Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Paleo-Hebrew and Greek Fonts

Kris Udd has designed more than a dozen new fonts and is graciously making them available to the public via the website. 

The ten Greek fonts released today:

  • Archaic Greek (8th c. BC)
  • Rosetta Stone (196 BC)
  • Nahal Hever A (c. 50 BC)
  • Nahal Hever B (c. 50 BC)
  • Greek Coin (1st c. AD)
  • Theodotus (AD 60)
  • Papyrus P66 (AD 200)
  • Papyrus P75 (AD 250)
  • Sinaiticus (AD 350)
  • Washingtonensis (AD 400)


The paleo-Hebrew fonts collection has been expanded with five new ones to bring the total to 22, ranging from 15th-century BC proto-Sinaitic to 13th-century AD Samaritan script. The five fonts released today:

  • Paleo-Hebrew
  • Izbet Sartah (13th c.)
  • Samaria Ostraca (8th c.)
  • Hebrew seals (7th c.)
  • Ivory Pomegranate (6th c.)


Even if you don’t have a need (or desire) to type in ancient scripts, the comparison charts (Hebrew, Greek) are quite a valuable resource. 

All the Greek fonts and details are available here.  For the Hebrew, see this page.  Thanks to Kris for his excellent work and for sharing these tools so generously!


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Crusader Fresco from Gethsemane Restored

This large 12th-century fresco discovered ten years ago near the Garden of Gethsemane goes on display next month in the Israel Museum.  From the Israel Antiquities Authority:

An enormous impressive wall painting (fresco) that was discovered in excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Monastery of Miriam in the Gethsemane courtyard in Jerusalem will be displayed for the first time when the renewed Israel Museum opens its doors to the public on July 26, 2010.


According to Seligman, the subject of this wall painting - only the bottom part of which survived and which originally rose to a height of about nine meters - is apparently a scene of deésis (meaning supplication in Greek). This is a known iconographic formula whereby Mary and John the Baptist beseech Jesus for forgiveness, for the sake of humanity. Only the bottom parts of the figures are visible in the main picture: Jesus sitting in the center, with Mary to his right and John the Baptist to his left. Two other pairs of legs, probably those of angels, can be seen next to Mary and John. In the middle of the painting are colorful floral tendrils on either side of which is a Latin inscription of a saying by Saint Augustine: "Who injures the name of an absent friend, may not at this table as guest attend." We can conclude from this that the painting adorned the wall of a dining room - the refectorium - in the monastery. The prohibition to gossip is surprising since the monks there were Benedictines who refrained from unnecessary conversation. According to the researchers, the maxim was apparently intended for visitors who arrived at the monastery and were invited to dine there.

According to Nagar, "This is one of the most important paintings that have been preserved from the Crusader period in Israel. The painting is the largest to come out of an archaeological excavation in the country and the treatment the painting underwent in the laboratories of the Israel Antiquities Authority was, from a conservation standpoint, among the most complicated ever done here. This wall painting is special because of its size and quality. It measures 9 meters long and 2.7 m high, and is extremely rare because very few wall paintings have survived from the Crusader churches that were built in Jerusalem during the Crusader period. The excellent quality of the painting was in all likelihood the workmanship of master artists and the vibrant colors reflect the importance of the abbey in the twelfth century, which was under the patronage of the Crusader queen Melisende." 

Five high-resolution images are available here (zip file).

UPDATE (6/30): The Jerusalem Post has the story.

Labels: ,

Monday, June 28, 2010

Western Wall Museum Controversy

Haaretz reported on this meeting yesterday, but as of now I haven’t seen an update on the ruling.

Jerusalem's district planning council was on Sunday set to rule on a controversial museum project that archaeologists claim would destroy valuable ancient structures beneath the Old City.

The new museum is planned for the concourse beside the Western Wall of the Temple Mount – Judaism's holiest site.

But a group of archaeologists who have petitioned the council says the new building, designed by architect Ada Karmi, would damage an ancient Roman road, flanked by rare and elaborate columns, that runs beneath the planned construction.

They say that if Jewish relics were under threat, the project would never have been allowed.

"It is impossible to exaggerate the cultural damage and the harm to antiquities that would result if the road is encased by the new building's foundation pillars," the archaeologists wrote in a petition to the planning council.

Whenever someone says “it is impossible to exaggerate,” it’s a dead give-away that they are exaggerating.  Unfortunately the article does not provide the names of any of the archaeologists who signed the petition.

The full story is here.

Western Wall plaza excavations, tb051908176 Excavations on the west side of the Western Wall prayer plaza, site of planned museum

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 25, 2010

Israel Imported Honeybees from Turkey

Several years ago, excavators at Tel Rehov (near Beth Shean) discovered a series of beehives.  Scholars have now concluded that bees were imported from Turkey because they were less aggressive and more productive than Syrian bees.  From the Jerusalem Post:

Although Turkey is currently in the dog house for many Israelis because of its involvement in the violent Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, during biblical times the Israelites imported bees from Turkey for the industrial production of honey in the Beit She’an Valley, according to a new archeological discovery by researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The team, headed by HU archeology Prof. Amihai Mazar, found a total of 30 intact hives in the ruins of the city of Tel Rehov, dating back to 900 BCE, as well as evidence that there had been 100-200 hives made of straw and unbaked clay.

