COULD FIND BE BIBLICAL DAVID'S PALACE?
An Israeli archaeologist says she has uncovered in East Jerusalem what may be the fabled palace of the biblical King David.
Her work has been sponsored by a conservative Israeli research institute and financed by an American Jewish investment banker who would like to prove that Jerusalem was indeed the capital of the Jewish kingdom described in the Bible.
Other scholars are skeptical that the foundation walls discovered by archaeologist Eilar Mazar are David's palace. But they acknowledge what she has uncovered is rare and important: a major public building from around the 10th century B.C., with pottery shards that date to the time of David and Solomon and a government seal of an official mentioned in the book of Jeremiah.
The discovery is likely to be a new salvo in a major dispute in biblical archaeology: whether the kingdom of David and Samuel was of some historical magnitude, or whether the men were more like small tribal chieftains.
The find will also be used in the broad political battle over Jerusalem - whether Jews have their origins there and thus have some special hold on the place, or whether, as many Palestinians have said, the idea of a Jewish origin in Jerusalem is a myth used to justify conquest and occupation.
Hani Nur el-Din, a Palestinian professor of archaeology at Al Quds University, said he and his colleagues considered biblical archaeology an effort by Israelis "to fit historical evidence into a biblical context."
He added: "The link between the historical evidence and the biblical narration, written much later, is largely missing. There's a kind of fiction about the 10th century."
Even Israeli archaeologists are not so sure that Mazar has found the palace: the house that Hiram, king of Tyre, built for the victorious king - at least as Samuel 2:5 describes it. It may also be the Fortress of Zion that David conquered from the Jebusites, who ruled Jerusalem before him, or some other structure about which the Bible is silent.
Either way, they are impressed by its likely importance. "This is a very significant discovery, given that Jerusalem as the capital of the united kingdom is very much unknown," said Gabriel Barkay, an archaeologist from Bar-Ilan University.
"This is one of the first greetings we have from the Jerusalem of David and Solomon, a period which has played a kind of hide-and-seek with archaeologists for the last century."
Based on the Bible and a century of archaeology in this spot, Mazar, 48, speculated that a famous stepped-stone structure excavated previously was part of the fortress David conquered, and that his palace would have been built just outside the original walls of the cramped city.
"When the Philistines came to fight, the Bible said that David went down from his house to the fortress," she said, her eyes bright.
"So I said, maybe there's something here," she added, referring to East Jerusalem.
Eilat Mazar believes she has found a riposte: a large public building with at least some pottery of the time, and a bulla (governmental seal) of an official - Jehucal (or Jucal), son of Shelemiah, son of Shevi - who is mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah.
From the New York Times, submitted by David M. Wolan, Charlotte, NC.
$10,000 FOUND, MANY PEOPLE ATTEMPTING TO CLAIM MONEY
A surveyor discovered more than $10,000 that had been buried for more than 50 years, and several families and businesses are saying they own the cash. The money was unearthed while a lot where a house once sat was being excavated.
"I had a number of people calling me and claiming it was their money," said Greg Macko, law director in nearby Barberton, where the money was found. "I will not release it to anybody until I have a judge tell me who to give it to."
Among those trying to collect the cash are the Weintraub family trusts, which now own the property; relatives of Elmus and Esta Devault, who owned the land in the 1950s; the family of Carl and Imogene Bogden, who owned a nearby lot; and S&S Aggregate Co., which hired the excavators and has the option to buy the land. All filed documents in Summit County Common Pleas court saying the money is rightfully theirs.
Recently a judge urged claimants to reach a settlement before the case becomes a long-fought battle.
Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer said the case would be simple if someone could prove a relative once told the about the money that officials believe was hidden in a cement block.
"We don't anticipate anyone can do that," she said.
Keith Anthony, 22, first saw the pile of wet bills while he surveyed newly excavated land last spring.
"It was all loose, and I started looking at it and saw it had 100s and 50s," Anthony said last week. "I thought it was fake."
From The Courier, submitted by Jeff Hauenstein, Findlay, OH.
1.8 MILLION-YEAR-OLD SKULL IS UNEARTHED
Archeologists have unearthed a skull they say is 1.8 million years old- part of a find that holds the oldest traces of humankind's closest ancestors ever found in Europe.
The skull from an early member of the genus Homo was found recently and unearthed in Dmanisi, about 60 miles southeast of the capital, Tbilisi, said David Lortkipanidze, director of the Georgian National Museum.
In total, five bones or fragments believed to be about the same age have been found in the area, including a jawbone discovered in 1991, Lortkipanidze said by telephone.
From the Chicago Tribune, submitted by Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.
CRADLE OF DEMOCRACY ROCKS ARCHEOLOGISTS
Truckloads of excavated sand slowly reveal Patara, an ancient city in Turkey whose parliament inspired the U.S. Founding Fathers.
Alexander the Great was here, and so was St. Paul, on his way to Ephesus.
Centuries later, the drafters of the U.S. Constitution took the ancient Lycian League, which was based here, as an early example of the form of republican government they envisaged as well. The league was mentioned twice in the Federalist Papers- by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.
