The Golden Beer of Danish … Sussita??

Actually … this is an item about the dig season at Sussita … the inicipit of Ha’aretz’ coverage:

An unexpected discovery awaited a team of Israeli archaeologists in a drainage canal dating from roughly 2,000 years ago: an aluminum bottlecap. From a beer bottle.

No, the good people of ancient Sussita weren’t producing aluminum metal. The meaning of the startling discovery is that millennia after its construction, the drainage canal was still working, centuries after the city’s final destruction by earthquake

Made of aluminum and feather-light, the bottle-cap floated on rainwater that washed into the canal, says Dr. Michael Eisenberg, head of an Israeli archaeological team digging the site.

This canal, or less romantically – a sewer, passed beneath the floor of the public bathhouse being excavated in the city, which the Greeks called Antiochia Hippos. Its end was discovered several hundred meters away by Eisenberg and his team.

The archaeologists believe this remarkably robust sewage system drained effluent from a postulated public toilet near the bathhouse. If the sewer’s upper opening is found, the public toilet will be found as well, Aizenberg postulates.

Happily for historians, the Sussita sewer system contained not only a beer bottlecap but much more. For instance several hundred bronze coins, swollen and rusted from eons of exposure to urine, were also found inside.

Ten dice made of bone found near the coins provided further evidence of the sewer’s function: Eisenberg believes that the city’s inhabitants gambled with dice as they sat in the bathroom. Just as latter-day man accidently drops his phone into the john, thus the people of yore apparently let coins and dice fall into the sewer.

Now these artifacts are helping researchers to learn about the inhabitants’ customs.

Serious about exercise at Sussita

In this last summer digging season, the team unearthed a palaestra — a plaza surrounded by columns, where the city inhabitants exercised and which was part of the bathhouse.

The sewage canal passed beneath the floor of the bathhouse’s small pool, whose location shows the ancients also appreciated a good view: it overlooks the low-lying Sea of Galilee and the city of Tiberias on its western shore.

The pool was tiled with high-quality limestone tiles. Some of its walls were decorated with tiles of limestone and marble, and in other places the pool walls were plastered in bright shades of red. […]

… only Arutz Sheva seems to have identified the brand of beer (Beer Cap Found Embedded in Archeological Excavation), hence my title.  That said, I’m not sure why we haven’t heard more from this dig:

Legio VI Ferrata Camp Near Megiddo!

Not sure why there isn’t anything about this at the IAA site … so far it’s only at Ha’aretz and for some reason they let me behind the paywall, so we’ll strike while the ‘Ferrata’ is hot, as it were:

Israeli archaeologists have found ruins they believe are the site of one of the two Roman legions based in the country between 120 and 300 C.E.

Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Yotam Tepper had long suspected that the site in the Galilee was the base of the Legio Sexta Ferrata, the 6th Roman Legion, also known as the Ironclad Legion. The other legion in the country was the 10th, based in Jerusalem.

Over the past week, an expedition led by Tepper and archaeologist Matthew Adams found the base of a battery or wall, a moat surrounding the camp, water pipes, a covered sewage channel, coins and tiles. The legion’s symbol adorned a broken shingle.

The site sits between two other historical gems: Tel Megiddo, the ancient fortified city that has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the oldest known Christian house of worship, which was discovered around seven and a half years ago about a kilometer south.

Tepper uncovered the Christian site during antiquities authority digs at Megiddo Prison in 2005. Now the legion site is in focus; it’s why the area became known as Legio. In Arabic, it was known as Lajun before early Zionists restored the name Megiddo. “We’re very excited,” said Tepper, who has been excavating the Legio-Megiddo area for 15 years

The legion camp is comparable to the Defense Ministry’s Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv, says Tepper. “That’s where the administrative-bureaucratic system dealt with the military government,” he says. “From here, around 3,500 soldiers in a hierarchical system ruled over the Galilee and part of Samaria.”

Excavations and surveys over the years found the locations of the Jewish village Othnai in the Megiddo Prison compound, and the Roman-Byzantine city of Maximianopolis near Kibbutz Megiddo. To find the legion camp, Tepper conducted field surveys and relied on surveys from the past.

“I even went to the homes of local people, who poured me out old coins from old tin cans,” he says. “In people’s gardens, we found archaeological artifacts bearing various inscriptions.”

