Sunday, November 22, 2015

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

A papyrus with lines from the Gospel of John and dated to circa AD 300 was discovered on eBay.

Excavations at Khirbet el-Eika suggest a pagan population lived at this Hellenistic site near the Horns of Hattin.

A new exhibit with finds from Gath (Tell es-Safi) is on display at the University of Kansas.

Eisenbrauns is offering all four volumes of Royal Inscriptions of the Neo-Assyrian Period (RINAP) at a discount of 40% off retail price until Nov 27.

The second volume on excavations at Yavneh covers 7,000 cultic items from the 9th-8th centuries BC discovered in a repository.

Carta has released a 2nd updated and expanded edition of The Raging Torrent, by Michael Cogan.

The New Yorker: Can digital technology make the Herculaneum scrolls legible after two thousand years?

Hurriyet Daily News profiles Gaza resident Nafez Abed, a specialist in preservation and reproductions.

Colorized photos of the discovery of King Tut’s tomb are now on exhibit in New York City.

The Chicago Hittite Dictionary Project now has a website.

You can have your tweet preserved on a cuneiform tablet.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

The Mountain to Valley Relay is a 215 km relay race in northern Israel. Registration opens in January.

A beautiful mosaic from the Roman and Byzantine periods excavated in Lod went on display this week.

A hoard of 3rd century Roman coins has been found in Switzerland.

You can now visit every gallery in the British Museum with Google Street View.

Reuters revisits Rujm el-Hiri in the Golan Heights.

Wayne Stiles observes the irony that a “seat of Moses” was discovered at Chorazin.

An ornately decorated 1st century A.D. basilica once used by a pagan cult is now open to tourists in Rome.

Now on pre-pub pricing for Logos: AR151 Archaeology in Action: Jesus and Archaeology, with Craig Evans.

The Ancient Semitic Languages Youtube Channel has a reading of the Mesha Stele in Moabite.

Urban Legends of the New Testament is on sale for $4.99 for Kindle.

Ferrell Jenkins has announced his 50th Anniversary Tour to Israel.

I’ve never heard of a modern-day “tour of Palestine,” but Felicity Cobbing reports on her annual tour to sites in the West Bank.

Leen Ritmeyer responds to the recent Popular Archaeology claim that the Jewish people are praying at the wrong wall.

HT: Ted Weis, Vik Menon

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Opportunity: Seeking a Homeland Israel Study Tour Summer 2016

by Chris McKinny

I am excited to announce that Seeking a Homeland is planning a study tour of Israel for this upcoming summer! See here for details/registration and below for a discussion of the uniqueness of the planned tour.

Dates: June 10-19, 2016
Leader: Chris McKinny

Brief Itinerary (10 field days): 
June 10 Arrival/Coastal Plain, June 11 Shephelah and Negev, June 12 Dead Sea, June 13-14 Jerusalem, June 15 Jordan Valley, June 16 Jezreel Valley, June 17-18 Galilee, June 19 Coastal Plain, June 20 Departure or Tel Burna Archaeological Project (see below)

Focus: Geographical, historical, biblical, and archaeological background of Israel, the land of the Bible

Level of Difficulty: Moderate, a lot of walking and several difficult hikes
Availability: 15-30 people
Price: $2,300/person (excluding airfare and lunches)
Add-on: Tel Burna Archaeological Project June 19-July 15, 2016 (1-4 weeks); a $150 discount will be applied to a participant who joins the project (minimum one week).
Deadline: March 31, 2016


This study tour is not for everyone. During this tour, there will be very little time for relaxation and even less time for shopping, but we will find time to swim in the Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee and Dead Sea.

This tour is built on the IBEX (The Master's College) model - where I have taught/led study tours since 2010. This type of study tour will be much different than your standard "church" or religious tour of Israel that often devote equal amounts of time to the hotel's swimming pool as they do at biblical sites.

While intensive study tours are much less common than the typical tour described above, there are other good options. So what makes Seeking a Homeland's tour unique?

Two things:

First, this tour will be led by an experienced teacher who also is a trained and active biblical archaeologist (in the field, classroom, and the academy).

Second, participants will have the opportunity to excavate at Tel Burna (Libnah), a major archaeological site, immediately following the tour. In my opinion, an archaeological excavation is the natural "follow-up experience" to an intensive geographical study of Israel. This is born out by the fact that many people who visit Israel develop an interest in biblical archaeology and attempt to follow current discourse through such means as Biblical Archaeological Review and this blog. On the other hand, there are some who have only taken part in an archaeological excavation in Israel and have not had the opportunity to travel throughout Israel and, subsequently, gain a working knowledge of the country's geography and history. Planning the field tour in connection with the archaeological project allows for participants to experience both the broad scope of biblical geography while also participating and helping recover the "nuts and bolts" (or "weapons and pottery") of individuals who actually lived during the time of the Bible. This combination makes Seeking a Homeland's tour unique and a good opportunity for those who have never been to Israel or returnees who would like to refresh their past geographical knowledge and gain new insight by participating in an important archaeological investigation of a biblical site.

Our goals for the field tour will be three-fold:
1) to observe as much of the country as possible.
2) to illustrate and contextualize the Old and New Testament narratives against the backdrop of Israel's geography, archaeology and history.
3) to internalize the landscape, background, and worldview of the biblical authors and audiences, in order to achieve better and more nuanced interpretations and, thereby, applications of the biblical text.

For those who decide to join the Tel Burna Archaeological project following the tour, an additional goal will be for participants to "experience the physical culture (cooking/eating, religious, military, administration, etc.) of the Canaanite and Israelite world" through a first-hand experience of archaeological excavation. Imagine yourself finding a Canaanite figurine depicting Asherah (Judges 2:13)  or a LMLK seal impression from the time of King Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:8) - both from the town of Libnah, which the Bible says was defeated by Joshua (Joshua 10:31-32) and Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:8). These are the types of finds that are waiting for us at ancient Libnah.

Canaanite Plaque Figurine
Interactive Map of Tour Itinerary:

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Monday, November 09, 2015

New Reference Work for Pottery from the Holy Land

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

Pottery is the most abundant find in any archaeological excavation. Because everyone used pottery in antiquity, because pottery is so fragile and required frequent replacement, and because pottery is impervious to deterioration from environmental conditions, pottery can be found at every ancient site.

At each dig, potsherds are collected, cleaned and examined. Pottery can tell us about a site's occupation history, it helps us to date the associated strata and structures, and it can reveal such things as relations (trade or otherwise) between sites and regions.

For decades, the standard reference work has been Ruth Amiran's Ancient Pottery of the Holy Land from Its Beginnings in the Neolithic Period to the End of the Iron Age (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1970). This volume is quite useful, although, after nearly 50 years, a refresh is needed. Rumors have circulated for some time that an update, to be edited by Seymour Gitin, was being prepared, but the apparent delay led some to wonder secretly whether there was any truth to the rumors.

Yesterday, they were proven true.

The Israel Exploration Society announced the publication of The Ancient Pottery of Israel and Its Neighbors from the Iron Age through the Hellenistic Period. This is a two-volume work, with additional volumes still in preparation that will cover earlier periods. The only place I can find online to order it is here. There is a part of me that would like to describe these volumes as indispensable, but the $240 price tag gives me pause. Here is the publisher's description and table of contents:
These two volumes offer a comprehensive corpus of ceramic forms and their typological development organized according to period, geographical region, and cultural tradition. The focus of each chapter is on the most characteristic pottery types and decorative motifs selected from a wide range of sites. Unique in scope, this publication presents a wide range of ceramic types accompanied by specially prepared pottery plates and color photos illustrating thousands of forms. A classic reference work, it serves as an essential resource for archaeologists and other scholars and students of ancient Near Eastern studies. Volumes covering the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods and the Bronze Age are currently in preparation. 
808 pp., 328 plates with 3,393 images; 34 color photos illustrating 277 vessels; hard cover 27.6 x 21cm.

