Faces From the Bible?
Every few weeks, Simcha Jacobovici broadcasts a programme entitled the ‘Naked Archaeologist’ on Israel TV. He scours archaeological sites to bring sensational results to the viewers, uses material provided by professional scholars, and brings together different artifacts to try and explain problems of the early history of Israel. His programmes are not recognized as serious by professional archaeologists but they are attractive to laymen and sometimes bring unusual content to the public. One of his latest works was to try and recreate the faces of Biblical characters by using the work of professional forensic artists on skulls dug up from known contexts and with known dates. In his latest programme he displays the face of a beautiful lady whom he equates with Delilah, based on the skull of a Philistine female from the time of Samson; a male from the turn-of-the era Galilee, whom he claims may have seen Jesus; and a baby whose remains were found in a Canaanite jar burial, possible evidence of infant sacrifice. Jacobovici, an Israeli-Canadian, says that his illustration of these figures helps viewers to understand better the Biblical contexts from which they come. This is hardly serious archaeology but his programmes do give some shaky substance to the accounts in the Bible. They are condemned by most serious scholars but one has to recognise that the public appreciates them.
Jerusalem Cistern with Remains of Cooking Pots
Near Robinson’s arch by the Western Wall of the Temple, Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has uncovered a small underground cistern with the unusual content of two cooking pots and a small oil lamp, dated to the time of the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. He claims that this is evidence that the eating of meals took place in the cistern, where it would be hidden from view by others. It would thus illustrate the fact, recorded by Josephus, that during the Siege the extreme scarcity of food forced the inhabitants to eat their precious produce in secret, so as to avoid it being stolen by the rebels and partisans. He recorded that the people ate their meals shut up in “the darkest corners of their houses” and Shukron believes that the finding of two cooking pots in this small cistern is evidence of such extreme practice.
Roman Period Roadway in Northern Jerusalem
In the course of a salvage dig prior to the laying of a drainage pipe in Beit Hanina, a village just north of the Jerusalem city border, the IAA has uncovered the remains of the Roman road from Jerusalem to Jaffa. The roadway was 8m. wide and laid with large level paving slabs, that showed evidence of heavy wear by pedestrians. It is the best preserved section of Roman roadway in the Jerusalem area, according to David Yeger, the dig director.
The section uncovered was part of the road that ran through Beit Horon (there was another parallel road further south) and was still in use during the Talmudic period.
Carmel Mountains Cave, Grave Flowers
The earliest ever evidence of flowers used at a graveside was found at the Rakefet Cave on Mount Carmel, dating to the Natufian period between 12,000 and 14,000 years ago. The expedition, headed by Dani Nadel of Haifa University, uncovered 29 human skeletons and in some of the tombs they found the marks of flowers pressed onto the rock surface. Nadel claims that they have been able to identify the floral species in at least two of the plants, but gave no details.
Egyptian Sphinx at Hazor
During the ongoing excavations at Hazor, in northern Israel, the fore section of a royal sphinx has been uncovered. The large fragment is the front part of the sculpture, showing no head but the two front paws with, luckily, an inscription between them indicating that this was the image of Pharaoh Menkauree, also known as Mycerinus (2532-2504 BCE), whose name is associated with the small one of the three Giza pyramids. The co-directors of the excavation, Prof. Amnon ben-Tor and Dr. Sharon Zuckerman, say that it is the only known sphinx of this Pharaoh ever discovered. The whole unbroken body would have been about 1.5 m. long and they think it was sent to Hazor in the 14th century BCE in the Amarna period, as some kind of goodwill gesture, at a time when Egypt held hegemony over the area.
Inscribed Canaanite Pottery Shard, Jerusalem
In what is claimed as the earliest-ever inscribed shard found in Jerusalem, an early Canaanite line of text of the tenth century BCE has been found on the broken piece of a neckless pithos or jar, recently unearthed in a dig by the southern wall of the Temple Mount, The excavators think that the short one-line text, as yet undeciphered, gives the name of the jar’s owner or its contents. Watch this space.
Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg,
W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem