Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: The Pool of Siloam

Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron excavated what I consider to be one of the most interesting discoveries of recent years related to the New Testament. Their work at the southern end of the City of David began when construction work on a sewer line accidentally revealed several beautiful stone steps. After several years of work, the entire northeastern side of the first-century Pool of Siloam was revealed. Our IBEX students worked with the excavators on this project a few days at a time over the course of several years, and so the published results are of particular interest to me.

As with other chapters in Ancient Jerusalem Revealed, the archaeologists wrote the report. They begin by sketching out the history of excavation in the area, with the surprising note that five steps from the southern side of the pool were already revealed by Biss and Dickie in their excavations in 1898. But they didn’t realize what they had found.

The pool itself measures 50 meters on the exposed side, and an estimated 60 meters on the perpendicular sides. They uncovered the entire length on the northeastern side, including both corners. Why didn’t they go further? The article only hints at the reason: The pool “is the property of the Greek Orthodox Church.” A less professional report would have added, “and it is ironic that it is Christians who obstinately refused to allow excavation of an important site mentioned in the New Testament.”

The pool was built in two phases, and this is more important than you might think. The first phase was made of plastered stairs, but these could not withstand the large numbers of people who used the pool. But here’s the interesting part: the construction style of this phase indicates that the pool was built by workmen who specialized in constructing ritual baths.

It is, of course, tempting to dismiss the identification of the Pool of Siloam as one large ritual bath on the grounds that the lead excavator (Reich) did his doctoral dissertation on ritual baths, and we know how you end up seeing your own specialty everywhere you look. But Reich supports this theory with two additional points: (1) holes to support modesty partitions have been found in the stone steps; (2) the design of the staircase, with five steps between landings, is ideal for people trying to reach the water level at varying levels.

The date of the pool is not controversial. The first phase was built in the mid-first century BC and the pool went out of use in the First Jewish Revolt (AD 66-70).

On the northern end of the excavation area, the archaeologists uncovered a paved esplanade that was made of stones similar to those in the Herodian street below Robinson’s Arch. They identified the location of a row of columns and found a number of column drums in various places in their excavations. One of those drums had a mason’s mark with two Hebrew letters (het, tsadi) and three vertical lines. A street led from this esplanade to the north, underneath which they found a large drainage channel. This has been publicized in the past because it was apparently used as a hiding place for refugees in the Jewish Revolt.

This is a brief summary of the whole. The article is 11 pages long and includes 12 photos and 2 diagrams, many of them large and excellent.

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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Weekend Roundup

A resident of the northern Israeli village of Araba discovered a Bronze Age settlement on his way to work.

This week Bryan Windle looks at el-Araj, the other candidate for Bethsaida. He provides the evidence both for and against this identification.

The Kingdom of Copper: Copper Production and Social Complexity in Iron Age Faynan, Jordan, is a good story that has been very creatively produced. (The subdomain “storymaps” is suggestive.)

In the last few years, Zedekiah’s Cave (aka Solomon’s Quarries) has become “a major venue for concerts and cultural events.”

Jerusalem looks as it has for the thousands of years, but that’s all about to change, writes Michael Kimmelman in the NY Times, because they are building a cable car to the Western Wall. (I think a case is considerably weakened when it is grossly overstated. And the cable car does not go to the Western Wall.)

Tourism to the West Bank is growing.

A high-tech analysis of the Temple Scroll helps to explain why this very thin parchment was so bright and possibly why it was so well preserved.

The excavations at Gath made it on Jeopardy this week. And you can now register for the penultimate season there.

Leon Mauldin shares several photos from Shepherds’ Field in Bethlehem.

If you enjoy virtually touring Israel, you can join John DeLancey as it posts daily about his current trip.

Tomorrow Duke is celebrating the conclusion of its years of excavating at Sepphoris.

Ahmed Shams describes the Library of Congress’s collections of photos related to the Sinai Peninsula Research project.

Archaeology in Jordan (AIJ) is a new, biannual open access (OA) newsletter published online by ACOR aimed at raising scholarly awareness of archaeological and cultural resource management projects being carried out in Jordan and to make this information accessible to a wider audience.”

I am on The Book and the Spade this week, talking with Gordon Govier about my visit to Susa, the Persian capital where Esther lived.

There will be no roundups for several weeks.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Charles Savelle

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: The Ophel

I am personally very interested in Jerusalem in the Old Testament period (aka First Temple period), so I’m going to indulge myself by writing yet again on a third article (of four total) from that era in Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: Archaeological Discoveries, 1998-2018. This article is also by Eilat Mazar, and it is entitled “The Royal Quarter Built by King Solomon in the Ophel of Jerusalem in Light of Recent Excavations (2009-2013).”

As before, I am handicapped by not being able to show you the diagrams and archaeological photos in the article. There really are some spectacular views, without overgrown weeds, faded placards, or some tourist who just won’t move out of your way! But my goal in these brief summaries is to give you a sense for what they’ve found, along with a pointer to where you can read more.

Let’s start with a definition: the Ophel, according to this article, is the area between the City of David (to the south) and the Temple Mount (to the north). I’m not so sure that this is how the Bible uses the term (cf. 2 Chr 27:3; 33:14; Neh 3:26-27; 11:21), but that’s how it is used here. If you want to see these discoveries in person, you need to go to the “Southern Temple Mount Excavations,” later renamed the “Jerusalem Archaeological Park” (as if there is only one), and marked by the Davidson Center near the entrance.

This article focuses on Mazar’s work on the southern end of the excavation area (just north of the modern road that takes buses to the Western Wall). Here she found some monumental architecture which she dates to the time of Solomon. In fact, four of the five buildings date to the time of Solomon, with the fifth from the time of David. She writes, “One gets the impression that the construction of buildings in the Ophel ended during the third quarter of the 10th century BCE.”

Building I she identifies as “the Far House,” proposing that it served King David and his allies when he fled from Absalom (2 Sam 15:17). The NASB translation reads, “The king went out and all the people with him, and they stopped at the last house.” Mazar writes, “The features of bayt ha-merhaq [the far house] as described in the Bible match in date and location those of the early structure in the Ophel and it is possible that they are the same building.” I think I would have more confidence in that conclusion if we had other buildings from this time period to compare it with (and thereby determine that this in fact was the “farthest” one), but we don’t.

Building II was a fortress-tower even further than the “far house,” but she dates it to a few decades later. She estimates its size at 50 by 40 feet, though much of the structure has not yet been uncovered. But she thinks it fits with a description in Nehemiah 3:27 of “the great projecting tower.”

Building III is the gatehouse and casemate wall. Other archaeologists aren’t so sure that this was a gatehouse (only a portion of the structure was preserved), but if it is, this is the only known gatehouse from Jerusalem prior to the “Middle Building” mentioned in the Babylonian conquest description of Jeremiah 39.

Building IV is the “Straight Wall” and it has a length of more than 100 feet, with a width of 8 feet. Nehemiah mentions a portion of the wall that is called “straight” (Neh 3:25), and Mazar believes that she has found it.

Building V is the casemate wall, also built during the time of Solomon, as one of the elements in “the wall of Jerusalem” (1 Kgs 3:1). So Mazar has found this as well.

This is all truly fascinating, especially given the almost complete lack of material elsewhere in Jerusalem from the time of David and Solomon. My advice, though, to someone who has identified so much is to stop digging before you run out of biblical names to associate with your discoveries.

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Monday, September 09, 2019

Name of Adonijah, the Royal Steward, Discovered in Jerusalem

A seal impression was recently discovered in the City of David that reads “belonging to Adonijah, the royal steward.” The inscription dates to the 7th century, the period when Jerusalem was ruled by Manasseh and Josiah. The royal steward was the king’s “chief of staff,” and this position is mentioned in Isaiah 22:15 in reference to Shebna.

There is some question about whether this might be the same individual who was buried in the “tomb of the royal steward” in the Silwan necropolis opposite the City of David.

Also of interest is the fact that this man had the same name as David’s son who attempted to seize the throne before his father had died (1 Kgs 1). The Times of Israel reports:

The most famous Adoniyahu occurs some 300 years before this newly attested Adoniyahu, and is a son of King David and Haggit. He is called both Adoniya and Adoniyahu.

There are two other notable Adoniyahus recounted in the Bible. One, a Levite, appears during the reign of Jehoshaphat (circa 870–849 BCE), who is recounted in Chronicles. The other noteworthy Adoniyahu is found during the rule of Nehemiah, which occurs during the Persian era of the Second Temple period circa 465-424 BCE.

Perhaps next time the Times reporter can look up the English spelling of the name so that English readers will more readily understand. (Many other news reports perpetuate the same problem, making me think that these stories are simply regurgitated, without the necessary care.)

For the full story, including photos and a video, see The Times of Israel.

HT: Joseph Lauer

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New Resource: Encountering the Holy Land (with Carl Rasmussen)

What is the best way to prepare for a trip to the Holy Land? This is a question that I get frequently. There are a number of good answers, but the best answers will surely make sure that the preparation goes beyond passport applications and luggage allowances. The best preparation is that which will help you get the most out of what you are seeing.

I have long recommended Carl Rasmussen's Zondervan Atlas of the Bible as an excellent resource for learning the land. The combination of the geographical overviews and the historical survey is ideal. So I'm quite happy suggesting that people read all or portions of this atlas before their trip.

Now Dr. Rasmussen has a new resource available: Encountering the Holy Land: A Video Introduction to the History and Geography of the Bible. Thirteen sessions, each about 20 minutes, give a solid introduction to the biblical places and events.

I tend to be a book (over video) guy, but for this subject, video has tremendous advantages. The resource was filmed on location in Israel, and the high quality of production makes full use of drone footage, charts, diagrams, and maps. This makes the video format superior in many ways to a book for studying the land of Israel.

I really like how Zondervan is making this resource available through multiple channels, reducing the obstacles for people with different preferences. Old-fashioned guys like me can buy the course on DVD (only $35). It's also available on Amazon Prime Video. And Zondervan has a new MasterLectures program which gives you full access to all of their line-up for a modest monthly subscription of $20. By pairing excellent instruction with first-rate production and wise distribution, I predict this series will be very successful.

Here's how I would use it. Before taking a church or student trip to Israel, suggest or require the participants to watch the series. It's also a great review when you return. (OK, it's probably not truly a "review," because in all likelihood, Dr. Rasmussen explains many things that your tour guide won't.) This is a series designed to increase your knowledge and love for the Bible and the land where God revealed himself. Dr. Rasmussen has a high view of Scripture, and I have no reservations in recommending it to all. I'm very thankful to have such a great resource to recommend from now on.

You can watch the first session for free at the MasterLectures site or below (email subscribers will need to click through).

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Weekend Roundup

The latest sensational claim in biblical archaeology is that Kiriath Jearim is Emmaus.

“Archaeologists have discovered a new sanctuary preceding the ancient city of Troy in Turkey's western Çanakkale province.”

156 cuneiform tablets, brought illegally to the UK, are being returned to Iraq with the help of the British Museum.

One of the big controversies in biblical geography in recent years is the location of Bethsaida, with two candidates. Bryan Windle provides a good survey of the criteria for Bethsaida along with an evaluation of the first candidate, et-Tell.

Mark Barnes has some good observations in the similarities and differences between Elisha’s and Jesus’s raisings of boys on either side of the hill of Moreh.

Megan Sauter explains the value of inscriptions in understanding worship in the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim.

The two most popular national parks for Israelis this summer were Sachne and Nahal Senir.

Wayne Stiles has released a new book on Kindle: Top 10 Places in Jesus’ Life: Why They Matter in Yours.

Eisenbrauns has put thirteen of their most popular textbooks on sale.  

Joel Kramer is leading a study tour of Israel in March 2020.

Ferrell’s Favorite Foto #26 – Shepherds by Night

A tourist bought a shwarma in Jerusalem and when he returned home, he found that it cost him 10,100 shekels.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis

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Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: Palace of David

Eilat Mazar excavated the palace of David. That’s what she claims, and it’s an amazing possibility to consider.

Mazar summarizes her excavations of the summit of the City of David in a chapter in the new Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: Archaeological Discoveries, 1998-2018. I told you last week that if you wanted fewer questions and more answers, you would prefer Mazar’s excavation report to Reich and Shukron’s.

The chapter proceeds through the excavation chronologically beginning with the earliest periods. But the discoveries were very limited from all of the pre-Iron periods, and so I am going to skip right over them in this summary. The lack of early evidence in this area may indicate that this area was outside of Jerusalem until the time of David.

As with all of the articles in this book, we are treated to some great photos. This article also has three fantastic plans that help you see what Mazar is explaining. The main feature is the “Large Stone Structure.” This is what Mazar (and others) believes is the palace of David. Or more precisely, she considers it to be “a new significant addition to the already existing Canaanite-Jebusite Palace-Fortress or Mezudat Zion; an addition built by King David during his initial rule in Jerusalem.” So I interpret that to mean that this is David’s pre-Hiram residence. (In another study I’m working on, I reject the notion that David built a pre-Hiram residence, but that’s another discussion.)

