Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hyksos Palace Excavated at Tell el-Dab'a

Discoveries from excavations at Tell el-Dab'a, the Hyksos capital in Egypt, were announced recently in a press release from the University of Vienna, but the article was only available in German.  Joe Lauer has received and passed along a statement from the press office in English, which is given below.  Photos of the cuneiform tablet, horse burial, and archaeologist are linked at the bottom of this page.

   A team of the Austrian Archaeological Institute in Cairo and of the University of Vienna under Prof. Manfred Bietak and Irene Forstner-Mueller excavated recently a palace of the Hyksos king Khayan (c. 1600-1585 BC). The site is called Tell el-Dab‘a and it was the capital of the Hyksos kings, who ruled the northern part of Egypt between 1640 and 1530 BC. The antiquities were revealed just under the agricultural crust in a rescue operation. It became clear that this palace in the size of over 10,000 sqm is of northern Syrian type and ranges very well among the biggest palaces found thus far in northern Syria. 
    Two finds this season were particularly remarkable. First a fragment of a cuneiform letter written in southern Mesopotamian style and originating most probably in Babylon. As Karen Radner and Frans van Koppen from the University College London – two eminent scholars in this field – found out, this fragment was a letter and can be dated according to its orthography to the last 50 years of the Old Babylonian Kingdom of Hammurabi. The find shows the far reaching international ties of the Hyksos and at the same time connects Egyptian chronology with the Mesopotamian chronology – thus far the synchronisation with Egypt was a controversy of scholars. Now this matter seems to be settled in favour of a low Mesopotamian chronology with the conquest of Babylon around 1550 BC.
    The second important discovery was the burial of a horse, which is situated and stratigraphically well connected within the palace. It was a mare between 5 and 10 years. It was obviously not a chariot horse but more likely used for breeding. It was the Hyksos who introduced the horse to Egypt and it is the oldest undisputed horse burial found in this country. Its position in the palace suggests that this mare was a pet of the Hyksos, most likely king Khayan.
    The third important discovery was a courtyard used for ritual feasts. Numerous pits with over 5000 vessels, buried ritually with remains of meals such as animal bones, were found. Such institutions as this courtyard, secured behind enormous walls, are known from texts in Mesopotamia and the Levant since the third millennium BC. The feasts were in honour of deceased kings or at the occasion of birthdays of gods. It is the first time that such rituals are attested in Egypt by a population originating from the northern Levant.
    The Hyksos period is still very obscure from historical point of view, but the long going excavation of the Austrian team has contributed to a series of corrections in its historiography. The population originated most probably from Lebanon and northern Syria, as the newly discovered palace and the pottery shows. They were people with an urban background and came originally in the late 12th Dynasty (Middle Kingdom) as shipbuilders, sailors, soldiers and craftsmen to the country where the pharaohs settled them in a harbour town in the north-eastern Delta, the later city of Avaris. In a time of political weakness they were able to establish a small kingdom there and soon afterwards were able to control the Delta and Middle Egypt until their former vassals in Upper Egypt, particularly king Ahmose defeated them and founded the New Kingdom.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Scientific Discovery: Dating Pottery By Measuring Rehydroxylization

Scientists at the University of Manchester announced last week a breakthrough in the dating of ceramic (pottery) objects.  Called rehydroxylation dating, "the method relies on the fact that fired clay ceramic material will start to chemically react with atmospheric moisture as soon as it is removed from the kiln after firing. This continues over its lifetime causing it to increase in weight – the older the material, the greater the weight gain." Initial tests on materials up to 2,000 years old have been accurate within a decade.  If this method proves reliable in dating earlier objects, it could be quite useful in solving, for instance, the current debate over 10th-9th century BC pottery in Israel.  One problem with this method for archaeological sites is that the “internal clock” of the pottery is “reset” if the temperature reaches 500 degrees Celsius.  Thus the pottery from areas destroyed by fire would only date to the year of the destruction and not to the date of creation.

