Monumental Roman-era synagogue uncovered

Archaeologists digging just a few kilometers from the fishing village where Jesus is believed to have preached, have uncovered a monumental Roman-era synagogue with an exquisite, colorful mosaic floor with fine female faces.

“An inscription in Hebrew has two female faces on either side. One is destroyed and the other is complete and is absolutely spectacular,” Jodi Magness, a professor of Early Judaism at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told The Media Line.

Magness, together with David Amit and Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority, are carrying out the excavations at Huqoq near the northwestern shores of the Sea of Galilee.

Digging through the remnants of a Palestinian village abandoned in 1948 and later bulldozed, archaeologists came upon an ancient Jewish village centered around the large synagogue. The ruins date from the Late Roman period, approximately of the 4th century, a time on the cusp of an “explosion of synagogue building,” Magness said.

“It’s contemporary with synagogues like Capernaum and Hamat Tiberias and Beit Alpha,” she said, adding that the town itself was mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud.

At first they discovered large, well cut stones, indicating an impressive public edifice they assumed to be a synagogue. These assumptions were confirmed when they began excavating down to the floor.

“We had been digging down through the dirt fill and one of volunteers who was on a dig for the first time was gently hoeing and suddenly felt something hard. He got very excited and called me over. We could see a little bit of the mosaic sticking out of the dirt and at that point I got very excited too and we shut down the area until we got our conservator on site to work on the mosaic,” Magness recalled enthusiastically.

One of the mosaics, which are made up of tiny colored stone cubes, shows a biblical scene of Samson placing torches between the tails of foxes (as related in the book of Judges 15). The other major mosaic held the faces with the Hebrew inscription which refers to rewards for those who perform good deeds.

“This discovery is significant because only a small number of ancient (Late Roman) synagogue buildings are decorated with mosaics showing biblical scenes, and only two others have scenes with Samson (one is at another site just a couple of miles from Huqoq),” said Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor in the department of religious studies in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences.

She said the fancy floor and large stones used to construct the synagogue’s walls showed that the village synagogue and nearby houses were built by an affluent society. In some ways, it appeared beyond what a small village like Huqoq would naturally have built.

“That was a little bit surprising to me,” Magness said. “I did not expect the level of prosperity that we see in the village context because this was a village not a town or a city. I am kind of dumbfounded really.”

Besides the fact that it was located near a spring, on a major trade route and surrounded by fertile land, Magness noted that ancient rabbinical sources mention Huqoq was known for its mustard plants.

“I guess mustard was lucrative,” she said.

Only portions of the synagogue have been uncovered so far. Magness said she believes the scale of the building is similar to the one uncovered in Bar Am, an opulent structure from a similar period in the upper Galilee near Safed. She said that the Huqoq synagogue was partially intact, with walls standing to half their original first floor height, and with original plaster.

The mosaic was further dispelled the notion that bans on graven images kept Jews from putting figurines in their synagogues.

“One of the big surprises in the early 20th century when many of these synagogues of this period came to light for the first time was that many of them are decorated with figured images and sometimes even pagan images and this sort of revolutionized our understanding of Judaism in this period. So apparently Jews in this period were not bothered by these kinds of images and chose to decorate their synagogues with them,” Magness said. “Now that we have this wonderful discovery we do want to share it with the public, but it is going to take time because we are still in the midst of a long term excavation project,” she said. 

Options include removing the mosaic for display in a museum or turning the site into an archaeological park, but that depends on the total finds made after a few seasons. Meanwhile, the findings have been covered over to prevent pillaging and damage until next summer when the excavations are scheduled to continue.

Second Temple artifacts uncovered in Jerusalem

Artifacts from the Second Temple period were found in Jerusalem.

A sword in a scabbard that belonged to a Roman soldier and an engraving of the Temple’s menorah on a stone object were discovered in recent days during excavation work in the 2,000-year-old drainage channel discovered between the City of David and the Jerusalem Archeological Garden near the Western Wall.

The findings were announced on the eve of Tisha B’av, which commemorates the destruction of both the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. 

The channel served as a hiding place for residents of Jerusalem from the Romans during the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.

The excavations are being conducted on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority and are underwritten by the City of David Foundation.

The 2,000-year-old iron sword was discovered still in its leather scabbard, along with parts of the belt that carried the sword.

The engraving of the menorah shows that its base was tripod shaped. Researchers believe that someone who saw the menorah was impressed by its beauty and etched his impressions on the stone, afterwards tossing it away.

Oldest ancient teeth found in Israeli cave

Eight teeth found in a cave in central Israel are reportedly the earliest remains of Homo sapiens ever discovered.

The teeth, discovered in a cave near Rosh Haayin, east of Tel Aviv, have been estimated to be about 400,000 years old. If the initial findings are confirmed, it would overturn accepted scientific theory that Homo sapiens, the direct descendent of modern man, evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago and migrated north.

The find, discovered by a team of international archeologists under the auspices of Tel Aviv University, was announced Monday.

The study was funded by the government of Spain, the American Museum of Natural History, the Israel Science Foundation and philanthropic groups, including the Irene Levi Sala CARE Archaeological Foundation and the Leakey Foundation.

Ancient Roman bathhouse uncovered in Jerusalem

An 1,800-year-old bathing pool was discovered in excavations prior to the construction of a men’s mikveh in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem.

The pool was part of a bathhouse used by the Tenth Legion, the Roman soldiers who destroyed the Second Temple, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The bathhouse tiles were stamped with the symbols of the Tenth Legion, which was garrisoned in Jerusalem while the pagan city of Aelia Capotilina was built on the ruins of Jerusalem.

“Another interesting discovery that caused excitement during the excavation is the paw print of a dog that probably belonged to one of the soldiers,” said Ofer Sion, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “The paw print was impressed on the symbol of the legion on one of the roof tiles, and it could have happened accidentally or have been intended as a joke.”

It was the first discovery of a building that belonged to the Roman Legion, the antiquities authority said. The remains of the ancient Roman bathhouse will be integrated in the new mikveh slated to be built in the Jewish Quarter.

Armchair archeologists can explore Qumran virtually

After glancing at the nearby caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were stored, I walked through the entrance to the main building at Qumran, checked out the scriptorium with its ink wells and oil lamps and the pottery-making workshop, and then up to the four-story tower for spotting approaching Roman legions.

Although it was a hot day, I was perfectly comfortable because my virtual walking tour of the desert settlement was conducted at a sophisticated UCLA computer site, courtesy of the Qumran Visualization Project.

“What we’ve built here is a fully reconstructed, three-dimensional, real-time, interactive model of Khirbet Qumran,” explained Robert C. Cargill, a graduate student in the UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.

Joining Cargill was his department chairman, professor William Schniedewind, who initiated the project to graphically enliven his class on ancient Israel and to probe current scholarly disputes on the genesis of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

After a Bedouin shepherd discovered the first scrolls in a cave in 1947, archaeologists turned their attention to nearby Qumran. Roland de Vaux, a French Dominican priest, was the first to excavate the site in 1951 and concluded that it was the communal home of a pious Jewish sect, the Essenes, who created the scrolls.

Hardly were his conclusions published, when scholars began to question his theory, a debate that has continued to this day.

As further excavations revealed more about the original structures, some experts backed de Vaux’s assertions. But others proposed that the site was a fortress constructed by the Hasmoneans, whose victory against the ancient Greek occupiers is celebrated during Chanukah.

A third interpretation held that the place had been a mega-mansion, built as a winter retreat by a wealthy Jerusalem family.

Taking the excavated remains as its blueprint, the UCLA team began to model the structure wall by wall, reflecting their thickness, strength and, even, texture.

What the model showed was that the ancient inhabitants of Qumran, like Beverly Hills homeowners, had remodeled and expanded the original structure.

According to its “visualization” and the research of numerous scholars, the UCLA team concluded that the original 20,150-square-foot structure, built around 160 B.C.E., consisted of a two-story building and four-story tower, and was designed as a fortress.

The fortress was abandoned after some time, perhaps because it was no longer needed for defensive purposes. The site was reoccupied in 130 BCE, apparently by the Essenes, who began to repurpose and expand the place for their own communal needs.

Over the years they added a large dining hall, a pottery production plant, and, most importantly, the scriptorium where the scrolls were written.

