Category Archives: ISRAEL

A cryptic 2,700-year-old pig skeleton found in Jerusalem’s City of David

A cryptic 2,700-year-old pig skeleton found in Jerusalem’s City of David

A cryptic 2,700-year-old pig skeleton found in Jerusalem’s City of David
An ancient pig skeleton is seen in Jerusalem, having been discovered in a building dating back to the First Temple.

Israeli archaeologists have unearthed the complete skeleton of a piglet in a place and time where you wouldn’t expect to find pork remains: a Jerusalem home dating to the First Temple period.

The 2,700-year-old porcine remains were found crushed by large pottery vessels and collapsed walls during excavations in the so-called City of David, the original nucleus of ancient Jerusalem. The team of archaeologists behind the discovery reported their findings in a study published in the June edition of the journal Near Eastern Archaeology.

The find of swine adds to previous research showing that pork was occasionally on the menu for the ancient Israelites and that biblical taboos on this and other prohibited foods only came to be observed centuries later, in the Second Temple period. It also ties into broader questions about when the Bible was written and when Judaism as we know it was born.

This little piggy wasn’t bacon

The animal’s skull clearly identifies it as a domestic pig, as opposed to a wild swine, and its presence indicates that pigs were raised for food in the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Judah, says Lidar Sapir-Hen, an archaeozoologist at Tel Aviv University and at the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History. The fact that the skeleton was found intact suggests that this specific piglet, less than seven months old, was not eaten, but died accidentally when the building was destroyed at some point in the eighth-century B.C.E, Sapir-Hen and colleagues report.

First Temple period structures near the Gihon Spring in Jerusalem’s City of David, where the pig skeleton was found along with the “butchered” remains of many other types of animals.

But there can be little doubt of what the piglet’s ultimate fate would have been having its home not collapsed for as yet unclear reasons. In addition to large storage jars and smaller cooking vessels, the room where the pig was unearthed also hosted dozens of animal bones from sheep, goats, cattle, gazelles, as well as fish and birds, the archaeologists report.

Most of these remains were burnt or showed signs of butchery, meaning the animals had long been dead and eaten when the building was destroyed, Sapir-Hen says.

This suggests that this room was where meals were prepared or eaten,” she says. “So this pig was just waiting for its turn.”

We don’t know the cause of the building’s collapse, as there is no known major destruction event in Jerusalem in the eighth century B.C.E., says Joe Uziel, the Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist who led the dig. It may have been destroyed by an earthquake or a more localized event, he speculates.

In any case, the structure was rebuilt and continued to be in use until around 586 B.C.E., when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the First Temple, Uziel says. The building had at least four rooms and was located in a fairly central area near the Gihon spring, the main source of water for the city at the time. Constructed with rough fieldstones, it was probably a private home, although the fact that bullae, or seal impressions, were unearthed in another room suggests it may have also had an additional, administrative function, Uziel says.

An archaeologist retrieves the skull of a piglet from a First Temple period building in Jerusalem’s City of David at the site where the “articulated” pig skeleton was also found.

The excavation also yielded an elegantly carved bone pendant and a human figurine. Together with the great variety of animals found alongside the pig, all of this indicates the house was occupied by an upper-class family, the archaeologist says.

The importance and central location of the house suggest that pig husbandry and pork consumption may have been a rare treat, but still very much part of “mainstream” food habits, he says. In other words, it doesn’t look like this was something done secretively by, say, a poorer household that may have been desperately in need of a quick meal.

At this point, we have to wonder how to square the idea that pigs were infrequently but openly raised in Jerusalem with the biblical injunction that: “The swine, though he divides the hoof, and be cloven-footed, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you. Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.” (Leviticus 11:7-8

It’s the Levantine economy, stupid

While domesticated pig bones are rarely found in Jerusalem and in most of the Levant, they are not entirely absent, Sapir-Hen notes. In excavations from the First Temple period in Jerusalem and in other sites from the Kingdom of Judah, swine bones constitute up to 2 per cent of the animal remains unearthed, she says.

