Archeological News/Discoveries

250 Billion Barrels: Israel Discovers Oil Deposits Similar to Saudi Arabia

“Tens of billions of dollars” are waiting underground, Professor Eugene Kendall recently told the Knesset.

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

There are about 250 billion barrels of oil in oil shale in Israel, similar to the amount of oil Saudi Arabia has, Professor Eugene Kendall told the Knesset, calling on it to leverage the resources.

“We know where they lie,” Kendall, former head of the National Economic Council in the Prime Minister’s Office, told the Knesset’s Special Committee for Overseeing the Fund for Managing State Revenues from the Tax on Profits from Gas and Oil on Tuesday, and said that a committee that was not authorized to deal with oil decided not to approve even a 20-acre experiment either.

“Tens of billions of dollars lie underground and nobody is doing anything with it,” he added

Committee head Member of Knesset (MK) Avi Dichter said Kendall’s revelation was “dramatic and has a lot of weight.”

Oil shale is an organic-rich fine-grained sedimentary rock containing kerogen, a solid mixture of organic chemical compounds, from which liquid hydrocarbons can be produced.

Oil shale is similar to petroleum and can be refined into many different substances, including diesel fuel, gasoline, and liquid petroleum gas.

Oil shale in Israel is widespread covering approximately 15% of its territory, but is an undeveloped resource, largely because of economic and technological constraints.

According to the Geological Survey of Israel, deposits that could have the biggest economic potential are located in the northern Negev.

Oil shale development in Israel has caused protests among environmental organizations.

However, Dichter said during the committee session that “the economic and state protection problems are no less important than the environmental protection problems.”


Israeli-made flying cars may be floating into our future

Yavneh-based Urban Aeronautics is developing its CityHawk to be a kind of Uber of the air, starting with emergency services.

 JULY 5, 2020, 8:50 AM

For nearly 60 years, the dream of flying cars that many Baby Boomers grew up on while watching TV’s George Jetson jet around the skyways has remained unfulfilled.

But the dream is still alive. A dozen startups around the world are developing VTOLs (“vertical takeoff and landing”) – the technical term for flying cars.

One of the most intriguing of those companies is right here in Israel. Yavneh-based Urban Aeronautics is developing CityHawk to be an eventual “Uber of the air.”

Urban Aeronautics’ CityHawk will have two features that make it stand out from the flying crowd.

First, the CityHawk won’t have wings or external rotors. Urban Aeronautics has spent the last decade and a half perfecting an internal propeller system called Fancraft (named after the large fans at the front and rear of the aircraft) that is safer for passersby and takes up much less space.

CityHawk will have a Fancraft propeller system. Image courtesy of Urban Aeronautics

Second, the CityHawk will be about the size of a large SUV so that it can land on a sidewalk near your home or office. Alternatively, up to four CityHawks could land on the roof of an office building compared with just a single traditionally sized helicopter.

Emergency services first

CEO Rafi Yoeli established Urban Aeronautics in 2001 to develop helicopters with internal rotors. It took until 2013 to get the technology to work. The first prototype, now called Cormorant (formerly known as the AirMule) took off in 2015.

Urban Aeronautics has two divisions. Tactical Robotics develops unmanned aircraft mainly used in defense, agriculture, cargo transport and power line maintenance. Metro Skyways develops manned craft like the CityHawk.

The Cormorant and the CityHawk both utilize Fancraft technology. The unmanned Cormorant can carry up to 1,400 pounds of cargo while the CityHawk is being designed with seats for five passengers and the pilot.

Drawing of the inside of the CityHawk VTOL courtesy of Urban Aeronautics

Yoeli tells ISRAEL21c that the first deployment of the CityHawk will probably be for emergency services.

“With such a small physical footprint, they serve a critical need: the ability to land anywhere,” he says. “You can bring a doctor directly to a patient or rescue a patient. Helicopters today often must land a kilometer a way, then the medical team runs through the streets. A lot of time is lost.”

In June, Urban Aeronautics signed an agreement with Silicon Valley-based HyPoint to incorporate the latter’s hydrogen fuel-cell technology into the CityHawk.

The Cormorant is powered by standard jet fuel. Hydrogen is more environmentally friendly and packs more bang for the buck, boosting the distance an aircraft can operate by 300 percent over gasoline.

