Archaeology in Israel Update-- December 2011
By Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg
W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research
Elephants Out - Homo Sapiens In
It is being claimed that the disappearance of elephants from the Levant led to the emergence of Homo Sapiens replacing the more primitive Homo Erectus some 400.000 years ago. The claim is based on work by researchers from Tel Aviv University. Archaeologists and anthropologists, at the Qesem Cave at Gesher Bnot Yaakov, a ford north of Lake Kinneret, have discovered the teeth of the Levantine Acheulo-Yabrudian, a species of Homo sapiens. The theory is that Homo erectus lived in association with the local elephants, using them as sources of meat and fat. When the large creatures died out, a new breed of humans evolved able to hunt faster and smaller animals to sustain their necessary level of consumable fats. This, according to scientists from Tel Aviv University, was the evolutionary drive behind the emergence in the Middle Pleistocene Era of the lighter, more agile, cognitively capable homini. The researchers were not able to say whether the new species evolved in Africa and migrated to the Levant, or whether the remains found at the Qesem Cave were those of a local species.
Carvings in the Floor of Silwan Dwelling
In Jerusalem in the remains of a house dated to the late Iron Age, three V-shaped carvings were found cut into the limestone bedrock floor. The arms of each V are about 40cm long and 5cm deep and the point of the V is accentuated by a slight widening into a miniature triangle. The excavator, Prof. Ronny Reich of Haifa University, thought the signs were unique but later discovered that similar carvings had been recorded in a nearby house during the abortive Parker Mission of a century ago. The markings being enigmatic, the excavators put the details on Facebook to ask for suggestions and were overwhelmed by the response, but out of thousands of replies no credible ideas were received. It appears that the floor cuts may have been used to secure the feet of a piece of weaving apparatus. However, as the room was previously filled with rubble to act as a support for a defensive wall possibility constructed in the time of King Jehoash (842-802 BCE), the cuts may have served as a base for a framework used to reinforce the rubble fill.
Mughrabi Bridge to Temple Mount, Agian
The Jerusalem city engineer continues to insist that the present temporary bridge is unsafe and a potential fire-risk, but sharp protests from the Waqf and other Islamic bodies, objecting to any change to the status quo, have made it virtually impossible to replace the bridge without causing anti-Israel violence throughout the Arab world. The temporary solution has been to treat the timber structure with a fire- retardant substance and to have a fire-truck on permanent standby near the present structure.
Byzantine Bath House in Judean Hills
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) revealed that an ancient bath-house dated c.400 CE has been uncovered at Moshav Tarum, about 25 km west of Jerusalem near Bet Shemesh. It was found during work on a new water supply line to Jerusalem. The main room is cruciform in plan and heated by a fine hypocaust floor with about thirty squat stone pillars, and fed by a heating channel from a nearby boiler house. The find was open for viewing for a few days and it is not clear if plans will be made for permanent access.
Archaeological Finds Vandalized in the Afula Area
Several archaeological sites in the vicinity of Afula, in the Lower Galilee, have been vandalized and precious remains destroyed. At Khirbet Amudim the contents of a locked steel container were destroyed, including First-Temple pottery and later artifacts. This has set back the work of several rescue digs in the area that were being conducted by the IAA in advance of new road building. The culprits appear to be ultra- orthodox elements who object to the occasional but necessary moving of ancient graves and the removal of bones for examination and respectful reburial. Police are investigating and plan to bring charges.
Second Temple Token a Seal of Purity
Eli Shukron of the IAA continues to make important discoveries in the area of the channel that leads to the base of Robinsons Arch by the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The latest discovery is a small button-sized (1 cm) clay seal that came up in sifting the dirt from the north side of the Siloam Pool, where 30 coins have already been recovered. The seal or token is inscribed with the Aramaic formula t-k-a l-H which is translated as Pure to God. The token is dated to the late Second Temple period, perhaps fifty years before the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. The use of similar seals or tokens is recorded in the Mishnah, where it describes how a person wishing to purchase a libation would pay one official, receive a token from him and pass it on to another official who would hand him the appropriate drink offering (Shekalim 5:4). The find was hailed by Mrs. Limor Livnat, the Israeli Minister of Culture and Sport, for demonstrating the connection of the Jewish People to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.
Stop the Press, Geniza Find in Afghanistan
Rumors are surfacing about the discovery of a cache of early medieval Jewish documents in Arabic, Judeo-Arabic and early Persian at Samangan Province on the Silk Road. The 150 fragments, which seem to be a kind of geniza of unwanted scrolls, are in the hands of dealers, and Jewish institutions are hoping to purchase them, but details are still very sketchy.