A Mystery in Jerusalem: a Rare Ancient Message, Encoded in Symbols and Inscriptions, was Discovered in a Ritual Bath Dating to the Second Temple Period
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Penina Shor, curator and director of IAA’s Lunder Family Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Center Project,
Sefi (Yoseph) Porath, archaeologist of Ein Gedi (1970),
and David Merkel of Merkel Technologies Company, Ltd. Israel at the press conference July 20, 2015
“Then, a few minutes later, Sefi (Yoseph Porath), a young volunteer from Kfar Vitkin who, as far as I knew, belonged to the group examining the crevice of the letters, rushed up to me panting and pale. ‘I have found something important!’ he cried. ‘A basket filled with objects and nearby, all sorts of things.’ Sefi was a restive fellow who was always on the go, inquisitive, curious about what was happening at other places. To him the grass elsewhere always looked greener. As soon as he saw the newly transferred group - just then moved by me to examine the crevice in the third hall - he went to ‘visit’ them and see what they were doing. ‘And’, he continued to tell me, ‘just a few moments before I reached them I trod on a stone which wobbled suspiciously. So I removed it and under it I I saw this crevice full of finds.’ (Bar Kokhba, by Yigael Yadin, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971 p.143).
“Soon after the beginning of this new work method, not far away from the crevice of the letters, under a few medium-sized stones and within a rather thick layer of bats’ dung - two iron knives were found lying on top of each other and nearby two spindle whorls. Close by these, Sefi found a coin lying on one of the stones and it was easy to read its inscription: on one side ‘Shimeon’ near the depiction of a palm tree, and on the other side ‘of the freedom of Jerusalem’ near a vine leaf. This fellow Sefi, who also found the big cache, had sharp eyes indeed!” (Bar Kokhba, by Yigael Yadin, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971 p.194).
Sefi started out as a volunteer in the ’50’s working under Yigael Yadin - Israel’s preeminent archaeologist. By 1970 he was working (together with Prof. D. Barag) overseeing the excavation at Ein Gedi. Today, he is a living link to the past, a treasured senior archaeologist in the present, and thanks to his work - a key link to the future. Today, many of the finds from the Bar Kochba dig can be seen in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
Some of the finds made by Sefi (Yoseph) Porath in 1956 - part of the Babata trove
now on display at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
A tunic and two sandals are pictured above.
TOARCH ’15 ATLANTA
TORAH & ARCHAEOLOGY
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