Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Desecrated Shrine Discovered in Lachish Gatehouse

Archaeologists working at Tel Lachish have excavated the second half of a six-chamber gate and claim to have discovered two horned altars suggested that this was a “shrine in the gate” that was desecrated in the reforms of Hezekiah (2 Kgs 18:4). The evidence of the desecration is a stone toilet that was never used but that recalls Jehu’s conversion of the Baal temple in Samaria into a latrine (2 Kgs 10:27). The horns of one(?) of the altars were removed in the reform as well. The gate was destroyed in the invasion of Sennacherib in 701 BC.

For more information, take a look at the IAA press release or read the reports in the Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel. The first four photos are courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority. More photos and videos are available here. I’m curious to see Aren Maeir’s take, but he has not yet posted on it.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Chris McKinny

1

Aerial view of the excavated gatehouse at Tel Lachish.
Photo by Guy Fitoussi.

4

Excavation of the gate shrine with the “altar” visible in the center. Photo by Saʽar Ganor.

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Evidence of “altar’s destruction.” Photo by Yoli Shwartz.

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Removal of the stone toilet. Photo by Igor Kramerman.

Lachish inner gate reconstruction, tb060816602

Reconstruction of gatehouse, taken in June, following the January–March excavations.

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Weekend Roundup

Digital imaging technology has virtually opened an ancient scroll from En Gedi to reveal the first two chapters of Leviticus. The publication in Science Advances includes a number of photos. Another article published in Textus is also online. The portions deciphered so far exactly match the Masoretic Text, but the radiocarbon date of 3rd-4th centuries AD differs from the paleographer’s date to the 1st or 2nd centuries.

The discovery of a menorah at Abila provides the first evidence of Jewish presence at this city of the Decapolis.

2,000-year-old human skeleton remains have been found buried at sea near a shipwreck at Antikythera, Greece.

A fisherman's house from the Ottoman period was discovered along the beach in Ashkelon.

Bedouin youths have helped to excavate Byzantine-era farm buildings in the Negev.

A new virtual reality tour in Jerusalem takes “visitors” inside the Temple. There’s a short video clip here.

Archaeologists plan to finish reconstruction work on Laodicea’s Hellenistic theater within three years.

The Malawi Archaeological Museum in Minya was reopened this week after three years of renovation.

Omar Ghul, an epigrapher at Yarmouk University, discusses important inscriptions discovered in Jordan.

Laïla Nehmé is interviewed by Ancient History Etc. about the history of the Nabateans.

Ferrell Jenkins concludes his series on Iznik (Nicea) with a post on the modern city and its vicinity.

Wayne Stiles considers the history and the lessons from Hezekiah’s Tunnel.

Chris McKinny will be lecturing at Texas A&M Corpus Christi on October 3 on the Late Bronze finds from Tel Burna.

On sale for Kindle for $2.99: Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?, edited by James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary. I require several of the chapters for at least one course I teach.

Mordechai Gichon died this week.

Ferrell Jenkins remembers Erle Verdun Leichty on the announcement of his passing.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Agade, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Weekend Roundup

A stone weight from the first century with the name of the high priest has been discovered in Jerusalem. Ynet has more photos and a video in Hebrew.

Israel’s largest archaeological garden was opened this week on a military base in Tel Aviv.

Archaeologists working at Petra have discovered two statues of Aphrodite.

“Excavations in the volcanic desert of Jordan have uncovered three surprisingly advanced fortified settlements with artificially irrigated terraced gardens, dating to 6,000 years ago.”

Someone is claiming to have discovered one of the stones from the high priest’s breastplate.

“Excavations at Tatarlı Mound in the southern province of Adana’s Ceyhan district have unearthed an impression seal from a monumental Hittite-era structure.”

Aviv and Shmuel Bar-Am provide a virtual tour of the excavations of Ramat Rahel.

Israel’s Good Name describes a recent visit to Chorazin (Korazim) and the first century Galilee boat.

