As archaeologists in Jerusalem dig up the ground, they uncover a stunning remnant of the past: a house from the 6th century B.C. And there’s much to see and analyze with this incredible find – from its burnt wooden beams and split pillars to its shattered tile floors. Upon their investigations of the area, however, the team notice a tiny piece of clay with a few words etched into it – an artifact that could just prove the truth of a story in the Bible.
And it wasn’t the first time that archaeologists had made an important find at the Givati Parking Lot. As the name implies, the locale used to be where neighborhood residents would leave their cars; now, though, it’s a busy dig site near to the City of David – another place of great interest for researchers.
The City of David is one of Israel’s most extensively investigated locations, in fact. Since 2003, however, archaeologists have also been discovering what lies beneath the Givati Parking Lot. And nearly 20 years later, they still make significant finds – including the minuscule relic that seems to confirm a reference made in the Bible.
According to the locals, people have been inhabiting the East Jerusalem village of Silwan since the 7th century. Today, the neighborhood houses mostly Palestinian residents, although a few dozen Jewish families live there too. But it also hosts remnants of the distant past – and considering Jerusalem’s history begins in the 4th century B.C., that should probably come as no surprise.
And while the Givati Parking Lot may once have been a relatively unremarkable spot, it has gone on to become a key site for researchers in the area. Its location close to the City of David, in particular, makes it a sensible choice for any archaeological expeditions.
The City of David is actually a neighborhood within the confines of Silwan’s borders, and it’s one of the Holy Land’s most extensively explored locales. This is partly because of its supposed ties to the Hebrew Bible, which references a City of David within its pages.
And one particular find from a dig at the site suggests that people have lived in the area for a long time. An excavation of bedrock in the City of David has revealed shards of pottery that seemingly date back to the Chalcolithic era, which took place from 4500 B.C. to 3500 B.C.
Relics from later periods have been discovered here, too. For instance, in 2010 specialists unearthed an etched tablet that appears to originate from the 14th century B.C. – making it the earliest document of its kind to have ever been found in Jerusalem. And visitors to the area can peruse all of the dig sites when they visit the archaeological park there.
That said, the Givati Parking Lot has also yielded some important ancient finds. For starters, excavators at the location once uncovered a huge trove of gold coins that seem to date back to the Byzantine era. The Byzantine, or Eastern Roman, Empire thrived from 330 A.D. to 1453 A.D.
Digs at the Givati Parking Lot have also revealed the remnants of an ancient structure that archaeologists believe was created in the Second Temple period. The era stretched from 516 B.C. to 70 A.D. – meaning it encompassed the time when the Christian religion first came into being.
This may not be just any Second Temple structure, however, as it’s been suggested that the building once housed one of the era’s queens. Not much is known about Helena of Adiabene, but historians believe that she presided over Edessa – now Urfa in present-day Turkey – and Adiabene, which today can be found in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Titus Flavius Josephus also kept a record on Helena, as he lived in Jerusalem during her reign and after her death in around 50 A.D. to 56 A.D. Much of what we think of as the royal’s history has therefore been taken from his work. And while the Talmud also contains stories about the monarch, the ancient Jewish text was actually drafted long after Flavius Josephus committed his words to the page.
These ancient records reveal Helena of Adiabene to have been a generous queen – especially in the midst of a major famine in Jerusalem. Rather than allow her people to starve, the ruler wrote to other kingdoms and asked them to send supplies. Consequently, she secured both corn from Alexandria and dried figs from Cyprus – all of which were given to those who were suffering.
On top of that, the Talmud notes Helena’s devout adherence to Jewish law. At one time, the queen made a vow – which she followed through – to become a Nazirite if her son returned safely from war. By making such a promise, Helena committed herself to both refrain from drinking alcohol and to keep her hair growing, which she did for years.
So, as Helena was an important figure in both Judaism and Jerusalem itself, discovering what could once have been her palace was naturally a big deal. And wider interest in digs in the area only increased after the centuries-old remnants of the building were unearthed.
Yet the Givati Parking Lot has given up much more. At the location, archaeologists have uncovered residences that appear to date back to the 8th or 9th century A.D. – an era known as the Abbasid. The bedrocks of Byzantine- and Roman-era structures have also been excavated.
