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Biblical Archaeology’s Top 10 Discoveries of 2023

The major biblical archaeology stories of 2023 contain a lot of doom, destruction, and disappointment. They also contain mysteries that may be resolved by future excavations—and perhaps, in one case, the resolution of an ongoing controversy that has dogged New Testament scholars for the past decade.

The truly important discoveries of 2023, of course, may not be known for years, as it takes time for archaeologists to carefully study the results of their research and then publish their findings in scientific journals. But these are some of the stories that generated headlines for biblical archaeology in 2023.

10. Lost graves in Gaza

Near the end of September, archaeologists in Gaza announced the discovery of graves in a Roman-era cemetery. Crews working under French archaeologist René Elter uncovered important information about the lives of inhabitants along this coastal trade route 2,000 years ago. They found two extremely rare lead coffins—one decorated with ornate grape leaves, the other with images of dolphins—suggesting social elites had been buried there.

“An inconspicuous construction lot—surrounded by a grove of nondescript apartment buildings—has become a gold mine for archaeologists,” the Associated Press reported.

Two weeks later, Hamas militants from Gaza attacked Israel, precipitating a costly war that has probably leveled those nondescript apartment buildings, displacing and perhaps killing their inhabitants. The fate of those working on the site and the site itself is currently unknown. Elter responded to a query about his safety but did not elaborate on the excavation.

The war, of course, disrupted the work of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) across Israel. Some IAA archaeologists with expertise acquired studying ancient disasters found their skills needed for a different kind of work. They were called in to Jewish communities attacked by Hamas to help discover and identify the human remains.

“It is one thing to expose 2,000-year-old destruction remains, and quite another thing—heart-rending and unfathomable—to carry out the present task searching for evidence of our sisters and brothers in the settlements,” the IAA said.

They discovered evidence that helped identify at least 10 dead people previously considered missing.

Read more at Christianity Today 

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