Hoard of 2,150-year-old silver coins found in Modiin, Israel

Hoard of 2,150-year-old silver coins found in Modiin, Israel


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Archaeologists excavating in Modiin struck a rare cache of silver in a crack of an ancient wall. The hoard of silver coins dating to the Hasmonean period (126 BCE) was exposed during a salvage excavation in central Israel.

"The cache may have belonged to a Jew who hid his money in the hope of coming back to collect it, but he was unlucky and never did return" said Abraham Tendler head of the excavations in Modiin.

Aerial photograph of the Hasmonean estate house. Photographic credit: Griffin Aerial Photography, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The rare cache of silver coins from the Late Hasmonean period comprised of shekels and half-shekels ( tetradrachms and didrachms) that were minted in the city of Tyre and bear the images of the king, Antiochus VII and his brother Demetrius II.

The treasure was hidden in a rock crevice, up against a wall of an impressive agricultural estate that was discovered during the excavation there.

The cache of silver coins were found in a rock crevice. Photographic credit: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“The cache, which consists of 16 coins, contains one or two coins from every year between 135–126 BCE, and a total of nine consecutive years are represented. It seems that some thought went into collecting the coins, and it is possible that the person who buried the cache was a coin collector. He acted in just the same way as stamp and coin collectors manage collections today”. Dr. Donald Tzvi Ariel, the head of the Coin Department at the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a press statement from the IIA.

The cache of silver coins found at the estate house.

Or maybe: “The cache that we found is compelling evidence that one of the members of the estate who had saved his income for months needed to leave the house for some unknown reason. He buried his money in the hope of coming back and collecting it, but was apparently unfortunate and never returned. It is exciting to think that the coin hoard was waiting here 2,140 years until we exposed it” Tendler said.

He added, “The findings from our excavation show that a Jewish family established an agricultural estate on this hill during the Hasmonean period. The family members planted olive trees and vineyards on the neighboring hills and grew grain in valleys. An industrial area that includes an olive press and storehouses where the olive oil was kept is currently being uncovered next to the estate. Dozens of rock-hewn winepresses that reflect the importance of viticulture and the wine industry in the area were exposed in the cultivation plots next to the estate. The estate house was built of massive walls in order to provide security from the attacks of marauding bandits.”

Numerous bronze coins minted by the Hasmonean kings were also discovered in the excavation. They bear the names of the kings such as Yehohanan, Judah, Jonathan or Mattathias and his title: High Priest and Head of the Council of the Jews. The finds indicate that the estate continued to operate throughout the Early Roman period. The Jewish inhabitants of the estate meticulously adhered to the laws of ritual purity and impurity: they installed ritual baths ( miqwe’ot) in their settlement and used vessels made of chalk, which according to Jewish law cannot become ritually unclean.

Abraham Tendler, the excavation director, inside a hiding refuge that was connected to a ritual bath (miqwe) during the Bar Kokhba uprising.

Evidence was discovered at the site suggesting that the residents of the estate also participated in the first revolt against the Romans that broke out in 66 CE: the coins that were exposed from this period are stamped with the date “Year Two” of the revolt and the slogan "Freedom of Zion".

The estate continued to operate even after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. "It seems that local residents did not give up hope of gaining their independence from Rome, and they were well-prepared to fight the enemy during the Bar Kokhba uprising”, said Tendler and continued,

“During the excavation we saw how prior to the uprising the inhabitants of the estate filled the living rooms next to the outer wall of the building with large stones, thus creating a fortified barrier. In addition, we discovered hiding refuges that were hewn in the bedrock beneath the floors of the estate house. These refuge complexes were connected by means of tunnels between water cisterns, storage pits and hidden rooms. In one of the adjacent excavation areas a miqwe of impressive beauty was exposed; when we excavated deeper in the bath we discovered an opening inside it that led to an extensive hiding refuge in which numerous artifacts were found that date to the time of the Bar Kokhba uprising”.

The unique finds revealed in the excavation will be preserved in an archaeological park in the heart of the new neighborhood slated for construction in Modi‘in-Maccabim-Re‘ut.


"Rare" stash of silver coins found in Israel

JERUSALEM, June 7 (Xinhua) -- Israeli archeologists said on Tuesday they have unearthed a "rare" trove of silver coins that a Jewish farmer stashed outside his home west of Jerusalem some 2,140 years ago.

The Israel Antiquities Authority said the coins were found in Modiin city during salvage excavation ahead of the construction of a new neighborhood.

A statement by the Antiquities Authority said the coins were dated to 128 BC, or the Hasmonean period, during which the Jewish Hasmonean dynasty ruled Judea, an area that includes Jerusalem and its vicinity.

"The treasure was hidden in a rock crevice, up against a wall of an impressive agricultural estate that was discovered during the excavation there," the statement read.

Excavation director, Avraham Tendler, said the "rare cache" of ancient two-drachms and four-drachms coins bear the images of the king, Antiochus VII and his brother Demetrius II. They were minted in the ancient city of Tyre on Lebanon's Mediterranean coast.

"The cache may have belonged to a Jew who hid his money in the hope of coming back to collect it, but he was unlucky and never did return," Tendler said in a statement. He added that the cache equaled to "several months" income.

"It is exciting to think that the coin hoard was waiting here 2,140 years until we exposed it," he said.


"Rare" stash of silver coins found in Israel

JERUSALEM, 8 June (BelTA - Xinhua) - Israeli archeologists said on Tuesday they have unearthed a "rare" trove of silver coins that a Jewish farmer stashed outside his home west of Jerusalem some 2,140 years ago.

The Israel Antiquities Authority said the coins were found in Modiin city during salvage excavation ahead of the construction of a new neighborhood.

A statement by the Antiquities Authority said the coins were dated to 128 BC, or the Hasmonean period, during which the Jewish Hasmonean dynasty ruled Judea, an area that includes Jerusalem and its vicinity.

"The treasure was hidden in a rock crevice, up against a wall of an impressive agricultural estate that was discovered during the excavation there," the statement read.

Excavation director, Avraham Tendler, said the "rare cache" of ancient two-drachms and four-drachms coins bear the images of the king, Antiochus VII and his brother Demetrius II. They were minted in the ancient city of Tyre on Lebanon's Mediterranean coast.

"The cache may have belonged to a Jew who hid his money in the hope of coming back to collect it, but he was unlucky and never did return," Tendler said in a statement. He added that the cache equaled to "several months" income.

"It is exciting to think that the coin hoard was waiting here 2,140 years until we exposed it," he said.


6/8/16 Report - Treasure Coast Treasure History: Cobb Coin VS Unidentified Wreck. 2000 Year Old Cache of Hasmonian Coins.

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of treasurebeachesreport.blogspot.com.

Cache of 2000-year-old Coins Uncovered.
Source: Times of Israel.

The 16 coins from the Hasmonean period (2nd-1st century BCE) were concealed in a rock crevice up against a wall of a large agricultural estate, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Tuesday.


Below is the link.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/cache-of-hasmonean-era-silver-coins-uncovered-in-modiin/

Here is an interesting piece of treasure history.

COBB COIN COMPANY, INC., a Florida corporation, et al., Plaintiff, v. The UNIDENTIFIED, WRECKED AND ABANDONED SAILING VESSEL, etc., Defendant. No. 79-8266-Civ-JLK. August 31, 1982. United States District Court.

I pasted four excerpts below. You might want to read the entire document though.

In the summer of 1963, Mr. Mel Fisher, owner of a scuba diving shop, came to Florida from California and became associated with Mr. Wagner and Real Eight. Mr. Fisher formed salvaging groups named Universal Salvage Co., Cobb Coin Co., and Treasure Salvors, Inc. Between October 1963 and August, 1972, Mr. Fisher's companies and Real Eight worked some of the sites of 1715 wrecks pursuant to various agreements, under authority of Real Eight's State leases. Under these agreements, they divided their recoveries 50-50 after deducting 25 percent for the Division of Archives and Records Management. The combined effort yielded large quantities of gold, silver, and other valuable artifacts.[2] See Plaintiff's Exhibits No. 8 and 9 and State's Exhibit No. 68. Although the State's archivists admit to having received these artifacts, none could testify with certainty what the State now has, nor are there any records of precisely which of the artifacts it received came from the Corrigan site or other wrecks of the 1715 Fleet.

