Exciting Discovery: Ancient Hebrew Amulet Discovered at Altar of Joshua in Samaria

Photo by Courtesy on 26 January, 2022
By Aryeh Savir/TPS • 26 January, 2022

Jerusalem, 26 January, 2022 (TPS) — An ancient amulet made of lead and written in ancient Hebrew was found among the remains of the excavation carried out at the archeological site on Mount Ebal in Samaria, where the biblical-era altar of Yehoshua ben Nun is located.

The amulet is inscribed with the ancient letter Alef (A), as well as a marking reminiscent of a lotus flower. The researchers have yet to complete their research.

The Book of Joshua describes how Yehoshua ben Nun, the Israelite leader, built an altar on Mount Ebal, acting on instructions from Moses, after the Israelites had crossed into the Land of Israel.

Haifa University archaeologist Adam Zertal has identified the remains of an altar found at the site as the one described in the Bible, where Joshua allotted the new land among the 12 tribes.

Zertal’s research showed the area to be a unique ritual site used to offer sacrifices. The dating of the altar to the period of the Israelites’ entry into the land, the similarity between the structure excavated and the altar described in the Torah, and the fact that only kosher animal bones were found at the site led the researchers to conclude that this is the altar of Yehoshua ben Nun built on Mount Ebal.

The researcher Zvi Konigsberg, who assisted Zertal in the excavations from 1982 to 1988, described how “after the excavation, we left many piles of dirt we dug. And given that the piles may contain valuable finds, a group of Prof. Zertal’s friends moved them to a safe place where they could be inspected. After many years, the appropriate means of sifting in the dirt were developed.”

One of the items discovered was the tiny amulet, measuring only 2×2 centimeters. The amulet is “opaque as an oyster,” implying that it contained something inside. The lead expert at the Israel Antiquities Authority tried to open it but gave up after it began to crumble at the edges. The researchers then found a lab in Prague that performs sophisticated photographs that allow for the construction of a three-dimensional model. The results showed that many grooves were observed in the amulet, with one of the grooves looking like a bull’s head, known in ancient times as an “Alef,” the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet.

“Another mark found in the mascot looks similar to a lotus flower, an important image in ancient Egypt,” said Konigsberg.

He told of another project that will be published in the coming days.

“A thorough examination of the plasterboards discovered inside the altar will be carried out. Plaster, during this period, was used only at places of worship. It will be fascinating to examine the boards with technologies that were not yet available to us at the time of the excavations, such as sophisticated infrared devices, which may reveal writing, an action mentioned in the Bible regarding the altar of Joshua,” Konigsberg added.

The altar of Yehoshua is the only remnant from the period during which the Israelites entered the Land of Israel

Zertal believed that this was the altar around which the covenant ceremony that is mentioned in the Book of Joshua occurred. There was a school of archaeologists who denied the historical validity of the Bible and who tried to negate the importance of the discovery of the altar.

“The finding of the Hebrew amulet strengthens Zertel’s position, who attributes the site to the altar of Yahweh, which was built according to the Bible when the people of Israel entered its land,” Koenigsberg concluded.

Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, said that the new find “unearthed on Mount Ebal proves again the deep and inseparable connection between the Jewish people and Samaria and the Land of Israel in general.”

“The discovery of the altar of Joshua by the late archaeologist Prof. Adam Zertel is one of the most significant discoveries in the history of archeology in the Land of Israel. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority, together with partners from Europe and the extreme left, are trying to erase the history of the Jewish people in Samaria on a daily basis. Only recently was there another damage to the site of the Joshua Altar. The government must take full responsibility for these historic and important sites in Samaria, preserve and develop them,” Dagan said.

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