Lion Statue Found at Tell Tayinat, Turkey

Unreported Heritage News reports on a lion statue discovered at Tell Tayinat. The excavation season began June 21 and will continue through August. The basalt statue is 1.5 meters tall and weighs 2 tons and depicts a seated, roaring lion. So far, it seems only to have been reported in the Turkish media, and so we rely on images and Google Translate to sketch out some of the story.

The Tayinat Archaeological Project official website has some small photos at the bottom of their homepage. The dating of the statue is 9th-8th century B.C.

Turkish Journal has a still photograph of the statue being moved. (The Google translation is kind of dicey.)

Heberler has a five minute video of the lion being moved to the Antakya museum. At about 3:28 in the video, Timothy Harrison, the director of the Tayinat Archaeological Project, talks about the find to Turkish reporters via an interpreter. He states that they are excavating beneath the new temple which was discovered in 2008 (where the Esarhaddon treaty tablet was found). The lion apparently came from these earlier levels beneath the temple.

HT: Jack Sasson

UPDATE (Aug 9): The University of Toronto has now issued a press release on the lion statue.


Carchemish Outer Town Project, 2009-2010

In earlier posts (here and here), we noted plans to renew excavations at the site of Carchemish, perhaps even as early as this year. The ancient city straddles the modern Turkey-Syria border with the citadel and inner town in Turkey and most of the outer town in Syria.

A recent article at Antiquity’s Project Gallery describes ongoing work on the Syrian side of Carchemish. Since 2006, Tony Wilkinson, a specialist in landscape archaeology, along with Edgar Peltenburg, has been conducting surveys of the Carchemish region as part of the Land of Carchemish (Syria) Project. In 2009, that project has expanded to include the site of Carchemish itself with the initiation of the Carchemish Outer Town Project. The Antiquity article provides a description and preliminary report on the 2009 and 2010 seasons of the Carchemish Outer Town Project. The project has been conducting surface surveys, photographing features, and utilizing remote sensing data to map out the site.

We determined that the outer town ramparts were much more substantial than Woolley had surmised….Artefacts collected during 2009 and 2010 indicate a dominance of ceramics contemporaneous with Iron Age 2 levels at other sites in the region…Most parallel types appear in later eighth- and seventh-century contexts on these sites…The main phase of occupation was later than that suggested in the original excavation reports; our material suggests that it derives mainly from the time when the city was under Assyrian control, namely after their installation of a governor in 717 BC until the conquest of the city by the Babylonians in 605 BC. The surface ceramics imply that the Assyrians were responsible for the enlargement of the city, and that Carchemish was more significant in that period than has been previously assumed. Evidence of occupation in the periods preceding the Iron Age consists of a handful of sherds of possibly Middle Bronze Age date. The post-Iron Age ceramics are represented by small amounts of Hellenistic and Roman wares, making it difficult to determine the scale of the settlement in these periods.

See the Antiquity article for photographs, maps and more details about the project.


Updates on the Horned Altar of Gath

In the cleaning of pottery found in the vicinity of the horned altar of Gath, archaeologists have discovered an inscription. Aren Maeir reports that several letters written in ink have been identified, including a mem (“m”).

Maeir has also posted a three-minute video about the two-horned altar in which he describes the
context of the find, the date of its destruction, and the significance of the object.

The altar has now been removed from the site and is in the lab at Bar-Ilan University.


Youths Learn To Preserve Cultural Heritage

From the Jerusalem Post:

