Below are eighteen Judean artifacts that clearly demonstrate indigenous Jewish presence in the Land of Israel. All of the pieces below are thousands of years old and confirm ancient Jewish life in the eastern Mediterranean. Michael Lumish
The inscription below, from the Second Temple Period in the 1st century CE, was presented to the public by the Israel Antiquities Authority in October, 2018. It includes the full Hebrew spelling of the word “Jerusalem.” It was discovered near the Jerusalem International Convention Center (Binyanei Ha’Uma).
The famous Arch of Titus, celebrating the conquest of Judea, was built by Roman emperor Domitian, brother and successor to Titus, around 81 CE. As we read in the article linked above:
The arch celebrates Titus’s military victories during the First Jewish-Roman War (66–74 C.E.)—when the Romans infamously burned the Temple in Jerusalem. One of the arch’s panels depicts Roman soldiers carrying captured treasures from Jerusalem’s Temple, including a large menorah, through the streets of Rome.
King Hezekiah lived in the late 8th and early 7th centuries BCE. As the son of Ahaz, he was the 13th successor of David as King of Judea. His rule is thought to have been from about 715 to 686 BCE.
The Magdala Stone is a large carved stone that dates to the 2nd Temple Period and was unearthed in 2009 on Migdal beach in an archeological dig near the site of a hotel construction. It is the oldest image of a menorah ever discovered. The synagogue in which it was discovered is one of six known synagogues from that period.
This ancient menorah, often referred to as the “Mother of All Menorahs” was discovered in the Cave of Coffins in Beit She’arim and was carved during the time of King Herod. At six feet high and four feet wide, it is among the largest menorahs ever found. After the Bar Kochba revolt (132 -136 CE), Beit She’arim became a center of Torah-learning, as well as a burial ground for important rabbis and their families, since the Romans refused to allow Jewish burials in Jerusalem.
This coin was struck over Roman coinage in use at the time, which became a common practice following the failed Bar Kochba revolt. The coin represents the façade of the Temple before its destruction. It is held in the Israel Museum.
At only 2 centimeters by 2 centimeters, this tiny “curse tablet” is dated to 1200 BCE. It represents what archaeologist Dr. Scott Stripling claims is the first proto-Alphabetic Hebrew text and includes the first known usage of “YHWH,” the name of God. It was unearthed at Mount Ebal, which Deuteronomy 11:29 describes as a place of curses. It demonstrates that the Israelites were literate when they entered the Land of Israel, led by Joshua.
Gabriel Barkay, archaeology professor at Tel Aviv University, discovered the Ketef Hinnon scrolls in 1979. It is important because it contains the text of Numbers 6:24-26. It represents the oldest testimony of Biblical writings known to exist. It was discovered when Barkay told a young boy to clean one of the caves that he was examining and the child took a hammer to the floor, causing it to collapse beneath him, revealing a hidden tomb within walking distance of Jerusalem.
The lettering on this artifact is written in “Paleo-Hebrew.” It reads, “Cursed be Hagaf son of Hagab by Yahweh Ṣebaot.” Yahweh Ṣebaot is usually translated as “Lord of Hosts.”
In the ancient Jewish town of Huqoq, just northwest of the Sea of Galilee, archeological teams from the University of North Carolina and Brigham Young University discovered mosaics believed to depict the Biblical heroines Deborah and Jael from the Book of Judges.
Gargilius Antiques was a previous unheard of 12th Governor of the province of Judea sometime between 120 and 130 CE, shortly before the Bar Kochba rebellion. The inscription was discovered in 1948 in the town Dor, about 35 minutes’ drive south of Haifa on the Mediterranean coast.
Divers working for the University of Haifa discovered the large tablet held the name of Gargilius Antiques and referred specifically to the province of Judea. In November 2016, another inscription, in Greek, was found off the coast of Dor by “underwater archaeologists,” which confirms Antiques’ role in the governorship of the Jewish province.
The Dead Sea scrolls are, with the possible exception of the Arch of Titus, the most famous Judean artifacts in the world. They were discovered in 1946 to 1947 during the British Mandate. As we read in the link above:
“Manuscripts and other artefacts tell us stories about their own lives and not just about their contents. These artefacts themselves have a tale to tell of why they have been preserved and how they have been copied and annotated. They are more than copies of ancient texts, but silent witnesses to continuing traditions, alive within Judaism, and to the afterlives of ancient works.”
Khirbet Qeiyafa is an Iron Age site that is often thought to have been the home of the Biblical Goliath, overlooking the Elah Valley, about thirty kilometers from Jerusalem. The large building at the center is thought by some archeologists to have been a home of King David. Others suggest that it was Philistine land, thus the association with Goliath.
This coin was discovered in the home of an east Jerusalemite and dates back to the Antigonus II Mattathias, the last Hasmonean king. Also found was a Hasmonean oil candle and Biblical seal ring with writing in ancient Hebrew.
An ancient Jewish settlement, dating to the period of the Second Temple, was discovered near Beersheva in the Negev Desert. The area contains many subterranean tunnels with hidden supplies to assist local residents in the event of disaster or war. The site also holds a watchtower and an oil lamp with the image of a menorah with nine branches. The settlement thrived until the Bar Kochba revolt of 135 CE.
These figurines were common in Judea during the First Temple period but were no longer created after the Babylonian conquest of 586 BCE. As we read in the link above:
Two major types of Judean pillar figurines have been found. One type has a face that’s pinched to make two eyes (Left, Photo: Israel Museum, Jerusalem). The second type has a mold-made head with defined facial features and rows of curly hair (Right, Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art).
The Hasmoneans were the descendants of the Maccabees, a group of rebel-fighters who ruled Judea during the Seleucid Empire. The coins were made from bronze and illustrate Jewish presence in ancient Israel.
Ziklag is thought to have been a Philistine city that gave way to an agricultural settlement dating to the time of King David. The site held clay vessels that once held grain, wine, or oil, as well as eating utensils. As we read in the link above:
Furthering the claim that this is Ziklag is the clear evidence of a massive fire, which could confirm the biblical account of the Amalekites burning the city and taking the women and children captive while David and his men were away.