with Jerusalem and the Land of Israel and to destroy any evidence of the first and the second temple eras on the Temple Mount.
In spite of the brazen disregard to the preservation of historical architecture and the holy sites of the various historical cultures in the Middle East, the Israeli government has not only refused to enforce the Israeli laws, but has spent most of its legal, political and religious governance in protecting the Islamic desecration. The Israeli government has instead been penalizing the citizens of Israel who seek to protect the laws of the land. Even the archeological community has virtually thrown up its arms in resignation.
ZACHI DESCRIBES THE ITEM PICTURED ABOVE: "THE FIRST IS A FRAGMENT OF A SCULPTURED STONE of the Second Temple period engraved with an acanthus leaf in Herodian style. It is stylized in a very high level, and comes from a very important structure that stood on the Temple Mount during Second Temple period, maybe from the Temple itself!"
Tzachi Zweig later presented many of these artifacts unearthed in the garbage heaps at an archaeology conference at the University of Bar Illan. Dozens of truckloads of this “treasured garbage” was moved to a reservation site near Mount Scopus where today teams of archaeologists and volunteers continue to find massive amounts of valuable, significant artifacts from the First and Second Temple periods.
With 15% of the earth sifted by mid July 2005, they
had already recovered from the temple era pottery shards, a one-meter section of a marble pillar, oil lamps, arrowheads,
and more than 100 ancient coins. These temple coins from the Second Temple bore the inscriptions stating, “For the Redemption of Zion” and “For the
Freedom of Zion.”
Understandable, the artifacts found have been removed from their “in-situ” location on the Temple Mount. To the Israeli professional and student archeologists plus numerous volunteers, the excavations and archeological exploration on the Temple that was once forbidden by the rabbis of Israel for fear that they were desecrating the location of the temple’s Holy of Holiest, is now unofficially been permitted. The fact exists; they have officially conducted the first archeological “dig” on the Temple Mount.
In spite of all the adversarial conditions that they have encountered, Zachi’s archeological team has made several important discoveries. Contrary to the professional and private opinion that the Israelite presence on the Temple Mount would have been found only under several centuries of the debris of several civilizations, the surprise was the discovery on how many Israelite artifacts have been discovered on debris near to the surface of the Temple Mount.
First and Second temple era artifacts truly are present near the surface including bronze coins dating to the time of the Great Revolt against Rome in the year of 70 CE. These discoveries are only tantalizing in the potential of what is yet to be discovered. To these professionals and students, they dream of that time in history when the children of Jacob worshipped in a temple to the God of Israel on the Mount called Moriah in the city called by David their king, Yerushalayim.
Here they discovered a Herodian Acanthus leaf sculpture, a Scytho-Iranian arrowhead used by the invading coalition forces of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, and the Bulla, black in color from being burnt and fused in the conflagration of the burning temple site in the days of King Zedekiah in 538 BCE.
This bulla is fragmented but the Hebrew letters, (...LYHW) in the middle and (...AMR) on the bottom of the seal could represent another seal that was published with the complete inscription, which is translated, belonging to Ga'alyahu son of Immer.
The House of Immer is well known in the chronologies of the Jewish priestly families at the end of the first temple era in the 7th to the 6th centuries BCE to the days of the redemption of the Jews back to the Land of Israel in the days of Zerubabbel, Ezra and Nehemiah. (Jeremiah 20:1; Ezra 2:37, 2:59, 10:20; Nehemiah 3:29, 7:40, 7:61, 11:13, 7:61; First Chronicles 9:12, 24:14] This insignificant bulla, now in the family of multiple bullae found in the past in the Ir David (City of David), is the first bulla that was found on the Temple Mount.
