Mahane Yehuda

Western visitors to Jerusalem are often impressed with the city’s large open-air market, Mahane Yehuda.  Arutz-7 runs an illustrated article about it today.

You can learn much about a city by exploring its open air market and listening to its stories. By the end of the 19th  [secular] century Jerusalem was growing, with Jews returning to their homeland. In addition, immigrants from numerous nationalities and religions from Europe, Ethiopia, Turkey, and Russia were also contributing to the urban fabric of the city. New neighborhoods were built outside the walls to alleviate the overcrowding in the Old City.

The Jerusalem neighborhood of Mahane Yehuda was established in 1887 with 162 houses, founded by three business partners: Johannes Frutiger, Joseph Navon, and Shalom Konstrum, and named after Navon’s brother Yehudah. Frutiger was a German Protestant who owned the largest private bank in Palestine; it was he who acquired the license for the Jaffa-Jerusalem Railway with Navon from the Ottoman government.

The full article and photos are here.

Mahane Yehuda market, tb092906427Mahane Yehuda, Jerusalem 

This might be a good opportunity to mention an Israeli film related to Ushpizinthe feast of Sukkot (which begins on Friday evening).  Ushpizin is a delightful 90-minute movie about a husband and wife whose celebration of the holiday is interrupted by some unexpected visitors.  The film is in Hebrew with English subtitles.  The movie won awards in Israel for “best picture” and “best actor,” but it’s popular enough in the U.S. that I found it for rent in our local Blockbuster.  Amazon has it used for $8.


Kh. Qeiyafa and the Southern Adventist University

Southern Adventist University’s Institute of Archaeology joined the excavation team at Khirbet Qeiyafa this summer.  Their recent DigSight newsletter includes photographs and a description of their experiences and future plans.  You can read the newsletter online here.  I’ll just make a few observations, primarily because there has been almost no other news from the Qeiyafa excavations this year.  That may be related to an inability to decipher the ostracon, could suggest there is some great discovery yet to be reported, or more likely is the result of a rather regular season, without any dramatic news like last year.  Archaeology is, after all, 99% physical labor, data collection, and laboratory analysis.  The best “finds” come out of the synthesis of the data, when a site’s history and culture is accurately understood. In brief, some things I noted in the newsletter:

  • Dr. Michael G. Hasel, director of SAU’s Institute of Archaeology is associate director of the KQ excavation.
  • The team is planning to work at KQ until 2012 when they will begin their own excavations under the umbrella of the Elah Valley Regional Project.
  • The gate that Yosef Garfinkel visually identified last fall was excavated and it is apparently still identified as a gate.  (This is significant because it is a second gate at the site.)
  • The Hellenistic settlement is immediately preceded by Iron IIa floors upon which were “almost complete restorable vessels, including a lamp, chalice, and large storage jars with thumbprint impressions.” 
  • The casemate wall rests on bedrock, “indicating without a doubt that the massive wall system associated with the western gate does in fact date to the early tenth century B.C., despite recent opposing suggestions by some scholars.”
  • Garfinkel’s lecture at the Institute on November 17 is entitled, “Excavating the Biblical City of Sha’arayim.”  He apparently has not changed his identification of the site since last year.
  • Garfinkel’s ASOR lecture (11/19)  is a double session, entitled “Khirbet Qeiyafa: A Fortified City in Judah from the Time of King David.”  See a full list of related lectures at Luke Chandler’s blog.

The newsletter has more, including opportunities for the general public and a way to subscribe to the newsletter.


Pool of Siloam, Then and Now

Understanding the ancient Pool(s) of Siloam is a bit difficult.  First, there is the pool where Hezekiah’s Tunnel emerges.  This pool is small, shallow, and unimpressive.  In 2004, a monumental reservoir was discovered to the south, dating to the 1st century A.D. (for more on that, see here and here).

Scholars today do not yet know how the two pools are related.  The Lower Pool was quite likely the place of the miracle of the healing of the blind man (John 9).  The area above was the site of a pool in the Late Roman period, and continued in use in the Byzantine period when a 5th century church was constructed over it.  What existed here before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 is not known.

