At Arad in the Negev desert Israelite kings early on built a fortress to protect the trade route between Philistia and Elath on the Red Sea. Destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries, the fortress suffered a massive destruction in the sixth century B.C. when the Babylonians overran and destroyed Judah. When archaeologists excavated the series of fortresses, each built atop the prior one, they found an archive of Hebrew letters from the files of one of the last commanders of the fortress. The letters vividly reflect life at the time and the precarious situation of the threatened fortress. The archaeologists also found the only temple to the Hebrew God Yahweh ever uncovered from antiquity. It was found complete with a niche, standing stones reminiscent of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and a large altar for animal sacrifices in the courtyard. In “Arad—An Ancient Israelite Fortress with a Temple to Yahweh,” archaeologists Ze’ev Herzog, Miriam Aharoni and Anson F. Rainey chronicle the fortress’s excavation and its extraordinary finds.
Herzog emigrated to Israel from Buchara, Russia, at the age of seven. Now senior lecturer in archaeology at Tel Aviv University, he has excavated at Beer-Sheba, Megiddo, Hazor, Tel Michal and Tel Gerisa, as well as Arad. He previously reported for BAR on “Beer-Sheba of the Patriarchs,” BAR 06:06.
The fifth generation of her family to be born in the land of Israel, Aharoni has worked at Hazor, Ramat Rahel, Beer-Sheba and Arad. She also served as editor of The Archaeology of the Land of Israel, written by her late husband, the eminent Israeli archaeologist Yohanan Aharoni, who, before his death in 1976, led the excavation of the Israelite fortress at Arad.
Rainey, a native of Texas, teaches Semitic languages at Tel Aviv University and historical geography of Biblical lands at the Institute for Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem. Since he arrived in Israel in 1960, he has been an enthusiastic participant in excavations at Lachish, Arad, Beer-Sheba and, most recently, Tel Michal and Tel Gerisa.
In “The Saga of Eliashib,” Rainey describes the unique archive of Hebrew correspondence involving Eliashib, the fortress commander. Eliashib’s seals, inscribed with his name, were also found in his office.
Long before the Israelites built a fortress at Arad, the Canaanites built a city there, the largest in the Negev. The Canaanite water system was so sophisticated that 1,500 years after the Canaanite city was abandoned, the Israelites adapted part of the system to supply the needs of their fortress. In “The Well of Arad,” Ruth Amiran, Rolf Goethert and Ornit Ilan guide us through this water system—from its source to a rock-cut channel, and, finally, to two large cisterns in the Israelite fortress.
One of Israel’s most distinguished archaeologists, Amiran is author of the seminal Ancient Pottery of the Holy Land and of Ancient Arad. The latter is a scientific report on her excavations at Canaanite Arad, which she continues to direct as an ongoing excavation. Goethert and Ilan are Amiran’s assistants and coworkers in this unusual reclamation of the Arad well.
A gold ring with a bezel in the form of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was the subject of the article “Ancient Gold Ring Depicts the Holy Sepulchre,” BAR 12:03, by Yaakov Meshorer. Meshorer dated the ring, excavated near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, to the Crusader period or later (12th–16th centuries). Shulamit Eisenstadt, bibliographer and research associate for Encyclopedia Biblica, disagrees; the ring’s design, its locus in the excavation and comparative art all attest to a Byzantine date (sixth century). The evidence in “Jesus’ Tomb Depicted on a Byzantine Gold Ring From Jerusalem” is beautiful and takes us to museums all over the world.
In “Neolithic Statues, God-Fearers and a Political Candidate Amidst the Maelstrom,” BAR editor Hershel Shanks brings us up-to-date on the Atlanta, Georgia, sessions of the Annual Meeting, where 4,000 Biblical scholars listened to 700 lectures in four days. In an accompanying article, “Dever’s ‘Sermon on the Mound,’” Shanks describes the New Biblical Archaeology proclaimed at the Annual Meeting by the man who once urged abandoning the term “Biblical archaeology,” William G. Dever.
At Arad in the Negev desert Israelite kings early on built a fortress to protect the trade route between Philistia and Elath on the Red Sea. Destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries, the fortress suffered a massive destruction in the sixth century B.C. when the Babylonians overran and destroyed Judah. When archaeologists excavated the series of fortresses, each built atop the prior one, they found an archive of Hebrew letters from the files of one of the last commanders of the fortress. The letters vividly reflect life at the time and the precarious situation of the threatened fortress. The […]