According to an article written April 14, 2005 by Israel National News, titled, “Dumped Temple Mount Rubble yields Artifacts,” it demonstrated the following artifacts found to date:
One of the biggest defenders of the temple artifact rescue mission over the years has been Dr. Eilat Mazar. As the spokesperson for the Committee Against the Desecration of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, Professor Mazar has been protesting the vandalism of the Temple site for the past six years by the Muslim Waqf in their bid to destroy the proof of the “Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem.” Denying that there ever were temples of the Jews upon these sites, over 100 truckloads of rubble from the interior of the Temple Mount including the soil and artifacts have been clandestinely removed.
When the Zionist government of Israel took over the city of Jerusalem in 1967, one of the first government actions was to hand over control of the Temple Mount to the Muslim Mufti of Jerusalem and the Waqf but with this agreement were several premises, they were not permitted to carry on any excavations or digs on the temple mount without permission from the Israel Antiquities Authority. To date, no permit has ever been sought.
Yet, over the years the following has occurred:
· The ancient Hulda Gate entrance into the Temple Mount on the southern wall was sealed.
· The adjoining steps and ancient tiling at this Gate were buried.
· The Islamic Mufti ordered that an underground water cistern that many rabbis and archeologists felt would lead to the foundations of the temple to be sealed.
· In 1999, the Waqf bulldozed and then paved over 6,000 square meters of the surface of the Temple Mount and artifacts were dumped in several places around Jerusalem.
· Over 100 truckloads of soil mixed with rubble and artifacts was “clandestinely removed” to several dumps around Jerusalem, predominately in the Kidron Valley between the Old City of David (Ir David) and the Mount of Olives and the city dump.
The Temple Mount Archaeological Destruction by Zachi Zweig
According to William Dever, professor emeritus from the University of Arizona and posted on Israel National News in November 9, 2005 in an article titled, “Archaeologists Claim Find of Ancient Hebrew Alphabet in Israel,” he claims that Ron E. Tappy, professor at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and P. Kyle McCarter, professor at John Hopkins University found an incised two line inscription of an alphabet on a thirty eight pound stone that was hollowed out into a bowl shape at a dig site called Tel Zayit, in the Beth Guvrin Valley in the lowlands of ancient Judah.
According to William Dever, in an interview with the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, he states that the tablet that Ron Tappy discovered dates to the 10th century BCE and is of Hebrew origin.
The Tel Zayit stone was found on a 3-hectare (about 8 acres) site in the region of ancient Judah southwest of Jerusalem about 29 kilometers (18 miles) inland from the ancient Philistine port of Ashkelon. There is also some suggestions that this stone could have been used as a cultic drinking vessel for religious ritual.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – “Ronald Tappy was up in a cherry picker, photographing his site, when a supervisor asked him to look at "some scratches" a college volunteer had found on a stone. "If I had known what it was ... I would have leaped out of the cherry picker and tried to fly to the ground," said Dr. Tappy, professor of Bible and archaeology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. But inscriptions from the late 10th century B.C. -- which the Bible associates with King Solomon -- were virtually unheard of. He finished taking pictures of Tel Zayit, a mound of ruins halfway between Jerusalem and the Mediterranean that he has excavated since 1999.
When he saw the stone, the early morning light fell so perfectly across its face that he could make out faint letters. They had been unnoticed earlier because they disappeared in the sun's glare. "I was a bit speechless," he said yesterday. It turned out to be an alphabet. "You could say this was Solomon's alphabet." he said. Dr. Tappy and his colleagues believe the 38-pound stone holds the ancestor of all alphabets. They also believe it buttresses arguments that biblical stories of ancient kings could have a basis in historical fact.”
The 22 letters were engraved on the side of a 38 pound (17kg) boulder resembling a bowl. It was had been put into a wall. According to Mr. Tappy, the ancients had a belief that the magical powers of the alphabet put inside a wall would ward off evil. This wall was later sealed off in a layer of ash and debris from a raging fire that was set no later that 925 to 900 BCE. As he said, "The remains of the building, including the inscription ... have been protected all this time. They have been lying there, sleeping silently all these 3,000 years.” To Tappy, “the first (10th-century inscription) that can be securely dated by archaeology ... ceramic typology and so forth, is the Tel Zayit stone."