Volume 1
  • Iron Age I: Northern Coastal Plain, Galilee, Samaria, Jezreel Valley, Judah, and Negev, by Amihai Mazar
  • Iron Age I: Philistia, by Trude Dothan and Alexander Zukerman
  • Iron Age I: Transjordan, by Larry G. Herr
  • Iron Age IIA–B: Northern Coastal Plain, by Gunnar Lehmann
  • Iron Age IIA–B: Northern Valleys and Upper Galilee, by Amnon Ben-Tor and Anabel Zarzecki-Peleg
  • Iron Age IIA–B: Samaria, by Ron E. Tappy
  • Iron Age IIA–B: Judah and the Negev, by Ze’ev Herzog and Lily Singer-Avitz
  • Iron Age IIA–B: Philistia, by Seymour Gitin
  • Iron Age IIA–B: Transjordan, by Larry G. Herr
  • Iron Age IIC: Northern Coast, Carmel Coast, Galilee, and Jezreel Valley, by Ayelet Gilboa
  • Iron Age IIC: Samaria, by Ron E. Tappy
  • Iron Age IIC: Judah, by Seymour Gitin
  • Iron Age IIC: Northeastern Negev, by Itzhaq Beit-Arieh and Liora Freud
  • Iron Age IIC: Philistia, by Seymour Gitin
  • Iron Age IIC: Transjordan, by Piotr Bienkowski
Volume 2
  • Iron Age I–II Phoenician Pottery, by Ephraim Stern
  • Iron Age I–II Cypriot Imports and Local Imitations, by Ayelet Gilboa
  • Iron Age I–II: Greek Imports, by Jane C. Waldbaum
  • Iron Age IIC Assyrian-Type Pottery, by Ephraim Stern
  • Iron Age IB–IIC Egyptian and Egyptian-Type Pottery, by Eliezer D. Oren
  • Persian Period, by Ephraim Stern
  • Persian Period Imports, by Renate Rosenthal-Heginbottom
  • Hellenistic Period, by Andrea M. Berlin
  • Hellenistic Period Imported Pottery, by Renate Rosenthal-Heginbottom
Discarded pottery sherds at Tell Arqa, Lebanon.

HT: Jack Sasson

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

You don’t have to watch too much of this video footage of a flash flood at the tabernacle model in Timna Park to be impressed. Repairs to the outer court posts are underway.

A leaky pipe at the Western Wall was mistaken for the Messiah.

There’s more talk about rebuilding the Colossus of Rhodes.

Archaeologists have discovered an unknown temple of Hatshepsut.

Now online in pdf format: The Archaeology of the Cuneiform Inscriptions, by A. H. Sayce.

Here are lots and lots of historic photos of Nazareth.

Independent Traveler suggests the 10 Best Israel Experiences.

I suspect that many of our readers would be interested in The First Days of Jesus, by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Alexander E. Stewart.

There are a couple of archaeology lectures this month in the DC area.

Just released: Galilee in the Late Second Temple and Mishnaic Periods, Volume 2: The Archaeological Record from Cities, Towns, and Villages, edited by David A. Fiensy and James Riley Strange. The table of contents, introduction, interviews with the contributors, and a sample chapter are online. Individual chapters focus on Nazareth, Magdala, Bethsaida, Tiberias, Kedesh, Khirbet Qana, and much more. This will quickly become the classic archaeological guide to Galilee.

HT: Charles Savelle, Mark Hoffman, Ted Weis, Agade, Bill Schlegel

There will be no roundup next weekend.

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Saturday, November 07, 2015

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

A study of the temperature of the walls of Tut’s tomb is promising for those looking for a hidden chamber.

Ben Carson believes the pyramids of Egypt were built by Joseph to store grain.

Joseph’s tomb has been restored.

The Hebron archaeological site will not be leased to Jewish settlers.

The PEF has posted a brief video compilation of their recent conference on Jericho.

G. M. Grena reports on a new book dedicated to Robert Deutsch (that includes a chapter by Gabriel Barkay), his visit to Passages exhibit and lecture, a forthcoming game, and a secret link.

If you don’t know about the Lanier Theological Library, you should read this.

This is your last chance to get in on Logos’s Classic Studies and Atlases on Biblical Geography (7 vols.) at the best pricing ($24-30).

Now free in pdf format: The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology: Characters and Collections, by Alice Stevenson.

Our most popular photo this week on Facebook and Twitter was this Psalm 23 image from the American Colony Collection.

