Thursday, May 29, 2014

Crusader-Era Monastery Seal Discovered in Jerusalem

From the Jerusalem Post:

The Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday that it unearthed a rare 800-year-old lead seal from the Monastery of St. Sabas in Jerusalem.

[…]

The seal shows a bearded bust of a saint wearing a himation, while holding a cross in his right hand and the Gospel in his left. Surrounding it is a Greek inscription naming him “Saint Sabas.”

On the back of the seal there is a longer Greek inscription, reading: “This is the seal of the Laura of the Holy Sabas.”

Photo by Clara Amit, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority

During the summer of 2012, the Antiquities Authority conducted two archaeological salvage excavations at the Horbat Mizmil antiquities site in Bayit Vagan, which revealed the remains of a farmstead constructed during the Byzantine period (5th-6th centuries CE).

The archeologists said the excavated farmstead may refer to a farming settlement sold to the monastery in 1163–1164.

[…]

St. Sabas, or according to his Syriac name, “Mar Saba,” was one of the most important and influential leaders of the Christian monastic movement developing in the Judean Desert during the Byzantine period.

Sabas established several monasteries, but his crowning achievement was the construction of the Monastery of St. Sabas, referred to as the “Great Laura” in the Byzantine period.

The monastery, situated on a cliff overlooking Nahal Kidron, was home to several hundred monks.

“This is the only monastery in the Judean Desert continuously inhabited since its foundation, and even today there are circa 10 Greek monks who reside in the monastery belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church,” the Antiquities Authority said.

The full story is here. The IAA press release is here.

HT: Bill Soper

Mar Saba, Valley of the Kedron, pp1148a

Mar Saba monastery
Image from Picturesque Palestine, volume 1

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Jerusalem Day Sale on Accordance Resources

Today is Jerusalem Day and in honor of that Accordance Bible Software has a sale on some outstanding Jerusalem resources.

The photo collections should be mentioned first:

  • Accordance Photo Guide – save $25
  • The American Colony Collection – save $50
  • Views That Have Vanished (Photos of David Bivin) – save $13

Five Jerusalem “atlases” published by Carta are also discounted (with my favorite at the top):

  • The Quest: Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, by Leen Ritmeyer
  • Jerusalem in the Year 30 A.D., by Leen and Kathleen Ritmeyer
  • Jerusalem in the Time of Nehemiah, by Leen and Kathleen Ritmeyer
  • The Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem, by Dan Bahat
  • Carta’s Historical Atlas of Jerusalem, by Dan Bahat

The sale page gives two examples of the dramatic changes visible in recent history at the Western Wall prayer plaza.

Check out these great resources before the sale ends on June 2!

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Artifact of the Month: Mesha Stela (Moabite Stone)

(Posted by Michael J. Caba)

The Moabite Stone, also called the Mesha Stela, is an inscribed black basalt monument written in the Moabite language in c. 835 BC. It stands nearly four feet tall and was found in 1868 in the land of ancient Moab, now modern Jordan. It contains references to biblical figures such as Israelite King Omri and Moabite King Mesha (cf. 1 and 2 Kings), as well as the covenant name of God, YHWH (cf. Exodus 3). It is now located in the Louvre.

The story of the discovery and eventual movement of the stone to the Louvre is quite interesting in itself. Originally discovered by a missionary, it was subsequently broken apart by the local population who heated it with fire and then poured cold water on it. Following this, they used the various pieces as amulets in their granaries. Eventually, after much wrangling among European powers and local tribes, 57 pieces (representing about 2/3 of the original) coupled with replacement parts were used to reconstruct the original. The reassembly was undertaken with the help of a paper squeeze of the surface that was made before it was broken apart.

Future post(s) will comment on some controversial aspects of this important artifact.

(Photo: BiblePlaces.com. Significant resources for further study: The Context of Scripture, Volume 2, pages 137-138; Lost Treasures of the Bible, by Fant and Reddish, pages 97-103.)  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Week One at Khirbet el-Maqatir

The first half of the season is finished at a site that may be Ai of the Bible. This year’s team is the largest ever, and most of the work is focused on remains from the first century. Gary Byers reports on some of the discoveries:

From one of these squares a second scarab at KeM was found. Last year’s scarab was considered to be the top find of Biblical archaeology in 2013 by Christianity Today Magazine (off-site link). This year’s scarab, from soil 15 feet from the first, has already been taken to an expert at Hebrew University for cleaning, restoration and analysis.

Last season at KeM, we found a record total of 205 coins (See the report from 2013). This week, we found 112 coins – from every square but mine! Our numbers are impressive to archaeologists because they’re being found individually all over the site and not together in hordes.

Squares led by Dr. Gene Merrill, dig Administrative Director Henry Smith, Abigail Leavitt and Dr. Brian Peterson all have cisterns (plastered and holding water) or silos (not plastered and holding storage jars). Many of our coins come from soil in these subterranean structures.

A full report with photos is here.

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Weekend Roundup

Aren Maeir reports on the highlights of the 2013 excavation season at Gath (Tell es-Safi).

A statue of a Phoenician priest dating to the 6th century BC has been discovered in Sidon.

The Pope has arrived in Jordan and heads to Israel soon.

Some religious Jews are afraid that if Catholic mass is permitted in the Upper Room that they will be unable to pray at the Tomb of David downstairs.

A new study suggests that some of Petra’s structures were intended to align with the solstices and equinoxes.

Archaeological work in Jerusalem indicates that it was the Roman construction of Aelia Capitolina that triggered the Bar Kochba Revolt (and not the other way around).

Have you ever wondered how Jonathan defeated the Philistines by climbing the cliff of Michmash? Wayne Stiles explains it all with maps and photos.

Ferrell Jenkins and Leon Mauldin are traveling in eastern Turkey. They have recently visited Haran and the Zeugma Mosaic Museum.

Muslims in eastern Syria have apparently destroyed a statue from the Neo-Assyrian period looted from Tell Ajaja.

The 2014 excavation season has begun at Tel Jezreel.

The PACE (Project on Ancient Cultural Engagement) online database has moved.

Judith McKenzie's black and white photographs taken in 1982-1986 for The Architecture of Petra (1990) are now all available online at the Petra Digital Archive. Other collections are also online, in high-resolution and free for use in educational and academic publications and research.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Jehoash Tablet Returned to Oded Golan

Matthew Kalman is reporting that the Jehoash Tablet has finally been returned by the IAA to its owner, Oded Golan.

An inscribed stone that may be the only remnant of Solomon’s Temple has been returned to its owner after an 11-year legal battle waged by the Israeli government.

The Jehoash Tablet, also known as the “Bedek Habayit” inscription, is back in the hands of Tel Aviv collector Oded Golan, who plans to put it on public display in a major museum.

Golan finally retrieved the tablet and hundreds of other items more than two years after he was acquitted of forging priceless antiquities in a seven-year criminal trial and nearly a year after the High Court finally rejected a last-ditch appeal by Israel's state attorney and the Israel Antiquities Authority.

After more than a decade of confrontation, Golan tells me he does not wish to be rushed into his next move.

“Now I should exhibit it,” he says. “When, where, how – I don’t know. I’ll make a decision in the next year.”

“But it should go on display in a major museum so the public can see it for themselves, together with all the test results carried out before and during the trial,” he says.

The full article includes a lot of background on the tablet. Access to this Haaretz article may require subscription. Kalman’s blog on the trial is here.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Frescoes Restored at Masada

Haaretz reports on the restoration of frescoes in the Commandant’s Residence of Masada.

For 20 years, the frescoes that decorated the “Commandant’s Residence” (Beit Hamefaked) on top of Masada were stored away in a warehouse at the national park. This week, after a month’s work, a team headed by Italian expert renovator Prof. Maurizio Tagliapietra of the University of Verona and including employees of the Israel Parks and Nature Authority completed the restoration of another room on the top of the historic mountain.

The frescoes, which were discovered during the extensive archaeological digs conducted by Yigal Yadin in the 1960s, were glued to new backings and put back in their original locations on the walls at the time. But as time passed the effects of the weather, the high salt content of the air and vandalism by visitors eventually led to the decision to remove them and put them into storage. The frescoes were in a structure on Masada without a roof, and it was decided that only after a proper roof was built would they be returned.

The article includes a number of photos that show the restoration work. The Facebook page that the article references may be found here.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Masada commandant's residence, tb022904750

House of the Commandant at Masada
Photo from Judah and the Dead Sea

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

A Bone to Pick: Why Did We Hear Only One Side of the Camel Argument?

In advance of the pope’s blessing of the tabernacle from the boat altar, the New York Times profiles the excavation and resort of Magdala.

Ferrell Jenkins recently visited the new excavations at Derbe.

ArtDaily: “Egypt unveiled Thursday the 3,000 year-old tombs of two senior pharaonic military men in the famed Saqqara necropolis, one of them decorated with well-preserved reliefs depicting the afterlife.”

Aren Maeir’s recent lecture at the Oriental Institute on new directions in the study of the Philistines is now online.

The only museum of biblical archaeology in Latin America is in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Haaretz: Archaeologists are protesting construction at Tel Shiloh.

“Aerial images taken by Corona satellites in 1960s help archaeologists locate unexcavated towns and roads across Middle East, but few gems remain unsurveyed in Israel.”

On Logos pre-pub discount: Biblical Archaeologist / Near Eastern Archaeology (1992–2011) (20 vols.) (74 issues)

Yale University Press launches Roman architecture enhanced e-book. $9.99 at Amazon.

HT: Ted Weis

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Recently discovered wall paintings in Jerusalem provide new information on Crusader military and monastic symbols.

Where will the Pope go when he visits Jerusalem next week? His full itinerary is online.

Will the Pope’s visit to Jerusalem prompt the state of Israel to give more control of the Upper Room to the Catholic church?

The significance of the Jordan River and the baptismal site is explored in a 5-minute video (with transcript) by PBS.

The Yarkon River flows through Tel Aviv. Wayne Stiles explains why it is important to biblical history.

And I missed this one last week: 3 Sites by Beersheba You Seldom See—Arad, Besor, and Aroer

Where is King David Really Buried? This is the best explanation of the issue I recall reading.

Video: The new Waldorf Astoria has opened in Jerusalem at the same location, and with the same façade, as the 1929 hotel.

Bible History Daily: The 10 Strangest Foods in the Bible

Aphek, source of Yarkon River with flock of sheep, mat02807

Source of the Yarkon River at Aphek
Photo from the American Colony Collection

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Jordan Plans Development for Arabah

The area between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea is slated for major development on the eastern side as Jordan has announced a master plan for constructing dams, lakes, and tourist venues.

From The Jordan Times:

The JVA will create a new specialised unit that will supervise the implementation of the development projects in Wadi Araba, a 165-kilometre long and 9-25-kilometre-wide area between Southern Ghor and the Gulf of Aqaba, an official at the ministry told The Jordan Times.

In the statement, Nasser underscored that the development ventures will be implemented once funding is secured, highlighting that the projects seek to attract people to live in Wadi Araba and businessmen to invest in the area.

[…]

Meanwhile, the planned Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project, which will pass through Wadi Araba, is expected to have a major impact on the area’s development by attracting investment, the minister noted.

“Lakes will be created to establish tourist projects, chalets and entertainment centres, in addition to artificial sea-water lakes for fish farming.”

[…]

Wadi Araba is situated along Rift Valley-Red Sea route, which is the world’s second most-used flyway, with 37 types of migratory soaring birds that maintain flight by using rising air currents, travelling on the flyway annually, according to the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature.

The article gives more information about the planned dams, the agricultural development, and the migratory pathways. Jordan’s ability to attract tourism has proven poor in the past (compare Aqaba with the neighboring Eilat), but the popularity of Petra could help to boost interest in the Arabah in the winter months.

HT: Jack Sasson

Arabah and mountains of Edom from west, tb061604663

View from the Arabah road
Photo from the Jordan volume

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Photos from the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology

The Times of Israel runs a story today on the early work and photographs of the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology located on the Mount of Olives. While many of the photos published in the story are not new or exclusive, the article itself has some interesting information about the institute’s first director Gustaf Dalman. For instance, Ilan Ben Zion informs us that:

  • Though a renowned scholar of the land and its customs, Dalman only lived in Palestine for 12 years.
  • Though director of an archaeological institute, Dalman was forbidden by the board from conducting excavations.
  • Dalman blasted the British when he resigned from the Palestine Exploration Fund. “Deeply saddened by the British government intention, in alliance with barbarians and idolaters, to destroy German cultural work in the world…”
  • After World War I, the British forbade Dalman from returning to Palestine.

Some other notes about the photos:

  • The article includes two different slideshows, with a total of 29 images.
  • The images are from multiple collections and are not all from the German photographers, despite the copyright notice.
  • The image identified as “a well in Silwan” is actually a rare photo of Ein Rogel, the location of Adonijah’s attempted coup (1 Kgs 1:9).

The story also reports on two important current excavations of the German Protestant Institute, Tell Zira’a and Jerusalem’s Church of the Redeemer.

For some years we’ve been working on another set of German photographs published by Dalman and we hope to have that completed and available before the year is out.

HT: Antonio Lombatti, Mike Harney

ein-rogel-german-institute

Ein Rogel, early 20th century
Photo © DEIAHL, Jerusalem

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Preparing for the Pope

Today’s Caspari Center Media Review has two notes related to the upcoming papal visit to Israel. The first concerns closure of the Western Wall prayer plaza and the second anticipated attacks against Christians by Jewish extremists.

From HaMevaser, May 5, 2014: Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, rabbi of the Western Wall and the holy places, is deeply disturbed by demands from the police and the Shabak [domestic intelligence organization] to close the Western Wall to prayer and to public transportation during the entirety of Pope Francis’ visit later this month, as well as to close the entire Old City to vehicles even before the visit. This closure will disrupt early prayer services as well as bar mitzvah services, usually held in the morning as well. Rabinovich, along with Rabbi Chaim Miller of the Movement for Jerusalem and Her Inhabitants, are opposing the demand also because of rumors regarding a possible handover of control over David’s Tomb on Mount Zion.

From Haaretz, Yediot Ahronot, May 9, 2014: The police and Shabak are making extensive preparations to prevent a possible wave of hate crimes against Christians and Christian holy sites, and also against Muslim sites, in connection with Pope Francis’ upcoming visit. Among other things, they are preparing to guard holy sites, making special arrangements for investigating nationalistic crimes and gathering related intelligence. A suspect has been detained. On April 7, graffiti was discovered on the walls of the Vatican offices in Jerusalem, saying, “Death to the Arabs, to the Christians and to all those who hate Israel.” The Franciscan order responsible for the holy sites has published a protest, calling officials “to deal urgently with those radical elements.” Some inhabitants of Wadi Ara are also preparing to guard their local mosques.

A previous Caspari Center Media Review provided an update on the possible handover of the Upper Room/David’s Tomb to the Vatican.

From Makor Rishon, April 18, 2014: In this three-page article, Yehuda Yifrach relates the bitter conflict in progress at the moment regarding David’s Tomb. The structure, near the Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion, was built around 1330, and has been a source of dispute between Jews, Christians, and Muslims almost ever since, as the second story of the building has also been identified by the Vatican as the site of the Last Supper. Now there are rumors of a possible treaty between the Israeli government and the Vatican. This treaty would crystallize the long-term standing of the Catholic Church in Israel, but in particular, would give control over the Last Supper Room into Catholic hands. Jewish organizations are bitterly opposing this move, saying that a flood of Christian pilgrims will stop any Jewish activity at the site, and give de facto ownership to the Vatican. These organizations are also concerned because of the mentality the Vatican has displayed in the past regarding the sovereignty of the state of Israel, and the Vatican’s attempts to present the Holocaust as a Catholic event. Neither the Israeli government nor the Israel Antiquities Authority could speak as to possible details of the treaty, except to deny that any sort of handover was contemplated, but a recent article in the formal Vatican newspaper appears to regard it as almost settled.

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Thursday, May 08, 2014

Using PLBL with Picasa (Part 2)

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

This posting will focus on two ways that Picasa can help you deploy the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands in classroom teaching. (See our first post on "Using PLBL with Picasa" here.)

First, we will show you how to use Albums to create a presentation on-the-fly using photographs that are located in multiple folders. This could be helpful if you are short on time, and the topic you are teaching or studying (such as Paul's missionary trips) involves places or events across the Pictorial Library. First, browse or search for the photographs(s) that you want to include in your presentation. When you click once on the photograph, it will be "selected" and two things will happen: a blue frame will appear around the selected image as below,

Left image is selected and has a blue frame.

and a thumbnail of the thumbnail (is there a name for this?) will appear in the lower left window of Picasa, in an area called the selection tray.

Selection tray with three selected images.

You can select more than one image at a time from a single folder using Shift or Control/Command keys. To select photographs from another folder without losing your selections from previous folders, click the "green thumbtack" button to "hold" the items in the selection tray. The red circle will remove items from the selection tray.

Selection tray buttons.

Once you have selected all the photographs you want to use in your presentation, click the "blue book" button for "albums." It will open a menu that allows you to select an existing "album" or create a new "album" where you want to send the photographs. The images will not actually be moved. Rather, albums are like "Smart Playlists" (or Dynamic Folders); you can add or delete albums without touching the original images. They allow you to mix-and-match into a single folder a variety of photographs that are located in several folders. All of the images in the selection tray will be "sent" to the album that you choose or create.

Albums button menu.

Albums can be viewed by clicking on "Albums" at the top of the left-side browser.

Albums browser with an album for "Gates." 

With your photographs in an album, you can now arrange the order of the photographs by clicking-and-dragging the thumbnails in the main screen. Once you have the photographs in the sequence you want them, double-click the first photograph to go the "Edit Picture" screen. At the top is a Play button which will begin the slideshow presentation.

Play slideshow button.

Moving the cursor in slideshow view will cause a control bar to appear at the bottom. Here you can rotate a photo, zoom in, exit the slideshow, or make other adjustments.

Slideshow controls.

To return to the main screen from the "Edit Picture" screen, click the "Back to Library" button at top left.

Return to main screen button.


Second, we will show you how to use Picasa to create a Google Earth kmz file of locations containing image thumbnails. The secret to doing this is Geotags. Geotags are location coordinate information contained within the actual photograph. By clicking the blue "information" button in the Show/Hide Panels toolbar at the bottom right of the screen, you can view the photograph metadata. If a photograph is geotagged, the metadata will include a GPS Latitude and GPS latitude.

Show/Hide Panels buttons.

To geotag a photograph, click the red "balloon pin" button on the Show/Hide Panels toolbar. A window will expand on the right which looks just like Google Maps.

Places Panel.

Select the photograph(s) you want to geotag. (You can tag multiple photographs at the same time.) Next, you need to find the location in the Google map. (Just like with Google Maps, you can switch to satellite view and zoom in/out.) There are a few ways to find the location. You can do this manually by dragging the screen with the cursor and using zoom controls, and then clicking the green "balloon pin" to drop it on the location. You can use the search bar under the map to enter the name of a location. The best method, though, since so many Pictorial Library places are archaeological sites, is to copy/paste the coordinates from the Pictorial Library's Site Index into the search bar.

Once a photograph is geotagged, the thumbnail in the main screen will have a red "balloon pin" in the lower right corner.

Photograph with red "balloon pin" indicating
it has been geotagged.

To create a Google Earth kmz file, select the geotagged photographs you want to include. Again, you can use the selection tray as described above. For Windows computers only, go to Tools > Geotag > Export. This will create a kmz file from the photographs you selected. The kmz file can be opened in Google Earth or Google Maps, and it will contain yellow "pushpins" with thumbnail images of the photographs which have been geotagged to that location. (The kmz export feature is not available in the Mac version of Picasa. Instructions are here for accomplishing the same task.)

I can imagine this being useful, for example, if one is teaching on the life of Abraham. You can have "pushpins" at Haran, Shechem, Bethel, Hebron, etc. with thumbnails of Pictorial Library photographs. The kmz file can be distributed to students, or it might be used in classroom instruction. Perhaps a teacher might craft an exercise where students have to make a "map" of a biblical account using photos from the Pictorial Library.

This completes our series on "Using Pictorial Library of Bible Lands with Picasa." Picasa can be a very helpful tool for locating and deploying the wealth of images in the library.

We close with a comment about the limitations of using the Pictorial Library only with Picasa (or similar applications). The photographs of the Pictorial Library come in pre-made PowerPoint presentations which contain the maps, abundant annotations in the Speaker's Notes (see here and here), helpful labels, and have the photographs arranged in a logical order. Picasa misses out on all these features, so our recommendation is not to bypass the PowerPoints, but use Picasa in conjunction with them.


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Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Was David’s Citadel Discovered in Jerusalem?

A new AP story promotes the claim by Eli Shukrun that he discovered King David’s citadel. For someone familiar with these excavations, the AP account is anything but straightforward. Here’s a simple explanation: Shukrun is identifying the fortifications around the Gihon Spring with the Jebusite fortress of Zion.

What is the Jebusite fortress of Zion? It’s not very clear from the biblical account. Either it is the city as a whole or the king’s palace. Here is the relevant passage from 2 Samuel 5:6-9:

The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.” They thought, “David cannot get in here.” 7 Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David. 8 On that day, David said, “Anyone who conquers the Jebusites will have to use the water shaft [tsinnor] to reach those ‘lame and blind’ who are David’s enemies.” That is why they say, “The ‘blind and lame’ will not enter the palace.” 9 David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the supporting terraces inward.

Didn’t Shukrun and Reich excavate this beginning about 15 years ago and concluding about 2 years ago? Yes.

What makes this news? While these fortifications have always been ascribed to the Canaanite inhabitants of Jerusalem from 1800 BC, Shukrun is now making a direct claim that these were protecting the city when David arrived in 1004 BC.

What fortifications did they find? They excavated a massive tower protecting the Gihon Spring, another tower built next to a pool (see photo in the story), and a parallel set of walls leading up the hill.

Is this the same thing as Warren’s Shaft? Not quite. It’s the same idea—David’s men entered the city through a subterranean tunnel—but they believe that the vertical portion of Warren’s Shaft was not known until after the time of David. Instead, Shukrun believes that David’s men came via another section of the multi-part water system.

What does Shukrun’s partner Ronny Reich think? He is more hesitant to apply the biblical name, in part because of the lack of tenth-century pottery found in the excavations. But the walls didn’t disappear for a few centuries and then re-appear, so he suspects that the tenth-century pottery was removed by later inhabitants.

Do you agree? Yes and no. First, I find it quite reasonable that the water system and defensive towers were in use when David arrived. It seems likely that the tsinnor that Joab entered the city through is part of this complex. Second, the water system should not be equated with David’s palace. It’s not clear to me that this is what the article is saying, but the lack of clarity creates confusion. Shukrun is not saying that he found David’s home; he is claiming that he discovered a portion of the city that David conquered. That’s not news and it’s only controversial for those who don’t believe the biblical account of David’s conquest is accurate.

What is behind this recent announcement? The article claims that the visitor center only opened last month. I’m not sure what that means, since the site has been open continuously for the last 15 years, but it may explain why the news reporter chose to do the story. Shukrun is now working as a lecturer and tour guide and free publicity is always good. (If your group is looking for an extra special thing to do in Jerusalem, I would certainly recommend hiring Shukrun to guide you around the City of David.)

What’s the best book to read on the subject? Ronny Reich’s Excavating the City of David is excellent.

City of David Pool Tower with reconstruction, tb031614835

Pool Tower excavations with superimposed reconstruction

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Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Using PLBL with Picasa (Part 1)

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

In a previous post, we made mention of the 17,683 photographs that comprise the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands (PLBL). That is a lot of photographs! And it is a lot of places! To help the user find what they are looking for and to navigate the library, we added some brand-new features such as maps (here and here) and a Site Index, in addition to the already-helpful Image Index, the organization of the library into volumes/regions, and the descriptive filenames for every single photograph.

In this post, we would like to draw attention to a free program named Picasa, by Google. I have found this to be one of the most helpful tools for digging into the hidden corners of the Pictorial Library. Picasa works on both Windows and Mac computers.

Once you download and install Picasa, you can specify what folders you want Picasa to scan (or index). The index database is sort of like an address book—it does not make a duplicate copy of the images, rather it tells Picasa where to go look to find the images. NOTE: Picasa will work best if you have copied the Pictorial Library to your hard drive.

Under the File menu, select "Add Folder to Picasa..." Here you can specify which folders you want Picasa to see (i.e. scan or index) and which ones you want Picasa to ignore. The window looks like this:

 Folder Manager window.

Once you have selected the folders you want Picasa to scan, it will begin to index the files. This could take quite some time since the Pictorial Library has lots of images, but Picasa has only to do it once. In the lower right corner of your screen, a slide-out window like this will appear to notify you that Picasa is indexing the images:

Indexing slide-out window.


When Picasa has indexed the Pictorial Library, the main screen will look something like this:


On the left side, you see a tree diagram of all the folders Picasa has scanned/indexed, and in the main window, you see thumbnails of the photographs in the selected folder. Try double-clicking on one of the image thumbnails. (Once you do, a button will appear in the upper left corner with a blue arrow and the words "Back to Library.")

At this stage, we can point out the first two benefits of using the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands with Picasa. First, you can quickly browse thumbnails of all the photographs in the entire Pictorial Library. Images will catch your eye that you may not have ever noticed before, or you may find yourself discovering whole portions of the library that were unknown. 

Second, in the top right of the Picasa window is a search bar. Thankfully, every single photograph in the Pictorial Library has been given a descriptive filename. When you type in places or other terms, the search engine will look for image filenames and folder names to isolate the relevant photographs—all at Google speed! You can search for a placename, a type of construction (e.g. gate), an object (e.g. lamp), an event (e.g. winnow), and so forth. The search bar looks like this:

Search bar.

Here are the search results for "gate." You can see on the left side which volumes and folders have images of gates, and in the main window, you can scroll through the thumbnails.



We will discuss one other feature of Picasa in this post. When you search for a name or term in Picasa, the program is not only looking at filenames and folder names, but also "tags." In a previous post about the Pictorial Library's Site Index, we highlighted that index's usefulness because it allows you to find alternate names for a site that might not have been used in the image filename. The example we used was Ptolemais (Acts 21:7), which does not appear in the image filenames (Acco does instead). Well, all of the names from the Site Index have been added to the photographs as tags, so that in Picasa, you can perform a search for Ptolemais (or Akko or Acre or any of the other names or spellings) and all the photographs of Acco will appear. This makes it quick and easy to find places, even if you are using a different name or spelling!

In the lower right corner there is a row of four buttons that looks like this:

Show/Hide Panel buttons.

The third button has a cream-colored "shipping tag" icon. Clicking on it will reveal all the tags that have been added to a photograph. The Acco photographs have been given the following tags:

Tags panel.

Of course, Picasa is not the only program that can be used to browse and search the Pictorial Library. Other such programs include Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, iPhoto (for Mac), and ACDSee Pro, as well as perhaps some lesser-known ones such as ShotWell, XnViewFastStone Image Viewer. And there are others.

In a future post, we will highlight two more features of Picasa that make it such an excellent tool for use with the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. Of course, there is so much more that can be done with Picasa, but we leave that for you to explore and discover.

[Click here for Part 2]


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Monday, May 05, 2014

Lecture at Northwestern University

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

On Wednesday, May 7, at 7:00pm, Karen Radner will give a lecture entitled "Brain Drain: Foreign Experts in the Heartland of the Assyrian Empire." The lecture will take place at Guild Lounge, Scott Hall, Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

A description of the lecture given in March reads as follows:
The Neo-Assyrian Empire (9th–7th century BC) routinely used deportations as a key tool of establishing and maintaining control over its holdings. But deportation was by no means a blanket strategy, as the deported population groups were carefully selected to include craftsmen and specialists. Most of them were relocated in the Assyrian Heartland (today North Iraq) which was developed into the unrivalled economic and cultural centre of the Middle East. My paper which will focus on the "brain drain" experienced by the peripheries of the Assyrian Empire, including regions such as Egypt and Iran.

The lecture is free and open to the public. A reception is to follow. More information is here.

Karen Radner has written a number of essays and articles that are helpful for understanding the history of the Neo-Assyrian period, especially the centuries when Assyria came into direct contact with Israel and Judah. (In fact, the Bible mentions by name all Assyrian kings from Tiglath-pileser III through Ashurbanipal.) Radner was part of the team that created "Assyrian Empire Builders" and many of her articles are available through her Academia.edu page, including

  • "Assyrians and Urartians"
  • "The Assur-Nineveh-Arbela Triangle: Central Assyria in the Neo-Assyrian Period"
  • "After Eltekeh: Royal Hostages from Egypt at the Assyrian Court"
  • "Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Musasir, Kumme, Ukku and Šubria – the Buffer States between Assyria and Urartu"
  • "Assyria and the Medes"

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

A bust of Alexander the Great has been discovered in a church on the island of Cyprus.

