The most recent dramatic archaeological find in Israel is that of a luxurious administrative center from the period of King Hezekiah, over 2,700 years ago. The center was discovered in Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, just south of Jerusalem
Over 100 students and volunteers from Israel and abroad are taking part in the dig, which is a joint project of Tel Aviv University’s Archaeological Institute and Heidelberg University in Germany.
Among the volunteers and students are 35 Germans, 30 Americans, 20 Israelis, and others from Australia, Italy, Greece, Spain, England, and elsewhere. The volunteers are in Israel on a month-long program in which they also learn Jewish history, take part in Bible research, are treated to educational hikes in Jerusalem and around the country, and more.
Prominent among the findings unearthed at the site are a tremendous amount of imprinted pitcher handles. Researchers assume that jugs of oil and wine, as well as other agricultural produce, were amassed here as taxes to be given to foreign rulers.
The dig is supported by various private donors, as well as the Jewish National Fund, the National Tourism Company and Kibbutz Ramat Rachel.
The administrative center at what is now Ramat Rachel included a complex of palace buildings that was active from the reign of King Menashe through that of King Zedekiah, at the end of the First Temple period, and for at least 200 years after the return to Zion and through the Hellenistic period. During the Hasmonean period, however, the site was razed to the ground – and atop it was built a Jewish village, from which remain many ritual baths situated in private homes, caves used for raising pigeons, and more.
The Jewish village lasted until at least the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in the year 68, when the Romans took it over. A church was built there under the Byzantines, but the site was later to remain desolate for nearly 1,000 years – until the construction of Kibbutz Ramat Rachel by modern-day Zionist Jews.
The Israel Antiquities Authorities estimates that there are one million archaeological artifacts on display in Israel at present.