August 2, 2009

Significant Recent Biblical and Christian Archeological Discoveries


Nicopolis ad Istrum

1. Archaeological Excavations Start at Roman and Early Byzantine Site in Central Bulgaria

Nicopolis ad Istrum was founded by Emperor Trajan around 101–106 AD, at the junction of the Yantra River with the Danube, in memory of his victory over the Dacians. The town reached its apogee during the reigns of Trajan, Hadrian (117 - 138 AD), the Antonines (138 - 180 AD) and the Severan dynasty (193 – 235 AD). In 447, the town was destroyed by Attila's Huns.

Nicopolis ad Istrum can be said to have been the birthplace of Germanic literary tradition. In the 4th century, the Gothic bishop, missionary and translator
Ulfilas (Wulfila) obtained permission from Emperor Constantius II to immigrate with his flock of converts to Moesia and settle near Nicopolis ad Istrum in 347-8. There, he invented the Gothic alphabet and translated the Bible from Greek to Gothic.

Ulfilas converted many among the Goths, preaching an Arian Christianity, which, when they reached the western Mediterranean, set them apart from their overwhelmingly Orthodox neighbors and subjects. Many believe that it was the ongoing Arianism of Gothic Christianity that eventually led to the addition of the Filioque to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed at the
Council of Toledo, Spain in 589, in a creedal attempt to bolster the divinity of the Son of God.

Professor Ovcharovs shows the unique 13th century French silver ring discovered at Veliko Tarnovo.

2. Bulgaria Archaeologists Discover 13th Century Monastery, French Jewelry

In the yard of the St Peter and St. Paul Church in the medieval Bulgarian capital of Veliko Tarnovo, Ovcharov and his team found part of a wall and medieval coins within it that are dated from 1210 to 1240.

Ovcharov believes that this was part of the Monastery of the Bulgarian Patriarch in the 13th century. This was the time of the Bulgarian Tsars Kaloyan (1197-1207), Boril (1207-1218), and Ivan Asen II (1218-1241).

The monastery is believed to have been the center of the Tarnovo Patriarchate at the time of the Union of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church with the Catholic Church in the Vatican that latest from 1204, when Pope Innocent III declared Kaloyan "Emperors of Wallachians and Bulgarians" ("Rex Wallahorum et Bulgarorum"), until 1246.

The monastery was reconstructed after Veliko Tarnovo's conquest by the Ottoman Turkish Empire in 1393, later hosted the Tarnovo Bishop. Its remains were fully destroyed in 1913 by an earthquake.

In the 14th century as the Byzantine Empire weakened Tarnovo claimed to be the
Third Rome based on its preeminent cultural influence in the Balkans and the Slavic Orthodox world.

3. Bulgaria: an Archaeology and Treasure Hunting Paradise. Or Hell

To put it briefly, many people - including most Bulgarians - do not realize that all of Bulgaria's territory is literally dotted with archaeological objects from all time periods. Any single rock you pick up from the ground in Bulgaria often would turn out to have a several-thousand-year history of human interaction!

That includes a whole variety of ancient and medieval civilizations - Prehistory, Neolith, Ancient Thrace (which, by the way, is an amazing but widely unknown civilization), Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the two Bulgarian Empires, the Latin Empire of the Crusaders, the Ottoman Empire...


The Vinland Map

4. Vinland Map of America No Forgery, Expert Says

The 15th century Vinland Map, the first known map to show part of America before explorer Christopher Columbus landed on the continent, is almost certainly genuine, a Danish expert said Friday.

Controversy has swirled around the map since it came to light in the 1950s, many scholars suspecting it was a hoax meant to prove that Vikings were the first Europeans to land in North America -- a claim confirmed by a 1960 archaeological find....

The Vinland Map is not a "Viking map" and does not alter the historical understanding of who first sailed to North America. But if it is genuine, it shows that the New World was known not only to Norsemen but also to other Europeans at least half a century before Columbus's voyage.



5. Finding King Herod's Tomb

After a 35-year search, an Israeli archaeologist is certain he has solved the mystery of the biblical figure’s final resting place. Long an object of scholarly as well as popular fascination, Herodium, also called Herodion, was first positively identified in 1838 by the American scholar Edward Robinson, who had a knack for locating biblical landmarks. But where precisely was the king entombed? At the summit of Herodium? At the base? Inside the mountain itself? Josephus didn't say. By the late 1800s, Herod's tomb had become one of biblical archaeology's most sought-after prizes. And for more than a century archaeologists scoured the site. Finally, in 2007, Ehud Netzer of Hebrew University announced that after 35 years of archaeological work he had found Herod's resting place.

Two lines of the cryptic limestone ritual cup found in Jerusalem

Unique Aramaic Inscription From First Century Found in Jerusalem and 2,000-year-old ritual cup found in Old City of Jerusalem

A team of archaeologists has found a unique Aramaic inscription on a stone cup commonly used for ritual purity during the first century, in a dig on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The text isn’t eroded but researchers have been unable to decipher it; the inscription is deliberately cryptic. They do know it contains the Hebrew word for God, YHWH or Yahweh.


7. Pope Confirms Visit to Shroud of Turin; New Evidence on Shroud Emerges

A recent study by French scientist Thierry Castex has revealed that on the shroud are traces of words in Aramaic spelled with Hebrew letters. A Vatican researcher, Barbara Frale, told Vatican Radio July 26 that her own studies suggest the letters on the shroud were written more than 1,800 years ago.

