JBuzz News September 9, 2013: Seventh-century treasures discovered at foot of Temple Mount




Seventh-century treasures discovered at foot of Temple Mount

Source: JTA, 9-9-13

Gold and silver coins and jewelry dated from the seventh century were discovered at an excavation at the foot of the Temple Mount, Hebrew University researchers said….READ MORE

JBuzz News December 3, 2012: Baruch Halpern: Renowned scholar joins University of Georgia as Covenant Foundation Professor of Jewish Studies




Renowned scholar Baruch Halpern joins UGA as Covenant Foundation Professor of Jewish Studies

Source: Online Athens, 12-3-12

An internationally recognized scholar whose work combines ancient history, archeology and religious studies has joined the University of Georgia as the inaugural holder of the Covenant Foundation Professor of Jewish Studies….READ MORE

JBuzz News July 13, 2012: Matthew Grey: BYU Professor, Grad Help Discover Rare Mosaic in Ancient Jewish Synagogue




BYU professor, grad help discover rare mosaic in ancient Jewish synagogue

Source: Phys.Org, 7-13-12

In late June, archaeologists discovered a rare mosaic floor in a synagogue in the ancient Jewish village of Huqoq, near the Sea of Galilee.  The discovery has garnered national headlines and been described by experts as a ‘stunning’ find, given the quality of the artwork and how rare the mosaic would have been at the time. BYU professor Matthew Grey and recent BYU graduate Bryan Bozung were part of the archaeological team that unearthed the mosaic. In fact, Bozung, now a grad student at Yale, made the initial discovery.  “Discovering a mosaic like this is one of the most exciting moments in an archaeologist’s career,” Grey said. “Uncovering a piece of art that no one has seen for 1500 years is an incredible experience.”…READ MORE

JBuzz News May 23, 2012: Archaeological Discovery Proves Bethlehem Part of Kingdom of Judah




Discovery Proves Bethlehem Part of Kingdom of Judah

Archaeologists have discovered the first evidence outside of the Bible that Bethlehem was part of the First Temple era Kingdom of Judah.
Clay seals confirms Bethlehem part of Judah

Clay seals confirms Bethlehem part of Judah
IAA photo by Clara Amit

Archaeologists have discovered the first evidence outside of the Bible that Bethlehem was part of the First Temple era Kingdom of Judah.

The dramatic archaeological find was announced Wednesday, five days before Jews around the world celebrate the holiday of Shavuot and hear the recital of the Book of Ruth, which takes place in Bethlehem.

A half-inch clay seal was discovered at the ongoing excavations at Ir David (City of David) located across the road from the Western Wall.

The stamp, with ancient Hebrew script, is one of a group of seals used to stamp official documents that were to be opened only by authorized officials.

Three lines in the stamp state:

בשבעת (Bishv’at)
בת לכם (Bat Lechem)
[למל[ך ([Lemel]ekh)

The writing means that the stamp was sent from Bethlehem to the king in Jerusalem in the seventh year of his reign.

Eli Shukrun, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said that it is unclear if the reference to the king is to Hezekiah, Manasseh or Josiah.

The stamps, or seals (called bullae), were used to seal tax shipments in the Kingdom of Judah in the late eighth century and the seventh century BCE.

“The tax could have been paid in the form of silver or agricultural produce such as wine or wheat,” according to Shukrun.

He added,” This is the first time the name Bethlehem appears outside the Bible, in an inscription from the First Temple period, which proves that Bethlehem was indeed a city in the Kingdom of Judah, and possibly also in earlier periods”.

Bethlehem is first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis (Bereishit) when it is named concernng the place of death and burial of the Matriarch Rachel.

Bethlehem also is mentioned in the Book of Ruth as the place where “the children of Judah dwelled,” including the family of Boaz, who is a central figure in the Book of Ruth, which takes place in Bethlehem except for the first few verses..

Bethlehem is cited in the Book of Samuel as the city where David was anointed as king and the location of his family’s home.

JBuzz News April 15, 2012: Richard Stamps: Archaeological dig is dusty history lesson at Khirbet Qeiyafa




Archaeological dig is dusty history lesson

Early starts, hard work are rewarding, but not for those accustomed to cushy vacations

Source: Detroit Free Press, 4-14-12

[+] Enlarge. (3 pictures)   

A volunteer unearths an Iron Age vessel at Khirbet Qeiyafa, which is 18 miles west of Jerusalem. Such dig sites are often in need of volunteers and provide an adventurous vacation.

It’s 4 a.m. My eyes feel heavy. Today is my second day of digging.

I’m in Israel for a weeklong archaeological dig – not your regular vacation, but one that brought fulfillment and surprisingly more rest than I’ve gotten sitting on the beach.

Richard Stamps, a professor of anthropology, and Mike Pytlik, a special lecturer of archaeology and Jewish studies at Michigan’s Oakland University, each year lead a group of students on a three-week archaeological dig and tour of Israel.

Pytlik invited me to go along as a volunteer for a week.

Pytlik explained that this vacation wouldn’t have much relaxing, sightseeing or downtime. It would be dusty and messy, and accommodations wouldn’t include the boutique hotels I normally favor.

