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What We Dug Up - Israel Tourism


New York - November 10, 2015 - One of Jerusalem's greatest archeological mysteries has been solved through the discovery of the Greek Akra, Epiphanes' lost stronghold in Jerusalem. The finding, after a 100-year search, reveals the location of city boundaries, main streets and monumental buildings at different times throughout history. Akra was a famous stronghold built more than 2,000 years ago by the Syrian-Greek King Antiochus IV in order to control Jerusalem and monitor activity in the Temple. Its eventual liberation by the Hasmoneans more than two millennia ago is commemorated in the annual festival of Chanukah, celebrated by Jews every December.  

The discovery was recently uncovered during archeological excavations that the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting at the Givati parking lot in the City of David within the Jerusalem Walls National Park. These excavations have been ongoing for a decade, and have thus far uncovered numerous artifacts from more than ten different ancient cultures throughout Jerusalem's history. The Givati excavation is open daily to the general public. 

Over the past 100 years of archeological research in Jerusalem, numerous theories have been put forth identifying the location of the Akra, as architectural remains that can be traced to the Greek presence in Jerusalem have been scarce. 

Archeologists now believe that they have exposed evidence of the Akra citadel on the City of David hill: a section of a massive wall, a base of a tower with impressive dimensions (approx. 4 meters wide and 20 meters long) and a glacis, an embankment designed to keep attackers away from the base of the wall. Lead sling shots, bronze arrowheads and ballista stones that were discovered at the site and stamped with a trident, which symbolized the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, are remains of battles that were waged there at the time of the Hasmoneans, in their attempt to conquer the citadel. 

According to the excavation directors Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, Yana Tchekhanovets and Salome Cohen: "This sensational discovery allows us for the first time to reconstruct the layout of the settlement in the city, on the eve of the Maccabean uprising in 167 BCE. The new archeological finds indicate the establishment of a well-fortified stronghold that was constructed on the high bedrock cliff overlooking the steep slopes of the City of David hill. This stronghold controlled all means of approach to the Temple atop the Temple Mount, and cut the Temple off from the southern parts of the city. The numerous coins ranging in date from the reign of Antiochus IV to that of Antiochus VII and the large number of wine jars (amphorae) that were imported from the Aegean region to Jerusalem, which were discovered at the site, provide evidence of the citadel's chronology, as well as the non-Jewish identity of its inhabitants."


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