“For the Bible tells me so” goes the old refrain, and researchers working on Mt Zion in Israel are finding artefacts which confirm the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem, detailed in the book of 2 Kings. 

In 586BC, the city was under siege from the forces of King Nebuchadnezzar. The Bible records that Babylonian forces “set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. The whole Babylonian army, under the commander of the imperial guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had gone over to the king of Babylon” (2 Kings 25:9-11). 

Clear evidence of invasion has been uncovered 

Researchers from the University of North Carolina, digging at the Mount Zion Archaeological Project, have just announced they have uncovered clear evidence of that invasion. The discovery is of a deposit including layers of ash, arrowheads dating from the period, as well as Iron Age potsherds, lamps and a significant piece of period jewellery – a gold and silver tassel or earring.

“We know where the ancient fortification line ran,” the Professor of History at UNC Charlotte Shimon Gibson said, “so we know we are within the city. We know that this is not some dumping area, but the southwestern neighbourhood of the Iron Age city. During the 8th century BC the urban area extended from the ‘City of David’ area to the southeast and as far as the Western Hill where we are digging.” 

The ash deposits are not conclusive evidence of the Babylonian attack in themselves but are confirmed by the other materials. “For archaeologists, an ashen layer can mean a number of different things,” Gibson said. “It could be ashy deposits removed from ovens, or it could be localised burning of garbage. However, in this case, the combination of an ashy layer full of artefacts, mixed with arrowheads, and a very special ornament indicates some kind of devastation and destruction. Nobody abandons golden jewellery and nobody has arrowheads in their domestic refuse.” 

The arrowheads discovered are known as Scythian arrowheads and have been found at other archaeological conflict sites from the 7th and 6th centuries BC. 

"They are known to have been used by the Babylonian warriors,'" Professor Gibson said. "Together, this evidence points to the historical conquest of the city by Babylon because the only major destruction we have in Jerusalem for this period is the conquest of 587/586 BC.” 

Archaeologists have previously found the home town of Peter

In another excavation this year in Israel, archaeologists may have found the home town of Peter and two other apostles of Jesus. They believe they have found the lost Roman city of Julias (earlier known as Bethsaida), near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel. 

The New Testament describes Bethsaida as the home of Jesus’ apostles Peter, Andrew and Philip. Jesus also healed a blind man there (Mark 8:22-26), while the book of Luke describes the feeding of the 5000 nearby. 

Researchers have partially uncovered a  large church from the Byzantine period, which was said to be built over the house of Peter and Andrew. Electromagnetic imaging around the church by the Centre for the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins reveals that a much larger settlement once stood at the site of Beit Habek (el-Araj), near the Jordan River estuary on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.