Among these discoveries are the remains of a half-acre Roman building that served as a residence to locals at the time. And it appears that someone who once lived in the dwelling – which likely stood between the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. – left an earring behind. The golden piece of jewelry was lavish, too, with precious gems and pearls set within.
The home also yielded the sculpted likeness of a Roman boxer, which experts have said was utilized as a weight. And, interestingly, the trove of Byzantine coins was found close to this locale. The majority of the relics discovered in the Givati Parking Lot are from either the Roman or Byzantine periods, in fact.
Ultimately, though, developers hope to transform the Givati Parking Lot into something else entirely. A four-story building with a coffee shop and museum has been proposed for the site, with this envisioned to be a place where City of David visitors could stop, reflect and rest before continuing onto the ancient ruins.
Still, at present, archaeological excavations continue at the location. And this is good news for historians, as more intriguing finds have been made there. In March 2019 a team composed of experts from the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University shared a small-but-mighty discovery that had been taken from the vicinity of a Babylonian-era structure.
The building in itself was a noteworthy find, as it had stood at around the same time that the Babylonians had raided Jerusalem and destroyed the city’s First Temple in 586 B.C. And what remained of the dwelling showed that the invaders had not spared it; as the experts could see, the structure had been razed to the ground.
Yes, the building – which had once been situated in the capital city of Judah – had been set ablaze, charring the vibrantly colored flooring. And researchers have been able to determine that tiles here fell when the wooden beams that upheld the second story burned away.
In 2019 Yiftah Shalev, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority, told Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “The entire place was consumed by a terrible fire.” This destruction explains why the Babylonian-era build also contained pieces of pottery and cracked pillars within.
Still, the archaeologists’ most important find would be much smaller than even those remnants. Among the ancient, burned rubble, workers happened to notice a tiny seal that bore the name of Nathan-Melech, who served the King of Judah in his court. And this inscription made the item highly significant.
You see, Nathan-Melech’s name appears in the Bible, meaning the seal provides a piece of physical evidence to back up his appearance in the holy book. And as a result, it could be said that the artifact goes some way to proving the veracity of the events mentioned in the sacred text.
More specifically, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced that the small impression read “[belonging] to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King.” This title was one bestowed upon authority figures who had close links to the King of Judah. Other seals and stamps discovered at the site had “Servant of the King” etched upon them, too.
And, apparently, Nathan-Melech had ties to King Josiah, a 7th century B.C. leader of Judah. During his reign, Josiah supposedly made it his mission to cease polytheistic practices in the kingdom. Instead, it’s said that he wanted his people to worship in the First Temple.
The Bible also makes mention of both Josiah and Nathan-Melech. In 2 Kings 23:11, it’s written that Josiah “took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the Lord, by the chamber of Nathan-Melech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire.”
And while one could argue that the Nathan-Melech mentioned in the Bible was a different person to the one whose name appears on the Babylonian-era seal, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Anat Mendel-Geberovich disagrees. Speaking to Haaretz, she claimed, “It is impossible to ignore some of the details that link [the figures] together.”
For one thing, the seal appears to have been around at the same time as the Nathan-Melech described in the Bible. The clay imprint was supposedly created anywhere from the middle of the 7th century to the early 6th century B.C., while King Josiah reigned as Judah’s 16th leader until his death in 609 B.C.
Secondly, Nathan-Melech’s seal was found within a large building – suggesting that he was likely a prominent figure in Judah at the time. And then there’s the fact that the item doesn’t feature Nathan-Melech’s family name. This likely meant that everyone knew who he was, and so it was needless to include any other identifying information.
Nathan-Melech isn’t the only biblical figure to have his name emblazoned on an ancient seal, either. Archaeologists have also found impressions belonging to King Hezekiah, who reigned during the 8th century B.C, and the Prophet Isaiah – from whom a book in the Bible takes its name.
And even within the same structure in which workers found Nathan-Melech’s seal, there was another stamp that could have come from a biblical figure. The inscription on this item said “Lelkar Ben Matanyahu,” which means “[belonging] to Ikar, son of Matanyahu” – and the name Matanyahu similarly features in the holy text.
Yet archaeologists at the site have barely scratched the surface of what the First Temple-era building has to offer them. At the time that they discovered Nathan-Melech’s seal, they had only examined three of the building’s rooms – each one contained within dense walls.