Three millennia ago, the joint Israelite-Canaanite settlement had 2,000 residents.

The hives, lined up in an orderly way, may be the earliest complete beehives ever discovered and offer a glimpse of ancient beekeeping during biblical times.

The team of archeologists and biologists was surprised that bee remnants had been found in an urban setting.


Syrian bees are aggressive and irascible, said Bloch.

Thus, it would have been difficult to keep them within a dense urban area. The Anatalyan bee, which produces five to eight times more honey, is less aggressive, making it possible to raise them in an urban setting.

The Beit She’an Valley digs also showed evidence of widespread commerce with lands in the eastern Mediterranean, as well as techniques for transferring bees in large pottery vases or portable hives. An Assyrian stamp from the 8th century BCE provided evidence that the bees had been brought 400 km. south from the Taurus Mountains in southern Turkey – a distance that was just slightly shorter than that between Taurus and Tel Rehov. Thus, the import of “docile” bees apparently was a solution for the beekeepers of the Land of Israel.

The full article is here.

Labels: ,

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Re-inauguration of Herod’s Gate

Renovation work has been completed on Herod’s Gate (aka Flowers Gate) and a dedication ceremony is scheduled for June 28.  From the Israel Antiquities Authority:

Herod’s Gate and sections of the walls adjacent to it were treated during the course of 2009 as part of the Jerusalem City Walls Conservation and Rehabilitation Project, which is funded by the Prime Minister’s Office, administered by the Jerusalem Development Authority and implemented by the Conservation Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The rehabilitation work on the gate took four months to complete and was conducted in cooperation with the local residents and merchants so as not to disrupt the bustling urban activity that is characteristic of the place.

The conservation and rehabilitation measures to the gate were preceded by very strict preparations that included a meticulous conservation and historical survey and documentation of the gate. During the course of the conservation work there the IAA Conservation Department had to contend with the complicated challenge of working in a teeming urban and commercial environment. The gate’s facades and interior received extensive treatment that included a thorough cleaning, treating the stones and decorations that have been subjected to years of weathering and removing hazards that stemmed from vegetation taking root and vandalism, as well as moisture penetrating into the fabric of the city wall. Among other actions that were taken, all of the electrical and water infrastructures that “adorned” the gate’s facades were removed and properly reinstalled so as not to detract from the appearance of the gate.

The Old City walls were built in the sixteenth century by the sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Within the framework of that project Herod’s Gate was first inaugurated in the year 1539 CE. The gate was constructed originally as a postern gate which only allowed people and unharnessed animals to enter the city. At the end of the nineteenth century an opening was breached in the gate’s northern façade which allowed passage directly into the city. Remains of the sentry post that protected the original entrance can still be seen in the gate’s eastern façade.

The full press release is here (temporary link), along with a link to a zip file with five photographs showing the exterior and interior of the gatehouse, before and after restoration.

Herod's Gate, tb042403205

Herod’s Gate, 2003.  Notice original postern gate on left.  The large opening in the northern facade was only made in the late 19th century.

Herods Gate, tb010310664Herod’s Gate, January 2010


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Radar Imaging Reveals Hyksos Capital

The Hyksos controlled Egypt from roughly 1650 to 1550 BC and it was likely one of their rulers who was the pharaoh “who knew not Joseph” and put the Israelites in slavery (Exod 1:8).  From Discovery News:

Radar imaging in Egypt's Nile Delta has unveiled the outlines of a buried city that was the stronghold of foreign occupiers some 3,500 years ago, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities announced Monday.

Discovered by a team of Austrian archaeologists in Tell el-Daba in the northeastern Nile Delta, the ruins belong to the southern suburban quarters of Avaris, the capital of the Hyksos kings who formed Egypt's 15th dynasty.

Known as the “rulers of foreign countries” (probably of Asiatic roots),  the Hyksos infiltrated Egypt and came to dominate the Nile valley for over a century during the Second Intermediate Period (1664-1569 B.C.).

From their strategic capital, Avaris, these foreign rulers are credited with introducing horse-drawn chariots into Egypt and controlling the lucrative trade routes with the Near East and the Mediterranean world.

The full article is here.

HT: Ferrell Jenkins

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

ESV Bible Atlas

My first impression of this new atlas came from the weight of the box on my doorstep last night.  This atlas weighs even more than the ESV Study Bible, and it probably weighs more than any two atlases on my shelf.  What makes it so heavy?

  • 175 full-color maps
  • 70 photographs
  • 3-D re-creations of biblical objects and sites
  • indexes
  • timelines
  • 65,000 words of narrative description
  • a CD with searchable indexes and digital maps
  • a removable, 16.5 x 22-inch map of Israel

Don’t miss the significance of 175 maps.  That means you see many events and perspectives mapped out that you probably never have before (see Ritmeyer’s comment below).  esv_atlas

Another phenomenal resource of this atlas are the reconstruction drawings.  Some of these were published in the ESV Study Bible, and they are even more appealing on glossy paper.  They are also easier to find, as you do not have to page through large sections of the Bible to find what you’re looking for.

James Hoffmeier (see below) says the photographs are brilliant, and I am delighted to have contributed a large number of these.  It is a real pleasure to see some of my favorite images presented in such an attractive book.

