Monday, August 31, 2015

Monumental Podium Discovered in City of David

Excavations in the City of David have revealed a pyramid-shaped staircase believed to belong to a first-century podium. The discovery was made along the street that runs from the Pool of Siloam up to the Temple Mount.

From the Israel Antiquities Authority:

According to archaeologists Nahshon Szanton and Dr. Joe Uziel, who direct of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "The structure exposed is unique. To date such a structure has yet to be found along the street in the numerous excavations that have taken place in Jerusalem and to the best of our knowledge outside of it. For this reason, its exact use remains enigmatic. The structure is built along the street in a place that is clearly visible from afar by passers-by making their way to the Temple. We believe the structure was a kind of monumental podium that attracted the public’s attention when walking on the city’s main street. It would be very interesting to know what was said there 2,000 years ago. Were messages announced here on behalf of the government? Perhaps news or gossip, or admonitions and street preaching – unfortunately we do not know. Bliss and Dickie, two British archaeologists who discovered a small portion of this structure about 100 years ago, mistakenly thought these were steps that led into a house that was destroyed. They would certainly be excited if they could come back today and see it completely revealed”.

We know from rabbinic sources there were “stones” that were used for public purposes during the Second Temple period. For example, one source cites the “auction block” in connection with the street: “[a master] will not set up a market stand and put them (slaves) on the auction block” (Sifra, BeHar 6). In the Mishnah and Talmud the “Stone of Claims” is mentioned as a place that existed in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period: “Our Rabbis taught: There was a Stone of Claims in Jerusalem: whoever lost an article repaired thither, and whoever found an article did likewise. The latter stood and proclaimed, and the former submitted his identification marks and received it back. And in reference to this we learnt: Go forth and see whether the Stone of Claims is covered” (Bava Metzia 28:B).

On Thursday (3.9), at the City of David Studies of Ancient Jerusalem’s 16th Annual Conference that will be open to the public, Nahshon Szanton and Dr. Joe Uziel will present their findings from the excavation and the different interpretations regarding the nature of the podium. According to them, “Given the lack of a clear archaeological parallel to the stepped-structure, the purpose of the staircase remains a mystery. It is certainly possible the rabbinical sources provide valuable information about structures, such as this, although for the time being there is no definitive proof.”

Information about the conference can be found on the City of David website: www.cityofdavid.org.il.

The story can also be read at the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz, and the Times of Israel.

HT: Joseph Lauer

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Photo by Gil Mezuman, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Weekend Roundup

Archaeologists working at Laodicea have uncovered an inscription with the “water law” of the city from AD 114.

The mummy of King Tut will remain on display in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

A girl shattered a Roman vase in a display case at the Israel Museum. Or did she?

The Pope’s visit has inspired a new exhibit at the Penn Museum: “Sacred Writings: Extraordinary Texts of the Biblical World.”

Popular Archaeology runs a story on the latest discoveries on the Mount Zion dig.

Carl Rasmussen posts photos of two wall paintings from the Herodium now on display at the Israel Museum.

“The first Protecting the Past conference will be held in Amman (Jordan) between 28-30 September 2015 at The Jordan Museum.”

LiveScience has the latest on the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.”

The Biblical Archaeology Society’s Blowout Sale ends on Monday. Many items are marked down 50% or more.

The NIV Zondervan Study Bible has dropped in price to $26.18.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Paleojudaica

We’ve been posting a photo each day this year on Facebook and Twitter. Our most popular photo this week was this image of the City of David from the 1890s.

Jerusalem City of David and Mt of Olives, pcm02712

The City of David, Temple Mount, and the Mount of Olives

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Free Lectures in the Chicago Area

(Post by A.D. Riddle)
Here are some upcoming lectures in the Chicago area. All lectures are free and open to the public.

Wednesday, September 2, 7:00 pm
Josef Wegner (University of Pennsylvania), “The Pharaohs of Anubis-Mountain: Archaeological Investigations of a Royal Necropolis at Abydos.” The lecture will be given at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Before the lecture, you can take a docent-led tour of the Oriental Institute Museum. Free registration (recommended) and additional information can be found here.
Recent excavations at Abydos in Upper Egypt have revealed an extensive royal necropolis beside a sacred peak: Anubis-Mountain. Here a series of tombs spanning Egypt’s late Middle Kingdom (ca. 1850-1650 BCE) and Second Intermediate Period (ca. 1650-1550 BCE) are helping to illuminate one of the most shadowy eras of Egyptian history. The lecture discusses the twelve royal tombs currently known at Anubis-Mountain, and the most recent results– the excavation in June this year of a tomb likely belonging to king Sobekhotep IV, as well as the discovery of the previously unknown pharaoh Senebkay.

