A Roof, a Battle, a Holiday

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“Years and years ago, there were these people called the Maccabees,” an armadillo once said as it tried to explain the story of Hannukah. New archaeological finds may now provide more details to that tale, Popular Mechanics reported.

A team of archaeologists in Jerusalem found 16 ceramic roof tiles in the so-called City of David archaeological site, believed to be 2,200 years old.

The researchers linked the tiles’ ceramic style and their location to historical developments that gave Jews the backstory to one of their most important holidays.

It goes that the Greek Seleucid King Antiochus IV, who ruled over a great part of the Middle East, tried to take over Jerusalem and built fortifications known as the Acra. Greek soldiers then based themselves in the Acra and attempted to “cleanse” the Temple of Jerusalem, leading to an insurrection by Jewish residents called the Maccabean Revolt. This fight resulted in the liberation of the temple, following which, as the scriptures have it, a menorah with only a one-day supply of oil burned for eight.

The Acra is well-described in historical references, but historians have long debated where it was located. Now, the newly found roof tiles lend credence to a theory that it was in the City of David.

Given the climate in the region, roof tiles were neither needed nor developed by the local population. As a result, tiles on Jerusalem roofs had been estimated to have appeared with the arrival of the Romans.

The City of David tiles confirmed the presence of Seleucid Greeks in Jerusalem. They brought the craftsmanship required to construct tiled roofs from Syria, another region they ruled, the researchers said.

The unnecessary character of the tiles highlights that Antiochus may have purposefully brought them to make a statement of his dominance. For the archaeologists, this essentially meant they had come “face-to-face” with the emperor.

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