An Ancient Warrior Woman in Southern Russia with a (Possibly) Hebrew Seal

Archaeologists recently discovered the burial site of a female Sarmatian warrior who they believe lived in the 1st century CE. (The Sarmatians, who populated what is now Ukraine and southern Russia during antiquity, are thought to have been the basis for the Amazons of Greek legend.) Among the numerous artifacts was a stone seal engraved in the old version of the Hebrew alphabet, which fell into disuse during the Second Temple period. Jim Davila writes:

As far as I know, this type of seal was only made between the 8th and 5th centuries BCE. . . . It is in one of the northwest Semitic languages, but I don’t know enough about the paleography of this period to identify whether it is Hebrew, Phoenician, Aramaic, Ammonite, Edomite, or Moabite. . . .

The letters are inscribed backwards on the seal so that the mirror-image imprint it leaves will read in the right direction. This is normal for such objects. . . . The seal reads לאלישב (l’lyšb), “belonging to Elyashiv.” Elyashiv (Eliashib) is attested as a man’s name in the Hebrew Bible in Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, and on at least a couple of 7th-century BCE Hebrew seals. I can’t find it in any of the other languages, but I haven’t looked comprehensively and some of them may well have used it, too.

The big question is, what was this turn-of-the-era Sarmatian woman in Russia doing with a Northwest Semitic seal from four to eight centuries before her time? . . . [I]t could have been a family heirloom. It certainly raises other questions about trade between Eastern Europe and the Middle East from the late Iron Age to the Hellenistic period. Assuming this report is accurate in its particulars, this is an extraordinary discovery.

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More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Hebrew alphabet, History & Ideas, Russia, Ukraine

 

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war