With hydrogen power, the CityHawk is intended to travel for 100 miles before refueling (depending on weight) at a speed of up to 125 miles per hour. The CityHawk will get up to 200 miles on a tank.

Fuel cells

Fuel cells convert the chemical energy of a fuel – in this case, hydrogen – and an oxidizing agent (often oxygen, drawn from the atmosphere) into electricity. The only residue is pure water vapor.

Other “flying cars” are trying to incorporate lithium-based electric batteries – similar to the type found in a Tesla. Yoeli thinks that’s a mistake.

“A kilogram of battery has just 5% the equivalent amount of energy as hydrogen fuel cells, plus it’s not 100% sustainable like hydrogen,” he says.

“Hydrogen was tried two decades ago, but it was to power normal internal combustion engines,” he explains. Today, with the advent of fuel cells, the hydrogen goes “into a solid-state box and electricity comes out the other side.”We asked Yoeli why, if hydrogen is so much better, battery-powered electric cars are all the rage these days.

In this case, modern electric cars can have electric engines even if the fuel source is hydrogen. The Honda Clarity and Toyota Mirai are examples. The same will be true with the CityHawk, which is actually an “eVTOL” – an electric VTOL – because its engine is all electric.

Hydrogen can be refueled in minutes rather than hours for batteries. And hydrogen tanks are lighter than electric batteries. When it comes to flying, every kilo saved is critical.

“If you have a one-ton helicopter and you shave off 70 kilograms, you can carry another ticket-buying passenger,” Yoeli says. “Weight can make or break an aircraft design in terms of useful payload and range.”

Ticket to ride

The question that readers are undoubtedly asking by now is: When can I ride in an Uber of the air?

The answer: Not until closer to the end of the decade.

“The CityHawk is not in service yet,” Yoeli admits. “We still need to design and build it.” The Cormorant won’t be ready for another three years.

While a working Cormorant demo has made 300 flights already, “it’s not a production aircraft, it’s a one-off.”

The CityHawk “will be ready two years later,” he adds. “We’re talking 2028 or 2030.”

The lengthy process of applying for and receiving FAA certification alone could take five years. “We’re not in a race,” Yoeli stresses.

CityHawk concept illustration courtesy of Urban Aeronautics

Meanwhile, the 20-person company will be raising additional rounds as its aircrafts move toward commercialization. And there are key strategic partnerships to ink. In addition to HyPoint, Urban Aeronautics has agreements with Boeing, with the French manufacturer Safran Helicopter Engines, and with Asian mobility service Ascent.

“We won’t stay 20 people in Yavne,” Yoeli predicts.

Will we eventually see pilotless air taxis, similar to self-driving cars? Yoeli isn’t banking on it.

When you’re driving on the road, “if there’s a problem, you can pull over and stop the car. You can’t do that in the air.”


Rare Second Temple-era synagogue uncovered near Beit Shemesh will have to be relocated to another area to allow for already approved highway widening.

Second Temple-era synagogue to be moved stone by stone for highway

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

An ancient Jewish village recently unearthed may have to stay mostly buried because it was discovered after a highway widening project had already been changed to accommodate another archaeological site, the Makor Rishon newspaper reported Sunday.

The ancient site from the Second Temple period was discovered just outside the city of Beit Shemesh, 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Jerusalem, adjacent to an existing archeological dig from the time of the First Temple.

Whenever new roads are built or existing roads altered in Israel, archaeologists are called in first to make sure antiquities or artifacts won’t be destroyed when construction begins. When archaeologists checked the area where Highway 38 was slated to be widened, they found First Temple-era artifacts. The route, which joins Beit Shemesh to the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, was slightly rerouted to avoid damaging that site, but during excavations related to the route change, the Second Temple era site was discovered.

The new remains appear to be those of a Jewish village from the Second Temple period, including a building made of unusual stone compared to the others around it. Archaeologists from the Israeli Institute of Archeology initially thought it was a church, but it soon became clear that it was actually a synagogue, making it one of the few discovered from the Second Temple period.

With the highway diversion already approved, archaeologists said they will excavate and move the remains to a new location, Makor Rishon reported.

The synagogue’s relocation requires a budget that is in doubt in light of the national economic crisis amid the corona pandemic.


Incredible Discovery-Pomegranate Bell from Robe of High Priest

Archaeologists crack mystery of stone balls used by ancient cave dwellers near Tel Aviv

Archaeologists crack mystery of stone balls used by ancient cave dwellers near Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv University team deduces that baseball-sized rounded rocks found in caves just east of the modern metropolis were used hundreds of thousands of years ago for breaking open bones to extract marrow for eating.

