Tag Archives: digging history

10,000-year-old house uncovered outside of Jerusalem

10,000-year-old house uncovered outside of Jerusalem

Digging History

Published November 26, 2013

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    Work being conducted at the excavation. (YOLI SHWARZ/ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)

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    An aerial view of the large excavation along Highway 38. (SKY VIEW COMPANY/ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)

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    The standing stone (mazzevÄ) which is worked on all of its sides. Evidence of cultic activity in the Chalcolithic period. (ZINOBI MOSKOWITZ/ISRAEL ANTQIUITIES AUTHORITY)

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    A 10,000 year old house, the oldest dwelling to be unearthed to date in the Judean Shephelah. (DR. YAÂAKOV VARDI/ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)

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    A Chalcolithic period building and the standing stone (mazzevÄ) positioned at the end of it. (ASSAF PERETZ/ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)

An archaeological excavation near Jerusalem has revealed a 10-millennia-old house and a 6,000-year-old cultic temple — discoveries that experts called “a fascinating glimpse into thousands of years of human development,” and evidence of man’s transition to permanent dwellings.

The ancient structures were found at the site of a planned expansion the main access road to Israeli city Beit Shemesh, called Route 38. The house is the oldest building ever found in the area and dates back to the time of the earliest known domestication of plants and animals.

‘Up until this period man migrated from place to place in search of food.’

– Excavation directors with the IAA

“We uncovered a multitude of unique finds during the excavation,” said Amir Golani, one of the excavators for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). “The large excavation affords us a broad picture of the progression and development of the society in the settlement throughout the ages.”

The oldest artifacts found are of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period (approximately 10,000 years ago). According to the excavation directors, “whoever built the house did something that was totally innovative because up until this period man migrated from place to place in search of food.”

Golani explained that the find gave archaeologists a window onto a period 5,000 years ago in the Early Bronze Age, when a rural society made the transition into an urban society.

They “can clearly trace the urban planning and see the guiding hand of the settlement’s leadership that chose to regulate the construction in the crowded regions in the center of the settlement and allowed less planning along its periphery.”

Also among the finds were multiple structures from from the end of the Chalcolithic period (the Copper Age) some 6,000 years ago. Archaeologists found a six-sided stone column standing 51 inches high and weighing several hundred pounds.

“The standing stone was smoothed and worked on all six of its sides, and was erected with one of its sides facing east,” the excavator directors said in a press release. “This unique find alludes to the presence of a cultic temple at the site.”

A group of nine flint and limestones axes were also discovered laying side by side near the prehistoric building. “It is apparent that the axes, some of which were used as tools and some as cultic objects, were highly valued by their owners. Just as today we are unable to get along without a cellular telephone and a computer, they too attributed great importance to their tools,” the researchers concluded.

“It is fascinating to see how in such an ancient period a planned settlement was established in which there is orderly construction, and trace the development of the society which became increasingly hierarchical,” said Golani.

The IAA and Netivei Israel Company will open the excavation to the visiting public this Wednesday, November 27.

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Ancient city discovered beneath Biblical-era ruins in Israel

Ancient city discovered beneath Biblical-era ruins in Israel

By Tia Ghose

Digging History

Published November 19, 2013

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    Burned ruins and fired mudbrick collapse, as well as smashed pottery, reveal the late Bronze Age destruction at the city. On the left is the room where several pottery vessels, a scarab of Amenhotep III, a cache of cylinder seals, as well as s (SAMUEL WOLFF, TEL GEZER EXCAVATIONS)

Archaeologists have unearthed traces of a previously unknown, 14th-century Canaanite city buried underneath the ruins of another city in Israel.

The traces include an Egyptian amulet of Amenhotep III and several pottery vessels from the Late Bronze Age unearthed at the site of Gezer, an ancient Canaanite city.

Gezer was once a major center that sat at the crossroads of trade routes between Asia and Africa, said Steven Ortiz, a co-director of the site’s excavations and a biblical scholar at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

The remains of the ancient city suggest the site was used for even longer than previously known. [The Holy Land: 7 Amazing Archaeological Finds]

Biblical city
The ancient city of Gezer has been an important site since the Bronze Age, because it sat along the Way of the Sea, or the Via Maris, an ancient trade route that connected Egypt, Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia.

The city was ruled over many centuries by Canaanites, Egyptians and Assyrians, and Biblical accounts from roughly the 10th century describe an Egyptian pharaoh giving the city to King Solomon as a wedding gift after marrying his daughter.

“It’s always changed hands throughout history,” Ortiz told LiveScience.

The site has been excavated for a century, and most of the excavations so far date to the the 10th through eighth centuries B.C. Gezer also holds some of the largest underground water tunnels of antiquity, which were likely used to keep the water supply safe during sieges.

But earlier this summer, Ortiz and his colleague Samuel Wolff of the Israel Antiquities Authority noticed traces of an even more ancient city from centuries before King Solomon’s time. Among the layers was a section that dated to about the 14th century B.C., containing a scarab, or beetle, amulet from King Amenhotep III, the grandfather of King Tut. They also found shards of Philistine pottery.

During that period, the ancient site was probably a Canaanite city that was under Egyptian influence.

The findings are consistent with what scholars suspected of the site, said Andrew Vaughn, a biblical scholar and executive director of the American Schools of Oriental Research, who was not involved in the study.

“It’s not surprising that a city that was of importance in the biblical kingdoms of Israel and Judah would have an older history and would have played an important political and military role prior to that time,” Vaughn told LiveScience. “If you didn’t control Gezer, you didn’t control the east-west trade route.”

But once the location of that major road moved during the Roman period, the city waned in importance. It was later conquered and destroyed, but never fully rebuilt.

“Just like today when you have a ghost town where you move the train and that city goes out of use,” Ortiz said.

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Stone-tipped spears predate existence of humans by 85,000 years

Stone-tipped spears predate existence of humans by 85,000 years

By Jennifer Viegas

Digging History

Published November 14, 2013

Discovery News
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    A sample of Gademotta pointed artifacts exhibiting micro- and macrofracture features indicative of projectile weaponry. (PLOS ONE)

Remains of the world’s oldest known stone-tipped throwing spears, described in a new paper, and so ancient that they actually predate the earliest known fossils for our species by 85,000 years.

There are a few possible implications, and both are mind-blowing. The first is that our species could be much older than previously thought, which would forever change the existing human family tree.

The second, and more likely at this point, is that a predecessor species to ours was extremely crafty and clever, making sophisticated tools long before Homo sapiens emerged.

Homo heidelbergensis, aka Heidelberg Man, lived in Africa, Europe and western Asia from at least 600,000 years ago. He clearly got around, and many think this species was the direct ancestor of Homo sapiens in Africa and Neanderthals in Europe and Asia.

The new paper, published in the latest PLoS ONE, focuses on the newly identified stone-tipped spears, which date to 280,000 years ago. They were found at an Ethiopian Stone Age site known as Gademotta.

Sahle, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at Berkeley’s Human Evolution Research Center, and his team analyzed the weapons. They determined that the spears were made from obsidian found near the site. The toolmakers had to craft the pointy spearhead shapes and spear shafts. They then needed to attach the points securely to the shafts. Even today, all of this would require skill, concentration and multiple steps.

Could a Steve Jobs-like innovator within the Heidelberg Man set have come up with this useful tool and production process?

Possibly, according to Sahle.

“Technological advances were not necessarily associated with anatomical changes (among Homo species),” he said. “The advances might have started earlier.”

The intelligence needed to create such tools could therefore have predated our present body type. Based on the recreations I’ve seen of Heidelberg Man (and Heidelberg Woman), they did look very much like us. They were known to have been fairly tall and muscular.

As for why innovative tools from this period are known only from this site in Ethiopia, Sahle has some ideas.

“High-quality raw materials were nearby, so those could have allowed for the full expression of technological skills,” he said.

“Second, a bigger population was supported at the site,” he continued. With more individuals around, there would have been a greater chance for the spread of innovative ideas. If there was indeed a Steve Jobs-type in the mix, he would have been able to influence more individuals and perhaps even created a prehistoric spear-making assembly line of sorts.

“Thirdly, there was a mega lake at the site,” Sahle said. “It might have attracted stable occupations there, further fueling technological advances.”

It’s not clear yet what the prehistoric ancestral humans were hunting with the spears. A mishmash of animal remains was found, but the researchers haven’t been able to tease them apart yet.

What is clear is that the spears were thrown from a distance at prey, instead of thrust into victims, Neanderthal-style.

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Rare Jewish prayer book predates oldest known Torah scroll

Rare Jewish prayer book predates oldest known Torah scroll

Digging History

Published October 03, 2013

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    Researchers have identified what is likely the oldest Jewish prayer book ever found, dated by both scholars and Carbon-14 tests to circa 840 C.E. (GREEN SCHOLARS INITIATIVE)

Scholars are calling a rare Hebrew text dating back to the 9th century the earliest known Jewish prayer book, predating the world’s oldest Torah scroll.

The 50-page book is 4.3 inches tall and about 4 inches wide and is written in an archaic form of Hebrew, on pages of aged parchment. The text includes 100 Jewish blessings and discusses topics such as the apocalyptic tale of the End Times and the Passover Seder.

Carbon testing dates the prayer book to the year 840, which is 300 to 400 years before the oldest known Torah scroll from the 12th and 13th centuries.

