Oldest Jewish archaeological evidence on the Iberian Peninsula

May 25, 2012
Archeologists of the Jena University found this marble plate with a Hebrew inscription at an excavation site in the south of Portugal. Credit: Photo: Dennis Graen/FSU

German archaeologists of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena found one of the oldest archaeological evidence so far of Jewish Culture on the Iberian Peninsula at an excavation site in the south of Portugal, close to the city of Silves.

On a marble plate, measuring 40 by 60 centimetres, the name "Yehiel" can be read, followed by further letters which have not yet been deciphered. The Jena Archaeologists believe that the might be a tomb slab. Antlers, which were found very close to the tomb slab in the rubble gave a clue to the age determination. "The organic material of the antlers could be dated by analysis with certainty to about 390 AD," excavation leader Dr. Dennis Graen of the Jena University explains. "Therefore we have a so-called 'terminus ante quem' for the inscription, as it must have been created before it got mixed in with the rubble with the antlers."

The earliest archaeological evidence of Jewish inhabitants in the region of modern-day Portugal has so far also been a tomb slab with a Latin inscription and an image of a menorah - a seven-armed chandelier - from 482 AD. The earliest Hebrew inscriptions known until now date from the 6th or 7th Century AD.

The place of discovery is a Roman villa near Silves. Credit: Photo: Dennis Graen/FSU

For three years the team of the University Jena has been excavating a Roman villa in Portugal, discovered some years ago by Jorge Correia, archaeologist of the Silves council, during an near the village of São Bartolomeu de Messines (Silves). The project was aiming at finding out how and what the inhabitants of the hinterland of the Roman province of Lusitania lived off. While the Portuguese coast region has been explored very well, there is very little knowledge about those regions. The new discovery poses further conundrums. "We were actually hoping for a Latin inscription when we turned round the excavated tomb slab," Henning Wabersich, a member of the excavation reports. After all, no inscriptions have been found so far and nothing was known about the identity of the inhabitants of the enclosure. Only after long research the Jena Archaeologists found out which language they were exactly dealing with, as the inscription was not cut with particular care. "While we were looking for experts who could help with deciphering the inscription between Jena and Jerusalem, the crucial clue came from Spain" Dennis Graen says. "Jordi Casanovas Miró from the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in Barcelona – a well-known expert for Hebrew inscriptions on the – is sure that the Jewish name "Yehiel" can be read, - a name that is already mentioned in the Bible."

Not only is the early date exceptional in this case, but also the place of the discovery: Never before have Jewish discoveries been made in a Roman villa, the Jena Archaelogist explains. In the Roman Empire at that time Jews usually wrote in Latin, as they feared oppressive measures. Hebrew, as on the re-discovered marble plate, only came back into use after the decline of the Roman supremacy, respectively in the following time of migration of peoples from the 6th or 7th century AD. "We were also most surprised that we found traces of Romans - romanised Lusitanians in this case - and Jews living together in a rural area of all things," Dennis Graen says. "We assumed that something like this would have been much more likely in a city."

Information about the Jewish population in the region in general was mostly passed down by scriptures. "During the ecclesiastical council in the Spanish town Elvira about 300 AD rules of conduct between Jews and Christians were issued. This indicates that at this time there must have been a relatively large number of Jews on the Iberian Peninsula already", Dennis Graen explains – but had been missing so far. "We knew that there was a Jewish community in the Middle Ages not far from our excavation site in the town of Silves. It existed until the expulsion of the Jews in the year 1497."

In the summer the Jena Archaeologists will take up their work again. Until now they have excavated 160 square metres of the villa, but after checking out the ground it already became clear that the greater part of the enclosure is still covered in soil. "We eventually want to find out more about the people who lived here," Graen explains the venture. "And of course we want to solve the questions the Hebrew inscription has posed us."

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flashgordon
not rated yet May 25, 2012
Nothing historically interesting here other than those Jews wrote in latin during Roman times to keep from persecution. Greeks kept their mouths shut in Byzantium because of christian persecution; it wasn't till the ball of Constantinople around 1490 that a bunch of them migrated to Italy to really start the Renaissance.

But, getting back to the Jews in Roman Portugal; once again, this is hardly as interesting as say the diaspora; the Diaspora is a word saying the Jews that spread throughout the Greaco-roman empire after Alexander the Great conquered the Mediterraenean. For the Jews, this meant questioning their faith; some did and led to Gnostic christianity(Paul); others didn't, and led to Messianic Jews; this turned off one Jew who decided this way towards dealing with the Roman cultural reality is what led to all the hate against the Jews; he decided to turn roman; his name was Flavius Josephus; in his Jewish War, he ascribed to the Roman emperor Vespasian the title of Annointed
flashgordon
not rated yet May 25, 2012
. . . annointed one, or Christ. This wasn't to last, Josephus and his group Epiphroditus(the Roman emperor secretary who one convinced Emperor Nero to commit suicide, and two funded the works of Josephus was called an Apostle of Christ by Paul in Phillipians 2:25 and 4:18.) were either killed by Dioclitian(Epiphroditus was; then, some Christians a few years later got revenge and assasinated Emperor Dioclitian because he his killing of Epiphroditus); we don't know what happened to Josephus; i've often wondered if maybe Josphus is Paul.

But, the point is that the Diaspora goes back to like 300 B.C. and this article is hardly interesting by any measure.
flashgordon
not rated yet May 25, 2012
25 And I thought [it] necessary Epaphroditus -- my brother, and fellow-workman, and fellow-soldier, and your apostle and servant to my need -- to send unto you,

young's literal translation
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.1 / 5 (13) May 25, 2012
But, getting back to the Jews in Roman Portugal; once again, this is hardly as interesting as say the diaspora; the Diaspora is a word saying the Jews that spread throughout the Greaco-roman empire
Yah except that Jews didn't go anywhere. There WAS no diaspora. They stayed in Palestine and eventually became Moslem. The Mishnah was compiled in Palestine, by Jews, a few gens after they were expelled.

