Friday, April 30, 2010

Samaritan Passover Story and Photos

If you didn’t make it to this year’s celebration of the Samaritan Passover, you can read about it at Arutz-7 and you can see some great (but gory) photos taken by Aren Maeir.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Responses to the Latest Noah’s Ark Claim

The ASOR Blog has a run-down on rebuttals of the recent “discovery” of Noah’s Ark:

Tim Harrison on CTV:

Eric Cline on Fox News:

Eric Cline in Time Magazine:,8599,1985830,00.html

Robert Cargill at RobertCargill:

Present circumstances do not give me time to read, watch, or comment on these.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Samaritan Passover Tonight

Ferrell Jenkins reports on tonight’s celebration of the Passover by Samaritans on Mount Gerizim.  His blogpost includes photos and links.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Noah’s Ark Discovery Exposed

Noah’s Ark has been found again, according to a Fox News report.  Peter Wong alerted me to this a couple of days ago (see, but it seemed like more of a scheme to make money than anything.  But today’s report has more information.

Before I go further, I should just note that there are two common responses to a report like this.  One is to laugh and say it’s obviously a hoax (without troubling to consider the evidence).  For some, this is because of a preconception that there was no Noah, there was no ark, and there was no flood.  Others respond with complete trust, and regardless of what evidence comes forth, they will never relinquish their belief that the ark has been found.  The two approaches have in common a disregard for the evidence.

The FoxNews report does not sound nutty to me.  (I have an expectation of such because there have been previous “discoveries” of the ark that were fraudulent.)  Read it yourself and see if you can detect anything fishy.  Based on this article (and my belief that there was a Noah, an ark, and a flood), I can’t deem this a fraud.  I’m still suspicious and want to see more evidence, but I’m not yet convinced either way.

But PaleoBabble has an inside scoop.  Randall Price is a professor at Liberty University and he was involved with this expedition.  He explains the “discovery” as the result of a carefully orchestrated hoax. 

I was the archaeologist with the Chinese expedition in the summer of 2008 and was given photos of what they now are reporting to be the inside of the Ark. I and my partners invested $100,000 in this expedition (described below) which they have retained, despite their promise and our requests to return it, since it was not used for the expedition. The information given below is my opinion based on what I have seen and heard (from others who claim to have been eyewitnesses or know the exact details).

To make a long story short: this is all reported to be a fake. The photos were reputed to have been taken off site near the Black Sea, but the film footage the Chinese now have was shot on location on Mt. Ararat. In the late summer of 2008 ten Kurdish workers hired by Parasut, the guide used by the Chinese, are said to have planted large wood beams taken from an old structure in the Black Sea area (where the photos were originally taken) at the Mt. Ararat site. In the winter of 2008 a Chinese climber taken by Parasut’s men to the site saw the wood, but couldn’t get inside because of the severe weather conditions. During the summer of 2009 more wood was planted inside a cave at the site. The Chinese team went in the late summer of 2009 (I was there at the time and knew about the hoax) and was shown the cave with the wood and made their film. As I said, I have the photos of the inside of the so-called Ark (that show cobwebs in the corners of rafters – something just not possible in these conditions) and our Kurdish partner in Dogubabyazit (the village at the foot of Mt. Ararat) has all of the facts about the location, the men who planted the wood, and even the truck that transported it.

My prediction is that this won’t be the last attempt to scam believers.

If I hear more of interest, I’ll note it here.

UPDATE (4/28): I have received the entirety of Price’s letter.  Here is the second half:

To my knowledge, the Chinese took no professional archaeologist or geologist who could verify or document the wood or the structure in situ (in its place of discovery). They were duped in 2006-2007 by Parasut when they were shown a similar cave with something they thought was wood. I met the Chinese when I went with a team of geologists to examine the "wood" in Dogubabyazit and to report that it was volcanic rock (called "tuff") and not wood. Thereafter, since the Chinese were apparently able to get permits to climb in previously off-limit sites,  I and two other professionals joined with the Chinese (bringing our own independent satellite data) and went with them to Mt. Ararat in 2008. During that expedition, the guide Parasut who claimed to have found the Ark, was constantly drunk and after one month sitting in a hotel waiting, the expedition never happened. It was at this time that I made contact with Dr. Richard Bright who has climbed Mt. Ararat 33 times in search of the Ark and with several others climbed the western side of Mt. Ararat with a shepherd (who had recently been discovered by Dr. Bright's Kurdish partner) who knew the location of a piece of the Ark. Last year we had a good expedition to a higher site (the satellite site) and this summer we will excavate the shepherd's site and have every reason to expect success.

