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Israel unveils remains of ancient Hellenistic fortress
High-school students take part in an excavation by the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) in Lachish Forest near the southern city of Kiryat Gat on November 16, 2021. A Hellenistic fortified structure destroyed and burned by Hasmoneans was uncovered during an IAA excavation in Lachish Forest, in the Judean Shephelah. "The building’s devastation is probably related to the region’s conquest by the Hasmonean leader John Hyrcanus in around 112 BCE," according to IAA archaeologists. Weapons, burnt wooden beams, and dozens of coins found at the site show tangible evidence of a battle between the Hasmoneans and the Seleucids some 2,100 years ago. GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP.



JERUSALEM.- Israeli archaeologists Tuesday unveiled the ruins of a Hellenistic fortress they said was devastated in the Maccabean Jewish revolt 2,100 years ago which is celebrated during the Hannukah holiday.

The excavation in Lachish Forest, 60 kilometres (40 miles) southwest of Jerusalem, has revealed a fortified structure measuring 15 metres (50 feet) by 15 metres, with stone walls three meters thick, the Israel Antiquities Authority said.

During the dig of the seven-room structure, archaeologists said, they discovered a layer of artifacts, including weapons, charred wooden beams and dozens of ancient coins.

The excavation directors said the finds were "tangible evidence of the Hannukah story" behind the upcoming festival of lights, which Jewish people celebrate this year beginning November 28.

The holiday marks the victory of Hasmonean Jewish warriors against the Seleucids, a Greek dynasty then reigning over a large portion of the Middle East.

"It appears that we have discovered a building that was part of a fortified line erected by the Hellenistic army commanders to protect the large Hellenistic city of Maresha from a Hasmonean offensive," the directors said in a statement.

"However, the finds from the site show that the Seleucid defences were unsuccessful; the excavated building was badly burnt and devastated by the Hasmoneans," added the directors, Saar Ganor, Vladik Lifshits and Ahinoam Montagu.

The Maccabean revolt led to the capture of Jerusalem, the reestablishment of Jewish worship in the Temple, and the Hasmonean dynasty that ruled Judea until about 67 BCE.

Archaeological research remains a sensitive subject in Israel and the Palestinian territories, where historical finds have been used to lay claim to key sites and territories.

Zeev Elkin, Israel's minister of construction and housing, Jerusalem and heritage, said the finds were "impressive discoveries" that "demonstrate the history of our great and wonderful land and the story of Hannukah".


© Agence France-Presse










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