Monday, February 28, 2011

Free Books on Archaeology & Ancient History Available in Kindle Form

Let me start by saying that you do not need an Amazon Kindle to read Kindle books. Amazon offers free reading apps for iPads, iPhones, PCs, Macs, Androids, BlackBerries and Windows Phones, so you can read Kindle books on any of those devices. Personally I recently entered the world of Kindle by purchasing a Kindle Wi-Fi, and I would recommend the device to anyone who enjoys reading. (There is also a 3G version and a version with a 9.7" display.) But you don't need to spend $139 or more to get the books referenced below. They are available absolutely free through the use of one of the free reading apps.

One of the things that attracted me to the Kindle was all of the free books that are available in Kindle form. Amazon advertises: "Over 1.8 million free, out-of-copyright, pre-1923 books are available." Many of these books are "Popular Classics" such as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Pride and Prejudice, and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. However, some of the free books are out of copyright works related to archaeology and ancient history that I think would be of interest to readers of this blog. Here are the works that I have found so far that fit this category:
  • Flavius Josephus, Against Apion, translated by William Whiston, (c) not listed.
Let me also point out that this is not an exhaustive list. In addition to the fact that there are probably other books available on Amazon's website that I missed, works from the Internet Archive, Open Library, Project Gutenberg, and can be delivered to your Kindle or Kindle App as well. More information on how to do that can be found here. Also, I did not include books that are available for very little money through the Kindle Store. Perhaps we'll explore those titles at a later date.

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that these books are free, and to some degree "you get what you pay for." So don't expect too much. For example, in many (if not all) cases, the illustrations that were included in the original book are not included in the free Kindle book. At the same time, if I had to choose between having a free Kindle version of a book and not having the book at all, I would choose the Kindle book. After all, if I find that the work is particularly valuable, I can always track down a physical copy of the book to use in serious research or a writing project. In that sense, these free books serve as a great introduction to some of the classic works on Middle Eastern archaeology and ancient history.

Also (although it is not exactly free) I should mention that there is a subscription available to the BiblePlaces Blog through the Kindle store for 99 cents a month. Unlike an RSS feed which only sends a stub about new posts, this subscription service delivers new posts in their entirety. The first 14 days of service are free, if you would like to try it out.

Anyone else know of any free books that would be of interest?


Chart: The Kingdom(s) of Israel

The following chart represents my baseline understanding of the kingdoms of Israel.  I use this chart (or one of its cousins) as a "big picture" tool when my students get bogged-down in the minutiae of the Kings/Chronicles narrative.  I also find this tool to be helpful in facilitating discussion regarding a comparison of different periods (i.e. David to Josiah or Hezekiah to Uzziah) or contemporaneous Israelite and Judahite kings.

For instance, one of my major research goals is to understand and contrast the relationship between Jehoshaphat king of Judah (873-848 BCE) and Ahab king of Israel (874-853 BCE) - while at the same time comparing the allied front of Ahab/Jehoshaphat to the Solomonic kingdom.  Were their respective reigns a return to Solomonic glory? Something more? Something less?  Was Jehoshaphat merely a vassal to the almighty Ahab? This chart does not answer these questions - but it allows the researcher and student alike to take into account the biblical, epigraphic, and archaeological data in the form of a "peak" or "valley."

This chart represents my own understanding of the biblical and archaeological history of ancient Israel  (i.e. very conservative).  It would be exceptionally helpful if the other side would create their own "peaks and valleys" chart - then we could compare geography.  Admittedly, their chart would not be quite as interesting (think Texas compared to California) - since it would be one long arduous climb out of the "valley" with only a couple "peaks" at the end.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Archaeology of Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities has initiated a new program called “Discover! Saudi Arabia” in an effort to promote the tourism industry. It is not easy to travel to Saudi Arabia, though apparently now tourist visas are being issued if you travel with a group organized by a legitimate tour company. [See comments—I am not able to determine whether Saudi Arabia is currently issuing tourist visas or not.]

A major exhibition of archaeological artifacts from Saudi Arabia named “Roads of Arabia” is presently making the museum rounds in Europe. It has already shown at the Louvre and just today completed its run in Barcelona. Eventually, the exhibition will make its way to major U.S. cities. Here is the exhibition description from the Louvre’s website.
This exhibition offers a journey through the heart of Arabia, orchestrated by photographs of the region's sumptuous landscapes. It takes the form of a series of stopovers in some of the peninsula's extensive oases, which in ancient times were home to powerful states or which, beginning in the 7th century, became Islamic holy places. The three hundred items chosen, most of which have never left their country of origin before, provide an original panorama of the different cultures that succeeded each other within the kingdom of Saudi Arabia from prehistoric times through the dawn of the modern world.

