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Today’s announcement cannot wait until the Weekend Roundup. I expect that the discovery of ivory inlays in Jerusalem will rank #1 in my list of “top discoveries” of the year.

The story is reported in the major sources (including Haaretz, Arutz-7, AFP), but I am going to provide some brief commentary on the well-illustrated report in The Times of Israel.

Some 1,500 ivory fragments were excavated from the City of David’s Givati Parking Lot, but only discovered during wet sifting in the nearby Emek Tsurim National Park.

The unappealing name of the “Givati Parking Lot” refers to an area on the northwestern side of the City of David, just below the Old City’s Dung Gate.

AerialviewofCityofDavidtb010703givatiparkingdiagram

The City of David, aerial view from the southwest

The fact that they found 1,500 fragments, but only in wet sifting, indicates that they found slivers that were not identified during the primary excavation. Someone must have done an enormous amount of work to piece these slivers into the whole pieces that are shown in the article.

The ivory pieces, which would have made up decorative inlays for furniture or a door, were discovered in a monumental building that was in use when Jerusalem was at the height of its power (the 8th and 7th centuries BCE) and was likely razed during the Babylonian Conquest of 586 BCE.

An important structure, possibly a royal building or a palace, was decorated with these ivories in the time of Hezekiah or Manasseh. The Babylonian destruction explains why the archaeologists found so many tiny fragments.

Ivory appears in the Bible in numerous locations, referring to extreme opulence, such as King Solomon’s “large ivory throne” (1 Kings 10:18), King Ahab’s palace adorned with ivory (1 Kings 22:39) and firebrand warnings from the prophet Amos to stop lolling on ivory-inlayed beds and couches (Amos 6:4).

In other words, this discovery really is not unexpected. The Bible indicates that ivory decorated royal furniture in the capital cities of both Samaria and Jerusalem. What makes this discovery so extraordinary is that in 150 years of excavating in Jerusalem, archaeologists have not found ivory pieces. The reason is not that they didn’t exist, but that archaeologists were missing these fragments because they weren’t wet-sifting.

The capitals of Nimrud and, to a lesser extent, Samaria, are known for their wealth and opulence. But First Temple Jerusalem? Many scholars argue that the Holy City only came into its own around the end of the 8th century BCE — exactly when these ivory finds are dated to.

Yes, this certainly supports the prominence of Jerusalem at this time. But the fact that we didn’t have such evidence yesterday only means that we were wrong to assume that the absence of evidence was meaningful.

In a painstaking collaborative process, the fragments were reassembled in the IAA laboratories by conservator Orna Cohen, together with Ilan Naor.

“At the end of the process of joining and ‘fusing’ hundreds of the fragments, we were able to understand that the assemblage includes remnants of at least 12 small square plaques – about 5 cm x 5 cm, at most 0.5 cm thick – which were originally inlaid in wooden furnishings,” Cohen and Naor said.

Kudos to these hard-working experts. May they receive the honor they deserve for their labors.

The style of the decorative motifs points to a clear Levantine influence, she said, and was popular throughout Mesopotamia. They were likely forged in Syria and then imported to Jerusalem, either as furniture or a door, or as inlays ready to be affixed.

I don’t think anyone would suggest that Jerusalem (or Samaria) had their own ivory workshops, so they were imported from the north. Perhaps Ahaz, in his friendly relations with the Assyrians, was entranced by more than the  altar in Damascus (2 Kgs 16:10).

“When we did a reconstruction, we imagined something between a couch or a chair, upon which a person would recline,” she said. Due to other luxury items that were also uncovered in the monumental building — vanilla-flavored wine, special serving dishes and a rare agate seal, she said the team of researchers envisioned a rich, opulent feast. “You can imagine these couch/chairs as a place where they sat at the banquet,” she said.

If you haven’t read The Times of Israel article already, the illustration for this paragraph is working clicking over for. It gives you an idea for how these inlays may have decorated the furniture. Of course, wood is never preserved in Jerusalem, so the artist relied on furniture parallels in Egypt and his imagination.

“There are only three motifs, all vegetative, and they’re very known on ivories in general in ancient Near East art, especially at this time,” she said. What was more interesting is what symbols were left out, she said, including, for example, a sphinx or other animal and human depictions.”

This suggests that Ahaz or Hezekiah or whoever placed this order was choosing from the aniconic section of the ivories catalog. This contrasts with Samaria where creatures were depicted on the ivories.

Samaria ivories, 9th-8th c BC, tb032014289

Ivory fragment from Samaria, depicting a sphinx, 9th-8th centuries BC (on display in the Israel Museum)

The article notes that the ivories will be displayed next week at the 23rd Conference of the City of David Studies of Ancient Jerusalem.

I would guess that archaeological protocol in Jerusalem now is that everything from the 1st and 2nd Temple periods is being sifted. This means that there will be more future dramatic discoveries.

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Bible Land Passages has just released “The City of David Underground: What’s inside Hezekiah’s Ancient Tunnel?” (8 min).

The Times of Israel has a nicely illustrated story by Aviva and Shmuel and Bar-Am on the excavations of Usha in western Galilee. The site is one of many along the Sanhedrin Trail that has been excavated by volunteers, mostly pre-army teens.

The southern wall of the Temple Mount is being illuminated in the evening as part of a new initiative to attract tourists for evening visits to the Jerusalem Archaeological Park.

The Biblical Archaeology Society has released a new ebook entitled The Dead Sea Scrolls: Past, Present, and Future. The book celebrates the 75th anniversary of the discovery with a number of articles by and interviews with leading scholars. (Requires email address)

Leen Ritmeyer shares photos and reconstruction drawings of the Arbel synagogue in Galilee.

Cynthia Shafer-Elliott gives an introduction to the geographical context of ancient Israel.

Experience Israel Now is celebrating their seventh anniversary.

Ferrell Jenkins shares photos that illustrate the beauty of the Bible Land.

“Unearth the Land of the Bible” is a 10-day tour sponsored by the Israel Ministry of Tourism to give American Christians exposure to archaeological sites and an opportunity to excavate.

The Caesarea Maritima International Conference 2022 will be held on October 22-26 at NYU’s Washington Square campus. (I don’t have a link at this time.)

New release: Ashkelon 9: The Hellenistic Period, by Kathleen J. Birney (Eisenbrauns; $140; save 30% with code NR22).

The Minerva Center for the Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times has launched a Mini-MOOC, featuring shorter video clips (10-15 min) to introduce major topics of the Center’s research:

HT: Agade, Arne Halbakken, Ted Weis, Paul Mitchell

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Israel HaYom surveys the history of Shiloh along with the present quest to discover the location of the tabernacle. Scott Stripling believes he knows the location but is not sure he’ll ever be able to prove it.

“Archaeologists announced Tuesday the discovery of a 1,200-year-old estate in Israel’s southern Negev desert, boasting unique underground structures that allowed its owners to overcome the searing summer heat.”

Nathan Steinmeyer takes viewers to excavations at Tel Shimron in a 4-minute video that is the second in a series on excavating in the Bible lands. Tel Shimron is one of the largest sites in the Jezreel Valley region.

Archaeologists are excavating a fortified village in Samaria that existed at the end of the Bar Kochba Revolt. You can see a drone video of the site here and more information and photos here.

Writing for The Jerusalem Post, Aaron Reich’s article claims to provide “everything you need to know about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.” It’s a decent introduction.

The oldest synagogue in Jerusalem is a non-rabbinic form of Judaism known as Karaism. Daniel J. Lasker has written a book about the subject, and his post on the ASOR Blog gives an introduction.

“Between the former rains (in autumn) and the latter rains (in spring) Israel receives all its rainfall. Except for this week, when it rained in summer!”

Ferrell Jenkins reports on a recent visit to Taanach.

There is a campaign to turn Hebron Road in Jerusalem into a “pedestrian-friendly space with cafes, bike paths, and more.”

Rejuvenation podcast: “Dr. Jodi Magness, the outstanding archaeologist, prolific writer and excellent educator, joins Eve Harow to talk about her renewed decade long excavation at the ancient Jewish village of Huqoq in the Galilee.”

Zoom lecture on Sept 15: “Flavians in Galilee (67 CE): Their Aims and Activities,” by Steve Mason

The Fall 2022 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review includes articles on Diaspora Jews living in Jerusalem in the 1st century, the lethal capabilities of slings, and the location of Magdala.

HT: Agade, Arne Halbakken, Joseph Lauer, Explorator, Paleojudaica

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Several magnificent 4th-century AD Roman sarcophagi will soon be on display in Ashkelon.

The site of ancient Samaria (Sebastia) has been damaged by arson and looters. The article discusses more broadly the destruction of archaeological sites in Judea and Samaria.

Artifacts discovered in a salvage excavation next to the Machpelah in Hebron may be buried to provide a path for disabled visitors.

Plans have been shelved that would have transformed the ruins of Lifta on the outskirts of Jerusalem into a residential and commercial area.

The arrest of three antiquities thieves in the West Bank resulted in the recovery of Roman and Byzantine coins, jewelry, doors, and a stone olive press.

Israel’s tourism industry is on it way to record highs.

“The Experience of Resurrection” is a new multimedia exhibition at the Franciscans’ Christian Information Center (CIC) located inside the Old City’s Jaffa Gate. The same Jerusalem Post article reports on several other new tours, including one which explores Wilson’s Arch.

After going on an international tour, the Magdala stone has returned home.

James McGrath reports on his tour of the region of Samaria, led by the grandson of the Samaritan high priest. This is part of a series entitled “In the Footsteps of John the Baptist.”

