Saturday, February 16, 2019

Weekend Roundup

“A Ptolemaic workshop for boat construction and repair has been uncovered in the Sinai Peninsula.”

Six Old Kingdom mastaba tombs, two Old Kingdom shaft tombs and one rock-cut tomb with multiple burials that were previously unknown were discovered last month by the Qubbet El-Hawa Research Project (QHRP) in Aswan.”

Archaeologists working in Pompeii on Valentine’s Day found a fresco of Narcissus.

Construction work on the new subway in Rome has led to discoveries of military barracks and an ancient home.

An Israeli tour guide discovered a rare Bar Kochba coin while hiking near Lachish.

Haaretz premium: “A recent article by Dr. Milka Levy-Rubin . . . says the Dome of the Rock was built in order to restore Jerusalem’s place on the regional map of holy sites, not vis a vis Mecca, but rather as a rival to Constantinople, the Byzantine capital.”

The January 2019 issue of the Newsletter of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities is now online.

Federica Spagnoli provides a history of the pomegranate in the ancient Near East.

“The Schloss Karlsruhe Museum [in Karlsruhe, Germany] is hosting the largest exhibition ever held on Mycenaean Greece's cultural history.”

James Hoffmeier: What was Atenism and why did it fail?

The Washington Post shares some of Kevin Bubriski’s photographs taken in Syria before the civil war broke out.

John DeLancey has announced an Israel tour that includes a sign-language interpreter. He also recently posted a 5-minute video on Life Lessons from the Elah Valley that includes some drone footage.

Shmuel Browns shares some photos he took at the Dead Sea at sunrise.

Ferrell’s favorite photos this week are of the Garden of Gethsemane and Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Charles Savelle

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Saturday, February 09, 2019

Weekend Roundup

An inscription written in the Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian languages has been discovered at Naqshe-Rustam, the royal necropolis of Persepolis.

Work on the sewer system in Kition, Cyprus, keeps revealing ancient remains from the Classical and Roman periods.

A decade of restoration work of King Tut’s tomb has been completed. The History Channel has many photos.

The vase that the British Museum realized was a mace is in fact a vase.

The BBC reports on several women whose interest in archaeology began with a childhood fascination with mummies.

Eisenbrauns is running a sale of 30-50% off of titles in the Duke Judaic Studies and Sepphoris Archaeological Report series.

Beit Shemesh and Kiriath Yearim are the subjects of discussion in this week’s The Book and the Spade.

Shmuel Browns shares several photos he took along the Alon Road in eastern Samaria.

If you have been to Israel before, answer a few quick questions to help Wayne Stiles as he puts together a video series to help travelers prepare for a Holy Land Tour.

It’s a slow week, so here’s a bonus quotation:

“My definition of archaeology, shared with students during almost forty years of teaching historical geography, is that archaeology is the science of digging a square hole and the art of spinning a yarn from it” (Anson Rainey, “Stones for Bread: Archaeology versus History.” Near Eastern Archaeology 64 (2001): 140.

HT: Agade, Ted Weis

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Sunday, February 03, 2019

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

A tomb containing 50 mummies from the Ptolemaic era has been discovered in Minya, south of Cairo.

The latest documentary produced by Bible Passages is “The Power of Jesus in Galilee.” The 22-minute video was filmed on location.

The world’s first film in the Babylonian language has been released.

The latest video from the British Museum explains an Assyrian relief that depicts a battle with Elam.

In an 8-minute video, Luke Chandler explains Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah using the reliefs in the British Museum.

Carl Rasmussen is leading a tour that follows in the footsteps of Paul from his shipwreck on Malta to his martyrdom in Rome.

Now is the time to sign up for a summer excavation in Israel, including at Gath.

Lamia Al-Gailani Werr, one of Iraq’s first female archaeologists, died recently.

HT: Agade, Steven Anderson, Ted Weis

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Saturday, February 02, 2019

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Researchers are trying to understand the significance of triangles incised on the inside rims of basalt bowls from the Chalcolithic period.

A student on a school trip found a coin in Nahal Shiloh with the words “Agrippa King” inscribed on it.

The Washington Post reports on the excavations and controversy related to the first-century road that runs from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount.

