Thursday, June 30, 2016

Recommended: A Week in the Life of a Roman Centurion

If you’re looking for an enjoyable read that takes you into first-century Israel, I recommend A Week in the Life of a Roman Centurion, by Gary M. Burge. The story follows the familia of a Roman centurion as he moves from Syria to Caesarea to Capernaum, intersecting with scenes and events from the Gospels. I would highlight two strengths of the book.

First, the story is engaging, and I didn’t want to put the book down. The action keeps moving, and the characters are fascinating. You see the inner workings of a Roman legion, experience a gladiatorial contest, and witness the tense relations between Jews and Romans.

Second, the book is based on extensive historical research. So many interesting details are embedded throughout the narrative, and short sidebars provide additional explanations. Sidebar topics include: friend of Caesar, Chuza of Sepphoris, a Jewish haverim, cosmetics for women, blood sport, honor and shame, opium, and the Capernaum synagogue.

In short, this is an enjoyable work of historical fiction. It’s a good story based on excellent research. I will be adding it as a choice for a required book review for my New Testament Survey I class, and I am confident that they will give it high marks. The book is 189 pages and sells for $13 on Amazon (a little less on Kindle).

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

David and Goliath Mosaic Pillaged from Church in Syria

A unique and well-preserved mosaic depicting the battle of David and Goliath has been looted in Syria. I was first shown a higher-res version of this image several months ago, but was not allowed to share it. It’s now posted on a French website, and you can read a (poor) Google translation with this link. At this point, there do not appear to be any other stories on the discovery, but perhaps that will change.

David et Goliath

David and Goliath mosaic looted in Syria

An official in the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria believes that the mosaic comes from a church in northern Syria and dates to about AD 600. This may be the only known depiction of David and Goliath on a mosaic floor. The image depicts the warrior Goliath standing on the right side with full battle armor. To the left stands David with Goliath’s head on the end of his spear with the headless Goliath now laying at his feet. In the upper right corner, Saul and two others (brothers?) are depicted within the walls of a fortress. In the upper left corner are three women, probably those who rejoiced in David’s victory.

A Google search for this image reveals that it was posted on several Arabic websites on July 21-22, 2014.

The Met has an image of a silver plate depicting the battle, dating to approximately the same time (AD 630).

HT: Agade

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Roman Gate Discovered at Hippos

From the Jerusalem Post:

A Roman gate discovered during excavations by the University of Haifa in the ancient city of Hippos, located at Sussita National Park, may cast light on the mystical bronze mask of Pan, considered by archeologists to be the only object of its kind in the world.

Researchers from the university’s Zinman Institute of Archaeology announced on Monday that they believe the gate may have led to the compound of Pan, the god of shepherds, after unearthing it during last year’s excavation season….

“Now that the whole gate has been exposed, we not only have better information for dating the mask, but also a clue to its function. Are we looking at a gate that led to the sanctuary of the god Pan or one of the rustic gods?”


The researchers concluded that the original gateway was over 6m. high, while the building (propylaeum) itself was even taller,” the archeologist said.

“The propylaeum can probably be dated to the period of the emperor Hadrian, who reigned from 117 to 138 CE, or slightly earlier,” Eisenberg said. “The mask was presumably fixed to a wall or altar at the compound, as its rear side included remnants of lead used for stabilization purposes.”

The full story, including photos, is here. A 3D model of the gate is here.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Charles Savelle

Gateway at Hippos

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

The Temple Mount Sifting Project has released a new video showing dozens of their discoveries. Another video released this month features David Hendin explaining the coins of the Jewish War.

Egyptian officials are re-opening the tombs of Queen Nefertari and King Seti I in Luxor, but the cost for a ticket will be steep (about $113).

Researchers suggest that King Tut's dagger was made from a meteorite.

The BBC has the latest “the Dead Sea is dying” story, including an impressive photo of Mineral Beach.

The ASOR Archive Photo of the Month shows archaeologists and local workers at Qumran in 1952.