Just how “large” is this “Large Stone Structure”? Unfortunately the excavation area was limited and the building extends beyond the edges in several directions. But the outer eastern wall is 20 feet wide, and a portion of it stands on a rock cliff that was chiseled to a height of 22-25 feet. Kathleen Kenyon discovered a royal (proto-Aeolic) capital just below this, but Mazar did not find any more in her area.

A quarried channel discovered behind the Stepped Stone Structure (which is the large foundation of the Large Stone Structure, readily visible in “Area G)” dates to the early Iron Age IIA (= time of David), and Mazar identifies this with the tsinnor mentioned in 2 Samuel 5:8, by which David’s men conquered the city.

Did I mention how much I like the color diagrams?

The finds of later periods were not quite so impressive, and it’s surely disappointing that none of the royal treasures escaped the greedy hands of the many plunderers of Jerusalem. But we can note a few discoveries in brief:

  • A wall possibly constructed ahead of Shishak’s invasion
  • A Hebrew seal impression with the name of Jehucal son of Shelemiah son of Shevi (cf. Jer 38:1)
  • The wall built by Nehemiah
  • A seal inscribed slmt that may have belonged to Shlomit the daughter of Zerubbabel (1 Chr 3:19).

Much of this material has appeared before in news reports and BAR articles, but this article provides a single summary that pulls it all together in a convenient fashion, with great illustrations.

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Saturday, August 31, 2019

Weekend Roundup

A Times of Israel article discusses the newly deciphered Moabite inscription found an an altar from Ataroth.

With international tourism to Lebanon on the rise, there is a new interest in preserving the country’s cultural heritage.

Claudine Dauphin has been trying to figure out how Umm ar-Rasas, in the semi-arid steppe of central Jordan, was able to survive, including in the Byzantine period when it included 16 Byzantine churches.

The July issue of the Newsletter of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities is now available.

Bryan Windle selects the top three reports in biblical archaeology for the month of August.

The Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society has posted an archaeological report for August 2019. Future lectures are also listed.

Jimmy Hardin is interviewed on The Book and the Spade on the controversial topic of state formation in the 10th century.

On the 250th anniversary of Napoleon’s birth, the Jerusalem Post looks at the French general’s visit to the Holy Land.

Alex Joffe wonders what the ancient Near East would look like without the year 1919.

Appian Media is close to meeting two fundraising goals for developing new video resources, but the deadline is today.

Two of John Beck’s geography books have just been released as audiobooks: Land without Borders and Along the Road.

John DeLancey is offering a free online course called “Biblical Israel - Learning the 'Playing Board' of the Bible.” You can watch the preview here or see a replay of the first session here.

Carl Rasmussen shares photos of Domus Galilaeae, a Catholic retreat center near the Sea of Galilee that is normally not open to visitors.

Ferrell Jenkins posts a nice color photo of winnowing grain at Shechem.

New: Atlas of the Biblical World, by Mark Vitalis Hoffman and Robert A. Mullins. Mark shares on the details on his excellent blog.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer

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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: Gihon Spring Area

In a nutshell, Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: Archaeological Discoveries, 1998-2018 is a summation of the results of a couple dozen excavations all over Jerusalem. Each article is written by the excavator(s), with the result that you feel like you’re standing at the site, getting the final synopsis of what they discovered. The volume is loaded with photographs and diagrams.

My intention is to summarize a few of these articles in upcoming posts. There are four articles from the “Old Testament” period (Bronze and Iron Ages), and today’s post is about the first one.

Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron excavated in the City of David for 14 years (1995-2008), and their chapter on “Recent Discoveries in the City of David” focuses on two subjects: (1) the rock-cut pool and (2) the Gihon Spring fortifications. Both of these are in close proximity to each other, and both of them have proven quite difficult to understand.

The Rock-Cut Pool was not a pool, but its walls chiseled into the bedrock at a height of [oops – the article doesn’t even say; I’ll guess 20 feet] are amazing. But holes in the bedrock, even really large ones, do not tell stories, and so the excavators focus all of their attention on what they found inside the “pool,” which necessarily dates to a period later than the “pool’s” earliest use.