Slowly he put together the puzzle: aqueducts, burial grounds and the ruins of a civilian settlement at the edge of the camp. There were also remnants of ancient roads and a milestone marking the two-mile mark from the camp. All this helped Tepper conclude that the legion’s camp lay under a hill.

Tepper and Adams analyzed an enhanced high-resolution satellite photo and could clearly make out the square marking the camp’s boundaries; each side was around 250 meters long. A ground-penetrating radar scan provided further evidence. Student volunteers from the United States, Europe and Australia helped out.

According to Hanan Erez, head of the Megiddo Regional Council, the plan is to build a tourism complex based around the ancient chapel and Tel Megiddo. Next week a senior official of the Catholic Church is scheduled to visit the sanctuary’s remains.

According to Tepper, the chapel offered evidence of an ancient Christian community whose members included Roman officers. This was the period before Christianity was recognized as a religion, and well before it became Rome’s official religion. The chapel was apparently abandoned at the end of the third century.

Tepper believes the legion camp was also abandoned around that time. “You can see that the camp wasn’t destroyed but was abandoned in an orderly way,” he says. “From here they moved east across the Jordan River.”

We were given hints about this back in 2006 (Megiddo Prison Update and Megiddo Prison Followup) … we’ll keep our eye open for some more detailed coverage.

Remains of Roman Massacre of Jews in Jerusalem Found?

This one’s obviously in its very early stages, but we’ll mention it and see where it goes … tip o’ the pileus to Jim West (Have The Remains of Jews Killed by the Romans in Jerusalem in 70 a.d. Been Discovered?) who alerts us to Antonio Lombatti’s post (Scheletri del massacro del Monte del Tempio?) pointing to this item in Israel Hayom:

Remains of thousands of Jews massacred by the Romans on the Temple Mount at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple may have been uncovered in Jerusalem, according to a veteran archaeological journalist.

During a conference on Thursday at Megalim – the City of David Institute for Jerusalem Studies, journalist Benny Liss screened a movie recorded a few years ago that clearly shows thousands of skeletons and human bones in what appears to be a mass grave.

Liss, veteran archaeological correspondent for Israel’s Channel 1, told the amazed audience that the film had been shot in a spacious, underground cavern in the area of the Mercy Gate, near the eastern wall of the Temple Mount, but just outside it. Liss raised the possibility that the skeletons were the remains of 6,000 Jews, mostly women and children, killed on the Temple Mount when the Romans destroyed the Second Temple, as described in the writings of Flavius Josephus, who witnessed the destruction.

The movie shows a group of people accessing the cavern with construction tools. Liss goes in first, followed by a lighting technician and cameraman. The three first pass through a narrow passage and then enter the cave with the skeletal remains. Liss says he tried to work out the size of the pile of remains by putting his hand in as far as he could, but he could not reach the bottom. The movie shows Liss crumbling some of the carbonized materials near the skeletons. As soon as Liss left the cave, Antiquities Authority staff resealed the cave, he says.

During the lecture, Liss also cites historical sources that show that in the area of the Old City where the Muslim cemetery now stands, there was once a Jewish neighborhood and cemetery, which was moved to the Valley of Josaphat. He basis his theory that the skeletons are the remains of the people killed on the Temple Mount on the site of the mass grave, the soot in the cave and the written history.

“The Romans stayed on the Temple Mount for a month after the destruction of the temple until going on to conquer the upper city [today’s Jewish Quarter],” says Liss. “They had to get rid of the thousands of decomposing bodies and the most obvious place to do this would have been the natural caves on the upper slope of the mount, around Mercy Gate.”

The veteran journalist emphasized that this was just a theory. “Now, after publishing this information, the experts should go into the field and examine what we found back then, evaluate it and publish their own findings,” he says.

Liss does not believe that the remains are Christian since on the lower levels of the mount he has documented systematic Christian burials where crosses, sandals and buckles clearly attest to the religion of the dead. The same cannot be said about the burial site closer to the Mercy Gate.

Asked why he waited until now to release his findings, Liss said that he was worried that they would ignite the situation and wanted to wait for a better time.

A host of senior archaeologists approached by Israel Hayom said that photographs were not enough to determine the history of the cave and that samples need to be taken from the site and dated.

