Sunday, March 06, 2016

Was That A Jewish Settlement?

News item:

An ancient necropolis that once held more than 100 tombs from as far back as 4,000 years ago has been discovered near the Palestinian town of Bethlehem in the West Bank.

The burial ground was discovered in spring 2013 during the construction of an industrial park.

In 2014 a team from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of Palestine excavated some of the tombs, and in 2015 a joint Italian-Palestinian team surveyed the necropolis and created a plan for future exploration. The archaeologists found that the necropolis covered 3 hectares (more than 7 acres) and originally contained more than 100 tombs in use between roughly 2200 B.C. and 650 B.C.

Located on the side of a hill, the archaeological site - now called Khalet al-Jam'a - was likely a burial ground for a nearby settlement whose location is unknown.

Was that a Jewish settlement?

And note:

The necropolis stopped being used around 650 B.C.... What exactly happened in Bethlehem around 650 B.C. is unclear. However, Nigro noted that around this time, the Assyrian and Babylonian empires launched a series of military campaigns in which they captured land in the region. Stories of these campaigns were told in biblical literature.

Pssst.  That literature notes Bethlehem as a Jewish town, birthplace of the future King David.


UPDATE from Haaretz:-

The evidence at Khalet al-Jam´a supports the biblical description in Genesis of the practice of maintaining a family tomb enabling generations to be buried together; Hence the frequent biblical expression ‘to lie down, or be buried, with his forefathers’.
The first person directly mentioned in the biblical tradition as performing a burial was Abraham Later, during the Iron Age, the burial practice in Khalet al-Jam'a would change, to reflect a new tradition to those typical in Jerusalem. “The difference is visible between the Middle and Late Bronze burials and the Iron Age ones, with areas of the tomb (niches or arcosolia) devoted to host the​ bodies,” said Lorenzo.

The difference was that Iron Age bodies lay alone. Vaults or chambers were cut into the rock for a single body, which was laid on a shelf. In the event of multiple burials, slots large enough to accommodate one body each were carved into the sides of the chamber at right angles to the walls.What happened to the town in the later Iron II period can be surmised on the basis of a Judahite (LMLK) jar stamp found on the north slopes of the Basilica of Nativity,  showing that the city had come under royal Judahite administration as early as the 8th century BCE, and a bulla retrieved from Jerusalem mentioning Bethlehem shows it remained under Judahite influence even in the 7th century BCE. But when the Assyrian empire launched its second wave of campaigns in the region, conquering Judah and relocating its people, the burial site in Bethlehem was abandoned. 


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