Wednesday, November 26, 2008

National Geographic on Qeiyafa

The Book and the Spade radio program just posted the first of two interviews with Qeiyafa excavator Yosef Garfinkel (the link there is updated every week for the current program).

National Geographic reports on the Qeiyafa excavation.  Much of the story reports what has been covered elsewhere, but there are some problems with the article.  (Does mentioning these help to prevent their perpetuation by journalists or others?)

The article begins:

The remains of an ancient gate has pinpointed the location of the biblical city Sha'arayim, say archaeologists working in Israel.

In the Bible, young King David is described as battling Goliath in the city, before eventually killing him in the Elah Valley.

Ahem.  Is it really that hard for the NG journalist (Mati Milstein) to open the Bible (1 Samuel 17) and read the story of David and Goliath?  The battle did not occur in a city, and Shaaraim is mentioned only as a point on a road that the Philistines used to flee.  It’s quite a creative re-telling that puts the battle in the city, but Goliath’s eventual death in the valley.  Even if the writer couldn’t find a Bible (or locate one on the Internet), couldn’t he have asked the archaeologist he was interviewing?  Since this is the entire reason why anyone cares about this excavation as opposed to the hundreds of others in Israel (and this is evidenced by its placement in the first two paragraphs), shouldn’t NG try to get at least this right?  If they can’t, can you trust anything in the article?

Later in the article, archaeologist Amos Kloner comments on the site identification:

"This is an initial idea, all aspects of which must be examined," he said. "[But] it doesn't matter if there is a second gate … This provides no indication of a Judean population there."

Apparently Garfinkel hasn’t convinced everyone that the mere presence of a second gate absolutely and infallibly confirms that Qeiyafa is Shaaraim.  I think, however, that Kloner is wrong if he follows Garfinkel in the idea that Qeiyafa must be a Judean site in order to be Shaaraim.  In fact, as I argued before, I think a better case can be made from the only source that we have that at the time of the battle, Shaaraim was in Philistine hands. 

The article closes with this quote from Garfinkel:

Garfinkel said he will continue to explore the Elah site in search of further evidence.

"Maybe we'll find an inscription on the gate indicating who built the city: 'I David, son of Yishai, built this city,'" he said with a laugh.

That’s a typical archaeologist kind of joke, and it wouldn’t be worth a response, except that Garfinkel has suggested elsewhere that he is serious about the possibility that David built the Qeiyafa fortress.  I think it is entirely possible that David built the Qeiyafa fortress, but if he did, Qeiyafa is not Shaaraim.  You can have one, but not the other, unless you believe the biblical account is completely confused.  This is the big problem with those scholars who want to claim the “middle ground” between maximalists and minimalists: they claim validation for their results based upon data which they believe is faulty.  In other words, the scholar says, our evidence that Qeiyafa is Shaaraim is the biblical text which mentions this site (Shaaraim) in this area (Elah Valley).  The Bible says that Shaaraim existed before David became king.  We can believe the Bible that Shaaraim was a city in this area, but we can’t believe the same biblical story that Shaaraim existed before David.  This is very typical scholarly logic, but it is usually dressed up in fancy language, and supported by one questionable hypothesis built upon another dubious theory.

UPDATE (10 p.m.): The initial paragraphs of the NG article have been changed:

The remains of an ancient gate have pinpointed the location of the biblical city Sha'arayim, say archaeologists working in Israel.

In the Bible young David, a future king, is described as battling Goliath in the Elah Valley near Sha'arayim.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Qeiyafa, Looting, and Buried Secrets

Owen Chesnut has blogged about Archaeologist Yosi Garfinkel’s presentation (and questions) yesterday at the ASOR meeting about Khirbet Qeiyafa.

The excavators have posted a “chronicle” of events related to the discovery of the Kh. Qeiyafa ostracon, including when they celebrated with a beer and when (and by whom) details leaked to the public. (HT: Yitzhak Sapir).

National Geographic has a good article on the problem of the looting of archaeological sites in Israel.  If you’ve ever bought an antiquity, you help to create the demand, and perhaps this article will help shed light for you on just how destructive the antiquities market is.

