Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Every Tourist Goes to Masada -- Even 110 Years Ago

Scaling Masada's topmost cliffs.
The climb above the ramp (c 1930)
 The famous Israeli archeologist Yigal Yadin didn't discover the desert fortress of Masada in his 1963-1965 archeological expedition.   It was discovered a century earlier. 

Yadin role was to unearth Masada's many secrets. 

On top of Masada
Click on a picture to enlarge. Click on caption to view original.
Scholars were familiar with the story of Masada from the works of the first century historian, Josephus Flavius, but only in 1835 did American scholar Eward Robinson look at the mountain with a keen eye:  "I could perceive what appeared to be a building and also traces of other buildings... Subsequent research leaves little room to doubt that this was the site of the ancient and renowned fortress of Masada."

Other explorers examined the mountain in the 1850s and 1860s.
According to Yadin, "the most profound and pioneering study of Masada was done by the German scholar Adolf Schulten, who was among the first scholars to spend a whole month at Masada in 1932.... His plans laid the foundation for the future study of the ruins."
Roman camps and Dead
Sea below (circa 1900)

The way up to Masada

Some of the Library of Congress photographs of Masada that appear here were taken around the same time as Schulten's expedition to Masada.

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  1. Visited Masada in July this year A fascinating place!
    Charmaine, Northern Ireland

  2. The first hikers to Masada were the pupils of Jerusalem's Seminar L'Morim during 1922-1925 and they were followed by Dr. Bograshav's Herzliya high schoolers from Tel Aviv. A girl was killed while climbing in 1934 as one of the results of the 1927 earthquake was a collapse of part of the ramp via which they ascended and alternative routes had to be searched out. Later in the early 1940s, Shmarya Guttman, head of the Arab section of the Palmah, hammered in pins and ropes to assist. Hebrew readers can see this.

    In 1934, another group of young men encompassed the Dead Sea and also climbed Masada (the full story is there, in Hebrew).