September 3, 2019
Archaeologists have uncovered the massive walls of a 2,200-year-old Hellenistic fortification that may have been built by the Seleucid general who defeated Judah the Maccabee, the famed Jewish leader at the center of the Hanukkah story. In an unexpected twist, the discovery could also help identify the location of the biblical town of Emmaus, where the Gospels say Jesus made his first appearance after being crucified and resurrected.
Since 2017, a Franco-Israeli expedition has been digging at Kiriath Yearim, a hill overlooking the approach to Jerusalem a few kilometers west of the city, next door to the town of Abu Ghosh. The site is mainly known for being the spot where the Ark of the Covenant was kept for 20 years before being taken to Jerusalem by King David, according to the Bible.
Indeed, much attention at the dig has focused on finds from the biblical period, namely a large earth platform surrounded by massive containment walls, which may have housed an Israelite cultic or administration center in the 8th-7th centuries B.C.E. But over the 2019 summer’s excavation, researchers uncovered evidence of at least two later phases at the site.