Egyptian archaeologists have discovered tombs from the Second Intermediate Period in the Nile Delta.

Writing in The Ancient History Bulletin, Katherine Hall proposes that Alexander the Great died from Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Nir Hasson explains the background of the Shivta exhibit at the Hecht Museum (Haaretz premium).

Meet the priest who has taken care of the Church of Jacob’s Well in Nablus for the last 60 years.

Israel’s Good Name writes about his field trip to Nahal Rash’ash in eastern Samaria.

There are 28 days in February and 28 chapters in Acts, so we’ve decided to do a month-long tour of the book. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

HT: Agade, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle

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Sunday, January 27, 2019

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

The AFP was given a private tour of the “Tomb of the Kings” in Jerusalem, while discussions are ongoing with the French government on re-opening the site to the public.

Renovations of a shop in Paris revealed a large hidden painting of the city of Jerusalem.

The greatest threats to archaeology in Iraq are looting and uncontrolled building.

Carl Rasmussen shares photos of a procession of the Roman elite at Ephesus.

Wayne Stiles looks at three reminders that come from Jesus’s ministry in Galilee.

Evan McDuff describes his experience in excavating Tel Dor.

Graham Chandler provides an interesting and well-illustrated look at ivory in the ancient Near East.

The latest episodes on Digging for Truth look at the relationship between ancient child sacrifice and modern abortion (part 1, part 2, part 3).

Scattered Finds: Archaeology, Egyptology and Museums, by Alice Stevenson, is now available in print or as a free pdf.

Bryan Windle has created two top ten lists:

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Steven Anderson

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Saturday, January 26, 2019

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Excavations of Qumran’s “Cave 53” have concluded without discovering any scrolls. The Times of Israel provides a good summary of the efforts of recent years.

Two clay horse figurines were discovered last month in northern Israel,” one near Kefar Ruppin and the other near Tel Akko.

Bible History Daily reports on the discovery of the Roman funerary busts in Beth Shean.

A Byzantine cistern discovered under a playground in Jerusalem may become a national site. The article references Ramla’s “Pool of Arches,” which you can read about here.

There are no parallels to the bearded male head unearthed at Abel Beth Maacah, writes Naama Yahalom-Mack in a detailed description of the object.

Following an outcry, the highway over Tel Beth Shemesh will be 20 meters wide instead of 80.

Ferrell Jenkins shares his favorite photo of a fisherman casting his net into the Sea of Galilee. 

John DeLancey has been posting daily for his current Biblical Israel Tour. For Day 12, they visited the City of David and the Old City.

An earthquake centered in Nazareth shook the Galilee region on Thursday night.

A record amount of snowfall on Mount Hermon has opened the site to a peak capacity of visitors.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer

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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

The restoration of the Roman aqueduct of Gadara has been completed, and the tunnel is now open to the public.

Researchers have discovered Iron Age II pottery at Sela in Jordan.

The goal of the SCHEP project is to encourage people in Jordan to protect the ancient sites in their communities.

Britain has returned to Egypt a stolen ornamental tablet of Pharaoh Amenhotep I.

“The Ministry of Antiquities began the work of the second phase of the project of documenting the rock inscriptions in the ancient area of South of Sinai.”

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities has posted an annual newsletter for 2018.

Saudi Arabia now wants tourists to come visit its archaeological sites.

“Trade Routes in Arabia - Masterpieces of the Monuments of Saudi Arabia through the Ages” is a new exhibit at the Louvre in Abu Dhabi.

In a third post on Assos, Carl Rasmussen describes the theater and the ancient harbor.

The British Museum celebrated its 260th birthday this week. A birthday blogpost provides some numbers, including the number of objects in the collection: 8 million!

The BBC attempts to explain why ancient people drilled holes in their heads.

Near Eastern Archaeology is soliciting articles for publication.

Wayne Stiles is leading a tour of Greece and Turkey in September.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis

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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

The Times of Israel reports on the excavations of Kiriath Jearim, including the large platform wall they have discovered.

The archaeologists of Abel Beth Maacah provide a lavishly illustrated account of their first six years of excavation.