Professor Dan Bahat, a former Jerusalem District archaeologist, said the bones could be Jewish, but also just as easily be Christian or Muslim. Prominent archaeologist Dr. Gabriel Barkai said that Muslim mass graves had been found in the area in the past, though he does not discount other possibilities. Archaeologist Dr. Ayelet Mazar said that such a finding was unprecedented, but refused to come to any conclusions without further investigations being carried out.

The chances of the site being reopened are very slim as it is located in a particularly sensitive area, where the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf keeps a close watch and interprets every movement by Jews or Israeli authorities on the mount.

The Antiquities Authority said in response that it was unaware of the findings presented in Liss’ movie, and it would be happy to receive the materials. One official told Israel Hayom that he was aware of unsubstantiated reports of a cave with a large amount of human remains in the area, but because of the extreme sensitivity of the location and its close proximity to the Muslim cemetery, the cave had never been explored.

The article includes a grainy photo from the movie … kind of odd how Liss claims the cave was sealed by IAA people while the IAA denies any knowledge what was inside; seems unlikely that they’d stand around outside while someone else was poking around inside. We’ll do some poking around of our own on this …

UPDATE 1 (the next day): it also strikes me as suspicious that Arutz Sheva doesn’t appear to have been at this news conference, but consciously cites the above article second hand: Remains of Jews Massacred on Temple Mount Found?

Hellenistic Harbour from Akko/Acre/Ptolemais

This appears to be the big news of the past few days, and all the coverage seems to stem from the MFA coverage, so ecce:

In archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting at the foot of Akko’s southern seawall, installations were exposed that belong to a harbor that was operating in the city already in the Hellenistic period (third-second centuries BCE) and was the most important port in Israel at that time.

The finds were discovered during the course of archaeological excavations being carried out as part of the seawall conservation project undertaken by the Old Akko Development Company and underwritten by the Israel Lands Administration.

The first evidence indicating the possible existence of this quay was in 2009 when a section of pavement was discovered comprised of large kurkar flagstones dressed in a technique reminiscent of the Phoenician style that is characteristic of installations found in a marine environment. This pavement, which was discovered underwater, raised many questions amongst archaeologists. Besides the theory that this is a quay, some suggested this was the floor of a large building.

According to Kobi Sharvit, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority Marine Archaeology Unit , “Among the finds we’ve discovered now are large mooring stones that were incorporated in the quay and were used to secure sailing vessels that anchored in the harbor c. 2,300 years ago. This unique and important find finally provides an unequivocal answer to the question of whether we are dealing with port installations or the floor of a building. In addition, we exposed collapse comprised of large dressed stones that apparently belonged to large buildings or installations, which was spread of a distance of dozens of meters. What emerges from these finds is a clear picture of systematic and deliberate destruction of the port facilities that occurred in antiquity”. Sharvit adds, “Recently a find was uncovered that suggests we are excavating part of the military port of Akko. We are talking about an impressive section of stone pavement c. 8 meters long by c. 5 meters wide that was partially exposed. The floor is delimited on both sides by two impressive stone walls that are also built in the Phoenician manner. It seems that the floor between the walls slopes slightly toward the south, and there was a small amount of stone collapse in its center. Presumably this is a slipway, an installation that was used for lifting boats onto the shore, probably warships in this case”. According to Sharvit, “Only further archaeological excavations will corroborate or invalidate this theory”.

The bottom of the ancient harbor was exposed at the foot of the installations. There the mooring stones were found as well as thousands of fragments of pottery vessels, among which are dozens of intact vessels and metallic objects. The preliminary identification of the pottery vessels indicates that many of them come from islands in the Aegean Sea, including Knidos, Rhodes, Kos and others, as well as other port cities located along the Mediterranean coast.

These finds constitute solid archaeological evidence regarding the location of the Hellenistic harbor and perhaps the military port. According to Sharvit, “It should be understood that until these excavations the location of this important harbor was not clear. Remains of it were found at the base of the Tower of Flies and in the region of the new marina in excavations conducted in the early 1980s by the late Dr. Elisha Linder and the late Professor Avner Raban. But now, for the first time, parts of the harbor are being discovered that are adjacent to the ancient shoreline and the Hellenistic city. Unfortunately, parts of the quay continue beneath the Ottoman city wall – parts that we will probably not be able to excavate in the future.

