Category Archives: ISRAEL

Hoard of 1,200-year-old ‘Arabian Nights’ gold coins in an ancient ‘piggy bank’ discovered in Israel on the fourth day of Hanukkah

Hoard of 1,200-year-old ‘Arabian Nights’ gold coins in an ancient ‘piggy bank’ discovered in Israel on the fourth day of Hanukkah

In the ancient “piggy bank” Israel archeologists have found a small treasure trove of gold coins, which is believed to be the personal savings of a potter that worked in a kiln around 1200 years ago.

They date from the period when the region was ruled by the mighty Abbasid Caliphate and was unearthed at a medieval industrial site. The find was made during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah when Jews exchange gifts and celebrate.

In Yavne in central Israel archeologists discovered gold coins. A team led by Liat Nadav-Ziv and Dr. Elie Haddad were excavating an area that will eventually be the location of a new residential neighborhood.

On behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, they conducted the investigation. A significant number of items were discovered by the team, but nothing unusual until they found a small jug

Nadav-Ziv told The Jerusalem Post that she was “cataloging a large number of artifacts found during the excavations when all of a sudden I heard shouts of joy”.

They had come from veteran archaeologist Marc Molkondov, and he directed them to a spot in the dig. He had unearthed a small cracked jug full of a number of coins. This was clearly an important find.

Archaeologists Liat Nadav-Ziv and Marc Molkondov, finder of the gold coins, with the 8 th century Chanukah gelt.

Dr. Robert Kool, a coin expert from the Israel Antiquities Authority examined the coins. There were all from the 7th-9th centuries AD and date to the early Abbasid period. The Abbasid Caliphate is regarded as an Islamic golden age when the arts, industry, and science flourished.

One of the most important coins found was a gold dinar from the reign of Caliph Harun A-Rashid (786-809 AD). He ruled the Abbasid Caliphate at the zenith of its power and wealth and is a “key figure in the classic collection of stories known as the Arabian Nights also known as One Thousand and One Nights” according to The Jerusalem Post.

In the jug were coins not normally found in Israel. Dr. Kool is quoted by the Jewish Press as saying that there “are gold dinars issued by the Aghlabid dynasty that ruled in North Africa, in the region of modern Tunisia”. This dynasty was largely autonomous but was ultimately under the control of the Abbasids, whose capital was in Baghdad.

The coins were discovered during the major Jewish holiday Chanukah, otherwise known as Hanukkah. During this eight-day festival gifts of coins are given, sometimes chocolate gold coins, are exchanged. Kool is quoted by The Times of Israel as saying that “without a doubt, this is a wonderful Chanukah present for us”.

The hoard of gold coins discovered in Yavne.

The excavation at Yavne is not far from a Tel or mound, and a large number of kilns were discovered. The kilns were used in the manufacture of pottery from the late Byzantine to the Early Abbasid period (600 to 900 AD). It appears that the site was once an industrial center and it produced pots, jars, and bowls.

The jug with the treasure trove was unearthed near one of the entrances of the kiln. The Jerusalem Post reports that “it might have been the potter’s ‘piggy-bank’ where he had kept his personal savings”. It is possible that the potter hid the coins at some point and was unable to recover them.

The Yavne site has a long history. Evidence was found that the area was the location of wine production, during the Achaemenid Persian period (5th and 4th centuries BC).

The wine was produced there on a significant scale. Dr. Elie Haddad observed that “the size and number of vats found at the site indicated that wine was produced on a commercial scale, well beyond the local needs of Yavne’s ancient population” reports The Jerusalem Post. It appears that the region exported wine to other areas.

Winepresses found at the same location as the gold coins, dated to the Persian period.

The jug filled with coins is an important find in itself. The discovery helps us to understand more about an important industrial center in the Middle Ages and the region’s role in the international trade network that flourished under the Abbasids. Further excavations at the site are expected to reveal more about Yavneh’s ancient and medieval past.

Neolithic Seawall Discovered in Mediterranean Waters

Neolithic Seawall Discovered in Mediterranean Waters

Scientists have discovered an ancient seawall constructed by the Neolithic people to protect their village from a sea-level rise over 7,000 years ago.

This wall, which is 330 meters off the Carmel coast of Israel, had been constructed over a mile of riverbed stone, in order to build a barrier between the Mediterranean and Tel Heriz settlement.

Researchers led by Ehud Galili from the University of Haifa, Israel, in a study published in PLOS One claim that it represents the oldest known coastal defense system in the world with “a major effort spent by the neolithic villagers to create, organize and construct.”

At the time the settlement existed, sea levels were rising as global temperatures warmed following the end of the last ice age. The Mediterranean was rising by up to seven millimeters (0.27 inches) per year. Over a lifetime, this would have equaled around 20 centimeters.

“This rate of sea-level rise means the frequency of destructive storms damaging the village would have risen significantly,” Galili said in a statement.

Images from the underwater archaeologists investigating the site.
Model showing where the village and wall would have been compared with today.

“The environmental changes would have been noticeable to people, during the lifetime of a settlement across several centuries. Eventually, the accumulating yearly sea-level necessitated a human response involving the construction of a coastal protection wall similar to what we’re seeing around the world now.”

The Tel Hreiz settlement was first uncovered in the 1960s but the seawall was only identified in 2010 after a severe storm exposed it. Galili and his team then set about analyzing the remains of the submerged wall.

They found it was almost 10 feet tall and was built around the same time as the village. Over the course of decades, the seawall would have suffered from marine erosion, the researchers say.

After the sand layer was removed, waves and storms may have eventually dislodged boulders and stones.

Despite this “display of resilience” in the face of sea-level rise, the people of Tel Hreiz eventually left the village and, over time, both the seawall and village were lost to the sea.

“The seawall may have worked for a period,” the team wrote, “however, ultimately it proved futile and the village was eventually abandoned. The Tel Hreiz seawall represents the earliest example of a coastal defense of this type known to date.”

The team points to parallels with the sea-level rise mankind is facing today. While the rate at the moment is considerably lower than what these Neolithic people were facing, it is expected that many of the world’s coastal towns and cities will be impacted in the next century.

“Given the size of coastal populations and modern urban settlements, the magnitude of predicted future population displacement differs considerably to the impacts on people during the Neolithic,” the study said.

“However, many of the fundamental human questions and the decision-making relating to human resilience, coastal defense, local adaptation, technological innovation and decisions to ultimately abandon long-standing settlements remain ominously relevant.”

In Jerusalem, 2,600-year-old seal discovered

In Jerusalem, 2,600 year-old seal discovered

The volunteer tested dirt excavated in 2013 from beneath Robinson’s Arch, at the foundations of the western wall, discovered a seal with a Hebrew name, 2,600 years old.

A 2,600-year-old seal bearing the Hebrew name and title “Adenyahu Asher Al Habayit” discovered in dirt excavated in 2013 at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

The seal is inscribed with the name of an individual with the most prominent role in the king’s court in the kingdom of Judea.

The Bulla (seal), which was used to sign documents, bears the Hebrew name and title: “Adenyahu Asher Al Habayit” which literally translates as “Adenyahu by Appointment of the House”- a term used throughout the Bible to describe the most senior minister serving under a kings of Judea or Israel.

According to archaeologist Eli Shukron, who conducted the initial excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority just north of the City of David at the Foundation Stones of the Western Wall: “This is the first time this kind of archaeological discovery has been made in Jerusalem.

A view of the City of David and the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

The Biblical title “Asher Al Habayit” was the highest-ranking ministerial position beneath the king during reigns of the Kings of Judea and Israel, it is undoubtedly of great significance.”

“This tiny bulla has immense meaning to billions of people worldwide. The personal signet of a senior official to a Biblical King from the First Temple Period.

This is another link in the long chain of Jewish history in Jerusalem that is being uncovered and preserved at the City of David on a daily basis.” Said Doron Spielman, Vice-President of the City of David Foundation which operates the site in which the bulla was discovered and the Archeological Experience where it was uncovered.

The bulla is approximately one-centimeter-wide, and according to the type of writing that appears on it, it dates to the seventh century BCE – the period of the Kingdom of Judea. The term “Asher Al Habayit” describes the most senior role in the royal hierarchy in the kingdom of Judah and Israel and it appears for the first time on the list of ministers of Solomon.

This role is mentioned in the Bible in reference to a number of figures that have a considerable influence in the kingdom and it describes a senior minister who was very close to the king.

For example, “Abdihu Asher Al Habayit,” in the Book of Kings I, is mentioned as having served in that role in the Kingdom of Israel, under the reign of King Ahab during times of Elijah the Prophet.

As part of his tenure, Abedihu acted against Isabel in administering the kingdom and even saved a hundred of the prophets of the Lord after hiding them in a cave. Also in this role in the Kingdom of Judea during the reign of King Hezekiah was “Elyakim son of Partiah Asher Al Habayit”.

According to the book of Isaiah, Elyakim negotiated with Rabshka, one of the ministers of King Sennacherib King of Assyria, who threatened to conquer Jerusalem. The name Adenayahu that appears on the bulla appears throughout the Bible:

This name belonged to one of King David’s sons as mentioned in the Book of Kings. Another individual with that name is mentioned as one of the Levites in the days of Jehoshaphat. Lastly, in the days of Nehemiah, he is mentioned as one of the “Heads of, the people…(Nehemiah, 9:16).

It should be noted that some 150 years ago, French archeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau discovered a burial cave with the inscription: “Tomb of …..yahu Asher Al Habayit.”

The beginning of the name had been erased, but the burial site, on the outskirts of the City of David was also dated to the seventh century BCE, much like the recent bulla.

Although discovered by Clermont-Ganneau, the inscription was only deciphered by Prof. Nachman Avigad some eighty years later.

The bulla was covered in dirt that was excavated in 2013, until three weeks ago, when it was uncovered as part of the City of David’s volunteer Archeological Experience, by an Israeli teenager named Batya Howen, who described the moments of the discovery: “I began sifting through the bucket of dirt by washing it under a stream of water, and suddenly I recognized a small piece of black colored piece of metal.

To hold such a significant find from 2600 years ago, from the time of the Kingdom of Judah, is an amazing thing.”

The bullae stamps – were small pieces of tin used in ancient times to sign documents, and were meant to keep the letters closed en route to their destination.

1,400-year-old Byzantine Hammer and Nails Discovered in Ancient Jewish Village of Usha

1,400-year-old Byzantine Hammer and Nails Discovered in Ancient Jewish Village of Usha

During a Sukkot holiday, some 8,500 individuals were participating in the IAA archeological excavations and activities, but none of them anticipated to discover the most closely associated with building the Sukkah – the hammer and the nails – from the Byzantine period, about 1400 years ago.

Aerial view of the winepresses and the adjacent ritual bath at Ancient Usha

This was the luck of a Tur’an family who participated in a Usha dig in the lower Galilee.

“About 20 iron hammers are recorded with the records of the Israeli Antiquities Authority, of which only six are from the Byzantine period,” according to Yair Amitzur and Eyad Bisharat, the directors of the excavation for IAA.

“It is already known that Usha settlers produced large quantities of glass vessels, as we find several wine glasses and glass lamps together with raw material glass lumps, and the discovery of the hammer, nails, and the adjacent iron slag tells us that they also made iron tools on the site.”

Some of the 15,000 pupils who participated in the archaeological excavations at Usha over the past year

Alongside these industries, complex pressing installations for the production of olive oil and wine indicate that the primary occupation and source of income of the Usha inhabitants was the large-scale processing of the agricultural produce of the olive trees and the vines that they cultivated on the surrounding gentle hillslopes.

Adjacent to the oil and winepresses were exposed two rock-hewn ritual baths with plastered walls and steps, dating to the Roman and Byzantine periods, about 1800 years ago.

The discovery of the ritual baths indicates that the Jewish press workers took care to purify themselves in the ritual baths in order to manufacture ritually-pure oil and wine.

The 1,400-year-old iron hammer and nails that were found at Usha

The main ‘workforce’ excavating the site are school children, youth and volunteers, who participate in the excavations thanks to the Israel IAA’s policy of bringing the community closer to its own cultural heritage.

Over the past year, more than 15,000 youth and families have taken part in the educational venture at Usha, digging and exposing the fascinating past of the site.

