Photo: Ron Cantrell

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Digging through the Bible

It has to be one of my favorite slices of Israel. On the south hill of Jerusalem, almost exactly between Jerusalem and Bethlehem lies a most interesting archaeological site, yet it is rarely visited by tourists.

I have been digging with the Tel Aviv University this week on their 2007 season. The hill’s height provides a 360 degree view of the saddle in the mountain ridge in which Jerusalem rests.

After a 40-year break in archaeological digging at Ramat Rachel in Jerusalem, the Nadler Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, in cooperation with Heidelberg University in Germany, is renewing exploration at the site. The work has continued exposing remnants of a king’s palace from the First Temple period and the hidden layers of 7th and 8th century B.C.E. In addition, it has explored the stratigraphic continuity of layers from the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Abyssid periods.

One of my wild imaginations includes King Nebuchadnezzar and the possibility of his presence on this hill. The site may in fact have been an administration center for Babylon’s conquering hoards. Nebuchadnezzar came here to Israel three times. On his first visit, news arrived that Nabopolasar, his father, lay dying. He and a handful of his soldiers cut across from Lachish to Babylon rather than follow the Euphrates River back as was normal. The burning desert between Israel and Babylon could not support the needs of an army, but a few men with a guide could make the trip quickly.


Almost daily a cheer arises from one of the half dozen teams as they unearth a jar handle marked with a “lmlk” seal. “Le Melek” is the designation meaning for “For the King.” These special jars were taxation vessels and their contents were destined for the palace of the reigning king. These seals come in varying designs depending upon the period of their stamping.


Probably one of the most interesting finds this week is a top section of a Greek oil lamp bearing an acronym standing for “Jesus illuminates all men,” (photo above).
Each day uncovers new finds and each one seems more exciting than the day before. I’m thankful for the weekend break, but already day dreaming of the next find.

For a "Who's Who" of the archaeological excavation see this site:

http://www.tau.ac.il/~rmtrachl/who's%20who.htm

1 comment:

In2Books said...

Your story-telling stirs a desire and flames a spark in my heart to somehow, someday join a dig in Israel.

Likewise, your photos provoke me to a jealousy to somehow return to the Mid-East as well, as I too love capturing those special moments, and a time of refreshing is way over due.

Now I'll check out your Flickr blog, as I too have one there.