Report from Jerusalem #44, 16th July 2012

Mount Carmel Caves on UNESCO World Heritage List

At its meeting on 29th June at St Petersburg, the World Heritage Committee agreed to place a set of four Carmel caves on its Heritage List. The document read, “The four caves are located in one of the best preserved fossilized reefs of the Mediterranean region, and contain artifacts covering 500,000 years of human evolution, from the Lower Paleolithic era till today”.

They are the Nahal Me’orot caves of Tabun, Jamal, El-Wad and Skhul. The Tabun and other caves were first investigated by Dorothy Garrod in 1929-34 and she found there a complete skeleton of a Neanderthal woman, which was dated from 60,000 to 50,000 BP (before Present). The Jamal cave is a single chamber cave, while El-Wad has an entrance chamber that leads to five others that contain stone house remains and a cemetery with skeleton fragments of a hundred individuals. The listing includes the terraces to the caves that display evidence of artistic activity and agriculture. The caves reflect man’s prehistoric culture and his transformation from hunter-gatherer to agriculturalist that occurred over hundreds of years. The credit for bringing the caves to the attention of UNESCO must go to Prof. Mina Weinstein-Evron of Haifa University, who has been passionate in preserving the evidence of the caves over many years.

Bethlehem Church on UNESCO List

At the same meeting, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was also placed on the World Heritage List in the name of the Palestine Authority. The PA claimed that the Church was in danger, but in fact the Church is in fairly good condition, although repairs are needed to the roof. The Greek Orthodox and Armenian Church Patriarchs had opposed the original listing application but the PA has provided written guarantees that it will not intervene in the internal affairs of the site, in particular the “status quo” agreement which defines the full autonomy of the three churches (including the Roman Catholics) in the management of the site.

Early Synagogue to North-West of Sea of Galilee

At Huqoq, a village mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud, archaeologists Jodi Magness, with David Amit and Shua Kasilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), have found remains of a large synagogue of the late Roman period of the 4th century CE, a time which saw a great increase in synagogue building in the Galilee and the Golan.  The synagogue has a mosaic floor that includes an inscription alongside two faces, one of them destroyed, but the other is female, very graphic and most unusual for a synagogue. There is also a depiction of the story of Samson sending flaming torches tied to the tails of foxes into the fields of Philistine standing corn (Judges 15:4ff), which is again used as a mosaic subject in another recently discovered  synagogue at nearby Wadi Hamam. The richness of the mosaics and the fact that remains of the structure show impressive use of large ashlar stonework is surprising in a small village setting and indicates the affluence of the area, which was watered by a spring, near a trade route, a centre of fertile land and famous for its mustard plants. “I guess mustard was lucrative” said Jodi Magness.

Crusader Coin Trove Found at Apollonia

At Tel Arshaf, on the coast north of Herzliya, in the course of a three-year dig headed by Prof. Oren Tal of Tel Aviv University, a large cache of golden coins of the Crusader period has been uncovered. The coins had been placed in a sand-filled pottery vessel, now broken, under the floor tiles of the castle, and it looked like a deliberate act of concealment, probably made by the defenders during a prolonged siege by Muslim troops. The excavation has also uncovered arrowheads and catapult stones, evidence of the Arab siege. The Crusaders, who called their castle Apollonia, held the stronghold in the 13th century, when it was eventually conquered and razed to the ground by the Mamluks, who failed to check under the floor tiles. The hoard is of 108 gold coins minted around 1,000 CE in Egypt, and is today valued at over $100,000. After cleaning, the hoard will be put on exhibition.