Now, teams of Turkish and German archeologists have been working in this small Mediterranean Sea town, uncovering some of its treasures.
Among them is the parliament building where the elected representatives of the Lycian League met. It has rows of stone seats arranged in a semicircle, like the chambers of the U.S. Congress. Its stone-vaulted main entrances are intact, as is the thronelike perch where the elected Lyciarch, the leader, sat.
It often is said that Turkey has more Greek ruins than Greece. But Patara is a Greek ruin, a Roman one and a Byzantine one as well, which is what makes the site, buried in sand for centuries, an important newcomer to the Turkish archeological scene, likely to take its place alongside Troy or Ephesus in importance.
"It's very exciting," said Fahri Isik, a professor of archeology from Akdeniz University in Antalya who is in charge of the dig. In fact, Isik is hopeful that further excavations will not only increase knowledge of the Lycian League but also help illuminate what often are referred to as the "dark ages" of early Mediterranean history, the 12th to 8th Centuries B.C., about which little is known.
Mentioned in "The Iliad," Patara was a port city used by the Persians in the 5th Century B.C. during the Persian Wars. One of the archeological expedition's major findings is the impressive ruins of an ancient lighthouse, which guided ships to its harbor two millenniums ago.
The Lycian League had about 23 known city-states as members, which sent one, two or three representatives, depending on the city's size, to the parliament, or Bouleuterion. Inscriptions uncovered at the site provide the names of the Lyciarchs who sat in special seats about midway up the chamber.
Later, Patara was a province in the Roman Empire. It ceased being a federation in the 4th Century A.D., when it was taken over by the Byzantines.
"The whole of international life was here, both in the Roman times and in the time of the Lycian Federation," said Joachim Ganzert, a professor of architecture history from Hanover University.
"It will have a similar importance to Ephesus and Pergamon, but the work here has only been going on for 15 years," he said. "In Pergamon, they recently celebrated the 110th anniversary of the start of the excavation."
Though Patara has been visited by archeologists for 200 or more years, a serious, painstaking excavation of the site started only recently, and many of its exposed stone inscriptions face the danger of erosion.
"But we've made a lot of progress," said Gul Isin, an archeologist from Akdeniz University who serves as a sort of aide-decamp to Isik. A Roman bath, a large semicircular theater and a Byzantine basilica have been rescued from the sand and scrub brush.
Of course, there is also the parliament building, linking this dusty place to the United States, 7,000 miles away and centuries into the future.
From The Chicago Tribune, submitted by Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.
FISHERMAN CATCHES WALLET LOST IN 1966
Back in 1966, James Lubeck bent over to secure his sailboat against a gathering storm and his wallet slipped from his back pocket into Marblehead Harbor.
The wallet and the credit cards inside were seemingly gone forever.
Then Lubeck got word recently about a startling discovery: A fisherman had hauled in the wallet's sheath of credit cards in a net full of cod, flounder and haddock.
"I can't find the adjectives," Lubeck, 74, said recently. "I don't know how many people would have done that."
Fisherman Antonino Randzaao hauled in the catch in June roughly 25 miles from where Lubeck lost the wallet. The sheath was caked in mud, but the 10 to 12 credit and identification cards were in pristine condition.
"It is incredible," he said. "Life is full of mysteries."
Randazzo, 44, said he initially feared the wallet belonged to someone who was lost at sea, but noticed the card expiration dates were from the late 1960s.
The only Lubeck listed in the Marblehead phone book was a Jonathan. Randazzo called and inquired whether James Lubeck was home. He was relieved to learn from James Lubeck's daughter-in-law that he was alive and living in Connecticut.
Later, when Lubeck got a call from his son about the recovered wallet, he initially had no idea what he was talking about.
He eventually recalled the details- and the $300 in expense checks that had been lost with the wallet.
"Thirty-nine years ago, $300 was a lot of money," he said.
The checks, cash and leather of the wallet are gone, but the value of the find isn't in what was recovered, but what happened afterward, Lubeck said.
"It's the idea that somebody reached out," Lubeck said. "And the puzzlement of that moving so many miles."
From the New York Daily News, submitted by Thom Horvath, Bridgewater, NJ, and David M. Wolan, Charlotte, NC.
CATSKILLS STILL SEARCHED FOR GANGSTER'S BURIED TREASURE
Dutch Schultz's long-lost millions might be buried in this patch of pines, if Hayden Henningsen is reading the sketchy treasure map correctly. Searchers perk up when a metal detector skimming the forest floor starts sounding:
"Mwwoooop! Booooop! Boooooop!"
Could it be?
Maybe these four guys out on a bachelor party weekend jaunt will succeed where generations of searchers have failed. Maybe they will uncover the gangster booty buried in the Catskill Mountains during the Great Depression. Maybe they will strike it rich.
"It's tinfoil," Jared Polis says after barely scratching the ground cover.
Then they find a rusted bullet casing.
"I have a feeling this is not Dutch Schultz's treasure," Polis says.