Ben Witherington believes that Magdala of Galilee, edited by Richard Bauckham, should be nominated for archaeological book of the year. That post begins a series of short Q&A posts with the editor.

A preliminary excavation report for Tel Yarmuth (biblical Jarmuth) describes the massive Early Bronze walls and plans to make a new archaeological park.

Two new exhibits are opening next week at the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa.

The Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem has announced their spring lecture schedule. I suspect that all are in Hebrew.

Erez Speiser explains the four paths to get to the top of Masada.

The latest of Ferrell’s Favorite Fotos is a blended shot of the Jezreel Valley from an airplane.

Snow fell in Jerusalem this week for the first time in several years.

Thousands of Orthodox Christians celebrated Epiphany at the Jordan River yesterday.

Eisenbrauns has a sale on its titles in the History, Archaeology, and Culture of the Levant series.

“Searching for a King” premieres on Saturday in Indianapolis, and the event will be livestreamed on Facebook.

Die Ikonographie Palästinas/Israels und der Alte Orient (IPIAO). Eine Religionsgeschichte in Bildern Band 4: Die Eisenzeit bis zum Beginn der achämenidischen Herrschaft (The Iconography of Palestine/Israel and the Ancient Near East. A History of Religion in Pictures), by Silvia Schroer (970pp), is now available for purchase or as a free pdf.

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

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Saturday, January 05, 2019

Weekend Roundup

A woman taking a stroll near Tel Beth Shean discovered that winter rains had exposed two Roman statues.

New technology now makes declassified US spy photos from the 1960s more useful for research in the Middle East. LiveScience tells the story, and you can explore the amazing Corona Atlas yourself.

A team of archaeologists and climbers scaled the cliffs of Sela in order to study a relief made by the Babylonian king Nabonidus.

Ruth Schuster surveys the archaeological evidence for the earthquake in the days of Uzziah mentioned by Amos and Zechariah (Haaretz premium).

Kyle Harper attempts to trace the origins of the Nazareth Inscription.

‘Serve the Gods of Egypt’ is an exhibition focusing on the Third Intermediate Period (1069-664 BC), now showing at the Museum of Grenoble, located in southeast France. 

Now online: Maps, drawings, and photographs from the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) Sphinx Project, 1979-1983.

The Fall 2018 issue of DigSight includes stories on the seal impression of Isaiah, new publications, recent finds, and upcoming events.

The Oriental Institute 2017–18 Annual Report is now available.

On the ASOR Blog, Claudio Ottoni asks, “Where do cats come from?”

Carl Rasmussen provides illustrations for Paul’s boxing metaphor.

Wayne Stiles explains why Peter’s trip to Caesarea was apparently inefficient and yet perfectly necessary.

A 4-minute video from the Today Show explains how NASA technology is being used to decipher Dead Sea Scrolls. The video includes footage inside Cave 1.

Owen Jarus suggests five archaeological discoveries to watch for in 2019.

The editors of The Bible and Interpretation have chosen their five best articles for 2018.

In a full article posted from Biblical Archaeology Review, Robert Cargill explains what a day on a dig looks like.

Jerusalem is one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world. Jordan’s tourism in 2018 was its second highest ever.

William B. Tolar of Fort Worth, Texas, a longtime professor of biblical backgrounds and archaeology [at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary], died Dec. 29.” He apparently led 80 trips to Israel.

There will be no roundup next weekend.

HT: Ted Weis, Agade, Mark Hoffman, Chris McKinny, Joseph Lauer, Paleojudaica, Bryan Windle

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Sunday, December 30, 2018

Top 10 Discoveries in Biblical Archaeology in 2018

To judge from the weekend roundups compiled here, there is always something interesting being discovered or announced. The difficulty can be that there is too much, and it becomes challenging to recall what is most important out of the constant barrage.

The list below comes from stories noted in the weekend roundups. Some of the artifacts were discovered in previous years, but only announced in 2018. For each item, I suggest a reason for its significance. I don’t deny a bias towards objects and sites more closely related to the Bible.

