Friday, June 30, 2006

Temple Mount Ramp to be Removed

We've reported in multiple BiblePlaces Newsletters and here about the plan to excavate the collapsed earthen ramp leading from the Western Wall plaza to the Temple Mount. This ramp gives access to the only Temple Mount gate open to non-Muslims. Haaretz reports today that the Israel Antiquities Authority will begin digging in a few days.

The ramp, which leads from the Western Wall plaza to one of the Temple Mount Gates, is located in one of the most sensitive places in the world, and plans to carry out excavations under it have therefore been held up by the Shin Bet security service and the prime minister's military secretary for the past two years, for fear of Muslim riots.

Archaeologist Meir Ben-Dov warned yesterday that any digging in the area could lead to bloodshed. "Digging in this place goes way beyond the archaeological sphere. This place is far too sensitive and the price would be much too high," he said.

However, a reliable source told Haaretz that "now that the Palestinian Authority is paralyzed and incapable of resisting, it's an excellent opportunity to carry out the plan."

These photos were taken in the last year.

The temporary wooden ramp is on the left side of the earthen ramp to be excavated.


The north side of the earthen ramp collapsed after a snowfall in February 2004.


The ramp is more prominent when viewed from the south side. The new excavations will apparently create a connection between the Western Wall prayer plaza and the Jerusalem Archaeological Park (aka Southern Temple Mount Excavations).

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A New Gezer

I went to Gezer today. I was at Gezer last month and it looked pretty much the same as it has for the last 15 years. Overgrown. Devoid of tourists. Overgrown. Lacking signs or a good access road. But today was different.

The first surprise was the signs. There was a sign at every archaeological area plus one.


The signs, for the most part, were very good. They're all in three languages, attractive, and generally accurate. The text wasn't written by a clerk in an office but by an archaeologist.

This sign, however, I cannot figure out. (The apparent error is repeated in the Hebrew text, so it's not just an inadvertent typo.)


The next surprise was the state of the major archaeological discoveries. All were cleared of their overgrowth. What a difference that makes! Take a look at the Solomonic gate.


Of course, that should be "Solomon's Gate" according to the official sign. The quotes are important. And in spite of what the excavating archaeologists have said, the gate is only "probably" dated to the 10th century. Is such a nod to Finkelstein and his sliver of scholarship really necessary here?


The reason for the beautiful state of things is two-fold. First, the Israel Parks Authority decided to take action and make some improvements, including clearing trails and erecting signs. Second, new excavations are underway at Gezer for the first time in 20 years. Led by Dr. Steven Ortiz and Sam Wolff, the team of 60 has made huge progress in the last month in excavating the casemate wall west of the Solomonic Gate (no quotes). That in addition to their work in clearing the weeds away from the sites.


It's an impressive operation.

There's a consortium of about six schools that have students and faculty participating. My bet: next year there are more.


And why not? It's a perfect site to dig: tons of textual history associated with it, prominent in the Bible, close to Jerusalem, excellent housing facilities, first-rate excavators, and staffed by wonderful people.

Back to the site itself. The watersystem (Middle Bronze?) will soon be open to the public, with a staircase now being installed.

What's lacking? A decent road to get there. You can drive a car, but to get a bus driver to agree is not easy. And if it has rained in the last 10 days, forget it. And the Late Bronze tombs are still overgrown, filled with junk, and hard to find.


But with all of this, who can complain?

Want more? Take a look at the Gezer Excavations Project website, one supervisor's blog of the excavations or the BiblePlaces Gezer page, which has even more links to Gezer-related sites.

British Museum: Top 10

A friend wrote and asked what my top 3, 5 or 10 discoveries in the British Museum would be. The first thing is to realize that any reduction to such a number is going to eliminate a lot of major finds. But there's also the realization that a person has only so much time and so many brain cells. So here's my top 15. I can't reduce it any further than this. The list is in roughly chronological order. Some are more closely related to the Bible than others.

1. Epic of Gilgamesh
2. Amarna Letters
3. Kurkh Stela of Shalmaneser III
4. Black Obelisk
5. Samaria Ivories
6. Taylor Prism (Sennacherib)
7. Lachish Siege Reliefs
8. Shebna Inscription
9. Babylonian Chronicle for 605-594
10. Lachish Letters
11. Cyrus Cylinder
12. Temple of Artemis column
13. Elgin Marbles
14. Rosetta Stone
15. Politarch Inscription

Lachish Siege Reliefs Room

If you want to suggest an addition, please also suggest one of the above to remove.

In any case, if you're planning a visit, the book that you must get is by Peter Masters, entitled Heritage of Evidence in the British Museum. It used to be hard to find, though I now see it listed for sale at Amazon and here and here.

Does anyone offer a B.A. in the British Museum? That's not overreaching, in my opinion. Especially given what other college programs exist these days.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Four-Day Jerusalem Seminar

If you're in town at the beginning of August, this looks like fun. Not cheap, but fun...
Rediscover Ancient Jerusalem

The City of David Institute for Jerusalem Studies
Everything you wanted to know about Ancient Jerusalem in one thrilling and up-to date course.

Learn about the most recent discoveries from the experts:
Have we found King David's Palace?
What did Canaanite Jerusalem really look like?
How did the ancients achieve the engineering wonder of Hezekiah's tunnel?

The Siloam Pool of the Second Temple Era.
The Hasmonean aqueduct in Armon Hantziv.
Mount of Olives archeological experience- Sift Temple Mount remains with your own hands!

And much more...

Participating Scholars:
Prof. Roni Reich, University of Haifa - Dr. Gabi Barkai, Bar Ilan University - Prof. Joshua Schwartz, Bar Ilan Univarsity - Dr. Eyal Meiron, Hebrew University - Dr. Dan Bahat, Bar Ilan University - Aryeh Rottenberg - Ahron Horowitz - and others.

Where and When:
The course runs from Sunday July 30th 2006 - Wednesday August 2nd 2006. Every day begins with a lecture at the Menachem Begin Center (9.00) followed by light refreshments and a daily tour. Includes a box lunch (dairy), all transportation, and return to the Begin Center at the end of the day (approximately 16.00). The lectures and tours will be conducted in English. Price: 1200 nis, 2000 for couples.

For information and enrollment please contact Ruchama at 054-805-7315, www.cityofdavid.org.il or via email: megalim@cityofdavid.org.il
I can save you some money if you're just looking for the answers for the three questions above. 1) We don't know; 2) We don't know; 3) We don't know. Of course it's more fun to talk about it for an hour, even if the answer is the same.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Rome is falling, again

The LA Times reports on the deterioration of the ruins of ancient Rome (HT: Explorator). Among the recent problems:
  • A 35-foot wall on the Palatine Hill, where Roman emperors built their lavish villas, collapsed. Fortunately, it fell in the middle of the night and not during the day, when it probably would have crushed tourists.
  • Parts of the Colosseum, ancient Rome's enormous amphitheater, periodically close because of flooding caused by rain. Signs warn visitors to take cover if high winds kick up.
  • The breathtaking Golden Palace of Nero, opened to the public with great fanfare a few years ago, was shut down when authorities decided they could no longer guarantee visitors' safety.
The problem is that Rome is a living city and the appropriate investment in maintaining the monuments is not being made.

Modiin Archaeological Site Threatened

An archaeological site in Modiin is apparently threatened by development. A description and photographs of the site, along with an appeal to sign a petition, is here. Modiin is best known for being the hometown of the Maccabees.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Jerusalem Model final update

Readers of this blog know that we've followed the transfer of the Jerusalem model from the Holyland Hotel to the Israel Museum (for example, see here and here). The model is now essentially complete and scheduled to be open in two weeks. We, however, got a sneak peak.


There are various alterations to the model (e.g., valleys added, hippodrome removed), but the biggest change that will affect tourists is the two pathways around the model. One is low and close to the model; the other is more distant and elevated. This should work better for crowd control and photography.

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Eight New Species Found in Israel Cave

This amazing find near Ramle was announced by Hebrew University researchers this week.
Israeli scientists said on Wednesday they had discovered a prehistoric ecosystem dating back millions of years containing eight previously unknown species of crustaceans and invertebrates similar to scorpions.

In a press conference held Wednesday morning at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the researchers said the discovery came about when a small opening was found, leading to a cave extending to a depth of 100 meters beneath the surface of a quarry in the vicinity of Ramle. The quarry is operated by cement manufacturer Nesher Industries.

"Until now eight species of animals were found in the cave, all of them unknown to science," said Dr. Hanan Dimantman, a biologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Haaretz has the full story and a photo.

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New Archaeological Reports

The latest edition of Hadashot Arkheologiyot is now online. Until the last few years, you had to have access to a good library to be able to see the technical reports of the latest small-scale excavations in Israel. The online edition is well done, with options to print the articles with or without the pictures. The pictures are also available in a higher-resolution. Overall, this is very impressive and useful.

Articles from the current edition that may be of interest to readers here include Ashdod, Banias, Beth Shean, Caesarea, Dan, En Gedi, Jaffa, and various sites in Jerusalem. You might also check out the issues from 2004 and 2005.