Discoveries at Gezer

Popular Archaeology has a good essay on the several destructions of ancient Gezer:

gezer_gateThe archaeological excavations being conducted at the site of ancient Gezer in northwestern Israel have recently revealed some tantalizing finds, one of which came as a surprise to excavators who just completed digging there during the summer of 2013.

“In this, the sixth season of excavation,” reports co-directors Steven Ortiz of the Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary and Samuel Wolff of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “one goal was to remove a portion of the city wall built in the Iron IIA period (10th century BCE) in order to investigate a Late Bronze age destruction level (ca. 1400 BCE) that lay below it. To the surprise of the team, in the process of excavating the city wall, an earlier wall system dating to the Iron Age I (1200-1000 BCE) was discovered.”*

The finding is significant in that it could provide possible new additional insight and evidential support for events recorded by the Biblical text relating to the king of Gezer organizing a Canaanite coalition against the Hebrew leader Joshua, and David’s battle with the Philistines where he pursued them “all the way to Gezer”, implying a close relationship between Canaanite Gezer and the Philistines during this period.

…  More information about Gezer and the excavation project, and how one can participate, can be obtained at the project website.

And more on the site at the first link.

Keith Whitelam: Further Reflection on the ‘Palace of David’ Discovery

On Facebook, Keith writes

The most sensational of all recent claims is the press release from the Israel Antiquities Authority that King David’s palace and storerooms have been found at Khirbet Qeiyafa. But within days of the announcement—eagerly picked up by those who see it as proof of the biblical picture of a Davidic kingdom and a decisive blow to the so-called minimalists—more sober assessments raise serious questions about the discoveries.

The claims fit the same pattern as we have seen with other announcements, such as the inscribed jar from Jerusalem, where all evidence is forced to fit into the dominant model of a Davidic kingdom. There is nothing to link the building to David, it is not clear that it is a ‘palace’, and the IAA release notes that “unfortunately, much of this palace was destroyed c. 1,400 years later when a fortified farmhouse was built there in the Byzantine period.” 

Even before this announcement, the site was being used to bolster the traditional claims about a centralized kingdom of David: “More recently, the excavation of a small, fortified town at Khirbet Qeiyafa, 20 miles from Jerusalem, has been interpreted as further proof that Jerusalem was the capital of a centralized state ruled by David. It is claimed that the town was inhabited by ‘Judaeans’. Yet there is nothing to link the site specifically to Jerusalem or other local towns. It is a prime example of the attempt to construct exclusive claims to the past, even when it is not clear what the make-up of the population was that inhabited the site or how it was connected to its local environment. Khirbet Qeiyafa looks like many small towns throughout the history of Palestine that have flourished for a short period of time and then disappeared from view.” (Rhythms of Time: Reconnecting Palestine’s Past, chapter 7).

Others have offered more sober reflections on the claims (thanks to Jim West for most of the links). In particular, Israel Finkelstein has raised the methodological problems involved in interpreting the site (http://www.academia.edu/1954502/Khirbet_Qeiyafa_An_Unsensational_Archaeological_and_Historical_Interpretation). Peter van der Veen points out that “we cannot possibly speak of proof as nowhere on any of the stones found in the “palace” (if this is what it was?) scribes engraved the sentence “made by King David”. If such inscriptions had been found, surely we would all know about it. It would be the 21st century sensation. But mute Syro-Palestine-Israelite archaeology hardly ever allows us to be that precise, even if I too would be very happy if indeed we could be more precise. Without such straightforward inscriptions found within the same level of occupation, which precisely tell us who was the builder king etc., we cannot possibly prove anything.” While David Willner has a much more scathing appraisal of the motivation behind such sensational claims (http://www.foundationstone.org/).

The political importance of the announcement should not be underestimated. Revealingly, the IAA states that “the exposure of the biblical city at Khirbet Qeiyafa and the importance of the finds discovered there have led the Israel Antiquities Authority to act together with the Nature and Parks Authority and the planning agencies to cancel the intended construction of a new neighborhood nearby and to promote declaring the area around the site a national park. This plan stems from the belief that the site will quickly become a place that will attract large numbers of visitors who will be greatly interested in it, and from it one will be able to learn about the culture of the country at the time of King David.” In true Orwellian style: ‘who controls the past
controls the future; who controls the present controls the past’.

