Often the proof is in ancient writings found imbedded in the clay pottery shards which are on display currently in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem starting Tuesday, April 12, 2016. These are a collection of military orders written in ancient Hebrew dated to the end of the First Temple period which were unearthed in an excavation of a fort in Arad, Israel, and dated to about 600 B.C. shortly before Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem, and were uncovered in the Negev Desert (see image below). The fact that military orders found were written by multiple individuals has been used, along with biblical writings from the same period, in order to be effective implied that literacy was rather common amongst the area known as Judea. These writings, published Monday in the US Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, make it possible for the earliest books of the bible to have been written before the exile and during the First Temple period. According to Tel Aviv University archaeology professor Israel Finkelstein, “There’s a heated discussion regarding the timing of the composition of a critical mass of biblical texts.” Finkelstein, who led the team of researchers together with physics professor Eliezer Piasetzky reported, “But to answer this, one must ask a broader question: What were the literacy rates in Judah at the end of the First Temple period? And what were the literacy rates later on, under Persian rule?” The writings were discovered in the ruin of an ancient Judahite military fortress near the Negev city. Such evidence of higher rates of literacy existing throughout the military infers similarly high rates amongst the peoples themselves. Finkelstein, however, said he has long believed those texts were written in the late 7th century BC in Jerusalem, before the siege. He said the study offers support for that theory. “It’s the first time we have something empirical in our hands,” said Finkelstein. It was the fact that these orders were of a nature to have been disseminated through the entire chain of command which can be used to infer high rates of literacy.
Shmuel Ahituv, an Israeli bible scholar who did not participate in the study, also believes literacy in ancient Judah was widespread before 586 BC and that the biblical texts in question were written before the siege of Jerusalem. He said he believes this is apparent through a literary analysis of the biblical texts alone. “I don’t need algorithms,” Ahituv chuckled referring to the algorithms used to reconstruct the missives other than those he had studied.
There was an additional discovery this week of the oldest glass manufactory found thusfar in the holy lands. This glass foundry dates back to approximately 400 A.D. The remains of the kiln used to produce large scale glass was discovered as construction of a road being built at the initiative of the Netivei Israel Company as part of the Jezreel Valley Railway Project between Ha-‘Emeril Junction and Yagur Junction. The oldest glass kilns ever discovered in Israel were unearthed at the foot of Mount Carmel near Haifa – exposing an ancient, global glass-production center which serviced the entire Roman Empire (see video below). These kilns are roughly 1,600 years old (dating to the Late Roman period), and indicate that the Land of Israel was one of the foremost centers for glass production in the ancient world. The other main glass producer was near Alexandria, Egypt. Glassworks and glass manufacturing sites had been found previously which dated to the eighth and ninth century which made this find all the more exciting and important as it predates the others by almost five centuries. This validates another find from Rome where a price edict was circulated by the Roman emperor Diocletian in the early fourth century describing and setting the prices for two kinds of glass. The first was known as Judean glass which presumably was manufactured in the Land of Israel while the second was Alexandrian glass from Egypt. Judean glass was a light green color and less expensive than Egyptian glass. What makes this edict so important is that it had been written in stone, well, chiseled in stone and was displayed at glassware shops making for fair trade standardized throughout the Empire.
This discovery has attracted glass experts who specialize in ancient glass manufacturing from around the globe who have all come to inspect the find and test the glass which was found amongst the ashes and stones from the hearths. This solves the question as to what glass much glassware was made from as this site was a serious large manufacturing industrial site. It was in these kilns where it was estimated that large glass blocks were produced using sand cleaned and transported from the beaches and salt which would have been melted together at a temperature of approximately 1,200oC in order to make the glass. The glass manufactured here would have had a soft green tint and blocks weighing as much as ten tons per casting. After the kiln had been permitted to cool and the glass removed it would have been broken into more manageable size pieces and carted off to be sold to glassware and other manufacturers where the pieces would be smelted again to form glassware products. Glassware was found throughout the Roman Empire as glassblowing had been discovered as a method for producing glassware on an industrial scale which is what made the need for production facilities such as the one found here and others which have been located dating years later. It is the earlier dating of this site which has sparked so much interest. Below is a picture of samples of the glass embedded in rocks found at the base of the hearth.
This glass is another example of what we discussed in yesterday’s article titled Thoughts on the World on This Day where we pointed out that “Israel is still being accused of colonialism by the conquerors of their homeland from in the early seventh century. The Arabs were simply the last of a whole host of colonial enterprises all attempting to dislodge the Jewish People (the Israelites) from their native ground and capital city of Jerusalem.” This glass production site in conjunction with the Roman edict written in stone setting the price of “Judean glass” proves that the area even after the change of the region name still referred to the products as Judean. They did not call it Arab glass or Palestinian glass or any other peoples’ name in the reference; it was Judean glass from Judean manufacturing and proved that the Jews (Israelites) remained and ran a thriving industrial glass production. There have been wine and oil presses found dating to the same time frame and through the years preceding and afterwards all making Judean products. The Roman edict setting the price for Judean glass alongside Alexandrian glass displayed the two main centers for glassmaking which provided the raw glass used throughout the Roman Empire where the first known use of price controls is evidenced in stone and refers to Judea as a glass manufacturing area and the Jews residing in Judea as the makers. Sometimes the proof just pops up and settles things so simply. One might say the answer is as clear as glass, slightly tinted green as was the Judean glass.
Beyond the Cusp