Nevertheless, in those sections of the harbor that extend in the direction of the sea and the modern harbor the excavation will continue in an attempt to learn about the extent of the ancient harbor, and to try and clarify if there is a connection between the destruction in the harbor and the destruction wrought by Ptolemy in 312 BCE, the destruction that was caused by the Hasmonean uprising in 167 BCE or by some other event.

All the coverage includes the same (it seems) three photos which are kind of underwhelming, given the obvious importance of this find. For the coverage from 2009, see: Hellenistic Harbour Remains from Ptolemais/Akko/Acre (ours) or A Pier from the Hellenistic Period was Discovered in Akko (the full IAA coverage mentioned there; it has moved as Joseph Lauer predicted).

Other coverage:

Possible Bar Kochba Revolt Hoard Found

Here’s the IAA press release:

A Spectacular 2,000 Year Old Gold and Silver Hoard was Uncovered in an Archaeological Excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority Conducted in the Qiryat Gat Region

The treasure trove comprising c. 140 gold and silver coins together with gold jewelry was probably hidden by a wealthy lady at a time of impending danger during the Bar Kokhba Revolt

A rich and extraordinary hoard that includes jewelry and silver and gold coins from the Roman period was recently exposed in a salvage excavation in the vicinity of Qiryat Gat. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was funded by Y. S. Gat Ltd., the Economic Development Corporation for the Management of the Qiryat Gat Industrial Park.

The rooms of a building dating to the Roman and Byzantine period were exposed during the course of the excavation. A pit that was dug in the earth and refilled was discerned in the building’s courtyard. To the archaeologist’s surprise, a spectacular treasure trove of exquisite quality was discovered in the pit wrapped in a cloth fabric, of which only several pieces remained on the artifacts.

According to archaeologist, Emil Aladjem, the excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The magnificent hoard includes gold jewelry, among them an earring crafted by a jeweler in the shape of a flower and a ring with a precious stone on which there is a seal of a winged-goddess, two sticks of silver that were probably kohl sticks, as well as some 140 gold and silver coins. The coins that were discovered date to the reigns of the Roman emperors Nero, Nerva and Trajan who ruled the Roman Empire from 54-117 CE. The coins are adorned with the images of the emperors and on their reverse are cultic portrayals of the emperor, symbols of the brotherhood of warriors and mythological gods such as Jupiter seated on a throne or Jupiter grasping a lightning bolt in his hand”.

Saʽar Ganor, District Archaeologist of Ashkelon and the Western Negev for the Israel Antiquities Authority, adds “the composition of the numismatic artifacts and their quality are consistent with treasure troves that were previously attributed to the time of the Bar Kokhba Revolt. During the uprising, between 132-135 CE, the Jews under Roman rule would re-strike coins of the emperor Trajan with symbols of the revolt. This hoard includes silver and gold coins of different denominations, most of which date to the reign of the emperor Trajan. This is probably an emergency cache that was concealed at the time of impending danger by a wealthy woman who wrapped her jewelry and money in a cloth and hid them deep in the ground prior to or during the Bar Kokhba Revolt. It is now clear that the owner of the hoard never returned to claim it.

The treasure trove was removed from the field and transferred for treatment to the laboratories of the Artifacts Treatment Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem.

Here’s some photos of the hoard via the IAA

Sharon Gal via the IAA

Sharon Gal via the IAA

 

I can’t see any evidence of any Trajanic restrikes in the artfully arranged photos, alas (although there is a really nice portrait of Trajan in there, and a Jupiter Custos, which probably has the aforementioned portrait of Nero on the other side) nor do I see any specifically Bar Kochba coins.  Until we do have something a bit more specific along those lines, I suspect we’re tying this hoard to Bar Kochba for press purposes …

More coverage:

Military Diploma in the Israel Museum

Very interesting item in the Times of Israel:

We do not know the name of the Roman war veteran who owned this bronze certificate, which marked his discharge from active service 1,922 years ago. His name was engraved on the tablet when it was issued in Rome, but that part is missing.

We do know that he was discharged in 90 CE and that he served in one of the empire’s combat units stationed in the unruly province of Judea. Because a Roman soldier served 25 years before being released, we can deduce that this anonymous fighter was in active service as a younger man during one of the key events in Jewish history: Rome’s suppression of the Jewish revolt and destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. He might have been a participant.