According to Christopher Rollston, a professor of Old Testament and Semitic studies at Emmanuel School of Religion in the State of Tennessee was impressed with the completeness of the alphabet and the accuracy the scholars can date it by because of the pottery unearthed next to it. Described as a “complete alphabet, reading from right to left” it was more than likely to be used as some form of an educational text. To the lay reader, the Hebrew letters in the picture are read from the right to the left and are written all in the upper case. Written ancient Hebrew had no lower case letters, no vowels, punctuations, chapters, pages and paragraph breaks. To the scholars these images appear to be the Hebrew letters waw, he, het, zayin, tet…and as some researchers speculate, they were a segment of a child’s alphabet text. According to Rollston:
Dr. Christopher Rollston - "My opinion is that this is indicative of the fact that Israelite culture was much more sophisticated than some scholars have affirmed. This is a piece of evidence that will figure in a very important way in future discussions."
If the archeologists who discovered this written alphabet are proven to be correct, this stone will hold the record of being the oldest reliably dated example of an “abecedary” - the letters of the alphabet written out from beginning to end in their traditional sequence. To date many scholars that have examined this inscription support this view. As the Harvard expert on early Hebrew inscriptions, Frank Moore Cross Jr. stated:
Frank Moore Cross Jr. - "This is a very early Hebrew alphabet, maybe the earliest, and the letters I have studied are what I would expect to find in the 10th century" before Christ.
According to P Kyle McCarter, a renowned expert on ancient Near Eastern writing at Johns Hopkins University, and directors of the West Semitic Research Project at the University of Southern California, this writing was a “Phoenician type of alphabet that is being adapted.” If confirmed, this proto-Hebrew alphabet will fuel that debate that has been raging for years amongst Biblical and secular scholars and archeologists on whether the ancient Israelites were literate or not.
The debate is even deeper because it questions whether the Torah or the Law of Moses given on that mount called Sinai was passed down over the centuries in written tablets or manuscripts or only by word of mouth. The former is called the “Written Torah” and the latter is called the “Oral Torah.” This alphabet gives evidence that the Hebrew people were literate. Their writing was used as early as the 10th century BCE, in an advanced political system of an imperial kingdom by the Kings David and Solomon.
According to McCarter, we can now imagine in the 10th century BCE, in the hill country southwest of Jerusalem, a Hebrew scribe carving the Hebrew ABCs, actually, the aleph-beth-gimels, on the side of a limestone boulder. This was in an era in which the Hebrew alphabet was emerging into its own distinct form apart from its linguistic cousin, the Phoenicians.
When the archeologists were digging into these ruins at Tel Zayit in July, 2005, an inscribed stone was found within the wall of this ancient building. This inscribed pottery was discovered in the context of the construction of network of buildings at that site suggesting that here was a border town that was part of the expanding imperial borders of the Israelite kingdom of David and Solomon.
These findings were revealed on November 19, 2005 at the Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. According to William Dever, in an interview with the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, he states that the tablet that Ron Tappy discovered dates to the 10th century BCE and is of Hebrew origin.
Skeptical scholars who have viewed photos of the tablets claim that the language is unclear whether its origin is Phoenician, Hebrew or a blend between the two. If Tappy’s thesis is true, another link to the United Monarchy of the three great kings of Israel – Saul, David and Solomon between 1020 to 930 BCE has been found. As Professor Tappy remarked:
Professor Ronald Tappy - “The remains of the building, including the inscription ... have been protected all this time. They have been lying there, sleeping silently all these 3,000 years…This is a site from the outskirts of a 10th-century kingdom that was establishing itself exactly at that time in Jerusalem. This is the time of the Solomonic kingdom in Jerusalem. The fact that you can go to its western extreme, to the most remote part of the kingdom, and find literacy at the very beginning of its development says a great deal about the sophistication of that early state."
The “Methuselah” Sapling is Thriving
On November 23, 2005, an update was by the Free Republic and titled, “2,000-Year-Old Seed Sprouts, Sapling Is Thriving.”
