Thursday, June 30, 2011

Proposal: Cable Car to Dung Gate

From the Jerusalem Post:

A special Knesset session of the Jerusalem Lobby on Wednesday was dedicated to exploring the feasibility of a cable car leading to the Old City, which supporters claim will improve accessibility for tourists with disabilities and reduce traffic.

“I remember the cable car on Mount Zion during the War of Independence,” Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said at the opening of the session. “There are things that seem impossible – like a cable car passing over us – because they require more effort on behalf of future generations.”

Rivlin added that the traffic from the 150,000 tourists per month in the Old City creates “unbearable crowding” that also stops Jerusalemites from moving freely around their city. Rivlin proposed an economic feasibility study to examine the cost of such an initiative in greater detail.

According to a plan from the Transportation Ministry, a cable car could carry up to 4,000 passengers an hour, eliminating the need for some of the 3,000 buses that drive in and around the Old City each month. The plan also stipulated that the cable car would be environmentally friendly and would not harm the view or surroundings of the historic area.

The cable car would stretch across the Kidron Valley, from the building that houses the Government Printing Office on Rehov Miriam Hashmonaite, to the Dung Gate. The 1,030-meter-long ride would take approximately 3 minutes, 30 seconds.

The full story is here. I perceive a few obstacles and I wouldn’t rush to buy stock in the company just yet.

As best as I can determine, the cable car would begin near the old train station (Miriam HaHashmonait is on its south end and intersects with Hebron Road). In that case, the cable car does not pass over the Kidron Valley at all, but travelers would cross over the Hinnom Valley. A more impressive route would be several hundred meters above the Old City.

Jerusalem-cable-car-route

Possible cable car route over Hinnom Valley; screenshot from Google Earth

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Israel’s 250 National Parks and Nature Reserves

I would not have guessed that there are so many. In an area the size of New Jersey, the land of Israel is blessed with an extraordinary amount of natural beauty and variety. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs describes the abundance in an article posted yesterday.

Looking at Israel on a map, it’s hard to imagine how hundreds of nature reserves could fit into this tiny country along with 7.7 million people. In fact, the roster of about 250 designated Israeli nature reserves and national parks – covering more than a million acres of land -- is growing every year.

In addition to well-known sites such as Masada, Ein Gedi, the Hula Valley or Caesarea, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) oversees close to 20 sites each in the Golan Heights/Upper Galilee, Negev/Eilat and Sea of Galilee/Mount Carmel regions; a dozen in central Israel; eight in the Judean Desert and Dead Sea area; and a handful in Judea and Samaria. Overnight camping facilities are available in 26 of Israel’s national parks.

These areas represent an unusually wide variety of landscapes and climates for a single country. In the far north is Mount Hermon with its snow-capped peaks in the winter. In the west is the green Mediterranean-fed landscape and wetlands. In the south are arid expanses of desert. Israel also is home to two unique natural wonders: the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth; and Makhtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater), the world’s largest natural crater.

The article continues here.

What is your favorite national park or nature reserve in Israel? We’ve put together a little poll in which you can give your opinion. Since we cannot list all 250 parks, we have chosen ten of our favorites. Feel free to suggest others in the comments.

You can see a list of some of the parks in each region of the country (numbered listed in parentheses):

En Gedi Nahal David with waterfalls, tb052307908

En Gedi Nature Reserve

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Oil Spill in Nahal Zin

The Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline was damaged today during work by heavy machinery. From Haaretz:

A large amount of gas leaked into the Nahal Tzin Nature Preserve in the Negev after a major Eilat pipeline burst on Wednesday. The leak caused major damage to the southern Israel nature preserve’s wildlife.

The pipe burst when the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC) was performing maintenance work in the Tzin Valley. While EAPAC was working in the nature preserve, a pipeline collapsed, resulting in the leakage of a large amount of crude oil into Nahal Tzin.

The leak may have caused damage to the nature preserve’s water sources.

Eli Amitai, the director-general of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, has called on all available teams from the authority to arrive on the scene of the leak as soon as possible.

They have already successfully prevented the further spread of the oil-leak and efforts are currently underway to clean up the preserve.

The area surrounding the Nahal Tzin Nature Preserve has been closed off to hikers.

The full story is here. Ynet News reports the story here.

In the Bible, the Nahal Zin constituted part of the southern border of the land God gave to Israel (Num 34:3).

UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post has more details, including several quotes from Parks officials about the severity of the spill.

Nahal Zin from northwest, tb010503588

Nahal Zin

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Ossuary of Caiaphas’ Granddaughter Recovered

Caiaphas was the high priest in Jerusalem in the early part of the first century, and he is best known for his role in the trial of Jesus (Matt 26:57-68). This ossuary belonged to his granddaughter and was looted from a tomb in the Elah Valley. The correspondence with New Testament names is interesting. Caiaphas’ son was named Jesus (Yeshua) and his granddaughter Mary (Miriam).

From the Israel Antiquities Authority press release:

Three years ago the Israel Antiquities Authority Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery acquired a decorated ossuary bearing an engraved inscription. The ossuary was discovered by antiquities robbers who plundered an ancient Jewish tomb of the Second Temple period. During the course of the investigation it was determined that the ossuary came from a burial cave in the area of the Valley of Elah, in the Judean Shephelah.

To check the authenticity of the artifact and the significance of the engraved inscription, the Israel Antiquities Authority turned to Dr. Boaz Zissu of the Department of the Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology of Bar Ilan University and Professor Yuval Goren of the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations of the Tel Aviv University.

This week, the two scientists published the results of their research, which summarize the importance of the find and confirm its genuineness. The study appears in the Israel Exploration Journal (Volume 61) published this week by the Israel Exploration Society.

Ossuaries are small stone chests that Jews used for secondary burial of bones; they were quite common in tombs in Israel from the late first century BCE until the beginning of the second century CE. The front of the ossuary that was found is decorated with a stylized floral motif above which is a long Aramaic inscription engraved in Jewish script:

‘Miriam Daughter of Yeshua Son of Caiaphas, Priests [of] Ma'aziah from Beth ’Imri’

(or, an alternative reading:

‘Miriam Daughter of Yeshua Son of Caiaphas, Priest of Ma'aziah from Beth ’Imri’)

In the conclusion of their study Dr. Boaz Zissu and Professor Yuval Goren write, “the prime importance of the inscription lies in the reference to the ancestry of the deceased – Miriam daughter of Yeshua – to the Caiaphas family, indicating the connection to the family of the Ma'aziah course of priests of Beth ’Imri”. Caiaphas is the name of Yeshua’s father, and Miriam’s grandfather. From the wording of the inscription we learn that he belonged to a famous family of priests that was active in the first century CE. One family member, the high priest Yehosef Bar Caiaphas, is especially famous for his involvement in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.

Ma'aziah /Ma'aziahu is the last of the twenty four priestly courses that served in the Temple in Jerusalem. The list of courses, which was formulated during King David’s reign, appears in the Bible in I Chronicles (I Chronicles 24:18). The signatories to the pledge in the days of Nehemiah include among others, “Maʽaziah, Bilgai, Shem'aiah; these are the priests” (Nehemiah 10: 9). This is the first reference to the Maʽaziah course in an epigraphic find from the Second Temple period. For the first time we learn from an inscription that the Caiaphas family was related to the Ma'aziah course.

[...]

Since the ossuary in question was not found in a controlled archaeological excavation and because of its special scientific importance, it was subjected to microscopic examinations using an environmental scanning electron microscope/energy dispersive spectrometer (ESEM/EDS), the purpose of which was to evaluate its authenticity. The patina covering the sides was checked, with emphasis on the patina covering the inscription. The examinations determined that the inscription is genuine and ancient.

The Israel Antiquities Authority is distressed by the fact that this important find, which was plundered from its original provenance, was removed from its archeological context, thus it will never be possible to know the full story of the burial cave. Sadly, the robbers’ desire of monetary gain has erased entire pages of the country’s cultural history.

The press release is now online. A small photograph is posted here, and Arutz-7 also has the story in English. The AP has a brief article.

For more details, see the article by Zissu and Goren in the current issue of Israel Exploration Journal.

For information about the ossuary of Caiaphas excavated in Jerusalem in 1990, see this post in the series of “Top Ten Biblical Discoveries in Archaeology.”

UPDATE: Ferrell Jenkins has a link to a larger photo.

UPDATE #2: Jim West has a very high-resolution photo from the archaeologist along with three other AP images. In the comments on that post, Jack Kilmon suggests that this ossuary belonged to the niece, not the granddaughter, of the NT figure. The Jerusalem Post now has an article based on the press release.

HT: Joseph Lauer

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mughrabi Bridge Construction Delay Recommended

Haaretz carries a story similar to that noted here yesterday in Ynetnews, reporting that Israel is “shocked” that Jordan would lie about their agreement with Israel.

They follow up with another in which the police recommend that construction on the bridge be delayed from next week until September, when presumably the eyes of the world will be on the UN’s debate over statehood for the Palestinians. From Haaretz:

Ever since an earthen ramp leading to the gate collapsed in 2005 and was replaced by a temporary wooden bridge, the security establishment has been dragging its feet over building a more permanent structure to link the Temple Mount entrance to the Western Wall plaza.

In recent weeks security officials have been engaged in feverish debate over when to begin work.

[...]

Police officials at the meeting contradicted the municipal officials' assessment that the current bridge was unsafe, and said it did not need replacing right now.

[...]

However the adviser to the Jerusalem District of the police said that any violation of the status quo on the Temple Mount would rally Arab opposition and lead to riots throughout the capital.

The adviser said that it would be best to postpone construction until September when the attention of the Arab would not be focused on Jerusalem because of the expected vote on Palestinian statehood in the United Nations at that time.

Other officials in the police's Jerusalem District said they believed quiet will prevail in Jerusalem because the East Jerusalem Arab community rejects what they see as disruptive influences like the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement.

The full story is here.

It’s worth remembering that this debate is not about the Temple Mount itself but an external access route to the Temple Mount. Sensitivities in Jerusalem are high. See yesterday’s post for links to the history of this issue.

HT: Joseph Lauer

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Jordan and Israel Clash over Bridge to Temple Mount

From Ynet News:

A diplomatic crisis is brewing between Israel and Jordan over the planned renovations of the Mughrabi Gate Bridge, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday.

Plans for razing the old Mughrabi Gate bridge, which leads from the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem to the to the al-Aqsa Mosque and Temple Mount, in favor of a new one have been in the works for a while.

According to the report, the bridge was to be torn down next week, but upon signing the final agreement, Israel was stunned to learn that Jordan, along with Egypt, Iraq and Bahrain, filed a complaint against Israel with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) over the planned renovations.

The motion asks for a UNESCO censure of Israel. Jordan is also demanding that UNESCO order Israel to stop the archeological excavations in the Old City.

In the petition, Amman said it was "concerned over a decision by the Jerusalem Planning and Construction Committee concerning the Mughrabi Gate."

Jerusalem was reportedly enraged by the move and immediately began trying to thwart it.

Jordan initially denied ever signing any agreement with Israel pertaining to the bridge. It admitted doing so only following US pressure.

The story continues here.

Previous stories (with photos) of the bridge date back to Feb 2010, Dec 2007, Feb 2007, Dec 2006, and earlier.

HT: Joseph Lauer

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Photo of the Day: Travel Agency

This travel agent in Turkey knows just what will appeal to his English-speaking audience.

Hassle Free sales agent sign in Turkey, tb041605306

“Hassle Free Sales Agent” near Çanakkale, Turkey

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Biblical Archaeology Conference in Fort Worth

BibleX has word of The Future of Biblical Archaeology Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Riley Center on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is hosting The Future of Biblical Archaeology Conference on Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15, 2011. Scheduled speakers include William G. Dever, Steven Ortiz, Tom Davis, James Hardin, Dale W. Manor, Karen Borstad, Laura Mazow, Abby Limmer, Jennie Ebeling, Alysia Fischer, Elizabeth Willett, and Heather Reichstadt.

Registration fees are reduced before September 30. The official website includes information about the speakers, the schedule, and registration.

Next year SWBTS will host an “exclusive exhibit” on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible, running from July 2, 2012 to January 11, 2013.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

2011 Excavation Blogs

The following is an updated version of last year’s list of excavation blogs. If you know of any additional blogs, please send them along and we’ll add them to this list.

Ashkelon – this is a primarily an educational blog written by one of the supervisors.  The season began June 5 and wraps up on July 15.

