Saturday, September 20, 2014

Weekend Roundup

Joseph Patrich and Benny Arubas offer four reasons against identifying the mausoleum discovered at the Herodium with the tomb of Herod. Unfortunately, they do not suggest an alternative identification.

Some IAA photos of the Byzantine monastery uncovered near Beth Shemesh are available for download.

The oldest known Jewish prayer book just went on display at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.

3 Sea of Galilee Sites You’ll Pass But May Not See. Before you click, see if you can guess the three.

Ferrell Jenkins looks at two outstanding architectural remains in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin: the Miletus Market Gate and the Altar of Zeus.

Leon Mauldin has two illustrated posts about the two Temple boundary inscriptions: the complete one on display in Istanbul and the fragment in the Israel Museum.

The Baptist Press runs a story on the Bronze Age water system of Gezer.

Wheaton’s Archaeology Lecture Series 2014-2015 has two lectures remaining.

An electronic edition of supplementary volume of The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land is now available to all members of the BAS Library.

Subscriptions are now available to the Loeb Classical Library, but the prices aren’t cheap and you must inquire by email.

In stock on Monday: the first volume of the Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity, edited by Edwin M. Yamauchi and Marvin R. Wilson ($20).

HT: Joseph Lauer


Byzantine monastery near Beth Shemesh
Photo by Griffin Aerial Photography Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Byzantine Monastery Unearthed Near Beth Shemesh

In construction work south of the Israeli city of Beit Shemesh, archaeologists recently discovered a large monastery dating from the Byzantine period.  From the Jerusalem Post:

According to a joint statement issued by the excavation’s co-directors, Irene Zilberbod and Tehila Libman, an archaeological survey conducted along the hills south of Beit Shemesh brought the findings to light several weeks ago.

“Blocked cisterns, a cave opening and the tops of several walls were visible on the surface,” the archeologists said. “These clues to the world hidden underground resulted in an extensive archaeological excavation there that exposed prosperous life dating to the Byzantine period, which was previously unknown.”

Zilberbod and Libman said the compound is surrounded by an outer wall and is divided on the inside into two regions, including an industrial area and an activity and residential area.

Additionally, an “unusually large press in a rare state of preservation that was used to produce olive oil was exposed in the industrial area, as well as a large winepress revealed outside the built compound consisted of two treading floors from which the grape must flowed to a large collecting vat.”

Despite not finding a church or inscription of any kind indicating religious worship, the excavation’s co-directors said they still believe the site served as a monastery.

“It is true we did not find a church at the site… or any other unequivocal evidence of religious worship; nevertheless, the impressive construction, the dating to the Byzantine period, the magnificent mosaic floors, window and roof tile artifacts, as well as the agricultural-industrial installations inside the dwelling compound, are all known to us from numerous other contemporary monasteries,” they said. Based on that criterion, the archeologists noted it is possible to reconstruct a scenario in which monks resided in a monastery that they established, made their living from the agricultural installations, and dwelled in the rooms and carried out their religious activities.

The full story is here. The IAA press release is here.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Value of Biblical Archaeology

What is the value of archaeology to a Bible reader? Gary D. Myers provides his perspective in a Baptist Press article.

This leads some to ask why biblical archaeology is important to Christians. For me, an archaeologist-in-training with only four digs under his belt, the answer is context and a love for Scripture. I think the same can be said for travel in the Bible lands.

Archaeology and Bible lands travel create a framework for more informed, thoughtful study of the Bible. For me, there are great reasons for evangelical Christians to keep digging.

As a child attending First Baptist Church in Calvin, Okla., my image of the Holy Land looked like eastern Oklahoma, filled with rolling hills and oak trees. As I read the Bible, I pictured what was familiar to me. The Jordan River looked like the South Canadian River. I imagined David picking up smooth stones from a brook similar to Sandy Creek near my home. Later, as I saw photographs of biblical places and terrain, my contextual understanding grew.

