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A Late Bronze Age Egyptian Temple in Jerusalem?

Author(s): Gabriel Barkay

Reviewed work(s):
Source: Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 46, No. 1/2 (1996), pp. 23-43
Published by: Israel Exploration Society
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A Late Bronze Age Egyptian Temple
in Jerusalem?*

Gabriel Barkay
Tel Aviv University

In the fifth century C.E., the Byzantine Empress Eudocia built a large church at
the site where, according to tradition, the proto-martyr St. Stephanus was stoned
to death. A Crusader church was later built on the same site (Fig. 1), north of
Jerusalem, not far from the city's northern gate (Fig. 2 ). The Dominican fathers,who
purchased that area, conducted extensive archaeological excavations there from 1882
for several years (Fig. 3), under the direction of P?re M. J. Lagrange, who summarized
his work in a comprehensive volume published in 1894.1 After the excavations were
completed, a new church was built over the Byzantine ruins. The ?cole Biblique
et Arch?ologique Fran?aise and the Dominican monastery of St. Etienne were also
built there.
Over a century later, it transpires that many more significant remains had been
uncovered by theDominican fathers. Since archaeological research was in its infancy
at the time, however, the excavators did not save the ceramic finds, being unaware
of their importance for dating purposes. In 1973 it became clear that two burial
caves, uncovered in 1885 in the courtyard of St. Etienne and dated incorrectly by
the excavators, are, in fact, the largest, most magnificent burial caves from the
period of the Judaean monarchy (eighth-seventh centuries B.C.E.) to have been
preserved in this country.2 Other early remains uncovered in the excavations will be
discussed in this article.


An Egyptian Stele Fragment

A fragment of a small Egyptian stele (SE 17) was found in the excavations conducted
by the Dominican fathers in the area of the Byzantine church,3 and was published

* A Hebrew version of thisarticle:El 21

(1990), pp. 94-106; English summary,p. 104*.
1 M.J. Lagrange: Saint Etienne et son sanctuaire ? J?rusalem, Paris, 1894.
2 G. Barkay and A. Kloner: JerusalemTombs from theDays of the First Temple, Biblical
Archaeology Review 12/2 (1986), pp. 22-39; G. Barkay, A. Kloner and A. Mazar: The
Northern Necropolis of Jerusalem during the First Temple Period, in H. Geva (ed.):
Ancient Jerusalem Revealed, Jerusalem, 1994, pp. 119-123.
3 Two large square cisternswere excavated under theByzantine church,which were probably
also used as stone quarries. The find-spot of the stele fragmentwas the northern cistern,
designated as Area C. Thus theEgyptian stele fragmentwas not discovered in situ.


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Fig. 1.Area north of Damascus Gate (afterPEFQSt [1891], opposite p. 211).

1) Find-spot of stele fragment;
2) Find-spot of Egyptian offeringtable;
3) Find-spot of serpentineEgyptian statuette;
4) Garden Tomb: IronAge II burial cave;
5) St. Paul's hospice;
6) Burial complex No. 1, IronAge II, in backyard of St. ?tienne monastery;
7) Burial complex No. 2, IronAge;
8) Conder's Cave, IronAge II burial cave, inbackyard ofWhite Sisters' nunnery;
9) Site of round opus reticulatumbuilding fromfirstcenturyB.CE.

by P?re V. Scheil in 1892.4 The hieroglyphic inscription on the stele was

incorrectly published and appeared backwards in his drawing, i.e. from right to left

4 V. Scheil: Varia, II, RB 1 (1892), pp. 116-117.

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Fig. 2. Plan of St. Stephen's church and excavations of theDominican fathers.Note rectangular
n. 7], PL 77).
pitmarked C, where stele fragmentwas found (afterVincent and Abel [below,

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Fig. 3. Remains of Eudocia's church duringDominicans' exacations ( 1882?) (afterVincent and

Abel [below, n. 7]).

