Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tiberias Gate and Theater

One of the sites in Israel with the most productive excavations in the last two years is Tiberias.  Founded in AD 19 by Herod Antipas and named after the Roman emperor, the city of Tiberias quickly became an important center on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Its significance continued through the first millennium with the production of the Masoretic Text here.

Unfortunately, most visible remains in the city have been from the medieval period and later.  Recent excavations, however, have revealed substantial remains of the south gate and bridge, as well as the Roman theater.  The origins of these structures date to the 1st century.

Biblewalks.com has excellent descriptions and photographs of these recent discoveries.  If you’ve been to Tiberias but not seen these latest finds, you can do no better than spend a few minutes browsing the pages about Tiberias, the south gate, and the theater

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Most Disagreeable Beast

Camels fording stream, Elah Valley, mat01310 Camels fording Elah Brook, early 1900s

“Of all the burden-bearing beasts, from the Siam elephant to the Himmaleh goat, this ‘ship of the desert,’ as he has been poetically termed,-this clumsy-joined, splay-footed, wry-necked, vicious camel, with its look of injured innocence, and harsh, complaining voice, is incomparably the most disagreeable.

“Loud have been the praises of its submissive and self-sacrificing spirit, all gentleness and sagacity; its power of enduring hunger and thirst for an indefinite period, and its unwearied tramp day after day through the smiting sun and over the burning sands of the desert; but this animal is anything but patient or uncomplaining. As to the enormous weight it can carry, we have heard it growl in expostulation at a load which the common ‘kadish’ (Syrian pack-horse) would be mortified to have allotted to him as suited to his thews and sinews” --W. F. Lynch, Expedition to the River Jordan and the Dead Sea (1849): 222.

The photo and quotation are taken from the Traditional Life and Customs volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (Library of Congress, LC-matpc-01310).

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Best of 2009: Books, Software, Photo CDs

This list isn’t comprehensive, but these are works I noted as I reviewed the posts for this year on the BiblePlaces Blog.  Feel free to suggest other valuable works in the comments below.

 

Books of the Year:

Barry Beitzel, The New Moody Atlas of the Bible – The long-awaited second edition is now available.

Hanan Eshel’s three field guides on Masada, Ein Gedi, and Qumran – There is nothing better for a quick but careful review of these important sites near the Dead Sea.

John Walton, ed., Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Old Testament – The bar has forever been raised for illustrated works on the Old Testament.  Purge all of those references in your books and syllabi to ANEP.

Anne Spangler and Lois Tverberg, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus This is a great little book for those who want to see background information applied to Scripture, and in a very readable style.

James Martin, John Beck, and David Hansen, A Visual Guide to Bible Events  - If you believe that there’s a reason for everything, you’ll love this book which shows you in story after story why the geography matters.  Along the way, you’ll enjoy beautiful and instructive photographs and maps.

 

Best Bible Software of the Year:

Bible Mapper 4 – The best software for making your own maps is now better.  Bonus: you can use these maps without restriction.

Glo – Interactive Bible software that puts the Bible together with videos, reconstructions, photographs, and more in an impressive and immersive experience. (And now only $50 at Amazon.)

Logos 4 – The whole program has been re-engineered to take advantage of the latest in computing technology.  I haven’t installed it yet, but word on the street is that the program is significantly better than the previous version.

BibleWorks 8 – The best software for exegesis of Scripture now includes the best Hebrew and Greek grammars.

 

Best Photo CDs of the Year:

The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection: Vol. 2: Jerusalem – Not less than 700 images hand-picked from thousands of photographs taken by a group of resident photographers from 1898 to 1946.

The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection: Vol. 6: Traditional Life and Customs – These are photographs that you thought you’d never see.

I’m more than a little biased on this last category, but I’m happy to welcome any challengers in the comments below.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Top Discoveries of 2009

National Geographic has posted their top 10 discoveries of the broader archaeological world, and that has prompted me to create a list of the 9 most important discoveries from 2009 related to the biblical world.  It is too difficult to rank these, especially as the significance of some of them is not yet fully known.  The order follows the chronology as they were mentioned on this blog, from February to December.

1. Heliodorus Stele Discovered – This temple inscription from Maresha-Beit Guvrin features a proclamation from Seleucus IV and dates to 178 BC.

2. Foot-Shaped Stone Enclosures Discovered in Israel – Five large stone enclosures were discovered in and near the Jordan Valley.  From the air, they look like footprints.  They appear to date from the period when Israel was recently settled in the land.

3. Seal of Saul Found in Jerusalem – Seals with personal names from the biblical period in Jerusalem continue to be helpful. Apparently Judeans in the time of Hezekiah were still naming their sons after Israel’s failed monarch.

4. Cryptic Ten-Line Inscription Found on Mount Zion – This lengthy inscription from the 1st century AD continues to confound scholars.

5. Middle Bronze Passageway Found in City of David – This discovery solves the problem of how the Jerusalem inhabitants accessed the secure water source in the 18th century BC.  What’s not new, but still most impressive, is the monumental construction found in the city.

6. First-Century Synagogue in Magdala – Dozens of synagogues exist in Galilee from later periods, but this is now an excellent example of one from the time of Jesus, and at a place that he almost certainly visited.

7. Temple Mount – This makes the list because of the collective discoveries, not only on the platform itself, but also in the debris sifting operation.  Some of the finds made have not yet been publicized.

8. Minoan-Style Wall Paintings on Israel’s Coast – Canaanite rulers on the coast liked the decorating style of the Cretans.

9. First-Century House in Nazareth – The first residential structure from the time of Jesus will not only help scholars understand the ancient village but will become a popular destination for pilgrims.

If you think something else should be added (or substituted), feel free to note that in the comments.  Likewise, if you see a similar list elsewhere, include that link in the comments. 

 

Other Important Posts of the Year: (in reverse chronological order)

Leper Wrapped in Cloth Buried in Jerusalem – A new scientific publication on a decade-old discovery brings renewed attention.

Photos from Israel in 1948 – Ben Atlas has created several sets of images from the huge Life Magazine online archive.

Qeiyafa: Survey vs. Excavation – The results don’t differ a little, but they contradict each other in each period.

