A biblical site with thousands of years of history is making headlines again. Though the ancient Canaanite city-state of Megiddo has been excavated for over 100 years, new findings continue to amaze those who believe the site still remains largely untapped.
An opulent 3,600-year-old untouched elite burial chamber is offering researchers more clues about the ancient Canaanite civilization, their burial practices, and their lineage today.
Located in modern-day northern Israel, the undisturbed tomb and its long-gone subjects are believed by archaeologists to be from the summit of the Canaanite civilization, which dates back to approximately 1,700–1,600 BCE.
“We are speaking of an elite family burial because of the monumentality of the structure, the rich finds and because of the fact that the burial is located in close proximity to the royal palace,” said Professor Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University, as reported by National Geographic.
The three individuals found buried inside belong to a man of 40 to 60 years old, a woman in her mid 30s, and a child no older than 10.
“However, the final three were probably of special importance based on the high quantity and exceptional richness of their grave goods,” Melissa Cradic from the University of California, Berkeley, points out, “as well as the fact that their bodies were not disturbed after burial.”
The male was found bedecked in gold, including a beautifully crafted gold diadem and gold necklace. Gold and silver jewellery, including rings, bracelets, brooches, and pins, were also found.
“When you’re here,” said Finkelstein, gesturing to the ground, “and the [Bronze Age] palace is 15–20 meters from us, and you don’t have 125 [tombs] like these around us, so this may be ‘the’ nobility. I mean, what else can it be?” he asked in a video on the 2016 dig of the chamber, which is dubbed Tomb 50.
“The incredible state of preservation of Tomb 50 offers an important opportunity for comprehensive scientific study of the ancient population and their funerary practices,” he added. “We are studying diet and health, mobility and migration, ancient DNA, organic residues, environment, and issues of identity using the osteological and material remains.
The skeletons are currently being DNA tested. One finding has determined that the Canaanites were never wiped out, as many used to believe, but migrated to Lebanon. According to a study by a UK-based genomic research institute, 90 percent of the Lebanese population share the same genes as the ancient Canaanites.
“These studies have the potential to revolutionize what we know about the population of Canaan,” Finkelstein said. “Before the rise of the world of the Bible.”
“When a site is mentioned in so many historical records, you can make a link between the site and historical processes,” said Finkelstein.
Megiddo sits on a militarily strategic position, and has been an important trade route for nearly five millennia. The ancient city is mentioned in the Bible’s Book of Revelation (Rev. 16:16), referred to as “Armageddon.” It derives its name from Har-Megiddo, or Hill of Megiddo.
“As civilizations came and went, succeeding settlements at ancient Megiddo were built on the ruins of their predecessors, creating a multi-layered archaeological legacy that abounds in unparalleled treasures that include monumental temples, lavish palaces, mighty fortifications, and remarkably-engineered water systems,” reads a statement on The Megiddo Expedition website, which adds the team will resume their excavation in three months’ time.