PBS broadcast a special earlier this week on the Bible and archaeology, entitled “The Bible’s Buried Secrets.”  You can watch the entire 2-hour show online, get a summary, or read the whole transcript.  The perspective was decidedly mainstream, with no indication that there is a large group of conservative scholars who reject many of the conclusions of mainstream scholars.  The program was well produced and featured interviews with many scholars. 

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Jerusalem, Rome, and Alexandria

Zachi Zweig recently produced photographs of a Byzantine mosaic floor discovered under Al Aqsa Mosque between 1938 and 1942. Zweig is certain that this was part of a Byzantine church on the Temple Mount. To this point, it has generally been held that the Byzantines left the Temple Mount in ruins. The 6th century Medeba Map does not show any buildings in this area. Underneath the mosaic floor was a Jewish ritual bath (mikveh). The story is in the Jerusalem Post, and Leen Ritmeyer comments at his blog.

Google Earth has added a layer for Ancient Rome as it stood in A.D. 320. Judging from a 2-minute video preview, this is an extraordinary resource. As with the rest of Google Earth, it is free. It probably would not be difficult to remove a few buildings and create a layer for Rome in the 1st century. Perhaps someone will be so motivated.

Leen Ritmeyer has created a less detailed Jerusalem layer that shows the city in the 1st century. (UPDATE 11/20: This layer is no longer available.)

This story has been around before, but perhaps its re-circulation indicates that progress is being made. The JPost reports that plans are underway for the world’s first underwater archaeology museum in Alexandria.

"The whole Bay of Alexandria actually still houses the remains of very important archeological sites. You have the place of the Pharaohs - the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria - which is one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. You have the Polonike Palace, which was the palace of Cleopatra, and there might also be the grave of Alexander the Great," she said.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Discoveries at Herod’s Tomb

In advance of the upcoming National Geographic special on Herod’s tomb, as well as the cover story of the same on the December issue of NG, archaeologist Ehud Netzer held a press conference today announcing the most recent discoveries.  You can read the Hebrew University press release (with photos) and articles in Arutz-7, Haaretz, and National Geographic.  Below are selected portions of the articles.

Summary

The findings include coffins of Herod’s family, a theater with a VIP room, and two coffins containing the remains of most likely Herod’s wife and the wife of Archelaus, Herod’s son. The new findings further support the idea that the grave discovered last year belongs to Herod the Great. (Arutz-7)

Netzer described the winter palace, built on a largely man-made hill 680 meters high, as a kind of country club, with a pool, baths, gardens fed by pools and aqueducts and a 650-seat theater. (Haaretz)

Herodium with lower pool, tb021407740dxo

Herodium with lower pool

Theater

A theater that could hold an audience of 750 was discovered not far from the mausoleum. In front of the seating area is a large room for VIPs, from which the king and his close friends would watch the shows. (Arutz-7)

"In Herod's private box at the auditorium, the diggers discovered delicate frescoes depicting windows opening on to painted landscapes, one of which showed what appeared to be a southern Italian farm," said Roi Porat, one of Netzer's assistants on the digs. Just visible in the paintings, dating from between 15-10 B.C., are a dog, bushes and what looks like a country villa. (Haaretz)

"Normally in Judean art you wouldn't paint scenes such as these with animals. The style is so similar to what is known from Italy, it really looks like a team came over to do the painting," said Rachel Chachy-Laureys, a surveyor working with Nezter. "It fits the context." (National Geographic)

The theater, its two side rooms and VIP section, were intentionally destroyed when Herod constructed the cone-shaped artificial mountain, which enclosed the round structure that stood at the top of the hill. (Arutz-7)

Tomb

"What we found here, spread all around, are architectural fragments that enable us to restore a monument of 25 meters high, 75 feet high, very elegant, which fits Herod's taste and status," [Netzer] told The Associated Press. (Haaretz)

In the excavation that took place this year in the area of the mausoleum, the remains of two white-colored tombs were found, most likely belonging to Herod’s family. The bright red and elegant coffin of Herod, which was displayed last year, is now completely restored, along with a large tomb. Prof. Netzer ascertains that the red coffin is the burial coffin of Herod. In contrast to the white coffins, the red coffin was shattered into hundreds of pieces, and spread throughout the mausoleum area. Prof. Netzer estimates that Malthace the Samaritan was buried in the larger of the two white burial coffins. (Arutz-7)

One big question remains: Where is Herod's body?  "We have only found a very small number of human bones at the site and have not been able to come to any conclusions," Netzer said. "We have not yet finished digging and have only uncovered a small area."  But he does not believe the king's remains will ever be recovered. (National Geographic)

Previous discussion and photos of Herod’s tomb can be found here.

