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Digging in the Temple Dump (2006)

The Israeli Magazine Ha’aretz recently reported on excavations conducted on the eastern hill of the City of David. Various teams have excavated here over the years and in 1995 Roni Reich of Haifa University and Eli Shukrun of the Israel Antiquities Authority began excavating in two places on the eastern hill. It was only then that they realized the site was a rubbish dump from the Roman period. Reich and Shukrun estimate that the site held a total of about 300,000 tons of waste. Most of the finds were pottery shards, but surprisingly, a very high percentage (30%) were of cooking utensils. Reich suggested these cooking pots were evidence of the large number of pilgrims who came to Jerusalem, especially during the high holy days. Analysis of the bones collected during the excavations also proved to be interesting. Dr Guy Bar-Oz, an archaeo-zoologist from the University of Haifa, checked all the bones collected and found they were mostly of domesticated animals—goats, sheep and cattle—but not a single pig bone was uncovered (!).

Furthermore, most of the animals eaten were young. These facts are in accord with Jewish dietary rules forbidding the eating of pig and also the religious injunction to sacrifice young and unblemished animals.

In my view, both the bones and the cooking pots thrown over the eastern hill of the city of David were not waste from the city in general but came from a specific site – the Temple Mount. The Jerusalem temple was a major site for Jewish pilgrimage from all over the Roman world. Part of the ceremonies included presenting offerings and sacrifices at the temple, portions of which were consumed by the priests. The final destination of the bones of slaughtered animals and pottery vessels used for presenting the offerings is not mentioned in the sources nor addressed by scholars. The analysis of the finds from the eastern hill, I think, fills in that gap.

view of Area D in the eastern hill in the City of David
A view of Area D in the eastern hill in the City of David, showing the city and its wall in Biblical times, as exposed by Y Shiloh in the 1970’s. Recent additional excavations at the eastern wall exposed layers of debris containing what seems to be “left overs” of the Jewish pilgrimage to the Temple in the first century CE.

Ancient Sites Seen from Space

This item is for all the lovers of advanced websites and software. A

few months ago I discovered the wonders of the web program called Google Earth. You download 13MB of installation files and then you can surf all around the world and view sites in amazing detail—streets, boats, planes, cars—you name it!.

And it gets better. Google Earth enables you to mark various spots, provide explanations about them, and publish it on their satellite maps. Being acquainted with so many archaeological sites, I could not resist the temptation, and created an index of ancient sites in Israel and its vicinity. From Eilat in the south, to Baalbek in the north, I marked over 150 sites and grouped them according to geographical units and subjects. Now that this project is completed, I invite you all to take a virtual tour to all the sites I located. The satellite view provides interesting and unusual views for some locations. At the Aravah, for instance, you can see a “desert kite”, a set of long walls whose alignment can only be appreciated from aerial photos. These walls were designed to trap animals in prehistoric times.

In Jaffa the satellite view shows the roof of the house identified by Christian tradition as the home of Simon the tanner. On this roof, according to Christian tradition, Peter had a vision in which an angel told him he could also eat non-kosher food (Acts 10). The roof cannot be seen from land, and so in a way Google Earth provides a better image of the site than you would get by going there! Just look for one of my posts anywhere in Israel or you can download the whole collection I made at this site: In this site, at the forum “History Illustrated” type the key words “dannyherman”. Enjoy the ride!

Earth as seen from Google Earth.
Earth as seen from Google Earth.