Real Eight terminated its contract with Fisher's company in 1972. At that time, Mr. Fisher was apparently devoting more of his attention to the search for the treasures of the Atocha and Santa Margarita, which sank in 1622 40 miles west of Key West. Mr. Fisher testified that he gave up on the east coast wrecks because the State officials were slow in sending field agents to accompany salvage vessels and in returning the salvors their share of the recovery.

Mr. Kenworthy stated that his company recovered sixteen (16) silver coins from Corrigan's *547 in its two years of salvage under the exclusive State lease. Tr. at 92. The State's representative testified that Quest found nine (9) coins. The coins were turned over to the State for safekeeping they have since disappeared.

In 1980, the plaintiff recovered 734 individual silver coins, two gold discs, 10 clumps of inseparable silver coins, and 300 pieces of "encrusted objects." In 1981, it recovered 25 or 30 "encrusted objects," 300 silver coins, and 12 Royal Eight Escudo gold coins. The Royal Eight Escudos are in "fairly good shape." Tr. at 806. Many of the silver coins are pieces of eight, minted in 1713 the value of one is now estimated at $500.00 to $600.00. The value of a Royal Eight Escudo is estimated to range between $5,000.00 and $12,000.00, depending on the quality of the coin.

Here is the link if you want to read the entire document. Some of you might be interested in the legal aspects of the case.

https://coast.noaa.gov/data/Documents/OceanLawSearch/Cobb%20Coin%20Co.%20v.%20Unidentified,%20Wrecked%20&%20Abandoned%20Sailing%20Vessel,%20549%20F.%20Supp.%20540%20(S.D.%20Fla.%201982).pdf?redirect=301ocm

Did you notice mention of the 12 Royal Eight escudos?

I wonder how the coins disappeared from the State's safekeeping.

On the Treasure Coast we'll have a couple more days of flat surf. The wind will be out of the west. We'll also have some negative low tides.


Hasmonean hoard uncovered near Modi’in in Central Israel

Salvage excavations taking place prior to the construction of a new neighborhood in Modi’in, sponsored by the Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut municipality with the participation of youth from the local area, have uncovered a rare hoard of silver coins dating from the Hasmonean period (126 BC) and bearing the names of Maccabean kings. The treasure was concealed in a rock crevice beside a wall of what has been interpreted as a large ‘Jewish agricultural estate’ by excavators.

Avraham Tendler (Israel antiquities Authority), the director of the excavation, commented that the hoard consisted of ‘shekels and half-shekels (tetradrachms and didrachms) that were minted in the city of Tyre and bear the images of the king, Antiochus VII and his brother Demetrius II.’ Excavators believe that the hoard was hidden by the owners of the agricultural estate at a time of crisis in which they were forced to suddenly abandon the house. They suggest that the owner probably hoped to return and collect the hoard but, for some unknown reason, never had the opportunity to do so.

The head of the Coin department of the IAA, Dr. Donald Tzvi Ariel, believes that the coins in the hoard were selected with a considerable degree of care, and that they may have belonged to a ‘coin collector’. The cache consists of 16 coins from 9 consecutive years between 135-126 BC. Dr. Tzvi comments of the owner, “He acted in just the same way as stamp and coin collectors manage collections today.”

Excavators interpret that a Jewish family founded an agricultural estate of olive groves and vineyards on neighbouring hills, and grain plantations in the valleys. An olive press and storage rooms which housed olive oil have been uncovered next to the estate, along with dozens of rock-hewn winepresses. It is evident that the owners of the estate held strictly to laws of ritual purity. Ritual baths and vessels made of chalk (which cannot be unclean according to Jewish law) have been uncovered.

Some bronze coins bearing the names of Hasmonean kings such as Yehohanan, Judah, Jonathan and Mattithias were also found in the excavation. There is even some evidence that excavators suggest indicate that the residents of the estate were involved in the first revolt against the Romans in 66 AD. Coins from this period bore stamps marking the second year of the revolt and also a slogan of the rebellion ‘Freedom to Zion’.