Many readers here will be thrilled that the atlas includes a CD with the maps.  Many publishers never release the digital version, and those that do usually make you buy it separately (I have too many books that I’ve had to buy twice).  I love Crossway’s commitment to being generous to its customers and I hope that it becomes the new standard.

Price: $35, with free shipping(!) from Amazon.  With the CD, removable map, and full-color imagery, the book is worth much more.

Conclusion: Highly recommended

Still not convinced?  What if you were offered a CD with 125 biblical maps for only $35?  I get requests for such all the time.  I don’t know where to find one for $135, let alone $35.  Until now.  And they’ll throw in a massive book and an attractive wall map for free. 

Many scholars are impressed, including James K. Hoffmeier and Leen Ritmeyer.

“This Atlas is a wonderfully illustrated tool to aid the layperson, student of the Scripture, or pastor who wants to dig deeper and gain new insights and appreciation of the setting, context, and message of the Bible. The text is easy to follow, pictures are brilliant, and maps are incredibly useful as the reader moves through the related narratives. I highly recommend this marvelous resource.”
James K. Hoffmeier, Professor of Old Testament & Near Eastern Archaeology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“I had the privilege of being involved in the production of drawings based on the latest research for the ESV Study Bible. It is a joy to see these drawings plus the original ESV Study Bible maps, woven together with numerous new maps, brilliantly evocative photographs and useful indexes to make up the new Crossway Bible Atlas. This volume will become an indispensable companion for Bible students, fulfilling every expectation you might have of such a tool. Particularly innovative is the use of terrain imagery to facilitate the reader’s understanding of such Biblical viewpoints as that of Abraham from Hebron over the cities of the plain or Moses from Mt. Nebo.”
Leen Ritmeyer, Archaeological Consultant

Update (6/23): Leen Ritmeyer notes that you can view 45 pages of the atlas here.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Weekend Roundup

Yesterday was the first day of excavation in the history of Tell Burna (Bornat).  They have already uncovered fortifications.  Maybe one of these days someone will go back to Azekah.  There must be treasures untold there.

Last week’s LandMinds show was entitled “Mystery: Who Built Ramat Rahel?

The Wall Street Journal runs a brief article on the display on James Henry Breasted at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Hershel Shanks has written an autobiography, but it is entitled Freeing the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Adventures of an Archaeology Outsider.  My bet is that it’s an interesting read.  Whatever you think of his ideas and approach, Shanks has had a significant impact on biblical archaeology.  The NYT has a brief article in connection to the book’s release.

Logos Bible Software has a prepublication special entitled “Travels through Bible Lands Collection” (now $130).  The description claims that “these fifteen volumes embody some of the best travel writing of the nineteenth century.”  That could be, though I’ve never heard of the majority of the authors or titles. 

Perhaps you didn’t know that you could subscribe to the BiblePlaces Blog on the Kindle.  This blog is reviewed in that context at the Kindle Blog Report.

HT: Joe Lauer

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Radiocarbon Study and Egyptian Chronology

From Science magazine:

Just when did Egyptian pharaohs such as King Tut and Rameses II rule? Historians have heatedly debated the exact dates. Now a radiocarbon study concludes that much of the assumed chronology was right, though it corrects some controversial dates and may overturn a few pet theories.

"This is an extremely important piece of research that shows clearly that historical dating methods and radiocarbon dates are compatible for ancient Egypt," says Kate Spence, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

Egyptian records, such as the writings of the 3rd century B.C.E. historian Manetho and inscriptions found at key sites such as Saqqara and Karnak, provide what are called "floating chronologies" because they are internally consistent but not anchored to absolute dates. On the other hand, they sometimes refer to astronomical events whose dates can be calculated today. Thus, scholars are confident that they are not wildly off the mark. But it's difficult to be precise. For example, the first known pyramid, the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, was built as a tomb for King Djoser, and historians usually put the beginning of his reign between 2667 and 2592 B.C.E. But one recent paper by Spence, based on astronomical calculations, put it as much as 75 years later. Radiocarbon dating has been too imprecise to resolve these contradictions because in this period it usually has error ranges of between 100 and 200 years.


One major controversy remains unresolved: the timing of the massive eruption of the volcanic island of Thera in the Aegean Sea, which transformed the history of the eastern Mediterranean and has important implications for understanding the relationship between Egypt and the Minoans, another powerful culture of the time. Previous radiocarbon dating suggests that the eruption took place at least 100 years before the New Kingdom began, which the new dating puts at no earlier than 1570 B.C.E. But radiocarbon and historical dating by University of Vienna archaeologist Manfred Bietak's team at Tell el-Dab'a in Egypt has concluded that the Thera eruption took place during the New Kingdom era.

The full article is here.

HT: Joe Lauer, who provides a list of related articles

Labels: ,

Friday, June 18, 2010

Omrit Excavations 2010

Excavations at the site of Omrit in northern Israel are wrapping up for the summer, and from the photos posted on the unofficial blog, it looks like they made some impressive discoveries this year.  In particular, note the beautifully frescoed wall near the earliest temple. 

Omrit is not far from Caesarea Philippi (Banias), and the excavators have suggested that Herod’s temple was located at Omrit instead of Caesarea Philippi.  A series of temples have been found at Omrit, dating from approximately 50 BC to AD 360.  For a brief review, see this post.

Thanks to Roi Brit for the tip.

Labels: , ,

Questioning the Identification of the Magdala Synagogue

Tom Powers began to comment here on yesterday’s post on Magdala, but it grew to such length that he put it up on his own blog.  Tom questions the present identification of the synagogue to the first century.

However, I must ask certain questions about the present find, especially in relation to the other synagogues long dated to the late 2nd Temple period in this country - and there are only a handful: Masada, Herodium, Gamla, Jericho, and perhaps one or two others. For one thing, what other synagogue from this period has a mosaic floor (of any kind or design)? What other synagogue lacks stepped benches around the periphery of the hall? What other synagogue has a decorative carved stone set into the middle of the floor? In short, everything about the Magdala structure seems to be an anomaly – if it is what the archaeologists claim.

These are good questions.  Typically mosaic floors from this time period are found in houses or palaces, not in synagogues.  Other synagogues have benches on the walls, including the 1st century synagogues at Masada and Gamla (for a reconstruction and photo of the latter, see here).

Tom is not questioning the date of the building (contra the post title; see update below), but rather whether this building is in fact a synagogue.  It is a curious fact that archaeologists too often tend to find exactly what they’re looking for.  Might this be a public building, not necessarily religious in nature?  Tom questions whether the inscribed stone with a menorah is a sufficient basis for the synagogue identification.  One further question in that regard is what periods the site was occupied.

You can read Tom’s whole post here.

UPDATE: Tom has kindly informed me that I have misrepresented his post.  Indeed I have!  I read what I expected rather than what he wrote.  I apologize to him and to my readers.  The above post has been corrected.  In case it is not clear above, Tom questions the function of the building, not its date, as I previously stated.

Magdala synagogue, gf0094

Magdala synagogue

Magdala synagogue, gf0092

Carved stone in Magdala synagogue. Photos courtesy of Gordon Franz.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Volunteers Needed at Magdala

Volunteer coordinator for the excavations at Magdala has written that they are preparing to excavate around the newly discovered synagogue and they are looking for volunteers.  But they’re offering something that few (or no?) excavations do: free room and board.

The dig will finance accommodations (meals and transportation) for volunteers for up to one month, if you wish to stay more, we can prepare a special price for you. The accommodations will be in Tiberias, a town 5km /3 mi from Migdal, right in the center of town in a house in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, great location, near shops and restaurants, it’s beside the hospital and right across the street is the information center.

All rooms have bathrooms with towels, Air Conditioning system, internet and there are 2 small kitchenettes. A big dining room an outdoors dining area with TV, washing machine, refrigerator, freezer and parking lot.

Volunteers are responsible for their own transportation costs. Excavations begin next month and are scheduled to go through 2013. 

A new blog has lots of information, including several videos (in Italian) of previous discoveries.

This could be a great opportunity to uncover a town very close to the center of Jesus’ ministry and dating from his time (unlike most of the excavations at nearby Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida).  If you’re already in Israel (student or otherwise), you might consider a “summer vacation” in Magdala/Tiberias as a nice chance to get away and serve, learn, and make new friends.

Sea of Galilee view west to Arbel and Magdala, tb060105640

View towards Magdala and Arbel from east

Labels: , ,

Biblical Archaeology in 2010

Brian Janeway has just posted a review of last year’s ASOR meetings in an article entitled “Biblical Archaeology in 2010: Going Strong Still!”  If you missed the meetings or just would like a review, start here.

Eight papers were given on Khirbet Qeiyafa, the 10th century site next to the Elah Valley.

Khirbet Qeiyafa is the only known fortified city in Judah dated to the time span from the end of the 11th century to the beginning of the 10th century BC. The excavated pottery places the site in Iron IIA period and includes finger-stamped jar handles, ‘pre-LMLK’ jars, and late Philistine decorated pottery known as ‘Ashdod Ware.’ Petrographic analysis shows that the Philistine vessels were not made locally and were probably imported to the site. Dr. Aren Maeir, director of the excavations at nearby Tel es-Safi/Gath confirmed during the response period that the pottery assemblage was definitely not Philistine. Interesting comments were also offered by Bill Dever and John Holladay, both of whom compared the Qeiyafa pottery assemblage to Gezer 8 below the Solomonic Gate and Jane Cahill believes it parallels material found in Jerusalem above the stepped-stone structure at a time that coincides with an expansion of the city. Ron Tappy spoke about a new early 10th century phase found at Tell Zayit that predates the famous abecedary inscription.

The Elah Valley was the scene of the battle of David and Goliath, and this was the subject of another paper:

Another interesting presentation was given by Jeffrey Zorn of Cornell University entitled “Reconsidering Goliath: An Iron I Philistine Maryannu.” In it he revises the idea that Goliath was an infantry soldier through a textual analysis of his weaponry and accoutrements. Zorn asserts that the fish scale body armor, probably attached to an underlying tunic, bronze greaves, which are only found in Mycenaean Greek contexts c. 1200 BC, and his being accompanied by a shield-bearer, all point toward Goliath being a maryannu. Maryannu is a Hurrian term for an elite warrior who fought on chariots, usually alongside two attendants, as attested in Egyptian depictions at Medinet Habu of 3-man Egyptian and Hittite teams fighting at the Battle of Kadesh (c. 1275 BC).