Qeiyafa Inscription Details – This ostracon from c. 1000 BC is difficult to decipher.

“Joseph’s Coins” – This story would have fared better if it had been released on April 1.

Bar Kochba Coin Cache Discovered – An outstanding collection of coins from the 2nd century AD were found in a cave in the Judean hills.

The James Ossuary Inscription Proven Fraudulent in Court of Law – Oh, wait, that’s never happened.  Apparently the prosecution is less than convincing.

Virtual Walking Tour of Temple Mount – In some ways, this is better than visiting the Jerusalem holy place in person.

Alexander the Great Carving Found at Dor – A very tiny gemstone with a portrait on the Greek conqueror attests to the abilities of the artist.

Aphrodite and Odeon Found at Hippos – This Roman-Byzantine city overlooking the Sea of Galilee is home to beautiful discoveries large and small.

Another Herodian Quarry Found in Jerusalem – This quarter-acre quarry north of the Old City might have made the list of top discoveries if several other Herodian quarries had not been found in recent years.

The Bones and Face of the Apostle Paul – Excavators found the remains of a person dating to the right period at the traditional location of Paul’s burial site.

Roman Quarry = Ancient Gilgal? – Archaeologists have proposed a connection between this underground quarry and the missing site of Gilgal.

Survey of Western Palestine – This post gathers together known links to electronic versions now available online for free.

Norman Golb’s Son Arrested on Charges of Impersonation – Bloggers suspicious of hundreds of comments and links in the past few years were not surprised to learn that they apparently are all the work of a single individual.

That Rope Around the High Priest’s Ankle – It didn’t exist.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Weekend Roundup

The Jerusalem Post has a story on the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.  If you haven’t been to this one yet, try to get there at the next opportunity.

A preliminary report of the Western Wall Plaza Excavations (2005-2009) is now available at Hadashot Arkheologiyot.  Among other things, they’ve uncovered a four(?)-room house from the late Iron Age.

The Khirbet Qeiyafa Vol. 1. Excavation Report 2007–2008 is now available from the Israel Exploration Society.  The cost is $72 ($54 to members of the Israel Exploration Society), airmail postage $13. You can contact IES for more information.

Was Qumran home to the Essenes, or was it a fortress?  Or maybe a place of manufacturing perfume, or was it pottery?  These and other views are considered in an article in the Smithsonian Magazine.

Paleojudaica has an update on the fabric of the Turin Shroud (noted here previously), but it doesn’t seem to clear the air.

I have a very aggressive travel schedule for the next three weeks, so I don’t expect to have much time to post.  I have prepared some interesting posts and photos for my absence, and if I see anything of interest (and time permits), I’ll note it here.  I’ll start things off tomorrow with my top 9 archaeological discoveries for 2009.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Native home near Bethlehem, mat05495 Nativity scene in Bethlehem, early 1900s

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:4-7).

The photograph is taken from the “Christmas Story” on the Traditional Life and Customs volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (Library of Congress, LC-matpc-05495).

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Watching Their Flocks by Night

Shepherds watching flocks by night, mat05403

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8).

The photo is taken from the Traditional Life and Customs volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (Library of Congress, LC-matpc-05403).

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Israel’s Three-Year Tourism Plan

From the Jerusalem Post:

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov presented his ministry's three-year plan to boost tourism at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. The plan, which aims to bring in an additional one million foreign tourists by 2012, focuses mostly on attracting tourists who come to Israel for religious, historical and cultural purposes.

According to Misezhnikov, the boost in numbers will garner NIS 4.5 billion in income and create 40,000 new jobs, especially in Jerusalem and the periphery.

"The Tourism Ministry is an economic portfolio," he said. "As such, it is measured according to two main parameters: creating jobs and balancing income with expenses. For every 100,000 tourists, 4,000 jobs are created and NIS 450 million are invested in the Israeli economy."

The plan calls for the branding of Israel as a destination for dahat tourism, a Hebrew acronym for religion, history and culture. Misezhnikov said his office had identified Israel's central role in Judaism and Christianity and its rich historic and cultural legacy as the main attraction for tourists.

"We have no relative advantage over other countries in terms of vistas, beaches or leisure," he said. "On the contrary, we are at a disadvantage compared to some of our neighbors because of our troublesome security situation, our relatively high prices and our image of being inhospitable to tourists."

[. . .]

The US was the largest country of origin for incoming tourism, with 550,000 visitors, or 21% of all incoming tourism. Russia was second, with 400,000 visitors; France was third, with 260,000; followed by the UK, with 170,000; and Germany, with Thirty-nine percent of incoming tourists were Jewish, 54% Christian and the remainder either from other religions or with no religious affiliation. Nearly half of the tourists were visiting Israel for the first time.

Nearly a quarter of the tourists said the purpose of their visit was for holiday and leisure, 31% for pilgrimage and 6% for touring and sightseeing.

The average foreign tourist expenditure in Israel in 2009 was $1,083, including overseas expenses. The average daily expenditure was about $100.

The full story is here.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Scribe at Work in Masada Synagogue

Visitors to the Masada synagogue will be able to watch a scribe making a copy of a Torah scroll.  From Arutz-7:

A ritual scribe has begun spending his days behind a glass wall in the famous Masada synagogue – writing a Torah scroll to be installed there.

The young scribe, Shai Abramovitch, moved from the northern city of Tzfat, together with his wife and three young children, to the Negev city of Arad, in order to be able to carry out and complete the project. He will make the 45-minute Arad-Massada trek each morning after immersing in a mikveh (ritual bath) – a customary prelude to ritual scribes' work – and will return after seven and a half hours of painstaking writing.

His glass-enclosed“office” is in the very spot used as a synagogue by hundreds of Jews who found refuge from the Romans on Masada some 2,000 years ago. Hard at work throughout the day, the scribe can be seen through the glass by the many tourists who visit the famous site.

Rabbi Abramovitch’s job “is not easy,” commented Rabbi Shimon Elharar, director of the closest Chabad chapter, Chabad-Lubavitch of the Dead Sea. “There are at least 800,000 people a year who come through that synagogue, and he will be working in a place designed somewhat like an incubator. It's a little like working in an aquarium.”

