Small oil lamp wick from 1,500 years ago found in Shivta, December 10th, 2018..
(photo credit: CLARA AMIT ISRAELI ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)
Two exhibits will open at the Hecht Museum in Haifa on January 24 featuring findings from a US archaeological expedition conducted in the 1930s.
The H.D. Colt expedition to Shivta, a Byzantine-era town in the Negev highlands, uncovered a massive assortment of treasures. But due to the limited technology at the time, not all of the material could be sorted through and analyzed until recently.
Included among the findings is a newly discovered lamp wick that was released to the public in December. The wick was examined under a research project on Byzantine settlements in the Negev that has been carried out by the University of Haifa since 2015 and spearheaded by Prof. Guy Bar-Oz and Dr. Yotam Tepper.
Tepper identified the unpublished finds from a previous excavation of the Negev site, when the Colt expedition came to Shivta from 1933 to 1935.
Colt carried out expeditions and excavations at various ancient sites in the Levant. While his teams often uncovered numerous findings, they were rarely published. In addition to his years in Shivta, Colt had spent two seasons from 1929 to 1931 in the Negev desert, and financially backed the excavation at Lachish from 1932 to 1933.
Colt also excavated the Byzantine settlement of Nessana, where a cache of literary and documentary papyri were discovered.
The exhibit’s opening will be celebrated with a series of remarks and lectures by Prof. Ron Rubin, University of Haifa’s president; Prof. Ayelet Gilboa, head of the university’s Zinman Department of Archaeology; Tali Erickson-Gini, a senior researcher at the Antiquities Authority; Gideon Avni of the Antiquities Authority; Joseph Patrich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Bar-Oz; and Tepper.
A second exhibit of photography by Dror Maayan will also premiere then, focusing on the Negev travels of historic explorers E.H. Palmer and Charles Drake.
Palmer was enlisted in 1869 to join the survey of Sinai, undertaken by the Palestine Exploration Fund, and followed up his work the following year by exploring the desert of El-Tih with Drake. They completed their journey on foot and without escort, making friends among the local Bedouin.
After a round of successful negotiations with the Bedouin and journeys to Gaza and the Suez, Palmer was sent on another expedition from the Suez to the desert. In his final journey, where Palmer was intended to procure camels and gain sheikh allegiance, he and his companions were ambushed and murdered.
Maayan’s work could also be seen in the recently published photos of a church painting depicting a young face of Jesus at Shivta. Maayan photographed the remaining traces of paint on the apse of the northern church’s baptistery.
Under high resolution and particular lighting, Maayan and the University of Haifa team that worked on the site were able to capture the figure’s short curly hair, an elongated nose, large eyes and long face.
To the left of the Jesus figure is another figure, supposedly that of John the Baptist. The larger face is surrounded by a halo, and the rest of the paint traces suggest that a full scene was painted, which may have included other figures.