Friday, September 30, 2011

How To Discover Boundary Inscriptions

The discovery of a Sabbath boundary marker in the Galilee several months ago makes one wonder just how many more have been preserved. Surely this was not the only one, either for this village or for other villages. Inscriptions in the rock like the Sabbath one were made at least twelve times around the city of Gezer.

BibleWalks made the initial discovery and now they are encouraging others to join in the hunt. To assist in this endeavor, they have created several maps that show the Sabbath marker in relation to two ancient sites. Roads are then drawn out in each direction and the intrepid adventurer can explore these routes to discover the next inscription. As BibleWalks notes, when hiking the hills of Galilee, the joy is not only in reaching the destination but in the journey itself. You can get all of the details here.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Free: Ashkelon Excavation Reports

Volumes 1 and 2 of the Ashkelon Reports are now available for free download. From Dig Ashkelon:

As we continue our new discoveries, we are excited to be able to bring you a summary of our results from 1985-2004 in the form of two final report volumes:  Ashkelon 1 and Ashkelon 2.  These two volumes provide over 900 pages of information on the ancient city of Ashkelon and can be downloaded free of charge due to the generous sponsorship of the Leon Levy Foundation. For those scholars who need the printed volumes, please note that they are still for sale at Eisenbrauns.  These volumes – both in their publication, and now in their free distribution – reaffirm  our commitment to making the result of our excavation available to the widest possible audience, so that all can appreciate appreciate and learn from the wonders of the history of Ashkelon.

Elsewhere it is written:

Eventually, each volume in the series will be available for download making the excavation of Ashkelon one of the most accessible in the world.

I don’t have enough positive things to say. Ashkelon 1: Introduction and Overview (1985-2006) fills 700 pages and sells for $135. Ashkelon 2: Imported Pottery of the Roman and Late Roman Periods has 233 pages and sells for $45.

Ashkelon 3: The Seventh Century B.C. has 28 chapters, 800 full-color pages, and sells for $93. The third volume was published this year and is not currently available for download.

Under this model, libraries and institutions will purchase the book and help to cover publication costs. After several years the Leon Levy Foundation will provide the funding so that the digital file (pdf) is made available to researchers and students who otherwise might not be able to afford the purchase. There is much merit in this model and I would love to see other expeditions follow suit.

Ashkelon tell aerial from northwest, tb121704841

Ashkelon from northwest

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Five Dead Sea Scrolls Online in High Resolution

Google and the Israel Museum are beginning to fulfill their promise to make the Dead Sea Scrolls available online. The first installment includes five scrolls:

  • Great Isaiah Scroll
  • Community Rule Scroll
  • Commentary on Habakkuk Scroll
  • Temple Scroll
  • War Scroll

The Jerusalem Post explains that readers can search the Isaiah Scroll in English:

The Isaiah Scroll was also translated line by line, allowing viewers to search in regular search engines in English for specific phrases or verses in the scrolls. A verse-by-verse Chinese translation will be finished shortly, as Bible scholarship is extremely popular in China, said Israel museum officials.

The article also describes the digitization process:

Ardon Bar Hama, a freelance photographer and one of the world’s premier experts in photographing ancient texts for online viewing, used a $50,000 camera that exposed the scrolls to the light for 1/4,000th of a second. Ben Hama’s camera shoots at a resolution of 1,200 megapixels, in comparison, a good personal camera shoots at about 12 megapixels.
Google utilizes cloud computing to store to the giant images, allowing people to browse the scrolls from their cell phones. Users will also be able to highlight their favorite verses and post them to their Twitter or Facebook pages, or to comment on verses through the site in an international dialogue.

The full article is here or you may go directly to the scrolls at the Israel Museum website. Prepare to be impressed.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Israel Returns 620 Artifacts to Jordan

From the AFP:

Jordan said on Monday Israel has returned 620 Early Bronze Age pottery items that were taken in the 1960s by a US archaeologist for research at a Jerusalem-based institute.

“Israel returned the items, including pots, plates and jars, in April. American archaeologist Paul W. Lapp borrowed them in the 1960s for study and research,” Fares Hmud, acting director of Jordan’s antiquities department, told the state-run Petra news agency.

“They were taken to the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, and because of the (1967 Six-Day War), Jordan could not take the items back at that time.”

Hmud said the antiquities will be displayed at a museum in the Jordan Valley.

Jordan has said it was still trying to restore from Israel books and manuscripts dating from the first century AD after being smuggled to Israel several years ago.

It is also demanding the return of the Dead Sea Scrolls, also known as the Qumran Manuscripts, which contain some of the earliest biblical texts. The oldest documents date back to the third century BC while the latest was written in 70 AD.

Another article adds that the artifacts were discovered at Bab al-Thira’a. Though the articles do not say, it seems likely that the failure to return the objects was related to the archaeologist’s death in 1970. Paul Lapp died in a drowning accident at the age of 39, leaving behind a wife and five kids (BA 33: 60-62, via jstor).

