When visiting Israel, you’ll soon discover the richness of history that is before you. Israel is marked with historical finds and discoveries almost daily. Everywhere you look, you will surely see something that dates back from a time long ago or at least tells the story of it. This makes is nearly impossible to narrow down the top 10 archeological discoveries found in Israel because almost everything that is discovered confirms or contradicts what we have known for centuries. How can one assess which is the most significant? Here we will narrow down and share the discoveries that stick out amongst the rest and what we find to be the most interesting.
1. A Corner Piece of the Ark of the Covenant
According to the Bible, the tabernacle housing the Ark of the Covenant once stood in the area of the West Bank town of Shiloh. In 2019, an excavation took place at Tel Shiloh, where a team of 200 archeologists and volunteers underneath Dr. Scott Stripling, head of the Associates for Biblical Research, turned up a horn that appeared to be the corner of the altar. This horn was purported to be one of the four corners of the Ark of the Covenant as recounted in the book of Kings. In 1Kings 2:28 it tells of Joab fleeing to the tent of the Lord and taking hold of the horns of the altar.
(1Kings 2:28 “ When the news reached Joab, who had conspired with Adonijah though not with Absalom, he fled to the tent of the Lord and took hold of the horns of the altar” NIV)
2. A Wall Fit For A Giant
In the Philistine city of Gath, a recent discovery was made dating back to the 11th century in the time of King David. Layers of walls 13 feet thick were discovered in a previously excavated area which dated back to the 9th and 10th centuries. These original findings were half as thick as the recent findings. Archeologist, Aren Maier was part of this discovery and called the extra thick layers, ‘Goliath layers’ after the city’s most infamous resident ‘Goliath the Giant’. (in 1Samuel 17 the story of ‘pre’ King David is mentioned slewing the giant Goliath) It makes sense that a giant may have sprouted from this recent giant sized discovery but there is still much to unearth and learn about this ancient era.
3. The Story of the Loaves and Fish
A Byzantine church caught fire in the 7th century, destroying much of the church that nestled in the ancient city of Hippos. Found beneath its ashes, however, was a mosaic that depicted the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000. The church itself overlooked the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and was destroyed due to invaders in AD 614. The traditional site of where Jesus is known to have fed the 5,000 is further north of the Byzantine church but the discovery of the mosaic may tell something different of where the event actually took place.
4. The Dead Sea Scrolls
One of the most infamous discoveries in Israel is the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls are pieces of parchment over 2,000 years old revealing ancient text. They were found in the desert caves of Qumran in the Judean desert where researchers after, have studied the pieces of parchment relentlessly. Recently, they discovered salty minerals on the Temple Scroll that may have preserved this particular scroll amongst all the others. The Dead Sea Scrolls are known to include the oldest known copies of all the biblical books as well as texts of law, cultic literature of the Judean Desert cult, certificates and more. Because of this they present a perspective into Judaism and the beginning of Christianity.
5. The Tel Dan Stele
A slab with ancient text was discovered one day by archeologist Dan Biran who was lead on an excavation in Tel Dan. At first the slab went unnoticed, until Brians eye caught text carved into the slab which later turned out to be the part of a structure erected by King Aram. The text depicts the defeat of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel and boasts of the death of Yehoram ben Ahab who was the king of the northern kingdom as well as Ahaziah, who was king in the house of David. The piece of slab is called the Tel Dan stele and its discovery has ended the debate as to whether King David was a historical figure or fable.
6. World’s Oldest Artifact
Known as the ‘Venus’ figurine, this artifact dates back over 250,000 years and is counted as the world’s oldest artifact. Based on its appearance it doesn’t seem to be much but marks of modification are discernable and tell of its more primitive timeline. Professor Naama Goren-Inbar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem led the excavation at Birkat Ram where the figurine was discovered. It is noted as being made from a less than so called modern day human and rather from a primitive hominin, Homo erectus or other.
7. DNA Confirms Philistine Ties
Genetic analysis confirms that the Philistines descended from people who migrated to the Levant from Greece, Sardinia or the Iberian Peninsula over some 3,000 years ago. Bodies of ancient individuals were discovered at a Philistine archeological site where DNA was extracted, leading to these new revelations. In the Bible, Philistines are mentioned countless times and are amongst ancient Egyptian writings as well. These texts are what led archeologists to Ashkelon, a city known today as Israel, where artifacts were found reminiscent of those in the Bronze Age. Genetic analysis ties these cultural relics to migrants that brought them to the Levant confirming their relation to the Philistines.
8. Ancient Crucifixion
It was just outside of Jerusalem that the remains of a crucified man were discovered at Givat Hamivtar. The cross he was crucified on resembled two parts; the upright bar called the stipes crucis and the horizontal bar, called the patibulum. The crucified man was placed on his back over the stipes crucis and his hands nailed to the patibulum. Archeologists believe it was actually the wrist that the nails were driven through as human hands could not hold up the weight. The man discovered was also affixed to the cross by his feet which revealed a different method than that originally expected. Based on recent findings, archeologists now have further insight into Roman crucifixions.
9. New Understanding
Ugaritic texts were discovered from the site of Ugarit on the northern coast of Syria along the Mediterranean Sea. The Ugarit was a well known Canaanite city state in the second millennium BC. The texts themselves were found in the palace and temple areas. It’s known that Ugarit reached its height during the period where written literature flourished between the fifteenth and thirteenth century BC. Unfortunately, the city state reached its end around 1200 BC when Mediterranean enemies destroyed it. The Ugaritic texts hold significance however, because they provide material referencing the Canaanite religion giving further understanding of Old Testament context; especially parallels between the Canaanite and Israelite religious practices.
10. The Home of St. Peter
It was over 25 years ago that archaeologists discovered the first century A.D. home in Capernaum that is believed to have been inhabited by Jesus during his Galilean ministry. Based on material remains, the house appears to have been a place for community gatherings and is significant to early Christianity and its association to Jesus and his disciple Peter.
Well, there you have it! Our top ten archeological discoveries found in Israel. We hope you enjoyed this list of discoveries and that it prompts you to further dig into the world of Israel and all it has to offer.