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The earliest roof tiles in Israel were uncovered in the City of David - and the one who brought them to Israel was Antiochus IV

Archaeological excavations by the Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University in the City of David in the National Park around the walls of Jerusalem have discovered the earliest ceramic roof tiles in the Land of Israel * To date very little physical evidence of the presence of the Greeks in Jerusalem has been discovered

Dr. Philip Vakusbowitz presents the shingle fragments. Photo Eliyahu Yanai City of David
Dr. Philip Wakusbowitz presents the shingle fragments. Photo Eliyahu Yanai City of David

Greetings from Antiochus Epiphanes: The earliest evidence so far of the use of ceramic tiles in the Land of Israel was discovered in the City of David in the National Park around the walls of Jerusalem: these are 16 fragments of tiles from the Hellenistic period (2nd century BCE), found in archaeological excavations by the Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University, in the excavations of the Givati ​​parking lot funded by the Elad (City of David) association. According to the researchers, Dr. Yeftah Shalu and Philip Vokosbowitz from the Antiquities Authority and Prof. Yuval Gadot from Tel Aviv University, "it is surprising how a small discovery opens a window to a whole and vast world of research."

The discovery, which dates back to the days of Antiochus IV - the tyrant known from the stories of the Hanukkah holiday, will be presented for the first time on Monday, December 11.12.2023, XNUMX at the conference "In those days - at this time: the Hasmoneans are coming", of the Antiquities Authority.

Ceramic tiles were invented in Greece as early as the 7th century BC. Their resistance and immunity to water and fire earned them a positive reputation, and ensured their rapid spread to neighboring areas. Despite this, 500 years passed from their invention until the shingles arrived in Israel. In fact, the one who brought them to Israel was none other than Antiochus IV "Epiphanes" - known to all of us from the Hanukkah story.

"Representatives of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV, who ruled over large areas from Syria to the Persian region, brought with them from the center of power in Syria the knowledge and tradition necessary to build tiled roofs," say the researchers.

According to what is told in the books of the Maccabees, in 168 BCE Antiochus made a military campaign to Jerusalem, which led to the outbreak of the famous Maccabee rebellion. In order to establish his rule in the city, Antiochus built a powerful citadel, which was called the "Hakra".

The soldiers of the citadel continued to control the city even after the purification of the temple, and according to the descriptions in the books of the Maccabees and the writings of Joseph ben Mattathias, the citadel mirrored the lives of the inhabitants of the city and the temple. Despite the many descriptions of the citadel in the sources, its exact location within the city remains an enigma that is still debated in research.

A proposal for the reconstruction of the Hekhara. Illustration_ Shalom Kevler, from the book _Ir al Tila_ in English - The City of David_ The Story of Ancient Jerusalem
A proposal for the reconstruction of the Hekhara. Illustration_ Shalom Kevler, from the book _Ir al Tila_ in English - The City of David_ The Story of Ancient Jerusalem

According to Dr. Ayala Zilberstein from the Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University, "The finds that have been discovered in recent years in the City of David have reopened the discussion, and strengthen the identification of the citadel precisely on the Hill of the City of David. Discoveries of the Hellenistic tiles, is another reinforcement from a new direction for the identification of the Hellenistic presence with foreign building traditions in the City of David. The continuation of the research on many more tiles discovered by the Ben-Ami and Chakhanovets expedition may shed more light on this issue. The fact that the roof tiles are very rare in our region during this period, and that they are foreign to the local construction tradition, suggests that they were brought by the foreign authorities for the purpose of roofing parts of a tower or building that belonged to that famous citadel."

According to Dr. Philip Waxbowitz from the Antiquities Authority: "Until today we have known very little physical evidence of the presence of the Greeks (Seleucids) in Jerusalem. The new roof tiles we discovered in the City of David connect us tangibly to the story of Hanukkah and the Greek presence in the area. It is very exciting, because after about 2,200 years since the Hanukkah events took place in Jerusalem, we are meeting 'face to face' with the Greek government and with Antiochus IV."

Dr. Vokosbowitz explains that "the climatic conditions and the low amount of precipitation in Israel, in addition to other reasons, do not justify the use of roof tiles, but Antiochus chooses to use tiles anyway, probably for a declarative and cultural reason: it is important for him to establish the Greek material culture in the Land of Israel - a short distance away from the temple - and the use of tiles is part of this effort. Therefore, it is not by chance, immediately after the fall of the Greek rule and the rise of the Hasmoneans, the shingles disappear from Jerusalem until the arrival of the new conqueror - the Romans."

According to Eli Escozido, director of the Antiquities Authority: "It is interesting to know that despite the fact that the design, shape and size of roof tiles have evolved over the centuries, their use remains stable throughout the world. Amazing, how such an everyday item can tell us so much."

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