HT: Daniel Wright


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Weekend Roundup

Corrections and Updates to "Identifying Biblical Persons in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions of 1200-539 B.C.E."

This article updates the cutoff point for the inscriptions treated in the book mentioned in the title, which was mid-2002, to July 31, 2008. It evaluates 32 proposed identifications (IDs) of biblical persons in ancient Near Eastern inscriptions of 1200-539 B.C.E. All 32 IDs or non-IDs are listed and indexed at the end.

Shmuel Browns explains the significance of Khirbet Qeiyafa and concludes with a report of Israel Finkelstein’s paper on the Large Stone Structure and the Stepped Stone Structure in the City of David. He dates the SSS to both the Iron Age and the Hellenistic period.

An ancient shipyard near Rome is being excavated.

Dan Brown and the Grail That Never Was. Paleobabble posts a link to a scholarly article that is “a succinct, readable dismantling of Brown’s bogus history.”

Antioch on the Orontes was a significant city in the early church. Today known as Hatay, the city’s museum boasts some impressive mosaics and other finds. But most is in storage until a new museum is built.

The new museum is to have the capacity to host 800 people at a time and 10,700 square meters of exhibition space.

Visitors who come to the Hatay museum can see around 906 square meters of mosaics at this point, though around 300 square meters are still in the museum's warehouse due to space shortages. In fact, the museum's total holdings include 35,433 pieces, but only 1,425 of these are on display due to serious space problems.

With pieces from the Hittite, Hellenic, Byzantine and Roman eras on display, the Hatay Archeologicy Museum was always known as the second most significant mosaic museum in the world, following Tunisia's Bardo Museum. That is, until last week, when the Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum opened, and the Hatay Archeologicy Museum dropped to third place for mosaics.

I’m surprised the Medeba Museum in Jordan is not ranked in the top three.

HT: Jack Sasson

Nude fishermen mosaic, 5th c AD, tb122900316

Nude fishermen mosaic in Antioch (Hatay) Archaeological Museum

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Rolling Stone Tombs in Jerusalem

I remember hearing some years ago that archaeologists have discovered only four tombs in Jerusalem with round rolling stones. In doing some research, I have learned that there are at least six. Rachel Hachlili’s book on Jewish Funerary Customs, Practices and Rites in the Second Temple Period says this:

A round rolling stone [golel], closing the entrance was found in several rock-cut tombs [in the cemetery of Jericho], dated to the end of the first century BCE and the first century CE. At the door a slot was cut to hold a round stone; the stone was rolled into the slot away from the entrance.

The following tombs in Jerusalem were sealed by means of rolling stones: the Tomb of Helene [the Tomb of the Kings], Herod’s family tomb, the Nicophoria tomb (east of Herod’s family tomb), a tomb on Mt. Scopus, a tomb in the Kidron Valley, and the Hinnom Valley tomb. Similar rolling stones were discovered at a tomb at Horvat Midras and at the cemetery of Hesban (page 64; quotation modified by the addition of a paragraph break and elimination of parenthetical material).

Rolling stone tombs have also been identified near Kiriath Jearim (Abu Gosh), Michmash (Mukmas), and Megiddo.

This looks like a great book, but when it’s published by Brill, you have to be satisfied with reading it in the library.

Rolling stone in Tomb of Mariamne, mat05008

View from inside “Herod’s family tomb” with rolling stone (photo source)

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Springs in the Dead Sea

The Dead Sea not only has freshwater springs along its shore—En Gedi, Ein Feshka, Ein Bokek—but underneath the water’s surface as well. From the Jerusalem Post:

A Ben-Gurion University research team has discovered a series of deep freshwater springs that spring from the floor of the Dead Sea and help replenish the body’s dwindling water supply, while a German group has meanwhile pinpointed new types of microorganisms growing in fissures on the saline seafloor near the springs, the university announced on Wednesday.


Dead Sea groundwater springs have been known and visible for decades as they produce ripples on the water surface, but the current research has given scientists to the ability to study springs that are hidden from the eye, according to the statement.

Much like the Dead Sea itself, the springs have been around for thousands of years, and while it is “uncertain” whether they’ve existed quite as long as their host body of water, they have been there “for a very long time indeed,” Laronne told The Jerusalem Post.

The springs, he continued, can be found at locations within the sea as deep as 30 meters down, and the largest spring observed thus far was 15 meters in diameter – with some spring systems totaling hundreds of meters in length.

The full story is here. The Arutz-7 report is here.

Dead Sea hot spring on shore, tb022806413

Hot spring on shore of the Dead Sea


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesday Roundup

Excavations at the Central Bus Station of Beersheba are turning up remains from the Byzantine city.