In terms of visitors, the Louvre is the most popular museum in the world. The British Museum is #5 and the Vatican Museums are #7.

The Google Cultural Institute “contains more than six million artworks, photos, videos and documents from 1,000 institutions including the British Museum and MoMA.”

The lavish lifestyle of the Roman Empire elite is on exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City.

The Getty Museum has acquired a valuable Greek funeral vase and a Roman marble head.

“The Penn Museum’s ongoing exhibition, ‘In the Artifact Lab: Conserving Egyptian Mummies,’ offers visitors an insider’s look at efforts to document, preserve, and restore ancient objects in the Museum’s extensive collection.”

A new exhibit at the Met in New York City focuses on Jerusalem between the years 1000 and 1400.

Ashkelon: A Retrospective: 30 Years of the Leon Levy Expedition is a new exhibit running at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem until the end of the year.

Haaretz ran a profile of Geza Vermes on the anniversary of his birthday.

The Israel Antiquities Authority raided a shop in the Mamilla Mall on suspicions of selling looted antiquities.

“For the first time in history the texts and images of all the Dead Sea Scrolls are available in their totality on the Internet.” From Brill for a purchase price of $5,940.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Steven Anderson, Agade, Explorator, Daniel Wright, G. M. Grena, Rebekah Dutton

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

An in-depth article by the Atlantic Monthly has uncovered the original source for the fake Jesus wife papyrus. The Harvard professor who published the artifact now believes that it is probably a modern forgery.

With the help of Google Earth and drones, researchers have discovered a massive ceremonial platform in Petra.

The Jerusalem Post has an update on the on-going renovations at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity. One of the discoveries is a mosaic of an angel.

A $1.3 million gift has launched the restoration of the Edicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. People are speculating on what they will find.

“Some 1,800 years ago, Roman troops used ‘whistling’ sling bullets as a ‘terror weapon’ against their barbarian foes.”

Israeli authorities have ordered the Jordanian Waqf to halt construction of toilets just outside the Temple Mount.

A collection of 16 coins from the Hasmonean period were discovered in excavations in Modiin.

A Greek archaeologist thinks he may have found the tomb of Aristotle. Others disagree.

“Massive fortifications and sunken ship-sheds thousands of years old have been found in Piraeus, the harbor city of Athens.”

Canaanites living in Gath in the Early Bronze Age were sacrificing animals imported from Egypt. The journal article is available here.

The Giza pyramid is not square. The ancients were off by about 5 inches (14 cm).

The Guardian has posted a dozen photos of excavations in Egypt in the 1910s, including several of John Garstang.

The Bible and Interpretation has posted an important new article: Addressing Survey Methodology in the Southern Levant, by Aaron Tavger, Joe Uziel, Dvir Raviv, and Itzhaq Shai.

Scott Stripling is on The Book and the Spade this week talking about the latest from his excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir.

Wayne Stiles traces the geography of God’s dwelling place on earth.

You don’t see this for sale very often: Survey of Western Palestine, 1881 – 1888, 9 vols and 78 maps/plates (set) & The Survey of Eastern Palestine 1889. $10k.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Steven Anderson, Agade, Explorator, Daniel Wright

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Just a Little Monkey Business

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

A commenter to our post about Egypt yesterday requested assistance in locating the monkeys in the fig tree. The monkeys are green with brown bottoms and faces, making it hard to pick them out among the green foliage and brown fruit and branches. The monkeys form a triangle, one in the lower left, one in top center, and one in the lower right. Here is the photo with their faces circled and numbers placed above each monkey's head.
(Click to enlarge.)

Here they are individually.
Monkey in lower left. He appears to be hanging on the man's arm.

Monkey in top center.

Monkey in lower right. This one is the hardest to make out due to damage.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Three Things I Like About Egypt

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

Earlier this year, I took my first trip (hopefully of many) to Egypt. Normally I am interested in Bible history and geography, though recently, my attention has been drawn to ordinary, daily-life objects and cultural behaviors. For Bible times and places, it can be a little challenging to come up with photographs that illustrate these sorts of things. But that is why I found Egypt is so amazing.