Then in 2005, I took my first trip to Israel.

I expected the trip to be a spiritual mountaintop experience and it was in some ways. But, as I visited the places where Jesus walked, the Old Testament cities and Jerusalem, it was the lay of the land and the ruins that made an impression on me. It was real to me in a new way. Travel like this creates a framework for study of the Bible. Archaeology exposes ancient ruins and provides clues to the way people lived so we can better understand the cultures and people mentioned in the text.

The article continues here.

Gezer watersystem, tb070506104

Gezer water system
Photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Crescent-Shaped Stone Structure Studied in Galilee

A site in the Galilean hills that formed the basis for a master’s thesis is the subject of an article published by Live Science.

A lunar-crescent-shaped stone monument that dates back around 5,000 years has been identified in Israel.

Located about 8 miles (13 kilometers) northwest of the Sea of Galilee, the structure is massive — its volume is about 14,000 cubic meters (almost 500,000 cubic feet) and it has a length of about 150 meters (492 feet), making it longer than an American football field. Pottery excavated at the structure indicates the monument dates to between 3050 B.C. and 2650 B.C., meaning it is likely older than the pyramids of Egypt. It was also built before much of Stonehenge was constructed.

Archaeologists previously thought the structure was part of a city wall, but recent work carried out by Ido Wachtel, a doctoral student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, indicates there is no city beside it and that the structure is a standing monument.

"The proposed interpretation for the site is that it constituted a prominent landmark in its natural landscape, serving to mark possession and to assert authority and rights over natural resources by a local rural or pastoral population," Wachtel wrote in the summary of a presentation given recently at the International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East.

The story continues with more details of the site and its purpose, but I wouldn’t put too much stock in the interpretations offered. We just know too little about the region in this time period. The Times of Israel includes a map of the area.

Rujm en-Nabi Shueib2

Map of the area of Rujm en-Nabi Shueib
From Google Earth; click for enlarged view


Monday, September 15, 2014

Free Book: Tell Abu al-Kharaz in the Jordan Valley

The Iron Age volume by Peter M. Fischer is available for free download at Open Access. Tell Abu al-Kharaz was identified as Jabesh Gilead by Nelson Glueck and is located about 7 miles southeast of Tel Rehov (near Beth Shean) and 2 miles east of the Jordan River. The table on page 516 shows a complete chronological history of the site, including continuous occupation through the Iron Age with destructions in approximately 1050, 930, 850, 800, 770, and 732 BC.cover

The book’s abstract seems to begin with an error:

Tell city of Abu al-Kharaz is situated in the central Transjordanian Jordan Valley and excavated by the author from 1989 to 2012. The town flourished in the Early Bronze Age, and after an occupational lacuna of more than thousand years the site was re-occupied in the second half of the Middle Bronze Age and remained permanently occupied until the end of the Iron Age. The new volume is No. III in a series of three (The Early Bronze Age Vol. I, published by the Austrian Academy of Sciences Press in 2008, and the Middle and Late Bronze Ages Vol. II, in 2006).

The table of contents:

Preface 9

Chapter 1 Introduction and Vade Mecum 13

Chapter 2 Stratigraphy, Architecture and Finds 31

Chapter 3 The Pottery: Typo-Chronological Conclusions  389

Chapter 4 Radiocarbon Dating  457

  • I. Radiocarbon Dates from Tell Abu al-Kharaz by E.M. Wild and P.M. Fischer 457
  • II. Reflections on the Radiocarbon Dates from Pella by P.M. Fischer 461

Chapter 5 Discussion and Conclusions 465

  • I. The People and their Land: Environment, Subsistence, Settlement and Ethnicity 465
  • II. Written Sources, Administration and Politics 481
  • III. Economy, Exchange of Goods and Communication Routes 482
  • IV. Architectural Features and Installations 483
  • V. Chronology 501
    • A. Relative chronology 501
      • 1. Local chronology 501
      • 2. Regional synchronization by P.M. Fischer and T. Bürge 501
      • 3. Interregional synchronization 512
    • B. Absolute chronology and chronological conclusions 515