Wayne Stiles suggests that the Transjordanian tribes settled for “second best” and he applies that principle for us today.

Leen Ritmeyer analyzes the paving stone tiles released by the Temple Mount Sifting Project and suggests they came from “the interior of some of the many buildings that surrounded the Temple and/or from under the colonnades around the smaller courts.”

The Hebrew Music Museum opened earlier this year in Jerusalem and features 260 instruments.

This week Southern Adventist University opened a new exhibit entitled “A World in Miniature: Creation, Cosmos, and Ecology on Seals from Biblical Times.” The museum’s website does not appear to have information yet on this new display.

The ASOR Blog identifies their five most popular posts of the summer.

The British Institute at Ankara has published nine volumes in the series Roman Roads and Milestones of Asia Minor, all available without charge in pdf format.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Agade

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Survey Results: Favorite Museum

We had fewer responses for this survey than previous ones, perhaps because the nature of the survey is more geared to scholars and well-traveled tourists than to others. The lower participation may also account for why many excellent museums were not represented in the survey, including the Louvre, the Oriental Institute, and the Met.

The most popular museum of our survey was, not surprisingly, the Israel Museum (and/or Shrine of the Book). Among the enthusiastic explanations were these:

Hard to beat the archaeological section of the Israel Museum for the sheer number of outstanding and biblically significant artifacts. (And then you add the Jerusalem model and Shrine of the Book too!)

The museum is laid out chronologically. Each exhibit is concisely written and easily understood.

And specifically of the Shrine of the Book:

Coolest Hebrew manuscripts ever.

Three other museums in Israel were recommended:

House of the Anchor Museum (En Gev)

It's so small one can describe it as cute, yet it’s dedicated to such a unique and important topic most of our information of 1st century fishing and fishermen comes from the studies from this museum.

Hecht Museum (Haifa)

While it may not have the main historically significant artifacts like the Israel Museum (e.g., the Tel Dan stele), it has one of the best displays of a wide variety of artifacts from the biblical period and some really unique exhibits like the Hellenistic shipwreck, Phoenician dye working, and treasure hoards.

Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem

amazing collection, great graphics, free parking

I’d gladly pay for parking if they let me take some pictures!

Outside of Israel, three museums were suggested from neighboring countries.

Museum of Egyptian Antiquities (Cairo)

Amazing collection

The Jordan Museum (Amman)

Historical and Biblical artifacts

The Istanbul Archaeology Museums

Who doesn't love Hittite memorabilia (and guards with mustaches that can kill)?

Two European museums were proposed, with the British Museum getting the second highest number of votes of all (after the Israel Museum).

So many excellent collections

Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser 3 showing king Jehu and other Jews

The other was the Pergamon Museum in Berlin:

Just great in everything ;)

Before you buy your ticket to Berlin, you should know that some parts of the museum are closed for renovation.

The only museum in the US that received a vote was the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, California. That is a bit disappointing, especially given how many of our readers live in the States. Perhaps I might encourage our American readers to visit some of these outstanding museums. We’ve made a list and are soliciting suggestions for any that we may have missed.

If I had three votes to spend on three continents for the best museums related to biblical studies, I’d pick the Israel Museum (Asia), British Museum (Europe), and the Oriental Institute (North America). But there are some great ones that I have not yet visited that could earn my vote in the future!

Thank you for participating! It’s fascinating to read what interests you and why.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Gold Coin of Nero Discovered on Mount Zion

In excavations on Mount Zion this summer, archaeologists discovered a gold coin with the image of Nero. UNC Charlotte’s press release gives more details:

The discovery of a rare gold coin bearing the image of the Roman Emperor Nero at UNC Charlotte’s archaeological excavations on Mount Zion in Jerusalem has been announced by the archaeologists in charge of the project Shimon Gibson, James Tabor and Rafael Lewis.