One of's photographers on location in Egypt.

Egypt provides three sources for helping us visualize ancient ways of life.

1. Tomb Models.
You can probably find examples of tomb models in most museums with Egyptian collections. These are ancient models that depict people in various occupations, most of them I think dating to the Middle Kingdom. Examples include herding cattle, storing grain, baking, butchering, sailing boats. The models were placed in the tombs of nobles and depict the kinds of industries and activities that that particular noble oversaw during his lifetime. This photograph from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo shows carpenters at work. You can see them with their various tools: mallet, adzes, chisels, saw. Some of them are working on a sarcophagus.

Here is a model granary also from the Egyptian Museum. You can see people carrying sacks of grain to a scribe who is recording the amounts. You can even see the hieratic writing on his tablet. The red and white rectangles below are chambers or bins for storing the grain. (Now re-read Genesis 41:47-49.)

2. Tomb Paintings.
In royal tombs, you can see artwork of the king or members of the royal family interacting with deities, involved in funerary rituals, dealing with their enemies, and receiving tribute. In the tombs of nobles, however, the same sources for the models above, you can find elaborate paintings or reliefs of more mundane activities like cultivating fields, hunting, fishing, helping a cow give birth, and so on.

Here is a tomb painting from Beni Hasan that shows carpenters at work on a boat. Again, you can see the tools: axes, mallets, and adzes. Above them some carpenters are building furniture. One man is using a saw and another an adze. Between them are several other woodworking tools.

This photo, also from Beni Hasan, shows two men harvesting figs from a tree. There are three monkeys in the tree—apparently also big fans of the fruit. (Need help seeing the monkeys? Click here.)

This scene from El-Kab shows the cycle of a grain harvest. In the bottom register, two plows are being pulled, one by oxen and the other by men. In between two men are tilling with hoes. Partially concealed by the oxen a man is sowing seed. In the middle register, men with sickles are reaping the grain. It must be hot work because the man in the center is stopping to drink from a jug. In the top register, they are bringing the grain in baskets to be threshed by oxen, then winnowed by hand. In the top left, a scribe is overseeing the storage of the grain (now shown).

3. The Real Thing.
And if that were not enough, in Egypt you can see the actual objects themselves, thanks to the arid climate and the fact that burials were located in the desert beyond the cultivated land. Many items which are not preserved in other countries—such as textiles, food, wood—can be found in Egypt.

In keeping with the theme of carpentry, here is a wooden mallet.

This case in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo shows many of the tools shown above: a wooden plow (with fiber ropes!), hand scoops for winnowing grain, and hoes.

I might also make mention that, although not unique to Egypt, in the rural agricultural villages and fields, you can see traditional methods of farming, herding, butchering, etc. that in many cases do not appear all that different from their ancient counterparts.

Monday, May 30, 2016

New Videos and Update on Satellite Bible Atlas

Bill Schlegel has produced new two teaching videos as a companion to the Satellite Bible Atlas:

12 The Negev, Part 1, Maps 1-12, 1-13 (10 min)

13 The Negev, Part 2, Maps 1-12, 3-1, 3-2 (12 min)

Also worthy of note is that the second edition of the Satellite Bible Atlas has been released. Purchase of the atlas ($28, includes free shipping in U.S.) includes several free bonuses:

  • All maps as digital files (jpg)
  • 70 new aerial photos (jpg)

These are available as free downloads upon purchase.

Other free downloads include:

The Land and the Bible: A Historical Geographical Companion to the Satellite Bible Atlas – An in-depth commentary on the 11 historical sections in the new atlas. 190 pages, pdf format.

**New: Regional Maps Introduction – A brief commentary on the first section in the Satellite Bible Atlas.

Study Questions for the Satellite Bible Atlas – Ideal for personal or classroom use.

