Remnants of an Ancient Refugee Camp at Masada Tell a New Story

Sept. 13 2017

The hilltop fortress in the Negev, where—according to the ancient historian Josephus—some 1,000 Jewish zealots killed themselves rather than fall to the Romans in 73 CE is among Israel’s best known archaeological sites. In conducting the first excavations there in over a decade, archaeologists have uncovered many new details. Ilan Ben Zion writes:

“We’re actually excavating a refugee camp,” said Guy Stiebel, the archaeologist leading the excavations. . . . Masada’s inhabitants during the seven years of the revolt were “a sort of microcosm of Judea back then,” comprising refugees from Jerusalem and across Judea including priests, members of the enigmatic monastic group from Qumran who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, and at least one Samaritan.

“What my expedition intends to do is to reconstruct life at Masada, without even referring to [the fortress’s destruction],” Stiebel said. . . .

Cutting-edge archaeological techniques helped glean a more detailed picture of the past that would have been impossible during the time of [the site’s earlier excavator Yigael] Yadin. The picture emerging from these new data about Masada’s inhabitants is far more complex than previously assumed.

“It’s not one monolithic group,” Stiebel explained, describing the people living at Masada before its fall as a “very vibrant community of 50 shades of gray” of Judea.

“We have the opportunity to truly see the people, and this is very rare for an archaeologist,” he said. Among them are women and children, who are too often underrepresented in the archaeological record. . . . “We know people by name; we know people by profession. We can learn about the way this group of rebels lived,” he said.

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Read more at Forward

More about: Archaeology, History & Ideas, Josephus, Judean Revolt, Masada

 

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy