• We wish Barnea much continued success as he moves forward
    towards his MA in archaeology at Tel Aviv University.

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Before and After Bulldozing

Israel Hayom
Friday October 2, 2015
Bar Kokhba-era antiquities site razed by Palestinian vandals
Ancient city in Gush Etzion was site of first discovery of one of the caves Bar Kokhba used for concealment during his second century revolt against Roman rule • Students at the Kfar Etzion Field School come across irreparable damage during field trip.
Efrat Forsher
An antiquities site that served as an encampment for Jewish leader Shimon Bar Kokhba during his revolt against the Romans from 132 to 136 C.E. has been destroyed by Palestinian vandals.
Discoveries made at the Kiryat Arabia site, located near the village al-Arub in Gush Etzion, have been a vital source of information about the period of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, and its destruction is a blow to research efforts.
In 1968, a winding, branching cave was discovered at the site, the first of the system of caves where Bar Kokhba hid to be discovered. A few years later, the Kfar Etzion Field School began conducting excavations at the site under the guidance of Professor Yoram Tsafrir, which turned up exciting finds and shed light on the final days of the revolt.
The cave was originally dug beneath the ancient community of Kiryat Arabia, which is mentioned in scrolls found at Nahal Hever in the Judean Desert. The Nahal Hever scrolls also include military correspondence between Bar Kokhba and his fighters.
In one that apparently dates back to 134 C.E., Bar Kokhba orders a man named Yehuda Bar Menashe, who was in Kiryat Arabia, to supply him and his soldiers with the Four Species mandated by Jewish law (citron, palm, myrtle and willow) for the observance of the approaching Sukkot holiday. This demonstrates how strictly Bar Kokhba and his army followed the commandments of Jewish law, even under difficult circumstances.
The Kfar Etzion Field School recently resumed field trips to the Emek Bracha area, and it was during one such trip that the destruction of the site was discovered. The ancient structures were ruined, and the mouth of the cave was almost completely filled in.
Field school director Yaron Rosenthal said Thursday that "while the cultured world is appalled at the destruction of ancient cities in Iraq and Syria by [the Islamic State group], we are witnessing broad-scale destruction of antiquities in our country."
"Kiryat Arabia was one of the important cities in the area of Gush Etzion, and now we will never know what happened there during ancient times in general and the Bar Kokhba Revolt specifically," Rosenthal said.
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Second Temple Period Coin (Side A)
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Dr. Joe Uziel
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Second Temple Period Coin (Side B)
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Stepped Podium
IAA Press Release Monday, August 31, 2015

Has a 2,000 Year Old Podium Been Found in the City of David?

A unique stepped structure exposed on the street ascending from the Siloam Pool to the Temple Mount raises questions among researchers at the
Israel Antiquities Authority

An intriguing find consisting of an impressive pyramid-shaped staircase constructed of large ashlar stones was uncovered in an archaeological excavation currently conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority. The excavation is located in the Jerusalem Walls National Park in the City of David, site of ancient Jerusalem, and is being carried out in cooperation with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the City of David Foundation.

This structure, situated alongside the 2,000 year old Second Temple stepped street, which carried pilgrims on their way from the Shiloah (Siloam) Pool to the Temple, which stood atop the Temple Mount. The street, a section of which was excavated in the past, is remarkably well-preserved and is built of enormous stone slabs. The street most likely runs above the 2,000 year old drainage channel, discovered a number of years ago, which carried rain water out of the city. It was constructed sometime in the fourth decade of the first century CE, and was one of the largest construction projects undertaken in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. Dozens of whole pottery vessels, stone vessels and glassware were found at the foot of the pyramid-shaped staircase.

According to archaeologists Nahshon Szanton and Dr. Joe Uziel, who direct of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "The structure exposed is unique. To date such a structure has yet to be found along the stepped street in the numerous excavations that have taken place in Jerusalem and to the best of our knowledge outside of it. For this reason, its exact use remains enigmatic. The structure is built along the street in a place that is clearly visible from afar by passers-by making their way to the Temple. We believe the structure was a kind of monumental podium that attracted the public’s attention when walking on the city’s main street. It would be very interesting to know what was said there 2,000 years ago. Were messages announced here on behalf of the government? Perhaps news or gossip, or admonitions and street preaching – unfortunately we do not know. Bliss and Dickie, two British archaeologists who discovered a small portion of this structure about 100 years ago, mistakenly thought these were steps that led into a house that was destroyed. They would certainly be excited if they could come back today and see it completely revealed”.

We know from rabbinic sources there were “stones” that were used for public purposes during the Second Temple period. For example, one source cites the “auction block” in connection with the street: “[a master] will not set up a market stand and put them (slaves) on the auction block” (Sifra, BeHar 6). In the Mishnah and Talmud the “Stone of Claims” is mentioned as a place that existed in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period: “Our Rabbis taught: There was a Stone of Claims in Jerusalem: whoever lost an article repaired thither, and whoever found an article did likewise. The latter stood and proclaimed, and the former submitted his identification marks and received it back. And in reference to this we learnt: Go forth and see whether the Stone of Claims is covered” (Bava Metzia 28:B).

On Thursday (3.9), at the City of David Studies of Ancient Jerusalem’s 16th Annual Conference that will be open to the public, Nahshon Szanton and Dr. Joe Uziel will present their findings from the excavation and the different interpretations regarding the nature of the podium. According to them, “Given the lack of a clear archaeological parallel to the stepped-structure, the purpose of the staircase remains a mystery. It is certainly possible the rabbinical sources provide valuable information about structures, such as this, although for the time being there is no definitive proof.”

Information about the conference can be found on the City of David website:

1. Dr. Joe Uziel, codirector of the excavation from the Israel Antiquities Authority, sitting atop the stepped structure from the Second Temple period. Photo: Shai Halevy; courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority. 2. The stepped structure from the Second Temple period. Photo: Shai Halevy; courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
3-4. Coin from the period of the Great Revolt against the Romans, discovered in the destruction layer atop the street from the Second Temple period. Photo: Carla Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
For further details, kindly contact Yoli Shwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority spokesperson, 052-599-1888, dovrut@israntique.org.il.

Torah & Archaeology week coming to Atlanta, GA - November 2015! Stay Tuned!