You can learn more and see sample photos here.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Most Beautiful Edition of Josephus’s Jewish War

Carta has just released what is likely the most beautiful and most useful edition of Josephus’s The Jewish War ever printed. Here’s why I think this is the edition you (and your students) will want to read:

  • Josephus needs maps, and this edition includes 40 maps. They are on the same page as the events, so you don’t have to flip around.
  • Almost every page has a photo or illustration of some kind. I love full-color double-page spread aerials of Masada, and I love architectural renderings of Herodium and Roman Jericho. This makes an exciting history even better.
  • The color-coded text makes it easier to read, with personal names in red, place names in blue, and references in green.
  • This edition provides both reference systems (Whiston and Loeb) so it’s easy to find your place no matter how another source cites it.

Josephus — Carta’s Illustrated - The Jewish War

Carta’s Illustrated The Jewish War uses the venerable Whiston translation and the maps follow the numbering system in The Carta Bible Atlas, with a table cross-referencing these to The Sacred Bridge.

Carta is offering 30% off through June (with the code “30-off,” bringing the price from $60 down to $42. They’ve also reduced shipping to $5 (from Israel) during the sale as well. This is a great deal on an essential resource.

Perhaps a further word for those of my readers who are not aware of how important The Jewish War is. If you know anything about the first century in Israel outside the New Testament, there’s a good chance it came from this book. There are other sources, but The Jewish War is the best, because it is (1) contemporary, (2) lengthy, (3) interested in subjects related to the New Testament, like Jerusalem, temple, Herod, Galilee, and Pharisees; (4) generally accurate as it was written by a historian who was eyewitness to so much. I will be leading a group of students throughout Israel for the next three weeks and probably not a day will go by when I am not quoting or referencing this book. I encourage my students to read it, mark it, and keep it handy.


Page 1, from the online sample pages


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Judean Desert Excavation Project Begins

The Israel Antiquities Authority has issued a press release, forwarded to us by Joseph Lauer, about recent excavations in the Cave of the Skulls in the Judean wilderness. Here are a few paragraphs and photographs from the press release:

Last week, the Israel Antiquities Authority took a first step in the plan by commencing a complicated and extraordinary archaeological excavation in search of scrolls in Nahal Tse’elim. A team from the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery accompanied by researchers from the Caves Research Center of the Hebrew University and hundreds of volunteers from across the country is participating in the excavation, which is taking place with the support of the Heritage Project in the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs. The excavation is being directed by archaeologists Dr. Eitan Klein, Dr. Uri Davidovich, Royee Porat and Amir Ganor. For many years, IAA inspectors have been proactively enforcing the law in the desert, during the course of which they have made a number of seizures and foiled bands of antiquities robbers that sought to become rich through the detrimental exposure of items of great historical importance. However, these actions are a mere drop in the ocean and the Israel Antiquities Authority stresses that only by excavating all of the scrolls in the ground and transferring them to the state, will it be possible to ensure their well-being and preservation for future generations.


The Cave of Skulls, where the excavation is taking place, is located about 80 meters from the top of the cliff, and c. 250 m above the base of the wadi. Because of the difficulty in reaching the site, the Israel Antiquities Authority obtained a special permit from the Nature and Parks Authority to construct an access trail, which requires the use of rappelling equipment for the safety of the participants in the excavation. More than 500 volunteers and field personnel from Israel and abroad were required for the undertaking, and they are sleeping and living in a camp in desert field conditions. Many requests by individuals offering to participate have been denied because of the lack of infrastructure to provide for such a large group of archaeologists, volunteers and interested parties. The current excavation season will end in another two weeks, assuming this will be sufficient time in order to extract the valuable archaeological information from the cave.