Already back in the 1990s, archaeologists also observed that pig bones were much more frequent in the coastal strip that was inhabited by the Philistines. Scholars thus concluded that a dearth of pig bones identified a site as Israelite and that the biblical ban on partaking in pork was already known and observed in the First Temple period.

But more recent research by Sapir-Hen and others has shown that the picture is much more complex. For one thing, the near absence of pig bones is not unique to Israelite sites of the Iron Age, the period that roughly corresponds to the First Temple era. Swine is equally scarce in most of Canaan during the preceding era, the Late Bronze Age, a time before the writing of the Bible or the formation of ancient Israel.

This dearth then continues in the Iron Age, not only in Judah but in many of its neighbours, including sites linked to the Canaanites, Phoenicians and Arameans, Sapir-Hen notes. Even when it comes to the supposedly pork-loving Philistines, the situation is actually more nuanced.

While the diet of Philistine city-dwellers did include a larger proportion of pigs, which were seemingly imported from Greece, swine bones are almost absent from their rural settlements, in keeping with the dietary habits of the rest of the Levant. Equally puzzling is the fact that in the Kingdom of Israel, Judah’s northern neighbour, a pig is rare in the early Iron Age, but it increases to up to 8 per cent of the animal mix at urban sites in the eighth century B.C.E.

All of this indicates that the tendency to eschew pork in the Iron Age cannot be linked to a specific ethnic identity or to the biblical prohibition, Sapir-Hen concludes. Pigs were only a small part of the Levantine diet most probably because other animals, especially goats, sheep and cattle, were more suited to the local environment and economy.

Pigs can be raised in an urban environment, as they require less space, but they also need a nearby water source: it is perhaps not a coincidence that the Jerusalem piglet was found near the city’s spring. This may explain why, throughout the Levant, swine occurrences only tend to rise at times and in places where populations increase and are concentrated in larger urban settlements, whether in Philistia, in the Kingdom of Israel or, to a lesser extent, in the more built-up sections of Judah’s capital, Jerusalem.

Gods, figurines and shrimp

Figurine and bone pendant found in the building where the piglet’s remains were found

This also gels with a growing body of research on the Israelite religion in the First Temple period. While scholars believe that parts of the Bible were already compiled at the tail end of this era, it is generally agreed that the holy text we know today only reached its final form after the Babylonian exile, in the Second Temple period.

Whenever the Bible was actually written, archaeological finds have shown that, in practice, First Temple-period Judaism was very different from the religion it would later become. While the ancient Israelites believed in Yahweh, the God of the Bible, they also worshipped other deities, including Asherah, who was thought to be God’s wife. They liberally made figurines and other graven images, ostensibly banned by the Second Commandment.

Additionally, a study published just last month in the Tel Aviv journal of archaeology looked at the finding, at archaeological sites throughout Israel, of bones from scaleless and finless fish, which are also prohibited by the Bible’s dietary rules. The research showed that catfish, sharks and other non-kosher fish were commonly consumed in Jerusalem and Judah during the First Temple period, and only for the late Second Temple period is there clear evidence that Jews were eschewing such banned seafood.

In other words, biblical prohibitions that are considered signposts of the Jewish faith today were unknown, unheeded or non-existent back in the First Temple period. And it seems that, from time to time, the ancient Israelites were not averse to literally bringing home the bacon.

Smashed pottery vessels in the room where the pig was found

2,300-Year-Old Greek Bronze Mirror Discovered in Israel

2,300-Year-Old Greek Bronze Mirror Discovered in Israel

Archaeologists in Israel have discovered what they believe to be the remains of an ancient Greek courtesan. The cremated remains of a young woman were found in a burial cave alongside a perfectly preserved bronze box mirror on a rocky slope close to Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, not far from Jerusalem.

The tomb is believed to date back to some time between the late 4th century and early 3rd century BCE, according to a joint study carried out by Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

Guy Stiebel, from the department of archeology and the Ancient Near East at Tel Aviv University, told CNN in a phone interview that the find is “very significant.”

The high-quality mirror was found to be perfectly preserved.