Shepherd resting with flock at Ein Farah, mat05629

Shepherd tending his flock at a spring in the Judean wilderness

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Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Is This Really the Akra?

Has the Akra been discovered? On Monday the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) circulated a press invitation to “A Solution to One of the Greatest Questions in the History of Jerusalem.” The location of the Hasmonean fortress of the Akra has long eluded archaeologists, but recent work in the Givati parking lot in the Central Valley below Dung Gate has uncovered a massive structure from this period.

The identification of this structure as the Akra fortress appears to be based on three items:

  • A “tower” that is 4 meters wide and 20 meters long
  • Artifacts which date to the mid-2nd century BC
  • Evidence of battle, including lead sling shots, bronze arrowheads, and ballista stones

Is this alone sufficient to identify this structure as the Akra? I think there’s an automatic suspicion because of the tendency of archaeologists to want to find something great, something that will get their name in the press, lead to invitations to speak, and bring in financial support. I think the burden of proof necessarily increases for any discovery that claims to solve a long-standing question. One might recall as well that it was in this very spot that this very same archaeologist claimed to have found the palace of Queen Helene of Adiabene. It’s not impossible that a palace was built on top of the remains of a fortress, but significant evidence is necessary to convince skeptics like me that the archaeologist isn’t simply tagging every big wall he finds with the most impressive label from the time period.

Is there another way to explain the arrowheads and ballista stones? It would seem that any fortification structure would be the target of attack. As far as the period goes, the Akra was standing in the 2nd century BC, but so were other fortifications. The Hasmoneans fought with the Seleucids for more than twenty years, but finding evidence of such warfare doesn’t mean that the excavated structure must be the famous Akra.

There is yet another problem. Historical sources tell us that the Akra was built to protect the Temple Mount. The excavated building, however, is 120 meters south of Herod’s Temple Mount and down the slope at that. If they found the Akra, it is in the wrong place. Leen Ritmeyer explains this point in detail.

The archaeologists have found important remains that will fill in significant details in Jerusalem’s history. For that they are to be commended. But they must know that they will not be able to get away in making sensational claims that are not supported by the evidence.

You can read more about this discovery in the IAA press release as well as stories by the Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post. Arutz-7 has a 2.5-minute interview with the archaeologist, Doron Ben-Ami. A scholarly published article in Hebrew is available at High-resolution photos and a video are temporarily available here.

HT: Joseph Lauer


Location of excavation compared to the Temple Mount

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Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Cornuke’s Theory on the Temple Location Analyzed by Gordon Franz

The precise location of the Jewish temple is debated by scholars. Some believe that the holy of holies was located over the “rock” (es-Sakhra) under the Dome of the Rock. Others believe that the altar sat on this rock. A few have held that the holy of holies was situated about 100 yards to the north under the “Dome of the Tablets.” But no scholars doubt that the temple stood somewhere on the Temple Mount.

Robert Cornuke has a history of making sensational discoveries in the field of biblical archaeology. He has located Mount Sinai, the Ark of the Covenant, Paul’s shipwreck, and he thinks he knows where Noah’s Ark is. In his latest effort to produce a bestseller, Cornuke argues that the temple was not on the Temple Mount but was located to the south in the City of David.

This proposal is absurd to anyone who is familiar with the geography and archaeology of Jerusalem. Scholars don’t even waste their time on such theories. But sincere laypeople who lack a background in the subject are too easily misled by a selective presentation articulated by a charismatic former police investigator.

Gordon Franz has written a helpful explanation of Cornuke’s theory and its many weaknesses. He begins with an 8-point summary and links to his 46-page essay. I recommend it.

If you would rather just read the straight story on the Temple Mount, written by the world’s experts on the subject, grab Leen and Kathleen Ritmeyer’s new guide, Jerusalem: The Temple Mount.

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Sunday, November 01, 2015

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

An undisturbed 3,500-year-old soldier's tomb with enormous treasures has been found in southwest Greece.

A secret tunnel built by the Hittites has been discovered in central Turkey.

Twenty two ancient shipwrecks have been discovered off the coast of Turkey.