“There is a long and continuing history of attempts to use archaeological discoveries—usually in the name of disinterested, academic scholarship—to bolster and shore up the Zionist foundation narrative. Invariably the interpretation of such discoveries ignores the rhythms of time.” (Rhythms of Time: Reconnecting Palestine’s Past, chapter 7).

On Loan to the Louvre

The Times of Israel tells us

The Louvre museum in Paris opened its first-ever Israeli exhibit Thursday, displaying a 1,700-year-old mosaic floor that was recovered from a garbage dump near Lod in central Israel. The exhibition marks the first time the Israel Antiquities Authority is loaning objects to the renowned French museum. Shuka Dorfman, the director of the authority, said the exhibition was a wonderful opportunity for millions of visitors to see the masterpiece and learn about the history and archaeology of Israel, the Maariv daily reported.

Parisians, take note.

The IAA Under Fire for its Treatment of the Dead Sea Scrolls

With thanks to Charlotte Hempel for mentioning this story– which is must reading.

Last week, a peer-reviewed journal called the Restaurator published a controversial article about the Dead Sea Scrolls written by two Berlin-based scientists who charge that these sacred documents are not receiving proper care from the Israeli cultural institutions responsible for their well-being.

The article’s abstract does not mince words:

“Examination of the properties of the scrolls proves that frequent travel, exhibitions and the associated handling induce collagen deterioration that is covered up by the absence of a proper monitoring program.”

“I want the scrolls to be protected,” says Ira Rabin, who co-authored the piece entitled “Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibitions Around The World: Reasons For Concern” with her colleague Oliver Hahn at the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing.

The 20-page document specifically criticizes the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, who hold responsibility for a majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Both defend their treatment of the scrolls (detailed below).

But first, the criticisms. Rabin and Hahn argue in the Restaurator that:

1. The Dead Sea Scrolls are being exhibited far too much, and that the consequent travel and handling is seriously accelerating their degradation. The authors show that there’s been a substantial increase in international exhibitions in the past two decades.

Read the whole- their criticisms are totally valid.  The Scrolls are treated the same way that Leopold Mozart treated Wolfgang- dragging him all over Europe like a trained monkey.

Aren is Dissatisfied (or Disgruntled)

Aren’s reaction to Burleigh’s aforementioned essay is soundly negative.  It seems to me on the basis of her using the term ‘archaeologist’ of Jacobovici and Zias.

He’s entitled to his reaction and I do understand it.  Truly.  But it raises questions for me which I’ve posed to Aren and which I reiterate here in hopes that actual dirt archaeologists will answer them:

So, to Aren and all:

Don’t you think that to the extent that Jacobovici portrays himself as an archaeologist (albeit naked), in the view of the larger public he is perceived as such?  And, consequently, worth refuting on the basis of his claims to such knowledge?

I’m not trying to start a feud, just interested in how arcaheologists think Simcha and other non experts ought to be dealt with- or do they think they should just be ignored?  And if so, then isn’t the public just left with a false impression and misinformation?   And isn’t it the job of actual archaeologists to say something to disabuse the public of falsehood?

What i’m really interested- genuinely interested in knowing is – what is their view concerning archaeology’s obligations to the public which funds it?

Eric Meyers has already offered his reasoned viewpoint in Nina’s piece.  Anyone else?

‘Davidic Era’? Come On Now: The Discovery at Tel Motza

The Times of Israel informs us that

A 2,750-year-old temple and a cache of sacred vessels from biblical times were discovered in an archaeological excavation near

via the IAA

via the IAA

Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday.

The finds, unearthed at Tel Motza on the western outskirts of the capital, date from the early monarchic period and include pottery figurines of men and horses, providing rare evidence for the existence of a ritual cult in the Jerusalem region at the beginning of the Judean monarchy. The precise significance of the figurines is still unknown.

Even if the date is correct, ca. 750 BCE can hardly be called ‘Davidic Era’.  It appears to be simply an attempt to grab the public’s attention (or worse, the author of the piece doesn’t know when the ‘Davidic Era’ would have been).  That said, it’s a pretty nifty find after all and may well show, at the end of the day, that polytheism was practiced in the 8th century (and may support the prophetic denunciations of such idolatry).

via the IAA

via the IAA

“The ritual building at Tel Motza is an unusual and striking find, in light of the fact that there are hardly any remains of ritual buildings of the period in Judea at the time of the First Temple,” said excavation directors Anna Eirikh, Hamoudi Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz. They said the structure’s uniqueness was enhanced by the site’s proximity to Jerusalem, which was the kingdom’s main center and the seat of kings David and Solomon.

An IAA statement described the walls of the structure as massive, and said it includes a wide, east-facing entrance, conforming to the tradition of temple construction in the ancient Near East: the rays of the sun rising in the east would have illuminated the objects placed inside the temple, symbolizing the divine presence within. A square structure which was probably an altar was exposed in the temple courtyard, and the cache of sacred vessels was found near the structure. The assemblage includes ritual pottery vessels, with fragments of chalices (bowls on high bases which were used in sacred rituals), decorated ritual pedestals, and a number of pottery figurines.

There’s more, which do read.

Further on the Tel Aviv ‘City of David’ Excavation

In consultation with experts ‘on the ground’ I have learned that-

1. The area of the Tel Aviv excavation is on the “City of David” ridge (and known as such for the last century): this ridge was excavated by the late Yigal Shiloh on behalf of the Hebrew University in the 1980s (Area E of his dig).

2. Calling this place Silwan, as Haaretz has done without explaining its exact location, is intentionally misleading political spin. The village of Silwan is located to the east of the Kidron ravine.

3. The dig is a cooperative effort of Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority and IS NOT connected with any other organization, will not be financed by any other organization, and will not receive orders or guidance from anyone, including Elad!

Location of Area E4. In this case, as in all other aspects of its teaching and research, Tel Aviv University is behaving properly and legally.

5. There is only one purpose for this dig: to better understand the history of Jerusalem through the ages.

6. The dig will, therefore, naturally be carried out in accordance with the highest professional standards which characterizes all of Tel Aviv’s field-research. It will be open to all visitors and will strive to cooperate with the people living in the area.

7. However it is essential to note that the area is not inhabited. The closest Palestinian houses are around 70 meters to the east (that is, all the way over on the other side of the ravine); others are about 200 meters to the north; and still others are far to the south (far enough, in fact, that they cannot even be seen from Area E). And, finally, there are still other homes around 150 meters to the west, on the top of the ridge (see the photo to the right, and click to enlarge).

Still further insight into Tel Aviv’s work at the location can be found in Israel Finkelstein’s essay in Forward Magazine titled In the Eye of Jerusalem’s Archaeological Storm.

All in all, then, not only is the petition floating around contra Tel Aviv University’s work at the City of David inappropriate, it is founded upon numerous egregious errors and misstatements of fact.

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.

Honoring Flinders Petrie

Matti Friedman reports

More than a hundred people gathered in Jerusalem to remember Sir Flinders Petrie, one of the fathers of modern archaeology, in the lovely, little-known cemetery on Mt. Zion where most of him was buried 70 years ago this week.

A towering figure in the study of Egyptology and biblical history, the brilliant, driven and eccentric Briton is no longer a household name. But a memorial for Flinders organized by the Israel Antiquities Authority on Monday at the Protestant Cemetery, just outside the walled Old City, nonetheless drew a capacity crowd of local archaeologists, Bible scholars and aficionados of the ancient past.

Petrie’s modest grave — which houses all of his body except for his head — is marked simply with his name and an ankh, the Egyptian hieroglyph for “life.”

It’s a great essay. Read it all.

Matthew Kalman’s Report on the ‘James Ossuary’ Trial

Matthew’s essay appears in the Jerusalem Report.  He says

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), with the Israel Police, gathered testimony around the world and seized hundreds of suspect artifacts. The treasure trove included ancient stone lamps, engraved jugs, pottery shards inscribed in ink, seals and seal impressions known as bulae. Golan, we were told when he was indicted with four others in December 2004 and accused of masterminding an international forgery ring, was falsifying history for personal gain.

“I believe we have revealed only the tip of the iceberg. This industry circles the world, involving millions of dollars,” said IAA director Shuka Dorfman. “Beside this, Indiana Jones looks small.”

But it wasn’t true. No one else was arrested. The zealotry of the IAA came unstuck when the case against Golan and his remaining co-defendant, antiquities dealer Robert Deutsch, collapsed in spectacular fashion at the Jerusalem District Court in March. Judge Aharon Farkash cleared them of all forgery charges and had some harsh words for the police, prosecution and the IAA.

And then Matthew gets to the point of the essay-

The updated story is told in this issue for the first time. I was the only reporter in the courtroom throughout the 120 sessions of the seven-year trial. I heard most of the 12,000 pages of testimony, listened to most of the 126 witnesses and saw most of the 200 exhibits. But I still can not say for certain whether the items are genuine or not.

Even those who are convinced that the items are fake are distressed at the increasingly bizarre actions of the IAA and its publicity-seeking director Dorfman.

Give it a look.  Interesting stuff indeed.

Bar Kochba Treasure

Here ya go

Archaeologists have discovered a treasure trove comprising about 140 gold and silver coins along with gold jewelry, probably hidden by a wealthy lady at a time of impending danger during the Bar Kokhba Revolt some 1880 years ago.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) presented the sumptuous find Tuesday and said it was recently exposed in a salvage excavation in the vicinity of Kiryat Gat, in southern Israel.

The rooms of a building dating to the Roman and Byzantine period were exposed during the course of the excavation. Archeologists discerned that a pit had been dug in the earth of the ancient building’s courtyard and then refilled. To the archaeologists’ delightful surprise, a spectacular treasure trove of exquisite quality was discovered in the pit. It had been wrapped in a cloth fabric that had mostly deteriorated.

According to archaeologist Emil Aladjem, who directed the excavation on behalf of the IAA, “The magnificent hoard includes gold jewelry, among them an earring crafted by a jeweler in the shape of a flower and a ring with a precious stone on which there is a seal of a winged-goddess, two sticks of silver that were probably kohl sticks, as well as some 140 gold and silver coins.”

“The coins that were discovered date to the reigns of the Roman emperors Nero, Nerva and Trajan, who ruled the Roman Empire from 54-117 CE. The coins are adorned with the images of the emperors and on their reverse are cultic portrayals of the emperor, symbols of the brotherhood of warriors and mythological gods such as Jupiter seated on a throne or Jupiter grasping a lightning bolt in his hand.”

The discovery of such a clearly Roman themed artifact proves that the real possessors of the land are the Romans, and that means their modern descendents, the Italians.  After all, if a Hebrew artifact proves modern Jews have the right of possession, a Roman artifact proves the Romans do…

The Reconstructed ‘Bethlehem Bulla’

Via Robert Deutsch-

As the first who posted the correct reading of the provenanced fiscal bulla of Beitlehem, and accepted now by all scholars that the IAA experts made another foolish mistake, I am offering now also the drawing (made for me by Pnina Arad), with the suggested missing letters.

by Pnina Arad

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.

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. 

Discovery Just Can’t Help Itself: It Has to Tell Semi-Truths

Look at this absurd headline: ‘Netanyahu’ Seal From Eighth Century B.C. Found

Well that’s just incorrect isn’t it. The seal doesn’t bear a ‘Nun’ it bears a ‘Mem’. It doesn’t say ‘Netanyahu’ it says “Metanyahu’. To be sure, these are similar words and they carry the same intent and meaning- but one is what’s actually found on the seal and the other is a blatant attempt to say something the seal doesn’t.

And then doth the writer write

A 2,700-year-old seal bearing a name similar to Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been unearthed near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority said.

‘Similar to’ is correct- so why doesn’t the headline say that? Because the headline wants to misrepresent what the seal actually says and for some reason ‘contemporize’ it. I suppose that’s what sells and that, at the end of the day, is always Discovery’s motive.

Found within the remains of a building dating to the First Temple period‭ ‬ –- between the end of the eighth century B.C. and 586 B.C. — the seal is made of a semiprecious stone.

So, again, why does the headline say ‘8th century’ when that’s merely one end of the age range? Because Discovery likes to hook folk in with half-truths. Now that they have the reader’s attention they may or may not get the facts right. Unfortunately lots of dilettantes will see the headline and never notice the contents of the ‘report’. And they’ll run around saying ‘Netanyahu was found on an 8th century seal!’ Neither of which is true.

According to the ancient Hebrew inscription, it belonged to Matanyahu, who was the son of a man whose name started with the letters “Ho” : ‭”Lematanyahu Ben Ho ‭… “‬ (meaning:‭ “Belonging to Matanyahu Ben Ho ‭…”‬).‭ ‬ Unfortunately, the rest of the inscription is erased. ‭

And unfortunately, Discovery is more interested in sensationalistic headlines than factual ones.

Metanyahu ben Ho: How Will This Button Be Made into a Suit?

Photo: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

A seal bearing the name ‘Metanyahu ben Ho’ has been discovered in Jerusalem.  And, no, you’re right, it’s not a biblical name.  But I bet that before the day is over someone – somewhere – will suggest that the discovery of a seal from what Arutz Sheva calls the First Temple Period will be used as ‘proof’ that the Bible is ‘historically accurate’ when it describes ‘Solomon’s kingdom’.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced, Tuesday that a seal bearing the name Metanyahu ben Ho (the rest was rubbed out) from the period of the First Temple, was found in the remains of a drainage channel near the Robinson Arch at the southern end of the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem. The seal was made out of a semi-precious stone.  Eli Shukrun, the IAA’s manager of the dig, said the name Metanyahu (gift from/to G-d) was fashionable for the kingdom of Judea between 800 BCE and the destruction of the First Temple. He added that finding a seal from that period was rare and thrilling.

Fashionable?  How many seals and inscriptions from the period of the kingdom of Judah (Judea’s not right, is it) have been found?  Can a name be called ‘fashionable’ if it’s not amply supplied?

I wonder how this button will be made into a suit.  I can hardly wait.

UPDATE:  The IAA has a post on it which includes the photo above.  You can read it here.  I’m glad to see that when the IAA quotes Shukron it uses the proper term ‘Judah’ rather than ‘Judea’ as the ideologically driven Arutz Sheva does:

According to Eli Shukron, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “the name Matanyahu, like the name Netanyahu, means giving to God. These names are mentioned several times in the Bible. They are typical of the names in the Kingdom of Judah in latter part of the First Temple period – from the end of the eighth century BCE until the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE. To find a seal from the First Temple period at the foot of the Temple Mount walls is rare and very exciting. This is a tangible greeting of sorts from a man named Matanyahu who lived here more than 2,700 years ago. We also found pottery sherds characteristic of the period on the floor in the ancient building beneath the base of the drainage channel, as well as stone  collapse and evidence of a fire.”

What Robert Deutsch Wrote in 2005 About the ‘Trial of the Century’

I quote

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has simply have gone too far, beyond any limits of the law or of basic decency, in an effort to destroy my reputation. I can no any longer remain silent. The full story must now be told.

The IAA’s efforts, lead by its director, Shuka Dorfman, and his agents Amir Ganor and Ron Kehati, to terminate the legal trade of antiquities in Israel, has lead them to file malicious, criminal and intentionally false charges against me. Their accusations against me are completely false. The charges being leveled against me now are a repetition of previous false accusations made by the IAA, which were heard by the court in Israel and were found to be totally baseless and without any merit.

Yet they persist in their harassment against licensed antiquities dealers in Israel by making false and malicious charges against me. They have made it perfectly clear that I am their prime target because, using their words, I am “the leader of the legal antiquities trade in Israel and the most knowledgeable in his field.”

Their goal is quite simple: to destroy the reputation I have painstakingly built over the last twenty-five years. To do so they have acted to negate my academic reputation as a lecturer at Haifa University, where I teach ancient inscriptions for the past 8 years, and my role as an active field archaeologist for the past 12 years at the Tel Aviv University Megiddo Expedition.
They will do whatever it takes to stop my writing books (11 to date) and many articles because in them I publish finds from private collections (which is, in fact, a rescue publication of items which otherwise would remain forever unknown to the archaeological community). But now they have crossed the Rubicon, making new accusations against me that are not only blatantly false, but purposely intended to link me with the activities of others with whom I have absolutely no connection.

In a news conference the IAA has insinuated that I had “an involvement in a ring dealing with forgeries.” They purposely distorted the truth by announcing my name as one of the “criminals,” with the malicious intent to connect me in the mind of the public with the fake Joash inscription and the highly debated James ossuary. Even the IAA has never made such charge against me; the IAA knows perfectly well that I never saw either of these pieces before they were published, nor did I have any connection with them what-so-ever. Yet they purposely and maliciously linked my name with these objects and with the pomegranate “forgery” sold to the Israel Museum, with which I also had absolutely no involvement. The IAA never charged me with any involvement with these objects, yet included my name in their announcement of indictments against those that did, to purposely give the misimpression that I had some involvement with them. Again the purpose of the IAA is clear: to destroy my reputation and ability to continue to be a licensed antiquities dealer, and thereby harass, intimidate and destroy all of the antiquities dealers that operate in Israel in full compliance with Israeli law.