Pool of Siloam, tb051501204

Pool of Siloam, view to the north, present day

Today if you visit the pool at the end of Hezekiah’s Tunnel, there are a few column drums from the Byzantine pool, but little else to suggest the beautiful complex that pilgrims visited.  That hasn’t always been the case, however, for the excavations of Bliss and Dickie in the 1890s revealed some of the ancient walls.  In the photo below, behind the donkey is a wall of large, well-dressed stones with a classical molding.  The excavators identified this as the northern side of the square Roman pool.

Pool of Siloam, north end, mat08471 Pool of Siloam, view to the north, early 1900s

After the excavations, Muslims erected a mosque over the northwestern corner of the area, covering all traces of the earlier pool and the Byzantine church built to commemorate it. 

This photograph is one of 45 in the “City of David” set included in the Jerusalem volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection.  Photo: Library of Congress, LC-matpc-08471.


Weekend Roundup

I updated last week’s post about the mikveh discovery near the Western Wall with a link to Leen Ritmeyer’s explanation of the location of the mikveh in relation to the Xystos and Chamber of Hewn Stone.

Bob Cargill reports that Raphael Golb’s path to prison is still clear.

If you use Logos’ Libronix, but don’t subscribe to the Tyndale Tech newsletter, you’ll find David Instone-Brewer’s “Guides, Tips, and Treasures” helpful.

Ferrell Jenkins is currently traveling through Malta and Italy, visiting such biblical sites as Rhegium, Syracuse, and Rome.  You can read his observations and view his photos on his blog.  I’m presently working on a new CD for the Pictorial Library that will include these places and more.

Gordon Franz gives his reflections on six weeks of excavation at Hazor this summer.

The Wall Street Journal considers the claims of Palestinians who assert that

Jews have no history in the city of Jerusalem: They have never lived there, the Temple never existed, and Israeli archaeologists have admitted as much. Those who deny this are simply liars.

The WSJ mentions “A Brief Guide to al-Haram al-Sharif” as evidence in the discussion, and, as far as I know, this discovery was first mentioned and made available by a reader on this blog.


Joseph’s “Coins”

Every time a story surfaces on the internet that is obviously (in my mind) bogus, I prefer to ignore it here.  But after receiving several emails from sharp individuals, I think this one must be worthy of comment.  Instead of just stating that the story about Egyptian coins from Joseph’s time should be ignored, I’ll suggest a few clues that should make you suspicious. 

1) The report claims to prove the biblical account.  I believe the Bible is an accurate historical account, but experience has taught me that most news reports claiming such are untrustworthy. 

2) The discovery was reported by an Egyptian newspaper.  This is not the place where credible scholars break stories. 

3) Coins were not invented until approximately 600 BC.  By anyone’s reckoning, Joseph lived or did not live many hundreds of years earlier. 

4) A statement like this: “Some of the coins are from the time when Joseph lived in Egypt.”  There is no time (singular) when scholars believed Joseph lived. 

There are various theories about when he lived.  No credible source would make this statement without a discussion of when the “coins” date to and how we now know when Joseph lived. 

5) Statements from the Quran about Joseph were used by the archaeologist as credible historical testimony.

6) If it sounds too good to be true…: “Among these, there was one coin that had an inscription on it, and an image of a cow symbolizing Pharaoh’s dream about the seven fat cows and seven lean cows, and the seven green stalks of grain and seven dry stalks of grain.”  7) Never in the report is a date or the name of a pharaoh given!

The story was re-reported as fact by the Jerusalem Post and Arutz-7 (shame on them; their editors must be off for the Yom Kippur weekend).  The only one I’ve seen refuting this so far is Paleojudaica and Joe Lauer, who rightly questions whether this was released on the Egyptian version of April Fool’s Day.

UPDATE: Michael S. Heiser has several helpful comments on PaleoBabble.  I don’t think I was aware of this blog before, but some readers here will certainly want to follow what is dubbed as “your antidote to cyber-twaddle and misguided research about the ancient world.”


