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Thread: Israel mosque find: Archaeologists unearth 1,200-year-old ruins in desert

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    Default Israel mosque find: Archaeologists unearth 1,200-year-old ruins in desert

    One of the world's earliest known mosques, built around 1,200 years ago, has been discovered by archaeologists in Israel's Negev Desert.
    The remains, dating from the 7th or 8th century, were found in the Bedouin town of Rahat.

    It is one of the first mosques constructed after the arrival of Islam in what is present-day Israel, when the Arabs conquered the then-Byzantine province in 636, according to Gideon Avni, an expert on early Islamic history.

    See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-49036815
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    Default Re: Israel mosque find: Archaeologists unearth 1,200-year-old ruins in desert

    The area there is at the very north end of the Negev. There are water sources because of the runoff from the highlands. In the winter, there is sometimes water in the local wadis. The ground water is fairly accessible via wells.

    Not mentioned in the article, this was originally a Byzantine period Roman farming settlement that had an irrigation system. After the Muslim conquest, plots of farmland were distributed to new Muslim landlords. This was presumably one of them.

    Because Israel is such a desirable place to work for non-locals interested in Near Eastern archaeology, most excavation teams are made up of students who pay for the opportunity to participate rather than get paid to work. Under normal circumstances, only supervisors and specialists get paid. This particular excavation is different because it's an engagement/affirmative action program set up by the Israel Antiquities Authority. All the laborers are young Bedouins who get paid a wage while they learning field archaeology and history.

    The Hebrew won't be of any use to most of you, but this video has a lot of footage of the excavation:

    Quote Originally Posted by Enros View Post
    You don't seem to be familiar with how the burden of proof works in when discussing social justice. It's not like science where it lies on the one making the claim. If someone claims to be oppressed, they don't have to prove it.


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    Default Re: Israel mosque find: Archaeologists unearth 1,200-year-old ruins in desert

    Just a naive question coming from a user who doesn't know in detail the specific architectural features on which is based the design of a Muslim mosque:

    "The building was rectangular-shaped and had a .. 'semicircular' (<= editor's note) niche" .. is this enough to say it was a mosque?

    The building was open-air, rectangular-shaped and had a "Mihrab" - or a prayer niche - facing south toward Mecca, Islam's holiest city.




    "These features are evidence for the purpose for which this building was used, many hundred years ago," said Mr Seligman.
    A rectangular shaped room with apse was an extremely common feature of any Late Antique, Late Roman and Byzantine building of that age.
    Apart topographic alignment with Mecca, I hope there is something more than this, to say it was a mosque.

    Squared/rectangular shaped buildings/rooms with semicircular niche/s ('apse' in Western tradition, 'abside' in Italian) were one of the most common construction types of Late Roman architecture of every kind and type (churches, mythraea, thermae, stables, gyms, taverns, pools, brothels, military barracks, forts, castra and castella, small domus, large noble domus, government buildings, imperial palaces, public buildings, stationes, mansiones, basilicae and so on ..) from Britain to Greece, Germany, Italy, Spain, North Africa, Palestine, Balkans, Anatolia, and whereever their caligae and their campagi arrived, the Romans (Late Romans & Byzantines) built apses! In practice we might say that when you find an 'apse', it's like it tells you: "Welcome! You are walking on Roman land!" ..

    (Just a very little & casual selection of Late Roman plans with 'apses')
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    .. so, which peculiar peculiarity we have here, to identify it as a mosque?

  4. #4

    Default Re: Israel mosque find: Archaeologists unearth 1,200-year-old ruins in desert

    Quote Originally Posted by Diocle View Post
    Just a naive question coming from a user who doesn't know in detail the specific architectural features on which is based the design of a Muslim mosque:

    "The building was rectangular-shaped and had a .. 'semicircular' (<= editor's note) niche" .. is this enough to say it was a mosque?
    Not with any certainty. That's their argument based on its date of construction and orientation toward Mecca. Somewhere from press release to coverage in the press arguments tend to turn into statements of fact. Let's be honest, if you were the excavators which would you rather it be: An unremarkable rural church or one of the oldest mosques ever? Which will bring in more funding?

    That said, I think it may very well be a mosque. Most early Muslim architecture in the region is very Roman, for reasons that I assume should be obvious.

    Here are the remains of the Church of the Kathisma at Ramat Raḥel near Jerusalem:



    In the center is the stone on which Mary the mother of Jesus is traditionally believed to have rested. Remind you of any iconic Muslim architecture?