They reveal in particular the little-known past of a dazzling, prosperous Arabic world now being gradually discovered by archaeologists. Moving Neolithic funerary stelae, colossal statues of the kings of Lihyan (6th – 4th century BC), and silver tableware and precious jewelry placed in tombs testify to the dynamism of this civilization. Despite a hostile natural environment, the inhabitants succeeded in taking advantage of their country's geographical situation as a crossing point for the roads linking the shores of the Indian Ocean and the horn of Africa to Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Mediterranean world. Early in the first millennium BC this trans-Arabian trade flourished, bringing prosperity to the caravan cities and permeating the local culture with new fashions and ideas from the great neighboring empires.

The second section of the exhibition highlights the role of Arabia as the cradle of Islam. The roads became crowded with pilgrims as well as traders; a first group of exhibits evokes the pilgrim paths and Al-Rabadha, one of the principal stopping-places. Following this road as far as Mecca, a second group comprises a selection of funerary stelae illustrating the evolution of writing and ornamentation between the 10th and 16th century and providing precious information on Meccan society at the time. Muslim sovereigns vied with each other in their generosity towards holy places, with buildings and such ventures into embellishment as this monumental door from the Ka’ba, the gift of an Ottoman sultan.

A review of the exhibition can be read here and a few photos can be seen here.

Finally, Jeffrey Rose just published an article entitled “New Light on Human Prehistory in the Arabo-Persian Gulf Oasis” in the journal Current Anthropology (pdf available here). Rose suggests that in the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene the area now known as the Persian Gulf was a large oasis which was watered by the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Karun, and the Wadi Batin rivers. Readers may recall the suggestion that Wadi Batin was perhaps the Pishon River, mentioned in Genesis 2:11 in connection with the garden of Eden. On this latter point, see James A. Sauer, “The River Runs Dry: Creation Story Preserves Historical Memory,” Biblical Archaeology Review 22/4 (1996), pp. 52-57, 64 and the discussion in Barry J. Beitzel, The New Moody Atlas of the Bible (Chicago: Moody, 2009), pp. 88-90 and p. 280, note 16.

HT: Joe Lauer

Labels: , ,

Weekend Roundup

Efforts are underway to resurrect Iraq’s tourism industry. CNN reported in January on conservation work at the site of Babylon, and the Global Heritage Fund has been involved in similar work at Ur. In 2009 and 2010, the Iraqi government reported 165 tourists visited the country.

The online edition of Archaeology magazine has posted a piece entitled “Letter from Iraq: The Ziggurat Endures.” It was written by Michael Taylor, a National Guardsman who visited Ur in May, 2008. There are a few photos of the ziggurat and one of the royal tombs.

Last fall, American archaeologists returned to southern Iraq for the first time in 25 years. A report at PhysOrg outlines the research of Jennifer Pournelle. She is studying the importance of marshland resources, and how proximity to marshlands may have helped determine where ancients cities were founded in southern Iraq. A short video can be seen here.

Last Sunday, the Cairo Museum reopened, along with five other museums and all of Egypt’s antiquities sites. On Wednesday night, looters attempted to make off with a 160-ton, red granite statue of Ramses II located at Aswan. Their efforts were thwarted by security personnel (and maybe the size of the statue).

Zahi Hawass, Egypt's Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, has claimed that a 3,200 year-old funerary mask owned by the Saint Louis Art Museum was stolen from Egypt. The mask was discovered in excavations at Saqqara in 1952 and purchased by the museum for half-a-million dollars. The museum has filed suit to prevent seizure of the mask by the U.S. attorney’s office in St. Louis.

Beginning today and running through September 4, the Tennessee State Museum is featuring a three-part exhibition entitled Egyptian Relics, Replicas & Revivals: Treasures from Tutankhamun. The exhibit brings together objects and replicas from the University of Memphis, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Vanderbilt University, and the International Museum Institute of New York. Admission is free. Details are available at the museum’s website.

Anson Rainey Tributes
A week ago Saturday, Anson Rainey passed away at the age of 81. This past week, the radio program LandMinds produced a four-part tribute to Rainey in which they conducted interviews with Paul Wright of Jerusalem University College, and Yigal Levin and Aharon Demsky of Bar-Ilan University. Audio of the program can be found here. Biblical Archaeology Review also has a brief note about Rainey's passing on their website.

Thesaurus Linguae Graecae has made available an online edition of the Classical Greek lexicon Liddell-Scott-Jones, with hyperlinks to texts in the TLG database. The lexicon can be found here and an account of its print and digital versions here.

On Monday, March 21, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, Thomas Levy will speak at George Washington University’s Capitol Archaeological Institute in Washington, DC. His lecture is entitled “Quest for Solomon's Mines: Cyber-Archaeology and Recent Explorations in Jordan,” and will be presented at the Elliott School, 1957 E St. NW, Room 113. Both the lecture and a reception are free and open to the public. Some information is provided here.

HT: Joe Lauer and Jack Sasson

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sphinx of Hattusa

According to an online news article, Turkey’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ertuğrul Günay, is pressuring Germany to return a gate sphinx found at Hattusa, even threatening to revoke the German Archaeological Institute’s permit to excavate Hattusa. The Germans have been directing excavations at Hattusa, the ancient capital of the Hittite Empire, since 1906.