Wednesday, September 9, 7:00 pm
John Walton (Wheaton College), “Cognitive-Environment Criticism and the Tower of Babel.” This is the opening lecture for this year's "Archaeology Lecture Series” at Wheaton College. The lecture will be given in room BGC 534. Information can be found at the webpage here.

Wednesday, September 16, 7:00 pm
Aaron Burke (UCLA), “Egyptian Imperialism in Canaan: The Case of Jaffa.” This is the second lecture in Wheaton's 2015-2016 “Archaeology Lecture Series.” The lecture will be given in room BGC 534.

Thursday, September 17, 7:00 pm
Aaron Burke (UCLA), “The Amorites and Abraham’s World.” The lecture will be given as part of the Trinity Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology Lecture Series, at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. It will be given in Hinkson Hall, Rodine Building. No registration required.
Well known in the Old Testament, recent historical, archaeological, and scientific studies have shed new light on the events and processes behind the formation of Amorite identity, providing a new understanding of Amorites during the transition between the third and second millennia B.C. This lecture will bring together these findings and suggest how these might inform our understandings of the biblical patriarchal narratives.


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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

IS Destroys Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra

From The Telegraph:

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) have destroyed one of Palmyra’s most well-known ancient temples, according to Syria’s antiquities chief.

Carefully stage-managed photographs by Isil show the moment the terrorist group destroyed the Temple of Baalshamin at the country's ancient city.

The images, released by Isil’s media wing in the central province of Homs, revealed the temple was littered with explosives before it exploded into a mushroom cloud on Sunday.

The full story is here.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

New Release: NIV Zondervan Study Bible

The NIV Zondervan Study Bible is being released today. The successor to the best-selling study Bible will likely quickly become a best-seller itself, especially since it was written under the direction of D. A. Carson, one of the most well-known and well-liked evangelical scholars today.9780310438335

I’m excited about it for all of the reasons you’ll read on other sites and reviews, but it was also a privilege to have been invited to contribute. I wrote the notes on 2 Kings, a book I have studied in great depth for the last 25 years. The editors also selected 50 of our favorite images from the BiblePlaces.com collection.

My parents gave me the first NIV Study Bible when I was a teenager and I carried and read it through high school and college. I use it today when teaching in the classroom (preferring a smaller Bible when teaching on the field). This all-new edition is now even more personal.

Here are a few of the books and contributors I expect to be extremely valuable:

  • Genesis 12–50: T. D. Alexander
  • Judges: K. Lawson Younger
  • Psalms: David M. Howard Jr.
  • Proverbs: Bruce K. Waltke
  • Isaiah: John N. Oswalt
  • John: D. A. Carson
  • Romans: Douglas J. Moo
  • Galatians: Stephen Westerholm
  • Philippians: Simon J. Gathercole
  • Hebrews: Buist M. Fanning

And there are many inviting articles, including these:

  • The Story of the Bible: How the Good News About Jesus is Central, by Timothy Keller
  • A Biblical-Theological Overview of the Bible, by D. A. Carson
  • The Glory of God, by James M. Hamilton Jr.
  • Sin, by Kevin DeYoung
  • Sonship, by D. A. Carson
  • Holiness, by Andrew David Naselli
  • The Gospel, by Greg D. Gilbert

I haven’t held the Bible in my hands yet, but to judge from the editors, the editorial process, the contributors, and the goal, I expect this to be an outstanding work that will benefit many for decades to come.

What distinguishes this study Bible from the many others? Carson notes five characteristics in the preface. Here’s a portion of the first and last.

So what characterizes this NIV Zondervan Study Bible? First, in common with the best study Bibles, all our contributors revere Scripture as the Word of God and joyfully bow to its authority. Our desire is not so much to be masters of the Word, as to be mastered by it. That shapes how we approach the text and how we write about it. Our aim is to bring glory to God by helping people think his thoughts after him, and to bring understanding and edification to his people as they do so.

[...]

Finally, this study Bible emphasizes biblical theology. By this we mean that instead of focusing primary attention on how the Bible as a whole addresses many questions (which is what many people mean by “systematic theology”), we have tried to highlight the way various themes develop within the Bible across time.