“The coin is exceptional, because this is the first time that a coin of this kind has turned up in Jerusalem in a scientific dig. Coins of this type are usually only found in private collections, where we don’t have clear evidence as to place of origin,” said Gibson, an adjunct professor of religious studies at UNC Charlotte.

The gold coin (aureus) bears the bare-headed portrait of the young Nero as Caesar. The lettering around the edge of the coin reads “NERO CAESAR AVG IMP.” On the reverse of the coin is a depiction of an oak wreath containing the letters “EX S C,” with the surrounding inscription “PONTIF MAX TR P III.” Importantly, these inscriptions help to work out the date when the coin was struck as 56/57 AD. Identification of the coin was made by the historian and numismatist David Jacobson from London.

The coin dates to a little more than a decade before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. and was found in rubble material outside the ruins of the first century Jewish villas the team has been excavating. The team has hypothesized that the large houses may have belonged to wealthy members of the priestly caste, and it may have come from one of their stores of wealth.

The press release includes more information and a photo of the coin. A high-res image of the coin’s obverse is here.

HT: Joseph Lauer

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Reader Survey: Favorite Museum

If choosing a favorite museum related to the biblical world is difficult for you, consider yourself blessed. There are outstanding museums for the Bible student and teacher in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, the UK, Germany, France, the US, and beyond. (If you haven't seen our list of U.S. museums, take a look sometime.) But for now your task is this: choose one and only one, and tell us why. We'll share the results on Thursday.

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

A New York Times photo essay reveals how a Turkish dam project will submerge thousands of years of history.

Turkey is punishing Austria by cancelling their excavations at Ephesus, Limyra, Myra, and Antalya.

Ferrell Jenkins begins a new series on Visiting Iznik (Nicea, Nicaea), Turkey with a summary of the numerous trips he has made to the country over the last 50 years. Part 2 considers the testimony of history regarding church government, part 3 looks at the first ecumenical council, and part 4 visits the site of the seventh ecumenical council.

The New York Times reports on several digital archives of Middle Eastern archaeological artifacts, with a special focus on the Ur Online database.

A newly discovered beam from Khufu's second boat may be the oars holder.

On the ASOR Blog, Reg Clark answers the question, “How and why did the [ancient] Egyptians protect their tombs?”

Volume 4 of The Context of Scripture is available from Brill for pre-order.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Charles Savelle, Agade, A.D. Riddle, Steven D. Anderson

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

A stone seal discovered this summer at Abel Beth Maacah suggests Israelite presence at the site in the 9th century.

Luke Chandler has collected a number of photos of floor tiles from Herod’s Temple Mount that have been restored by the Temple Mounting Sifting Project. The Jerusalem Post has more details. There are more photos here. A 20-minute video of the press conference is online, with English starting at about 3 minutes.

Archaeologists have uncovered a Byzantine-era stable at Avdat in southern Israel. High school students joined in the sifting of hundreds of buckets of organic material left behind by donkeys, sheep, and goats. Five high-resolution photos are available.

There’s now an island in the Sea of Galilee. It’s near the southern shore and is the result of the low water level. Artillery shells from WWI have also been discovered nearby.

A mosaic from the Huqoq synagogue may depict Alexander the Great meeting the high priest of Jerusalem. Another interpretation is that it shows the battle between Antiochus VII and John Hyrcanus I. The National Geographic article has photos.

Israel’s ancient capital of Samaria has been vandalized. A video in Hebrew shows some of the damage.

Exploring Bible Lands continues its series on “Walking like Jesus” with a photo of a Roman road in Galilee.

Wayne Stiles explores why Kiriath Jearim is ignored, and why it shouldn’t be.

Thursday’s Archaeological Conference in the City of David entitled “Digging for Truth -- Jerusalem, Archaeology & UNESCO” may be watched online. Parts are in Hebrew and other parts in English, with the whole lasting 4.5 hours. The program may be viewed here. The Jerusalem Post reports on the talk by Dore Gold.