It seems that local residents did not give up hope of gaining their independence from Rome, and they were well-prepared to fight the enemy during the Bar Kokhba uprising. During the excavation we saw how prior to the uprising the inhabitants of the estate filled the living rooms next to the outer wall of the building with large stones, thus creating a fortified barrier. In addition, we discovered hiding refuges that were hewn in the bedrock beneath the floors of the estate house. These refuge complexes were connected by means of tunnels between water cisterns, storage pits and hidden rooms. In one of the adjacent excavation areas a miqwe of impressive beauty was exposed when we excavated deeper in the bath we discovered an opening inside it that led to an extensive hiding refuge in which numerous artifacts were found that date to the time of the Bar Kokhba uprising.

The finds revealed in excavations at the site are to be displayed in a new archaeological park in the center of the new neighborhood under construction.


Rare Cache of Silver Coins From Hasmonean Period Found in Modi’in

More proof that Jews lived in the Land of Israel for thousands of years, fighting the Romans with heart and soul.

More proof that Jews lived and prospered in the Land of Israel long before the so-called “Palestinian Arabs” ever walked this piece of real estate…

During the time of the Hasmoneans, a Jewish family of means owned an estate in Modi’in which had an olive grove and a press with which to produce olive oil, as well as vineyards and wine presses for the production of wine. And the family patriarch was a coin collector.

He was clearly a man of means: but something must have happened, and the family was forced to flee. Just before quitting their estate, he hid his coins between the massive stones in a wall, hoping to retrieve them later. But it was not to be, and it is only now, millennia later, his fellow Jews have discovered the treasure, and are learning his story.

The hoard of silver coins dating to the Hasmonean period (126 BCE) was exposed in April, in an archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority is currently conducting near Modi‘in, with the participation of local youth. The excavation is being carried out prior to the construction of a new neighborhood, at the initiative of the Modi‘in-Maccabim-Re‘ut municipality. The treasure was hidden in a rock crevice, up against a wall of an impressive agricultural estate that was discovered during the excavation there.

IAA archaeologist Shahar Krispin during the discovery of the silver coin hoard that was found in the estate house in Modi’in.

Avraham Tendler, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said “This is a rare cache of silver coins from the Hasmonean period comprised of shekels and half-shekels (tetradrachms and didrachms) that were minted in the city of Tyre and bear the images of the king, Antiochus VII and his brother Demetrius II.

“The cache that we found is compelling evidence that one of the members of the estate who had saved his income for months needed to leave the house for some unknown reason. He buried his money in the hope of coming back and collecting it, but was apparently unfortunate and never returned.

“It is exciting to think that the coin hoard was waiting here 2,140 years until we exposed it,” Tendler said.

“The cache, which consists of 16 coins, contains one or two coins from every year between 135–126 BCE, and a total of nine consecutive years are represented, explained Dr. Donald Tzvi Ariel, head of the Coin Department at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“It seems that some thought went into collecting the coins, and it is possible that the person who buried the cache was a coin collector. He acted in just the same way as stamp and coin collectors manage collections today.”

“The findings from our excavation show that it was a Jewish family that established an agricultural estate on this hill during the Hasmonean period,” Tendler added.

Aerial photograph of the Hasmonean estate house in Modi’in.

“The family members planted olive trees and vineyards on the neighboring hills and grew grain in valleys. An industrial area that includes an olive press and storehouses where the olive oil was kept is currently being uncovered next to the estate.

“Dozens of rock-hewn winepresses that reflect the importance of viticulture and the wine industry in the area were exposed in the cultivation plots next to the estate. The estate house was built of massive walls in order to provide security from the attacks of marauding bandits.”


PaleoJudaica.com

The Department of Theology and Religious Studies of King's College London, together with the Institute di Culture e Archeologic dell Terre Biblische of Faculty of Theology of Lugano and the University of Malta, are delighted to announce the recent success of a Leverhulme Trust International Network Grant application, for the Study of Dispersed Qumran Caves Artefacts and Archival Sources, obtained by Professor Joan Taylor (KCL’s Principal Investigator), together with Professor Marcello Fidanzio (ISCAB, Lugano) and Dr Dennis Mizzi (University of Malta).

