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A mysterious church and Ritual bath discovered at Gethsemane

In recent years, the Custody of the Holy Land, which represents the Catholic Church in Israel, is developing the area around the church of Gethsemane. They wish to create an underground passage from the church into the Kidron valley, believed to be the site of the final judgment at the end of times. During the development work, two surprising archaeological discoveries were made. Close to the surface, foundations of a Byzantine period church were discovered. The modern church of Gethsemane itself is built over a church from the Byzantine and Crusaders periods, and so finding another Byzantine-era church was a

(12/2020) Roman-era Potters Workshop from Beit Nattif Discovered – Again

In the 1930s, new types of oil lamps surfaced in the antiquity stores of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. These oil lamps were made by a mold and were characterized by a round shape and detailed ornamentation. The merchants indicated these lamps were coming from the Arab village of Bayt Nattif, in the southern part of the Shephelah (today’s Khorbat Beit Nattif, 4 miles south of Beth Shemesh). In 1934, British Department of Antiquities inspector, Mr.  Dimitri Baramki surveyed the village and found the actual ancient workshop that once manufactured these artifacts. Inside a cave he uncovered hundreds of fragments of oil

(11/2020) Church Found Where Peter Recieved the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven

Recently Israel’s Nature Parks Authority announced on the discovery of an early 5th century CE Church at Banias, a national park in northern Israel. Banias was founded in the Hellenistic period, and was known as a pagan cultic center. A big cave next to the site’s main spring was associated with the Greek god Pan. King Herod built a temple in front of it, to honor emperor Augustus. At that time the city’s name was Caesarea-Philippi, and under that name, the site is mentioned in the New Testament. Caesarea-Philippi is where Jesus appointed Simon-Yona to establish the Christian church. At

A Clay Impression Purchased In the Bedouin Market Proves to Be 2,800 Years Old

About forty years ago, Professor Yigal Ronen strolled through the Bedouin market in Beer-Sheva in search of ancient coins. Ronen is Professor Emeritus of Nuclear Engineering at Ben-Gurion University, but he is also a history buff, and coin collector. Ronen was intrigued when he noticed a small oval shaped object in one of the stands. It was not a coin, but a clay seal impression (bulla). Measuring 1 inch by 0.75 inch, the impression depicted a roaring lion with his tail raised. Above the lion was one word, in Paleo-Hebrew, reading “Of Shema” Ronen was familiar with another seal that

(10/2020) Biblical Archaeology and the Book of Mormon

In recent years I had a few tour orders from Mormon groups and families. Unlike In the USA, the LDS church does not proselytize in Israel, and so little is known about them. In fact most Israelis probably never even heard of them. Learning that they sanctify another book as part of the Bible I was intrigued to get a copy, preferably in Hebrew. It wasn’t so easy to find one. The only partial Hebrew translation made of The Book of Mormon is from 1981, and is out of print. Furthermore, it is simply not available anywhere in Israel. But

(9/20) Has the “Great Palace” of Jehoiakim Been Discovered?

A few weeks ago, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on a rare and very special discovery made during a salvage excavation in Jerusalem.  The excavations were conducted at the beginning of the year in the Armon Hanatziv ridge, south of the old city. During the excavations, archaeologist Yaakov Bilig, who led the expedition, uncovered several architectural elements that originally were part of a Biblical palace. Surprisingly, there are almost no remains of the structure itself, yet the shape and style of these artifacts leaves no doubt that these are genuine and royal level ornamentations. Similar stone artifacts have been found

(8/20) Drama and Mysteries at Khirbet Beit Loya / Beit Lehi

Khirbet Beit Loya is a unique site in the southern Judean Foothills (The Shephelah), about 5 km east of Tel Lachish. A new publication of the recent archaeological research at the site presents a wealth of finds and enables an unprecedented detailed review of its history. In 1961 a burial cave was accidentally exposed east of the site, during construction of a military patrol road. At that time, Khirbet Beit Loya was close to the border with the Jordan (the “Green Line”). The cave was looted, possibly already in antiquity, yet seven inscriptions were recorded on its walls. The longest

(7/20) Mysterious Site uncovered near the US embassy in Jerusalem

The mountains of Jerusalem were massively terraced in antiquity for agricultural development. Alongside these terraces there is a mysterious archeological phenomenon known in Arabic as “Rujum”. These are piles of tens of thousands on field stones. They sometimes create an artificial hill. It can be suggested that this is an industrial clearance of the mountain ridge for agricultural development. But it would be wiser to use all of these stones to build more terraces, and so increase the agricultural potential of the mountainous area. Another possibility is that these are remains of watch towers guarding the agricultural land. Such stone

(6/20) Cannabis in the service of the Lord?

In the 1960s, an archeological expedition from Tel Aviv University made a surprising discovery in the form of a Jewish temple inside the ancient citadel of Tel Arad. The temple consisted of a courtyard with an altar, and a room  bearing two standing stones (Biblical “Massevot”) on a raised platform (“Holy of Holies”). Two incense altars were placed on the steps leading to the standing stone. The temple was abandoned at some point, but in a respectful way. The altars were placed on their side, the standing stones were not broken, and the whole compound was covered with a fill,

Protected: (5/2020) Is the Tomb of Jesus NOT inside the Holy Sepulchre?

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

(4/20) Easter’s Holy Fire ceremony in Jerusalem preformed with no crowds due to the Pandemic

The “Holy fire” ceremony is one of the most significant religious events in the history of Christianity in the Holy Land. Since the 9th century CE there is evidence of this ritual taking place every year on Easter Saturday in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. At its peak the Patriarch enters an aedicula believed to be built over the tomb of Jesus for prayer. After a 20 minutes he comes out with burning torches. In Christian faith the fire was sparked by the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit who resurrected Jesus from the dead. The Holy

(3/20) COVID-19 and Biblical plagues in the Holy Land

This post is written as a modern plague is raging on our planet, killing over 35,000 world wide (true of March 31 2020), mostly elders. My prayers to the sick, to the elders in risk, to the medical staff, to the millions who have suddenly lost their livelihood (including myself), and especially to the scientists racing to find a remedy and a vaccine!. May this post be of any interest and spiritual benefit to any of them! Whether the Bible is a complete reliable historical source or not, it contains many fascinating stories that relate to sites across the Holy

(02/20) A Rare Look at the Back Side of the Golgotha

Not every day do you get to be SOOO fortunate to have a private tour by one of the highest officials of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre  , but last week it actually happened to me! It started with a tour request of Jerusalem by the governor of Naxos, Mr. Ioannis Margaritis. When we met he mentioned his cousin had a high function in the church of the Holy Sepulchre. When we met him I realized – he wasn’t kidding!. Father Bartholomew took us first to the John the Baptist “Prodromos” church  in the Christian Quarter , which he is in charge

(1/20) Visiting a Tomb of a Real Princess

Princess Alice of Batternberg and the British Royal Family Princess Alice of Battenberg  is a remarkable figure in the royal history of Europe. Born in 1885 in Windsor Castle, London to Second degree cousins (Ludwig von Battenberg and Victoria Princess of Hesse), it is perhaps not that surprising that she was death from birth. In 1903 when she was only 18 years old, Princess Alice was married to Andreas Prince of Greece, who she met a year earlier at the Coronation ceremony of Edward VII in London. The couple had four children, before being ousted in 1917 by Constantine, brother

(12/19) The Location of Placing the Ark of the Covenant in Beth-Shemesh Discovered?

The Ark of the Covenant and Beth-Shemesh The book of Samuel mainly documents the struggles of the tribes of Israel against the Philistines, a struggle that eventually led to the kingdom by Saul and David, and the creation of Jerusalem as their capital. According to the Bible, the most sacred object of the tribes of Israel was the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Tablets, the instructions of the God of Israel how to worship it. Given to Moses at Mount Sinai, the tablets in the ark were carried through the wilderness, and once the Israelites of conquered the “Promised

(11/19) David’s first capital discovered? The Quest for Biblical ZIKLAG.

Ziklag in the Bible Ziklag was was Biblical town within the kingdom of Achish , the Philistine king of Gath, and later part of the kingdom of Judah. According to the book of Samuel (I Sam. 17), although David slew Goliath, a native of Gat, he later approached Achish, king of Gat, seeking asylum from Saul. Achish gave him the site of Ziklag, where David and 600 of his man and their families settled for 16 months. David then raided against other villages, acting more like a bandit, and later even attempted to join Achish and a philistine army to

(10/2019) New Museum opens in Petra

In my last visit to Petra   I was pleasantly surprised to see a new Museum has being opened next to the main entrance to Petra. Free of charge (at least for now..) this new museum is a result of a $7M grant from Japan, and its spectacular modern design is made by Japanese architects Yamashita Sekkei. Its galleries present about 300 objects, 50 of them presented to the public for the first time. Additional artifacts are expected to be presented on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of art in New York. My favorite gallery was of the presentation of some

(9/2019) Impressions of a Mysterious Cultic center found in the City of David – Malchizedek’s shrine? or Shalem’s stone?..

 Eli Shukrun is a friend since my years as an archaeology students at the Hebrew University. We took some classes together and stayed friends since. Later he joined me, and became a tour guide as well. Last week I happen to meet him while both of us were guiding at the City of David  , and he invited me to join his presentation to his group of his own dig at the City of David at a section not opened yet to the public. Of course my group and I happily joined, and we were indeed taken to an area I didn’t know

(8/2019) New church found with decoration alluding to the “miracles of the multiplication of Loaves and fish”

 In a recent article in “Haaretz” a sensational new discovery was presented – a mosaic floor of another church found in Hippos-Sussita. A discovery of an ancient church is not that rare, and four churches were already discovered in Sussita alone, but this was the first to be found at the site with an almost complete mosaic floor intact, and its decoration include fish and baskets, two of baskets even bearing 5  loaves of bread, matching the textual description of the “Miracle of the mulitplication of the loaves and fish (Mark 6).  While it is indeed tempting to suggest that

(7/2019) Roman Military Camp Uncovered near Armageddon

In the early 2nd century CE two imperial legions were stationed in “Provincia Syria Palestina” – Legio X “Fretensis”  in Jerusalem, and Legio VI “Ferrata” , somewhere near Tel Megiddo (known also as “Armageddon”). The exacat location of the camp of the sixth legion was confirmed only in surveys conducted east of Biblical Megiddo in 2013 and 2015, and only this year (2019)  a joint expedition began excavating at the site. Heading to Tel-Aviv after a day touring the north with a couple (the Straffs), I noticed the trucks of the expedition spread in the fields of the site, and decided to

(6/2019) New Podcast about Jesus and Archaeology

A chance meeting between Dr. Ilan Abeksis and I led to a set of audio recordings (podcast) about Jesus, the Bible and Archaeology. True that it is all in Hebrew, but eventually it will also be recorded in English.. one day.. Here are the chapters loaded so far –

(5/2019) We made it again!

Am so happy and honored to recieve, again, the “Certificate of Excellence” From TRIPADVISOR!. For the 9th year!! :-).  And this year especially we have earned it as a team! Fredi Wiesner, Pini Refael, Edan Geva, and  James Elgrod, all have an equall share in this achievment, as we are all devoted to the same goal of prodising the best touring experience possible of the Holy Land!. This lines up with our ravig feedbacks also on “Google my business” and Facebook. Thank you “Tripadvisor” and especially thank you all of those who chose to tour with us!  

