Ear­li­est ev­i­dence of bloody re­venge found in J’lem hills

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By ARI­ANE MANDELL (Prof. Boaz Zissu, Bar-Ilan Univer­sity)

A 1,000-year-old skull tells a ter­ri­ble story.

It’s well known that the Land of Is­rael has been a con­tentious place rid­dled with con­flict for mil­len­nia. Now, Is­raeli arche­ol­o­gists have dis­cov­ered the ear­li­est ev­i­dence of that in a cave in the Jerusalem hills, the An­tiq­ui­ties Au­thor­ity an­nounced on Wed­nes­day.

Dur­ing an arche­o­log­i­cal sur­vey of the cave, Prof. Boaz Zissu, of Bar-Ilan Univer­sity’s Land of Is­rael Stud­ies and Ar­chae­ol­ogy Depart­ment, dis­cov­ered a hu­man skull and bones from the palm of a hand dated to the 10th-11th centuries CE that ap­pear to be­long to a victim of a re­venge killing.

The skull shows ev­i­dence of pre­vi­ous trau­matic in­juries that had healed, as well as signs of a di­rect blow by a sword that caused “cer­tain and im­me­di­ate death.”

Blood vengeance is the prac­tice of killing an in­di­vid­ual or group, such as a fam­ily or tribe, in re­venge for the slay­ing of a rel­a­tive or clans­man.

Dr. Yossi Na­gar of the An­tiq­ui­ties Au­thor­ity and Dr. Haim Co­hen of the National Cen­ter for Foren­sic Medicine and Tel Aviv Univer­sity iden­ti­fied the bones as be­long­ing to a male be­tween the ages of 25 and 40. The skull ap­pears to bear traits of the lo­cal Be­duin pop­u­la­tion, who came from Jor­dan and north­ern Ara­bia and in­hab­ited the Jerusalem hills dur­ing the 10th and 11th centuries.

Ac­cord­ing to Na­gar, records pub­lished by 20th-cen­tury arche­ol­o­gist and ethno­g­ra­pher Pes­sach Bar-Adon out­line a case of Be­duin blood vengeance in which a mur­derer presents the skull and right hand of a per­son killed out of re­venge. These are the same body parts re­cov­ered this week, which were “ob­vi­ously specif­i­cally se­lected,” Na­gar said.

The An­tiq­ui­ties Au­thor­ity noted that re­searchers see wounds from pre­vi­ous vi­o­lent in­ci­dents and death from a fa­tal blow as ev­i­dence the re­mains be­longed to a victim of blood vengeance.

Be­cause the re­mains of only one in­di­vid­ual were found, and no army passed through the re­mote area, “It is surely a case of in­ter-personal vi­o­lence,” Na­gar told The Jerusalem Post.

“Blood vengeance was prac­ticed by Be­duin in re­mote ar­eas in or­der to de­ter oth­ers from us­ing vi­o­lence against them,” he said. “[Dur­ing] this pe­riod 1,000 years ago, the area was not well-con­trolled by the au­thor­i­ties, so such a prac­tice was a must in or­der to sur­vive. Com­bin­ing to­gether the se­lected skele­tal el­e­ments [and] the his­tory of the pe­riod, blood re­venge is the most prob­a­ble in­ter­pre­ta­tion.”

Blood vengeance is also men­tioned in the To­rah and out­lined in the Book of Num­bers. The King­doms of Is­rael and Ju­dah con­tained dozens of towns known as “cities of refuge,” where some­one who killed through ac­ci­den­tal manslaugh­ter could find asy­lum from the fam­ily of the slain who were seek­ing re­venge.

A CAVE in the Jerusalem hills held ev­i­dence of a bloody past.

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