Category Archives: ISRAEL

A Knights Templar’s secret tunnel has been hidden for 700 years

A Knights Templar’s secret tunnel has been hidden for 700 years

Crusaders from the Latin West left an unmistakable imprint on the cities of the Near East throughout the Middle Ages, building castles and fortresses that could resist waves of conquest.

Many of these castles still stand today, and in some cases, remain in use. Krak des Chevaliers, perhaps the most iconic crusader castle, was even occupied and used as a military base in the recent Syrian conflict.

However, many of these impressive structures have yet to give up all of their secrets. Even in the late 20th century, crusader structures were still being discovered in the Levant, the most notable of which was the 350 meters (985 feet) “Templar tunnel” running underneath the modern city of Acre. These discoveries continue to shed light on this fascinating period of Middle Eastern history.

Remains of the Crusader-period Pisan Harbour.

The Templars were a military religious order, originally founded to ensure the safety of the regular stream of pilgrims that made the arduous and dangerous journey from Western Europe to the Holy Land.

According to historian Dan Jones, they were so named because their original headquarters stood next to the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, and in the 12th and 13th century they played an important role in defining the political and military successes (and failures) of the crusader states in the Levant.

In 1187, however, the city of Jerusalem was lost after a decisive victory by the Ayyubid leader Salah ad-Din (otherwise known as Saladin) at Hattin.

The crusader states had lost their capital, and their shock defeat at the hands of a powerful Muslim army launched what would later be known as the Third Crusade.

According to Jones, several large armies set out from England and France to provide aid to the beleaguered crusader kingdoms, with the goal of reconquering Jerusalem.

This was a vain hope, and the armies of the Third Crusade, led (amongst others) by Richard the Lionheart, would eventually leave without reclaiming Jerusalem. However, they did manage to recover the important port city of Acre.

Following a long siege led by the king of Jerusalem, Guy de Lusignan, the Muslim inhabitants of the city surrendered, and Acre became the new capital of the crusader states.

Portrait of Guy de Lusignan.

Ever fearful of a renewed attack by Saladin and his successors, the Templars set about constructing an impressive fortress at Acre. The settlement was already well protected by high walls and the surrounding sea, but the new Christian occupants proceeded to construct seemingly impenetrable defences.

According to Jones, Acre was a strategically significant Mediterranean port and controlling it was key to controlling access to the rest of the region. However, this meant that it was constantly under threat, both from enemies outside its walls and from infighting amongst those within.

This may explain why the Templars decided to construct a secret underground tunnel, leading from the fortress to the port. This would ensure a quick, easy escape for any inhabitants in case the city was overthrown and could provide a useful, secret channel for supplies if the city was besieged.

Underground Knights Templar citadel of Acre, Israel.

However, in 1291, disaster struck. Acre was attacked and taken by the Mamluk ruler of Egypt, Sultan al-Ashraf Khalil, and he ordered that the city be razed to the ground to prevent further Christian reoccupation. This once-pivotal, strategic port fell into insignificance.

However, in 1994, over 700 years after the fall of the fortress, a startling discovery was made by a woman living in the modern city of Acre.

When she sent a local plumber to investigate the cause of her blocked drains, he stumbled into a medieval tunnel running right underneath her house.

Further excavations revealed that the tunnel had been constructed in the Crusader period, and ran all the way from the fortress to the port. This was an extremely significant discovery, as it’s one of the rare pieces of Crusader architecture in Acre to have survived the invasion of the Mamluks.

Today, it’s even possible to visit the tunnel, which has been fully restored, cleaned and drained. Although the Templar fortress may be long gone, modern tourists can still walk in the footsteps of these crusading knights, 700 years after their deaths.

Possible evidence for biblical earthquake found in City of David

Possible evidence for biblical earthquake found in City of David

Archaeologists have found evidence of an earthquake that hit the City of David in Jerusalem about 2,800 years ago and that could be a major event described in the Hebrew Bible.

Possible evidence for biblical earthquake found in City of David
The 2,800-year-old earthquake was so severe that it was mentioned in the bible, archaeologists say.

During their excavations, the archaeological team, from the Israel Antiquities Authority, discovered a layer of destruction dating to that time in the City of David National Park. Inside the layer was “a row of shattered vessels, including bowls, lamps, cooking utensils, storage and storage jars, which were smashed as [a] building’s walls collapsed,” the archaeological team said in a statement from the IAA.

Archaeologists also found no signs of a fire, and they are doubtful that the city was attacked by an invading force. 

Other sites in the region had similar destruction around 2,800 years ago, the researchers found, adding that the signs of destruction from several sites in the southern Levant could be evidence for a biblical earthquake.

The books of Amos and Zechariah both mention an earthquake that happened around this time when Jerusalem was the capital of the kingdom of Judah and was ruled by a king called Uzziah. “You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah,” Zechariah 14:5 reads. 

Shown here, part of the area in Jerusalem that the team is excavating. Their finds reveal that the area was hit by an earthquake 2,800 years ago.

“It seems likely that although Jerusalem was not the epicentre [of the earthquake], it was significantly affected,” Joe Uziel, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority who is one of the team leaders, told Live Science.

The observation that Jerusalem was likely not the epicentre of the earthquake is based on the damage found in Jerusalem and other sites in the region. 

Excavations reveal that after the destruction, people rebuilt the destroyed buildings and walls, Uziel said. The fact that the earthquake is mentioned in the bible is “a sign that [the earthquake] was likely quite traumatic,” Uziel said.

Did it really happen?

Scholars not involved with the team’s research were cautiously supportive of the team’s conclusions. “The interpretation of the archaeologists sounds possible,” said Israel Finkelstein, a professor emeritus of archaeology at Tel Aviv University in Israel.

The team’s study, including the interpretation of the pottery, has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, Finkelstein cautioned; the team used that pottery to help date the earthquake.

Finkelstein also said that the area in Jerusalem that was excavated needs to be studied by seismologists to firm up the case for a past earthquake. 

Finkelstein noted that evidence for a large eighth-century B.C. earthquake can also be found at other sites in the region, including at Megiddo — a spot investigated by Finkelstein.

About 15 years ago, a team of seismologists and archaeologists documented evidence for the earthquake at Megiddo, which “included tilted and fractured walls,” said Finkelstein. 

“I haven’t seen the excavations, but it was quite expected that some damage triggered by the mid-eighth century [B.C.] earthquake would be found in Jerusalem,” said Shmuel Marco, a professor of geophysics at Tel Aviv University who took part in the Megiddo earthquake study 15 years ago.

“We found it in the ruins of the same age at Megiddo, and others reported it in other excavations and in the deep Dead Sea drilling.” which suggests that the earthquake impacted a wide area.

The Jerusalem team’s “interpretation seems reasonable to me,” said Jason Radine, who is chair of the Department of Global Religions at Moravian University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

He noted that the Hebrew Bible mentions that Jerusalem was attacked around the 790s or 780s B.C. by Israel (which at the time was a separate kingdom from Judah). However, “such an attack might leave a burn layer, which the excavators point out is not present in their find,” suggesting that an earthquake is the more likely cause of the destruction, Radine said. 

Thomas Levy, who is a distinguished professor of Archaeology at the University of California, San Diego, also thought the damage was likely caused by an earthquake and that a strong case can be made that this earthquake is the same one mentioned in the bible.

“When the biblical data is coupled with the archaeological and paleo-seismic data from the southern Levant, a strong correlation is clearly seen between the Book of Amos, a prophet in the Hebrew Bible, and the archaeological record,” Levy told Live Science. 

The team’s research will be presented in September at the “City of David Research” conference. 

1,500-Year-Old Industrial Agriculture Site Unearthed in Israel

1,500-Year-Old Industrial Agriculture Site Unearthed in Israel

Archaeologists in Israel have discovered a wine press, a rare gold coin and other artefacts linked to a settlement that stood in what’s now the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Ha-Sharon some 1,500 years ago.

The wine press dates to the Byzantine period.

Paved with a mosaic floor, the large wine press is a key indicator that the site was home to agricultural-industrial activity during the Byzantine period, reports i24 News. Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) also found the foundations of a large structure that may have served as a warehouse or farmstead.

“Inside the buildings and installations, we found many fragments of storage jars and cooking pots that were evidently used by labourers working in the fields here,” says excavation leader Yoel Arbel in a statement. “We also recovered stone mortars and millstones that were used to grind wheat and barley and probably also to crush herbs and medicinal plants.”

Arbel adds that most of the stone implements were made of basalt from the Golan Heights and Galilee, located 50 to 100 miles northeast of Ramat Ha-Sharon.

