Category Archives: ISRAEL

3,000-year-old Canaanite temple discovered in southern Israel

3,000-year-old Canaanite temple discovered in southern Israel

In southern central Israel, Tel Lachish’s new discovery consists of very rare inscriptions showing early precursors of Hebrew alphabet

An aerial view of the newly found temple at Tel Lachish.

In Tel Lachish National Park, the 3,000-year-old temple of Canaanite has unearthed by a team of Israelis and American archeologists.

Under the guidance of Prof. Yosef Garfinkel from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Prof. Michael Hasel from the University of southern Advent at Tennessee, the team published their findings in the Levant journal last month following years of excavations.

Located in south-central Israel, Tel Lachish is the site of the biblical Lachish, a major Canaanite city during the Middle and Late Bronze Ages that was later conquered by the Israelites. It was one of the only Canaanite cities to survive into the 12th century BCE.

“We excavated a new temple in the northeast corner of the site that [dates] to the 12th century BCE,” Garfinkel told The Media Line. “It was extremely rich with objects and also [had] an inscription, which is very, very rare. The last time a Canaanite inscription was found was about 40 years ago.”

The aforementioned inscription was found on a pottery shard and features the oldest-known example of the letter “samekh.”

An extremely rare find found at Tel Lachish shows a Caananite inscription and the oldest-known example of the letter “samekh” (highlighted). (T. Rogovski)

“Our inscription is Semitic: It’s Canaanite and later the Hebrew script developed from the same type of writing,” Garfinkel explained, adding that the discovery was “of tremendous importance to the history of the [Hebrew alphabet].”

The new temple marks the first time in a long while that a new Canaanite temple has been found; in fact, the majority of such structures were already unearthed in the early 20th century.

In addition, the Lachish temple was built in a symmetrical style which has only been seen in a few other places in Israel, among them Tel Megiddo, Hazor and Nablus.

“This is the first time that we have a symmetrical temple at Lachish,” Garfinkel said. “There are fewer than 10 of these in Israel.”

Itamar Weissbein, the lead co-author of the study and one of the excavators, told The Media Line that this is the third Canaanite temple found at Lachish.

The first two temples were discovered by a British expedition in the 1930s and an Israeli team in the 1970s, respectively.

“In general, temples in the ancient Near East were not like churches or synagogues that you [could] enter,” Weissbein said. “It’s a different type of cultic activity. Only a few elites – priests or maybe kings – entered to do some rituals there because it was a house of gods, not a house of worship in a way.”

Weissbein emphasized that worshippers would likely have been standing outside the temple in the courtyard, an area that has not been well-preserved over the centuries. Researchers were, however, able to glean some ideas about the cultic activities that took place inside the temple based on artifacts that they dug up.

“We found two figurines of male deities,” Weissbein stated. “They probably represent Baal, [who was] one of the main deities of the Canaanites, like a storm god or a fertility god … and another deity called Resheph, [who was] more of a warlike deity.”

Two ancient figurines found at the temple in Tel Lachish likely represent Baal and Resheph, deities worshipped by the Canaanites.

In addition to the ruins, the figurines and the inscription, Garfinkel’s team also found bronze cauldrons, jewelry, daggers, scarabs and a gold-plated bottle bearing an inscription with the name of the powerful Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II.

Iron Age temple discovered at Tel Motza near Jerusalem calls into question the Biblical claim that Solomon’s Temple was the only temple in the ancient Kingdom of Judah

Iron Age Temple Uncovered in Jerusalem Challenges Biblical Claim

Perhaps Solomon’s famous Temple was not the first or only Holy Temple in the world. Dating to around 900 BC, an Iron Age temple located near Jerusalem negates the long-held idea the ancient Kingdom of Judah (southern Israel) only had one temple, the First Temple, better known as Solomon’s Temple, which was operational between 10th century BC until it was destroyed in 586 BC.

The Iron Age site of Tel Motza, about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) outside Jerusalem, has been known since the early 1990s and archaeologists found the remains of a settlement dated to the Neolithic period (about 6000 BC).

In 2012 a settlement from the First Temple period was discovered containing a cultic structure and 36 wheat granaries, indicating that Motza was part of an ancient economic center, and it is the presence of this one ancient religious complex that challenges the history of Judah presented in the Bible.

The Tel Motza Iron Age temple excavation site in Jerusalem.
The Tel Motza Iron Age temple excavation site in Jerusalem.

A new study of the temple by co-researcher Shua Kisilevitz, a doctoral student of archaeology at Tel Aviv University in Israel and an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), and review co-author Oded Lipschits, the director of the Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, was published in the January/February issue of the Biblical Archaeology Review magazine.

