UNC Charlotte Team Discovers Evidence of the Babylonian Conquest of Jerusalem
The director of the archaeological team excavating Mount Zion in Jerusalem told The Algemeiner on Monday that their sensational discovery of evidence of the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem was intentionally announced on August 11 — the day this year that the Jewish fast of Tisha B’av, which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples, was observed.
Prof. Shimon Gibson, a professor of history at University of North Carolina Charlotte, explained that his team made two major discoveries this year: the first was a trench dug to defend against the Crusaders in 1099 while the second, much older, find was evidence of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 587/586 BCE.
Because the two discoveries were from different eras, they were announced separately. The trench was announced in July, the anniversary of the 1099 siege when Jerusalem was sacked by the First Crusade. The discovery of the Babylonian siege, which ended with the destruction of the First Temple was announced later, on the day when Jews mourn the destruction of both Temples.
The dig was co-directed by Gibson, Rafi Lewis, a senior lecturer at the Ashkelon Academic College and a fellow of Haifa University, and James Tabor, a professor of religious studies at UNC Charlotte. UNC Charlotte is the only academic institution outside of Israel licensed to carry out archaeological excavations in Jerusalem.
The mix of artifacts found led to the conclusion that the dig uncovered the site of conquest. According to a statement announcing the discovery, the artifacts included “pottery and lamps, side-by-side with evidence of the Babylonian siege represented by burnt wood and ashes, and a number of Scythian-type bronze and iron arrowheads which are typical of that period.”
Gibson explained that because of where they were found, the artifacts do not suggest a garbage dump.
“We know that this is not some dumping area, but the south-western neighborhood of the Iron Age city – during the 8th century BCE the urban area extended from the ‘City of David’ area to the south-east and as far as the Western Hill where we are digging,” he said.
Gibson added: “However, in this case, the combination of an ashy layer full of artifacts, mixed with arrowheads, and a very special ornament indicates some kind of devastation and destruction. Nobody abandons golden jewelry and nobody has arrowheads in their domestic refuse.”
He noted also that the arrowheads, called ‘Scythian arrowheads,’ were commonly used by Babylonian warriors at that time, even outside of Israel. “Together, this evidence points to the historical conquest of the city by Babylon because the only major destruction we have in Jerusalem for this period is the conquest of 587/586 BCE,” he said.
Gibson told The Algemeiner that “Archaeology is political in Jerusalem,” but that the area on Mount Zion where UNC Charlotte conducts its excavations has been free from conflicts with nearby residents. The area had been a no-man’s land prior to 1967.