What did they find inside the pool? (1) Lots of pottery, mostly from around 825-750 BC, which was tossed in from the surrounding area when someone built (2) a house. Yes, this seems like a strange place to build a house, but someone did. The excavators compared it to the house of Ahiel in Area G. (3) Fish bones. A lot of fish bones. And strangely enough, this is the only place in Jerusalem where they have found lots of fish bones. Of the 10,600 fish bones, they identified 14 different fish families, but the favorites on Jerusalem dining tables were Sparidae (porgies) and Mugilidae (mullets). All of these were obviously imported, and a study of their size indicates that only small fish were transported, possibly because of the need to package them for transport up into the hill country by donkey.

(4) About ten seals and scarabs as well as fragments of more than 170 seal impressions. Because they were from an earlier period than the collection found in Area G, they did not have inscriptions in any Semitic languages. A few had Egyptian inscriptions. And there were some cool decorations such as boats, fish, sphinxes, and palmettes. The archaeologists believe that an administrative center existed near the Rock-Cut Pool. (5) An ivory pomegranate with a dove perched on top.

The archaeologists believe that these finds point to ties with Phoenicia, a proposal which corresponds with the presence of Queen Athaliah (the daughter of a Phoenician princess). The article only hints at the possibilities here, but the date seems to line up.

The second major subject of the article is the Gihon Spring fortifications. The main point of this discussion is that the Pool Tower is not a tower but a fortified passageway. Now this passageway is very impressive, with its northern wall preserved to a height of 25 feet! They traced the parallel walls for 75 feet before they had to stop because of modern obstructions. The problem is that the excavators cannot figure out what this (obviously expensive) fortification did, and they seem to conclude that it went out of use before it came into use, being replaced by a subterranean equivalent known as “Warren’s Shaft.” All of this they date to the Middle Bronze Age.

The authors are honest, and I appreciate that. Here’s a sample paragraph that reflects their wrestling with the difficulties:

The key question is: How did those drawing water reach the place above the northeastern corner of the Rock-Cut Pool? Did they descend from the city between the two parallel walls, or perhaps through the subterranean tunnel (of the Warren’s Shaft complex), to emerge from it at the eastern end of those two walls, and then turn south toward the deepest part of the Rock-Cut Pool? Were these routes perhaps in use at different periods of time? We have no stratigraphic data that might point to such a sequence of phases of use and they should, therefore be interpreted based upon contemporary logic.

I’m not too impressed with the use of logic in archaeological interpretation, but it’s nice that they don’t pretend that they have evidence that they don’t.

I’ll conclude where they conclude, with what I see as an astonishing admission of our lack of knowledge about the most basic question of them all: where was the city of Jerusalem at this time?

Answer: the city may have been north of these fortifications. Or it may have been south. The fortified passageway may be in the southeastern corner of the fortified urban area, or it may have been in the northeastern corner. I guess I’m just glad that the Kidron Valley is on the east side of their excavation, or we probably wouldn’t even know if this was the eastern or western side of the city!

If you like a little bit more certainty (or a lot!) in your archaeology, check back next week for my summary of Eilat Mazar’s excavation of the palace of David.

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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

An inscription on an altar pedestal from the temple in Ataroth provides evidence for the Moabite conquest of the city. Christopher Rollston wrote more technical preliminary account in 2013. A journal article was published about the altar and another about the temple in the current issue of Levant.

“Archaeologists have discovered two ancient, unlooted chamber tombs dating from the Late Mycenaean period, (1400 – 1200 BC), near Nemea in the Peloponnesian Peninsula.”

“Located about 560 kilometers northwest of Cairo, Siwa Oasis is home to one of the most important burial sites dating to Dynasty 26, ‘The Mountain of the Dead.’”

The Tunisian government is bulldozing houses built over archaeological remains of Carthage, lest it lose its World Heritage status.

Ancient pottery is valuable for many things, including the preservation of the potter’s fingerprints.

Can you think of “three things in Susa that Esther likely saw”?

Wayne Stiles looks at the relationship between rain and the prayer of the righteous.

The Institute of Biblical Culture has some new courses lined up for the fall, and you can receive a 20% discount with the code “photos.”

The Albright Institute will be providing up to $200,000 in fellowships and awards for next year.

Mathematicians, have you heard of the “Josephus problem”?

