Just over a hundred years ago, an American archaeologist discovered a series of spectacular tomb paintings dating from about 200 B.C.E. at a site in the foothills of the Judean mountains. Yet, within a few years, these precious works of art had faded into oblivion, and since then they have been known to the world only through a set of inaccurate colored lithographs, first published in 1905.
Fortunately, the first scholars to see the paintings had the foresight to have them photographed immediately, but for years these valuable plates lay undisturbed in the archives of the Palestine Exploration Fund in London. Now, the readers of BAR can sharemy wonder and delight in seeing these long unseen treasures.
Our story begins in the summer of 1900. Frederick J. Bliss, an archaeologist who had received his training from William F. Flinders Petrie in Egypt, and his Anglo-Irish deputy, R.A. Stewart Macalister, conducted a three-month campaign of excavations at a mound called Tell Sandahannah, one mile south of Beit Guvrin (Beit Jibrin) and less than 40 miles by road southwest of Jerusalem.1 Tell Sandahannah is identified with Biblical Maresha, called Marisa in the Hellenistic period.