The sphinx in question is presently on display in the Pergamonmuseum in Berlin. It belongs to a pair of sphinxes from the Sphinx Gate of the Yerkapi rampart at Hattusa. The complementary sphinx is on display in the Museum of the Ancient Orient in Istanbul, Turkey.

Berlin Pergamonmuseum.
This is a copy of the sphinx shown below. The sphinx which is being disputed is not in the photo; it is displayed on the opposite wall behind where the photographer stood. (The photographer is now kicking himself.)

Istanbul Museum of Ancient Orient.
Sphinx from Yerkapi rampart Sphinx Gate at Hattusa. This sphinx complements the one in Berlin.

Turkey has given Germany until the end of July to return the sphinx. Germany has apparently rejected previous requests. The sphinx was taken to Berlin in 1915 to be restored.

Hattusa is an enormous and complex site just on the outskirts of the modern village of Boğazkale (more commonly known by its former name Boğazköy). Hattusa had dozens of temples and a citadel. The fortifications included various gates with parabolic arches, a massive rampart on the southern end, and casemate walls. The German excavations are currently directed by Andreas Schachner. From 1994-2005, Jürgen Seeher directed the excavations. Seeher is the author of the best guidebook on Hattusa, Hattusa Guide: A Day in the Hittite Capital, 3rd rev. ed. (Istanbul: Ege Yayınları, 2006). It is chock full of photos, plans, and descriptions, and has a fold-out map. Much of the guide is available online here. If you have the opportunity to visit the site, allow yourself at least one complete day and make sure you have a car and Seeher’s guidebook.

Yerkapi rampart at the south end of Hattusa.
Below center is a postern gate and tunnel and directly above is the Sphinx Gate.

Buyukkale, the Royal Citadel at Hattusa.

HT: Jack Sasson

UPDATE (5/20): Germany has agreed to give the Sphinx to Turkey.  Details are here.

Labels: ,

Canaanite Water Tunnel at Gezer

The Baptist Press recently posted an article about the Middle Bronze II water tunnel at Tel Gezer. The excavation team is currently clearing out the tunnel and conducting a detailed study of it. Below is a picture of the entrance to the tunnel taken in 2004 by Todd Bolen. The tunnel begins to the left of where the man is standing and descends underground past the left side of the picture. (Recent pictures from inside the tunnel are posted with The Baptist Press article.)

Here's how the article describes the tunnel:
The challenge is excavating a large, rock-hewn water tunnel at Tel Gezer that is believed to have been carved out by Canaanites between 1800 and 1500 B.C. -- around the time of Abraham. Tons of debris must be removed from the ancient tunnel before the real work can even begin. ...

The Gezer system also is unusually large, measuring 12 feet wide by 24 feet tall, Parker noted. It is believed that the ancient people used donkeys to ferry water from the source to the surface. The width allowed two animals, loaded with jugs, to pass side by side. The height of the tunnel perplexes the expedition team, and they hope to find an explanation as they pursue the dig. ...

Last summer the team began the arduous tasks of removing tons of rubble from the tunnel. During a three-week dig, they cleared 72 tons of dirt and rocks. Team members dug out the tunnel and put debris in large sacks which were hoisted out with a crane. Due to the 38-degree slope, Parker compared it to working on a steeply pitched roof.

The Middle Bronze II period was a time when the Canaanite city-states grew strong. Large public works were widespread in the region, such as city walls, massive earthen ramparts, and glacis (i.e., defensive slopes below the city walls). So the cooperation and organization needed to dig a water tunnel was relatively common during that period, but (as the article points out) elaborate water systems were not. Sophisticated water systems (such as the ones at Hazor, Megiddo, and Hezekiah's Tunnel in Jerusalem) are more characteristic of Iron Age II cities.

Side Note: The article mentions that 1800 to 1500 B.C. is "around the time of Abraham." The date of Abraham's lifetime is a debated issue related to the "Early Date vs. Late Date" controversy about the Exodus. The article apparently assumes a Late Date position. My personal conviction (and that of Todd Bolen) is that the Early Date position is the correct one, which would place Abraham's lifetime at approximately 2150 to 2000 B.C. If this is correct, then construction of the Gezer water tunnel would have occurred during the time of Israel's 430-year sojourn in Egypt.

The Baptist Press article can be found here. Details about the dig this summer can be found here. The excavation's homepage can be found here.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Labels: ,

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ancient Slinging Techniques

While conducting research for my dissertation (The Arsenal of the Hebrew Kings and Their Neighbors), I was able to follow up on a question that my advisor had once asked me: How were slings used in antiquity? In other words, what technique was used to generate the centrifugal force needed to propel the stone across the battlefield?

In general, the modern assumption is that the sling was twirled in a horizontal circle over the archer’s head. For example, Rivka Gonen in her 1975 book Weapons of the Ancient World states, “A stone was placed in the pocket [of the sling] and then swung round and round above the head; when sufficient centrifugal force had been generated, one of the thongs was released, discharging the stone at a high speed towards its distant target” (p. 42).