Bethsaida – the 25th season wraps up this weekend (May 22 to June 25), but no additional updates will be added to the site this year. New photos will be posted on the excavation’s Facebook page.

Tel Burna – the summer season is underway (June 12-30) and the directors are posting weekly roundups and photos. The archaeologists working here believe that their site is biblical Libnah.

Gath – this continues to be the best excavation blog I know of, thanks to the tireless work of the archaeologist, Aren Maeir.  This year they are excavating July 3-29, but Maeir updates the blog year-round.

Gezer - the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary excavation deserves a blog. The anonymous assistant professor who blogs at The Biblical World is working in the excavation (June 13 to July 15) and he is posting regularly about everything but archaeology. Aren Maeir lectured to the crew on Monday; perhaps they’ll learn from his excellent example.

Tall el-Hammam – the official website provides season summaries, but there appears to be no blog updating readers during the winter excavation seasons (upcoming: January 12 to February 23, 2012). Interested parties may wish to contact the leadership in order to receive periodic email updates.

Hazor – excavations began this week (June 19 – July 29), but I am unaware of any blogging about the excavations. The official Tel Hazor Facebook page is rather limited, but perhaps the volunteers will create a Facebook page as they did last year.

Hippos (Susita) – the website indicates that the 2011 season will run July 3-30.  Mark Schuler has a blog for the Concordia University excavations of the Northeast Insula Project.  Other members of the team have blogs listed at virtualdig.org.

Tell Huqoq – excavations began at this Galilean site under the leadership of Jodi Magness. Volunteer Brad Erickson is posting regular entries about his experience and weekend travels.

Tall Jalul – this year’s excavation concluded last week (June 17), but Owen Chesnut may add updates periodically throughout the year.  Though not as well known, this site is one of the largest in Jordan.

Kabri this is a new blog for the excavations running from June 19 to July 28. To this point five days of photos have been posted and a volunteer has described her experience without resorting to use of the shift key.

Magdala – this year-round excavation may be on a break right now, to judge from the lack of recent blog entries. Universidad Anáhuac México Sur has a new website for the project (in Spanish). You can also follow along by Twitter @magdalaisrael.

Khirbet el-Maqatir – the two-week season ended June 3.  Dig summaries were posted at the blog of the sponsoring organization, the Associates for Biblical Research.

OmritOmrit 2009 and Omrit 2010 have not been succeeded by Omrit 2011, as far as I can tell. Excavations have been conducted, as Volunteer JJ proves with his onsite fashion photos. A note at this blog suggests the season ended on Friday, with the desired finds found in the balk during clean-up.

Khirbet Qeiyafa – the Elah Fortress website, with all of its photos and summaries, has been deleted.  The Hebrew University website is infrequently updated.  The excavation season this year is June 12 to July 22.  Blogger Luke Chandler is volunteering in July and may have some reports in the weeks to come. 

Khirbet Summeily – excavations began this week as part of the Tell el-Hesi Joint Archaeological Project, but no field updates are yet available. Volunteer Jared Wilson has a blog in place.

Temple Mount Sifting Project – this blog provides periodic updates on related issues, but daily finds are not reported. 

In addition to the standard blogs and new sources (for major discoveries), a couple of radio programs are available online to keep you up to date with interviews with the archaeologists.  These include the The Book and the Spade (Gordon Govier) and LandMinds (Barnea Levi Selavan and Dovid Willner).

What should be added to this list?  If you know of something that is regularly updated (blog, Facebook, or twitter), please post a comment or send me an email (tbolen92 at bibleplaces.com).

Excavating in City of David, tb112603988

Excavations in the City of David

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The Nails: Jacobovici Responds

Simcha Jacobovici responds to his critics in this pdf file posted at James Tabor’s blog. That a moviemaker who makes millions would respond to bloggers with a 46-page document indicates just how much his reputation has been damaged by the criticism.

Expect Cargill and Zias to respond passionately.

HT: BibleInterp.com

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sabri: Not a Single Jewish Stone in Jerusalem

The archaeologists all agree, according to a leading Muslim authority in Jerusalem. There is no evidence of ancient Jewish presence in the city. From ABNA.co:

Chairman of the Suprerme [sic] Islamic Council in Jerusalem Dr. Ekrima Sabri has declared that after twenty-five years of digging, archaeologists are unanimous that not a single stone has been found related to Jerusalem’s alleged Jewish history.

Sheikh Sabri said Israel’s opening of a Biblical park south of Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem was only a further attempt to erase the Arab-Islamic identity of the region, Sabri said.

Israeli authorities have been building the Biblical park atop the Umayyad palaces in Jerusalem. But Sabri said that archaeologists agree that the stones along the southern wall of Al-Aqsa Mosque are remains of the Umayyad palaces, proving that the entire area is an Islamic endowment.

All archaeologists also agree that there were no native Americans when English colonists arrived. Stories to the contrary are just lies by Indian propagandists.

Where are the Muslims who will tell the truth? Will any declare that Sabri is a bald-faced liar? If not, why not? The answer to that question is important.

The full story is here. HT: Paleojudaica.

Siloam inscription, tb041705450

The Siloam Inscription, found in Hezekiah’s Tunnel, written in Hebrew and dated to 700 BC.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wednesday Roundup

Concerning yesterday’s ceremony inaugurating the “Water Gate” in Jerusalem, Leen Ritmeyer responds to my question of whether any archaeologist believes Eilat Mazar with a careful, well-illustrated presentation of his conclusions. Ritmeyer was actually the one to suggest to Mazar in the 1980s that the structure may be a gate, but instead of investigating the possibility, she called a press conference to announce the discovery!

Arutz-7 has a two-minute video tour of the newly opened Ophel City Wall site. Ferrell Jenkins posts more photographs.

In his latest Asia Minor Report (posted online by Leen Ritmeyer), Mark Wilson provides a link of free online books of early explorers in Turkey. The archive has lists of similar works for Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Greece, and Italy.

Wilson also points to a website with panoramic photos of sites in north central Turkey.

FRIGKÜM’s website features three-dimensional panoramic photos of the various Phrygian sites (n.b. the labels are in Turkish). The pictures were taken in 160 locations throughout the three provinces as part of the Phrygian Valley 360 Degree Virtual Tour Photography Project. The photography is breathtaking so check it out. The apostle Paul probably saw some of these amazing monuments when he traveled through Phrygia on his second journey (Acts 16:6).

In regular features at the Jerusalem Post, Danny Herman takes viewers on a four-minute video tour of the Western Wall Tunnels, Yehoshua Halevi explains how he takes nature photographs in Israel, and Wayne Stiles considers whether archaeologists are really excavating New Testament Bethsaida.

Newly excavated parts of the underground Crusader city of Acco (Acre) are now being opened to the public.

Acco Templars Tunnel, tb100905697

Templars Tunnel in Acco

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ophel City Wall Site Inaugurated

From a press release from the Israel Antiquities Authority:

In a festive ceremony to be held Today - Tuesday, June 21, 2011, the Ophel City Wall site, a complex of buildings uncovered along the route of the fortifications from the First Temple period (tenth-sixth centuries BCE), and the display of the earliest written document ever uncovered in Jerusalem will be inaugurated. The opening of the site, located in the Walls Around Jerusalem National Park, and the exhibit in the Davidson Center are made possible through the generous donation by Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman.

[...]

Upon completion of the excavation and conservation work at the Ophel City Wall site, visitors will now be able to touch the stones and walls whose construction tells the history of Jerusalem throughout the ages. It is now possible to walk comfortably through the built remains, in places that were previously closed to the public, to sense their splendor and learn about the history of the region by the signage and the different means of presentation and illustration.

[...]IAA-IMG_1588

The highlight of the excavations is the complete exposure of the gate house. The plan of this impressive building includes four rooms of identical size, arranged on both sides of a broad corridor paved with crushed limestone. The plan of the gate house is characteristic of the First Temple period (tenth-sixth centuries BCE) and is similar to contemporaneous gates that were revealed at Megiddo, Be‘er Sheva’ and Ashdod. The excavator, Eilat Mazar, suggests identifying the gate house here with the ‘water gate’ mentioned in the Bible: “…and the temple servants living on Ophel repaired to a point opposite the Water Gate on the east and the projecting tower” (Nehemiah 3:26). The ground floor of a large building that was destroyed in a fierce conflagration can be seen east of the gate. Mazar suggests that this structure was destroyed by the Babylonian conquest of the city in 586 BCE. Twelve very large, clay store jars (pithoi), which probably contained wine or oil, were discovered on the floor of the building. Engraved on the shoulder of one of these pithoi is the Hebrew inscription “לשר האו...”. The inscription indicates that this pithos belonged to one of the kingdom’s ministers, perhaps the overseer of the bakers.

During the course of the excavation the earliest written document to be exposed to date in Jerusalem was discovered. This unique find, which is of extraordinary importance to the history of the city, will now be on permanent display to the public in the Davidson Center. This is a very small fragment of a clay tablet engraved in Akkadian cuneiform script, which was the lingua franca of the time. Among the very skillfully written words that can be read are the words: “you were”, “later”, “to do” and “they”. The tablet and the writing are typical of the tablets that were used in antiquity throughout Mesopotamia for international correspondence.

The full press release, along with 19 photographs (including the one above), is available at the IAA site (temporary link). I’d be curious to know if there are any other archaeologists who agree with Mazar’s identification of the structure she excavated as a gate. Some years ago it seemed that even those most sympathetic to her views did not follow her on this, but perhaps that has changed. I note that the press release does not state that this is a gate but that “Mazar suggests” that it is a gate.

Southern-Temple-Mount-Excavations-aerial-from-sw,-tb010703227sr

Temple Mount of Jerusalem from the southwest

UPDATE: Joseph Lauer sends along links to the story in the Jerusalem Post, Bloomberg, and Arutz-7.

UPDATE (6/22): Leen Ritmeyer provides his response to my question about the identification of the building.

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NPR Radio: Reading Ancient Graffiti

The Weekend Edition of NPR News features a story of Karen Stern’s study of ancient graffiti.

[Karen] Stern, 35, is an archaeologist and an assistant professor in the history department at Brooklyn College. Her passion is the tomb graffiti of the ancient Jews in what was then Roman Palestine. Graffiti has been "published, but sort of disregarded," she says. "Whereas I think it is intimate, vocal and spontaneous, and adds to the historical record."

[...]

An expedition to the Southern Galilee a few hours north ends at the site of one of the country's richest burial sites: Beit She'arim. It is both national park and necropolis; a city of the dead dating back to the first century. There are more than 30 excavated tombs here.

[...]

It's in the Cave of Coffins that Stern points to two inscriptions in ancient Greek. They are tiny and clustered near niches once holding oil lamps.

One says, "Take courage, Holy Parents of Pharcitae, udes adonitas — no one is immortal." Stern explains that the dead who are being brought into the catacombs shouldn't feel that they are weak just because they've passed on.

She reads aloud the other inscription: "Good luck on your resurrection."

The article continues with a report of her visit with Boaz Zissu to a hidden cave at Horvat Lavnin in the Shephelah where they each discovered a new inscription. The NPR website includes the 13-minute audio and 16 photographs.

Achzib, Kh Lavnin, from southeast, tb021707865

Horvat Lavnin, possible site of biblical Achzib, in the Shephelah of Judah

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Controversy over Plans for Lifta, ancient Waters of Nephtoah

On the outskirts of modern Jerusalem lies an abandoned Arab village that is likely to be identified with the biblical waters of Nephtoah. The site is listed on the Judah-Benjamin border in the tribal lists of Joshua (cf. Josh 18:15).

Joshua 15:8–9 (NIV) Then it ran up the Valley of Ben Hinnom along the southern slope of the Jebusite city (that is, Jerusalem). From there it climbed to the top of the hill west of the Hinnom Valley at the northern end of the Valley of Rephaim. From the hilltop the boundary headed toward the spring of the waters of Nephtoah, came out at the towns of Mount Ephron and went down toward Baalah (that is, Kiriath Jearim).

As Anson Rainey notes in The Sacred Bridge (p. 181), the name of the Arab village Lifta preserves the ancient name of Nephtoah. Gabriel Barkay has suggested that Mei (waters of) Nephtoah preserves the name of the Egyptian pharaoh Merneptah (“What’s an Egyptian Temple Doing in Jerusalem?” Biblical Archaeology Review 26/03, May/Jun 2000; online here).

The site is in the news today because of controversial plans to transform the crumbling village into luxury apartments and a hotel. From the Jerusalem Post:

In January, the Israel Lands Authority published a tender to build 212 luxury apartment villas and a hotel in the area of Lifta, turning the crumbling stone houses into lavish residences.

