Palestine Exploration, 2a
III. Era of Scientific Excavation.
1. Southern Palestine:
(1) Tell el-Chesy.
(Palestine Exploration Fund).--Exploration must always continue, but excavation is a vast advance. The modern era in Palestinian study begins with Petrie at LACHISH (which see) in 1890. Though Renan was actually the first man to put a spade into the soil (1860), yet his results were practically confined to Phoenicia. From Renan's time to 1890 there had been no digging whatever, except some narrow but thorough work in Jerusalem, and a slight tickling of the ground at Jericho and at the so-called Tombs of the Kings. Nothing was more providential than this delay in beginning extensive excavations in Palestine, such as had been previously so profitably conducted in Egypt and elsewhere. The results could not have been interpreted even two years earlier, and even when these excavations were commenced, the only man living who could have understood what he found was the man who had been selected to do the work. Nearly two centuries before, a traveler in Palestine (Th. Shaw) had suggested the possibility of certain mounds ("tells") being artificial (compare Jos 8:28; Jer 30:18); but not even Robinson or Guerin had suspected that these were the cenotaphs of buried cities, but had believed them to be mere natural hills. The greatest hour in the history of exploration in Palestine, and perhaps in any land, was that in which on a day in April, 1890, W.M. Flinders Petrie climbed up the side of Tell el-Chesy, situated on the edge of the Philistine plain, circa 30 miles Southwest of Jerusalem, and 17 miles Northeast from Gaza, and by examining its strata, which had been exposed by the stream cutting down its side, determined before sunset the fact, from pieces of pottery he had seen, that the site marked a city covering 1,000 years of history, the limits of occupation being probably 1500 BC to 500 BC. This ability to date the several occupations of a site without any inscription to assist him was due to the chronological scale of styles of pottery which he had originated earlier and worked out positively for the Greek epochs at Naukratis a year or two before, and for the epochs preceding 1100 BC at Illahun in the Fayyum only a month or two before. The potsherds were fortunately very numerous at Tell el-Chesy, and by the end of his six weeks' work he could date approximately some eight successive occupations of the city, each of these being mutually exclusive in certain important forms of pottery in common use. Given the surface date, depth of accumulation and rate of deposit as shown at Lachish, and a pretty sure estimate of the history of other sites was available. Not only was this pottery scale so brilliantly confirmed and elaborated at Tell el-Chesy that all excavators since have been able accurately to date the last settlement on a mound almost by walking over it; but by observations of the methods of stone dressing he was able to rectify many former guesses as to the age of buildings and to establish some valuable architectural signs of age. He proved that some of the walls at this site were built by "the same school of masons which built the Temple of Solomon," and also that the Ionic volute, which the Greeks borrowed from the Asiatics, went back in Palestine at least to the 10th century BC, while on one pilaster he found the architectural motif of the "ram's horn" (compare Ps 118:27). He also concluded, contrary to former belief, that this mound marked the site of Lachish (Jos 10:31; 2Ki 18:14), as by a careful examination he found that no other ruins near could fill the known historic conditions of that city, and the inscription found by the next excavator and all more recent research make this conclusion practically sure. Lachish was a great fortress of the ancient world. The Egyptian Pharaohs often mention it, and it is represented in a picture on an Assyrian monument under which is written, "Sennacherib .... receives the spoil of Lachish" (see 2Ki 18:14). It was strategically a strong position, the natural hill rising some 60 ft. above the valley and the fortification which Sennacherib probably attacked being over 10 ft. thick. The debris lay from 50-70 ft. deep on top of the hill. Petrie fixed the directions of the various walls, and settled the approximate dates of each city and of the imported pottery found in several of these. One of the most unexpected things was an iron knife dug up from a stratum indicating a period not far from the time when Israel must have entered Canaan, this being the earliest remnant of iron weapons ever found up to-this date (compare Jos 17:16).
