Archaeology in Israel Update-- December 2012

By Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg
W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research
February 2013

Hasmonean Farm in Jerusalem

Remains of a farm site were uncovered in Kiryat Yovel in western Jerusalem by a team from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) a month or so ago. The remains have been dated from the fourth century BCE to first century CE and include the outlines of a few scattered buildings and some artifacts like small incense jars and pottery tags that may have been used to label jar contents. The work is still in progress and the designation of the site as a farm may have to be revised as excavation proceeds, although it is known that farms as such did exist in the Hellenistic period.

Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library

The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library was launched on 18th December, based on the between 15,000 and 30,000 fragments of the Scrolls, making up about 900 manuscripts, held by the IAA. The work of recording by a high-resolution scanner is still in progress and is estimated to take another three years, at a cost of $3.5 million. The archive can be accessed at (the project is distinct from the eight scrolls owned by the Israel Museum, which is also working with Google to digitalize its manuscripts). The work is described by director Pnina Shor, who states that each fragment is captured on six separate wavelengths, which are combined into one color image that can be enlarged without loss of clarity. The fragments are also photographed by infra-red technology, which produces a clear black and white image that is used to decipher faded examples. Shor claims that the few hundred scholars that specialize in Dead Sea studies can now access the material in the comfort of their homes, and it is equally available to the millions around the world. The project is named after Leon Levy, who died in 2003, and whose Trust made the original donation to start the project. The Cambridge Digital Library has also recently posted on line thousands of its ancient religious documents, including the Nash Papyrus of the first or second century BCE (that contains two portions of the Hebrew Bible) and the Cairo Geniza Collection.

Temple Site in Sinai

Reports have surfaced that the Antiquities Authority in Egypt has announced the find of four temples in Sinai dating back to the time of Thutmosis II (1518-1504 BCE). The temples are situated at Qantara, 2 miles east of the Suez\\Suez Canal, on the military road to Canaan. The temple walls are mud brick and the largest is some 80m by 70m with walls of 4m thickness, decorated with paintings that indicate the religious nature of the buildings. There are also three ritual basins and a number of separate chambers for different gods in this large temple.

Sifting Excavated Material From Temple Mount

There has been a recent report of four truck loads of material being removed from the Temple Mount and unloaded at a local dump. No further details have emerged, but the removal of such material is illegal and has been forbidden by a ruling of the High Court, nevertheless it is still happening.

This leads me to describe the famous sifting site at the foot of the Mount of \Olives that has been organized to deal with the massive amount of material that was removed from the Temple \Mount after the unsupervised excavation of the tunnel entrance to the underground Mosque located in the so-called Stables of Solomon area. This material was rescued from an illegal dump in Kidron Valley by Prof.Gabriel Barkai and is being steadily sorted and sifted at the facility that he has set up on the hillside below the site of the Hebrew University. It is worth a visit by tourists, who are welcome to come and hear an interesting lecture on the history of the Temple Mount, through the Israelite, Crusader, Byzantine and Islamic periods, and then proceed to the sifting area. It is a well organized operation with about twenty sifting benches, each supplied with a spray water tap and buckets of raw material for dividing into six categories, such as pottery, stonework, metal and mosaic tesserae. It is fascinating work, for older children as well as adults, and the supervision by experts is both helpful and encouraging. Many important finds of the First and Second Temple periods have been sifted out. At the end of each session one of the experts will lecture on the most significant finds that were made that day. The site is accessible by car from the main road of Derekh Ai-Tur (Shmuel ben Adyahu) which lies beyond the Rockfeller Museum, going east. Gabby Barkai or his student Zarhi Zweik are usually in attendance and Gabby estimates that they still have sifting work for the next fifteen years.

Ancient Temple Found at Motza

In a rescue dig before the improvement of Highway 1, leading to Tel Aviv, archaeologists have uncovered a large structure with massive walls, an entrance facing east and a number of ritual objects, believed to be a temple of Iron Age IIA. The find was made at Motza, on the western outskirts of Jerusalem, by a team directed by Anna Eirikh, Hamoudi Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz of the IAA. The inside of the building contains a small square construction (perhaps an altar), pottery vessels, chalices, and figures of humans and animals, which may have been used in cultic ceremonies. The temple is believed to be that of the town of Mozah, on the borders of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah (Joshua 18:26). The important remains will be sealed and preserved and the highway extension built over them, so the site will not be accessible in the future, but the internal remains will be removed and restored and exhibited in one of the Jerusalem museums.

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