Janeway reviews other presentations, but I’ll excerpt only one more.

“Hebrew  Bible, History, and Archaeology” featured papers by Anson Rainey, who made the case for identifying biblical Ziklag at Tell Sera’, based on biblical and medieval texts and Jeffrey Hudon of Andrews University, who proposed that the now famous LMLK storage jar seals had a longer period of production and use that originated during the reign of King Uzziah in the late 8th century and not to the later Hezekiah. The circumstances in 2 Chron 26:9-10 in its description of royal estates and viticulture occur in the same regions as the stamps have been found. They served as important royal symbols of the Judahite kingdom. These estates were established all across the kingdom from ‘En Gedi to the Shephelah and were the functional explanation for the LMLK stamps according to another paper by Hayah Katz of The Open University of Israel.

The full article is here.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Festival of Light in Jerusalem

Jerusalem’s Festival of Light ends this week.  Arutz-7 reports:

Traveling from all over the country to witness the artistic display, Israelis enjoyed strolling in and around the ancient walled Old City June 10-16, viewing light displays which were, for the most part, free of charge. 

For a fee, visitors could enjoy the opening ceremony -- The Light Concert in Sultan's Pool -- opposite the Old City walls and thousands did so. The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra played light classical music while lights beamed towards the sky in time to it bounced back from the clouds.  The players were bathed in myriad colors of shimmering lights. The program began with an orchestrated medley of songs of Jerusalem and included a surprise--simultaneous fireworks and beams of light  during the playing of Tschaikovsky's 1812 Overture. . Flautist Noam Buchman played "From the top of Mount Scopus" as the finale.

See the article for a dozen photos.

Labels: ,

Status Quo for the Upper Room

The Vatican will not be taking control of the Upper Room (Room of Last Supper, Coenaculum) according to this report in Arutz-7:

Israel National News has learned that the Last Supper Room is off the negotiating table, at least for now, in talks between Israel and the Vatican orchestrated by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.


One of the most difficult points of contention between Israel and the Vatican is the question of who controls the Last Supper Room. The room is said to mark the burial site of Kings Solomon and Hezekiah, and is also located in the same structure that houses the tomb of King David. Further complicating the matter is the fact that the building is known as the oldest Catholic church in the world, and has also served as a synagogue and as a mosque -- in fact, Muslim inscriptions can still be seen on its walls. To simplify matters, the Last Supper Room was taken out of the agreement. "We basically reached the principle that it will not be part of this agreement," the source said. "We have wanted the status quo, and they have wanted sovereignty," since negotiations began 11 years ago. "At this point, it will not be discussed as part of this agreement, which is progress."

Progress was also apparently made on the issue of Israel's right to expropriate land when necessary, albeit not without some caveats. The status quo was maintained on most of the 21 disputed properties in the Land of Israel, but there were six outstanding exceptions in which Israel has allegedly agreed not to confiscate land "unless there is an extreme need": the Mount of Beatitudes, Tabha, Capernaum, the Church of the Annunciation, Mt. Tabor and the Garden of Gethsemane. "Obviously if there is a security situation, the State of Israel can expropriate, as is the sovereign right of any nation," the source said. "After 11 years, that's real progress," he said.

The full story is here.

Upper Room interior, tb070807001

Traditional Upper Room, Jerusalem

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Recommended: Zondervan Atlas of the Bible

For the last twenty years I have used and recommended Carl G. Rasmussen’s Zondervan NIV Atlas of the Bible (1989). This week the revised edition (now entitled, Zondervan Atlas of the Bible) was released and my appreciation for it has only grown. In short, I highly recommend this atlas for everyone from church-goers to Israel tour participants to college and seminary students. Here are a few reasons why I am so enthusiastic:

First-person knowledge of the land: The author has not only led dozens of study trips to Israel, Turkey, and Greece, he has lived in Israel for many years. His intimate knowledge and love of therasmussen_atlas land and Scripture is reflected throughout the book.

Appreciation for geographical regions: Unfortunately it is unusual for an atlas to survey the distinct geographical units, but this atlas provides helpful summaries of the primary characteristics of the twenty major regions, such as the Jezreel Valley, Hill Country of Benjamin, Dead Sea, and Edom. If this is essential for you in an atlas, this is the one to get.

Historical survey from Genesis 3 to Revelation 3: The author begins in the Garden of Eden and ends with the churches of Revelation. That means that whatever event you want to know more about, you’ll find it here. More important than the broad scope is the accurate, knowledgeable treatment of the stories and issues.

Accurate, colorful maps: This atlas has more than a hundred full-color maps. There is a map on nearly every other page. I could wish for a few more detailed maps (e.g., Isaiah 10:28-32), but I’m certainly not disappointed with the quality or appearance.

Conservative convictions: This means a lot to me, and I was encouraged again and again to see that the author holds to time-tested views consistent with the biblical witness. That includes an early date for the patriarchs, an early date for the conquest, a willingness to allow that some of the Habiru may have been Israelites, and a high regard for the biblical descriptions of the reigns of David and Solomon.

Sound judgment: This, of course, is shorthand for “agrees with my conclusions,” but I was pleased to see, for example, that he suggests that Joshua’s Ai is “probably” Khirbet el-Maqatir, ignores the recent proposal that locates Sodom at Tell el-Hammam, and does not equate Kh. Qeiyafa with Shaaraim.

The end of the book: There are some terrific resources here, including the section on the disciplines of historical geography, Jerusalem, and the fantastic geographical dictionary and index.

Cost: $26 (Amazon). 

What could be better? Some might not like the small font, which I assume is necessary because of the profusion of maps, timelines, and photos. I regret that the endnotes were removed in this edition, and students who want to pursue issues he brings up will not find any help here. I wish he had written more about (and come to different conclusions on) some New Testament issues, such as the locations of Emmaus, the baptism of Jesus, Bethsaida, and the Gadara/Gerasa issue. Some resources should have been updated, such as Context of Scripture instead of the 1969 edition of ANET.  In my opinion, publishers should avoid using a photo of a non-biblical site (Petra) on the cover of a Bible atlas.

Overall, I highly recommend this new edition and I would certainly commend it for use in preparatory work before traveling to the Holy Lands as well as for college and graduate courses on Bible geography.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Weekend Roundup

The latest LandMinds program features Wheaton professor Daniel Master concerning his excavations of Ashkelon.  This year they are focusing on periods before and after the Philistine occupation.

Another recent LandMinds program interviews Amnon Ben-Tor, excavator of Hazor.  The second part of the show features the directors of the survey and excavation team of Tel Burna (Bornat), possible biblical Libnah.

Over on PaleoBabble, Michael Heiser has announced a new online institute in which you can study the Bible, the ancient languages, ancient history, and more for a very low price. 

In Jeremiah 32, the Lord tells the prophet to purchase a plot of land even though the Babylonians are about to conquer the city.  If you want to see how archaeological background can help us to understand the details of a biblical story, check out Gordon Franz’s “archaeological exposition” of the passage.

360Cities has some beautiful panoramas from Egypt, including the Pyramids in Giza and the Karnak Temple in Luxor.

If you haven’t had a chance to walk through the sewers of ancient Jerusalem, Ferrell Jenkins is guiding tours today.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, June 11, 2010

Northern Hinnom Excavations

A month ago, I noted an excavation in the northern Hinnom Valley of Jerusalem that was investigated and photographed by Tom Powers.  The architecture was partly obscured in those photographs by tarps. 

Reader Roi Brit passed the area a few days ago and noted that the excavation appears to have stopped and the tarps have been removed.  Craig Dunning has sent some photographs he took this morning.


View of excavations, looking north


View of excavations, looking south.  The artisans’ quarter is visible in the background. mamilla-dig-20100611-02Close-up of excavations

Jerusalem aerial from sw, tb010703209

Jerusalem from southwest.  Area of excavations is circled in red.

If anyone knows more about what we’re looking at, let us know.

Labels: ,

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Excavation Time-lapse

Wonder what it’s like to be on an archaeological excavation?  This two-minute time-lapse video filmed a few weeks ago at Khirbet el-Maqatir (Ai?) will give you one perspective.

HT: Associates for Biblical Research

Labels: ,

Tourism Breaking Records in Israel

Israel hosted more tourists last month than ever before in the month of May.  That’s not enough, says Stas Misezhnikov, Minister of Tourism.  From Arutz-7:

309,000 tourists visited Israel in May 2010 – an all-time record for the month of May – and an increase of 4% over May 2008, which was Israel's record year for tourism. 1.4 million tourists have visited Israel since the beginning of the year, an increase of 11% over the same period in 2008. Of these, 1.1 million remained in Israel for at least one night – an increase of 5% over 2008.

"In accordance with the Tourism Ministry's three-year plan,” Misezhnikov said, “an additional million tourists will have visited Israel in 2012, in total four million tourists and business people. We must be ready to offer them an attractive tourism solution... Competition with other countries in the region will intensify significantly in the coming months and years and, in order to compete, the ministry will allocate a significant portion of its budget to helping entrepreneurs.”


As part of this policy, the Tourism Ministry's Investment Administration approved on Tuesday grants worth 65 million shekels to five hotel projects in Jerusalem and the Galilee. The five are the Waldorf Astoria and a boutique hotel in Ein Kerem, both in Jerusalem, and HaGoshrim Hotel, Ein Hahula, and Prima Tiberias in the Galilee.

The full story is here.  I have to wonder about the 300,000 tourists who didn’t stay in Israel for at least one night.


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

3,000 Miles of Bike Trails in Israel

The government of Israel plans to spend $25 million to increase the amount of bike trails in the country from 360 miles to 3,000.  The authorities anticipate that increased revenue from bike tourism will pay for the expense.  From the Jerusalem Post:

An NIS 100 million five-year plan to create 4,900 km. of bike trails across the country was approved on Tuesday by the social-economic cabinet chaired by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud). The plan was drafted by the Tourism Ministry following a government decision from March 2008.

Biking tourism worldwide generates billions of dollars a year, the ministry said, and Israel has the potential to become a destination site for biking with the right investment.

To achieve that, the ministry will create 4,900 km. of mainly rural bike trails, mostly in the Negev and the Galilee, with connections to major population centers as well. At present, there are 600 km. of trails and another 1,400 km. under construction.