And as previously mentioned, the structure had once boasted stunning tiled floors that had crumbled along with the rest of the building as it burned down. If these slabs had survived and been polished, though, their rich red and purple hues would have glistened. Owing to these splendid features, archaeologist Yiftah Shalev told that “there [had been] a huge investment in this building.”
But while the structure’s former use is still unknown, its luxurious features – combined, of course, with the seals from high-ranking officials – meant that Shalev was willing to hazard a guess. He believes that a priest may once have lived in the building; it could also have once served as a public or administrative hub.
What the experts did know for sure was that the building had, indeed, been set on fire. They also knew when the blaze had happened. The next step, then, was to uncover when the structure had been built in the first place. As such, the archaeologists hoped to continue digging so that they could find and date the original set of floors.
And even without every question answered, the building presented an incredible research opportunity to the Jerusalem-based team. While talking to Haaretz, Tel Aviv University archaeologist Oded Lipschits described the find as “unparalleled” – not least because it provided a glimpse of how wealthier people had lived during the First Temple era.
Lipschits even speculated that someone who had resided in the lavish house may have helped put together the Bible’s Book of Deuteronomy. After all, pages of the text are said to have appeared in the First Temple during King Josiah’s time on the throne of Judah.
All of these possibilities made future digs at the site an even more exciting prospect. And Lipschits paid tribute to the structure itself, saying, “It is a living testament of the Jerusalemite elite that shaped the history and character of Judaism as we know it today. These are the floors that Josiah’s scribes walked on.”
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, two researchers appear to have unearthed something just as incredible. There’s another potential link to the Bible, too, if what the pair have uncovered is true. It’s all to do with Australia’s rocks – and how they could confirm what Christians have believed for generations.
Australia may be full of many wonders, but the Pilbara region definitely stands out among them all. This area in the west of the country is not only packed with unusual and one-off wildlife and greenery, but it’s also home to a whole host of astonishing geological features. The eye-catching rock formations in the Pilbara have even given scientists crucial insights into the beginning of the world. And, incredibly, one of those discoveries suggests there’s some scientific basis for the events mentioned in the biblical Book of Genesis.
Sprawling over more than 193,000 square miles, the Pilbara region is double the area of the entire United Kingdom and as big as the northeastern United States. And given the sheer size of the landscape, it’s perhaps no surprise that environments there are varied, ranging from dry and desert-like to tropical.
But there’s something for everyone in the region – from beautiful sandy beaches and secluded islets to rocky gorges, plunge pools and mountains. And the incredible natural wonders don’t end there. Rare animals such as the Pilbara leaf-nosed bat and the olive python are also to be found in this part of the world.
There’s also a more than 30,000-year history of human habitation in the Pilbara, with its one million rock carvings all acting as evidence that ancient peoples once lived and thrived there. Given the remarkable flora and fauna in the area, though, you may be surprised to learn that the Pilbara is also seen as “the engine room of Australia.”
How did the region earn that moniker? Well, it appears that the landscape is bursting with natural resources – some of which are typically used within industry. Mining operations have found iron ore, natural gas, gold and base metals, for example, among the rocks there.
Yet the history of mining in the Pilbara goes back just a few decades, to the 1960s. And there has been extraction in particular of iron ore, with some six million tons of the metal having been found in the region. In 2014 the Pilbara was said to be responsible for an amazing 95 percent of Australia’s iron ore production, in fact.
Owing in part to this extraction work, the Pilbara is home to around 60,000 inhabitants – most of whom live in the western third of the region. Many of the various mines, towns and commercial districts are also located in the vicinity. And while this era of human habitation is essentially modern – even industrial – the area has an ancient history that we’re still discovering today.
Indeed, while humans may have lived in the Pilbara for tens of thousands of years, the region itself has existed for far longer than that. And it not only plays home to some of the first rocks to have formed on the planet, but also fossils from the earliest lifeforms. These relics from a bygone age include remnants of sulfur-eating bacteria and stromatolites created by tiny microbes. But the location’s unique features certainly don’t end there.