(see Fig. 4), and no photograph was appended to the article.5 P?re L.H. Vincent
completely ignores this find in his comprehensive study of the ancient periods of the
city,6 and elsewhere refers briefly to the stele fragment while discussing the Byzantine
remains found in the vicinity of the St. ?tienne monastery,7 without mentioning its
unexpected find-spot or significance, attributing it to the 18th dynasty. It is not
surprising, therefore, that the stele fragment has been ignored in all discussions of the
history and archaeology of ancient Jerusalem, as well as in studies dealing with
Canaanite-Egyptian relations.
The stele fragment under discussion was, however, mistakenly published among
the finds uncovered in excavations at Beth Shean. It is discussed in a report by
James on the Iron Age at Beth Shean,8 as well as in an appendix by Ward,9

5 The Egyptian stele fragmentuncovered in the 19th-century excavations by theDominican

fathers is now preserved among the collections of the?cole Biblique. I examined the stele
fragment,with thekind permission of the late P?re P. Benoit O.P., inOctober 1977.
6 L.H. Vincent and A.M. St?ve: J?rusalem de l'ancient Testament, I-I, Paris, 1954-1956.
7 L.H. Vincent and F.-M. Abel: J?rusalem nouvelle, I?II, Paris, 1914-1926, pp. 772-804,
esp. p. 776, n. 3, PL 79:12.
8 F.W. James: The Iron Age at Reth-Shean, Philadelphia, 1966,p. 8, Figs. 98:3, 99:2.
9 W.A. Ward: The Egyptian Inscriptionsof Level VI (Appendix D), in James (above, n. 8),
p. 174 (inscriptionNo. F-2).

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who points out that it differs from other Egyptian inscriptions uncovered at Beth
Shean, both in terms of material and quality of writing. The report also mentions
that the field record and field number of the fragment were missing and that the stele
fragment,which had apparently been discarded by the excavators, had not previously
been published.10 It can reasonably be assumed that A. Rowe mistakenly included
a photograph of this inscription among material from Beth Shean when he began

working on the Egyptian inscriptions found there during the 1930s in an effort to
compare his finds with the limited number of Egyptian inscriptions known in Israel
from the period of the New Kingdom.


yww\ is
Fig. 4. Hieroglyphic inscription on stele
fragment(SE 17), as published by Scheil.

The stele fragment (13.5 cm. high; c.12 cm. wide; 5 cm. thick) ismade of white,
chalky, porous stone, showing signs of peeling in certain places. The stele was
apparently inscribed on both sides; the inscription on the obverse is very fragmentary
and the one on the reverse is badly damaged. Part of the rounded top of the stele
was preserved in our fragment, and three vertical columns of carved hieroglyphs
can be seen below it. Each sign is about 2 cm. wide; the upper part of an incised
scene is visible below the signs (Figs. 5, 6). The middle column of hieroglyphs is
approximately 7 cm. high.
The fragmentary inscription on the obverse contains 13 clear signs. It includes the
title 'the foremost of westerners', which is the title of Osiris, the god of the dead who
were buried on the western side of theNile. Scheil suggested reading the inscription:

'[a stele to the god Seth who gave] strength and long life of [Osiris the] foremost of
westerners... to the deceased...'.11 The name of Osiris also appears on an inscribed

10 James (above, . 8), p. 8.

11 Cf. Scheil (above, .4), p. 117.Ward only deciphered the titleof 'foremostof westerners'
[hn]ty'lmntt,afterwhich he read the name Anubis (with considerable reservations) 'Inpw;
seeWard (above, n. 9), p. 174.

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Fig. 6. Egyptian stele fragment:a) obverse; b) reverse.

stele of Nubian sandstone discovered at Hazor and on stelae of local kurkar stone
found at Deir el-Balah.12

12 Yadin dated the fragmentfromHazor to theNew Kingdom period, see Y. Yadin et al:
Hazor III-IV, Plates, Jerusalem, 1961,PI. 316:1; Y. Yadin: Hazor, The Head ofAll Those
Kingdoms (The Schweich Lectures, 1970), London, 1972, p. 126; PI. 35 (the photograph
was published there upside-down); O. Goldwasser: Some Egyptian Finds fromHazor:

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Scheil claimed that part of the rectangular ear of the Egyptian god Seth is visible
underneath the middle column of hieroglyphs, and that one can see part of a
bunch of three lotus flowers embedded in each other to the left of the segment.
Analogous scenes from Egyptian art suggest that the lotus flowers are part of a

dedicatory bouquet set before the deity.13

On the reverse there is a single incised sign (possibly the loop of an ankhl) and
a few remnants of two other hieroglyphic signs (Figs. 5, 6). Their identification is
difficult, and no reading can be suggested. The facts that there are hieroglyphs on
the reverse and that this side was worked and smoothed so well constitute clear
evidence that the stele was free standing.

