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