Excavating Armageddon, Israeli Researchers Reveal Past

Israeli Jewelry
Orange carnelian stone beads found in an excavation in modern-day Israel. Some of the materials and motifs of the jewelry are consistent with Egyptian designs. Courtesy of Megiddo Expedition/Tel Aviv University via Bloomberg

Archaeologists who found a 3,000-year-old gold ibex earring in the remains of the ancient Canaanite city identified with Armageddon anticipate further discoveries will broaden historical insight about the site.

Digging resumed on June 17, almost a month after the announcement that a jewelry trove was found in the remains of a private home built near the palace that housed the then rulers.

At question is a debate over whether Megiddo, now part of present-day Israel, was one of several Egyptian garrisons in the late Bronze Age, said Israel Finkelstein, co-director of the dig.

“I personally think Megiddo was not such a city,” Finkelstein said. “But what we are doing now illuminates this question.”

Megiddo, which the New Testament identifies with the “Armageddon” battle of the end of days, has been home to 37 different cities over thousands of years and is a trove of archaeological treasure.

Strategically, the UNESCO World Heritage site has been invaluable because it controlled a commonly used passage on the trading route between Egypt and Mesopotamia and also stood along a route connecting Jerusalem with the Jordan River valley.

“Anything that would shed light on the sequence of events and sequence of material culture that would show whether this culture was the last phase of the Egyptian Canaanite system or the next phase, would be of utmost importance,” said Finkelstein, also a professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University.

Egyptian Designs

Some of the materials and motifs of the jewelry in the hoard are consistent with Egyptian designs from the same period, including carnelian beads, Tel Aviv University said in a press statement last month.

The ibex piece was a “major find,” said Finkelstein, who participated in his first dig 40 years ago. “Sometimes you come across items and say to yourself, ‘I haven’t seen anything like that in my life.’”

“It is important to understand the methodology of working with these jewelry pieces and to understand the origin of the gold and silver,” he said. “It sheds light on trade relations and connections between Canaan and neighboring lands.”

The excavation is being carried out even as Israel’s present-day relationship with Egypt, with which it has lived in peace for three decades, has frayed since former President Hosni Mubarak was removed from office last year.

A deteriorating security situation on Israel’s southern border with Egypt has seen a natural-gas pipeline bombed 14 times since February and Egyptian gas imports to Israel dropping to $179 million last year from $355 million in 2010.

Modern-day leaders seeking to use history to fix the future probably won’t find any helpful conclusions in the rise and fall of civilizations since ancient times on Megiddo.

“I don’t believe we can draw direct lessons from the past,” said Finkelstein.

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