Friday, February 27, 2009

1967 Archaeology Movie with Pritchard

In 1967 the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania filmed a 27-minute movie about archaeological work in Jordan and the West Bank.  “The Book and the Spade” gives a general introduction to the value and discipline of archaeology, which includes footage of important biblical sites that are not usually on the itinerary of visitors today, including Hebron, Shechem, and Samaria.  The film naturally focuses more on the excavations sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, Gibeon and Tell es-Saidiyeh.  The latter site is the subject of the second half, and the one who is patient is rewarded with shots of the on-going excavations and an interview with the archaeologist James B. Pritchard.  Pritchard is probably best known today for his three editions of Ancient Near Eastern Texts, but he made significant contributions in his excavations of Gibeon (1956-62) and Tell es-Saidiyeh (1964-67). The film also documents the construction of a mudbrick house.  Though the movie was slow-moving by today’s standards, I enjoyed seeing many sites the way they were 40 years ago.  You can see the contrast of the excavations in the film with a recent photo below.

Tell es Saidiyeh view of Rift Valley to nw, tb110503948Excavation area of Tell es-Saidiyeh, 2003

Other University of Pennsylvania films that may be of interest to readers of this blog include:

Athens (1939)

Ancient Earth: Making History Everlasting (1940)

Iran (1963)

Windows on the Past (1967)

Turkey (1967)

Jordan (1969)

Cyprus (1969)

And more...

HT: Ferrell Jenkins and Gordon Govier

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Conference: The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is hosting a conference on “The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins” on March 12-14, 2009.

A tentative schedule (pdf) gives the lectures:

“A Dialogue on the Gospel of Thomas,” Craig A. Evans, Acadia Divinity College; Stephen J. Patterson, Eden Theological Seminary

“The Scrolls and the Hebrew Bible,” Peter W. Flint, Trinity Western University

“The Scrolls and the New Testament,” Craig A. Evans, Acadia Divinity College

“The Scrolls and the Dead Sea Community,” John J. Collins, Yale University

“The Scrolls and Interpretation of Scripture,” George J. Brooke, University of Manchester

“The Scrolls and the Scribes,” Terry L. Wilder, B&H Academic Publishers

“The Scrolls and the Messiah,” William M. Schniedewind, University of California, Los Angeles

“‘Dark Secrets’ of the DSS?,” R. Philip Roberts, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

You can also download a poster (pdf) promoting the conference.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Excavations to Resume at Kh. el-Maqatir (Ai?)

Excavations are set to resume at Khirbet el-Maqatir, a small site about half a mile (1 km) west of et-Tell, the scholarly choice for biblical Ai.  Bryant Wood led excavations at Maqatir from 1995 to 2000, when the second Intifada interrupted the work.  Wood has published in Israel Exploration Journal his view that Maqatir is the best candidate for the Late Bronze city of Ai.  More information about the excavation, including a solicitation for volunteers, is online at the website of the Associates for Biblical Research.

I wrote an article about ten years ago (Bible and Spade 12/3 [1999], p. 91ff) in which I showed that local tradition located Ai at Maqatir, not et-Tell.  Unfortunately Calloway (and every other scholar I’ve read) ignored this rather important piece of data reported by Edward Robinson (1841).  No kidding.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Wealth of Inscriptions Found South of Jerusalem

Recent excavations have uncovered six inscriptions from the Iron Age and one from the Hasmonean period.  The site has been identified with biblical Netofa (2 Sam 23:28-29).  From the Israel Antiquities Authority:

Royal seal impressions were discovered in excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority at Umm Tuba, in the southern hills of Jerusalem.

A large building that dates to the time of the First and Second Temples, in which there was an amazing wealth of inscriptions, was discovered in a salvage excavation conducted by Zubair Adawi, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in the village of Umm Tuba in southern Jerusalem (between Zur Bahar and the Har Homa quarter), prior to construction work by a private contractor.

Considering the limited area of the excavation and the rural nature of the structure that was revealed, the excavators were surprised to discover in it so many royal seal impressions that date to the reign of Hezekiah, King of Judah (end of the eighth century BCE). Four “LMLK” type impressions were discovered on handles of large jars that were used to store wine and oil in royal administrative centers. These were found together with the seal impressions of two high ranking officials named Ahimelekh ben Amadyahu and Yehokhil ben Shahar, who served in the kingdom’s government. The Yehokhil seal was stamped on one of the LMLK impressions before the jar was fired in a kiln and this is a very rare instance in which two such impressions appear together on a single handle.

