Vandalism at Nabatean Avdat
Since the vandalism of the Nabatean site at Avdat, which I mentioned in the last Report, two Bedouins have been arrested. One of them was the sole guard on the site and both of the men have denied responsibility. The State has great difficulty in dealing with the Bedouins, who are often of no fixed abode and live by a culture different from that of the majority of the population. Many of them serve in the army and perform valuable services, particularly as guides and trackers in the Negev. However the damage to the archaeological site was criminal and comprehensive and will no doubt be punished accordingly.
Roman mosaic from Lod
The remarkable 1,700 year old mosaic of Lod, which was also mentioned in a previous Report, has been moved to the Israel Museum for essential preservation work. When the plaster base was uncovered, the restoration team looked for the original guide lines that outlined the placing of the tesserae. To their surprise they also found the imprint of several feet and sandals of the original artists. Jacques Neguer of the IAA Conservation Department, described them as having been made by sizes 34, 37, 42 and 44 sandals. The mosaic will be fully restored and the footprints will be removed and exhibited separately at the new Mosaic Archaeological Centre in Lod.
New exhibit at the Davidson Centre, Jerusalem
A new exhibition at the Davidson Centre by the Temple Mount in Jerusalem opened on November 11th. It is organized by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and will show the latest finds from the area, including the sarcophagus lid inscribed with the words “Ben Hacohen Hagadol” and many coins of the Roman and Jewish mints of the Great Revolt period of 66-70 CE. There will also be a model of the city during Second Temple times. Many of the exhibits come from very recent digs, by Prof. Ronnie Reich and others, but some go back to the excavations headed by Prof. Benjamin Mazar in the 1970s.
New book discusses the Temple Mount, Haram al Sharif
Although we do no want to get involved in the political scene, you will know that arguments about the Jewish presence (or non-presence) on the Haram al-Sharif or Temple Mount continue to rage. It was therefore very heartening that a new volume on the subject was recently launched at the Ecole Biblique in East Jerusalem, called “WHERE HEAVEN AND EARTH MEET: Jerusalem’s Sacred Esplanade”. It gives a detail outline of the site’s history and is the result of three years’ work and discussion by 22 scholars from the Moslem, Christian and Jewish academies and faiths, and it is a remarkable demonstration of the respect that exists between their separate worlds and literatures.
New discoveries from Acre
In a rescue dig last month in Acre, just north of the City wall, a hoard of broken marble items was uncovered. They date to the 13th century Crusader period and were found in a sealed cellar that contained 350 pieces, including a stone cross and broken tombstones. Dr. Edna Stern, who conducted the dig on behalf of the IAA, said this was a unique find for the period and demonstrated the high quality of the work being undertaken by the Crusaders in their local capital. Crusader Acre fell to the Mameluks in 1291, presumably before the hoarder of these precious fragments, some of which may have been imported, was able to use them in local building work.
Also at Acre, experts from 16 countries met this month for the second UNESCO World Heritage workshop on “Disaster Risk Reduction to Cultural Heritage Sites”. The first such meeting had been held in Olympia, Greece, in 2008. Areas of collaboration were identified, particularly between Israel and Jordan, and especially in the field of dangers from earthquakes, where the work being done by Israel at Masada can be applied to similar sites at Petra in Jordan, both being subject to such dangers in the Rift Valley around the Jordan basin. The focus of the papers was to identify the dangers and take preventative measures before disaster struck, and to pressurize governments into finding the necessary funds. An International Conservation Centre is being set up by Israel in the Old City of Acre to establish training in the conservation of these valuable Heritage sites all around the world.
Stephen G. Rosenberg
Albright Institute, Jerusalem