Syrian Civil War Damage
Due to the ongoing disturbances, it is reported that the famous 12th century Crusader castle, the Crac des Chevaliers, has suffered severe damage. The castle is located on a hill outside the city of Homs, where the rebels have been using it as a stronghold and base for their snipers. In their attempt to regain control of Homs, the castle was bombed by Government forces and suffered a direct hit which destroyed some of the internal fortifications. In the past the Crac des Chevaliers has been a great tourist attraction.
Khirbet Qeiyafa, and King David’s Palace?
On 17th July Prof. Yossi Garfinkel of Hebrew University organized a tour of the site at Khirbet Qeiyafa in the Elah Valley, south of Beth Shemesh, where he has been digging for the last five seasons. He announced that his work here was now complete and that he would be moving his team to Lachish for the next season to re-examine its early strata. During a festive site dinner for the occasion, he also announced that he had found the remains of a luxurious mansion and large storage facility that he designated as King David’s palace on the site of Khirbet Qeiyafa, which he has identified as biblical Sha’arayim, because of its two gates. Garfinkel claims that the presence of a well-planned city with a royal palace of the time of the 10th and 11th century BCE., as dated by C-14 analysis, is evidence of state organization under a central authority and administration during the early years of the Judean monarchy. In his opinion the archaeological evidence thus underpins the Biblical account, but this is not a view accepted by other scholars. The site excavations will be preserved and the area will shortly be laid out as a national park, making it easily accessible to visitors.
Tell Es-Safi, The Philistine Gath
After seventeen years of excavation, the archaeologists of Bar-Ilan University, under the direction of Prof. Aren Maeir, demonstrated to the press the various stages of the development of Tell es-Safi, one of the cities of the Philistine pentapolis, which lies in the plain inland from Ashkelon. Evidence is now clear of its various destructions and redevelopments from the 17th to the 9th centuries BCE. Heavy destruction occurred under Hazael of Damascus in about 830 BCE, and then the rebuilt houses show evidence of sliding off their foundations, which the archaeologists attribute to the earthquake of 760 BCE, mentioned in the Book of Amos (1:1). The mudbrick houses somehow survived and evidence of extensive burning relates to the later destruction by the Assyrian Emperor Sennacherib on his way to assault Jerusalem in 701 BCE.
The Bar-Ilan archaeologists will shortly be able to use the latest on-site equipment, as they expect to receive an X-ray Fluorescent Spectrometer (XRS) for use together with their Fourier Transform IR Spectrometer (FTIR), equipment that is usually confined to the laboratory and which will now be available for use on site. This will allow microscopic samples to be analysed on site, said Maier, which will save having to send them away for analysis, and so save valuable time and give the site the information it requires on the spot. It will allow for evidence to be gathered in the field, which previously had to wait for long periods to be processed in off-site laboratories. The equipment has been donated by the university president, Prof. Moshe Kaveh, who had recently visited the site with his grandchildren and was impressed by their keen interest.
Ancient Oil Press in Jerusalem
In an emergency salvage dig before foundations were constructed for the dormitory of the Jerusalem College of Technology, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has uncovered an ancient olive press, consisting of a large collection vat, a stone bowl and a stone wheel, all within a karst (limestone) cave.
No date has been given but the IAA said that the existence of the ancient press, and another similar one found in the area a few years ago, is evidence of a thriving early olive-oil industry in the Bet Hakerem area of west Jerusalem. The discovery will enable the College and the IAA to retain the finds in situ to demonstrate the workings of an ancient oil press, which forms part of the history of technology.
Matching Geniza Fragments Online
Computer scientists have devised an online system to record disparate fragments from the Cairo Geniza, that are held by different museums and individuals, and enable them to be matched and put together without having to travel to the various locations where they are held. The system has been devised by Prof. Ya’acov Choueka of the Friedberg Geniza Project of Tel Aviv University, who has, with a team of programmers, digitized 360,000 fragments that are looking for a match. The images come from 60 collections all over the world and the system was recently unveiled at the 16th World Congress of Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University last month. The project is still looking for another 300,000 fragments from museum libraries in Western Europe, Russia and some private collections. Individuals will be able to access the system at www.geniza.org
Village of Shikhin in Galilee
A joint expedition of the Kinneret College, Samford University and Kentucky Christian University, co-directed by Dr. Motty Aviam of Kinneret, has recently uncovered the village of Shikhin in the Galilee near to Tzippori (Sepphoris), the latter was the capital of the Galilee at one time. The village is mentioned by Josephus Flavius and in the Talmud as a village of many potters in the first century CE. The site has evidence of the remains of an early synagogue and considerable pottery works, including moulds for oil lamps, which are rare in a village. The excavation is important, according to Aviam, as it fills in a gap in the history of the Galilee between the First Temple and the Hasmonean periods, when there has been little evidence of its inhabitants. The proximity of the village to the former capital is also important as it will demonstrate how the local population lived in the rural areas in relation to the centre, and the expedition is keen to uncover more of the material culture that will demonstrate how the rural population lived.
Crusader Period Hospital in Jerusalem
The Israel Antiquities Authority announced that they had discovered part of the original hospital that stood in the Christian Quarter of the Old City, called the Muristan, which is a Persian word meaning hospital. The area was named for the Knights of St. John Hospitallers who occupied it after they were evacuated from the El Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, and now the site of the hospital has been found. The original building covered an area of 1.5 hectares (nearly 4 acres) but only one section remains on a site owned by the Wakf (Islamic Religious Authority) and to be developed as a restaurant by the Grand Bazaar Company of East Jerusalem. The exposed section is characterized by large pillars and gothic vaults spanning six metres (20 ft) and would have been surrounded by smaller halls. The IAA team, led by Amit Re’em and Renee Forestany, said that they identified the large hall from work done by Conrad Schick before 1900, who had mapped out its ruins from documents of the period in Latin and French. Re’em claimed that the hospital had been divided into several departments and could have accommodated up to two thousand patients in an emergency.
The Crusader staff had worked with Arab colleagues, whose knowledge of medical matters was far in advance of that of their Christian colleagues at this time. Saladin, who defeated the Crusaders in 1291, had renovated the hospital and allowed several Crusader monks and nuns to remain there to serve the local people. The existing hall is not open to visitors, but will now be renovated as part of the new restaurant, whose clients will be able to appreciate and absorb its medieval atmosphere together with its gastronomic delights.
Samaritan Byzantine Occupation by Appolonia
In advance of the northern development of Herzliya, archaeologists from Tel Aviv University, led by Prof. Oren Tal, and the IAA, led by Moshe Ajami, are examining a number of refuse pits that were the town dumps of an extensive Samaritan settlement, just south of ancient coastal Apollonia-Arsuf, of the late Byzantine period. The main pit so far excavated has thrown up 400 Byzantine coins, 200 Samaritan lamps, and gold and silver jewelry that includes an octagonal ring, inscribed with the Hebrew name of God on the outside of each of the eight sides. Some of the lamps were still sealed and unused and the excavators are intrigued by the fact that much of the refuse had been dumped before use. They speculate that there may have been some cultic reason for the Samaritans to discard unused material. They said that the community was a large one and that the octagonal ring was evidence of a high level of religious observance during the period of the sixth century. Investigation of the material continues and it is the intention of the IAA to clear all the findings from the site so that development of the area can proceed. [Evidence that the occupation was substantially Samaritan has not yet been made clear, but should be forthcoming when the coins are examined further, ed.].
Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg,
W.F.Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem