Category Archives: Archaeology

Magdala: The Rest of the Story

MagdalaPanoIn two previous posts I described and posted images of the beautiful chapel and the first century synagogue at Magdala.  Besides these two structures a number of others have been discovered including an “Elite House” (=mansion) that contains three(!) ritual baths, a mosaic floor, etc.

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View looking east at a portion of the foundation walls of an elite residence that is located south of the synagogue. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

In the center of the image is a doorway and below it to the left are hewn steps that lead down into a miqveh (ritual bath).  The thickness of the walls indicates that there was more than one story to the house.  There is a mosaic under the permanent covering—that is still covered for protection.   Because of the ritual baths found in the house, it seems that wealthy/religious Jews that lived there.

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View of one of the three ritual baths that are part of an elite house that is located south of the synagogue at Magdala.

Hewn stairs lead down into the water.  The bath still contains water—actually a spring in the area still supplies the bath with water.

Between the synagogue and the mansion an extensive Market Area has been excavated.

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View looking east at the market of Magdala.

In the shops, pottery, woven goods, and fresh produce were sold.  In several of the shops there were plastered pools designed to hold fresh fish.  These pools had access to fresh underground water.

In addition, what is being called a “port,” was excavated—although the remains are not too impressive.

Finally, to the northwest is a very large freshwater pool called En Nun.

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View looking northwest at the large freshwater pool of En Nun.

This pool collects water from the springs that are located to the west of it.  It was apparently used for irrigation as far back as the Roman (= New Testament) Period.  It is possible that water was used in the fields north of Magdala.  Or, maybe it was used by another city that was located to the north of Magdala (Dalmanutha?? Mark 8:10).

 

 

First Century Synagogue at Magdala — Did Jesus Worship Here?

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Click on Panorama to view descriptive details.

In 2009, in preparation for the construction of a Franciscan Retreat Center on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, excavations took place before the construction began.  Much to the surprise of the excavators they came down upon a first century A.D. synagogue.

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The Interior of the First Century Synagogue at Magdala at the time of excavation
Note the benches around the side, the frescoed columns, and especially the unique stone box in the center of the image
Click to Enlarge — Photo: Gordon Franz

The synagogue measures 33 x 33 ft. and has benches on all four walls.  There is evidence that it was renovated between A.D. 40 and 50.  A coin from A.D. 29 was found among the debris and the synagogue was destroyed in A.D. 67 when Titus (the Roman General, later emperor) leveled the city.

If this dating, and interpretation are correct, it is very probable that Jesus, His disciples, Mary Magdalene, and others worshiped in this structure!!

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The “Stone Box” in-situ
Note the representation of a Seven Branch Menorah (on a tripod) that is flanked by two vases and clusters of columns
Click on Image to Enlarge — Photo: Gordon Franz

This solid “stone box” is totally unique.  Who ever carved the menorah probably saw the ones in the Temple in Jerusalem (prior to its destruction in A.D. 70).

For brief comments on Magdala see below
For 12 images of the Stone Box, Frescos,
and Mosaics of the Synagogue Click Here.
Many of these images are courtesy of Gordon Franz who publishes
articles on his website Life and Land

The site of al–Majdal (Arabic for “tower”) is located 4 mi. northwest of Tiberias, along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.  This is evidently the site of New Testament Magdala (from migdol “tower”) that is the same as Taricheae (“the place of salted fish”) mentioned by Josephus where a bloody naval battle took place between the Jews and Romans during the first Jewish Revolt (ca. A.D. 66–70; War 3.10.1–10 [462–542]).

It was evidently the home of Mary Magdalene, one of the followers of Jesus who is mentioned 12 times in the NT.  It actually may also be the site of “Magadan: (Matt 15:39) and/or “Dalmanutha” (Mark 8:10).

The site was excavated in the 1970’s and more recent (ongoing) excavations have found the remains of an early Jewish Synagogue dated to the first century A.D. as well as ritual baths, streets, houses, and even the wharf.

Kishle Tour (Citadel at Jaffa Gate Jerusalem) — Herod the Great’s Palace

Over the years I have heard about the excavations under the Kishle (Turkish “temporary encampment;” now an Israeli police station) that revealed the foundations of King Herod’s Palace.  This site is located just inside and south of Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.  I have always wanted to see these excavations but have not been able to gain access until today.

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View looking south at the excavation that is under the Kishle. Actually, the wall perpendicular to the “org” at the bottom of the image is thought to be from the time of the Judean King Hezekiah (ca. 701 B.C.) — More in a future post.

What I found out is that there are guided tours (in English) that are open to the public on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10:00 AM for 45 NIS (ca. $11.50).  So, I purchased my ticket at the entrance to the citadel.  I was expecting a 20 minute tour of the excavations, but instead the tour lasted 90 minutes!  Our guide, Talia, took us to the top of the citadel and gave us an overview of the Old and New City).  We then walked down through the citadel examining the Hasmonean (2nd to 1st centuries B.C.) and Herodian (Herod ruled 37–4 B.C.)  walls (maybe even Hezekiah walls) along the way.

Via an underground passage way we entered the dry moat and made our way to the south (Talia commenting all along the way).  Along the path toward the excavated area we were shown a magnificent stepped pool that was part of King Herod’s Palace.

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Looking northeast at the carved steps that lead into the magnificent rock–cut pool that formed part of the Palace of Herod the Great (picture from inside the pool)

And . . . .

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A ritual bath (miqvah) that probably dates to the Hasmonean Period. Note the steps leading down into the miqvah.

And . . .

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An engaged column base—possibly from Herod’s time.

We spent about 20 minutes under the Kishle examining modern, Medieval, Herodian, Hasmonian, and First Temple walls and an aqueduct and a tanners’ tub—but these will be for a future post.

All in all, it was a very worthwhile 90 minutes!  And to top it off, we ended up inside the citadel so we were free to wander and photograph to our hearts content—all for $11.50!

 

16 HD 3-4 Minute Drone Videos of Israel

To date (29 April, 2015) Amir Aloni has posted 16 3-4 minute HD videos of Israel on Vimeo.  These were taken using a drone!  (If you want to see one of the drones in action click here and view at 0:05).  These are amazing!  His 16 titles include:

  1. Qumran Caves
  2. Spring 2015 in the Jordan Valley
  3. Herodion National Park
  4. The Green Desert
  5. A Greek Orthodox Epiphany Ceremony at the Jordan River
  6. Migdal Tseded-Rosh Haayin
  7. 669 Rescue Unit of the Israeli Air force
  8. Shokeda Forest 2015
  9. Eritreans Celebrate Epiphany
  10. Tomb of Samuel the Prophet
  11. Israel Dead Sea Rivers Flood
  12. Southern Negev and Arava
  13. The Dead Sea
  14. Tom-mismeret
  15. Dead Sea & Judean Desert
  16. Megilot Rescue Unit in Judean Desert

Ancient Capital on Temple Mount?

Life on the Haram esh–Sharif (Temple Mount in Jerusalem) is not static but dynamic!  Over the years the Muslims have been refurbishing older structures and completely remodeling others.  In the process much debris has been discarded, some of which was from ancient structures—possibly even from the Second Temple Period.

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A well-carved ancient capital that was on the debris pile
of the Haram esh–Sharif/Temple Mount
June 2011
Click on image to Enlarge (or download if you wish)

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Debris pile on the Haram esh–Sharif/Temple Mount
located east of the Dome of the Rock — July 2009
Click on image to Enlarge (or download if you wish)

For additional images of “Life on the Haram esh–Sharif/Temple Mount”
Click Here.

Gortyna and Paul’s Fourth Journey

GortynaGortyna was the capital of a Roman province and the seat of the first Christian bishop of Crete.  During the Roman period it was the chief city of Crete—its population may have reached 100,000 people.  The site is huge—its city walls are about 6 mi. long!

Many believe that Paul made a Fourth Journey (not recorded in scripture) after his first Roman imprisonment and in the process visited Crete.  According to Titus 1:5 Paul left Titus on Crete to deal with some church affairs that were still outstanding.