(4/2019) Rare Gold coin Byzantine coin found in the Galilee

Located in the center of the lower Galilee, Sepphoris was founded in Hellenistic times, and was heavily expanded in the first century CE. Joseph, the (step) father of Jesus, may have been employed in the construction of the city. In the late third century CE Sepphoris was also the seat of the Jewish Rabbinical court (the “Sanhedrin”), as well where the important book of Jewish Law (the “Mishnah”) was codified. But in the Byzantine period, both the Sanhedrin was moved to Tiberias, and eventually outlawed, and the Pagan temples of Sepphoris, like in all the Roman Empire, were abolished, and

(3/2019) Seal impression of an Eunuch from the time of King Josiah found in Jerusalem

  Jerusalem in the time of the Old Testament was based mostly around the Gihon spring, in the area called now “City of David” or by local Arabs – “Silwan”. It is a narrow slope descending from the Temple Mount down to the meeting point of the Kidron and the Hinnom valleys. Since the 1980’s an ongoing excavation and development project is held at the site by “Elad” organization, yielding numerous exciting discoveries, from different periods. The latest discovery relates to the last years of Jerusalem, before the violent destruction of the city by the Babylonians, in 586 BCE. The

(2/2019) Ring of Pilatus found in Herodium?

In 1969 Prof. G. Foerester of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University conducted archaeological excavations at Herodium / Herodion, a fortified desert palace complex built by King Herod in the first century and named after him. Among the hundreds of artifacts uncovered in these excavations was a copper alloy sealing ring left in a destruction layer of the site that dates to year 71 CE and attributed to the Roman conquest of the site. The finds were all stored at the Hebrew University, yet recently the ring was cleaned and re-examined, and proved to bear an image of

(1/2019) Evidence of the ark found at Kiryat Yaarim? Or quite the opposite..

Kiryat Ye’arim is mentioned in the Bible as a Judahite town situated near Jerusalem during the period of the judges and King David (11th and 10th centuries BCE) According to the first Book of Samuel (ch. 7), the Ark of the Covenant was stored at Kiryat Ye’arim for 20 years after it was returned from  the Philistines, who had captured it in a battle at Eben-haezer, yet later were smitten with disease. The text says the ark was stored “in the house of Avinadab in the hill” before King David conveyed it to his new capital of Jerusalem after uniting

Biblical Altars Turn into Latrines

Public Latrines in the Bible The Bible can be graphic and blunt and times. Such is the case when it describes Jehus’ religious reforms in the city of Samaria , in which he turns a “House o Baal” into, well, a “House of Shit” – “and they brought out the pillar that was inthe house of Baal and burned it. And they demolished the pillar of Baal, and demolished the house of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day.” (II Kings 10:26-27). But is this just a literary phrase on behalf of the Biblical scribe, expressing his discuss from Ba’al worship, or is

Mysteries at Tell Huqoq

A few years ago Professor Jodi Magness from University of North Carolina at Chapel hill began excavating at Tell Huqoq, a hilltops about 7 km west of the Sea of Galilee. Her major find is a mosaic floor of a 5th century CE synagogue, whose subjects are not totally clear.. [Keep reading here]  

Preview of me on the “Smithsonian Channel”..

I am proud to say that I appear in the one of the latest productions of the “Smithshonian Channel”, in a chapter deadling with the Mystrious Copper Scroll.    See here a preview –

Ein Gedi Scroll Deciphered

In 1965 an installation of a water pipe line by Kibbutz Ein-Gedi in its palm date grove led to the discovery of an ancient synagogue floor. Archaeologists from Hebrew University called to the scene uncovered several layers of a synagogue which functioned at the site between c. 300 to 600 CE. The excavations of the ark unearthed fragments of burnt scrolls, one of which was more intact, but completely charred. There was no way to unwrap it without it crumbling and disintegrating. Carbon 14 test indicated the scroll was from around the year 300 CE, which means the scroll was

Great New Video on Touring Israel

A Special new exhibtion at the Eretz-Israel Museum

Nothing like a free day to take my parents to a new archaeological exhibition, especially if it presents finds from a site in the area where we once lived – Tel Rehov. I grew up in a nearby kibbutz, and in sports classes we would sometimes run up to the mound.. The new excavations at Tel Rehov are famed especially because the first-of-its-kind discovery of an industrial bee hive from Biblical times, providing (finally) evidence that match the reputation of the Holy Land as –”The Land of Milk and Honey”. And yet to my great surprise (and disappointment) this important

Cover review about me in a local Magazine, 10.2015

. – Click here for a PDF of the original article (in Hebrew) . – Click here for excerpts in English .

Has the Acra of Jerusalem Been Found?

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) recently announced on the discovery that supposedly solves a long time riddle – the location of the Hellenistic period “Acra” of Jerusalem. The “Acra” (Short for Greek “Acropolis” – the citadel of the city) is documented by the book of Maccabees as built near the temple, in the City of David: “And they built the city of David with a great and strong wall, and with strong towers, and made it a fortress [Greek: Acra] for them: And they placed there a sinful nation, wicked men, and they fortified themselves therein: and they stored up armour,

Guiding Bio-Med co. “Endchoice” Management Team, August 2015


Presenting Jerusalem to “Down Days / Three Surfers”, 2015

Hebrew University “Archaeology of the New Testament” 2015 Summer Class photos


Shalom und willkommen in Israel

Shalom und willkommen in Israel! Mein Name ist Fredi Wiesner und ich arbeite als Co-Guide mit Danny Herman im deutschsprachigen Sektor. Als geborener Wiener, 40 Jahre in Israel und davon 25 Jahre als Executive Manager in einer deutschen Firma, spreche ich fließend Deutsch, Hebräisch und Englisch. Als Reiseleiter bin ich vom israelischen Ministerium lizenziert, Absolvent der Universität Haifa und der Bibelhochschule (Yeshiva). Sie haben die Möglichkeit eine VIP Tour in Jerusalem oder im ganzen Land in meinen neuen luxus Ford Explorer LTD zu mieten, wobei meine Liebe zum Heiligen Land und zu Menschen überhaupt, jeden Ausflug in ein unvergessliches Erlebnis transformiert. Interessirrt? Dann füllen Sie einfach folgende

“Uncovering Jerusalem” Hebrew University summer class 2015

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$25,000 raised for a dig in Herodium re-directed (2015)

About a year ago I managed to raise $25,000 for new research in Herodium, in quest for where I believe is the real tomb of Herod. To my great surprise the expedition rejected the generous offer. Hershel Shanks, editor of “Biblical Archaeology Review” recently published an editorial expressing his thoughts on this subject. Here it is –  

New pole for best Restaurants in Israel

Based on a pole of 100 Israeli chefs and culinary experts, this 2016 webpage ranks the highest scores the restaurants recieved. Most (how surprising?..) are in Tel-Aviv: #1: Toto (); #2: Thai House ( top 20); #3: Taizu ( top 20); #4: Rafael (); #5: Mashya ( top 20); #6:  Catit (F )( top10); #7: Topolopompo (); #8: Shila ( top10) and Pronto (); #9:Habasta (); #10: Brut (); #11: Yaffo-Tel-Aviv () and Yakimono (). Also praised:Messa () (F); Dinnings (); Magdalena ()  (near Tiberias); Montefiore boutique hotel ( Top10); and Bistro Michael () (in Liman). See my own list of recommended restaurants in Israel here, and specifically in Tel-Aviv here.

I Raised $25K to Excavate the Eastern Tower in Herodium! (2014)

Following Patrich and Arubas, Shanks, and my own similar opinions, a few months ago I started raising money to excavate the eastern tower in Herodium  . We all suspect the tomb found at Herodium by Prof. Netzer is grand, but it is NOT the tomb of King Herod. Here is Shanks review. And here is an interview of Patrich and Arubas.  An outline of the project can be seen HERE. On the eve of the New Jewish Year (24.9.14), I am happy to announce we have raised $20K from the an individual, and another $5k from BAS!. Being so, in December

So who were the five most constipated men in the Old Testament?

1. Cain – he wasn’t Abel. 2. King David – who sat on the throne for forty years. 3.  Solomon – neither heaven nor Earth could move him. 4.  Moses – he went up onto the mountain and took two tablets. 5. and Noah  – who was at sea for forty days and forty nights and all he passed was water.

New Excavations under a synagogue in the Jewish Quarter

Following the “Six Days War”, the Jewish quarter was excavated on a large scale in the 1970’s, beofre being rebuilt. Recently budgets were provided to re-build one of the synagogues destroyed in the 1948 war, and upon a recent visit to the site I was happy to see my friend and colleague, Dr. Oren Gutfeld, directing a salvage excavation at the base of the ruined synagogue, before its reconstruction. With pride Oren presented to me a wealth of pottery shards, some of nearly complete vessels, most of which were from Classical periods. The finds range from Muslim Mamluk times (13th-15th

The War With the Hamas – Hypocrisy vs Facts

Lets face it. The raging war between Israel and the Hamas is mostly over its consciousness in eyes of the World. The western world builds its opinion upon its media. Yet reporters broadcasting from Gaza are allowed to report only what Hamas lets them. And the only subject, it seems, are injured and dead children. This is horrible!. CHILDREN SHOULD NOT PARTICIPATE IN THIS WAR! Why doesn’t the Hamas clear them from battle fields? Why does he not let their parents clear them? Becasue the more injured children on screen, the more empathy, you, the viewer, develop towards the Palestinian.

“Danny the Digger” Becomes “PLATINUM MAN”!..

14.8.14 I am very sorry to say that I broke the edge of my pelvis a few days ago. 🙁 Making use of the ceasefire this last Saturday (9.8.14), I could finally take my kids on a bike ride to the new extreme bike park near us, yet at some point I fell bad on my right side. 🙁 Was cleared by ambulance to a hospital. X-ray showed several fractures in the “acetabulum”. And so my sexy pelvis has now an addition of three big platinum plates 🙂 And I am neutralized for about six months 🙁 The good news

An open Letter to Carter, Snow, etc.

We are in a mini-war for a month now. The Hamas is making daily attempts to assassinate Israelis living around Gaza strip by mortars and rockets. President Jimmy Carter. How would you react if southern Florida was shelled by Cuba so intensively? ANY other American president would pound Cuba in response. Jon Snow. How would you feel if YOUR children and family were living in constant fear of mortars? Would you still be so sensitive to life of the enemy’s families?. The Hamas chooses, deliberately, to put in risk their own women and children! They deliberately shoot from schools, press hotels, and UN

Guiding Hershel Shanks, editor of BAR

For months I was waiting to the visit of Hershel Shanks, Editor of BAR, as we planned a tour to the north. The week before his arrival, Hamas started launching rockets at Israel. Yet both my summer class at the Hebrew U was executed, with only some minor changes, and this week Hershel showed up, and with his Jerusalem correspandance, Sue Singer, and his daughter, Julia Shanks, and their spouses, we went for a great day of touring the north, visiting Beth Shearim, Sepphoris, and Magdala(!). The next day, I was honored to have my other “Rabbi” Dr. Gabi Barkay lecture

At least one Arab got it right..

