Institute of Archaeology
Institute of Archaeology
News Article | April 11, 2016
New simulations by researchers at the University of Warwick and UCL's Institute of Archaeology of plant evolution over the last 3000 years have revealed an unexpected limit to how far useful crops can be pushed to adapt before they suffer population collapse. The result has significant implications for how growers, breeders and scientists help agriculture and horticulture respond to quickening climate change.
News Article | February 15, 2017
'One of the most exciting archaeological discoveries -- and the most important in the last 60 years -- in the caves of Qumran' Excavations in a cave on the cliffs west of Qumran, near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, prove that Dead Sea scrolls from the Second Temple period were hidden in the cave, and were looted by Bedouins in the middle of the last century. With the discovery of this cave, scholars now suggest that it should be numbered as Cave 12. The surprising discovery, representing a milestone in Dead Sea Scroll research, was made by Dr. Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Institute of Archaeology, with the collaboration of Dr. Randall Price and students from Liberty University in Virginia, USA. The excavators are the first in over 60 years to discover a new scroll cave and to properly excavate it. The excavation was supported by the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), and is a part of the new "Operation Scroll" launched at the IAA by its Director-General, Mr. Israel Hasson, to undertake systematic surveys and to excavate the caves in the Judean Desert. Excavation of the cave revealed that at one time it contained Dead Sea scrolls. Numerous storage jars and lids from the Second Temple period were found hidden in niches along the walls of the cave and deep inside a long tunnel at its rear. The jars were all broken and their contents removed, and the discovery towards the end of the excavation of a pair of iron pickaxe heads from the 1950s (stored within the tunnel for later use) proves the cave was looted. Until now, it was believed that only 11 caves had contained scrolls. With the discovery of this cave, scholars have now suggested that it would be numbered as Cave 12. Like Cave 8, in which scroll jars but no scrolls were found, this cave will receive the designation Q12 (the Q=Qumran standing in front of the number to indicate no scrolls were found). "This exciting excavation is the closest we've come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years. Until now, it was accepted that Dead Sea scrolls were found only in 11 caves at Qumran, but now there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave," said Dr. Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University's Institute of Archaeology and director of the excavation. "Finding this additional scroll cave means we can no longer be certain that the original locations (Caves 1 through 11) assigned to the Dead Sea scrolls that reached the market via the Bedouins are accurate." Dr. Gutfeld added: "Although at the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we 'only' found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing, the findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen. The findings include the jars in which the scrolls and their covering were hidden, a leather strap for binding the scroll, a cloth that wrapped the scrolls, tendons and pieces of skin connecting fragments, and more." The finds from the excavation include not only the storage jars, which held the scrolls, but also fragments of scroll wrappings, a string that tied the scrolls, and a piece of worked leather that was a part of a scroll. The finding of pottery and of numerous flint blades, arrowheads, and a decorated stamp seal made of carnelian, a semi-precious stone, also revealed that this cave was used in the Chalcolithic and the Neolithic periods. This first excavation to take place in the northern part of the Judean Desert as part of "Operation Scroll" will open the door to further understanding the function of the caves with respect to the scrolls, with the potential of finding new scroll material. The material, when published, will provide important new evidence for scholars of the archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea caves. "The important discovery of another scroll cave attests to the fact that a lot of work remains to be done in the Judean Desert and finds of huge importance are still waiting to be discovered," said Israel Hasson, Director-General of the Israel Antiquities Authority. "We are in a race against time as antiquities thieves steal heritage assets worldwide for financial gain. The State of Israel needs to mobilize and allocate the necessary resources in order to launch a historic operation, together with the public, to carry out a systematic excavation of all the caves of the Judean Desert."