1. A copper alloy ring bearing the inscription “of Pilatus” may have belonged to an administrator who served Pontius Pilate. Though excavated at the Herodium many years ago, its significance was only recently discovered. Why is this in my top 10? Artifacts with names of biblical figures are relatively rare, and Pilate played a major role in the crucifixion of Jesus.

2. A seal impression that belonged to a man named Isaiah was discovered in Jerusalem. Why is this in my top 10? Though there’s good reason to doubt that this is the prophet by the same name, we still have the convergence of name (Isaiah), city (Jerusalem), and date (8th century BC).

3. A glazed ceramic head from Tel Abel Beth Maacah that dates to the 9th century BC may depict a royal official. Why is this in my top 10? I’m less convinced by the claim that this depicts an Israelite king than I am by the quality of this colorful work of art. That’s rare enough among the Israelites that you don’t need a royal connection to argue for its significance.

4. Excavations of Kiriath Jearim revealed a large platform that is 110 by 150 meters in size, with walls preserved 6 to 7 m high. Why is this in my top 10? You don’t have to believe the archaeologist’s wild theories to recognize that this is a major building project at a site we knew almost nothing about.

5. An undisturbed Canaanite tomb from the 17th century BC was discovered at Megiddo. Why is this in my top 10? I’m a sucker for undisturbed tombs, and it doesn’t hurt that this one was next to the royal palace.

6. The Galilean synagogue at Huqoq continues to produce beautiful, biblical mosaics, including a scene of the Israelite spies, a youth leading an animal, and a fragmentary Hebrew inscription reading “Amen selah.” Why is this in my top 10? I’m a big fan of ancient depictions of biblical scenes, as you might have guessed from my dream to create the Photo Companion to the Bible.

7. More than 1,000 Hellenistic-era seal impressions were discovered in excavations at Maresha. Why is this in my top 10? For a country that has so relatively few inscriptions preserved, this is an enormous trove that will bear fruitful study for many years to come.

8. An inscription at a site on Israel’s coast provides evidence for Babylonians living in Samaria after the fall of Jerusalem. Why is this in my top 10? This discovery helps to fill in details for an all-too-elusive period in the historical and archaeological record.

9. Excavations of Ein Hanya uncovered an Israelite royal capital (proto-Aeolic?), a 4th century Greek drachma, and a Byzantine pool system. Why is this in my top 10? Israelite royal capitals stir the imagination, and Ein Hanya has been off everyone’s radar until now.

10. Archaeologists discovered a 5th-Dynasty tomb in Saqqara, Egypt, that has never been looted. Why is this in my top 10? Top 10 lists need 10 items. Besides, the photos are impressive.

Honorable mention:

Others have created their own top ten lists, including Gordon Govier (Christianity Today), Bryan Windle, Christopher Eames, Ruth Schuster #1 and #2 (Haaretz), Amanda Borschel-Dan (Times of Israel), and J-P Mauro (Aleteia). The Epoch Times’s list covers the world.

Those we lost in 2018 include Philip Davies, Gary Knoppers, Jack P. Lewis, John McRay, Richard Rigsby, Ephraim Stern, James F. Strange, and Ada Yardeni.

New releases from BiblePlaces.com this year were Ruth, Psalm 23, and Persia. Get all three volumes at a discount.

You can revisit the top stories of previous years at the links below:

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Saturday, December 29, 2018

Weekend Roundup

A 2,000-year-old bronze ring with a solitaire gemstone was uncovered in the City of David National Park in Jerusalem.

Ceramic jars and cooking pots suggest the Persian Empire used Tel Keisan, near the city of Akko in Northern Israel, as a base camp in their effort to conquer Egypt (Haaretz premium).

Police caught antiquities thieves in the act of excavating Huqoq for ancient coins.

The petrified remains of a harnessed horse has been uncovered in Pompeii.

Emma Maayan-Fanar writes about her recent study at Shivta which revealed a painting of Jesus.

Longer, hotter summers and drier winters are a threat to the remaining cedar trees in Lebanon.

The NY Times reports on the only tourist boat operation on the Dead Sea.

”By analysing the architecture and historical documentation, it is possible to reconstruct a detailed history of the Karak Castle during the Crusader period.”

Several people are dead and a dozen injured after a bomb blast struck a tourist bus near the Egyptian pyramids in Giza.