This technique was apparently used by the Egyptians in the 12th century B.C. There is a famous relief at Medinet Habu that depicts a battle between the Egyptians and the Sea Peoples during the reign of Rameses III. Within this relief, there are a handful of slingers. Positioned high in the "crow's nest" of the Egyptian ships, these slingers are depicted in the act of twirling their slings over thier heads, as shown below. (Image taken from Nelson, "The Epigraphic Survey of the Great Temple of Medinet Habu," in Medinet Habu--1924-28, p. 27). This also seems to be the technique used by a slinger depicted in a relief from Tell Halaf in northwestern Mesopotamia that dates to the 10th or 9th century B.C.
Egyptian Slinger from the Medinet Habu Relief

However, the slings in the reliefs of the Assyrian kings Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.) and Ashurbanipal (669-629 B.C.) are not depicted horizontally. In general, they are depicted as hovering vertically (or almost vertically) over the head of the slinger. An example of such an Assyrian slinger on the Lachish Relief can be seen here (see Fig. 30a). Elsewhere on that relief, a Judean slinger is also depicted with his sling in this position. When slingers use the twirling method described above, the sling is never in such a position, so another method must be proposed.

It would appear that during the late Iron Age the slings of Assyrians and Judeans were used by swinging the whole arm in a wide, vertical circle. Based on the consistent angle of the slings in various Assyrian reliefs, it appears that the slinger’s arm was swinging forward at the top of the circle. The slinger’s arm is always depicted as vertical or almost vertical, and the sling (when it is not depicted as directly in line with the arm) is almost always depicted as trailing slightly behind the arm, away from the slinger’s front side. So it seems that after the slinger loaded his weapon, he would move his arm down and backwards in a sweeping motion and would swing the sling vertically over his head. (Imagine a professional baseball pitcher using a sling to pitch a ball and you have the general idea.) This motion may have occurred only once or may have been repeated several times to build up momentum. At the crucial moment, one of the thongs was released and the projectile was launched toward its target.

So the archaeological evidence indicates that there were at least two slinging techniques used in the ancient Near East: a horizontal rotation over the slinger's head, and a vertical rotation similar to an overhand pitch. If we stop to think about it, it should not surprise us that different slinging techniques developed at different times and in different places. For a tool as simple as a sling and stone, some diversity in its use was bound to occur.


Zondervan Atlas Giveaway at Koinonia

The folks over at Koinonia are giving away the recently updated Zondervan Atlas of the Bible. The older NIV atlas along with the updated edition (both by Carl Rasmussen) has been one of the classic conservative Bible atlases for many years. You can enter the giveaway here.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Carchemish Renewed Excavations Draw Near

This isn't exactly breaking news, but I did not find any other blogs that had written about it, and it seems worthy of mention.

Back in September 2007, Turkish Daily News (now known as The Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review) reported that operations to clear the land mines near the site of Carchemish had commenced. At the time, it was estimated the clean-up would take about one-and-a-half years. Todd mentioned it here.

As a follow-up to this story, it was reported last December in Today's Zaman that the mines had been cleared and the land was now in the process of being turned over to the city. After bidding for the mine-clearing project, work actually commenced in March 2010. Three hundred days later, it was complete. Mine-sniffing dogs were used in the initial stages, and to avoid damaging antiquities, the mines were removed to another location for detonation (usually, mines are detonated on the spot). Now that the mines have been cleared, archaeologists will begin “serious and long-term” excavations, which it is hoped will attract tourism.

The site of ancient Carchemish is cut by the modern Turkey-Syria border. The citadel and inner town are located within Turkey, but most of the outer town is located in Syria. On the Turkish side is the modern village of Karkamiş and on the Syrian side is the village of Jerablus. As part of Turkey's attempts to open up trade with its neighbors, plans are underway to open three new border crossings with Syria by 2012, one of which will be located at Karkamiş.

For an account of the earlier excavations conducted by Sir Leonard Woolley, see here.

Carchemish from the northwest, view of citadel and inner town wall.

Carchemish citadel from the northwest.

Labels: , ,

Monday, February 21, 2011

Some Thoughts on a Scholar's Scholar

In 2009, I had the privilege of sitting under Anson Rainey in his second-to-last tour of duty at Jerusalem University College (formerly known as the Institute of Holy Land Studies) where he taught for over 50 years.  I would always approach that class with great expectation - for I knew that when Prof. Rainey began to speak the scent of long-dead ANE academic battles would soon fill my nostrils.  A course with a giant like Rainey was as much about learning the methodological history of the discipline of Historical Geography (as well as the always entertaining "tit for tat" - often with the likes of Albright and the "accursed" Yadin), as it was about learning the actual historical data.

Those of you who knew Prof. Rainey - know that he was never shy of conflict, rather he invited it, he was almost always absolutely certain of his own view (the examples are limitless - Via Maris: Road to Nowhere, Bethel=Beitin, Shimron=Ghost Word - just to name a few...).  However, beneath the facade of unabashed directness rested a teacher that was always willing to both hear and offer helpful advice to student's thoughts and questions about the ANE and even their own lives.  He will be greatly missed.