Hellenistic Harbour at Akko (Acre)

During conservation work to the southern sea wall of the modern harbour at Akko, evidence appeared of large well laid and dressed stones as used in many other installations along the Phoenician coast, and may have indicated the base of a large building or the foundation of a port installation. The finding of a series of mooring stones along the quay makes it clear that it was the latter, and thus was evidence for a large port in the Hellenistic period of 300-200 BCE. The stone floor was littered with fragments of pottery vessels from across the Aegean, from ports such as Knidos (W.Turkey) and Rhodes, by which it could be dated. The flooring had a slight slope to the south and was flanked on two sides by walls built in the Phoenician style, which suggests that the floor was the base of a slipway used to haul ships onto the shore, according to Kobi Sharvit, director of the IAA Marine Archaeology Unit. The section of the harbour uncovered so far indicates that it was a military installation, probably the chief naval base of Coele-Syria (Palestine/Israel) that was deliberately attacked and destroyed by enemies of the Seleucid powers, who could have been Egyptian forces under the Ptolemies, or even the Hasmoneans many years later.

Tel Hatzor, Jars of Burnt Wheat

Excavations at Hatzor have been in progress for many years under Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor of Hebrew University and  Dr. Tsvika Tzuk, of the Nature and Parks Authority, who administer the archaeological site. Recently fourteen large pithoi storage jars have been uncovered and found to contain stores of burnt wheat that are dated to the Middle Bronze Age of 2,200 BCE. They were found in the storage room of the monumental building, perhaps a palace, of the Canaanite period. When excavation is complete this season, the jars and contents will be transferred to the IAA laboratories for further investigation and conservation, before being exhibited and then replaced on site.

Commemoration of Petrie’s Death

On the 70th anniversary of the death of Flinders Petrie a special ceremony was held at his graveside in Jerusalem. This report is by Sam Wolff of the IAA, with an addition in brackets by Shimon Gibson.

“On 30 July 2012 an evening gathering was organized by the IAA to commemorate the 70th year of the passing of Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, pioneer British archaeologist and Egyptologist. The well-attended event was held in the courtyard of the former Bishop Gorbat School, current Jerusalem University College, on Mt. Zion, metres away from Petrie’s grave, which is located in the Protestant Cemetery alongside other prominent archaeologists and architects like James Starkey, Clarence Fisher, Conrad Schick. After a brief tour of the cemetery and introductory remarks, Gabriel Barkay delivered an appreciation of Petrie’s achievements. This was followed by a brief lecture by Shimon Gibson which, among other items of interest, included a graphic description of his visit to the Royal College of Surgeons in London in order to confirm the identity of a human head preserved in a jar, reputed to be the head of Petrie (who was an advocate of the Eugenics movement and believed that a measure of human intelligence could be based on the measurement of skulls). The evening ended with a screening of a BBC documentary of Petrie’s life and contribution to archaeology, both in Egypt and in Palestine.”

Ancient Pool and Bust at Sussita

At the hilltop Hellenistic site of Sussita, overlooking the east shore of the Sea of Galilee, Prof. Arthur Segal has been leading a team from the University of Haifa for thirteen seasons and recent finds include a bust of an unknown worthy dated to the third century BCE, which the archaeologists think had come from a grave monument. In the last season they have also uncovered the well paved floor remains of an early local swimming pool, but no date has yet been given, This is a surprising find as water supply to the high level town must have been severely restricted.

Restoration to City Walls of Jerusalem Completed

The 4 km. of the ancient city walls of Jerusalem have undergone an eight year programme of repair and restoration under the supervision of Avi Mashiah of the IAA. The National Parks Authority and the Jerusalem Development Authority were also involved in the work and funding came from the Prime Minister’s Office. It is the first time since the British Mandate that the walls as a whole have been surveyed and repaired. The work included restoration of the seven gates of the City and at the Zion Gate nearly 300 bullet holes, dating from 1967, were filled but the evidence left showing for historical accuracy. The work at the Herod and Damascus Gates was carefully co-ordinated with the local Arab traders who have open stalls at these gates, and much of the work was carried out at night so as not to disrupt trade. At the Damascus Gate the original ornamental high-level carvings were restored, at first to the angry protests of the locals, but it was explained that the original stonework was likely to collapse and now local residents and traders are happy to see the new work, and realize that the bright colours of the restoration will soon fade and blend in with the old. The whole of the walls have now been restored except for the portion at the south east corner, which is under the control of the Waqf, the Islamic administrators of the Temple Mount, who are proceeding with their repairs more slowly.

Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg,

W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem

Report from Jerusalem #42, 31st May 2012

First Temple Shrines at Khirbet Qeiyafa

The site, about 30km south-west of Jerusalem, continues to provide surprises. The excavator, Prof. Yossi Garfinkel, recently announced that he had found in three rooms of the site model clay shrines with decorative openings. He dates the shrines to several years before the establishment of the First Temple and suggests that the features of their openings can explain one of the biblical terms used in connection with the Temple. The openings or doorways are formed by triple-rebated frames of a distinctive nature and Prof. Garfinkel suggests that this is the explanation of the obscure term “shequfim” that is related to the Temple windows (I Kings 6:4). Carbon dating by Oxford University on ten burned olive pits has dated the city to between 1020 and 980 BCE, when it was destroyed. However it was later rebuilt in the Hellenistic period, but the model shrines relate to the earlier city, in which there were found no graven images, and no pig bones among the many animal remains of sheep/goat and cattle. This leads Prof. Garfinkel to claim that this was an Israelite city of the time of David located in the valley of Elah, the border area with Philistia. However, the model shrines look as if they may have contained small figurines and so they can be interpreted as having been pagan shrines, but no figures were found and this idea is rejected by the excavator.

Ancient Rabbinic Tomb at Tzipori (Sepphoris)

Three years ago a farmer in the agricultural village of Moshav Tzipori came across a burial cave on his land with a carved stone door inscribed with the name of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, a Talmudic sage of the third century CE. The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) became interested and conducted an excavation and removed the inscribed door. Mitch Pilcer, the farmer, objected but later the IAA filed charges against him for illegal excavation and damage to an ancient site and antiquities. The initial case came to court only recently, and has raised a lot of interest among the ultra-orthodox, who claim that the ancient rabbi may himself appear as a witness, in accordance with the legend that Rabbi Yehoshua’s soul ascended to heaven directly from his tomb, a gateway between heaven and earth. Pilcer is keen to have the door restored to its site but the IAA is adamant that they must retain it for safekeeping.

Early Gold Jewellery from Megiddo

According to the excavators, the most valuable cache of gold jewellery of the Biblical period has now been discovered at Megiddo. The cache is dated to pre Iron Age I and belonged to the Canaanite inhabitants. It was found in a clay vessel unearthed in 2010 but has only recently been fully cleaned and evaluated. It includes nine large gold earrings, a gold ring seal and over a thousand small beads of gold, silver and carnelian, a semi-precious stone. One of the earrings is in the shape of a basket holding an ostrich-like bird and shows Egyptian influence, according to Professors David Ussiskin, Israel Finkelstein and Eric Cline, leaders of the expedition. The jewels are being studied further at Tel Aviv University and the Israel Museum before being exhibited to the public in due course.

Clay Seal Confirms Status of Bethlehem

During careful sifting of dirt from the passage to the Temple Mount from Siloam Pool, a tiny clay bulla or seal was uncovered with three lines of inscription. The wording reads….” In the seventh…..Bat lehem….to the kin(g)”. According to the excavator, Eli Shukron, this will have been the seal of a tax receipt referring to a quantity of produce delivered to the king, who may have been Hezekiah or one of his predecessors or successors, the script dating it to the 8th century BCE, and it shows that Bethlehem was part of the Judaean kingdom. The information was conveniently released to the press just before the festival of Shavuoth (Pentecost) when the book of Ruth, telling of the Moabite girl who came to the city of Bethlehem, is read in the synagogue.     

