BY PREETIKA VERMA / WED 9 JAN 2019 07:14PM.
It is unclear whether a mysterious 2,100-year-old stone bowl fragment recently excavated in Jerusalem belonged to royalty or a commoner, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced late last week.
The fragment — made from chalk, a type of limestones — is small enough to fit in a persons hand. But it is large enough to contain a striking detail on its side: the name “Hyrcanus” engraved in Hebrew letters.
However, Hyrcanus was also a commonly used name during that time, the IAA said. Although the name it self is Greek, many Jews used it during the Hellenistic period, The Times of Israel reported.
“This is one of the earliest example of chalk vessels to appear in Jerusalem,” Doron Ben-Ami, an archaeologist with the IAA, and Esther Eshel, a professor in the Bible department at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, said in a statement.
“These stones vessels were extensively used by Jews because they were considered vessels that cannot become ritually unclean.”
Researcher discovered the fragment in 2015, but the IAA decided to delay the announcement so that researcher could have time to study the artifacts.
The researcher noted that the fragment was discovered under the Givati parking lot at the City of David — Jerusalems oldest neighborhood and one of its largest archaeological site.
Archaeologist found the fragment under the ancient foundations of a mikvah complex, a pool used as a Jewish ritual bath. But its placement sheds little light on its past owners, the researchers stated.
There are so few engraved vessels in the archaeological record from this period that it is difficult to say whether the newfound artifact was a routine creation or a special tribute, the IAA said.
“The name Hyrcanus was fairly common in the Hasmonean period,” Ben Ami and Eshel said in the statement.
“We know of 2 personages from this period who had this name: John Hyrcanus, who was the grandson of Matityahu the Hasmonean and ruled Judea from 135 [to] 104 B.C.E, and John Hyrcanus II, who was the son of Alexander Jannaeus and Salome Alexandra; however, it’s not possible to determine if the bowl belonged specifically to either of them.”
The Givati parking lot also holds the remains of a famous fortress (known as the Akra or Acra), built under the rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Greek king of the Seleucid Empire who tried to control Judea during the Maccabean Revolt, the rebellion whose events led to the 1st Hanukkah.
The Hasmoneans eventually conquered the Akra. Intriguingly, the bowl fragment was found near the Akra’s remains, the researchers said.