Rockets Were Flying, and We Kept Going

This week I executed the long ago planned tour with the Kaufman family On the day of their arrival, Arabs from both Israel and the West Bank were rioting with much violence, including throwing stones and rocks against police and civilians. Yet that did not deter us, and we made just some minor changes in the original plan. “On the third day” (to borrow a quote from John 2:1..) Hamas began launching rockets to Israel. The next day they were aimed also towards Jerusalem. All the long range rockets were successfully intercepted by Israel’s amazing “Iron Dome” technology. And the

סוגר חשבון עם טיטוס 5

אנינות פלורנטינית כעבור יומיים אנחנו שוב ברכבת. הפעם לפירנצה. מרכז העיר יחסית קטן, אבל מעוצב, נקי, ועמוס ב – תיירים.. לשם שינוי. אבל העיר הזו משדרת משהו אליטסטי, והאמת – אולי בצדק. ככלות הכל כאן החלה התחיה של העולם המערבי (ה”רנסאנס“) מחשכת המחשבה והיצירה של ימי הביניים. דה-וינצי, מיכאלאנג’לו, גלילאו, הם רק חלק מתושבי העיר באותה תקופה. לעיר נודע מוניטין תרבותי כה רב, עד שהניב הפלורנטיני הפך לשפתה של כל איטליה (“איטלקית“), מבטל סופית את הלטינית (!). שבעי מוזיאונים, כנסיות, דוכני מזכרות, ואוכל איטלקי, את הערב האחרון אנחנו מעבירים בהנאה רבה דוקא במסעדה  – סינית. למחרת קונים כמה גבינות, הולכים

סוגר חשבון עם טיטוס 4

מסיכה ונציאנית הרכבת המהירה מאד (250 קמ”ש!) “נוחתת” בונציה תוך ארבע שעות. תעלות במקום רחובות. סירה גדולה במקום אוטובוס. התנועה הימית צפופה מאד. כאוס מסודר. או סדר כאוטי. פאר ברוקי מכוסה פיח, והמון תיירים. גדודי תיירים. אין כמעט מקומיים או ילדים. העסקים היחידים הנראים לעין הם עסקי תיירות, וגונדולות. המון גונדולות. מאד ציורי, אבל גם מאד ממוסחר. אף גונדולייר לא שר.   בחנות מזכרות אוסטרלית לשעבר מבוגרת ונחמדה שחיה בונציה מספרת לנו על כך שלפני שבוע תייר גרמני מת בהנגשות בין גונדולה לסירה. בדיקות דם הראו שהגונדולייר היה על סמים. “הם כולם על סמים” היא הסבירה. “הם עושים המון כסף

סוגר חשבון עם טיטוס 3

מקדש ענק במרכז רומא – לזכר יהודי! למחרת אנחנו בותיקן. קניתי כרטיסים מראש, והכניסה ללא תור מביאה אותי לחנופה עצמית באוזני אישתי, כי התור לכרטיסים בלתי נגמר. מנגד מדוע האיטלקים פשוט לא מוסיפים עוד עמדות??.. המוזיאונים הרבים מציגים לראוה את כל שכיות החמדה שהכנסיה הקתולית צברה במשך מאות שנים. מפרעונים במצרים, דרך קרמיקה מישראל, ועד אמנות נוצרית מודרנית. גולת הכותרת היא הקפלה הסיסטינית. פרויקט שלקח עשור למיכאלאנג’לו להשלים. באמת מדהים. הדמויות הנפחיות נראות תלת ממדיות. הנושאים רובם מהתרבות שלנו: טביעת פרעה בים סוף; קבלת עשרת הדברות; וכמובן – הזרם היהודי משיחי של ישוע (מנצרת) ויוחנן (המטביל). בהמשך נכנסים לקתדרלה. מקדש

סוגר חשבון עם טיטוס 2

הקולוסיאום וקשת טיטוס בכל הפיאצות הרבה הודים. מנסים למכור לייזרים ומעופפים צבעוניים. בעיני זה מפגע תאורתי, אבל העיריה כנראה לא חושבת כך.ארוחת ערב מוזמנת במסעדה איטלקית משובחת. מצוין, אבל כעבור ארבעה ימים נתחנן לאוכל אחר. כמה אוכל איטלקי אפשר לאכול?? למחרת הולכים ל”קולוסיאום” ו”קשת טיטוס“. האמפיתאטרון הגדול בעולם נבנה בין 72 ל80 לסה”נ ע”י הקיסרים הפלביאנים מההון ששדדו מהמקדש היהודי בירושלים. בשנות ה90 מחקר עלה על שרידי האותיות המנציחות זאת (ראה בהרחבה כאן, פיסקה “כתובת הבנייה של אספסיאנוס”). מציאת הכתובת מרגשת אותי. תצפית על הארנה מעוררת השתאות וחלחלה. פאר הטכנולוגיה הרומית כדי ליצור מופעי דמים כדי לשעשע הקהל הרומאי. עד

סוגר חשבון עם טיטוס ברומא

סוגר חשבון עם טיטוס זכרונות של ארכיאולוג מטיול זוגי לאיטליה, קיץ 2013רומא היא יעד אידיאלי בשבילנו כזוג.אני “חי” את התקופה הרומית, כמו גם ימי הנצרות, במסגרת השכלתי ועבודתי.אישתי “חיה” אופנה..החום ביציאה מהטרמינל מזכיר לי שאנחנו שכנים, וגם פה באוגוסט חם.  הסעה ב”שאטל” עם נהג שלא יודע מילה אנגלית מביאה אותנו ל”טרמיני” רומא, ומשם מונית למלון (מלון “וויט”. עיצוב מודרני מפתיע ויפה), שתי רחובות ממזרקת טרווי. התמקמות בחדר  – וילא לרחובות! לפני שיחשיך.. המון תיירים.. גדודי תיירים.. בעיקר יפנים.. בכל צורה – ביחידים, זוגות, או קבוצות גדולות. . אני נפעם ליד שרידי מקדש הדריאנוס. הפנתיאון שליד פשוט מדהים. יוזמת אגריפה, המשנה של

Stone from the Herodian Temple found?

A special media publication that aired recently, just before Israel’s Independence Day, reported on the discovery of a special stone found among the foundations of the Western Wall. According to its excavator, Eli Shukrun, this stone could have been originally from the Temple itself. Indeed the stone is of higher quality than all other stones of the Western retaining wall. It was a carefully chosen from a “meleke” (Arabic “royal”) quarry, it has no boss around it edges (unlike almost all other stones of the Western Wall), and is uniquely smoothed by a “comb” chisel. “When I found the stone

Renewed Digs at Crusaders Castle Montfort

One of the most fascinating (and bloody) periods in medieval times in the Holy Land is the Crusaders period. Remains castles of the “Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem” can be seen across the state of Israel, as well as in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. “Montfort” (French: “Strong mountain”) was established in 1229 CE as a spur fort by the German Teutonic knights in the Western Galilee. The fort was built on a cliff above “Kziv” brook, and it is one of the finest examples of a medieval spur castle in the east. It had two moats, massive defensive walls, storerooms, stables,

Danny and Cats

I confess.. I have a weak spot for cats.. I just have to pet one when I see.. 🙂  

Exciting discoveries at Renewed digs at Qumran (2014)

Khirbet Qumran (“Ruins of Qumran”) is an ancient site on a small plateau above the North Western shores of the Dead Sea. Most of Qumran was excavated in the 1950’s because of the discovery in its vicinity of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls. While not even one of scrolls was found in Qumran itself, the site bears several anomalies, most striking is the large number of stepped plastered pools, despite the limited availability of fresh water in that area. Most scholars identify these stepped pools as Jewish ritual baths, but in the 1990’s a two Israeli archaeologist, Y. Magen and

Easter in Jerusalem 2013

Easter time in Jerusalem 2013. Crowded then ever. Special energy in the air. A big Ethiopian group was visiting the Garden of Gethsemane , and at Mary’s Tomb  the Armeniens had their daily service. Along the Via Dolorosa   various groups were walking in excitment, chanting and and praying at every one of the “stations of the Cross”, reaching eventually the Holy Sepulchre . The next day I happened to be at the Baptism site , documenting Russians conducting baptismal rites. . The “Holy Land” definately deserves its title at times like these.  

Teaching Chinese Group History of Jerusalem a the Hebrew U, February 2013

I don’t know any Chinese.. and they didn’t know much English.. but thanks to slides and an Ipad, and many field trips, we managed to cover many sites in Jerusalem and its vicinity, and gain a great experience of learning about each overs history and culture. chinchi! 🙂      

Make way for the King!

Today (February 12th, 2013), the Israel Museum is opening a special exhibition: “Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey“. Herod, son of Antipatros, was a gifted politician who ruled his subjects efficiently (though often with much cruelty), pleased his Romans patrons, and excelled in enjoying life. He had more than ten wives and was a great entrepreneur and builder: Jerusalem, Caesarea and Sebaste are just some of his grand building projects. Living to an old age for his time (69), Herod eventually died in Jericho, and was buried at a site he humbly named after himself – Herodium  . The exact

“Google Street View” reached Jerusalem – and my car!..

The local media reported already in August of 2011 on the arrival to Israel of the street recorders for “Google Street View“. This ambitious (and a bit ferreting..) project by Google aims to provide continuous visual information on every street in every central city. The results can be viewed in “Google Maps” by dragging the yellow figure in the scale into the map. Only recently, I stumbled upon one of these recording vehicles in the Old city, next to the Holy Sepulchre, and again when parking (in a Public zone spot..) on mount of Olives. I only hope this will

The 2012 Baptism Ceremony

As in previuos years, on January 18th, thousands of pilgrims (and hundreds of tourists to film them..) assembled for the traditional ceremony of the “Epiphany” (=revelation) of Jesus as the son of God. This year the state of Israel prepared internal parking lots at the Baptism site and there was no need for shuttles. Everything operated well and in order, except for the Ethiopians who decided this year to celebrate the event the following day. At 11:00 the Greek-Orthodox Patriarch, Theophilus III, arrived at the “John the Baptist monastery” (=”Qasr el-Yahud“), and conducted the first part of the ceremony. Towards 12:00

Repairs and installments (2012)

In the last few years much development can be seen at tourist sites in Israel, and last year I reported on the many developments in Jerusalem alone. One of them was the completion of the uncovering of an ancient sewage system between the pool of Siloam and the Western wall. Walking underground for over 500 m, and reaching the Western Wall from below the surface  is one of the most exciting tourist attraction in Jerusalem today!. Yet the blessed rains of this last January caused a landslide at the entrance to the sewage tunnel. ELAD organization is now working on

Small Finds, Big Meanings – 2012

Lately two archaeological expeditions reported on discovering small finds which have important meaning on the history of the Jewish people in the Holy Land. In the City of David, Prof. Ronnie Reich and Eli Shukrun reported on finding of a stamped impression (a bulla) bearing the letters דכא \ ליה. They interpret the text to mean “pure / to the lord“, and explain the item as one used to mark products or objects that were brought to the temple.     Antiquities Dealer Robert Deutsch, who specializes in ancient seals, suggested in his blog a more precise meaning to the

ממצאים זעירים, משמעויות גדולות – 2012

לאחרונה התבשרנו על כמה גילוים של ממצאים זעירים אך משמעותיים ביותר לשחזור ההיסטוריה בא”י, בעיקר ההיסטוריה של היהדות העתיקה. בעיר דוד פרופסור רוני רייך ואלי שוקרון דיווחו לפני חודשיים על גילוי טביעת חותם אשר עליו נרשמו האותיות “דכא \ ליה“. לדעתם הכוונה לביטוי “קדוש לה””, ושחותם זה שימש לחתימת מוצרים טהורים שהובאו לבית המקדש. אלי שוקרון אוחז בחותם “דכא \ ליה” שהתגלה בעיר דוד. צילום: ולדימיר נייחין. באדיבות רשות העתיקות. תקריב של החותם שהתגלה בעיר דוד. צילום: ולדימיר נייחין. באדיבות רשות העתיקות. על קריאה זו הביא סוחר העתיקות המתמחה בחותמות, רוברט דויטש, תמיהה, והציע בבלוג שלו שלטביעת החותם היה לשימוש אחר. משנה