According to Israeli archeologists, several ancient date seeds were found during the excavations at the Masada fortress in the year, 1973. A mountain fortress of King Herod was taken over by the Jewish Zealots and there they fought to their death in 73 CE. Ending their life in a dramatic suicide pact rather than surrender to the Romans, this ended the Jewish resistance against the Romans that caused the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the temple of Herod the Great in 70 CE.
These seeds were carbon dated to be about 2000 years old and Hebrew University archaeologist Ehud Netzer upon finding the seeds gave them to a botanical archaeologist Mordechai Kislev at Mar-Illan University in Tel-Aviv . There they sat until Sarah Sallon, the director of the Hadassah Medical Organization's Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research Center (NMRC) in Jerusalem found them and asked for permission to pass them on to desert agriculture expert Elaine Solowey. According to this conversation:
Elaine Solowey – "I said, Thank you. What do you want me to do?" Solowey recalls. Told to germinate them, she said, "You want me to do what?" Solowey, director of the experimental orchard and the NMRC cultivation site at Kibbutz Ketura in Israel, focuses primarily on finding new crops that grow well in the arid Middle East climate.”
In January, 2005, the research by Elaine Solowey was on how to revitalize ancient seeds was completed. The first step was to soak the seeds in hot water to assist in the absorption of liquids and nutrition. These seeds were then soaked in a nutrient packed solution and then resoaked in an enzymatic fertilizer made from seaweed. As Solowey stated, “I assumed the food in the seed would be no good after all that time. How could it be?"
The Jewish holiday known as the New Year for Trees, TuB’sheval, occurred on January 25, 2005. On that day, Solowey planted the ancient revitalized date palm seedlings in new potting soil, hooked them up to a drip irrigation system and left them in locked quarters. In March, the first sign of sprouting was the cracked soil and according to her testimony, "I couldn't believe it," she said. "I did everything to avoid contamination, so it had to be that seed. And by March 18 I could see it was a date shoot."
The date palm grows as either a male or a female palm. Only the female palm bears fruit. The sex of the plant called Methuselah is unknown at this time. Once the DNA studies are completed, if the DNA of this palm matches with a modern date palm the sex of the palm can be determined. If not, it will take four years to determine if it will bear fruit.
The ancient literature including the Bible and the Qur’an refer a lot to the ancient date palm. The Land of Israel was famed for its date palms as King Herod had vast palm orchards at Jericho that were once owned by Cleopatra of Egypt. Though the palm was a prime staple of food, shade and shelter, the date palms living in the Land of Israel became extinct about the year of 500 CE. After the Jews returned to the Land of Israel and the State of Israel was formed on May 15, 1948, they began importing date trees in the 50s and 60s of modern varieties in Iraq, Morocco and Egypt.
By November of 2005, these seedlings were thriving. According to the Israeli researchers who are taking their time to cultivate these historic plants said the following:
Sarah Sallon - "It's 80 centimeters (3 feet) high with nine leaves, and it looks great…Dates were famous in antiquity for medicinal value. They were widely used for different kinds of diseases—cancers, TB (tuberculosis) - all kinds of problems."
Today, Sarah Sallon and the Natural Medicine Research Center in the Hadassah Center are dedicated to studying complementary and alternative medicines. Understanding the traditions of the ancients, these plants of the Middle East were used for thousands of years for their unique medicinal and therapeutic health.
Named Methuselah after the oldest recorded person in the Bible, the grandfather of the Patriarch Noah who died seven days before the start of the Great Flood, they hope that this young date palm sapling will be a female. If so then they can re-grow the extinct dates of antiquity and find if there are any unique medicinal properties that are no longer found in modern date palm tree varieties. With the study of the DNA structure between “Methuselah” and modern date palms, the team hopes to publish its findings within a year.
In the southern Israeli city of Tell es-Shafi, a pottery fragment was found on the mound where a decade old dig was being conducted that was accepted to be the site of the Biblical Philistine city of Gath. As one of the five confederacy cities of the Philistia, these Philistines gave the early Israelites no end of grief and trouble.