Mosaic Floor of Synagogue Vandalised

Extensive damage to the mosaic floor and walls of the synagogue of Hamat-Tiveryah (southern Tiberias) was discovered earlier this week. The damage included graffiti against the Director of the IAA, blaming him for desecrating ancient Jewish graves in the area. This has suggested that the perpetrators were ultra-orthodox elements. The Synagogue, of the 4th century CE and earlier, has fine mosaics with a central zodiac, representations of the Temple Ark and candelabra, and several donor inscriptions. The damage will be repaired but the work, according to the IAA and the National Parks Authority who administer the site, will cost millions of shekalim. Some areas of mosaic will have to be replaced by facsimiles based on photographs. The police will do everything possible to bring the vandals to justice.

Forgery Trial Lingers On

Although the seven-year-old forgery trial relating to the Yehoash tablet and the James, brother of Jesus ossuary ended recently, with the two defendants being found not guilty of forgery, the case is now continuing regarding the ownership of the two artefacts. The IAA is adamant that they should not be returned to the defendants, while the defendants claim possession, after having been found innocent of the original charges. One of the defendants, Oded Golan, was found guilty of the minor charge of dealing in antiquities without a licence, to which he has pleaded guilty, and has now been given a commuted prison sentence and fined 30,000 NIS (£5,000). The trial Judge Aharon Farkash has implied that he cannot easily resolve the conflicting ownership claims and may be forced to the “Solomonic” decision to have the two pieces destroyed. This has caused alarm amongst the experts, who were not able to agree on whether the pieces were fakes or not, but who nevertheless do not want to see them destroyed. The ossuary was found to be an original, though the inscription on it was queried, and the dark stone tablet is of great curiosity value, even if not genuine.  So the trial judge is back in the hot seat again.                              

Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg

W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem

Report from Jerusalem #41, 24th April 2012

Two Bullae Found in Jerusalem

Two bullae, which were found several years ago by Dr. Eilat Mazar in the City of David, one by the Large Stone Structure (which Mazar thinks may have been the palace of David) and one by the northern or Nehemiah’s tower, are currently in the news because they are on display in America. One is in the name of Yehukhal ben Shelemyahu and the other Gedelyahu ben Pashhur, both known as ministers of King Zedekiah (597-587 BCE). They are two out of the four ministers who asked the king for Jeremiah to be put to death for spreading defeatist sentiments, and when the king said, “Behold, he is in your hands”, they threw him into a pit of mire (Jer. 38:1-6) from which he was later rescued.

Egyptian Scarab Found in City of David

A tiny scarab in the name of the Egyptian god Amun-Ra, written in hieroglyphics and with the imprint of a duck, was found at the Gihon section of the National Park by Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Dr. Joe Uziel. It is only 1.5 cm long and was probably used to stamp documents in the 13th century BCE when Egypt ruled Canaan and, according to the excavators, it is a unique find in the area.

Stolen Sarcophagus Covers Found in Jerusalem

Inspectors of the IAA have recently seized two Egyptian sarcophagus covers from a dealer’s store in the Old City. The covers are of wood with the virtual features of the deceased painted and modelled in plasterwork. They were pronounced genuine by the IAA and dated, one to the Late Bronze Age and one to the Iron Age. The covers had been neatly cut into two for easier transportation and the authorities think that they came to Israel via Dubai and Europe. The IAA say that legislation is now in place, since April 20th, to prevent the importation of any antiquities that have not been certified as legally exported from their country of origin. The Egyptian Government is requesting the return of the two covers and negotiations are in progress with the Foreign Ministry.

Syphonic Water Channel at Bet Yerah

During the construction of a new water carrier from the south to the city of Tiberias, the remains of an ancient water channel to Tel Beth Yerah, were unearthed and the work was delayed to enable a rescue dig to be carried out. The dig uncovered a pipeline from the ancient ‘Berenice aqueduct’ to the site of Hellenistic Bet Yerah, on the shores of the Kinneret, south of Tiberias. The pipeline had to cross the original riverbed of the Jordan, by sinking down to its level and rising on the other side up to the Tel.

