Thursday, November 20, 2014

New App: Dig Quest Israel

The Israel Antiquities Authority has released a free iPad app for kids ages 7-11 called Dig Quest: Israel. From the IAA:

The App transforms a kid’s iPhone or iPad into an archaeological tool and lets them play games to hone their skills, discover secret meanings, solve puzzles, and piece the past together like true archaeologists. Along the way they unlock ancient artifacts and create their own personal collection. Dig Quest Israel App Icon

The games were developed in collaboration with the IAA’s team of pre-eminent archaeologists and researchers. As they play, kids get a feel for what archaeologists do as they experience the excitement of discovery and the creativity and skills involved in solving mysteries from the distant past.

Players select between two dig sites – each has a unique game that puts the player in the driver’s seat and requires using different archaeological skills. At Lod, you clear the dirt to uncover an ancient Roman period mosaic and then play a fast-paced quiz-style game using your smarts and powers of observation to identify and classify the animals and objects on the mosaic.

In the Qumran caves, you discover fragments of the 2,000 year-old Dead Sea Scrolls that you piece together in a puzzle game. Then you scan the scrolls to reveal their text more clearly, mirroring the advanced spectral imaging process performed by the IAA team in the laboratories.

Each site features Discoveries for you to uncover that tell you more about the story of the excavation and the artifacts you find. You can collect the artifacts and discoveries in your own Collection box.

Dig Quest Israel Logo Screen iPad

The game features:

  • 30+ levels in two unique games based on two world famous archaeological discoveries
  • 50+ images of stunning historical treasures
  • Amazing historical and archaeological facts and artifacts
  • Translated and spoken excerpts from the Dead Sea Scrolls
  • A Collection box where players store artifacts and discoveries
  • An archaeologist character host, Gabe, inspired by real IAA archaeologists

The app is now available from the iTunes store. A 1-minute YouTube video provides a preview of the fun to be had. An Android version is planned for the future.

Dig Quest Israel Lod Mosaic iPad


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday Roundup

I’m traveling this month, and this will be the last roundup before Thanksgiving. If you’re at SBL, come find us in the exhibition hall (booth #411).

Corinth’s Lechaion port has been discovered and it is impressively large.

The British Museum plans to allow you to print 3D artifacts at home.

Elad is appealing a ruling that prevents it from running the Jerusalem Archaeological Park along the southern end of the Temple Mount.

Brian M. Howell reviews Walking Where Jesus Walked: American Christians and Holy Land Pilgrimage for Christianity Today.

With the resident of the Amphipolis Tomb now being studied, the excavation has been concluded.

Robert Cargill critiques Simcha Jacobovici’s claim that he discovered the nails of Jesus’ crucifixion. He concludes that it is “nothing but religious profiteering.” Another reviewer calls it a “sensationalist money-making scheme.”

Volume 2 of the Khirbet Qeiyafa Excavation Report is now available.

Leen Ritmeyer continues his series showing the Temple Mount through the ages, including during the times of Hezekiah and the Hasmoneans.

Ferrell Jenkins links to a video showing flash flooding in the Qumran area. He also notes some restoration work in the Protestant Cemetery on Mount Zion.

Mari is being looted while under ISIS control.

The Wall Street Journal has a video about plans to open Carchemish to tourists in the spring. The site is only 60 feet away from the control of ISIS. (See here for the transcript.)

HT: Explorator, Ted Weis, Agade, Charles Savelle

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Citadel Moat and Kishle Opens Tonight

The Tower of David Museum is hosting an opening event this evening of the Citadel moat and the Kishle. The Kishle has served as a police station for the Israelis, Jordanians, British, Ottomans, and Romans. Some remains have been uncovered from the palace of King Herod. From the official website:

After many years that the Citadel moat was closed to the public, the southern part of Jerusalem's historic moat has been revived.  The ancient builders of the Citadel surrounded the fortress with a dry moat, the first line of defense against enemies.  As years passed, the moat served other purposes. It was a market place, a passage way and even a makeshift garbage dump. Excavations in the moat have exposed archaeological remains including an ancient quarry, a ritual bath from the Second Temple, a hewn water channel, secret passageways and a giant stone staircase and pools from the Hasmonean and Herodian eras.

The renewed moat also includes passage to a building that was closed for many years – The Kishla, the Ottoman Prison which was excavated over the last decade and contains remains detailing the history of Jerusalem, from the First Temple period to the establishment of the State.  The site is now being opened for group visits.  The domed building served as a prison for members of the pre-State underground and evidence of the period remains in a scratched inscription on the walls. Tours and cultural events will take place in the moat and the Kishle.

The public is invited to the opening of the Moat and the Kishle, enjoy music and refreshments. Entrance is free.

