National Geographic : 1951 Dec
838 A Mosaic Inscription from a Byzantine Church Pleads for God's Mercy After long study, scholars have determined that the letters signify Domine miserere-the first word abbre viated to do, and the first syllable of the second spelled with an e instead of the modern i. The mosaic was taken from the church at Khirbet en Nitla, near New Testament Jericho (pages 835, 844). the sill of one of the rooms, where they prob ably had been secreted by some thrifty person in a manner typical of Biblical times. The historian Josephus tells us that Simon, one of Herod's influential freedmen, led a re volt immediately after Herod's death and burned his palace and other buildings. Archelaus, he recorded, sumptuously rebuilt the palace. In the light of this it was interest ing to find that one of the four levels of the first mound we excavated, the one done in the Herodian type of stonework, had apparently been burned. Rare Snowfall Paralyzes Palestine In the days when Jericho prospered, "The Hills of the Father of the Bramble Bushes" were certainly not so bleak as that name implies. Present-day Jericho, with its small white houses buried in a lush green oasis of citrus and banana groves and date gardens, is indicative of that. During our four months of intensive work at Jericho the weather was all that one could ask. It was bright and sunny about six days of the week, and much of the time we worked in shirt sleeves. There are winter windstorms in Palestine, however. One of these swept away the big tent in which we stored our tools; conse quently, for the rest of the dig we rented a house. Rooms in a Jericho hotel served as a place to work at reconstructing pottery and other items we found in the ruins (p. 831). One day all Palestine had such a heavy snowfall that it piled up to five feet in the trans-Jordan hills. This was most unusual. One of our workmen said his grandfather had told him that his grandfather (that would be the workman's great-great-grandfather) had once seen snow in Jericho. The surprising snowfall marooned us in our Jerusalem headquarters. Nothing on wheels moved very far in Palestine, for tire chains are unheard of there. Surprisingly, we found new automobiles available at reasonable prices in Palestine. But it takes a jack-of-all-trades chauffeur to drive them. One never goes out in the desert with a driver who is not a good mechanic. In our own case, we had some harrowing experiences. The school's station wagon had seen better days, and we seemed to have trouble with an overheating rear axle every time we drove in the desert. On one occa sion the car actually burst into flames. We put the fire out by smothering it with rags. Then the chauffeur took the wheels apart two or three times without any notable success. Luckily, it was an Arab holiday, and some refugees who were driving between Petra and 'Amman to a family reunion picked us up. It is an unwritten law of the desert that a traveler must stop and give assistance.