Thursday, April 05, 2018

A royal tomb at Megiddo from c. 1600 BCE

ARCHAEOLOGY: Untouched for 3,600 years, ‘royal’ tomb may change what we know about Canaanites Located at the crossroads of civilization, a Tel Megiddo burial chamber includes a diadem-bedecked male skeleton, and hints that bones did not always rest in peace (AMANDA BORSCHEL-DAN, Times of Israel). While we're on the topic of Megiddo, it seems worthwhile to mention this story from last month. The discovery is from a period much earlier than PaleoJudaica's usual interests, but elements of it contribute to a point I've been making for a couple of years.
The intact Tomb 50 gives [archaeologist Melissa] Cradic an unprecedented chance to observe — Pompeii-like — a burial frozen in medias res.

Cradic said that at the mouth of the chamber, there is “abundant evidence of care and feeding of the dead through food deposits (animal bones, charred organic remains) found in situ in plates and bowls that were positioned carefully near the three intact bodies.”

She also describes “relatively dense deposits of fragmented animal bones, charcoal, cooking installations, and imported Cypriot pottery directly above the tomb, which could indicate ongoing commemoration at the grave-site after it was sealed.”
Archaeologists have found a sealed and untouched tomb at Megiddo from c. 1600 BCE, and some organic remains survived inside it. This tomb shows, first, that even heavily excavated sites like Megiddo still have surprising and exciting discoveried hidden in them. But it also shows that organic remains could last a very long time in environments that are now being excavated.

I have pointed before to the substantial organic remains uncovered at Iron Age Megiddo and Timna. The new ones at Megiddo are some five centuries earlier still. They may amount more to organic "residue" ("charred organic remains") rather than linen cloths or textiles, but they contribute to my point. There is no reason why scrolls could not have survived from the Iron Age (1200-600 BCE) in Israel and nearby. If they were buried in jars or just sealed in an arid environment, they, or fragments of them, could still be there.

I think there is more chance that remnants of a cuneiform archive could turn up at Megiddo or Hazor. Isolated cuneiform tablets have been found at both. But we have ample demonstration that conditions at Megiddo could also preserve very fragile organic remains, including scrolls.

It may well be that, in the coming years, scrolls or scroll fragments from the Iron Age will be excavated at one of these sites. The so-called Jerusalem papyrus may or may not be a forgery. But there may be more coming from scientific excavations.

Watch this space. You heard it here first.

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