The next two years of scientific digging (1891-1892), admirably conducted by Dr. F.G. Bliss on this site, wholly confirmed Petrie's general inductions, though the limits of each occupation were more exactly fixed and the beginning of the oldest city was pushed back to 1700 BC. The work was conducted under the usual dangers, not only from the Bedouin, but from excessive heat (104 degrees in the shade), from malaria which at one time prostrated 8 of the 9 members of the staff, scarcity of water, which had to be carried 6 miles, and from the sirocco (see my report,PEFS ,XXI , 160-70 and Petrie's and Bliss's journal,XXI , 219-46;XXIII , 192, etc.). He excavated thoroughly one-third of the entire hill, moving nearly a million cubic feet of debris. He found that the wall of the oldest city was nearly 30 ft. thick, that of the next city 17 ft. thick, while the latest wall was thin and weak. The oldest city covered a space 1,300 ft. square, the latest one only about 200 ft. square. The oldest pottery had a richer color and higher polish than the later, and this art was indigenous, for at this level no Phoenician or Mycenaean styles were found. The late pre-Israelitish period (1550-800 BC) shows such importations and also local Cypriote imitations. In the "Jewish" period (800-300 BC) this influence is lost and the new styles are coarse and ungraceful, such degeneration not being connected with the entrance of Israel into Canaan, as many have supposed, but with a later period, most probably with the desolation which followed the exile of the ten tribes (Bliss and Petrie). In the pre-Israelite cities were found mighty towers, fine bronze implements, such as battle-axes, spearheads, bracelets, pins, needles, etc., a wine and treacle press, one very large building "beautifully symmetrical," a smelting furnace, and finally an inscribed tablet from Zimrida, known previously from the Tell el-Amarna Letters to have been governor of Lachish, circa 1400 BC. Many Jewish pit ovens were found in the later ruins and large quantities of pottery, some containing potters' marks and others with inscriptions. Clay figures of Astarte, the goddess of fertility, were found in the various layers, one of these being of the unique Cypriote type, with large earrings, and many Egyptian figures, symbols and animal forms.
See also LACHISH.
(2) Excavations in Jerusalem.
During 1894:1894-1897, notwithstanding the previously good work done in Jerusalem (see above) and the peculiar embarrassments connected with the attempt to dig in a richly populated town, Dr. Bliss, assisted by an expert architect, succeeded in adding considerably to the sum of knowledge. He excavated over a large area, not only positively confirming former inductions, but discovering the remains of the wall of the empress Eudocia (450 AD), and under this the line of wall which Titus had destroyed, and at a deeper level the wall which surrounded the city in the Herodian age, and deeper yet that which must probably be dated to Hezekiah, and below this a construction "exquisitely dressed, with pointed masonry," which must be either the remains of a wall of Solomon or some other preexilic fortification not later than the 8th century. He found gates and in ancient times paved streets and manholes leading to ancient sewer systems, and many articles of interest, but especially settled disputed questions concerning important walls and the levels of the ancient hills, thus fixing the exact topography of the ancient city. H. G. Mitchell and others have also carefully examined certain lines of wall, identifying Nehemiah's Dung Gate, etc., and making a new surveyor certain parts of underground Jerusalem, the results of the entire work being a modification of tradition in a few particulars, but corroborative in most. The important springs and reservoirs, valleys and hills of the ancient Jerusalem have been certainly identified. It is now settled that modern Jerusalem "still sits virtually upon her ancient seat and at much the same slope," though not so large as the Jerusalem of the kings of Judah which certainly extended over the Southwestern Hill. Mt. Zion, contrary to tradition which located it on the Southwestern Hill where the citadel stands, probably lay on the Eastern Hill above the Virgin's Spring (Gihon). On this Eastern Hill at Ophel lay the Temple, and South of the Temple on the same hill "above Gihon" lay the old Jebusite stronghold (David's City). The ancient altar of burnt offering was almost surely at es-Sakhra. The evidence has not been conclusive as to the line of the second wall, so that the site of Golgotha and the Holy Sepulchre cannot certainly be determined (see George Adam Smith's exhaustive work, Jerusalem, 2 volumes, 1907; Sir Charles Wilson, Golgotha and the Holy Sepulchre, 1906; and compare Selah Merrill, Ancient Jerusalem, 1908; C.R. Conder, City of Jerusalem, 1909; P.H. Vincent, Underground Jerusalem, 1911).