An Offering
The Dominicans' revealed, along the diagonal line of the apse of the
Byzantine church and beneath the church floor level, an installation made of a slab
of marble-like white stone (0.65 1.09 m.), with another piece of stone with
a spout-like channel attached to it. The channel led to a pit cut into bedrock,
lined with fieldstone masonry (Fig. 7:1-11). The stone slab is divided into three
fields by two shallow channels carved onto its surface (Fig. 8); they are connected
through two additional, perpendicular channels, from which yet another channel
led to the spout. Remains of three circular signs or imprints of three round objects
are visible on the stone slab, one in each field. Holes of two small nails are visible
in each circle. On the reverse of the stone slab there are two signs (Fig. 7:111),
? ? as the
painted in red, which Vincent identified incorrectly, in my opinion
Greek letters eta (or an oddly formed mu) and theta. He dated the installation
to the Byzantine period, claiming that itwas placed under the altar of the Byzantine
church and was used for ablution.14 Based on its position and form, there is no doubt
in my mind that the stone slab, which was discovered in situ, is earlier than the
church structure and was used for pouring some kind of liquid. No other installation
of this kind is known in the study of any of the known Byzantine churches. Indeed,
shortly after this discovery, scholars who had seen the stone slab in situ, such
as C. Mommert and H. Lewis, argued, on the basis of its shape, that the slab

Scarabs, Scarab Impressions and a Stele Fragment, inA. Ben-Tor (ed.): Hazor III-IV,
Text, Jerusalem, 1989, pp. 344-345. Other Egyptian stelaewith the name of Osiris from
the Ramesside period were found in the cemetery of Deir el-Balalj, see R. Ventura:
Four Egyptian Funerary Stelae fromDeir el-Balafc,IEJ37 (1987), pp. 105-115.
13 See, e.g., E. Erman: Life inAncient Egypt, London, 1894 (repr.New York, 1971), p. 268.
14 Vincent and Abel (above, n. 7), pp. 774-775; see also photograph there, II, PL 79:8. This
stone slab was published earlier by Lagrange (above, n. 1), p. 136.

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Fig. 7. Egyptian offering table in situ,with stone-lined pit, I) plan; II) section; III) signs on
under-side of table (afterVincent and Abel [above, n. 7]).

must be an Egyptian offering table15 of the htp type, known in Egypt from the
Old Kingdom until the Egyptian Late Periods and characterized by a 'd?versoir'
or spout, as well as channels and sub-channels. Lewis noted that the stone slab
was discovered somewhat lower than the level of thepresbyterium of the Byzantine

15 Vincent and Abel (above, . 7), p. 775, . 1. Vincent rejected this identification.H.
Lewis (Ruins of a Church on the Skull-Hill, Jerusalem, PEFQSt, 1891, pp. 214-216)
concluded that the slab did not belong to the field of early Christian archaeology. See
also idem,Additional Note on theChurch of St. Stephan, PEFQSt, 1891,pp. 298-299,
where he suggested a possible parallel: an ablution installation located under the altar
of a church in Istanbul. This comparison seems forced, and is based on the assumption
that the Jerusalem stone slab was an integralpart of theByzantine church of St. Stephan.

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Fig. 8. Egyptian offeringtable of /jtptype (?).

church, 'embedded in the floor'.16 I believe that this item does not belong to the
assemblage of the church, and that, located underneath its floor level, it may
have been in its original location. A great number of Egyptian offering tables are
decorated with hieroglyphic inscriptions and rich decorations of offerings;17many
are divided into three fields, each field containing a relief decoration of round loaves
of bread. In Egypt, offering tables appear in various shapes and sizes, all with
channels and spouts.
As aforementioned, the stone slab uncovered under St. Etienne Church had a
spout aimed towards a stone-lined pit. Similar installations, albeit of a less impressive
shape, are known from Late Bronze Canaanite temples. A stone-lined pit (L.2157),
resembling the one at St. Etienne, was discovered in the Canaanite temple at Area
H of Hazor (Str. Ib, Chamber 2123, defined as the 'holy of holies'). A similar

16 Lewis ([above, . 15, Skull-Hill], p. 214) referred to the red stone mentioned by C.
Schick as 'red polished stone'. to Lewis, the stone was found at a lower
level, as the chancel screen of the Byzantine church was found to be built above it. See
ibid., section in Fig. 5.
17 Ahmed Bey Kamal: Catalogue g?n?ral des antiquit?es ?gyptiennes du mus?e de Caire
(Nos. 23001-23256). Tables d'offrandes,Cairo, 1909;W.C. Hayes: The Scepter of Egypt,
I,New York, 1953, pp. 117, 336; L. Habachi: Tavole d'offerta,are e bacili da libagione .
22001-22067 (Catalogo delMuseo Egyzio di Torino, Serie Secunda-Collezioni II), Torino,