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Qeiyafa: Is it biblical Shaaraim?

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that excavator Yosi Garfinkel believes Khirbet Qeiyafa is Shaaraim (Shaarayim), and this is confirmed by David Willner on the excavation website. This suggestion does not need to deny the David and Goliath story to find support (as does the Gob identification). Garfinkel will make a presentation (or two) this week about the site, but from what has been revealed thus far, there are two bases for his conclusion. 1) Shaaraim is mentioned in the story of David and Goliath (1 Sam 17:52). 2) Garfinkel found a second gate at the site last week. This is suggestive because the name “Shaaraim” means “two gates.”

This portion of the article is worth quoting:

Garfinkel, who has excavated numerous sites in Israel, says he discovered the second gate after noticing an apparent break in the massive stone wall as he walked along the 2,100-foot long structure that faced the road to Jerusalem. After two days of digging, his hunch paid off. A second entrance constructed from massive stones lay just a few feet beneath the topsoil.

"This is the only city from the Iron Age in this region ever found with two gates," said Garfinkel as he clambered over the huge structure. "It was probably a mistake. It made the city more vulnerable. It might explain why it appears to have been settled only twice, for very short periods."

Garfinkel says he is certain the newly-found massive stone gate was the main entrance to the city that existed at the beginning of the 10th century B.C. and then again for a few years at the time of Alexander the Great.

"It is enormous, it has symbolic value demonstrating authority and the power of the kingdom," Garfinkel said while describing the huge building blocks of more than 3 feet square and 10 feet long, each weighing more than 10 tons. "They are the largest ever found from the Iron Age. If King David ever came here from Jerusalem, he entered from this gate. It is likely we are walking in the footsteps of King David."

Khirbet Qeiyafa, 10th c casemate wall, ar080731445 Casemate wall at Khirbet Qeiyafa, 10th century B.C.

This is very significant, for not only are there very few early 10th-century fortifications in Israel, I don’t know of any with two gates. There are, however, some potential problems. 1) Apparently only a few days have been spent in excavation of this second gate, which would suggest that caution in conclusions at this point is wise. 2) Who built this massive gate? If it dates to the early 10th century, then one might connect it with David’s kingdom. But if that is so, then it was not the scene of his pre-kingship battle with Goliath. Perhaps, then, it was built by King Saul. The problem with that is that scholars don’t believe he had any real power. 3) Why were two gates built? Did someone who went to all the work in moving stones weighing more than 10 tons really not think through the problem of having two gates? I have trouble believing that we today understand their warfare better than they did.

There are some other potential problems with this identification. The only other place where Shaaraim is mentioned in the Bible is in a list of cities of Judah.

Joshua 15:33-36 (NASB) In the lowland: Eshtaol and Zorah and Ashnah, 34 and Zanoah and En-gannim, Tappuah and Enam, 35 Jarmuth and Adullam, Socoh and Azekah, 36 and Shaaraim and Adithaim and Gederah and Gederothaim; fourteen cities with their villages.

This text proceeds roughly from north to south (Sorek Valley, then Elah Valley). The sites in the Elah Valley appear to proceed from east to west: Adullam, Socoh, Azekah. If so, this suggests that Shaaraim would be located west of Azekah. If Shaaraim was Qeiyafa, it would logically fit between Socoh and Azekah.

This location (west of Azekah) seems to be supported by the David and Goliath account. Shaaraim is mentioned only at the end of the story. The Philistines fled west from the battle to Gath and Ekron, dying on the way of Shaaraim.

1 Samuel 17:52 (NASB) The men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted and pursued the Philistines as far as the valley [or Gath], and to the gates of Ekron. And the slain Philistines lay along the way to Shaaraim, even to Gath and Ekron.

