Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ramat Rachel 2 - Everything you know is wrong

Ramat Rachel
Originally uploaded by fifteeniguana
As I said, Yohanan Aharoni was the first archaeologist to dig here, back in the fifties. He thought he had found an Iron Age palace belonging to Hezekiah, king of Judah around 700 bc. Problem with that logic is who builds a palace three miles from their main palace?

Oded Lipschits is running the dig now and he has a different theory. Let me exlain the layout and see if you come to the same conclusion.

What we have here is a palace (or palatial buliding, anyway), a citadel (small fort) in front of itm and in front of that something unique in Judah: imported brown topsoil with water fountains and paths: a planned garden.

So, around 700 bce, the time Judah became a vassal state of Assyria, this impressive building went up three miles from, Jerusalem the capital. It looked down on the capital, and on major trade routes. It cotinued to be occupied as Judah was taken over by the Babylonians, the Persians and the Greeks. Then the Hasmonean era began and Judah was free (think of the
Maccabees and Chanukah) and the Ramat Rachel palace was destroyed by fire.

Do you see it? Oded thinks (if I understood him ocrrectly) that this wasn't a Judahite palace. It was the adminsitrative office of the occupying power, close enough to the capital to keep an eye
on it, but not in-their-faces where it would draw trouble. And as soon as they Jews liberated their country they destroyed the
occupier's palace.

Anyway, that's Oded's theory at the moment. The interesting thing about archaeology is that tomorrow's dig may change it all.

For example, on the first day they gave us a tour of the site, telling us what they thought was going on each each area (there are about eight active sites this year's season). On Thursday night we repeated the tour for a review of the week, and at one
site everything they thought they knew had been overturned in four days work.

As I understand it they were expecting to find an extension of that garden. Instead they found a trench, maybe three meters deep, five meters wide and well, after establishing that it went at least fifty meters long they stopped for a think. The photo above shows Oded at the end of the trench.

Almost certainly it is the foundation trench for an outer walll, but no
one expected to find a wall there at all. Hmm...

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