Ancient Judean Date Palm Resurrected
Scientists may not ever be able to reproduce dinosaurs, as dramatically depicted in the popular film "Jurassic Park" -- but ancient date palms? That's another trick, entirely......but a successful one. Israeli scientists have recently successfully germinated a nearly 2,000 year old date palm seed excavated from Masada, the ancient cliff-top fortress where, in 73 A.D., a group of 960 Jewish zealots held out against a Roman siege before finally ending their own lives rather than succumbing to the hands of Roman victors. By studying the resurrected date palm, scientists hope to discover what made the famous Judean date palm so well regarded in ancient times for its shade, beauty, medicinal products and food.
In the Field: Bethsaida Week 2
Shai Schwartz reports from the Field (see the previous posting for background):
Dr. Nicolae Roddy brought a group of 11 volunteers from the Omaha area which included 5 from Creighton University where he teaches. Work continued to explore the Hellenistic/Roman structures in area "C" where Elizabeth McNamer and group were digging through Thursday. The area across from the "clinic" house is looking like another house with a wall projecting toward the "clinic" house. A coin was found that is probably Hellenistic. Coins are normally so encrusted that it is very difficult to ascertain when they are from until they are properly cleaned. In the past Rami has gotten Arieh Kindler, the famous numismatist (whom I feel privileged to have met) to clean & catalogue the coins found at Bethsaida.
Work continues leveling the Iron Age street leading north from the main gate. The surface layer is quite packed down from the traffic (a little trivia - the Syrians had a position at Bethsaida until June 1967, so lots of military vehicles came in and out) leading into the site. Just under the surface we see many very large basalt boulders that are rubble that fell from the city walls after destruction and subsequent earth quakes. Near the bastion east of the city gate work continues to clear out the collapse of the Roman city wall.
In Chamber 2 (inside the Iron Age city gate on the left as you enter) layers of brick were removed that were from the collapse of the 2nd story structure. Again, this was from the destruction of the city and subsequent earth quakes.
The "find of the week" is a large piece of a "crater" (a large bowl) probably from the 11th century BCE. It's covered with "reed impressions". The "reed impressions" were made by taking a piece of reed and poking the end into the wet clay to make a pattern on depressions. It probably was used for ritual purposes to the chthonic gods as it appears to have a scheme reminiscent of a snake; revered by ancient peoples.
We also found a beautiful bead which looks like it's composed of glass fused onto glass. It was found during sifting when the conscientious volunteer broke open a clump of dirt; pointing out how important each phase of digging, sifting, washing is.
See the official website for more information about the Bethsaida Excavations Project.
Ancient Tombs and Village Discovered in China
Construction work on an expressway in northern China has turned up remains of ancient tombs and a 4,000 year old village. After archaeological experts were called in, no less than seventeen tombs were immediately identified, consisting of bodies that had been placed in jars, basins and pots. The tombs were dated to the Chinese Warring States Period (403 to 221 B.C.). Some of the artifacts recovered from the village included stone axes, spades and adzes. Work on the site is continuing.