  • Appendix 1 Figurines  517
  • Appendix 2 The Sphinx Handle  531
  • Appendix 3 Cosmetic Palettes of Stone 535
  • Appendix 4 Notes on the Glyptic Material and Ostraka  539

Bibliography  545

The report is pretty technical, but if you’ve ever wanted to see what the end result of an excavation is, this is an easy way to do so. One of my assignments for an introductory archaeology class is to spend an hour just browsing a final excavation report. You can learn a lot from the experience.

Fischer favors his site as ancient Jabesh Gilead over the more commonly proposed Tell al-Maqlub, and he gives some reasons on pages 481-82. The author’s general aversion to biblical connections is apparent from the fact that the 572-page work never mentions Jeroboam, Ahab, Hazael, Jehu, Ben-Hadad, Jehoash, or even Tiglath-pileser III.

The volume is available in print from Amazon for $165. The author’s website has more photos and information, though it is not up-to-date.

HT: Agade

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Weekend Roundup

The largest ancient tomb ever discovered in Greece dates to the time of Alexander the Great and is located near Amphipolis. Archaeologists are hoping that the tomb is intact.

Beth Alpert Nakhai is leading a Survey on Field Safety and needs you to answer a few questions.

Another good one from Wayne Stiles: 3 Golan Heights Sites with Odd Names and Curious Histories.

Clyde Billington is on the Book and the Spade discussing the latest discoveries at Huqoq and the shovel survey at Khirbet el-Araj.

Construction begins next month on the yet-unnamed Bible museum being built by Steve Green in Washington, DC.

There are now more private museums than public in Turkey.

Ferrell Jenkins describes his balloon ride over Cappadocia. And a separate post includes a spectacular photo.

BibleX shares a quote on the importance of biblical geography from an older commentary on Joshua. (Alas, the anticipated survey of Palestine east of the Jordan was never completed.)

Olof Pedersén has created a set of more than 2,500 ANE Placemarks for Google Earth.

This list of “12 must-see secular destinations” in Israel may give you ideas for your next trip.

On sale for Kindle: All the Names in the Bible ($3.99) and The Secret of the Talpiot Tomb ($2.99).

Here’s a new book you might find valuable, co-written by a Christian and agnostic to give an objective perspective: The Context of Christ: The History and Politics of Judea and Rome, 100 BC – AD 33 ($2.99).

HT: Agade

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Israel’s National Treasures Online

The Israel Antiquities Authority has launched a new online museum, featuring objects from the Israel Museum, Rockefeller Museum, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The National Treasures website currently has more than 5,000 artifacts with more to be added regularly.

The artifacts on the site are arranged both chronologically (according to archaeological periods) and typologically (according to the type of artifact), allowing either a gradual guided entry through the main title pages to the artifact's information card, or directly to the artifact's information card using an advanced search box.

The artifact's information card presents detailed archaeological data about the selected artifact, including provenance, type, dimensions, material, site where discovered, dating and bibliography. In addition, hi-resolution images of on-line artifacts may be purchased on-line from the photographic archives of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

It would be great if they would also organize the artifacts by site. This is particularly important because of the variety of spellings of some sites (not Ekron nor Mikne nor Muqanna, but Miqne). You can check it all out here.


Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Outstanding Archaeology Resources for Accordance

Accordance Bible Software has some terrific resources related to archaeology on sale this week. If you haven’t already added these to your collection, this is a great opportunity to do so. I’m particularly fond of these first two photo sets:

Historic Views of the Holy Land: Bible Places—American Colony Collection – more than 4,000 spectacular photos, many of scenes you’ll never seen again. The sale has reduced the price from $149 to $99.90.