As Stuart Winer reports for the Times of Israel, the coin was minted in 638 or 639 C.E. under the authority of Byzantine emperor Heraclius. One side shows the emperor and his two sons.

The hill of Golgotha in Jerusalem, identified as the site of the crucifixion of Jesus in Christian gospels, appears on the reverse. Someone scratched an inscription, likely the name of the coin’s owner, onto its surface in Greek and possibly Arabic, according to Robert Kool, a coin expert with the IAA.

“The coin encapsulates fascinating data on the decline of Byzantine rule in the country and contemporary historical events, such as the Persian invasion and the emergence of Islam, and provides information on Christian and pagan symbolism and the local population who lived here,” says Kool in the statement.

The coin shows Emperor Heraclius and his sons.

Among the discoveries made at the site was a bronze chain that may have been used to suspend a chandelier—an artefact typically found in churches, writes Rossella Tercatin for the Jerusalem Post. 

Other items dated to the early Islamic period, which began in the seventh century C.E. These included oil lamps, a glass workshop, and a warehouse with large vessels used to store grain and produce.

“In this period, people were not only working at the site but also living there, because we discovered the remains of houses and two large baking ovens,” says Arbel in the statement.

Archaeologists think the site remained in use until the 11th-century C.E.

The team conducted excavations in advance of the construction of a neighbourhood at the site.

“This is the first archaeological excavation ever conducted at the site, and only part of it was previously identified in an archaeological field survey,” says IAA Tel Aviv District archaeologist Diego Barkan in the statement. “The Israel Antiquities Authority views this as an excellent opportunity to integrate the ancient remains into plans for the future municipal park.”

Ramat Ha-Sharon’s mayor, Avi Gruber, says in the statement that local authorities are working with the new neighbourhood’s developers to integrate the archaeological site into the development.

“I want all our residents to enjoy learning about life here in antiquity and in the Middle Ages,” he adds.

Preserved in poop: 1,000-year-old chicken egg found in Israel

Preserved in poop: 1,000-year-old chicken egg found in Israel

It’s been said that the elegant egg is the perfect food, and that just might be true as eggs have been a staple of human diets for millions of years before chickens were domesticated for both eggs and meat some 8,000 years ago.

Preserved in poop: 1,000-year-old chicken egg found in Israel
Israel Antiquities Authority discovered a fully intact 1,000-year-old chicken egg

In a remarkably rare discovery involving one of these ovoid essentials, scientists in Israel have cracked the archaeological case on a 1,000-year-old petrified egg that remained intact for centuries without breaking. This is an extraordinary event in that only a handful of ancient chicken eggs have ever been located undamaged. 

During a recent excavation at an ancient Islamic cesspit dating back roughly 1,000 years ago, Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists in Yavne unearthed a single unbroken chicken’s egg.

This expansive dig site, directed by Dr. Elie Haddad, Liat Nadav-Ziv, and Dr. Jon Seligman, had been the location of a diverse industrial settlement dating from the Byzantine period.

Intact chicken egg dating from roughly 1,000 years ago was revealed during archaeological excavations in Israel

“Eggshell fragments are known from earlier periods, for example in the City of David and at Caesarea and Apollonia, but due to the eggs’ fragile shells, hardly any whole chicken eggs have been preserved.

Even at the global level, this is an extremely rare find,” says Dr. Lee Perry Gal of the Israel Antiquities Authority in an official press statement provided to SYFY WIRE. “In archaeological digs, we occasionally find ancient ostrich eggs, whose thicker shells preserve them intact.”

Domesticated poultry farming first emerged in Israel 2,300 years ago, during the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods.

“Even today, eggs rarely survive for long in supermarket cartons. It’s amazing to think this is a 1,000-year-old find!” notes Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Alla Nagorsky in the same press release. 

“The egg’s unique preservation is evidently due to the conditions in which it lay for centuries, nestled in a cesspit containing soft human waste that preserved it.”

Unfortunately, even with careful handling, researchers found that the shell of the egg had been slightly cracked. Back in the Israel Antiquities Authority’s organics lab, conservationist Ilan Naor was able to restore the egg for further study.

“Families needed a ready protein substitute that does not require cooling and preservation, and they found it in eggs and chicken meat,” adds Dr. Gal in the statement.