This rust-colored ceramic pottery fragment, more than likely was part of a bowl, had Semitic inscriptions on it that read “alwat: and “wlt.” The archeologists believed this inscription to be the Philistine spelling for the name of “Goliath.”
On November 10, 2005, it was reported in MSNBC that this archeological discover in an article titled, “Scientists find ‘Goliath’ inscribed on pottery Reference from 950 B.C. lends credence to Bible tale.” In the article, Dr. Aren Maeir, professor of Bar-Illan University and the director of the archeological dig claimed:
Dr. Aren Maeir – “What this means is that at the time there were people there named Goliath. It shows us that David and Goliath’s story reflects the cultural reality of the time.”
What is more interesting is that the city of Gath is identified in the scripture as the home of Goliath.
1 Samuel 17:4 – “And a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.”
The story of “David and Goliath” launched the young David to the legendary fighter for Israel. This story is believed by many scholars to have been written down as myths centuries after the life of King David. Here now is discovered a pottery shard dated around 950 BCE, within 70 years of the date when that young Hebrew shepherd whose skills were sharply honed with the use of a slingshot, who squared off with the unbeatable giant and slew him with one small stone.
On November 28, 2005 it was reported by ABC News in an article titled, “Ancient Roman Anchors Found in Israel” that two wooden Roman anchors were found in the Dead Sea.
One anchor was dated to 500 BCE and the other 2000 years ago to the 1st century CE. They were made of acacia wood and their design was similar to known anchors used in Roman ships. It was noted that the metal had corroded away but the wooden portions remained intact including some ropes remained due to the preservative activity of the high salt content in the Dead Sea.
Now on display in the Israel Museum, the anchors were not seen until the level of the Dead Sea dropped enough to see them. It is speculated that this increase in lake traffic occurred about the time the Medaba Map that is dated to 600 BCE was made.
While the style of the anchors are Romanesque the news articles fail to state why the Roman presence was at the Dead Sea in 500 BCE. While the Roman triremes were still in the future, small boats could have been used by the Romans in the Tiber River before the three Punic Wars between 264 and 146 BCE. Some have speculated that they these anchors could have been copied from Greek influence. Since Israel was truly not a maritime nation, we still have to remind ourselves that there was a short time in history when King David and the maritime Phoenician king, Hiram jointly participated in transcontinental exploration for gold.
Then the question still remains to be asked, Why could not the ancient Israelites and the later Galileans be credited with the skills of designing their own boat anchors?
The Way It Use to Be – Jerusalem Then (1915) and Now (2005)
Photo by Todd Bolen with Bibleblog.com
The affects of encroachment of civilization are sometimes recorded in the logs of history but rarely documented so that we can see and understand. According to the Biblical Professor-historian-photographer, Todd Bolan, who has the web-site called BiblePlaces.com has taken the time to recover ancient photos of the city of Jerusalem. Here he records the ninety years of human interaction with the land surrounding the ancient city of Jerusalem. On a brief picture site, “The City of David: Then and Now”, he recorded his findings. As he states:
BiblePlaces – “With a few free hours in Jerusalem, I headed to the City of David with a handful of old photographs that I had printed off. My goal was to get the "now" version. For the most part, it was not successful. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it greatly, but it means that things have changed so much that many times I couldn't even get to the same location where the photograph was taken (or figure out exactly where it was). But I had success in a couple of places, and my favorite is of the City of David.”
Here we see a view from the southwest view of the Temple Mount with the surrounding homes of the citizens of Jerusalem. The Mosque of El-Aqsa with its silver dome is central to the picture with the walls of the Haram Esh-Sharif (Temple Mount) looming to the right over the Kidron Valley and highlighted by the Mount of Olives behind. The minaret to the left is standing on the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount. Further to the left you can see the Golden Dome of the “Dome of the Rock.” This is the greatest Islamic archeological structure built by the Umayyad caliph Abel-el-Malik between 688-691 CE. This mosque is a mathematically harmonious building and reported to be a blend of the Classical and Byzantine architecture.