Historic Views of the Holy Land: Bible Places—Views That Have Vanished – another collection that is close to my heart. Nearly every day I come across these images as I browse through my broader collection searching and I just love these early color photographs taken by the wonderful David Bivin. Now reduced to $26.90!

The sale includes some other outstanding resources, including (1) Archaeological Study Bible Notes – I took many of these photographs and wrote some of the articles; (2) Biblical Archaeology Review Archive – hundreds of issues of the best archaeology magazine instantly searchable; and (3) the one and only The Sacred Bridge, 2nd edition, for only $109.

These resources will pay you back in deeper knowledge and valuable illustrations many, many times over for years to come. And the search capabilities of Accordance makes it so much easier to find what you are looking for. All of the details are here. The sale ends on the 15th.

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Monday, September 08, 2014

Saqqara Step Pyramid Restoration Controversy

From the International Business Times:

Activists are angry with Egypt's Minister of Antiquities, Mamdouh Eldamaty, for choosing to re-hire a company to restore one of Egypt's oldest pyramids after the firm caused damage and major deterioration to the structure while trying to repair it.

According to the Non-Stop Robberies movement, the famous Step Pyramid of Djoser, located in the Saqqara necropolis, sustained serious damage while being restored by a company called Shurbagy. This led to major deterioration and the collapse of a section of the pyramid.

"Technically, the company and officials of the Supreme Council of Antiquities committed a full-fledged crime," Amir Gamal, a representative of Non-Stop Robberies, told the Egypt Independent.

"New walls were built outside the pyramid as if the pyramid were a modern construction, which is opposite to international standards of restoration, which prevents adding more than 5% of construction to antiquities if necessary.

The story continues here.

HT: Agade

Saqqara Step Pyramid of Djoser from northeast, tb010705916

Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara
Photo from Egypt


Saturday, September 06, 2014

Weekend Roundup

Here’s a photo of the Temple Mount ramp that is being dismantled.

Mike Rogoff’s article in Haaretz describes the various baptismal sites on the Jordan River and gives guidance on which one is best.

Matt Glassman writes about his time excavating this summer at Khirbet el-Maqatir.

This article on “gender studies” at Tel Abel Beth Maacah is really just a piece about someone’s experience on the dig.

A conference this week in the City of David focused on gold treasures discovered in Jerusalem. The article ends with an insightful comment by Gabriel Barkay.

The re-discovery of a fragment of a lead coffin from Tyre prompted a lengthy article about the subject in Haaretz. Paleojudaica suggests its relevance for the forged lead codices.

The land of 10,000 caves is profiled in this piece on Beit Guvrin’s bell-shaped quarry caves.

Ferrell Jenkins has collected his articles related to the route of the Exodus and the location of Mount Sinai.

Aviva Bar-Am details the history and significance of Ashkelon, the first national park in Israel.

Wayne Stiles has all the visual aids you need for thinking about Jericho: photos, videos, and a map.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer

Ashkelon tell aerial from northwest, tb121704841

Tell Ashkelon from the northwest
Photo from Judah and the Dead Sea

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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Temple Mount Bridge To Be Dismantled

Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered that a new foot bridge providing access to the Temple Mount for non-Muslims be dismantled. From the Jerusalem Post:

The Prime Minister’s Office ordered the dismantling of a foot bridge under construction from the Western Wall Plaza to the Temple Mount to supplement the  Mughrabi Bridge, government officials confirmed Wednesday.

The officials said that the move came at the request of the Jordanian government. According to the officials, the PMO has ultimate jurisdiction – because of the sensitivity of the area – for the site.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made it clear at a press conference on August 6 that he had no intention of altering the status quo on the Temple Mount, a highly sensitive issue in Jordan and throughout the Muslim world.

“I want to make sure that everyone understands that Israel respects and will continue to respect the status quo on the Temple Mount,” he said. “We know that there are arrangements there, including the traditional role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and we are not about to change it."