The sense of adventure and the chance to learn was enough for me to sign on. I filled out an application, included a $50 check and sent it to professor Yosef Garkinfel of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a renowned archeologist and director of the Khirbet Qeiyafa site, our destination.

It sits above the Elah Valley, the same valley where the Bible says David and Goliath met on the battlefield. It is believed to be the ancient city of Sha’arayim, an Israelite walled city that was part of the kingdom of David….READ MORE

On This Day in Jewish History March 16, 1190: 822 years after some 150 Jews were massacred in York’s Clifford Tower




Centuries later, York comes to terms with the worst anti-Semitic attack in Britain

Now, 822 years after some 150 Jews were massacred in York’s Clifford Tower, a commemoration hopes to dispel the myth of the Cherem of York – the prohibition of resettling the city since the mass-murder.

Source: Haaretz, 3-16-12

Eight hundred and twenty-two years after some 150 Jews were massacred in York’s Clifford Tower, the most comprehensive commemoration of the worst anti-Semitic attack in the British Isles will take place today (Friday) in England’s ancient Capital of the North. The event will be the culmination of an academic project chronicling the York Massacre using advanced technology and dispel, the organizers hope, one of the most pervasive myths of Anglo Jewry, that of the Cherem of York – the prohibition of resettling the city following the mass-murder of its Jews.

Clifford’s Tower, also known as York Castle, is the most distinct landmark dominating the city’s skyline and has served for centuries as York’s symbol. First built as a Norman fort in 1068, it has been rebuilt many times and served as a military keep, prison, law court and today serves as a museum, but the only mention of the most bloody episode in its nine and a half centuries of history is a plaque at the foot of the tower unveiled by the Chief Rabbi of Britain and the Lord Mayor of York in 1978.

York - IPUP York Image Galleries - March 16, 2012 Professor Helen Weinstein at the plaque commemorating the massacre.
Photo by: IPUP York Image Galleries

The York Massacre was just one of a wave of anti-Jewish riots that began eight months earlier at the coronation banquet of King Richard I, when a group of Jews who arrived to pay their respects were forbidden entry. Despite being under the King’s protection, the Jews who had prospered for over a century as money-lenders, became the target for attacks by local noblemen who were anxious to wipe out their large debts. Murderous attacks began in London and spread to other Jewish settlements throughout England.

Richard, who had initially humiliated the Jews at his coronation, was concerned that the attacks were a challenge to his own rule and had a number of the perpetrators executed, while issuing orders to protect the Jews. This, however, put him on a collision course with the church, which he was eager to appease, and in early 1190 the new king embarked on a crusade to the Holy Land while not taking measures to enforce his order. The riots reached the northern towns of Norwich, Lincoln and Stamford in March; homes of Jews in York were attacked, forcing the 150 Jews of the town to take refuge in the royal castle. But as there was no force defending the tower, and the local knights and clergy were leading the attack, the Jews preferred to kill themselves rather than accept forced baptism. Those who did not commit suicide were killed when the castle was set on fire.

The rioters next burned all the records of the Jews financial affairs, thereby absolving them of their debts which would have been payable to the King following the death of the Jews.

The King’s representatives held an inquest and fined the city, but none of the murderers were ever brought to trial, many of them later joining Richard on his crusade.
No memory was left in the city of the killings, but archaeological digs have revealed burnt remnants of the original structure beneath the tower.

“When I first arrived in York in 2006,” says Professor Helen Weinstein, “as a Jew I was shocked to find that there was almost no public reference to the massacre.” Weinstein, who had arrived at the University of York as the founding director of its Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past (IPUP) had of course heard of the massacre – her grandmother had even warned her that there was a Cherem, a rabbinical prohibition from living in York, and she took it upon herself to assemble a modern narrative….READ MORE

Gabriel Barkai: Israeli archaelogists claim Palestinians attempting to rewrite Jewish history




Palestinians are using archeology to advance their statehood bid. Prominent archaeologist Gabriel Barkai called it “cultural Intifada.”

The PA will seek World Heritage status for the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem, once the UN’s cultural agency (UNESCO) admits them as a full member. Hamdan Taha, the Palestinian Authority minister who deals with antiquities and culture, also listed Nablus and Hebron among 20 cultural heritage sites which he said could be nominated as World Heritage Sites….

Taha’s bid at UNESCO is supported by the Vatican Custody of the Holy Land, the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Armenian Church. As th UN bid brings the Palestinians closer to an independent state, the historical and archeological claims are playing an increasingly prominent role in the building of the national consciousness.

Taha, who did his undergraduate work in Berlin, worked in Jericho with Paolo Matthiae, an Italian scholar who discovered Ebla, the Syrian site that is most famous for the “Ebla tablets.” In Herodion (Herod’s fortress in the Judean hills), Taha worked with Michele Piccirillo, a Fransciscan priest who has been one of the most famous Italian archaeologists. Taha gets funds and support from UNESCO, European governments and societies like the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, a major Catholic association in Jerusalem….READ MORE

2,000-year-old bell found in Jerusalem rings again



Source: AP, 7-25-11

2,000-year-old bell in Jerusalem: a 2,000-year-old bell has been discovered by Israeli archaeologists and rang for the first time in as many years.