“Finds Gone Astray” is a new exhibit opening on Monday at the Bible Lands Museum. The Times of Israel provides some of the background for these artifacts that have been recovered from thieves and smugglers in the West Bank since 1967.

Carl Rasmussen asks: Herod or Jesus: Which “King” Has Had the Most Lasting Influence?

What is the Samaritan Torah? David Moster has created a 10-minute video to answer that question.

National Geographic has produced a 4-minute animated video on The History of the Bible.

Gary Knoppers died last week.

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

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Saturday, December 22, 2018

Weekend Roundup

The Ultra-Orthodox are upset that the French government won’t allow entrance into the Tomb of the Kings in Jerusalem. The French claim that they have renovated the site and with the right assurances, they will open it to the public.

A long tunnel has been covertly dug underneath the “Tomb of David” on Mount Zion and now some people are mad.

The large number of tourists visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem has led to the development of an app that will handle reservations.

“The inauguration ceremony of Egypt’s new Greco-Roman Museum [in Alexandria] will be held by the end of 2019.”

Three ancient cities in Crete are the focus of an exhibit at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, Greece.

Harvey Mudd College is giving its Cypriot artifacts to the University of Cyprus.

Don McNeeley shares a report on the 2018 annual meeting of the Near East Archaeological Society. You can join the society here.

The video is now online for the 2018 Plenary Address for the ASOR Annual Meeting: “Between Looters, Private Collectors, and Warlords: Does Archaeology Stand a Chance?” by Hélène Sader, Professor of Archaeology, American University of Beirut.

Tali Erickson-Gini is on The Book and the Spade talking about the Timna Park excavations and the opportunity for the public to volunteer.

Wayne Stiles compares Peter’s boast in the Upper Room to his failure in the Garden of Gethsemane to find application today.

That “ark of the covenant” in the church in Ethiopia—it’s a replica.

Rick Lanser believes he has evidence that supports the birth of Jesus on Nisan 1, 6 BC.

Ferrell Jenkins’s favorite photos this week include Hasankef, the Roman road near Saglikli, and Riblah.

Justin Taylor interviews the filmmaker who has created “The Chosen,” the first-ever multi-season drama about the life of Christ.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Agade, Ted Weis

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Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Highway Over Tel Beth Shemesh

Archaeologists disagree on whether the highway running over Tel Beth Shemesh should be expanded or not. That was the plan when a salvage dig was initiated several years ago, but now one of the responsible archaeologists claims that the site must be preserved at all costs.

Not so, says Prof. Oded Lipschits of Tel Aviv University. “The extent [of the tell] is huge, but there is nothing special there or grandiose that would justify turning the site into a tourist attraction.”

Yesterday’s article in Haaretz magazine (premium) walks through the politics of the decision. From those interested in the archaeological results, the main discovery is that Judahites returned to living at the site soon after the Assyrian destruction in 701 BC. This contradicts the theory of some that there was a long occupation gap, possibly the result of an Assyrian policy forbidding resettlement. Whether or not such a finding justifies building a tunnel, overpass, or alternate route is the point of dispute.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Beth Shemesh new excavations aerial from southwest, ws062018211

Tel Beth Shemesh from the south, June 2018

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Different Kind of Christmas Story (for Kids)

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

Several years ago, I checked out a book at the library to read to my kids. It turned out to be a delightful story of a young boy who helps his father harvest resin from trees in Arabia. The connection with Jesus’ birth is sort of a surprise twist at the end of the book, so if you read it to your kids, be sure not to give away that this is a Christmas story—they will get it by the time they reach the last page.

The book is entitled, The Third Gift, by Linda Sue Park (Boston: Clarion, 2011). The Third Gift was probably intended for ages 4-10 (best guess with input from my kids), but the beautiful illustrations (by Bagram Ibatoulline) and the Middle Eastern setting made it interesting for me as well, and it gives you a different perspective for thinking about a very familiar account from the book of Matthew. The “Author’s Note” on the last two pages summarizes the history of our modern perceptions about the biblical story, and re-connects the event with its original geographical and cultural setting. Recommended if you have young ones around for the holidays.