The 3100-year-old inscription was written on a jug in ink, using ancient Canaanite letters. (Dafna Gazit/Israel Antiquities Authority via Nosson Shulman) (Dafna Gazit/Israel Antiquities Authority via Nosson Shulman)
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Many amazing archeological finds in 2021 dramatically changed our understanding of Israel’s rich history.

By Nosson Shulman, Licensed Tour Guide

Israel is one huge archeological site! Since just about any location in the country could literally be on top of buried ancient treasure, there is a strictly enforced law.

Because of the sheer volume of archeological sites in Israel (including several not yet discovered) it’s not unusual for major finds to be made by individual hikers, and even children during family outings. Prior to developers building anything, archeologists must first excavate the site in order to see what lies beneath the ground.

The year 2021 was a fruitful year for archeology. Hundreds of finds were discovered, many quite revolutionary in our understanding of biblical and historic events.

While all of these findings deserve their own articles, I have narrowed down the list to what I believe were the top 10 finds. Here are the second five. (See the first five.)

6. Second Synagogue From 2nd Temple Period Era in Migdal (Magdala)

Migdal

Morning view of the Sea of Galilee, and the village Migdal, seen from Mt. Arbel. (Shutterstock)

Over the years during excavations of ancient Jewish settlements that existed in Israel post-Second Temple (70 CE and onwards) many, many synagogues have been discovered (several a must see for tourists).

Synagogues from the Second Temple period however, are extremely rare and only seven have ever been found (including at Masada, Herodium, Etri, Gamla, Modiin, Kiryat Sefer and Migdal (Magdala)).

Despite the plethora of ancient Jewish texts stating that synagogues were a fact of life even when the Temple stood, many modern-day (secular) archeologists overlooked these sources. They assumed that when the Temple stood, synagogues didn’t play a large role in daily life, being that very few synagogues from this period were found.

In 2021, during the widening of highway 90 (Israel’s longest highway) a second temple era synagogue was found in Magdala, making this the first time that two synagogues from this period were found in the same town (the first was found in 2009. I highly recommend anyone visiting Israel to explore this awesome site).

The fact that they were a mere 200 meters from each other (one in a residential area, the other industrial) is now making several academics hypothesize that synagogues were indeed an important part of the social fabric at the time!

7. New Dead Sea Scrolls Unearthed (Judean Desert)

Dead Sea Scrolls

The first “new” Dead Sea Scrolls discovered since 1956 were Biblical verses from the Book of Zechariah and Nahum. These scrolls were written in Greek. (Shai Halevi, Israel Antiquities Authority via Nosson Shulman)

Since the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in 1947, it can be argued that no other archeological findings have captured the public imagination quite like these ones. In fact, the Indiana Jones series was loosely based on a real-life adventurer named Vendyl Jones whose life work revolved around finding treasures mentioned in one of the scrolls.

Between 1947 and 1956 many ancient scrolls were discovered, including the entire book of Isaiah, the oldest complete Biblical scroll ever found.

While archeologists were exploring the caves of Qumran, local Bedouins were also hard at work finding scrolls to be sold for a fortune on the black market (often, official digs would uncover empty jars standing side by side with Bedouin pickaxes, with the scrolls long gone). After more than a half a century of digs failing to unearth any new scrolls, new discoveries were not expected to be made again.

Recently, excavations began in a cave at Nachal Hever (which is only accessible by rappelling 80 meters down a sheer cliff). Due to its inaccessibility to potential looters, it was hoped that new scrolls would be found.

In 2021, it was announced that two scroll fragments were located. One was from Zechariah 8:16-17, and the other Nahum 1: 5-6. In addition, one of the world’s oldest woven baskets was found in near perfect condition.

8. Biblical Era ‘Royal Purple’ Dye (Timna Valley)

purple dye

Painting ‘David anointed by Samuel’ and some of the purple fabric found at Timna. (Israel Antiquities Authority/Dafna Gazit)

For the first time ever, the famous “Argaman” royal purple dye (mentioned several times in the Bible) has been found from the times of King David and Solomon. Prior to this, the earliest finds had only been from the Roman Period, approximately 1,000 years later.

Archeologists digging the famous “Slave Hill” in the Timna Valley (near Eilat) came across three textile scraps with the dye that only the wealthiest could afford (considerably more valuable than gold). Indeed, its Biblical references are usually used in connection with royalty and nobility (see Song of Songs 3:10, Proverbs 31:22, Esther 1:6, and Ezekiel 27:7). This dye was also used to dye curtains in the Tabernacle (see Exodus 25-27).

The purple dye is pigment from the mucus of three species of Murex snails found in the Mediterranean Sea. Archeologists believe that the discovery was made possible due to the dry desert heat in the arid Timna Valley.

9. Inscription of Well-Known Biblical Prophet (Judean Lowlands)

The 3100-year-old inscription was written on a jug in ink, using ancient Canaanite letters. (Dafna Gazit/Israel Antiquities Authority via Nosson Shulman)

Even in Israel where archeologically significant finds are common, ancient inscriptions from the times of the biblical Judges are exceedingly rare. Recent excavations however, unearthed a name belonging to an important Biblical hero (and prophet).

On a jar more than three millennia old, the name “Jerubbaal” was inscribed, another name for the Biblical judge Gideon (it was common for ancient Israelites to have more than one name), who led the Israelites for 40 years and gave them quiet from their enemies (see Judges 7:1 and 8:28).

The million-dollar question is, was this “Jerubbaal” indeed Gideon? Obviously, no one can say with absolute certainty, but archeologists seem convinced that it is a very distinct possibility. Except for in the Bible, “Jerubbaal” has never been found anywhere until this discovery, suggesting that it was an uncommon name. It is also dated from around the time of Judges when Gideon led Israel.

10. Evidence of Biblical Earthquake Discovered in Jerusalem (City of David)

City of David

Digs in Jerusalem’s City of David uncovered an 8th century BCE destruction layer, caused by an earthquake mentioned in the Bible.
(Joe Uziel/Israel Antiquities Authority via Nosson Shulman)

For the first time ever, archeological remains of a catastrophic earthquake mentioned in the Bible were discovered in Jerusalem.

An 8th century BCE destruction layer was unearthed with a smashed building, and a row of shattered vessels. While destruction layers have been found in Jerusalem, especially in connection with the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 422 BCE (some historians say 586 BCE) all of them had burn marks, which suggested destruction by fire.

This one, however, had only collapsed walls, suggesting that it was not deliberate, but rather caused by natural forces.

Archeologists were stunned and decided to consult the Bible to see if such an event was mentioned. They soon found references to a massive earthquake mentioned in both Amos 1:1 and Zechariah 14:5 as having taken place during the reign of King Uzziah (indeed, the destroyed building is dated to that period).

Nosson Shulman is a journalist and Licensed Tour Guide in Israel specializing in Biblical tours. To allow tourists to experience Israel during the Corona era, he created the new hit Israel tour video series, which brings Israel to the home of viewers by simulating actual tours. To check out his free sneak preview tour videos, click here. To view sample tour itineraries or to inquire about private tour opportunities with a personalized itinerary on your next trip to Israel, click here.