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Archaeologists in Jerusalem uncover evidence of Babylonian destruction

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Charred wood, smashed jars, and even fish parts come together to tell a story from 2,600 years ago.

Fish scales from 2,600 years ago are helping to paint a picture of Jerusalem at the time of the Babylonian destruction of the city.

Bet you didn’t know fish scales could even last that long. But they, along with fish bones, were among the items found when the Israel Antiquities Authority uncovered a part of Jerusalem just outside the city walls.

The excavations, concentrated on the eastern slope of an area known as the City of David, revealed 2,500-year-old dwelling places that were once covered by a rockslide.

“These findings depict the affluence and character of Jerusalem, capital of the Judean Kingdom, and are mesmerizing proof of the city’s demise at the hands of the Babylonians,” said the Antiquities Authority, which announced the finds in late July, just prior to Tisha B’Av. That is a Jewish fast day commemorating the anniversary of the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BC and the Second Temple by the Romans in the year 70.

At the time of the first destruction, Jerusalem was the capital of the Kingdom of Judea. In 2 Kings 25, we read that a servant of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon “burned the house of the Lord and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down.”

In addition to the fish parts, archaeologists found charred wood, smashed jars inside a room, covered by burned charcoal and layers of building debris. The latter was evidence of the destruction, but archaeologists wondered why similar evidence was absent from buildings of the same period found nearby.

“Maybe specific buildings were destroyed and others were abandoned,” said Dr. Joe Uziel, one of the Israel Antiquities Authority excavation directors.

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