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installation was found in the middle of the chamber of the Canaanite temple
in Levels Vllb-VIIa at Megiddo
(Structure 2048).18
To the best of my knowledge, only one Egyptian offering table has been found
in Israel: at Nebi Yunis, in the northern part of present-day Ashdod. This slab, of
polished sandstone, is divided into two cartouche-like fields, with shallow channels
around them. In the middle of each field there are two circles representing bread
loaves. A long Phoenician dedicatory inscription incised on one side of the slab
helped date the object to the end of the Persian or the beginning of the Hellenistic
period.19 Its shape is clearly Egyptian, and it continues a tradition whose roots
in Egypt date back to the third millennium B.C.E. There is some indication that
additional architectural remains may be associated with the finds discussed in this
article. In a report from Jerusalem, Schick referred to a red drum-shaped stone
(granite? porphyry?), discovered in the Dominicans' excavations under the floor of
the Byzantine church.20

An Offering Table or Altar

Among the finds from the St. Etienne excavations, one object was not of Egyptian
origin and probably belonged to the same chronological and cultural context.
This is an offering table or an altar made of local limestone. It has three sunken
compartments, of unequal depth: one deep and the other two shallower (Fig. 9). This
object (62 30 cm.; 40 cm. high) was published by Vincent and Abel.21 The two
shallow compartments are c. 15 cm. deep; the other is c. 24 cm. deep. Vincent
identified the object as a reliquary that belonged to the church of Empress Eudocia.
This does not seem acceptable, however, as most of the known reliquary boxes from
the Byzantine period are shaped differently and made of different material. In a
church dedicated to the memory of the protomartyr of Christianity, St. Stephanus,
which was built by Empress Eudocia and where she herself was buried, one would
expect to see particularly elaborate or nicely-shaped reliquaries, or, at the very least,

18 Yadin et al (above, . 12), Pl. 104:3; Yadin (above, . 12), p. 82; Ben-Tor (above, .
12), Plan 39 and p. 245. The pit in theMegiddo temple was interpretedas an outlet
for the libations performed in this part of the temple,G. Loud: Megiddo II, Chicago,
1948,p. 105.
19 The present location of this table,which was kept at theRussian Consulate in Jerusalem
untilWorld War I, is unknown, see M.J. Lagrange: Une inscription ph?nicien, RB 1
(1892), pp. 275-281; B. Delavault and A. Lemaire: Une st?le 'MOLK' de Palestine d?di?e
a Eshmun? R?S reconsid?r?, RB 83 (1976), pp. 269-283; C. Picard: Le monument de
Nebi-Yunis, RB 83 (1976), pp. 284-287.
20 C. Schick: Discoveries North ofDamascus Gate, PEFQSt, 1980, p. 90; cf. also idem,Die
Stephanskirche der Kaiserin Eudokia bei Jerusalem, ZDPV 11 (1889), p. 254. See also
Vincent's notes about this red stone,Vincent and St?ve (above, n. 6), p. 774, n. 2.
21 Vincent and Abel (above, n. 7), p. 797, Fig. 341; PI. 80:3.

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Fig. 9. Limestone offeringtable or altar with sunken compartments.

more elaborate ones

than those found in
small or remote churches. Similar objects
with such sunken compartments made of
basalt are known from the LB temples
of Hazor;22 they were identified there as
libation tables. Similar objects were also
unearthed in the LB temple (No. 1048) at
Megiddo.23 An almost perfect parallel of
our object was excavated at Gezer (Fig. 10);
it is also made of limestone and has three Fig. 10. Limestone offering table with
sunken compartments of unequal depth.24 sunken compartments from Gezer.

22 See Yadin et al (above, . 12),Pl. 80:3; and Ben-Tor (above, . 12),pp. 330-334, and the
detailed discussion therein.
23 See Loud (above, n. 18),p. 105.
24 See R.A.S. Macalister: The Excavations ofGezer, III, London, 1912,PI. 224:14.

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Two Alabaster Vessels

The finds from the Dominicans' excavations, now in the ?cole Biblique collection,
include two unpublished Egyptian alabaster vessels.25 One is a bag-shaped bottle
(9.5 cm. high), widening at the bottom, with an out-flaring rim (SE 18; Fig. 11). The
vessel was found intact, except for a few flaws on the rim. This type appears from
theMiddle Bronze Age II to the Late Bronze Age, and is known in Jerusalem from
the tomb at Dominus Flevit on the slopes of theMount of Olives, and also from
excavations in various parts of the country: Gibeon, Megiddo, Tel Beit Mirsim, the
northern cemetery of Beth Shean, and elsewhere.26

Fig. 11.Alabaster bottle (SE 18).