The results of the report are covered in a popular article by Science Daily, or you can read the original article (pdf) in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A (alternate link here).  The paper’s abstract:

The majority of ceramics are found in archaeological deposits and are extremely difficult to date. The typical method of using radiocarbon dating used for bone or wood cannot be used for ceramic material because it does not contain carbon, and luminescence dating is far too complex. Scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh and Manchester have discovered a new method of ceramic dating which is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A..

Their new 'rehydroxylation dating' method stems utilises the fact that fired clay ceramics start to react chemically with atmospheric moisture as soon as it is removed from the kiln. The ultra-slow recombination of moisture appears to be generic in fired-clay ceramics and obeys a precise power law, which acts as an 'internal clock'. Rehydroxylation dating enables scientists to date brick samples from Roman, medieval and modern periods.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Weekend Roundup (5/26/09)

Logos is set to release a new product entitled “1,000 Bible Images.”  The projected ship date is June 2, which means that the pre-publication price of $20 will soon expire.  From the screenshots, it appears that the illustrations are all black-and-white line drawings.  The collection’s description begins:

Now you can literally see the people, places, and events of the Bible text—right in front of your eyes! Bring your study of the Bible to life with this collection of 1,000 images, drawings, and illustrations—all produced by professional artists under the supervision of biblical scholars, in association with the German Bible Society. This vivid artwork shows the biblical sites, religious objects, plants and animals, archaeological findings, scenes from daily life in the Bible, and much more! As reliable documentation of biblical life, these images often give a better illustration and explanation than the text itself can give.

If you’ve ever considered a trip to Israel with young children, this NY Times article provides some ideas for what to do.  Depending on the length of your visit and where you call home, I would make a few more suggestions: Hai Bar Animal Reserve, Timna Park with the Tabernacle Model, snorkeling in Eilat, the Armored Corps Museum at Latrun, Mini-Israel, a canoe ride on the Jordan River, a beach on the Mediterranean such as Ashkelon, and yes, Yad VaShem.

Hiking in the Judean wilderness can be great fun, but if you do it, take all precautions.  Every year someone loses their life, and this weekend it was a 22-year-old hiking all alone.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

The Battles Within the Holy Sepulcher Church

If you’ve ever wondered what the background is for the fistfights, the unmoving ladder, or the eternal state of disrepair of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, this essay by Raymond Cohen at The Bible and Interpretation is well worth reading.  Cohen goes back to the Crusader period to explain where the “Status Quo” came from and how it has evolved over the centuries.  The following paragraphs may stir your interest, and if the article itself does not satisfy, you can pick up Cohen’s recent book, Saving the Holy Sepulchre: How Rival Christians Came Together to Rescue their Holiest Shrine (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

Out of communion for centuries, six ancient churches are represented today at the Holy Sepulchre by communities of monks. The three major communities administering the Holy Sepulchre, the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics—represented by the Franciscan Order—and Armenian Orthodox have their own chapels and share common areas, which include the stone of unction, the edicule containing Christ’s tomb, and surrounding paving. Two minor communities, the Coptic Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox, have rights of usage, but no say in the running of the church. The tiny Ethiopian Orthodox community, living on the roof, has no rights in the Anastasis....

In some respects, the Status Quo functions like a railway timetable, specifying for every day of the ecclesiastical year the time and place of services and processions conducted by the communities in public areas of the church. It also acts as a sort of property register, detailing possession of every stone and nail. Not a carpet can be laid, a candle lit, or a step swept unless it is the custom....

In the end, an inoffensive compromise design was agreed upon by church leaders and inaugurated in January 1997, enabling the scaffolding disfiguring the rotunda to come down. However, the restoration was unfinished: The edicule was left untouched, visibly disintegrating and only held together by steel bands; paving throughout the church was cracked and shabby; the electrical and sewage systems badly needed renovation, as did the malodorous public latrines....

You can read the whole thing here.

Holy Sepulcher ladder closeup, tb090402202 Facade of the Church the Holy Sepulcher, with ladder allegedly placed for repairs that were never agreed upon by church authorities.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hebrew Inscription Discovered on Mount of Olives

Earlier this week a discovery was announced of an inscription of “Menahem” from an excavation on the southern end of the Mount of Olives (JPost or, with photo, Arutz-7).  The name “Menahem” gets attention because it is the name of one of the last rulers of the northern kingdom (c. 752-742 BC).  There is some difficulty with this reading, and other proposals have been made, including that it says “M / Nahum” or “[B] N (son) / Nahum.”  It sure seems like there have been a lot of Old Testament-era Hebrew inscriptions found in Jerusalem (and Judah) this decade.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Ancient Submerged Village at Atlit

This story about a Neolithic village submerged at Atlit has something of everything except a biblical character: environmental activism, the earliest known fishing town, undisturbed burials, a healthy diet but poor health, the earliest case of tuberculosis, ancient and modern global warming, and a Stonehenge-like circle of stones.  The title of the Jerusalem Post article is “Israel’s Atlantis”:

But in 1984, during an underwater archeological survey, Galili and his colleagues discovered the Atlit-Yam village - some 400 meters offshore. The submerged village, he says, is the largest and best-preserved prehistoric settlement ever uncovered off the Mediterranean coast. In an area of 40,000 square meters eight to 12 meters below sea level, the archeologists found remains of human habitation dating back 9,000 years to the late Pre-Pottery Neolithic period.

Putting together the jigsaw puzzle of their findings, the architecture of the dwellings and the radiocarbon dating sets the scene for what is thought to have been the earliest-known agro-pastoral fishing community, a claim that has gone undisputed by archeological authorities. Marine discoveries from the site are published in professional journals worldwide....

Recently, researchers identified signs of tuberculosis in the skeletons of a mother and child at the site. Mycobacterum tuberculosis, the principal agent of human TB, is believed to have evolved over the millennia. A multi-disciplinary team from Tel Aviv and the Hebrew Universities in Israel and Centers for Infectious Diseases in the UK together with the Israel Antiquities Authority put together the tests, including DNA. TB was generally held to have been transferred to humans from cattle, but there were no cows at Atlit-Yam. This led to the suggestion that the high density of the fishing village's population had facilitated the transmission of the disease. According to Dr. Helen Donoghue, the infected organism is "definitely the human strain of TB, in contrast to the original theory that human TB only evolved from bovine TB later on in history, after the domestication of animals."

The full article is here.

HT: Joe Lauer

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

For Biblical Maps, Start Here

By “here,” I mean Mark Vitalis Hoffman’s excellent summary of “Digital Resources for Biblical Mapping.”  Mark has done a fantastic job in the last couple of years of helping Bible teachers with electronic resources.  You can stay up-to-date with the latest fruits of his labor at his blog, Biblical Studies and Technological Tools

Mark has a variety of resources from his website Scroll and Screen (including a roundup of resource for biblical photos), and your favorite section will probably depend upon your particular interest, but truly outstanding and unique (as far as I know) is the listing of maps related to the biblical world.  As you’ll see, there is no “one-size-fits all” for biblical maps (as there is, ahem, for biblical photos), and that’s what makes such an annotated survey so very helpful.  Enjoy, and if you have feedback from your experience with these resources, I’m sure that Mark would be happy to hear it.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Seal of “Saul” Found in Jerusalem

A seal of a person named Saul dating from the time of Hezekiah (c. 700 BC) has been discovered in the City of David in Jerusalem.  The Israel Antiquities Authority has released a high-resolution photograph and a press release:

The seal, which is made of bone, was found broken and is missing a piece from its upper right side. Two parallel lines divide the surface of the seal into two registers in which Hebrew letters are engraved:

לשאל

]ריהו

A period followed by a floral image or a tiny fruit appear at the end of the bottom name.

The name of the seal’s owner was completely preserved and it is written in the shortened form of the name שאול (Shaul). The name is known from both the Bible (Genesis 36:37; 1 Samuel 9:2; 1 Chronicles 4:24 and 6:9) and from other Hebrew seals.