“It’s almost like bringing back to life a woman who passed away 2,300 years ago,” he said of the research, which he compared to a “jigsaw puzzle or riddle.”

He and his team believe this could be the first discovery of the remains of a hetaira, as courtesans were known in Ancient Greece.

“If we are correct with our interpretation, it appears that this burial points to the very unique circumstances of what we call a hetaira, a Greek lady who accompanied one of the Hellenistic government officials, or more likely a high general,” he said.

In the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean, the Hellenistic age refers to the period between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE and the conquest of Egypt by Rome in 30 BCE. Stiebel told CNN that he and his team believe the woman would have been among the first Greeks to arrive in the region.

Liat Oz, the director of the excavation on behalf of the IAA, described the mirror found in the tomb alongside the remains.

“This is only the second mirror of this type that has been discovered to date in Israel, and in total, only 63 mirrors of this type are known around the Hellenistic world,” she said in a news release about the discovery.

2,300-Year-Old Greek Bronze Mirror Discovered in Israel
Researchers say the mirror is incredibly rare, with just 63 discovered in the Hellenistic world.

“The quality of the production of the mirror is so high that it was preserved in excellent condition, and it looked as if it was made yesterday.”

Folding box mirrors such as this were documented in tombs and temples in the Greco-Hellenistic world, the researchers noted. They were usually decorated with engravings or reliefs of idealized female figures or goddesses.

Stiebel said a woman of high status might have received such a mirror as part of a dowry, but this was unlikely to have been the case in this instance, as married women rarely left their homes in Greece.

Alternatively, he said, she might have been a courtesan, as they often received gifts from men. Likening the hetairai to Japanese geishas, Stiebel explained that the women were regarded as “muses.”

He said: “Women in society were breaking glass ceilings in very strict and male-oriented Greek society, and we do know that they served not only as sexual escorts but were similar to geishas and provided an element of culture. For that they were given gifts and part of the economy of gifts in Ancient Greece had to do with mirrors.”

The fact that the remains were cremated also hinted at the woman’s origins, Stiebel said.

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“Cremation is alien to this country and the religion,” he said, explaining that cremation is not only forbidden in Judaism but would not have been practiced by the Persian empire either, which occupied the region at that time.

“The tomb was found in the middle of nowhere, not near any village, farm, or settlement, which suggests that she would have been connected with one of the military campaigns and dated to the time of Alexandra the Great or slightly later.

“We are suggesting that maybe she was with one of the generals.”

Stiebel went on to explain the significance of the four iron nails found with the mirror and remains.

“Nails were used to protect the deceased and also to protect living people from the dead. The bodies were literally nailed down to ensure they would not come back to the world of the living,” he said.

Stiebel told CNN that the team is continuing with further research in order to “zoom in” on the finer details of the mirror.

He said, “We hope to shed more light on the origin of the production of the art and maybe shed more light on the history of the owner of the mirror, the general who bought it, or where she came from.”

The research will be presented for the first time at an Israeli archaeology conference next month.

Ancient Wooden ‘Coptic Dolls’ May Have Been The Ancestors Of Today’s Barbie Dolls

Ancient Wooden ‘Coptic Dolls’ May Have Been The Ancestors Of Today’s Barbie Dolls

For as long as anyone can remember, children loved to play with various toys, but kids living a long time ago did not have parents who could walk into a shop and buy something entertaining. Yet, there is archaeological evidence that that our ancestors did take the time to carve and build things their children could play with. Sometimes, archaeologists uncover ancient artifacts that may have been used for a number of purposes?

Ancient figurines made in the image of humans were often used during ritual ceremonies or as burial gifts, but could some of these human-like figures have been toys, too?

Ancient Wooden ‘Coptic Dolls’ May Have Been The Ancestors Of Today’s Barbie Dolls
Dolls from excavations in Ramla: (1) Miniature articulated doll; (2) Cloth doll head; (3) Flat articulated doll; (4) Flat articulated schematic doll; (5) Unarticulated schematic doll; (1-5) scale 1:1; (1) Color image courtesy of the Museum of Ramla. © Israel Antiquities Authority

The Term Coptic Dolls

“These bone figurines were first recognized as a homogenous artifact group by Joseph Strzygowski in 1904, although earlier mentions exist. In his volume “Koptische Kunst”, he described 13 “puppen” from the Cairo Museum and was the irst to suggest they were toys rather than cult figurines.

