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Mighty Maccabees: Archeology Determines Larger Hasmonean Dynasty

Bigger, Better, Stronger.

With Hanukkah’s arrival it’s hard not to be pleased here at the Hashmonean, after all this blog pays tribute to the Judean dynasty which toppled the mighty Seleucid Empire in the name of religious freedom. Between celebrating the re-dedication of the Temple, lighting things on fire, the crispy potato latkes and the sweet scent of sufganiyot in Israel (holiday donuts) I get a bit giddy truthfully.

Seleucid Smackdown

Now comes word from the Israel Antiquities Authority that they have yet ANOTHER treat for all us Hashmoneans this year. Archaeological finds which show the Judean Hasmonean dynasty was even larger than originally thought, its control extending all the way into the deep Negev desert!

The Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus conquered Gaza and the Negev and for decades prevented the Nabataeans from using the Incense Road.”

[...] An analysis of the finds has revealed that after Gaza was conquered in 99 BCE, King Alexander Jannaeus – the great-grandson of Matityahu the High Priest – built a fortress with four towers inside an earlier Nabataean caravanserai. With the aid of this fortress he was able to halt any Nabataean activity along the Incense Road and in effect force them out of the Negev.

Seems we’ve been kicking the Gazan tushy for quite some time now..

It was because of the fortress’ shape that archaeologist, Dr. Rudolph Cohen assumed at the time it was a stronghold from the Roman period (end of the third century CE). But a new analysis of the artifacts which were discovered inside the fortress, and the architectural features of the fortress itself, has led to the unequivocal conclusion that the fortress is Hasmonean.

According to Dr. Tali Erickson-Gini of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who is the scientific editor of the excavation, “We are talking about a revolutionary discovery that will redraw the maps of the region which describe that era and greatly increase the territory governed by the Hasmoneans into the heart of the Negev Highlands as we know it. This is an important discovery from an archaeological and historical standpoint.

Despite the evidence of the historian Josephus, according to which King Alexander Jannaeus conquered the southern coast of the Land of Israel and the harbor in Gaza (which was of paramount importance to the Nabataeans) and even further south, no clear archaeological proof of this has been found in the field. And it was because of this lack of proof that historians were inclined to dismiss the possibility that the Hasmoneans did indeed control the Negev”. [...]

A coin of Alexander Jannaeus - Part of the finds leading archeologists to re-examine history. (Photo: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

A coin of Alexander Jannaeus - Part of the finds leading archaeologists to re-examine history. (Photo: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

I know, I’m a big Zio-Geek – Sue me!

It should be noted that over the last 2 years or so other exciting archaeological finds have been made, including remains of the Southern Wall of the Temple, built & dating back to the Hasmonean dynasty as well. Maps will need to be re-drawn, the dynasty is growing ever larger : )

Celebrating Religious Freedom  & Victory!

Every day our Arab friends grow ever testier.. They don’t want to dig, they prefer to deny & destroy rich archaeological finds because time after time these treasures provide a rich & exciting testament to the fact that the Land of Israel belongs to us, and it always has. It’s part of our rich heritage & history. Our covenant, one which unlike them we are prepared to share openly with the world to both inspire & renew and rejoice.

I’ll be lighting the candles up in the header graphic above again this year & wishing you and yours a very Happy Hanukkah!

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UPDATE:
Another piece of the historical puzzle assembled, recently gathered pieces of ancient Seleuicd Steele confim historical aspects in Books of Maccabees : )

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