A team of archaeologists from Tel Aviv University has finally figured out what cave dwellers near Tel Aviv were doing hundreds of thousands of years ago with carefully shaped balls of rock.

Tel Aviv has a deep culture of basketball and soccer, but the baseball-sized rocks were tools used for something more basic – cooking.

Found in caves and archaeological sites across the region and as far away as China, the balls from the Paleolithic stone age had puzzled researchers as to their purpose.

The stone balls in Israel were discovered at a site called Qesem Cave some 14 kilometers east of Tel Aviv, an ancient dwelling place unearthed during a road construction project in 2000. The archaeological site has produced a treasure-trove of flint tools, human remains and other clues into the daily lives of the people who lived there 200,000 to 400,000 years ago.

In findings published last week in the San Franciso-based online scientific research journal PLOS ONE, the team led by researcher Ella Assaf reported how evidence showed the hand-sized rocks were used to break open the bones of large animals to extract the bone marrow.

The discovery of some 30 round rocks, what the team called SSBs – stone shaped balls – had puzzled scientists as to their function. They noted that similar SSBs were found in the Middle East dating much earlier to between 500,000 and 1.4 million years ago, but previous thinking was that their use had fallen out of fashion 100,000 years before cave dwellers appeared in Israel.

At the Qesem site evidence was found that the cave dwellers there knew how to use fire and the team examined the surfaces of the balls for any microscopic residue that survived through the millennia. They analyzed the surface marks to determine what they had been used for, noting that the balls weren’t perfectly round but had ridges they suspected were used for scraping the bones after they had been broken open.

“Use-wear and bone residues on 10 SSBs indicate that the inhabitants of Qesem Cave favored the use of shaped, somewhat angular, stone balls made of carbonate rocks to crush fresh animal bones to access fat: mostly marrow and possibly grease too,” the report said, noting that the ancient residents were constantly recycling  the tools that they used.

Assaf recruited colleagues at Madrid’s Unversidad Autonoma who made their own similar shaped rock balls and tested them in a lab by smashing animal bones, then analyzing the residue and the wear and tear. The Spanish team found their tests results were similar to the ancient rocks discovered in Israel, Ha’aretz reported.

First evidence of Crusader siege from July 15, 1099, uncovered at Old City walls

920 years ago, Crusaders breached Jerusalem and conquered the walled Fatimid city. Now the Mount Zion Project has found a chronicled moat that to many scholars had seemed like myth.

Mount Zion archaeological excavations conducted by the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, in cooperation with Ashkelon Academic College, at the Jerusalem Walls National Park, 2019. (Virginia Withers)

Mount Zion archaeological excavations conducted by the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, in cooperation with Ashkelon Academic College, at the Jerusalem Walls National Park, 2019. (Virginia Withers)

Archaeologists excavating just outside of Jerusalem’s Old City walls have discovered an 11th century moat, the first archaeological evidence of a historically chronicled Crusader siege conducted by Raymond of Saint-Gilles on the Fatimid-controlled city, which ended on July 15, 1099 — exactly 920 years ago today.

Although two contemporary 11th century historical texts refer to the moat, its discovery was only recently made at the Mount Zion Project excavations.

Founded in 2008, the ongoing excavations are located along the southern part of the Old City wall close to Zion Gate and are led by Gibson and Prof. James Tabor of the University of North Carolina in Charlotte in cooperation with Dr. Rafi Lewis of Ashkelon Academic College. The site is part of the Jerusalem Walls National Park, which is under the auspices of the Israel Parks and Nature Authority.

1997 article by David Eisenstadt paints the gruesome scene, “The Crusaders savagely murdered the Jewish and Muslim inhabitants of Jerusalem. The dimensions of the massacre were so horrific that ‘rivers of blood’ flowed through the streets and even covered the horses hooves. William of Tyre described the victorious Crusaders ‘dripping with blood from head to foot, an ominous sight which bought terror to all who met them.’ The Jewish community was locked in the central synagogue and burnt alive. The few thousand survivors, out of a population of 40,000, were sold as slaves at the city gates. When they finished murdering thousands of innocent people the Crusaders gathered at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to give thanks.”

