Weekly Summary: 7th - 13th March, 2023

Every week, Studies of Biblical Interest provides a brief summary of significant discoveries, current affairs, and advancements in our specific areas of expertise. If you have a news story you would like us to showcase, please send the details to editors@biblicaljournal.org.

Archaeologists in Morocco have discovered Jewish antiquities and Hebrew texts at the Takadert Synagogue in the city of Tata. The discoveries provide insight into the timeline of Jewish history in southern Morocco and the history of Morocco. The Moroccan government has initiated a programme to restore hundreds of Jewish archaeological sites, making Morocco the first country in the Arab world to use public funds for that purpose. Last year, Morocco's King Mohammed VI recognised the country's Jewish community as part of its culture.

Archaeologists from the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw, have discovered architectural elements from a Pharaonic temple, including hieroglyphic inscriptions and figural decoration, at the medieval citadel in Old Dongola, Sudan. The discovery is unique, as no traces from such an early period have before been encountered in the 60 years of archaeological research in Old Dongola. While it is unclear whether the blocks came from Old Dongola itself or were brought there from another site, their discovery suggests a much earlier date for the city's foundation.

Students studying the history of early Jewish villages in northern Israel on a practicum discovered a 1,500-year-old basalt carving of a lioness that may have adorned an ancient synagogue. Prof Mordechai Aviam of the Kinneret Academic College was leading the class when students Zvia Dahan and Michael Benish reported seeing the sculpture. Aviam recognised its importance and, because of concerns about theft, reported the find to the Israel Antiquities Authority and had the carving taken to safety. Similar carvings of lions and eagles from the Late Roman period, 200-300 CE, are well-documented in the region.

Archaeologists in Israel have discovered the largest Byzantine winery ever found. Uncovered during a salvage excavation before the construction of a new neighbourhood, the complex dates back 1,500 years and included five large wine presses, treading floors, two large vats, storage rooms for wine jars, and kilns for producing them. The winery had the capacity to produce up to two million litres of wine and was owned by the nobility, wealthy individuals, monasteries, or imperial estates. The wine was likely made by Christians, but no religious motifs were found on the site, suggesting it was not a monastery.

The origins of the Iron Age kingdom of Edom, located in the southern part of modern Jordan, are under debate among archaeologists. Some experts believe that Edom emerged in the 10th century BCE from a nomadic polity that engaged in sophisticated copper production, while others argue that it was formed much later, in the late 8th century BCE, as a result of the impact of the Assyrian empire on settlement, agriculture, and trade. The debate was sparked by archaeological fieldwork in the copper-rich region of Faynan, which discovered a huge boom in copper production in the 10th century BCE with industrial-scale manufacturing and a major center at Khirbat an-Nahas. The excavations have stimulated suggestions that Edom developed much earlier, in the lowlands, with social complexity linked to intensive copper production at Faynan. Yet, there are two key points of contention, with no supporting archaeological evidence connecting Faynan's nomadic polity to the copper production, nor evidence for continuity between early Faynan and the later Iron Age kingdom of Edom in the highlands.