Excavations Unearth Rich Finds

Tel Aviv University’s institute of Archaeology has announced the results of its third season of excavations at Tel Aphek–also known as Antipatris–and they are truly impressive. The rich discoveries include rare cuneiform tablets, remains of fortifications and settlements and a wealth of artifacts that confirm that Tel Aphek and the city built on the site much later by King Herod (37 to 4 BCE) was a key junction on an international highway of commerce in ancient times.

Tel Aphek is located east of the Israeli town of Petach Tikva, near the first ridge of the low mountains through which early roads linked the coastal plain with Jerusalem. The latest digs were carried out by some 150 archaeologists, including students and volunteers, under the leadership of Dr. Moshe Kochavi of Tel Aviv University, Dr. George L. Kelm of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and Dr. Bruce Cresson of Baylor University, Waco, Texas.

The earliest remains they unearthed were of a settlement dating back to the early bronze age. Its walls and streets indicated an early effort at urban planning. On top of that were the remains of middle bronze age settlements–about 2000 BCE–with fortified walls, and late bronze age settlements of the Caananite era. Also discovered in various parts of the Tel were the remains of the Herodian fortress destroyed during the conquest by the Roman General Vespasian in 67 CE.

A large amount of pottery, both commercial and household, was found, including jars, jugs and cooking pots and chalices identified with various historical ages, including the first Egyptian dynasty. The most impressive find was two clay tablet fragments inscribed in cuneiform script. Ten lines of inscription on one seem to be a fragment of a Summerian-Accadian lexicon containing such agricultural terms as “plow,” “wheat” and “hoe.” and the name of the Sun God, “Shamash.” The second tablet was an administrative table with numerals.

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