Monthly Archives: August 2013

Roman period wine presses at Eretz Israel Museum

The Eretz Israel Museum, located on the campus of Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv, is a wonderful, educational museum to visit. Many of the exhibits are outside, including an archaeological tel (Tel Qasile), and others are in several different small buildings.

In the photo below we see two Roman period wine presses. (Common English versions use the spelling winepress.) The treading floors are on the left and the collecting vats are on the right.

Roman winepresses at Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman wine presses at Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign below provides needed explanation for those who have not seen a wine press from the Roman period.

Explanation of Roman winepresses at Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Explanation of the Roman wine presses at Eretz Israel Museum. Photo: Ferrell Jenkins.

One of the parables of Jesus illustrates how common such wine presses were in Biblical times.

“Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. (Matthew 21:33 ESV)

See a photo of the Byzantine wine press at Avdat here. The Museum website may be visited here.

Tel Rekhesh may be Anaharath

The Jewish Press reported here on the discovery of a Canaanite cult altar at Tel Rekhesh, an archaeological mound east of Mount Tabor. Archaeologists from the University of Tenri, Japan, and the Institute of Archaeology of Galilee Kinneret Academic College, have been working together at the site for the past six years. I have had the site on my “wish list” for the past three years, but have not yet visited the it.

The reports says,

The same excavations also revealed large parts of a Jewish farmhouse dating back to the Second Temple. Researchers were able to establish that this was a place of Jewish dwellers based on typical stone tools, oil lamps and coins minted in the city of Tiberias.

“The diggers received a big surprise,” said Chairman of the Institute of Archaeology of Galilee Kinneret Academic College Dr. Mrdechai [Mordechai] Avi’am. “In the ruins of the second floor of the farmhouse, they discovered a Canaanite cult statue, similar to a statue that stood in the sanctuary of a temple which is yet to be located.”

“Similar stones have been discovered in a number of Canaanite sites, such as Hazor,” Dr. Avi’am said. “The same stone was later used as part of a doorframe in one of the rooms of the Jewish structure. This is the unique development of archaeological hills in Israel, where successive generations mingle ritual objects on their way from the world of the Canaanite mythology to monotheism.”

This region is located in the territory allotted to the tribe of Issachar (Joshua 19:17-23). Y. Aharoni identified Tel Rekhesh with the Biblical site of Anaharath (Joshua 19:19).

Location of Anaharath.

Location of Anaharath.

In a page About the Site, the web page says,

Some of the findings from the site, collected by local people, are now exhibited in the archaeological museum in the Kibbutz Ein-Dor, some 5 km from Tel Rekhesh.  The collection includes a fragment of Egyptian stela, a clay model of a temple, and complete pottery from various periods.

The photo below is one I made earlier this year. At least seven of the artifacts displayed in this case are identified as being from Tel Rekhesh. Most of them are used in food preparation. The shrine in the center (“model of a temple”) is a replica. I failed to get a photo of the Egyptian stela fragment.

At least 7 of the artifacts displayed in this case at The Ein Dor Archaeological Museum are from Tel Rekesh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

At least 7 of the artifacts displayed in this case at The Ein Dor [En-dor, Endor] Archaeological Museum are from Tel Rekesh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins. Click to enlarge.

The web site for the Tel Rekhesh project is available here, but the content is not current. Todd Bolen includes a photo of Tel Rekhesh in the Tabor River valley here.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Beit Jamal may be En-Gannim

Beit Jamal (or Beit Jemâl) is sometimes identified with the En-Gannim of Joshua 15:34. Note the association with other towns belonging to the tribe of Judah in the general vicinity:

33 And in the lowland, Eshtaol, Zorah, Ashnah,
34 Zanoah, En-gannim, Tappuah, Enam,
35 Jarmuth, Adullam, Socoh, Azekah,
36 Shaaraim, Adithaim, Gederah, Gederothaim: fourteen cities with their villages. (Joshus 15:33-36 ESV)

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Rev.) describes En-Gannim as,

A town in the “valley” or Shephelah territory of Judah, named with Zanoah and Eshtaol (Josh. 15:34). Two places have been suggested as locations: one is Khirbet Umm Jina, very close to Beth-shemesh; the other is at Beit Jemâl about 3 km (2 mi) to the south.