I am sorry to have to report that this is apparently a fake (and I am sure that the Chinese do not know this, but they do not respond to my e-mails), however, we do hope soon to have the real thing.

I encourage your prayers for me and others who will have to explain this "discovery" to many others - because negative reports are never well received and motives are questioned, especially when those doing so are part of a competitive expedition. But we do not want people to reject the truth of the Bible because another Noah's Ark report turns out to be false. We prefer to as clear upfront in our reporting as possible so Christians (and others) can make up their own minds.

I hope that this will be helpful to you at this time,

Randall Price
Ark Search LLC Expedition

UPDATE (4/28): Good Morning America has a 5-minute segment on the “discovery,” with the majority of that devoted to an interview with archaeologist Eric Cline.  Cline has previously written about the problem with “arkeologists” in his book, From Eden to Exile: Unraveling Mysteries of the Bible.


Recent Discoveries in Egypt

The Global Arab Network has posted a number of articles on discoveries in Egypt, as noted by Joe Lauer.

1. A new tomb was discovered by an SCA mission at Tell el-Maskhuta [biblical Succoth] in the Ismailia governate (Egypt). The tomb dates to the 19th Dynasty (1315-1201 BC), is constructed of mud brick and consists of a rectangular room with a domed ceiling made of stone, and a deep square-shaped shaft.

2. The Head of Antiquities of Lower Egypt Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud said that archaeological missions working in North Sinai have unearthed Tharu, an ancient fortified city, a move which stressed the importance of this area as the eastern gate of Egypt.

3. A collection of 14 Graeco-Roman tombs dating to the third century BC have been found in a cemetery in the Ain El-Zawya area of the town of Bawiti, in Bahariya Oasis.

The first and third articles have photographs of the finds.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Weekend Roundup

Tours of the ancient sites in Iraq will begin this summer. A nine-day tour costs $3,375.

Hamas plans to regulate the trade of antiquities in Gaza.  Of 25,000 gold and bronze coins unearthed since 1990, 14,000 were sold on the black market. 

The Washington Post has the best article I’ve read on the restoration of Jaffa Gate.

Christianity Today has a story on the discovery of the “Miracle Boat,” also known as the “Jesus Boat.”  (Why not “Galilee Boat”?) The article also mentions the recent campaign to increase the number of visitors to the boat.  My suggestion: lower the outrageous entrance fee.

Tourists can now bring their iPad to Israel without fear of it being confiscated by customs authorities.

Israel’s Tourism Minister is vowing to stop the country’s degrading treatment of visitors. 

Leon Maudlin has been posting “two views” of Miletus, showing the dramatic differences in the ancient city in different seasons.

HT: Explorator, Paleojudaica, and Joe Lauer

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tourist Shot in Church of Holy Sepulcher

From the Jerusalem Post:

A tourist visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem was shot by a policeman and seriously wounded Friday night after allegedly threatening visitors with a knife and attempting to stab a police officer.

Police said the incident began at closing time when two priests and a policeman walked among the visitors, asking them to leave. The man then allegedly drew a knife and threatened them. The policeman drew his sidearm and instructed the man to put down the knife. Other officers arrived on the scene and, when the man refused to lay down his weapon, sprayed pepper spray on him. The man then reportedly tried to run and was shot after threatening one of the policemen with his knife.

Holy Sepulcher facade, tb011610699

Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem

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Jordanian Students Learn Archaeology

Students from the International Academy Amman recently were given hands-on experience in excavating the ancient city of Gadara (cf. Matt 8:28).  From the Jordan Times:

Digging in trenches in northern Jordan was far from 18-year-old Aoun Jumaa’s definition of “fun”.

But after the International Academy Amman (IAA) student spent the past week excavating at Um Qais as part of his school’s community action and service programme, he said he has gained appreciation of the Kingdom’s “exciting” archaeology.

“I have been to Um Qais, but I have never seen it like this before,” he said.

The programme offers students the unique opportunity to explore their past and open up avenues for their futures.

The 20-odd students quickly learned that an archaeologist’s day is by no means an easy one. Starting at dawn, the students were in the trenches digging, cleaning and shovelling all morning, and after a short lunch break, they sorted and washed pottery shards and attended evening sessions on pottery identification and cultural interpretation.

Meanwhile, they devoted their evening hours to research projects, interpreting their finds and writing down their analysis, according to IAA teacher and programme coordinator Andy Daily.

The full article is here.

HT: Joe Lauer

Gadara nymphaeum, tb060503129

Gadara nymphaeum with Sea of Galilee in distance

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Ptolemaic Coin Hoard Found in Egypt

From the AFP:

Archaeologists have uncovered bronze coins bearing the image of ancient Egyptian ruler King Ptolemy III in an oasis south of the capital, the culture ministry announced on Thursday.

Also found by the Egyptian team were necklaces made of ostrich eggshell, it said.

The 383 items dating back more than 2,250 years were found near Lake Qarun in Fayum oasis, around 120 kilometres (75 miles) from Cairo, the ministry said in a statement, adding that they were in excellent condition.

The coins weighed 32 grams (1.12 ounces) each, with one face depicting the god Amun and the other the words "king" and "Ptolemy III" in Greek along with his effigy, the statement said.

You can see a photo of all the coins, stacked but uncleaned, here. Middle East Online has a photo of the discovery site.

HT: Joe Lauer

Lake Qarun in Faiyum Oasis from west, tb010805083 Lake Qarun, near location of discovery

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

St. Paul’s Anchor Offer

If you hurry, you can get a special copy of The Lost Shipwreck of Paul by Robert Cornuke.  According to the email advertisement, you don’t want to miss this:

BASE Institute has in it's [sic] possession a small piece of lead from anchor #3 of the 4 anchors believed to be from Paul's Shipwreck.  This unique offer will include Robert Cornuke personally taking the piece of lead and drawing the image of an anchor on the front page of the book.  Also, a signature will be included by Robert Cornuke certifying that the lead transfer image is from the actual anchors as described in The Lost Shipwreck of Paul book.

Cornuke sounds like one of those televangelists.

In unrelated news, if you purchase the complete set of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands right now, the author will personally glue a few grains of sand to the CDs and his signature will certify that these are actual pieces of dirt from the land where Jesus walked.  Don’t wait; order now!

For links to several articles on the Malta shipwreck, see here. For other previous appearances of the former policeman on this blog, see here, here, here and here.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

DigSight, Winter 2010

The latest issue of DigSight is now available. DigSight is the quarterly newsletter published by the Institute of Archaeology of Southern Adventist University.

The eight-page issue features a summary of the papers presented on Khirbet Qeiyafa at the 2009 ASOR meeting, as well as a review of the debate on the Qeiyafa Ostracon.  If you’ve had trouble keeping up, this is the place to start.

In the final article, Michael Hasel provides a well-written response to those sensational archaeological discoveries of arks and giants made by nurses and firemen. 

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Jaffa Gate Restored

After months of repair, the scaffolding has been taken down from Jaffa Gate.  The restoration process included cleaning, filling gaps between stones, and replacing stones.  From Arutz-7:

The large black curtain covering Jaffa Gate, one of the two most famous gates leading in and out of the Old City of Jerusalem, was removed this morning at the official Jaffa Gate Rededication Ceremony.

The celebrated large stone entrance underwent two months of preservation work, in the framework of a program to refurbish the Old City walls.

The current walls of the Old City were built mainly by Sultan Suleimon of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. The current refurbishing work, which began three years ago, seeks to repair the damages of the ravages of time and neglect. At Jaffa Gate, large boulders and stones were strengthened, bullet marks were demarcated, designs and ornaments were restored, and the entire gate was cleaned.

The article includes a video interview of Yoram Saad of the Conservation Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority (3 min). 


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Antiquities Thieves Arrested in Shephelah

Officers from the Israel Antiquities Authority arrested four antiquities thieves illegally excavating a site near Moshav Zecharya in the Shephelah.  They were charged with crimes that bring up to five-year prison sentences. From the Jerusalem Post:

“Me and my men noticed a vehicle parked near the site close to Moshav Zecharya. Over the last few months we have discovered holes in the ground left by potential robbers on the site, so we had reasons to believe that the vehicle belonged to them. We snuck up to the site and saw the men digging a deep hole near one of the ancient walls. When we saw what they were doing we immediately arrested the perpetrators and called the border police unit to take them away to the police station, where they spent the night before seeing a judge the next morning,” said Ganor.


Ganor said that the alleged robbers, like everyone involved in the trade of archeological artifacts, were looking to get rich from their findings. “Where archeologists see history, robbers see dollar signs. The hope of finding valuables, be they ancient coins, jewelry or even pottery, is what drives them to destroy centuries of history.”

According to Ganor, every year 150 robbers are caught in the act of digging up archeological sites. Of these, 85 percent are charged and convicted. Ganor said that the Antiquities Authority knows of 300 archeological sites that are dug up every year and estimates that there are probably 300 more that they don’t know of.