The idyll was destroyed in 70 CE or shortly thereafter by the conquering Roman legions, after they had laid waste to Jerusalem and its Holy Temple.

According to the descriptions of communal living in the scrolls, the number of eating utensils and the size of the sleeping quarters, Qumran during the Essene era was inhabited by about 75 residents – all men.

One of the true marvels of Qumran, vividly illustrated through the computer model, was an elaborate water system of dams and canals, fed by runoffs from occasional flash floods and a spring, collected in a holding pool.

The system supplied enough water for no less than 11 mikvahs, or ritual baths, for separating clay at the pottery plant, and for the community’s livestock and crops.

Cleanliness was a high priority. Latrines were dug some distance from the structure and scribes had to wash themselves before entering the scriptorium.

Adding to the model’s allure is a series of high-resolution panoramic photographs of the sky, the cliffs to the west of Qumran and the Dead Sea and Jordanian plains to the east.

Cargill and Schniedewind, who developed the computer model over a 15-month period, plan to eventually replace the panoramic photography with satellite imagery, which will allow them to simulate the surrounding topography and terrain. They also hope to create virtual models of the caves where the scrolls were found.

Both Schniedewind and Cargill are practicing Christians with a deep appreciation and knowledge of Judaism and Israel.

After attending a Christian college as an undergraduate, Schniedewind, 44, earned his master’s and doctoral degrees at Brandeis, and an additional master’s at Jerusalem University College, a Christian institute in Israel’s capital.

He is fluent in Hebrew, Aramaic and Northwest Semitic dialects and his primary scholarly interest is in ancient Israel, especially the era of formative Judaism from 1000-1 B.C.E.

No ivory tower theoretician, he has worked on separate archaeological digs in Israel, including Qumran in 1993, and frequently praised the cooperation and pioneering research of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Cargill is 34, of Scottish descent, and has handled most of the computer modeling. He graduated from Pepperdine University, majoring in biblical studies, and “realized that to understand Christianity I had to first understand Judaism,” he said.

When first asked if he were Jewish, he asked back, “Aren’t we all?” As a token of his affection for Israel, his forearm is tattooed with the Hebrew word “ahava,” or love.

The Journal got an advance introduction to the virtual Qumran during a demonstration of digital innovation projects at UCLA.

It will be officially unveiled to the public on June 29 at the San Diego Natural History Museum, as part of the largest and most comprehensive public exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls in any country.

In all, 27 scrolls will be on view during the seven-month exhibit, 10 of which have never been publicly displayed.

The San Diego museum underwrote 75 percent of the $100,000 cost of the Qumran project.

The preview at UCLA also featured 25 other digital innovation projects, ranging from an urban simulation of Los Angeles to an analysis of Old Icelandic.

San Diego museum culls worldwide collections for Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit

When a young Bedouin goat-herder entered a long-forgotten cave in the Judean desert and found some old jars filled with strange looking manuscripts, he had no idea he had stumbled upon one of the greatest archaeological treasures of our time – the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was 1947, and the scrolls had been lost for 2,000 years. During the next decade, archeologists would discover remnants of approximately 900 manuscripts in 11 caves, linking the modern world to the formative years of Judaism and Christianity and opening a doorway to an ancient Middle East culture and its traditions.

On June 29, the San Diego Natural History Museum will open the exhibition “Dead Sea Scrolls,” the largest, most comprehensive show ever of these ancient treasures. It will include authentic scrolls, illuminated biblical manuscripts, artifacts, landscape and aerial photography and interactive displays about science, discovery and exploration. Thanks to loans from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), 24 Dead Sea Scrolls – 10 exhibited for the first time ever – will be on display during the six-month run of the exhibition.

“We’ve really gone out of our way to present the context of the story, the context of the place, how these things were discovered, what some of the various theories are about them and the site that was closest to where they were discovered,” said Risa Levitt Kohn, curator of the exhibition.

Many aspects of this exhibition are unique. Designed specifically for the San Diego Natural History Museum, this is not a traveling show. Normally, most of the Dead Sea Scrolls are permanently housed under the care and custody of the IAA, who usually, to ensure preservation of the 2,000-year-old parchment, allow only one set of scrolls to be exhibited for a three-month period outside of Israel. The San Diego museum has been granted the unprecedented opportunity for an extended exhibition with 12 scrolls displayed for the first three months and an additional 12 in the last three months. This is no small feat, considering the rigorous standards of the IAA.