The certificate, currently displayed along with other Roman military artifacts at the Israel Museum, was a copy given to the soldier — the original remained the property of the government and would have been displayed in Rome, on the Capitoline Hill or in the Forum. It was issued, the text informs us, in the name of the emperor Domitian, identified here as “Imperator Caesar Domitianus Augustus Germanicus, son of the deified Vespasian, Pontifex Maximus.”

The inscription also identifies the commander of Rome’s forces in Judea at the time, an imperial administrator named Titus Pomponius Bassus, who was known to scholars from other records. Bassus spent several years as a governor in Anatolia, and later ran a government program in southern Italy that offered incentives to encourage childbirth, according to a 2003 article in the museum’s journal, Studies in Archaeology, which first published details of the certificate after its acquisition. But this tablet was the first indication that Bassus had ever been governor of Judea.

These details are important to historians, but the most important detail for the anonymous soldier himself would have been the end of the inscription, the part that said he had been “honorably discharged after 25 years of military service” and officially granted him civitas – Roman citizenship.

Troops in the Roman auxiliaries, like our soldier, were from conquered provinces and were not citizens of Rome, unlike members of the empire’s crack detachments, the legions. Citizenship was the Empire’s reward for the successful completion of a quarter-century of military campaigns, interspersed with periods of grueling fortification and construction work: It was a privilege he could pass on to his children, an upgrade in his social status and a powerful incentive to join the military in the first place.

Many of our soldier’s comrades, we can assume, did not live to receive the honor.

The certificate lists nine Roman units that were in Judea the year it was issued. We don’t know which he belonged to, but one of them, the Ala Veterana Gaetulorum, is known to have participated in crushing the Jewish revolt two decades before. Forty years later, the province’s Roman garrison would be engaged in suppressing yet another Jewish revolt, this one led by Simon Bar Kochba. On that occasion, too, the Jews would prove no match for Rome.

Physical remains of the Roman military presence in the land of Israel all those years ago still crop up with some frequency. Last year, for example, a complete legionnaire’s sword and sheath were found in a Roman-era sewer underneath Jerusalem. Most of these artifacts can be traced to the unit that was long the empire’s dominant local force — the famed Tenth Legion, which arrived to suppress the first revolt and stayed for the better part of three centuries. Roof tiles, bricks, belt buckles and other paraphernalia have been found bearing the legion’s name — Legio X Fretensis, or the Tenth Legion of the Sea Strait — and its trademark symbols, a wild boar and a warship.

Perhaps the most evocative of these discoveries is a pay slip belonging to one Tenth Legion man, a soldier from Beirut named Gaius Messius. The parchment fragment was found at Masada during excavations there; it was the troops of Gaius’s legion who besieged and stormed the desert fortress that was the Jews’ last stronghold after the fall of Jerusalem. The assault was in 73 CE, and the pay slip dates to around that time.

Gaius’s fate is unknown. All that history remembers of him is how much he made that year: 50 denarii.

Of that, according to the slip, most was deducted for supplies, including 16 denarii for barley, five for boots, two for leather straps and seven for a linen tunic.

The original has a photo of the diploma, but if the article disappears, there’s a very nice image at the Google Art Project. There’s a rather brief description and photo available here as well. The Roman Army Talk folks had a brief discussion of this item a while back, which includes some bibliography. The Roman Legion folks have an excellent section on military diplomata in general …

Roman Bath in Jerusalem

Brief item from the Jerusalem Post:

Archeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority uncovered a 1,800-year-old bathing pool in Jerusalem built by soldiers from the Tenth Roman Legion, the Legion that destroyed the Temple a few years before, reported Israel Radio on Monday.

Remains of the pool were discovered during excavations in the Jewish Quarter where a ritual bath is expected to be built.

Several wash basins were found in the pool, and surrounding it were hundreds of clay tiles that had imprints of the Roman Legion seal.

Site excavation director, Dr. Ofer Sion, told Israel Radio that the discovery shows that the Roman city established after the destruction of Jerusalem was bigger than what has been believed.

For those of you wondering about the Tenth Roman legion (as I was), this would have been the Legio X Fretensis

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