Queen of Jerusalem Archaeology
Dr. Eilat Mazar (1956–2021), who passed away on May 25, 2021, was archaeology royalty. Her grandfather, Benjamin Mazar, directed excavations at Beth Shearim, Tell Qasile, and, most notably, Jerusalem. He served as Professor of Biblical History and Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for decades—and even became president of the university. Her cousin, Amihai Mazar, also pursued archaeology at the Hebrew University and most recently directed excavations at Tel Rehov. Eilat’s first experience with archaeology was working on one of her grandfather’s digs. Later, she joined the team of Yigal Shiloh’s excavations in the City of David, where she was quickly promoted to supervise her own area. She studied archaeology at the Hebrew University, where she focused on Phoenician culture, notably excavating the site of Achziv along the northern coast of Israel. While she made significant contributions to understanding the Phoenicians, Eilat Mazar became a household name when she returned to dig in Jerusalem with her grandfather. Following further in her grandfather’s footsteps, she joined the faculty of the Hebrew University. She later directed her own excavations in the City of David and uncovered the possible remains of King David’s palace, and the bullae (seal impressions) of two royal officials, Jehucal and Gedaliah, who the Bible says were hostile to the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38:1). She also dug at the Ophel, at the base of the Temple Mount, where she uncovered bullae of King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah. Most recently, she published a volume, Over the Crossroads of Time: Jerusalem’s Temple Mount Monumental Staircases, that reanalyzed her grandfather’s excavations and argued that the grand staircase leading to the Temple Mount, whose foundations he had uncovered, was much grander than originally thought. As she discovered, it was likely a four-way monumental stairway that was gradually completed during the opening decades of the first century C.E. In addition to her prowess as an archaeologist, Eilat was kind and gracious. Eilat leaves behind three sons and a daughter. She will be missed by family, friends, and the archaeology community, alike. May her memory be for a blessing!
Eilat Mazar’s Reaction to the Criticism of Her Reading Back to Seal Controversy: From Temech to Shlomit Introduction I accept the suggestion made by Peter van der Veen and followed by many other scholars to read Sh l m t. Actually, I love it. For the time being, this reading is preferable to my reading of t m h… Eilat Mazar: The Family of Temech Has Returned Home Back to Seal Controversy: From Temech to Shlomit Introduction According to the Book of Nehemiah, the Temech family, who served as “Nethinim,” or temple servants, were sent into the Babylonian exile after the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE and went back to work with the return of Nehemiah…
Is This the Prophet Isaiah’s Signature? The Ophel excavations at the foot of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount have yielded numerous exciting discoveries, including a new Biblical signature. Archaeologist Eilat Mazar reveals what may be a seal impression of the prophet Isaiah—unveiled here for the first time ever—in honor of Hershel Shanks’s retirement as Editor of BAR. Achziv Cemeteries: Buried Treasure from Israel’s Phoenician Neighbor Like so many archaeological projects, the excavation of the Phoenician tombs at Achziv was prompted by looters. In 1941, when Great Britain governed the land of Israel, the Mandatory Department of Antiquities assigned Dr. Immanuel Ben-Dor to look for tombs that the looters had missed. The Wall That Nehemiah Built Even before Nehemiah came from Babylonia to Jerusalem in the middle of the fifth century B.C.E., he knew that he wanted to rebuild the broken-down walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:3). When he arrived, he promptly made his famous night journey around the city, surveying the dilapidated city wall (Nehemiah 2:11–15). On the eastern slope, the wall of stones was so badly collapsed that his donkey could not navigate the path (Nehemiah 2:14). Hadrian’s Legion After the Romans destroyed the Temple and burned Jerusalem in 70 C.E., the Xth Legion (Fretensis) of the Roman army camped on the southwestern hill of the city, in the area known today as the Citadel, by Jaffa Gate.1 This was not, however, enough to stifle the resurgence of Jewish nationalism. In 132 C.E. what is known as the Second Jewish Revolt (the so-called Bar-Kochba Revolt) erupted, only to be suppressed, like the First Jewish Revolt, by the Roman army, this time led by the Emperor Hadrian. But it took him three years and many men. At its end, Hadrian ordered the city razed. Jews were forbidden to enter the city except once a year to mourn the destruction of their temple. Did I Find King David’s Palace? There can be little doubt that King David had a palace. The Bible tells us that Hiram of Tyre (who would later help King Solomon build the Temple) constructed the palace for David: “King Hiram of Tyre sent envoys to David, with cedar logs, carpenters and stonemasons; and they built a palace for David” (2 Samuel 5:11). Nine years ago I wrote an article in BAR suggesting where, in my opinion, the remains of King David’s palace might lie.1 I proposed looking in the northern part of the most ancient area of Jerusalem, known as the City of David. Temple Mount Excavations Unearth the Monastery of the Virgins For ten years, between 1968 and 1978, the area south of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem was intensively excavated by archaeologist Benjamin Mazar.1 His many spectacular discoveries included the remains of a monumental staircase that led up to the southern enclosure wall of the massive platform built by Herod to support the gleaming Temple that he had luxuriously rebuilt. Mazar also found a previously unknown caliph’s palace complex from the early Arab period (late seventh to early eighth century C.E.), a glorious era in Islamic history that also saw the construction of the golden Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque atop Herod’s Temple Mount. Excavate King David’s Palace! A careful examination of the Biblical text combined with sometimes unnoticed results of modern archaeological excavations in Jerusalem enable us, I believe, to locate the site of King David’s palace. Even more exciting, it is in an area that is now available for excavation. If some regard as too speculative the hypothesis I shall put forth in this article, my reply is simply this: Let us put it to the test in the way archaeologists always try to test their theories—by excavation.
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Many thanks for this remembrance of Prof. Eilat Mazar. Her passing was a shock and a great loss. Her courage, her passion for the archaeology of ancient Israel, and her contributions to the field will never be forgotten.