Cuneiform Tablets to be Returned to Iraq
Nearly ten thousand cuneiform tablets will be returned to Iraq by Cornell University. The tablets date from the 4th millennium BCE and later, and are suspected to have been looted from Iraq, which has demanded their return. They were donated to the university by a collector who bought them on the market seven years ago, and they have been preserved, photographed and published over the last few years by scholars at the university, which has now agreed to return them to Iraq museum in Baghdad. The university acknowledges that there may be concerns about the safety of the tablets, but has stated that “the Iraq Museum seems to be secure at this point”. The tablets include the private records of a Sumerian princess of Garsana, who administered her husband’s estate after his death, who gave equal rights and wages to women, and allowed them to direct male workers on building projects. Other tablets record details of temple rituals, the treatment of refugees and the yields of agricultural products.
Climatic Changes at the end of the Late Bronze Age
A study conducted by Dafna Langgut and published in the Journal of the Tel Aviv Institute of Archaeology shows that there was a great climatic change in the period of 1250-1100 BCE, that may have accounted for the upheavals in the civilizations of the Eastern Mediterranean, in Egypt, Greece, Crete, Syria and in Israel, where the first monarchy was established. The study was based on core samples taken from deep under the Kinneret, Sea of Galilee, in 18m. long cores containing fossil grains of pollen, which Langgut claims is the most enduring organic material in nature. The pollen was blown into the water and the particles show details of the vegetation that grew around the lake and the climatic conditions of the period. The study was conducted together with Prof. Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University, Prof. Thomas Litt of Bonn University and Prof. Mordechai Stein of Hebrew University. Prof. Finkelstein notes that this pollen study had a precision of forty years, as compared to other pollen studies of only several hundred years, which may have missed the changes now revealed. The results correlate with text records of drought and famine in locations from Anatolia to Egypt.
Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) Arrests Looter
Uzi Rotstein of the IAA Theft Prevention Unit reported the arrest of one of a group of six illegal metal-detector operators who were looting Byzantine coins at a site in the Nahal Sorek basin in the Judean hills. Excavating an ancient site without a permit from the IAA is considered to be a criminal act that can result in a prison term of up to five years. Members of the Theft Prevention Unit are not police officers but carry small arms and have the right to make arrests.
Ancient Wine Cellar Unearthed at Tel Kabri
At Tel Kabri, 3 km. east of Naharia, archaeologists have unearthed a large wine cellar dated to 1700 BCE. It was part of a luxurious palace and estate that may have belonged to a rich northern Canaanite ruler. The find amounted to forty plain 1 m. high storage jars and is one of the largest wine cellars ever found. By residue analysis, the excavators, Eric Cline of George Washington University, Andrew Koh of Brandeis University and Assaf Yasur-Landau of Haifa University, showed that the wine, both red and white, was flavoured with honey, juniper, mint, cinnamon and myrtle. The cellar was about 5 x 8 m. and adjacent to a large banqueting hall, both of which may have been destroyed by earthquake. At the end of the dig, two doors were found leading out of the cellar, which will have to await examination until the next season in 2015.
Chalcolithic Village found near Beit Shemesh
Since 2004, archaeologists of the IAA have been exposing domestic remains on a site south of Beit Shemesh, alongside road 38, which is due to be widened. The finds include a building of the pre-pottery Neolithic period dated to about 8000 BCE, the oldest such structure to have been found in this country, according to Dr. Amir Golani, in charge of the dig. Other buildings of a later date were also uncovered, together with axes, flints and stone tools, which will be cleaned and preserved by the IAA at their nearby offices. Next to the oldest building was found a standing monolith (1.2m. high and weighing a quarter of a ton), that had been tooled on all six sides, which suggests it may have served a cultic function alongside the building.
Hasmonean Period Building in Jerusalem
A building of 64 sq. m. nearly 4m. high has been uncovered in the Givati parking area by the City of David, and dated to the Hasmonean period. According to Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, one of the directors of the dig, this is the first evidence of a building of this period to be found in Jerusalem. Dating has been made easier by the discovery on the floor of over forty silver and bronze coins of the second century BCE, which are now being cleaned and will take another year, Ben-Ami said. Only part of the structure has been uncovered so far, but it is not domestic in nature and likely to have been a public building. It is hoped to find further evidence of the period as the dig proceeds.
Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg,
W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem.