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December 18, 2012December 18, 2012  0 comments  History

A new digital library, stored on Google servers, and containing fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls was launched today by the Israel Antiquities Authority and Google Israel. The current library contains 4,000 high resolution scans of infrared photographs that were taken after being discovered iin the 1950's. An additional 1,000 new scans were specially constructed by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The actual Dead Sea Scrolls are on display inside the Shrine of the Book exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The scrolls were discovered in the 1950's in caves situated in the Judean Desert at the site of Qumran.

To learn more about the new Dead Sea Scroll library visit this link: http://www.deadseascrolls.org.il/





May 17, 2009May 17, 2009  0 comments  Biblical Archaeology

A document thought to be an ancient text written on papyrus was seized last week in an operation led by the Intelligence Office of the Zion Region and the Undercover Unit of the Border Police in Jerusalem, in cooperation with the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery and the Archaeological Staff Officer in the Civil Administration.

The document is written in ancient Hebrew script, which is characteristic of the Second Temple period and the first and second centuries CE. This style of the writing is primarily known from the Dead Sea scrolls and various inscriptions that occur on ossuaries and coffins. The document itself is written on papyrus. The papyrus is incomplete and was in all likelihood rolled up. It is apparent that pieces of it crumbled mainly along its bottom part. The holes along the left part of the document probably attest to the damage that was caused to it over time. The document measures 15 x 15 centimeters.

Fifteen lines of Hebrew text, written from right to left and one below the other, can be discerned in the document. In the upper line of the text one can clearly read the sentence "Year 4 to the destruction of Israel". This is likely to be the year 74 CE - in the event the author of the document is referring to the year when the Second Temple was destroyed during the Great Revolt. Another possibility is the year 139 CE - in the event the author is referring to the time when the rural settlement in Judah was devastated at the end of the Bar Kokhba Revolt.

The name of a woman, "Miriam Barat Ya‘aqov", is also legible in the document followed by a name that is likely to be that of the settlement where she resided: Misalev. This is probably the settlement Salabim. The name Miriam Bat Ya‘aqov is a common name in the Second Temple period. Also mentioned in the document are the names of other people and families, the names of a number of ancient settlements from the Second Temple period and legal wording which deals with the property of a widow and her relinquishment of it.

According to Amir Ganor, director of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery in the Israel Antiquities Authority, "Theoretically, based on the epigraphic style, the material the document is written on, the state of preservation and the text, which includes a historic date that can be deciphered, we are dealing with a document that appears to be ancient as defined by the Antiquities Law. Since this object was not discovered in a proper archaeological excavation, it still must undergo laboratory analyses in order to negate the possibility it is a modern forgery". Ganor adds, "The document is very important from the standpoint of historical and national research. Until now almost no historic scrolls or documents from this period have been discovered in proper archaeological excavations. A historic document that can be definitely dated based on a reference to a historical event such as the ‘destruction of Israel' has never been discovered. Much can be learned from this document about the names of people, their surnames names and the locations of settlements in Israel during this period. From an initial reading it seems that this document deals with the property of Miriam Bat Ya‘aqov, who was apparently a widow. The deciphering of the entire document by expert epigraphers and historians may shed light on how the people of the period managed their affairs and supplement our knowledge about their way of life. What we have here is rare historic evidence about the Jewish people in their country from more than 2,000 years ago, during the days following the destruction which sent the people of Israel into exile for a very long time - until the creation of the State of Israel".

A picture of the document can be downloaded from the Israel Antiquities Authority site via the following link: http://www.antiquities.org.il/about_eng.asp?Modul_id=14. Photograph: The Scroll Conservation Laboratory, Israel Antiquities Authority.


For further details, kindly contact: Yoli Shwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority spokesperson, 052-5991888, dovrut@israntique.org.il


September 12, 2009September 12, 2009  0 comments  Biblical Archaeology

An ancient synagogue dating from the Second Temple period (50 BCE-100 CE) housing the first ever menorah decoration ever found from that period was exposed in archaeological excavations at Migdal, known as Migdala, on the Sea of Galilee just north of Tiberias. The Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting excavations at the site, which is slated for development of a Christian-oriented resort hotel and multi-media center dedicated to dialogue and understanding.