Olive pits discovered at Khirbet Qeiyafa receive special attention at a new exhibit at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Charles Savelle, Agade, Ted Weis

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Saturday, September 03, 2016

Weekend Roundup

The discovery of hundreds of olive pits in the Beth Shean Valley dated to 5000 BC are prompting a reevaluation of ancient irrigation practices.

Some antiquities have been discovered in the garden of the American Consulate in Alexandria.

The majority of smuggled artifacts seized in Syria and Lebanon are fakes.

Nir Hasson provides a fascinating review of the legal and cultural challenges of excavating bones, skeletons, and cemeteries in Israel (Haaretz premium).

The Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem is opening a new exhibit next week entitled “In the Valley of David and Goliath.” The Haaretz (premium) article has more details.

Carl Rasmussen shares an interesting photo from Pompeii that sheds light on the Acts 19 riot in Ephesus.

The W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research is accepting applications for a number of funded fellowships.

The Bornblum Eretz Israel Synagogues Website continues to be updated with descriptions, plans, photos, and bibliographic references.

Gordon Govier and Clyde Billington report on some of the latest discoveries in biblical archaeology on The Book and the Spade.

Aren Maeir notes a forthcoming volume on Iron Age archaeology in the Shephelah.

Ferrell Jenkins shares photos this week of the Pamphylian coast and the lilies of the field.

Logos and Accordance both have a 60%-off sale on Carl Rasmussen’s Zondervan Atlas of the Bible (revised edition), now for $12.99. (That’s a great deal on a great resource!)

HT: Charles Savelle, Joseph Lauer, Agade

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Thursday, September 01, 2016

Favorite Church in the Holy Lands Survey Results

The winners for this survey were the city of Jerusalem (7 different churches proposed), with the Church of the Holy Sepulcher receiving the most individual votes. Bethlehem has two favorite churches, and Galilee two others. Only two churches were selected outside of the land of Israel. Here is a brief review of a few of the favorites and some reasons they were chosen.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem

“Each time, I always find something new and interesting to learn about the history of this church. And it seems likely that some of history's most significant events happened within its walls.”

“There is just something about this place for me. To think it may have been the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection for one gives me goose bumps. Then there is the building's long history and its levels and twists and turns. It's also interesting to watch the people.”

Holy Sepulcher, Stone of Unction, March 30, 1839, drra3g03440

Church of the Holy Sepulcher
Lithograph by David Roberts

The Church of All Nations (Gethsemane)

“Wonderful mosaic of Jesus, the natural light inside, the location, the symbolism of the name.”

Christ Church (Jerusalem)

“Ministry to Jews - no statues - clean architecture.”

Church of St. Anne (Jerusalem)

“The beautiful acoustical sound as songs of worship are sung by peoples of all languages - creating for me an atmosphere of praise to the Lord!”

St Anne's Church interior, tb102903601

Interior of the Church of St. Anne

Dominus Flevit (Jerusalem)

“The location and view from the church toward the Old City, emphasizing Temple grounds and beyond the Holy Sepulchre.”

Church of the Nativity (Bethlehem)

“Stubbornly commemorates the birthplace of Messiah in the city of the birthplace of David.”

Church of the Shepherds’ Field (Bethlehem)

“Singing Christmas carols (I sang O Holy Night here) with the beautiful acoustical sound reverberating throughout reminding us of Christ's birth somewhere near here.”

Emmaus-Nicopolis

“Beautiful and full of peace.”

Church of the Primacy (Tabgha)

“It is small and intimate...but mostly for the setting right along the Sea of Galilee.”

Duc In Altum (Magdala)

“Because it is beautiful, particularly the mural depicting the woman with the discharge of blood.”

