Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Bar Kochba Coin Cache Discovered

A press conference by Hebrew University is being reported at GNews, with beautiful photographs of the finds.

The largest cache of rare coins ever found in a scientific excavation from the period of the Bar-Kokhba revolt of the Jews against the Romans has been discovered in a cave by researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bar-Ilan University.

The coins were discovered in three batches in a deep cavern located in a nature reserve in the Judean hills. The treasure includes gold, silver and bronze coins, as well as some pottery and weapons.

The discovery was made in the framework of a comprehensive cave research and mapping project being carried out by Boaz Langford and Prof. Amos Frumkin of the Cave Research Unit in the Department of Geography at the Hebrew University.

The discovery included 120 gold, silver, and bronze coins, many in excellent condition. You can read the rest of the article here. As other news sites prepare stories, you can find them via this Google News link.

As for the “Cave Research Unit,” when word gets out about that, I bet they get lots of applicants!

UPDATE: The story is now covered by the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, and Arutz-7.

UPDATE (9/16): Joe Lauer notes a link with interviews (mp3) of the archaeologists who discovered the coins.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bronze Age Tomb Found in Bethlehem

From the Associated Press:

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — Workers renovating a house in the traditional town of Jesus' birth accidentally discovered an untouched ancient tomb containing clay pots, plates, beads and the bones of two humans, a Palestinian antiquities official said Tuesday.

The 4,000-year-old tomb provides a glimpse of the burial customs of the area's inhabitants during the Canaanite period, said Mohammed Ghayyada, director of the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Workers in a house near the Church of the Nativity uncovered a hole leading to the grave, which was about one meter (yard) below ground, he said. They contacted antiquities officials, who photographed the grave intact before removing its contents.

They dated the grave to the Early Bronze Age, between 1,900 B.C. and 2,200 B.C.

Jerusalem-based archaeologist and historian Stephen Pfann called the find "an important reference to the life of the Canaanites," adding that it could give a glimpse into life in the area before the time when the Biblical patriarchs are said to have lived.

While many artifacts exist from this period, intact graves are rare, mainly because of looting, he said.

The article continues here (and another photo here).  A few comments:

The tomb dates to the Intermediate Bronze period, also confusingly known as Early Bronze IV or Middle Bronze I.  Many tombs from this period, including intact ones, have been found throughout Israel.  In fact, this period is primarily known from its cemeteries, with relatively few settlements discovered.  (See this post for photos of a cemetery from this period found a couple of years ago in Jerusalem.)

More importantly, this tomb indicates an early presence in the city that later came to be known as Bethlehem, the city of David’s birth.  I don’t see anything about material from this period in NEAEH, which may indicate the significance of this discovery.

HT: Joe Lauer

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Mosaic Museum Opens at Good Samaritan Inn

The Jerusalem Post reports on a new museum that has opened at the traditional Inn of the Good Samaritan.

The Museum of the Good Samaritan, which is located on the Jerusalem-Jericho Road near Ma'aleh Adumim, was officially opened Thursday evening after a nine-year archeological excavation at the site.

The official dedication of the NIS 10 million museum, which displays mosaics from the West Bank and Gaza, coincided with US President Barack Obama's long-touted Middle East speech in Cairo in which he reached out to the Muslim world....

The site, known as the Inn of the Good Samaritan, received its name in the Byzantine period when it was identified with the inn mentioned in the Parable of the Good Samaritan in the New Testament.

The site lies on the upper end of the ascent on the main road from Jericho to Jerusalem, which pilgrims followed when traveling from the Galilee and Transjordan to the Holy City.

Over the last decade, archeologists have uncovered remains dating back to the Second Temple period at the site.

During the Byzantine period, the site was revived as a way station for Christian pilgrims, and an inn was constructed that included a large church, a cistern, residential quarters, and a fortress to protect pilgrims from brigands.

In the Crusader period, with the expansion of pilgrimage to Jericho and especially to baptismal sites on the Jordan River, the inn was renovated and a fortress erected above it to guard the road to Jerusalem.

The structure housing the museum was built in the Ottoman period as a guard post, which remained in use until recently.

The mosaics on display at the museum were discovered in the West Bank and Gaza and belong to Jewish and Samaritan synagogues - including a mosaic from a Gaza synagogue - as well as churches.

The full story is here.

Good Samaritan inn, tb113006626dxo Traditional Inn of the Good Samaritan with Jerusalem in the distance

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Roman Tombs Found in Bethlehem

Construction work in Bethlehem this weekend revealed a Roman tomb.  From Maan News:

Roman-era catacombs were unearthed in Bethlehem Saturday during construction in an empty lot beside Bethlehem University.

The small underground cave system opens facing north, and held four stone coffins with engravings on each, housed in two separate dug out burial areas.

Head of Antiquates [sic] department in Jericho Wael Hamamrah estimated the artifacts, complete with skeletal remains and some pottery are between 1,800 and 1,900 years old.

Construction workers preparing to lay pipe in the yard called Palestinian tourism and antiquates police when they went to investigate the sudden collapse of earth in an area they had been digging in that morning.

The full story and six enlargeable photos are here.

HT: Joe Lauer

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Friday, March 27, 2009

How To Learn Biblical Hebrew and Greek

If you’ve thought about learning biblical Hebrew or Greek—or really learning it after seminary, you should consider the Biblical Language Center in Israel.  The uniqueness of this program is that you learn Hebrew (or Greek) as a living language.  That means that you learn it by living it. 

BLC’s goal is for students to fluidly read the Bible with a natural and instant comprehension. Therefore, BLC immersion courses use living language methods in teaching Biblical Hebrew and Koine Greek. This means that more than 90% of classroom time is filled with the spoken biblical language. The result is an internalization of the languages which speeds the pace of learning and improves the reading of the biblical text.

You can read more about it on their website, noting especially the methodology description.  I have not had the privilege of participating, but friends who have give the highest recommendation.

Course offerings this summer:

Greek

Beginning Koine Greek (4 weeks):
“Introduction to the Parables of Jesus”
June 7-July 3, 2009

Intermediate Koine Greek (2 weeks):
“More Parables, Papyri, and Aesop’s Fables”
July 5-17, 2009

Hebrew

Beginning Biblical Hebrew (4 weeks):
“Jonah”
June 21-July 17, 2009

Intermediate Biblical Hebrew (2 weeks):
“Ruth the Moabitess: Ruth 1-4, Gen 19, Num 25”
June 21-July 3, 2009

Intermediate Biblical Hebrew (2 weeks):
“Samson, Shfelah, and Philistines, Judges 13-16”
July 5-17, 2009

Intermediate Biblical Hebrew (2 weeks):
“In the Beginning: Genesis 1-3”
July 19-31, 2009

Intermediate Biblical Hebrew (2 weeks):
“Psalms: Selected Coronation, Ascent and Canaanite Psalms”
July 19-31, 2009

All courses are offered in a quiet community near Jerusalem.  You can learn more about it at www.biblicalulpan.org.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

A Favorite Hike: Nahal Darga

One of my favorite hikes in Israel is described in a recent story in the Jerusalem Post.  The Nahal Darga is a large canyon that drains the Judean Wilderness into the Dead Sea.  The marvelous hike combines spectacular views, historic caves, and challenging climbing.  Jacob Solomon’s article offers sage advice, but if you’re planning to heed the call, do not make the same mistake that he does and miss the real jewel of the hike, that is, climbing down the canyon itself!  Some excerpts from the article:

This is a memorable, varied and demanding full-day route. Shaded for much of the way, the earlier parts follow the deep, steep-sided gorge of Nahal Darga, and the sun should be well behind the Judean Hills by the late afternoon descent to the finish at Mitzpe Shalem. Check the flash-flood forecast immediately before this excursion....

You have reached one of the last stands of the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (132-135 CE), led by Simeon Bar Kosiba, a.k.a. Bar Kochba. The official Roman conversion of Jerusalem to the pagan city of Aelia Capitolina with a temple to the god Jupiter fired a rebellion of sufficient magnitude for Emperor Hadrian to bring down his premier general Severus, then in Britain. The fighters retreated, making their last guerrilla-style stands in these mountains in the hopeful but erroneous belief that the geographical obstacles you have just surmounted might deter Hadrian's imperial army.

If you do opt to climb through the canyon, you must be in good shape, you may need climbing rope, and you will get wet and probably dirty.  You also would be wise to leave anything behind that cannot get wet, including your camera. 

Nahal Darga, Wadi Murabaat, tb021107575Nahal Darga from above

Wadi Murabaat, Bar Kochba cave, view from interior, tb021107619Wadi Murabaat = Nahal Darga, Cave where Bar Kochba scrolls foundNahal Darga, Wadi Murabaat, tb021107581The best part of the hike is through the canyon itself 

 Nahal Darga, Wadi Murabaat, tb021107612 
The best time of the year to hike Nahal Darga is February to April.  After that, the temperatures are too hot and the water becomes too putrid.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Byzantine Church Discovered in Nes-Harim

This discovery is reported by the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, and CNN.  The following is the beginning of the press release of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

A church that dates to the Byzantine period which is paved with breathtakingly beautiful mosaics and a dedicatory inscription was exposed in an archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting near Moshav Nes-Harim, 5 kilometers east of Bet Shemesh (at the site of Horvat A-Diri), in the wake of plans to enlarge the moshav.

According to archaeologist Daniel Ein Mor, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The site was surrounded by a small forest of oak trees and is covered with farming terraces that were cultivated by the residents of Nes-Harim. Prior to the excavation we discerned unusually large quantities of pottery sherds from the Byzantine period and thousands of mosaic tesserae that were scattered across the surface level”.

The excavation seems to have revealed the very center of the site, which extends across an area of approximately 15 dunams, along the slope of a spur that descends toward Nahal Dolev.

During the first season of excavation (November 2008) the church’s narthex (the broad entrance at the front of the church’s nave) was exposed in which there was a carpet of polychrome mosaics that was adorned with geometric patterns of intertwined rhomboids separated by flower bud motifs. Unfortunately, at the conclusion of the excavation this mosaic was defaced and almost completely destroyed by unknown vandals. During that excavation season a complex wine press was partly exposed that consists of at least two upper treading floors and elongated, well-plastered arched cells below them that were probably meant to facilitate the preliminary fermentation there of the must. Part of the main work surface, which was paved with large coarse tesserae, was exposed at the foot of these cells. A complex wine press of this kind is indicative of a wine making industry at the site; this find is in keeping with the presence here of a church and is consistent with our knowledge about Byzantine monasteries in the region during this period (sixth-seventh centuries CE).

The press release continues here.  The IAA has posted (temporary link) three high-resolution images: 1) an aerial view of the site; 2) workers cleaning the church floor; 3) a close-up of the church’s dedicatory inscription.  A direct link to the images is here.

HT: Joe Lauer

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