Alongside their photographs of the standard red rock scenery, the youngsters are also busy snapping close-ups of antique stones eroded by a mix of ecological elements, plant growth, air pollution, human hands and numerous other factors over thousands of years.
“It’s important that we see these places with our own eyes and take photos before it’s too late,” comments 17- year-old Lorna Cassar, who says she is most impressed with the intricate hand carvings on the outside of the instantly recognizable Petra treasury. “All these sites will eventually vanish because they are all under threat either from humans or biological factors; we must do our best to preserve them.”
While Cassar and the other nine Maltese students are only at the start of their journey to understanding how to preserve, conserve and protect such sites for future generations to enjoy, this growing appreciation for cultural heritage is exactly the premise of ELAICH (Educational Linkage Approach in Cultural Heritage), a regional project focused on the Mediterranean basin and funded primarily by the European Union’s Euromed Heritage 4 Program. The project’s central goal is to instill in young people an awareness of the importance of cultural heritage preservation.
“We do not expect them to become professionals in the fields of preservation, conservation, archeology or architecture, but we hope this course will give them basic theoretical knowledge so they can understand and appreciate what exactly cultural heritage is,” explains Dr. Anna Lobovikov-Katz, a senior lecturer and researcher in the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning at Haifa’s Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, and the brain behind ELAICH.
Lobovikov-Katz, who now coordinates the far-reaching, multifaceted project, has pulled together some of the region’s most renowned conservationists, archeologists, historical architects and other experts to share their detailed knowledge with young people from Israel, Turkey and Greece, as well as Malta and Jordan.
She notes that while the knowledge and tools used to preserve cultural heritage have greatly improved in recent years, public awareness of the importance of historical sites is still very low.
In a region rich with historic monuments that shed light on the secrets of past civilizations, failure to address this ignorance, especially in the next generation, could lead to cultural heritage sites disappearing along with the communities that originally built them.
“History is very fragile,” observes Roberta De Angelis, a trained conservationist based at the University of Malta, who worked with the Maltese students earlier this year to study a local parish church in Valletta as part of the ELAICH course there.
“As conservationists, we are very frustrated,” she says, as we make our way through the shaded gorge that leads visitors to and from Petra’s ruins. “People do not understand that we need to preserve these sites for future generations, and they think that because they cannot always see the erosion, there is nothing to worry about.”

The full story is here.

HT: Joseph Lauer


Recording Released of Golden Bell of Jerusalem

A commenter on the previous post about the discovery of the golden bell in Jerusalem alleged that the archaeologists’ interpretation of the find was influenced by ideological concerns and that the object was not a bell at all.

Independent Media Review Analysis (IMRA) has now released a recording of the bell.

This is the tiny golden bell which was lost in Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago during the Second Temple period found among ruins near the Old City. The bell, which is thought to have been an adornment which was sewn onto the garments of a senior official, was uncovered during excavation work on a drainage channel in the City of David, just south of the Old City walls. “It seems the bell was sewn on the garment worn by a high official in Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple period,” an IAA statement said.
The recording of the bell provided by Udi Ragones, Ir David Foundation Spokesman.
[IMRA: IMRA has requested a sound file of the bell. If one takes the sound of the single bell and prepares a series of staggered overlays of the sound of the bell it will be possible to recreate what was heard over two thousand years ago when the high official walked in Jerusalem.]

HT: Joseph Lauer


Israeli Returns Ossuary to IAA

From Haaretz:

A Tel Aviv resident returned a Second Temple period artifact to the Antiquities Authority after realizing the item was an ossuary.
The man, who works in the field of art and design, contacted the authority inspectors at his own initiative, saying he purchased the ossuary from an antiquities dealer some time ago. He told them he kept the ancient artifact in his bedroom, until one of his friends told him this was a small coffin used to store bones a year after the burial. He said he was repelled by the thought that he slept with a coffin in his room.

The full story is here.

HT: Joseph Lauer


Sea of Galilee and Lake Michigan Become “Sister Lakes”

From the Jerusalem Post:

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and National Infrastructures Minister Dr. Uzi Landau signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Jerusalem on Sunday establishing a “Sister Lakes” relationship between Lake Michigan and the Kinneret, to foster an educational exchange for research toward maintaining the two very critical bodies of water. Some issues of common interest between the two leaders include maintaining water quality, preserving fisheries, eliminating harmful invasive species, curbing algal proliferation and keeping water levels high – all of which are crucial to supplying ample water to the respective populations, the officials said.

The full story is here.


