Day 18: Tel Dan, Banias, Nimrod’s Fortress, Gamla, Quasrin, Jacob’s Crossing
Oh my! I am so tired after today! I was tired to begin with after a long week’s work on the dig site; my body naturally wanted to rest. However, we were not allowed to rest as we traveled all over the Galilean region and visited these historic sites. We went to six different places and explored each one. Between that time, I tried to catch up on some sleep on the bus to no avail. I will go one by one and describe each of the places so you know what they are.
This was a famous Crusader castle right in the middle of a natural geographic passage way from the Mediterranean and Damascus. To the north were swamps that no person could cross and to the south were mountainaous terrain and valleys that were uncrossable. The place had been used for millennia because of its strategic location, but no archeology had really existed on the site until they started uncovering the Crusader castle.
In a nutshell, the castle was one of the few castles built for offense. It was designed as a staging station to launch sieges to Damascus. However it was quickly destroyed by Sal-Adim before it was finished because of its potential threat. One of our dig site leaders worked on her dissertation on the site and led us through the tour.
This was a Medeival jewish settlement in the Galilee region. The site became known for its olive presses and exportation of olive products. You could say that this village was somewhat like the precursors to the Kibbutz society.
This was one of my favorite places! It was so beautiful! “Gamla” is Aramaic for “camel”, and rightly named because it is literally a hump out in the middle of this mountain range. It was housed my many Jews in late antiquity and well fortified because of its location. We climbed to the top and saw the ruins of the city and the place where, according to Josephus, five thousand people jumped to their doom, committing suicide rather than being taken by the Romans. It was pretty intense.
This place was quite fun as well. Sadly, we only had about forty minutes to explore the place. The fortress situation at the top of the hill was used for centuries, but was made well known during the Crusader times where it became a safe haven for Muslims. After the Muslims conquered Acco, the fortress became less important and became a prison during the Ottoman Empire. IT was still awesome to run around in the ruins and explore the castle.
Named after the Greek goddess Pan (the goddess of the forest and animals) after Alexander the Great conquered the region, Banias became a Hellenistic religious center that housed temples of Pan, Zeus, and Aphrodite. Today, it is a GORGEOUS national park that we had a great time hiking around in and exploring its vast landscape.
If you haven’t heard this name before, let me tell you about how significant it is. First, some background: if you have been raised in a Judeo-Christian background, you are familiar with the story of King David, “the man after God’s heart.” During the reign of King David, the kingdom of Israel grew exponentially, reaching into neighbors borders. This was considered the Golden Age of Israel, judging from how the Bible describes it. His son Solomon succeeded him as king and was well known among the nations as the Bible describes.
Problem: Neither King David nor King Solomon are mentioned anywhere else in history; they are only mentioned in the Bible. Because of this, some scholars question whether or not David, Solomon, or their kingdoms actually existed because nowhere else in history is it named. Most every other King mentioned in 1 and 2 Kings are mentioned by other nations, but not David or Solomon. Because of this, some people believe that David was more of a King Arthur figure, not the man everyone claimed he was, but a figure head people could look to.
Well, at Tel Dan, this problem was finally put to rest because they found an inscription on a stone tablet that a soldier was writing to his father (possibly) describing his defeat of different kings all from the “House of David.” Strangely enough, this was the only reference outside of the Bible to David, but gives validity to the fact he was a real person. This find was monumental and settled many debates.
Anyway, that is the story of all where we went. I am tired (obviously) and am off to bed. So I bid you all good night and I will talk to you tomorrow.
Following His Call,