Tag Archives: Israel Antiquities Authority


BLOG 406 October 15, 2018

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST Each week Robert L. Wise, PhD, explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

In the last couple of blogs, I’ve been updating you on the events occurring during the summer while I was off line. Last week, we surveyed Egypt. At the same time, remarkable finds were occurring in Israel through the digs around Jerusalem’s Old City. Here’s the latest from that front.

Are these discoveries important? Arab and Muslim activists scream because they discount Israeli claims to the ancient city when evidence demonstrates the Jews were always there just as they always alleged. Liberal scholars who proclaim Biblical stories are only myths have to take a backseat as well. The most recent finds validate the historic facts of scripture.

Recently, the Israel Antiquities Authority displayed an unprecedented piece of papyrus containing a reference to Jerusalem from the First Temple period. Written in ancient Hebrew script, the papyrus dates back to the 7th century BCE. At this time, this is the earliest extra-biblical source to mention Jerusalem in Hebrew.

Hebrew University professor Eilat Mazar has been working in an area that she contends extends back to King Solomon. The distinctive pottery shards she found have helped identity the city walls Solomon built on the edge of the Kidron Valley. She has uncovered dozens of small seals used for verifying official documents as well as engraved jug handles that reflect the 7th and 8th centuries BCE.

At this time, Prof. Mazar is working on the remains of what she believes will prove to be the palace of King David. If this work is validated, the impact will be extraordinary. Prof. Ronnie Reich and Eli Shukron excavated at the southern end of the City of David and uncovered what they believe is a large ritual bath, a mikve, that dates from the Second Temple period. This site is mentioned in John 9 as “the pool of Siloam” where Jesus healed a blind man. Next to the pool was a stairway that extended clear up to the Temple Mount. During their work a small seal was recovered with the word Bethlehem. This is the earliest proof that Bethlehem existed at this time.

Since my first visit to Israel in 1968, so much has been uncovered that it takes ones breath away. Again and again, the biblical story has been authenticated. The connection between the Jewish people and their land has become an established fact.

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BLOG 384 February 26, 2014

Taking a reprieve from the heavy stuff happening across the Middle East – let’s look at what’s turned up lately. Periodically, I like to catch my readers up on what archaeological finds have discovered. Israel in particular is a goldmine of ancient artifacts. Here’s the latest finds.

Israeli scientists just uncovered the earliest modern human fossil ever discovered outside of Africa. In Mount Carmel’s Misliya Cave an upper jaw bone has been dated back to somewhere between 177,000 to 194,000 years ago. Prof. Israel Hershikovitz of Tel Aviv University said this find radically changes the entire narrative of the evolution of Homo Sapiens, pushing back the dating 100,000 to 200,000 years. The  finds also suggests these inhabitants of the Misliya Cave were relatively sophisticated. The anatomical details fit the modern human race.

Another important and different find dates back to the era of the First Temple. A rare, well-preserved clay stamp was marked “governor of the city.” The Israel Antiquities Authority found the relic during excavations of the Western Wall Plaza. “Governors of Jerusalem” are mentioned in II Kings and II Chronicles. The find demonstrates that Jerusalem was a strong city and one of the most ancient capitals of the world 2,700 years ago.

Probably this stamp or seal was once attached to important documents and indicated the Temple Mount was then inhabited by highly important officials. On the seal two men face each other. Each figure is wearing a striped, knee-length garment. At the bottom it denotes, “belonging to the governor of the city.” Not bad! Huh?

Another excavation in a 1,100-year-old refuse pit in Jerusalem has revealed new insights into the dietary habits of the Israelites. The oldest eggplant seeds ever unearthed  were found there. Located near the Second Temple period pilgrimage road, the seeds had undergone change that left the outer form of the seed unchanged while preserving the seeds from decomposition.

Additional ancient websites revealed the ancient Jews strictly observed Kashrut dietary laws and primarily consumed mutton and goat meat. No pork bones or shellfish were found.

These findings confirm a Jewish presence in the past just as we find in the scripture. Moreover, the residue confirms the faithful practice of the people following the Torah and the instruction of Moses. It’s what we expected – and that’s a nice confirmation





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BLOG 372 November 20, 2017

In the midst of the “push and pull” of Middle-Eastern politics and structure, periodically the Israel Antiquities Authority and other archaeologists make important discoveries. Perhaps, no place else in the world has attracted such fervent interest. My dear friend, Dr. William Tabbernee, author of Early Christianity in Contexts, has made similar archaeological explorations exploring the history of the Montanists. His work and findings are fascinating to explore.

Just recently another such discovery was made beneath Jerusalem’s Western Wall. Wilson’s Arch was the last in a series of arched bridges that connected to the Temple Mount from the West. Today it is the only remaining remnant of the Second Temple period. A huge aqueduct also passed over the arch. In an attempt to further date this area, Dr. Joe Uziel, Tehillah Lieberman, and Dr. Avi Solomon discovered a 200 seat amphitheater built in a Roman style like the ones at Caesarea or Beit She’an except much smaller. The uncovered theater sat under Wilson’s Arch, providing cover in case of rain or storms. Interestingly enough, the archaeologists are not sure this semi-circular theater was ever used. One archaeologist deemed this the most important discovery in the last thirty years.

One speculation is that it was built around the time of the BarKokhba Revolt and war and may have not been finished because of that insurrection against the Romans. Other similar findings were left unfinished from this period, suggesting the same possibility. The findings around the Wilson Arch area emphasize how significant these discoveries in the region can be.

On my visits to Jerusalem, a friend who is an American archaeologist took me inside these excavations to walk around the bedrock foundation of the original Temple Mount. Having removed dirt that for centuries had piled up against the city walls, they uncovered a large rock pathway that still had one of the stones split apart when the Romans took the Second Temple down. For 2,000 years no one had seen or walked on that stone. I stood there in awe of what it felt like to put one foot in the 21st century and the other in the first century!

Such finds are worthwhile indeed!

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BLOG 357 July 17, 2017

            Taking a breather from the turmoil of politics and war in the Middle East, a little side trip through the archaeological discoveries of recent days can prove interesting. Interest in archaeology was piqued many years ago with the discovery of the Qumran Dead Sea Scroll. Decades ago, I met Khalil Eskander Shahin, called Kando, the middle man, in the sale of this find at a shop he ran in what is today East Jerusalem. One of the clay jars was on display in his souvenir shop. I vividly remember standing in awe, staring at this clay vessel that went back beyond 2,000 years, and housing the priceless finds once hidden inside this container.

Archaeological finds put us in touch with the past like little else. They bring the stories of history books to life. We wonder what famous person from the past must have touched the same object we are looking at.

Here’s several recent finds you will find significant.

Reaching w-a-a-y back in time, Israeli researchers have just discovered that the land was inhabited by Neanderthals over 60,000 years ago. Contrary to previous opinion, they did not live in caves and weren’t really cavemen at all. Not that some did not live in caves, but the conclusion is now considered an overstatement because they lived in the open fields around what is today the Ein-Qashsish area on the bands of the Kishon River in northern Israel. The remains of a Neanderthal from between 15 to 22 years of age revealed he suffered an injury that caused limping.

On another trail, researchers at Tel Aviv University discovered a ground-breaking discovery  on the back of a pottery shard that dates back to 600 BCE, the eve of the Kingdom of Judah’s destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. The inscription begins with a blessing by Yahweh and then discusses money transfers. The original vessel came from a military outpost and fortress at the Southern border of the ancient Kingdom of Judah probably populated by 20 to 30 soldiers. The use of contemporary multi-spectral imaging techniques has opened to new fields of discovery. More insights will be forthcoming.

From a different front, on the eve of the jubilee commemoration of the Six Day War, (see Blog 356), the Israel Antiquities Authority unveiled relics from the battle for Jerusalem on the eve of the Second Temple destruction 2,000 years ago. Stone ballista balls and well-preserved arrowheads had been uncovered. These finds came from the last battle between the Romans and the Jewish rebels. The final showdown was recorded by historian Flavius Josephus. These artifacts and additional discoveries came from what was once a main street in the Second Temple period and will provide new information and insights on how the Old City was structured.

Another discovery in a cave on the cliff west of Qumran has revealed additional pottery shards, fragments of rope, and olive and date pits, but no more biblical scrolls were found. However, an ancient scroll was uncovered, but it had nothing on it and the parchment was completely blank. The empty scroll currently remains a mystery and puzzle to be solved. Surely, more will be discovered.

Stay tuned. More to come.

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July 17, 2017 · 9:37 am