(3) Excavations in the Shephelah.
(Palestine Exploration Fund).--During 1898-1900 important work was done by Bliss and Macalister at 4 sites on the border land between Philistia and Judea, while five other small mounds were tunneled, but without important results. The four chief sites were Tell Zakariya, lying about midway between Jerusalem and Tell el-Chesy; Tell ec Cafi, 5 miles W. of Tell Zakariya, and Tell Sandachannah, about 10 miles South; while Tell ej-Judeideh lay between Tell Zakariya and Tell Sandachannah. As Tell ej-Judeideh was only half-excavated and merely confirmed other results, not being remarkable except for the large quantity of jar inscriptions found (37), we omit further mention of it.
(a) Tell Zakariya:
From this height, 1,214 ft. above the sea, almost all Philistia could be seen. A pre-Israelitish town was found under some 20 ft. of debris, containing pre-Israelitish, Jewish and Seleucidan pottery. Many vaulted cisterns, partly hewn from the rock, were found in the lowest level. In later levels Jewish pit ovens were found and inscribed jar-handles with winged Egyptian symbols, implements of bronze, iron, bone and stone, and Egyptian images of Bes and the Horus eye, etc., besides a strange bronze figure of a woman with a fish's tail which seems to represent Atargatis of Ashkelon. The ancient rampart was strengthened, perhaps in Rehoboam's time, and towers were added in the Seleucidan era. Only half of this site was excavated.
(b) Tell es-Safi:
The camp was pitched near here in the Vale of Elah. From a depth of 21 ft. to the rock, was found the characteristic pre-Israelitish pottery and much imported pottery of the Mycenaean type. A high place was also found here, containing bones of camels, sheep, cows, etc., and several monoliths of soft limestone in situ, and near by a jar-burial. In an ancient rubbish heap many fragments of the goddess of fertility were found. Many old Egyptian and later Greek relics were also found, and four Babylonian seals and the usual pottery from Jewish and later periods. With strong probability this site was identified as Gath.
(c) Tell Sandachannah:
This was situated circa 1,100 ft. above sea-level. The town covered about 6 acres and was protected by an inner and outer wall and occasional towers. The strongest wall averaged 30 ft. thick. The work done here "was unique in the history of Palestinian excavation" (Bliss). At Tell el-Chesy only one-third of each stratum was excavated; at Tell Zakariya only one-half; at Jerusalem the work was confined to the enclosures of the temple, a few city walls and a few churches, pools, streets, etc., but at Tell Sandachannah "we recovered almost an entire town, probably the ancient Mareshah (Jos 15:44), with its inner and outer walls, its gates, streets, lanes, open places, houses, reservoirs, etc." (Bliss). Nearly 400 vessels absolutely intact and unbroken were found. It was a Seleucidan town of the 3rd and 2nd century BC, with no pre-Israelitish remains. The town was built with thin brick, like blocks of soft limestone, set with wide joints and laid in mud with occasionally larger, harder stones chisel-picked. The town was roughly divided into blocks of streets, some of the streets being paved. The houses were lighted from the street and an open court. Very few rooms were perfectly rectangular, while many were of awkward shape. Many closets were found and pit ovens and vaulted cisterns, reached by staircases, as also portions of the old drainage system. The cisterns had plastered floors, and sometimes two heavy coats of plaster on the walls; the houses occasionally had vaulted roofs but usually the ordinary roof of today, made of boards and rushes covered with clay. No religious building was found and no trace of a colonnade, except perhaps a few fragments of ornament. An enormous columbarium was uncovered (1906 niches). No less than 328 Greek inscriptions were found on the handles of imported wine jars. Under the Seleucidan town was a Jewish town built of rubble, the pottery of the usual kind including stamped jar-handles. An Astarte was found in the Jewish or Greek stratum, as also various animal forms. The Astarte was very curious, about 11 inches high, hollow, wearing a long cloak, but with breasts, body and part of right