Judaism spread around the Mediterranean by proselytism. Xianity was probably created in part to counter this virulent religion and as a convenient reason to persecute it. Elsewhere the Jewish khazar empire was overrun by Mongols. jews fled into Europe and became Ashkenazi. Euro Jews never came from Palestine.

See dr shalom sand of tel aviv univ for more info on the invention of Jewish history:
http://www.youtub...a_player
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.3 / 5 (12) May 25, 2012
we don't know what happened to Josephus; i've often wondered if maybe Josphus is Paul.
And as we know Josephus never wrote about Jesus. His references were adulterations added in later on no doubt by unscrupulous xians. And 40% of the works ascribed to Paul in the bible were most likely written by others.

Science continues to expose biblical fabrication.

Spellcheck error above - that's dr SHLOMO sand.
flashgordon
not rated yet May 25, 2012
Watch John Romer's Testament(he has a book of it; but, I havn't bought or read it; i've read lots of stuff about the archaeology and comparative mythology of both the old and new testament; i'm tired; i want to read mathematics right now), episode 3 I do believe; there's snipets on youtube, like twenty or thirty minutes of each episode but never the whole set of videos. Still, I do believe in episode 3, John Romer shows Jewish temples in the city of Ephesis. He talks about the Diaspora there; The Maccobees books are written by fundamentalist Jews who didn't like the Diasporan jews mixing and embracing non-Jewish culture(all cultures have their fundamentalists who don't like others mixing with others; the Old testament was clearly fundamentalists who didn't like other jews embracing others cultures; they'd say how God would constantly strke the Jews down because they'd swerve to others beliefs; they were also clearly males who didn't like female and even wife gods to their God - Ashera
flashgordon
not rated yet May 25, 2012
we don't know what happened to Josephus; i've often wondered if maybe Josphus is Paul.
And as we know Josephus never wrote about Jesus. His references were adulterations added in later on no doubt by unscrupulous xians. And 40% of the works ascribed to Paul in the bible were most likely written by others.



Yes, Josephus's writing is totally different from either the Gospels or the Pauline epistles. Josephus was a very scientific mind. The Gosepls appear to be written by amateurs who didn't even know the lay of the land of Palestine. Josephus would never wright like that or make such bad errors of grammar and geography.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.3 / 5 (12) May 25, 2012
The Maccobees books are written by fundamentalist Jews who didn't like the Diasporan jews mixing and embracing non-Jewish culture(all cultures have their fundamentalists who don't like others mixing with others
Like any religion based on maximizing reproduction as a form of aggression, populations quickly exceed the carrying capacity of the region, creating immigrants and refugees and a great deal of trouble. Jews were among the first to document this Process. Their religion and the others survive only BECAUSE they were better at it than the ones they overran.

Rome would have been expected to try to defend itself. It fought against Jewish rebellion for a century, finally destroying the Jewish state. And they adopted an equally virulent religion based on the Jewish one.
flashgordon
not rated yet May 25, 2012
That's certainly what's being seen in New Testament studies. In my explorations of archaeology(which inevitably gets into biblical archaeology), I've found a remarkable story between the Greeks and the Jews(Judahites; Hebrews). Really, the Phoenicians invented the alphabetic languages picked up by both the Greeks and Judahites. One, more or less, took advantage of this new language symbolism to embrace it's ability to do science and mathematics better(the Greeks), and others took advantage of its vaguaries to wright themselves into the history books. They took from everyone's religions(the Egyptians and Babylonians), and melded it and generally put words into their gods mouth that they are the chosen ones; they basically used it for political purposes. Note once again, this was a subset of Judahites. My current favorite example showing that one should not put "all" in one category is Duet 4. There, you'll see the Duet writers telling other Jews to not look up at the sky; in other
flashgordon
not rated yet May 25, 2012
. . . in other words, some Jews were willing to think and look at the stars; but, the Duet writers god was a Jealous god.

The Greeks actually were not as rational as they at first appear! Plato asked can we come up with a mythological hero to appease the irrational ignorant, illiterate masses?! See the first post of my Jacob Bronowski "Scientific Humanism" blog for many Plato quotes showing the effort to make a sungod to appease the illiterate masses goes back to well him!(it hasn't been edited for smoothness; but, it has been fact checked!). My "Gospel of Truth"(first post of my Jacob Bronowski "Scientific Humanism" blog pretty much says all one needs to know and facts that establish without a dought that Jesus Christ is a sungod, and one created by the Herodians/Romans to make one ring to rule them all!)
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.3 / 5 (11) May 25, 2012
So you seem to agree that these monotheistic religions were designed for the specific Purpose of spreading civilization as rapidly as possible. Per the sungod idea, I keep posting this very good vid
http://www.youtub...pp_video
flashgordon
not rated yet May 25, 2012
I started out by reading 1) The Bible UnEarthed, and 2) Acharya's "Christ Conspiracy." I would agree with critics that this is a little bit of an ameturish book; really, what she does is combine the findings of many people before her(the books referenced in her book); yes, one must look up, keep a critical mind; but if you do honestly, you'll confirm more than enough to establish the sungod nature of Jesus Christ. I've also read her "Christ in Egypt." - probably her most important work. After "Christ in Egypt" there's only one thing left for Jesus Christ believers to do; look for a Historical figure and say the mythology was attached to him in the Gospels. But, if you do that, so what if existed as a mere mortal man anyways? See Robert Eisenman's "James Brother of Jesus" to show the problems there!