Archaeology in Israel Update - June 2010
Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg
W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem
Medieval aqueduct in Jerusalem
An aqueduct from the Ottoman period was uncovered at the north end of the Sultan's Pool just west of the Old City walls. It can be dated to 1320 CE and was carried on nine arches, two of which have been found, across the valley. This was part of a much earlier system that brought water from Solomon's Pool at Bethlehem to inner Jerusalem. The Ottoman rulers reused and rebuilt part of the ancient aqueduct and later converted it to a metal pipeline. The archaeologists knew of its existence from 19th century photographs but the arches did not come to light until repairs were made recently to the present water supply. The early photograph showed an inscription dating to 1320, dedicated to Sultan Nassar al-Din Muhammad Ibn Qalawun, according to Yehiel Zelinger, who led the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). The findings will be preserved in the redevelopment of the Sultan's Pool area, south-west of the Jaffa Gate.
Graves in Ashkelon
We have mentioned previously that work to the Barzilai Hospital emergency underground shelter facility was held up due to the location of graves on the site. After a lengthy period of Government indecision, the work is now going ahead, and the IAA have been authorized to excavate the bones, which are considered to be of pagan origin, although this is disputed by some orthodox protesters. The bones will be carefully collected and handed over to the Religious Ministry for safekeeping. During his work on the site, Dr. Yigal Israel, of the IAA, uncovered a drum-shaped base with carved garlands that is considered to have been a Roman altar, which further underlines the pagan nature of the cemetery, that would have served Hellenistic Ashkelon.
Middle Bronze Age cultic artifacts found in Yoqne'am
In an emergency dig by the IAA before the laying of a natural gas pipeline in the north, a cache of over 100 artifacts was uncovered in a rock hollow along the route. According to director Edwin van den Brink of the IAA, some of the small vessels, containing liquids and dated to 3,500 years ago, came from Cyprus and Mycene (Greece). The items were probably buried after going out of use, indicating that they had served a cultic function associated with a nearby shrine, and were not just to be destroyed but had to be buried. The site lies at the foot of the Tel at Yoqne'am, in the Yezri'el Valley, and the IAA has agreed to exhibit the artifacts later in the year.
MBA Tombs in Nazareth
After considerable work on a site in central Nazareth, due to be developed as an hotel and shopping mall, bones were uncovered and a halt was called to the work, for fear of demonstrations by religious groups. However the work was reorganized to be completed in just one long day, as was done recently, under the direction of Yardenna Alexandre (nee Rosenberg) of the IAA. The excavation went to a depth of 10 metres and exposed four MBA shaft tombs, one of a warrior buried with his weapons, and one that had been reused in the Iron Age. Full details are not yet available. During the work demonstrations did take place but the protestors were held back by Arab "bouncers" employed by the site's owner, and the 49 demonstrators were then taken away by the police into protective custody, for their own safety.
18th Anniversary of the Bible Lands Museum
This Museum, which stands opposite the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, has been celebrating its 18 years of existence with anniversary lectures and a special exhibition named Angels and Demons. The exhibition is devoted to Jewish magic through the ages and the catalogue contains learned articles, including one by Prof. Mark Geller of University College, London. The opening Ceremony was addressed by Sir John Boardman, of Oxford, who lectured on 'Greeks going East'. From this one can see that the Museum, which was founded by the late Dr. Elie Borowski in 1992, and is directed by his widow Batya, has now become a respectable centre of learning and excellence. In the early days, no self-respecting archaeologist and scholar would grace its doors, seeing that the exhibits were mainly bought on the market and some were of dubious origin. But with time this has changed and we have come to appreciate the wonderful range of artifacts and the scholarship that has accompanied their display. There are some excellent models and it is a great resource for teaching schoolchildren.