Israel Archeology

By | December 22, 2021

The intense archaeological activity carried out in Israel in the last fifteen years does not allow a complete analysis of the data and problems that have emerged but forces a selection which, however rigorous, can be partial. Starting with the findings relating to the most ancient ages, between 1977 and 1980 some surveys were carried out by O. Bar Yosef and A. Gopher in Netiv Hagedud, in the Jordan Valley, which revealed numerous circular houses relating to the Pre-ceramic Neolithic A (8500-7600 ca.). Of particular interest is a seated female figurine, which has its most stringent comparison in a specimen of ÇCayönü in Anatolia. Since 1972 the research of C. Epstein in Golan has allowed the identification of some settlements, dating back to about the middle of the 4th millennium, organized in real villages. These are the sites of Rasm Ḥarbuš, Rasm al-Kabaš and ῾Ayn al-Ḥariri, characterized by parallel alignments of houses whose rectangular plan with internal courtyard is typical of the Chalcolithic culture: the support economy of these centers included the agriculture and livestock. Since 1982 Th. Levy and D. Alon have been involved in the excavation of an important settlement in Shiqmin, in which the arrangement and standardization of the buildings have made it possible to recognize the existence, completely unprecedented for this period in the Negev, of a plant urban planning. For Israel 1997, please check

In the lower part of the city, a building with two residential phases has been unearthed: the most recent has a rich collection of Beersheba Chalcolithic ceramics and a large millstone; in the underlying level a furnace for the smelting of copper with abundant slag and a scepter, also in copper, identical to the specimen found in Naḥal Mishmar near Ayn Gedi were found.

At Yarmoth in Judea, the Franco-Israeli mission directed by Fr. de Miroschedji has investigated, since 1980, the layers relating to the Ancient Bronze Age, highlighting one of the largest fortified settlements in all of Palestine. The most relevant discovery concerns a construction called Withe Building, which due to its size, plan and accurate building technique must be considered a public building, probably of a cultic nature, as shown by comparisons with the contemporary temples of ‘Ai, Megiddo and Bāb al-Draha ‘.

The investigations directed by A. Kempinski to Kabri in the two-year period 1986-87 have brought to light a settlement that reaches its maximum extension and prosperity in the Middle Bronze II B, but which already in the Middle Bronze II A presents an articulated defensive system.

The discovery in these phases of Anatolian and Cypriot pottery testifies to the commercial contacts of this center, mainly interested in the exchange of metals and in particular copper. The rapid decline of Kabri around 1600 is linked to that of numerous settlements in the northern part of the Acco plain as evidence of a general crisis in the region.

Zertal’s excavation at Mount Ebal has uncovered a monumental cult complex in use since the late 13th and throughout the 12th century: the type of cult that emerges from this open-air sanctuary appears to be completely centered on sacrifice.

For the period of transition from Late Bronze to Iron, the excavations conducted on the coastal sector are of particular interest, aimed at highlighting the peculiar aspects of the Philistine culture and its interactions with the Jewish world. In this regard, the investigations carried out in Tel Miqne and Tel Qasile should be noted.

The first of these centers, identified with the ancient Ekron, is in fact a settlement occupied at the beginning of the 12th century by the Peoples of the Sea and subsequently subject to the expansionist aims of David and the rulers of Judah. The importance of Tel Qasile is based on the fact that it is the only site discovered so far in Palestine created from scratch by the Philistines; moreover, its temple complex represents an exceptional document for understanding the religiosity and cults of the Peoples of the Sea.

Among the excavations conducted in Iron Age settlements, that of D. Ussishkin at Tel al-Duweir in Judea, generally identified with ancient Lachish, is of particular importance. The most recent campaigns have made it possible to date the 3rd level of the site with certainty to the 8th century and to trace its destruction to the armies of Sennacherib who conquered the city in 701.

A further datum concerns the chronology of the amphorae, which are stamped with a stamp with the words lmlk, “of the king” or “for the king”, associated with two different types of symbols, representing in one case a scarab with four wings and a disk solar, in the other a beetle with two wings. The discovery of both types in the 3rd level of Lachish and their absolute absence in the following one have allowed us to demonstrate that they cover the same time span.

In Tel Batash, identified with the biblical Timna, GL Kelm and A. Mazar have brought to light a settlement that has a stratigraphic sequence that goes from the Neolithic to the Persian era. Of particular interest is the city gate relative to the 10th century level: it presents, due to an L-shaped front wall, an indirect entrance followed by an internal passage protected by two massive side towers. This typology has no precise comparisons in the near-eastern world, even if some elements recall the Iron gates of Tel Beit Mirsim and Karatepe.

Among the excavations of the Hellenistic period, those of Tel Dor and Ascalon are worthy of note. In the first, the large-scale investigations conducted by E. Stern allowed a clear reading of the urban layout and the defensive system. In the second, data relating to individual structures emerged: in particular, we recall the uncovering of a large building whose northern part was divided into warehouses, in which a large collection of ceramic material was found.

Israel Archeology