Digging Up the Past

An archaeologist was digging in the desert in Israel and came upon a sarcophagus containing a mummy.  After examining it, he called the curator of a prestigious natural-history museum.  “I’ve just discovered the 3,000 year-old mummy of a man who died of heart failure!” the excited scientist exclaimed. The curator replied, “Bring him in. We’ll check it out.”  A week later, the amazed curator called the archaeologist.  “You were right about the mummy’s age and cause of death.  How in the world did you know?”  “Easy. There was a piece of paper in his hand that said, ‘10,000 shekels on Goliath’.”

While most of the world has been concentrating on the present and the future, there have been those who’ve been faithfully digging up the past; I speak of biblical archaeologists hard at work with shovel and spade.  Here are the top eight finds from the year 2015 according to the Biblical Archaeological Society:

Idol Statuette – The worship of Baal was a predominant theme of the Old Testament prophets.  A statuette of the Balaam fertility goddess Ashtoreth has been discovered. The idol dates back to the time of Jeremiah’s preaching.

Galilee Synagogue – A synagogue overlooking the Sea of Galilee has been discovered in the epi-center of Jesus’ ministry.  Up till now, the oldest synagogue unearthed is dated 300 B.C.  This one is dated much earlier.

Herod’s Palace – While doing excavations under a former Turkish prison near Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate, it is now believed that the location of Herod’s palace, and thus of Jesus’s trial, has finally been discovered.

City Gate – The Philistine city of Gath has yielded many discoveries in a quarter of a century of digging.  But this year a 3,000 year-old massive iron gate was found, giving credence to the story of Samson the judge.

Temple Receipt – A dated 1,000 B.C. receipt for purchase of sacrificial animals has been discovered.  This puts it back to the time of Solomon’s temple.  The receipt has a hole in it for wearing around the neck.

Royal Seal – There were about 40 Israeli kings but no royal seals ever found, until now. This year a bullae (waxed seal impression-maker) reading “Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, king of Judah” was discovered.

Engraved Jar – Archaeologists have found hundreds of ancient jars, but this 3,000 year-old one is a first, it’s engraved with a name – Ish-bosheth.  He’s the fourth son of King Saul, the one who fought David for the throne.
Old Scroll – The charred remains of a scroll were found in Israel.  Using computer tomography, it is Leviticus 1:1-8.  This makes it the oldest known scripture in the world and closest yet to the first original manuscripts.

Note – The development of tomography (restore print from charred paper) is exciting for archaeologists searching for the burned temple genealogy records destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.

The bottom line to all of the above?  It turns out that digging up the past isn’t such a bad thing after all!