HT: Agade, Alexander Schick, Joseph Lauer

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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Writing for Christianity Today, Steven Notley provides the background and evidence for identifying el-Araj as the New Testament city of Bethsaida.

Sergio and Rhoda have released a new video about Bethsaida and “The Church of the Apostles in Galilee.”

A mosaic floor in a church at Hippos apparently depicts Jesus’s multiplication of the fish and loaves (Haaretz premium).

NPR: Here’s what tourists might see if they were allowed to visit Gaza…

Smithsonian Magazine: Two tour guides—one Israel, one Palestinian—offer a new way to see the Holy Land.

The first post in Ferrell Jenkins’s new series “Agreement of Book and Land” is from Psalm 1:1-3.

Israel’s Good Name made a couple of evening trips to the Rishon LeZion sand dunes where he found gazelle, scorpions, and vipers.

New from DeGruyter: The Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages of Southern Canaan, edited by A. M. Maeir, Itzhaq Shai, and Chris McKinny.

The grandma whose congresswoman granddaughter refused to visit lives in the town once known as Upper Beth Horon.

HT: Agade, Tom Powers, Lois Tverberg

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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Best Article on En-Gedi

If you needed a quick summary of information about En-Gedi, where would you go? I’m doing research for an essay in a future volume of the Lexham Geographic Commentary series and this morning I was studying En Gedi in relation to David’s flight from Saul. I went through a dozen commentaries and pulled out various tidbits about David’s time in the area. Then I went to my standard Bible dictionaries. I usually consider Anchor Bible Dictionary to be the best, and so I started there. The article was decent. Then I went to others to see what else they had (ISBE, NIDB, EBD).

I recently pulled into my line-up the Lexham Bible Dictionary. I’ve been a bit skeptical of its value because it’s not a printed work and they used a wide variety of writers (including many students). But when I pulled up the LBD entry on En-Gedi I was immediately impressed. It was much longer and more thorough than the others. In fact, I think its length is probably twice that of the other four combined. That means there are separate sections on En-Gedi in Ancient Accounts (subdivided into biblical and extrabiblical), Geography and Geology (no one else has much on this), and Archaeological Investigations (which is subdivided into many sections). Then it closes with a bibliography, which is easily better than any I’ve seen elsewhere.

A final delight was to discover the author: Christian Locatell. I know this guy! He’s one of our ace creators of the Photo Companion of the Bible! (Many years before that, he was my student and he gave me various nicknames, but we won’t get into that...) He made a big contribution to our Acts volume, and his work on Romans has been spectacular! (That volume should be available in November.) So I figured I would write a little blogpost with three purposes: (1) to share some interesting tidbits about En-Gedi that you may not know; (2) to suggest you include the Lexham Bible Dictionary as part of your Bible study tools; and (3) to let you know that the author of this terrific article is creating more amazing resources for BiblePlaces followers. :-)

Here are five ten interesting observations about En-Gedi from Dr. Locatell’s article:

1. Edward Robinson was the first modern explorer to identify En Gedi, and he did so on the basis of its Arabic name: Ain Jiddi.

2. David hid from Saul in the “strongholds” of En-Gedi (1 Sam 23:29), but when he wrote a psalm praising God for saving him from Saul, he called God his “stronghold” (2 Sam 22:2; Ps 18:2).

3. En-Gedi is believed to be the home of the Essenes (and not Qumran) by some scholars.

4. 700 inhabitants of En-Gedi were slaughtered by the Sicarii in the First Jewish Revolt.

5. Many ancient accounts rave about En-Gedi’s lush fertility.

[In one paragraph, Locatell quotes Karmon, Baly, and Efrat and Orni! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such geographical richness in one place. It’s a great paragraph, but too long to copy here. I am certainly proud to be this guy's first geography teacher.]

6. Clouds over En-Gedi are rare, and the flash floods in the area are the result of the top rock layers being unable to absorb much of rainfall.

7. Most of the springs along the western shore of the Dead Sea have a high saline content, making En-Gedi such a precious resource of sweet water.

8. Between 1949 and 1972, there were seven archaeological expeditions to En-Gedi. [I had no idea there were that many.]

9. An Aramaic mosaic from the 5th-century AD synagogue refers to the “secrets of the town.”

10. Excavations on the northern slope of the tell revealed workshops and equipment probably used for producing the perfumes for which En-Gedi was famous.

There you have it. This is the best article on En-Gedi I know of. Thanks to Lexham and to Locatell for serving us so well.