A coalition of activists successfully petitioned the Jerusalem District Court to halt the tender in March. The petition, filed by former Lifta residents, Rabbis for Human Rights, and Jafra, a Palestinian heritage organization, calls for the courts to freeze the bidding process and for the ILA to require that an independent monitoring organization complete a survey of the area to determine what should be preserved and what can be developed.

[...]

But the current legal impasse seems miles away from the peacefulness of Lifta, which has stood abandoned but largely intact for 64 years. It is the only completely abandoned Arab village that was not destroyed or inhabited by Jews after 1948, though its empty buildings have provided a haven for drug dealers, prostitutes and the homeless.

[...]

Isaac Shweky, the director of the council, takes a pragmatic approach to Lifta’s development: The site is in desperate need of repair, and if nothing is done it will continue to crumble away and eventually be reduced to nothing, as the weeds and vandals reclaim all 54 of the remaining structures. The cost to preserve the buildings would be astronomical, in the hundreds of millions of shekels. The only way to fund the preservation of the buildings, he believes, is to develop the site commercially.

The story includes a video interview with a former resident of the town who desires that the ruins be preserved as a witness to al-Naqba (“the Catastrophe”) of the founding of Israel in 1948.

Lifta, biblical Mei Nephtoah, from west, tb070707920

Lifta, site of the biblical “Waters of Nephtoah”

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Israel’s Polluted Skies

If you’ve ever compared the (lack of) clear air in Israel today with scenes in older photographs, you may not be surprised that one factor affecting Israel’s skies today is pollution arriving from other countries. From Haaretz:

Air pollution from North Africa and Europe containing toxic materials has reached Israel, according to a series of studies by the Hebrew University and the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Tests show that toxic materials also get here on particles of desert dust.

[...]

Scientists have been studying air particles arriving in Israel for years, and it is known that pollution can move long distances. But only in recent years has a precise analysis been made of the pollution and its origins.

The meteorologic data indicates that for two thirds of the days of the year, air currents arrive from Western and Eastern Europe, and for more than one-fifth of the year, air currents arrive from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and North Africa.

The story continues here.

Sea of Galilee from northwest, db6704101302

The Sea of Galilee. Clear skies are the norm in David Bivin’s photographs from the 1960s.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Weekend Roundup

Hezekiah’s Pool in the Old City of Jerusalem has been a place for depositing garbage for many years. City authorities are no longer ignoring the health hazard but have begun removing the debris by tractor. The report in Haaretz sent Tom Powers to take some photos and speculate on possible discoveries that could be made if trash removal leads to archaeological excavation. Ferrell Jenkins pulled out some of his earlier photos and discusses the pool’s name and date.

An IMAX film entitled “Jerusalem” but with aerial footage from all of Israel is scheduled for release in 2013, notes Leen Ritmeyer. A six-minute preview is already online.

Tel Burna (Libnah?) has a roundup of activities from the first week of the summer excavation.

On the BiblePlaces page at Facebook, Michael Sisson recommends the iTunes app “British Library 19th Century Collection” for good works about the Holy Land by early explorers. The collection will increase from its current 1,000 works to more than 60,000 titles later this summer.

While you wait for the latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review to land in your mailbox, you can get a preview of the contents. This includes an announcement of a brand new section of their “award-winning Web site,” Bible History Daily. The screenshot indicates that it will have an RSS feed.

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Deal: 50% off Tubingen Bible Atlas

Eisenbrauns has a 50% discount on the Tubingen Bible Atlas this weekend only. That cuts the cost from $150 to $75.  This is widely considered to be one of the best Bible atlases for advanced students.

From the publisher’s description:

The 29 carefully researched and highly detailed maps in this atlas cover every biblical era and are based on the highly regarded Tubinger Atlas of the Near and Middle East (TAVO). Each of the large-format maps unfolds to 28-1/4 x 19-1/2 inches and reveals an immense wealth of information in carefully Tubingen-Bible-Atlasrendered detail with clear, easy-to-read labels. Although based upon the TAVO, some maps have been further revised to be more relevant to biblical scholars. In addition, a new map focusing on the archeology and history of Sinai has been added and is being published here for the first time. A second volume contains the map index. Bound as a separate volume, the index is easy to use while the maps are open.

Carl Rasmussen reviewed the work in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, June 2003, pp. 314-15. He comments on various strengths and weaknesses of the atlas:

We must emphasize that this is not a volume for the English lay reader of the Bible, because the (usually) simple process of finding a place on a map is a daunting process. For example, the familiar Capernaum is nowhere to be found in the index volume, for one must know to look under Kapharnaom...

[...]

But we must also emphasize that this book is certainly for scholars and academic libraries...

[...]

The book is especially strong in providing maps of background material from the ancient Near Eastern and eastern Mediterranean worlds...

[...]

It seems to me that almost all historians writing biblical commentaries and/or articles will find this volume useful and convenient for their research....it truly is amazing to discover all of the goodies that are included in this book.

The complete review is online in pdf format.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Recommended: Rose Guide to the Tabernacle

The Rose Guide to the Tabernacle is a work that I would typically ignore, especially because it is a book without a (listed) author. The cover and the title page credit the work to “Rose Publishing,” and that sends a message to me that this is not a work of credible scholarship. A review of the contents, however, suggests otherwise.

However the book was created, it is a very valuable resource for learning about and teaching the tabernacle. The 115 pages of text is well-researched, well-written, and accurate. To understand the tabernacle and God’s purpose for it, one must begin with Creation and the Garden of Eden. This book takes the reader from there to the encampment at Mount Sinai and on to the wilderness travels and the celebration of the feasts. Each section is well-organized and clearly presented.rose-guide-tabernacle

Few subjects benefit from illustrations more than does the tabernacle. This book is full of photographs, reconstructions, maps, and charts. Clear plastic overlays allow the reader to “peel back” exterior layers in order to see what is inside (the tent and the ark). Teachers will appreciate the generous permission to make copies of pages for students.

I know of no better resource for an initial study of the tabernacle or for teaching it. I could profitably use it for teaching my family, a Sunday School class, as well as in high school and college courses. Having this book, in fact, inspires me to find ways to teach the subject.

Since charts tend to be valuable educational tools, I’ve made a partial listing of those included in the book:

  • Old Testament Covenants
  • Time Line of the Exodus
  • Why Is the Tabernacle Important Today?
  • Bible References about the Tabernacle
  • Sacrifices in the Tabernacle
  • The Holy Place
  • Tabernacle Symbolism
  • Intercessors in the Bible
  • Priests, Levites, and the High Priest
  • Jesus and the High Priest
  • Contents of the Ark
  • The Visible Presence of God
  • Manifestations of God’s Presence
  • The Journey of the Ark
  • Jesus and the Ark of the Covenant
  • Organization of Tribes Camp and March

The book concludes with a section about the major feasts of the Old Testament, including “fascinating facts” about each one.

Amazon currently carries the book for $20 and it includes the “Look Inside” feature so you can check it out yourself. I see now that the book was the “Winner of the 2009 Christian Retailers Choice Award for Bible Reference and Bible Study.” I agree that this book is a winner.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wednesday Roundup

Antiquities thieves were caught in the act of pillaging a site in the Shephelah. The specific site is not identified, but the article references “a severe wave of theft digs in the area of the Elah Valley near Beit Shemesh.” One is reminded of the recent Israeli archaeologist squabble in which Oded Lipschitz apparently accused Yosef Garfinkel of illegally excavating Socoh. Perhaps the authorities have now discovered the real culprits.

In the latest CitySights video, Danny Herman explores the suggested locations for the tomb of King David.

Leen Ritmeyer’s book on the Jerusalem temple is the best on the subject. David Lang reviews The Quest: Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on the Accordance Blog.

The Wild West (Jerusalem): If you’re a tourist who wants to get a look at Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, you might want to think twice before venturing in. Apparently Israeli police consider the ultra-orthodox neighborhood a “no-go zone” because they are attacked when they enter. If you get in trouble, don’t expect the police to come to your rescue.

John Byron explains “Why Biblical Scholars Should Participate in at Least One Dig.” I think he only scratches the surface on the value of joining an excavation, but I believe there is at least one thing every biblical scholar (and full-time teacher of the Bible) should do: Go on a Study Tour of Israel. I wouldn’t say that one cannot teach the Bible without such a study, but neither would I say that a one-legged man cannot snow ski.

HT: BibleX

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lab Test Results on Metal Codices

Preliminary test results are back on the date of the allegedly early Christian metal codices. From the Jordan Times:

Preliminary lab results indicate that a collection of metal books unearthed in northern Jordan may indeed represent the earliest Christian texts ever discovered, according to experts.

According to the Department of Antiquities (DoA), initial carbon tests to determine the authenticity of lead-sealed metal books billed as the greatest find in biblical archaeology since the Dead Sea scrolls have been “encouraging”.

“We really believe that we have evidence from this analysis to prove that these materials are authentic,” DoA Director Ziad Saad told The Jordan Times.

The tests, carried out at the Royal Scientific Society labs, indicate that the texts may date back to the early first century AD, at a time when Christians took refuge from persecution on the east bank of the Jordan River.

The story continues here.

This is surely not the last word.  For background on the subject, see the posts labeled “Pseudo-Archaeology.”  Paleojudaica has a good summary of the case against authenticity.

UPDATE (6/15): Jim Davila takes apart this article piece by piece. The conclusion: “The fake metal codices are still fake.”

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River Discovered Beneath Jerusalem

From Jerusalem Post:

Excavators digging for a new railway station deep under the surface of central Jerusalem have discovered what geologists say is the largest underground river ever found in Israel.

And while its deep canyons and waterfalls may be an impressive find for scientists, it doesn’t contain a significant amount of the precious fluids to affect the water balance in this traditionally parched city.

“We found a nice but small underground river,” Professor Amos Frumkin, head of the Cave Research Unit of the Hebrew University's Department of Geography, told The Media Line.
“In terms of Israel, it’s the longest underground stream that we have ever seen. It is a kind of a canyon that has been cut by the stream of the water over a long period of time, maybe millions of years,” Frumkin said.

Frumkin and his team were called upon by Israel Railways after its engineers chanced upon the cave while excavating an 80-meter (260-foot) shaft close to the city’s main convention center and central bus station that is being drilled for a huge, underground station that will serve the high-speed Jerusalem-Tel Aviv railway.

The story continues here. Leen Ritmeyer noted the Haaretz article of this discovery last week.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

2011 Summer Excavation Schedule

Some summer excavations in Israel have already begun, and many more will commence within the next month.  Five excavations began yesterday or today: Tel Burna, Kefar HaHoresh, Khirbet Qeiyafa, Wadi Hamam, and Tel Gezer

Three more excavations hit the field next week: Tel Hazor, Tel Kabri, and Khirbet Summeily.  Those beginning in late June or early July include: Tel Dor, Tel Megiddo East, Tell es-Safi (Gath), Tel Akko, and Hippos-Sussita.  Two teams wait until the heat of the summer before getting underway, but both are located next to the beach: Yavneh-Yam and Apollonia-Arsuf.

If you want to volunteer for a dig but cannot participate in the summer or for a lengthy duration, you might consider two year-round operations: Temple Mount Sifting Project and the Dig-for-a-Day program at Maresha (Bet Guvrin).

Last year we published a list of blogs reporting from the excavations and we may prepare another one for this year.  (Any tips on such blogs are appreciated.)

The following list is organized chronologically and based upon dates given at the Find a Dig site, published by the Biblical Archaeology Society.

2011 Excavations Already Concluded

Tamar (Mezad Hazeva): February 20 - March 8, 2011; May 9 - May 22, 2011
Tel Gezer Water System Project: May 21 - June 11, 2011
Khirbet el-Maqatir: May 21 - June 4, 2011

2011 Excavations Presently Underway

Tall Jalul (in Jordan): May 3 - June 17, 2011
Tiberias: May 22 - June 17, 2011
Bethsaida: May 22 - June 25, 2011
Ashkelon: June 5 - July 15, 2011
Tel Burna: June 12 - June 30, 2011
Kefar HaHoresh: June 12 - July 7, 2011
Khirbet Qeiyafa: June 12 - July 22, 2011
Wadi Hamam: June 13 - July 15, 2011
Tel Gezer: June 13 - July 15, 2011

2011 Excavations Not Yet Begun

Tel Hazor: June 19 - July 29, 2011
Tel Kabri: June 19 - July 28, 2011
Khirbet Summeily: June 20 – July 20, 2011
Tel Dor: June 28 - August 5, 2011
Tel Dor 2: June 28 - August 6, 2011
Tel Megiddo East: July 2 - 28, 2011
Tell es-Safi (Gath): July 3 - 29, 2011
Tel Akko: July 3 - July 29, 2011
Hippos-Sussita: July 3 - 30, 2011
Yavneh-Yam: July 18 - August 12, 2011
Apollonia-Arsuf: August 1 - September 11, 2011

Long-running excavations not in the field this year include Megiddo, Tel Rehov, and Dan.

Gezer excavations, tb062806971

Excavations at Gezer

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Byzantine Church Discovered in Acco

From Haaretz:

The Israel Antiquities Authority has had a breakthrough discovery, unearthing a public structure from the time of the Byzantine Empire in the northern Israeli city of Acre [Akko].

The structure is about 1,500 years-old and it is believed to have served as a church. The structure was uncovered during a rescue excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority following an unauthorized dig in the area that uncovered the structure.

The excavation was done approximately 100 meters west of a mound located in the eastern part of Acre, close to the area in which the future Azrieli shopping mall is being built.

Nurit Page, head of the excavations in the area under the auspices of the Israel Antiquities Authority said that the city's bishop was known in Christian scriptures as someone who was extremely influential in the development of Christianity as a religion.

This discovery is the first concrete proof of Acre's role in early Christianity. "This is an important discovery for the study of Acre," Page said, adding that it is of particular significance "considering no remnants from the Byzantine Period had been found other than living quarters near the [Mediterranean] sea."

The full story is here.  An IAA press release sent along by Joseph Lauer quotes the archaeologist as being less certain of the building’s identification: “It may possibly be a church. This is the first time that remains of a public building from this period have been uncovered in Akko.”

UPDATE (6/14): The Jerusalem Post is now reporting the discovery.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Weekend Roundup

Leen Ritmeyer explains why he disagrees with Eilat Mazar’s claim that the Second Temple is “waiting to be unearthed.” 

Shmuel Browns has a well-illustrated article on Popular Archaeology entitled “Netzer’s Legacy: The Wonders of Herodium.”

Wayne Stiles makes a connection between the feast of Shavuot (Weeks or Pentecost) and Beth Shemesh.

Al Arabiya News profiles the Nimrud ivories, and Ferrell Jenkins provides some additional commentary and photos.

Haaretz takes the occasion of the inauguration of Jerusalem’s Light Rail to reminisce about an earlier, short-lived rail project from Jerusalem to el-Bireh/Ramallah. The author describes it as an electric rail system, but the accompanying photo shows the train billowing smoke.

The Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem is almost entirely Ultra-Orthodox.

An article in the Telegraph lists the top five religious mysteries as the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Chalice, the True Cross, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Sudarium of Oviedo.

The New York Times celebrates the completion of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, ninety years after it was begun.

If you’re wondering what is brand new and most popular for the week, see the lists at bib-arch.org.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Photo of the Day: Diving Platform in Rhodes

If you’re on holiday in Rhodes and you don’t mind swimming a bit, you can get your diving practice from this concrete platform.

Rhodes beach with diving board, tb061906300

Paul briefly visited Rhodes as he traveled back to Jerusalem on his third missionary journey.

Acts 21:1 — After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Cos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara.

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Top 16 Posts

I don’t pay much attention to statistics for this blog or its related website, given limited time and a sense that it doesn’t matter much anyway.  But I noticed that Feedburner provides a list of most popular blog posts and I was surprised at what received the most views in the last 18 months (when we began using the Feedburner service).  Here are the top sixteen, with the most popular at the top:

Bible Mapper Version 4

The Sacrificial Lamb

Top Discoveries of 2009

New Discoveries Related to Temple Mount

Glo for $40

Where Did Goliath’s Head Go?

Best of 2009: Books, Software, Photo CDs

Weekend Roundup (from Feb 2010)

Locust Plague

Under the Temple Mount

How “Top 50” Lists Work

360 Degree Views in Jerusalem

The Dragnet on the Sea of Galilee

Support Sought for Tel Dor

The Star of Bethlehem

Psalm 23

I am having trouble accounting for why some of these were so popular.  I notice that none of these are less than a year old, so perhaps the results are skewed by the length of time they’ve been available to those searching for specific terms.  Perhaps I’ll check back in a year and see how the list compares.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Tourists to Athens Frustrated with Museum Closures

If you’re thinking of a trip to biblical lands, you might want to choose a country other than Greece this year.  From the Guardian:

The greatest repository of ancient Greek art – the National Archaeological Museum of Athens – has become the latest victim of the economic crisis engulfing Greece, with visitors getting only a peek at its renowned collections.

As the long-awaited tourist season begins, the debt-choked country's top attraction is in the news for all the wrong reasons: closed exhibition halls, neglect and exasperated holidaymakers.

"This is our first time to Greece and of course we're disappointed," said Shareen Young, from Orange Country, California, who on Friday found herself locked out of the venerable institution because of a staff shortage. "I had really wanted to see the golden Mask of Agamemnon and other treasures of Troy."

Barbara Vimercati, an Italian tourist, was also left standing outside the museum's monumental bronze doors. "It says it's open until 4pm but it's not, and there isn't even a note explaining why," she said, making do with a glimpse of cellophane-wrapped statues in an adjacent corridor. "It's unbelievable. We don't understand."

Most Greeks, including the museum's keepers, are similarly at a loss. "We have 11,000 exhibits, five permanent collections and galleries over more than 8,000 square metres of space," said Alexandra Christopoulou, a museum representative. "The season begins in April. I really don't know why it has taken so long for the culture ministry to send extra personnel."

With just 30 guards to supervise displays that require at least 130 on a daily basis, only eight of the museum's 64 exhibition halls were open to the public last Sunday, according to the Kathimerini newspaper. Visitors have reportedly almost come to blows with staff when they discover that their €7 (£6.25) ticket gives them access to only a fraction of the displays.

The story continues here.

HT: Jack Sasson

Athens National Archaeological Museum, tb030806100

National Archaeological Museum of Athens

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Monday, June 06, 2011

Eilat Mazar Interviewed about Temple Mount

From WorldNetDaily:

One of the most prominent Israeli archaeologists declared today that remains from the First and Second Jewish Temple period – including the Second Temple itself – lie underneath the Temple Mount surface, just waiting to be excavated.

Dr. Eilat Mazar of Hebrew University accused the site's Islamic custodians of destroying Jewish artifacts while attempting to turn the Temple Mount into a "giant mosque."

"I think we will find all the remains starting from the First Temple period and remains of the Temple itself," said Mazar, a third-generation archeologist. "I mean, no one took it out, it's there."

Mazar said she is "absolutely sure" remains from the First and Second Temple periods, including "the Second Temple itself," as well as later remains from the Byzentine [sic] and early Islamic periods, are just under the surface of the Temple Mount.

Continued Mazar: "I am absolutely sure, in light of my very rich experience excavating Jerusalem for 30 years now, all these remains are waiting to be revealed. And if it can't be done nowadays because of all kinds of sensitivities, at least we should take care that it won't be ruined for future excavations when time comes."

Mazar was speaking in an interview with "Aaron Klein Investigative Radio" on New York's WABC Radio.

The continuation of the story and the audio of the 14-minute interview with Mazar can be found here.

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Saturday, June 04, 2011

What’s New and Popular at BAS

With the most recent “roundup” here on Wednesday, there are not enough items of interest to warrant another edition this weekend.  Instead, I have recently learned about (a new?) feature at the BAS website.  You can check the same link each week for new content.  From BAS:

Here’s a quick list of what’s brand new and most popular this week on the award-winning Web site of the Biblical Archaeology Society, publishers of Biblical Archaeology Review magazine.

BRAND NEW

Roman Ships Transported Live Fish June 03, 2011

Large Underground Water Source Found in Jerusalem June 02, 2011

Hawass Says Report of New Pyramids is Inaccurate June 01, 2011

Jerusalem Tunnels Reveal City’s Ancient Past May 31, 2011

Researchers Create Replicas of Cuneiform Tablets May 27, 2011

MOST POPULAR

A Case Against the Repatriation of Archaeological Artifacts

The Pharaoh, the Bible and Liberation (Square)

The Birth and Death of Biblical Minimalism

Scholar’s Study

2011 Archaeological Digs Seeking Volunteers

Three items struck me in the list’s one-sentence introduction:

1. What is the difference between “brand new” and “new”?  Is it necessary or helpful to include the word “brand”?

2. Is there some value in informing your readers that your website is “award-winning”?  Does it matter what kind of award it is?

3. In the 1990s we spoke of the World Wide Web, but it seems that in the last ten years or so, the Web has become the web and we don’t have Web sites, but websites.

None of these items are all that significant, but they stood out to me.

With regard to the links themselves, I recommend “A Case Against the Repatriation of Archaeological Artifacts,” by Rachel Hallotte.

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Friday, June 03, 2011

Photo of the Day: Dock at Troas

Troas wooden dock, tb041605191

Apparently one fisherman grew tired of wading from his boat to land each day and built himself a little dock. This rickety walkway does nothing to remind the visitor of the glory of the ancient city of Troas and its important harbor, long reclaimed by the ocean.

The apostle Paul passed through the port several times, beginning with his first trip to Europe and the city of Philippi (Acts 16:8-10). Luke joined Paul at this time, based on the first occurrence of the first person plural in the narrative. 

On his third missionary journey, Paul returned this way to visit friends as he traveled to Jerusalem.  His lengthy oratory put Eutychus to sleep, an event which might have gone unnoticed had not Eutychus been sitting in a window on the third floor (Acts 20:9).  As the NET Bible puts it, “Fast asleep, he fell down from the third story and was picked up dead.”

Some have suggested that following his release from prison in Rome, Paul was later arrested in Troas.  This would explain why Paul left his cloak and scrolls there, and why he requested that Timothy bring them to him quickly (2 Tim 4:13).

Strabo called Troas “one of the most famous cities of the world,” but by the sixth century, its harbors were apparently silted up and the city was no longer a significant crossroads in the Byzantine empire.

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Thursday, June 02, 2011

Rare Ibex Scenes Caught on Video

I love BBC’s Planet Earth series, and a clip of the dramatic footage of ibex males fighting is now on Youtube. 

 

A follow-up BBC series is Life, and to judge from previews, the quality looks as spectacular.  Here is a scene of ibex climbing down the cliffs of En Gedi, with a dramatic chase of a kid by a fox. 

Last month I noted the five-minute video entitled “The Crags of the Wild Goats,” produced by SourceFlix.

UPDATE: Ferrell Jenkins has written about ibex and their significance in Scripture.  As he notes in the comment below, there was no collusion in our efforts today.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Wednesday Roundup

The theft of dozens of antiquities from Eleusis (Eleusina, Elefsina) has been solved and the items recovered by Greek police.

Nearly 2,000 artifacts smuggled out of Turkey have been recovered and returned this year alone.  The article notes that the country has almost 200 museums.

The Israeli government approved a plan to rehabilitate the polluted Kishon River.  After the three-year process is complete, plans call for converting the area into a park with bicycle and walking paths.

Leen Ritmeyer comments on Israel’s largest underground stream, discovered recently in construction of the railway under Jerusalem.

Wayne Stiles explains the historic significance of Beth Shean and its attraction to archaeologists.  The article also includes a two-minute aerial fly-over of the ancient city.

The NY Times profiles the full-size replica of Noah’s Ark being built in Holland.  One consideration the original builder did not have: making the boat fire-proof. The article mentions the possibility of the ark visiting London for the Olympic Games next year as well as interest from Texas and Israel.  A photo shows how impressive the boat is.

After raising $3 million for the replica of Noah’s Ark in Kentucky, an updated webpage now provides details about various sections of the theme park.  Visitors will enjoy seeing reconstructions of the Tower of Babel, a walled city, and a first-century village.  The children’s area will include zip lines.

Yuval Baruch, Jerusalem District Archaeologist, is interviewed on the LandMinds radio show.

An article in Popular Archaeology reviews the excavations of copper mines in the Aravah and the possible implications for our understanding of the time of Solomon.

Israel is celebrating today “Jerusalem Day,” and the unification of the city in 1967 is remembered in the return of Jehuda Hartman to the Western Wall to “update” an iconic photo. Hartman comments on some of the great changes to the Western Wall area in the last four decades.

HT: Explorator, Jack Sasson

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