“Israel has more than 30,000 archeological sites. Many of them have stories or legends about buried treasure hidden within them. Dreams of ancient riches are what drive the robbers to commit the crimes,” said Ganor.

“The robbers are very familiar with the land, often more than us. They know where the sites are and know where to look for valuables. Sometimes they also dig up graves in search of objects that were buried alongside the deceased.”

Ganor said it was impossible to profile the average robber. “Unfortunately it is a problem that exists in all segments of the population. There are Jews, Arabs, Palestinians, even foreign nationals – all share the dream of digging up the find that will make them rich.”

The full article is here.

HT: Joe Lauer


Monday, April 19, 2010

Jaffa Gate Restoration

In late December, the exterior of the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem was shrouded in scaffolding.  On Wednesday conservation work will be completed and the restored gate will again be visible to visitors.  From the Israel Antiquities Authority:

During the preservation work at Jaffa Gate, extensive conservation treatment was carried out on all of the gate’s facades and its interior: stones were reinforced and hazards that endangered the safety of the visiting public were removed, the bullet damage to the gate was preserved, weathered stones and decorations were treated and the gate underwent a thorough cleaning. Among other things, the gate’s dedicatory inscription, which was in a severely deteriorated physical state and was quickly becoming detached from the structure, was completely dismantled and conserved.

Jaffa Gate was first inaugurated in 1538. It constituted part of the city walls and in fact it was only toward the end of the nineteenth century did it become a center of bustling and prosperous activity. The period culminated in the year 1898, when it was decided to breach a wide entrance in the city wall of Jerusalem (as we know it today) and thereby allow the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II and his wife, Augusta Victoria, to enter the city in their carriage. Thus, for the first time in the history of modern Jerusalem, carts could enter the Old City.

In the War of Independence the gate was the focal point of some very harsh battles. During the war Jaffa Gate was completely blocked by an armored vehicle that had been damaged in the fighting and was wedged in the opening. In the cease-fire agreements between Israel and Jordan Jaffa Gate stood at the opening to the no man's land that stretched from Jaffa Gate to Zahal Square and the Mamilla neighborhood and separated it from Jordanian controlled Jerusalem in the east. Consequently, the blocked armored vehicle was not removed, and the gate remained closed the entire period that the city was divided. The remains of the bullets that pierced the stones of the gate are clearly visible on the upper parts of the structure.

An inauguration ceremony for the gate will take place on Wednesday, April 21 at 11:30 a.m.

Jaffa Gate under scaffolding, tb011610598

Jaffa Gate under scaffolding, January 2010


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fishing Ban in Sea of Galilee Explained

The recent sharp decline in the number of fish in the Sea of Galilee is the result of poisoning, overfishing, low water level, and birds, according to the Jerusalem Post.  This article by Ehud Zion Waldoks is the best researched piece I’ve seen on the subject.  Two hundred fishermen have licenses to fish, and the decision to ban fishing for two years has them up in arms.  They don’t want government compensation of 2,000 shekels (about $530) a month; they want to fish.

According to the Agriculture Ministry, the number of fish in the lake has dropped significantly in the last decade and especially over the last two years – so much so that there is now a significant chance that Lake Kinneret will cease to have fish in it at all if fishing continues as usual.

If that were to happen, it would represent an ecological disaster and negatively affect water quality as well, according to the Water Authority.

The Agriculture Ministry has attributed part of the decrease to overfishing and mass poisoning. The drastically lower water level of the lake in recent years has also contributed to the decrease, the Water Authority believes.

The full article is here.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Whereabouts of the Jaffa Gate Clock Tower

Between the years 1907 and 1922, Jaffa Gate was home to an imposing 40-foot (13-m) clock tower.  The Ottoman authorities erected the tower in honor of one of the anniversaries of Abdul Hamid.  Not all were impressed with the addition.  G. K. Chesterton described the timepiece as “an unnaturally ugly clock, at the top of an ornamental tower, or a tower that was meant to be ornamental” (The New Jerusalem [1920]). 

Jaffa Gate, breach in city wall, mat04933 Jaffa Gate with clock tower, 1918-1922
Source: Jerusalem CD (Library of Congress, LC-matpc-04933)

Soon after the British took control of Jerusalem, the tower was dismantled.  According to a 1922 report of the Pro-Jerusalem Society (cited in part here), the tower “has been bodily removed from the north side of the Jaffa Gate, which it too long disfigured, and is being set up again in fulfilment of a promise (less aggressively and shorn of its more offensive trimmings) in the central and suitable neighbourhood of the Post Office Square.”