The other alabaster vessel (SE19) is an imitation of the Cypriote ring-base

bilbil (BRI or early BR?I). It is a globular jug with a ring base; the neck and
handle are missing. On the shoulder of the vessel there are traces of the joining of
the ribbon handle with the body, decorated with horizontal incisions (Fig. 12).

25 The Dominican fathersof the ?cole Biblique entrustedme with the publication of these
vessels. The warmth and kind help of the lateP?re Benoit O.P., who grantedme permission
to reexamine these finds, is especially appreciated. I would also like to thank P?re J.B.
Humbert O.P. for his assistance. The stele fragment was redrawn by R. Barkay and A.

Pery, and rephotographed by the late .Yehudaioff.

26 See C. Clamer: The Late Bronze Age Alabaster Vessels (M.A. thesis, The Hebrew
University of Jerusalem), Jerusalem, 1976 (mimeograph). For the parallel from the LB
tomb of Dominus Flevit, see S.J. Sailer: The Excavations at Dominus Flevit, II, The
Jebusite Burial Place, Jerusalem, 1964, p. 164, No. 18:18. For furtherparallels and
a detailed discussion of this vessel type, see E.D. Oren: The Northern Cemetery of Beth
Shan, Leiden, 1973,p. 91.

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Both vessels, apparently made in Egypt, are of superior-quality calcite (alabaster)

and are finely crafted. Based on analogous vessels, they can be dated to the 18th
dynasty. Stone imitations of the bilbil jug (alabaster or serpentine) are known from
the Fossetemple at Lachish (Temple 3)27 and from the Late Bronze temple discovered
at the Amman airport,28 as well as from the tomb of Tutankhamen and in K?mid
el-L?z (K?midi), in Lebanon.29

A Stone Statuette
In 1975, a small statuette was found in the garden of St. ?tienne, slightly east
of the apse of the new church. The beautifully-crafted statuette (c. 7.3 cm. high;
Figs. 13-15), of smoothed Egyptian greenish serpentine stone, portrays a male figure

27 Classified by Clamer ([above, . 26], p. 171,Pl. 10) as Type E2a. See also O. Tufnell et
al: Lachish II, The Fosse Temple, Oxford, 1940, p. 64, PI. 26:6, although this vessel is
of green Egyptian serpentine stone.The Lachish reportmentions furtherexamples of this
vessel found inEgypt.
28 V. Hankey: A Late Bronze Age Temple at Amman: II. Vases and Objects Made of Stone,
Levant 6 (1974), pp. 166-167, Fig. 2:17-28, made of calcite or serpentine.
29 Ibid., p. 172 (under No. S16); R. Hachman: Fr?he Ph?niker im Libanon, 20 Jahre
deutsche Ausgrabungen imK?mid el-L?z, Mainz am Rhein, 1983, pp. 52, 53, 131, 133
(Nos. 31, 35). In that excavation, parallels of the alabaster bottle-jar fromJerusalemwere
also excavated. See ibid., pp. 35,134 (Nos. 37-38).

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Fig. 13.Egyptian serpentinestone statuette:a) frontview; b) side view; c) view fromabove;

d) back.

Fig. 14.Egyptian statuette:frontview. Fig. 15.Egyptian statuette: side view.

seated on a chair; the head and the upper part of the body are missing. The figure
wears a long garment reaching down to the ankles, emphasizing the leg muscles
and knee contours. The arms, not preserved, were probably stretched forward and
held a staff or a standard in front of the face. The back of the chair narrows
towards the top. The statuette can be definitely identified as Egyptian, on the basis

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of its shape; it dates from the New Kingdom, and may portray the god Amon or

A comparable figurine was unearthed in the north-western part of the City of

David, Area 17, during excavations directed by Crowfoot and Fitzgerald. It ismade
of greenish-black stone (gneiss or schist) of Egyptian origin (?). It too portrays a
seated, headless figure. According to the scale accompanying the published drawing,
the figurine is about 9 cm. high. The hands seem to rest on the knees, suggesting
a deity seated on a chair. Most of the finds unearthed in Area 17 were from
the Roman, Byzantine and Early Arab periods. Based on the raw material and
general impression from the drawing, one might tentatively suggest that the object is
much earlier than the context inwhich itwas discovered. Although I have not seen it,
nor have any photographs been published, it can be reasonably assumed that this is
yet another Late Bronze figurine of Egyptian origin.31