Aerial map of Altinum

8. The Ancient Roman City of Altinum Rises from Venice Lagoon and Ancient Roman City Rises Again and The Map of Altinum, Ancestor of Venice

Aerial photographs taken during a drought two years ago have enabled Italian researchers to produce the most detailed map ever of the ancient Roman city of Altinum, considered by some historians to be the ancestor of modern-day Venice. Archaeologists have known for decades that Altinum, a Roman trading center that thrived between the 1st and 5th centuries C.E., lay below these farm fields. Raised 2to 3 meters above the surrounding marshy lagoon by centuries of human habitation, the city was approximately the size of Pompeii. Its history could stretch back to the Bronze Age, and it dominated the region for at least 600 years before it became a part of the Roman Empire.

United Kingdom:

9. Holy Grail Could be in Kilwinning

Kilwinning could rival Rosslyn Chapel as a major tourist attraction in the wake of claims it is the final resting place of the Holy Grail.

The Irvine Herald can reveal an historic archaeological dig is to take place in the town’s Abbey grounds.

The project is to be carried out by Irvine Bay Regeneration after actor turned historian, Jamie Morton, a recognised expert on Freemasonry, revealed the artefact used by Christ at The Last Supper could have been hidden in the town by the Knights Templar.


10. Attack on Ancient Babylon: Photos

Babylon's Ancient Wonder, Lying in Ruins
History Not Served By U.S. Presence

By Nada Bakri
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, July 29, 2009

HILLA, Iraq -- Maytham Hamzah cast his eyes toward the remains of King Nebuchadnezzar's guest palace in Babylon, one of the world's first great cities. He smiled, bitterly.

"They destroyed the whole country," Hamzah, the head of the Babylon museum, said of U.S. forces in Iraq. "So what are a few old bricks and mud walls in comparison?"

U.S. forces did not exactly destroy the 4,000-year-old city, home of one of the world's original seven wonders, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Even before the troops arrived, there was not much left: a mound of broken mud-brick buildings and archaeological fragments in a fertile plain between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers.

But they did turn it into Camp Alpha, a military base, shortly after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Their 18-month stay there caused "major damage" and represented a "grave encroachment on this internationally known archeological site," a report released this month in Paris by the United Nations' cultural agency, UNESCO, says.

The ruins stretch over a rectangular area measuring 2,100 acres along the western banks of the Euphrates. The site consists of Nebuchadnezzar's palace, which then-President Saddam Hussein rebuilt in the 1980s; the remains of the Temple of Ninmakh; and a palace for royal guests. In addition, there is the Lion of Babylon, a 2,600-year-old sculpture, and the remains of the Ishtar Gate, the most beautiful of the eight gates that once ringed the perimeter of the town. It still bears the symbols of Babylonian gods.

According to the report, which comes after five years of investigation by a team of Iraqi and international experts, foreign troops and contractors bulldozed hilltops and then covered them with gravel to serve as parking lots for military vehicles and trailers. They drove heavy vehicles over the fragile paving of once-sacred pathways.

The report also says that forces built barriers and embankments to protect the base, pulverizing ancient pottery and bricks that were engraved with cuneiform characters. They dug trenches where they stored fuel tanks for their helicopters, which landed near an ancient theater. Among the structures that suffered the most damage, according to the report, were the Ishtar Gate and a processional thoroughfare. Experts also say troops filled their sandbags with soil from a site that was littered with archaeological fragments.

Bricks were looted as well -- both those of Babylonian vintage and newer ones that Hussein used to rebuild parts of the ruins. The latter variety was emblazoned with an ode to himself.
"The damage was so great," said Maryam Mussa, an official from the Iraqi state board of heritage and antiquities, which is in charge of the site. "It would be so difficult to repair it, and nothing can make up for it."

Spokesmen for the U.S. military in Iraq did not respond to requests for comment. But the military has previously said that looting would have been far worse had it not been for the presence of its troops. The military also said in 2005 that it had discussed setting up the base with Iraqi archaeologists in charge of the site.

The site has been closed to the public since 2003. Facing mounting criticism from archaeologists in Iraq and around the world, troops vacated it in summer 2004. It was reopened this June, despite warnings from experts that the ruins might suffer further damage unless they were first restored and given proper protection.

Many residents of Hilla, a town 60 miles south of Baghdad that sits near the ruins, said they have not been to the site because they can't bear to see the damage.

"What ruins are you talking about?" said Jawad Kathem, a 55-year-old owner of a small grocery store in the village of Jumjumah, a few miles away. "There is nothing left of it. It was all destroyed and looted."

"They are occupying forces," said Sabah Hassan, a 41-year-old resident of Hilla who owns a cafe near the ruins. "Nobody can tell them what to do."

On a recent day, wind swept across the deserted ruin as Hamzah, the museum's head, gave a tour to visitors. He recited the history of ancient Babylon with the enthusiasm of someone who had been waiting for years to share his knowledge. The gates of the museum were locked.

"From this room, King Nebuchadnezzar ruled his kingdom," he said as he waved his hand across a spacious room where Nebuchadnezzar II is believed to have sat. The king turned Babylon into one of the wonders of the ancient world. Historians say he was prouder of his construction projects than he was of his many military victories.

Several efforts to restore Babylon have been announced in the past six years, but none has made progress. Now, with security in Iraq improving, officials hope to start work on a $700,000, two-year project funded by the U.S. State Department to restore the site. The United Nations is also trying to name the place a World Heritage site, a designation that would provide support and protection.

"Of course this is not enough, but it is better than nothing," lamented Mussa, the site director. "We had hoped that work would start this year."

On her desk were papers detailing the damage, gathering dust.