Normally, this construction “way of [place]” means the road to a certain place (e.g., 1 Sam 13:17-18; 2 Sam 2:24; for a myriad of examples, see Dorsey, Roads and Highways of Ancient Israel, 47-50, where he finds only one road in the Bible not named after its destination, Num 20:17). It is difficult to conceive of a battle scenario where the road they are fleeing on would be called the “way of Shaaraim” if Shaaraim = Qeiyafa. 1) If the Philistines were encamped on the south side of the valley and the Israelites were encamped on the north side near Qeiyafa, why would the Philistines flee on the “way of Shaaraim”? 2) If the battle was much farther to the east, and the Israelites were encamped in the lower slopes of the hill country and the Philistines were encamped on the eastern end of the Elah Valley, a) one wonders why it was called the way of Shaaraim and not the way of Azekah, the bigger and more well-known city nearby and b) one cannot account for the Philistines being encamped “between Azekah and Socoh.” In short, Shaaraim is best located on the far (eastern, northern, or southern) side of Azekah, and not on the side closer to the battlefield. This also makes sense of the following phrase “the way of Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron.”

John Hobbins interacts with Garfinkel’s proposal of Shaaraim. I agree with him on point #1 but do not think he goes far enough (as I have above). I disagree on point #2, as it seems that if the Philistines are fleeing towards Shaaraim, then this would likely be in their territory. To say it another way, if Qeiyafa = Shaaraim, we should expect it to be a Philistine site (at least at the time of the battle). Garfinkel’s evidence suggests that Qeiyafa is an Israelite site.

This does not address the reality of “two gates” at Qeiyafa. If we are certain that both were in use at the same time, and we know that there are no other sites in the area that had two gates, this would be strong evidence. I don’t know how certain the excavators are that the two gates are contemporaneous. I’m very hesitant to say that there are no other sites with two gates, since until a week ago, even Qeiyafa was not known to have two.

By way of conclusion: If Qeiyafa is Shaaraim, either 1) the Israelites were encamped here at the time of the battle of David and Goliath or 2) the Philistines were not encamped between Azekah and Socoh or 3) Shaaraim = Ephes-dammim. Of the three, I find #1 to be most likely, but it then is strange that a) Shaaraim is not mentioned as the place of Israel’s encampment and b) the Philistines are said to have fled on the way of this Israelite site. From the Philistine perspective, the road from Gath to the east might be called the “way of Shaaraim” (though it requires ignoring Azekah), but the biblical record was not written from the Philistine perspective.

Neither this post, nor the previous one, furthers my suggestion that Qeiyafa is Ephes-dammim. But they do, I believe, make the identifications with Gob and Shaaraim less attractive. Everyone in the discussion is working with a fraction of the total evidence. Garfinkel, as excavator, has more of the evidence available to him, but it is not difficult to imagine future discoveries that significantly clarify or alter the picture. To that end, we wish the excavators great success in their on-going work.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Qeiyafa: Is it biblical Gob?

Nadav Na’aman has written an article (pdf) in the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures suggesting that Kh. Qeiyafa is Gob.  Na’aman begins with the conclusion that Qeiyafa is a Philistine site.  He does this by dismissing three lines of evidence from the excavators (pottery, absence of pig bones, Hebrew inscription).  I am unconvinced by this part of the discussion, but I don’t think it undermines the rest of his presentation.

The next paragraph is of most interest to me, as I previously suggested that Qeiyafa be identified with Ephes-dammim.  Let’s follow Na’aman’s line of reasoning.  It’s important to note that his cursory dismissal allows him to move to a more radical proposal.  His text is in bold and my comments are in brackets.

The description [of 1 Sam 17:1-2] indicates that the story was written after the consolidation of the kingdom of Judah, when Socoh (and Azekah) were Judahite cities. [He presupposes, contrary to the biblical account, that Judah was only formed many years after the time of David.] According to the description, the Philistines encamped south of the Elah Valley, where Ephes-dammim must be sought, and Saul and his army arrived from the northeast and encamped north of the valley. [Read 1 Sam 17:1-2 again.  It says nothing about the Philistines being “south.”  Perhaps it was (and I have believed for many years that it was), but it only says that Ephes-dammim is between Azekah and Socoh, and as my photos here show, Qeiyafa is both between the two sites and north of the Elah Valley.] Although the Israelite army encamped not far from Khirbet Qeiyafa, this important stronghold is not mentioned in the story. [Whoa, see how he did that?  He just jumped right over the possibility that Qeiyafa is Ephes-dammim, because it “must” be on the south side.] Evidently, the site was destroyed and deserted at the time when the story was written. [This is typical of Na’aman’s work: one possibility, however unlikely, becomes the foundation for another possibility, which then becomes certainty, and the foundation for a larger theory (see the rest of the article).  But if you pull out one card, the house comes falling down.  Since his creative theory developed in the rest of the article requires precluding Qeiyafa from being Ephes-dammim, he must not allow this very real possibility to detain him.]

Elah Valley and Azekah view nw from Socoh, tb021707830

View from Socoh looking west towards Azekah

Na’aman then proceeds to 2 Samuel 21:19, and he concludes that the David and Goliath story (1 Sam 17) is a later and much embellished (and distorted) retelling of the former.  He does not seem to recognize the following weaknesses with his theory: 1) the victors in the two stories have different names; 2) the fathers of the victors in the two stories have different names; 3) the location of the battles are given in each account, but there is no similarity between the two; 4) the context of the two battles in the larger biblical narrative is unrelated; 5) 1 Chronicles 20:5 gives a parallel account of 2 Sam 21:19. 

If you’re going to continue with Na’aman, you have to accept that 1) the highly detailed account of David vs. Goliath is pure fiction based upon a historic “kernel” that bore no relation to it; 2) the author of Samuel was ignorant (or unconcerned) that he was including the same “story” twice – both the kernel and the later embellishment. 

A better approach is to recognize the close similarities between 2 Sam 21:19 and 1 Chron 20:5 and acknowledge that these are the same story, but 1 Sam 17 is a different event.  There are textual difficulties in the two brief accounts, but you can’t explain David out of the Goliath story of 1 Sam 17 by scribal errors.  Instead you have to believe in deliberate deception and/or incredible ignorance.  (Much of the scholarly approach to the OT is predicated on these two principles: most ancients were stupid, and the few brilliant ones were liars, albeit espousing the worship of a highly ethical God.)

I do not, however, think that a rejection of Na’aman’s proposals to this point necessarily disqualifies his identification of Qeiyafa as Gob.  2 Samuel 21:18-19 mention two battles with the Philistines, and since 1) Qeiyafa is a logical place of conflict between Israelites and Philistines and 2) Gob has not yet been identified, I think it is a plausible idea.  I just think that Na’aman has much less evidence to support it than he thinks he does.

John Hobbins has written a lengthy analysis of Na’aman’s article.  He makes some good points against the identification of Qeiyafa as a Philistine site.  One problem, as I see it, is that we should not assume that the situation was static in this period of Israel’s history.  Quite possibly, sites changed hands.  In fact, that seems to be what is at stake in the narrative of David and Goliath.  The Shephelah was the contestable ground in the 11th century (see also the story of Keilah in 1 Sam 23), and the goal was to expand one’s borders.  In other words, Qeiyafa may have been built as a Philistine fortress but later taken by the Israelites, or vice versa.

Hobbins then agrees with Na’aman’s proposal that Qeiyafa is Gob.  Since the whole thesis depends on 2 Sam 21:19 being accurately preserved and thus contradicting 1 Sam 17 and 1 Chron 20:5, Hobbins and Edgecomb discuss some more technical aspects of textual criticism of these verses in the comments section.  While I agree with Edgecomb on this, I would make this overall point: it’s not reassuring when a grand theory is built upon a difficult text against other easier texts. It is better to follow 1 Sam 17 than to undo it based upon tenuous theories and emendation of brief, problematic verses elsewhere.

Tomorrow I will respond to the proposal by archaeologist Yosi Garfinkel that Qeiyafa is Shaarayim.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Herod, Gath, and Free Maps

National Geographic is promoting its upcoming special on “Herod’s Lost Tomb” with a number of special features on its website, including photos, reconstructions, video clips, and a game.  HT: BibleX

The Gath expedition has produced a DVD of the 2008 season with dozens of photographs and a couple of PowerPoint presentations.  You can get it for $15 including shipping.