Tom Powers has recently learned that the plan was carried out, and the clock tower was re-erected, in substantially different form, in Allenby Square.  But it didn’t stay there long, for about a decade later, the tower was demolished.  According to the Palestine Post (Sept. 27, 1934), the demolition was required by roadwork being done to relieve traffic congestion.  (75 years later, roadwork to relieve congestion is still being done in the area!)

The photo below, unearthed from the Library of Congress archives by Tom Powers, shows the tower before its demolition.

Allenby Square clocktower-1934

Allenby Square with clock tower (1934)
Source: Diary in photos, Vol. 1, Library of Congress

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Archaeology Conference in Honor of Anson F. Rainey

The following announcement was posted on several lists, including biblicalist.  Most lectures are in Hebrew. Dr. Rainey’s astonishing career is surveyed on the Tel Aviv University website.

Bar-Ilan University
The Faculty of Jewish Studies
The Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology


Tel Aviv University
The Jacob M. Alkow Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern
The Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology

Cordially invite the public to the 30th annual conference of the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology:

“And They Went Up and Toured the Land” - in honor of Professor Anson F. Rainey on the occasion of his 80th birthday.

Thursday, May 6, 2010, Mintz Auditorium, Building 403, Bar-Ilan University.

8:30-9:00: Registration and Refreshments

9:00-9:20: Greetings:

  • Prof. Haim Taitelbaum, Vice Rector
  • Prof. Avraham Faust, Chair, Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology
  • Prof. Shlomo Bunimovitz, Chair, Jacob M. Alkow Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures

9:20-11:00: Session 1: Archaeology. Chair, Prof. Ze'ev Herzog

  • Yuval Gadot: The Central Coastal Plain in the Late Bronze Age - Geography, History and Archaeology
  • Shlomo Bunimovitz and Zvi Lederman: The Hanan Clan: Epigraphic Evidence for Iron Age Canaanite Continuity in the Northern Judean Shephelah
  • Avraham Faust: An Assemblage of Bullae from Tel 'Eton and the Development of Administration in the Kingdom of Judah
  • Ze'ev Herzog: The Hezekiah/Josiah Cult Reform Debate: An Archaeological Perspective

11:00-11:30: Break

11:30-13:30: Session 2: Linguistics and Bible. Chair, Prof. Shlomo Izre'el

  • Israel Knohl: Merneptah's "Israel" and Biblical "Israel"
  • Shawn Zelig Aster: Isaiah 31 and Relations Between Judah and Assyria During the Reign of Sargon II
  • Gershon Galil: The Book of Joshua: Formation and Historical Reliability
  • Daniel Sivan: The Case System in Northwestern Semitic Languages
  • Chaim Cohen: Four New Philological Notes Concerning the Languages of the El-Amarna Letters according to the Comparative Philological Method of Prof. Moshe Held z"l

13:30-14:45: Lunch Break

14:45-16:30: Session 3: Historical Geography. Chair, Prof. Joshua Schwartz

  • Ze'ev Safrai: Historical Geography, 35 Years after Ben-Arieh
  • Aren Maeir: The Identification of Philistine Gath, 25 Years Later
  • Oded Lipschits: Further Thoughts on the Ancient Name of Ramat Rahel
  • Yigal Levin: The Identification of Khirbet Qeiyafa - A New Proposal

16:30-16:50: Break

16:50-19:00: Session 4: History. Chair, Dr Boaz Zissu.

  • Dr. Paul Wright, Director, Jerusalem University College: Blessings and comments about Anson Rainey (in English)
  • Victor Hurowitz: Demonyms and Toponyms: Symbolism and Hermeneutics
  • Brian Schultz: A New Proposal for Tamar/Tadmor in 1 Kings 9:18 (in English)
  • Aaron Demsky: The Phoenician Connection of the Greek Sphinx
  • R. Steven Notley: Was the Galilee No Longer Jewish in the Days of Judah Aristobulus?

Closing Remarks - Prof. Anson F. Rainey

All papers will be in Hebrew unless English is specified.

Open admission. For information call 03-5318350 or use email address on the announcement.

Anson Rainey lecturing at Achziv to Baptist group, db6311161103

Anson Rainey lecturing, Nov. 1963
Photo by David Bivin


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thursday Roundup

Will Israeli tour guides be allowed to take their tour groups to Bethlehem and other West Bank sites?

The UK has banned images of the Western Wall from appearing in ads promoting tourism to Israel because it is deemed to be in “occupied territory.” 

Terror warnings in Sinai have caused most Israelis to cut short their vacations.