According to Professor Reich, “This seal joins another Hebrew seal that was previously found and three Hebrew bullae (pieces of clay stamped with seal impressions) that were discovered nearby. These five items have great chronological importance regarding the study of the development of the use of seals. While the numerous bullae that were discovered in the adjacent rock-hewn pool were found together with pottery sherds from the end of the ninth and beginning of the eighth centuries BCE, they do not bear any Semitic letters. On the other hand, the five Hebrew epigraphic artifacts were recovered from the soil that was excavated outside the pool, which contained pottery sherds that date to the last part of the eighth century.

The press release continues here (temporary link).

HT: Joe Lauer

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Israel Museum Renovation

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem is in the midst of a $100 million renovation and the Jerusalem Post has an update on the transformation.  Here are some snips:

There are two main aspects to the renewal project. The first is to create a completely new approach from the entrance of the museum to the center of the museum campus. To do this, the museum has hired New York architect James Carpenter, who has worked on a variety of high-profile projects, such as the new Hearst headquarters (which involved saving the original facade of an existing building), the podium light wall of the Seven World Trade Center building in New York, a proposed multi-use sports enclosure for the Brooklyn Bridge Park, and the Madison Square Garden renovation....

This second main aspect of the campus renewal - the reconstruction of the original museum complex from within - has been taken up by Tel Aviv-based Zvi Efrat of Efrat-Kowalsky Architects. Efrat, who is also the head of the architecture department at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, has created a central circulation point from which all the museum's main exhibit wings - Archeology, Judaica and Jewish Ethnography, Fine Arts, and Temporary Exhibitions - are accessible on the same level.

To achieve this internal redesign without, in Snyder's words, "increasing the breadth of the existing envelope," the museum is being gutted from the inside, its exhibit halls are reconfigured, and a number of connecting passages are being added. The key to the project, though, is turning an area previously dedicated to internal museum service activity into exhibition spaces, resulting in an additional 9,290 sq.m. of gallery space that does not involve expanding the museum campus....

One of the final touches to the renewal project was a revamping of the museum's central outdoor plaza, raising two-thirds of it by a meter to improve its position as a vista point, and to split its length to make it more human-sized. The east side will lead to the underground passage that connects with the museum entrance, and the west side will open up on a wide staircase that feeds into the Isamu Noguchi-designed sculpture garden, making it more central to the campus.

The TimeOnline has a story about the new Egyptian gallery at the British Museum in London.  (HT: Explorator)

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Archaeological Surveys and Their Limitations

My friend A.D. Riddle sends along this interesting quotation from J. B. Pritchard, Recovering Sarepta, A Phoenician City: Excavations at Sarafand, Lebanon, 1969-1974 (1978):

The western face of the promontory had been eroded by heavy seas. In the scarp, stubs of walls and masses of Roman sherds could be seen, but nothing earlier. Scouring the surface of the fields on top of the mound for diagnostic sherds that might date its occupation, we found two handles from amphorae that had been imported from the Island of Rhodes. They could be dated to the Hellenistic period by the labels in Greek which had been stamped on them. Obviously the site had been occupied at least two centuries before the Roman port was built. Below the Hellenistic debris there might be the remains of an Iron Age settlement, but on the surface there was no evidence—not a single potsherd—to witness a Phoenician presence (p. 71).

In the excavations, Pritchard revealed seven layers preceding the Hellenistic period, including five from the Iron Age.

Zarephath Phoenician harbor & tell from E,ar090508617Zarephath (Sarepta) harbor and tell from east
Photo by A.D. Riddle, May 2009

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New Website: Life and Land

My friend Gordon Franz has (finally) created his own website.  I’ve been pointing people for years to various articles that Gordon has written and he is now making them conveniently available in one place: www.lifeandland.org.  Some of the articles that may be of particular interest to readers of this blog include:

Does “The Lost Shipwreck of Paul” Hold Water? – A critique of the theory of Robert Cornuke.

Mount Sinai is Not at Jebel Al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia (and parts 2 and 3) – A careful refutation of the theory of Ron Wyatt that has captivated many gullible Bible believers.

