Tag Archives: Eli Shukron

A First Temple Cistern Discovered in Jerusalem

You read that right, First Temple period!

Photo: IAA

A large water reservoir dating to the First Temple period was uncovered during archaeological excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority, near Robinson’s Arch in Jerusalem.

The excavation which exposed the reservoir is part of ongoing efforts to map ancient Jerusalem’s entire drainage channel. The findings, together with other discoveries from the past year, will be presented on Thursday at the 13th annual conference on the “City of David Studies of Ancient Jerusalem.”

The recently discovered reservoir, with an approximate capacity of 250 cubic meters, is one of the largest water reservoirs ever discovered from the First Temple period. Due to its size, archaeologists believe the reservoir was designed for and used by the general public.

According to Eli Shukron, the excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “the exposure of the current reservoir, as well as smaller cisterns that were revealed along the Tyropoeon Valley, unequivocally indicates that Jerusalem’s water consumption in the First Temple period was not solely based on the output of the Gihon Spring water works, but also on more available water resources such as the one we have just discovered.”

Dr. Tvika Tsuk, chief archaeologist of the Nature and Parks Authority and an expert on ancient water systems, presumed that “the large water reservoir, which is situated near the Temple Mount, was used for the everyday activities of the Temple Mount itself and also by the pilgrims who went up to the Temple and required water for bathing and drinking.”

Interesting that the assertion is that the water was used for pilgrims visiting the Temple and as yet there is no evidence of the Temple.  Perhaps a more cautious evaluation is in order.

Even More on the Bethlehem Bulla

Joseph Lauer writes

Dr. Victor Avigdor Hurowitz of Ben-Gurion University initially expressed reservations about the reading of the bulla in the IAA’s press release.

    However, in an e-mail and a posting at his Facebook page he wrote the following about an hour ago: “Retraction about Beytlehem bulla. Friends, I must retract the statements I made a few days ago about the newly found bulla mentioning [b]yt lh(.)m בית לחם. Why? It turns out that my objections were based on a mistaken press release of the bulla issued by the IAA. They offered a transcription and transliteration which were erroneous. My colleague Shmuel Ahituv, an epigrapher, saw the bulla itself and he informs me that the signs on the right which the IAA transcribed as ב are in fact on close examination of the object remnants of a yod. Also, the letter transcribed as ח is indeed such. On the photo it looks like a ה because the down stroke on the left seems to be absent. Ahituv tells me that traces are still visible. In other words, the text reads [ב]ית לחם This is obviously Bethlehem and I have no objections to the identification. In summary, if Ahituv’s transcription and decipherment are correct this bulla is an attestation of this place in an extra-Biblical, Iron Age source. But if the IAA has correctly transcribed the text, my objections stand. So I retract my objection but will not accept blame.”
Shukron’s misreading is now being noted and noticed by nearly everyone.

That Bulla That ‘Proves’ The Existence of Bethlehem? Not So Fast!

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.

Proof that Bethlehem Existed in the First Temple Period

As usual the discovery is made to prove David.  Note the inevitable connection to the Bible in the closing lines.  Again, a bulla is made into a suit…

UPDATE:  George Athas has shown quite convincingly that Shukron is wrong.

Via Joe Lauer-

Earliest Archaeological Evidence of the Existence of the City of
Bethlehem already in the First Temple Period

While sifting soil from archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting in the City of David, in the “Walls around Jerusalem National Park”, a bulla was discovered bearing the name of the city, written in ancient Hebrew script.

The first ancient artifact constituting tangible evidence of the existence of the city of Bethlehem, which is mentioned in the Bible, was recently discovered in Jerusalem.

A bulla measuring c. 1.5 cm was found during the sifting of soil removed from archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out in the City of David. The sifting is underwritten by the ‘Ir David Foundation’ in a project being conducted in the Emek Tzurim National Park.

A bulla is a piece of clay that was used for sealing a document or object. The bulla was impressed with the seal of the person who sent the document or object, and its integrity was evidence the document or object was not opened by anyone unauthorized to do so.

Three lines of ancient Hebrew script appear on the bulla:

בשבעת Bishv’at

בת לים  Bat Lechem

[למל]ך   [Lemel]ekh

According to Eli Shukron, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “it seems that in the seventh year of the reign of a king (it is unclear if the king referred to here is Hezekiah, Manasseh or Josiah), a shipment was dispatched from Bethlehem to the king in Jerusalem. The bulla we found belongs to the group of “fiscal” bullae – administrative bullae used to seal tax shipments remitted to the taxation system of the Kingdom of Judah in the late eighth and seventh centuries BCE. The tax could have been paid in the form of silver or agricultural produce such as wine or wheat”. Shukron emphasizes,” this is the first time the name Bethlehem appears outside the Bible, in an inscription from the First Temple period, which proves that Bethlehem was indeed a city in the Kingdom of Judah, and possibly also in earlier periods”.

In the Bible Bethlehem is first mentioned in the verse “in Ephrath, which is Bethlehem”, and it was on the way there that Rachel died and it is where she was buried (Genesis 35:19; 48:7). The descendants of Judah settled there, among them the family of Boaz (Book of Ruth).

Bethlehem’s greatness begins with the anointing of David, son of Jesse, as king (1 Samuel 16).

Click here to download a high resolution photograph of the bulla. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority. 

Herod Didn’t Finish That Wall After All- Again

I’m not sure why the IMF is just coming up with this today.  It was reported three months ago (see the links below).  Evidently it’s tourist season so this is a tourism ploy.

The IMF reports

New archeological excavations show conclusively that the Roman client king’s massive construction project continued after his death.

