Excavations Highlight Late Bronze Age Jaffa

Bible and archaeology news

The history of the port city of Jaffa can be traced well before its role in the Bible. Now part of modern Tel Aviv, Jaffa is mentioned in the 15th-century B.C.E. topographical lists of the Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III. On Monday, September 10, 2012, the Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz announced that this summer’s field season revealed evidence of multiple destruction layers in the second millennium B.C.E., as well as artifacts reflecting the Egyptian presence at the Canaanite city.

Archaeologists have placed Jaffa as the setting for the Egyptian story “The Capture of Joppa,” an early Trojan Horse-like tale in which hundreds of Thutmose III’s soldiers were hidden in baskets and snuck into the city.* While the literary tale should not be read as factual, it may reflect military conflict between rebellious Canaanites and their Egyptian conquerors at this strategic city. In the Biblical period, the city served as a major port used by David and Solomon to import cedar wood for the construction of the First Temple. In the New Testament, Peter’s vision at Jaffa reshaped his evangelism.

In the BAS lecture series DVD Beyond the Bible, renowned archaeologists investigate themes including Egyptian monotheism, Solomon’s mines and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Jaffa Cultural Heritage Project’s 2012 season, associated with Mainz, UCLA, the Old Jaffa Development Company and the Israel Antiquities Authority, clarifies earlier excavation work undertaken by Jacob Kaplan in the mid-20th century. Recent investigation of Ramesses II’s 13th-century B.C.E. fortifications suggest that its gateway was, in fact, destroyed and rebuilt in at least four instances. Furthermore, the 2nd-millennium-focused excavations found additional evidence of the Egyptian presence at the site, including a 14th-century B.C.E. scarab amulet bearing a cartouche of Pharaoh Amenhotep III.

Destruction of the Late Bronze Age fortification gate is visible in the nearby scorched mudbricks. Photo ©: Martin Peilstöcker + The Jaffa Cultural Heritage Project

*Aaron A. Burke and Krystal V. Lords “Egyptians in Jaffa: A Portrait of Egyptian Presence in Jaffa during the Late Bronze Age.” Near Eastern Archaeology 73:1, 2010.

During the Late Bronze Age (1500–1200 B.C.E.), the Eastern Mediterranean boasted a flourishing network of grand empires. An interregional destruction known as the Bronze Age collapse is one of archaeology’s greatest mysteries. Learn more in the Bible History Daily article Bronze Age Collapse: Pollen Study Highlights Late Bronze Age Drought.

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