Tuesday, December 16, 2008

ANOTHER JEWISH (?) TOWN from the Second Temple period has been located:
Remains of Second Temple Era Jewish Town Revealed

by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

(IsraelNN.com) Archaeological evidence of a Jewish town located on the edge of the Samaria desert during the Second Temple Period (516 BCE to 70 CE) will be made public later this month. The recently-discovered artifacts include the remains of a mikveh (ritual bath), stone tools and hidden chambers.

The town was located in the Akraba district, a frontier region northeast of Jerusalem. The poorly-developed district served as a natural division between the Samarians, who distanced themselves from Jerusalem as the political and spiritual center of Judea, and the Jews. The geographical and ethnic make-up of the region also gave rise to militant rebel sects, such as the Sicarii faction led by Shimon Bar-Giora during the First Jewish-Roman War (1st century CE).

Eitan Klein, a researcher from Bar-Ilan University, explained that "until recently, historical sources, dated from the Second Temple Period until the Bar Kochva Rebellion, testified to Jewish settlement existing in the Akraba district. As opposed to the wealth of relevant historical sources, there were few archaeological findings that supported the presence of such a settlement." The current findings, Klein said, support historical references to the Jewish presence in the Akraba region in ancient documentation.

Presumably the town is taken to be Jewish because of the ritual bath and perhaps the stone "tools" (= vessels?? - כלים?). But I'd like to see a pretty thorough case made if the excavators want to identify the ethnicity of the whole site. We'll see.

Other villages from roughly the same period have been found in recent years (see here, here, and here).

Tomorrow is shaping up to be as busy as today and yesterday, but I'll squeeze in some blogging if I can.

UPDATE (17 December): Perhaps I should have explicitly noted the obvious point that the location of the site and its time frame in themselves support its Jewishness. But methodologically it's helpful to separate such circumstantial evidence from positive evidence from excavated architecture and artifacts. I would like to hear more about those, and presumably the excavator will be addressing them in his upcoming presentation.

I'm off to the School of Divinity's Christmas lunch, then I have an afternoon of meetings around today's release of the British Research Assessment Exercise data. But I'll try to check in again at some point.