“Developing a national infrastructure for biking will contribute to the diversity of tourist options in the periphery and provide impetus for small-to-medium size businesses by creating more jobs. Close to 80 percent of the trails will be developed in the Negev and the Galilee, at a cost of NIS 40m., and there is no doubt that this investment will bear fruit both from a regional perspective and in terms of the economy in general, Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov (Israel Beiteinu) said in a statement.

“It is important to stress that creating the infrastructure will turn Israel into an attractive destination for bikers from around the world and an accompanying marketing plan will be developed as well.” In Europe, some 19 million people go on biking vacations and stay at about 30,000 hotel type venues each year, the ministry said, with more and more people joining the trend, which makes it a good investment with a future of high returns.

The story continues here.


Atlas Giveaway

The publisher is giving away a free copy of the revised edition of the Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, by Carl Rasmussen, drawing a name from the list of those who comment on what biblical place they would most like to visit.  Current entries include the Sea of Galilee, Jericho, Philippi, the Areopagus, and Syracuse.  If you’re interested, you can throw your name in the hat.

I received a pre-press copy of the atlas a few days ago and look forward to recommending it to one and all in the near future.  It’s only $26 at Amazon with a Pre-order Price Guarantee.


Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Nazareth Graves Excavated

Construction in Nazareth required a salvage excavation, and the presence of graves required quick action in order to minimize protests of ultra-orthodox.  From the Jerusalem Post:

In one day of intense work, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) completed on Sunday the excavation of ancient burial caves, uncovered at a construction site on Paulus Road in the center of Nazareth.

Groups of haredim, who arrived at the site in the early morning hours, protested what they considered disrespect to  the dead. Police detained 49 of them for disturbing the peace and trespassing on the private property of the entrepreneur who is erecting a commercial center there.

A variety of bronze tools and bones, some of them human, were found in a series of caves from two periods in the Middle Bronze Age (2,200 BCE and 2,000 BCE), and in a series of caves from the Iron Age (1,000 BCE).

The story continues here.  For some reason, the photo posted is the same as that from yesterday’s story of the Tel Kasis excavation.  My guess is that the photo belongs here and not to the Kasis story.

I do not recall any previous evidence for Iron Age settlement in Nazareth.  The city is first mentioned in the New Testament, and even then ignored by all other contemporary sources.

Labels: ,

Evidence of Honeybees in Ancient Israel

The beehives discovered several years ago at Tel Rehov are the subject of a careful collaborative study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.   The LA Times has a popular report of the article:

Israel is referred to repeatedly in the Bible — 17 times, in fact — as the "land of milk and honey," but until three years ago, archaeologists had discovered little firm evidence that beekeeping was ever practiced there. Many scholars, in fact, assumed "honey" referred to a nectar from dates or other fruits.

Then, three years ago, researchers found a 3,000-year-old apiary in the Iron Age city of Tel Rehov in the Jordan Valley, the oldest known commercial beekeeping facility in the world, suggesting that the word "honey" likely referred to the real thing. Now the same researchers have gotten an even bigger surprise: The bees that were kept in the hives were most likely from Turkey, hundreds of miles away.

"This is a very special discovery … because there is no evidence from before for bringing any kind of animals from such a distance, especially bees, which represent a quite complicated, sophisticated type of agriculture," said archaeologist Amihai Mazar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, lead author of a report published online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "This throws new light on the economy of the biblical period."

The findings "would imply an incredible amount of commodity trading of bees," said bee expert Gene Kritsky of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, editor of American Entomologist. The importation of Italian bees to the United States in the 1860s "was thought to be a big deal then," he said, "but the Israelis may have been doing this as far back as the first millennium BC."

The article continues here.  The story is also reported in the New Scientist (3 photos) and Wired (4 photos). 

The original discovery was reported by Haaretz, Arutz-7, and the Jerusalem Post.

HT: Creation Safaris and Joe Lauer


Monday, June 07, 2010

Late Bronze Cultic Items Found Near Jokneam

From the Jerusalem Post:

A major 3,500 year old archaeological find was made at Tel Kasis dig near the Tishbi Junction in the North, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday.

The site was found to include over 100 undamaged religious utensils, including tableware such as cups and plates, vessels for storing oils and statuettes some of which were imported from Mykonos in Greece.

The brief story continues here.  A photo from the lab is posted here.  Tel Kasis is located 1.5 miles (2.4 km) due north of Tel Jokneam, astride the “Kishon Pass” between Mount Carmel and the Shephelah of Galilee.

Kishon Pass and Mount Carmel from Tell Jokneam, tbs104069900 View north from Jokneam towards Haifa

The Israel Antiquities Authority has issued a press release with more detail and half a dozen photographs showing some of the outstanding finds.

In the past the ancients would descend into the rock-hollow by way of two broad, hewn steps. Inside the cavity whole vessels were found piled one atop the other and other vessels were broken by those that had been placed upon them. Among the finds that were recovered: a cultic vessel that was used for burning incense, a sculpted face of a woman that was part of a cultic cup used in dedicating a libation to a god, goblets and bowls with high bases and tableware that was intended for eating and drinking. Other vessels that were found had been brought from Mycenae in Greece, including a storage vessel for precious oils – evidence of the ancient trade relations that existed with Greece.

