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In time for Hanukkah, archaeologists reveal battle-scarred stronghold in opposition to Maccabees

JERUSALEM (RNS) — Israeli archaeologists have found a 2,100-year-old stronghold they consider constitutes bodily proof of the yearslong armed battle whose essential battle is well known by Jews at present throughout Hanukkah.

What the archaeologists have discovered, they are saying, was constructed by the losers of that battle: the Seleucids, forces of the occupying Greek empire, who have been doing their finest to stave off assaults by the Hasmoneans — a household of Jewish clergymen led by Mattathias and his son Judah — referred to as Judah the Maccabee. The Seleucids have been making an attempt to eradicate Jewish worship and substitute it with paganism.

Hanukkah, which begins this yr on Sunday night (Nov. 28), commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabees defeated the Hellenistic military about 164 BCE, opening the way in which for Hasmonean chief and Jewish excessive priest John Hyrcanus to finish his conquest of the area of Idumea, the biblical Edom. Hyrcanus subsequently dominated the nation from 140 BCE to 104 BCE.   

The archaeologists dated the assault on the stronghold to Hyrcanus’ conquest of the area of Idumea round 112 BCE.

“The excavation web site gives tangible proof of the Hanukkah tales,” the excavation administrators Saar Ganor, Vladik Lifshits and Ahinoam Montagu mentioned on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in an announcement. “It seems that we have now found a constructing that was a part of a fortified line erected by the Hellenistic military commanders to guard the big Hellenistic metropolis of Maresha from a Hasmonean offensive.” 

An aerial view of the employees at an excavation web site in Lachish Forest. Picture by Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquities Authority, courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority


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However based mostly on the injury performed to the constructing in antiquity, the Seleucid defenses “have been unsuccessful,” the archaeologists mentioned. 

Finds from the excavation: pottery, slingshot stones, weapons, etc. Photo by Davida Eisenberg-Degen courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Finds from the excavation: pottery, slingshot stones, weapons, and so forth. Picture by Davida Eisenberg-Degen, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Situated within the Lachish Forest, about an hour’s drive southwest of Jerusalem, the fortified construction overlooks Maresha, then the biggest metropolis within the space. The construction was constructed on a peak that gives a sweeping view of a significant historical thoroughfare.

The excavators, who have been aided on the web site by at-risk youth and dozens of Israeli highschool college students finding out archaeology as a part of their school entrance examination, found a whole bunch of things, together with burned wood beams, pottery, iron weapons and plenty of cash courting again to the interval.

The 45-foot-by-45-foot construction was clearly constructed to resist a army assault: Its partitions, as soon as 25 ft excessive and 9 ft thick, have been constructed of enormous stones positioned at an angle to forestall climbers from broaching them. 

After eradicating 1000’s of fallen stones, the excavators situated seven rooms, with their preserved partitions reaching greater than 6 ft in top.


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Eli Eskozido, common director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, known as the construction’s discovery “thrilling.”

The excavation was joined by high-school students specializing in the Ministry of Education’s Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology curriculum. Photo by Tzachi Zisso, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

The excavation was joined by highschool college students specializing within the Ministry of Schooling’s Land of Israel Research and Archaeology curriculum. Picture by Tzachi Zisso, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

“The tales of the Maccabees are coming to life earlier than our eyes, and that is probably the most fascinating a part of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s work, when devoted, hardworking archaeologists breathe life into the historic annals of the individuals who handed via this land,” Eskozido mentioned.

“In a number of days, we will probably be celebrating Hanukkah,” he added, “whose central theme is the Hasmoneans’ defeat of the Hellenists, resulting in the institution of the primary unbiased sovereign Jewish entity. The Hasmoneans may have had no concept that 2,000 years later, college students residing within the state of Israel can be following of their footsteps. This can be very thrilling.” 

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