Top Three Reports in Biblical Archaeology – July 2022

A damaged archaeological site, a Second Temple-era villa, and a potential Late Bronze Age inscription from Jerusalem were all in the news this month. Here were the top three reports in biblical archaeology in July 2022.

3.  Farmer Accidentally Burns Tel Gezer Park

An aerial view of Tel Gezer National park which was damaged (though not irreversibly) by fire. Photo: Eric Marmor

A farmer in Israel who was using a “controlled fire” to clear land for agriculture is responsible for the wildfire that recently burned large areas of the Tel Gezer National Park. It took 20 firefighters, four planes and two helicopters to contain the blaze that spread quickly as a result of the windy, dry conditions. An initial assessment by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority has determined that no irreversible damage was done to the antiquities at the site, although they will need to be cleaned and restored. In particular, the ancient Canaanite water system at Tel Gezer came through unscathed. Gezer is a prominent city in biblical history: the king of Gezer was defeated by Joshua during the Conquest (Josh. 10:33) and Pharaoh later conquered Gezer, giving it to Solomon as a dowry for his daughter who became Solomon’s wife (1 Kings 9:16). The gate system at Gezer is famous for the fact that it is similar to the ones at Megiddo and Hazor, evidence of Solomon’s building campaigns described in 1 Kings 9:15.


2. First-Century Villa with Ritual Bath Discovered in the “Upper City” of Jerusalem

The Second Temple-era villa recently unearthed in Jerusalem. Photo: Maya Alleruzzo / AP Photo

Excavations conducted in preparation for a project to increase access to the Western Wall for disabled people have unearthed a first-century villa which once overlooked the Second Temple. The villa is located in what Josephus called the “Upper City,” an area in Jerusalem where elites used to live. The villa had its own mikvah (Jewish ritual bath), which was hewn into the limestone mountainside and vaulted with large dressed stones. Archaeologists also discovered artifacts from the Roman-Byzantine and Ottoman periods, including an industrial pool constructed by Roman soldiers where were stationed in Jerusalem. In the bottom layer of tile bricks one was found to be stamped with the letters “LXF,” a short form for “Legio X Fretensis,” the full name of the Tenth Legion.


1. Late Bronze Age Stone Tablet With Curse Against Jerusalem’s Governor Recently Translated

A stone tablet discovered in Jerusalem in 2010 which may contain a Late Bronze Age curse. Photo: Institute for Biblical Studies and Ancient History

Prof. Gershon Galil from the Institute of Biblical Studies and Ancient History at the University of Haifa recently announced that he had deciphered a 3500-year-old stone tablet which was discovered in 2010 by archaeologist Eli Shukron in an ancient compound called the Pillar Temple in the City of David. According to his translation, the inscription contains a curse upon the governor of Jerusalem at that time. It reads:

“Cursed, cursed, you will surely die;

Cursed, cursed, you will surely die;

Governor of the City, you will surely die;

Cursed, you will surely die;

Cursed, you will surely die;

Cursed, you will surely die.”

The inscription contains 20 words and 63 letters in Proto-Canaanite script, called proto-alphabetic by some scholars. If the translation it accurate, the stone tablet is one of the earliest inscriptions from Jerusalem and implies the city of Jerusalem was significant enough at that point in history to have a governor. Furthermore, this inscription is similar to the inscription found on the lead curse tablet from Mt. Ebal, which was announced earlier this year, and which also dates to the Late Bronze Age, suggesting written curses were not uncommon at that time.


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