This emphasis upon biblical theology was the part I enjoyed the most as I wrote the notes on 2 Kings. Providing the dates of each king is important, but I relished showing how the Bible fits together through God’s faithfulness to his promises as all things move toward the glorious consummation.

The Bible is available in print, personal, Kindle, and Logos formats. The print version comes with a free digital version as well. You can see a video preview as well as a 180-page sample at the official website.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

The Neglect of Samaria

Visitors to Samaria are few since the Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority closed down daily operations. It is truly sad that most Israelis and foreign tourists can’t (or won’t) visit the ancient capital of the northern kingdom, home to Jehu and Jeroboam, Ahab and Jezebel. The history is of great significance and the views are terrific.

From The Times of Israel, by Ilan Ben Zion:

The manager of the Palestinian Authority’s Interpretation Center at the Sebastia archaeological site handed over a brochure; his colleague, roused from slumber, hastily pulled his pants on. Pointing to a small screening room where visitors would see a movie about the site, he contradicted himself with absolute confidence: “There’s a film — but there’s no film.”

The PA built the facility two years ago to inform visitors about the ancient city of Sebastia after Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority closed down its day-to-day operations at the site. But besides a pamphlet and some hard candies, the Interpretation Center has little to offer. The brand-new plush chairs in the 40-seat theater meant to show were still in their plastic covers. (The PA didn’t respond to inquiries about the cost of the center; the United Nations Millennium Development Fund, a co-funder, donated $132,000.)

“You can learn the history of the whole region (by) staying here because all the powers that crossed the region since the time of the Egyptians were passing through,” Carla Benelli, an art historian working in Sebastia, told AP a few years ago. Sebastia’s tel features remains from 10 different periods, from the Iron Age to modern times. “From this point of view, it’s really very important,”

The entire saga of preserving and showcasing ancient Sebastia unfolds like a comedy of errors which could only occur in the Wild West Bank. Israel controls the park containing the ancient finds, which is in Area C, but does nothing with it. The Palestinians say they want to control it, but lack the resources to develop it. And while both sides lay claim to the site as their exclusive cultural heritage, it lies neglected, underdeveloped, unexcavated.

The full story is here. We have more photos and descriptions here.

Samaria from west, tb050106488

Samaria from the west
Photo from Samaria and the Center

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Weekend Roundup

The Islamic State beheaded the retired chief archaeologist of Palmyra. The Oriental Institute condemns this “brutal and senseless act.” Ian Tuttle suggests that he be added to the ranks of martyrs.

Does Syria's Director-General of Antiquities and Museums have the saddest job in the world? Recently his job has been to hide antiquities from ISIS.

The forthcoming Museum of the Bible in Washington DC has made a multi-year deal with the Israeli Antiquities Authorities to display numerous artifacts.

Opening October 12: The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art will have an exhibition entitled, “Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom,” featuring a range of artifacts from monumental stones to fine jewelry.

Greece’s financial woes have halted work on the great tomb which last year generated huge publicity.

The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is hosting an exhibit on bronze sculptures in the Hellenistic era. The link includes some fantastic pictures.

Here’s more on the claim that the tomb of Egyptian queen Nefertiti may have been found. And a 15-minute video that explains the technology behind the claim.

The former director of the Walters Art Museum tries to make the case for buying antiquities in order to save them (WSJ; subscription required).

Ancient inscriptions in the Cave of the Elijah the Prophet are in danger.

The Lost Sheep is a new video short from Source Flix that will serve as a great intro or illustration in teaching.

Can you guess the location of these photos from the ASOR Archives? (We scored a 10.)

Rose Eveleth: Is Archaeology Better Off without Religion?

If you’ve been looking for an original, but affordable, copy of Edward Robinson’s Biblical Researches in Palestine, there’s one available now from a bookseller in California ($69 for three volumes). It looks like the Logos version is quite close to production, needing only a few more bids.

HT: Jared Clark, Charles Savelle, Agade, Joseph Lauer, and especially Ted Weis

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

New Book: Waiting on God

Wayne Stiles has a new book out: Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does Nothing. That might not sound like a book with a strong connection to biblical geography and history, but it is. The book released yesterday, but I’ve already read a large portion of a pre-release copy and it is outstanding. Wayne looks at life through the lens of the story of Joseph, pulling in his extensive background knowledge to reveal aspects you’ve almost certainly never heard. I taught through Genesis twice this past year and didn’t expect to learn many new things, but I did.