In addition, scribe Abramovitch takes a break a few times a day to come out and explain the holy work of writing Torah scrolls, tefillin, mezuzot and more.

The story continues here.

HT: Paleojudaica

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Coptic Crypt or Secular Cellar?

Haaretz reports on a battle between an Old City shopkeeper and the Coptic monks of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

In the next few weeks, between making decisions about the deal for captive soldier Gilad Shalit, the settlement freeze and renewal of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have to make another fateful decision: Is the cellar beneath Abed Hirbawi's East Jerusalem shop holy ground?

The decision will supposedly put an end to a strange, 13-year-old affair. Hirbawi and his landlord, Abdullah Buderi, claim the basement belongs to their shop, and that Coptic monks have invaded it. The Coptic Church says it was Muslims who invaded the cellar, which used to be a sanctuary belonging to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City.

Both sides have submitted a wealth of documents to the courts - and to a lawyer, on behalf of the prime minister. The documents include an order from Muslim general Saladin, sharia court rulings from the late Middle Ages, ancient maps, Turkish deeds of ownership, scientific articles and sworn declarations from Israeli experts on archaeology, theology and history.

Hirbawi, a well-known businessman, relates that in July 1996, he heard noises beneath his shop. When he peeked though the floor, he saw several dozen monks digging under his feet. According to associates of Mutran Anba Abra'am, the metropolitan of the Coptic Church in Jerusalem, they were innocently carrying out work in the church-cellar when Hirbawi and others attacked them with knives, injuring a monk.

[. . .]

Yehoshua says the cellar served as a quarry during both the First and Second Temple periods, but during the latter, some of it was used as a burial cave. A structure was built on top by the Crusaders in the Middle Ages, and subsequently a plant for grinding sesame seeds was erected on the premises, which dumped its waste into the cellar.

These were all secular uses, emphasizes Yehoshua. The place was never used for ritual purposes and therefore cannot be considered holy. Moreover, according to the lawyer and his client, since the cellar had been filled with waste since the 12th century, it was not used at all - until the monks showed up under Hirbawi's feet 800 years later.

The full story is here.

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Mary’s Gate Renovation

In a follow-up to the previous posting on the IAA’s work on the western gate (“Mary’s Gate”) of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Craig Dunning sends along a few photos.

The first photo shows the gate at the beginning of the month.  Note the stone on the bottom right (with a blue stripe).

west-gate-holy-sepulchre-20091204-27

The photo below was taken last week and shows the area with construction work underway.  The stone shown above has been removed.

holy-sepulchre-west-gate-20091215-03

In this photo, you can see the stone being transported by the authorities.

holy-sepulchre-west-gate-20091215-05

Evidence supporting the Jordanian official’s claim that the gate has been opened is lacking.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

First-Century House Excavated in Nazareth

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced today that for the first time archaeologists have found a building in Nazareth from the time of Jesus.  The residential dwelling was revealed in excavations adjacent to the Church of the Anunciation and dates to the Early Roman Period (40 BC – AD 70).

According to the excavation director, Yardenna Alexander:

The discovery is of the utmost importance since it reveals for the very first time a house from the Jewish village of Nazareth and thereby sheds light on the way of life at the time of Jesus. The building that we found is small and modest and it is most likely typical of the dwellings in Nazareth in that period. From the few written sources that there are, we know that in the first century CE Nazareth was a small Jewish village, located inside a valley. Until now a number of tombs from the time of Jesus were found in Nazareth; however, no settlement remains have been discovered that are attributed to this period.

The full press release is here (temporary link), and it includes a couple of photographs (zip).

The AP reports:

The dwelling and older discoveries of nearby tombs in burial caves suggest that Nazareth was an out-of-the-way hamlet of around 50 houses on a patch of about four acres (1.6 hectares). It was evidently populated by Jews of modest means who kept camouflaged grottos to hide from Roman invaders, said archaeologist Yardena Alexandre, excavations director at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

[. . .]

At the site, Alexandre told reporters that archaeologists also found clay and chalk vessels which were likely used by Galilean Jews of the time. The scientists concluded a Jewish family lived there because of the chalk, which was used by Jews at the time to ensure the purity of the food and water kept inside the vessels.

The shards also date back to the time of Jesus, which includes the late Hellenic, early Roman period that ranges from around 100 B.C. to 100 A.D., Alexandre said.

The absence of any remains of glass vessels or imported products suggested the family who lived in the dwelling were "simple," but Alexandre said the remains did not indicate whether they were traders or farmers.

[. . .]

Work is now taking place to clear newer ruins built above the dwelling, which will be preserved. The dwelling will become a part of a new international Christian center being constructed close to the site and funded by a French Roman Catholic group, said Marc Hodara of the Chemin Neuf Community overseeing construction.

Alexandre said limited space and population density in Nazareth means it is unlikely that archeologists can carry out any further excavations in the area, leaving this dwelling to tell the story of what Jesus' boyhood home may have looked like.

Expect a media frenzy with the timing of this story a few days ahead of Christmas.  A minor sidenote: this discovery should put to rest the theory of at least person who has claimed that since Nazareth is mentioned in the first century only in the New Testament, the city did not exist at that time.  It is true that Nazareth is not mentioned in Josephus and other contemporary sources, but that is only an indication of how insignificant the town was.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Discovery in Nazareth To Be Announced

Joe Lauer writes:

This morning the IAA's Spokesperson circulated a notice to journalists inviting them to a Press Conference to be held tomorrow morning, December 21, at which "The IAA will Reveal a New Archeological Find in Nazareth". The meeting point will be behind the Church of the Annunciation, next to the upper entrance to the old school of Saint Joseph at 10:20 AM.

The notice does not give a hint of what that "New Archeological find" is, although I suspect that some list recipients are in the know (and some might think that it may have something to do with a fast-approaching date on the calendar).

So, stay tuned.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Dragnet on the Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee, drawing in dragnet, mat04570 Dragnet in use on the Sea of Galilee, early 1900s

Matthew 13:47-48 (NIV) “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.”