The full press release is here.  A link to 7 photographs is given only on a non-permanent posting of the release.  The story is reported by Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post.  Umm Tuba is located near Tsur Baher, south of Talpiot and north of Har Homa.  You can see a map here.  You can read more about LMLK seals here.

HT: Joe Lauer


Friday, February 20, 2009

Proposal to Relocate Inhabitants of City of David

Excavations in the earliest part of Jerusalem have long been hindered by the presence of modern buildings. Many of the houses in the “City of David” were allegedly built without government permits, and the municipality has threatened to destroy them. This would allow for much more extensive excavation of the area. Recently, the city offered to transfer the affected families to another part of town. Naturally, the Arab residents are not enthusiastic about the plan. The article does not mention another reality: any Arab who gives up land to the Jews faces a death sentence. Haaretz reports:

The Jerusalem municipality may offer to voluntarily relocate some 1,500 Palestinian residents of the city's Silwan neighborhood - currently living on top of an archaeological site - to alternative lots in East Jerusalem, residents say.

The option was brought up by city council and East Jerusalem portfolio holder Yakir Segev, in meetings with the residents.

The 88 houses at issue were constructed without permits in the Al-Bustan area of Silwan and are slated for demolition. They stand in an area known as the King's Garden, defined as being of great archaeological importance by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

According to attorney Ziad Qa'awar, the last meeting took place early February and saw Segev proposing two alternative locations, one on a different hill in Silwan, and the other in the neighborhood of Beit Hanina, in the northeast of the city.

The proposition was unanimously rejected by the residents.

"We told him that these were lands we inherited from our parents, and we were not going to give them up," said Fathi Abu Diab, a member of the residents' committee. "We were born here, and our children were born here too."

The story continues here.

HT: Joe Lauer


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Amihai Mazar Receives Israel Prize

Hebrew University Professor Amihai Mazar has recently been awarded the Israel Prize.  Mazar is the excavator of Tel Qasile, Tel Batash (biblical Timnah), and Beth Shean.  He is presently excavating Tel Rehov in the Jordan Valley.  Mazar’s book, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, has long been a standard in the subject.  Professor Mazar was my first archaeology teacher, and he gave me my first opportunity to volunteer in a dig at Beth Shean.  He represents the best of Israeli archaeology and is most deserving of this prestigious award.

HT: Aren Maeir


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls and Biblical Interpretation Conference

Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary is hosting a conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls with an impressive line-up of speakers.  More information is on the school’s website, but unfortunately no list of lecture titles is given.

Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls and Biblical Interpretation Conference

Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, 2095 Appling Road, Cordova, TN 38088 (901)-751-8453

April 23-24, 2009

This conference will include world class archaeologists, authors, and researchers as well as Old and New Testament scholars. The speakers will include:

  • Kirk Kilpatrick, Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Dean of the Masters and Associates Program, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Jodi Magness, renowned author and the Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism, University of North Carolina
  • Stephen Ortiz, Associate Professor of Archaeology and Biblical Backgrounds and Director of the Charles C. Tandy Archaeology Museum, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Lawrence H. Schiffman, renowned author and the Ethel and Irvin A. Edelman Professor in Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University
  • Michael R. Spradlin, President, Chairman and Professor of Evangelism; Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Practical Theology, and Church History, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Emanuel Tov, renowned author, Department of the Bible, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
  • James Clair Vanderkam, renowned author; and John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame
  • Steven L. Cox, Professor of the New Testament and Greek, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary

The registration cost is $25 for students, $30.00 for alumni, and $50 for others. Registration includes snacks and a banquet meal. Meal selections will be either beef, chicken or kosher. 

The conference and banquet will be held on the MABTS campus.

On April 23, the conference runs from 2:00 p.m. through 9:30 p.m. (the banquet will be from 5:45 through 6:45 p.m.) and on April 24, the conference runs from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

For a registration form, click here.

To register and pay online, click here.

The Tyndale House blog notes that DVDs of the conference will be for sale for $39.95.

HT: Joe Lauer

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Heliodoros Stele Discovered

For $30, tourists can excavate the ancient ruins of Maresha/Beit Guvrin for three hours.  The area is full of caves rich with ancient artifacts, and it is not uncommon for excavators to find many “treasures” in the exposure.  Usually these discoveries include Hasmonean oil lamps or pottery vessels, for recently volunteers uncovered a nearly intact inscription from the 2nd century B.C.  Haaretz reports:

Three fragments of a Greek inscription, believed to be part of the "Heliodoros stele" were recently found at an Israel Antiquities Authority excavation at the National Park of Beit Guvrin.