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The Basilica of St. Titus at Gortyna
View of the Nave and the Apse of the Basilica
According to tradition St. Titus was martyred here
Click on Image to Enlarge

The Basilica of St. Titus at Gortyna preserves the memory of Titus’ ministry on the island (Titus 1:5).

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Details of the Fifth Century B.C. Law Code at Gortyna
It is read from “right to left” and then “left to right” — as an ox plows a field (boustrophedon)
Click on Image to View Details

At Gortyna there is also a famous well-preserved Greek law code called “The Twelve Tablets” that dates to the fifth century B.C.  It is written in “boustrophedon” style—(“as the ox plows”) namely from “right to left” and then “left to right.”

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Outer Corridor of the Odeon at Gortyna that uses stones from the Fifth Century B.C. Law Code for its walls!
Click on Image to Enlarge

Many of the original stones are now reused in a wall of the second century Odeon at Gortyna.  At the times of Paul’s and Titus’ visits the code would have been in its original format.

To view additional images of Gortyna Click Here.

For introductory information on Paul’s Fourth Journey see the map and commentary by 1 Timothy 2 in The NIV Study Bible and the Introduction to Titus.

The Tumulus at Amphipolis

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Tumulus of Amphipolis

The above is a view of the tumulus that is located to the northeast of the actual site of Amphipolis.  For a recent summary of the discoveries  and a 3-D model of the tomb Click Here (19 January, 2015) and for a series of articles on the on-going excavations Click Here.

There is a great BBC article on the excavation of the Amphipolis Tomb including photos and a sketch of the tomb—very similar to the ones found at Vergina!!  The site is protected 24 hours a day by two police officers!

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In a report dated 21 August Discovery News reports that the bodies of two sphinxes, 4.8 ft. high(!) have been found in connection with this tomb (10 times larger than the spectacular tomb of Philip II at Vergina!!).  The report also states that this is the LARGEST tomb ever uncovered in Greece.

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Two Sphinxes from Large Macedonian Tomb in Northern Greece (Amphipolis), each 4.8 feet high! — Image from Discovery News

Katerina Peristeri, the archaeologist in charge of the dig hopes to “. . . fully explore the burial by the end of the month to decide who was laid to rest there.”  Speculation: high military official of Alexander the Great?  Or possibly Alexander’s wife Roxana and/or his son Alexander IV who were killed at Amphipolis in 311 B.C. on the orders of King Cassander?  FWIW – the tomb is 3 miles from the famous lion statue (picture below).


Original blog from 13 August, 2014 follows.

A tomb has been discovered near the ancient city of Amphipolis in northern Greece—ancient Macedonia from whence Alexander the Great was from.  The circular mound is about 1,630 ft in circumference.  [for samples of treasures that might be found and why I am excited about this site—see below].  According to the press release a famous marble lion is located near the burial mound and may have actually topped the mound.

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The Lion of Amphipolis — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

View of the funerary monument, possibly that of Laomedon, a naval officer of Alexander the Great, that is dated to the late fourth century B.C. Although destroyed, it was rebuilt from fragments found in the area in the first half of the 20th century.   It is sited close to the large ancient city of Amphipolis — on the east bank of the Strymon River.

Amphipolis was situated on the Via Egnatia on which Paul traveled several times. This monument would have been 350 years old by the time Paul would have seen it.

For news stories on this find click Here and Here.

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View of the lower portion of the tomb — note the encircling wall — Photo: Alexandros Michailidis/AP

If this burial mound is undisturbed, it could contain magnificent treasures—like those from the tomb of Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great.

The following are samples of items found in the area of Amphipolis — who knows what this mound (tumulus) may contain?!!

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View of a Golden Oak Wreath from a tomb near Amphipolis. Note the delicate metal work and even the acorn just left of center. Date: probably around 300 B.C.

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View of a detail of a gold necklace found in a tomb near Amphipolis. Note the fine delicate craftsmanship. Date: probably around 300 B.C.

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View of a box that probably contained the ashes of the cremated person and a golden wreath above it. This type of box is called a larynx. Date: probably around 300 B.C.