Within the discovered the synagague there is a stone that is engraved with a seven-branched menorah (candelabrum), in the middle. It is the first time this type of discovery has ever been made. Up until now there had never been a seven branch menorah engraving discovered within a Jewish context. Archaeologists Dina Avshalom-Gorni and Arfan Najar of the Israel Antiquities Authority are conducting the excavations.  The main hall of synagogue is c. 120 square meters in area and its stone benches, which served as seats for the worshippers, were built up against the walls of the hall. Its floor was made of mosaic and its walls were treated with colored plaster (frescos). A square stone, the top and four sides of which are adorned with reliefs, was discovered in the hall. The stone is engraved with a seven-branched menorah set atop a pedestal with a triangular base, which is flanked on either side by an amphora (jars). The engraving that appears on the stone that was uncovered joins only six other synagagues in the word that are known to date to the Second Temple period", said Dina Avshalom-Gorni, the director of the Isrsael Antiquities Authority.



The site is owned by Ark New Gate, which intends to build a unique hotel property and multi-media center that is envisioned as a center of dialogue and respect between cultures and religions. Migdal has long been a very important site to Christians and the nearby historical site is managed by the Franscicans. Christian history recognizes Migdal as mentioned as the birthplace of Mary Magdalene. the city was strategically important during the Greate Revolt as well and the base of operation of Yosef Ben Matityahu (Josephus Flavius). AFter the revolt, Migdal became the administrative center of the Galilee lasting until 19CE, when nearby Tiberias was founded and became an important city.

December 21, 2009December 21, 2009  0 comments  Biblical Archaeology

The remains of a Jesus-era residence in what may have been a small hamlet housing approximately 50 homes. Remains included a wall, hideout and a cistern as well as an old convent courtyard, explained Yardenna Alexandre, an archaeogolgist with the Israel Antiquities Authority. Other discoveries included clay and chalk vessels used by Galilean Jews of the time - considered evidence that the home was inhabited by a simple Jewish family.

Photo by: API


"It was likely Jesus and his childhood friends would have known the house," said Alexandre.

"From the little written evidence available we know that first century Nazareth AD was a small Jewish village located in a valley," Alexandre said, adding that "until now a few Jesus-era graves were revealed, but never have we unearthed the remains of contemporary residences .

A pit made in the rock was also found, along with contemporary clay work. The archaeologists believe the pit was created as part of the Jewish peoples preparations prior to the Great Rebellion against the Romans, in 67C.E.



Article republished from: Haaretz News Service, Dec. 21, 2009




February 11, 2010February 11, 2010  0 comments  Biblical Archaeology

 Upon entering Jerusalem's Old City through Jaffa Gate, you are enveloped in the bustling and colorful David Street, lined with souvenirs shops and local shopkeepers. Now, an archaeological dig has confirmed that this very street has been on the map, literally, for 1,500 years.


The Israel Antiquities Authority announced the find this week. At the time, the thoroughfare was 4.5 meters below the current street level. The road dates from the time when Jerusalem became a Christian city in the Byzantine era. While other locations on the Madaba Map have been discovered, the road had remained hidden until now.


The existence of the road is confirmed on the Madaba Map, an ancient mosaic map of Jerusalem from the 6th century. It is located in a church in Jordan and is the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of Israel.


The Madaba Map describes Israel with an emphasis on Christian sites at a time when the country transitioned from paganism to Christianity. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is among the identifiable sites on the map. All of the churches on the map are portrayed with red roofs on the map.

Dr. Ofer Sion, director of this excavation, said that after digging through "a number of archeological strata" the team discovered meter-long flagstones of the ancient street.


"It is wonderful to see that David Street, which is teeming with so much life today, actually preserved the route of the noisy street from 1,500 years ago," Sion said.


During the Byzantine period (4th-7th centuries), Jerusalem was a Christian city. Thousands of Christian pilgrims came to Jerusalem to worship and many left written descriptions of the city and its holy places. The Madaba Map was one of them, showing the city walls, gates, the main streets and the churches. The main throroughfare, the Cardo, was a colonnaded street that bisected the city from north to south.


The IAA said that the 8- by 16-meter Madaba Map also clearly showed an entrance to Jerusalem from the west through a large gate that led to a single, central thoroughfare on that side of the city. Excavations had never been performed in this area since it is still a main thoroughfare in the Old City frequented by tourists and locals alike. However, the dig will continue now allowing tourists to catch a rare glimpse of history.


The flagstones found were cracked from the burden of centuries. Next to the road archaeologists also discovered a stone foundation which supported a sidewalk and a row of columns. Other artifacts discovered in the excavations include pottery vessels, coins and five small square bronze weights that shopkeepers once used for weighing precious metals.