“Unfortunately, the egg had a small crack in the bottom so most of the contents had leaked out of it. Only some of the yolk remained, which was preserved for future DNA analysis.”

Fourth-Century Coins Found in Northern Israel

Fourth-Century Coins Found in Northern Israel

Ancient coins dating to 1,700 years ago were discovered by a family during a camping trip on an Israeli beach near Atlit on Tuesday. Yotam Dahan, a tour guide from Klil in northern Israel, found a bundle of antique coins during a family camping trip in Habonim beach.

Fourth-Century Coins Found in Northern Israel
The ancient bundle of coins was found on Habonim beach in Israel.

The bundle of coins, weighing a total of 6 kg., agglutinated after years of lying underwater. They were determined to have been used in the fourth century CE, following an inspection by expert Dr Donald Tzvi-Ariel.

After posting photos of the coins to Facebook, Dahan was contacted by Israel Antiquities Authority’s (IAA) Haifa District director Karem Said to identify the exact location of the discovery on the beach.

IAA marine archaeology department head Yaakov Sharvit noted the coins might have belonged to an ancient ship sailing the Mediterranean Sea.

“Archaeological sites are prevalent all along the Habonim beach strip,” Sharvit said. “Archaeological records show vessels were often washed ashore along with all their cargo,” he added.

“The bundle of coins found shows they were packed together and agglutinated due to oxidation of the metals,” Sharvit noted.

Dahan generously handed the coins to IAA’s Treasures of the State Department and was subsequently given a certificate of appreciation by the IAA.

Is This a Huge Million-Year-Old, Man-Made Underground Complex?

Is This a Huge Million-Year-Old, Man-Made Underground Complex?

A new discovery can change everything we know about the age of human civilization, advanced civilizations were present a million years ago and created the largest of all buildings ever seen.

Herbert Midras, in Adullam Grove Nature Reserve in Israel, is part of what geologist Dr. Alexander Koltypin hypothesizes to be a massive complex of prehistoric underground structures stretching across the Mediterranean.

While most researchers and scholars around the world agree that human civilization emerged some 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, there are numerous discoveries that point to a very different past. However, many of these incredible findings have been considered impossible due to the fact that they alter our written history.

In recent years, many researchers have begun to look at the history of civilization on Earth with an open mind. One of these researchers is undoubtedly Dr. Alexander Koltypin, a geologist and director of the Natural Science Research Center at Moscow’s International Independent University of Ecology and Politology.

During his long career, Dr. Koltypin studied numerous ancient underground structures, mainly in the Mediterranean, and identified numerous similarities between them, which led him to believe that they were connected in some way.

But the most amazing thing about this place is that the extreme geological characteristics made him believe that these mega-structures were built by advanced civilizations that inhabited the Earth millions of years ago.

Is This a Huge Million-Year-Old, Man-Made Underground Complex?
The Caves of Maresha And Bet-Guvrin

Archaeologists working in the region usually date the sites by looking at the settlements located on them or nearby. But these settlements were simply built upon existing prehistoric structures, Koltypin said.

Writing on his website Koltypin says:

“When we examined the buildings … none of us even for a moment had any doubt that these structures are much older than the ruins of the Canaanite, Philistine, Hebrew, Roman, Byzantine and Roman cities and colonies. other cities and settlements that are on approximate dates.”

During his trip to the Mediterranean, Koltypin was able to accurately record the characteristics present in different ancient sites, something that allowed him to compare their similarities and details that tell an incredible alternative story; one that has been firmly rejected by traditional scholars.

While travelling near the Hurvat Burgin ruins in the Adullam Grove Nature Reserve in central Israel, Koltypin remembered a similar feeling when he climbed to the top of the rocky city of Cavusin in Turkey. Almost a Deja vu feeling, Koltypin said:

“I was personally convinced once again that all of these rectangular cutouts, artificial underground structures and megalithic debris scattered everywhere were – or were part of – an underground megalithic complex that collapsed due to erosion,” he said.

Erosion And Mountain Formation:

In his work, Dr. Koltypin argues that not all parts of the giant complex are located underground. Some are high above the ground as the ancient stone city of Cappadocia in Turkey, which Koltypin includes in the complex.

Koltypin estimates that the deposits in northern Israel and central Turkey appeared after erosion of about a few hundred meters.