    Here is a mosaic from the Umayyad Period Palace of Hisham:



    Very traditional Levantine iconography in a style typical of local Roman Christian mosaics.

    In most (not all) churches, I believe the apse was oriented toward the east, at least locally, at least in this period. I'm talking outside any area of my own expertise on that.
    Quote Originally Posted by Enros View Post
    You don't seem to be familiar with how the burden of proof works in when discussing social justice. It's not like science where it lies on the one making the claim. If someone claims to be oppressed, they don't have to prove it.


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    Default Re: Israel mosque find: Archaeologists unearth 1,200-year-old ruins in desert

    Quote Originally Posted by sumskilz View Post
    Not with any certainty. That's their argument based on its date of construction and orientation toward Mecca. Somewhere from press release to coverage in the press arguments tend to turn into statements of fact. Let's be honest, if you were the excavators which would you rather it be: An unremarkable rural church or one of the oldest mosques ever? Which will bring in more funding?

    That said, I think it may very well be a mosque. Most early Muslim architecture in the region is very Roman, for reasons that I assume should be obvious.

    Here are the remains of the Church of the Kathisma at Ramat Raḥel near Jerusalem:



    In the center is the stone on which Mary the mother of Jesus is traditionally believed to have rested. Remind you of any iconic Muslim architecture?

    Here is a mosaic from the Umayyad Period Palace of Hisham:



    Very traditional Levantine iconography in a style typical of local Roman Christian mosaics.

    In most (not all) churches, I believe the apse was oriented toward the east, at least locally, at least in this period. I'm talking outside any area of my own expertise on that.
    I fully agree with you.

    Anyway just a note: they say: "a prayer (?) niche - facing south .. ", is this 'south facing' enough to add: ".. toward Mecca, Islam's holiest city."? Since great part of the Roman city planning was based on North-South orientation of the two main streets named Cardo and Decumanus, it seems to me a slightly weak argument; I know that Vitruvius privileges for temples the East-West orientation but .. I'd like something more, to say for sure that this building was 'Mecca oriented'.

    Then, what is this circular argument: "a prayer niche facing south"? They use the orientetion to prove it was a mosque, but the building is classified as a religiuos structure from the beginning, for its niche is a "prayer niche" whithout explaining us why! Which are and where are the proofs it was a religious structure? What's this? Is this a new kind of British postmodern philosophy applied to archaeology?


    I was born and I spent great part of my life in Genoa ..
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The city, even though fundamentally facing South (I fear modern Brits would say 'Mecca oriented'!), is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, to Saint John the Baptist and to Saint Lawrence, and not to the Prophet Muhammad.

    .. in a South facing house, nevertheless, my home was not a mosque and I couldn't care less about the actual location of Mecca.

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    Default Re: Israel mosque find: Archaeologists unearth 1,200-year-old ruins in desert

    Quote Originally Posted by Diocle View Post
    What's this? Is this a new kind of British postmodern philosophy applied to archaeology?
    I can see how upset you are.



    But...instead of insulting Gideon Avni | Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Academia.edu an Israel Antiquities Authority, an expert on early Islamic History,...well, ask him.
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    Default Re: Israel mosque find: Archaeologists unearth 1,200-year-old ruins in desert

    Interesting find.

    I wonder what the split of converted/purpose built mosques was in Early Islam. If Constantinople is relevant its probably a short pause (decades?) before purpose built mosques spike.

    Quote Originally Posted by Diocle View Post
    ...[/SPOILER].. in a South facing house, nevertheless, my home was not a mosque and I couldn't care less about the actual location of Mecca.
    Sorry mate, JK Rowling just tweeted that you are, in fact, a Muslim.
    Jatte lambastes Calico Rat

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    Default Re: Israel mosque find: Archaeologists unearth 1,200-year-old ruins in desert

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    Sorry mate, JK Rowling just tweeted that you are, in fact, a Muslim.

    It's about the media media coverage surrounding the Finsbury Park Mosque terror attack,isn't it?
    ----
    I admire our anti Muslim brigade,always active and vigilant. The magic word "Muslim" immediately captures their attention. None can resist them and nothing can escape them.
    Diocle, I suggest you send a message to Israel Antiquities Authority. Explain to them that your Christian house in Genova faces toward Mecca. Expose their ridiculousness. As a profound connoisseur and leading expert in the Middle East archeology, you need to stand firm against the "islamization" of the archeology.
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    Default Re: Israel mosque find: Archaeologists unearth 1,200-year-old ruins in desert

    I think Diocle's critiques are valid. What can be said is that the structure's form, date, and orientation are consistent with it having been a small mosque, rather than saying that it is a mosque.

