Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Βασίλειος Τζαφέρης z"l

Israel has lost another of her veteran archaeologists.
Vassilios Tzaferis died at the age of 78.
You can see many nice photos of him at work in this Greek article.

Tzaferis was a monk before becoming an archaeologist.
Here's how he himself tells it:

Archaeology was not in my mind nor in my parents’ minds when, in 1950, at the age of 14, I departed the island of Samos, Greece. The destination for my migration was Jerusalem to study theology and become a monk in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. Six years later, when I was 20, my father’s desire was fulfilled when I undertook the vow of monasticism and was ordained deacon in a solemn ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
As a deacon and an obedient member of the “Holy Sepulchre Brotherhood” of the Patriarchate, I was sent to serve the Greek Orthodox Church in Nazareth. Two years later, in 1958, I applied for higher theological studies at the University of Athens, but the then-Patriarch Benedictos had a much different idea: Instead, he urged me to complete my academic education in Biblical studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. For my B.A. studies, I chose the history of ancient Israel and archaeology. For my M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, classical archaeology was my field of specialization.
 Indeed, Tsaferis Tzaferis wrote extensively about monks and monasteries in the Byzantine period, and he served as director of excavations and surveys at the Israel Antiquities Authority from 1991 to 2001.

But in my opinion his most moving discovery was this heel bone with a spike.
It now has a place of honor in the Israel Museum.
Please see my earlier post to understand how the foot was nailed sideways to the cross. 

In a 1985 BAR article Tzaferis told this:

From ancient literary sources we know that tens of thousands of people were crucified in the Roman Empire. In Palestine alone, the figure ran into the thousands. Yet until 1968 not a single victim of this horrifying method of execution had been uncovered archaeologically.
In that year I excavated the only victim of crucifixion ever discovered. He was a Jew, of a good family, who may have been convicted of a political crime. He lived in Jerusalem shortly after the turn of the era and sometime before the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
Rest in peace, Vassilios Tzaferis. Thanks for all you have done in the Holy Land.


William Kendall said...

What an extraordinary man, and what a life he led.

Hels said...

Patriarch Benedictos was right to urge young Vassilios Tzaferis to gain an excellent academic education in Biblical studies at the Hebrew University. Look what the nation gained!

jaz@octoberfarm said...

what in interesting post! thank you so much for your blog!

Cloudia said...

Worthy and Excellent to bring him attention & appreciation

ALOHA from Honolulu

Petrea Burchard said...

This artifact of torture is a famous one. I remember your photo from before.

I thank all archaeologists of the past, present and future. It's a noble profession and it fascinates me.

Roger Owen Green said...

important work, digging in the dirt!

ROG, ABC Wednesday

VP said...

A great man, honor to him!

Karl Demetz said...

Another very interesting post, Dina, what a great man.
I think, so for myself, what would be Israel without archaeologists?

PerthDailyPhoto said...

Very nice tribute Dina. M Tzaferis had an amazingly fulfilling life by the sounds of it.. Just went back and read your previous post, incredible find.

Marie said...

This was so fascinating! I loved reading about this amazing man, and am sorry to hear of his passing. The crucifixion bone was also so interesting!

Gattina said...

Very interesting post !
ABC Wednesday

Jael said...

What an interesting life story!

Reader Wil said...

Thank you for this very important and interesting post Dina! It is as if the history of the whole world is buried in Israel.

Mary Gerdt said...

Great post about a great man and his history. Thanks. May he rest in peace. Mary

ChrisJ said...

Interesting post.I have much in common with the Greek Orthodox Church and I am fascinated by archeology. (For some reason spell checker tells e i have spelled archeology wrong -- I don't think so.

Kay said...

This is sad. He died much too young.