“This find is historical evidence supporting the very fulcrum of Jewish religious life,” said Jerry Pattengale, executive director of the Green Scholars Initiative, the group that announced the find. “This Hebrew prayer book helps fill the gap between the Dead Sea Scrolls and other discoveries of Jewish texts from the ninth and tenth centuries.”

“This was a liturgical set of prayers, hymns and poems used for various occasions,” Pattengale told the Huffington Post. “The prayer book is really what most of the Jewish community would be in touch with on a daily basis, [creating] a connection between the Bible and their daily worship.”

The book is the Jewish equivalent of an early complete edition of the Christian Book of Common Prayer.

Started by the Green family of the retail chain Hobby Lobby, the Green Scholar’s Initiative is the research arm of The Green Collection, one of the world’s largest private collections of biblical texts and artifacts containing more than 40,000 items.

The prayer book which was purchased from a private collector will be on display in a yet-to-be named biblical museum set to open in March 2017 in Washington, D.C.

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Digging up Goliath’s Home town

Archaeologists enlist volunteer help to uncover Biblical city

By Sasha Bogursky

Digging History

Published July 11, 2013


 They still haven’t found the slingshot — maybe you will?

Archaeologists in Israel are busy excavating huge, fortified structures in the Biblical city of Libnah, which overlooks the Philistine capital of Gath, home to the tale of David famously slaying the giant Goliath with a well-slung stone.

And they could use a little help.

“One of our goals is to open the excavation to the public,” Itzhaq Shai, program director of the Tel Burna Excavation Project, told FoxNews.com. “Unlike most excavations, we are looking for people come to participate for even just a few hours. Hopefully they will be captivated and come back.”

Archaeology is no longer just for archaeologists, it seems; the initiative by Bar Ilan University is leading experts and volunteers on the excavation of the Biblical Judean city, known today as Tel Burna.

The site of Tel Burna is about an hour drive from Jerusalem and is thought to have served during the Iron Age as a border city between the kingdoms of Judah and the Philistines — a people remembered chiefly as the bad guys of the Hebrew Bible. The site has been well known since the middle of the 19th century, but excavations only began in 2009.

“No one excavated Tel Burna before because they didn’t think there would be too much to find,” Shai said.

It appears they were wrong. Since beginning the dig, Shai and his team have uncovered huge fortifications, building structures, idols, decanters, human and animal remains, and pottery with the seal of Judah from the 7th and 8th centuries B.C.E.

“We found jar handles with the stamped seal that is unique to the administration of Judah in the 7th century,” Shai explained. “Because of this, we are able to identify the [human] remains we found as belonging to the administration of the kingdoms of Judah.”

“We believe Tel Burna to be the Biblical Libnah for a number of reasons,” Shai explains. “Based on the location of the site, the dates of the artifacts we found and the very nice architectural elements that date to the 7th century; adding this all together we believe it to be Libnah.”

Recently, a group of high school graduates from Canada participated in a dig at the Tel Burna site

“I’ve always wanted to go on an archaeological dig,” Jordanna Miller told the Canadian Jewish News. “During the dig I was helping to break down a barrier between areas to uncover a wall. We found lots of pottery shards and some bones. We found the jaw of a goat in three pieces and a rather large storage jar. It was hard work and a lot of manual labor but amazing and I would love to do it again.”

“Our jobs included digging for ancient artifacts, sifting through the dirt and dusting off rocks,” student Ami Moyal told FoxNews.com.

Shai is glad to share the spotlight on the findings; he says people from all over the world volunteer to excavate.

“One of the reasons I chose my job is I get to make the past come alive.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/07/11/archaeologists-uncover-biblical-city/?intcmp=features#ixzz2YoUR0RUr

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600 Year Old Chinese Coin Found In Kenya

Illinois scientists find rare coin in Kenya

Digging History

Published March 13, 2013

Associated Press

  • 600-year-old Chinese coin found in Kenya

    Feb. 8, 2013: A rare, 600-year-old Chinese coin that scientists from Illinois discovered on the Kenyan island of Manda. The museum announced the discovery Wednesday, March 13. (AP Photo/Courtesy The Field Museum, John Weinstein)

CHICAGO –  Scientists from Illinois have found a rare, 600-year-old Chinese coin on the Kenyan island of Manda.

The Field Museum in Chicago announced the find Wednesday. The joint expedition was led by Chapurukha Kusimba of the museum and Sloan Williams of the University of Illinois-Chicago. Researchers say the coin proves trade existed between China and eastern Africa decades before European explorers set sail.

The coin is made of copper and silver. It has a square hole in the center so it could be worn on a belt. Scientists say it was issued by Emperor Yongle of China and his name is written on the coin.

Scientists from Kenya, Pennsylvania and Ohio also participated in the expedition. They also found human remains and other artifacts predating the coin.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/03/13/illinois-scientists-find-rare-coin-in-kenya/?intcmp=obinsite#ixzz2OQNpWSIh

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