    Regarding its orientation. The researchers are saying it is to the south in the press release, however I can see in the pictures that it is facing a bit to the southeast. We could say roughly south-southeast. The reason I know that is because the initial cuts that were made into the ground (those that form the bulks of the excavation) would have been made along a string (tensioned by stakes) aligned precisely north to south and east to west with the help of GPS and modern surveying equipment. South-southeast is actually more toward Mecca than south. But then I have to ask, if anyone knows, by what method did the Romans align their cities north to south? I'm assuming it was not as accurate as can be done with GPS and modern surveying equipment. If you look at the shadows in the pictures, you can see that if they were simply using the sun, they would have thought they were orienting the building directly south rather than toward Mecca.

    Regarding circular reasoning in archaeology, it isn't anything new or postmodern, rather it seems to be an easy mistake to fall into when building upon other's assumptions as solid fact...

    An example is the case of the so-called Solomonic gates:





    For decades, and to this day in some circles, these were referred to as Solomonic gates, due to the fact that it was "known" that this form of gate originated with the great construction projects of Solomon. According to 1 Kings 9:15, Solomon built the the walls of Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer, and sure enough, all three cities had similar gates dated stratigraphically to the same period. William Dever who excavated the gate at Gezer was the first to notice the pattern in the 1960s, and that all three gates dated to the time of Solomon's reign, or so it was believed. That was until Israel Finkelstein (one of my main mentors in archaeology) came along an shook things up. Finkelstein argued that the gates all dated to a century later, during the reigns of Omri and Ahab, that similar gates in Syria predated the form, and that the entire accepted absolute chronology being used in the Levant was off by a century because the Bible was being accepted uncritically.

    This upset a lot of archaeologists who didn't consider themselves the types to accept the Bible uncritically. They protested that it was the archaeology that corroborated 1 Kings 9:15, not the other way around, because all the gates dated to the reign of Solomon. The issue is that stratigraphy can only provide a relative chronology, it has to be anchored to historical events in order to turn it into an absolute chronology. Scientific dating methods like C-14 can help narrow things down, but they have a wide margin of error for various reasons. The range of possibility they provide is often not as focused as what we would like for historical purposes. At the time Finkelstein came along with his new "low chronology" challenge, everyone thought he was being pointlessly contrary (at best), because the relative chronology was anchored to numerous historical events. The gates were dated to the reign of Solomon by stratigraphy, the stratigraphy was dated by pottery horizons, the pottery horizons were dated to historical anchors.

    So what is a historical anchor? The destruction of a city in the historical record is a good example. If you see two destruction layers at a city during the Iron Age, and you know according to the historical record that the city was destroyed by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, you assume the earlier destruction layer can be connected to the Assyrian destruction and the later to the Babylonian destruction, and now you have two absolute dates for these stratigraphic layers, and so you cross-reference the pottery horizons with all the other established anchors in the region to make sure analogous pottery horizons all have similar absolute dates, otherwise some anchor is wrong. But what if you have three destruction layers at the site? Not all destructions make it into the historical record, so you look at the absolute dates determined by other anchors in similar pottery horizons. It may be that your destruction layers are 1) Unknown 2) Assyrian 3) Babylonian or 1) Assyrian 2) Babylonian 3) Unknown, etc. It eventually get works out accurately because there are so many interlocking horizons and anchors, each supporting each other.

    So Finkelstein seemed pretty out there challenging this massive matrix of interlocking pottery horizons and anchors, but as Finkelstein discovered, the entire matrix was initially built starting in the early 1900s from an anchor that was an assumption. That is the construction of the gate at Megiddo, which was initially anchored to the reign of Solomon by 1 King 9:15. Prior to the 1990s the absolute chronology of the entire Eastern Mediterranean was wrong. What was happening was that 1 Kings 9:15 was being corroborated by the archaeology because of the Solomonic gates, the Solomonic gates were dated to the reign of Solomon by the stratigraphy, the stratigraphy was dated by the pottery horizons, the pottery horizons were dated by a massive matrix of interlocking historical anchors, the massive matrix historical anchors was built from a foundation that began in the early Twentieth Century, which included the gate at Megiddo, which was anchored to the reign of Solomon by 1 Kings 9:15.
    Quote Originally Posted by Enros View Post
    You don't seem to be familiar with how the burden of proof works in when discussing social justice. It's not like science where it lies on the one making the claim. If someone claims to be oppressed, they don't have to prove it.