leg bare, having for headdress a closely fitting sunbonnet with a circular serrated top ornament in front and with seven stars in relief. A most striking find dating from about the 2nd century AD was that of 16 little human figures bound in fetters of lead, iron, etc., undoubtedly representing "revenge dolls" through which the owners hoped to work magic on enemies, and 49 fragments of magical tablets inscribed in Greek on white limestone, with exorcisms, incantations and imprecations. It ought to be added that the four towns as a whole supplement each other, and positively confirm former results. No royal stamps were found at Tell el-Chesy, but 77 were found in these 4 sites, in connection with 2- or 4-winged symbols (Egyptian scarabaeus or winged sundisk). Writing-materials (styli) were found in all strata, their use being "continuous from the earliest times into the Seleucidan period" (Bliss). From the four towns the evolution of the lamp could be traced from the pre-Israelite, through the Jewish to the Greek period. Some 150 of the labyrinthine rock-cut caves of the district were also examined, some of which must be pre-Christian, as in one of these a million cubic feet of material had been excavated, yet so long ago that all signs of the rubbish had been washed away.
(4) Painted "Tombs of Marissa."
In 1902 John P. Peters and Hermann Thiersch discovered at Belt Jibrin (adjoining Tell Sandachannah) an example of sepulchral art totally different from any other ever found in Palestine. It was a tomb containing several chambers built by a Sidonian, the walls being brilliantly painted, showing a bull, panther, serpent, ibex, crocodile with ibis (?) on its back, hunter on horseback, etc., with dated inscriptions, the earliest being 196 BC (see John P. Peters, Painted Tombs in Necropolis of Marissa, 1905). The writer (April 18, 1913) found another tomb here of similar character, decorated with grapes, birds, two cocks (life size), etc. Perhaps most conspicuous was a wreath of beautiful flowers with a cross in its center. Nothing shows the interrelations of that age more than this Phoenician colony, living in Palestine, using the Greek language but employing Egyptian and Libyan characteristics freely in their funeral article
2. Northern Palestine:
(1) Tell Ta`annek.
(Austrian Government and Vienna Academy).--During short seasons of three years (1902-4) Professor Ernst Sellin of Vienna made a rapid examination of this town (the Biblical Taanach), situated in the plain of Esdraelon in Northern Palestine, on the ancient road between Egypt and Babylon. Over 100 laborers were employed and digging was carried on simultaneously at several different points on the mound, the record being kept in an unusually systematic way and the official reports being minute and exhaustive. Only a general statement of results can be given, with an indication of the directions in which the "findings" were peculiar. The absence of Phoenician and Mycenaean influence upon the pottery in the earliest levels (100-1600 BC) is just as marked as at other sites, the kind of pottery and the presence of Semitic matstsebhoth (see IMAGES) in the Jewish periods are just as in previous sites, and the development in mason work and in pottery is identically the same in this first city to be excavated in Northern Palestine as in Southern Palestine. "The buildings and antiques might be interchanged bodily without any serious confusion of the archaeological history of Palestine. . . . Civilization over all Western Palestine is thus shown to have had the same course of development, whether we study it North or South" (Macalister). This is by far the most important result of this excavation, showing that, notwithstanding divergences in many directions, an equivalent civilization, proving a unity in the dominating race, can be seen over all parts of Palestine so far examined. Iron is introduced at the same time (circa 1000 BC), and even the toys and pottery decorations are similar, and this continues through all the periods, including the Jewish. Yet foreign intercourse is common, and the idols, even from the earliest period, "show religious syncretism" (Sellin). From almost the oldest layer comes a curious seal cylinder containing both Egyptian and Babylonian