You see, the Pilbara has a remarkably uncommon geological makeup. Rock formations such as those found in Western Australia are only seen in one other place on Earth: South Africa. And these incredibly rare arrangements actually date back to a time before tectonic plates began to create landforms in the way we see today. This makes areas of the rock here billions of years old.
Before we move on, though, let’s have a quick chat about plate tectonics. Essentially, movement of the enormous plates that glide across the Earth’s surface can create new landforms – either as the result of causing volcanic lava flow or by pushing rock upward when the plates crash into each other. Yet the Pilbara predates even this incredibly old process.
The formation of the Pilbara goes all the way back to the early days of Earth, in fact. At the time, the planet was incredibly hot, with temperatures high enough to melt rock. It’s thought that molten basalt and granite then sank and rose over the course of millions of years, with this process leaving a distinct mark on the region’s landscape.
When seen from above, the area is now dotted with telltale domes of rock – leftovers from that ancient activity. These mounds somehow survived the later tectonic plate movements and survive to this day. And as a result, a number of rocks in the Pilbara region have been dated to over three billion years old.
Understandably, these age-old rock formations have proved popular among geologists and scientists. In particular, they’re of use for those trying to understand exactly when and how plate tectonics began shaping landforms. The theory of gravitational overturn in the Pilbara even came about as a result of research in the region.
But there are certainly other findings to be made about the Pilbara. For instance, in March 2020 University of Colorado Boulder researchers Benjamin Johnson and Boswell Wing published a study in the journal Natural Geoscience that detailed some of their work in the region. And during the course of the duo’s investigations, they discovered some very interesting things indeed.
More specifically, Johnson and Wing decided to analyze the chemical composition of the ancient rock of the Pilbara, looking in depth at the levels of the isotopes oxygen-18 and oxygen-16 there. These elements can, it appears, tell us a lot about the formation of landmass.
The isotopes actually become trapped in the rock at the time of its formation, and their differing levels may give clues as to what the surrounding environment was like when that rock was created. For instance, lower amounts of oxygen-18 are a telltale sign that a landmass had appeared. Explaining this further, Wing was quoted in a March 2020 Daily Express article as saying, “When you form a soil, you form clays, and clays hoover up heavy oxygen.”
Soil and clay, of course, form on the ground, and therefore low levels of the heavier oxygen-18 can indicate the presence of land. Wing went on, “What you can tell from that is how much soil formation was going on.” So, given how old the Pilbara rocks are, the pair decided to test samples from the area for the two oxygen isotopes. And the results of this investigation may well surprise you.
In total, Wing and Johnson analyzed over 100 rock samples from the Panorama region of the Pilbara. But while tests for levels of oxygen-18 and oxygen-16 should have revealed steady, consistent levels of these isotopes throughout the ages, these processes ultimately indicated something entirely different. And what the researchers discovered had implications not just for our understanding of the early Earth, but also of more heavenly considerations.
After looking at the samples, you see, Wing and Johnson discovered that oxygen-18 isotopes existed at higher than expected levels in the Pilbara rocks. Why is this significant? Well, although the heavy compound is usually hoovered up by soil and clay-rich environments, that doesn’t appear to have happened in this area.
And while Wing and Johnson have admitted that the disparity between expected and actual levels of oxygen-18 is very tiny, it is still significant. In a March 2020 report by Sci-News.com, Wing is quoted as saying, “Though these mass differences seem small, the [isotopes] are super-sensitive.” Faced with these unusual levels, the researchers then came to a unique conclusion.
Johnson and Wing theorized that these higher oxygen-18 levels suggested no continents had existed at the time the isotope was trapped over three billion years ago. This subsequently led them to assume that the world, without any landmass, was covered in an enormous ocean – meaning the Pilbara, in turn, was once an ancient ocean bed.
And the evidence seemed to fit. Some of the examples of early life found in the Pilbara region are water-based, after all, while much of the landscape bears the scars of flowing liquid. “Today, there are these really scrubby and rolling hills that are cut through by dry river beds. It’s a crazy place,” Johnson said of the area, according to a March 2020 article by The Independent.
Of course, the possibility of a world covered in water has implications not only for geologists, but also for theologians. And while those two groups may sound like curious bedfellows, they do actually have a few things in common. Both share an interest in the mechanics of the beginning of the world, for instance.