According to Amir Ganor, director of the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, “The excavation in Nahal Tse’elim is an operation of extraordinary complexity and scope, and one that has not occurred in the Judean Desert in the past thirty years. Despite the rigorous enforcement actions taken against the antiquities robbers, we still witness acts of severe plundering that unfortunately are possible in such large desert expanses. There are hundreds of caves in cliffs in the area, access to which is both dangerous and challenging. In almost every cave that we examined we found evidence of illicit intervention and it is simply heart-breaking. The loss of the finds is irreversible damage that cannot be tolerated”.


The cave where the archaeological excavation is being conducted is situated c. 80 meters from the top of the cliff and c. 250 meters above the base of the wadi. Photographic credit: Guy Fitoussi, courtesy of the IAA Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery.


Volunteers at work in the archaeological excavation. Photographic credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.


The ancient text that dates to the Year Four of the Destruction of the House of Israel (139 CE), which was seized in a joint operation by the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery and the Israel Police. Photographic credit: Shai Halevi, courtesy of the Leon Levy Digital Library, Israel Antiquities Authority.

Arutz-7 has posted a 1.5-minute video.

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Weekend Roundup

Archaeologists working at Jerash (biblical Gerasa) have discovered part of a life-size statue of Aphrodite.

“American and Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a rare structure called a nilometer in the ruins of the ancient city of Thmuis in Egypt’s Delta region.” It was built in the 3rd century BC and used for 1,000 years.

British archaeologists have identified the remains of a 16- to 18-week-old mummified fetus that was found in Giza nearly 100 years ago.

The Antiquities Ministry of Egypt has completed a project to lower the groundwater at the Edfu Temple.

A plan has been approved that will remove all the mines around the traditional area of John’s baptisms on the Jordan River.

Haaretz (premium) visits the site of Tell el-Ajjul, once a prosperous Canaanite city south of Gaza but today at risk of complete destruction.

“Those who trust in the Lord are as Mount Zion which cannot be moved but abides forever” (Psalm 125:1). Wayne Stiles uses photos to explain what this means today.

Two archaeology students have crowdsourced images to create a VR reconstruction of the Mosul museum. The article includes a cool YouTube 360 video.

The Palestinian Museum opened this week in Bir Zeit, but it has no exhibits.

The enforcement of a new antiquities law is making it harder for black market antiquities to be sold in Israel.

Israel will be returning two Bronze Age wooden anthropoid sarcophagus lids found by IAA agents in an Old City dealer’s shop.

Of 28 Egyptian obelisks standing today, only 6 are in Egypt. That's one of many interesting facts about obelisks in a WSJ article that is based on a book by Bob Brier entitled Cleopatra’s Needles.

Allison Meier reviews the new exhibition in NYC, “Gods and Mortals at Olympus: Ancient Dion, City of Zeus.” The article includes many photos.

Charles Jones has recently updated the list of titles in JSTOR which focus on Antiquity. It now includes 243 titles.

Dubgallu is a new forum for scholars of the ancient Near East. Registration is free, and open to anyone who academically studies the ancient Near East.

There’s a sale on for various electronic editions of the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, Old and New Testaments Logos, Accordance, and Olive Tree.

The Atlas of Palestinian Rural Heritage looks interesting. Some themes covered: Tilling - Harvesting - Moving the Harvest - Threshing - Sifting - Grinding - Making Dough - Baking Bread - Cooking - Making Grape Syrup - Sesame Oil - Olives and Olive Oil - Storage - Bard - Domestic Birds - Honeybee Farming - Milk - Shepherd - Washing - Water - Gathering Rainwater.

If you have a passion for biblical geography, perhaps you would consider supporting Seth Rodriquez to go to Zimbabwe to teach future pastors about the land of Israel. This is a great opportunity to help others learn about what we love.

I’ll be traveling for a few weeks and the regular roundups will resume when I return.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Steven Anderson

Old City from west, db6605212212

On this day 50 years ago, David Bivin took this photo while standing on the edge of no man’s land looking toward the Old City of Jerusalem, then occupied by Jordan. Photo from Views That Have Vanished.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Caesarea Shipwreck Discovered

Two scuba divers made the find of a lifetime last month when they discovered a shipwreck dating to the 4th century AD. In what has been called the most extensive underwater discovery in Israel in 30 years, the divers found statues, anchors, and lumps of coins, all remarkably well preserved on the seabed near Caesarea. The following quotations and photos are from the IAA press release.

