Jerusalem: Relics of the Babylonian conquest discovered

Ashes, arrowheads and everyday objects bear witness to the historical-biblical event

This 2, 500-year-old arrowhead was found in an ash layer in Jerusalem. It is Scythian style and could therefore come from the Babylonian conquerors of the city. © Mt Zion Archaeological Expedition / Virginia Withers
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Archaeologists have found evidence of the conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians - an event already described in the Bible. At Zionsberg, they came upon an ash layer containing Babylonian arrowheads, shards, lamps, and other relics. This find combination fits well with the surviving reports of the incarnation of large parts of the city in 586 BC, the researchers report.

Siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in a medieval representation. © historical

The conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and the destruction of the first temple in 586 BC is considered, after the destruction of the second temple by the Romans, as one of the major cuts in the history of the city. According to tradition, the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar besieged the city for several months until they finally broke through the city walls. Then they burned down the Temple of Solomon, the Royal Palace and many houses.

Scythian arrowheads and ashes

Now, archaeologists led by Shimon Gibson from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, have unearthed first evidence of this historic event on Zionsberg. Previously, they had already discovered finds from the siege of Jerusalem by the Crusaders. In a subjacent layer of finds they now came across relics from the time of the Babylonian occupation.

The archaeologists found an ash layer from around 587 BC, under which various objects were mixed. Among them were fragments of household objects such as clay pots and lamps, but also arrowheads made of bronze and iron in Scythian style. "These Scythian arrowheads were also discovered at other battlefields from the 7th and 6th centuries BC, " explains Gibson. "We know that these spikes were used by the Babylonian warriors."

Home of the Jewish elite

The ash layer alone would be no evidence that these finds date from the time of the conquest of Jerusalem. But the combination of the Scythian arrowheads with the broken everyday objects is a strong indication. In addition, the location of the site agrees: "We know where the old fortifications were, so we know we are here in the old city, " explains Gibson. "This was not a M llplatz, but the southwestern quarter of the Iron Age city." Display

This earring or pendant made of gold and silver comes from the ash layer. Z Mt Zion Archaeological Expedition / Rafi Lewis

In this quarter, even the wealthy elite could once have lived. For among the finds is also an earring or pendant of gold and silver, as the archaeologists report. "Nobody leaves golden jewelry just like that, " says Gibson. This, too, speaks in favor of the inhabitants having to flee quickly before the conquerors.

More finds expected

"It's really exciting to dig up the material signature of a historical event, all the more so when it comes to such a significant event as the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, " says Gibson's colleague Ralph Lewis of the University of Haifa. However, the researchers have yet unearthed a small part of the finds from this period. "We therefore expect that we will find much more of the Iron Age city, " they say.

"We are slowly working our way back to the past, layer by layer and period by period, " explains Gibson. But in the 2020 season, they want to continue exploring the testimonies of the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem.

Source: University of North Carolina at Charlotte

- Nadja Podbregar