In the article, the researchers say the temple had been built about 900 BC and that they think it operated until the early 6th century BC.

And where this discovery is controversial is that the existence of this temple means that people living close to Jerusalem had their own place of worship, a cultic temple, which in itself suggests the rule of the Jerusalem high priests was “not so strong”, and that the kingdom was “not so well established” as the Bible leads us to believe, Kisilevitz and Lipschits, told Live Science.

A report in the Daily Mail detailing the study says the ancient temple could have held about 150 congregants who worshiped the god Yahweh, but they also used idols to communicate with the divine in the same period as the First Temple.

This contradicts the Jewish Bible that details the religious reforms of King Hezekiah and King Josiah, who consolidated worship at Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and allegedly stopped ‘all’ cultic practices out of its walls.

Kisilevitz told Live Science that the temple was a rectangular building with an open courtyard at the front that would have been a focal point for cultic worship, and inside they found a stone-built a sacrificial altar near pits for dead animal bodies.

Two human-like and two horse-like clay figurines were discovered smashed and buried in the courtyard, which was thought to have been associated with rainfall, fertility and harvest ritual of some kind. The researchers added that the horse-like figurines may be the “oldest known depictions of horses from the Iron Age of Judah.”

Figurine of a horse found in Tel Motza Iron Age temple in the excavation site.

The teams of archaeologists at Tel Motza unearthed dozens of grain storage silos (granaries) and associated administrative and religious buildings. This informs us that Tel Motza sold grain to the nearby Jerusalem.

Over time, the settlement is believed to have become an agricultural and economic “powerhouse,” the researchers wrote in the magazine piece. They also speculate that perhaps the temple was permitted to exist by the high priests at Solomon’s Temple because it was part of the granary and didn’t threaten centralized control of the kingdom.

During the time this temple was functional, new political groups and alliances emerged in the Levant, and it is believed that in the face of these changes people maintained traditional religious practices.

The researchers said this was evident in the temple’s artifacts and architecture, which they say are reminiscent of religious traditions from the ancient Near East that had been practiced since the third millennium BC.

Figurine of a ram found in Tel Motza Iron Age temple excavation site.

The discovery and analysis of this ancient Iron Age temple not only enlightens historians on the state formation of Judah during this period. It also determines that the state was nowhere near as centralized as it would later become and that in its formative days it depended not solely on the administrative elite at Solomon’s Temple, but on trading relationships with nearby settlements like Tel Motza, and maybe others yet to be discovered.

How archaeologists were stunned by ‘oldest biblical text ever’ discovery near the Dead Sea

How archaeologists were stunned by ‘oldest biblical text ever’ discovery near the Dead Sea

We witnessed some biblical discoveries this year which proved true in many histories such as the watchtower of the 8th century, the church of the 5th century, a settlement connected to the crucifixion of Jesus among others.

Nevertheless, the scholars were surprised when archeologists had uncovered an almost similar text to the Dead Sea Scroll.

Jesus was born in 4 AD and crucified, it is said, by crucifixion somewhere between 30AD and 33AD and by resurrection three days later. through the resurrection, he came back. But a discovery in the 21st century shook off that belief.

The Dead Sea Scrolls date back more than 2,000 years

A team of archaeologists discovered Gabriel stone, which was a tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew text from the Dead Sea that also includes some controversial prophecies.

The biblical investigator Simcha Jacobovici recently explained these texts which date back to the 1st century BC.

The experts stated that “Perea is located on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea, it is here that the most famous writings ever were unearthed. Discovered in 1948, the more than 2,000-year-old documents are the oldest biblical texts ever found.”

It should be noted that after the discovery of the Gabriel Inscriptions, archaeologists were stunned and when scholars deciphered it, they were startled by the fact that they were looking at the Dead Sea Scroll on a stone, said Jacobovici.

Church

Recently during Amazon Prime’s “Decoding the Ancients” series, Jacobovici mentioned that the similarities between the Gabriel inscriptions and the scrolls are impressive as both are written in ink, both the texts are written in two columns and have the Hebrew letters suspended from the upper guidelines.

Jacobovici said that this suggests that the stone, like the scrolls, originates from the shores of the Dead Sea.

“So in search of a Gabriel-like stone in the area of Perea, Simcha travels here to meet with archaeologist Konstantinos Politis, who’s been digging in this area for 20 years.

