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Archaeological discovery helps prove Babylonian conquest of Israel

Archaeologists have unearthed evidence pointing to the validity of the Babylonian Conquest of the Holy City of Jerusalem in 587/586 BCE, as described by the Bible, according to a release published earlier this week.

A team of researchers from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, who have been excavating the hill known as Mount Zion in Jerusalem, say they have discovered arrowheads dating from the period, layers of ash, Iron Age potsherds, as well as a “significant” piece of jewelry – a gold silver tassel or earring – archetypal of the period in question.

“The team believes that the newly-found deposit can be dated to the specific event of the conquest because of the unique mix of artifacts and materials found — pottery and lamps, side-by-side with evidence of the Babylonian siege represented by burnt wood and ashes, and a number of Scythian-type bronze and iron arrowheads which are typical of that period,” the UNC archaeological team wrote in a statement.

The Mount Zion Archaeological Project is co-directed by UNC Charlotte professor of history Shimon Gibson, Rafi Lewis, a senior lecturer at Ashkelon Academic College and a fellow of Haifa University, and James Tabor, UNC Charlotte professor of religious studies. The group has been working in the area for more than a decade and has made numerous significant finds relating to the ancient city’s many historical periods.

In July 2019, the archaeologists found evidence concerning the sack of the city during the First Crusade.

The current find is one of the oldest and perhaps the most prominent in its historical significance, as the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem is a major moment in Jewish history. The researchers say that the unique mix of artifacts and materials found, together with the way they were found – covered in layers of ash – solidify both the time period and that there was some type of destructive event that took place at that time.

“Alternative explanations for the artifacts can be eliminated,” the researchers claim in their release. “Nobody abandons golden jewelry and nobody has arrowheads in their domestic refuse. Frankly, jewelry is a rare find at conflict sites, because this is exactly the sort of thing that attackers will loot and later melt down.

Gibson explained that the arrowheads are known as “Scythian arrowheads,” and have been found at other archaeological conflict sites from the 7th and 6th centuries BCE.

“They were fairly commonplace in this period and are known to be used by the Babylonian warriors,” he explained. “Together, this evidence points to the historical conquest of the city by Babylon because the only major destruction we have in Jerusalem for this period is the conquest of 587/586 BCE.”

The potsherds help date the discovery further, considering the lamp shards found are typical to the period.

“It’s the kind of jumble that you would expect to find in a ruined household following a raid or battle,” Gibson said. “Household objects, lamps, broken bits from pottery which had been overturned and shattered… and arrowheads and a piece of jewelry which might have been lost and buried in the destruction.”

The Babylonian Conquest, spearheaded by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, was a tragic battle that resulted in the loss of life, the complete destruction of the city, as well as the annihilation of King Solomon’s Temple.

The Torah recounts effects the Babylonian siege had on the residents of Jerusalem, before the conquest: “The city was besieged unto the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. On the ninth day of the [fourth] month the famine was sore in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land. Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war [fled] by night by the way of the gate between the two walls…. And he [Nebuzaradan, the Babylonian captain of the guard] burnt the house of the Lord, and the King’s house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, even every great man’s house, burnt he with fire.” (2 Kings 25: 1-9).

Every year on Tisha Be’Av, Jews around the world pray, mourn and fast in remembrance of this event, the destruction of the First Temple and the later destruction of the Second Temple, which took place in 70 CE. Tisha Be’Av – the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av – was commemorated earlier this week.

“It is very exciting to be able to excavate the material signature of any given historical event, and even more so regarding an important historical event such as the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem,” project co-director Lewis said.

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Article source: https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Archaeological-discovery-helps-prove-Babylonian-conquest-of-Israel-598543

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