“Our goal is to preserve them for at least another 2,000 years,” said Pnina Shor, head of the IAA’s Artifacts Treatment and Conservation Department. “The Dead Sea Scrolls are extremely fragile and sensitive, and three issues have to be considered carefully before allowing them to be exposed for [even] a limited period of time: illumination, temperature and humidity. On our site visit we check that the venues that wish to exhibit them are up to it and will be able to maintain our strict requirements.” After the exhibition, she adds, the scrolls will return to Jerusalem, where they will have to “rest” for at least another year.

Kohn herself has forgotten what it means to rest because of the amount of time and energy that goes into curating a world-class exhibition, yet she exudes an aura of deep satisfaction – much as you’d expect to see in someone who has spent months digging in the dirt and chipping away at rocks, slowly unearthing treasure after buried treasure.

Misconceptions about the Dead Sea Scrolls abound, she said.

“When many people think of them, they assume they are all biblical in nature. They’re often surprised to hear that there are [around] 900 scrolls, of which only 207 are biblical.”

The biblical scrolls contain all the books in the Hebrew bible, except the Book of Esther – a mystery that remains unsolved. There are also numerous apocryphal manuscripts (texts not included in the biblical canon) and the so-called “sectarian scrolls,” which contain biblical commentary, religious legal writings, prayers, poems and compositions that predict a coming apocalypse.

Although their origins have been a subject of controversy, most scholars believe the scrolls were copied and composed by a group that broke away from mainstream Judaism to live a communal life at Qumran. They called themselves the “Sons of Light,” and those living in Jerusalem – including the priesthood at the Temple – the “Sons of Darkness.” When the Romans invaded around 68 C.E., the Qumran community hid their manuscripts in nearby caves, where they remained until the Bedouin goat-herder found them.

The stories that surround the Dead Sea Scrolls are filled with the unexpected, and the story of how this exhibition came into being is no exception. Three years ago Kohn, the director of the Jewish studies program at San Diego State University and also the first person to earn a doctorate in ancient history and Hebrew Bible from UCSD, was having lunch with her former professor and renowned biblical scholar, David Noel Freedman. They were joined by Weston Fields, director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation. Fields had just returned from an exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls at a small museum at Grand Rapids, Mich., and his enthusiasm over its success was contagious, Kohn said: “I became intrigued with the idea and plied him with questions: ‘how much did it cost, how much space did you need, how many scrolls came, what’s involved in putting this together?’ Eventually I turned to Dr. Freedman and said, ‘We need to do this here,’ and he said, ‘No, you need to do this here.'”

Next came the exhaustive research, and then came the hunt for museum venues. The San Diego Natural History Museum had just undergone a major expansion and seemed in every way to be a perfect fit. To her surprise, Michael Hager, president and CEO of the museum, thought so, too.

As daunting an undertaking as this has been, things have gone remarkably smoothly so far, considering the scope of the project, Kohn said, while acknowledging that she’s had the good fortune to draw upon the expertise of world-renowned historians, archeologists, biblical scholars and scientists, many of whom will participate in the museum’s series of lectures related to the show.

When Hager felt that that the story shouldn’t end in 68 C.E. with the latest of the Dead Sea Scrolls, she learned there was a very large collection of biblical manuscripts from about a thousand years later that are kept in the Russian Library in St. Petersburg. Negotiations began to bring out some of that collection, then some from the British Library and, as Kohn said, “It sort of started a domino effect and that’s how we got to the situation we have now – where we have [manuscripts] coming from all over the world.”

Dig this! Herod’s tomb found after 3-decade hunt

Ruthlessly lavish in his lifetime and a villain of Jewish and Christian narratives alike, the biblical King Herod has captured the world’s imagination anew with the discovery of his tomb outside Jerusalem.

Hebrew University archeologists on May 8 announced the find of the first century B.C.E. monarch’s grave, sarcophagus and mausoleum at the Herodium ruins in the Judean Desert after more than three decades of digging.

“This is the only site that carries his name, and the site where he chose to be buried and to memorialize himself — all of this with the integration of a huge, unique palace at the fringe of the desert,” said professor Ehud Netzer, team leader. “Therefore, the unearthing of his tomb marks the climax of research at this site.”

No human remains were among the relics, possibly due to grave robbers or what the university described as “nationalist vandalism” in ancient Judea. It said the sarcophagus and mausoleum had suffered extensive damage, apparently by Jewish zealots who waged a revolt against Roman occupiers in 66-72 C.E.

“The rebels were known for their hatred of Herod and all that he stood for as a ‘puppet ruler’ for the Romans,” the university said in a statement.

Herod, a convert to Judaism whom the Romans appointed king of Judea, was considered a great builder and administrator who dramatically expanded and renovated the Second Temple, refurbished the fortress at Masada, rebuilt water supplies for Jerusalem and built the cities of Caesarea and Herodium. He also is remembered as a ruthless ruler who did not hesitate to eliminate potential rivals, including one of his many wives and two of his children.

Herod’s outsized ego has an especially grim resonance for Christians: The New Testament records that upon hearing that a new messiah, or “King of the Jews,” would be born in Bethlehem, Herod ordered the slaughter of the town’s male children. Jesus survived, according to the Christian narrative, because his parents escaped to Egypt.

Herodium, which included a huge palace at the edge of the desert near Bethlehem, is where the king chose to be buried and memorialized.

Netzer, considered a world expert on Herodian architecture, began his search for Herod’s tomb more than three decades ago. After digging in various spots on Mount Herodium, Netzer said the team knew it was close to the tomb when they found the first pieces of a “monumental” sarcophagus made of hard limestone during excavations on the northeastern slope.

“There is only one or two of its kind found so far” in the country, Netzer said. “It’s not that every rich Jew or citizen of this time could afford it. It’s really a royal one.”

Netzer’s team of archeologists, Ya’akov Kalman, Roi Porath and local Bedouins, also unearthed part of a platform of dressed limestone — about 30-by-30 feet — that belonged to the mausoleum. Other “high-quality” artifacts found at the site included decorated urns similar to those found on burial monuments of the Nabatean culture.

No inscriptions have been found, but the team says circumstantial evidence — an account of Herod’s funeral at the site by the historian Josephus Flavius, the lucrative artifacts and remnants found and historical records indicating Herod’s decision to be buried there — points to this being the king’s burial site.

According to the archeologists, Herodium included a prefabricated “tomb estate” for the king, with a mikvah for ritual purification of the corpse. There also was a “monumental” flight of stairs — 20 feet wide — up which the bier was carried.

Josephus’ book, “The Jewish Wars,” describes the funeral at Herodium in detail. Herod’s son, Archelaus, Josephus wrote, “brought forth all the royal ornaments to accompany the procession in honor of the deceased. The bier was of solid gold, studded with precious stones and had a covering of purple, embroidered with various colors; on this lay the body enveloped in purple robe, a diadem encircling the head and surmounted by a crown of gold, the scepter beside his right hand.”

The find is one of the most important discoveries from the Second Temple period, said Oren Gutfeld, professor of classical archeology at the Hebrew University Institute of Archeology.
“Someone so famous, like Herod the Great, Herod the Builder, a dominant person in the history of Israel and who we know about so much from literary sources — from Josephus Flavius — and archaeological finds all over Israel and outside, it’s a diamond in the crown,” said Gutfeld, who had worked with Netzer at Herodium for three years and has seen the tomb remnants.

Stephen Pfann, president of the University of the Holy Land and a specialist in inscription studies and Second Temple historiography, said Netzer should be congratulated for finding sarcophagus fragments, which indicate “a tomb of someone on the ground who was very rich, affluent, perhaps of great honor.”

But “we don’t know whether Archelaus or one of the other sons was buried there with him,” Pfann said. “We don’t know whether the fragments of the sarcophagus might be of someone else. All we know from history is that he is the only one mentioned as being buried there.”

Ze’ev Weiss, also an archeology professor at the Institute of Archeology, said it seems logical that the tomb belonged to Herod, based on the discovery of the podium and pieces of the sarcophagus, combined with accounts of the funeral taking place at Herodium.