Magdala chapel, Duc In Altum, Encounter chapel, woman touching Jesus's garment, tb053116468

Encounter Chapel in Duc In Altum

Sardis (Turkey)

“On the southeast corner of the magnificent ruins of the Temple of Artemis at Sardis is a small brick church built around the 4th century CE after the Temple had fallen into disuse. It's one of the earliest church structures in existence. I like it because, although it pales in compares to the Temple of Artemis, it is a testimony to the power of God in the presence of things the world considers to be of no consequence. I appreciate being able to reflect in a relatively quiet spot where Christians gathered 1400 years or so ago.”

Titus Church (Crete)

“Went to church there one Sunday morning while my wife went to Knossos. Really good experience.”

Thanks to all who participated. August is over, but we’ve enjoyed this enough to continue it in the coming months, though probably less frequently than once a week.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Monumental Building from Time of Solomon Unearthed at Gezer

Philippe Bohstrom reports in Haaretz on the discovery of a large royal structure immediately adjacent to the Solomonic city gate.

A palatial building dating to the era of King Solomon 3000 years ago has been discovered in the royal city of Gezer, though there is no evidence which of the Israelite kings lived there, if any.

The monumental building dates to the 10th century BCE, the era associated with King Solomon, who is famed for bringing wealth and stability to the newly-united kingdom of Israel and Judah. The American archaeological team also found a layer featuring Philistine pottery, lending credence to the biblical account of them living in the city until being vanquished by King David.

The complex features a large central courtyard, like contemporary palace-like buildings found throughout the southern Levant, including at Hatzor and Megiddo. Though there's no telling who ruled from there, if anybody did, the edifice is significantly larger than the size of ordinary houses of the time, excavation co-director Prof. Steve Ortiz, representing the Tandy Museum of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary of Fort Worth, Texas, told Haaretz. Among the features not found in usual domestic structures is ashlar masonry - large rectangular-shaped monolithic hewn stones - in the corners of rooms, Ortiz said.

[…]

The main feature is two parallel long rooms, or courtyards, surrounded on all sides by various rooms, numbering at least 15. The palace has two entrances from the east and west. The entrance from the west also connects this building to the monumental six-chambered gate associated by most scholars with Solomon. This entrance is more robustly built than the rest of the building: The walls are constructed with two to three rows of stones wide, built of roughly dressed field stones somewhat smaller in size than those used in the rest of the building.

The article contains photos and more background about the historical importance of Gezer along with a little bit of the reasoning for dating this stratum to the 10th, and not 9th, century.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Gezer aerial from west, ws073114058b

Gezer from the west, showing area of palace excavations
Photo by Bill Schlegel

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Reader Survey: Favorite Church in the Holy Lands

Some tour groups visit every church as part of their pilgrimage to the Holy Land, while others visit only those they can’t avoid. Whatever your persuasion, it’s hard to deny that there are some beautiful buildings that have been constructed at or near biblical sites. You might choose one because of its architectural symmetry, because of the significance of the event it commemorates, or because of a special experience you enjoyed there.

The boundaries here are very broad. By “church” we include everything from a cathedral to a chapel and it can be anywhere in the biblical lands, from Israel to Rome.

Thanks for joining in! You can look for a reporting of the results on Thursday.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Weekend Roundup

The National Parks Authority has begun a $750,000 project to restore the Lower Aqueduct between Abu Tor and the Temple Mount in order to open it to visitors for Sukkot.

A stone workshop has been excavated in Galilee between Nazareth and Cana. The archaeologist suggests that perhaps the large stone jars mentioned in John 2 came from a cave like this one.

Archaeologists working in the Hittite capital of Alacahöyük have discovered a secret tunnel.

An article in Haaretz highlights similarities of Philistine culture to Cypriot cities and technology, supporting the theory of their Aegean origins.

A collection of metal artifacts discovered near the coast of Caesarea over several decades has been turned over to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Seventy percent of the work on the archaeological park around the Giza pyramids is complete and the plan is to open it by the end of the year.

The BBC asks, “Will the skyscrapers outlast the pyramids?

The tomb of Suleiman the Magnificent is being excavated in a small town in Hungary.