Did the BASE Institute Discover Noah’s Ark in Iran? – The historical and geographical problems with a recent theory promoted in Christian circles.

The So-Called Jesus Family Tomb “Rediscovered” in Jerusalem – A lengthy analysis of the Talpiyot tomb that recent movie producers have claimed belonged to Jesus of Nazareth.

And much more.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Pope, Islam, and Nazareth

The Pope has begun a week-long visit to Jordan and Israel with words of respect for Islam.  From the JPost:

"My visit to Jordan gives me a welcome opportunity to speak of my deep respect for the Muslim community, and to pay tribute to the leadership shown by his majesty the king in promoting a better understanding of the virtues proclaimed by Islam," Benedict said shortly after landing in Amman.

A traveler sends along photos from Nazareth of Muslim preparations for the Pope’s visit.  The large building in the background is the Church of the Annunciation, which the Pope is scheduled to visit on Thursday.

nazareth_welcome nazareth_welcome2

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

60% off: Excavations at Capernaum, Vol. 1

Today only (and maybe also May 7 am?) at Eisenbrauns:

Excavations at Capernaum, Volume 1: 1978-1982, edited by V. Tzaferis, Eisenbrauns, 1989.

List Price: $99.50
Your Price: $39.80
You save: $59.70 (60%)

This is the first of the final reports on the excavations conducted by Israel's Department of Antiquities and Museums, the Greek Orthodox Church, Notre Dame University, Averett College and Southwest Missouri State University at the site owned by the capernaum_book Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The first five seasons have yielded not only much ceramic and numismatic material, but also a rather satisfactory stratigraphic sequence, providing a continuity of some 400 years, from the early 7th century to the early 11th century A.D. The findings are illustrated by eight full-color plates and 14 foldout plans.

These findings are of special importance for their contributions to Late Byzantine and Early Arab pottery, and Umayyad gold coins and for the new light they shed on literary evidence pertaining to Capernaum.

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2,000-Year-Old Hebrew Scroll Fragment Found

A portion of an ancient papyrus scroll has been recovered from two Palestinian thieves in Jerusalem yesterday.  Haaretz reports:

The rare historical document, handwritten in Hebrew on papyrus paper and estimated to be more than 2,000 years old, is a bill surrendering property rights. The document was written by a widow named Miryam Ben Yaakov, and hails from a period in which the people of Israel were exiled from the area and very few Jews remained.

The scroll also, unusually, clearly indicates a precise date on the first line: "Year 4 to the destruction of Israel". The intention is, presumably, either to the year 74 C.E. (the year when the Second Temple was destroyed during the Great Revolt) or to 138 A.D. (the annihilation of the Jewish settlement following the Bar Kokhva revolt).

The Israel Antiquities Authority said on Wednesday that the scroll was an "exceptional archeological document, of the like but a few exist," adding that similar scrolls had been sold worldwide for sums as high as $5-$10 million.

The story is also covered by the Associated Press, the Jerusalem Post, and Arutz-7.  The Israel Antiquities Authority press release is here, and separately you may download a high-resolution image of the document.

HT: Joe Lauer

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Oldest Place on Earth is in Israel’s Desert

From FOXNews.com:

Weathering — wind and water, freezing and thawing — takes its toll, and longer-term changes caused by volcanic activity and sliding crustal plates, known as tectonic activity, fold today's ground into tomorrow's interior.

The constant makeover of the planet is typically fastest in the mountains, slower in the tectonically inactive deserts.

But a new study of ancient "desert pavement" in Israel's Negev Desert finds a vast region that's been sitting there exposed, pretty much as-is, for about 1.8 million years, according to Ari Matmon and colleagues at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

It is the oldest known vast expanse of surface area. In fact it is more than four times older than the confirmed next oldest desert pavement, in Nevada, according to an article at the web site of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The scientific report is in the current issue of GSA Bulletin.  The FoxNews article does not give any indication of where in the desert this “pavement” is located, but it does include a couple of photographs.

