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The Most Amazing Archaeological Finds From Israel*

חצר הווילה שנחרבה בשנת 70 מימין וקומפלקס המקוואות של הווילה שיש המציעים לראותו כארמון הלני המלכה. צולם באוקטובר 2011 - Excavation_in_City_of_David_Givaty_parking_lot_Jerusalem Photo: Hanay

Knowledge Feed brings us awesome mysteries, discoveries in Timna, City of David, Beit Shemesh, Gezer, Tel Eton, Ashkelon and the western Galilee.

1. The Role of Women

A mosaic in the discovered in small, unknown village in the western Galilee speaks for the relatively high status of women in the early Church. Dating to the 5th century, a Greek-language inscription memorializes one “Sausann” (or Shoshana) as a donor for the construction of a village church. It is one of seven inscriptions — including a massive five-meter long text — which were found in three Byzantine churches during these excavations by Kinneret College archaeologist Mordechai Aviam and historian Jacob Ashkenazi.

2. A Pregnant Woman

The Timna Valley is located in southern Israel in the southwestern Arava, approximately 30 kilometres (19 mi) north of the city of Eilat. The area of Timna is rich in copper ore and has been mined since the 5th millennium BCE. There is controversy whether the mines were active during the biblical united Kingdom of Israel and its second ruler, King Solomon.

A rare find at Timna King Solomon’s Mines: The skeleton of an ancient pregnant woman, dating back around 3,200 years, has been found near a temple.

3. 2000 Year Old Earrings

Israeli archaeologists found a 2,000 year-old gold filigree earring featuring a horned animal head in the City of David, an archaeological excavation near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Only the second of its kind found in the area of the City of David, the earring is an extremely rare discovery from the 2nd or 3rd century B.C.E., the early Hellenistic period.

The earring was found inside a building during an archeological investigation of the site formerly known the Givati parking lot, under which lies the City of David – monumental stone ruins by Temple Mount that many believe were the place from which King David ruled. 

4. An Eight Year Old’s Lucky Find

In 2015, eight year old Itai Halpern of Pardesiya was on a trip with his parents in the Beit Shemesh.

He decided to pick up a random rock that the stone was actually a hand carved, well detailed head. His parents snapped a photo and called authorities to report the find.

Alon de Groot, an Israel Antiquities Authority expert on the Iron Age examined the fragment and discovered it was the head of the sculpture of a fertility goddess. Common in the homes of commoners under the rule of King Judah in the eighth century, the sculpture depicted a naked woman as a sort of charm to help the woman of the house be fertile and the family prosper. De Groot added that “these figurines serve in our research as a marker for the area controlled by the Kingdom of Judah.

Itai Halpern was granted a certificate of honor after discovering the head of a statue from the First Temple period. The boy’s find earned him and the chance for his entire school class to participate in the dig for more artifacts at the Beit Shemesh site.

5. King Solomon’s Palace?

Gezer is listed in the Book of Joshua as a Levitical city, one of ten allotted to the Levite children of Kehoth – the Kohathites (Joshua, ch. 21). Discoveries related to biblical archaeology include: a probable Canaanite high place with ten monumental megaliths (up-ended stones, each of which is called a masseba or matseva; such are found elsewhere in Israel, but the Gezer massebot are the most impressive examples); 13 inscribed boundary stones, making it the first positively identified biblical city; a six-chambered gate similar to those found at Hazor and Megiddo; and a large Canaanite water system comprising a tunnel going down to a spring, similar to those found in Jerusalem, Hazor and Megiddo.

In 2016, archaeologists uncovered a palace that dated to the era of King Solomon, the last ruler of the United Kingdom of Israel in the ancient royal city of Gezer. The massive structure is believed to be over three thousand years old, placing it in around the 10th century. Full of spacious rooms and two large courtyards, the palace is similar to other structures around the city but was much larger, making researchers believe that it was the home of a royal or social elite. A series of artifacts were found within the building, including Philistine pottery, pieces of a statue dedicated the bird faced deity Ashdod, a game box lid, a baby’s rattle, amulets, and a statuette of the Canaanite fertility goddess. It is believed that the structure had been abandoned prior to it being looted and levelled by an attack lead by Pharaoh Sheshonq I in 925BC.