Not all researchers agree. Strzygowski concluded a pre-Islamic origin and dated the dolls between the 4th and 12th centuries.

A fragment with a religious Christian Greek inscription, supporting his pre-Islamic origin thesis, was in a group of figurines that he had purchased in Cairo in 1900-1901 for the Kaiser Friederich Museum. Some of these were published later by Sir Leonard
Woolley (1907) and Oskar Wulf (1909).

Although Strzygowski never actually used the term “Coptic dolls,” it was already attached to them by Woolley, and continues to be used even today. This is probably because Strzygowski, and Gayet before him, published them in volumes titled “Coptic Art.” 1

In the Early Islamic period (7th to 11th centuries CE), a unique type of figurine with human-like characteristics, made of bone, began to appear. Ariel Shatil, an Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist specializing in dolls and figurines, sheds light on these intriguing artifacts.

“Some researchers speculate that these figurines served as toy dolls, while others suggest they might have been fertility figurines. What is particularly fascinating is that no two dolls were identical; each possessed distinct features, even if they shared the same concept.

These dolls appeared in the Early Islamic period, over a period of about two or three centuries, after which they mysteriously disappeared from the scene,” Shatil explains.

Shatil continues, “Moreover, distinct regional styles emerged. For instance, in the northern part of the country, the figurines had more schematic features, and they were crafted from flat bones such as animal ribs and adorned with dots and circles.

By contrast, in the southern part of the country and in the desert, the figurines were more human-like and realistic.

Most of the figurines are depicted naked, without clothes, but there is a group of figurines wearing garments. The exact purpose of the figurines—whether fertility symbols to encourage procreation or simply toys—remains a subject of debate.”

The picture shows a figurine with schematic features, reflecting Egyptian characteristics, dating to the Abbasid period, uncovered in the excavations carried out next to the Western Wall precinct in Jerusalem. Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority

Originally crafted in the region of Iran and Iraq, one wonders how these figurines found their way to this area. Following the Muslim conquest of the country, artisans were brought in to construct and decorate palaces.

Alongside the monumental art displayed in these palaces, these same artisans introduced or crafted these figurines, producing them in considerable quantities as they gained popularity within all social classes.

“Although predominantly made of bone, there are also ivory figurines, possibly belonging to wealthier families,” Ariel observes. “But, by the end of the eleventh century, these figurines disappeared from the scene, probably due to restrictions imposed in accordance with Islamic law.”

‘It’s a dream’: 4 Roman swords likely stolen as war booty 1,900 years ago discovered in Israeli cave

‘It’s a dream’: 4 Roman swords likely stolen as war booty 1,900 years ago discovered in Israeli cave

'It's a dream': 4 Roman swords likely stolen as war booty 1,900 years ago discovered in Israeli cave
One of the four well-preserved Roman swords that was stashed away inside a cave in Israel.

Archaeologists in Israel have discovered four well-preserved 1,900-year-old Roman swords lodged in a crevice inside a cave in the Judaean Desert — weapons that rebel Jewish forces likely seized in battle and later hid.

Of the four “rare” weapons, three with iron blades were still protected in their wooden and leather sheaths.

The blades of three of the swords measured between 24 and 26 inches (60 and 65 centimeters) with dimensions similar to Roman “spatha” swords, while the fourth had a much shorter, 18-inch (45 cm) blade and was classified as a ring-pommel sword.

All of the swords were “standard” issue and used by Roman soldiers stationed in Judaea at the time, according to a statement released by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) on Wednesday (Sept. 6).

“Finding a single sword is rare — so four? It’s a dream,” the researchers wrote in the statement. “We rubbed our eyes to believe it.”