During the Middle Ages, a very large building that faced the street was constructed on the stone foundation of the Byzantine period. Later, during the Mamluk period (13th to 14th centuries) rooms were built inside this structure, apparently used as shops and storerooms. Beneath this building, right below the street that runs between David's Citadel and David Street and leads to the Armenian Quarter, is a cistern, 8 x 12 meters and 5 meters deep, which supplied water to its occupants.


By Nicole Jansezian for Travelujah.com

July 2, 2012July 2, 2012  1 comments  Biblical Archaeology

A monumental synagogue building dating to the Late Roman period (ca. 4th-5thcenturies C.E.) has been discovered in archaeological excavations at Huqoq in Israel's Galilee.


The excavations are being conducted by Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and David Amit and Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority , under the sponsorship of UNC, Brigham Young University in Utah, Trinity University in Texas, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Toronto in Canada. Students and staff from UNC and the consortium schools are participating in the dig.


Huqoq is an ancient Jewish village located approximately two to three miles west of Capernaum and Migdal (Magdala). This second season of excavations has revealed portions of a stunning mosaic floor decorating the interior of the synagogue building. The mosaic, which is made of tiny colored stone cubes of the highest quality, includes a scene depicting Samson placing torches between the tails of foxes (as related in the book of Judges 15).


mosaic of Samson discovered at Huqoq

Mosaic of Samson excavated at Huqoq in the Galilee Photo credit: Jim Haberman


In another part of the mosaic, two human (apparently female) faces flank a circular medallion with a Hebrew inscription that refers to rewards for
those who perform good deeds.


"This discovery is significant because only a small number of ancient (Late Roman) synagogue buildings are decorated with mosaics showing biblical
scenes, and only two others have scenes with Samson (one is at another sitejust a couple of miles from Huqoq)," said Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor in the Department of Religious Studies in UNC's College of Arts and Sciences. "Our mosaics are also important because of their high artistic quality and the tiny size of the mosaic cubes. This, together with the monumental size of the stones used to construct the synagogue's walls, suggest a high level of prosperity in this village, as the building clearly was very costly."


Excavations are scheduled to continue in summer 2013.


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Travelujah is the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.

January 22, 2014January 22, 2014  0 comments  Biblical Archaeology

A 1,500 year old major church with a magnificent mosaic and five inscriptions were uncovered during Israel Antiquities Authority salvage excavations. The excavations were directed by archaeologists Dr. Daniel Varga and Dr. Davida Dagan, and funded by the Israel Land Authority.

According to archaeologist Dr. Daniel Varga, directing the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "An impressive basilica building was discovered at the site, 22 meters long and 12 meters wide. The building consists of a central hall with two side aisles divided by marble pillars. At the front of the building is a wide open courtyard (atrium) paved with a white mosaic floor, and with a cistern. Leading off the courtyard is a rectangular transverse hall (narthex) with a fine mosaic floor decorated with colored geometric designs; at its center, opposite the entrance to the main hall, is a twelve-row dedicatory inscription in Greek containing the names Mary and Jesus, and the name of the person who funded the mosaic's construction."

The main hall (the nave) has a colored mosaic floor adorned with vine tendrils to form forty medallions. The medallions contain depictions of different animals, including: zebra, leopard, turtle, wild boar, various winged birds and botanical and geometric designs. Three medallions contain dedicatory inscriptions in Greek commemorating senior church dignitaries: Demetrios and Herakles. The two were heads of the local regional church. On both sides of the central nave are two narrow halls (side aisles), which also have colored mosaic floors depicting botanical and geometric designs, as well as Christian symbols.

A pottery workshop, mainly for the production of jars, was also uncovered during the excavations and yielded numerous finds, including: amphorae, cooking pots, kraters, bowls and different kinds of oil lamps. Glass vessels typical of the Byzantine period were also discovered at the site. The finds indicate a rich and flourishing local culture.

This church is part of a large and important Byzantine settlement that existed in the region. The settlement was located next to the main road running between Ashkelon on the sea coast to the west, and Beit Guvrin and Jerusalem to the east.

A number of other communities from the same period were uncovered in the past and there is some thought that the recently uncovered church may have been a center of worship for residents in the area. Given the many wine presses and pottery workshops discovered in the region, it is clear that the local economy made their living from the production and exportation of wine via the coast to the entire Mediterranean region.

As for the future of the site, it has been decided to cover it over and preserve it for future generations. The magnificent mosaic that has come to light will be conserved, removed from the site and displayed to the public at a regional museum or visitors' center.

