Monday, August 18, 2014

Conference: Aram and Israel in the 12th to 8th Centuries BC

Heidelberg Colloquium on the Subject of Aram and Israel: Cultural Interaction, Political Borders and Construction of Identity during the Early Iron Age (12th–8th Centuries BCE)

IWH Symposium, September 1-4, 2014
IWH Hauptstrasse 242, Heidelberg
Organisation: Prof. Manfred Oeming, Dr. Omer Sergi, Dr. Izaak de Hulster

Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

14:00-14:30: Introduction

14:00-14:10: Peter Comba, Manfred Oeming, Greetings

14:10-14:30: Omer Sergi and Izaak de Hulster, Historical Outline for Aram and Israel

First Session: Jordan Valley between Aram and Israel: Archaeological Perspectives
Chair: Izaak de Hulster

14:30-15:15: Amihai Mazar, Looking for Aramaean Impact in the Beth-Shean Valley in Light of the Excavations at Tel Beth Shean and Tel Rehov

15:15-16:00: Stefan Münger, Who, When, and Why–Investigating Cultural Footprints at Early Iron Age Tel Kinrot

16:30-17:15: Nava Panitz-Cohen, Aram-Maacah? Aramaeans and Israelites on the Border: Excavations at Tel Abil al-Qameh (Abel Beth Maacah) in Northern Israel

17:15-18:00: Yifat Thareani, Enemy at the Gates? The Archaeological Visibility of the Aramaeans at Dan

18:00-18:30: Discussion

Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014
Second Session: Aspects of Material Culture between Aram and Israel
Chair: Omer Sergi

9:00-9:45: Izaak de Hulster, The Aram–Israel Border Zone: Two Comparative Iconographic Case Studies

9:45-10:30: Benjamin Sass, Aram and Israel during the Early Iron Age (12th-8th Centuries BCE): The Alphabet

11:00-11:45: Assaf Kleiman, Dating the Aramaean Campaigns to the Southern Levant: A Gradual Process of Destructions?

11:45-12:30: Aren Maeir, The Aramaean Involvement in the Southern Levant: Case Studies for Identifying the Archaeological Evidence

12:30-13:00: Discussion

Third Session: Aramaean Identity in Changing Cultural Contexts
Chair: Jan Christian Gertz

14:30-15:15: Christoph Uehlinger, What are We Looking for when dealing with 'Identity' and the 'Construction of Identity' in Levantine Societies of the Iron Age? (with an Excursus on the Bethsaida Stela)

15:15-16:00: Guy Bunnens, Tradition, Innovation and Cultural Borders in Aramaean Syria

16:30-17:15: Stefania Mazzoni, Identity and Multiculturality in the Northern Levant of the 9th-7th century B.C. with a Case Study on Tell Afis

17:15-18:00: Herbert Niehr, The Power of Language:, Language Situation and Language Politics in Sam' al

18:00-18:30: Discussion

Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014
Fourth Session: The Border Zone between Aram and Israel: Historical Reflections
Chair: Juha Pakkala

9:00-9:45: Israel Finkelstein, Aram and Israel: Some Cultural and Historical Reflections

9:45-10:30: Erhard Blum, The ‘Borders’ between Israel and Aram-Damascus in the 9th-8th Centuries BCE according to Biblical and Epigraphical Sources

11:00-11:45: Omer Sergi, Gilead between Aram and Israel: Some Historical and Historiographical Considerations

11:45-12:30: Jutta Häser, Tell Zira'a in the Iron Age

12:30-13:00: Discussion

Fifth Session: Historical Memory of Aram in Israel’s Bible
Chair: Dorothea Erbele-Küster

14:30-15:15: Manfred Oeming, “And the King of Aram was at War with Israel"– The Construction of the Aramaean as an Enemy in the Elisha Cycle 2 King 2-13.