2,000-year-old bell found by Israeli archaeologists in Jerusalem, Monday. The bell, dating back to the Second Jewish Temple period, was discovered in IAA excavations in a drainage channel, carved along the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

A sound last heard 2,000 years ago is audible again.

A tiny golden bell preserved in a Roman-era sewer underneath Jerusalem’s Old City has been recovered by Israeli archaeologists.

The tiny orb, just one centimeter in diameter, was likely an ornament on the clothes of a wealthy resident.

The Book of Exodus mentions tiny golden bells sewn onto the hem of the robes of Temple priests, though it was not known if this bell was one of those.

Archaeologist Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority says the bell likely fell off and rolled into the sewer as its owner walked by.

Shukron said it was a “very rare” find.

When he shook the bell Sunday, it emitted a faint metallic sound between a clink and a rattle.

Professor Benjamin Z. Kedar: Is Israeli archaeology an ‘old-boys club’?



The Israel Antiquities Authority has been attacked for not doing enough to preserve the Temple Mount antiquities, on one hand, but also for supposedly being a tool of extreme nationalist groups.

Source: Haaretz, 7-12-11

Prof. Benjamin Z. Kedar has been chairman of the board of the Israel Antiquities Authority for 11 years. He is also the deputy chairman of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Kedar will leave his position at the authority at the end of July. Haaretz reported yesterday on an amendment to the Antiquities Authority Law, proposed by Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, that would make it easier for her to find a replacement for Kedar. At present, the chairman of the Antiquities Authority board must belong to the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Livnat’s bill would require only that the chairman be a “leading scholar in the field of history or archaeology.”

Senior archaeologists criticized Livnat on Sunday, claiming that the purpose of the amendment was to enable her to appoint archaeologists who are identified with the right or who will toe the establishment line. Livnat’s critics say the bill reflects the anti-intellectual winds blowing through the government ministries. Kedar rejects this interpretation, but cautions against amending the law….READ MORE

Jewish Bodies Found in Medieval Well in England



Source: Arutz Sheva, 6-24-11

17 Jews whose bodies were found at the bottom of a medieval well in England were almost definitely victims of persecution, the BBC reported.

According to the report, the Jews were probably murdered or had been forced to commit suicide.

The skeletons date back to the 12th or 13th Centuries, at a time when Jewish people faced murder, banishment and other forms of persecution throughout Europe.

Although the most famous expulsion and persecution was in Spain, England was not far behind. In 1190, the 150 Jews of York, then a center of Torah learning,  were burned to death by a church-incensed mob, leading to rabbis proclaiming a cherem (prohibition to live in) the city. In 1290, after years of murder and pillage, Edward II banished the Jews from England. Many drowned trying to leave.

Scientists were able to date the bodies using a combination of DNA analysis, carbon dating and bone chemical studies. Seven of the skeletons were successfully tested and five of them had a DNA sequence suggesting they were likely to be members of a single Jewish family.

According to the BBC, the bodies were discovered in 2004 during an excavation of a site in the centre of Norwich. The remains were put into storage and have only recently been the subject of investigation.

“This is a really unusual situation for us,” DNA expert Dr. Ian Barnes, who carried out the tests, told the BBC. “This is a unique set of data that we have been able to get for these individuals. I am not aware that this has been done before – that we have been able to pin them down to this level of specificity of the ethnic group that they seem to come from.”

Forensic anthropologist Professor Sue Black of the University of Dundee’s Centre for Anthropology and Human Identification, who led the investigation team, said the discovery had changed the direction of the whole investigation.

“We are possibly talking about persecution,” she said. “We are possibly talking about ethnic cleansing and this all brings to mind the scenario that we dealt with during the Balkan War crimes.”

She noted that 11 of the 17 skeletons were those of children aged between two and 15. The remaining six were adult men and women.

Pictures taken when the bodies were excavated suggest they were thrown down the well together, head first. A close examination of the adult bones showed fractures caused by the impact of hitting the bottom of the well. The same damage was not seen on the children’s bones, suggesting they were thrown in after the adults who cushioned their fall.

Norwich had been home to a thriving Jewish community since 1135, and many lived near the site of the well. There are records of persecution of Jews in medieval England, including in Norwich. One example of this was when Jews were executed in the 1230s after being blamed for kidnapping a Christian child.

Archaeologist Sophie Cabot, who has conducted research on the history of the Jewish community in Norwich, told the BBC that Jews had been invited to England by the King to serve as money lenders since, according to the Christian interpretation of the Bible, Christians were not allowed to lend money and charge interest.

She explained that the source for the later friction between Jews and Christians was the fact that some Jews became very wealthy from their jobs as money lenders.

“There is a resentment of the fact that Jews are making money,” she said, “and they are doing it in a way that doesn’t involve physical labor, things that are necessarily recognized as work.”

She noted that the findings of the investigation change “what we know about the community. We don’t know everything about the community but what we do know is changed by this.”