A fine first-century marble head of the mythical greek hero Hercules has been acquired by the Dallas Museum of Art.

Charles Jones has posted a preliminary bibliography of autobiographies of scholars of the greater Ancient Near East.

Haaretz: “How Did a Judean Seal End Up in a 2,000-year-old Russian Warrior Woman's Grave?”

The Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative has added to its library works from the Detroit Institutes of Arts.

"Scan Pyramids" is a new study by Egyptian and foreign experts that will use modern infra-red technology to map four pyramids and search for hidden secrets.

David Moster identifies 10 great biblical artifacts in the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem.

Lenny Ben-David shares a photo essay entitled “Secrets under the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

The Jordan Times reports on restoration efforts at Macherus. The Hungarian team plans to excavate until 2029 and to create a visitor’s center in a Herodian cistern.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Keith Keyser, Wayne Stiles, Agade

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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has posted an initial list of excavations in 2016. There are a couple of options if you’d prefer to avoid the hot temperatures and high airfares of the summer.

WSJ: A Boy’s Discovery Rebuts Temple Mount Revisionism

The Temple Mount Sifting Project provides an update on their crowd funding campaign. Even a small contribution would be appreciated.

Omer Eshel takes a look at “The Hidden Gems of Israel” on The Land and the Book radio program with Charlie Dyer.

If you’re an American non-tenured faculty member, you may qualify to apply for a $7,000 travel award to experience archaeology in Israel.

The Book and the Spade remembers Adam Zertal with the re-broadcast of a 1993 interview (mp3).

Available now via Luke Chandler: “King David’s City at Khirbet Qeiyafa: Results of the Second Radiocarbon Dating Project,” by Yosef Garfinkel, Katharina Streit, Saar Ganor, and Paula J. Reimer. The samples date to ~1000 BC.

A Byzantine winepress was discovered on the Sharon Plain following a severe rainstorm.

“You tithe mint, dill and cumin…but neglect…justice, mercy, and faithfulness.” Ferrell Jenkins explains and illustrates.

Alexander Schick will be lecturing on November 4, 6:30 pm for the University of the Holy Land in Room 211 of the Rothberg Institute. The title: “Genius or Thief? Constantine Tischendorf turns two hundred - the life of the famous Bible hunter and the case of the Codex Sinaiticus in the light of newly discovered documents from his personal archives.” For more on this subject, see here.

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Mount Halak on the Southern Border of Canaan/Judah

by Chris McKinny

Many visitors to Israel have visited the Nahal Zin and hiked into Ein Avdat. While witnessing the canyon's spectacular views and wildlife, visitors will probably be informed that Nahal Zin was the southern border of the promised land (and thereby Canaan and the tribe of Judah) based on a connection between the large, continuous canyon (Arabic - Wadi el-Marra) and the southern boundary descriptions in the Bible (Num. 34:4; Josh. 15:3).

Ein Avdat -

The identification of Wadi el-Marra with part of the Wilderness of Zin seems to be very plausible, even if the name "Nahal Zin" is a modern construction. Essentially, the identification of Wadi el-Marra with the southern boundary is based on the following two pieces of evidence: 1.) Wadi el-Marra is the only natural topographic boundary in the region and 2.) it is located between the Ascent of Akkrabim and Kadesh-barnea (Ein el-Qudeirat), which fits the biblical description. However, there is an additional piece of evidence that seems to make this identification even more secure - the location of Mount Halak at Jebel Halaq. Update - see here for Musil's description of Jebel Halaq (German).

Southern Boundary Markers of Canaan/Judah on Karte Von Arabia Petraea (A. Musil 1906)

This identification was made over a century ago by Alois Musil in his Karte Von Arabia Petraea who was told that the northern cliff face of Wadi el-Marra (i.e. Nahal Zin) was called Jebel Halaq by the local population. Since "jebel" means "mountain" in Arabic and the second part of the name is identical to the biblical place name, this identification was generally accepted. However, since the early cartographic projects did not cover the Negev Highlands (e.g., the Survey of Western Palestine, Van De Velde's Map) most are unaware of this connection and its implications for biblical geography. Mount Halak is mentioned twice in the book of Joshua, in both cases it is within a north-south boundary description describing the territory that Joshua conquered.
“So Joshua took all that land, the hill country and all the Negeb and all the land of Goshen and the lowland and the Arabah and the hill country of Israel and its lowland from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, as far as Baal-gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. And he captured all their kings and struck them and put them to death. Joshua made war a long time with all those kings.” (Josh. 11:16–18 ESV) 
“And these are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the people of Israel defeated on the west side of the Jordan, from Baal-gad in the Valley of Lebanon to Mount Halak, that rises toward Seir” (Joshua 12:7 ESV)

