Archaeology in Israel Update--June 2012
By Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg
W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research
Boundary Stone At Gezer
Another boundary stone has recently been found at Tel Gezer, thirty km. west of Jerusalem. So far twelve such markers have been found with the words Tehum Gezer inscribed in Hebrew, but this latest one has a line across the middle with Tehum Gezer on one side of the line and the name Archelaus, in Greek, on the other side. Presumably this was the name of the adjoining owner. The stone is dated to the Seleucid-Maccabean period of the late second century BCE and was uncovered during the renewed excavation of the site being carried out by the South-West Baptist Theological Seminary of the U.S. under the direction of Professor Steve Ortiz and Sam Wolff on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). Their work will include clearing the underground tunnel to the water source that was located by the original excavation under R.A.S. Macalister in 1902-1909. It is planned to open it to visitors when access to the source has been made secure.
Gold and Silver Hoard at Kiryat-Gath
A cache of 140 coins and jewellery,wrapped in a disintegrating cloth, has been found in a pit within a villa courtyard in Kiryat-Gath, fifty km. south-west of Jerusalem, during an emergency rescue dig before proposed building extensions. The work exposed a small village of the Second Temple period and later Byzantine ruins. Emil Aladjem, director of the dig for the IAA, thinks the treasure may have been hidden by a wealthy woman fleeing from the Romans during the Bar Kochba Revolt of 132-135 CE. Besides the coins there was an earring in the form of a bunch of grapes, a ring with a precious stone inscribed with the seal of a goddess, and two silver sticks for applying cosmetics. The rare gold coins are connected to the reigns of the emperors Nero, Nerva and Trajan and datable to between 54 and 117 CE. The hoard has been sent to the laboratories of the IAA for cleaning and preservation before being shown to the public.
Exhibition of Gold Artifacts at the Bible Land Museum
In commemoration of its twentieth anniversary, the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem is showing a comprehensive display of ancient gold items from its own collection and those of one or two other collectors. The pieces are carefully presented in more than fifty glass showcases and are arranged in groups stemming from Egypt, the Levant, Greece and Rome, Mesopotamia and Iran, Etruria, the Black Sea region and also China and the Far East. Most of the items are fibulae, rings and earrings but there are also one or two small inscriptions on gold plate and a fine gold lion-headed rhyton. At its opening in 1992, the Bible Lands Museum was ostracized by scholars and archaeologists as nearly all the exhibits come from the market, having been bought by the founder Dr. Elie Borowski, and are of doubtful provenance. However the collection is so important and comprehensive that the Museum has become recognized as a valuable resource, and the collection is now acknowledged by scholars and researchers. It hosts tours and workshops for school children, who can appreciate its excellent models of ancient Jerusalem, the Egyptian pyramids at Giza, the city of Babylon and individual buildings like the Persian Apadana audience hall at Susa and the ziggurat of Ur. There is also a good section on the development of the alphabet. The exhibition entitled "Pure Gold" remains open until April 2013.
Headquarters of the IAA in Museum Row, Jerusalem
On a site next to the Bible Lands Museum and opposite the Israel Museum, work has now started on the superstructure of an ambitious new headquarters for the IAA, whose departments are at present scattered among many different locations. The new building will house the IAA library, one of the best archaeological ones in the world, all of the IAA offices, workshops, stores and laboratories, spaces for the Dead Sea manuscripts and fragments, a major exhibition gallery and of course a coffee shop. Work on the deep foundations is already complete and the superstructure will house all the facilities under one enormous suspended roof, designed by architect Moshe Safdie. Funding has come from many different donors, the chief among them being the Schottenstein Foundation. When completed in several years' time, many of the departments will move from their present location in the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem, and it is hoped that this splendid building, of the British Mandate period, will then be carefully renovated (including its beautiful central courtyard with plaques by Eric Gill) and that its exhibits will be upgraded to a more user-friendly format.
Ancient Arabic Manuscripts to be Made Available Online
The Euromed Heritage-4 Organization is planning to put on line thousands of Arabic documents, manuscripts and books from five major Arabic libraries, the Khalidi, the Budeiri, the Al-Aksa, the Al-Ansari and the Waqf Restoration Centre libraries, all of Jerusalem. Recently ceremonies were held in Jerusalem and Ramallah to inaugurate the Arabic Manuscripts Digital Library of Jerusalem with the aim of promoting the written heritage of East Jerusalem and to make it accessible to all, via an Internet connection. The project is scheduled to take three years and has a budget of $2 million funded by Euromed Heritage. Some of the books and documents have already been digitalized and will be available shortly. The service will be presented in a multi-lingual format and will be free of charge to viewers.