For scientists, of course, the Big Bang and the evolution of the solar system are key. Theologians, on the other hand, are more typically concerned with the divine creation of Earth and everything on it – a process that is described in the Book of Genesis.
The Book of Genesis opens both the Old Testament and the Hebrew Bible. And, famously, it recounts a version of what is claimed to be the beginning of the world, which God apparently created in six days. Some aspects of the tale even seem to mirror Johnson and Wing’s theory.
In particular, Genesis states, “And God said, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.’ And it was so.” The suggestion here is that at some point during the six-day creation period, Earth was covered in water – with no land in sight.
And this idea that the young planet contained nothing but water appears to parallel Johnson and Wing’s research. If their theories are correct, then, the Book of Genesis may actually have some basis in fact. Yet there is one small problem with the Bible-mirroring-life theory.
According to the Book of Genesis, God creates the oceans and the land in around three days. For many biblical scholars, this event took place around 6,000 years ago. But, of course, the scientists studying the Pilbara have dated the rocks there to approximately 3.2 billion years ago – which makes for quite the disparity in time periods.
Still, there are those who don’t see this difference as anything to worry about. Indeed, some so-called Old Earth creationists believe that there’s a perfectly good explanation for this not-inconsiderable discrepancy. It’s all to do with the translation of the Hebrew word yom, meaning, among other things, “day.” Many readings of Genesis verses take that as a literal 24-hour time period.
By contrast, a number of Old Earth creationists translate the word to mean a time period with a definite duration – not necessarily a 24-hour cycle. This interpretation of yom does have precedent in Hebrew, but in this instance, members of the group have taken its definition a little further. And by a little, we mean so much further…
For Old Earth Creationists, you see, a biblical day can last up to billions of years. This means that the time period in which God created the land could have lasted epochs. And given that we still don’t really know how, why or exactly when plate tectonics created the continents, it’s easy to see why this explanation appears so attractive to some. If it’s true, then the Bible may well describe the actual creation of the planet.
However, many geologists are excited by the findings for many different reasons. According to the Daily Express, Wing has said, “[These findings are] at the limit of the geological record. That’s why old rocks and the ancient Earth [are] so fun.” And there’s potential for the Pilbara rocks to teach us even more.
Wing was quoted by Sci-News.com as saying, “Our findings could help scientists to better understand how and where single-cell organisms first emerged on Earth. The history of life on Earth tracks available niches. If you’ve got a waterworld, a world covered by ocean, then dry niches are just not going to be available.”
So, to understand the journey of life on Earth, we need to discover when the planet finally spawned a landmass. According to Wing, though, his and Johnson’s theory doesn’t entirely rule out land altogether. “There’s nothing in what we’ve done that says you can’t have teeny micro-continents sticking out of the oceans,” he explained.
Wing went on, “We just don’t think that there were global-scale formation of continental soils like we have today.” And now he and Johnson intend to study young rocks all over the world in an attempt to pinpoint the birth of tectonic plates. Indeed, Johnson was quoted by The Independent as saying, “Trying to fill that gap is very important.”
Meanwhile, the Pilbara region itself is about to become part of Western Australia’s future in a big way. While the mining industry there still grows, the government is plowing over a billion dollars of investment into the area. And the plans in place are ambitious.
The authorities intend not only to boost infrastructure, but also the populations of two of the towns in the Pilbara to 50,000 people each. That’s a long way from the 60,000 or so current residents of the Pilbara’s three regions. Yet the ambitions for the historic area don’t end there – and they don’t all include mining, either.
In essence, one of the aims of the project has been to “[transform] Pilbara mining communities into modern cities and towns.” To do that effectively, then, the government intends to concentrate on community projects, land development and economic diversification of the area. And the development of agriculture in the Pilbara seems to mark a move away from mining.
In particular, a multi-million-dollar government investment saw abandoned mines being repurposed into new farmland. Land purchased around old operations has been used for growing animal fodder, making use of the excess water used in ore extraction. To date, three schemes of this type have been funded in the area.
But those moving to the Pilbara over the next few years may well have no idea that they’re so close to some of the world’s oldest features. And while Johnson and Wing continue to search for answers, the region will always offer a window into a time before life as we know it took hold of the planet – either by way of divine intervention or nature itself.