By James D. Tabor
Chair, Dept. of Religious Studies
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
I just returned from meetings in Jerusalem with Dr. Shimon Gibson and we wanted to give an update in these waning days of 2010 about the plans we have for Mt Zion (http://bibleinterp.arizona.edu/articles/zion) and related projects in the coming year 2011. We did not actively dig at our Mt Zion site during 2010 as we felt we needed to devote the year to catching up on our post-excavation work as required by the Israel Antiquities Authority and at the same time put in place a "business plan" that would allow for the proper funding of our Projects into 2011 and beyond. Let me first update you on the latest news and then outline our plans for 2011 and beyond:
News in 2010:
1. Please find attached a preliminary report on the first three years of digging at the Mt Zion site that has just been published by Shimon Gibson. There is also a more detailed report here on the inscribed stone vessel.
2. The inscribed stone vessel is clearly one of the most exciting archaeological finds in recent times. Although it has not yet been fully deciphered the Israel Museum took charge of its complete restoration (see photos in the article) and it will be featured in a forthcoming article. Shimon Gibson, Stephen Pfann, and I will be working on this project. Pfann is consulting with various epigraphers in his ongoing efforts to read as much of this intriguing text as possible.
3. Recently Shimon Gibson discovered in the Armenian properties on Mt Zion all the finds and field notes from the 1970s Magen Broshi excavations. These had been presumed lost ( http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/777694384/study-of-amazing-artifacts-from-ancient-jerusalem). This means we now have the materials taken from our site before we began our work in 2007, plus lots of other priceless materials from other areas on upper Mt Zion. Gibson has been given custody of these materials and has been sorting through them as the bags and labels are badly deteriorated. This essential work has to be given high priority and the finds are amazing including painted frescos, materials from the Roman 10th legion occupation of Jerusalem, and intact vessels. Our goal is to make clear the unanswered questions related to the various material and cultural remains on Mt Zion from the Iron age through Late Antiquity.
4. The municipality of Jerusalem is installing a new sidewalk and garden area just adjacent to our site and running along the wall. We have to undertake emergency excavations there by the end of February in order for the building to go forward. They have temporarily halted construction until we can complete our work so we will need to do it with hired workers under the supervision of our Jerusalem team. This will give us a chance to find the ancient gate that we are quite sure ran just below the tower where the sidewalk was along the wall, likely connecting to the Cardo. We found the threshold to that gate in our 2008 excavations. These remains will then be covered over with a walkway, preserving the ruins of the gate below for tourists to view.
Plans for 2011:
1. We will be launching in January, 2011 a newly formed "Friends of Mt Zion" group that will become the main fundraising arm for the Mt Zion projects as well as a vehicle for distributing preliminary dig reports to a wide audience through both Internet and e-mail. This will be carried out in full conjunction with our UNC Charlotte Development office and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. We have outlined about two dozen grants for which we will be applying in 2011 to try and get outside funding for the Mt Zion projects as a whole so that our financial base can be a combination of grants and individual contributions.
2. We hope to complete the "rescue" excavation of the area just below the Ayyubid Gate in February.
3. Just last week Gibson and I visited our previous excavation at the Suba "John the Baptist" cave and there is some essential work we have to do there in order to complete publication of that seven year excavation. We need to remove more materials inside the cave, down to the floor, just under the drawings of the figures, as well as excavate some recently discovered 1st century wine presses nearby. Because of our need to continue work on the Mt Zion materials, especially the newly discovered finds from the 1970s, we are going to devote our dig season in June, 2011 to Suba rather than Mt Zion. It is important, in terms of the Israel Antiquities Authority that we finish up what we began at Suba, and get it published in 2011, before we produce another season of finds at our current Mt Zion site. The dates are June 10-26, 2011. I will be sending out details the first week of January for those who might want to participate.
4. Our plans call for the publication of three volumes in 2011: A final publication of the Suba cave excavations; a final publication of our Tomb of the Shroud, that includes the only 1st century burial shroud ever found and the first case of leprosy; a preliminary volume on Mt Zion with the newly discovered Broshi materials included from the 1970s.
For full information on Mt Zion and associated projects see http://digmountzion.com/information/