The site will be open to the public for two days, Thursday and Friday January 23 and 24, 2014.


Government Press Office

September 18, 2014September 18, 2014  0 comments  Biblical Archaeology

The Israel Antiquities Authority a Byzantine era compound in Ramat Bet Shemesh containing an oil press, wine press and mosaics.


Beit Shemesh dig site

Griffin Aerial Photography Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

According to Irina Zilberbod, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority, "This was very likely a monastery".

Remarkable finds, including blocked cisterns, a cave opening and the tops of several walls were visible on the surface during an archaeological survey conducted on foot along the hills south of Bet Shemesh. The archaeological dig that ensued underground exposed numerous articacts indicating a prosperous lifestyle dating to the Byzantine period which was previously unknown.

The Israel Antiquities Authority press release described the findings as a compound continaining two regions - an industrial area and an activity and residential area. Within the industrial area a large and impressive olive press was exposed and a large winepress was revealed outside the compount containing two treading floors where the grape juices likely flowed to a collecting vat. The findings indicate that wine and oil production were important industries for the communities living in this area.

The impressive construction which includes magnificent mosaic floors, window and roof tile artifacts are similar to those found in contemporary monasteries indicating that it was a likely home for monastic life.


Surrounding Ella valley area
Photographic credit: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Photograph of the mosaic. Photographic credit: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority


The Israel Antiquities Authority has undertaken measures to preserve and develop the site as a landmark.

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Elisa L. Moed is the Founder and CEO of Travelujah-Holy Land tours, the largest Christian travel network focused on Holy Land tours. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.


June 3, 2012June 3, 2012  0 comments  Holy Land Pilgrimage

You are coming on a Holy Land tour and really have your heart set on buying an ancient ossuary from the time of Herod or perhaps a 1st century coin from the time of Jesus. How do you know if it is real?


Long time Travelujah client, Al Newberry, from Pennsylvania is a Christian engineer with a penchant for biblical archaeology.  He travels to Israel a few times a year to consult for the one of Israel's leading companies.


On his most recent trip to Israel we arranged for a private tour with an archaeological scholar at the the Israel Museum. He had intended to focus on the sarcophogus of Herod, but his tour gave him a lot more insight into antiquities than he had ever anticipated. He wrote to  Travelujah about his experience:


"Regarding the (Israel) Museum, I simply can't believe how it has changed!!

As you know, the guide you arranged was Yoav Farhi, a PhD candidate who is a leading coin expert in Israel.

The good news/bad news is that I also met with Shai Bar-Tura, from the Israel Antiquities Authority. This is why:

At Caesarea, I had bought 3 items: a lamp from the days of Herod which both Yoav and Shai believe is 100% genuine, a lamp from the Crusader period and both believe it is genuine. Shai gave me documents to take the lamps out of the country.

The bad news is that I also bought a coin which the dealer certified to be genuine and from Vespesian's triumph over Judah.

Yoav looked at it and in 2 seconds said it is a fake. He offered to call Shai and he agreed.

I gave a legal statement to Shai and the dealer is facing deep trouble. I happily handed the coin over to Shai so it is in the hands of the Israel Antiquities Authority...



Al Newberry


Obviously, Israel is not immune from the practice of selling 'fake' items - (which happens all over the world), but we would like to be able to say that every effort is made to ensure that the consumer is protected. And we can.


To protect tourists as well as the antiquities themselves, Israel has very explicit laws with regard to the sale and purchase of antiquities and all travelers should be aware of these laws. Basically, only authorized dealers can sell antiquities and they must operate with a special license that requires annual renewal.


The recent case of tour leader Abraham Lund, who was arrested for not having legal authorization to sell antiquities further highlights the importance of knowing and understanding Israel's laws with regard to antiquities.


For those that don't wish to read through Israeli law, the simply answer is:
1. Make sure that you buy an item at a store that is registered dealer of antiquities
2. You must obtain an export permit to take your purchased antiquity out of the country. The authroized dealer can e-mail the request to the Antiquities Authority or by visiting the Israel Antiquities Authority offices at the Rockfeller Museum.
3. Certain antiquities cannot be exported, such as large architectural pieces or other items with a unique inscription, or stone or clay ossuaries.


Bottom line: Know the laws and check to see the permit on the window and make sure it is current since permits are only good for one year and must be renewed.


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Elisa Moed is the Founder and CEO of Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.




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