Cavusin village in the Cappadocia region of Turkey

“According to my estimates, such a depth of erosion could hardly be formed in less than 500,000 to 1 million years,” Koltypin wrote on his website.

He hypothesizes that part of the complex was brought to the surface as a result of alpine orogeny (mountain-formation).

According to his estimates, there is evidence to support that the construction material found in Antalya, Turkey, which Koltypin calls the “Jernokleev site,” is up to a million years old, although traditional scholars refuse to accept age, proposing that the place dates back to the Middle Ages.

An ancient stone structure in Antalya, Turkey.

Koltypin adds that, as a result of the earth’s crust moving over the centuries, parts of the underground complex were plunged into the sea. He suggests that the similarity seen in countless megalithic ruins is evidence of a deep connection present in ancient sites that were connected like a giant prehistoric complex.

According to Koltypin, numerous megalithic blocks weighing tens of tons could have been directly linked to underground complexes in the distant past.

“This circumstance gave me a reason to call underground structures and geographically related ruins from cyclopean walls and buildings, as a single underground-terrestrial megalithic complex,” writes Koltypin on his website.

Referring to the technological capabilities of the ancients, Koltypin says the stones fit perfectly in some parts without cement, and the ceilings, columns, arches, doors and other elements seem to be beyond the work of men with chisels.

Adding to the mystery of these incredible sites, Koltypin notes that the structures built in other places like the Romans or other civilizations are completely primitive compared to this one.

Amazing 1,600-year-old biblical mosaics reveal a new perspective on Galilean life

Amazing 1,600-year-old biblical mosaics reveal a new perspective on Galilean life

In its eighth dig season, the vibrant mosaic flooring of a fifth-century synagogue excavated in the small ancient Galilee village of Huqoq continues to surprise. The 2018 Huqoq dig has uncovered unprecedented depictions of biblical stories, including the Israelite spies in Canaan. With its rich finds, the Byzantine-period synagogue busts scholars’ preconceived notions of a Jewish settlement in decline.

“What we found this year is extremely exciting,” the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Prof. Jodi Magness told The Times of Israel, saying the biblically-based depictions are “unparalleled” and not found in any other ancient synagogue.

“The synagogue just keeps producing mosaics that there’s just nothing like and is enriching our understanding of the Judaism of the period,” said Magness. A recently unearthed mosaic shows two men carrying between them a pole on their shoulders from which is hung a massive cluster of grapes (the same as the easily recognizable symbol of Israel’s Ministry of Tourism). With a clear Hebrew inscription stating, “a pole between two,” it illustrates Numbers 13:23, in which Moses sends two scouts to explore Canaan.

A mosaic found in the 2018 Huqoq excavation is labelled ‘a pole between two,’ depicting a biblical scene from Numbers 13:23. The images show two spies sent by Moses to explore Canaan carrying a pole with a cluster of grapes.

Before wrapping up the dig season last week, the team of 20 excavators uncovered a further biblical mosaic panel, which shows a youth leading an animal on a rope and includes the inscription, “a small child shall lead them.” It is a reference to Isaiah 11:6, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.”

According to a 2013 Biblical Archaeology Review article by Magness, “Huqoq was a prosperous village about 3 miles west of Magdala (home of Mary Magdalene) and Capernaum (where Jesus taught in the synagogue),” located next to a fresh spring. It appears twice in the Hebrew Bible, in Joshua 19:32–34 and 1 Chronicles 6:74–75. “Our excavations have not reached these early occupation levels, however,” she writes.

These two newly published mosaics join a pantheon of others — from 2012 and 2013, two Samson depictions, to fantastical elephants and mythical creatures from 2013-2015, Noah’s Ark in 2016, and colourful and as yet unpublished Jonah and the whale in 2017. During this year’s dig, the team also continued to expose and study rare 1,600-year-old columns, first uncovered in previous seasons, which are covered in painted plaster with red, orange, and yellow vegetal motifs. Other discovered columns, said Magness, were painted to imitate marble.

However, despite these “imitation marble” columns, this was no poor man’s synagogue. Much in the manner of King Herod decorating his palaces with painted faux-marble frescos, the columns and gorgeous mosaics point to a wealthy, flourishing fifth-century Jewish settlement, said, Magness.

“In general, unless you’re in a really important church in the Byzantine period, you won’t find marble, rather this common local alternative,” she said. She laughed, saying there is a feeling of “one-ups-manship” in the construction of the Huqoq synagogue.