תיקונים והתקנות – 2012

הפיתוח התיירותי לא מפסיק להתחדש, ורק בשנה שעברה דיווחתי על הפיתוח התיירותי הנרחב בירושלים. אחד החידושים היה השלמת חשיפת תעלות הביוב שמתחת לרחוב שבין בין בריכת השילוח לכותל המערבי. ההליכה מתחת לאדמה, לאורך למעלה מ500 מ’, וסופם אל מול הכותל המערבי היא אחת החוויות המרתקות שתייר יכול לחוות בסיור בירושלים. אלא שבגשמי הברכה של ינואר 2012 הכניסה אל התעלה קרסה, והמעבר נסתם. עמותת אלע”ד פועלת כעת במרץ על תיקון הנזקים ופתיחה מחודשת של כלל המעבר, אך נכון לעכשיו הכניסה טרם תוקנה. עם זאת ניתן עדיין ללכת בתעלה את הקטע שבין “חניון גבעתי” לפינת הכותל המערבי. הכניסה לתעלת הרחוב ההרודיאני לאחר

ירושלים על המפה-של גוגל סטריט וויו

התקשורת דיווחה כבר באוגוסט שנה שעברה על הגעת הפרויקט השאפתני של גוגל, “גוגל צילומי רחוב (= Google Street view)”, לישראל. הרעיון השאפתני (והקצת חטטני), הוא מתן צילומי רחוב רציפים של ערים מרכזיות, אותם יכול הגולש לראות על “גוגל מפס (=Google Maps)” בעזרת איקון הדמות הצהובה. Google Street View in the Old City לאחרונה נתקלתי ברכבי הפרויקט משוטטים בסמטאות העיר העתיקה, ובהזדמנות אחרת רכב הפרויקט עבר ממש מולי בעודי חונה (באדום צהוב..) בנקודת התצפית של הר הזיתים.  נקוה רק שזה לא יגמר בדו”ח חניה.. Google Street View on Mount of Olives  נכון לסוף ינואר 2012, הצילומים טרם הועלו בתכנת המפות של

חגיגת האפיפאניה באתר ההטבלה ליד יריחו, 2012

כמידי שנה, ב18 לינואר נאספו להם אלפי צליינים (וכמה מאות תיירים לצלמם..), בשביל לחגוג את טקס ה”אפיפאניה” (=”ההתגלות”) של ישו כבן האלוהים. השנה הסדירה המדינה חניון פנימי לעשרות האוטובוסים, ולא היה צורך בהסעות פנימיות.  הכל התנהל לפי המתוכנן, למעט האתיופים, שהחליטו השנה לקיים הטקס ביום שלמחרת, עם האשורים. בשעה 11 הגיע הפטריארך היווני-אורתודוקסי, תיאופילוס הג’ אל מנזר “יוחנן המטביל” (=”קאסר אל יהוד” בערבית), וערך את השלב הראשון של הטקס. לקראת השעה 12:00 סיים הפטריארך את תפילתו, והחלה התהלוכה הטקסית ממנזר “יוחנן המטביל” אל גדת הירדן. את תיאופילוס הג’ ליוותה פמליה של אנשי כמורה, ובראשם סדרנים העונדים את התרבוש התורכי, פריט

The Temple Tax Coin in the Time of Jesus

The Jewish Temple, was a focal point of pilgrimage for Jews in ancient times. The form of worship was by a contributaion, mostly an animal sacrifice. But there was another contribution was male was oblidged to provide – money. By Jewish religious law, as commanded in the Bible itself (Exodus 30:13; 38:25), every male Jew over the age of 20 had to give an annual contribution to the temple, of “half a shekel”. In the first century a shekel was equated with the Greek tetradrachm (equal to four drachms), which was a silver coin of the weight of nearly 14 grams.

מקדונלדס במצדה?? – 2011

בקיץ 2011 הוחלט לפתח את האגף התחתון של מרכז המבקרים של מצדה למתחם קניות. זוהי ההתפתחות האחרונה בסדרה של פיתוחים מיסחריים שונים שנעשים במצדה בשנים האחרונות, שכל תכליתם, כך נראה, הוא לייצר עוד כסף עבור הרט”ג. ביטאתי את הסתייגותי מהמגמה בכתבה באתר שלי: ולשמחתי הנושא לדיון בYNET:,7340,L-4121740,00.html אני תקוה אם כך שגם בעתיד נמשיך לראות במצדה יותר קניונים של טבע ופחות קניונים של קניות…

Ancient Boob Discovered?

Since 2004 Dr. Gabi Barkai and Mr. Zahi Zweig are conducting a unique project of sifting debris that was removed by the Waqf in 1999 from the Temple Mount. Much has been said and written about this project, and one can stay tuned with the latest discoveries and research in the web blog of the expedition. During one of my visits to the sifting site, Zahi presented to me a new artifact that was discovered recently. It was made of local lime stone, typical to the area of Jerusalem, and seemed to be shaped in a specific round manner. Was it

(2011) האם התגלה שד עתיק בסינון שפכי הר הבית

מאז 2004 מנהלים במרץ ד”ר גבי ברקאי וצחי צוויג פרויקט יחודי של סינון השפכים אשר הוצאו מהר הבית ב1999 על ידי הווקף. רבות נאמר על הפרויקט והממצאים, וניתן לעקוב אחר גילוים ופרסומים חדשים באתר האינטרנט של החפירות. ניתן גם לראות כאן סרטון חדש ומצוין על הפרויקט. בביקור מזדמן באתר סינון השפכים מהר הבית צחי הזמין אותי לבחון תגלית חדשה ויוצאת דופן. מדובר בשבר אבן גיר אופינית לאזור ירושלים. אך היא היתה מעוגלת בצורה מאד מסוימת. שמא מדובר בשבר פסל פיגורטיבי מהר הבית? אם כן, מאיזו תקופה?? ואיפה שאר הגוף?? שרידי פסל אישה מהתקופה הרומית נתגלו בעבר בסביבות הר הבית, (ראה כתבה

Unprecedented Development of Sites in Jerusalem (2011)

Upon returning from Babylonian exile, the Bible records Nehemiah’s “night journey” in desolated Jerusalem. The view was not appealing:  “..the walls of Jerusalem.. had been broken down, and its gates.. had been destroyed by fire.” (Nehamiah 2:13) Nehemiah initiates a project of reconstructing the city walls: “let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem!” (2:17), which was excuted by many of the Jews returning from Babylon. Jumping to the 21st century, a tour of Jerusalem these days seems do deliver a similar feeling of much construction and development.  Damascus gate,  for example, was covered for the last few months by scaffoldings,

(2011) כנסיה עתיקה נחשפה – וכוסתה

“חירבת מידרס” הוא אתר עתיקות די גדול (כ120 דונם) הנמצא 30 ק”מ דר-מע מירושלים, בגבעה שמדרום לישוב “צפרירים”. האתר תועד לראשונה ע”י החוקר הצרפתי ויקטור גרן במאה ה19, אך עד 2010 לא נערכה בו חפירה של ממש. סקרים שבוצעו באתר לימדו שהאתר היה מיושב על ידי יהודים בתקופה הרומית הקדומה, וכאשר מרדו היהודים כנגד הרומאים הם יצרו מתחת לפני השטח מערות מפלט. כיום מערות המפלט שבאתר הם אתר תיירות פופולארי, בעיקר בקרב קבוצות נוער וטיולי בתי ספר. אבן משקוף אחת שתמיד נראתה על פני השטח לימדה על קיומו של מבנה גדול בקרבת מקום, וההשערה היתה כי מדובר בבית כנסת. מראה כללי של

(2011) חג האפיפאניה באתר ההטבלה

לפי בשורת מתי יוחנן המטביל היה פעיל במדבר יהודה (ג 1), וכאשר ישו בא אליו, הוא הטביל אותו בנהר הירדן (ג 6). תאור זה מלמד שאתר ההטבלה צריך להיות לאורך נהר הירדן, אך בקרבת מדבר יהודה. המקום היחידי התואם נתונים אלו, הוא סופו של נהר הירדן, בקרבת שיפכו אל תוך ים המלח, בסביבות יריחו. בשורת יוחנן אף מציינת את שם מקום ההטבלה (“בית עניה מעבר לירדן“, א 28), אך שם מקום זה אינו ידוע ממקורות אחרים. בתקופה הביזנטית החלה להתפתח מסורת לפיה הטבלת ישו ארעה באתר לאורך הירדן הנמצא 8.5 ק”מ מדרום מזרח ליריחו. שמו הערבי של האתר הוא “אל מעטס” (“[אתר]

Ancient Church Discovered – and covered..

Khirbet Midras (Arabic “The ruins of Midras”), is a 40 acres site, 30 km SW of Jerusalem, in the region known as “The low [hills]” ( Hebrew “Shephela“). Kh. Midras was documented for the first time in the 19th century CE by the French scholar V. Guerin, but only in 2010 was it excavated for the first time. Past surveys of the site indicated kh. Midras was inhabited by Jews in the Roman period, and when they rebelled against the Roman they created hideout caves below the surface. Today these hideout caves are a popular tourist attraction, especially among youth groups.

The 2011 Ceremony at the Baptism Site

According to Gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist was active in the Judean desert (3:1), and when Jesus came to him he baptized him in the Jordan River (Mat. 3:6).  That means the baptism site has to be in the Jordan River, but in the proximity to the Judean desert. The only possible location could be in small strip of southern part of the Jordan River, near Jericho. The Gospel of John even mentions the baptismal site by name (“Bethany beyond the Jordan“, 1:28), but this place name is not known in contemporary sources. In the Byzantine period a tradition

תגלית מכה גלים – 2010

תגלית מכה גלים הסערה האחרונה פגעה באתרי עתיקות, אך גם חשפה כמה תגליות מפתיעות 16 דצמבר, 2010 “מאז ילדותי אני אוהב לשוטט לאורך קו החוף הזה, נהנה מהנוף ומהגלים, ומקוה למצא משהו מענין” אמר נחמיה, “ככלות, זהו חוף של אתר בן 4000 שנה. אז כמובן שאחרי הסערה, היו לי ציפיות למצא משהו. אבל אני מודה שהתגלית הזו היתה מעל ומעבר למה שציפיתי!”. רוב התקשורת, העולמית והמקומית, עסקה בימים האחרונים במזג האויר. חלקים רבים של אירופה וצפון אמריקה חווים כעת סופות שלגים וטמפרטורות הצונחות לכדי 20 מעלות מתחת לאפס. והשבוע סוף-סוף החורף הגיע גם לישראל. הטמפרטורות צנחו, והחלו ממטרים של גשם מלווה

Revealed by the Waves (and Nehemiah) (2010)

Revealed by the Waves (and Nehemiah) Recent Storm Damages Antiquity Sites, but exposes surprising finds. December 16, 2010 “Since I was a child I use to walk along this shore line, enjoying the sound of the waves, and hoping to find something interesting” said Nehemiah “After all this is a 4000 year old site. So obviously after the big storm I expected to find something. But this, I admit, was beyond my expectations!”. Most of the news for the last few days, both global and local, related to the weather. Many parts of Europe and North America are experiencing snow

האם התגלה בית הכנסת של מרים המגדלנית? – 2010

“מצאתי את עצמי באמצע חופשה משפחתית בקפריסין, קופצת בהתרגשות, מתמונה שנשקפה אלי ממסך הפלאפון.” אמרה דינה, עם חיוך גדול על פניה רק לזכר הרגע ההוא. מעטים הם האנשים אשר יתרגשו ממראה של תבליט עתיק על מסך הפלאפון שלהם, אבל לדינה היתה סיבה טובה לשמוח. התמונה אותה קיבלה באמצעות המכשיר הסלולרי שלה היה של תבליט יחיד במינו, הכולל תאור של מנורת שבעת קנים, אשר שותף החפירה שלה, ערפאן נג’אר מצא על רצפת בית הכנסת של מיגדל העתיקה. ממצא כזה הוא בגדר תגלית חלומית לארכיאולוגים רבים. לדינה וערפאן החלום הזה התממש. מיגדל העתיקה, הנמצאת על הגדה המערבית של הכנרת, מעט צפונה לטבריה,

