Bible and archaeology news
When a group of Israeli students found a 3,300-year-old Egyptian scarab amulet during the excavation of a site at Sepphoris, Israel Antiquities Authorities (IAA) dig director Nimrod Getzov said, “The girls’ eyes lit up.”
Thanks to an Israeli Education Ministry program aimed at instilling in students a sense of connection to their history, 350 10th graders from ORT Kiryat Bialik high school (located about 7 miles from Haifa) participated in a week-long archaeological excavation trip throughout the Galilee with the IAA. The discovery, which occurred during a salvage excavation at Sepphoris, was reported by Israel Hayom and based on a Hebrew press release issued by the IAA.
Dr. Daphna Ben-Tor, curator of Egyptian archaeology at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, analyzed the Egyptian scarab amulet. According to Israel Hayom, Ben-Tor explained that “this is an Egyptian scarab … mostly used as amulets for anyone who could afford one. In most cases, they were used as burial amulets, but also [worn] by the living, and were generally originally set in rings.”
Ben-Tor noted that the Egyptian scarab amulet is dated to the time of the Egyptian pharaohs of the 19th Dynasty, c. 1292–1189 B.C.E.
The Galilee is one of the most evocative locales in the New Testament—the area where Jesus was raised and where many of the Apostles came from. Our free eBook The Galilee Jesus Knew focuses on several aspects of Galilee: how Jewish the area was in Jesus’ time, the ports and the fishing industry that were so central to the region, and several sites where Jesus likely stayed and preached.
Why would an Egyptian amulet be found in Israel? In a BAR article, scholar Peter van der Veen explains, “Egypt was not new to Canaan in the 19th dynasty … Canaan was in effect an Egyptian province during the 14th century B.C.E.”
Ramesses II of the 19th Dynasty is one of the most celebrated Egyptian pharaohs. Ruling c. 1279–1213 B.C.E., he was famous for multiple campaigns in the Levant, including the Battle of Kadesh against the Hittite king, Muwatallis, and his allied forces. Meant to expand Egypt’s Syrian frontier, the climactic campaign ended in a draw, though Ramesses subsequently set up monuments commemorating his victory.
Interestingly, Sepphoris excavation director Nimrod Getzov noted, “I was surprised to see that it was an Egyptian amulet, because things like this are usually found in graves. Our excavation focuses on periods that pre-date the amulet, and it’s intriguing how it happened to wind up here.”
Located three miles northwest of Nazareth, Sepphoris—Zippori in Hebrew—is best remembered for later Jewish history. The city served as the capital of the Galilee under the Jewish Hasmonean dynasty until about 20 C.E., when it was replaced by a new city on the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, by Herod Antipas. Later, in the second century C.E., the city became a center of Rabbinic Jewish learning and law, as the site where the Sanhedrin (the highest Jewish court) met and where Judah Ha-Nasi compiled the Mishnah, the earliest Rabbinic text.
ORT Kiryat Bialik high school’s principal, Rafi Porat, commented that for the students, the mere exposure to the archaeological excavation greatly helps teach the history and heritage of the Jewish people. Gilad Zinamon, who serves in the IAA as the education coordinator for northern Israel, added that “you can learn a lot in history class, but there’s nothing like discovering you’re holding a greeting from the past in your hands to form a connection with the legacy of this country.”
David Malamud is an intern at the Biblical Archaeology Society.
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