Thursday, December 20, 2018

Beit Shemesh: expanded road or archaeological park?

I BLOG, YOU DECIDE: What’s More Important, the Biblical King Hezekiah or Expanding Route 38? A too-narrow road in central Israel bisects a First-Temple-era city that recovered from the devastation wreaked by Sennacherib, archaeologists discover, and the fight is on (Moshe Gilad and Ruth Schuste, Haaretz premium).
Intensive archaeological investigation of the site bisected by Route 38 began in March, involving dozens of archaeologists and hundreds of volunteers. The digs are categorized as a salvage excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which routinely checks sites slated for development.

However, the very definition of “salvage excavation” implies that after accelerated exploration, the builders will move in. “Salvage” excavations, an archaeologist told me, are actually “eradication” excavations.

The Transportation Ministry has allocated 60 million shekels ($16 million) for the archaeological work in Beit Shemesh. The Israel Antiquities Authority is responsible for the digs, working with archaeologists from Tel Aviv University and the sponsorship of Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem.

All this is normal for sites around Israel. And all would have been well and good if at least some archaeologists hadn’t been absolutely stunned by what they found.
You know it's complicated when even the archaeologist disagree. The authors of this article seem to have worked hard to cover the full range of opinion.

Tel Beit Shemesh has also produced notable finds from earlier and later periods. See here, here, here, here, and here.

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