The two streets that come down the picture, the one meandering from center to the left is the Wadi Hilwa and the street to the right is the Maalot Ir David. To the right of the Maalot Ir David is the Old City of David (Ir David). Beyond that ledge where you can see the terraced hillside, the mount plunges into the Kidron Valley. Beyond are the rising slopes of the Mount of Olives.
In the 1915 photo, that singular white building to the right on the terraced hillside below the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount is near the site where the late archeologist, Dr. Earnest Martin wrote several position papers suggesting that the site of the Temple of Solomon once stood over the Gihon Springs. As can be seen in the photo, the foundation of that magnificent structure of antiquity was razed to the ground by the Romans as prophesied by Jesus the Nazarene.
Looking to the right of that building and below in the Kidron Valley is the Gihon Springs. Near those terraced slopes is the site where Dr. Eilat Mazar is excavating the remains of the mega-structure that she believes is the “Palace of the Forest of Lebanon”, the famed home of King David and the later kings of Judah. If the temple site thesis of Earnest Martin is correct, then on the terraces slopes, below and to the right of the possible site of the Temple of the Solomon was the Ophel where the temple priests lived.
Notice how much higher the wall around the Temple Mount is since the excavations after the 19I5 photo was taken. In the foreground are the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem that were erected by Suleiman the Magnificent in the mid-16th century. The city walls jut out and are silhouetted against the higher walls of the Temple Mount. This is the site of the Ophel Archeological Park. Just to the left of the right corner of that wall is the Dung Gate from where the street of Maalot Ir David originates. Just inside the city walls behind the Dung Gate, the Makhase Street goes up to the Western Wall Plaza, the holiest accessible site of Judaism today. What a site these photos allow us to behold and compare.
When the central line for the Old City of Jerusalem going down from the village of Silwan became blocked, the team sent out for the repairs and discovered one of the greatest archeological discoveries in Jerusalem.
Out of this discovery, the historic Pool of Siloam from the Second Temple Period which Jesus frequented was shown to be not the size of the small Byzantine dated pool seen today but huge and palatial – over three to four dunams or three to four thousand square meters.
In January, 2005, BibleSearchers Reflections highlighted the discovery of the fifty meter size, Pool of Siloam in the article titled, “Biblical Archeological News of 2004.”
Highlighted at the end of 2005, on December 23, 2005, an article on Haaretz by Nadav Shragai was posted titled, “True Size of Pool of Siloam discovered due to sewer blockage”, is an end of the year review of what has been discovered this year. At the far end of a street dating from the Herodian period that begins at the outer southwestern corner of the Temple Mount, the excavation began in virgin territory up to now had not been explored by the archeologist’s pick.
According to archeologist Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron who are directing the dig for the Israeli Antiquities Authority, they are now able to trace the entire street that connected the Temple area during the time of Herod with the Pool of Siloam. The earlier portions of the road were discovered by the 19th century Jerusalem explorers Bliss and Dickey and the famed Jewish archeologist Kathleen Kenyon. The full picture is now to unfold.
Yet the Herodian Street is not the only archive of history being unwrapped with these excavations. Nearby is Warren’s Shaft that was named after the 19th century discoverer, Charles Warren. It has long been thought that Warren’s Shaft was part of Jerusalem’s ancient water system. This is now being more fully explored.
With the exploration of the Herodian Street, the more fully excavated drainage channel to the Siloam Pool and the excavations of King David’s Palace on the eastern slopes of the City of David, we now have the first archaeological evidence for the city of Kings David and Solomon. This city was the administrative center for the United Monarchy and the Kingdom of Judah. Today it is now being revealed in all its dramatic dimensions. As stated in the article:
Nadav Shragai with Haaretz - A group of over 40 clay cylinder seals and stamps were recently unearthed by the IAA. Some of them bear human, animal and bird images, and one even shows the fingerprint of the person who used it in signing a letter written at the time. A number of ivory plaques also found are believed to have been used as calendars. Reich and Shukron say this is the first time such a large assemblage of cylinder seals from the early period of the kings of Judah have been unearthed in one place in the city of David, attesting to its importance during the reigns of kings Jehoshaphat and Yehoram.