Remember the Jerusalem model at the Holyland Hotel? It was moved to the Israel Museum a few years ago, when the property owners began to construct luxury apartment towers, obviously more profitable than what they made from entrance fees to the model.  Israel is now reeling from charges of a new bribery scandal, this time alleging that former prime minister Ehud Olmert took hundreds of thousands of shekels in kickbacks in exchange for approving the apartment project.

If you try to bring your iPad along on your trip to Israel, it will be confiscated. (More here).

The 47th annual World Bible Quiz for Youth will take place in Jerusalem next week.  Among the 46 competitors is the son of Israel’s prime minister.  There’s also talk of reviving the Bible Quiz for Adults.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Free Photos: Jewish People in Early 1900s

The decisive winner of yesterday’s poll was the collection of images of Jewish People.  You can now download these photos as a PowerPoint file, as jpg images, or both.  Thanks for participating!

Jews of Jerusalem, mat06793

Jewish men of Jerusalem, 1898-1914

This photo is from the People of Palestine volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (Library of Congress, LC-matpc-06793).


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Free Set of Images from People of Palestine

The week is off to a slow start in terms of news, so I thought I'd try something different.  As you may recall, a few weeks ago we released the People of Palestine CD from The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection.  Tomorrow we're going to give away one of the sets of photos from this CD and today you get to choose which one you would like.  The one with the most votes will be posted here tomorrow.  There's no registration, no hidden fees, no fine print.  One click to vote and one click (tomorrow) to download.  If you want all of these images (plus more), the CD is available now for $15 with free shipping.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Conference: Israel in Egypt and in Canaan

From the ANE-2 List:

International Conference for Biblical Archaeology in Germany

Israel in Egypt and in Canaan: In Search of the Historical Environment of Exodus and Conquest

Location: Christian Gästezentrum Württemberg, Schwäbisch Gmünd (near Stuttgart, Southern Germany), October 1-3, 2010

  • Early or Late? Did the Biblical Exodus Really Occur and When Did It Happen?
  • Who was the Pharaoh of the 10 Plagues and the Exodus?
  • How Can Excavations on the Eastern Border of Egypt Help Determine the Exodus Itinerary?
  • Israel’s Ethnogenesis
  • Do We Find Evidence of the Israelite Tribes in Egypt?
  • The Earliest Inscription Referencing Israel in Canaan?
  • Do the Destructions at the End of the Late Bronze or Middle Bronze Ages Yield Evidence of the Israelite Conquest?
  • Archaeological Exhibition on Jericho
  • Plenum Discussions


  • Dr John J. Bimson
  • Prof. Dr James K. Hoffmeier
  • Prof. Dr Manfred Görg
  • Dr Thomas Tribelhorn
  • Dr Peter van der Veen
  • Richard Wiskin
  • Prof. Dr Uwe Zerbst
  • Prof. Dr Wolfgang Zwickel

* Translation in English and German will be provided for German and English lectures

For more information and for registration, see the English language flyer (pdf).

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Top 10 Tourist Destinations for Israelis

What tourist destinations inside Israel are the most popular for Israelis?  Dun and Bradstreet published the top spots for this year.  From Ynet News:

1. Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem

2. Ramat Gan Safari

3. Masada

4. Caesarea

5. Hamat Gader hot springs

6. Ein Gedi

7. Yamit 2000 Water Park

8. Underwater Observatory in Eilat

9. Banias Archaeological Site

10. Tel Aviv Luna Amusement Park

I haven’t been to numbers 7 or 10, but the others are all terrific places to visit with your family.  I would guess that the beaches around the Sea of Galilee are excluded from consideration, because they would certainly rank high on the list.  I’m surprised about Banias; I’d expect more people to prefer to picnic at Tel Dan.  That reminds me: what McDonalds in Israel has the best scenery?  I’d vote for the one next to the Senir stream (the headwaters of the Jordan River, just west of Tel Dan).  Unfortunately I don’t seem to have a photograph.  I do have one of dinner time at the zoo.

HT: Paleojudaica

Hippopotamuses eating, tb082505678

Hippopotamuses at Biblical Zoo of Jerusalem

UPDATE (4/10): Randy Burk has sent a photo of the view from the McDonalds outdoor eating area.  Nice!

Nahal Senir, view from McDonalds, Randy Burk, IMG_2975 Nahal Senir, headwaters of the Jordan River

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Assyrian Vassal Treaty Found at Tell Tayinat

From the Ottawa Citizen:

Canadian archeologists in Turkey have unearthed an ancient treaty written in cuneiform that could have served as a model for the biblical description of God's covenant with the Israelites.