Taken March 1968 - part of the Views that Have Vanished Collection

The following is some information regarding Anson Rainey's final resting place and the events leading up to his death from Emanuel Hausman the Chairman of Carta.

Anson was hospitalized on his eightieth birthday. A few days later he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, that had advanced far beyond the possibility of surgical intervention. Anson refused alternative treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy or life prolonging medication. Resigned to his fate, he asked for some letters to be written and messages to be sent to friends. His one wish was  that his life's ambition, the collection of The El Amarna Letters, be completed and brought to publication.

Anson passed away on Saturday 2/19/2011 and according to his last wish was buried at Barkan overlooking the hill country of Samaria that he loved so much. Attended by family and many of his friends his funeral took place in weather as turbulent as his life and eponymously RAINY.

You may have heard this from Anson before but he often  joked that the first thing on facing GOD was to ask Him  how he pronounced  YHWH -.- May he rest in peace.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Review: Biblical Turkey

About four months ago, Todd announced the publication of a new guidebook for Turkey entitled Biblical Turkey: A Guide to Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor, by Mark Wilson (Ege Yayınları, 2010). What prompts this review is the news that the book can now be ordered from and sells for $39.95.

Biblical Turkey
is not a guidebook like Lonely Planet or Rough Guide—it does not tell you where to find accommodations or the best places for affordable dining. What Biblical Turkey does do, however, is give you just about all the archaeological and historical information you will need for numerous sites in Turkey. The book includes every well-known and lesser-known site which is mentioned in the Bible, but it includes much more than that. As such, this is rich resource, whether you travel to Turkey or not (though, I recommend that you take a trip at some point).

What sets this book apart from A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey, by Fant and Reddish (Oxford Univ. Press, 2003), is its comprehensiveness. Fant and Reddish did not include a number of sites that are mentioned in the Bible, such as Cnidus, Carchemish, and Harran. Wilson includes all of these as well as many other important archeological sites which are not mentioned in the Bible, such as Van Kalesi (ancient Tushpa, the capital of Urartu), Gordium (the capital of Phrygia), Kanesh/Kültepe (the Old Assyrian trading colony), and Nemrut Dağ (the mausoleum of Antiochus I of Commagene).

Nemrut Dağ west terrace, toppled heads from colossal statues.

Biblical Turkey is organized by five regions, beginning in eastern Turkey and working westwards. Each chapter begins with historical and geographic descriptions of ancient regions and provinces (e.g., Cappadocia, Galatia) and then covers the ancient cities within that region. For each region and city, biblical references are listed, a historical summary is given, and the relevant inscriptions and archaeological remains are described. Though written in a non-technical style, the text betrays a depth of technical knowledge in these areas which is quite impressive. Nearly every two-page spread is graced with a carefully selected photograph of the site, an architectural element, or an inscription, which is helpful for understanding the text. Finally, for many sites, Wilson provides a title or two for "further reading." Most of the titles he suggests are guides available at the site itself, often written by the archaeologists, and published in Turkey. These can be difficult to obtain, but it is helpful nevertheless to have this information. (For those who are desperate enough to pay the stiff shipping charges, many of the titles can probably be purchased at Zero Books.)

I find several other features of Biblical Turkey helpful. The Turkish names are provided alongside the more common English names which facilitates navigating by maps and road signs. The book is also generously furnished with site plans and sidebars. The sidebars come in three types: "side trip" boxes provide brief descriptions of lesser-known sites you may want to add to your trip if you have spare time, "in-site" boxes give more background detail (e.g., a New Testament timeline, the seven ecumenical councils, or ancient travel on the Mediterranean), and "ancient voice" boxes discuss ancient textual sources in greater detail.

Maybe I'm gushing now, but I wish all guidebooks were written like this one. A lot of thought and research went into the content and its organization. Turkey is a vast country with many fascinating things to see and study. With this book in hand, no longer will so much of it go unnoticed.

FURTHER NOTE: Mark Wilson is the director of Seven Churches Network and Asia Minor Research Center. You can read more about Mark here. Leen Ritmeyer reviewed and recommended the book here.

Labels: ,

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Weekend Round Up

Zechariah's Tomb
A 3-minute video has been added to a Jerusalem Post article about a Byzantine church at Khirbet Midras that may have been the traditional site of Zechariah's tomb. The article was originally posted on February 3rd. Unfortunately the video contains a couple of historical errors (such as referring to the Madaba Map as "a document"[!] that was "recently found"[!!]), but it does provide more information about the site than the article itself. More information about the discovery can be found here and here.
Is this truly the site of Zechariah's tomb? Given the fact that (so far) there is only circumstantial evidence that the church was dedicated to Zechariah, and the fact that the Byzantines do not hold a very good track record for correctly identifying holy sites ... I wouldn't get my hopes up.
HT: Joseph I. Lauer, Ferrell Jenkins

Lod Mosaic in New York
The New York Review of Books did a recent post on their blog about the Lod Mosaic. It examines the mosaic in detail, and provides several stunning photographs. The mosaic is currently on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is making a tour around the US, traveling from New York to San Francisco, Chicago, and Columbus.

Boston Globe Article on the Western Wall Tunnels

Last Sunday, The Boston Globe posted a brief article about the Western Wall tunnels. The article provides some general information about the wall and its history (both ancient and recent) but contains a couple of errors. (Namely, it states that the Jews worship the Holy of Holies[!], and that the tunnels go under the Temple Mount while in reality they travel alongside the massive retaining wall of the Temple Mount.) However, the article provides details on how you can make a reservation to take a tour and briefly describes what you will see there.
HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Anson Rainey
Of course, one of the biggest news events of the week is that Anson Rainey died on Saturday (as was posted yesterday on this blog). On Friday, interestingly enough, Biblical Archaeology Review posted a lengthy statement by Rainey in the "Scholar's Study" section of their website. In this statement, he defends himself against recent accusations made by William Dever that he is not an archaeologist. The statement provides a survey of Rainey's archaeological experience and his contributions to the field. The introduction to Rainey's statement can be found here. The actual statement can be found here.

Mummies in Milwaukee

The Mummies of the World exhibit is currently being displayed in the Milwaukee Public Museum. This is "the largest exhibition of mummies and related artifacts ever assembled." It will be in Milwaukee until May 30th.

Bible Alive Seminar in Dallas
For those of you who live in the Dallas area, the Bible Alive seminar is coming to Park Cities Presbyterian Church on April 1-2. This two day event is "a multimedia contextual immersion experience in understanding God’s Word in its original historical, cultural, geographical, literary, and visual context." The seminar was put together by Preserving Bible Times and will be taught by Doug Greenwold. More information about this event can be found here.

Labels: , , ,

Anson Rainey (1930-2011)

We just received the sad news that Anson Rainey passed away early this afternoon. He was hospitalized about two weeks ago and had been battling pancreatic cancer. The funeral will be held at the cemetery in Barkan at 12 pm tomorrow (Sunday, Feb. 20).

Rainey is familiar to most readers of this blog for his enormous contributions to historical geography and to the study of the Amarna letters, but to many other areas as well. He was responsible for training several generations of students who have become our teachers, or even our teachers' teachers. He will be greatly missed. A biography and list of Rainey's publications can be viewed at his Tel Aviv University webpage. His work, The Sacred Bridge, has been highly recommended before on this blog.

Rainey lecturing at the Solomonic Gate at Gezer in 1968 (David Bivin).

Rainey with K. Lawson Younger at Trinity Int'l University, 2010.

HT: Jack Sasson

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Titus Tobler - A Neglected Pioneer

Every discipline has its champion, its most famous pioneer, the person whom most everybody identifies as being the embodiment of a particular area of study – for the discipline of Historical Geography that person is Edward Robinson.  Robinson, the great explorer and geographer is credited with identifying over 1,000 ancient places names through his knowledge of ancient Near Eastern history and linguistics and his revolutionary usage of toponomy.  However, Edward Robinson was not the only great explorer living in the mid-1800s – there were a few men of great standing, who along with Robinson helped build the foundation of ancient Near Eastern studies for today’s scholarship.  One of those men of great standing was Titus Tobler.

Personal Biography
From Konrad Furrer's biography on Tobler
Known affectionately as the “Father of German Exploration in Palestine,[1] Titus Tobler (1806-1877), Swiss doctor and 19th century Palestine explorer, was an important figure during the mid-19th century explorations of the Holy Land. Over the course of his career Tobler made four expeditions to the Holy Land (1835, 1845, 1857, and 1865) - these expeditions were mostly directed at Jerusalem and its environs.  Tobler came to Palestine the first time as a 29 year-old physician who had just begun to practice medicine in the mountains of Canton of Appenzell [2]  Ten years later, Dr. Tobler returned to the Holy Land and accomplished one of the most in-depth, analytical studies of the region of Judea up until that time.  This expedition had such a positive impact in mid-19th century scholarship that Tobler is considered by historians to be the most important explorer of Jerusalem in the 1840s.[3]  Tobler’s personage and career are thought to be on par with the renowned Edward Robinson by researchers of the 19th century explorers of Palestine.[4]  Tobler was a highly respected explorer and diligently worked on publishing his explorations and translating ancient pilgrim documents up until his death in 1877.[5]
Methodological Developments

Titus Tobler’s Holy Land expeditions and subsequent publications were contemporaneous with other better-known 19th century explorers such as the aforementioned Edward Robinson and the Survey of Western Palestine’s C.R. Conder and H.H. Kitchener.  At first Tobler was dejected at the seemingly overcrowded group of scholars surveying, analyzing, and excavating the Levant in the 19th century.  Despite this, Tobler was able to find his own niche within the broader framework of ancient Levantine studies by combining his own considerable knowledge and research with the concepts and publications of his contemporaries.[6]  Tobler was one of the first to realize that there was no lack of problems to solve in Levantine research.  Tobler concerned himself with more than the general scope of biblical studies and site identification – he began to study “the customs and manners of the people, the nature of the soil and climate, and many other things.”[7] In examining and categorizing these subjects Tobler introduced two scholarly tools into the Holy Land studies: the monograph and the bibliography.[8] 