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Monday, May 04, 2009

New Archaeological Garden in Jerusalem

From Arutz-7:

A new archaeological garden dubbed "Peace be within thy Palaces” will be dedicated outside the Knesset chambers on Tuesday, the day after the 18th Knesset begins what is likely to be a long, hot summer session....

If the MKs want to find some peace, they can stroll through the Knesset's new archeological garden, which includes 50 artifacts on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority. They date from the Second Temple period through the Ottoman period.The heaviest item is a five-ton stone from the Temple Mount wall, dating from the Second Temple period.

Also on display is an olive press, ancient inscriptions, large impressive mosaics and a large Ottoman drinking installation.

The story includes a photo of a beautiful mosaic from the Kidron Valley.

UPDATE: Joe Lauer sends along a link to the press release and 4 photos (zip) by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

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Babylon Ruins Reopen

The New York Times reports on the reopening of the ruins of Babylon to the public.

BABYLON, Iraq — After decades of dictatorship and disrepair, Iraq is celebrating its renewed sovereignty over the Babylon archaeological site — by fighting over the place, over its past and future and, of course, over its spoils.

Time long ago eroded the sun-dried bricks that shaped ancient Babylon, the city of Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar, where Daniel read the writing on the wall and Alexander the Great died.

Colonial archaeologists packed off its treasures to Europe a century ago. Saddam Hussein rebuilt the site in his own megalomaniacal image. American and Polish troops turned it into a military camp, digging trenches and filling barricades with soil peppered with fragments of a biblical-era civilization.

Now, the provincial government in Babil has seized control of much of Babylon — unlawfully, according to the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage — and opened a park beside a branch of the Euphrates River, a place that draws visitors by the busload....

Now with the support of some officials in Baghdad, the local government has reopened the excavated ruins of Babylon’s ancient core, shuttered ever since the American invasion in 2003. It has done so despite warnings by archaeologists that the reopening threatens to damage further what remains of one of the world’s first great cities before the site can be adequately protected.

The full story is here.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Volunteer Opportunity at Philistine Gath

Prof. Aren Maeir, archaeologist directing the excavations of Philistine Gath, mentions that there are still openings for this summer’s excavation.  He adds, “Remember - talking about the ANE, archaeology and the Bible, without actually experiencing excavations - is like a Bedouin who lives in the Sahara learning to swim thru a correspondence course...”  He writes:

EXCAVATION AND FIELDSCHOOL OPPORTUNITY IN ISRAEL
FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF DAVID AND GOLIATH: DIG PHILISTINE GATH - THE TELL ES-SAFI/GATH ARCHAEOLOGICAL PROJECT

JULY 5 – 31, 2009

THE SITE
Tell es-Safi/Gath (Hebrew Tel Tsafit), Israel, is a commanding mound located on the border between the Judean foothills (the Shephelah) and the coastal plain (Philistia), approximately halfway between Jerusalem and Ashkelon. At about 100 acres in size, it is one of the largest and most important pre-Classical period archaeological sites in Israel. Tell es-Safi is identified as Canaanite and Philistine Gath (known from the Bible as the home of Goliath and Achish) and Crusader Blanche Garde. The site was inhabited continuously from the Chalcolithic period (5th millennium BCE) until 1948 CE.

THE PROGRAM
All able and willing people between 16 and 80 are invited to join us for a unique and exciting experience uncovering the history and culture of the Holy Land. In addition to participating in all facets of the excavation process, participants will be provided with an opportunity to learn cutting-edge techniques of field archaeology, gain experience in archaeological science applications (with a unique program in inter-disciplinary archaeological science in the field), hear lectures about the archaeology and history of the region and related issues, and go on field trips to nearby sites of historical/archaeological and/or contemporary interest. Participants will join a young, vivacious team comprised of staff, students and volunteers from Israel and the world-over. Students can earn either 3 or 6 university credits through Bar-Ilan University, the second largest university in Israel. Accommodations (including kosher food) will be provided at idyllic Kibbutz Revadim, a short drive from the site. Rooms (4-6 per room; single and double rooms available at extra charge) are air-conditioned and there will is to the Kibbutz pool. And don't forget the weekly, Thursday evening, Bar-B-Q!

WORKDAY (more or less)
6am to 1 pm excavation; Afternoon: various excavation related processes (such as pottery reading) and occasional tours; Evenings: occasional lectures. We work Sunday afternoon to Friday mid-day.

You can get more details here, and the registration form here (pdf).

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

New Excavation Blog: Tall Jalul

In my opinion, one of the sites in Jordan with the most potential is Tall Jalul.  The largest tell south of Amman, Jalul has not yet been identified with a biblical site (and there are plenty of names to choose from).  Five seasons of excavations have been conducted since 1992, and the site was occupied from the Late Bronze Age to the Persian period.  Discoveries include a paved approach ramp, two gatehouses, large tripartite building, clay figurines, and engraved seals.  You can read a longer summary here.

Excavations for the 2009 season will commence on May 25 and you can follow along on the new Tall Jalul Dig Blog.  They have already made several interesting posts, including a couple of (large) PowerPoints about the previous excavation seasons.  Among the interesting slides, there is a good aerial photograph of the tell on slide 27 of part 2.

Tell Jalul approach ramps, tb061204372-1 Tall Jalul paved approach ramp to city gate, June 2004

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Book Deal Today: Ancient Place Names (Elitzur)

Eisenbrauns’ Deal of the Day is:

Ancient Place Names in the Holy Land: Preservation and History, by Yoel Elitzur (2004). List Price: $65; Today: $26 (60% off)

The book description begins:

That many ancient toponyms in the Holy Land have survived for thousands of years, right up to modern times, is a remarkable and unique phenomenon, ELIANCIENunparalleled in neighboring countries, such as Egypt, Mesopotamia, or Asia Minor. Preserved toponymy provides a basis for research in the historical geography of the country and is also of major importance for studies in the history of Hebrew and Aramaic, being a kind of ancient “recording” of an archaic linguistic inventory. In addition, it has many implications for a wide variety of other scholarly fields, such as Bible studies, Rabbinics, Qumran and Samaritan studies, early Christianity, Arabic and Islam. This reserve of preserved place-names is therefore frequently consulted and used by scholars for their purposes.

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Ezekiel’s Tomb Renovation

The traditional tomb of Ezekiel is being renovated by the Iraqi government. From the Jerusalem Post:

The Iraqi government has launched a project to renovate the interior of the prophet Ezekiel's shrine in the small town of Kifl, south of Baghdad, and the country's Ministry for Tourism and Antiquities says it hopes to eventually repair and renovate other Jewish sites across the country.

"The ministry is concerned with all Iraqi heritage, whether it is Christian or Jewish or from any other religion," ministry spokesman Abdelzahra al-Talaqani told AFP. "The present plans do not include the synagogues in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Fallujah and other places because of lack of funding, but I think they will be included in future plans."

Iraqi Jewry was once one of the largest and most prominent Jewish communities in the Middle East.

But after Israel's establishment, more than 120,000 Iraqi Jews moved to Israel in the 1950s in a clandestine operation dubbed Operation Ezra and Nehemiah amid an outbreak of anti-Jewish violence.

Outside the shrine of the prophet - who followed Jews into the Babylonian exile in the sixth century BC - is a 14th-century brick minaret, while the inside is shaped like a synagogue, with old wooden arks that used to contain Torah scrolls and the remains of a Mehitza - a separation for men and women....

The tombs of the prophets Daniel, Ezra, Nahum and Jonah are also purported to be located in Iraq.

You can add this to your list of sites to visit on your next trip.

Ezekiel's Tomb, Kifel, Iraq, mat13265Traditional tomb of Ezekiel, exterior, 1932
Photo: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-matpc-13265

Ezekiel's Tomb interior, Kifel, Iraq, mat13271Traditional tomb of Ezekiel, interior, 1932
Photo: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-matpc-13271

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