The tablet, dating from about 670 BC, is a treaty between the powerful Assyrian king and his weaker vassal states, written in a highly formulaic language very similar in form and style to the story of Abraham's covenant with God in the Hebrew Bible, says University of Toronto archeologist Timothy Harrison.

Although biblical scholarship differs, it is widely accepted that the Hebrew Bible was being assembled around the same time as this treaty, the seventh century BC.


Harrison's dig at Tell Tayinat revealed tens of thousands of items last summer, including the tablet. It measured 43x28 centimetres, with 650 and 700 tiny lines of script -- and was smashed to pieces. Still, at least the pieces were all in one place. Dozens of similar smashed tablets were scattered.

Assyrian vassal treaties have been studied for a century and compared and contrasted with biblical documents, especially the book of Deuteronomy.  As the article says, some scholars believe that Deuteronomy is composed in the style of an Assyrian vassal treaty, which would date this “book of Moses” to the 7th century.  Other scholars find that Deuteronomy has more similarities with Hittite vassal treaties from the Late Bronze Age (1500-1200 BC), which would comport with the biblical dating of the book and not require that it be a fraud, pious or otherwise. 

Kenneth Kitchen has done (and continues to do) significant work on the subject.  In On the Reliability of the Old Testament, he wrote:

Sinai and its two renewals—especially the version in Deuteronomy—belong squarely within phase V, within 1400-1200, and at no other date. The impartial and very extensive evidence (thirty Hittite-inspired documents and versions!) sets this matter beyond any further dispute. It is not my creation, it is inherent in the mass of original documents themselves, and so cannot be gainsaid, if the brute facts are to be respected (pp. 278-88; emphasis original).

The implications of this debate are very significant, and I look forward to Kitchen’s future publication.  And everyone can be grateful for the outstanding work by Harrison and the Tayinat team.  An earlier version of this article includes a close-up photo.

HT: Paleojudaica

Update: The University of Toronto press release can be read here. The 2009 Seasonal Report for the Tayinat Archaeological Project is here (pdf).  Thanks to Joe Lauer for the links.

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Hanan Eshel, 1958-2010

A great loss today in Israel with the passing of Hanan Eshel.  From Arutz-7:

Prof. Chanan Eshel, a leading Second Temple historian and archaeologist at Bar Ilan University, passed away Wednesday night from cancer. He will be buried at 4 PM in Kibbutz Maaleh HaHamishah.


Known as an expert in the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran, Eshel also wrote five books, including “The Qumran Scrolls and the Hasmonean State.” He also authored over 200 articles. He was a professor in the Land of Israel and Archaeology Department at Bar Ilan University, and headed the department from 2002 until 2004. He received his doctorate from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and received research grants from Harvard, Oxford, and Michigan University.

Three of Eshel’s books were published last year and are highly recommended: Carta’s Field Guides to Masada, Ein Gedi, and Qumran.

I’ll note other remembrances of this great scholar here when I see them.

UPDATE: For more see, Haaretz (Hebrew with photo), Ferrell Jenkins, Hellige skrifter, the Jerusalem Post, and Robert CargillIsrael LandMinds has devoted a radio show to Eshel’s legacy, with interviews with Prof. Albert Baumgarten and Prof. Aren Maeir.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Sea of Galilee Lacking Water and Fish

Drought conditions continue in Israel, with almost no rain recorded in the north of the country in March.  The water level of the Sea of Galilee went up 2.5 inches (6 cm) over Passover week, but that was because pumping was halted for the holiday.  With winter rains all but over, the lake is now 3.87 meters below capacity.  For more, see this Arutz-7 article.

The fishing ban on the Sea of Galilee begins at the end of this month and the Telegraph has a new story, including interviews with a local critical of the authorities for creating the situation.


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Galilee Beaches Like a Garbage Can after Passover

This year the Israeli government took over maintenance of the public beaches on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Visitors during Passover week were given free entrance and garbage bags, a change from years when fees were charged in exchange for services.  It didn’t work so well, as the visitors apparently don’t know how to use the garbage bags.  From Haaretz:

"It's a catastrophe," said Shai, who had come to Lavnun Beach from Azor, with 11 of his friends. "It's like being inside a garbage can," he said.

The Kinneret Association of Towns issued a press release before Pesach, announcing that no entrance fees would be charged during the holiday week at three beaches on the eastern side of the lake - Kursi, Halukim and Lavnun. In addition, the boulders preventing parking along the beach were to be removed. "The association requests that visitors keep the beaches and environs clean," the announcement said.