According to Shukron, it shows the city was "an administrative center that conducted correspondence during the period between David and Solomon and the period of Hezekiah" and those who reigned around his time. "Until now, Shukron says, "all the cylinder seals found in Jerusalem are from the end of the First Temple period. This is the first time we find seals that can be dated earlier, to the beginning of the Kingdom of Judah."
According to Victor Avidor Hurowitz posting on University of Chicago blog site makes the following corrections:
Victor Avidor Hurowitz - “I just saw the original Hebrew of the article I sent earlier, and indeed there are errors. The English mentions "cylinder seals" which would be a bit sensational. The Hebrew mentions only seals and bullae. Nonetheless, there is something wrong in the Hebrew article. There are illustrations, one of which is "a seal with human and animal images". This is technically correct but it should be "scarab with hieroglyphic inscription". There is also something called a broken bullae, which is illustrated with a scene of a man fighting a dragon.”
According to Todd Bolen with BiblePlaces Blog site:
Excavation in the Pool Tower that protected the Gihon Springs
Todd Bolen – “The archaeologist told me that these (seals) date to the 9th century and do not contain personal names (as do most of the bullae found in Area G, dating to the early 6th century B.C.). The importance of these seals, if they date to anything before the mid-8th century, is that they will give evidence of an administrative
center in Jerusalem at that time.
Many scholars reject the biblical evidence for that, and there's not much else evidence for it outside the Bible. The article doesn't say, but I can tell you that these seals were found around buildings which were constructed inside the Middle Bronze pool, which is just to the north of the Gihon Spring and protected by the Pool Tower. That's the area shown in this photo.
So far in all the excavation, we find the following:
On November 28, 2005, it was reported in the YNet News that a lead seal from the sixth century CE was discovered in an excavation by the Israeli Antiquities Authority in the Old City of Tiberius.
On the observe of the seal it shows a depiction of Jesus and on the reverse the seal has a cross with the abbreviation of the name “Christos.”
This was the first such seal with an image of Jesus that has been discovered in the Galilean port of Tiberius. This town was the ancient site of the relocated Jewish Sanhedrin after the fall on Jerusalem in 70 CE. Several such seals have though been discovered in the ancient capital of the province of Galilee, the city of Caesarea.
Rolling Stoned Tombs in Israel
Cave Tomb with Rolling Stone before 2000
The first photo is of this country tomb in the area of Khirbet Midras that was taken of how it looked before the year 2000. With his photo comparison, Todd Bolen records the photo comparison of the tomb now in the fall of 2005. According to Todd Bolen:
Cave Tomb with Rolling Stone in 2005
Todd Bolen – “Some years ago, vandals destroyed the majority of the tomb. Most suspect that the vandalism was caused by ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are against the archaeological excavation of tombs. This is how the tomb looks now. Of course, archaeological sites are being destroyed all the time, but not usually sites that are well-known and extraordinary.
Sites are destroyed by 1) building contractors who don't want the delay that would be caused by an excavation of their property; 2) looters who are looking for artifacts to sell; and 3) vandals. My guess is that the frequency is in the order listed.
The full exterior facing of the tomb has been destroyed including the outer entry in which the rolling stone door slides over the cover the entry. This entry appears to go into an outer chamber of the tomb. Inside on the right you can see in the darkness a second entry to what is probably the hillside tomb.”
Yotam Tepper – “The discovery of the church in the northern Israeli town of Megiddo, near the biblical Armageddon, was hailed by experts as an important discovery that could reveal details about the development of the early church in the region. Archaeologists said the church dated from the third century, decades before Constantine legalized Christianity across the Byzantine Empire…What’s clear today is that it’s the oldest archaeological remains of a church in Israel, maybe even in the entire region. Whether in the entire world, it’s still too early to say.”
Quickly the news traveled around the globe. Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel called it an “amazing story.” The Israeli officials were reported to be “giddy” about the archeological find as it will create a new tourist site. There is current speculation Israel may relocate the prison and open this site as a tourist attraction. Israeli Tourism Minister Avraham Hirshzon is counting that this discovery could greatly increase tourism to Israel. As he stated, "If we nurture this properly, then certainly there will be a large stream of tourists who could come to Israel."
The Vatican hailed the find of the Megiddo Church mural and the Vatican Envoy to Jerusalem, Archbishop Pietro Sambi stated:
Archbishop Pietro Sambi – “A discovery of this kind will make Israel more interesting to all Christians, for the church all over the world. If it’s true that the church and the beautiful mosaics are from the third century, it would be one of the most ancient churches in the Middle East.”
Ramil Razilo was one of 50 prisoners that were brought to the High-Security Prison that housed about 1,200 Palestinian prisoners at Megiddo to help with the excavation and construction. For months the inmates worked on the floor seeking to uncover the mural floor were reported to be shocked when the edge of this mural was uncovered. As he said, “We continued to look and slowly we found this wholly beautiful thing.”
Two mosaics covered the floor of this early church, which is about 10 meters by 5 meters or 30 feet by 15 feet. The two mosaics consist of small black and white tiles in geometric patterns. One was covered with two fish, an ancient Christian symbol of the ancient Nazarenes and a symbol that predated the symbol of the cross. Found nearby were pottery fragments from the third century. Using the style of the Greek writing in the inscriptions, the geometric patterns in the ancient mosaic and the use of the fish instead of the symbol of the cross suggest that the church was used prior to the 3rd century.
What is interesting is that the location of this church is not far from the spot where in the apocalyptic writings of John, the final battle between good and evil will take place. According to Hebrew University Professor Leah di Segni, this mural told the story of a Roman officer and a woman called Aketous, called a “Lover of God who contributed the altar to the god Jesus Christos as a memorial.” This “altar” that Aketous donated was actually a table given to the church for use in their rituals. On another inscription is the dedication to the memory of four women; Primilia, Kiraka, Dorothea and Crista.
This picture taken on Oct. 31, 2005 and released by the Israeli Antiquities Authority shows a mosaic with writing in ancient Greek with references to Christ, on the floor of what is believed to be the oldest church in Israel that was recently discovered in the grounds inside the Megiddo prison, near the biblical site of Armageddon, in central Israel and reported by Israel's Channel 2 TV Saturday Nov. 5, 2005.
The ruins are believed to date back 1,700 years, and include references to Jesus and images of fish, the report said. Archaeological experts quoted in the story said it was the largest church ever discovered in the holy land, and could perhaps turn out to be the oldest church in the world.(AP Photo/Israel Antiquities Authority) Photo Credit: AP
According to Archeologist Tepper, this house of worship predates the Byzantine era when altars were being used in place of tables. Remnants of a table were also uncovered between the two murals. The construction of the church was not in the style of a basilica which also predates this structure to the pre-Byzantine era.
According to Stephen Pfann, a biblical scholar and professor with the Holy Land University, he stated that the second and third centuries were transitions periods between the eras of one mode of worship and religious beliefs to another. As he noted:
Stephen Pfann – “This was a time of persecution and in this way it is quite surprising that there would be such a blatant expression of Christ in a mosaic, but it may be the very reason why the church was destroyed.”
Click on Launch to Open an NBC Video
As Joe Zias, anthropologist and former curator with the Israeli Antiquities Authority commented when he exclaimed that the dating is still open to question.
Joe Zias – “They’re going to be hard, hard-pressed to prove it ... because the evidence argues otherwise.”
Yet he later explains:
Joe Zias –"If it's between a prison and a church, I would like a church, you can put a prison anywhere."
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