IAA agents carry government credentials making them the equivalent of policemen, but with far more encompassing power. Their ostensible mandate is to prevent the looting of archaeological sites in Israel and to supervise the legal antiquities trade. In their total control over the issuance of trade licenses and export licenses, they act simultaneously as investigators, interpreters of the law, promulgators of regulations, judges, and experts in antiquities. Using their almost unlimited power in the area, their harassment against me (using methods which would not embarrass even a senior KGB agent) started 25 years ago when I received my license to deal with antiquities, and has continued unabated. The following are just some of the unconscionable acts the IAA has perpetrated against me:

1. An IAA agent has “visited” my shops at least once every single month in the past 25 years (and sometimes as often as once a week), checking my inventory and the provenance of the items which I sell. They often take pictures of items that I own without my permission and issue frequent gratuitous oral and written warnings to me not to break the law.

2. IAA agents have attended every one of the 33 public antiquities auctions which I have held during the past 17 years, making obvious note of the buyers and collectors in attendance.

3. The IAA has spread false rumors about me and my activities in order to cause tension and suspicion between me and other licensed dealers and collectors.

4. IAA agents remind me continuously that they have established and maintain a file on each dealer containing the dealer’s “profiles and activities, and that my file is the thickest of all of them.

5. The IAA has recorded or tape-recorded all of my conversation with the IAA, oral or telephonic, and continues to keep such recordings “in my file.”

6. IAA agents suddenly appeared at the area that I supervise at the Megiddo excavation site for the sole purpose of embarrassing me before the excavation directors, my colleagues and my team members.

7. I was humiliated many times by IAA agents who continually conduct “investigations” into my activities. All allegations made by the IAA against me in the past were proven to be either false or fabricated, and totally without merit.

8. In the last year, under the pretext of their “investigation of forgeries,” I was interrogated over twenty times by IAA agents, and by the police under the supervision of the IAA agents, humiliating me and treating me as a criminal by taking my fingerprints and photograph.

9. Four IAA agents, flashing an improper warrant, in search of “looted antiquities,” entered my three shops and my residence, confiscating not illegally obtained antiquities (which I have never had), but my business and my personal computers, together with documents which had nothing conceivably to do with their “investigation,” but contained material for my new book and my PhD research thesis.

This is only a very short list of the illegal and unethical activities of the IAA directed at me.

The public announcements and press conference by the IAA during this last week (December 2004), in which they purposely linked my name to a host of allegedly illegal activities with which the IAA knows that I have absolutely no connection, leaves me no alternative but to immediately file suit against the IAA and its agents personally, for irreversibly damaging my name and reputation and for the serious financial consequences of their malicious and criminal acts.

I am greatly encouraged and appreciative of the great outpouring of support I have received from my clients and colleagues. I will continue to do all within my power to establish the veracity of my claims and the ultimate vindication of my name and reputation.

ROBERT DEUTSCH

Eric Meyers’ Forthright Reaction to the Verdict of the Golan Trial

Eric notes, among other sage things

I would therefore emphasize that because the government, in this case, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Police, failed to prove that the artifacts in question were inauthentic in no way means that they are authentic. The burden of proof that falls on the prosecution in a criminal case must rise to a high level of proof beyond reasonable doubt. The fact that the defendants have been acquitted thus does not end the matter of the quest to decide authenticity. This leaves much opportunity for academic opinion to continue to believe that these artifacts are not authentic and to question their provenance. This lack of certainty is another demonstration of why the Israeli antiquities law, which allows the trade in artifacts obtained before 1978, leaves open a loophole for trading in artifacts that may be recently looted or that may be inauthentic. This shortcoming in the law contributes to the ongoing destruction of the archaeological, historical, and cultural record through looting and possible corruption of the historical record through the acceptance of antiquities that may not be genuine in the corpus of historical artifacts that illuminate the cultural heritage of the land of the Bible.

Indeed.

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.