“The jarf or ‘drag net’ is as much as 400 metres long. In mesh it is as fine as the shabakeh. It is used at the Lake chiefly during daylight, but along the Bay of Acre many of these nets are employed after the sunset with lanterns and torches to illuminate the scene. The net is paid out of a boat in an immense semicircle, the two ends being near the shore. The upper side floats by means of corks, the lower is kept down by small lead weights. As soon as the net is in position the men on the shore commence the process of hauling it in. Four men, if possible, take charge of each extremity, they have long ropes fixed to the lower and upper corners so that they drag in the bottom at the same time as the top. In order that a steady and uninterrupted pull may be kept up they merely fix the ropes to their belts, and each man nearest the landward end of the ropes, as soon as there is room, leaves off his hold there and runs forward to seize the ropes at the net-end as they come in shore. The fishermen consider it a matter of importance that when once the net has commenced to come in, there should be no pause in its progress. As the centre parts begin to come into shallow water some of the fishermen assist its progress by jumping or diving into the water and lifting the weighted lower side over the large stones. This is particularly necessary at Tiberias, where there are many large stones all over the bottom. Finally the net reaches the shore, having ‘gathered of every kind’ (Matt. xiii, 48). Clearly the net here described was the draw net.”  Source: E. W. G. Masterman, “The Fisheries of Galilee,” Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement (1908): 45.

The photo and quotation are taken from the Traditional Life and Customs volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (Library of Congress, LC-matpc-04570).

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Archaeological Museum Tour by iPod

You can now tour the Lynn H. Wood Archaeological Museum in Collegedale, Tennessee, with audio narration provided by William Dever and Michael Hasel, according to this month’s issue of DigSight.  The 52-minute tour takes the visitor through the museum’s 16 display cases.  Hasel, the museum curator, says, “I’ve traveled to dozens of museums all over the world, and I haven’t encountered another museum that uses iPods for their tours . . . I think we’re using cutting-edge technology.”  The iPod displays photos of the artifacts to assist the visitor in identifying what is being described.

The newsletter also announces that the personal library of William Dever has been placed at Southern Adventist University.  The library catalog is available online at library.southern.edu.

Next on the schedule for the Museum Lecture Series at SAU is K. Lawson Younger, speaking on “Aramean Astral Religion in Light of Recent Discoveries.”  The lecture will be given on March 17, 2010 at 7:30 in the Lynn Wood Hall Chapel.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

National Geographic: Top Ten Archaeology Finds of 2009

National Geographic has posted its list of the Top Ten Archaeology Finds of 2009.  None of them are directly related to the Bible, but readers with a wider interest will enjoy the summary.  If time permits next week, I’ll try to come up with a list of top finds related to the biblical world from 2009.  If you see a similar list elsewhere, note it in the comments here or send me an email.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

15th Annual Conference: New Studies on Jerusalem

Joe Lauer has sent along notice of this conference which will be held in Tel Aviv on December 24, with lectures in Hebrew.

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 15th Annual Conference of
The Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies
"NEW STUDIES ON JERUSALEM"

8:20 gathering

8:45 opening remarks:

Prof. Joshua Schwartz, Director of the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies

Prof. Avraham Faust & Dr. Eyal Baruch, conference organizers

Session 19:00-10:55

Chair: Eyal Baruch

09:00 Ronny Reich & Eli Shukron- Channel II in the City of David, Jerusalem: Technical Details, Date and Function

09:20 Avraham Faust- King David's Palace, a Hellenistic Structure or a Jebusite Fort: A Reexamination of the Large Stone Structure Unearthed by Eilat Mazar in the City of David

09:40 Moshe Garsiel- The Book of Samuel: Compilation Stages and Historical Value for Describing David's Kingdom and His Capital in Jerusalem

10:05 Ehud Netzer- An opus reticulatum Structure, West of the Old City, Jerusalem

10:25 Ram Bouchnick, Omri Larnow, Guy Bar-Oz & Ronny Reich- Jerusalem Fish Menu from the Late Second Temple Period

10:45 Discussion

10:55 Break

Session 211:20-13:10

Chair: Joshua Schwartz

11:20 Michael Ben-Ari- Simchat Beit Sho’eva – The Origins of the Custom.

11:40 Varda Sussman- Shaving/paring of Herodian Oil Lamps

12:00 Ze'ev H. Erlich (Jabo) - What is the ‘Kotel ha-Katan?’

12:20 Amos Kloner- The Damascus Gate

12:40 Yoav Farhi & Oded Lifshitz- A Unique Bulla from the Ramat Rahel Excavations Bearing the Name of Hadrian

13:00 Discussion

13:10 Lunch Break

Session 3 14:20-16:30

Chair: Josef Drory

14:20 Yehoshua Peleg- Were the Temple Mount Gates Reconstructed in the Second Century CE?

14:40 Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Zweig- A Roman Period Centaur Relief from the Temple Mount

15:00 Perez Reuven- A Decorated Beam from the Roman Period in the Temple Mount

15:20 Bat-Sheva Garsiel- The Status of Jerusalem in Early Islamic Theological Writings

15:40 Michael Ehrlich- The Southern Quarters of Jerusalem during the Medieval Period: A Multi-Periodical Overview

16:00 Oded Shay- The Contribution Made by the Jerusalem-based Monk Father Antonin, to Jewish Studies and to the Research of the Material Culture of Palestine in the Final Years of the Ottoman period

16:20 Discussion

16:30 Break

Session 4 - 17:00-18:30

Chair: Boaz Zissu

17:00 Amos Frumkin & Boaz Lengford- The Research of a Karstic Cave Used for Refuge in the Jerusalem Hills

17:20 Boaz Zissu & Roi Porat- A Hoard of Coins and Other Finds from the Bar-Kokhba Period, Recently Discovered in a Refuge Cave in the Jerusalem Hills

17:40 Guy Stiebel- "On the Edge" - Military Equipment from a Refuge Cave in the Jerusalem Hills

18:00 Hanan Eshel- New Discoveries from a Refuge Cave in the Jerusalem Hills, and their Contribution to the Study of the Bar-Kokhba War

18:20 Discussion

The conference proceedings (app. 300 pp. including 17 articles in Hebrew, with English abstracts) will be on sale during the conference

For additional information, please contact the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies (see email address at bottom of this page) or Avi Faust (email address here).