15:15-16:00: Matthias Köckert, Jacob Cycle and the Aramaean Identity of Israel

16:30-17:15: Angelika Berlejung, Family Ties: Constructed Memories about Aram and the Aramaeans in the Old Testament - “God's People Network”

17:15-18:00: Nili Wazana, “My Father was a Wandering Aramaean”: The Implications for Israelite Identity

18:00-18:30: Discussion

Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014
Concluding Session: Israel among the Aramaeans
Chair: Manfred Oeming

9:00-10:30: Concluding discussion

The Colloquium is supported by: Heidelberg University, Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

The program is available in pdf format here.

Another topic that seems relevant to this conference: Textual Witnesses to the Aramean Oppression of Israel in the Late Ninth Century. And another: Archaeological Evidence for the Aramean Route to Philistine Gath. I’ve written on both in my dissertation.

HT: Jack Sasson

Tel Chinnereth from north, tb102702025

Tell Chinnereth (Tel Kinrot) and the Sea of Galilee
Photo from volume 1

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Weekend Roundup

Anna Moseley Gissing writes about three lessons she learned from archaeology about the spiritual life.

Haaretz reports that the appointment of Israel's new antiquities chief is embroiled in politics.

Should the Vatican return the menorah from the Jerusalem Temple? Steven Fine assigned his class the task of refuting the notion that the Vatican has it.

Greek archaeologists excavating a fourth-century BC tomb at Amphipolis have made an “extremely important find.”

Camels Mummification existed in Egypt 1,500 years earlier than scientists have long believed.

The Egyptian government has asked the Ashmolean museum to lend it the personal collection of Howard Carter.

Brian Daniels discusses Preserving Culture in War on this week’s broadcast of The Book and the Spade.

What is the relationship between the archaeology of Jerusalem and the Book of Mormon? SourceFlix has produced a new video that answers this question.

Wayne Stiles describes two oases along the shore of the Dead Sea. (Can you guess which ones they are? Neither one ends with “Gedi.”) He includes photos, a video, and a map.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson

Arch of Titus Temple treasures scene left, tb112105077

Triumphal procession depicted on the Arch of Titus in Rome
Photo from Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, volume 15

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Archaeologists Use Drones To Solve Riddles

From the New York Times:

Archaeologists around the world, who have long relied on the classic tools of their profession, like the trowel and the plumb bob, are now turning to the modern technology of drones to defend and explore endangered sites. And perhaps nowhere is the shift happening as swiftly as in Peru, where Dr. Castillo has created a drone air force to map, monitor and safeguard his country’s ancient treasures.

Drones mark “a before and after in archaeology,” said Dr. Castillo, who is also a prominent archaeologist and one of a dozen experts who will outline the use of drones at a conference in San Francisco next year.


In the Middle East, researchers have employed them to guard against looting.

“Aerial survey at the site is allowing for the identification of new looting pits and determinations of whether any of the looters’ holes had been revisited,” said Morag Kersel, an archaeologist from DePaul University in Chicago who is part of a team using drones in Jordan and Israel.


Though his work is focused on the deep past, Dr. Castillo is fascinated by gadgets and new technology. He began experimenting with drones about two years ago, buying a $100 one from the Sharper Image. Now he has a squadron of eight, all miniature helicopters that cost about $1,500 to $20,000. He hopes to soon add 20 more.

The drones, he said, “solve the first riddle of archaeology.”

“Finally you can fly whenever you want to, wherever you want to, in any angle, for anything you want and get the great picture you always thought you should take,” he said.

The full story focuses mostly on the use of drones in Peru. Aren Maeir recently posted a video showing a drone in use in his excavations of the Philistine city of Gath.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

3D Scanner Reveals History of Israel’s Pottery

From the Jerusalem Post:

We’re all familiar with the kinds of archaeological research seen in movies and television — digging the earth, brushing the dust away, and examining artifacts up close. But these days, we can learn even more about ancient artifacts by combining traditional archaeology with cutting-edge technology.

At the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, researchers were curious to know more about a type of storage container that began appearing around the late 10th or early 9th century BCE. Due to their large swollen bodies, they are dubbed 'Hippo' jars.

To probe the deep secrets of these ancient jars, the researchers — Prof. Amihai Mazar, Prof. Uzy Smilansky, and Dr. Avshalom Karasik — went beyond traditional techniques by conducting a series of scans with 3D scanners and advanced computation.