An Egyptian-style Capital
In his publication of the Egyptian inscribed stele fragment, Scheil wrote that
Egyptian-style capitals were also uncovered. Since they were not published, it is
? ?
not known how many were found.32 A capital possibly one of these is now
built into a low stone fence on the Garden Tomb premises near the entrance
to the garden (Figs. 16, 17), apparently found by members of the Garden Tomb
Association, whose premises are just south of the buildings of the Dominican
fathers.33 Judging from the capital's shape, it does not belong to the rich collection

30 The statuettewas found byDr. J. Balensi; permission to publish itherewas kindlygranted

by P?re J.-B. Humbert. In the process of studying the figurine, I received help from the
late Prof. R. Giveon (Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University), who considered the

figurine to representPtah.
31 See J.W. Crowfoot and G.M. Fitzgerald: Excavations in theTyropoeon Valley, Jerusalem
1927,Annual of thePalestine Exploration Fund 5 (1929), p. 93 (note), PL 16:29.
32 Scheil (above, n. 4), p. 116. Several Egyptian-style column capitals were unearthed in
contexts of LB temples in Palestine: at Beth Shean, Megiddo and Lachish. See A.
Rowe: The Four Canaanite Temples at Beth Shean, I, The Temples and Cult Objects,
Philadelphia, 1940, pp. 8, 16; Pis. 26:20; 52 A:4; James (above, n. 8), p. 17,Fig. 95:4; A.
Siegelmann: A Capital in theForm of a Papyrus Flower fromMegiddo, Tel Aviv 3 (1976),
p. 141,PL 10:3-4; D. Ussishkin: Excavations at Tel Lachish 1973-1977, Preliminary
Report, Tel Aviv 5 (1978), pp. 22-24, Fig. 6, PL 9:1.
33 According to the late Colonel O. Doby, warden of theGarden Tomb, during the early
1960s the warden, Mr. Mattar, used to collect differentstones from the area west of
Nablus Road ? where the new bus station is presently located and bring them
to the premises of the Garden Tomb. I discovered the capital under discussion during
a visit to the site on 7 June 1980, and photographed it; the drawing was sketched
byMs. T. Kofyan.

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Fig. 16.Egyptian-style (?) capital on Garden Tomb premises.

of sculptured Jerusalemite capitals dating from the Hellenistic to the Byzantine

periods, or even later. It is clearly a unique feature of early Jerusalemite architecture.
Since it is embedded upside-down in the fence with cement and covered with dense
growth, a thorough examination of the details is difficult. The capital's height is 54
cm.; the diameter of its base is 53 cm. (one royal Egyptian cubit?) and that of the top
is about 80 cm. (VA cubits?). It ismade of local limestone; the few pock holes and
dark-coloured veins that are visible on its face are part of the lithological formation
out of which the stone was hewn. The composition of the stone is reminiscent of that
of the Turonian rocky escarpments above and east of the cave of the GardenTomb
and the area of the St. ?tienne monastery. The type of stone appears to be similar
to that used for the stele fragment with the hieroglyphic inscription. The capital's
base is flattened and smoothed, and appears to be finished; itdoes not seem to have
any marks of chiselling. In this it differsmarkedly from the capitals made after the

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Fig. 17.Egyptian-style (?) capital.

Roman period, on which themarks of tooling ? whether by 'combed chiselling' or

a drill? are clearly visible.

Eight leaves are modelled in low relief around the capital. The maximal width of
each leaf is 22 cm. (Vi cubit?). They have pointed tops, and each has a triangular
protrusion on top (of which only one is now intact), 10 cm. high and 9 cm. wide.
The triangles protrude about 3 cm. Smaller leaves (17 cm. high; 10 cm. wide)
are modelled between the large ones, each with a protruding central ridge. The
capital has a faceted abacus, 12 cm. high, above the leaves. The shape of the
capital resembles palm capitals of ancient Egyptian architecture. Many are known in
Egypt from the New Kingdom period; the closest to our type, from Soleb, is dated
to the 19th dynasty (Fig. 18).34

34 L. Borchardt: Die ?gyptische Pflanzens?ule (Ein Kapitel zur Geschichte des

Pflanzenornaments), Berlin, 1897, pp. 46-49.

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Fig. 18.Egyptian pillar capital fromSoleb.