This was done by means of a syphon built out of substantial interlocking basalt blocks, and the excavators found that this line had been built over an earlier pipeline of short interconnecting clay pipes, that had obviously failed under the considerable water pressure involved. The excavators, led by Yardenna Alexandre of the IAA, found that the large basalt blocks, or at least some of them, had probably been taken from the Early Roman-period syphon of Hippos-Sussita, on the east shore of the Kinneret, when it fell out of use. The basalt blocks, one of which had been carved out of a worn Corinthian capital, had a central channel with a bore of 30cm diameter while the earlier clay pipes were of only 8 to 10cm internal bore. The substantial water supply from the syphon was connected to a luxurious bathhouse adjacent to an early Islamic Ummayad palace, whose remains had been originally misinterpreted as an early synagogue and mikvah. This fact, together with the find of two bronze coins, would date the elaborate syphonic channel to the 7th century CE.

Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg,

W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem

Report from Jerusalem, #28, 5th January 2011

Non-Destructive Investigation By X-Ray

Prof. Yuval Goren of Tel Aviv University has discovered a method of investigating clay and other materials by non-destructive methods, using X-ray fluorescence spectrometry . Having built up a data-base of results from former intrusive methods, he can now organize the analysis by merely scanning the object and comparing the results with the previous data. The scans will then show the type of clay or other material and its geographical origin. He is thus able to examine new finds and also older museum specimens without the need to break off a piece or cut off a sample. The method has been used on the Late Bronze Age fragment of a cuneiform letter from the City of David excavations that is dated to the El-Amarna period. Prof. Goren’s analysis shows that the tablet material is the Terra Rossa soil from around Jerusalem and it is therefore most probable that the item was written by a scribe in the Jerusalem area and may indeed have been part of a letter dictated by the Jebusite king Abdi-Heba to Egypt, to the court of Amenhotep III or IV at El-Amarna, and the fragment may have been part of the copy retained by the sender.

Aelia Capitolina, A Roman Bathing Pool in Jerusalem

During excavations for a new mikvah (ritual bath) in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, a rescue dig by the IAA, directed by Dr. Ofer Sion, uncovered a large bathing pool that had been used by the Tenth Legion (Fretensis) of the Roman army in about 200 CE.  Evidence of the Roman build was the large number of floor and roof tiles with the stamp of the legion, and the many stamped roof tiles show that the facility was completely roofed. The location in the Jewish Quarter, some distance from the presumed army HQ in the Armenian Quarter, shows that the occupying soldiers were spread out throughout the city. The Tenth Legion was involved in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and later in the rebuilding of the city by Hadrian, after the abortive Bar-Kochba revolt of 135 CE. when it was renamed Aelia Capitolina.

The excavators were amused to find one of the roof tiles impressed with the paw marks of a dog.  Presumably the cur had walked over the wet tiles that had been spread out and left to dry.

Monastery of St. George in Wadi Qelt, West of Jericho

On 30th November a ceremony was held at the Monastery to celebrate the completion of a new road to St. George’s, that had been built by the Ministry of Tourism and other bodies to improve access, at the request of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III.  The present road had suffered damage from flash floods and a minor earthquake over the last few years, and the new one will make it easier for pilgrims and tourists alike, to visit this remarkable 5th-7th century complex of buildings that appear to hang from the side of the steep desert mountain over the lush green wadi below.

It is thought that the original buildings were constructed above a fourth-century synagogue. They were destroyed during the Persian invasion of Jerusalem in 614 CE. and later restored by the Crusaders. The interior boasts some very fine icons and frescoes. Today, St. George’s is one of only six monasteries still active in the Judean desert area.

Funding for Restoration of Historic Sites

In the context of the National Heritage Plan announced last February, the first tranche of 91 million shekels (16 million sterling) has now been allocated for work to 16 major sites, ancient and modern. One of the archaeological sites is Herodion, where work was recently halted due to the tragic death of Ehud Netzer. It can now continue with restoration of the unique frescoes at the small theatre, that will be preserved and made ready for presentation to the public by experts from the Hebrew University.

Another site will be the large Byzantine-period synagogue at Umm el-Kanatir, in the Golan heights, which is being restored piece by piece using computerized technology organized by Yeshu Drei and archaeologist Haim Ben-David.

Sudden Fierce Storm , Destruction and Discovery

Winter in Israel started with a destructive storm on 12th and 13th December, that wreaked havoc along the Mediterranean coast in particular. Many sites were affected but worst of all was Caesarea. Some of the foundations of the northern aqueduct were exposed and parts of the Crusader city wall suffered fractures due to subsidence. The Crusader-period breakwater, that protected the southern arm of the Herodian harbour was broken into three pieces and the port wall left unprotected from southern wave damage. Repair work will have to begin very shortly to avoid major damage to the ancient port.

At Ashdod-Yam, the ancient fortress close to the shore suffered damage.

In ancient Ashkelon, at the national park, there was damage to a mosaic floor and a row of several columns was overturned. On the beach ten metres below, the storm that hit the cliffs exposed and toppled a classic white marble Roman statue about 1.2m high. It was headless and without arms but depicted a fine female figure in a carefully folded toga and sandals and has been presumed to be of Aphrodite. It is from a bath house, exposed at the head of the cliffs, and may have been part of the dedication of the baths, that are dated to c. 300 CE.

Early Homo Sapiens from Cave in Israel, 400,000 Years Ago?

In 2000 Prof. Avi Gopher and Dr. Ran Barkai of Tel Aviv University discovered the Qesem Cave where they claim to have found the earliest evidence of modern man. The cave is near Rosh Ha’ayin, about 20 km. east of Tel Aviv, and the archaeologists have located a series of human teeth that they claim are closer to the dental apparatus associated with anatomically modern Homo Sapiens, rather than their earlier brothers, the Neanderthals. They have found in the cave evidence of flint knapping, the mining of sub-surface materials for flint production, hunting and the cutting and sharing of animal meat, evidence of regular burning and so on, all activities associated with anatomically modern Homo Sapiens.

The claim is that these findings antedate the earliest evidence of anatomically modern Homo Sapiens from Africa and thus the scholars claim that the species existed at the Qesem cave many years earlier than presently realized. The dating of the teeth to between 400,000 and 300,000 years ago is however not yet at all clear and further results from the ongoing excavations are awaited before reaching any firm conclusions.

Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg,

W.F.Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem

Report from Jerusalem, #25, September 2010

Ancient treasures in Gaza

There was a report last August about the difficulties of presenting archaeological remains in and around Gaza city. Much work has been done in the area in the past and much remains to be done, but at present organized digs are difficult to arrange and stray finds or rescue digs are open to unpreventable looting. In addition, contractors are loathe to report any finds to the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, as they will send a team of investigators and the building work will be held up for long periods. As a result discoveries are not notified and small finds are just covered over or looted by the contractors.

The Director of the Ministry, Mohammed Kheila, points out that funds for rescue work have been allocated, but his staff is small and unable to deal with all the many sites, both on private and public projects. Hayam al-Bitar, head of the Hamas Government Museums Department, says that they try and educate the public in the importance of the ancient findings and arrange suitable exhibitions, but they are hampered by lack of appropriate materials for cleaning and preservation due to the Israeli embargo on non-essential goods.

Philistine Temple at Tel es-Safi, near Kiryat Gat

Tel es-Safi (Tel Tsafit), identified as Biblical Gath, is being excavated by a team from Bar-Ilan University under the direction of Prof. Aren Maier. A Philistine temple building has been excavated, dating to the 10th century BCE, including two large column bases that would have supported pillars to the roof, and may have defined the inner sanctum of the temple. Several walls on the site appear to have collapsed outwards due to a severe earthquake. Prof. Maier speculates that it may have been the earthquake of c.750 BCE mentioned in the books of Isaiah (2:19, 21) and Amos (1:1, 4:11: 6:11, 9:1), and speculates that, judging by the damaged walls, it may have been of an intensity of 8 on today’s Richter scale. The excavators also found evidence of the siege equipment used by Hazael of Damascus in his destruction of Gath in around 830 BCE.

Reopening of Israel Musem in Jerusalem

There was a special ceremony in early August for archaeologists to celebrate the opening of the archaeological wing of the Museum, recently renovated on a large scale. All the existing exhibits have been newly presented in a most attractive new setting. Of special interest is a new room that presents details of some of the famous pioneers of archaeological work in Israel/Palestine. Individual sections are devoted to the work of Sir William Flinders Petrie, to Felicien de Saulcy (who worked in Jerusalem, Herodion and Airaq al-Amir) and Conrad Schick, several of whose Temple models are shown. There is also a section on the work of the Palestine Exploration Fun; the original theodolite, used for the Survey of Western Palestine by Charles Warren and others, is exhibited.

Heavy Gold Coin from Tel Kedesh

The heaviest gold coin ever found in Israel was uncovered recently at the dig in Kedesh led by Sharon Herbert and Andrea Berlin of the University of Michigan and University of Minnesota. Dating to the time of the Ptolemaic dynasty, ruling from Alexandria, the obverse shows the head of Queen Arsinoe Philadelphus, wife (and half-sister) of Ptolemy II, and the reverse has two overlapping cornucopia, symbols of plenty. The unusual size and weight (27.71 g), suggest that the coin, minted in Alexandria, was used for ceremonial purposes to honour the queen, rather than as currency. It was minted by one of her successors, Ptolemy V, in 191 BCE.

According to Dr. Donald Ariel, head of the IAA Coin Department, the coin – a mnaieion – had a nominal value of one mina, equivalent to 100 silver drachmas, and is then a and would have been equivalent in value to half-a-year’s average senior salary, about $80,000 today. Tell Kedesh, south of Kiryat Shemona, has been shown to be the administrative seat of the satrap (governor) during the Persian period and continued as such under the Ptolemies who reigned over Israel/Palestine after the death of Alexander the Great, until they were ousted by the Seleucids in 198 BCE. The coin was found by the central administrative building that housed public rooms and an archive.

Cameo of Eros from Givati Car Park site, Jerusalem

The large building site opposite the City of David Visitors’ Centre has recently offered up another piece of jewelry (previously there were gold and pearl earrings) of the Roman period. This time it is a small figure of Eros in relief cut into semi-precious pale blue onyx placed on a dark brown onyx background. The piece is only 1 cm. long and 0.7 cm. wide. It may have been enclosed in an oblong metal setting and used as a ring or even an earring. The figure of Eros is resting with his left hand on a reversed torch, an image that symbolizes the loss of life, according to Dr Doron Ben Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets, who are leading the excavation of the site by the IAA.

A Moabite Temple

Last week an announcement from Amman reported on the finding of numerous sacred vessels within an Iron Age shrine (c.1200-539 BCE) at Khirbet ‘Ataroz (Biblical Ataroth) near to Madaba, south-west of Amman. According to Ziad al-Saad, Jordan Antiquities Chief, the structure measured 9 m. by 4 m., had a raised platform and two antechambers, and stood in an open courtyard of 12 m. by 12 m. The excavation turned up over 300 sacred vessels and figurines, including a bull figurine depicting the god Hadad, circular clay vessels, lamps and altars. The dig is being conducted with La Sierra University of California and the pieces will be exhibited in Jordan’s new Archaeological Museum on the Acropolis in Amman. We await further news of this important find.

Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg
Albright Institute, Jerusalem