Researchers think Judaean rebels may have hidden the cache inside the cave in what is now En Gedi Nature Reserve in northern Israel after seizing the items from the Roman army as “booty” during the Bar Kokhba Revolt, a rebellion that was led by Jews in the Roman province of Judaea and unfolded between A.D. 132 and 135.

“Obviously, the rebels did not want to be caught by the Roman authorities carrying these weapons,” Eitan Klein, IAA deputy director and one of the directors of the Judean Desert Survey Project, said in the statement.

“We are just beginning the research on the cave and the weapon cache discovered in it, aiming to try to find out who owned the swords, and where, when and by whom they were manufactured.”

The swords were part of an exhibition on Wednesday promoting an article about the finding published in the new research book “New Studies in the Archaeology of the Judean Desert: Collected Papers.”

Archaeologists work together to remove the swords from the cave.

The discovery comes 50 years after a different team of researchers found a stalactite inside the cave.

The formation bore an ink inscription scrawled in ancient Hebrew script that was similar to text written during the First Temple period (957 B.C. to 586 B.C.), which began with the construction of the temple of King Solomon and ended with its destruction at the hands of the Babylonians. 

Researchers visited the cave to photograph the stalactite, hoping to find additional inscriptions. Instead, they stumbled upon the cache of swords.

“This is a dramatic and exciting discovery, touching on a specific moment in time,” Eli Escusido, director-general of the IAA, said in the statement, adding that the finding is a “unique time capsule” in Judaean history.

Four Rare And Incredibly Well-Preserved 1,900-Year-Old Roman Swords Found In Judean Desert

Four Rare And Incredibly Well-Preserved 1,900-Year-Old Roman Swords Found In Judean Desert

Archaeologists report having discovered four incredibly well-preserved Roman swords in the Judean Desert.

This very rare find was made in a small hidden cave located in an area of isolated and inaccessible cliffs north of ‘En Gedi, in the Judean Desert Nature Reserve, under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Authority. Fifty years ago, a stalactite with a fragmentary ink inscription written in ancient Hebrew script, characteristic of the First Temple period, was found.

Archaeologists remove the swords from the rock crevice where they were hidden some 1,900 years ago in a cave in the Judean Desert. Credit:Emil Aladjem/IAA

Recently, Dr. Asaf Gayer of the Department of the Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Ariel University, geologist Boaz Langford of the Institute of Earth Sciences and the Cave Research Center at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Shai Halevi, Israel Antiquities Authority photographer, visited the cave.

Photography: Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquities Authority

Their aim was to photograph the Paleo-Hebrew inscription written on the stalactite with multispectral photography that might be able to decipher additional parts of the inscription not visible to the naked eye. While on the upper level of the cave, Asaf Gayer spotted an extremely well-preserved, Roman pilum— a shafted weapon in a deep narrow crevice. He also found pieces of worked wood in an adjacent niche that turned out to be parts of the swords’ scabbards.

From right to left: Dr. Asaf Gayer, Oriya Amichay, Dr. Eitan Klein and Amir Ganor. Photography: Yoli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority

The researchers reported the discovery to the Israel Antiquities Authority Archaeological Survey Team, who are conducting a systematic scientific project in the Judean Desert caves. As part of this survey, initiated by the Israel Antiquities Authority, and in cooperation with the Ministry of Heritage and the Archaeological Office for the Military Administration of Judea and Samaria, hundreds of caves have been investigated over the past six years, and 24 archaeological excavations have been carried out in selected caves, with the aim of saving the archaeological remains from the hands of looters.

The Judean Desert Cave Survey team, together with Asaf Gayer and Boaz Langford returned to the cave and carried out a meticulous survey of all the crevices in the rock, during which they were astonished to find the four Roman swords in an almost inaccessible crevice on the upper level of the cave.

Experts say the four swords are 1,900-year-old and most likely from Bar Kochba revolt that lasted from 132 to 135 C.E. Also called the Second Jewish Revolt, it was a Jewish rebellion against Roman rule in Judea led by rebel leader Simon Bar Kochba.

