Assyrian Period Finds at Ashdod-Yam
A small number of trial digs were conducted at Ashdod-Yam in the 1960s, which demonstrated the antiquity of the port but it is only this year that excavations were resumed, this time under the direction of Dr. Alexander Fantalkin of Tel Aviv Archaeology Department. The expedition has uncovered a fortification system of the port dating to the 8th century BCE, the period of the Assyrian occupation, as well as much later evidence of the Hellenistic period of the 2nd century BCE, after the time that Alexander the Great was making his way down this coast to Egypt. The excavators found remains of a building of that period with Hellenistic coins and weights. This has been just the first season of the excavations and more finds are expected.
Jerusalem, Pottery Fragments from Before 586 BCE
Fragments of pottery that can be dated to the reign of Zedekiah, the Judaean client king appointed by the Babylonians in 597 BCE, have been uncovered at the City of David excavation conducted by Dr. Joe Uziel and Nahshon Zanton for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). The fragments include small figureheads, lamps with single and multiple spouts, inscribed handles and above all a bowl fragment with an incomplete inscription in paleo-Hebrew lettering, which reads as “….ryah bn bnh….”. The excavators point out the similarity with the name Zechariah ben Benayah, the father of the prophet Jahaziel (2 Chron.20:14) who advised King Jehoshaphat (870-845 BCE) about going to war against Ammon and Moab. They also point out that the inscription was written on the bowl before firing, and thus was not just something written on it as a sherd, and so it might imply possible ownership of the bowl.
Nimrud Fortress, 13th Century Lion Relief
Qa’alat Nimrod is a 12th and 13th century fortress in the upper Galilee and one of the finest castles in Israel. Mark Twain, who found Jerusalem to be a dirty and unpleasant city, praised Nimrod Castle as one of the finest monuments of the Holy Land. It looks like a Crusader castle but is in fact an Ayyubid and Mamluk foundation built to protect the road from the coast to Damascus against the Crusaders, It was strengthened and reconstructed by the Mamluk sultan Baybars in about 1270 CE. Today it stands prominently in a National Park where recently a large lion relief was found and identified by Dr. Moshe Hartal of the IAA. The lion was the royal symbol of the sultan Baybars and the stone carving is over one metre long. It is a rare and monumental piece that probably came from the castle, and is the second one of a lion to be found in this area in the last fifteen years.
Gold Cache found near Temple Mount
The gold items were found just about 50m south of the Temple Mount in the Ophel excavations conducted by Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University over the last four years. The extraordinary find consisted of 36 gold coins, a pair of gold earrings, a silver ingot and a large 10cm. gold medallion, on a short chain, depicting a seven-branch menorah, a shofar and a scroll, which Mazar thought might have adorned a Torah scroll. The artefacts were found in two locations, one hidden below floor level and the other hastily scattered above the floor, as if left in a hurry. Both are dated by the excavator back to 614 CE, when there was a short invasion of Jerusalem by the Persians to 629 CE. Dr. Mazar thinks that the hoard was destined as a contribution to a synagogue to be built near the site and abandoned at the threat of the Persian invasion, and later never retrieved by the owners. The gold coins have been dated by Lior Sandberg, of the Tel Aviv Institute of Archaeology, to a series of Byzantine rulers dating from the 4th to the early 7th centuries CE. After preparation, it is intended to exhibit the artefacts worldwide before placing them for public display in the Israel Museum.
Award to Prof. David Ussishkin
The Percia Schimmel Prize for 2013 will be awarded to Prof. David Ussishkin at the Israel Museum on 4th February 2014. It is given for Distinguished Contribution to Archaeology in Eretz Israel and the Lands of the Bible. David Ussishkin is retired professor of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University and directed the excavations at Lachish for many years from the 1980s. He has recently published the five definitive volumes of that expedition and is at present co-director with Israel Finkelstein of the renewed Megiddo excavations. He has been a frequent and popular lecturer to the AIAS in London.
Correction to Report No. 53
In connection with the Crusader hospital, Report no.53 stated that “Saladin defeated the Crusaders in 1291”. This was wrong, the date should have been 1187. It was the Mamluks who defeated the second wave of Crusaders at Akko (Acre) in 1291. My apologies and thanks to John Bartlett for pointing out my mistake.
Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg,
W.F.Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem.