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New discovery fills gap in ancient Jerusalem history
Archaeologists have discovered the first ruins of a building from the Hasmonean period in Jerusalem, filling a gap in the ancient city’s history, the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced.
The building’s remains were uncovered during an extensive dig at the Givati Parking Lot, located in Jerusalem’s oldest neighborhood, the City of David. Excavations over several years at the site have turned up some remarkable finds, including a building from the Second Temple period that may have belonged to Queen Helene, a trove of coins from the Byzantine period, and recently, a 1,700-year-old curse tablet in the ruins of a Roman mansion.
Despite extensive excavations in Jerusalem, IAA archaeologists Doron Ben Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets said there has been an absence of buildings from the Hasmonean period in the city’s archaeological record. Simon Maccabeus founded the Hasmonean dynasty in 140 B.C. This group ruled Judea until 37 B.C., when Herod the Great came into power. [In Photos: The Controversial ‘Tomb of Herod the Great’]
“Apart from several remains of the city’s fortifications that were discovered in different parts of Jerusalem, as well as pottery and other small finds, none of the Hasmonean city’s buildings have been uncovered so far, and this discovery bridges a certain gap in Jerusalem’s settlement sequence,” excavators Doron Ben Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets said in a statement. “The Hasmonean city, which is well-known to us from the historical descriptions that appear in the works of Josephus, has suddenly acquired tangible expression.”
Flavius Josephus recounted Jewish history and the Jewish revolt against the Romans in his first century A.D. books “The Jewish War” and “Antiquities of the Jews.” Some archaeologists have used his texts to guide their work and interpretations. For example, excavators who recently found cooking pots and a lamp in an underground chamber in Jerusalem think these objects could be material evidence of Josephus’ account of famine during the Roman siege of the city.
IAA officials said the Hasmonean building has only come to light in recent months, adding that the structure boasts quite impressive dimensions. It rises 13 feet (4 meters) and covers 688 square feet (64 square meters) with limestone walls more than 3 feet (1 m) thick.
Inside, the excavators found pottery and coins, the latter of which helped them determine the age of the building. IAA researchers think construction on the building began in the early second century B.C. and continued into the Hasmonean period, when the most significant changes were made inside the structure.
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PRAGUE – One thing was for sure when foreigners stayed at a prestigious Prague hotel during the Cold War era — their telephone conversations were carefully monitored by secret police in a hidden underground bunker some 20 meters (66 feet) under the building.
The Jalta hotel at Wencaslas Square in the heart of the Czech capital was built in 1958. Its massive bunker with its reinforced concrete walls was meant to provide Communist Party members and military officials a shelter in the case of a nuclear attack.
But it was also used as a center for surveillance operations that targeted western visitors staying at one of the several international hotels in Prague at the time.
To mark its 55th anniversary, the 500 square meter (5,382 square feet) bunker has since been turned into a museum. It opened to the public last week.
Sandra Zouzalova, Jalta’s public relations manager, said Wednesday the hotel wanted to shine a light on the many secret activities of the Cold War era.
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Jalta was one of many places used by foreign diplomats where the Communists gathered intelligence. West Germany’s business representation office in the 1970s was one of the prime targets, she said.
“They were eavesdropping on all of the hotel rooms,” Zouzalova said.
Inside the bunker is some of the original equipment, including a switchboard, a tape recorder and numerous wires that once led to the hotel’s 94 rooms.
Also on display is a floor plan that shows some rooms painted in red, green and yellow.
Zouzalova said the red rooms were given to high-value targets.
She said the operation didn’t cover just phone calls.
Listening devices were attached to lint brushes, and prostitutes were often used.
The shelter, which had walls that were two meters (6.6 feet) thick, had its own ventilation system and a huge water tank that would allow more than 150 people to survive for months.
The place was shrouded in secrecy until 1998, when Czech authorities gave up the space for use. That was nine years after the 1989 Velvet Revolution that ended Communist regime.
The bunker is open two days a week and guests can visit with advanced booking.
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