In the Qumran caves that yielded the Dead Sea Scrolls many jars, lids and other artefacts were discovered by local Bedouin and also in joint Jordanian, French and American excavations (1949-56). Some of these material artefacts were sent to collections worldwide very early on, either gifted or sold. Recently the École Biblique et Archéologique Française of Jerusalem and the ISCAB Lugano started a program for the final report on the Caves of the Qumran Area, dealing mainly with the materials kept in Jerusalem and Amman. The program is directed by Pere Jean-Baptiste Humbert (EBAF) and Marcello Fidanzio (ISCAB). The network for the Dispersed Qumran Caves Artefacts and Archival Sources would engage with this publication project, by facilitating the study of all the dispersed artefacts enabling more comprehensive new reports. This will provide more information about the Qumran cave artefacts, and contribute to reconstructing a material profile of each cave’s contents. Alongside the analysis of ceramic jars, lids, textiles, leathers and wooden remains, the network will additionally explore the written and photographic dossiers of archaeologists and visitors.

Anyone with photographs from the 1950s or relevant information is invited to get in touch by contacting the Network Facilitator, Dr. Sandra Jacobs, at [email protected] Further details of the award are available at:https://www.leverhulme.ac.uk/news/newsletter

The Talmud without Judaism?

For two millennia, our icons were the scholars. “If not for this day,” one Rabbi Joseph says in the Talmud, referring to the day of Shavuot, which occurs during this month of Sivan, and is traditionally held to celebrate the giving of the Torah, “there are many Josephs in the market.” If not for his knowledge of Torah, Rabbi Joseph would be just another Joseph no other profession could earn him the same esteem.

Not every Jew was learned, but even the lowliest water carrier or illiterate cobbler might, at the end of a long day, listen to a reading of Mishna or the legends of the Talmud if he could not grasp its legalistic complexities, he could be captivated by its tales, its fantastical musings, its tidbits of historical trivia — real or imagined — scattered between pietistic homilies. For centuries, nearly every Jewish male child could recite at least the beginning of the first passage of Talmud, “From when do we recite the Shema in the evening?”

Today, many of us don’t care about that prayer. Jews in the 21st century are experiencing what is by all accounts a shift unseen since the destruction of the Second Temple. The primacy of the rabbinic paradigm — creed, practice and synagogue the tripartite nature of traditional Judaism — is no longer relevant to many of us.


Unlocking 2,000-year-old Herculaneum scrolls were buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted

Artifacts from the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, buried in ash during an explosive Mount Vesuvius eruption, was a sale-out at the British Museum in 2013. But could even bigger treasures still lie underground, including lost classical literature?

Scholars have been investigating the lost works of ancient Greek and Latin literature for centuries. Books were found in monastic libraries in the Renaissance. Papyrus scrolls were discovered in Egypt’s deserts in the late 19th century.But only in Herculaneum in southern Italy has an entire library from the ancient Mediterranean been discovered in situ.

On the eve of the catastrophe in AD 79, Herculaneum was a chic resort city on the Bay of Naples, and during the hot Italian summer many top families went out to relax and recover.

It was also an area where Rome’s richest people were involved with cultural uniqueness-none other than Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, a politician and Julius Caesar’s father-in – law.

In Herculaneum, Piso built a palatial seaside villa, its wide façade exceeding 220 m (721 ft) alone. When excavated in the middle of the 18th century, there are more than 80 high-quality bronze and marble statues, including one of the Pan with a goat.

When he came to plan his own exercise in cultural showing off, J Paul Getty chose to copy Piso’s villa for his own Getty museum in Malibu, California.

Piso’s grand villa, which has come to be known as the Villa of the Papyri, also contains the only library to have survived from the classical world. It is a relatively small collection, some 2,000 scrolls, which the eruption nearly destroyed and yet preserved at the same time.