Beit Jamal is today the site of a small monastery nestled in an area of Olive groves. I came across it while looking for the road to Jarmuth (Hebrew, Yarmuth) (Joshua 10:3, 5, 23; 12:11; 15:35; Nehemiah 11:29).

A large olive tree with two old olive presses at Beit Jamal. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A large olive tree with two old olive presses at Beit Jamal. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This little monastery caught my attention a few days ago when Haaretz reported a “price tag” attack on the community. The article explains that “price tag” is “Israeli shorthand for anti-Arab hate crimes.” The article says,

Jewish extremists originally used the term “price tag” to describe vandalism and violence that targeted Israelis as well as Palestinians and was aimed at preventing or avenging evacuations of West Bank settlers.

Here are some appropriate parting words for all of us.

The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace. (Numbers 6:26 NAU)

May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you. (Jude 1:2 NAU)

Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey

The Israel Museum exhibition of Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey is scheduled to continue through January 4, 2014. This is a wonderful exhibit. If you can’t make it by the deadline, you may take a gallery tour here. This includes photos, drawings, explanations, and videos that walk you through the exhibit.

Entrance to the Herod the Great exhibit in the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Entrance to the Herod the Great exhibit in the Israel Museum.

For additional information about Herod and some of his building projects, see here, herehere, and other places.

Leen Ritmeyer was with a group allowed to make some photos within the exhibit. Read about it here.

Evidence of Cinnamon in use 3000 years ago

Live Science reports (here) on the investigation of 27 flasks from five archaeological sites in Israel showing that cinnamon was stored in them. The flasks date back to about 1000 years B.C. Ten of the 27 flasks contain “cinnamaldehyde, the compound that gives cinnamon its flavor, indicating that the spice was stored in these flasks.” Tel Dor is the only site named in the report.

At this time cinnamon was found in the Far East with the closest places to Israel being southern India and Sri Lanka located at least 3,000 miles (nearly 5,000 kilometers) away. A form of it was also found in the interior of Africa, but does not match the material found in these flasks.

This discovery “raises the intriguing possibility that long-range spice trade from the Far East westward may have taken place some 3,000 years ago,” researchers write in a paper to be published in the journal Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry. Although cinnamon can be purchased today at any grocery or bulk food store, 3,000 years ago, people in the Levant would have needed to take part in trade that extended beyond the edge of the known world in order to acquire it, something this discovery suggests they were willing to do.

This trade may go back ever further into antiquity and involve other goods and parts of the Middle East. The researchers note, for example, that black pepper from India has been found in the mummy of Ramesses II, a pharaoh of Egypt who lived more than 3,200 years ago.

Cinnamon displayed on the Spice Route at Avedat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cinnamon and pepper displayed on the ancient Spice Route at Avedat.

Cinnamon is mentioned only four times in the Bible.

  • Cinnamon was used in the anointing oil for the tabernacle (Exodus 30:23).
  • The adulterous woman tells the young man that she has perfumed her bed with cinnamon and other spices (Proverbs 7:17).
  • Cinnamon is used in the sexual/sensuous context of Song of Solomon 4:14.
  • Cinnamon is one of the spices imported by Babylon (the ancient Roman Empire) in Revelation 18:13.

Much archaeological work goes on in the library and in the lab.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Sargon II, Ashdod, and Isaiah 20:1

Ashdod was located along an international highway known as the Way of the Sea, the Way of Philistia, or the Via Maris. This was the important route connecting Egypt and Assyria. We have already discussed, in the past few posts, that the Assyrian king Sargon II captured Ashdod in 712/11 B.C. The prophet Isaiah makes reference to this event in Isaiah 20:1.

