Thursday, June 12, 2008

New Lease on Life for Masada Date Palm

Israeli scientists are nurturing a baby date palm, now three years old, grown from a seed found at the ancient fortrus of Masada. Though they don't yet know whether it's male or female the sapling, which is affectionately known as Methuselah, appears to be thriving.

The species to which Methuselah belongs died out in its native Near East in the middle Ages. But it is known to have had great significance, including as a source of medicine. Researchers hope to study the plant's medicinal properties; indeed, a leaf from the sapling has already been sent away for analysis.

Date Palm Buds after 2000 Years (BBC)
Tree from 2,000-year-old seed is doing well (AP)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Candidate for Oldest Place of Christian Worship Found

Ancient cave linked to early Christians in Jordan
By DALE GAVLAK (Associated Press Writer)
From Associated Press
June 11, 2008 10:30 AM EDT
AMMAN, Jordan - Archaeologists in Jordan have discovered a cave underneath one of the world's oldest churches and say it may have been an even more ancient site of Christian worship. But outside experts expressed caution about the claim.

Archaeologist Abdel-Qader al-Housan, head of the Rihab Center for Archaeological Studies, said this week that the cave was unearthed in the northern Jordanian city of Rihab after three months of excavation and shows evidence of early Christian rituals.

The cave is under St. George's Church, which some believe was built in the year 230, though the date is widely disputed. That would make it one of the oldest churches in the world, along with one unearthed in the Jordanian southern port of Aqaba in 1998 and another in Israel discovered in 2005.

Al-Housan said there was evidence that the underground cave was used as a church by 70 disciples of Jesus in the first century after Christ's death, which would make it the oldest Christian site of worship in the world.

If varified, this discovery is very exciting both from the archaeological and the Christian point of view. That's because it would fill in the historical record just a bit between the life of Our Lord, for which there is, sadly, scarce historical/archaeological evidence, and the Second Century A.D., when the historical/archaeological foundation of Christianity first becomes firm. We'll be watching for further developments.