Notable Discoveries

Wilson’s Arch – The 19th century explorer is most well known for discovering and suggesting the function of an arch from the Herodian Temple Mount to the Western Hill of Jerusalem.  Today this arch is known as “Wilson’s Arch” after Charles Wilson who published it, but Wilson would not have known about the arch unless Tobler had showed it to him.[9]   

"Wilson's Arch" 2010
The "First Wall" inside of Bishop Gobat’s School (modern day Jerusalem University College) – Tobler correctly identified the remains of Josephus’ “First Wall”[10] that runs along the rocky cliffs of the southwestern part of the Western Hill above the Hinnom Valley.
The First Wall runs beneath the Bishop Gobat School (today's Jerusalem University College) structure and continues through the Protestant Cemetery (to the right of the school - east)

Quotes pertaining to Titus Tobler

Ben-Arieh shows Tobler’s perspective of other scholars as he quotes Tobler as saying, “Rivalry between explorers increases knowledge.”[11] 
Hilprecht compares Edward Robinson and Titus Tobler’s historical impact by writing the following, “As an historical topographer Titus Tobler perhaps accomplished still more than Robinson.”[12]
Tobler’s methodology and work ethic was summed up by Johannes Nepomuk Sepp (1816-1909)[13] as follows:
“A welcome incident brought me to meet Dr. Titus Tobler.  I still remember vividly the first meeting, after which we, without knowing each other, went to sleep for some hours after the celebration of the Nativity in the vault of the monastery in Bethlehem, beside a murderer running away from Egypt.  I knelt before the altar of Christ’s birth full of emotions I had never felt before, as a man to my left started measuring the steps with a measuring cord and a folding measure: one could think that he wanted to make sure that until his next visit the Holy Grotto would not be replaced: this was Tobler.  We both thought that we were opposite characters and suited to complement each other conscientiously; anyhow we considered ourselves to be an opening a new chapter in the history of Palestine pilgrims, I applauded with the fullest appreciation his extreme thoroughness; only a German can work as diligently as he…Never were greater scientific results achieved for smaller financial expense as by Tobler, who is suited to the task by his tough perseverance and effort.” [14]
Regarding the importance of Tobler’s life work Benzinger writes the following, “To this very day he who desires to concern himself with the history of these places must begin with Tobler’s investigations.”[15]
With reference to Tobler’s bibliography Gage writes, “Tobler is the first living authority, so far as the literature of Palestine is concerned; and no man has gone through more painstaking efforts than he, to extend the area of our knowledge respecting the Holy Land.”[16]
Hilprecht discusses the nature of Tobler’s bibliography as he records,
“Besides what he observed and found in the land itself, we must not forget what he accomplished at home in investigating the old descriptions of travels. One of his favorite wishes was to publish all descriptions of travels from the third to the fifteenth century in the most carefully edited form possible. This project he could, however, carry out only in a fragmentary way, and mostly at his own expense.  His excellent annotations made a number of the old writings for the first time really serviceable.”[17]

Additional Info:
For a complete list of Tobler’s 62 publications concerning Palestine refer to: Stern, S. and Haim, Goren. “A Bibliography.” Cathedra 48 (1988): 46-48.

See here for an English translation of Tobler's bibliography of ancient Holy Land travelers (Appendix III - pages 391-411)

Check out one of Tobler's maps of Jerusalem from Hebrew University's database.

[1] Yehoshua Ben-Arieh, The Rediscovery of the Holy Land in the Nineteenth Century, (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, Hebrew University, Israel Exploration Society, 1979). 133.  H.V. Hilprecht, Exploration in Bible Lands During the 19th Century, (A.J. Holman & Co.: Philadelphia, 1903.) 585.
[2] Ibid, 588.
[3] Ibid, 133, 139, 177.  Haim Goren, “British Surveyors in Palestine and Syria: 1840-1841,” Tel Hai Academic College (2005): 7.
[4] Ibid, 590-591.
[5] Ibid, 177.
[6] Ibid, 74. And Ibid, 585.
[7] Ibid, 590.
[8] Ibid, 57.
[9] Dan Bahat, “Jerusalem Down Under: Tunneling Along Herod’s Temple Mount Walll” BAR 26 1 (1995): 32.
[10] For more information on the “First Wall” and its course see David Tarler and Jane Cahill, “The City of David,” The Anchor Bible Dictionary. 6 vols. Edited by David Noel Freedman, (New York: Doubleday, 1992.) 2:60.
[11] Ibid, 74.
[12] Ibid, 588.
[13] A Catholic Historian from Munich, who visited Palestine for the first time in 1845, and became famous as a leading, though controversial figure in German Holy Land research until the end of the century.  Ibid, 60.
[14] Quoted in Ibid, 60 from Johannes Sepp,  Jerusalem und das heilige Land, Pilgerbuch nach Palastina, Syrien und Aegypten, (Schauffhausen, 1863.) 8-9.
[15] J. Benzinger, “Researches in Palestine,” Explorations in Bible Lands during the 19th Century, Philadelphia (1903): 589.
[16] Ibid 391.
[17] Ibid, 590.