Like many before them, the group came to the Catskills looking for its most elusive, or illusory, attraction. Millions in loot was supposedly hidden near the Esopus Creek by Schultz before he was mowed down in a New Jersey tavern in 1935.
Details are worse than foggy, they're contradictory- a confusing set of stories about fedora-wearing gangsters digging by moonlight in different places. But no matter. The thought of treasure underfoot has been enough to leave local woods searched for decades.
"When people latch on to this story they get very determined and very obsessed," said Laura Levine, a local antique store owner whose documentary, "Digging for Dutch," chronicles the phenomenon. "What kid doesn't grow up wanting to find a buried treasure?"
The Catskills, with their craggy woods and foggy shrouds, have inspired fantastic stories dating back to Rip Van Winkle's 20-year sleep. But unlike Washington Irving's tales, this story involves real people.
Schultz was born Arthur Flegenheimer in 1902 in the Bronx. His hangdog face belied a cunning that propelled him to prominence in the murderous New York City underworld of the '20s and '30s. He was a bootlegger and a numbers racketeer. Enemies often ended up with bullets in them. One was hung by his thumbs on a meat hook.
Schultz's success- and probably his talent for making headlines- caught the attention of prosecutor Thomas Dewey, the future New York governor and Republican presidential candidate. Mob historians believe that by 1935, Schultz wanted Dewey killed. But New York City's other crime lords, uncomfortable with the murder of the high-profile lawman, decided instead to get rid of Schultz.
Assassins were dispatched to The Palace Chophouse in Newark, NJ, the night of Oct. 23, 1935. As his henchmen were sprayed with gunfire at a table, Schultz was plugged in the bathroom with a rusty .45 bullet.
Schultz lingered in a state of fevered delirium. As police questioned him, he spewed out a soliloquy resembling surreal haiku.
"Oh, oh; dog biscuit, and when he is happy he doesn't get snappy," he said. And later: "We don't owe a nickel; fold it! Instead, fold it against him. I am a pretty good pretzeler."
Schultz died the next day.
The treasure stories came sometime after.
Usually the tales go something like this: Fearing a prison sentence during a tax evasion trial, Schultz stuffed $5 million of his fortune in a metal box and had henchman Lulu Rosenkrantz bury it during a trip to Phoenicia, marking a nearby tree with an "X." Schultz and Rosenkrantz were rubbed out before they could make a withdrawal.
Details of the story vary. The stash was cash. It was gold and jewels. It was Liberty bonds. It was buried by a sycamore. It was buried between two pine trees, which- considering the Catskills are a state forest preserve- would be like burying something in a desert next to a sand dune.
The story's fuzzy features have done little to dissuade the occasional visitors who turn up at the Esopus Creek with shovels instead of fishing poles or inner tubes.
"I hate to say it, but I felt if anybody could find it, I could," said Gary Bennett, a Holyoke, Mass. resident who was inspired to search four years ago after seeing the story on "Unsolved Mysteries."
Bennett made a half dozen treasure hunting trips to the Catskills, sometimes with his wife and two boys. He also read up on the story, looking for clues.
Like a lot of persistent tales, it can seem plausible.
Schultz really did make millions from his rackets. He traveled upstate. And Depression-era criminals tended to avoid banks, except to rob them. Some, like "Machine Gun" Kelly, were even known to hide loot in the dirt.
Still, there is no definitive proof that Schultz buried anything anywhere.
Allan May, who writes about organized crime for AmericanMafia.com, doesn't see why Schultz would travel more than a hundred miles north to put his fortune in a hole. He gives the story no more weight than other gangster rumors like Bugsy Siegel's secret Swiss bank account (never found) or Al Capone's vault of treasure (Geraldo Rivera found empty liquor bottles inside on live TV in 1986).
"I don't think it makes any sense at all," May said. "He certainly had other places he could have kept it than in the ground."
But the story seems too good to die.
Polis called the tale an irresistible combination of murder, deathbed ramblings and buried treasure. He dreamed up the treasure hunt as part of his cousin Matthew Poliss's bachelor party- something different from strip clubs or a ball game. He Googled a bunch of information and even got a treasure map e-mailed from Bennett.
"It's certainly more fun than buying a lottery ticket," said Polis party searcher Jorian Schutz, "with about the same odds as winning.
The group left New York City on a recent Saturday with rented metal detectors, digging tools, sunscreen and a what-the-heck attitude. After stopping at Levine's Mystery Spot Antiques shop for some tips, they hit the woods.
Like other diggers, they discovered the high proportion of heavy rocks in Catskill soil and the surprising number of metal objects. Aside from the bullet and the tin foil, they uncovered an old can and a piece of rusty metal cable.
"Dutch Schultz! Where are yoooouuu!" Jared Polis hollered, heading deeper into the woods.
Some Schultz treasure theorists believe better digging is at a local campground, or along the railroad tracks. Local funeral home operators interviewed in Levine's documentary, which is playing at film festivals, say they have a map placing the treasure directly under what is now state Route 28, the main road here.
From The Brainerd Minnesota Dispatch, submitted by Steve Rowberg, Sandstone, MN.