features. On one pre-Israelite tablet are pictures of Hadad and Baal. The Astarte cult is not quite as prominent here as in Southern Palestine. No figures of the goddess come from the earliest strata, but from 1600 BC to circa 900-800 BC they are common; after this they cease. The ordinary type of Astarte found in Babylonia and Cyprus as well as in Palestine--with crown, necklace, girdle, anklets, and hands clasped on breasts--is found most frequently; but from the 12th to the 9th century other forms appear representing her as naked, with hips abnormally enlarged, to show her power of fecundity. One figure is of a peculiarly foreign type, wearing excessively large earrings, and this is in close connection with one of the most unique discoveries ever made in Palestine--a hollow terra cotta Canaanite or Israelite (2Ki 16:10) altar (800-600 BC), having no bottom but with holes in its walls which admitted air and insured draft when fire was kindled below; in its ornamentation showing a mixture of Babylonian and Egyptian motives, having on its right side winged animals with human heads by the side of which is a man (or boy) struggling with a serpent the jaws of which are widely distended in anger; at its top two ram's (?) horns, and between them a sacrificial bowl in which to receive the "drink offering"; on its front a tree (of life), and on each side of it a rampant ibex. A bronze serpent was found near this altar, as also. near the high place at Gezer. Continuous evidence of the gruesome practice of foundation sacrifices, mostly of little children, but in one case of an adult, was found between the 13th and 9th centuries BC, after which they seem to cease. In one house the skeletons of a lady and five children were found, the former with her rings and necklace of gold, five pearls, two scarabs, etc. Many jar-burials of new-born infants, 16 in one place, were found, and, close to this deposit, a rock-hewn altar with a jar of yellow incense (?). Egyptian and Babylonian images were found of different eras and curious little human-looking amulets (as were also found at Lachish) in which the parental parts are prominent, which Sellin and Bliss believe to be "teraphim" (Ge 31:19,34; but see Driver, Modern Research, 57, etc.), such as Rachel, being pregnant, took with her to protect her on the hard journey from Haran to Palestine (Macalister).
The high place, with one or more steps leading up to it, suggesting "elevation, isolation and mystery" (Vincent), is represented here as in so many other Palestinian ruins, and the evidence shows that it continued long after the entrance of Israel into Canaan. When Israel entered Palestine, no break occurred in the civilization, the art development continuing at about the same level; so probably the two races were at about the same culture-level, or else the Hebrew occupation of the land was very gradual. In the 8th century there seems to be an indication of the entrance of a different race, which doubtless is due to the Assyrian exile. A most interesting discovery was that of the dozen cuneiform tablets found in a terra cotta chest or jar (compare Jer 32:14) from the pre-Israelite city.
These few letters cannot accurately be called "the first library found in Palestine"; but they do prove that libraries were there, since the personal and comparatively unimportant character of some of these notes and their easy and flowing style prove that legal, business and literary documents must have existed. These show that letter-writing was used not only in great questions of state between foreign countries, but in local matters between little contiguous towns, and that while Palestine at this period (circa 1400 BC) was politically dependent on Egypt, yet Babylonia had maintained its old literary supremacy. One of these letters mentions "the finger of Ashirat," this deity recalling the 'asherah or sacred post of the Old Testament (see IMAGES); another note is written by Ahi-Yawi, a name which corresponds to Hebrew Ahijah ("Yah is Brother"), thus indicating that the form of the Divine name was then known in Canaan, though its meaning (i.e. the essential name; compare Ex 6:3; 34:6; Ne 1:9; Jer 44:26), may not have been known. Ahi-Yawi invokes upon Ishtar-washur the blessing of the "Lord of the Gods."