Sea of Galilee from above

NASA’s “Earth Image of the Day” last week was a beautiful photo of the Sea of Galilee.  I believe that copyright restrictions on NASA images are little to nil for U.S citizens, so you can use it to your heart’s content. 

Sea of Galilee, NASA image

You might take a little more care, however, in the photo’s description.  I don’t think anyone who has seen the area between January and June would call the region an “arid landscape.”  Nor would anyone consider a 4th-5th century synagogue one of the oldest in the world. 

Sea of Galilee southern end from west, tb041003225 Sea of Galilee from the west (source)

The description mentions Edward Robinson, and so interested in what he said about the place he identified as Capernaum, I opened the “Sea of Galilee, Capernaum” PowerPoint file on the new Northern Palestine CD, and read this:

Here are the remains of a place of considerable extent; covering a tract of at least half a mile in length along the shore, and about half that breadth inland. They consist chiefly of the foundations and fallen walls of dwellings and other buildings, all of unhewn stones, except two ruins. One of these is a small structure near the shore, the only one now standing; on a nearer approach, it is seen to have been laid up in later times, with the hewn stones, columns, and pilasters of former buildings. Not far off are the prostrate ruins of an edifice, which, for expense of labour and ornament, surpasses any thing we had yet seen in Palestine (1841: 3: 298; emphasis added).

If you’ve visited Capernaum and seen the beautiful ornamentation, you know what Robinson was talking about.

HT: David Coppedge


Petition Against City of David Excavations Rejected

From the Jerusalem Post:

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a petition submitted against the Israel Antiquities Authority by residents of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, concerning excavations being conducted at the City of David archeological park in the neighborhood’s Wadi Hilweh section.
The petition, which was the second of its kind submitted by residents – and dismissed by the court – within the last week, alleged that the excavations were being done without the proper permits and were encroaching on the residents’ private property. Residents also complained that the archeological projects had damaged their homes.
The IAA, however, claimed that the residents were being “incited by other figures whose considerations are political and improbable,” and maintained that the excavations were of the utmost importance.
One of the excavations is being conducted next to the Givati parking lot, which is located south of the Old City’s southern wall, at the entrance to Silwan. According to the IAA, numerous layers of antiquities have been revealed during the excavation, including a “very impressive” structure that was likely a public building dating back to the late Roman period.
Remains from the early Islamic period have also been uncovered, as well as remains from the Second Temple period. According to the IAA, “all of the remains were scientifically excavated, through meticulous work, while photographing and documenting everything.”
The second excavation, which was the subject of the residents’ most recent petition, exposed a drainage channel structure from the Second Temple period that extends over a distance of many dozens of meters. According to the IAA, “the structure is surprisingly well preserved, and one can walk through it upright, for most of its length. The excavators were aware of the structure’s existence; nevertheless, the segment that was excavated was only recently exposed.”

The full article is here.

HT: Joe Lauer


Large Mikveh Discovered Near Western Wall

A large ritual bathing installation from the 1st century A.D. has been excavated in the Western Wall Tunnels.  From Arutz-7:

It is located about 30 meters past the entrance to the Tunnels, in the general direction of the Western Wall. Once it becomes open to the public, the 11 broad steps leading down to the mikveh will be seen approximately 8 meters below floor level.
Josephus, the famous turncoat general and historian of the period, wrote that the administrative and governmental center of Jerusalem was located at the foot of the Temple, and that among the buildings there were the National Council and the Lishkat HaGazit, Chamber of Hewn Stone, where the Sanhedrin – Israel’s Supreme Court – convened. The archaeologists feel that it is possible that the luxurious hall aside the mikveh was originally one of these structures.
Archaeologist Alexander Ohn,  the director of the dig, explains: “It is interesting to note that in the middle of the first century, changes were made in the grand structure. It was no longer used for public administrative purposes, and in its western wall a large mikveh was installed – with 11 steps descending into the immersion pool. It appears that Jerusalem was growing at this time, and with it the need to provide a solution for the increasing numbers of people who came en masse to Jerusalem, especially on the pilgrimage festivals (Passover (Pesach), Pentecost (Shavuot), and Tabernacles (Sukkot)). Ritual immersion in a mikveh and precise observance of the laws of purity were an inseparable part of Jewish life at this time; the importance of a mikveh, especially in this location, was great.”