Kamash Z.,Institute of Archaeology
Journal of Arid Environments | Year: 2012
This paper uses a multi-faceted approach to understand the use and distribution of different irrigation technologies in the Roman Near East (63 BC - AD 636), looking at the ways in which social and environmental factors affected the implementation of those irrigation technologies. It is argued that no single factor can fully explain how irrigation technologies were used across time and space in this region. Instead, choices in irrigation technology seem to have been governed by a complex nexus of both social and environmental factors. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
News Article | February 15, 2017
On her hands and knees, 23-year-old Liberty University graduate student Christy Connell slowly crawled for hours through a narrow cave on the cliffs west of Qumran, near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea in Israel, over a two-week span in January. “In the smallest parts of the cave it was so narrow I had to crawl on my stomach,” Connell said. “It was pitch black. I couldn’t see anything in front of me. I was crawling over pieces of animal bones and gravel.” Connell, who is pursuing her Master of Arts in History, was part of a team of six Liberty faculty members and students, led by distinguished research professor Dr. Randall Price, who assisted in discovering evidence that shows Dead Sea scrolls were stored there. While no physical scrolls were found, fragments of storage jars, scroll wrappings, string, and a piece of worked leather that was a part of a scroll were all found inside of the cave. This marks the first discovery related to the Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years. The finding of pottery and numerous flint blades, arrowheads, and a decorated stamp seal made of carnelian (a semi-precious stone) also revealed that the cave, known as Cave 12, was used in the Chalcolithic and the Neolithic periods, according to a news releasefrom Hebrew University. Connell said after working for Price at Liberty, she has always kept an ear to the ground about potential archeological digs, especially in Israel. When she learned about the December trip, Connell said she made sure to ask Price if she could go. “When I was there, we had found things that had indicated there were scrolls in the cave. It’s just really amazing to be a part of history, especially something that I’ve studied for so many years.” School of Communications & Creative Arts associate professor Eva Palmer was also on the trip. Palmer, who teaches studio art, said she had been to Israel before, but had dreamed of exploring the caves where the Dead Sea scrolls were found. "I was facinated with the caves," Palmer said. "We would always drive by them on the highway, and I wanted the chance to see them up close." To be at the same site of this discovery was a special experience, she said. "We were so excited to hear that they had found shards of the storage pots," she said. "This is actual evidence of the Bible and what we believe." The group left on Dec. 28 for the 15-day trip, but Price said it wasn’t until they returned to the United States that they learned the true significance of their findings. “I got a text that the team had found something which turned out to be a piece of leather that held the scrolls together,” Price said. “They told me I needed to get back out there.” He then returned to Israel in January, during the first week of the spring semester, along with junior Biblical Studies major Casey Olson, who documented the finds through her camera lens. Olson was the only team member from the first trip to return to the site with Price. The two were there for an additional week and a half until the dig concluded on Jan. 30. The dig was the first discovery by the Operation Scroll team, a joint effort by Hebrew University, the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, to protect historical artifacts from thieves. Cave 12 was first discovered in 2006 by Price, who worked for several years to secure permission to extract the cave, along with Dr. Oren Gutfeld and his assistant Ahiad Ovadi, both of the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology. While experts have known about the cave for several years, this dig was the first detailed look at the contents inside. It is one of 12 caves that have been found to have housed scrolls at one time. “I knew the cave had potential,” said Price, who has been busy this week doing interviews with National Geographic, CBS News, and other major media outlets. “This is only the beginning of our search for more scrolls. Undoubtedly, they are out there, and we know of some 300 caves in the area. Our team is planning to return to excavate other caves in the near future.” Price said he was excited to be able to take faculty and students along on the dig to not only learn about field work, but to be part of the extraction of artifacts. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Price said. “Now that we were successful, it means there are new opportunities for us to get in there and continue to study these caves. The goal is to find scrolls.” Price is also curator of the Liberty Biblical Musem, located at the terrace level of the Jerry Falwell Library. The museum has thousands of artifacts from the Holy Land dating from 4,000 B.C. to the 6th Century A.D. Special exhibits include a replica of the Dead Sea s5crolls. For more information, including hours of operation, call (434) 592-3249. About Liberty University Liberty University, founded in 1971, is the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation, the largest university in Virginia, and the largest Christian university in the world. Located near the Blue Ridge Mountains on more than 7,000 acres in Lynchburg, Va., Liberty offers more than 500 unique programs of study from the certificate to the doctoral level. More than 250 programs are offered online. Liberty’s mission is to train Champions for Christ with the values, knowledge, and skills essential for impacting tomorrow’s world.
News Article | January 17, 2017
A 600-year-old Buddha statue has emerged from the waters of a reservoir in Jiangxi Province in China after the water levels here dropped during renovation work. The Buddha statue, which measures around 3.8 meters (12.5 feet) tall and carved into a cliff, has long been submerged in the waters of the Hongmen Reservoir. A local villager first noticed the statue's head emerging last month after the water level dropped by more than 10 meters (32.8 feet) during work on a hydropower gate. It has since attracted the attention of tourists and locals who see it as an auspicious sign. Archaeologists said that the Buddha statue, which appears to be gazing over the body of water, may have dated back to the early Ming Dynasty between 1368 and 1644 as suggested by the style of its carving. It is also possible that it has already existed earlier, during the Yuan dynasty. Records suggest that the reservoir was located on the ruins of the ancient town known as Xiaoshi. A local official said that the statue was built by the ancient people as a spiritual protector to calm the current where two rivers meet. Boats easily overturned at the intersection of the two rivers because of the rapid flow of water. The Buddha statue, which features detailed carving, was submerged in the 1960s when the Hongmen reservoir was built. Authorities at the time were not aware of heritage protection. Being submerged in the water though has somehow protected the statue. Many cultural relics were destroyed in the 1960s during a period of cultural revolution in China when people were told to get rid of things that were old, feudalistic and superstitious. Director of the Research Institute of Archaeology of Jiangxi province Xu Changqing said that being submerged in the water may have also preserved the Buddha statue from harmful elements. He said that the statue would have suffered weather, oxidation and other risks if it had not been preserved in the water. The statue is possibly just the tip of an untapped trove of archeological treasures. A base of a temple hall was also found under the water. Researchers said that an underwater archeology team is conducting an investigation of both the ancient town and the statue. It is also working on a preservation plan. "The ruins of Xiaoshi town were not exposed by the lowered water levels, but the underwater team also explored the town," said Jin Huilin, curator of the museum of Nancheng County. The re-emergence of the statue brought back some memories to the elders of the village who had seen the statue when they were younger. Huang Keping, an 82-year-old local blacksmith who first saw the Buddha statue in 1952, said that it was gilded at the time. China has numerous Buddhist cliff and cave carvings. The famed Leshan Giant Buddha is the world's tallest stone Buddha statue. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | February 2, 2016
Professor Avi Gopher (L) and Dr. Ran Barkai, researchers from Tel Aviv University's Institute of Archaeology, stand at Qesem cave, an excavation site near the town of Rosh Ha'ayin, east of Tel Aviv, December 27, 2010. REUTERS/Baz Ratner More JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prehistoric cave-dwellers enjoyed munching on tortoises roasted in their shells as an appetizer or side dish, Ran Barkai, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University, said on Tuesday. Barkai helped lead a research team who found 400,000-year-old tortoise shells and bones in a cave in Israel that showed hunter-gatherers butchered and cooked tortoises as part of a diet dominated by large animals and vegetation. Burn marks were found on the shells discovered in the Qessem cave, as well as signs they were cracked open and cut marks indicating the animal was butchered using flint knives. "Now we know they ate tortoises in a rather sophisticated way," Barkai said. "It would have been a supplement - an appetizer, dessert or a side dish - to the meat and fat from large animals." Qessem cave was uncovered during road work in 2000 and was believed to be inhabited for about 200,000 years. The site has offered scientists a rare insight into human evolution and accounted for many research papers. Bones scattered throughout the cave have already suggested a calorie-rich prehistoric menu of horses, fallow deer and wild ox. A study last year, based on plaque found on teeth, showed the cave's inhabitants also ate plant-based material. The latest findings by Barkai's team, which included members from Spain and Germany, were published this week in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews.
News Article | February 9, 2017
Archaeologists from Hebrew University have made an important discovery. Excavations in a cave located along the cliffs near the Dead Sea, in Israel, have revealed the possible presence of yet another Dead Sea Scroll. The scroll has not been located but evidence found by the team suggests that it was likely present in the cave, but may have been looted by Bedouins sometime during the last century. With this discovery the total tally of Dead Sea Scrolls now stands at 12 and it comes more than 60 years after the last scroll was discovered. The Scrolls were first discovered during the 1940's in the hills of Wadi Qumran in the Judean desert. Following this, 10 more such scrolls have been discovered till date. These scrolls are said to be more than 2000 years old and provide better insight into the biblical texts and are known to be the second oldest known manuscripts which have survived. Most of the text in the Dead Sea Scrolls is in Hebrew and some even have Greek writing. The discovery of these manuscripts is of historical and religious importance. It was reported by Liberty University that the scrolls are so valuable that even a fragment as small as a fingernail would be priced at around $1 million, which offers insight into its importance. The excavation was headed by Dr Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Institute of Archaeology. Liberty University in Georgia, USA also collaborated with them. Excavations into the cave revealed that it may have housed another part of the Dead Sea Scrolls but it was likely looted. The findings include the empty jars in which the scroll is believed to have been preserved along with leather binding straps, a cloth used to wrap the scroll and pieces of skin. "Although at the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we 'only' found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing, the findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen," said Gutfeld post the excavation. This indicates that the archaeologists consider the excavation a success even if the actual scroll was not discovered. The team discovered pickaxe remains inside the cave which indicates that the theft of the scroll was relatively recent. Israel Hasson, who is the Director General of Israel Antiquities Authority, believes that this recent excavation just goes to show that a lot of secrets are still "waiting to be discovered." He has requested more funding to conduct similar operations in other caves of the Judean desert. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | February 16, 2017
Jars from between the eighth and second centuries B.C., found in Judea, show the magnetic field has been fluctuating regularly, not diminishing over time. Earth’s core is the source of the very important but poorly understood magnetic field that surrounds the planet and extends outward. One of physics’ great mysteries, it was first recorded about 180 years ago and when it was noticed to be weakening, the potential consequences, such as its effects on the biosphere, set alarm bells ringing. However, new evidence shows that instead of diminishing, Earth’s magnetic field is perhaps merely fluctuating, as it has done over millennia. Using a set of 67 jars, all of them from between the eighth and second centuries B.C. from the region that was known as Judea at the time, scientists have gathered information about changes in the planet’s geomagnetic field in the course of those 600 years. A study by researchers from Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of California, San Diego, published online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said: “The reconstruction of geomagnetic field behavior in periods predating direct observations with modern instrumentation is based on geological and archaeological materials and has the twin challenges of (i) the accuracy of ancient paleomagnetic estimates and (ii) the dating of the archaeological material. Here we address the latter by using a set of storage jar handles (fired clay) stamped by royal seals as part of the ancient administrative system in Judah (Jerusalem and its vicinity).” The data they found showed the magnetic field was relatively stable and declined gradually between the sixth and second centuries B.C. but a short 30-year period in the eighth century B.C. saw a spike, in which about 27 percent of the field’s strength was lost. “The field strength of the 8th century B.C. corroborates previous observations of our group, first published in 2009, of an unusually strong field in the early Iron Age. We call it the 'Iron Age Spike,' and it is the strongest field recorded in the last 100,000 years. This new finding puts the recent decline in the field's strength into context. Apparently, this is not a unique phenomenon — the field has often weakened and recovered over the last millennia,” Erez Ben-Yosef of TAU's Institute of Archaeology and the study’s lead investigator, said in a statement Tuesday. Findings of the study could help us better understand not just the enigmatic magnetic field, but also the inner structure of our planet.
News Article | October 26, 2016
Archaeologists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in Germany started excavations in September 2016 at Khirbat al-Minya, an early-Islamic caliphate palace on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Led by PD Dr. Hans-Peter Kuhnen of the Department of Ancient Studies at JGU, the team is hoping to find out how the site looked before the palace was built and whether the building was used for different purposes after the catastrophic earthquake of 749 AD. The palace, which was still under construction at the time, suffered major damage during the quake. Findings from the new excavations show that the building lost its palatial function as a result of the earthquake and was subsequently only used by craftsmen, traders, and sugar cane farmers. Among the small artefacts found is a tiny glass weight just 12 millimeters in diameter that has an Arabic inscription on it. The words solicit "Glory to Allah," indicating that the Muslim traders operating here in the 9th or 10th century were dealing with particularly valuable goods. Another significant discovery is that of facilities for processing sugar cane, the cultivation of which initially triggered an economic boom in the Middle Ages in the Holy Land but subsequently led to desertification across large swathes of land in the region. For the first time, the Mainz archaeologists were able to uncover layer-by-layer a boiling system used for molasses production, thus gaining new insights into how sugar cane was refined in this period. During in-depth excavation of the ground beneath the foundations of the caliphate palace, project team members discovered evidence of what could well have been dramatic changes to the landscape before the building was constructed. At least twice in the post-Roman period extreme weather conditions had caused disastrous boulder slides that covered what would later be the building site and thus buried the foundation walls of an older, pre-Islamic settlement. With the resumption of digging here, Mainz University is continuing a research project that German archaeologists had initiated in the years 1932 to 1939 in order to clarify the history of both the palace structure and the overall settlement built under Caliph Walid I (705-715 AD) and Walid II (743/4 AD). When World War II began in 1939, however, excavations were interrupted, which is why the research work here still needs to be completed. The project is being supported by the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Tel Aviv and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. In addition to the excavations, the Mainz archaeologists are also running a conservation project that has been financed since 2015 through the Cultural Preservation Program of the German Federal Foreign Office. The objective is to prevent the further progressive deterioration of the palace ruins that has been occurring since their exposure in 1939. Therefore, Mainz University has commissioned a German-Israeli restoration team to carry out reinforcement work in November 2016 to shore up some of the walls that are at great risk of collapsing. In preparation for the job, the Laboratory for Building Research at the RheinMain University of Applied Sciences in Wiesbaden has begun a new and precise survey of the at-risk walls in order to get a clear idea of their construction technique as well as to ensure optimal planning for the type and scope of the upcoming restoration work. "By combining the use of exploratory trenches, the architectural survey, and conservation measures we are setting standards in the research, preservation, and investigation of this important early-Islamic site," said project manager PD Dr. Hans-Peter Kuhnen of the Department of Ancient Studies at JGU, outlining the relevance of the undertaking. "The new excavations and the accompanying architectural survey will provide us for the first time with detailed insights into what happened on the shores of the Sea of Galilee before the palace was built and after it was destroyed by the earthquake of 749 AD. Our results will then contribute to the future development of the site."
News Article | February 15, 2017
Albert Einstein considered the origin of the Earth's magnetic field one of the five most important unsolved problems in physics. The weakening of the geomagnetic field, which extends from the planet's core into outer space and was first recorded 180 years ago, has raised concern by some for the welfare of the biosphere. But a new study published in PNAS from Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and University of California San Diego researchers finds there is no reason for alarm: The Earth's geomagnetic field has been undulating for thousands of years. Data obtained from the analysis of well-dated Judean jar handles provide information on changes in the strength of the geomagnetic field between the 8th and 2nd centuries BCE, indicating a fluctuating field that peaked during the 8th century BCE. "The field strength of the 8th century BCE corroborates previous observations of our group, first published in 2009, of an unusually strong field in the early Iron Age. We call it the 'Iron Age Spike,' and it is the strongest field recorded in the last 100,000 years," says Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef of TAU's Institute of Archaeology, the study's lead investigator. "This new finding puts the recent decline in the field's strength into context. Apparently, this is not a unique phenomenon -- the field has often weakened and recovered over the last millennia." Additional researchers included Prof. Oded Lipschits and Michael Millman of TAU, Dr. Ron Shaar of Hebrew University, and Prof. Lisa Tauxe of UC San Diego. "We can gain a clearer picture of the planet and its inner structure by better understanding proxies like the magnetic field, which reaches more than 1,800 miles deep into the liquid part of the Earth's outer core," Dr. Ben-Yosef observes. The new research is based on a set of 67 ancient, heat-impacted Judean ceramic storage jar handles, which bear royal stamp impressions from the 8th to 2nd century BCE, providing accurate age estimates. "The period spanned by the jars allowed us to procure data on the Earth's magnetic field during that time -- the Iron Age through the Hellenistic Period in Judea," says Dr. Ben-Yosef. "The typology of the stamp impressions, which correspond to changes in the political entities ruling this area, provides excellent age estimates for the firing of these artifacts." To accurately measure the geomagnetic intensity, the researchers conducted experiments at the Paleomagnetic Laboratory of Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), University of California San Diego, using laboratory-built paleomagnetic ovens and a superconducting magnetometer. "Ceramics, baked clay, burned mud bricks, copper slag -- almost anything that was heated and then cooled can become a recorder of the components of the magnetic field at the time of the event," said Dr. Ben-Yosef. "Ceramics have tiny minerals -- magnetic 'recorders' -- that save information about the magnetic field of the time the clay was in the kiln. The behavior of the magnetic field in the past can be studied by examining archaeological artifacts or geological material that were heated then cooled, such as lava." Observed changes in the geomagnetic field can, in turn, be used as an advanced dating method complementary to the radiocarbon dating, according to Dr. Ben-Yosef. "The improved Levantine archaeomagnetic record can be used to date pottery and other heat-impacted archaeological materials whose date is unknown. "Both archaeologists and Earth scientists benefit from this. The new data can improve geophysical models -- core-mantle interactions, cosmogenic processes and more -- as well as provide an excellent, accurate dating reference for archaeological artefacts," says Dr. Ben-Yosef. The researchers are currently working on enhancing the archaeomagnetic database for the Levant, one of the most archaeologically-rich regions on the planet, to better understand the geomagnetic field and establish a robust dating reference. Tel Aviv University (TAU) is inherently linked to the cultural, scientific and entrepreneurial mecca it represents. It is one of the world's most dynamic research centers and Israel's most distinguished learning environment. Its unique-in-Israel multidisciplinary environment is highly coveted by young researchers and scholars returning to Israel from post-docs and junior faculty positions in the US. American Friends of Tel Aviv University (AFTAU) enthusiastically and industriously pursues the advancement of TAU in the US, raising money, awareness and influence through international alliances that are vital to the future of this already impressive institution.