The Hebrew University researchers measured 158 Hippo jars with a high resolution 3D scanner at the Computerized Archaeology Laboratory, which is directed by Dr. Leore Grosman. (The laboratory is a joint initiative of the Hebrew University, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Weizmann Institute of Science, with the University of Haifa serving as a collaborating partner.)

Equipped with modern, high precision scanners, the lab created detailed three-dimensional models of the 'Hippo' jars.

These digital models provided precise measurements of the jars’ shape, which was later correlated with independent features, such as the source of the clay used to make them, the potters’ marks, and the jars’ distribution. They also provided information on the jars’ capacity, volume, height and maximal diameter.

What did the researchers learn from the 3D scans?

The article continues here. This is the first in a new column written by students at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology.


“Hippo” storage jars
Photo courtesy of Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Biblical-Era Artifacts on Display in Pennsylvania

The Lebanon Daily News runs a story on the Alan and Muriel Pense Biblical Archaeology Museum at the Evangelical Seminary. The collection was curated for many years by David Dorsey and is now under the direction of his son-in-law Phillip Bollinger. From the LDN:

The museum has a collection of small, bowl-shaped olive-oil lamps made from clay, through more elaborate closed lamps of metal. The lamps date from the earliest periods of Canaan's history, including the Neolithic and Chalcolithic eras to the early Bronze Age, or sometime before 3200 B.C. to 2200 B.C.

"It helps people to see how styles change over time," he said, and added, "When you're digging at an excavation, that's one of the things that helps you date what you're finding."

Other items in the collection include various types of clay storage jars, which were probably used for water, wine or grain.

"These were the kitchen cabinets of the Old and New Testament periods," Sarah [Dorsey] Bollinger added. "The strength of our collection is in what everyday life was like. We don't have lots of extraordinary or exceptional types of things. We do have a lot to do with writing."


The museum is divided into two rooms, one for the Old Testament and one for the New Testament. In the hallways between the two rooms there are many artifacts to see as well.

One of the oldest pieces in the collection is a tiny arrowhead that dates to the sixth century B.C.

"It's a flint arrowhead from Jericho; it's 8,000 years old," Phillip Bollinger said. "Probably used for hunting very small game."

Other interesting objects include a 4,000-year-old milk churn, make-up containers made of bone or metal, garment holders, jar handles with King Hezekiah's seal, as well as weapons such as slingshots of the type that David used to slay Goliath.

The full article includes a slideshow and video. The official website is here. For other museums in the U.S. with artifacts related to the biblical world, see our list here.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Erosion of the Western Wall Studied

A new study explains why some Herodian stones in the Temple Mount of Jerusalem are well preserved after 2,000 years while others are eroding severely, creating concerns about the wall’s stability.

From a press release from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem:

Visitors to the Western Wall in Jerusalem can see that some of its stones are extremely eroded. This is good news for people placing prayer notes in the wall's cracks and crevices, but presents a problem for engineers concerned about the structure’s stability.

The Western Wall is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the courtyard of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. It is located in Jerusalem’s Old City at the foot of the Temple Mount.

To calculate the erosion in the different kinds of limestone that make up the Western Wall, researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem used a laser scan to create an accurate three-dimensional computer model. The researchers are Dr. Simon Emmanuel, the Harry P. Kaufmann Senior Lecturer in Environmental Water Technology, and PhD student Mrs. Yael Levenson, at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Earth Sciences.

As reported in an article accepted for publication in the journal Geology, they found that stones made up of relatively large crystals were resistant to wear, so that they were almost unchanged in the 2000 years since they were originally put in place. By contrast, limestone with very small crystals (about one thousandth of a millimeter in size) eroded far more quickly.

In some cases, extreme erosion rates in fine-grained micritic limestone blocks were up to 100 times faster than the average rates estimated for the coarse-grained limestone blocks. In some places these stones had receded by tens of centimeters, potentially weakening the overall structure. 

To understand what causes the two types of rock to behave differently, the researchers collected samples from ancient quarries thought to have supplied the stones for the Second Temple. Using a powerful atomic force microscope, they were able to see how the rocks disintegrated when they came into contact with water. During the experiments on rocks made up of small crystals, tiny particles rapidly detached from the surface of the rock. These experiments simulated the way in which rain water interacts with limestone in nature.

Observed for the first time in Dr Emmanuel’s lab, this process of accelerated erosion can explain why some rocks are more weathered than others. While mechanical weathering is thought to act on blocks and chips of rock at the visible outcrop scale, the researchers showed for the first time that chemo-mechanical erosion extends down to the tiny micron scale. The findings could have important implications for regional and global carbonate weathering.

According to Dr. Emmanuel, “Understanding such weathering processes could help guide the development of effective preservation techniques. For example, it may be possible to develop materials that slow the rate of erosion by binding the tiny crystals in the rock together. Advanced engineering techniques like this should assist efforts to protect not only the Western Wall, but other cultural heritage sites in Israel and around the world.”

The research appears as “Carbonate weathering rates accelerated by micron-scale grain detachment,” in the journal Geology. The research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation.

The story is also reported by the Jerusalem Post.

Men praying at Western Wall, tb010312467-2

Eroded stones in the Western Wall of the Temple Mount
Photo from Jerusalem

Microscope image of Jerusalem limestone made up of tiny crystals. Photo: Dr. Simon Emmanuel, Hebrew University

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

A replica of Solomon’s Temple has now opened in Sao Paulo. But since it has the capacity to seat 10,000 people (and Solomon’s could seat exactly zero), one has to wonder in what sense it is a “replica.” This Forbes article has more info and a computer image. Google has more images.

Results of excavations at Tell Jemmeh in southern Israel from 1970 to 1990 have now been published.

G. M. Grena shares a list of lectures and abstracts of interest from the ASOR 2014 meeting in San Diego in November.

Wayne Stiles highlights some ancient tombs in Israel that you can visit.

Bible History Daily has a roundup of articles related to summer excavations.

The Times of Israel has a good collection of photos of mosaics from the Huqoq synagogue.

The NY Times has more on the destruction of the tomb of Jonah in Iraq.

ArtDaily: “Scientists at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia have re-discovered an important find in their own storage rooms, a complete human skeleton about 6,500 years old.”

Haaretz runs a profile on 5,000 years of strife in Gaza: “Gaza’s history reads like an encyclopedia of misery – war, destruction, earthquakes, plagues and floods. It has been destroyed and rebuilt, conquered again and again. But it also enjoyed periods of prosperity, when pagan, Jew and others lived together in harmony.”

Last call for the lowest price on Logos’ Archaeological and Theological Studies of Jerusalem (10 vols.) Some of the works I’m not familiar with, but the two Warren volumes are classics. The  more who order, the lower the price goes for all of us.

I recommended ScrollTag several years ago, but if you missed it then, you should check it out now. The program now includes the Trainer, a unique tool that will help you learn (and remember!) Greek and Hebrew word forms. The package price is a great deal.

HT: Jack Sasson, Charles Savelle

Tell Jemmeh and Nahal Besor view northwest, tb050701349

Tell Jemmeh and Nahal Basor
Photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands,
volume 5

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Saturday, August 09, 2014

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

SourceFlix has a new video with fly-overs of nine important biblical sites.

A Nebuchadnezzar Cylinder recently sold for $605,000. (That’s an interesting number given that Nebuchadnezzar came to the throne in 605 BC.)

BibleX shares a report from the 1880s of a visit inside the traditional house of Simon the Tanner.

Robert Mullins is on The Book and the Spade this week discussing the recent season of excavations at Abel Beth Maacah.

That recently discovered Iron Age gate at Lachish is neither a gate nor is it from the Iron Age. Luke Chandler explains.

Ferrell Jenkins explains the importance of the Tenth Roman Legion in Jerusalem, and he follows it up with a number of photographs.

Five haredim were arrested this week for attempting to block entrance to an excavation site near the Old City.