The moat was initially discovered in 2014, said archaeologist Lewis, but it has taken these past five dig seasons to excavate it, layer by layer. Gibson said during excavations of the moat, the team found remnants of 11th century celadon ware pottery which hails from the Far East and is glazed jade green. He said it would have been imported to Jerusalem by the Fatimids, who had a fascination with the Orient.

Mount Zion archaeological excavations conducted by the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, in cooperation with Ashkelon Academic College, at the Jerusalem Walls National Park, October 2018. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

During the five-week siege the Crusaders attempted to stand three siege towers, two on the north and one on the south, said Lewis. According to Gibson, breaching the wall at this southern site would have allowed the Crusaders access to the remnants of the Byzantine-era Cardo Maximus. “It would have given Crusaders immediate access to the main artery moving south to north,” he said.

During over a decade of excavations, the Mount Zion Project team has unearthed innumerable finds spanning over 3,000 years of history, from the Iron Age (8th century BCE)’s impressive First Temple mansion through to the late Ottoman period (19th century). Among the artifacts discovered are dozens of coins, including a rare gold coin bearing a portrait of a young Roman emperor Nero issued some 2,000 years ago, and ceramic vessels.

An earlier but still mysterious find is an inscription discovered on a stone vessel dated to the year 70 CE, which Gibson said was found in a large mansion and would perhaps have been used by a priestly family for hand washing. He said the team is publishing the find soon, but the cryptically worded inscription which he said was reminiscent of the Dead Seas Scrolls is still not fully deciphered.

A Roman coin showing the Emperor Nero, which was found in Jerusalem and is believed to date back to 56 CE. (Courtesy University of North Carolina)

“It has some sort of reference to a person who comes back and goes to the House of God, has the name of God, and other people’s names,” said Gibson. He hopes that following publication scholars will weigh in.

The Mount Zion Project will continue with excavations toward a goal of developing an interactive tourist attraction. “We would like to bring about a situation whereby tourists and pilgrims in the future will be able to walk through this time tunnel and see these remains dating from different periods,” Gibson said in a press release.


Fearing end of the world, man returns ancient stolen relic

Coronavirus fears led an Israeli to return a 2,000-year-old ballista stone taken in Jerusalem 15 years ago, as he wanted to clear his conscience.

The pilfered ballista stone from the City of David. Photo by Uzi Rotstein/Israel Antiquities Authority

Moshe Manies, the person who agreed to bring the pilfered stone to the state without divulging the identity of the thief, wrote a post about it on Facebook.

He explained that the thief had been a teen when he and some friends toured a display of ballista stones at the Jerusalem Walls National Park in the City of David. These stones were most likely used by the Roman Legion in fierce battles against the besieged residents of Jerusalem around 70 CE – the year of the destruction of Jerusalem.

“Meanwhile, he married and raised a family, and told me that for the past 15 years the stone is weighing heavily on his heart,” Manies wrote.

“And now, when he came across it while cleaning for Passover, together with the apocalyptic feeling the Coronavirus generated, he felt the time was ripe to clear his conscience, and he asked me to help him return it to the Israel Antiquities Authority.”

One of Manies’ followers tagged Uzi Rotstein, an inspector at the Antiquities Robbery Prevention Unit at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

As soon as he read the post, Rotstein arranged to retrieve the stone.

“We commend the return of the artifact and appeal to anyone who has taken an archaeological artifact, to take a weight off their heart and return it to the State Treasury,” Rotstein said.

“These artifacts, which are thousands of years old, are our national treasure. They tell the story of The Land and of who resided here before us and should be documented and displayed.”

Revealed: In First Temple era, another massive temple was in use near Jerusalem

Large 10th century BCE worship complex being excavated at Motza in ancient Judah; 4 miles from Temple Mount, site was ‘sanctioned’ by Jerusalem administration, say archaeologists.

Solomon’s Temple on the Jerusalem Temple Mount was likely not the only site of centralized worship in the Holy Land region of Judah, according to research newly published in the Biblical Archaeology Review by a team of archaeologists from Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority.

A massive Iron Age II temple complex, which stood from around 900 BCE until circa the early sixth century BCE, is currently being excavated at Tel Motza, just seven kilometers (four miles) northwest of ancient Jerusalem’s City of David. First discovered in 2012, the Motza temple is contemporaneous with the First Temple in Jerusalem and uses the same architectural plan.