  10. #10

    Default Re: Israel mosque find: Archaeologists unearth 1,200-year-old ruins in desert

    Quote Originally Posted by sumskilz View Post
    I think Diocle's critiques are valid. What can be said is that the structure's form, date, and orientation are consistent with it having been a small mosque, rather than saying that it is a mosque.

    Regarding its orientation. The researchers are saying it is to the south in the press release, however I can see in the pictures that it is facing a bit to the southeast. We could say roughly south-southeast. The reason I know that is because the initial cuts that were made into the ground (those that form the bulks of the excavation) would have been made along a string (tensioned by stakes) aligned precisely north to south and east to west with the help of GPS and modern surveying equipment. South-southeast is actually more toward Mecca than south. But then I have to ask, if anyone knows, by what method did the Romans align their cities north to south? I'm assuming it was not as accurate as can be done with GPS and modern surveying equipment. If you look at the shadows in the pictures, you can see that if they were simply using the sun, they would have thought they were orienting the building directly south rather than toward Mecca.

    Regarding circular reasoning in archaeology, it isn't anything new or postmodern, rather it seems to be an easy mistake to fall into when building upon other's assumptions as solid fact...

    An example is the case of the so-called Solomonic gates:





    For decades, and to this day in some circles, these were referred to as Solomonic gates, due to the fact that it was "known" that this form of gate originated with the great construction projects of Solomon. According to 1 Kings 9:15, Solomon built the the walls of Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer, and sure enough, all three cities had similar gates dated stratigraphically to the same period. William Dever who excavated the gate at Gezer was the first to notice the pattern in the 1960s, and that all three gates dated to the time of Solomon's reign, or so it was believed. That was until Israel Finkelstein (one of my main mentors in archaeology) came along an shook things up. Finkelstein argued that the gates all dated to a century later, during the reigns of Omri and Ahab, that similar gates in Syria predated the form, and that the entire accepted absolute chronology being used in the Levant was off by a century because the Bible was being accepted uncritically.

    This upset a lot of archaeologists who didn't consider themselves the types to accept the Bible uncritically. They protested that it was the archaeology that corroborated 1 Kings 9:15, not the other way around, because all the gates dated to the reign of Solomon. The issue is that stratigraphy can only provide a relative chronology, it has to be anchored to historical events in order to turn it into an absolute chronology. Scientific dating methods like C-14 can help narrow things down, but they have a wide margin of error for various reasons. The range of possibility they provide is often not as focused as what we would like for historical purposes. At the time Finkelstein came along with his new "low chronology" challenge, everyone thought he was being pointlessly contrary (at best), because the relative chronology was anchored to numerous historical events. The gates were dated to the reign of Solomon by stratigraphy, the stratigraphy was dated by pottery horizons, the pottery horizons were dated to historical anchors.

    So what is a historical anchor? The destruction of a city in the historical record is a good example. If you see two destruction layers at a city during the Iron Age, and you know according to the historical record that the city was destroyed by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, you assume the earlier destruction layer can be connected to the Assyrian destruction and the later to the Babylonian destruction, and now you have two absolute dates for these stratigraphic layers, and so you cross-reference the pottery horizons with all the other established anchors in the region to make sure analogous pottery horizons all have similar absolute dates, otherwise some anchor is wrong. But what if you have three destruction layers at the site? Not all destructions make it into the historical record, so you look at the absolute dates determined by other anchors in similar pottery horizons. It may be that your destruction layers are 1) Unknown 2) Assyrian 3) Babylonian or 1) Assyrian 2) Babylonian 3) Unknown, etc. It eventually get works out accurately because there are so many interlocking horizons and anchors, each supporting each other.

    So Finkelstein seemed pretty out there challenging this massive matrix of interlocking pottery horizons and anchors, but as Finkelstein discovered, the entire matrix was initially built starting in the early 1900s from an anchor that was an assumption. That is the construction of the gate at Megiddo, which was initially anchored to the reign of Solomon by 1 King 9:15. Prior to the 1990s the absolute chronology of the entire Eastern Mediterranean was wrong. What was happening was that 1 Kings 9:15 was being corroborated by the archaeology because of the Solomonic gates, the Solomonic gates were dated to the reign of Solomon by the stratigraphy, the stratigraphy was dated by the pottery horizons, the pottery horizons were dated by a massive matrix of interlocking historical anchors, the massive matrix historical anchors was built from a foundation that began in the early Twentieth Century, which included the gate at Megiddo, which was anchored to the reign of Solomon by 1 Kings 9:15.
    The case of Finkelstein illustrates that the evidence is often simply not enough to make a definitive conclusion, that there is room for interpretation.