This posting indicates that the excavation director, Amit Reem, will be at the event. Guided tours in Hebrew will be available on upcoming Fridays in November for a reasonable charge. An article about the site was published in the Hebrew edition of Israel Hayom last week (page 29).

HT: Joseph Lauer

New City from Citadel of David, tb051908300

Citadel of David
Photo from Jerusalem

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Monday, November 10, 2014

2014 Batchelder Conference for Biblical Archaeology

The annual conference at the University of Nebraska Omaha has a number of interesting speakers and subjects. The conference runs from Thursday to Saturday and has a fee of only $10. Lectures include:

Jon Seligman, Villages and Monasteries in Jerusalem’s Hinterland during the Byzantine Period

Richard Freund, What Was Magdala in the Roman Period? An Archaeological Evaluation of the Evidence

James Tabor, From Qumran to Waco: The Dynamics of Messianism Ancient and Modern

J. Harold Ellens, Mari and the Bible

Mark Appold, Bethsaida Messianic Jews and Jerusalem Hellenists: Origins of the Earliest Christian Kerygma

David Jacobson, Hasmonean Coinage: Some Issues and Fresh Insights

Jerome Hall, Who Built the Kinneret Boat?

Harry Jol and others, Preliminary Ground-penetrating Radar Results from Explorations near the Ancient Anchorage of Kursi, Sea of Galilee, Israel

Phil Reeder, Using Maps as Research and Teaching Tools: Examples from Projects in Israel, Spain, and Poland

Rami Arav, The Origin of the Israelites and the Liminality Model

The full schedule is given here and the conference flyer is online here.

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Saturday, November 08, 2014

Weekend Roundup

A recent excavation at the Tower of David and Kishleh police station revealed a mikveh from Herod’s palace and an earlier wall from the time of Hezekiah. The site is to open to the public next week. (I don’t have any more information at this time.)

An Italian archaeologist wants to restore the Colosseum’s floor.

Wayne Stiles explains why hymn writers use the Jordan River as a metaphor for transitions in the spiritual life.

Part 3 of Mary Magdalene and Magdala is up at the Book and the Spade, with an interview of Father Eamon Kelly, assistant director of the Magdala Center.

Exploring Bible Lands reports on their recent visit to Magdala, a site now extensively open to tourists.

The spoils of Jerusalem on the Arch of Titus are the subject of a Khan Academy video narrated by Steven Fine and Beth Harris.

The first volume of the Gath excavation report is now on sale for an amazingly low price. This is the same work that won the 2013 BAS Award for Best Scholarly Book in Archaeology.

Ferrell Jenkins has great photos of the Cove of the Sower, from land, sea, and air.

William Hallo writes about the fragment of the Cyrus Cylinder that was found in Yale’s Babylonian Collection.

Abram K-J has just posted an extensive review of The Sacred Bridge, arguing that it is the best Bible atlas ever. (I would add that it may be the best ever, but not the best for you, your class, or your church. But you’ll figure out whether it’s for you very quickly from his excellent review of both the print and Accordance versions.)

HT: Paleojudaica

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Thursday, November 06, 2014

Questions To Ask of Sensational Stories in Biblical Archaeology

Every now and again a sensational story related to biblical archaeology hits the headlines. (This week it was this one.) It's not long before I receive emails asking about the authenticity of the alleged discovery. To help my readers better discern whether they are dealing with a potentially legitimate discovery or not, I suggest that the following questions be asked as you read the report.
  • Does this discovery sound too good to be true? If so, it's probably bogus.
  • It is reported by a news source you've never heard of? If so, it's probably bogus.
  • Does it cite archaeologists that you've never heard of before and don't appear on a Google search? If so, it's probably bogus.
  • Does the report avoid getting input from known experts in the field? If so, it's probably bogus.
  • Does the alleged discovery require a radical reinterpretation of the Bible? If so, it's probably bogus.
  • Does the article use language such as, "This definitively proves..." or, "This is irrefutable evidence that shows..."? If so, it's probably bogus.
  • Does it relate to newly discovered physical remains related to the crucifixion of Jesus? If so, it's probably bogus.
  • Does the article mention Ron Wyatt, Robert Cornuke, or Indiana Jones? If so, it's probably bogus.
  • Is it first announced in a TV special about the time of Easter/Passover? If so, it's probably bogus.
  • Does the discovery relate to Noah's Ark or the Ark of the Covenant? If so, it's probably bogus.
  • Is it reported on a website with links to stories about Bigfoot, UFOs, and conspiracy theories? If so, it's probably bogus.
  • Does the website name begin with….? If so, it's probably bogus.
  • Did I ignore it on this blog? If so, it's probably bogus.
Did I miss some important questions? Feel free to suggest additional ones in the comments below.