It would have been about two-thirds the size of the First Temple and was likely built by similar builders who came to the region from Syria in the north, as described in the Bible, the IAA’s Shua Kisilevitz told The Times of Israel on Monday.

Due to Motza’s proximity to the First Temple in Jerusalem, the excavation’s principal researchers, Kisilevitz and Prof. Oded Lipschits of TAU’s Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology, hypothesize that this separate cultic site would have been approved by the administration of the Jerusalem “main branch.”

“You could not have built a major monumental temple so close to Jerusalem without it being sanctioned by the ruling polity,” said Kisilevitz. The fact that the temple at Motza functioned in parallel with the larger Jerusalem site means that it was “probably under the auspices of Jerusalem,” she said, which is a really different way of conceiving of religious practices during the era of the legendary United Monarchy and beyond.

3,400-year-old Canaanite Fort to Be Incorporated Into High-rise

Ancient Canaanite citadel discovered in the middle of the Nahariya, which had been burned down four times, will be incorporated into the basement.

A 3,400-year-old Canaanite fort discovered in the heart of the modern Israeli city of Nahariya will be incorporated into a residential high-rise to be built at the spot.

The Bronze Age citadel apparently served as an administrative center serving Mediterranean mariners, stated the Israel Antiquities Authority. It had been destroyed at least four times by fire and was rebuilt each time, says the IAA.

Among the artifacts discovered in the ruined citadel’s rooms are ceramic figurines with human and animal forms, bronze weapons, and pottery vessels that hadn’t been made locally – they had been imported. That is further testimony to the extensive trading relations among the peoples around the Mediterranean Sea basin


Ancient Lullabies in Mesopotamia

How ancient Near Eastern magicians soothed crying infants


In the Babylonian flood story Epic of Atrahasis, infant mortality—a sad but common problem in antiquity—was the gods’ solution to overpopulation. To prevent infant cries from disturbing the gods, ancient lullabies were used to soothe babies. Pictured here is a tablet containing the Epic of Atrahasis from the British Museum. Photo: Courtesy British Museum via CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

Parents worldwide and through the ages have longed for a magical cure for their crying babies. David Bosworth, Catholic University Associate Professor of Old Testament, suggests that the ancient Mesopotamians had such spells thousands of years ago. In his Archaeological Views column “Magical Cures for Crying Infants” in the March/April 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Bosworth explores the contents of these magical ancient lullabies and the reasons why they were effective.Ancient Near Eastern magicians likely used maternal wisdom to develop baby incantations. According to some scholars, these incantations may have been based off of the ancient lullabies Mesopotamian mothers sang to their babies to quiet them down at night.

“Lullabies are ‘anonymous’ texts in the sense that their creators are no longer known, and ritual experts might have modified existing lullabies to suit their needs,” Bosworth explains. “Across cultures, mothers sing to their infants in part because infants can be soothed by song (as well as touch and rhythmic rocking, which often accompanies such singing).”




David Bosworth

The mother’s singing, rocking and touching provided the baby with a sense of calm and security (at least if hunger or a dirty diaper were not the root cause). Bosworth argues that Mesopotamian magicians adopted these ancient lullabies, wrote them down and sold them to parents who could afford to pay. References to wet-nurses and nannies imply the wealth of some clients, as seen in this incantation:

You, baby, newborn human: you have now emerged, you have now seen the sun, the light. Why in the womb of your mother did you not treat her like this? Instead of treating your father well and allowing your mother to lead a normal life, you have terrified the nanny and kept the wet-nurse awake. With your noise, the household god is no longer sleeping, the household goddess cannot grab sleep.1

Like many modern lullabies, ancient lullabies paired care–evidenced by the very act of performing a lullaby–with a touch of darkness. Parents who are frustrated and tired can feel resentment toward a crying child, even in the midst of love and concern. This dichotomy is also present in ancient baby incantations. When it comes to child-rearing, the temporal distance is minimal.

The ancient Mesopotamians appealed to some gods to quiet babies out of fear that other gods would turn their wrath on the infants for their noisy tears. Ancient parents—as modern ones—might have been afraid that infant crying was indicative of a serious medical issue or unexplained distress. High infant mortality was, after all, common in antiquity.

“The relief offered by the magician was not only a quiet baby, but less anxious parents,” Bosworth explains of ancient Mesopotamian baby incantations. “Even if the ritual did not work, it could provide parents with the sense that they had done all they could to quiet their baby and ward off disease.”