By Gordon Govier
EACH year several dozen institutional archaeological excavations and multiple more salvage excavations take place in the lands of the Bible.
Some excavations draw attention because of the exciting dimensions of their discoveries. Many more compile important information from less dynamic discoveries that help us better understand the biblical world in its social context.
Following are some of the most exciting discoveries announced in the past year, taken from the news digests of ARTIFAX magazine, and reported on The Book & The Spade radio program.
#1) Huqoq Synagogue Mosaic The ancient village of Huqoq is located three miles west of the Sea of Galilee shore near the sites of Magdala and Capernaum. Excavated by archaeologist Jodi Magness, a Distinguished Professor of early Judaism at North Carolina University at Chapel Hill, the mosaic floor of this synagoue is of the highest quality. The mosaic depicts Samson tying the tails of foxes together and also shows two faces around an inscription. This synagogue dates several centuries after the time of Christ and is expected to provide new information about the development of synagogues in the Galilee.
#2) Cult Shrines from Khirbet Qeiyafa These shrines were actually discovered in 2011 excavations, but announced in the late spring of 2012 by archaeologist Yosel Garfinkel of Hebrew University. The shrines are evidence of worship that predates Solomon’s Temple by 30-40 years; shrines without cultic images that are different from Canaanite shrines and conform to the anaconic traditions of Judaism. Khirbet Qeiyafa overlooks the Elah Valley, about 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem.
#3) First Temple Period Reservoir This cistern is located near the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount, under Robinson’s Arch. With its 66,000 gallon capacity, this discovery provides new information about water consumption in the First Temple era of Jerusalem.
#4) Bethlehem Bullah A seal impression with three lines of script, this is the earliest mention of Bethlehem outside of the Bible. It was found during the sifting of material from City of David excavations. It is a fiscal bulla, related to taxing of shipments during the reign of a king around the time of Hezekiah, Manasseh, or Josiah.
#5) Jerusalem Seal An actual seal which says “Belonging to Matanyahu Ben Ho,” this seal was found near Robinson’s arch in the ruins of a building from the First Temple Period.
#6) An Egyptian scarab This scarab was found in Jerusalem just before the 2012 Passover. It depicts the image of a duck, which is the name of the sun god Amon-Ra. It is dated to the 13th century BC, just after the Amarna period.
#7) The Kiryat Gat Hoard This hoard was found near Ashkelon and contains 140 gold & silver Roman coins dating to the late first and early 2nd century AD. The hoard included a gold earring and a ring with a seal depicting a winged goddess.
#8) The Neo Hittite sculpture at Tel Tayinat The sculputure inscription records events of the reign of Suppiluliuma, who probably faced Shalmaneser III in 858 BC. This is an important excavation in Turkey, 22 miles east of Antakya (ancient Antioch) on the road to Aleppo. University of Toronto archaeologist Tim Harrison believes this is the neo-Hittite kingdom of Patina, which may also be the Calno referred to in Isaiah 10:9-10.
#9) 3400-year old wheat from Hazor The wheat was discovered in 14 clay jugs, burned but not destroyed 3400 years ago. This is one of the most important ongoing excavations in Israel, at the site of one of most important ancient cities in Israel.
#10) Akko’s Hellenistic Harbor Archaeologists are exposing the remains of the harbor, from the third and second centuries BC. This was the most important port in Israel in the centuries just before the birth of Christ.
Plans are being made for another busy season of excavations in 2013. To keep up with news of Biblical Archaeology, check out websites for ARTIFAX magazine and The Book & The Spade, and further archaeological resources at www.radioscribe.com.ANS