Mary Magdalene’s Synagogue Discovered? (2010)

“I found myself in the middle of a family vacation in Cyprus jumping with excitement from seeing the image of the relief on my cell-phone screen” Dina said, with a big smile just at the memory of this moment. Few people will get excited from seeing an image of an ancient relief on their cell-phone, but Dina had a good reason to rejoice. The image she received was a of a one-of-a-kind stone relief  depicting a menorah which her colleague, Arfan Najar, found on a floor of a first century CE synagogue at the site of Magdala. Such a find would be a dream

Who moved thy mosaic? (*) (2010)

(*) hommage to the title of my previous newsletter- “who moved thy ladder?” In 1996 I was a young student of archaeology, and to make a living I also worked as a guide on behalf of the IAA (Israel antiquities Authority). Most of my job was conducting the Friday tour of the southern wall archaeological park in Jerusalem. It became a routine after a while, but helped pay the bills.. One day I got a phone call from my boss. With excitement he told me of a grand mosaic floor from Roman times which was discovered in Lod, not far from Israel’s main International Airport. However no budget was

Who moved thy ladder? (2010)

The “church of the Holy Sepulchre” is an important holy Christian complex in the old city of Jerusalem. It was first built in the 4th century CE, and is venerated by many as the site of the crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. To this day the site attracts millions, pilgrims and tourists alike, and it is one of the most popular destinations in the Holy Land. The control over the site is divided between several Christian orders, and it is characterized with disputes, which occasionally develop to violent clashes. In 1852 the Ottomans issued a firman that was supposed to establish a status quo of territorial

The Mosaics at the New Terminal of Ben Gurion Airport (2010)

Most visitors to Israel enter through Ben-Gurion Airport, near Tel-Aviv. The Airport was established during the British mandate Period, and was known as “Lod Airport” until 1973, when the name was changed to honor Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. Anticipating an unprecedented growth of tourism towards the year 2000, and especially of Christian pilgrim groups, in 1994 the Israel Airport Authority decided on the construction of a new Terminal. Aiming to complete it by the year 2000, the original title of the project was “Terminal 2000”. But this deadline was not met due to higher than anticipated costs and a series of work stoppages

Special find for Purim -Persian Love poem found on a pottery shard (2009)

A fragment of a pottery vessel of Persian provenance that dates to the Middle Ages (12th-13th centuries CE) was discovered recently in an archaeological excavation of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in the Old City of Jerusalem. The glazed fragment is adorned with floral patterns and a black inscription in Persian, which was identified as part of a love poem of Omar Khayyam, an astronomer, mathematician and one of the most famous Persian poets of the Middle Ages (11th-12th centuries CE). The day that the find was first announced (11th of March) is also the Jewish holiday of Purim. The Holiday commemorates the

Puzzling new finds from Herodium (2009)

No doubt the most famous find made in Israel in the last few years is the discovery of the tomb of King Herod “the Great” in Herodium, about 10 km (6 miles) south of Jerusalem. The location of Herod’s tomb was deluding scholars and researchers for decades, but in April 2007 Professor E. Netzer of the Hebrew University declared in a special news conference that he had finally discovered the tomb of King Herod, in Herodium. I have been following this discovery from its beginning, and even participated in the excavations of the tomb complex. It is indeed a great find, and for the last

Where is ancient Modi’in? (2009)

The site where many believe that the Maccabees are buried is marked by a very clear official state sign on the road leading to the modern city of Modi’in. Yet these tombs were made 600 years after the days of the Maccabees, and do not match the descriptions of the tombs of the Maccabean kings by contemporary historical sources. One of the main reasons for this mistake is the Arabic name of the site – “Qubur el-Yahood” (“Tombs of the Jews”), and the name of the nearby Arab village, “el-Midieh”. Many scholars believed it preserved the ancient name of the site – Modi’in. But the village of

Old Archaeological Sites Forgotten (2008)

Being increasingly involved with guiding and tourism in Israel I am always happy to see (and report) on new archaeological attractions. Just in my last report I reviewed new attractions at the sites of Masada and Beth-Shean. Yet sometimes I also witness archaeological sites which are left un-maintained after their exposure. The remains are eventually covered by dirt, debris, and vegetation. Some are also looted and vandalized. This is so upsetting. Publications and explanations about a Biblical site can be obtained anywhere, but only an actual visit to an excavated site can provide that unique feeling of history coming back to life. Some of

Old Sites present New Attractions (2008)

The State of Israel draws tourists and pilgrims from all over the world, largely because of its famed ancient and holy sites. Jerusalem, Masada, Nazareth, Safed andBethlehem are just a few of them. With the influx of tourists in recent years, various sites were developed and made even more attractive, thus, people who visited these sites in the past now have a reason to return as well. One such attraction is a new museum opened last year at the visitors’ center of Masada. Named after Y. Yadin, the famed Israeli archaeologist who excavated Masadain the 1960’s, the new attraction displays some of the most important

First Israeli Holocaust Excavation (2008)

Although my chief Interest has always been the biblical period, I believe that archaeological methods can be useful in illuminating recent history as well, especially that of the Holocaust, which took place in Europe during the Second World War. Yet I never heard of an archaeological expedition working at a concentration or death camp, let alone by an Israeli. Well now it is finally happening. It all started in 2005 when Yoram Haimi, an archaeologist from the southern district of the IAA (Israel Antiquities Authority), visited Yad Vashem to learn more about the fate of his uncles in the Holocaust. With the help of

The Land of Milk and (industrial) Honey (2008)

Ongoing excavations by  Professor A. Mazar at Tel Rehov, a Biblical mound in the Jordan Valley, have yielded numerous finds over the years, but last year’s discovery seems to be the greatest find of them all, one which sheds new light on the Bible in a most unexpected way. Excavating in the center of the mound of TelRehov, the team discovered three rows of elliptic-shaped, unbaked clay boxes, some with lead covering them. The team discovered 30 such boxes, and originally perhaps there were 100. Each of these boxes was placed on its side. One end of the box was closed and had a

Philistine Male Organs found at Tel Es-Safi (2008)

In the last season of excavations at Tel es-Safi, a site 40 km south west of Jerusalem which is identified with Philistine Gath, archaeologist Aren Maier of Bar-IlanUniversity announced the discovery of seven small clay phallic-shaped objects. Two such ceramic phalluses had been recovered already in 2004, but now it seems that these items were part of a common Philistine cult, one which should be studied in greater detail. Phallic shaped objects are very rare in Semitic material cultures, but appear in Egyptian context, and are quite well known in Aegean and Greek context. So these finds add to the accumulating evidence recovered at various Philistine sites in Israel over

Top Models of Jerusalem (2008)

I would like to present to you two of the top models of Jerusalem. One is only six years old, is quite a view, and is now being seen by more and more. The other is over 40 years old, but is now more attractive then ever. I am referring to city models of Jerusalem, of course. Why, what did you think? 😉 The most famous model of Jerusalem was constructed in the 1960’s by Mr Cherny, the owner of the Holy Land Hotel in Jerusalem. It depicts Jerusalem as it may have looked like in the first century CE. It also echoes the image of the city as

More on the Temple Mount (2007)

One of the most fascinating issues in the archaeology of the Holy Land is the archaeology of Jerusalem, and especially that of the Temple Mount. The place where by tradition Isaac was almost sacrificed by Abraham became the mountain on which Solomon built the Israelite temple, and where in Roman times Jesus protested against priestly corruption, and predicted soon-coming end of days. Indeed a few decades after Jesus was crucified the end came to the Temple Mount, as it was dismantled and erased by the Romans. Since the late 7th century CE a Muslim edifice known as “The Dome of the Rock” adorns the mountain, and

Destructive Excavations at the Temple mount (2007)

In July 2007 the religious Muslim authority responsible for the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (The Waqf) has been reported for digging a trench in the area north of the Dome of the Rock. The trench was dug by a tractor, a technique which is not acceptable for any archaeological dig. A tractor trowel cannot tell the difference in layers, handle pottery and glass shards gently, or detect coins and bones. In 1999 The Waqf turned an “emergency exit” underneath El Aksa mosque into a large new entrance to a subterranean mosque complex. The earth was taken out by tractors and trucks and dumped in the Kidron valley nearby.

Tomb of King Herod Found! (2007)

All photos © Danny Herman After more then 100 years of search and research, Professor Ehud Netzer recently announced the discovery of the tomb of King Herod at the site of Herodium. Known to the western world mostly for ordering the killing of the babies of Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus, Herod indeed had a complex and paranoid personality. Yet for archaeologists he is more known as a maniac – of construction. As Netzer puts it, “Herod was obsessed with building, and personally followed all his building projects”. Indeed Herod had initiated building projects at many sites. In Caesarea he turned a sand dune into an international port. In Jerusalem he renovated the Jewish temple,

Hezekiah’s Tunnel Dried Up (2007)

All photos © Danny Herman About 2700 years ago King Hezekiah ordered his engineers to divert the water of the main spring of Jerusalem, the Gihon spring, to the southern side of the city, in order to ensure a supply of water. His actions were justified as he had rebelled against the Assyrians, and they were determined to conquer and destroy the capital of this Judaic rebel. Presumably within a few months his engineers had created an impressive tunnel. It was 533 meters in length, and drew the water of the spring to a pool on the southern, protected side of the city. To this day

Antiquities from Israel in Istanbul (2007)

All photos © Danny Herman Recently I visited Istanbul for a business meeting (I am also involved in marketing modern art). Thankfully I had some spare time, which I made sure to fill with touring this fascinating city, from top (of Galata tower) to bottom (of the Bosphoros bay). One of my first stops, and perhaps the most exciting one, was the national archaeological museum of Turkey. For me this was an historical visit. For many years I read and knew of important finds that were recovered in the land of Israel in the late 19th century and early 20th century (until 1917), when the land

My Search for a Treasure (2007)

This report was quoted in a Jerusalem post article in November 2011 “The Hasmoneans’ forgotten castle“. Thank you Seth for the free PR 🙂 Trembling I took the “Kongo”, the electric drilling machine, and started probing into the debris. Is it possible that in my shift we will reveal the entrance to the chamber where the temple treasures are hidden? In theory it is possible. We are after all drilling, in the right spot, in theory. I drilled and drilled, then cleared the debris into buckets, which were taken out of the tunnel by a winch operated by a generator.

Digging in a Persian Garden (2006)

The archaeological site of Ramat Rachel is named after a nearby kibbutz (communal settlement) of the same name, which was established in 1926 on a hill in the vicinity of the tomb of Rachel, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Dr. Y. Aharoni, who conducted salvage excavation at the hilltop in 1954, discovered the archaeological site. He realized the site was a Biblical period palace complex, and so returned to the site to excavate most of it in the years 1959-1962. The site proved to be an Iron Age palatial complex, with architectural remains typical of the Israelites—large rectangular shaped structure, with an inner courtyard and casemate walls.

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

New Find Proves an old Theory (2006)

The City of David is located on a small hill south of the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem. The area has been the site of numerous explorations since the 19th century. Recent excavations have revealed the corner of the Pool of Siloam, known from the New Testament as the site where Jesus healed a blind man (John 9). Archaeologists have only now realized its full size after excavations began by chance, as the result of a blockage in the local sewerage pipe. In addition, the excavations discovered the end of the main street dating to the first century CE, whose continuation is well known to visitors

Ancient Burial Shroud (2006)

In November 1998 two archaeologists working for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), Dr. Shimon Gibson and Dr. Boaz Zissu, reported finding textile fragments of shrouds in a 1st century CE rock-cut tomb in the Hinnom Valley, just below the old city of Jerusalem. The tomb had been looted a short time before, but the looters did not open one niche, which was therefore left sealed since its last use in antiquity. Being sealed, it preserved even organic material: some unrecognizable black material, bones, pieces of hair and some textile remains. Organic materials 2000 years old are a very rare find in the Jerusalem area, especially

The Birds Mosaic of Caesarea (2006)

Although the name of my of my column is “News from Jerusalem”, perhaps this report should be titled “News from Caesarea.” Caesarea Maritima was founded in 22 BCE by Herod ‘the Great”, king of the province of Judea, and was named in honor of the Emperor Augustus. Herod designated the city to be his main seaport and created a huge artificial breakwater for that purpose. He built a palace for himself on a cliff above the sea and for the public he built entertainment facilities never seen before in this province—a hippodrome and a theatre. The city thrived during the Roman and Byzantine periods (1st-

Church in Prison (2006)

All photos © Israel Antiquities Authority. Archaeologists in Israel have just announced their latest find—an ancient church, complete with mosaics  – found inside a modern prison! This maximum security prison is located very close to Biblical Megiddo, famous site in northern Israel, 12 km south of Nazareth. With a commanding view of the Jezreel valley, and being along a major international route, Megiddo was a major Canaanite and Israelite city. In the Roman period, a Roman legion was stationed near the tell, at a site called Legio.  In 1936 the British built a fortress next to the main junction near Megiddo. Later that fortress was turned into a prison, by the state of Israel. Due

“Da Vinci Code” style artifact found in Jerusalem (2005)

Several years ago the Waqf, the Islamic religious authority that controls the Temple Mount, excavated in an area called “Solomon’s Stables” and turned it into mosque. That area has nothing really to do with Solomon, and although some lower courses of stone are Herodian, much of the structure dates from Crusader times. During the construction, tons of soil and debris were removed and dumped in the Kidron Valley outside the Old City walls (see my report in Archaeological Diggings2001-2). Ten months ago two Israeli archaeologists, Dr. G. Barkai and Mr. Z. Zweig, started a project of sifting that debris, in hope of finding artifacts that could illuminate the

The Last Days of Beit She’an (2005)

On 18th of January 749 CE ‘Abed the merchant woke up for another day in Beisan, a major city in the northern Jordan valley. ‘Abed was doing well. He had a shop on the main street where he sold flax cloth. In the back of his store he had vats for dyeing the fabric to any color. The flax of Beisan was highly sought after. The edict of the Emperor Diocletian (298 CE) declared Beisan’s flax as the best in the Roman Empire(!). It was also the most expensive. About a century earlier, Beisan, where ‘Abed was born and raised, was conquered

Revealed! – The Roof of Simon the Tanner’s house in Jaffa (2005)

  One of the most significant events in the history of the early Christianity is documented in the book of Acts. While visiting the house of Simon the tanner in Jaffa, Peter experienced a vision while on the rooftop: “Peter went up on the housetop to pray, at about the sixth hour. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat, but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and being let down to the earth. In it were all kinds

Two Biblical sites located (2005)

The Galilee is a hilly area in northern Israel that has been the location of a number of events documented in both the Old and New Testament. Recent archaeological research by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) provided new and interesting information about the location and history of some of them. Evidence for Biblical Sulam found in Shunem. In the middle of the Jezre’el Valley lies an Arab village called Sulam. Early research has already suggested that this is the site of Biblical Shunem, a site mentioned several times in the Old Testament: When the Philistines prepared to attack Saul’s army, they assembled at Shunem (1 Samuel 28:4); The beautiful young woman,Abishag, whom David’s

Mt. Gerizim and the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (2005)

Perhaps the greatest desire of any archaeologist in Israel is to dig the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Excavations there could reveal remains of temples of ancient Israel, as well as other many potential finds. However in our days this is not possible because the mountain is capped by holy Muslim structures, the Dome of the Rock and the el-Aksa mosque, and the Muslim religious authority (the Waqf) does not permit any archaeological work on the Temple Mount. Despite any excavations, various scholarly attempts were made to reconstruct the shape of the Biblical temple, mostly based on descriptions such as in the book of II Kings chapters 6 and 7, yet without

The Cave of John the Baptist? (2005)

All photos © Shimon Gibson. Being the Holy Land, some sites dug by archaeologists in Israel develop into Holy sites. This was the case with a cave Dr. Shimon Gibson excavated recently nearJerusalem. For the last 25 years Dr. Gibson has been surveying numerous sites in the hills west of Jerusalem with an aim to learn more about the ancient agricultural practices of this region. His survey led him to a cave within the cultivated land of Kibbutz Tzuba, a kibbutz (communal farm) built by veterans of the War of Independence in 1948. Although the members of the kibbutz knew of the cave for many years, none were aware

Artifacts from Megiddo Return (2004)

The site of ancient Megiddo is a mound known in Arabic as Tel-el-Mutesellim (“Hill of the Ruler”) in northern Israel. It has been identified as one of the most important cities of Biblical times. Located on a hill overlooking the fertile Jezreel Valley, Megiddo is of great strategic importance, as it commanded the eastern approaches of Nahal Iron (nahal is a dry river bed). In ancient times an international highway ran through this valley. The highway led from Egypt, along the coastal plain to the JezreelValley, and thence to Damascus and Mesopotamia. The highway became known later as Via Maris, the Way of the Sea. Ancient sources, including the Bible,

Special Exhibition for a Single Coin (2004)

Last month I was invited to the grand opening of a new exhibition initiated by my friend and colleague, Haim Gitler, head of the numismatic department at the IsraelMuseum. About 300 people gathered on the open terrace at the entrance to the museum to hear Haim’s speech. He was followed by the chief curator of the IsraelMuseum, and then by the head of the Bank of Israel and the Belgian ambassador—a strange combination of speakers indeed. But it gets even more interesting. The whole exhibition was devoted to – a single coin! A few years ago, Haim devised an ambitious plan to exhibit 100 of the most beautiful,

An Update on the James Ossuary (2004)

Like many others, I am fascinated with the publication of the ossuary (bone box) inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”. The possibility that the bone box of James, the leading figure of the early Christian church, has been found, is more then another archaeological find. It is a dramatic discovery that evokes emotional and religious feelings for many Christians. The crucial problem with the find is that the ossuary was not found in a proper archaeological excavation, but came from the “antiquities market” and is now owned by Mr. Oded Golan, an Israeli antiquities collector and engineer living in Tel-Aviv.

Tar Pits and the Bible (2004)

One of the most strikingly beautiful geographical regions in Israel is the Dead Sea, a long and narrow lake (80 km by 15 km), situated between the Judean desert and the mountains of Moab. The still, salty water and the cliffs around it create unique and dramatic scenery. The Dead Sea is fed mostly by the waters of the Jordan River, and although there is no outlet for the water, the Dead Sea maintains a stable shore level because of the excessive heat, which evaporates the water at a very high rate. But this hydrological balance has been upset in modern times. The Dead Sea is now losing its

The Temple Scroll on Exhibition (2004)

The So-Called “Temple Scroll” is one of the most complete and yet mysterious of the scrolls found in the vicinity of the Dead Sea. The size and contents of the scroll make it unique, and the story of its discovery is intriguing. Like many of the Dead Scrolls, the Temple Scroll was found by Bedouins while systematically looting the caves in the Judean desert and around the Dead Sea. But it was not until 1960 that the retired priest, J. Uhrig offered the scroll for sale to Professor Y. Yadin, at that time a leading archaeologist of the Hebrew University. Uhrig stated that he represented the owner of the scroll who wished

The City of David on Exhibition (2004)

Most people think the core of ancient Jerusalem is within the walls of the today’s old city. Indeed occasional finds in the old city do show the long duration of habitation in this area, but the city’s history begins actually outside the walls, on the slope descending from the Temple Mount between the Kidron Valley and theHinnom Valley. The area is known by the name “The City of David” or by the Arabic name “Silwan”. Although archaeological work in the City of David began over 150 years ago, the most intensive archaeological project in that area was carried out by an expedition conducted by the Hebrew University, led by the late Professor Yigeal Shiloh in

Coins of Ancient Christianity. Part 2 (2003)

This is the second part of a report of Coins and Christianity in the Holy land.  Click here for the first part of the report. This is the second part of my report of the exhibition presented by my colleague, Mrs. Cecilia Meir, showing ancient coins that reflect Christianity in the Holy Land, from the Roman period to the time of the Crusades. Very early on, Christianity took root among both Jews and the pagan majority in the Roman Empire. The Romans tolerated various religions, but perhaps because of the messianic and missionary nature of Christianity, the Imperial attitude towards Christians was

Coins of Ancient Christianity, Part 1 (2003)

In this report I would like to share with you a special exhibition set up recently by a colleague of mine, Mrs. Cecilia Meir. Mr. Meir is the curator of the “Kadman Numismatic Pavilion” in the Eretz-Israel Museum in Tel-Aviv. To mark the end of the 2nd millennium, she initiated a special exhibition dedicated to Christianity in the Holy Land in Antiquity, but from a unique point of view: from the perspective of coins. The coins illuminate three periods: the time of Jesus (1st century CE); the Byzantine period (4th to 7th centuries CE); and the Crusader era (1099-1291 CE). In this report I

The James Ossuary Revised – Twice (2003)

Since the publication of the ossuary (bone box) in which James, the brother of Jesus, was allegedly buried, an unprecedented debate has arisen in both the scholarly and general public. The main problem concerning the find is that the ossuary came from a private collection, and was not found in a legal and documented archaeological excavation. Scholars in various fields examined the ossuary. The most critical examination was a microscopic analysis of the patina (an erosion layer) that developed in the letters since they were chiseled on to the side of the ossuary. The results were positive—the patina is genuine.

Fabulous Finds or Clever Forgeries? (2003)

In my last column I added a last minute report of a discovery shown on TV, said to be a dedicatory inscription documenting the renovation of the temple in Jerusalem by Jehoash (or Joash), King of Judah in the 9th century BCE. A vague and badly focused picture showed the inscription engraved on a black stone, which looked a little like the Mesha stele—a famous inscription found in the 19th century in Jordan, documenting the acts of Mesha, King of Moab in the 9th century BCE. The most intriguing part of the short TV presentation was the analysis by the Israel Geological Institute. In time, any

Digging up the Walls of Hebron (2003)

In 1999 E. Eisenberg of the IAA conducted excavations at the northern part of the mound of ancient Hebron (Tell Rumeideh). The excavations, covering an area of 500 sq m, revealed evidence of occupation at the site in various periods. Most interesting for Biblical archaeologists are the levels from the Early Bronze to the Iron Age periods, which correspond with patriarchal times, and up to the fall of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (586 BCE). The excavations show that at the end of the Early Bronze period a large wall was constructed at Hebron (#2 in the photo). The wall was 6 m wide and some parts are

Theater of ancient Jerusalem Found? (2003)

The time of Jesus is the time when Roman entertainment facilities were first introduced in the Holy Land. The promoter of these public buildings was King Herod the Great who admired Roman culture and adopted much of it. From the archaeologist’s point of view Herod will be remembered as Herod the Great Builder. Throughout the country he initiated numerous building projects—palaces for himself, and public buildings for the masses. His biggest enterprise was the Temple Mount inJerusalem where he renovated the Jewish temple on a scale previously unseen anywhere in the world. Another building project created a huge artificial harbor and city on the coast

Sensation and Scandal over the Ossuary of James (2003)

World media attention has focused on the recent article in Biblical Archaeology Review where Prof A Lemaire published an ossuary—a small stone coffin or bone box—from the first century AD. Inscribed on one side in Aramaic were the words: “Yaakov, son of Yoseph, brother of Yeshua”. The names correspond with James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus. In the New Testament, James was the first leader of the Christian community after Jesus’ crucifixion. The newly discovered ossuary could be that of a member of Jesus’ family, and the first leader of his followers! The main problem is its source. Coming from the antiquity market, its