The most plausible scenario is that the swords were hidden in the cave sometime during the revolt, as it was dangerous for Jews to be found with Roman weapons.

“Finding a single sword is rare—so four? It’s a dream! We rubbed our eyes to believe it,” say the researchers.

The swords were exceptionally well preserved, and three were found with the iron blade inside the wooden scabbards. Leather strips and wooden and metal finds belonging to the weapons were also found in the crevice. The swords had well-fashioned handles made of wood or metal.

The length of the blades of the three swords was 60–65 cm, their dimensions identifying them as Roman spatha swords, and the fourth one was shorter with c. 45 cm long blade, identified as a ring-pommel sword.

Removing the swords from the cave. Photography: Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquities Authority

The swords were carefully removed from the crevice in the rock and transferred to the Israel Antiquities Authority climate-controlled laboratories for preservation and conservation.

The initial examination of the assemblage confirmed that these were standard swords employed by the Roman soldiers stationed in Judea in the Roman period.

“The hiding of the swords and the pilum in deep cracks in the isolated cave north of ‘En Gedi, hints that the weapons were taken as booty from Roman soldiers or from the battlefield and purposely hidden by the Judean rebels for reuse,” says Dr. Eitan Klein, one of the directors of the Judean Desert Survey Project.

At work in the cave. Photography: Hagay Hamer, Israel Antiquities Authority

“Obviously, the rebels did not want to be caught by the Roman authorities carrying these weapons. We are just beginning the research on the cave and the weapon cache discovered in it, aiming to try to find out who owned the swords, and where, when, and by whom they were manufactured. We will try to pinpoint the historical event that led to the caching of these weapons in the cave and determine whether it was at the time of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 132–135 CE.”

Following the discovery of the swords, an archaeological excavation was undertaken in the cave by the Israel Antiquities Authority, directed by Eitan Klein, Oriya Amichay, Hagay Hamer, and Amir Ganor. The cave was excavated in its entirety, and artifacts dating to the Chalcolithic period (c. 6,000 years ago) and the Roman period (c. 2,000 years ago) were uncovered.

Conservators Ilan Naor and Lena Kupershmidt with the swords. Photography: Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquities Authority

At the entrance to the cave, a Bar-Kokhba bronze coin from the time of the Revolt was found, possibly pointing to the time when the cave served for concealing the weapons.

Four Rare And Incredibly Well-Preserved 1,900-Year-Old Roman Swords Found In Judean Desert
Archaeologists Oriya Amichay and Hagay Hamer with one of the swords found in the cave. Photography: Amir Ganor, Israel Antiquities Authority
Photography: Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquities Authority

The preliminary article on the swords is now published in the volume ‘New Studies in the Archaeology of the Judean Desert: Collected Papers’ and will be launched this evening (6.9) in Jerusalem at an insightful event!

The book ‘New Studies in the Archaeology of the Judean Desert: Collected Papers’ will be launched (6.9) in Jerusalem at an insightful event! In addition, the swords discussed above will be presented.

Mysterious 2,800-Year-Old Channel Installation Discovered In The City Of David, Jerusalem

Mysterious 2,800-Year-Old Channel Installation Discovered In The City Of David, Jerusalem

Scientists are trying to solve an ancient Jerusalem mystery. What was the function of the Channel Installation discovered in the City of David National Park, dating to the days of Kings Joash and Amaziah?

Mysterious 2,800-Year-Old Channel Installation Discovered In The City Of David, Jerusalem

An ancient channel installation, the first of its kind ever discovered in Israel, was in use around 2,800 years ago – during the First Temple period. Investigators from the police forensic unit joined to solve the mystery, but so far – to no avail.

According to researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University, “The channels were likely used to soak some type of product. Their central location indicates that the product was connected to the Palace or Temple economy”.

The excavation findings will be open for public viewing during the 24th City of David Studies of Ancient Jerusalem conference to be held next week.

What was this obscure product that was important to the economy of the city, Temple or Palace during the times of the ancient Judean Kings? Unique and large-scale production installations carved out of the rock and dating to the 9th Century BCE were unearthed in excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University in the City of David National Park, funded by the Elad Foundation.