Maybe the visitors were told how to use the garbage bags, but it didn’t help.

Visitors were handed garbage bags and an explanatory flyer at the entrance, and there were many inspectors on patrol. Nevertheless, the beaches were scattered with garbage, broken glass, and charcoal from beachgoers' barbecues. In addition, wooden beach shelters were destroyed, and toilets - upgraded in advance of the holiday - were broken and filthy.

The former operator of the beaches blamed the government association.

Shlomo Guetta operated the beach for nearly 30 years before he was convicted of illegally erecting fences and various structures on the beach and was forced out.

Guetta, who was also at the beach during the holiday, likened the association's attempt to manage the beaches to someone who "tries to hijack a plane after killing the pilot, before learning how to land the plane alone. There was a crash here. People were promised free beaches and what they got was garbage in their faces. I protected the beach for years and in the end they made me the bad guy who took it away from the public. But why do you think people came here all those years? Because the beach was kept up properly," Guetta said.

Eli Raz said that he comes to Lavnun Beach every year, from his home in Jerusalem. "This was the Kinneret's most beautiful beach, now I've got to get out of here," because of the filth.

The rest of the sad story is here.


Monday, April 05, 2010

Giant Skeletons

There’s been a recent wave in the email circulation of archaeological evidence for giants, usually with a tagline that this is proof of the Bible’s accuracy.

I might suggest a simple principle for dealing with matters like this in the future: if you heard about it first in an email forward, it’s not true.

Indeed, these photographs were created for a contest for images of an archaeological hoax.  These came in third place in a 2002 competition.

Circulation of the images as “real” apparently began in 2004.  National Geographic debunked them in 2007.  PaleoBabble posted on them in February.  Truth or Fiction has a full copy of the email that I’ve been forwarded many times now.


Saturday, April 03, 2010

Weekend Roundup

Several works that we have mentioned here are finalists for the 2010 ECPA Christian Book Awards, including A Visual Guide to Biblical Events (Martin, Beck, and Hansen), The New Moody Atlas of the Bible (Beitzel), The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible (Tenney and Silva), and Glo.

Yesterday I noted Glo’s Easter Gallery.  Biblical Studies and Technical Tools has posted a brief review of the impressive media components of Glo.

Aren Maeir posts word of a “very exciting bona fide, new archaeological find from Jerusalem.”  I concur with his assessment, but cannot say more yet.  Publication is expected soon.

Leen Ritmeyer posts a beautiful photographic rendition of the 1st century temple from a new project called The Messiah in the Temple.

A bed-and-breakfast owner in Sepphoris discovered an ancient tomb on his property, but he called the rabbis instead of the antiquities authority.  This Haaretz article gives some insight into the on-going conflict over the excavation of graves.

The Museum of Biblical Art is reopening in Dallas five years after it was destroyed by fire.

Eisenbrauns is selling some new titles as of April 1.

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Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday and Easter Images

Glo has a gallery of several dozen Easter images available for free download (in high-resolution).  These include photographs (including a few of ours), as well as ancient and modern works of art.  It’s probably too late to use for this year’s teaching, but they could be handy for future years.  Glo is available from Amazon for $57 and includes many thousands of images like these.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Blogger Appreciation Day

Today is the 100th anniversary of Blogger Appreciation Day.  According to long-standing tradition, readers who have visited any given blog more than 13 times are obligated to send an appropriate gift to the blogger.  The Blogging Association of Rational Females has designated that the appropriate gift for members of their society are bouquets of pink and yellow flowers.  Male bloggers, however, need books.  You can show your support for this blog by purchasing for us one of these newly released titles today.

  • Every Bible Place in the Far Eastern Shephelah
  • A Dummy’s Guide to Cenomanian, Senonian, and Eocene Limestone
  • Men Are from Maresha, Women Are from the Valley of Elah
  • The True and Amazing Story of How I Found the Ark of the Covenant Inside Noah’s Ark
  • A Liberal Bible Critic’s Guide to Making Money off of True Believers
  • The Updated Revised New Bible Atlas, 2nd edition
  • The Lost Qeiyafa Code
  • A Fundamentalist Archaeologist’s Guide to Making Money off of True Believers
  • Look At Me: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Hershel Shanks
  • Skeletons in Their Labs: Exposés of the World’s Most Famous Biblical Archaeologists
  • Towering Balks: The Stories of Nine Excavation Volunteers Who Gave Their Lives

Please make certain that you purchase these books from an authorized bookseller before the end of today, April 1.