Bomb Blast at the Hebrew University (2002)

Usually I report on archaeological matters— after all this is an archaeological magazine. I only refer to modern events is when they are related to archaeological matters. Makes sense. This time I’m asking for an exception. After all it’s my life I am reporting about this time. On Wednesday, 31st of July, I was busy in the library finishing my MA paper, as the final stage of my MA studies in Archaeology at the Hebrew University. Towards lunch I called my friend, Noam Shoval, a young Doctor in Geography. It is our tradition to meet for lunch every couple of days, discuss academic issues,

Bath House at a Pilgrimage site? (2002)

Between the council of Nicaea in 325CE and the Muslim conquest 638 CE, the Land of Israel, then known as “Terra Sancta”—the holy land—flourished as a pilgrimage center for Christians from all over the Roman-Byzantine Empire. Pilgrims traveled long distances, by land and sea, yearning to visit the famed places where Jesus and other Biblical figures lived. One of the most attractive areas for pilgrims was the Sea of Galilee, the Kinneret Lake in northern Israel. The New Testament documents many events in the life of Jesus taking place around the Sea of Galilee. He spent much of his time in Capernaum and performed many miracles there; he preached on a

“Top 50” for the First 50 (Part 2) (2002)

Celebrating the 50th issue of Archaeological Diggings, I have chosen to give my personal list of the 50 most outstanding archaeological sites and finds discovered in the land of the Bible. Our last issue included nos. 50 to 26. Now it is time to review the top 25 “winners”. Ready? 25. Herod’s winter palaces at Jericho This extravagant complex was the largest residence Herod erected in his kingdom. Although only the ground level is preserved, excavations show not only Herod’s wealth but also his adoption of contemporary Roman fashions. Gardens and pools attest to the abundance of water brought to the palace,

Owner of a Biblical Sceptre Found (2002)

Motza is an ancient site 10 km west of Jerusalem. In Biblical days it was in the lot of the tribe of Benjamin. In the Roman period it was known as a village for veteran Roman soldiers. As in antiquity, the site is on the main road to Jerusalem. When the modern highway from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem was constructed in the 1960’s, it passed around the ancient site in order not go over antiquities and modernMotza. The result is a sharp curve in the road, which proved to be so dangerous that it is known by drivers as “the death curve”. Finally a decision has been made

“Market of Knowledge” on the Temple Mount (2002)

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem is sacred to millions of people and may be described as the holiest mountain on earth. According to Jewish tradition the rock in its centre is the foundation stone for the whole world, and in the days of the patriarchs, Isaac was almost sacrificed by Abraham on the same rock. Historically David constructed an altar on this mountain, and Solomon built a temple on the site. The temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, rebuilt, and destroyed again, this time by the Romans, in 70 CE. In the late Roman period, sculptures of the Roman emperors may have

“Top 50” For the First 50 (Part 1) (2002)

Celebrating the 50th issue of Archaeological Diggings, I chose to skip my usual report on new finds and researches, and reminisce over the 50 most outstanding sites and/or finds found in the Land of the Bible. The list is long, so I have chosen to present my “Top 50” in two reports. Part 1, in this issue, will cover numbers 50 to 26. The top 25 will appear in our next issue. Of course, this is a personal list, reflecting my opinion and fields of interest. Some of the finds are both beautiful and important, while others are no more then eroded inscriptions, but have

Archaeologists Dig – in Their Own Backyard (2002)

The Rockefeller Museum was established in 1927 in East Jerusalem, just north of the walls of the Old City. The building is known as the museum for antiquities found in Israel up to 1967. It displays some of the most important finds ever found in the country, such as the inscription forbidding non-Jews to go in to the Jewish temple precinct; the reconstructed bath house of Hisham’s palace from Jericho; the Crusader period decorations that used to be over the entrance to the Holy Sepulchre, and more. The Museum is also the headquarters for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). One of the main tasks of the IAA is to conduct salvage excavations

Dead Sea Scrolls all Published (2002)

Fifty four years after the first scrolls were found on the western shore of the Dead Sea, Professor Emmanuel Tov of the Hebrew University, editor of the Dead Sea Scrolls publication project, announced that all the scrolls are finally all published. The Dead Sea Scrolls shed valuable light on the life of Jews in provincial Judea in the first century CE. This was the era in which Jewish culture reached its height, the temple was completed on a grand scale, and Jerusalem reached its largest size in antiquity. This was also the era of Jesus from Nazareth, who spread a belief that the “end of days” was near. The

The Tomb of the Chained Man (2001)

About 2km south of Jerusalem, on a hill next to the road to Bethlehem, salvage excavation was recently done for a new construction project. A team from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) led by E. Kogan-Zehavi excavated the site, and preliminary results have just been published in the latest issue of ‘Atiqot (vol. 35). Above surface a round tower from Byzantine period was discovered. This tower was already documented in the 19th century. It was a watchtower which functioned until Ottoman times (16th-19th centuries). But below the tower was another circular structure. This round building has two occupation layers. The earlier layer dates to the

New Archaeological Visitors’ Center Opens in Jerusalem (2001)

I am happy to announce the opening of an ultra modern visitors’ center at the southern wall archaeological park in Jerusalem. For the first time in 2000 years visitors to Jerusalem can walk through the gates and enter the courtyards of the Jewish Temple. They are also able to see what these magnificent buildings were like before they were destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. All, of course, on a virtual model. The Temple’s period is presented mostly on computer screens, but the center itself is located in an historical building – the basement of an Umayyad palace from the 8thcentury CE. And

New Ancient Monastery found in Jerusalem (2001)

The recent road construction in Jerusalem already proved to be archaeologically fruitful. A huge cave discovered in the construction turned out to be a quarry for purity stone vessels, objects used by the priests of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. These type of stone vessels are recorded for instance in the “wedding miracle” of Jesus, when he turned water into wine. The water, according to the text, was kept in such stone containers: Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing.. (John 2:6). This is quite an important discovery, which I already reported about (News From Jerusalem 2000-6), but as

Hadrian’s Imperial Tour of Palestine (2001)

In Jewish history the emperor Hadrian plays a major role. Born in Italy in 76 AD, Publius Aelius Hadrianus was a relative of the Emperor Trajan, and as a Roman noble, he received a good education, entering the army as an officer. Besides his successful military campaign, he had a great passion for Greek culture. In 111 CE he was appointed as archon (head) of Athens, and he successfully managed to combine business and pleasure. With the death of Trajan at the Parthian frontier, Hadrian was proclaimed emperor by his troops. He initiated a major change in Roman foreign policy. The Roman militant imperialistic

Destruction at the Temple Mount Continues (2001)

The Temple Mount, in  the heart of the old city of Jerusalem, is the holiest site in Israel and perhaps in the whole world. Traditions place here the creation of the world, Adam’s burial, and the story of the near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. Historically this is the mountain where Solomon built the Biblical Temple, and here is where Jesus preached in the 1st century CE. After the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 CE, the mountain was left in ruins for nearly six centuries. In the 7th century CE the Muslims identified the Temple Mountas the place from where Muhammad ascended to heaven to receive the daily

Was Ashkelon an Ancient Nude Beach? (2001)

Ashkelon is a city in southern Israel, on the Mediterranean Sea, along a long sandy coast with no natural bays or harbors. Although there are no springs or rivers atAshkelon, the area is rich in underground fresh water and many ancient wells dot the area. The site of the ancient city is today a beautiful national park combining an archaeological site and a scenic beach strip. Recently a local diver uncovered two ancient bronze statuettes in the waters of Ashkelon, and handed them to the Israel Antiquities Authority. One statuette depicts the goddess Aphrodite. She is all naked, except for her sandal, which

Stone Purity vessels manufacturing cave discovered (2000)

As in many other cities, Jerusalem needs more roads confront the daily, never ending, traffic jams. One of the most ambitious recent projects is to build a highway from east to west of Jerusalem, crossing under the mount of Olives under a tunnel. Needless to say any construction work on the mount of Olives is bound to uncover ancient sites. When the tractor shovel opened a hole into a cave, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) supervisor stopped the construction and looked inside. Most of the man-made cave was covered with debris but the walls were straight and a few pillars held up the

Paul’s Prison in Caesarea Found (2000)

After falsely accused by the Jews for defiling the temple by bringing a non-Jew into the temple (Acts 21:28) Paul was arrested and taken for trial by the governor. But being a Roman citizen Paul appealed for a hearing before the Emperor. Paul was taken to Caesarea and while awaiting transportation to Rome, he was kept in “Herod’s judgment hall” (Acts 23:35). In the south western part of the city, close to the city’s theatre and along the sea shore, an expedition of the Israel Antiquities Authority led by S. Porath revealed a palace and office complex from the first century CE, the

The Tabernacle is Back (2000)

While visiting the Timna Park recently with my students, we had an unexpected surprise. Timna Park is situated about 60 km north of Eilat. The site was one of the biggest copper mines in antiquity, but what we saw was quite modern, although imitating a famous ancient structure. It was a one to one model of the tabernacle that the Israelites built and carried with them during their 40 years of sojourn in the desert. A pleasant young man invited us in and explained that the replica belongs to a local Christian community, “for deductive reasons only” he assured me. The model is quite impressive. The details try

Israeli Archaeologists Have doubts about David and Solomon (2000)

The recent debate among Biblical archaeologists about the evidence for the kingdoms of David and Solomon is proving to be more than just an academic discussion. So many people attended a recent conference on the topic in Jerusalem that those who arrived just before it began (including me) had to hear it through the windows, standing outside the building. And occasionally it rained! The doubts over David and Solomon were suggested by the noted archaeologists I. Finkelstein, Z. Herzog, and D. Usshiskin, all of the University of Tel-Aviv. They hold the view that our understanding of David and Solomon’s era has to be revised due to

Biblical Stele Found in Bethsaida (2000)

Since 1991 Dr. Rami Arav is conducting excavations in Bethsaida, a tell on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. Bethsaida is mentioned in the Gospels more often than any other city, except Capernaum and Jerusalem. Bethsaida was the home of Peter, Andrew and Phillip (John 1:44, 12:21). It is near the place where Jesus fed the five thousand (Mark 6:45, Luke 9:10) and healed a blind man (Mark 8:22). Later Jesus denounced Bethsaida, together with Capernaum and Chorazim for its unbelief (Luke 10: 13; Matt 11:21-23). Arav’s expedition has revealed traces of the 1st century CE city, but underneath they also exposed a biblical town. The latest find made at Bethsaida seems to suggest thatBethsaida may have

The Resting Seat of Mary Discovered – and covered (2000)

For many years researchers have looked for the traditional place where the Virgin Mary sat down to rest on her way to Bethlehem, to deliver Jesus. Though not mentioned in the gospels this event is mentioned in the apocryphal gospel of James and in historical sources of the Byzantine period. According to the apocryphal gospel of James, when Mary and Joseph reached the third mile from Jerusalem, on their way to Bethlehem, Mary asked to stop. She dismounted from her donkey and sat down to rest. Joseph noticed her odd behavior, appearing sad and happy at the same time. To his question she

Bones in Rehov Tell a Dramatic Story (1999)

Although I always argue that written evidence is the most desired find by archaeologists when digging a site, occasionally “silent” finds can cause just the same excitement.  Such finds were revealed in the last season of excavation at Tell Rechov, 10 km south of Biblical Beth-Shean. An archaeological expedition directed by Prof. A Mazar of the Hebrew university has been digging Beth-Shean and Rehov since 1989. In the Bible, Beth-Shean is recorded as the city where the bodies of Saul and his sons were hung by the Philistines. In Classical Times Beth-Shean developed into a major city and was even the capital of the province of  “Palaestine Secunda”. The site

New Theory about the Capernaum Synagogue (1999)

The village of Capernaum is a well known and venerated archaeological site in northern Israel. It is the place where the Gospels say Jesus taught and healed many people while staying at Peter’s house and visiting the local synagogue (Mark 1 :21-2: 12; Luke 4:31-41). Excavations in the center of the village revealed foundations of an octagonal church built on top of the traditional home of Peter. Under the foundations the excavators revealed a layer containing fragments of architecture and domestic artifacts dating to the 1st century CE. The problems began when excavating the nearby synagogue. The location matches the Bible’s description that says explicitly

Did I Find a Biblical Toilet Seat? (1999)

During a recent field trip with my class to Biblical Mizpah (10km north of Jerusalem) one of the students noticed an odd shaped slab of stone. It was rectangular, yet indented inside, with a small hole at the bottom of the indentation. Although found on the surface I believe it dates to the period when the site was most important – the sixth century BCE. After destroying the temple in Jerusalem and taking Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, in prison to Babylon, the Babylonians appointed “Gedaliah son of Ahikam” as governor of captured Judah, and set Mizpah as the new capital. Archaeological work at the site revealed public buildings from those

New Discoveries on Mount Grizim (1999)

Mount Grizim is located above ancient Shechem (Nablus) in the middle of the Samaria mountains. Blessed during the period of the Israelite Settlement (Deut 11:29), it was the place where Moses ordered the tribes to gather to chant blessings (Deut. 27: 1 1-26). In the days of Ezra and Nehemiah Mount Grizim was sanctified by the Samaritans who built a temple on the summit and lived around it, yet it was destroyed by JohnHyrkanus at the end of the second century BCE. Josephus states that the Samaritan temple on Mt. Grizim was built “after the model of the sanctuary in Jerusalem”. The temple in Jerusalem was built at first by Solomon, but the

The “Jesus’ Boat” is Raising a Storm (1999)

Througth the New Testament we know that Jesus was quite active along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. He stayed with Peter the fisherman, crossed the Sea of Galileeby boat, aided fishermen and rescued them from storms, and at his request they became “fishers of men.” (Matthew 4: 18-22). The mention of boats and fishing and villages along the coast of the Sea of Galilee motivated research and excavations in that region, yet nobody imagined that a wooden boat from that period could be preserved. But, as in antiquity, apparently miracles can still occur along the coast of the Sea of Galilee. In January 1986 Israel was

“Monastery of the Virgins” found (1999)

During the Byzantine Period (4th- 7th cent. AD), Jerusalem flourished as an international Christian centre. Churches, monasteries and public facilities were erected all over the city, the most famous being the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Many pilgrims wrote accounts of their pilgrimage and by combining these documents with the archaeological record, we have a pretty good idea of the shape of Jerusalem at that time. Yet one monastery, known as the “Monastery of the Virgins”, had not been identified, till now. PILGRIM’S ACCOUNT The existence of a “monastery of the Virgins” is documented by only one pilgrim, Theodosius, who

New Light on John the Baptist’s Site (1999)

The gospels give us a few indications of the location of John the Baptist’s preaching. Matthew and Luke mention only the “region about the Jordan” (Matt 3:5, Luke 3:3). John mentions two sites: “Bethany beyond the Jordan” (John 1:28), or in some versions “Bet Abbara”, and “Aenon near Salim” (John 3:23). The location of the last site may have to be revised in light of new finds. The traditional location of Salim was at Tell Salem, 10 km south of Beth-Shean, near the Jordan River, and so Aenon must have been nearby. But another site in the Hebron hills, Kh. Beit Einun, may preserve the name A’enon too! Recent archaeological diggings inKh Beit Einun revealed that at least in the Byzantine Period (325-638 AD)

Who did NOT write the Dead Sea Scrolls? (1998)

Since the Discovery of the first scrolls off the north-western shore of the Dead Sea, numerous suggestions have been made in an attempt to identify their authors. The common view is that the Scrolls were written by the people who lived at the nearby site of Qumran, and they are identified as the Essenes, an ascetic Jewish party active in the Second Temple Period. One way to determine the identity of the scroll authors is by dating their composition. Unfortunately none of the sectarian scrolls include clear Historical reference. However, an estimated date for the Dead Dea Scrolls can be derived by radiocarbon dating. Every

An Essene site discovered at Ein-Gedi? (1998)

The Essenes are famed as the probable creators or copiers of most of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Qumran is the central site in the region near where the scrolls were found in the 1950’s. Research revealed additional sites along the Dead Sea shore that were also attributed to the Essenes, yet no site equals the size or contents of Qumran. Because of Qumran’s unique material culture, it is presumed by most scholars to be the central Essene site by the Dead Sea. But the evidence is contradictory. Josephus, the main historical source for the Essenes, declares that “they occupy no one city, but settle in large numbers in every town”

The miracle of the “Jesus boat” (1998)

The New Testament records Jesus’ activities along the shores of the Sea of Galilee during the first century CE.  He stayed with Peter; crossed the Sea of Galilee by boat; aided fishermen and rescued them from storms; and at his request they became “fishers of people”. The references to boats and fishing villages along the coast of the Sea of Galilee has provoked interest in the archaeology of the area and many sites from the Roman period have been excavated including Capernaum and Tabgha (traditional place of the miracle of the multiplication of bread and fish). But nobody believed a wooden boat from that period

The Origin of the Amarna Letters (1998)

In a recent Issue of BASOR a short announcement was made on a new research over the el-Amarna letters conducted by Y. Goren, N. Na’aman, and I. Finkelstein, all from the Institute of Archaeology in Tel-Aviv University. The Amarna letters have been well-researched and are usually dated to the 14th century BCE, but these men examined them from an angle that no scholar had did before. The Amarna letters are a group of cuneiform tablets found in Tell el-Amarna, site of ancient Akhetaten, the capital of Egypt during the reign of Akhenaton. Found in 1887 by a peasant woman in the ruins of Akhetaten’s palace, they were written in cuneiform characters, using the Akkadian language, the lingua franca

Hanan – Don’t leave your toys behind! (1998)

In the last Qadmoniot issue, describing the results of the recent excavation at Tell Beth Shemesh, I found one item especially interesting, as it reflects daily life and culture of the site. The find is a broken piece of a clay playing bard, a common type of game known from many sites in Biblical Israel. Perhaps it could be compared to the modem, popular game of backgammon. But on the side of the ancient game piece the word “Hanan” was written, in paleo-Hebrew letters. The broken game piece was found in a pit outside a big (public?) building, probably an outdoor area.

Dazzling New Finds at the Gihon Spring in Jerusalem (1997)

As a lecturer and a guide I often take groups to participate in a dig or visit an archaeological site. In July 1997, while giving a summer course on the Archaeology of Jerusalem to overseas students at the Hebrew University, I took them to see the Gihon spring in the City of David – the only water source of Jerusalemduring the First Temple period (c. 1000-586 BCE). Due to reconstruction plans the Israel Antiquities Authority is digging there currently and rumor was that they found some new important evidence for the history of the site. Talking on the phone with the co-director of the excavation at the site, Eli Shukrun, the night prior

Personal Experience of Digging in Masada(!) (1997)

About a month ago, Guy Stiebel, director of the expedition team digging in Masada invited me to visit the site. Having a rare spare day, I happily accepted his offer and even participated in the dig that day. The group was clearing a storehouse and after an hour’s work, we had barely cleared away 10 cm of rubble, when we exposed a group of objects originally used by the Zealots(!). The Zealots were the people who occupied the site until the Roman siege, which ended with the Zealots committing a mass suicide. Apparently the part of the room in which we were digging was the

Underwater looters captured (1997)

One of the problems faced by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) is the illegal looting of archaeological sites all over the country. The IAA has a special unit for catching antique looters. Lately their activity has been geographically restrained due to the new peace accord with the Palestinians. The peace accord made many sites in Gaza, Judea and Samaria inaccessible to supervise. As a visitor I have witnessed famous and important sites being severely damaged by looting, usually by the local inhabitants. Jericho for instance is being torn to pieces, its bricks sold to tourists by local children. The Jerusalem aqueduct too is being ruined by private

New Inscription Found in Ekron (1997)

The final season of excavation at Tell Mikne, Biblical Ekron, ended a few months ago. Ekron was one of the five big Philistine cities known from various Bible stories. The excavating team was led by Trude Dothan from the Hebrew University and Seymour Gitin from the Albright School of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem. All seasons yielded important records for the study of Biblical Israel but the last season proved to be the most fruitful as the dig revealed a five line dedicatory Templeinscription containing the names of both the city, Ekron, and the name Achish, a name known from the Bible as the king of Gath who befriended David before David became king (1 Samuel 21).

Mystery Graves Found near Jerusalem (1997)

Bar-Ilan University recently published a summary of the second conference on the archaeology of Jerusalem, edited by Prof. A. Faust. Of the 10 lectures given on that occasion, I found one specially interesting. Boaz Zissu reported on a salvage excavation held in southern Jerusalem on a site destined for a main road. The site, partly damaged by the tractors during the infrastructure work, contains an ancient burial site from the Second Temple period. The shape of the graves attracted special attention. Burial caves from that period are always in the shape of a chambered cave. (The cave of the Holy Sepulchre is of this type). And usually they contain ossuaries – stone boxes

Sepphoris Synagogue Mosaic on Display in Jerusalem (1997)

Word comes from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem that a beautiful and rare mosaic is being exhibited to the public for the first time. The mosaic was found in Sepphoris by an expedition from the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University, directed by Dr Ze’ev Weiss and Prof. Ehud Netzer. It is a floor mosaic of a synagogue and dates to the fifth century AD. Located in the corner of a well planned quarter of the city, the mosaic shows three major themes: 1. Biblical scenes from the time of Abraham: One scene depicts the binding of Isaac on Mount Moriah; another scene depicts an angel’s visit to Abraham and Sarah. 2.

Western Wall tunnels Causing Riots and Casualties (1996)

Archaeological work in Israel has caused turmoil that resulted in the deaths of 15 IDF soldiers and more than 60 Palestinians recently. It is very sad that the extension of the Western Wall tunnel should cause so much trouble. The site in question is a unique underground pedestrian tunnel that follows the western wall of the Temple mount. The tunnel has been in use for several decades, but the entrance was also the exit and as the tunnel is long and narrow, visitor capacity was restricted. The northern end of the tunnel was near a street in the Christian quarter which is part of

New Mosaic found in Lod (1996)

The discovery of the finest mosaic in the Middle East causes a sensation in Israel, but poses a problem. A few months ago a new street was planned for the city of Lod, not far from the Tel Aviv airport, but when excavations began for the road the inevitable happened – antiquities were found and the Israeli Antiquities Authority was advised. The department immediately sent a team under Miriam Avissar to mount a rescue operation. Initial digging did not expose anything unusual but then the team was delighted to find some white mosaics. These are common in Israel and are to be dated to the Byzantine perrid. But

New Document Found at Beth Shean (1996)

A recent issue of Qadmoniot, a Hebrew periodical, has published, in preliminary form, a unique cuneiform inscription found while archaeologists were clearing excavation debris on Tell Bethshean. While its original location is unknown, its contents are a new and genuine addition to our knowledge of the historical-political situation in Israel during the Late Bronze Period. Tell el Amarna Tablets Thus far our knowledge of this period has come to us solely from Tell el- Amarna in Egypt where the imperial archives of Amenhotep III and Akhnaton were found. The 350 cuneiform “Amarna tablets” reveal that Canaan was ruled by Egypt