Philistine Two-Horned Altar from Tell es-Safi

Aren Maeir reports today on the Tell es-Safi/Gath blog that a two-horned altar was discovered about one-and-a-half weeks ago at Tell es-Safi. It was found in a destruction level dated to the 9th century and attributed to Hazael, the king of Damascus.

1) It is the earliest stone altar from Philistia, a precursor of the many stone altars that are known from 7th century Tel Miqne-Ekron.

2) It is one of the largest altars known (save for the Tel Sheva altar [which though is made of many stones] and an altar from Ekron which was found out of context).

3) It is one of the earliest such altars from the Iron Age, save for those from Megiddo which are late 10th-9th cent. BCE.

4) It has TWO and not four horns – quite unusual for such altars. This is VERY interesting, since this may very well confirm a theory put forward by our team member Louise Hitchcock that there is a connection between the Minoan/Cypriote “Horns of Consecration” and the horned altars – perhaps brought by the Philistines.

5) Its dimensions are virtually identical to the dimensions of the incense altar in the biblical tabernacle (1X1X2 cubit) in Exodus 30!

6) Quite surprisingly, the back part of the altar, and part of the top is unfinished! While the back part might have been “built-in” to a niche behind it (and this could explain the unfinished parts) the top is hard to explain.

7) No evidence of burning or residues were found on top of the altar, although a very nice Cypriote “Black on Red” flask was found right near it. Perhaps it originally stood on top of the altar!

8) Surrounding the altar we found large concentrations of various types of vessels and several concentrations of astragali.

For more details and several photos of the altar’s discovery, read Aren’s full announcement.

UPDATE: Joe Lauer sends along notice that the Foundation Stone website has a photo showing the newly discovered altar from another angle. There is also information about a radio interview with Aren Maeir on the LandMinds show, set to broadcast on Wednesday.


Recent Excavations at Shechem


Working on an urban lot that long served residents of Nablus as an unofficial dump for garbage and old car parts, Dutch and Palestinian archaeologists are learning more about the ancient city of Shekhem — and preparing to open the site to the public as an archaeological park next year. The project, carried out under the auspices of the Palestinian Department of Antiquities, also aims to introduce the Palestinians of Nablus, who have been beset for much of the past decade by bloodshed and isolation, to the wealth of antiquities in the middle of their city. "The local population has started very well to understand the value of the site, not only the historical value, but also the value for their own identity," said Gerrit van der Kooij of Leiden University in the Netherlands, who co-directs the dig team. "The local people have to feel responsible for the archaeological heritage in their neighborhood," he said. The digging season wrapped up this week at the site, known locally as Tel Balata.

The full story is here. I’m less optimistic than the archaeologists that the local people will care for the archaeological heritage or take the steps necessary to encourage tourism.


Golden Bell Discovered in Jerusalem

From the Jerusalem Post:

A golden bell ornament that archeologists believed belonged to a priest or important leader from the Second Temple period, was found in an ancient drainage channel in ruins next to the Western Wall on Thursday, the Antiquities Authority announced. The small bell, which has a loop for attaching to clothing or jewelry, was found underneath Robinson’s Arch. The area underneath the arch was formerly the central road of Jerusalem, which led from the Shiloah Pools in the City of David to the Old City and the Temple Mount. The excavations were led by the Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and financed by the City of David Foundation, which runs the archeological park across the street. “It seems the bell was sewn on the garment worn by a high official in Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple period (first century CE),” the excavation’s lead archeologists, the Antiquities Authority’s Eli Shukron and Prof. Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, said in a statement. “The bell was exposed inside Jerusalem’s main drainage channel at that time, among the layers of earth that had accumulated along the bottom of it.”
They believed that the bell fell off the official’s clothing while he was walking along the road and rolled into the drainage channel, where it has sat for nearly 2,000 years.

The story continues with the biblical verse that is the basis for the archaeologists’ claim that this was part of the high priest’s garments. James Davila questions the priestly connection. A large photograph of the object is posted at Leen Ritmeyer has posted an illustration of the high priest’s garments.