On the same level with these letters were found two subterranean cells with a rock-hewn chamber in front and a rock-hewn altar above, and even the ancient drain which is supposed to have conveyed the blood from the altar into the "chamber of the dead" below. It may be added that Dr. Sellin thinks the condition of the various walls of the city is entirely harmonious with the Bible accounts of its history (Jos 12:21; 17:11; Jg 1:27; 5:19-21; 1Ki 4:12; 9:15; 1Ch 7:29). So far as the ruins testify, there was no settled city life between circa 600 BC and 900 AD, i.e. it became a desolation about the time of the Babylonian captivity. An Arab castle dates from about the 10th century AD.
(2) Tell el-Mutesellim.
(Megiddo, Jos 12:21; Jg 5:19; 2Ki 9:27).--This great commercial and military center of Northern Palestine was opened to the world in 1903-1905 by Dr. Schumacher and his efficient staff, the diggings being conducted under the auspices of His Majesty the Kaiser and the German Palestine Society. The mound, about 5 miles Northwest from Ta`anach, stood prominently 120 ft. above the plain, the ruins being on a plateau 1,020 X 750 ft. in area. An average of 70 diggers were employed for the entire time. The debris was over 33 ft. deep, covering some eight mutually excluding populations. The surrounding wall, 30 X 35 ft. thick, conformed itself to the contour of the town. The excavations reached the virgin rock only at one point; but the oldest stratum uncovered showed a people living in houses, having fire, cooking food and making sacrifices; the next city marked an advance, but the third city, proved by its Egyptian remains to go back as far as the 20th century BC, showed a splendid and in some directions a surprising civilization, building magnificent city gates (57 X 36 ft.), large houses and tombs with vaulted roofs, and adorning their persons with fine scarabs of white and green steatite and other jewelry of stone and bronze. It was very rich in colored pottery and little objects such as tools, seals, terra cotta figures and animals, including a bridled horse, and some worked iron is also said to have been found. In one pile of bodies were two children wearing beautiful bronze anklets. The city lying above this begins as early as the 15th century BC, as is proved by a scarab of Thothmes III and by other signs, although the scarabs, while Egyptian in form, are often foreign in design and execution. Anubis, Bes, Horus and other Egyptian figures appear, also 32 scarabs in one pot, much jewelry, including gold ornaments, and some very long, sharp bronze knives. One tomb contained 42 vessels, and one skeleton held 4 gold-mounted scarabs in its hand. One remarkable fragment of pottery contained a colored picture of pre-Israelite warriors with great black beards, carrying shields (?). A most interesting discovery was that of the little copper (bronze?) tripods supporting lamps, on one of which is the figure of a flute-player, being strikingly similar to pictures of Delphic oracles and to representations lately found in Crete (MNDPV, 1906, 46). This city was destroyed by a fearful conflagration, and is separated from the next by a heavy stratum of cinders and ashes. The fifth city is remarkable for a splendid palace with walls of stone from 3-5 ft. thick. This city, which probably begins as early as Solomon's time, shows the best masonry. An oval, highly polished seal of jasper on which is engraved a Hebrew name in script closely resembling the Moabite Stone, suggests a date for the city, and casts an unexpected light upon the Hebrew culture of Palestine in the days of the monarchy. The seal is equal to the best Egyptian or Assyrian work, clearly and beautifully engraved, and showing a climax of article In the center is the Lion (of Judah), mouth wide open, tail erect, body tense. Upon the seal is carved: "To Shema, servant of Jeroboam." This name may possibly not refer to either of the Biblical kings (10th or 8th century BC), but the stratum favors this dating. The seal was evidently owned by some Hebrew noble at a prosperous period when some Jeroboam was in power, and so everything is in favor of this being a relic from the court of one of these kings, probably the latter (Kautzsch, M u. N, 1904, 81). We have here, in any case, one of the oldest Hebrew inscriptions known, and one of the most elegant ever engraved (see MNDPV , 1906, 33). After seeing it the Sultan took it from the museum into his own private collection. A second seal of lapis lazuli, which Schumacher and Kautzsch date from about the 7th century BC, also contains in Old Hebrew the name "Asaph" (compare M u. N, 1906, 334; MNDPV, 1904, 147). There are several other remarkable works of art, as e.g. a woman playing the tambourine, wearing an Egyptian headdress; several other figures of women besides several Astartes, and especially a series of six terra cotta heads, one with a prominent Semitic nose, another with Egyptian characteristics, another quite un-Egyp, with regular features, vivacious eyes, curls falling to her shoulders and garlanded with flowers.