 The LORD revealed the following message during the year in which King Sargon of Assyria sent his commanding general to Ashdod, and he fought against it and captured it. (Isa 20:1 NET)

Sometime discoveries are made, but get little attention. A discovery at Tel Ashdod in 1963 falls into this category. Tel Ashdod was excavated from 1962 to 1972 under the direction of Moshe Dothan. David Noel Freedman wrote an article in Biblical Archaeologist (26:4, 1963)) about “The Second Season at Ancient Ashdod.” He describes the fragments of a stele of Sargon II.

Fragments of another stele, commemorating the victories of Sargon, were found at Ashdod during the current season, thus offering direct confirmation and vivid illustration of the biblical and Assyrian accounts. In all, three pieces of the stele were discovered. Enough can be made of their contents to show that the inscription duplicated in content if not precisely in wording other victory steles of the Assyrian king. By comparing the Ashdod stele with the others it will be possible to reconstruct the missing parts, one of which described the actual conquest of Ashdod. The inscription was carved in cuneiform signs characteristic of Sargon and his period, on all four sides of a slab of basalt which had been imported from a region north of Megiddo. It may have served as a pedestal for an obelisk, or a statue of the emperor. It must have been erected between the year of victory at Ashdod and the death of the king in 705 B.C., perhaps in 707 when a similar stele was set up in Cyprus. With the accession of Sennacherib in 704, most of the vessel countries revolted; Hezekiah of Judah and Sidqa of Ashkelon were the ringleaders in the west. They were able to liberate Ashdod from Assyrian control, and doubtless the event was observed by the destruction of Sargon’s victory stele, symbol of foreign oppression. These fragments of a monumental Assyrian inscription are the first ever found in Palestine.

The photos below were published in an article by Hayam Tadmor (“Philistia Under Assyrian Rule.” Biblical Archaeologist (29:3, 1966). Several years ago I used a digital camera to copy the photo. Sorry it is not better, but at least you can see the pieces. A photo of the piece in the middle below is also published in a BAR article (Jan-Feb, 2007) by H. Shanks on the “Assyrian Palace Discovered in Ashdod,” but the quality is about the same.
Fragment of the Sargon II inscription found at Ashdod.

Fragment of the Sargon II inscription found at Ashdod.

For several years the fragments were displayed in a case across from the replica of the Siege of Lachish in the Israel Museum. For the past years the fragments have not been on display. I made inquiry at the Museum earlier this year without any success. I wonder if the pieces have been moved to the Corine Maman Museum of Philistine Culture in Ashdod. Can anyone help with this?

This discovery is one of those that complement the biblical record. Sargon II (721–705 B.C.) is mentioned only once in the Bible — Isaiah 20:1. Isaiah says that the commanding general of Sargon II fought against Ashdod and captured it.

The photo below shows Sargon II (right) facing a person who is generally considered to be an Assyrian high dignitary. (See the discussion in Fant & Reddish, Lost Treasures of the Bible, 133-140.

Sargon II and an attendant. Displayed in Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sargon II and an official. Displayed in Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jack Finegan says of the reference to Sargon II in Isaiah 20:1,

… for a long time this was the only place in extant literature where his name was known.

The palace of Sargon II was discovered by Paul Emile Botta at Khorsabad in 1843. This relief comes from that palace, and is displayed in the Louvre. Other reliefs and artifacts from the palace are exhibited in the British Museum and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Written copies of Isaiah existed in what we know as the Dead Sea Scrolls nearly 2000 years before the discovery of Sargon’s palace and archive. Perhaps we should be slow to think of Isaiah and other biblical writers as being unhistorical. To say this in a positive way, this illustrates the historical trustworthiness of the Bible. That the only reference to Sargon is specifically linked to Ashdod is even more impressive.

The Philistine city of Ashdod in the Bible

Ashdod is mentioned in the Bible as one of five cities of the Philistine Pentapolis (1 Samuel 6:17). The city is mentioned earlier among the Canaanite cities in the Ebla tablets. Here is a brief survey of the events recorded in the Bible.

  • Some of the Anakim were left in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod after Israel entered the land (Joshua 11:22).
  • Ashdod was among some cities that remained under Philistine control even though it had been assigned to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 13:2-3; 15:46-47).
  • When Israel lost the Ark of the Covenant at Ebenezer, the Philistines brought it to Ashdod and placed it in the temple of Dagon (1 Samuel 5:1-8).
Representation of the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness at Timna. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Representation of the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness at Timna.

  • Uzziah, king of Judah (767-740/39 B.C.), made war against Ashdod. He broke down the wall of Ashdod and built cities in the area (2 Chronicles 26:6).
  • King Sargon II of Assyria captured Ashdod in 712/711 B.C. (Isaiah 20:1).
  • After the return from Babylon, Nehemiah faced problems because some of the Judeans had married women of Ashdod. Their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah (Nehemiah 13:23-24).
  • The prophets Jeremiah, Amos, Zephaniah, and Zechariah spoke against Ashdod (Jeremiah 25:20; Amos 1:8; 3:9; Zephaniah 2:4; Zechariah 9:6).
  • Ashdod was known as Azotus in New Testament times (Acts 8:40).

In the next post we hope to discuss Isaiah 20:1 and the archaeological discovery that complements this text.

Massive Iron Age fortifications found at Ashdod-Yam

The American Friends of Tel Aviv University announced Monday the discovery of a massive fortification from the Iron Age.

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Researchers from Tel Aviv University have unearthed the remains of massive ancient fortifications built around an Iron-Age Assyrian harbor in present-day Israel.

At the heart of the well-preserved fortifications is a mud-brick wall up to more than 12 feet wide and 15 feet high. The wall is covered in layers of mud and sand that stretch for hundreds of feet on either side. When they were built in the eighth century B.C.E., the fortifications formed a daunting crescent-shaped defense for an inland area covering more than 17 acres.

The finding comes at the end of the first excavation season at the Ashdod-Yam archaeological dig in the contemporary Israeli coastal city of Ashdod, just south of Tel Aviv. Dr. Alexander Fantalkin of TAU’s Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures is leading the project on behalf of the Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology.

“The fortifications appear to protect an artificial harbor,” says Fantalkin. “If so, this would be a discovery of international significance, the first known harbor of this kind in our corner of the Levant.”

Building up and putting down. When the fortifications were built, the Assyrians ruled the southeastern part of the Mediterranean basin, including parts of Africa and the Middle East. Assyrian inscriptions reveal that at the end of the century, Yamani, the rebel king of Ashdod, led a rebellion against Sargon II, the king of the Assyrian Empire. The Kingdom of Judah, under King Hezekiah, rejected Yamani’s call to join the insurrection.

The Assyrians responded harshly to the rebellion, eventually destroying Philistine Ashdod. As a result, power shifted to the nearby area of Ashdod-Yam, where the TAU excavations are taking place. The fortifications seem to be related to these events, but it is not yet clear exactly how. They could have been built before or after the Ashdod rebellion was put down, either at the initiative of the locals or at the orders of the Assyrians.

“An amazing amount of time and energy was invested in building the wall and glacis [embankments],” says Fantalkin.

3D castles in the sand. More recent ruins — from the Hellenistic period, between the fourth and second centuries B.C.E. — were also found on top of the sand of the Iron Age fortifications. The buildings and walls were apparently built after the fortifications were abandoned and then probably destroyed by an earthquake in the second half of the second century B.C.E. Among the unusually well-preserved ruins were artifacts, including coins and weights.

The researchers employed a powerful new digital technique, photogrammetry, to create a 3D reconstruction of all the features of the excavation. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln provided the equipment. Dr. Philip Sapirstein, a postdoctoral fellow at TAU, served as a digital surveyor on the project.

The only archaeological work done previously at Ashdod-Yam was a series of exploratory digs led by late Israeli archaeologist Dr. Jacob Kaplan on behalf of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Museum of Antiquities between 1965 and 1968. Kaplan believed the Ashdod rebels built the fortifications in anticipation of an Assyrian attack, but Fantalkin says the construction appears too impressive to have been done under such circumstances.