Previous conference proceedings are available for purchase here.

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Leper Wrapped in Cloth Buried in Jerusalem

The headlines on the web this morning are a little more sensational:

The tomb was found nearly a decade ago, and all of the sensational results have been known for years.  Two of the excavators, Gibson and Tabor, have both written extensively on this discovery in books they have published.

What is new is the publication of an article in the US Public Library of Science Journal, with the finding that this was evidence of the first human known to have leprosy.  That’s good, but it’s not news.  Maybe the news is buried in the details, and the publication of this article provides an opportunity to review an important discovery.  That’s fine, but it should be noted that news outlets lead you to believe that there are more discoveries than they actually are because they report the same items time after time, particularly during the Christmas and Easter seasons.

If you read only one article, I’d suggest the one in the Jerusalem Post.  But the best photos are in the Daily Mail.  Here are the important facts:

  • A man was buried in this tomb between AD 1 and 50.
  • The rock-hewn tomb was located on the south side of the Hinnom Valley, in a cemetery used by the wealthy.
  • The man was wrapped in a burial shroud with a different weave from that of the Shroud of Turin.
  • The deceased suffered from tuberculosis and leprosy.  (Apparently even the rich got sick.)
  • A significant portion of the dead man’s hair was recovered and analyzed (it was clean, short, and lice-free).
  • The man did not receive a secondary burial in an ossuary, as was typical at the time.

Here’s an important statement in the JPost article:

Based on the assumption that this is representative of a typical burial shroud widely used at the time of Jesus, the researchers conclude that the Turin Shroud did not originate from Jesus-era Jerusalem.

That gives you the basis for the researchers’ conclusion that the Turin Shroud is fake.  As long as there was only one shroud maker in town in the first century, we can be absolutely sure that the Turin Shroud is from the medieval period.  (I have no interest in or knowledge about the Shroud, but I do care about assumptions necessary for conclusions.  The conclusions are in the headlines; the assumptions are always buried if not omitted.)

You can read the rest in the articles linked to above. The books that I alluded to by the archaeologists are these:

UPDATE (12/17): James Davila at Paleojudaica responds to the Jerusalem Post statement quoted above:

That's not quite what it says in the Daily Mail article quoted in my post yesterday. The claim there is that "[i]t was made with a simple two-way weave - not the twill weave used on the Turin Shroud, which textile experts say was introduced more than 1,000 years after Christ lived." That is a more general claim that ought to be verifiable or falsifiable based on the reasonably ample surviving textile evidence from antiquity. If it is true that this type of weave is only attested much later, that would severely weaken any case for the genuineness of the Shroud of Turin. Are there specialists in first-century textiles out there who would like to speak up?

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Carrying Tins at Jaffa Gate

With last week’s release of the delightful volume Traditional Life and Customs, I am planning to feature a number of photographs from that collection here in the coming weeks.  With yesterday’s post on Jaffa Gate, I thought I’d follow it up with a photo taken here from the early 1900s.  This was during a time when traffic flowed freely in both directions.

Porter carrying empty petrol tins, mat05929

The tins were used for petrol, and obviously, they are empty here.  If you’re going through a tough patch at work today, you might think of this guy and be thankful that you don’t have his job.

The photo is taken from the Traditional Life and Customs volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (Library of Congress, LC-matpc-05929).

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Jaffa Gate Renovations

The Jaffa Gate area is set to be the focus of extensive renovations over the next year and a half.  This may be of particular interest to those who are planning to visit Jerusalem in 2010 or 2011.  According to a flyer distributed by the municipality, the project includes:jaffa-gate-plan

  • Restoring infrastructure
  • Improving pedestrian access
  • Installing “street furniture”
  • Restoring facades of buildings in the square inside Jaffa Gate

They predict that visitors will be inconvenienced for 18 months, with work proceeding “24 hours a day.”  In particular, the following changes will be made:

  • Vehicular traffic will be one-way from Jaffa Gate to Zion Gate
  • Loading and unloading access will be restricted
  • Pedestrian traffic and “access to shops will not be impeded in any way”

Work has already begun and Jerusalem resident Craig Dunning has visited the area and sends some photographs with permission to post them here.  He notes that until today work has primarily consisted of the removal of paving stones, and traffic continues to move in both directions.

jaffa-gate-renovations-20091210-09 Work begins in front of Tourist Information Office

jaffa-gate-renovations-20091210-16 Enclosed area next to covered suq

jaffa-gate-renovations-20091214-03

Removal of paving stones next to taxi stand; photo taken this afternoon

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hanukkah Weekend Roundup

Hanukkah begins today.  You can read all about it in this month’s issue of Jewish Magazine.

JTA has an article on how the Maccabees would be viewed in today’s world.  “My guess is that most liberal Jews today wouldn't necessarily get along with the Maccabees if they showed up again,” says Rabbi Jill Jacob.

Hanukkah is also the occasion for the Jerusalem Post to discuss in two articles the Heliodorus Stele and three additional fragments discovered earlier this year (previously mentioned here).

Israeli archaeologists have also found evidence recently that the Hasmoneans controlled territory south of the biblical Negev (near modern Sede Boqer).  The IAA has a few high-resolution images here. Apparently Josephus was right, after all.

Aren Maeir has posted a stratigraphic chart from Gath in PowerPoint format.

This article brought tears to my eyes, especially when I read about the pottery that has been found from the “Persians, Umayyad, Crusaders, Mukluks and Ottomans.”  The Mukluks—oh, I love that!  I just wish I had a lecture to give now on the Mukluks.  (The rest of the co-authored article is likewise unreliable.) 

HT: Joe Lauer

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Friday, December 11, 2009

The Star of Bethlehem

A friend wrote and asked me if I knew why the star in the Bethlehem church has 14 points.  This star is located at the traditional place of Mary’s delivery of Jesus in a cave below the Church of the Nativity.