Amitzur also said that the town of Usha had been mentioned in Jewish sources since the first century CE.

“The settlement of Usha is mentioned in the Jewish sources many times in the Roman and Byzantine periods, as the village where the institution of the Sanhedrin was renewed, after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and after the failure of the Bar Kochba Revolt in 135 CE”.

“The Sanhedrin was the central Jewish Council and Law Court, and it was headed by the President, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel the Second, who both presided in Usha, and then his son Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi”.

“Here in Usha, the Rabbis of the Sanhedrin made decrees to enable the Jewish people to recover after the war against the Romans, and to reconstruct Jewish life in the Galilee”.

Ancient wine glasses found at Usha

“The Jewish sources mention that Rabbi Yitzhak Nafha was an inhabitant of Usha, and his name ‘Nafha’, meaning ‘the blower’ indicates that he probably worked as a glass manufacturer”.

“The many delicate wine glasses, glass lamps, and glass lumps indicate that Usha inhabitants were proficient in the art of glassblowing. The ritual baths adjacent to the presses indicate that the Sanhedrin Sages paid particular attention to issues of ritual purity”.

The excavations at Usha are part of the Sanhedrin Trail Project that was initiated by the IAA, crossing the Galilee from Bet Shearim to Tiberias, following the movement of the Sanhedrin sages who finally convened in Tiberias.

The excavation is underway, continuing throughout the year with the participation of thousands of school children, youth and volunteers.

Also planned are special activity days open to the general public.  

Well-Preserved Byzantine Church Uncovered in Israel

Well-Preserved Byzantine Church Uncovered in Israel

The Church of the Byzantine Age was discovered by Israeli archeologists on Wednesday in a neighborhood west of Jerusalem.

The Israel Antiquities Authority showed some of the objects of the almost 1.500-year-old church after three years of excavations.

During this discovery, scientists found many sophisticated mosaics depicting birds, fruit and plants and vivid frescoes on the church walls.

The church was also elaborately designed, including a marble chancel and a calcite flowstone baptismal.

One floor mosaic contains an eagle, a symbol of the Byzantine Empire.

“We know of a few hundred churches in the Holy Land but this church by far surpasses most of them by its state of preservation and the imperial involvement which funded it,” said Benjamin Storchan, the excavation’s director.

One of the Greek inscriptions said the church was dedicated to an unnamed ‘glorious martyr’

Mystery martyr

An inscription in the courtyard says the site is dedicated to a “glorious martyr,” although researchers are still puzzling over their identity.

An underground crypt below the main area of the church is believed to have contained the martyr’s remains.

“The martyr’s identity is not known, but the exceptional opulence of the structure and its inscriptions indicate that this person was an important figure,” Storchan said.

The site was likely a popular destination for pilgrims and was well-funded by the Byzantine empire

Another inscription on the site revealed that Byzantine emperor Tiberius II Constantinus helped fund the church’s expansion.

Researchers believe the site was likely a popular destination for pilgrims until it was abandoned during the Muslim Abbasid caliphate in the 9th century AD.

Following the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, the entrances to the church were sealed with large stones.

Excavators were able to move the heavy stones, revealing glass lamps and a piece of the vault where the nameless martyr is believed to have been buried.

Archaeologists may have discovered the village where Jesus is said to have appeared after he was crucified.

Archaeologists may have discovered the village where Jesus is said to have appeared after he was crucified. 

In accordance with Luke’s Gospel. Following the crucifixion of Jesus, two of his disciples went to Emmaus, and a stranger walked by them on their way to the village, asked them what had just happened in Jerusalem.

The stranger disclosed that he was Jesus in this biblical story only when they reached Emmaus and stopped for supper.

Two archeologists suggest that an archeological site known as the Kiriath-jearim might be the Emmaus in a document released in the sequence “New Studies of Archeology of Jerusalem and its Region.”

The location of Emmaus has long been a topic of debate, with a few different sites proposed in the past. 

While biblical scholars generally agree that Jesus was a real person, they’ve long debated which stories in the Bible actually occurred and which ones did not. The story of Jesus reappearing at Emmaus may have never happened. 

The Shmunis Family Excavations at Kiriath-jearim

Complicated proposal

Several clues point to Kiriath-jearim being Emmaus. For instance, the Gospel of Luke says Emmaus is “60 stadia” from Jerusalem, a distance about equal to the 8 miles (13 kilometers) that separates Kiriath-jearim from the Old City of Jerusalem, wrote Israel Finkelstein, professor emeritus at the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University in Israel, and Thomas Römer, a professor of biblical studies at Collège de France, in the forthcoming article.

Recent excavations at Kiriath-jearim have also uncovered a series of fortifications that were renovated during the first half of the second century B.C., and according to the Book of Maccabees, the Seleucid Empire (an empire ruled by the descendants of one of Alexander the Great’s generals) controlled much of the region, fortifying several sites, including Emmaus. 

Excavations indicate that these fortifications at Kiriath-jearim were renovated about 2,200 years ago, an event that appears to be described in the Book of Maccabees. Emmaus was one of the sites that were mentioned as being fortified at that time.

The researchers can’t be completely certain that Kiriath-jearim is Emmaus and not another site fortified by the Seleucids.

But the fact that the site is located 60 stadia from Jerusalem supports the proposal. Additionally, the other sites mentioned in the Book of Maccabees that the Seleucids fortified don’t appear to match up well with Kiriath-jearim.

Adding more evidence for the proposal, pottery found at Kiriath-jearim suggests that the site was inhabited around the time that Jesus is said to have lived. This means there would have been an active village at the site for Jesus’ disciples to visit and where Jesus could have appeared. 

Problems with identification

There are, however, problems with the idea that Kiriath-jearim is Emmaus, the researchers wrote. For instance, there doesn’t seem to be any linguistic connection between the names Kiriath-jearim and Emmaus, the researchers noted. Also, other sites do have at least tenuous links to Emmaus: A fourth-century historian named Eusebius wrote in his book “Onomasticon” that Nicopolis is Emmaus. 

Other sites also have potential. For instance, Josephus, a historian who lived during the first century, wrote that retired Roman soldiers settled at Emmaus, which he claimed was only 30 stadia from Jerusalem, at a site located near Qaluniya (a village that was not abandoned until 1948). 

Finkelstein and Römer are co-directors of excavations at Kiriath-jearim. After their paper is published, scholars not affiliated with the research project will be able to evaluate the proposal’s evidence. 

Archaeologists claim 2,200-year-old ruins in Israel could be the remains of the biblical town Emmaus where Jesus travelled after his resurrection

Archaeologists claim 2,200-year-old ruins in Israel could be the remains of the biblical town Emmaus where Jesus travelled after his resurrection

In Israel, archeologists claimed to have found the Actual location of the biblical town of Emmaus, where Jesus first appeared to two followers after being crucified and resurrected.

Researchers have uncovered the remains of a 2200-year-old fortification at Kiriat-Jearim, a hill on the outskirts of Abu Ghosh, a town near Jerusalem.

It is believed that the massive wall of the Hellenistic forts was built by the Seleucid general who defeated Judah the Maccabee, the Jewish leader has spoken of in the Hanukkah story.

Archaeologists believe that the remains of a 2,200-year-old fortification at Kiriath-Jearim (pictured), a hill on the outskirts of Abu Ghosh, a village near Jerusalem, prove that the hill and village are the biblical towns of Emmaus
Emmaus is significant in Christianity as Jesus appeared to two of his apostles on the road to the town after his crucifixion and resurrection

Tel Aviv University professor Israel Finkelstein, who leads the archaeologist project with Thomas Romer and Christophe Nicolle of the College de France, now claims that the hill and village should be identified as Emmaus.  

In Christianity, Emmaus is significant as Jesus appeared to two of his apostles on the road to the town after his crucifixion and resurrection. 

In Luke 24:13-35, the town is described as being fortified and about seven miles west of Jerusalem. 

This matches the location of Kiriath-Jearim, Abu Ghosh and Jerusalem, as well as the distance between them. 

However, Benjamin Isaac, emeritus professor of ancient history from Tel Aviv University, warned that there are at least two other sites nearby which also have strong claims to be Emmaus.