Among the artifacts unearthed by Politis, Simcha is struck by the ancient Jewish and Christian gravestones reminiscent of the Gabriel Inscription. And Politis has a lot more artifacts like this,” said the expert.

The discovery of Gabriel’s inscription has caused controversy due to its context. An expert in Talmudic and biblical language at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, Israel Knohl, translated line 80 from the inscription which says, “in three days, live, I Gabriel command you”.

As per his interpretation, it was a command from the angel Gabriel who asked (someone) to rise from dead after three days. But he also understood that the recipient of this command was Simon of Peraea, a Jewish rebel who was killed by the Romans in 4the century BC.

Later, a biblical expert Ada Yardeni agreed to Knohl’s interpretation while other scholars have rejected Knohl’s reading.

However, later in 2011, Knohl accepted that “sign” is more relevant than “live” but the latter is a possible reading. No wonder, the year 2019 has witnessed some Biblical findings resurface to make these them relevant and controversial yet again.

Extinct date palms grown from 2000-year-old seeds found near Jerusalem

Extinct date palms grown from 2000-year-old seeds found near Jerusalem

Seven date palm trees have been grown from 2000-year-old seeds that were found in the Judean desert near Jerusalem. The seeds – the oldest ever germinated – were among hundreds discovered in caves and in an ancient palace built by King Herod the Great in the 1st century BC.

The find reveals how ancient farmers were selectively breeding dates from around the region, and it could give clues to how dates can survive for millennia.

Robin Allaby, a genetics expert at Warwick University who was not part of the research team said: “This is an extraordinary finding.“It shines a light on the fact that we don’t understand long-term seed viability.”

Sarah Sallon, an ethnobotanist at the Hadassah Medical Center, and colleagues have collected hundreds of seeds for growing the date plants.

Some were excavated from Masada, Israel—a mountaintop fortress on a plateau overlooking the Dead Sea that was partly built by the biblical King Herod; others came from caves around the Dead Sea used for storage and living quarters.

Extinct date palms grown from 2000-year-old seeds found near Jerusalem
Palm trees in the ruins of Babylon. Two of the seeds found are like modern Iraqi varieties of date, which may be linked to the return of Jews from exile in the sixth century BC.

The researchers soaked 34 of the most promising specimens in warm water and liquid fertilizer and then planted them in sterile potting soil.

Six seeds germinated and sprouted into seedlings that would eventually become date palms. The successful seeds were all several centimeters long, 30% larger than modern date seeds, suggesting dates that were significantly larger than modern varieties.

To verify that the seeds were ancient—and not more recent specimens deposited amid archaeological artifacts by burrowing animals, for example—the team carbon-dated seed shell fragments clinging to the roots after the seeds had successfully sprouted. The seeds were between 2200 and 1800 years old, the team reports today in Science Advances.

Initial genetic analysis of the plants grown from the ancient seeds suggests farmers in the region were growing dates that mixed traits from around the ancient world.

The result, according to classical writers like Galen, Strabo, and Herodotus, was a large, sweet, shelf-stable fruit that was a prized treat throughout the Roman world. After the collapse of the Roman empire and the Arab conquest of the region, Judean date farming declined. By the time of the Crusades, around 1000 C.E., the area’s date plantations were no more.

The new plants could be the beginning of a revival—if not of the ancient dates then at least of their best features. Study co-author Frédérique Aberlenc, a biologist at the French National Institute for Sustainable Development, says the group plans to pollinate the female plants in the near future, hopefully allowing them to bear fruit.

The idea is to produce fruit with traits that could be used to improve modern varieties, increasing their sweetness and size and resistance to modern pests, for example. The plants could also provide a window into how date plants manage to protect and preserve their DNA over the course of many centuries.

Although an older grass seed was successfully germinated after millennia frozen in Siberian permafrost, these dates are some of the oldest plants ever successfully germinated. That’s because DNA and RNA usually fragment over time into tiny pieces.

That may be enough for ancient DNA analysis, but not to grow a living date palm plant. “For these seeds to germinate, the DNA had to be intact, which goes against a lot of what we know about DNA preservation,” says University of York archaeogeneticist Nathan Wales, who was not involved with the study. “It’s not out of the question that there is some really cool biological system at work that preserves DNA [in dates].”

Sallon says the unusual conditions around the Dead Sea probably helped. “Low altitude, heat, dry conditions—all of those could affect the longevity of the embryo,” she says.

The seeds’ unusual size could have played a role, too. The more genetic material there is, the more is likely to remain whole, Allaby says. “But it’s still extraordinary. … It beggars belief that you would have entire chromosomes intact.”