Bethlehem Church of Nativity, place of birth, tb102603467 Traditional place of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem

I don’t know.  Everyone knows there were three magi, not fourteen.  Maybe there were fourteen shepherds?  Or maybe fourteen cows (or combination of stable animals)?  Or fourteen rooms in the inn?  Maybe Jesus was born on the 14th, and not the 25th of December.  Maybe, like Joseph in Genesis, it stood for twelve children and his mother and father.

There’s a list on this web page that shows stars with various numbers of points and gives their explanations.  The four-pointed star is used as the “star of Bethlehem,” and its shape as a cross is symbolic of Jesus’ death.  The five-pointed star is also the “star of Bethlehem,” as it is “shaped roughly like a human being.”  There’s the six, seven, eight, nine, and twelve-pointed stars.  But none with fourteen.

I asked my friend Tom Powers in Jerusalem.  He wondered if it might be related to the 14 Stations of the Cross.  But then he checked with a friend, who suggested it stands for the three-fold “fourteen generations” of Jesus’ genealogy given in the Gospel of Matthew.  He and I agree that makes the best sense, though we haven’t seen it in print.

A few comments on those genealogies now that I’m thinking about them.  The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew has three sections with fourteen generations each.  The place where the breaks are located is significant.  The first break is with David.  Matthew’s Gospel makes the point that Jesus is the “Son of David,” the expected Messiah described in the Old Testament.  The second break is at the exile.  A more subtle point that Matthew makes is that Jesus is the expected child who would be born in the exile to bring his people out of the exile.  You really have to understand Isaiah in order to get this, and Matthew did.

The fourteen generations are not exhaustive.  They appear to be arranged that way (with certain known individuals left out) in part to assist in memory.  I wonder if you’ve ever taken advantage of this help that Matthew provided.  If that’s not enough, you might find the song, “Matthew’s Begats,” by Andrew Peterson helpful.  The entire song is composed of this genealogy.  This Christmas season I’m enjoying not only this song, but the entire album.  The best Christmas music is drenched with the Old Testament.

Star of Bethlehem at Nahal Iyon, tb040400870 The “Star of Bethlehem” in Galilee

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Field Guides by Hanan Eshel

I’ve been looking forward to these books by Hanan Eshel for some time.  It’s risky to say without having read them, but I predict they’ll be the best books on their respective subjects. (I have spent a day with Eshel at Qumran, benefitting from his immense knowledge.) They are available from Eisenbrauns for $22.50 each.  Here are direct links:

Ein Gedi: A Carta Field Guide

Masada: A Carta Field Guide

Qumran: A Carta Field Guide

This brief review was published in Haaretz.

Call of the desert

By Aya Horesh   

Qumran: Scrolls, Caves, History (Qumran: Megilot, Me'arot, Historia), by Hanan Eshel

Masada: An Epic Story (Metzada: Alilot Gvura), by Hanan Eshel

Ein Gedi: Oasis and Refuge (Ein Gedi: Neveh Midbar U'mistor), by Hanan Eshel

Each of the three volumes is available from Carta Publishing in both Hebrew and English editions. Each has 144 pages and costs NIS 84 or $25

Many travelers find it hard to deal with tour guides, who tend to think their sense of humor and cloying affability will encourage people to give bigger tips at the end of the trip. Tour guides' explanations, too, frequently leave something to be desired. At the same time, it is fairly difficult to find travel literature of a high caliber, because why should prominent academics waste their time on writing that does not promote their scientific renown? eshel_masada

The three field guides that Hanan Eshel has written on Qumran, Masada and Ein Gedi are therefore a welcome contribution. Eshel, of Bar-Ilan University's Land of Israel studies and archaeology department, is one of the most important archeologists and scholars of the Qumran scrolls. He has spent years conducting research along the west coast of the Dead Sea and has earned a worldwide reputation. His familiarity with the area, particularly with the Dead Sea Scrolls, has led to numerous books and articles that have earned him a prestigious place among scholars of ancient Israel.

Each of these three books, which Carta has published in both Hebrew and English editions, follows an identical two-part format: The introduction provides an overview of the site, describes the archaeological findings discovered there and explains their significance; that is then followed by a field guide that travelers are meant to take with them as they tour the site. This division is especially helpful for those who wish to forgo a hike in the blazing Dead Sea heat and prefer to learn about these sites in the cool confines of their air-conditioned homes. The introductions are succinct and precise, provide a good sense of each place and its importance, and are accompanied by spectacular photographs and maps.

The review continues here.

HT: Joe Lauer

UPDATE: If somebody buys the Masada book before me, let me know if the cover image is credited to me.  It sure looks familiar, but they wouldn’t possibly have used it without asking for permission...

UPDATE #2: James at Eisenbrauns notes in the comments that you can get an additional 20% discount through the end of the month using the Carta order form on this page.  Thanks, James!

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

New CD: Traditional Life and Customs

I haven’t seen anything of real interest come across my radar screen for the blog in the last couple of days, and with limited time this week, I’m going to satisfy myself today with a notice of our new CD.

Subscribers to the BiblePlaces Newsletter learned yesterday of the Traditional Life and Customs CD, the latest volume in the American Colony and Eric Matson Collection.  Of 25+ CDs that I’ve made in the past decade, this is one of my absolute favorites.

Here’s a survey of what is included on the CD.

Agricultural Life: Plowing, Sowing, Water, Vineyards, Locust Plague, Grain Harvest and Olive Harvest (185 photos total)Traditional Life and Customs CD

Biblical Stories: Christmas, Ruth, and Psalm 23 (75 photos total)

Home Life: Food Preparation, Women at Work, and Weddings (100 photos total)

Religious Life: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Samaritan (110 photos total)

Work Life: Clothes Making, Fishing, Pottery Making, Shepherds, Trades, and Travel (150 photos total)

Quotations: We have scoured the reports of travelers in the 19th century for the most interesting and helpful descriptions of these scenes.  Even if you didn't have the photos, your understanding and appreciation for traditional ways would be greatly increased!

I anticipate featuring some of the photos and quotations on the blog in the next month.  It’s a wonderful set of images, with something for everyone (including a couple of photos my wife printed and hung in the laundry area; there’s nothing like seeing how they used to do it to remind you that we have things much easier). 