“Many of the artifacts are bronze and in an extraordinary state of preservation: a bronze lamp depicting the image of the sun god Sol, a figurine of the moon goddess Luna, a lamp in the image of the head of an African slave, fragments of three life-size bronze cast statues, objects fashioned in the shape of animals such as a whale, a bronze faucet in the form of a wild boar with a swan on its head, etc.”


Bronze artifacts discovered in Caesarea

“One of the biggest surprises in particular was the discovery of two metallic lumps composed of thousands of coins weighing c. 20 kilograms which was in the form of the pottery vessel in which they were transported.”


Two lumps of coins, together weighing about 45 pounds

“‘The location and distribution of the ancient finds on the seabed indicate that a large merchant ship was carrying a cargo of metal slated recycling, which apparently encountered a storm at the entrance to the harbor and drifted until it smashed into the seawall and the rocks.’ A preliminary study of the iron anchors suggests there was an attempt to stop the drifting vessel before it reached shore by casting anchors into the sea; however, these broke – evidence of the power of the waves and the wind which the ship was caught up in.”


The ship’s anchor

“Metal statues are rare archaeological finds because they were always melted down and recycled in antiquity. When we find bronze artifacts it usually occurs at sea. Because these statues were wrecked together with the ship, they sank in the water and were thus ‘saved’ from the recycling process.”


A figurine of Dionysus, the god of wine

“As soon as they emerged from the water divers Ran Feinstein and Ofer Ra‘anan of Ra‘anana contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority and reported the discovery and removal of several ancient items from the sea.”

צילום-מועדון צלילה קיסריה העתיקה.2

The divers, Ran Feinstein (right) and Ofer Ra'anan after the discovery. Photo by The Old Caesarea Diving Center

The IAA press release includes a 2.5-minute video. All of the high-resolution photos may be downloaded here. Unless otherwise credited, all photos are by Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The story is also reported by The Times of Israel, Haaretz, and others.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Caesarea harbor aerial from west, tb121704936

Caesarea harbor, aerial view from the west
Photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Gezer Water System—Is It a Water System?

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

At the annual meeting of the Near East Archaeological Society last November, Dan Warner gave an update on the excavation of the Gezer water system. The tunnel seems to date to the Middle Bronze Age: the pottery from the tunnel is Late Bronze and Middle Bronze, and the tunnel's position vis-à-vis the Canaanite Tower indicates a relationship between the two. The tunnel possesses a number of interesting features which raise questions about its function—was it in fact a water system, or was it something else?

The tunnel descends 150 feet below the surface and has a barrel-shaped ceiling and stairs. There are two carved arches some distance apart, sort of like ribs, that have no real architectural purpose and appear to be ornamental. One of the rib-arches can be seen in the photo below. There are also niches carved into the walls of the upper part of the tunnel, some of them decorated with arches or recessed frames, and one of them with a betyl. Some of the niches can also be seen in the photo below.

 Photo from NOBTS Archaeology Blog.

Dan Warner's team has now cleared 80 feet beyond the earlier excavation of Macalister. At the base of the tunnel, there is a basin and beyond that a man-made cavern which extends east. According the geologists, the aquifer is 30 meters beneath the cavern, so this is not obviously a water system. If it is a water system, why did they carve niches and arches and a cavern? And why is it so large? Could the tunnel have instead had a different function?

I was struck by some similarities to a cultic tunnel at Arsameia on the Nymphaios River, near the more famous site of Nemrut Dağ in Turkey. Dan Warner did make mention of the cultic use of caves in the Greek world (both in literature and archaeology), so I proceed to note the similarities here even though there is really no apparent geographical or chronological connection between Gezer and Arsameia. Arsameia-on-Nymphaios is a cultic center which occupies the highest elevation in the photo below.  