If you’ve ever needed a quick, colorful map of a biblical site, bibleatlas.org can help.  When you arrive at the website, you may be put off with a block of apparently endless text.  Don’t give up though – simply search for the name of your city, click the link, and you’ll have a map.  Click the map box itself and you can get a high-resolution version of the region.  The maps are made using BibleMapper (which we’ve praised before here), and the quality is excellent.  To summarize, on the positive side: incredibly fast, pre-made maps, with liberal usage allowances.  On the negative side, it gives maps labeling cities, not events.  The Bible Atlas is part of a much larger site, Biblos.com, which has many free resources, and more coming.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Jehoash Inscription: Five Scholars Claim Authentic

The Jehoash Inscription is a total fraud and everyone knows that, according to some people.  Apparently these five scholars didn’t get the memo, as they conclude that the inscription is authentic.  The Bible and Interpretation has the article.  Here is the abstract:

A gray, fine-grained arkosic sandstone tablet bearing an inscription in ancient Hebrew from the First Temple Period contains a rich assemblage of particles accumulated in the covering patina. Two types of patina cover the tablet: a thin layer of black to orange iron-oxide-rich layer, a product of micro-biogenic processes, and a light beige patina that contains feldspars, carbonate, iron oxide, subangular quartz grains, carbon ash particles and gold globules (1 to 4 micrometers [1 micrometer = 0.001 millimeter] in diameter). The patina covers the rock surface as well as the engraved lettering grooves and blankets and thus post-dates the incised inscription as well as a crack that runs across the stone and several of the engraved letters. Radiocarbon analyses of the carbon particles in the patina yield a calibrated radiocarbon age of 2340 to 2150 Cal BP. The presence of microcolonial fungi and associated pitting in the patina indicates slow growth over many years. The occurrence of pure gold globules is evidence of a thermal event in close proximity to the tablet (above 1000 degrees Celsius). This study supports the antiquity of the patina, which in turn, strengthens the contention that the inscription is authentic. 

This isn’t the last word, but that’s the point.  Scholars must be allowed to study this inscription without desperate-sounding people trying to silence those they disagree with.

The best indication of the inscription’s authenticity that I know and understand (which doesn’t include archaeometric evidence) concerns the “obvious” linguistic error in the inscription.  It doesn’t make sense that someone brilliant enough to do so many things right on this inscription would make such an obvious mistake.  Maybe, just maybe, we don’t know everything about how Hebrew was used in the 8th century.

The Bible and Interpretation has published much more on this inscription in previous years.

UPDATE (11/17): The more scientific version of this article was mentioned previously here.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Beautiful Earring Found in Jerusalem

From the Associated Press:

A luxurious gold, pearl and emerald earring provides a new visual clue about the life of the elite in Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago. And its discovery was a true eureka moment for excavators.

The piece was found beneath a parking lot next to the walls of Jerusalem's Old City. It dates to the Roman period just after the time of Jesus, said Doron Ben-Ami, who directed the dig.

The earring was uncovered in a destroyed Byzantine structure built centuries after the piece was made, showing it was likely passed down through generations, he said.

Archaeologists came upon the earring in a corner while excavating the ruins of the building under a parking lot. "Suddenly one of the excavators came up shouting 'Eureka!'" said Ben-Ami.

The find is eye-catching: A large pearl inlaid in gold with two drop pieces, each with an emerald and pearl set in gold.

"It must have belonged to someone of the elite in Jerusalem," Ben-Ami said. "Such a precious item, it couldn't be one of just ordinary people."

Archaeologist Shimon Gibson, who was not involved in the dig, said the find was truly amazing, less because of its Roman origins than for its precious nature.

"Jewelry is hardly preserved in archaeological context in Jerusalem," he said, because precious metals were often sold or melted down during the many historic takeovers of the city.

The story continues hereArutz-7 has a similar story.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Conference: New Studies on Jerusalem

The Ingeborg Rennert Center, The Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, The Faculty of Jewish Studies, Bar-Ilan University invite you to

The 14th Annual Conference of The Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies
"NEW STUDIES ON JERUSALEM"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

8:20 gathering

8:45 opening remarks:
Prof. M. Orfali, Dean of the Faculty of Jewish Studies, Bar-Ilan University
Prof. J. Schwartz, Director of the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies
Prof. A Faust & Dr. E. Baruch, conference organizers

Session 1 – 9:00- 10:30
Chair: Aaron Demsky

Eilat Mazar
The Stepped Stone Structure in the City of David in Light of the New Excavations in Area G

Moshe Garsiel
The Elah Valley's Battle, the Duel of David's and Goliath and Why Goliath's Head and Weapons End Up in Jerusalem

Avraham Faust
Sennacherib's Campaign to the Judean Highlands and Jerusalem: A New Perspective

Tsvika Tsuk
"And Brought the Water to the City" (2 Kings 20, 20): Water Consumption in Jerusalem in the Biblical Period

Discussion
Break

Special Discussion- 10:50-11:40

Shlomo Bunimovits & Avraham Faust
The Archaeology of the Biblical Period in the Twenty-First Century: Towards a New Dialogue between Archaeology and the Bible

Discussion
Break

Session 2 – 12:00- 13:50
Chair: Ben-Zion Rozenfeld

Joseph Patrich
On the Chamber Called House of Stone (beth even), Which was Facing the Northeast Corner of the Temple Building (birah) (Mishnah, Parah 3:1)

Michael Ben-Ari
Recollections of the Temple: Between Yavne and Lod and Between the Ideal and the Real

Ehud Netzer
How to Handle the Different Reconstructions of the Temple and its Surrounding Courts

Joshua Schwartz
The Temple Cult Without the Sages: Prolegomena on the Description of the Second Temple Period Cult according to Sources of the Second Temple Period

Yehoshua Peleg
The Pre-Herodian Sanctified Temple Area and Outer Court.

Discussion
Lunch Break

Session 3 – 14:50-17:00
Chair: Hanan Eshel

Eyal Baruch
The Palatial Mansion in Jerusalem: Class and Ideology

Yuval Shahar
The Concept of the Temple Mount in the Second Temple Period

Ram Bouchnick, Nimrod Marom & Guy Bar-Oz
"Rams from Moab and Ewes from Hebron": Herd Maintenance Strategies in the Late Second Temple Period in Jerusalem

Zachi Zweig
New Information from Various Temple Mount Excavations from the Last Hundred Years

Yair Talmor
Between the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Nea Church - The Religious Space of Byzantine Jerusalem

Discussion
Break

Session 4 - 17:20- 19:10
Chair: Yvonne Friedman

Peretz Reuven
"A Female Slave from the Harem Who Became the Mother of the Caliph": a Suggestion to Connect an Unknown inscription from the Al-Aqsa Mosque to the Mother of the Abbasid Caliph Al- Muqtadir."

Nissim Dana
The Prophet Mohammad's Night Ascent to Heaven: A Review of the Passage in the Qur'an and in Other Islamic Sources

Shelomo Lotan
The Symbolism of Jerusalem and the House of King David in the Teutonic Military Order Medieval Heritage

Josef Drory
The Contribution of Franciscan Documents for Esteem of the Local Minorities' Rights in Mamluk Jerusalem

Oded Shay
The Beginning of Historical Documentation and Modern Archives of the General Population in Jerusalem at the End of the Ottoman Period

Discussion

The conference proceedings (app. 400 pp. including 2 articles in English and 20 articles in Hebrew, with English abstracts) will be on sale during the conference.

HT: Joe Lauer

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Prosecution Struggling at Forgery Trial

The San Francisco Chronicle reported about a week ago that the Israeli government’s case against alleged forger Oded Golan is near collapse.  The Israeli judge was rather harsh with the prosecution.

After all the evidence we have heard, including the testimony of the prime defendant, is the picture still the same as the one you had when he was charged?" District Court Judge Aharon Farkash pointedly asked public prosecutor, Adi Damti. "Not every case ends in the way you think it will when it starts. Maybe we can save ourselves the rest.

The Daily Mail reported:

Jerusalem judge Aharon Farkash told prosecutors trying Israeli collector Oded Golan: 'Have you really proved beyond a reasonable doubt that these artefacts are fakes as charged in the indictment?

The primary artifacts in question are the James Ossuary and the Jehoash Inscription.  The Israel Antiquities Authority has maintained that the inscription, or part of the inscription, reading “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” was added to an ancient ossuary.  These artifacts and others are alleged to have come out of the workshop of Oded Golan, or that of his Egyptian friend, Marco Samah Shoukri Ghatas.

I do not know if these two artifacts are ancient, though based on what experts have told me, I think they probably are genuine.  If one or both are proven to be fraudulent, it won’t affect anyone’s beliefs in the accuracy or non-accuracy of the Bible.

What bothers me and others is the attempt by some professionals and some non-professionals to silence discussion on the issues.  Because 60 Minutes did a report on the subject, the case must be closed.  Because the Israel Antiquities Authority produced a report on the items, scholarly interaction on the matters is apparently inappropriate.  Wrong!, says the judge. 

If the judge isn’t convinced after hearing far more evidence than you or I or probably any other expert not at the trial, then I dare say that any conclusions claiming these artifacts were forged were based on less than all of the evidence.  This makes it all the more disturbing that those who made those conclusions are the ones who would deny further discussion.  Some lessons:

  • Scholars have agendas.  Very few are unbiased.
  • The loudest ones usually have the most to lose.  Discoveries tend to confirm the Bible (name the last one that provided clear evidence that the biblical record was inaccurate), and with each (authentic) discovery, the ground is eroding from underneath them
  • Refuse to listen to those who say the case is closed.  Patience is a virtue.  There is no need to rush to judgment when important scholars dissent from the majority view.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

King David’s Water Tunnel in Jerusalem

Last week Eilat Mazar announced that she had discovered a water channel connected to the building she has identified as the palace of King David.  Based on the tunnel’s date, location, and characteristics, she believes that she has identified “with high probability” the shaft used by David’s men to conquer Jerusalem.  You may recall the story:

On that day, David said, “Anyone who conquers the Jebusites will have to use the tsinnor to reach those ‘lame and blind’ who are David’s enemies” (2 Samuel 5:8).

The Hebrew word tsinnor is usually translated “water shaft.”  For many years, this shaft was identified with a 40 foot (13 m) vertical shaft near the Gihon Spring.  More recent excavations have suggested that this shaft was not accessible during the time of David.

The story gets the press-release-rehash in the Jerusalem Post and Arutz-7The Trumpet, because of its close relationship with Mazar, has two photos.  Haaretz apparently wrote their story before the press release and has some strange information about the water system:

But Mazar believes the water system served to purify David's warriors, first among them his chief of staff, Joab, after the city had already been conquered.

She says that purification was necessary because the Bible states they had to fight against the "blind and the lame," and in so doing would have become impure. She notes the use in the relevant verse of the Hebrew root naga (touch) in relation to the "gutter," a word usually involving matters of purity.

Here are just a few thoughts (based on the articles, not the minimal information above):

It seems that this channel was discovered at the end of the last season of excavation, and much more work is required.

Both ends of the tunnel are currently blocked, so it is not clear where the tunnel begins or ends.

The tunnel runs north-south, that is, roughly from the area of “David’s palace” towards the Temple Mount, all within the city fortifications.  This does not seem to fit the type of passageway that would be needed to conquer the city.

Oil lamps from the end of the First Temple period (c. 600 B.C.) were found, but it’s not clear how Mazar knows the tunnel was in use in the time of David.  It’s usually easier to date the end of use of a water system than the beginning.

The attempt to also connect the tunnel with refugees fleeing from Jerusalem in the days of King Zedekiah seems stretched.

Both identifications of the tunnel to the Bible (David and Zedekiah) strike me as the sort of “biblical archaeology” that Bible believers like myself wish would go away.  By that I mean, you find a tunnel and without knowing where it begins or where it ends, you assume that it must be the very one that is mentioned in a famous story in the Scriptures.  How is it that such archaeologists, working in a very restricted area, always happen to find exactly what they are looking for?

The solution is not to refuse to make connections to the Bible, nor to deny that the Biblical record is historically accurate, but instead to carefully study all of the evidence, avoiding unwarranted and premature sensationalistic headlines.  It goes both ways; more often it is scholars on the other side who use a scrap of evidence as complete and compelling proof that the biblical story is false.  Abuses on one side do not justify abuses on the other.

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