| 1 October 2005
Ancient findings unearthed in Israel
Israel has unveiled an underground archaeological site near a disputed Jerusalem Holy shrine, nearly a decade after the opening of an exhibit in the same area that sparked widespread Palestinian rioting.?† † †The latest discovery included a ritual bath or 'mivka', from the period of the second Jewish Temple, which was destroyed in 70 CE, and a wall that archaeologists say dates to the first Jewish Temple that was destroyed in 586 BCE. The findings strengthen Jewish ties to the shrine which is also claimed by Muslims.
Israel has been conducting archaeological digs near the Western Wall since it captured East Jerusalem and its Old City in 1967ís Mid East War. The digs are infuriating Palestinians and the Islamic Trust that oversees the Mosque complex that now sits on the mountain that once held the Biblical Temples. The shrine, which is adjacent to the Western Wall, is one of the most sensitive in the Mid East conflict, and has often been the catalyst of Israeli-Palestinian fighting. Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital.
Meanwhile, in the same area, a First Temple period seal was discovered amongst the piles of rubble. The small seal impression, or bulla, is less than 1cm and was discovered by Bar-Ilan University Archaeologist Dr. Gabriel Barkay. The Temple Mount discovery would mark the first time that a written artifact was found from the Temple Mount dating back to the First Temple period. The 2,600 year-old artifact, with three lines in ancient Hebrew, was discovered in a pile of discarded rubble by a team of young archaeologists and volunteers that were sifting on the grounds of a Jerusalem national park.
† † † The seal, which predates the destruction of the First Jewish temple in 586 BCE, was presented at an archaeological conference in the City of David. Barkay said that the find was the first of its kind from the time of King David.
Dr. Barkay has not yet determined what the writing is on the seal, although there are three Hebrew letters inscribed onto the seal that are thought to be the name of its owner, that are visible on one of the lines. The seal was found among thousands of tons of rubble discarded by Wakf officials at city garbage dumps six years ago.
After the Antiquities Authority voiced disinterest in thoroughly sifting through the rubble discarded by the Wakf, Dr. Barkay received a license from the Antiquities Authority to sort through the piles of earth thrown into the garbage dump in search of antiquities, and has since found scores of history-rich artifacts from the First Temple Period up to and including a large amount of pottery dating from the Bronze Age.
Sources: The Jerusalem Post, The Guardian (27 September 2005)
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