Aerial view of Nahal Zin with view of Mount Halak (Jebel Halaq), photo by Bill Schlegel

Jebel Halaq faces towards southern Jordan and the mountains of Edom (i.e. Mt. Seir), which matches the passages from Joshua. When we add Mount Halak (Jebel Halaq) to the accepted identifications of Tamar (En-Hazeva), the Ascent of Akkrabim (Roman road west of Tamar rising to Mamshit), and Kadesh-barnea (Ein el-Qudeirat), it is clear that the various boundary descriptions were describing the same border, which they demarcated using various topographical features (oases, mountains, and natural roads). 

For those who visit the Nahal Zin/Ein Avdat, Mount Halak (Jebel Halaq) can be seen either on the bus ride down to the hike or at the Ben-Gurion tomb, which overlooks the Nahal Zin. Be sure to look that way next time you make it down there!

Ben-Gurion tombs with Nahal Zin and Mount Halak in background

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Weekend Roundup

A new study claims that an Egyptian text is the oldest known abecedary.

Haaretz's report on Gabriel Barkay's Temple Mount sifting project include several pictures of findings.

A UNESCO resolution that claimed the Western Wall prayer plaza as an Islamic shrine has made some people unhappy.

German experts are restoring the golden mask of King Tut after its beard was broken off and clumsily repaired.

The Journal of Near Eastern Archaeology reports that there are groups other than the Islamic State who are destroying and plundering antiquities in Syria.

The Getty Villa in Los Angeles is exhibiting 1800’s era watercolor paintings of Greece, many offering insight into how ancient sites looked in the early 19th century.

Emily Corrigan shares her experience of a summer on the Jezreel Expedition.

Egyptian authorities are investigating the embezzlement of $20 million from construction funds for the Grand Egyptian Museum.

Zahi Hawass throws cold water on the proposal that Nefertiti’s tomb has finally been located.

Ferrell Jenkins shares a photo he took of a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee as the sun was rising.

The newly renovated Waldorf-Astoria in Jerusalem has been ranked the top hotel in the Middle East in a survey by Condé Nast Traveler.

Test your knowledge about Petra with 10 questions at the ASOR Blog.

The newly released NIV Zondervan Study Bible, edited by D. A. Carson, is on sale now for Kindle for $7.99. (I wrote the notes for 2 Kings.)

Chris McKinny has made available on Academia his presentation on “Kiriath-Jearim (Deir el-‘Azhar): Archaeological Investigations of a Biblical Town in the Judean Hill Country.”

Conference at Hebrew U on Oct 29: “I Know What You Did Last Summer: A Glimpse at the Excavations and Surveys of the Institute of Archaeology, 2015 Season.”

Adam Zertal died on Sunday at the age of 79. He was best known for his survey of the hill country of Samaria and his identification of a structure on Mount Ebal as the altar of Joshua.

Thomas Schaub died on Monday at the age of 82. Schaub excavated Bab edh-Dhra.

HT: Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Joseph Lauer, Agade, Paleojudaica

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Weekend Roundup

Archaeologists working on the Gezer water system have new evidence supporting its dating to the Middle Bronze period. Volunteers are invited for next season’s dig.

A court has ruled that Elad can continue to run the Jerusalem Archaeological Park in the City of David.

The Museum of the Bible has announced plans to excavate Tel Shimron in Galilee.

Palestinians have set fire to the traditional tomb of Joseph in Shechem.

Nearly 1,000 riders completed a three-day bike race in northern Israel. Dates have been announced for Epic Israel 2016.

Nehemia Gordon shares his experience in working on the Temple Mount Sifting Project. You can donate to the effort here.

