Biblical Archaeology’s Top Ten Discoveries of 2014 (Part 1, #1-3)

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Those two ideas are speculative. But the discovery of coins minted in 17-18 AD under the foundation level has led the archaeologists to conclude that at least part of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount was not built by Herod the Great but by his heirs decades later.

3. Sheshonq’s scarab

A scarab bearing the name of the Egyptian pharaoh Sheshonq was discovered in 2006 but not announced until earlier this year. Sheshonq I has been identified as the biblical pharaoh Shishak, a contemporary of Solomon and his son Rehoboam. The scarab provides new evidence for Shishak’s raid into Judah as described in II Chronicles 12:2-9.

 The scarab was found in the ruins of an ancient copper smelting facility at a site called Khirbat Hamra Ifdan in Jordan, south of the Dead Sea.

Scarabs, coins, seals, and bullae are very small but can have a significant archaeological impact because of the information they reveal. Earlier this year, another Egyptian scarab was found at Khirbet el-Maqatir, from the Hyksos period.

2. Khirbet Summeily bullae

In recent decades, some archaeologists and Bible scholars have argued that David and Solomon were minor or mythological leaders and not the major rulers depicted in the Bible. But the discovery this summer of six clay seal impressions—or bullae—from the 10th century BC indicate significant administrative activity at a remote outpost at Khirbet Summeily near Gaza, on the ancient border between Judah and Philistia. The bullae are the latest in a series of discoveries that support the existence of a major Jerusalem-based kingdom in the 10th century.

1. Herod’s Gate at Herodium

The discovery of what was believed to be the tomb of Herod the Great in 2007 ended a 30-year ­­search by the late Israeli archaeologist Ehud Netzer. But this desert palace/fortress still has more secrets to reveal. Earlier this month, Hebrew University archaeologists announced the discovery of a monumental entrance—60 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 60 feet high—providing direct access to the inner courtyard.

Archaeologists say the entryway may never have been used. Instead, Herod ordered the entrance backfilled and the adjacent royal theater covered up, creating the setting for his monumental mausoleum.

Editor’s Note: Two of these findings—the circular ark and Herod’s gate—are also found on the Biblical Archaeology Society’s top 10 list for 2014. CT also compiled the top 10 finds of 2013 and reported on the coin that may have cracked the mystery of Jesus’ birthday (spoiler alert: it’s not December 25), a building that might have been King David’s palace, and other archaeological stories. 

Gordon Govier is editor of ARTIFAX magazine and host of The Book & The Spade radio program

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