The sixth stratum might well be called the temple-city, for here were found the ruins of a sanctuary built of massive blocks in which remained much of the ceremonial furniture--sacrificial dishes, a beautiful basalt pot with three feet, a plate having a handle in the form of a flower, etc. Seemingly connected with the former town, three religious stones were found covered by a fourth, and one with a pyramidal top; so here several monoliths were found which would naturally be thought of as religious monuments--though, since they have been touched with tools, this is perhaps doubtful (Ex 20:25). One incense altar, carved out of gray stone, is so beautiful as to be worthy of a modern Greek cathedral. The upper dish rests on a support of carved ornamental leaves painted red, yellow and cobalt blue, in exquisite taste, the colors still as fresh as when first applied. A blacksmith's shop was found in this stratum, containing many tools, including iron plowshares, larger than the bronze ones in the 3rd and 4th layers. Allegorical figures were found, which may possibly belong to the former town, representing a man before an altar with his hands raised in adoration, seemingly to a scorpion, above which are a 6-pointed star, crescent moon, etc. Another most wonderful seal of white hard stone is engraved with three lines of symbols, in the first a vulture chasing a rabbit; in the second a conventional palm tree, with winged creatures on each side; in the third a lion springing on an ibex (?) under the crescent moon. Near by was found a cylinder of black jasper, containing hieroglyphs, and much crushed pottery. The 7th city, which was previous to the Greek or Roman eras, shows only a complex of destroyed buildings. After this the place remains unoccupied till the 11th century AD, when a poor Arab tower was erected, evidently to protect the passing caravans.
These excavations were specially important in proving the archaeological richness of Palestine and the elegance of the native works of article They were reported with an unexampled minuteness--various drawings of an original design showing the exact place and altitude where every little fragment was found.
(3) Tell Chum.
(Capernaum), etc.--In April and May, 1905, the German Oriental Society excavated a Hebrew synagogue of the Roman era at Tell Chum. It was 78 ft. long by 59 ft. wide, was built of beautiful white limestone, almost equal to marble, and was in every way more magnificent than any other yet found in Palestine, that in Chorazin being the next finest. Its roof was gable-shaped and it was surprisingly ornamented with fine carvings representing animals, birds, fruits, flowers, etc., though in some cases these ornamentations had been intentionally mutilated. In January, 1907, Macalister and Masterman proved that Khan Minyeh was not the ancient Capernaum, as it contained no pottery older than Arab time, thus showing Tell Chum to be the ancient site, so that the synagogue just excavated may be the one referred to in Lu 7:5. At Samieh, 6 hours North of Jerusalem, two important Canaanite cemeteries were discovered by the fellahin in 1906, consisting of circular or oval tomb chambers, with roofs roughly dome-shaped, as at Gezer (see below). A large quantity of pottery and bronze objects, much of excellent quality, was found (Harvard Theological Review, I, 70-96; Masterman, Studies in Galilee; Henson, Researches in Palestine).