The purpose of the installation is still unclear, but their uniqueness and location near the Temple and the Palace suggest that their products were integrated into the economy of these prominent institutions.

The excavation thus far has uncovered two installations about 10 meters apart, which may have composed one large installation. Such structures have not been found anywhere else in Israel, hence their uniqueness.

The excavators found the first installation at the northeastern end of the Givati Parking Lot excavation, which includes a series of at least nine channels that were smoothed. On top of the rock cliff that encloses the installation to the south can be found seven drain pipes, which carried liquid from the top of the cliff, which served as an activity area, to the channel installation.

Dr. Yiftah Shalev, a senior researcher at the Israel Antiquities Authority, said: “We looked at the installation and realized that we had stumbled on something unique, but since we had never seen a structure like this in Israel, we didn’t know how to interpret it. Even its date was unclear.

We brought a number of experts to the site to see if there were any residues in the soil or rock that are not visible to the naked eye, and to help us understand what flowed or stood in the channels. We wanted to check whether there were any organic remains or traces of blood, so we even recruited the help of the police forensic unit and its research colleagues around the world, but so far – to no avail.”

“The mystery only grew deeper when we found the second installation to the south,” says Prof. Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University’s Archeology and Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations Department.

“This installation consists of at least five channels that transport liquids.
“Despite some differences in the way the channels were hewn and designed, it is evident that the second installation is very similar to the first, “Gadot adds.

“This time, we also managed to date when the facility fell out of use – at the end of the 9th Century BCE, during the days of the biblical kings of Judah – Joash and Amaziah. We assume that the two installations, which, as mentioned, may have been used in unison, were constructed several decades earlier.”

According to Prof. Gadot, “This is an era when we know that Jerusalem covered an area that included the City of David and the Temple Mount, which served as the heart of Jerusalem. The central location of the channels near the city’s most prominent areas indicates that the product made using them was connected to the economy of the Temple or Palace. One should note that ritual activity includes bringing agricultural animal and plant produce to the Temple; Many times, Temple visitors would bring back products that carried the sanctity of the place.”

“Since the channels don’t lead to a large drainage basin and the direction of their flow varies, it is possible that the channels, at least in the northern installation, were used to soak products – and not to drain liquids,” adds Dr. Shalev.

“The production of linen, for example, requires soaking the flax for a long time to soften it. Another possibility is that the channels held dates that were left out to be heated by the sun to produce silan (date honey), like similarly shaped installations discovered in distant places such as Oman, Bahrain and Iran.” Dr. Shalev notes that “in the near future, we will take additional soil samples from the installations, and try – once again – to identify components that can help us solve the mystery: what was the product that was important for the economy of the city, Temple or Palace?”.

According to Eli Escusido, director of the Antiquities Authority, “the ancient channel installations we have before us are fascinating and stimulate the imagination. The excavations in the City of David, which cover vast areas compared to densely populated Jerusalem, are revealing to us more and more fascinating details from the time of the Judahite kings, of which there are relatively few finds in the Old City due to modern disturbances.

High school student discovered a 1500-year-old ancient Magical Mirror

High school student discovered a 1500-year-old ancient Magical Mirror

High school student discovered a 1500-year-old ancient Magical Mirror

A High school student discovered an ancient “magical mirror” meant to ward off the evil eye in an archaeological excavation in northern Israel.

A few days ago, seventeen-year-old Aviv Weizman from Kiryat Motskin, near Haifa, took part in an Israel Antiquities Authority archaeological excavation at the ancient site of Usha and uncovered an exceptional find from the Byzantine period—a 1,500-year-old “magical mirror.”

Usha (also known as Osha) was a jewish village in Galilee, located about 8 kilometers southwest of the city of Nazareth. Remains of the city founded by rabbis fleeing Roman persecution in Judea were recently uncovered, revealing roads, stunning mosaic floors, ritual baths and oil and wine presses.

As part of a “Survival Course” run by the Shelah branch in the Ministry of Education, 500 high-school pupils participated in archaeological excavations around the country together with the Israel Antiquities Authority.