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Monday, November 03, 2014

Live-Streamed Lecture: Eric Cline on 1177 BC

When we post notices of lectures on this blog, we know that most of our readers live outside of the geographical area and won’t be able to attend. Tonight’s lecture by Eric Cline is different in that way because it will be live-streamed for free.

The topic of the 7:00 pm (Eastern) lecture is 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed, the same as his recent book. The lecture is being hosted by the Explorers Club in New York City. The website has more information, and you can go here at the appointed hour to watch the live-stream.

HT: Joseph Lauer


Sunday, November 02, 2014

Trial Begins in Jacobovici’s Lawsuit Against Zias

Simcha Jacobovici’s lawsuit against Joe Zias opened in court in Israel today. Jacobovici alleges that Zias gave false information to National Geographic with the result that the channel refused to air Jacobovici’s film on the “Jesus Tomb.”

From the Jerusalem Post:

In October 2011, Jacobovici filed a defamation suit against his harshest critic, former Antiquities Authority official Joe Zias, claiming damage of NIS 8.57 million and demanding NIS 3.5m. The case was brought before Lod District Court Judge Ya’acov Sheinman.

The filmmaker claims that while others have disparaged his ideas in a reasonable manner, Zias went beyond legitimate debate and defamed him by initiating a broad-based campaign to directly sabotage lucrative contracts he had already signed and was executing.

Zias’s “tip-off” about some of Jacobovici’s alleged conspiracies came from Joanna Garrett, a woman who was originally a big supporter of Jacobovici’s theories, but who then fell out with him.

Jacobovici said that Zias contacted his broadcaster, National Geographic, his publisher, Simon & Schuster, as well as others, and defamed him with a wide array of false accusations, such as elaborate forgery, paying off people, and manipulating people and events to try to build his credibility.

The full story is here.

HT: Joseph Lauer

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Saturday, November 01, 2014

Weekend Roundup

Tales of gold are fueling a surge of looting in Jordan.

Jordan wants the Mesha Stele back from the Louvre. The story doesn’t mention that the French saved it after locals tried to destroy it.

LiveScience reports on David Kennedy’s study of the huge stone circles in Jordan.

A temple of Thutmose III was discovered by an Egyptian digging underneath his house.

The Washington University School of Medicine recently did CT scans on three Egyptian mummies.

This week at The Book and the Spade: Part 2 of Mary Magdalene and Magdala with Steven Notley.

The Phaistos Disk has not been deciphered, despite recent claims in a TEDx talk.

This week Wayne Stiles shares 4 Views of Jerusalem Every Visitor Should See.

HT: Charles Savelle, Agade

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Friday, October 31, 2014

CORONA Atlas of the Middle East

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

I recently discovered a mapping resource hosted by the University of Arkansas, the CORONA Atlas of the Middle East. The CORONA Atlas is not a brand new website (it was reviewed in 2012), but it says it is still in BETA stage. Simply put, the CORONA Atlas of the Middle East overlays CORONA satellite imagery over Google Earth imagery.

What is CORONA imagery?
During the Cold War, CORONA was a codename for one of the United States' top-secret satellite missions created to capture high-resolution imagery. The first mission was launched into space in 1960, and the program continued until 1972. The imagery was declassified in 1995, making it available to the public.

What is the value of CORONA imagery?
From the CORONA Atlas of the Middle East:
In regions like the Middle East, CORONA imagery is particularly important for archaeology because urban development, agricultural intensification, and reservoir construction over the past several decades have obscured or destroyed countless archaeological sites and other ancient features such as roads and canals. These sites are often clearly visible on CORONA imagery, enabling researchers to map sites that have been lost and to discover many that have never before been documented. 

For example, in 1998, James Hoffmeier and his team were able to locate additional sections of Egypt's east frontier canal in northern Sinai thanks to CORONA imagery.

What has the University of Arkansas done with the imagery?
First, even though CORONA imagery is in the public domain, there are costs associated with digitization of the original film and acquisition of the files. The University of Arkansas has purchased much of this imagery and made it available for researchers. Second, the University of Arkansas corrected the spatial geometry of the photos for distortion (orthorectification) and has positioned the imagery in real geographic space (georectification). This allows the CORONA Atlas to overlay the CORONA imagery on top of other imagery that is positioned in the same geographic space.