So there’s something else ‘tradition’ holds which archaeology disproves.

Textbooks for archeologists –– and tour guides in Israel –– long held to the notion that King Herod, a Roman client king who lived from 74 BCE to 4 CE in the Holy Land, saw his colossal building project in and around the Temple Mount in Jerusalem through to the end.  Coins, pottery and oil lamps discovered in a Jewish ritual bath underneath the Western Wall recently, report archeologists from Israel, date the completion of the Western Wall surrounding the Second Temple to a later time, maybe even 50 CE. They are sure that the coins found under the wall were struck after Herod had already died. Archeologists Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa and Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority led the work.

Poor Herod.  He probably didn’t do much of anything at all.

The Preliminary Report on Robinson’s Arch, Jerusalem

From Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron-

Circular cistern

At the beginning of 2011, an excavation was conducted near Robinson’s Arch in the Old City of Jerusalem (Permit No. A-6131). The excavation was directed by E. Shukron, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and by R. Reich, on behalf of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology of the University of Haifa, with the assistance of V. Essman and Y. Shmidov (surveying and drafting), V. Naikhin (field photography), O. Cohen and A. Tsagay (engineering and conservation), C. Amit (studio photography), L. Kupershmidt (metallurgical laboratory) and D.T. Ariel (numismatics).

And a LOT more.  Via Antonio.

The First Written Evidence Confirming Jerusalem Temple Ritual Practices

Photo by: Vladimir Naykhin

Israeli archaeologists have uncovered the first archeological find to confirm written testimony of the ritual practices at the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.  An Israeli Antiquities Authority archaeological survey at the northwestern corner of the Temple Mount yielded a tiny tin artifact, the size of a button, inscribed with the Aramaic words: “Daka Le’Ya,” which the excavation directors on behalf of the IAA, archaeologists Eli Shukron and Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, explain means “pure for God.”

Researchers believe the artifact, dated to the first century, towards the end of the Second Temple period, is a seal similar to those described in the Mishnah. If they are correct, this is the first time physical evidence of the temple ritual was found to corroborate the written record.  The team believes the tiny seal was put on objects designated to be used in the temple, and thus had to be ceremonially pure.

A first century artifact is quite interesting.  Let’s hope for higher resolution photos soon.

UPDATE:  Joseph Lauer provides a link for hi res photos.  Thanks Joseph!

The Strange Shapes in the Floor: A ‘City of David’ Mystery

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.

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Regarding Last Week’s ‘City of David’ Conference

From the goodly Joseph Lauer this note

Courtesy of Barnea Levi Selavan … a taste of last week’s Ir David conference in a 1:52-minute YouTube video giving a view of the crowd, the site, and the speakers, with some words of background in Hebrew from Eli Shukron of the IAA. Also at the YouTube site is a Hebrew paragraph about the conference. The video may be accessed below or directly at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZGGK7mtOGY. The following may also be accessed at http://tinyurl.com/658eyzn and there is a link there (and below) to buy a book of the Hebrew lectures delivered at the conference. It’s also at http://www.shop.cityofdavid.org.il/pl_product~NEW-KENES-BOOK~3~29.htm. Another short (53-second) English YouTube video (“Understanding underground Jerusalem”) was posted about the conference at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFay9kNU_dk.

Thanks, Joseph.  It’s not as good as being there, but it’s better than not.

They’ve Found the Sword that Pierced Jesus’ Side and the Lamp that the Author of Revelation Saw!

Or at least that’s what BAR or Jacobovici will claim as soon as they hear about the discovery of a Roman sword and menorah found under the streets of Jerusalem.  After all, the nail found in an ossuary has been claimed by simple Simcha to be the very nail used in Jesus’ crucifixion…  so nothing – not even the facts or evidence – can stop him from making the same sort of claim now.

For the truth, though, turn to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which announces

During the course of work the Israel Antiquities Authority carried out in Jerusalem’s ancient drainage channel, which begins in the Siloam Pool and runs from the City of David to the archaeological garden (near the Western Wall), impressive finds were recently discovered that breathe new life into the story of the destruction of the Second Temple. The excavations are being conducted on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority and are underwritten by the City of David Foundation.

A 2,000 year old iron sword, still in its leather scabbard, was discovered in work the Israel Antiquities Authority is doing in the channel, which served as a hiding refuge for the residents of Jerusalem from the Romans at the time of the Second Temple’s destruction. In addition, parts of the belt that carried the sword were found. According to the excavation directors Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, “It seems that the sword belonged to an infantryman of the Roman garrison stationed in Israel at the outbreak of the Great Revolt against the Romans in 66 CE. The sword’s fine state of preservation is surprising: not only its length (c. 60 cm), but also the preservation of the leather scabbard (a material that generally disintegrates quickly over time) and some of its decoration”.

A stone object adorned with a rare engraving of a menorah was found in the soil beneath the street, on the side of the drainage channel. According to Shukron and Professor Reich, “Interestingly, even though we are dealing with a depiction of the seven-branched candelabrum, only five branches appear here. The portrayal of the menorah’s base is extremely important because it clarifies what the base of the original menorah looked like, which was apparently tripod shaped”. The fact that the stone object was found at the closest proximity to the Temple Mount to date is also important. The researchers suppose a passerby who saw the menorah with his own eyes and was amazed by its beauty incised his impressions on a stone and afterwards tossed his scrawling to the side of the road, without imagining that his creation would be found 2,000 years later.

• The sword with remains of the scabbard on it. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
• The stone engraved with the image of the menorah. Photographic credit: Vladimir Naykhin.

Has a Golden Bell from A Second Temple High Priest been Discovered?

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.

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