The complete article is here.  The Israel Antiquities Authority press release (temporary link) includes two high-resolution photos (zip).

UPDATE: Joe Lauer notes some additional photos in this brief AP article.

UPDATE (9/26): Leen Ritmeyer has written an illustrated post about the discovery, including clarification of some portions of the JPost article.


Western Wall Area, Then and Now

Temple Mount and Western Wall area from southwest, mat00886

This photograph was taken by the American Colony photographers between 1900 and 1920 from the southern wall of the Old City (visible on the right edge).  The Dome of the Rock is clearly visible, but you have to look harder to see a portion of the Western Wall below it.  The buildings directly below the Dome are in the area of today’s “ramp” giving access to the Temple Mount to non-Muslims.  The fields in the foreground are cactus.

Old City southern wall with Dome of the Rock, db6401192102

By 1964, the plants had been removed and a narrow road paved.  The road today follows a circuitous route similar to that shown here, where buses pick up passengers from the Western Wall.

Dome of Rock and Al Aqsa from southwest, tb051501801
The problem today is that you can’t get the same perspective because of buildings in the way. 

Western Wall and Dome of Rock from southwest, tb122604408
You get a better feel for the comparison if you move in front of the buildings. 

If it’s easier for you to compare these if you have them in a larger size in a PowerPoint file, you can download that here (but see update below).

The first photo is one of 77 photographs in the “Views of Jerusalem” section of the Jerusalem volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection.  Photo: Library of Congress, LC-matpc-00886. 

The second photo is from Views That Have Vanished: The Photographs of David Bivin.

UPDATE (9/23): Mark V. Hoffman has edited the PowerPoint file so that the images are aligned and transition smoothly one to the next.  You can download that here.  Thanks Mark!


Herod’s Temple at Omrit

King Herod built four temples throughout his empire, but the location of one is still being discussed. 

Recent archaeological work at Omrit near Caesarea Philippi (Banias) has led the excavators to suggest that they have found Herod’s temple to Augustus.  Stephen G. Rosenberg reports on the discoveries in the Jerusalem Post.

This white stone building at Omrit stands in the middle of nowhere today, but this was not so in antiquity. Recent excavations have shown that it stood alongside the Roman road from Tyre to Damascus, where it was joined by the route from Scythopolis (Beit-She’an) to Damascus. The temple stood high above the road and was joined to it by an avenue of columns that led to a bridge across the wadi Al-Hazin, which the road followed.
Herod built three temples in honor of his patron Augustus. One stood at Sebastia (Samaria) and a second one at Caesarea. Where was the third? Some archeologists think it was at Banias itself, but that city was dedicated to the god Pan.
Andrew Overman of Macalester College in the US thinks the temple was at Omrit. Overman has been digging at the site for nearly 10 years and sees in the remains all the unique characteristics and high quality of Herod’s methods of building. Like the other two temples, Omrit was approached by a grand flight of stairs that led to a portico of six columns and onto the cella, or enclosed shrine, which would have housed a statue of Augustus, as the Romans considered him a god. It is perhaps significant that the temple faced west, toward Rome and the emperor, and in front of the temple there was a paved area with an altar that would have been used for libations in his honor.
The high quality of the stonework, laid in headers and stretchers without mortar, and the finely carved capitals all point to the work of Herod the Great. So does the concept itself, of an isolated temple standing impressively on a high podium on a prominent ridge to make it visible and even overpowering from afar.

The whole article is worth reading. 

As mentioned here last week, Dan Schowalter will be giving a lecture entitled “Architecture and Power: Excavations of a Roman Temple Site at Omrit in Northern Israel” at the Bible and Archaeology Fest.

HT: Joe Lauer

Omrit temple from east, tb032905156

Omrit temple from the east
Omrit temple from east, tb032905151 Omrit temple from the east

Omrit temple interior, tb032905141

Ashlar masonry construction of Omrit temple