The recent claim that the Polish Center of Archaeology had found the tomb of Alexander the Great in Alexandria, Egypt, is a hoax.

The new museum in Antioch on the Orontes will open soon with the world’s largest display of mosaics.

The "Roads of Arabia" exhibit is now in Kansas City at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Until July 6.

The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology has launched an interactive online 3D object library. Direct link here.

Logos has three new collections available at pre-publication discount for those interested in seals of the biblical world:

The ASOR Weekly Roundup is here.

HT: Jack Sasson, Ted Weis

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Saturday, May 03, 2014

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

I’ll start with my favorite article of the week: a review of recent excavations at the base of the Temple Mount’s Western Wall. You already know about the chisel, but you may not have heard about the smooth stone, the use of mortar, or the exposure of the valley floor. The Israel Hayom article failed to check with expert Leen Ritmeyer, but you can see his reaction on his blog.

Wet sand is the trick for cutting the pulling power in half when dragging pyramid stones across the Egyptian desert.

One chapter at a time, Ferrell Jenkins is taking us through a series in Visualizing Isaiah. This week he arrived at Isaiah 40 and he shares a couple of shepherd illustrations.

Now online: Leen Ritmeyer’s recent lecture, “Does the Byzantine Church at Khirbet el-Maqatir Reflect the Sacred Architecture of the Temple in Jerusalem?”

The Wall Street Journal summarizes events in the last few weeks that have led scholars to recognize the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife as a modern forgery.

The BBC has a video inside the new replica of King Tut’s tomb. Not everyone is pleased.

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Thursday, May 01, 2014

Pictorial Library of Bible Lands New Features: Site Index

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

In May of 2012, a major revision of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands was announced on this blog. It was a significant moment in the life of BiblePlaces.com, and the culmination of years of work. The number of volumes increased from 10 to 18, and the number of total photographs increased from 5,854 to 17,683. Apart from these statistics, however, many other improvements were made and some brand-new features were added, all of which make the collection more user-friendly.

We have already described the maps which debuted in the revision of the Pictorial Library (see part 1 and part 2). In this post, we want to highlight another brand-new feature: the Site Index.

The Site Index is a pdf document which provides (1) the primary name for each site that is used in the image filenames, (2) the volume and region where the site is located in the Pictorial Library, (3) a list of alternate names and spellings for the site, and (4) latitude and longitude coordinates for the site.

The importance and usefulness of this new feature can best be illustrated with some examples.

Perhaps you are teaching or studying Acts 21, and you need some photographs of Ptolemais (Acts 21:7), but you do not find any images with Ptolemais in the filename. With the Site Index you can quickly find Ptolemais, and see that it is found on Volume 1: "Galilee and the North", in the folder/PowerPoint "Plain of Asher." The Old Testament name of the city is Acco, and that is the name used for all of the image filenames. You will also see other historical names for the site such as Tell el-Fukhkhar and Acre, which might become important for doing further research. (In a future post about Google's free program Picasa, we will mention another very easy way to find sites by other names, such as Ptolemais.)

Entry for Acco/Ptolemais in the Pictorial Library Site Index.


Another example concerns placenames which are shared by more than one site. For example, the Pictorial Library contains photographs of two sites in Israel named Achzib, one located on the Plain of Asher and the other in the Judean Shephelah (foothills).

Entries for Achzib in the Pictorial Library Site Index. 

Similarly, there are two sites in the Pictorial Library named Apollonia, one in Greece (Acts 17:1) and the other in Israel. The Site Index can help the user sort out these kinds of things, and make sure you are looking at the right site.

Entries for Apollonia in the Pictorial Library Site Index.


Finally, the coordinates for the site can be copied and pasted (simply, without any need to format or edit them) into a map program, such as Google Maps or Google Earth, so you can find where the site is located. (We will return to this last topic in a future post about using the Pictorial Library with Picasa.)

Note: The Site Index is a distinct document from the Image Index, both of which are included in the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.