A blast of furnace-like gas from the volcano at 400C (752F) carbonised the papyrus scrolls, before the town was buried in a fine volcanic ash which later cooled and solidified into rock.

When excavators and treasure hunters set about exploring the villa in the 18th Century, they mistook the scrolls for lumps of charcoal and burnt logs. Some were used as torches or thrown on to the fire.

But once it was realised what they were – possibly because of the umbilicus, the stick at the centre of the scrolls – the challenge was to find a way to open them.

Some scrolls were simply hacked apart with a butcher’s knife – with predictable and lamentable results. Later a conservator from the Vatican, Father Antonio Piaggio (1713-1796), devised a machine to delicately open the scrolls. But it was slow work – the first one took around four years to unroll. And the scrolls tended to go to pieces.

The fragments pulled off by Piaggio’s machine were fragile and hard to read. “They are as black as burnt newspaper,” says Dirk Obbink, a lecturer in Papyrology at Oxford University, who has been working on the Herculaneum papyri since 1983.

Under normal light the charred paper looks “a shiny black” says Obbink, while “the ink is a dull black and sort of iridesces”.

Reading it is “not very pleasant”, he adds. In fact, when Obbink first began working on them in the 1980s the difficulty of the fragments was a shock. On some pieces, the eye can make out nothing. On others, by working with microscopes and continually moving the fragments to catch the light in different ways, some few letters can be made out.

Meanwhile, the fragments fall apart. “At the end of the day there would be black dust on the table – the black dust of the scroll powdering away. I didn’t even want to breathe.”

This all began to change 15 years ago.

In 1999, scientists from Brigham Young University in the US examined the papyrus using infrared light. Deep in the infrared range, at a wavelength of 700-900 nanometres, it was possible to achieve a good contrast between the paper and the ink. Letters began to jump out of the ancient papyrus. Instead of black ink on black paper, it was now possible to see black lines on a pale grey background.

Scholars’ ability to reassemble the texts improved massively. “Most of our previous readings were wrong,” says Obbink. “We could not believe our eyes. We were ‘blinded’ by the real readings. The text wasn’t what we thought it was and now it made sense.”

In 2008, a further advance was made through multi-spectral imaging. Instead of taking a single (“monospectral”) image of a fragment of papyrus under infrared light (at typically 800 nanometres) the new technology takes 16 different images of each fragment at different light levels and then creates a composite image.

With this technique Obbink is seeking not only to clarify the older infrared images but also to look again fragments that previously defied all attempts to read them. The detail of the new images is so good that the handwriting on the different fragments can be easily compared, which should help reconstruct the lost texts out of the various orphan fragments. “The whole thing needs to be redone,” says Obbink.

So what has been found? Lost poems by Sappho, the 100-plus lost plays of Sophocles, the lost dialogues of Aristotle? Not quite.

Despite being found in Italy, most of the recovered material is in Greek. Perhaps the major discovery is a third of On Nature, a previously lost work by the philosopher Epicurus.

But many of the texts that have emerged so far are written by a follower of Epicurus, the philosopher and poet Philodemus of Gadara (c.110-c.40/35BC). In fact, so many of his works are present, and in duplicate copies, that David Sider, a classics professor at New York University, believes that what has been found so far was in fact Philodemus’s own working library. Piso was Philodemus’s patron.

Not all of the villa’s scrolls have been unrolled though – and because of the damage they suffer in the unwinding process that work has now been halted. Might it be possible to read them by unrolling them not physically, but virtually?

In 2009 two unopened scrolls from Herculaneum belonging to the Institut de France in Paris were placed in a Computerised Tomography (CT) scanner, normally used for medical imaging. The machine, which can distinguish different kinds of bodily tissue and produce a detailed image of a human’s internal organs could potentially be used to reveal the internal surfaces of the scroll.

The task proved immensely difficult, because the scrolls were so tightly wound, and creased.

“We were able to unwrap a number of sections from the scroll and flatten them into 2D images – and on those sections you can clearly see the structure of the papyrus: fibers, sand,” says Dr Brent Seales, a computer science professor at the University of Kentucky, who led the effort.


Israeli archaeologists say they may have found fabled tomb of biblical Maccabees…..

BEN SHEMEN FOREST, Israel – Israeli archaeologists may be one step closer to solving a riddle that has vexed explorers for more than a century: the location of the fabled tomb of the biblical Maccabees.

Israel’s government Antiquities Authority said Monday that an ancient structure it began excavating this month on the side of a highway appears to match ancient descriptions of the tomb of Jewish rebels who wrested control of Judea from Seleucid rule and established a Jewish kingdom in the 2nd century B.C.

Scholars in Israel’s quarrelsome archaeological community tend to agree that the site, in an Israeli forest west of Jerusalem and a short walk from the West Bank, is a significant burial site but reserve judgment about its connection to the Maccabees. Now the Antiquities Authority, which sometimes relies on private funding to help finance digs, is soliciting donations so it can keep searching for evidence.

“We still don’t have the smoking gun,” said Amit Reem, a government archaeologist who helped lead the dig.

The Maccabees are considered heroes in both Judaism and Christianity. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah commemorates Mattathias and his five sons who revolted against Hellenic rulers who banned Jewish practices, and rededicated the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The biblical Books of the Maccabees, which include a tale of Jewish martyrs dying for their faith, are a source of inspiration in some Christian traditions.

In the late 1880s, a succession of European explorers went searching for the tomb. They were drawn to a barren area near the West Bank village of Midya, a name that resembles Modiin, the ancient town where the biblical account says the Maccabee family was buried.

Arab villagers pointed one European explorer toward a hilltop dotted with rock-hewn graves known by locals as “the graves of the Jews.” Archaeologists today say these cannot be the graves of the Maccabees, but Israeli road signs still label them as such and Hanukkah ceremonies are held there to honor the ancient rebels.

Another 19th-century explorer was drawn to a nearby Arab tomb, where he announced that he found the remains of Mattathias. Archaeologists say the small domed structure has no connection to the elder Maccabee, but a modern tombstone engraved in Hebrew marks it as his burial site. Today, candles and Jewish prayer pamphlets are strewn about.

“It was more wishful thinking than hardcore archaeological evidence,” Reem said about the European explorers’ discoveries.

It is a third spot, just a few paces away from the domed structure, that captures Israeli archaeologists’ imaginations. French scholar Charles Clermont-Ganneau first excavated it in the late 1800s and found a mosaic floor featuring a Byzantine Christian cross. The site was then abandoned. This month, Israeli archaeologists and volunteers cleared away rubble and exposed the simple mosaic cross for the first time in more than 100 years.

Reem said the cross is a clue. It appears on the floor of a burial niche at the site. It is the only Byzantine-era site where a cross decorates the floor of a burial vault, he said, indicating that it may have marked the spot of an important figure. He thinks it is likely that the Byzantines — early Christians — identified this site as the Maccabees’ tomb.

“What other important figures would be here?” Reem said, standing in the deep pit of the archaeological site.

Oren Tal, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University who was not involved with the dig, said the mosaic cross is not necessarily a significant clue. He said the burial niche may have been converted into a Byzantine chapel, where a cross would have been standard.

But he agreed with Reem about other characteristics that correspond to the biblical account and to an account by ancient historian Josephus Flavius. Both describe the Tomb of the Maccabees as a tall structure that could be seen from the Mediterranean Sea, featuring columns and seven pyramids.

Reem says four thick column bases found at the site may be indications that the structure was once 5 meters (over 15 feet) tall, and large rock slabs Clermont-Ganneau said he found — which have since gone missing from the site — could have been the bases of pyramid decorations. Before a forest was planted in the area, it had a direct line of sight to the sea.

Reem said he cannot yet date the site to earlier than the 5th century A.D. He wants to excavate more, to look for an inscription or architectural elements that could associate the structure with the time of the Maccabees.

For the past decade, he said, finding the tomb has been his personal holy grail.

“It (is) crucial for everybody … to solve once and for all this riddle,” he said.


Watch the video: Βρέθηκαν χρυσά και ασημένια νομίσματα με ανιχνευτή ΧΡ DEUS