IAA Director General Yehoshua (Shuka) Dorfman died on July 31 after a long illness.

HT: Ted Weis

Jaffa, house of Simon the Tanner, mat06522

Interior of House of Simon the Tanner
Photo from Northern Palestine

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Friday, August 08, 2014

Gezer Excavations Uncover Ancient Game Board

This summer’s excavations of Tel Gezer were successful, according to a Baptist Press report written by archaeologists Steven Ortiz and Sam Wolff. Work continued this year on the tell, in the water system, and in the regional survey.

The archaeologists found evidence of the destruction by Pharaoh Shishak (2 Chr 12:4; 1 Kgs 14:25-26), including an ivory game board of a type well known from other excavations. This discovery of “The Game of 20 Squares” led the team to dub the area “Solomon’s Casino.” The report continues:

The project focused on an area west of the city gate where a casemate fortification wall was uncovered. Up against the interior of the wall was a large courtyard area with a tabun (clay cooking oven), storage jars, cooking pots, and burnt beams lying atop a plaster surface. Just to the north of this courtyard were two rooms with walls preserved to a height of more than a meter and a half. In one of these rooms the team discovered the remains of a cow jawbone. The adjoining room contained the game board.

Excavations also revealed "pre-Solomonic building remains." Discoveries from this period (12th-11th centuries B.C.) included a perfectly preserved bronze spearhead, the head of a Philistine-type ("Ashdoda") ceramic figurine, and the ceramic six-toed foot of a possible feline, the team reported. Largely unexcavated remains from the Late Bronze Age (14th century B.C.) lay below.


Gezer game board
Photo courtesy of Tel Gezer Excavation and Publication Project

The full report is here. The Jerusalem Post article focused more on the effect of the war on the Gezer excavation.

The excavation’s official website is here. The BiblePlaces website includes more photos and information about Gezer.

Earlier this week, Bill Schlegel, author of the Satellite Bible Atlas, released a video about Gezer’s biblical significance and archaeological discoveries. The 4-minute video below includes new aerial photos and footage.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Rare Hoard of Year Four Coins Discovered along Highway

A ceramic money box filled with 114 bronze coins from “Year Four” of the First Jewish Revolt was discovered recently in excavations along the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway. From the Israel Antiquities Authority:

According to Pablo Betzer and Eyal Marco, excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The hoard, which appears to have been buried several months prior to the fall of Jerusalem, provides us with a glimpse into the lives of Jews living on the outskirts of Jerusalem at the end of the rebellion. Evidently someone here feared the end was approaching and hid his property, perhaps in the hope of collecting it later when calm was restored to the region”. All of the coins are stamped on one side with a chalice and the Hebrew inscription “To the Redemption of Zion” and on the other side with a motif that includes a bundle of lulav between two etrogs. Around this is the Hebrew inscription “Year Four”, that is, the fourth year of the Great Revolt of the Jews against the Romans (69/70 CE).

The hoard was concealed in the corner of a room, perhaps inside a wall niche or buried in the floor. Two other rooms and a courtyard belonging to the same building were exposed during the course of the archaeological excavation. The structure was built in the first century BCE and was destroyed in 69 or 70 CE when the Romans were suppressing the Great Revolt.  Early in the second century CE part of the building was reinhabited for a brief period, which culminated in the destruction of the Jewish settlement in Judea as a result of the Bar Kokhba rebellion. This is attested to by three complete jars that were discovered embedded in the courtyard floor.

The full story is here. The story is also reported by Arutz-7 and The Times of Israel.

HT: Joseph Lauer


Hoard of coins in situ


Pablo Betzer, IAA District Archaeologist for Judah, with a coin from the Year Four of the Great Revolt.


All photos courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

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Saturday, August 02, 2014

Artifact of the Month: Siege of Lachish Wall Relief

(Posted by Michael J. Caba)

This wall relief carving depicts the siege of the Judean city of Lachish, telling the story from the Assyrian point of view. The carving was created in c. 700 BC and was discovered in the 1850s in the ancient city of Nineveh, Assyria. The full original panel measured sixty-two feet in length and was nearly nine feet tall. The events shown on the panel are also recorded in the Bible in 2 Kings 18. The relief now resides in the British Museum.