BTW, we have some great photos of En-Gedi in our Judah and the Dead Sea volume.

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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Excavations under a house in northern Israel have revealed what may be the largest wine factory from the Crusader era.

Archaeologists have discovered an arrowhead from the Roman siege of Jotapata in AD 67.

A i24News video shows the “pilgrim road” leading from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount of Jerusalem.

“Archaeologists working in the buried Roman city of Pompeii say they have uncovered a ‘sorcerer's treasure trove’ of artefacts, including good-luck charms, mirrors and glass beads.”

A new exhibit about a 4th-century synagogue mosaic floor has opened in the Archaeological Museum of Aegina. Aegina is a Greek island not far from Athens.

“Anchors Aweigh: Seaports of the Holy Land” is a new exhibit opening on Tuesday at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.

Preliminary images of seven (alleged) Dead Sea Scroll fragments owned by the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary are now online. (The link looks unusual, but it works.)

Lubna Omar provides a personal perspective as a Syrian archaeologist unable to protect her country’s heritage.

A guy passionate about ancient Egypt and baking used ancient yeast to bake a loaf of bread.

Egyptian authorities transferred a 90-ton obelisk of Ramses II from Zamalek to El Alamein.

The Oriental Institute is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Carl Rasmussen shares photos of the largest altar in the world.

I always like the photos that Wayne Stiles includes with his posts, and this week is no different with his reflections on Abraham’s faith.

Matti Friedman writes a helpful review of Jodi Magness’s new book on Masada.

Did you know there are four long distance hiking trails in Israel? They range in length from 37 miles to 637 miles.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Alexander Schick, Ted Weis

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Evidence of Babylonian Destruction Uncovered in Jerusalem

Archaeologists excavating on the Western Hill of Jerusalem (aka the modern “Mount Zion”) have announced the discovery of a destruction layer from the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BC.

The discovery is of a deposit including layers of ash, arrowheads dating from the period, as well as Iron Age potsherds, lamps and a significant piece of period jewelry - a gold and silver tassel or earring.

Despite what you might expect, archaeologists working in Jerusalem over the years have not found an abundance of material from this destruction, probably because it has been disturbed by later inhabitation. Shimon Gibson and his team date this material to the Babylonian destruction on the basis of context.

The team believes that the newly-found deposit can be dated to the specific event of the conquest because of the unique mix of artifacts and materials found -- pottery and lamps, side-by-side with evidence of the Babylonian siege represented by burnt wood and ashes, and a number of Scythian-type bronze and iron arrowheads which are typical of that period.

The arrowheads are similar to those discovered at the “Israelite Tower” on the north side of ancient Jerusalem in a destruction context from the Babylonian invasion. Because the excavation site is inside the city walls, it is unlikely to be a dumping area.

"It's the kind of jumble that you would expect to find in a ruined household following a raid or battle," Gibson said. "Household objects, lamps, broken bits from pottery which had been overturned and shattered... and arrowheads and a piece of jewelry which might have been lost and buried in the destruction."

"Frankly, jewelry is a rare find at conflict sites, because this is exactly the sort of thing that attackers will loot and later melt down."

"I like to think that we are excavating inside one of the 'Great Man's houses' mentioned in the second book of Kings 25:9," Gibson speculated. "This spot would have been at an ideal location, situated as it is close to the western summit of the city with a good view overlooking Solomon's Temple and Mount Moriah to the north-east. We have high expectations of finding much more of the Iron Age city in future seasons of work."

The full press release is here, and the story is reported by numerous outlets, including The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, and Haaretz (premium).

Jerusalem from the south, with excavation area circled


Area of Mount Zion excavations (in 2016)

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Now Available: Ancient Jerusalem Revealed, 1998-2018

A few weeks ago I mentioned that the new Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: Archaeological Discoveries, 1998-2018 has been published, but I lamented the difficulty for many readers in ordering it from Israel. Now I have received word that you can order it direct from the Biblical Archaeology Society.

I have not yet read the book (my order is going in after I write this), but my expectations are very high given (1) the excellent quality of the two previous books in this series (the first published in 1975, and the second published in 1994); (2) the editorship of Hillel Geva; and (3) the fact that the latest reports from Jerusalem archaeology are bound to be amazing! I’ve told a number of groups touring Jerusalem, as we’re trying to peek behind some protective curtain to see what’s going on – watch for this to be published. Well, here it is, in a single book covering the last 20 years. The price is $60 for a hardcover, and shipping is free.