The assemblage of items listed above, consisting of a fragment of a stele with

a hieroglyphic inscription, two Egyptian alabaster vessels, an Egyptian serpentine
statuette, an offering table and architectural fragments, suggests a common site of
origin. It is, therefore, very puzzling that no Canaanite or other non-Egyptian object
(with the exception of the limestone offering table or altar) is recorded from there.
In LB tombs excavated in Jerusalem, the number of Egyptian objects is relatively
limited, particularly in light of the abundance ofMycenaean and Cypriote imports.35
It could be argued that these finds originate from a Late Bronze tomb which was
far from the city's borders, similar to that at Nahalat Ahim,36 west of Jerusalem,
or the tomb excavated on the grounds of the 'Government House' (today the UN
Headquarters).37 They do not, however, resemble the tomb of Dominus Flevit on the

35 R. Amiran: A Late Bronze Age II Pottery Group from a Tomb in Jerusalem, El 6

(1960), pp. 25-37 (Hebrew). In this assemblage therewas only one object of Egyptian
? an alabaster vessel ? as opposed to 26 imported vessels fromMycenae and
Cyprus. In the rich assemblage in the tomb of Dominus Flevit (see Sailer [above,
n. 26]), theEgyptian finds are also limited,compared toAegean and Cyprus imports.
36 Amiran (above, n. 35).
37 D.C. Baramki: An Ancient Cistern in the Grounds of Government House, Jerusalem,
QDAP 4 (1938), pp. 165-167. The identification as 'cistern' should be abandoned in
lightof a tomb with similar plan discovered at Dominus Flevit, see B. Bagatti and J.T.
Milik: Gli scavi del Dominus Flevit, Jerusalem, 1958.

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slopes of the Mount of Olives, which was located opposite the city or in its
close vicinity. Moreover, the tombs excavated around the city primarily contained
locally-made pottery and imports fromMycenae and Cyprus, with only a minimal
amount of Egyptian objects. Furthermore, the architectural finds, i.e. capitals and
an offering table, the latter found in situ on bedrock under the floor of the Byzantine
church, rule out the possibility that the objects originated in tombs.
At this stage, the finds described above can tentatively be associated with an
isolated Egyptian temple located on the main road leading north about 1 km.
from Late Bronze Age Jerusalem, similarly to the Late Bronze temple discovered
near the Amman airport, which does not have any LB settlement remains near
it. In my opinion, it is not likely that the finds were brought to the area north
of Damascus Gate in soil from the City of David, since there is no evidence of soil
being moved such distances in ancient times. They seem to be related to the
architectural elements discovered there in situ or near their original site.
I would venture to say that this activity can be dated to the 19th dynasty, since
the Egyptians took a greater interest in the central hill country of Canaan during
the reign ofMerneptah (1212-1202 B.C.E.). Papyrus Anastasi III mentions a fort of
Merneptah near Sar-ram,38 which has been identified with Salem (cf. Gen. 14:18;
Ps. 76:3).39 Another section mentions the arrival of an Egyptian officer from the
'Wells of Merneptah' located in the mountainous area. These have been associated
with Me-Nephtoah ('the waters of Nephtoah') mentioned in Joshua (15:9, 18:15),
located north-west of Jerusalem. This is essentially the only evidence of Late Bronze
Egyptian activity in the central hill country of Canaan. It should be noted that Late
Bronze finds on the central mountainous range of Judah and Benjamin are few, and
most originate in tombs.40 This dating is corroborated by the fact that Scheil identified
part of the ear of the god Seth on the stele. Seth played a major role during the
19th dynasty: he was popular during the Hyksos period, but did not appear on
any of themonuments of the 18th dynasty. The name of Seth is also incorporated in
the name of the founder of the 19th dynasty, King Seti I.
The finds presented here clearly belong to the Late Bronze Age city-state of
Jerusalem. Letters in the El-Amarna archives written by Abd-Hepa, King of
Jerusalem (Nos. 285-291), show that during that period, in the 14th century B.C.E.,

38 J.B. Pritchard (ed.): ANET, p. 258. In a preliminary report on the excavations at St.
?tienne, itwas mentioned that theDominican fathersbelieved the place 'firstserved as a
fortress (or barracks) of an army that came from Sudan in Egypt(?)\ See L. de Vaux:
D?couvert r?centa J?rusalem,Revue Arch?ologique, 1886,p. 371, who did not explain to
which period theEgyptian military connection is related in this report or why.
39 Y. Aharoni: The Land of theBible, A Historical Geography, Philadelphia, 1979, p. 184.
40 R. Gonen: Urban Canaan in theLate Bronze Age Period, BASOR 253 (1984), p. 65; idem,
Burial Practices and Cultural Diversity inLate Bronze Age Canaan (ASOR Dissertation
Series 7 ),Winona Lake, IN, 1992.