How can the CORONA Atlas of the Middle East be used?
Recently, I was trying to locate the site of Samsat in Turkey. Samsat is believed to be ancient Kummuḫ, capital of a Neo-Hittite kingdom by the same name. (In the Hellenistic period, it was replaced by the kingdom of Commagene.) The problem with finding Samsat today, however, is that it now lies at that bottom of Lake Atatürk Dam. It is very hard to find a tell in a lake. The Atatürk Dam was built on the Euphrates River and was completed in 1990. The reservoir flooded the valley of the Euphrates River and its tributaries, and the lake today covers approximately 320 square miles. The CORONA Atlas of the Middle East allows me to see Samsat (and the Euphrates River) before it was submerged, and to locate it with precision in Google Earth, because you can adjust the transparency of the CORONA imagery. The CORONA atlas also has tools for measuring, obtaining coordinates, and capturing imagery for other uses.

Here is a comparison of images taken from the CORONA Atlas of the Middle East. On the left is the Google Earth imagery, in the center is the CORONA imagery with some transparency over Google Earth, and on the right is the CORONA imagery.

The tell of Samsat is located in the center of the right photograph. Here is a close-up.

Head on over and poke around. It took my internet service several moments to load imagery, so it may require you to have a little patience.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Artifacts of the Month: Ketef Hinnom Silver Amulets

(Posted by Michael J. Caba)
These two small scrolls are known as the Silver Scrolls. They contain the oldest known copies of biblical passages. Written about 600 BC, they were discovered in 1979 in Jerusalem at a place outside the Old City known as Ketef Hinnom. The Hebrew language text on the scrolls is taken from Numbers 6:24-26 which reads, "May Yahweh bless you and keep you; May Yahweh cause his face to shine upon you and grant you peace." The scroll to the left is roughly 4" long and the one to the right is about 1.5" long. Both scrolls are now located in the Israel Museum.

For those interested in Biblical studies, the scrolls speak to the antiquity of the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (i.e., the Christian Old Testament). Some critical theories postulate a late date of composition for these texts, say, the 6th-5th BC, but the earlier existence of these scrolls—and their Biblical passages—weighs to some extent against this theory.

For information on similar artifacts related to the Bible, see Bible and Archaeology - Online Museum.

(Photos: Significant resource for further study: Gabriel Barkay, et al., "The Challenges of Ketef Hinnom: Using Advanced Technologies to Recover the Earliest Biblical Texts and their Context," Near Eastern Archaeology, 66/4 [Dec. 2003]: 162-71.)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

Leen Ritmeyer has begun a new series showing the development of the Temple Mount from the time of Abraham until the Early Muslim period.

Ritmeyer also explains how his forthcoming guidebook on the Temple Mount is different from The Quest.

CoinWeek has an article on the tiniest ancient coins.

Yisrael Hasson is expecting to be appointed the new head of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Scott Stripling describes the four causes of the destruction of antiquities.

Mark Wilson describes his collection of Starbucks mugs from the eastern Mediterranean.

HT: Paleojudaica, Joseph Lauer

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Luke Chandler notes that plans are underway to establish a new national park at Khirbet Qeiyafa.

Steven Notley is on The Book and the Spade this week discussing Mary Magdalene and Magdala.

The latest edition of DigSight includes a summary of this year’s expedition to Lachish.

The New York Times explains why smaller archaeological museums struggle to build their collections today.

With the recent discovery of the Hadrianic inscription in Jerusalem, Ferrell Jenkins shares more about discoveries related to this emperor.

The city of Jerusalem has a goal of building more than 1,200 new hotel rooms in the next two years in order to alleviate the shortage and bring down prices.

Shmuel Browns shares some photographs from Israel of a variety of textures.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Life of Jesus Tour with Wayne Stiles

Wayne Stiles is leading an extraordinary tour of Israel that you should consider joining. Three features immediately mark this as a unique opportunity.

1. This tour has an exclusive focus on the life of Jesus. One of the struggles many have on their first tour is the lack of focus, as you jump from one period to another and back again all day, every day. When you’re zeroed in on the four Gospels, you’ll be making all kinds of connections as you see, listen, and read about the life of the Messiah.

2. The particular itinerary of this trip is outstanding. Not only is it focused on the life of Jesus, you will see all kinds of places you won’t see on any other trip. Wayne gave me a chance to review the itinerary earlier this year and I was highly impressed. After some suggested tweaks, I don’t think you’ll find a better tour schedule.

3. Wayne Stiles has a unique gift for bringing the biblical world into our own. Some teachers are history gurus, but they can’t translate their research into how it affects us today. Wayne is superb at doing this in his books, on his blog, and at the sites. He is passionate, accurate, and faithful.

So that’s my three cents. I am often asked about a trip to Israel that I would recommend. Unless you’re an enrolled college student, I don’t have too many good suggestions. Today I do. I’d encourage you to take the opportunity while you can.

Cove of the Sower from top, tbs76029303

Try out the acoustics at the amazing Cove of the Sower!

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