You might consider it as a Christmas gift.  It’s certainly unique and not what they get every year.  Images can be printed, used as desktop wallpaper, and much more.  The cost is $20.  Shipping in the U.S. is free and takes about 4 days.  You can see more details here.

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Monday, December 07, 2009

Weekend Roundup (2)

In my haste to post the Weekend Roundup this morning, I neglected a few things I had intended to mention.

Ferrell Jenkins is back in Israel on a study and photographic tour.  He has already posted some good photos from Samaria, Shechem, Qeiyafa, and Jerusalem.

This month you can view the Ezra and Nehemiah commentary for free from the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary.

National Geographic has just released The Letter and the Scroll: What Archaeology Tells Us About the Bible.  I’m pleased to have a number of photos in the book, but I haven’t yet seen it.  A friend suggests that its approach is rather mainstream, trying not “to push too many buttons.”  He is very impressed with the photographs and illustrations and thinks they will be helpful in teaching.

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Weekend Roundup

The “Hall of Ages” in Jerusalem was opened recently after new techniques were developed to prevent the room from collapsing during excavation.  This room is located in the Western Wall Tunnels area and gets its name because the hall was used by various people groups over the centuries.

You can now visit Pompeii with Google Street View.  The idea is very impressive, though execution was (for me) slow, perhaps because of a slew of excited visitors.  Here’s a direct link.

A reconstruction drawing of the Aramean siege of Gath in the 9th century is posted on the Gath Weblog.

The officials at the Megiddo prison are still planning to relocate the inmates in order to open a visitor’s center focused on the early Christian place of worship.

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Saturday, December 05, 2009

IAA Work on Mary’s Gate Makes Jerusalemites Upset

From the AFP (HT: Paleojudaica):

Jordan summoned Israeli ambassador Nevo Dani on Thursday to demand a halt to "unilateral" work carried out by the Jewish state on the outer walls of Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

"The ambassador was summoned today to the foreign ministry where he was handed an official letter of protest expressing deep concerns and rejection of unilateral measures in the outer western walls of the church," a senior official told AFP.

The Jordanian government demanded Israel "immediately halt such actions and restore the status quo," according to the letter.

"Israel's measures are illegal and violate international laws because Israel is the occupying force in the West Bank and east Jerusalem," the official said.

Another Jordanian official said the Israeli authorities "have removed iron bars around a gate in the walls that has been sealed since the British mandate of Palestine (which ended in 1948) and opened the gate."

The official, who declined to be named, said that the Israelis "claimed that they were doing renovations but nobody asked them to do anything".

"This is unprecedented and dangerous," the official said, noting that anything to do with the Holy Sepulchre is "very sensitive."

[...]

"The work presently being carried out by the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) on the ancient sealed door known as Mary’s Gate, which is located on Christian Quarter road in the Old City of Jerusalem, is the sole and entire initiative of the same Israeli Antiquities Authority," it said in a statement.

If you read Middle Eastern news the way you should read Middle Eastern news, then you’re not believing everything in that article.

Here’s a photo of the gate, taken last night.

west-gate-holy-sepulchre-20091204-06-800

Mary’s Gate, December 4, 2009
Photo by Craig Dunning

The iron bars have indeed been removed.  This has allowed the IAA to patch the gate so that it will not further deteriorate.  They didn’t open the gate; they sealed it further shut.

A friend spoke with a few people and learned that:

  • The WAQF (Muslim authorities) is protesting out of some claim to the iron bars.
  • The Greeks are protesting because they weren't consulted and status quo is in jeopardy.
  • The Catholics are protesting because the blocked up gate is theirs.

However, the Israel Antiquities Authority was given permission to make the repairs by a Catholic official.  This official believes that since the iron gate was under the authority of the British Mandate, it now falls under the authority of the current government, Israel.

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Friday, December 04, 2009

Israeli Tourism Ministry to Invest $4 Million in Jerusalem

From the Jerusalem Post (see also Bridges for Peace):

The Tourism Ministry announced new plans last week to invest NIS 15 million in the development of tourism infrastructure and events in Jerusalem throughout 2010, as part of a new program to establish Israel as "the Holy Land, with Jerusalem at its center."

In recent years, the ministry has invested tens of millions of shekels in the development and repair of a number of tourist sites in the capital, among them the city center, the historic Ein Kerem neighborhood and the Old City.

However, the new program - and the NIS 15m. accompanying it - will go toward increasing the size and scope of similar tourism initiatives, along with infrastructure work that will allow for longer operating hours and larger crowd capacity at a number of sites in the capital, in an effort to maximize the number of tourists at each site.

Additionally, the ministry plans to encourage both domestic and local tourism to Jerusalem by raising awareness of events taking place in the city.

[...]

Additional events that have been planned to cater to a wider audience include special tours throughout the city, theater, music and art festivals, and a culinary festival that will include discounts at some of the city's best restaurants.

Activities for children are also planned, as are nighttime activities for college students.

According to numbers released by the ministry, Jerusalem is the most commonly visited location for tourists coming to Israel. In 2008, 74 percent of all tourists who came to Israel visited Jerusalem, and 54% of them stayed in the capital at least one night. The average tourist's stay in Jerusalem during 2008 was six nights, and the most-visited sites within the city were the Western Wall, the Old City's Jewish Quarter, the Mount of Olives, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Via Dolorosa, the Tower of David and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.

I’m curious about the statement that the “average tourist's stay in Jerusalem during 2008 was six nights.”  I think you’d be hard pressed to find a Christian tour group that stays more than three nights.  There are student groups that stay longer, and probably some Jewish groups, but I tend to doubt that six is the average.  It’s also interesting that 46% of tourists apparently didn’t even spend one night in Jerusalem.  I suppose that includes some European snowbirds who never leave Eilat.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Gerasa, Then and Now

“Of Jerash we may say generally, it is the best preserved of all the ruined cities east of Jordan. The ruins are weather-worn and beaten with the storms of centuries; earthquakes have shaken down many once splendid buildings, but there were no traces of the destroying hand of man” (William Ewing, Arab and Druze at Home, 1907).
Gerasa, general view of ruins from north, mat02743 Gerasa (Jerash) from north, approximately 1920 to 1933

“It is very noticeable that the ruins of Jerâsh up to the present day have been but little disturbed. There has never been any great Moslem city in its neighbourhood, and hence its columns remain in situ or, thrown down by the earthquake, sprawling along the ground, while the stones of the Great Temple of the Sun and of the theatres are fortunate in having been, as yet, unpilfered for building material. Further, since there is in these regions no sand to drift over and veil the outlines, and the frequent drought preventing the ruins from becoming masked by vegetation, all that remains stands out, white and glaring, in noontide, having that same appearance of recent desolation which is so striking a characteristic of a freshly cleared streets of Pompeii” (Guy Le Strange, “Account of a Short Journey East of the Jordan,” Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement, 1885).
Gerasa city from south theater, tb052908616 Gerasa (Jerash) from south, May 2008

The top photo and both quotations are taken from the Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (Library of Congress, LC-matpc-02743).

