Since the discovery of tombs in the area where an emergency room for an Ashkelon hospital is being built, religious Jews in Israel have protested.  Today’s announcement by the Israel Antiquities Authority of the discovery of a Roman altar from the 1st-2nd century AD should strengthen the argument that the tombs are not Jewish.

From the IAA press release:

The development work for the construction of a fortified emergency room at Barzilai Hospital, which is being conducted by a contractor carefully supervised by the Israel Antiquities Authority, has unearthed a new and impressive find: a magnificent pagan altar dating to the Roman period (first-second centuries CE) made of granite and adorned with bulls’ heads and a laurel wreaths. The altar stood in the middle of the ancient burial field. Ashkelon Roman altar, IAA, IMG_1119
According to Dr. Yigal Israel, Ashkelon District Archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The discovery further corroborates the assertion that we are dealing with a pagan cemetery. It is an impressive find that has survived 2,000 years. The altar is c. 60 centimeters tall and it is decorated with bulls’ heads, from which dangle laurels wreaths. There is a strap in the middle of each floral wreath and bull’s head. The laurel wreaths are decorated with grape clusters and leaves. This kind of altar is known as an “incense altar.” Such altars usually stood in Roman temples and visitors to the temple used to burn incense in them, particularly myrrh and frankincense, while praying to their idols. We can still see the burnt marks on the altar that remain from the fire. The altar was probably donated by one of the families who brought it to the cemetery from the city of Ashkelon.”

The full press release is here.  Three high-resolution photos of the altar are available here.

UPDATE: The story is also reported by the AFP and Haaretz.


Dutch scholar M. J. Paul has ten questions or concerns about the Hong King team’s alleged discovery of Noah’s Ark.  Here are a few:

2. Archaeologists are obliged to pinpoint exactly where they’ve found something, but these ‘discoverers’ keep their location secret though they do name Ararat. This makes control/checking impossible.
5. The wood is said to be tested in a laboratory in Iran, and estimated to be about 4800 years old. Does Iran actually have laboratories where one is skilled at determining this correctly? Why did this happen in Iran? And why aren’t the official ‘reports’ publicised so the results can be double-checked?
8. It induces distrust that the discoverers first want to make a film documentary before actual factual data is released and verified/reviewed.  When will the finds be presented on the normal way to the scientific community so that verification is possible?
9. One of the published photographs shows a spider web/cobweb in one of the corners. Is it possible for spiders to live at that height? Survive in that cold? Or did they photograph a cave positioned much lower than 4000m?

His complete list is here.

Regardless of whether one is knowledgeable about the living conditions of spiders, all should agree that the profit motive makes this endeavor suspicious from the beginning.  If this group is interested in truth, they should be seeking professional examination of their work.  As long as they refuse this while pursuing wide publicity and financial gain, their “discovery” should not be accepted.  Peter’s warning may apply here:

In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up (2 Peter 2:3).

There is of course another danger in all of this.  Repeated false discoveries of Noah’s Ark can lead some to deny that God ever destroyed the earth by flood, that this whole “ark” thing is a fiction.  If you doubt God did it before, you’re less likely to believe that he’ll do it again.  Peter sounds a warning in this regard as well:

You must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat (2 Peter 3:3-7, 11-12).