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Broken columns lie scattered among the wild flowers on the sand dunes covering Ashdod-Yam. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Broken columns lie scattered among the wild flowers on the sand dunes covering Ashdod-Yam. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Ashdod-Yam Excavations website is here.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Visiting Ashdod-Yam — New Testament Azotus

Back in May, my friend Dan and I visited the site of Ashdod-Yam. The site is located a little over 3 miles NW of Tel Ashdod. Tel Ashdod, the city mentioned in the Old Testament, is difficult to visit. My young friends, Trent and Rebekah, mentioned visiting Ashdod a few weeks ago. The site, “now a cow pasture,”  is enclosed by a highway and railroad track on one side and an industrial park on the other. Finding the right hole in the fence is not easy.

You can see a small photo of the excavated area at Tel Ashdod in Journal 118 of Hadashot Arkheologiyot here. Biblical Archaeological Review has a full page photo of the Assyrian palace excavated at Tel Ashdod. (See “Assyrian Palace Discovered in Ashdod.” BAR, Jan/Feb 2007.)

Sargon II took the city of Ashdod in 712/711 B.C., an event mentioned in Isaiah 20:1. By Roman times Ashdod consisted of two cities, the coastal town of Azotus Paralios and the inland town of Azotus Mesogeius. (There is too much history for inclusion here.)

The citadel at Ashdod-Yam with a view north toward the modern city of Ashdod. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The citadel, an early Islamic and Crusader fortress, at Ashdod-Yam with a view north. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Azotus is mentioned only once in the Bible. After the baptism of the man of Ethiopia, the evangelist Philip “found himself at Azotus.”

But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. (Acts 8:40 ESV)

Except for the fortress, the large site of Ashdod-Yam resembles sand dunes. A joint excavation conducted by the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University and the Institut für Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft of the Leipzig University has just completed the current season. The excavation web site may may be accessed here.

Ashdod Yam. A view south toward Ashkelon. The large tel can be seen sloping down on the left of the photo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ashdod-Yam. A view south toward Ashkelon. The large tel can be seen sloping down on the left of the photo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Below is a photo of the name of Azotos Paralios in the 6th century Madaba mosaic map.

Azotus Paralios is portrayed on the 6th century A.D. Madaba mosaic map. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Azotos Paralios is portrayed on the Madaba mosaic map. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

City of David inscription may name a Bible character

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced Sunday the discovery of “a layer of rich finds including thousands of broken pottery shards, clay lamps and figurines … in the area of the Gihon Spring in the City of David, in the Walls around Jerusalem National Park.”

Most intriguing is the recent discovery of a ceramic bowl with a partially preserved inscription in ancient Hebrew. While not complete, the inscription presents us with the name of a seventh century BCE figure, which resembles other names known to us from both the Biblical and archaeological record [see Press Release] and providing us with a connection to the people living in Jerusalem at the end of the First Temple period.

Pottery sherd of a bowl from the end of the First Temple Period, bearing the inscription "ryhu bn bnh." Photo: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

Pottery sherd of a bowl from the end of the First Temple Period, bearing the inscription “ryhu bn bnh.” Photo: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

Dr. Joe Uziel and Nashon Zanton, directors of the dig, were working in ruins belonging to the period of the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians when the inscription was found. They say that the name most similar to the inscription is “Zechariah the son of Benaiah, the father of the Prophet Jahaziel.”

 And the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly.  And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. (2 Chronicles 20:14-15 ESV)

More information about this discovery is available in the IAA Press Release here. Other finds from the same area, shown in the photo below, are impressive.

Various finds from the fill layer of the end of the First Temple Period: oil lamps, LMLK stamped handles and female figurines. Photo: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

Various finds from the fill layer of the end of the First Temple Period: oil lamps, LMLK stamped handles and female figurines. Photo: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer; Todd Bolen, Bible Places Blog (see here for more news links)