However, the archeological team and other experts say much excavation work still remains to be done at the site.

“In my mind, as an archeologist, there is nothing 100 percent,” said Weiss, who worked with Netzer in the 1980s in the Herodium area. “We have to work; we have to prove it, but still, when we take all the details, I would say there is a high percentage that this is Herod’s tomb.”

Local Team Solves Ancient Mystery

In 1979 two tiny pieces of cracked and deteriorated silver found in a tomb outside of the Old City of Jerusalem proved to be one of the most important archeological discoveries of the century.

The silver strips had Hebrew writing on them — albeit a very different-looking Hebrew to the one we know today — and the words spelled out the priestly blessing: “May the Lord bless you and guard you. May the Lord make his countenance shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn his countenance to you and grant you peace.”

The strips, which were initially dated from the seventh or sixth century B.C.E., contained the earliest known citation of a text that is also found in the Bible (in this case, Numbers 6: 24-26).

But for years, researchers doubted whether the “Ketef Hinnom amulets” — named for the place where they were discovered — were actually from that period, which would make them 400 years older than the Dead Sea Scrolls. They believed that the silver strips could have been written not in an archaic script, but an archaistic script — in other words, written in a way that made them look older than they actually were. The rest of the writing on the strips had corroded away with the silver, so scholars couldn’t read it clearly. And they weren’t even sure if the strips were amulets, which were usually worn as a sort of spiritual protection, or something else. Those scholars dated the silver as coming from the third or fourth century B.C.E. If that were the case, the strips would have been a less-important discovery in establishing the ancientness of the Bible’s language.

Recently, a team of Southern California researchers from the USC School of Religion-affiliated West Semitic Research Project (WSRP), an organization that photographs ancient artifacts so that scholars all over the world can study them, rephotographed the amulets using innovative lighting techniques that revealed more of the writing on them. Then, using computer imagery to analyze the writing on the strips and compare it with other writings of the period, proved that they are archaic, not archaistic, and the oldest-known citation of a biblical text. The scholars dated the strips as coming from the period just before the destruction of the first temple in 586 B.C.E., reestablishing the strips as, in words of one scholar, the “heavyweight champions of the [archeological] world.”

“We initially tried to photograph the objects conventionally, but it was clear that it was not going to work,” said Dr. Bruce Zuckerman, a professor of Semitic languages at USC, who is the project leader at WSRP.

Zuckerman explained that markings on the amulets were too small too be decipherable to the naked eye, which is why many photographs taken from different angles were needed to properly study them.

“We took picture in contrasting lights, then we would match them and superimpose them one on top of the other,” he said, referring to the way that some of the letters were visible from one angle, but not from another.

Zuckerman and his colleagues, Dr. Marilyn Lundberg of the WSRP and Dr. Andrew Vaughn, a biblical historian at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, also used a computer imaging technique they called “patching,” which took a piece of the writing that had been misaligned by the cracked silver and “patched” it into the place it was meant to be. They also studied similar writings from the period, which enabled them to recognize letters that were no longer whole, due to the age of the silver.

The team was able to decipher the preamble to the priestly blessing on the amulets, which read: “May he [or she] be blessed by God, the rescuer and the rebuker of evil.”

“It tells you without question that you are dealing with an amulet,” Zuckerman said. “And we were able to do a close comparison with equivalent inscriptions from that period and from the later periods. Basically, we believe that we decisively proved that what had originally been proposed was correct, these are the earliest citation of a biblical text. It reestablishes them as the heavyweight champions of the world.”

The scholars also worked with Dr. Gabriel Barkay, the archeologist at Bar Ilan University in Israel who discovered the amulets. Together they published their research in a CD form, in The Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research. Academic articles are traditionally published in paper journals, but the CD, which was published with the assistance of the Annenberg School of Journalism at USC, enabled the scholars to publish the photographs they took, as well as the digital imaging techniques, so that other scholars could assess them.

“It is really important to me that our common Jewish heritage is more fully explored — and when I say our common Jewish heritage, I don’t mean just for Jews,” Zuckerman said. “The Jewish heritage lies at the base of the great religions, and when one makes a small discovery like this, we’re doing something to further clarify the origins of the great religions.”

For more information on the project, visit