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Temple Mount Sifting Project: Support Needed

I’ve noted this project a number of times on this blog (e.g., here and here).  They are making valuable contributions to our understanding of the Temple Mount and are certainly worthy of broad public support.  You might consider making a contribution.  You can download a form with details and address here.

 

The Project of Sifting the Debris from the Temple Mount

18/11/09

When we began the Temple Mount Sifting Project five years ago, we had no idea what was ahead of us. We did not understand the enormous amount of work that would be necessary to extract archaeological information from the tons of haphazardly dumped material, and we were also completely unaware of the great interest that the public would take in the project and the scores of people who would be willing to volunteer. We also did not even begin to comprehend the educational impact of our work, and that we had embarked on a lifetime project with great national significance. We initially thought that after a couple of months of sifting the project will be over.

After eight months of work the project nearly closed down, but the Ir David Foundation adopted the project with the intention of funding it until all the debris had been sifted. We have continued to operate under their auspices for nearly five years.

Unfortunately, because of the current economic situation, we are once again faced with the potential of having to end our important work. Though the Ir David Foundation found emergency funding which enabled us to keep the project going, we have been forced to reduce our staff to a minimum, and we have not been able to implement our plans for the analysis and publication of the finds. Our plans were to establish an archaeological lab with a permanent staff that will work for two to three years on this task, hire various experts for special types of finds, and sample various sites around the slopes of Jerusalem in order to create statistical control groups to compare to the prevalent finds from the Temple Mount.

It should be emphasized that the major contribution and effect of our research will come only after proper scientific analysis of the artifacts and publication of our findings. After this process our finds will enter academic discussions and will be accordingly referenced by other scholars. Eventually this effect will also permeate into the historical scientific study, popular archaeology and history books, and tourist guides.

In the case of this particular project, where the artifacts are out of stratified context, the main archaeological innovations and understanding of the phenomena of the prevalent finds will come only after an extensive quantitative study that includes the comparison of our finds with control group samples (see more details at http://templemount.wordpress.com/page/10).

The Temple Mount Sifting Project is not an operation for an elite group of archaeologists. It is now the property of the entire Jewish people, including the tens of thousands of volunteers from around the world, Jews and non-Jews alike, who have helped us sift through the rubble over the years. Many times throughout history, important projects are adopted by private donors who have the privilege of making a significant difference well before the State steps in to help. The Temple Mount Sifting Project is just such an opportunity. Please take part in this effort to save the Temple Mount antiquities and help us to continue the educational programming which is having an immeasurable impact on thousands of visitors from all walks of life.

Sincerely,

Gabriel Barkay, PhD

Zachi Zweig

Temple Mount aerial from se, tb010703230

Temple Mount from southeast

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Where Did Goliath’s Head Go?

Everyone knows the story of David and Goliath.  Many are probably not aware, however, of what happened next.  That was the subject of James Hoffmeier’s recent lecture at the Bible and Archaeology Fest.  “Exploring David’s Strange Antics after Defeating Goliath” looked specifically at 1 Samuel 17:53-54.

1 Samuel 17:53-54 (ESV) “And the people of Israel came back from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their camp. 54 And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.”

If these verses are not baffling, remember that David had not yet conquered Jerusalem (he would do that after he became king, in 2 Samuel 5).  The other difficulty here is the phrase, “he put his armor in his tent.”  Presumably the “he” is David, “his armor” refers to Goliath’s gear, but whose tent is involved?  Some think it is the tent of David (see the translation of the NIV), others think it is the home of David (“tent” being used elsewhere of one’s home), and an intriguing suggestion is that it is the tent of Yahweh (but that requires changing the text). 

Hoffmeier’s lecture gave a tour of tents in the Ancient Near East, including those of Ramses II and Sennacherib.  Kings Thutmose III and Sargon II are recorded as having plundered the tent of their enemies.  Hoffmeier suggested that this statement indicates that David took Goliath’s tent and weapons back to Bethlehem.

As for Goliath’s head, did David store it in his refrigerator for a few years until he conquered Jerusalem?  Probably not.  While some scholars view this statement as an anachronistic error, Hoffmeier has identified a number of ancient scenes where conquerors carried off the heads of the defeated, tying them to their chariots or garden trees.  Heads were often displayed as warnings to potential enemies.  Perhaps, then, David had it in his mind to conquer the Jebusite stronghold already as a youth, and he took Goliath’s head to serve notice to Jerusalem that they were next.

Ashurbanipal after capture of Babylon, tb112004733dddAssyrian relief depicting Ashurbanipal’s army after capture of Babylon, c. 650 BC.  Relief now in British Museum.  Notice the pile of heads in the upper center.  This same king put a hook in Manasseh’s nose and hauled him off to Babylon (2 Chr 33).

I found Hoffmeier’s lecture enjoyable and his ideas provocative.  This is a difficult problem, and I find his solution preferable to the alternatives.  My comments here are an unofficial record (I may have made a mistake in my note-taking), but you can read some of his findings in his article, “The Aftermath of David’s Triumph over Goliath,” in Archaeology in the Biblical World, Spring 1991, pp. 18-23.

Hoffmeier is, of course, best known for his work in Egypt, and he has written a couple of excellent books on the subject of historical and archaeological evidence for the Israelites in Egypt:

One on his works on my shelf that I have not yet had time to read is The Archaeology of the Bible, published in 2008.

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