New book: The Archaeology and History of the Church of the Redeemer and the Muristan in Jerusalem, edited by Dieter Vieweger and Shimon Gibson. Publication details here.

Wayne Stiles has a very good deal going right now on the audiobook version of his excellent Waiting on God.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Charles Savelle

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Favorite Ancient Inscription Results

Readers of this blog are big fans of the Tel Dan Inscription, taking first place with twice the number of votes for the runner-up, the Siloam Inscription. It dropped off steeply from there with only four votes for the Pilate Inscription, two for the Ketef Hinnom silver amulets, and one each for a number of others. Some respondents explained their choice, so let’s take a look at a few of those.

#1: Tel Dan Inscription

First recognized mention of David, the kings of Israel and Judah seen as closely related polities, its early date, royal rhetorical devices, claims of divine intervention for the same event which Kings and Chron claim for another deity (still history on both counts!). Plus its early discussion revealed the disparity we call min & maximalism more clearly than ever before.

Can't beat this one. Any extrabiblical reference has some weighty significance, but to have one connected to King David is beyond remarkable. Truly an amazing discovery.

The irony that proof of David's house was preserved in the very place Jeroboam tried to compete with it (1 Ki. 12).

My two cents: While many rightly recognize this stele as important because of its mention of the “House of David,” I think that its significance as witness to the Aramean oppression of Israel has too often been overlooked. I addressed this matter in my dissertation.

Tel Dan Inscription, tb032014241

The Tel Dan Inscription, on display in the Israel Museum

#2 Siloam Inscription (in Hezekiah’s Tunnel)

You can actually see the thing described in the inscription. Furthermore, the activity of excavating the tunnel was in preparation for an event (Sennacherib's 3rd campaign of 701 BC) which is documented in archaeological artifacts, destruction layers, Sennacherib's inscriptions, Sennacherib's reliefs, the Bible, and more!

The construction of the tunnel in the 8th century BC was an amazing feat--starting from opposite ends and meeting. Whatever may be said about how it was done, I think it was engineered by our great God!

Too few inscriptions are found in situ, and this one is so remarkable in part because there can be no doubt what it is describing, and the fact that this tunnel is mentioned in the Bible (twice!) makes this one of the greatest discoveries in “biblical archaeology.”

Siloam Tunnel inscription panorama with background, adr1006059998b

The Siloam Inscription, on display in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum

#3 Pontius Pilate Inscription

Offers historical proof of Pontius Pilate’s tenure of office

Because of Pontius Pilate’s relationship to Jesus

This discovery in 1961 provided the first inscriptional evidence for this Roman prefect (and confirmed that he was a prefect and not a procurator).

Pilate inscription, closeup, tb032014601

The Pilate inscription, on display in the Israel Museum

Though they didn’t receive as many votes, some others received good support:

The “Shasu of Yahweh” inscription

It is surprising to find that the earliest naming of the Israelite God occurs in an Egyptian inscription from Soleb from the 14th-15th century BC.  As Donald Redford notes, it is “a most precious indication of the whereabouts during the late fifteenth century B.C. of an enclave revering this god.”

The Balaam inscription from Tell Deir 'Alla

How often do we get a new story about a famous biblical character?

Isaiah 66:14 near Robinson’s Arch

Hopeful Jews from the time of Emperor Julian, (4th century AD) allowed back into Aelia Capitolina were hoping to rebuild the Temple.

There were a number of other good suggestions, including:

  • The Baal Cycle Tablets
  • The Merneptah Stela
  • The Black Obelisk
  • The seal of Baruch the scribe
  • The (complete) Soreg inscription
  • The Miriam ossuary

The one that may be my favorite was not chosen by anyone: the Mesha Stele. Someday I need to make my case for why this is such an outstanding inscription. But for now I’ll note only this: it provides a remarkable witness to the Aramean oppression of Israel!

Thanks for participating and/or reading! This has been enjoyable and we’ll plan to do another survey next Tuesday.

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