Top Three Reports in Biblical Archaeology – December 2022

This past month the most significant news stories from the world of biblical archaeology were related to long lost artifacts in Israel, a recently rediscovered biblical site, and a controversial claim of a set of inscriptions from a famous king of Judah. Here were the top three news reports in December 2022.

3. Finds Related to the Maccabean Era

a. Arrowheads from the Time of the Maccabees Discovered in Five Boxes at the Tower of David Museum

Two bronze arrowheads with Greek letters on them to be displayed at the Tower of David Museum. Photo: Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel

Staff of the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem recently found 60 bronze and iron arrowheads in five cardboard boxes that had been forgotten for decades behind an old air conditioner. The discovery came to light during renovations to the museum. The staff believes that some earlier archaeologists at the museum may have put the arrowheads aside for further study in hopes of publishing them, but then later forgot about them. Scholars have dated some of the arrowheads to 133 or 132 BC as they were found next to an ancient Hasmonean wall. The artifacts will be part of a new display at the museum during Hanukkah.

NEWS LINK: https://www.timesofisrael.com/surprise-maccabean-era-arrowheads-discovered-while-cleaning-house-at-tower-of-david/

b. Hoard of Silver Coins Discovered in Judean Cave

A round wooden box with 15 silver coins from the Maccabean period which was discovered in a cave near the Dead Sea. Photo: Dafna Gazit/ Israel Antiquities Authority

A small wooden box containing 15 silver tetradrachmas was discovered in the Muraba’at Caves near the Dead Sea by archaeologists in the Theft Prevention Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). The Ptolemaic coins date to 170 BC, in the period just before the persecutions of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The archaeologists believe these coins are evidence that Jews fled to the desert during that turbulent period of history, as described in 1 Maccabees 2:29. The rise of Antiochus IV and his persecution of the Jews were prophesied hundreds of years before he lived by the prophet Daniel (Dn 11:21–35).

NEWS LINK: https://www.jpost.com/archaeology/article-724728

2. Pool of Siloam to Be Fully Excavated

The steps of the Pool of Siloam from the south, as originally excavated in 2004. Photo: Todd Bolen/BiblePlaces.com

The Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel National Parks Authority, and the City of David Foundation recently announced plans to fully excavate the entire Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem. The steps of the Pool of Siloam were discovered in 2004 during repairs to a drainage system. The pool was then partially excavated by Eli Shukron and Ronny Reich. The new excavations will be carried out in full sight of visitors, as the site is part of a tourist route. The Pool of Siloam was originally constructed by King Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:20) and was later expanded and renovated during the Second Temple era. Jesus healed a blind man by anointing his eyes with mud and telling him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam (John 9:1–7).

NEWS LINKS: https://www.israel365news.com/364499/biblical-siloam-pool-next-to-temple-mount-to-be-fully-excavated/

1. Scholar Announces Discovery of Multiple Royal Inscriptions of King Hezekiah

A rock face that Gershon Galil and Eli Shukron claim bears a royal inscription of King Hezekiah. Photo: Eli Shukron

Gershon Galil, professor of biblical studies and ancient history at the University of Haifa, has announced that he has deciphered five new monumental inscriptions of King Hezekiah that chronicle his actions during the first 17 years of his reign. One inscription was originally discovered in 1909 located within a frame near the entrance to tunnel #4. Because no inscriptions were discernible within the frame back then, it was assumed that it had been prepared for an inscription but was never used. Galil says that archaeologist Eli Shukron believed there was an inscription within the frame that had eroded over time. Shukron asked him to examine them and when Galil did, he says he was able to discern and translate a significant royal inscription. It reads in part, “Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, made the pool and the conduit. In the seventeenth year, in the second (day), in the fourth (month), of king Hezekiah, the king brought the water into the city by a tunnel, the king led the water into the pool” (see Jerusalem Post article for the full inscription). In addition to this discovery, Galil also claims that there is more to the famous Siloam Tunnel inscription than previously known, as there are five more lines below the plaque that was carved out and taken to Istanbul. Prof. Galil is quoted in the Jerusalem Post as saying these inscriptions are “one of the most important archaeological discoveries in Israel of all time.” If these discoveries are legitimate, they would indeed incredibly important. It would be wise to wait cautiously for more information for the academic community to evaluate; currently the above claims have only been made in a Facebook post and resulting media reports. 

NOTE OF CAUTION: This was, without a doubt, the number one news story in December 2022, given the controversy that ensued and the ink that was spilt. However, I have serious concerns with the fact that Gershon Galil and Eli Shukron appear to be skirting the peer-review process by announcing this on social media and in the media and promising to publish a book. I believe in the importance of the peer-review process to allow the academic community to analyze and evaluate potential finds. I do recognize that sometimes official announcements are made by a country’s Ministry of Antiquities or by a licensed archaeological dig team, with the understanding that a peer-reviewed journal article to follow. I believe scholars in this situation should be allowed the opportunity to present their work in the arena of peer-review without people “poisoning the minds” (Acts 14:2) of the general public ahead of time and branding the find unfounded and unworthy. However, I am against he scholars skirting the peer-review process by making claims on social media or in interviews, without plans to publish a peer-reviewed article in a reputable academic journal. This seems to be what Galil and Shukron are doing in this instance. I do hope that they will present their evidence in a peer-reviewed journal.

NEWS LINK:  https://www.jpost.com/archaeology/article-725074

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