UPDATE: Now available for purchase on the BAS website!

Here is the official description from the publisher:

Ancient Jerusalem Revealed, Archaeological Discoveries 1998–2018, presents the results of archaeological research conducted in Jerusalem over the past twenty years. xvi + 319 pages + profusely illustrated in color, 27.5 x 21 cm., hardcover. With a ridiculously ugly cover. [OK, I added that last part.]

Image result for Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: Archaeological Discoveries, 1998-2018

The major results of the numerous excavations presented in the current volume cover all parts of the ancient city: the City of David, the Ophel, the Temple Mount, the present-day Old City, and adjacent areas beyond the urban limits of ancient Jerusalem. The articles were written by archaeologists who conducted the excavations. Contents include: The Bronze Age to the Iron Age, The Second Temple Period, the Late Roman to Ottoman periods, and multi-period excavations.

And here’s the table of contents, with an * next to the articles I plan to read first.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Archaeological Research in Jerusalem from 1998 to 2018: Findings and Evaluations— Hillel Geva

JERUSALEM—THE BRONZE AGE TO THE IRON AGE

*Recent Discoveries in the City of David—Ronny Reich, Eli Shukron, and Omri Lernau

Excavations at the Summit of the City of David Hill, 2005–2008—Eilat Mazar

*The Royal Quarter Built by King Solomon in the Ophel of Jerusalem in Light of Recent Excavations (2009–2013)—Eilat Mazar

A “Governor of the City” Seal Impression from the Western Wall Plaza Excavations in Jerusalem—Tallay Ornan, Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, and Benjamin Sass

JERUSALEM—THE SECOND TEMPLE PERIOD

*The Second Temple Period Siloam Pool—Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron

*Second Temple Period Finds from the New Excavations in the Ophel, South of the Temple Mount—Yuval Baruch and Ronny Reich

Research in the Western Wall Tunnel—Dan Bahat

Wilson’s Arch and the Giant Viaduct West of the Temple Mount during the Second Temple and Late Roman Periods in Light of Recent Excavation—Alexander Onn and Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah

*A Herodian Tricilinium with Fountain on the Road Ascending to the Temple Mount from the West—Alexander Onn, Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, and Joseph Patrich

*First and Second Temple Period Fortifications and Herod’s Palace in the Jerusalem Kishle Compound—Amit Re’em

Discoveries from the First and Second Temple Periods near the Mamilla Pool in Jerusalem—David Amit

JERUSALEM—THE LATE ROMAN TO OTTOMAN PERIODS

*A First Temple Period Building and the Roman Eastern Cardo in the Western Wall Plaza—Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah and Alexander Onn

A Pool from the Period of Aelia Capitolina in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem—Ofer Sion and Yehudah Rapuano

Wilson’s Arch: 150 Years of Archaeological and Historical Exploration—Tehillah Lieberman, Avi Solomon, and Joe Uziel

The Legio X Fretensis Kilnworks at the Jerusalem International Convention Center—Haim Goldfus and Benny Arubas

Roman Period Workshops at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Givat Ram—Ron Beeri and Danit Levi

Excavations at Saint John Prodromos Church in the Old City—Jean-Baptiste Humbert

A Gold Hoard Containing Jewish Symbols and the Byzantine Ophel Neighborhood of Jerusalem—Eilat Mazar

Excavations East of Herod’s Gate, 1998—Yuval Baruch and Gideon Avni

New Excavations and Studies in the Holy Sepulcher Compound—Jon Seligman and Gideon Avni

Excavations at Ohel Yizhaq in the Suq al-Qattanin Quarter, Jerusalem—Tawfiq Da‘adli and Hervé Barbé

A New Look at the History of Solomon’s Stables—Dan Bahat

JERUSALEM—MULTI-PERIOD EXCAVATIONS

*The Givati Excavation Project 2007–2015: from the Iron Age to the Early Islamic Period—Doron Ben-Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets

The Line of the Southern City Wall of Jerusalem in the Early Periods—Yehiel Zelinger

Excavations at the Hurva and Tiferet Israel Synagogues in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem—Hillel Geva, Oren Gutfeld, and Ravit Nenner Soriano

New Excavations on Mount Zion—Shimon Gibson, James Tabor, Rafael Y. Lewis, and Steve Patterson

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