stylized palm tree motif is carved onto this proto-aeolic discovery associated
with a remarkable Iron Age spring tunnel system near Jerusalem. Photo courtesy
of Binyamin Tropper.|
Proto-Aeolic Capital Associated with Judah’s Longest Spring Tunnel. By Noah Wiener. Bible History Daily, January 15, 2014.
Investigating royal iconography and large-scale construction in Iron Age Judah.
The Origin and Date of the Volute Capitals from the Levant. By Oded Lipshits. The Fire Signals of Lachish: Studies in the Archaeology and History of Israel in the Late Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Persian Period in Honor of David Ussishkin. Edited by Israel Finkelstein and Nadav Na’aman. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2011.
From Megiddo to Tamassos and Back: Putting the “Proto-Ionic Capital” in Its Place. By Norma Franklin. The Fire Signals of Lachish.
There has been a lot of talk recently about a “covered up” proto-aeolic capital. I’ll admit: I indulged in a bit of this myself last April. Last week, the conversation was reopened when Arutz-7 reported that the location of the site—sensationally (and without any substantiation) labeled “King David’s Castle”—would be announced Friday, January 17.
The Iron Age volute capitals (the so-called “Proto-Aeolic” or “Proto-Ionian” capitals) are among the most impressive and special finds discovered in archaeological excavations in Israel and Jordan. The size of the capitals, their weight, the quality of their carving, and their impressive design provide an indication of their function in the gates and palaces of the ancient kingdoms of Israel, Judah, Moab, and Ammon.
The capitals—an architectural term usually referring to decorative supports on top of columns—are widely associated with monumental sites but are poorly understood, in large part because they have rarely been found in situ. Proto-aeolic capitals are decorated with curving date palm tree motifs, associated with the Near Eastern “Tree of Life,” and the architectural style was influential in shaping later architecture from classical Greece to Mesopotamia.
Twenty-four stone capitals decorated with a Proto-Aeolic design from the First Temple period are known from the main cities of the Kingdom of Israel: Samaria, Megiddo, Hazor and Dan. Eleven others are known from the Kingdom of Judea [Judah]; ten capitals were found at Ramat Rahel where remains of a palace from the late eighth–early seventh centuries BCE were excavated, and one capital comes from the City of David excavations in Jerusalem (Lipschits 2009). Five capitals are known from the site of el-Mudeibi’ – Mudaybi in Moab, and a capital was found in secondary use in the village of ‘Ain-Sara, west of Kerak, next to a spring of the same name. Two fragments of capitals are also known from the citadel in Amman (Lipschits 2009). The capitals from the Kingdom of Israel mainly date to the ninth century BCE and those from Judea and Jordan to the late eighth or early seventh centuries BCE. Although the central motif is identical, the capitals from the various sites differ in some features.
In “The Origin and Date of the Volute Capitals from the Levant,” Lipschits suggests that capitals were first made during Israel’s Omride dynasty in the 9th century B.C.E. He proposes that after the Assyrians invaded Israel, the capitals’ “size, esthetics and quality, attracted the attention of the Assyrian rulers who were known for their adoption of artistic and architectural elements, and for incorporating them in the local Assyrian tradition.” We have artistic depictions of these capitals at numerous palatial Assyrian sites. Lipschits goes on to suggest that the proto-aeolic capitals found in Judah, Moab and Ammon, which were built later than the examples found in Israel, reflect “Assyrian encouragement, approval or sponsorship.”
capitals have been uncovered at dozens|
of Israelite and Judahite sites. The proto-aeolic palmetto iconography
is often associated with Israelite kingship,
and the motif is minted on the modern Israeli five-shekel coin.
Joweizeh tunnels are the largest and most elegantly carved|
karstic water system in the region. Despite the massive effort
required to carve such a tunnel, it did not draw a great deal of water.
Photo courtesy Binyamin Tropper.