Archaeology in Israel Update--August 2012
By Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg
W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research
"Seal of Samson" Found Near Beit-Shemesh
A small seal has been found on the floor of a house dated to the 12th century BCE at the site of Tel Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem. It shows a human figure in combat with a four-legged animal. In size it is only 12mm across and the figures are very diagrammatic, but as the period and location fit with the Biblical story of Samson and his unarmed fight with a lion (Judges 14:6) it has been dubbed the Samson seal. However, Prof.Shlomo Bunimovitz of Tel Aviv University, who is in charge of the dig at Beit Shemesh, is careful to say this for convenience only and does not imply that such a combat took place, nor does it support in any way the existence of the heroic figure of Samson.
Exhibition of Vessels from Tel Qashish
The contents of a favissa, or store of disused cultic objects, uncovered at Tel Qashish in 2010 is now on display at the Haifa National Maritime Museum. Tel Qashish lies about 2 km north of Yokneam and 20 km southeast of Haifa. The artifacts are dated to the 13th century BCE and, according to the exhibition's curator Avshalom Zemer, it is the first time that a discarded treasure of that early date has been found and displayed. The hoard was found in a pit of limestone rock and comprised 200 artifacts, many rare and previously unknown, that originated from Mycenae and Cyprus as well as locally. The local items include goblets (one with a human face) large and small cylindrical stands, incense burners and libation chalices, which indicate that they have come from a nearby temple that has not yet been discovered. The imported ware included bowls, juglets, cooking pots, cup-and-saucer sets from Cyprus, and stirrup jars and flasks from Greece. The imports imply strong trade connections with the Aegean, which suggested that the exhibition to be placed in the Maritime museum, but the artifacts are the property of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) who conducted the salvage dig that uncovered the hoard before the Haifa Bay gas pipeline was laid.
Highway Extension Uncovers Early Figurines
During extension of Highway Route One at Motza, west of Jerusalem, archaeologists discovered two small figurines, one of a ram and one of a wild bovine. The carvings in limestone are remarkably precise, according to Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily, co-director of the dig for the IAA . The pieces are dated to the Pre-pottery Neolithic B (approx. 8th millenium BCE) and according to the excavators are contemporary to the period when nomadic hunters were changing to a sedentary agricultural life. The other director of the dig, Anna Elrikh, believes that the figurines are related to the domestication of these animals that took place at the time. Other finds at the site include stone-age tools, and funereal and cultic objects, which have not yet been shown to the public.
Reservoir Under Outer Wall of Jerusalem Temple
During work on the underground tunnel to the Temple Mount from the Gihon area, the excavator Eli Shukron, working for the IAA, uncovered access to a vast underground reservoir or cistern measuring 12m by 5m and 4.5m high. It is dated to the First Temple period (pre 586 BCE) because it has the same type of wall plaster used in nearby cisterns in the Gihon area, which have been dated by pottery. The special plaster used to waterproof the stone walls has been found in several earlier locations and is claimed to be an Israelite invention that made the storage of winter water a practical proposition, The reservoir would have been filled by rainwater seeping down from the Temple Mount and because of it's size Shukron believes it was a public facility used by the Temple priests as well as by pilgrims. This is the first time that evidence of stored water has been found so near to the site of the Temple. It is not yet clear how the water was brought to the surface, though it was probably by means of skins lowered through openings in the roof of the reservoir.
Recording Of Heritage Sites in Israel
During the months of September and October 2012 Wikimedia has organized a photography competition that will record cultural sites throughout 32 countries, including Israel. The work is organized by "Wiki loves Monuments" and Wikimedia Israel and will enable the public to download all the photographs free of charge when completed. The images of Israel will include over 600 buildings and ancient monuments, many religious sites as well as listed buildings in the older Jewish and Arab neighborhoods'. The organizers will select the ten best photographs taken in Israel, which will be submitted to the world-wide committee, and the best images will win local cash prizes. But all accepted images will become available to the public at no charge, according to Wikimedia.
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