The close-up photo shown to the right is one of the panels to this long relief. It depicts the battle between the attackers, who are using a battering ram, and the defenders who are shooting arrows and throwing burning torches.
The close-up photo on the left shows Judean captives being led into exile. Other panels (not included here) show victims being impaled and flayed.

All in all, despite the rather gruesome subject matter, the relief represents one of the more magnificent treasures from antiquity. It also provides support for the historicity of the scriptural record.

For information on similar artifacts related to the Bible, see Bible and Archaeology - Online Museum.

(Photo: Significant resources for further study: The Context of Scripture, volume 2, page 304; Lost Treasures of the Bible, by Fant and Reddish, pages 173-177.)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Weekend Roundup

What do you do when your summer excavation site turns out to be less than 5 miles from a war zone? The Ashkelon team had to figure matters out on the fly.

Mark Hoffman is inviting everyone to join his free, online course, “Survey of the Lands of the Bible.” This MOOC begins in September and you can participate as much and as little as desired.

Wayne Stiles has a well-written and well-illustrated article about Ein Parath, where Jeremiah buried his loincloth.

How did archaeologists come to reject the biblical description of Joshua’s conquest? Henry Smith explains. He is interviewed briefly about the article here.

Leon Mauldin takes his readers to the Mamertine Prison in Rome.

ISIS Is About to Destroy Biblical History in Iraq.

Cleopatra’s Needle in New York City is getting a laser cleaning. “In nanoseconds, the soot particles are turned into white-hot plasma.”

The latest issue of ‘Atiqot is online and it includes several articles about an excavation in the Kidron Valley.

Göbekli Tepe excavator Klaus Schmidt died last week.

Amnon Rosenfeld—In Memoriam, by Howard R. Feldman.

HT: Charles Savelle, G. M. Grena, Craig Dunning

110724879tb Egyptian obelisk, aka Cleopatra's Needle

Cleopatra’s Needle, New York City

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

A new museum has opened at Hisham’s palace (Khirbet al-Mafjar) in Jericho.

A temple to the Urartian god Haldi has been discovered in northern Iraq.

A painting from the tomb of a priest in the Old Kingdom was discovered near the Giza pyramids.

You can read an update on the recent developments at the Temple Mount Sifting Project. The summary includes a series of photos of various sets of objects found.

The Tel Burna team ended their season by taking photos from a helicopter drone. The post shows the whole process.

Roman roads and milestones in Judaea and Palaestina are the focus of a new website produced by the Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee and the Israeli Milestone Committee.

Raphael Golb will spend two months in the slammer for his crimes of criminal impersonation and forgery.

“The Archaeology of Music” is the subject on this week’s episode of The Book and the Spade.

Biblical Archaeology Society has a summer sale, including the entire BAR Archive on DVD for $99.95.

HT: Jack Sasson, Ted Weis

Hisham's palace gate from east, tb051106670

Hisham’s palace gate
Photo from Samaria and the Center

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

SourceFlix has posted a video taken by drone of the Old City and Temple Mount of Jerusalem.

Excavators at Jezreel discovered an amethyst scarab that likely came from Jezebel’s homeland.

Amnon Rosenfeld died in a car accident in Israel last week. Earlier this month he wrote “The Antiquities Game – Behind the Trial of the Century.” The article is long but has a number of valuable insights.

With Gaza in the news again, Ferrell Jenkins discusses its biblical significance.

The excavators at Gath had a very interesting day on Thursday.

Abram K-J has found a free digital Greek edition of Eusebius’s Onomasticon.

Rik Wadge and Steve Shermett host a series on biblical archaeology entitled Rocks, Shovels, and Manuscripts on God’s Learning Channel. The most recent episodes focus on the seven churches of Revelation.

Caves in Israel—Manmade and God-made: Wayne Stiles explains and illustrates. He also offers a free download of a book he recently wrote for the Israel Ministry of Tourism, 100 Off-The-Beaten-Path Sites.

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