‘Indiana Jones’ dig uncovers site of lost Ark of the Covenant

The Ark, with two stone tablets listing the Ten Commandments, was built by the Israelites as they conquered the Holy Land.

By Mirror.co.uk

  • 10:48, 10 JAN 2019
  • Updated10:51, 10 JAN 2019

A group of real-life Indiana Joneses believe they may have solved one of the mysteries of the lost Ark of the Covenant.

Prof Israel Finkelstein, of Tel Aviv University, is leading an archaeological dig at Kiryat Ye’arim, near Jerusalem, and believes that it is where the Ark was kept for 20 years.

The Ark, with two stone tablets listing the Ten Commandments, was built by the Israelites as they conquered the Holy Land.

It was captured by the Philistines, but after afflicting them with plague and famine, was returned to the Israelites at Kirjath-Jearim.

Archaeologists are now almost certain the town of Kiryat Ye’arim is the same place.

Prof Finkelstein said: “It fits the detailed description in Joshua. In Byzantine times, historian Eusebius said that Kirjath-Jearim was nine or 10 miles west of Jerusalem, which this site is.

“Also the name of the hill in Arabic – Deir el-Azar – preserves the name of the Byzantine monastery: the Monastery of Elazar.

“According to the Book of Samuel, Elazar was the priest in charge of the Ark.”

The Ark is said to have disappeared from Jerusalem in the sixth century BC.

https://i2-prod.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article13837019.ece/ALTERNATES/s615b/0_PAY-PNPNARKCOVENANT05JPG.jpg

The platform excavated at Kiryat Ye’arim which is 10 miles west of Jerusalem (Image: Credit: Pen News/Shmunis Family Excavations)

And though he has found no evidence of the Ark itself, Prof Finkelstein believes he can shed some light on its true nature.

“We are not searching for the Ark. We are trying to understand the Ark narrative, who composed it, when and why.

“The biblical narrative probably comes from the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and was seemingly composed in the first half of the 8th century BC.

“It probably served the ideological goals of the kingdom at the time, perhaps also its territorial aspirations, namely control over Judah.”

Lending weight to this theory is a huge platform discovered at the site. Professor Finkelstein said: “Kirjathjearim was a typical hill country town, on a peak, with relatively steep slopes.

“But on the summit there was an elevated platform, which was probably the location of a temple.”

Kirjathjearim straddled the border of two ancient kingdoms – Israel to the north and Judah to the south – with excavations suggesting the site was used by the former to control the latter.

Against this backdrop, Professor Finkelstein believes the Ark story was invented to give Kirjathjearim religious legitimacy as an administrative centre.

It also emphasises a fabled past when the two kingdoms were united under a single ruler, further legitimising ancient Israel’s rule over its southern neighbour.

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