A fish swallows an Egyptian soldier in a mosaic scene depicting the splitting of the Red Sea from the Exodus story, from the fifth-century synagogue at Huqoq, in northern Israel.

“Every village has its own synagogue,” Magness said. “In Huqoq there’s a feeling that the villagers said, ‘We’re going to build the biggest and best.’ It’s as if they decided to throw everything into it.”

The obvious wealth and disposable income displayed in the synagogue is “contradicting a widespread view — not my view — that the Jewish community was in decline,” she said.

However, not only the synagogue was rich and diverse, but also the Judaism it housed.

“The mosaics decorating the floor of the Huqoq synagogue revolutionizes our understanding of Judaism in this period,” said Magness in a press release. “Ancient Jewish art is often thought to be aniconic, or lacking images. But these mosaics, colourful and filled with figured scenes, attest to a rich visual culture as well as to the dynamism and diversity of Judaism in the Late Roman and Byzantine periods.”

Galilean life
The Huqoq synagogue’s fifth-century mosaic, with the upper register showing a war elephant.

According to Magness, “Rabbinic sources indicate that Huqoq flourished during the Late Roman and Byzantine periods (fourth–sixth centuries CE). The village is mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud in connection with the cultivation of the mustard plant.”

Aside from the outstanding mosaics and colourfully painted columns, there are other features of note in this synagogue: Discovered in 2012, an inscription flanked by the faces of two women and a man (a fourth face, presumably of a man, is not preserved) might be the first donor portraits found in a Jewish house of prayer. The practice, said Magness, was “not uncommon in Byzantine churches,” but has no parallel example found in a synagogue of the era. Although there are aspects of the synagogue that may point to a Christian influence, for example, the possible donor portraits, Magness does not believe the Huqoq community was more impacted than other neighbouring congregations.

Detail from the Huqoq synagogue’s 5th-century mosaic showing Samson carrying the gate of Gaza, from Judges 16.

“In general there was some interaction between Jews and Christians, as well as Judaism and Christianity, in the sense that both religions laid claim to the same tradition and called themselves the ‘true Israel,’” said Magness. It is not coincidental that the same biblical themes appear in both forums.

“They are clearly some sort of dialogue, broadly speaking… A lot of what we see at Huqoq can be understood on the background of the rise of Christianity,” she said.

“There is evidence of occupation at the site during the Persian, Hellenistic, Early Roman, Abbasid, Fatimid and Crusader-Mamluke periods. The modern village was abandoned in 1948 during the fighting in Israel’s War of Independence. In the 1960s, the site was bulldozed,” writes Magness in BAR. It appears that the Huqoq synagogue is the ancestor of what seems to be a later, 12-13th century Jewish house of prayer. Faint, broken remnants of that incarnation’s mosaic flooring have also been discovered a meter above the dynamic mosaics of the Byzantine era.

2018 Huqoq excavation with students from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, surrounding dig director Dr Jodi Magness.

It is possible, said Magness, that this is a synagogue mentioned by French 14th century Jewish physician-turned-traveller Isaac HaKohen Ben Moses, aka Ishtori Haparchi, mentioned in his 1322 geography of the Holy Land, “Sefer Kaftor Vaferach.”

Regardless, there are no extant medieval synagogues in Israel today, making this find potentially no less important than the more attention-grabbing images in the fifth-century mosaic floors, said Magness.

Pair of donkeys in Noah’s Ark scene at the Huqoq excavation.

Both of these finds — the medieval synagogue and beautiful Byzantine mosaics — are all the more remarkable in that they are a by-product of a different scholarly quest: Magness decided to excavate at Huqoq to test a wide-spread Galilean synagogue dating system, which dated the buildings based on their architectural structures.

“Since the early 20th century, when these synagogues began coming to light, scholars developed a tripartite chronology: The earliest, these so-called ‘Galilean-type synagogues,’ were dated to the second and third centuries CE, followed by ‘transitional synagogues’ in the fourth century, and then by ‘Byzantine synagogues’ in the fifth and sixth centuries,” writes Magness in the BAR article. Although housed in a fifth-century village, based on its architectural features, according to previous scholarly consensus, the Huqoq synagogue should have been classified a “Galilean-type synagogue” and dated to the second or third centuries. This is, Magness has proven, clearly not the case.

Pictured is the Huqoq synagogue mosaic depicting the month of Teveth (December-January) with the sign of Capricorn.

What was originally to have been a brief excavation has turned into eight seasons. And although Magness is assisted by Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Tel Aviv University, the excavation is funded independently of the IAA, by sponsors including UNC-Chapel Hill, Baylor University, Brigham Young University and the University of Toronto, the Friends of Heritage Preservation, the National Geographic Society, the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, and the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies. There will be a 2019 dig season, said Magness, who estimated she needs at least another four years to complete the ever-evolving project.

“Every year, there is another mind-blowing, weird discovery,” said Magness.

Archaeologists unearth 1st Jerusalem evidence of quake from Bible’s Book of Amos

Archaeologists unearth 1st Jerusalem evidence of quake from Bible’s Book of Amos

Books of Amos and Zechariah in the Old Testament describe an earthquake that rocked the city of Jerusalem about 2,800 years ago and archaeologists have now found the first evidence of the biblical event.

The Israel Antiquities Authority’s (IAA) excavations in the City of David National Park uncovered a layer of destruction during excavations, which consists of collapsed walls, broken pottery and bits and pieces of other goods.

Researchers say that since there was no signs of fire or an ancient conquest the destruction had to have been caused by an earthquake that hit Israel during the 8th century BC.

Archaeologists unearth 1st Jerusalem evidence of quake from Bible’s Book of Amos
The Israel Antiquities Authority’s (IAA) excavations in the City of David National Park uncovered a layer of destruction during excavations, which consisted of collapsed walls, broken pottery and bits and pieces of other goods

Some evidence of the event has been found in surrounding areas, but this is the first time archaeologists can prove it hit the major city.

In the book of Amos, the passage reads: ‘The words of Amos, a sheep breeder from Tekoa, who prophesied concerning Israel in the reigns of Kings Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel, two years before the earthquake.

‘And the Valley in the Hills shall be stopped up, for the Valley of the Hills shall reach only to Azal; it shall be stopped up as it was stopped up as a result of the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah,’ reads another passage in Zechariah, recalling the event some 200 years later, to suggest how strong of a collective memory it left.’

Among the artefacts, archaeologists found were fragments of pottery, some nearly intact that they could be put back together, and small tables, The Jerusalem Post reports.

Since the artefacts were discovered deep into the excavation site, experts say residents had to have built on top of the ruins following the earthquake, which preserved traces of the event that occurred.

Researchers say that since there was no signs of fire or an ancient conquest the destruction had to have been caused by an earthquake that hit Israel during the 8th century BC. Pictured are collapsed walls that ruin of the event
Among the artefacts, archaeologists found were fragments of pottery, some nearly intact that they could be put back together, and small tables

IAA excavation directors Dr. Joe Uziel and Ortal Chalaf said in a statement: ‘When we excavated the structure and uncovered an 8th century BCE layer of destruction, we were very surprised because we know that Jerusalem continued to exist in succession until the Babylonian destruction, which occurred about 200 years later.

‘We asked ourselves what could have caused that dramatic layer of destruction we uncovered.

‘Examining the excavation findings, we tried to check if there is a reference to it in the biblical text.

‘Interestingly, the earthquake that appears in the Bible, in the books of Amos and Zechariah, occurred at the time when the building we excavated in the City of David collapsed.’

Another biblical find was discovered in Israel last month – a pottery fragment unearthed in Israel bears the name of the biblical judge ‘Jerubbaal,’ which was inked on the artefact 3,100 years ago

Another biblical find was discovered in Israel last month – a pottery fragment unearthed in Israel bears the name of the biblical judge ‘Jerubbaal,’ which was inked on the artefact 3,100 years ago.

Mentioned in the Hebrew bible, Jerubbaal was a military leader, judge and prophet whose story is recounted in chapters 6 to 8 of the Book of Judges.

The ceramic artefact was discovered in an archaeological excavation at Horbat al-Ra’i, near Kiryat Gat in Israel, which experts say was part of a small jug that carried precious liquids.

‘The name is written on the jug, Yarubaal, may allude to biblical Jerubbaal, also known as the judge Gideon ben (son of) Yoash, but we cannot be sure if he owned the inscribed vessel,’ the Israel Antiquities Authority shared in a statement.