According to archaeologists Uzi Ad and Dr. Edwin van den Brink, the excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, this is an extremely rare discovery. Until now no such pits as these have been found from 3,500 years ago. It is also extraordinary to find scores of vessels that are in such a good state of preservation. In most excavations fragments of pottery vessels are found, whereas here the vessels were removed from the rock-hollow intact. Each object was removed with the greatest of care, was drawn and documented and revealed beneath it a wealth of other finds. The vessels are numbered and their precise location in the heap is recorded for future research. According to the archaeologists, it is obvious that considerable time and thought were invested in the placement of the vessels in the rock-hollow, as evidence by the different kinds of vessels that were buried separately.

The complete press release and photos are here.  Anson Rainey identifies the site (also spelled Tell el-Qassis) with Helkath (Josh 19:25; 21:31), a Levitical city on the southern tip of the tribal territory of Asher (The Sacred Bridge, 183).

UPDATE (6/9): Discovery News has posted an audio slide show, featuring an explanation by one of the excavators and some outstanding photographs.  HT: Joe Lauer


Friday, June 04, 2010

Review of Vermes, Story of the Scrolls

I’m a couple of weeks behind on this one, but if you haven’t already read this review of Geza Vermes’s The Story of the Scrolls in the Jerusalem Report, you may enjoy it.

One Sunday morning in 1948, a Jewish-born Hungarian student at the Fathers of Notre Dame de Sion Catholic order’s seminary in Louvain watched as his professor in class held up a photograph of Chapter 40 from the Book of Isaiah. The young seminarian’s curiosity was instantly piqued: the photograph was of a 2,000-year-old manuscript fragment from a cache discovered a year before by Bedouin shepherds in caves at Qumran near the Dead Sea.

“Staring at it, I became captivated,” Geza Vermes told The Jerusalem Report by phone from his home in Oxford, England, where he is Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies at Wolfson College. “With youthful zeal I vowed to solve the greatest Hebrew manuscript discovery of all time. Ever since, the scrolls and my life have been intertwined.”

Six decades on, Vermes clearly remains captivated by the ancient documents unearthed in the Judean desert. At the slightest prodding he declaims at length on them with undiminished enthusiasm. And while the world’s leading authority on the historic manuscripts may not wear his love of the scrolls on his sleeve, he does often wear it on his tie. Emblazoned on a custom-made necktie that Vermes, an owlish man with old-world charm, wears for his public lectures are fragments of the Community Rule, a sectarian document recovered from Cave 4 at Qumran, which the Oxford professor personally worked on deciphering.

The review article continues here.  The book is available from Amazon for $10-12.

HT: Joe Lauer


Thursday, June 03, 2010

Oriental Institute Video Lectures

The Oriental Institute has posted online the video files for the Member’s Lectures series.  This is yet another terrific resource from the OI, and you can’t beat the price.  Lectures include:

Tracking the Frontiers of the Hittite Empire
Ann Gunter, Northwestern University
April 7, 2010

Biblical Archaeology, the Limits of Science, and the Borders of Belief
Nina Burleigh
March 3, 2010

Death's Dominion: Chalcolithic Religion and the Ritual Economy of the Southern Levant
Yorke Rowan, Oriental Institute
February 3, 2010

Sea of Galilee Boat
Shelley Wachsmann, Texas A&M University
Cosponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America
October 7, 2009

After the Revolution: the Oriental Institute and Archaeology in Iran
Abbas Alizadeh, Director, Iran Prehistoric Project, Oriental Institute
October 7, 2009

Past, Present and Future of the Landscape in the Land of King
Midas: Gordion, Turkey
Naomi Miller, University of Pennsylvania Museum MASCA-Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology
March 4, 2009

Death and the City: Recent Work at Tell Brak, Syria
Augusta McMahon, University of Cambridge
January 7, 2009


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

That Torrid Basin

Mount Hermon and Sea of Galilee, mat12545

George Adam Smith, 1909:

In that torrid basin, approached through such sterile surroundings, the lake feeds every sense of the body with life. Sweet water, full of fish, a surface of sparkling blue, tempting down breezes from above, bringing forth breezes of her own, the Lake of Galilee is at once food, drink and air, a rest to the eye, coolness in the heat, an escape from the crowd, and a facility of travel very welcome in so exhausting a climate. (Source)

Mount Hermon rises above the lake.  The trees of Tabgha are visible on the left shoreline.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Preparing for an Excavation

The Ashkelon Excavations Blog has had a number of posts on the practicalities of archaeology as they gear up for the start of their season next week.  If you’ve thought of joining any archaeological team, you’ll get a better sense for what it’s like from “A Day in the Life of an Archaeologist.”

By 5:10 we are at the Pottery Compound where we one and all race to grab our tools. We do this by the light of the florescent moon which pierces the still dark morning. Honestly, it is still dark! Then, tools in hand we strike off in the direction we believe will lead us to our designated excavation areas. (We haven't lost anyone yet and, fingers crossed, we won't this year.)

By 5:30 we are usually hard at work even though we can't really see anything. We work using a range of tools from dental picks and tiny paint brushes on up to full size pick axes and shovels (although they have a more fancy name). We dump all the dirt we dig up into buckets called gufas and then haul it away.

The post continues here.

If you’re interested in more of the logistics, the Gath team has also made available the excellent packet of materials that they provide to volunteers. 

City of David excavation with danger of slippery sign, tb112503932

Excavation in City of David, Jerusalem

Labels: ,