    Note that Finkelstein is only shifting the chronology by a 100 years or so, not a lot of for something 3000 years ago. And he agrees that these structures were the sign of a strong monarchy, just not Solomon's. The dating systems have a enough potential error so that they can be used to support either side of the argumentand dating. However, the only reason that Finkelstein accepts the existence of the later Kings of Israel like Ahab is that they are mentioned in Assyrian sources. If these references, which were just a stroke of luck to find, hadn't been found by archaeologist, Finkelstein would be denying the existence of of king's like Ahab as well. A previous generations of scholars in the 19th century did just that, saying that the whole of the Bible was a myth and u historical. But archaeological discoveries have that claim untenable. We have solid evidence that at least some of the events in the Bible did happen , contrary to what some earlier scholars claimed. Finkelstein does raise the danger of interpreting the archeological evidence in light of what you expect to see, and the evidence might not be as clear as one thinks.

    That being said, simply because some parts of the Bible have been undisputably support by archaeology, does not mean all of it is historical, or accurate. The Bible is composed of many books, written by.many different people, in many different times and places. Like any works, it has to be judged on a case by case basis. Simply because an author got some historical facts right, does not mean everything they wrote is historically accurate. Likewise, simply because an author got some facts wrong, means everything they wrote is wrong either. Even the finest historians sometimes make mistakes and are wrong in what they say. In the case of Finkelstein, given that what the books of King's snd Chronicles said about the later kings and events is often solidly supported by archaeology, I would trnd to give what they say about the earlier king's (David, Solomon) a benefit of the doubt. Our ancient records and archeology of those times are simply not complete enough to absolutely rule out some things.


    Now back to the Mosque. The evidence is consistent with a mosque. While it might be some other type of building, that is possible, the question is what other type of building? We know the shape is consistent with the layout of known mosque, but if we want to claim it is not a mosque, we need to show that the layout matches other known layouts of ancient buildings that existed at the time and place that were not mosque. Given the time and place, I think the probability favors it being an early mosque, but does not guarantee it.

    One question, is whether it was really oreintated toward Mecca. I have heard that some early mosque were not orientated toward Mecca, and some mosque were later reorientated toward Mecca. Simply because the building points in a generally southerly direction does not mean the mosque is orientated toward Mecca, it might be orientated toward some other place (Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock) that also happens to be in the south. If Mecca is really to the southeast, but the building is orientated to the South, not Southeast, that might indicate that it really isn't pointing toward Mecca. To find north, all you need to do is on a clear night see where the North Star is, and then turn around to face south. Even with crude methods, you should be able to tell the difference between South and Southeast, although they might not have known where Mecca was precisely, only that it was generally to the south.
    Last edited by Common Soldier; July 22, 2019 at 07:01 PM.

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    Default Re: Israel mosque find: Archaeologists unearth 1,200-year-old ruins in desert

    Quote Originally Posted by sumskilz View Post
    I think Diocle's critiques are valid. What can be said is that the structure's form, date, and orientation are consistent with it having been a small mosque, rather than saying that it is a mosque...
    I quite agree, hence my question about conversions. This could well be another building converted after it was begun. However the orientation as we all note is persuasive.

    Quote Originally Posted by sumskilz View Post
    But then I have to ask, if anyone knows, by what method did the Romans align their cities north to south?
    Great question.
    Ancient Perspectives: Maps and Their Place in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome. https://books.google.com.au/books?id...uth%3F&f=false

    While the exact methods are not known its clear the Romans were supreme engineers and could align to the cardinal points as well as remote arbitrary geographic locations with impressive accuracy. They may not have known the exact location of Mecca (I imagine an Omar Sharif type pointing vaguely to the horizon as a sweaty Russell Crowe type squints and sweats with a sweaty brow) but we can be confident that building was not laid out to a SSW orientation by accident. Hellenes and Romans (lets be honest, Rome is a Hellenistic civilisation) were up to the task of getting this right.
    Jatte lambastes Calico Rat

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    Default Re: Israel mosque find: Archaeologists unearth 1,200-year-old ruins in desert

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    Sorry mate, JK Rowling just tweeted that you are, in fact, a Muslim.


    Cool stuff, OP. Thanks for sharing! I do love me some archaeology news, although I'm admittedly more excited about Bronze or Iron Age stuff in Israel than the Islamic period and Early Middle Ages. At this juncture, though, it's probably worth letting citizens of TWC be aware that Jews and Muslims frequent this forum. Therefore, all mockery of Jews, Muslims, and their one god should be kept to an appropriate...MINIMUM.


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