George Athas convincingly argues that the bulla newly discovered which the IAA says proves the existence of Bethlehem does no such thing at all.
Once again, however, it seems that we have an Israeli archaeologist jumping to inordinate conclusions that simply do not reflect the actual evidence, all so that they can make a sensational political statement about Israel or Judah in antiquity. There are a number of issues with Shukron’s proposal:
And then George shows why Shukron is wrong. He concludes
It seems we need to wait for some more reliable and unsensational epigraphic analysis to be done on this bulla. Unless I’m very much mistaken(1), it seems fairly clear from the published photo that this bulla does NOT refer to Bethlehem. I lean towards seeing this as the seal of a prominent woman, though ultimately I can’t even be sure of that. Could a decent epigrapher please go and have a look at this seal, or could a generous benefactor pay to fly me over to inspect it?
Links to other reports about this bulla can be found below. You can see from some of the links how quickly news of this find is being disseminated as ‘proof’ for Bethlehem. The thing is, we don’t need this bulla as evidence for Bethlehem’s existence. It’s all rather unnecessarily sensationalist.
I look forward to Chris Rollston’s take on the bulla. Him, I trust.
From the HuffPo–
Mysterious stone carvings made thousands of years ago and recently uncovered in an excavation underneath Jerusalem have archaeologists stumped.
Israeli diggers who uncovered a complex of rooms carved into the bedrock in the oldest section of the city recently found the markings: Three “V” shapes cut next to each other into the limestone floor of one of the rooms, about 2 inches (5 centimeters) deep and 20 inches (50 centimeters) long. There were no finds to offer any clues pointing to the identity of who made them or what purpose they served.
The archaeologists in charge of the dig know so little that they have been unable even to posit a theory about their nature, said Eli Shukron, one of the two directors of the dig.
“The markings are very strange, and very intriguing. I’ve never seen anything like them,” Shukron said.
The shapes were found in a dig known as the City of David, a politically sensitive excavation conducted by Israeli government archaeologists and funded by a nationalist Jewish group under the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in east Jerusalem. The rooms were unearthed as part of the excavation of fortifications around the ancient city’s only natural water source, the Gihon spring.
It is possible, the dig’s archaeologists say, that when the markings were made at least 2,800 years ago the shapes might have accommodated some kind of wooden structure that stood inside them, or they might have served some other purpose on their own. They might have had a ritual function or one that was entirely mundane. Archaeologists faced by a curious artifact can usually at least venture a guess about its nature, but in this case no one, including outside experts consulted by Shukron and the dig’s co-director, archaeologists with decades of experience between them, has any idea.
With the experts unable to come up with a theory about the markings, the City of David dig posted a photo on its Facebook page and solicited suggestions. The results ranged from the thought-provoking – “a system for wood panels that held some other item,” or molds into which molten metal would could have been poured – to the fanciful: ancient Hebrew or Egyptian characters, or a “symbol for water, particularly as it was near a spring.”
Yeah that’s pretty odd. But not as odd as some of the ‘solutions’ on the FB page… Aren Maeir probably knows. Someone ask him. Or Israel Finkelstein.
Via Joseph Lauer
Dr. Rachel Elior just notified me of a very interesting Hebrew Ynet article that concerns the discovery in Ir David of a pure gold ornamental bell, about a centimeter in diameter (see picture below), that is thought to have been worn by the High Priest in the Temple in Jerusalem. The illustrated article is captioned (in rough translation) “A souvenir from the Second Temple: Has a bell of the High Priest been found?” and sub-captioned, “The bell, made of pure gold, was discovered intact during excavations in the City of David. “This is a unique item in Jerusalem,” said an archaeologist [Eli Shukron], “You can dig a lifetime and not discover such a find”. The article is at http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4098615,00.html. There is more in the article that will have to await a full translation and it can be expected that much more will follow on the subject.
Well there you go. A golden object identified not just with any priest in any period but the High Priest from the Second Temple period. Maybe it belonged to Caiphas! Maybe it was found right below the spot where Jesus cleansed the Temple and one of the high priests, running away from the whip, dropped it!!!!! Heavens to Betsy. The things we ‘know’.
UPDATE: And so it begins. An article in English announces ‘Archaeologists discover High Priest’s Bell.’ So there it is. The issue is settled. Now, which High Priest was it?
But wait, the article denies its own headline… at the end…
While it is unknown if the bell belonged to one of the high priests, archaeologists have not ruled out the possibility.
So there it is. It is the high priests but it is unknown if it is but the possibility isn’t ruled out… Thanks for the meaninglessness.