6. Tel Eton – An Ancient Structure

Tel ‘Eton is located in the trough valley, on the south-eastern part of the Judean Shephalah, just below the Hebron hills. The site is located in the midst of a large open area where ancient tells and Khirbets, dot the landscape. Among the many well-preserved archaeological sites in this area, Tel ‘Eton is prominent. The site covers about 15 acres, and is located some 11 km east-southeast of Tel Lachish. The ancient city is situated near an important junction between the north-south road that meandered along the trough valley connecting the Beersheba valley and the Ayalon valley, and the east-west road that connected the coastal plain and the Shephelah with Hebron, and which passed along wadi Adoraim. The site’s location near large valleys also secured its proximity to fertile soils, increasing its economic importance.

In early 2006, archaeologists discovered what was incorrectly called “proof of King David’s Biblical Existence”.

Bar-Ilan University Prof. Avraham Faust and his team nicknamed the structure the “Governor’s Residence.” Undoubtedly an elite domicile, it is considered a “four-room house,” the most typical Israelite architectural form. According to Faust, who said he has studied over 150 similar “four-room” structures (which are usually around 40-70 meters squared), the size alone puts it in the top 1 percent of such houses.

The structure is believed to be the four room home of an elite member of ancient Israelite society and is still absolutely incredible. It gives us a nearly perfect look into the lives of the Israelites. Called the “Governor’s Residence”, the home has four areas sectioned into rooms that contained over five hundred artifacts that were painstakingly removed from the residence to be studied. Carbon dating on two charcoals and an olive pit place the structure’s time of use at around the 11th century. Found in Tel ‘Eton, an area in the south of Israel, the home is placed within the top one percent of similar finds due to its enormous size.

Some assign Tel ‘Eton to be the biblical city Eglon. As recorded in the historically dubious Book of Joshua, after the Israelites had conquered the indigenous settlers in Canaan, the 12 tribes divided the land. Among the defeated Amorite cities listed in Joshua 10 is Eglon, which is presumed to be in the trough valley area of Tel ‘Eton, near an important junction between the north-south road connecting the Beersheba valley and the Ayalon valley, and the east-west road between the coastal plain and Hebron. 

7. Philistine Cemetery

The Bible frequent mentions tensions between the Israelites and the Philistines. In fact, the one of the most commonly referenced events involves an Israelite, David, and Goliath. The Bible includes an incredible amount of detail concerning Goliath’s impact on the Israelites and subsequent death that the hands of David but gives no information on what happened to his collossial body following his demise. In fact, historians had no clue what happened to Philistines who died within Israel, as the two were enemies so routine burial seemed unlikely. While more than a century of scholarship has identified the five major cities of the Philistines and artifacts distinctive to their culture, only a handful of burials have been tentatively identified.

In mid-2016, a team of archaeologists digging near Ashkelon, a city on Israel’s southeast coast, uncovered what they now believe to be an ancient Philistine cemetery. Found just outside of the city’s walls, the cemetery contained over two hundred individual skeletons and is believed to date from between the 8th and 11th centuries.

The excavations revealed a burial practice that is very different from that of the earlier Canaanites or the neighboring Judeans. Instead of laying a body in a chamber, then collecting the bones a year later and moving them elsewhere (a “secondary” burial), the individuals buried in the Ashkelon cemetery were buried individually in pits or collectively in tombs and never moved again. A few cremation burials were also identified.

Unlike the Egyptians, the Philistines deposited very few grave goods with each individual. Some were adorned with a few pieces of jewelry, while others were buried with a small set of ceramics or a tiny juglet that may have once contained perfume.

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