Tuesday, 24 February 2009
The Israel Antiquities Authority on Monday announced the discovery of a large building dating to the time of the First and Second Temples during an excavation in the village of Umm Tuba in southern Jerusalem.
The excavation was conducted by Zubair Adawi on behalf of the antiquities authority, prior to the start of construction there by a private contractor. The archaeological remains include several rooms arranged around a courtyard, in which researchers found a potter's kiln and pottery vessels. The pottery remains seem to date from the eighth century B.C.E. (First Temple period).
According to the antiquities authority, the site was destroyed along with Jerusalem and all of Judah during the Babylonian conquest. Jews reoccupied it during the Hasmonean period (second century B.C.E.) and it existed for another two hundred years until the destruction of the Second Temple. During the Byzantine period, the place was re-inhabited during the settlement of monasteries and farmsteads in the region between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
The excavators also found royal seal impressions on some of the pottery fragments that date to the era of Hezekiah, King of Judah (end of the eighth century B.C.E.). Four "LMLK" impressions (which indicate the items belonged to the king) were discovered on handles of large jars used to store wine and oil. Seals of two high-ranking officials named Ahimelekh ben Amadyahu and Yehokhil ben Shahar, who served in the government, were also found. The Yehokhil seal was stamped on one of the LMLK impressions before the jar was fired in a kiln and this is a rare example of two such impressions appearing together on a single handle.
Excavators also discovered a Hebrew inscription - dating 600 years later than the Kingdom of Judah seals - on a fragment of a jar neck. An alphabetic sequence was engraved below the vessel's rim in Hebrew script that is characteristic of the beginning of the Hasmonean period (end of the second century B.C.E.). Three years ago, the remains of a monastery from this period were also excavated. Together with the current findings, they confirm the identification of the place as "Metofa," which is mentioned in the writings of the church fathers in the Byzantine period.