After having worked on an archaeological site in the Middle East (Petra, Jordan) in the Summer of 2011, I have since been an avid follower of archaeological discoveries and projects in the Middle East. You can check out a presentational poster that I worked on as an undergraduate at Brockport, that was published on our digital commons here to learn a little more about the Petra Pool and Garden Complex 2011 dig.
This afternoon I came across this recent discovery of a first-century high-status residence in Jerusalem, and thought it was worth a share – some really interesting finds related to architectural history and material culture. It is an exciting time in the world of Middle Eastern archaeology, especially with the recent discovery of a town along the Sea of Galilee in Israel (which you can read more about here). Check out a portion of the Jerusalem residence article below:
“Archaeologists say they have uncovered a first-century mansion on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, complete with an ancient bathtub that just might have belonged to one of the priests who condemned Jesus to death.
“Byzantine tradition places in our general area the mansion of the high priest Caiaphas or perhaps Annas, who was his father-in-law,” Shimon Gibson, the archaeologist co-directing the excavation, said in a news release. “In those days you had extended families who would have been using the same building complex, which might have had up to 20 rooms and several different floors.”
The mansion’s location and its fancy features are the main lines of evidence for surmising that a member of the priestly class lived there, according to Gibson and the dig’s other co-director, James Tabor, a scholar of early Christian history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. UNC Charlotte has been licensed by Israeli authorities to conduct the Mount Zion excavation.
“We might be digging in the home of one of Jesus’ archenemies,” Tabor told NBC News. “Someone who was at the trial of Jesus, and probably voted no.”
So which was it: Pharisees or Sadducees? “We think Sadducees,” Tabor said. “That’s the class that has the wealth and more of the control of the temple, and they’re in with the Romans.”
Bathtub provides a clue
The mansion was built close to the walls of the Second Temple, erected by King Herod the Great in biblical times. It boasted a three-pit oven — a luxury in those days — as well as a private walk-in ritual pool and a separate bathroom.
The bathtub is one of the most significant clues in the mystery surrounding the mansion’s owners. Only three other such tubs have been linked to the Second Temple period in Israel, Gibson said. Two of them were unearthed in Herod’s palaces at Jericho and Masada, and the third was found in a priestly residence excavated nearby in Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter.
“It is only a stone’s throw away, and I wouldn’t hesitate to say that the people who made that bathroom probably were the same ones who made this one,” Gibson said. “It’s almost identical, not only in the way it’s made, but also in the finishing touches, like the edge of the bath itself.”
The excavators said they found a huge number of Murex sea snail shells amid the ruins. Some species of Murex sea snails were highly valued because a blue dye could be extracted from the creatures. In fact, historians say such a dye was specified in Jewish texts as the coloring agent for religious garments.”
You can access the full article here.