One government official said that the new footbridge to the Mughrabi Gate was a private initiative taken “without any coordination with the PMO, or permission.”  He said that the Jordanians made it clear that any change in the area created problems for them and asked that it be dismantled.

The article continues here. According to the Times of Israel, dismantling work began yesterday. Access to the Temple Mount will apparently continue to be allowed via the temporary wooden bridge erected in 2004.

Temporary wooden bridge leading to Mughrabi gate of Temple Mount, tb050312541

Temporary wooden bridge leading to Temple Mount built in 2004;
photo taken in 2012

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Monday, September 01, 2014

Conference on Khirbet Qeiyafa

The Swiss Society for Near Eastern Studies (Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Orientalische Altertumswissenschaft) is holding its autumn conference this Saturday in Bern, Switzerland. The conference is devoted to a single site in Israel and is organized by the Institute of Biblical Studies.


Venue: University of Bern, Hallerstrasse 6, 2nd Floor, Room 205

09.30–09.45: Prof. Dr. Silvia Schroer, University of Bern: Welcome and Introduction

09.45–11.00: Prof. Dr. Yosef Garfinkel, Hebrew University, Jerusalem: Khirbet Qeiyafa and the Kingdom of Judah

11.00–11.45: Prof. Dr. Aren Maeir, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan: Khirbet Qeiyafa in Its Regional Context: A View from Philistine Gath

11.45–12.45: Response 1 & 2: Archaeological and Historical Aspects - Prof. Dr. Thomas Römer, University of Lausanne / Collège de France & Dr. Stefan Münger, University of Bern

14.00–14.30: Plenary Discussion - Discussion Moderator: Prof. Dr. Thomas Römer

14.30–15.15: Prof. Dr. Silvia Schroer, University of Bern: Iconographic Finds from Khirbet Qeiyafa

15.15–16.00: Prof. Dr. Benjamin Sass, Tel Aviv University: The Epigraphic Finds from Khirbet Qeiyafa in Context

16.00–16.30: Response 3: Prof. Dr. Axel Knauf, University of Bern

16.30–17.15: Panel Discussion

The conference flyer has all of the details including abstracts of the presentations.

HT: Agade

Khirbet Qeiyafa west gate, tb010412815

West gate of Khirbet Qeiyafa, looking towards Azekah 
Photo from Judah and the Dead Sea

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Weekend Roundup

Maritime archaeologists have discovered a Phoenician shipwreck dating to 700 BC off the coast of Malta.

A new study of the Timna copper mines shows that the workers in the 10th century BC were not slaves but highly skilled craftsmen.

Corinthian Matters has a review of a field trip app that accompanies the ASCSA’s new Ancient Corinth: A Guide to the Site and Museum.

Ferrell Jenkins describes his recent visit to the Louvre in Paris.

Tiberias—There’s More to See than Just Hotels. Yes, indeed.

Leon Mauldin visits the other Bethlehem. This lesser-known biblical site is in Galilee.

Clyde Billington is on the Book and the Spade this week discussing the “stone rejected by the builders” along with the use of tokens for counting.

Accordance has a sale now on a five-resource bundle from Rose Publishing, including their guides to the tabernacle and temple.

Paul L. Maier’s Pontius Pilate is marked down to $2.99 for the Kindle. I recommend it.

HT: Charles Savelle

Timna Chalcolithic copper mine, tb030807061

Copper mine in Timna Valley
Photo from Negev and the Wilderness

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Notable Quotes from Cline, From Eden to Exile

I recently came across some quotations I had marked from a past reading of Eric H. Cline, From Eden to Exile: Unraveling Mysteries of the Bible, and thought some of them worth sharing. I’ve commented briefly on each quote following the citation. The book’s table of contents indicates the topics covered:

Chapter 1: The Garden of Eden
Chapter 2: Noah’s Ark
Chapter 3: Sodom and Gomorrah
Chapter 4: Moses and the Exodus
Chapter 5: Joshua and the Battle of Jericho
Chapter 6: The Ark of the Covenant
Chapter 7: The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel

“The biblical stories become real when people adopt them as their own, regardless of their historical accuracy” (Cline 2007: xiii). So what is not real becomes real when we make it real. In our day and age, it really is all about us.