John DeLancey shares a video of the 1st-century pilgrimage road that runs from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project is seeking more financial support.

Ilan Ben Zion summarizes two views on the origins of the Philistines. Aren Maeir believes that Philistines came to the land of Canaan in a series of mass migrations, arriving from many locations in the eastern Mediterranean over many decades, whereas Daniel Master argues that they came from Crete around 1175 BC.

Joseph Aviram, long-time director of the Israel Exploration Society, died at the age of 106 (Haaretz premium).

Chandler Collins reports on the transformation of a mound of dirt in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City into a paved parking lot. He has done a great job with before-and-after photos. (You can support his work and gain some nice benefits by becoming a patron.)

HT: Agade, Arne Halbakken, Joseph Lauer, Explorator, Paleojudaica

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A lot happened while I was away, and it’s going to take five or six days (!) to catch up. Let’s get to it.

Archaeologists excavating el-Araj discovered a mosaic in the Byzantine church that mentions the “chief and commander of the heavenly apostles,” further strengthening the site’s claim to be Bethsaida, the hometown of Peter. They are hoping to find an inscription mentioning Andrew in the October excavation.

“Archaeologists working at Tel Shiloh earlier this summer discovered piers that they believe formed a door into a gate complex at the northern edge of the biblical city.” Scott Stripling thinks this is the gate where Eli died.

Also at Shiloh, archaeologists discovered five intact storage jars from the Late Roman or Byzantine eras.

Excavations have begun at Kh. Tibnah, possibly Joshua’s city of Timnath-heres. Early discoveries include a Roman spearhead. Also, there is a dispute over ownership of the site (subscription).

The first Roman military amphitheater ever found in Israel was recently uncovered at Megiddo.

Matthew Adams talks about the excavations this summer at Megiddo on The Book and the Spade.

A Byzantine convent dedicated to Hannah was recently re-discovered at Horbat Hani in central Israel. There are some nice photos here.

A collection of 530 astragali (animal knucklebone gaming dice) from the Hellenistic period were discovered at Maresha-Bet Guvrin with names inscribed of Aphrodite, Eros, Hermes, Hera, and Nike.

A volunteer at the Temple Mount Sifting Project discovered what may have been a cheater’s die, with the number 5 where the number 4 should have been.

“A bronze Roman coin dating back 1,877 years with the symbol of the Cancer zodiac sign and a Moon goddess was discovered at Carmel Beach in Haifa.”

Computer calculations of 70 CE Roman arsenal uncovered in excavations in Jerusalem demonstrate veracity of Jewish historian Josephus’s report of intense fighting near Third Wall.”

Lior Schwimer has reviewed nearly 15,000 panels of Negev rock art with more than 50,000 carvings.

Steven Ortiz is a guest on the Biblical World podcast, talking with Chris McKinny about the Lanier Archaeological Center at Lipscomb University, the Gezer Archaeological Project, and the Tel Burna Archaeological Project (28 min).

Bryan Windle identifies the top 3 reports in biblical archaeology for the month of July.

Registration for Jerusalem University College’s fall online courses ends on Monday.

HT: Agade, Arne Halbakken, Joseph Lauer

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“Archaeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem say they have made numerous discoveries, including an ornate first-century villa with its own ritual bath, after a project began to increase access for disabled people to Jerusalem’s Western Wall.”

Elon Gilad surveys the discussion over Gershon Galil’s reading of an ancient inscription discovered in Jerusalem, if it even is an inscription. Galil and Eli Shukrun were interviewed about the matter on i24 News recently.

David Ussishkin believes that Khirbet Qeiyafa was a vast walled cultic compound.

Israel is dedicating $1 million to the restoration of Tel Gezer after the recent fire. Steve Ortiz talks about the effects of the fire on The Book and the Spade.

The season at Tel Burna has concluded, and they have posted a summary of the results from each area with lots of photos.

For the OnScript Biblical World podcast, Chris McKinny interviews Tel Burna’s excavation director Itzick Shai on location during the dig.

i24 News has a 4-minute segment on “Tel Aviv’s hidden gems of antiquity.”

Nathan Steinmeyer writes about the recent restorations at Tel Ashkelon, including ongoing work of the basilica and odeon.

The Times of Israel’s original ‘Into the Land’ docuseries investigates two sensational objects that some have labeled as forgeries—the James Ossuary and the Jehoash Inscription (18 min).

A sale of Zondervan Academic resources for Logos includes the Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology, by Randall Price, for $8.99. Several of Gary Burge’s Ancient Context, Ancient Faith books are also for sale.

Rivka Merhav, pioneer curator of Neighboring Cultures at the Archaeology Wing of The Israel Museum, died this week (obituary in Hebrew).

Richard Freund, excavator of et-Tell (“Bethsaida”), died last week. The link is worth clicking just for the photo.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Arne Halbakken, Charles Savelle, Explorator

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