Here’s a short endorsement I wrote:

Every page of Stiles’s book is characterized by practical wisdom, careful research, and vivid writing. I love his insights and personal stories and found I just wanted to keep reading. Best of all, I appreciate how we see from Scripture how we can trust God no matter what.

I highly recommend the book. It’s available for $11.66 at Amazon. And if you send Wayne your receipt before Monday, he has some great free bonuses worth a lot more than $11.66. Seriously, you can’t lose. And you might want to go ahead and pick up a few extra copies for upcoming Christmas or birthday gifts. The book’s message is relevant for all.

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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Weekend Roundup

A feature story in the Worcester Magazine describes the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review is out and it includes a story on Kadesh Barnea.

A new exhibit at the Ismailia Museum in Egypt features discoveries made during recent expansion work on the Suez Canal. One of the artifacts on display is a gift from Ramses II to his father Seti I.

Cary Summers, President of the Museum of the Bible, gives a lecture on foods of the Bible.

Paleojudaica notes two top-ten lists of archaeological sites to see in Israel.

Marlena Whiting writes at the ASOR Blog on milestones in ancient Palestine and Arabia.

BibleX notes three dangers associated with studying Bible backgrounds.

Wayne Stiles provides 10 reasons a tour to Israel belongs on your bucket list. But let me add: the longer you wait, the less the trip will benefit you. Go now, or pay for your kid or grandkid to go. (BTW, I know the best school in the world for college students to attend in Israel.)

HT: Joseph Lauer, Agade, G. M. Grena

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Saturday, August 08, 2015

Weekend Roundup

A mikveh from the first century has been discovered in a southern Jerusalem neighborhood. This one was unusual because of the numerous wall paintings. Leen Ritmeyer comments here. You can access high-res photos here.

Excavations at Horvat Kur near the Sea of Galilee have exposed the mosaic floor of a Byzantine-era synagogue. For background and a map, see our previous post.

Nicholas Reeves believes that he has identified two unrecognized doorways in King Tut’s tomb, one of which leads to the undisturbed tomb of Nefertiti. The Economist gives a summary; Reeves’s published article may be read at academia.edu.

An exhibition with hundreds of Egyptian artifacts discovered underwater opens next month in Paris.

Lebanese authorities are working to halt the antiquities trade that passes through their country.

Babylon 3D has many beautiful reconstruction images of the ancient city.

The Museum of the Ara Pacis in Rome is hosting an exhibition on how the Roman Empire and its people ate.

Two suspects have been indicted on charges of setting fire to the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish at Tabgha.

International Bible Study Week provided participants in Jerusalem with three days of lectures and one day of touring.

Thomas Levy announces the publication of papers from a 2013 symposium on the exodus. (ASOR Blog requires subscription.)

Karaites follow the Mosaic Law but not the rabbinic law expounded in the Mishnah and Torah. There are about 25,000 of them living in Israel today.

The threat of ISIS is pushing Iraq to digitize the Baghdad National Library.

The Megalithic Portal provides many articles on sites in Israel.

Where is the Land of Uz? Wayne Stiles considers the evidence and suggests some application.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Agade, Ted Weis, Ryan Jaroncyk, Mark Vitalis Hoffman

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Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The Gate of Gath

The Jerusalem Post carries a brief notice of the discovery of the Iron Age gate along with two photos.

Archeologists at Bar-Ilan University, headed by Professor Aren Maeir, have discovered the fortifications and entrance gate to the biblical city of Gath in the Philistines, which was once the home of the giant Goliath.

[...]

Professor Maeir said that the gate is among the largest ever found in Israel and provides substantial evidence that Gath was once one of the most influential cities in the region.

I think that everyone already agreed that Gath was one of the most influential cities in the region, but finding a gate doesn’t hurt.

Maeir links to several related stories on his blog.

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Saturday, August 01, 2015

Weekend Roundup

This season’s excavations at Tel Kabri uncovered 120 huge wine jars.

Three reliefs have been discovered from the Middle Kingdom site of al-Hoody near Aswan.

Leen Ritmeyer explains the significance of a small window on the Temple Mount.

John Bartlett shares his recollections from excavating with Kathleen Kenyon in Jerusalem.