3. Eastern Palestine:
(German Oriental Society).--During 1908-9, Dr. E. Sellin, assisted by a specialist in pottery, (Watzinger) and a professional architect (Langenegger), with the help of over 200 workmen, opened to view this famous Biblical city (Jos 6:1-24). Jericho was most strategically situated at the eastern gateway of Palestine, with an unlimited water-supply in the `Ain es-Sultan, having complete control of the great commercial highway across the Jordan and possessing natural provisions in its palm forest (Smith, HGHL). It was also set prominently on a hill rising some 40 ft. above the plain. The excavations proved that from the earliest historic time these natural advantages had been increased by every possible artifice known to ancient engineers, until it had become a veritable Gibraltar. The oldest city, which was in the form of an irregular ellipse, somewhat egg-shaped, with the point at the Southwest, was first surrounded with a rampart following the contour of the hill, a rampart so powerful that it commands the admiration of all military experts who have examined it.
The walls even in their ruins are some 28 ft. high. They were built in three sections: (a) a substratum of clay, gravel and small stones, making a deposit upon the rock about 3 or 4 ft. deep, somewhat analogous to modern concrete; (b) a rubble wall, 6 to 8 ft. thick, of large stones laid up to a height of 16 ft. upon this conglomerate, the lowest layers of the stone being enormously large; (c) upon all this a brick wall over 6 ft. thick, still remaining, in places, 8 ft. high. Not even Megiddo, famous as a military center throughout all the ancient world, shows such workmanship (compare Jos 2:1; Nu 13:28). "These were masters in stone work and masonry" (The Builder); "Taken as a whole it may justly be regarded as a triumph of engineering skill which a modern builder, under the same conditions, could scarcely excel" (Langenegger); "It is as well done as a brilliant military engineer with the same materials and tools could do today" (Vincent). All the centuries were not able to produce a natural crevice in this fortification. At the North, which was the chief point of danger, and perhaps along other sections also, a second wall was built about 100 ft. inside the first, and almost as strong, while still another defense ("the citadel"), with 265 ft. of frontage, was protected not only by another mighty wall but by a well-constructed glacis. The old pre-Israelite culture in Jericho was exactly similar to that seen in the southern and northern cities, and the idolatry also. In its natural elements Canaanite civilization was probably superior to that of the Hebrews, but the repugnant and ever-present polytheism and fear of magic led naturally to brutal and impure manifestations. It cannot be doubted that, at least in some cases, the infants buried in jars under the floors represent foundation sacrifices. Some of the pottery is of great excellence, comparing favorably with almost the best examples from Egypt; a number of decorative figures of animals in relief are specially fine; the bronze utensils are also good; especially notable are the 22 writing-tablets, all ready to be used but not inscribed. Somewhere near the 15th century the old fortifications were seriously damaged, but equally powerful ones replaced them. The German experts all believed that a break in the city's history was clearly shown about the time when, according to the pottery, Israel ought to have captured the city, and it was confidently said that the distinctively Canaanite pottery ceased completely and permanently at this point; but further research has shown that at least a portion of the old town had a practically continuous existence (so Jos 16:7; Jg 1:16; 3:13; 2Sa 10:5). No complete Israelite house was preserved, but the Israelite quarter was located close to the spring and no little furniture of the usual kind was found, including dishes, pots, grainmills, lamps, etc., many iron instruments and terra cotta heads of men and animals. The pottery is quite unlike the old Canaanite, being closely allied to the Greek-Phoenician ware of Cyprus. It is noticeable that, as in other Palestinian towns, in the Jewish era, little Babylonian influence is discernible; the Aegean and Egyptian influence is not as marked as in the cities dug up near the Mediterranean coast. One large edifice (60 by 80 ft.) is so like the dwellings of the 7th century BC at Sendjirli that "they seem to have been copied from Syrian plans" (Vincent). Absolutely unique was the series of 12 Rhodian jar-handles stamped in Aramaic, "To Yahweh" (Yah, Yahu). Vincent has suggested that as during the monarchy (7th to 6th century) "To the King" meant probably "For His Majesty's Service," so in post-exilic time the Divine name meant "For the Temple" (Rev. biblique). After the exile the city had about 3 centuries of prosperity; but disappears permanently in the Maccabean era (MNDPV, 1907; MDOG, 1908-9; PEFS, 1910; Rev. biblique, 1907-9).