Wednesday, November 17, 2021

A Hellenistic fort and a Hasmonean victory?

ARCHAEOLOGY: Hellenistic Fort Destroyed by the Hasmoneans Uncovered in Lachish Forest (David Israel, The Jewish Press). Cross-file under Hanukkah is Coming.
According to Saar Ganor, Vladik Lifshits, and Ahinoam Montagu, excavation directors on behalf of the IAA, “the excavation site provides tangible evidence of the Chanukah stories. It appears that we have discovered a building that was part of a fortified line erected by the Hellenistic army commanders to protect the large Hellenistic city of Maresha from a Hasmonean offensive. However, the finds from the site show that the Seleucid defenses failed and the building was devastated by the Hasmonean attack.”


“Based on the finds, the building’s destruction can be attributed to the Hasmonean leader Yochanan Horkenus’s conquest of Edom around 112 BCE,” say the archaeologists.

The Hasmoneans, whose rebellion against the Hellenistic rule of the Seleucid dynasty followed the anti-Jewish decrees of King Antiochus IV. Yochanan Horkenus’s conquests, described in the Books of the Maccabees and the accounts of historian Josephus Flavius, led to the Hasmonean state’s expansion to the south.

Pro tip to writers of historical archaeology press releases and media articles: If you find a connection between an archaeological excavation and an ancient text, don't just mention the text in passing. Give the full reference. And, journalists, if the archaeologists don't give the primary text reference in the press release, you take the time to look it up yourself. Don't leave it to bloggers like me to have to do it.

Josephus' reference to the conquest of Maresha in Idumea by John Hyrcanus is in Antiquities XIII.257. 1 Maccabees refers to the early career of John in 13:53 and in chapter 16, but neither 1 Maccabees nor 2 Maccabees extend to the time of his conquest of Idumea.

For more on the archaeology and epigraphy of Maresha, see here and links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.