The Heliodoros stele, dating back to 178 B.C.E. and consisting of 23 lines inscribed in limestone, is considered one of the most important ancient inscriptions found in Israel.

Dr. Dov Gera, who studied the inscriptions, determined that the fragments were actually the lower portion of "The Heliodoros stele". This discovery confirmed the assumption that the stele originally stood in one of the temples located where Maresha-Beit Guvrin National Park stands today.

The new fragments were discovered in a subterranean complex by participants in the Archaeological Seminars Institute's "Dig for a Day" program.

As published by Professors Cotton and Wörrle in 2007, this royal stone stele bears a proclamation by the Seleucid king, Seleucus IV (father of Antiochus IV). The contents of the stele shed light on the Seleucid government's involvement in local temples, mentioning an individual named Olympiodoros, the appointed "overseer" of the temples in Coele Syria - Phoenicia, including Judea.

The order of the king was sent to Heliodorus, who was probably the same person mentioned in the book of II Maccabees. According to the story in Maccabees, Heliodorus, as the representative of King Seleucus IV, tried to steal money from the Temple in Jerusalem but instead was severely beaten as a result of divine intervention.

The rest of the story is here.  The Israel Antiquities Authority has a press release and two high-resolution photos.

HT: Joe Lauer

Maresha from west aerial, tb011606749ddd Maresha from west

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lectures in Los Angeles: Jerusalem and Jaffa

The California Museum of Ancient Art has announced its Winter 2009 lecture series, “Digging into the Ancient World of the Bible.”

March 4, 7:30 p.m., Ronny Reich, “New Discoveries from the City of David.”

March 30, 7:30 p.m., Aaron Burke, “Egyptians and Greeks in Jaffa: A New Look at the Ancient Mediterranean Port.”

Both lectures will be held at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles.  The cost for adults is $15 (students $12) per lecture. 

Aaron Burke is Assistant Professor of Archaeology of Ancient Israel and the Levant at UCLA and he began excavations in Jaffa in 2007 or 2008.  Ronny Reich is well known to readers of this blog as the excavator of numerous important sites in Jerusalem. 

More information about the lecture series is available at the museum website (pdf file here).

HT: George Grena


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Conference: Egypt, Canaan and Israel

The Departments of Archaeology and Biblical Studies at the University of Haifa would like to invite you to attend a conference on the subject:

“Egypt, Canaan and Israel: History, Imperialism and Ideology from the third to the first millennium BCE,” to be held at the University of Haifa, May 3-7, 2009.

The conference aims at discussing the political, military, cultural, economic, literary and administrative relations between Egypt, Canaan and Israel along the Millennia in the ideological level and in everyday life, according to literary and non-literary texts, plastic art, and archaeology.


Mrs. Ben Dor S.
Tel Aviv University, Israel
Shishak's Karnak Relief, in Comparison to Triumphal Reliefs of the NK in Karnak and Medinet Habu

Dr. Ben Tor D.
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
Egyptian-Canaanite Relations in the Middle and Late Bronze Ages as Reflected by Scarabs

Dr. Binder S.
Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
The Egyptian Background to the Investiture of Joseph

Prof. Dr. Fischer-Elfert H. W.
University of Leipzig, Germany
A Fresh look at Palestine and Syria in Pap. Anastasi I: Toponyms, Archaeology and Literature

Dr. Gee J.
Brigham Young University, USA
The Export of the Egyptian Scribe

Dr. Gnirs A. M.
University of Basel, Switzerland
Narrativity in History: The Egyptian Brave Hero

Prof. Hasel M. G.
Southern Adventist University, USA
To be announced

Prof. Hoffmeier J.
Trinity International University, USA
Did Seti I Reestablish Egyptian Hegemony in Canaan?

Dr. Kahn D.
University of Haifa, Israel
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Egypt and Mitanni during the Amarna Age

Mr. Kraim Z.
Tel Aviv University, Israel
Logistical units and supply in the Egyptian army in New Kingdom

Dr. Ladynin I.
Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia
'Neos Sesonchosis Kosmokrator': The Theme of Lost and Restored World Domination and the Egyptian Propaganda Before and Under Alexander the Great

Dr. Lehmann G.
Ben-Gurion University, Beer Sheva, Israel
An Egyptian Interlude: Egyptian Imperialism in the Levant between the Assyrian and the Neo-Babylonian Empire according to the Archaeological Evidence

Prof. Mazar A.
Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
The Egyptian Garrison Town at Beth Shean in Light of the New Excavations (1989-1996)

Dr. Mizrachi Y.
University of Haifa, Israel
Hatschepsut - Founder of an Egyptian Emporium?

Dr. Morenz L.
University of Leipzig, Germany
Cultural Misunderstandings due to the Differences in the Egyptian versus the Canaanite Cultural Code

Dr. Muhlestein K.
Brigham Young University, USA
The Footprint of Levantine Influence in the Shipwrecked Sailor

Dr. Müller M.
Roemer-und Pelizaeus-Museum, Hildesheim, Germany
A View to a Kill: Egypt's Grand Strategy in her Northern Empire

Prof. Noegel S.
University of Washington, USA
The Ark of the Covenant and Egyptian Solar Boats: A Comparative Study

Prof. Ockinga B.
Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
The Names of Emmanuel in Isaiah 9:5

Prof. Oren E.
Ben-Gurion University, Beer Sheva, Israel
Egyptian administration on the Ways of Horus and Canaan during the reign of Seti II

Dr. Von Recklinghausen D.
University of Tübingen, Germany
To be announced

Prof. Dr. Schipper B. U.
University of Bremen, Germany
Egypt and the Kingdom of Judah in the 26th dynasty

Prof. Dr. Schneider T.
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
"The Assyrian conquest in disguise: rewriting Egyptian history in the "Struggle for the Benefice of Amun"

Dr. Shirley JJ
The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA
What's in a Name? Military and Civil Officials in the 18th Dynasty Military Sphere

Prof. Shupak N.
University of Haifa, Israel
To be announced

Dr. Sweeney D.
Tel Aviv University, Israel
A Long Way from Home: Women from the Levant in Ancient Egypt

Prof. Tower Hollis S.
Empire State College, USA
Two Hymns as Praise Poems, Royal Ideology, and History in Ancient Israel and Ancient Egypt: A Comparative Reflection

Dr. Vogel C.
University of Mainz, Germany
This Far and Not a Step Further! The Ideological Concept of Ancient Egyptian Boundary Stelae

Prof. Warburton D. A.
    Université Lumière Lyon, France
Dr. Raedler C.
    University of Mainz, Germany
The End of the Egyptian Presence in the Bronze Age

Prof. Zertal A.
University of Haifa, Israel
El-Ahwat, a New Discovery on the Shardana and Egypt in the 12th century
The Sandal-shaped Enclosures in the Jordan Valley and their Egyptian and Biblical Connections


Tuesday, May 5, 0700: “In the Footsteps of Thutmosis III”: Excursion to Wadi 'Arah and Megiddo.

Wednesday, May 6, 1730: Visit to the Hecht Archaeological Museum in Haifa.

Optional Tour: Thursday, May 7, 0700: Departure to Jordan Valley excursion.

Conference price for non-lecturers: $250 per person for the entire conference (places must be booked in advance with the organizing Committee, pending availability).

Additional information can be found at the conference website.

HT: Joe Lauer


Friday, February 06, 2009

Conference: New Studies on the Negev and Its Surroundings

A pdf version of this announcement is available here.

Tel Aviv University
Lester and Sally Entin Faculty of Humanities
Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology
Jacob M. Alkow Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures
Friends of the Institute of Archaeology

New Studies on the Negev and Its Surroundings
Dedicated to the Memory of Prof. Moshe Kochavi (1928-2008)

The Annual Symposium of the Sonia and Marco Nadler
Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University
Thursday, February 26, 2009, Hall 223,
The Gilman Building, Tel Aviv University Campus

14.00 Welcome Reception
Chairperson: Ze'ev Herzog (Tel Aviv University)

14.30 Greetings and awarding of the Institute stipends

14.45 In Memory of Moshe Kochavi
Ram Gophna (Tel Aviv University)

15.00-16.00 First Session
Chairperson: Itzhaq Beit-Arieh (Tel Aviv University)
*Qubur el-Walaydah: Results of the 2007-2008 Seasons
Gunnar Lehmann (Ben Gurion University of the Negev)

*A Philistine Cult Place in the Western Negev
Pirhiya Nahshoni (Israel Antiquities Authority)

*Reconstructing the Subsistence Economy of Iron Age Sites in the Negev Highlands: The Microscopic Approach
Ruth Shahack-Gross (Bar Ilan University and the Weizmann Institute of Science)

16.00-16.30 Coffee break

16.30-17.30 Second Session
Chairperson: Yuval Gadot (Tel Aviv University)

*Inside and Outside: Politics, Power and Social  Awareness in the Desert Frontier during the Iron Age
Yifat Thareani (Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew Union College)

*Ancient Agriculture in the Negev Highlands - A Reexamination
Gideon Avni (Israel Antiquities Authority), Yoav Avni and Naomi Porat (Geological Survey of Israel)

*The Land Behind Aqaba: Ayla and the Negev in the Early Islamic Period
Donald Whitcomb (The University of Chicago)

17.30 Third Session
Chairperson: Israel Finkelstein (Tel Aviv University)
*Historical Biblical Archaeology in Southern Jordan: A New Chronology for Iron Age Edom
Thomas E. Levy (The University of California, San Diego)

A special sale of Institute publications will be offered to symposium participants

HT: Joe Lauer


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Tell Acco To Become Recreation Venue

The medieval ruins at Acco have been well preserved and restored, but a visit to the biblical tell of Acco is quite disappointing.  Plans are underway to improve conditions, with a government grant of more than $5 million (23 million NIS) for the “Tell Akko” Tourism Project. The Israel Antiquities Authority report describes part of the project: 

The tell is a historic site that extends across c. 200 dunams and constitutes an important landmark at the entrance to the city. The renewed site combines the historic spots that existed in the region with modern attractions for the entire family, and includes a system of footpaths and bicycle trails, vantage points, archaeological finds and stations providing information on archaeology, history and ecology. Among other things, it will be possible to learn there about the manufacture of glass and the production of purple dye as they were done in the past in the same region, remains of which were found on the tell.

In addition, in September 2009 an “open theater” will be established on top of the southern slope of the tell, which will be used for large public events such as theatrical and musical performances....

The director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Mr. Shuka Dorfman said, “This important enterprise is putting into practice the vision of the Antiquities Authority of exposing the archaeological remains to the public at large. The Israel Antiquities Authority is acting to make the antiquities sites as accessible and comprehensible as possible for the visiting public by means of preparing the sites, vantage points, archaeological exhibits and information stations that cover a variety of topics. In this way Tel Akko, which has not been fostered to date and was damaged over the course of time by development activity and natural hazards, will become a recreation venue for the residents of Akko and the region, and for tourists, and will connect them to the rich cultural heritage of Akko”.

Tell Acco excavations, tb100905637ddd

Tell Acco, October 2005

HT: Joe Lauer


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Remains of Antonia Fortress

The current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (Jan/Feb 2009) includes an article by Ehud Netzer on the size and location of the Antonia Fortress (teaser here).  Built by Herod the Great, this imposing structure both protected the Temple Mount on its vulnerable northern side and it served as a convenient monitoring station for potential uprisings in the Temple area.  When Paul was accused of bringing a Gentile beyond the Court of the Gentiles, a riot began.  Paul’s life was spared by Roman officials who arrested him and took him to the Antonia Fortress (Acts 21:27-22:29).

Netzer is a renowned scholar, whose work on the Herodian sites of Jericho, Herodium, Caesarea, Jerusalem and elsewhere has led some to dub him “Mr. Herod.”  He realized a lifelong dream in 2007 with the discovery of King Herod’s tomb.  He has not excavated in the area of the Antonia Fortress because the Muslim authorities forbid any scholarly activity on the Temple Mount.

Leen Ritmeyer, a Temple Mount scholar, yesterday posted a response to Netzer’s article on the Antonia Fortress.  Ritmeyer believes that Netzer is mistaken both with regard to the size and shape of the building.  As always, Ritmeyer has beautiful and helpful illustrations.  The second diagram in his post reveals the existing remains of the fortress (in yellow).  The photo below shows the rock scarp and some of the Herodian masonry (on right).

Area of Antonia Fortress with bedrock, tb092103205

Remains of Antonia Fortress, north side of Temple Mount

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Then and Now: Caesarea Theater

Visitors to ancient sites in Israel often wonder how much has been restored and how much is original.  Sometimes there is a snaking black line that the restorers have placed just to answer this question.  But oftentimes there is no such indicator, and the tourist may imagine that what he is seeing has stood intact since the biblical period.  One site that I was long unaware of the degree of reconstruction was the theater of Caesarea.  Constructed by Herod the Great, this theater was the location of the incident in Acts 12:19-24 where Herod’s grandson, Agrippa I, was struck down (see Josephus, Antiquities XIX.8.2).  But much transpired between then and now, and the photo below gives an idea of the poor preservation of the upper seating area of the theater.

Caesarea theater under restoration, db6603250808 Caesarea theater, 1966
(from Views That Have Vanished)

Caesarea theater, tb052304860 Caesarea theater, 2004