“The truth of the matter is that any such searches for Noah’s ark are unlikely ever to be successful. Even if the ark did exist, it would be tremendously old by now and its wooden parts would have been long ago reduced to dust, leaving few traces behind. The most we could hope for would be discovering something like the Sutton Hoo ship in England from the seventh century A.D.; the disintegrated wood and corroded nails from this vessel left a perfect imprint on the damp soil. Only if the ark had come to rest in the sands of Egypt, which contain perfectly preserved pharaonic boats by the Pyramids, or at the bottom of an ocean or a sea where there is little oxygen and organic material is perfectly preserved—such as in the Black Sea, where Bob Ballard’s expeditions have found ships sunk up to their gunwales and perfectly preserved in anoxygenic mud—would we even be able to hope that Noah’s ark, or portions of it, have been preserved” (Cline 2007: 36). But as long as there is fame to be had and money to be made, there will be searches for Noah’s Ark.

“Modern archaeological techniques are quite capable of tracing even the very meager remains of hunter-gatherers and pastoral nomads all over the world” (Cline 2007: 85). Perhaps, but entire centuries are missing from the archaeological record in some places.

“Of the various alternatives, following the biblical chronology and placing the Exodus in the 15th century B.C. seems the most unlikely, but some will want to do that anyway, based upon faith rather than reason” (Cline 2007: 90). Those I’ve read who advocate a 15th-century exodus always appeal to evidence and arguments, never to faith.

“Finkelstein said, ‘I am a great believer in a total separation between tradition and research. I myself have a warm spot in my heart for the Bible and its splendid stories. During our Pesach seder, my two girls, who are 11 and 7, didn’t hear a word about the fact that there was no Exodus from Egypt. When they are 25, we will tell them a different story. Belief, tradition and research are three parallel lines that can exist simultaneously. I don’t see that as a gross contradiction’” (Cline 2007: 91). For thousands of years before our post-modern advances, we would call this lying.

“The team also cited both its own studies and those of other researchers who believe the story of the damming of the Jordan River can be traced back to a 1931 book published by John Garstang. The book is, as the article stated, ‘the only source reporting about the Jordan’s damming at Damiya.’ The team of earthquake experts strongly suggests that Garstang’s testimony is unreliable, especially since he was not even in the country at the time and since no other sources, including official police reports or press releases, mention a damming of the Jordan River. They speculate that Garstang’s desire to prove that Damiya is the biblical ‘city of Adam’ and his desire to show that the Jordan could have stopped flowing as a result of an earthquake affected his reporting” (Cline 2007: 105). Unless you know of other evidence, you should not cite the dubious testimony of Garstang.

“In a candid article, Younker said that the ‘Andrews Way’ of doing archaeology, as he phrased it, is as follows: 1. Be forthright with findings. Do not minimize problems or stretch interpretations of data to explain things away. 2. Do not make claims beyond what the data can support. 3. Be quick and complete in publishing results. 4. Engage and work within mainstream scholarship. 5. Include a diversity of people and specialists. 6. Take the history of the Bible seriously, but do not place upon archaeology the burden of ‘proving’ the Bible” (Cline 2007: 187). This helpful approach is given in Randall W. Younker, ‘Integrating Faith, the Bible, and Archaeology: A Review of the ‘Andrews University Way’ of Doing Archaeology,’ in The Future of Biblical Archaeology: Reassessing Methodologies and Assumptions, eds. James K. Hoffmeier and Alan Millard (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 43-52.

Cline’s newest book, 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed, came out earlier this year.