He said: ‘Finkelstein and Römer have a good case archaeologically, geographically, and topographically.

‘However, it is a hypothesis and remains a hypothesis.’ 

Kiriath-Jearim is also described in the Bible as one of the places where the Ark of the Covenant stood before King David took it to Jerusalem.  According to the Bible, Moses had the Ark of the Covenant built to hold the Ten Commandments. 

Judah the Maccabee, a priest who led a Jewish revolt against the Seleucid empire, was defeated and killed at Kiriath-Jearim in 160 BC by the Seleucid army led by general Bacchides. 

Tel Aviv University professor Israel Finkelstein claims that the hill and village the project is working on should be identified as Emmaus

Bacchides fortified the towns surrounding Jerusalem with large walls, including the biblical town of Emmaus. Archaeologists believe they have found the walls built to fortify Emmaus. 

Describing the site, Finkelstein told Haaretz: ‘The importance of this site, its dominant position over Jerusalem, was felt again and again through time: in the eighth century B.C.E., and then again in the Hellenistic period and then again after the First Jewish Revolt and the sack of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.’

The latest research, including the claims about Emmaus, are detailed in a forthcoming paper published in the journal ‘New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region.’

In Luke 24:13-35, the town is described as being fortified and about seven miles west of Jerusalem. This matches the location of Kiriath-Jearim, Abu Ghosh and Jerusalem, as well as the distance between them

The project at Kiriath-Jearinm is being run by Tel Aviv University and the College de France. It is being supported by the Shmunis family from San Francisco. 

Finkelstein told Fox News: ‘The finds at Kiriath-Jearim hint at its long-term role as guarding the approach to Jerusalem.

‘The Hellenistic and Roman period remains shed light on the much-debated issue of the location of the New Testament’s Emmaus.’

Romer added: ‘Geographically I think that the distance to Jerusalem fits well, so I do think that Kiriath Yearim could have been the Emmaus of the New Testament.’ 

Scientists have found that the tomb of Jesus Christ is far older than people thought

Scientists have found that the tomb of Jesus Christ is far older than people thought

The shrine (sometimes called the Edicule) that holds the tomb of Jesus is seen in this photograph. The shrine is located within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Scientific studies indicate that a tomb that, according to legend, held Jesus Christ’s body dates back nearly 1,700 years.

It is unknown whether the tomb ever really kept Jesus ‘ body. The limestone bed dates back to nearly 300 years after Jesus ‘ death. In addition, several other sites claim to hold the “tomb of Jesus.”

Jesus ‘ tomb is covered by a shrine (sometimes called the Edicule) in Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulcher Church.

According to legend, Helena, the mother of Roman emperor Constantine the Great (reign ca. 306-337), discovered the tomb around the year 327.

Constantine legalized Christianity throughout the Roman Empire and supposedly converted to Christianity before he died.

The legend says the Romans protected the tomb of Jesus by building a shrine over it as well as a church.

This church has been destroyed, renovated and rebuilt several times over the past 1,700 years.

Today, the shrine that covers the tomb is in poor shape and is in danger of collapse. To help save it, a team that includes scientists supported by the National Geographic Society has been conducting conservation work in the shrine and its tomb.

During this work, the archaeologists opened the tomb of Jesus for the first time in centuries — it has been sealed with marble slabs since at least A.D. 1555 to prevent damage from visitors — and excavated the tomb.

They found the remains of what appears to be a limestone bed that, as legend says, may have held the body of Jesus.

Tests using a technique called optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) of mortar from the limestone bed revealed when the quartz within the masonry was last exposed to light.

Candles placed on top of the tomb after its restoration.

The results showed that the bed was constructed around A.D. 345, during or shortly after the reign of Constantine the Great. The test results were released by the National Geographic Society.

“Obviously, that date is spot-on for whatever Constantine did,” archaeologist Martin Biddle, who has studied the tomb extensively, told National Geographic.

Today, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a site of pilgrimage for Christians.

A study reporting the test results will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. When the conservation work is complete, scientists hope that the marble cladding that hid the tomb will be replaced with a material that will allow visitors to see inside the tomb.