Ferrell Jenkins shares photos and information about Maresha of the Shephelah.

SourceFlix has released a video short on the Walls of Jericho.

Available at last: Tell er-Rumeith: The Excavations of Paul W. Lapp, 1962 and 1967, by Tristan J. Barako and Nancy L. Lapp.

The British Library and the National Library of Israel are partnering to digitize at least 860 Hebrew manuscripts. The British Library’s current collection is here.

HT: Ted Weis, Joseph Lauer, Agade

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Murex Map of Lebanon

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

The journal Hannon: Revue libanaise de géographie is published by the Lebanese University in Beirut. The cover of the journal depicts a map of Lebanon using the shape of a Murex mollusk shell—a pretty clever idea, I thought. The sea snail that calls these shells home was extracted by the Phoenicians to create a purple dye.

Cover graphic of Hannon journal compared to a map of Lebanon.

Murex shell from Sidon.

Three species of Murex at the British Museum.

Ferrell Jenkins has written several informative blog posts about the purple dye.

Monday, July 27, 2015

New Translation of the Amarna Letters, by Anson Rainey

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

Last December, the publisher Brill released The El-Amarna Correspondence: A New Edition of the Cuneiform Letters from the Site of El-Amarna based on Collations of all Extant Tablets, by Anson Rainey.

When Anson Rainey passed away in February 2011, he had not yet completed this new edition of the Amarna Letters. Rainey undertook the massive effort of producing a new collation all tablets that contain correspondence from Tell el-Amarna (the exceptions being four tablets that since their discovery were lost or destroyed; two Hittite letters, and one Hurrian letter). A collation, in this context, means a copy of the text based upon close personal inspection of the physical inscription itself. Rainey describes in the Introduction how he began work on this project as early as 1971, although the main effort commenced in 1999. Since the tablets are currently held in several museums around the globe, this was no easy task. Below are a list of the museums. The first few museums hold dozens of Amarna Letters; the rest hold far less, in most cases only two or three tablets or even just a fragment of a tablet. The Amarna Letters are housed today in:
                    Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin
                    British Museum, London
                    The Egyptian Museum, Cairo
                    Louvre, Paris
                    Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
                    Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
                    Pushkin Museum, Moscow
                    Musees Royeaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels
                    Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago
                    İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzeleri

At the very end of last year, nearly four years after his passing, Rainey's magnum opus was brought to completion: a two-volume set entitled The El-Amarna Correspondence: A New Edition of the Cuneiform Letters from the Site of El-Amarna based on Collations of all Extant Tablets. Handbook of Oriental Studies Section 1: The Near and Middle East 110. Boston: Brill, 2015.


(This is one of a few magna opera produced by Rainey in his lifetime—The Sacred Bridge could count as one [here, review here]; his four-volume grammar of the Amarna Letters, Canaanite in the Amarna Tablets, could count as another [vol. 1vol. 2vol. 3vol. 4]; an earlier publication of new Amarna Letters yet a third).

As you can see in the photo below, volume 1 is the main volume. It contains a 50-page introduction (including an essay by Jana Mynářová on the discovery of the tablets), a transliteration and English translation of every one of the nearly 350 Amarna Letters, and an Akkadian Glossary. Volume 1 is just a hair thicker than a Rubik's Cube. Volume 2 is much slimmer and contains commentary for each letter:
  • the name of the sender and recipient
  • museum number of the tablet
  • previous publications of the text and translations
  • sometimes a brief paragraph about the disposition of the tablet or the historical situation of the tablet's contents
  • line-by-line discussion for readings of specific cuneiform signs and words based on Rainey's collation in comparison to earlier readings.

The El-Amarna Correspondence by Anson Rainey will be the standard edition of the Amarna Letters for this generation, and anyone who uses this material in their research would benefit from consulting Rainey's work.

As I was preparing this post, I was a little surprised by the quality of proofreading I encountered. I expected in an academic work of this type that greater care would be taken. And since they have given it a regal price tag (retail $293), I would assume the publisher could afford top proofreading talent. There were a handful of typographical mistakes in volume 1, but volume 2 contained quite a few typographical mistakes as well as factual errors. Between and within the volumes, there is confusion over EA 380-382 (their disposition, museum numbers, etc.). On another note, for volume 1, page numbers were not included on the first page of each letter, and since several letters are less than a single page in length, that means there are stretches of the volume without any page numbers at all. It would have been nice to have a page number printed on every page.