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there was only a small Egyptian garrison stationed in Jerusalem.41 Moreover, there
is no basis for dating the above-mentioned finds to the El-Amarna period, as
the Egyptians showed little interest in the hill country and engaged in minimal
activity there, as indicated in the El-Amarna correspondence. This is themost logical
? ? were
conclusion, even though parallel finds particularly of the alabaster vessels
found in contexts dating from the time of the 18th dynasty. Moreover, stone vessels
were probably used for a considerable time after their production.
The Egyptian finds from the Late Bronze Age uncovered in the area of the St.
Etienne monastery, which include a stele fragment with a hieroglyphic inscription,
thus provide a basis for assuming that at some point towards the end of the 13th
century B.C.E., there was an Egyptian temple north of Jerusalem.42 Thus, once

41 W.L. Moran: The Amarna tetters, Baltimore London, 1992, pp. 325-334. N. Na'aman:

The Political Disposition and Historical Development of Er etz-Israel According to the

Amarna Letters (unpublished Ph.D. diss., Tel Aviv University),Tel Aviv, 1975,pp. 88-118
(Hebrew); idem, Society and Culture During the Late Bronze Age, in I. Eph'al (ed.):
The History of Eretz-Israel, I, Jerusalem, 1982, pp. 215-216 (Hebrew); idem,Canaanite
Jerusalem and its Central Hill Country Neighbors in the Second Millennium B.C.E.,
Ugarit Forschungen 24 (1992), pp. 286-289.
42 On LB Egyptian temples in Canaan, see A. Alt: ?gyptische Tempel in Pal?stina
und die Landnahme der Philister, Kleine Schriften, I, Munich, 1953, pp. 216-230;
R. Giveon: Egyptian Temples in Canaan, Museum Haaretz Bulletin 14 (1972), pp.
23-27 (Hebrew); D.B. Redford: The Ashkelon Relief at Karnak and the Israel Stela,
IEJ 36 (1986), pp. 190-191. See also C. Uehlinger: Der Amun-Tempel Ramses' III, in
P'-KN 'N? seines s?dpal?stinischen Tempelg?tter und der ?bergang von der ?gypter
zur Philisterherrschaft: ein Hinweis auf einige wenig beachtete Skarab?en, ZDPV 104
(1988), pp. 6ff.; and see, more recently,S. Wimmer: Egyptian Temples in Canaan and
Sinai, in S. Israelit-Groll (ed.): Studies inEgyptology Presented toMiriam Lichtheim,
II, Jerusalem, 1990, pp. 1065-1106. In this article (p. 1073 and Fig. 6 on p. 1085),
Wimmer discussed the suggestion I present in this article, based on the short summary of
a lecturepresented at the Seventh Archaeological Conference in Israel, held in Jerusalem
on 29 May 1980. Wimmer calls the stone slab (Fig. 7) a 'marble plate', describing
it as 'typical Byzantine', although without bringing any parallel to support his claim.
He accepts Vincent's identificationof the stone altar with sunken compartments (Fig.
9) as a Byzantine reliquary, against without substantiatinghis claim. He regards the capital
(Figs. 16-17) as Byzantine. Even Wimmer's inaccurate reconstructionof the capital differs
from all column capitals known from the site of St. Etienne or from any of the numerous
other Byzantine sites in Jerusalem.Wimmer ruled out the possibility that the assemblage
of finds presented here might be remains from a LB Egyptian temple, but did not offer
any alternative explanation for the presence of these finds, some of which are clearly

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again, Jerusalem has proven to be full of surprises, and more will surely be revealed
as additional investigations are undertaken.43

43 Following the lecture that served as the basis for this article, the late Zvi Ilan published
an article in theHebrew daily newspaper Davar (29May 1981), inwhich he mentioned a
large clay scarab (9x5 cm.), shaped like a human head, thatmight be connected with
the finds discussed here. According to R. Giveon, the scarab is authentic and the name
engraved on its base could refer to Seti I or Seti II. The scarab, kept in the collections
of theCatholic school at St. Paul's hospice, between Damascus Gate to the south and
the premises of theDominican fathers to the north,was reported to have been unearthed
when the foundations of St. Paul's hospice were being dug, but the excavators, Schoeneke,
Dunkel and Schick, did not mention the scarab. See L. Schoeneke: Ein Felsblock mit
Gr?bern bei Jerusalem,Mitteilungen und Nachrichten des Deutschen Pal?stina Vereins,
1897, pp. 36-37; C. Schick: Newly Discovered Rock Block with Tombs, PEFQSt, 1897,
pp. 105-107; A. Dunkel: Excavations at Jerusalem, PEFQSt, 1902,pp. 403-405.

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