The New York Times has issued a correction for their article on the Temple Mount. Jodi Magness’s letter to the editor is here.

ISIS’s destruction of the Roman Arch of Triumph in Palymra made some Russians unhappy.

Egypt is opening a small museum at the Cairo airport later this month.

Volume 3 of NGSBA (Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology) Archaeology has been released. The articles are primarily about the excavations at Yehud and Maresha. The entire issue can be downloaded for free. Previous volumes are available here.

The Oriental Institute has begun posting their photo archives online. Images are now available from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. As far as I can tell, the images are all low-res.

Jodi Magness reviews The Tomb of Jesus and His Family?, edited by James H. Charlesworth. She provides a summary of the articles, including the one by A. Kloner and S. Gibson, excavators of the Talpiot tomb. Ben Witherington provides an abbreviated version of her review.

Brent Seales is on the Book and the Spade to talk about the technology that enabled reading the oldest biblical text outside the Dead Sea Scrolls. Listen here.

Here’s a unique tour of Israel: the Life and Land of Jesus, with Wayne Stiles. This should be particularly attractive for those who want to return but don’t want to visit the same places as every time before.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Paleojudaica

Our most popular Facebook post and tweet of the week:

Mount of Beatitudes aerial from northeast, ws011415241

The Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgha, Gennesaret, Arbel - so much of Jesus's ministry right here!

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sodom...again? Another Geographical Issue with Tall el-Hammam

by Chris McKinny

Yesterday, Huffington Post released a story that re-hashed the equation that Tall el-Hammam may be identified with biblical Sodom proposed by S. Collins. While there is nothing new to report from the story and Todd and Bill Schlegel have clearly illustrated many of the difficulties with this identification, I would like to take it a step further and point out an additional geographical/toponymic problem with the Tall el-Hammam = Sodom viewpoint.

Mount Sodom (Jebel Usdum) from north - copyright

Simply put, there appears to be good toponymic evidence for the traditional references to "Mt. Sodom" that is located on the southwestern side of the Dead Sea. Researchers may be unfamiliar with this evidence, because it is absent from both the well-known Survey of Western Palestine Maps (which did not survey this part of Palestine) and the later British Mandate Map of the Negev prepared by S.F. Newcombe. In fact and somewhat ironically, this area is a bit of a black hole in the early cartographic sources of 19th and early 20th century Palestine. However, at least two sources clearly show the name "J. Usdum" in the area that is commonly referred to as Mt. Sodom. One of these sources is the lesser known map of Arabia and Petrea prepared by Alois Musil in 1900, which can be found online in three parts here. The other is a very important map prepared by Charles Van de Velde that includes the mid-19th century explorations of Edward Robinson and Charles Van de Velde and also shows the name "Jeb. Usdum" on the rocky scarp above the western shore of the Dead Sea.

Section of Musil 1900 - Karte von Arabia Petraea - see "J. Usdum" on left side near Dead Sea

Section of Van de Velde 1865 - Map of the Holy Land - see "Jeb. Usdum" on left side near Dead Sea

To those unfamiliar with Arabic toponymy and its relation to biblical place names - Jebel Usdum would seem to clearly preserve the name "Sodom." The toponym's proximity to the southern candidates (e.g., Bab edh-drah, Numeirah, etc.) would at least plausibly connect them to the cities of the plain or perhaps to destroyed and then submerged cities within the Dead Sea (as originally suggested by Albright 1924:2-12). This connection finds further support in Eusebius' description of the "Lasan" (Hebrew = Lisan [tongue]) that he describes as being "near Sodom" (Onom. 120.3). The Lisan is the boundary of the promised land below the Dead Sea (Josh. 15:2). In light of this evidence and regardless of one's opinion regarding the historicity or chronology of the patriarchal narratives that mention Sodom, the occurrence of Jebel Usdum on the southwestern shore of the Dead Sea together with the early Christian witness to Sodom near the "Lisan" would seem to be (more) compelling evidence that Sodom and the cities of the plain should be located on the southern end of the Dead Sea.


Albright, W. F. 1924. The Archaeological Results of an Expedition to Moab and the Dead Sea. BASOR 14: 2–12.