Ancient Road Station Near Jerusalem
During construction of improvements to Highway 1 the road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, at Abu Gosh at the west entry to Jerusalem, archaeologists uncovered a Byzantine period road station. The station, next to a deep spring called Ein Naka’a, included a 16m. long church with a side chapel (6.5 m. by 3.5 m.) that had a white mosaic floor and a baptisterium in the shape of a four-leaf clover in one corner. According to Yoli Schwartz of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) who excavated the site, finds included oil lamps, coins, glass vessels, marble fragments and mother-of-pearl shell, indicating intensive activity at the site, just beside the ancient road from the coast up to Jerusalem, much on the lines of the present highway. The finds are being closely studied and documented and the site will be cleared and preserved for public viewing.
Canaanite Inscription from Khirbet Qeiyafa
In 2012, Prof. Yossi Garfinkel of the Hebrew University and Saar Ganor of the IAA found scattered shards of 10th century BCE ceramic jars at the site of Khirbet Qeiyafa in the Elah Valley. Many of the fragments carried individual letters of Canaanite script and it was finally possible to join matching pieces together, when it was found that one jug, carefully restored, was inscribed with the name Eshbaal ben Beda. Prof. Garfinkel noted that one Eshbaal ben Shaul is mentioned in I Chron, 8:33. He was ruling over (northern) Israel while David was ruling over Judah. That Eshbaal (whose name had been changed to Ish-Boshet) was murdered and decapitated and his head brought to David. Prof. Garfinkel said that these letters showed that writing was more widespread at this period than had been thought, since they now had this and three other inscriptions (another from Qeiyafa, one from Jerusalem and one from Bet-Shemesh) which had been published.
Second Temple Mikveh under House Near Jerusalem
The Jerusalem District archaeologist, Amit Re’em, of the IAA, announced the discovery of a two-thousand year old ritual bath (mikveh) under the floor boards of a house in Ein Kerem, a suburb of Jerusalem, The mikveh was discovered by opening a trap door in the floor of the house, that gave access to stone steps leading down to a rock-cut basin of 3.5m. by 2.4m. containing stone-cut pottery vessels of the 1st century CE, together with further fragments and traces of fire, that may be some indication of the destruction of the city in 70 CE. The owner and his wife contacted the IAA when they opened the trap door and together they cleaned out the mikveh and recorded the finds. Seeing that the salon floor had a ready-made trap door, it is possible that the original builders of the house were aware of the mikveh in their basement but did not give the information to the present owners for fear that it might reduce the value of the property. This is of course not the case and the present owners are very proud that they have an apartment based on an historic mikveh that has been excavated and recorded by the IAA.
Tombs in Galilee Declared World Heritage Site
The Rabbinic tombs in Bet-Shearim, south-east of Haifa, have been declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization at their meeting in Bonn in Germany last week. The committee said that “Bet Shearim bears unique testimony to ancient Judaism under the leadership of Rabbi Jehudah the Patriarch, who is credited with Jewish renewal after 135 CE.” The initial approach to UNESCO was prepared by archaeologist Dr. Tzvika Gal of the IAA and handled over the last four years by archaeologist Dr. Tzvika Zuk of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Bet-Shearim is the ninth site to be inscribed on the World Heritage list and it contains many engraved Menorah (candelabra) representations and other Jewish symbols, as well as the tombs of many prominent Rabbinic and other figures of the period, after interment in Jerusalem had become impossible and undesirable due to the Roman and later occupations. There are also numerous inscriptions in Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew in the Bet-Shearim caves.
Burial Cave in Jerusalem Entered Illegally
The IAA unit for the Prevention of Robberies recently arrested a Palestinian father and his four children and a family friend, who were digging in an ancient burial cave on Mount Scopus by the Hebrew University. The six were apprehended while working in the cave with shovels and other digging equipment. The father said that two of his children had heard muffled sounds from the cave and he, who claimed to be an exorcist, was looking for the treasure that, he said, the spirits were also searching for. The six suspects were released on bail and will be brought to court shortly and charged with entering an archaeological site illegally, for which the punishment can be up to five years in prison.
Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg
W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem