Archaeological Sites in Israel-No 4

Archaeological Sites in Israel-No 4


Archaeological Sites in Israel
by Hillel Geva
    Recent Archeological Discoveries

Jerusalem The Tomb of a Chained Anchorite

On a hill near the Jerusalem Bethlehem road, a subterranean complex of cells dating to the Byzantine period, was uncovered in 1991. It was composed of a stepped entryway leading to an antechamber lined with masonry and containing eight rectangular niches, probably used for storing personal effects and books. The innermost cell (1.75 x 0.85m, 1.70 m. high) was also partly lined with masonry and had small niches with a ceramic bowl in each; a lamp-holder was suspended from the ceiling.

On the floor lay the skeleton of a 24-26 year-old ascetic; it was on its side, the legs bent sideways, and an iron chain wound four times around the pelvis and back and over the shoulders. The chain, with a total length of six meters, weighs six kilograms and is made of 50 mm.-long links.

The skeleton is that of a Christian recluse who chose to live as an anchorite in this subterranean cell. The wearing of heavy chains was an accepted way of mortifying the flesh, to prevent impure thoughts and ensure celibacy. The anchorites secluded habitation became his burial chamber and a round memorial structure, 9.4 m. in diameter, was later erected above it.


A mass grave was discovered in the remains of the Jewish city of Yodfat in the Galilee. Bones of at least 30 individuals were found in a water cistern, in which they had been deposited. The find provides vivid evidence of Josephus Flavius eye-witness account of the bloody battle that took place there in 67 CE, during the Jewish Revolt. He reported that at the end of the fighting the Jewish survivors committed suicide and that he himself surrendered to the Romans.

Tiberias A Hoard of Metal Objects

Three large pottery jars of the Fatimid period (10th - 11th century) were uncovered in 1998 during excavations at the southern end of ancient Tiberias. The jars, hidden under the floor of a building, contained some 500 artifacts of bronze and copper, in an excellent state of preservation: candlesticks, lampstands, bowls, cups, ewers, bottles, small boxes, incense burners, oil lamps, bells and small sculpted birds and snakes. The objects were made in a variety of techniques of casting and hammering and some have intricate punched and engraved decorations and Arabic inscriptions.

This is the largest assemblage of metal artifacts from the Fatimid period found to date in Israel. Many coins with Christian symbols, from this period, were also found. This may indicate that the artificats belonged to a Christian merchant or metal-smith. Why the treasure was hidden is not known, but it was probably related to the conquest of Tiberias by the Crusaders in 1099.



  1. Hatzor - "The Head of all those Kingdoms"
  2. Tabgha - Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes
  3. Hamat Gader - Baths of Medicinal Hot Springs
  4. Belvoir - A Crusader Fortress Overlooking the Jordan Valley
  5. Ramla - Arab Capital of the Province of Palestine
  6. Jerusalem - The Citadel
  7. Ekron - A Philistine City
  8. Ein Gedi - An Ancient Oasis Settlement
  9. Beer Sheva - Prehistoric Dwelling Sites
  10. Avdat - A Nabatean City in the Negev

  11. Cumulative table of contents - Archeological Sites in Israel


Israel Information Center, Jerusalem
October 1999
No. 4

Hillel Geva studied archeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, participated in excavations in the Jewish Quarter and the Citadel in Jerusalem, and is author of the entry "Jerusalem" in the New Encyclopedia of Archeological Excavations in the Holy Land and editor of Ancient Jerusalem Revealed.

Photographs courtesy of:

J. Baumgarten: 39
Benedictine Monastery Tabgha: 11, 12
H. Geva: 26, 27, 28 (left)
Hazor Expedition: 7 (bottom), 8 (top), 9
G. Laron: 10
I. Sztulman: 7 (top)
Y. Hirschfeld: 15, 16, 17, 36

Tel Miqne-Ekron Excavation Project
I. Sztulman: 29, 30, 31, 32 (top), 33 (left)
J. Rosenberg (Reconstruction): 32 (bottom)
Z. Radovan: 33 (right)

Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem/
A. Hirschfield: 25
R. Kurd: 28 (right)

W. Braun: 20, 22
Israel Antiquities Authority: Cover, 37, 40
Mifalot Yefei Nof /S.Ginott: 19
D. Horowitz: 33
Z. Radovan: 8 (bottom), 35, 42, 43, 44, 45,

Photographs of finds and artifacts published with permission of the Israel Antiquities Authority

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