Another Update on Egyptian Antiquites

In a steady stream of almost daily updates, Zahi Hawass continues to report on the status of Egypt’s archaeological sites and treasures. Many of the reports are preliminary and the extent of potential loss awaits further assessment.

On February 20, Egypt will reopen many of its archaeological sites to tourists.

Hawass’s blog features photos of the panther from a statue of Tutankhamun before and after its partial restoration.

Of the objects reported to have been taken from the Cairo Museum, three were found on the museum grounds. Last night, a fourth object, the limestone statue of Akhenaten, was handed over at a Cairo police station.

Akhenaten Statue before looting (

Akhenaten Statue after return (Ahmed Amin,

Hawass reports that antiquities storage magazines at Saqqara and Cairo University, and two tombs at Saqqara and Abusir were broken into. A storage magazine at Dahshur has been broken into twice, and several boxes of objects were stolen from another storage magazine at Qantara East, Sinai. Of the objects taken from Qantara East, 298 of them have been returned. The Egyptian military prevented additional break-ins at Tell el Basta and Lisht.


March Lectures

On Monday, March 14, at 7 pm, Peter Machinist will present the second lecture of the new Trinity Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology Lecture series at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. He will speak on “Achaemenid Persia as Spectacle.” This lecture is free and open to the public. See the announcement for details.

The website for the Lynn H. Wood Archaeological Museum Lecture Series at the Institute of Archaeology, Southern Adventist University (Collegedale, TN) reports that John Monson will speak on the topic of "Solomon's Temple: The Center of the Universe Then and Now,” on Wednesday, March 16, at 7 pm. This appears to be a change from our earlier report which had Bryant Wood speaking at this same date and time. The Lynn H. Wood Lectures are free and open to the public. See the website for more information.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Some Missing Objects Found in Cairo Museum

Today, Zahi Hawass, Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, reported that three objects which were thought to have been taken from the Cairo Museum have turned up on the museum grounds. Four days ago, Hawass issued a press release stating that 18 objects were missing from the museum in connection with a break-in which occurred on January 29 (previously mentioned here and here). Now, only 15 objects remain missing.

The objects recovered are (1) the Heart Scarab of Yuya, (2) one of the eleven shabti statuettes of Yuya and Thuya, and (3) fragments of the gilded wood statue of Tutankhamun being carried by the goddess Menkaret and all of the fragments of Menkaret. The objects had been dislocated and Hawass believes they were dropped when the looters fled. A final inventory of the museum is still being conducted.

More details can be found on Hawass’s blog (with photos) or in the Ahram Online news report.

HT: Jack Sasson


Beth Haccherem - A Site Identification: Primer

Over the next week or so I will be discussing a topic of considerable interest to this author - the identification of Beth Haccherem.  My conclusions are not revolutionary (or new), however, the methodology with which I reached my conclusion has not been used elsewhere (at least according to my knowledge.)  With that being said allow the following information to inform and introduce you to the ancient site of Beth Haccherem. 

Site Name 
Beth Haccherem literally means “the house of the vineyard.”  The name testifies to the city’s location and function.  The Judean hill country’s vine-producing capabilities are some of the best in the Levant.  Beth-Haccherem is within a larger group of sites with names derived from agricultural man-made devices. 

Textual Concordance (source document, available on request)
1.     Joshua 15:59a (LXX) (you can download a free translation of the LXX here)
2.     Jeremiah 6:1 (key verse)
3.     Nehemiah 3:14 (updated - not 3:1)
4.     Genesis Apocryphon 22:13-14 (Dead Sea Scrolls)
5.     The Copper Scroll X:47-51 (Dead Sea Scrolls)
6.     Midoth 3:4 (Mishna)
7.     Niddah 2:7 (Mishna)
8.     Jerome – Jeremiah Commentary (v. 6:1)

Proposed Identifications
  • Herodium (Edward Robinson 1838)
  • Ein Karem (Edward Robinson 1856 - traditional identification)
  • Ramat Rachel (Yochanan Aharoni 1950s)

Map of proposed sites (click on images to zoom)

Possible Toponymic Connections
  •  Jebel Fureidis (modern – Herodium) – Arabic meaning “mountain of Herod.”
  • Ain Karem  (modern – Ein Karem) – Arabic meaning “spring of the vineyard.”
  • Khirbet Salih (modern – Ramat Rahel) – Arabic meaning “ruin of Salih” unlike many place names it is not a variant of some ancient place name.
More to come...