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Aug 17 Excavating Armageddon

Today we travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where Clarence Stanley Fisher was born in 1876. He would devote his life to Near Eastern archaeology and oversee one of the most evocative sites in the Levant – the plane and tell of Megido – known in Greek as Armageddon.


During World War I, Fisher was assigned to Egypt, where he worked under George Reisner there before he travelled to Palestine under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania where he took on the role as Director of the Tel Megiddo excavations, the site of the ancient city of Megiddo. Known for its historical, geographical, and theological importance, especially the excavation was conducted under the auspices of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago with funding from John D. Rockefeller Jr. Fisher was eventually to die in Jerusalem and his papers, formerly housed at the Albright Institute, Jerusalem, are now held in the archives of the American Schools of Oriental Research at Boston University.

The "mount" of Megiddo in northern Israel is not actually a mountain, but accurately referred to as a tell – that is a mound or hill created by many generations of people living and rebuilding on the same spot. Its location was of strategic importance between two continents, at the end of a ridge, which formed a natural strategic barrier which could be held from the South to halt any Asiatic invasion from the North. In this way it was unsuccessfully defended in an attempt to ward off an Egyptian invasion into Southern Palestine by the young Pharaoh Thutmose II in the early 15th Century BC. The historical artefacts that are translated in Clarence Fishers book, The Ancient Records of Egypt describe the sumptuous soil that came into the hands of Thutmose on his victory. It is no accident that the boomerang-shaped region of the Middle East is known as the Fertile Crescent and was home to some of the earliest human civilizations. This area was the birthplace of a number of technological innovations, including writing, the wheel, agriculture, and the use of irrigation. The plain to which the pass gave access to was also called Megiddo or Armageddon in Greek. This became a battlefield for thousands of years as great powers from Africa and Asia met and ancient forts were built to guard the Via Maris, an ancient trade route linking Egypt with the northern empires of Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia. Palestine was a middle ground between the pharaohs of Egypt to the South and the Kings of Babylon (Iraq) to the West. Its strategic position also led to a battle, even as recently as World War One, between the Ottomans and allied troops led by General Allenby. The British succeeded in capturing Beersheba, Jaffa, and Jerusalem and occupied the Jordan Valley during the summer of 1918, then went on to capture northern Palestine and defeat the Ottoman Eighth Army at the Battle of Megiddo, forcing a retreat towards Damascus. Subsequently, a pursuit by Desert Mounted Corps captured Damascus and advanced into northern Syria and during this pursuit, Allenby commanded T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia").

Megiddo has now been excavated three times and is currently being excavated yet again. The first excavations were carried out by Gottlieb Schumacher for the German Society for the Study of Palestine. These were rudimentary by later standards and Schumacher's field notes and records were destroyed in World War I before being published. Fishers’ excavations continued until the outbreak of the Second World War. During these excavations it was discovered that there were around 8 levels of habitation, and many of the uncovered remains are preserved at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem and the Oriental Institute of Chicago. The third excavations were by the Hebrew University in the 60’s and 70’s. A 5,000 year old "Great Temple", dated to the Early Bronze Age was discovered as "the most monumental single edifice so far uncovered in the Levant and ranks among the largest structures of its time in the Near East." including an immense, 47.5 by 22 meters sanctuary making it more than ten times larger than the typical temple of that era. It was determined that the temple was the site of ritual animal sacrifice. A nearby church next to Megiddo Junction was built within the ancient city of Legio and is believed to date to the 3rd century, which would make it one of the oldest churches in the world. It was situated a few hundreds yards from the base camp of Legion VI Ferrata and one of the mosaics found in the church was donated by a centurion.

In the Book of Revelation, the final book of the Bible, Meggido or in Greek - Armageddon is the prophesied location of a gathering of armies for a battle during the end times, which is variously interpreted as either a literal or a symbolic location. The term is also used in a generic sense to refer to any end of the world scenario. In Islamic theology, the Armageddon is also mentioned in Hadith as the Greatest Armageddon or Al-Malhama Al-Kubra (the great battle).