Arsameia-on-Nymphaios from southwest (from PLBL vol. 9).

At the site, there is a Great Rock Chamber carved into the mountain, various stelae, and a monumental staircase. But there is also a tunnel which descends diagonally into the mountain. Above the tunnel there is a relief of Heracles (Hercules) and Antiochus I Theos, king of Commagene, and the longest Greek inscription in all of Anatolia. Like Gezer, the tunnel has stairs and a barrel-shaped ceiling. The tunnel is 520 feet long and terminates in a small cavity with no indication of its function.

 Arsameia-on-Nymphaios tunnel entrance with inscription and relief (also from PLBL vol. 9).

Arsameia-on-Nymphaios tunnel entrance with inscription and stairs (also from PLBL vol. 9).

The tunnel at Arsameia-on-Nymphaios is described in Brijder's new book. He calls it "a mysterious, dark and incredibly long tunnel in rock."
After such enormous labour and effort it was disappointing that the very long, deep and dark tunnel had not yielded any evidence as to its function. It is clear that it did not lead to a subterranean spring. The suggestion of a water tunnel does not seem to be very convincing either, although it cannot be excluded. Dörner notes: ‘The tremendous effort that went into digging this rock tunnel of Arsameia could only have served a very special purpose, and since the tunnel is situated at a particularly central spot in the cultic area of the hierothesion, the thought of a cultic function of the tunnel simply occurred to me’ (figs. 161–162). According to him, the making of a rock tunnel was not defined by practical intentions, but by religious ones. ‘It seems rather logical to assign the large rock tunnel in Arsameia to the cult sphere of the god Mithras, who is the “God born from the rock.”’ (Brijder 2014: 255)

As a side note, the Great Rock Chamber/Hall also has a tunnel with barrel-shaped ceiling and stairs. The tunnel is not nearly as long—only 33 feet. The tunnel leads to a small platform which overlooks a square, 20-foot-deep chamber without any doors or stairs. Again, the function of the tunnel and chamber are unclear, but Brijder inquires whether this could have been intended as a burial chamber and later converted to a cenotaph.
Arsameia-on-Nymphaios Great Rock Chamber from below (PLBL vol. 9).

Arsameia-on-Nymphaios Great Rock Chamber interior with tunnel (PLBL vol. 9).

Arsameia-on-Nymphaios Great Rock Chamber tunnel with steps (PLBL vol. 9).

It will be interesting to see what new developments come from Gezer this summer, and if Dan Warner can come closer to determining the tunnel's function. An article about last year's work on Gezer tunnel can be read here, and the excavation website is here.

Brijder, Herman A. G., ed.
2014  Nemrud Dağı: Recent Archaeological Research and Conservation Activities in the Tomb Sanctuary of Mount Nemrud. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Weekend Roundup

A leaked report of a scan of King Tut’s tomb suggests that there are no hidden chambers. A few days earlier, scholars at a conference disagreed on the significance of radar scans.

Three tombs on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor are being opened to the public for the first time.

The symphony orchestra of the St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater performed in the Roman theater of Palmyra recently.

Of 28 Egyptian obelisks standing today, only 6 are in Egypt. That's one of many interesting facts about obelisks in a WSJ article that is based on a book by Bob Brier entitled Cleopatra’s Needles.

The collapse of one of the walls of Solomon’s Pools has raised concern that the entire pool could be in danger.

If you’ve never visited the site of ancient Dan, this article is a terrific introduction, drawing out the biblical history, making sound application, and illustrating with numerous photos.

A new 15-volume series entitled the Dead Sea Scrolls Editions will be published by Brill.

The ASOR Archive Photos of the Month is an easy way to revisit the past.

Archaeologists have discovered the weight-loss diary of the prophet Daniel, according to a report in the Babylon Bee.

HT: A.D. Riddle, Joseph Lauer, Agade

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