An almost complete mirror plate was used as a demonstration. Previously found in a Nitsana excavation.

During the Survival Course, the young leaders take part in a 90-km survival trek from Mount Meron to Mount Hermon. During the trek, the youth participate in Israel Antiquities Authority archaeological excavations at sites located around the country that will be opened to the public in the future.

One of the places where the youth dug was the site of Usha close to Kiryat Ata, directed by the Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Hanaa Abu Uqsa Abud.

This week, the excavation produced a special find: an unusual pottery sherd that peeped out of the ground between the walls of a building. Aviv uncovered the sherd and picked it up, and showed it to Dr. Einat Ambar-Armon, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority Northern Education Center, who recognized the find as the plaque of a magical mirror.

According to Navit Popovitch, Israel Antiquities Authority Curator of the classical Periods, “The fragment is part of a “magical mirror” from the Byzantine period, the 4th–6th centuries CE.

A glass mirror, for protection against the Evil Eye was placed in the middle of the plaque: the idea was that the evil spirit, such as a demon, who looked in the mirror, would see his own reflection, and this would protect the owner of the mirror.

Similar mirror plaques have been found in the past as funerary gifts in tombs, to protect the deceased in their journey to the world to come.”

Crusader sword found in Holy Land was bent, possibly in naval battle, X-rays reveal

Crusader sword found in Holy Land was bent, possibly in naval battle, X-rays reveal

A sword studded in seashells and caked in sand, found at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea near Israel, was likely dropped there by a Crusader during battle between 800 and 900 years ago, a new analysis reveals.

Crusader sword found in Holy Land was bent, possibly in naval battle, X-rays reveal
The sword as seen during a diving expedition off the coast of Israel.

Divers discovered the medieval weapon, whose blade measures nearly 3 feet (88 centimeters) long and 1.8 inches (4.6 cm) wide, in 2021 during an underwater expedition. Because the sword was heavily coated in concretions, archaeologists were initially limited in what they could learn about the artifact.

However, those very same caked-on deposits also preserved the weapon. With the help of X-rays, researchers were able to “visually penetrate the layers of marine concretion and glimpse the original outline of the sword,” according to a July 23 Facebook post by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

The X-ray revealed that the blade was bent. Swords damaged during battle can be bent back into shape at a later date, so the fact that this 12th- to 13th-century weapon — dubbed the Newe-Yam sword — remained bent and was not in a sheath known as a scabbard led archaeologists to conclude that it was likely damaged during the Crusades, according to a new study published in the July issue of the journal ‘Atiqot.

The Crusades were a series of religious wars between Christians and Muslims that unfolded between A.D. 1095 and 1291.

“The sword was used by a Crusader warrior who settled in the country after the First Crusade and established the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099,” co-author Jacob Sharvit, director of the marine archaeology unit of the IAA, wrote in the Facebook post.

“Considering the bloody battles that took place in the country between the Crusaders and the Muslims, known from several historical sources, we could expect to find more such swords. In practice, we mostly find fragments, very few whole swords.”

He added, “So far, seven swords from this period have been found in the country, most of them discovered in the sea. Swords were not usually discarded, but over the years, once they were no longer in use, the metal was recycled for other uses.”

Swords were considered valuable weaponry at that time, and they would’ve been among a Crusader’s prized possessions. So losing one to the sea during a naval battle would have been detrimental, or even fatal.

“The sword was part of a knight’s or warrior’s personal equipment,” lead author Joppe Gosker, an archaeologist with the IAA, wrote in the Facebook post. “It was the main weapon in face-to-face combat in those days.

Swords required a lot of quality iron and were therefore expensive. In addition, sword fighting required training and practice, and therefore, only the nobility and professional soldiers fought with swords.”

While scans of the seafloor near the sword’s resting place didn’t reveal any human remains, researchers wouldn’t be surprised if the soldier were also buried there.

“The warrior may still lie undiscovered in the depths, to be revealed one day by the shifting sands,” the researchers wrote in the Facebook post