The southern steps leading to the Temple Mount may have been used by worshippers singing the 15 Psalms of Ascent, writes Wayne Stiles. Not so, argues Leen Ritmeyer, former architect of the excavations. “There are, however, more than 15 steps, in fact, there are 27 at the eastern end and 31 at the southern end.” I don’t think that is correct, and I do know that if you read Psalm 120 at the bottom of the staircase and advance by two steps (to the broader steps) for the next psalm, you’ll be reading Psalm 134 at the top of the staircase. Perhaps that’s just coincidence. Of course, the psalms could be sung in many places as the pilgrim came up to Jerusalem and the temple to worship.

Southern Temple Mount steps with psalms of ascent, tb090705061

Southern steps leading to Double Gate of Temple Mount

Shmuel Browns reports that the public can now walk from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount via the (now underground) first-century street and drainage channel.

If you’re tired of going to the Dead Sea and seeing scantily-clad men, there is now hope. A beach was dedicated on Monday for separate bathing. If they’d only open a third section for the men in Speedos, we would all be happy.

A one-minute video at the Jerusalem Post shows the highlights of the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.

An automated ticket-selling machine is now in operation at the Giza Pyramids.

Zahi Hawass’ successor has resigned.

A Roman villa and a Byzantine mansion are being excavated in Antioch of Pisidia.

If you’ve ever wondered what the Israel Antiquities Authority looks like, Leon Mauldin has a picture of her. :-)

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rare Find: Student Map Manual

If only...

I needed these a few years ago, but there were none to be found. Not under rocks, not under bushes, not under sycamore-fig trees. One of my students was teaching a class in Europe and bought every loose copy he could find on the internet. (Indeed, that put him on my black list.)

Eisenbrauns has not only come up with some copies of the Student Map Manual, but they’re selling them for $3 each. It’s the “Deal of the Day” which I believe expires mid-day tomorrow (9/21).

You might want to purchase one if:

  • You want to do a serious study of historical geography that involves marking maps.
  • You want to re-do your serious study (that wasn’t so serious because you were young, dumb, and in a hurry) when you went to study at the Institute of Holy Land Studies/Jerusalem University College or the Israel Bible Extension.
  • You heard stories of this great work but never had a chance to purchase one.

You might want to purchase more than one if:

  • You want to teach a course using this classic work.
  • You want each of your kids and grandkids to have a copy.

There are newer works out that aim to replace this (a big cheer to the folks at Biblical Backgrounds here), but this work retains a value that I don’t think will ever be completely replaced.

Note that in order to do the markings you will need a copy of James Monson, The Land Between. Amazon has a few used copies of this, starting at $4.


A map from one of the two Student Map Manuals I marked. This depicts the events in Joshua 10.


New Site: Bible and Archaeology

Bible and Archaeology is a virtual museum of many of the most important artifacts, sites, and ancient texts related to the Bible. Three features make this online exhibit particularly helpful.

  • The photos can be viewed in high-resolution. For one example, the image of the Merneptah Stele is the best I’ve seen.
  • The artifacts are listed in chronological order. That makes it easier to find what you’re looking for, even if you don’t know the correct name (is it the Dan Stele or the Tel Dan Inscription?).
  • Each photograph has a brief explanation of the significance of the artifact and its relationship to the Bible. You can do do additional research if you desire, but the description provides the basics.

Note: it may be user error, but I had better success viewing the some of the high-res images in the Chrome browser than in Firefox.

Gallio inscription all fragments, tb051603812

The Gallio Inscription, before it was put on display in the Delphi Museum

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Monday, September 19, 2011

How To Spell Bible Places

In the old days, if you wanted to know how to spell something, you looked it up in the dictionary. If you were looking for a technical term or a proper noun, you might require a specialized dictionary.

Because the names of biblical sites are transliterated from other languages, and because time and tradition play a role, one often cannot say that there is “one right way” to spell a place name. In the case of biblical site names, there are several approaches to determining the best spelling.

The first approach is to check with the authorities. I have often used the NIV translation as my standard. Recent scholarly Bible dictionaries are also good resources.

A second approach is to determine what is most popular. I’ve used Google on many occasions to see which form is more widely used. Since what is “correct” in spelling is largely a matter of usage, this is less problematic than it might first appear.

Another approach combines the best of the other two methods. By searching the scholarly literature, one can determine which is most widely used by the experts. Since my goal, in the projects I am working on, is to use names that are most common in the field, this has proven to be a worthy approach.

By how does one search the work of experts? I use Logos 4 to search my entire library for a given spelling of a word. I confess that I owned the program for a year before I gave this a try, having been so traumatized by searches in Logos 3 that seemed to take weeks and months. But Logos 4 is almost as quick as Google. Because my library contains many of the best reference works in biblical history and geography, I have instant access to the way that the experts spell a word.

So how does one spell Beth Shean, Beersheba, or Michmethath? Opinion is often divided, but knowing who and how many prefer a spelling usually helps me to make a good decision. Here is what I found by running searches on some more popular terms.

  • Beth Shan or Bet Shean?
    • The older sources tend to prefer the latter, while the newer works favor the former.
  • En Gedi or Ein Gedi?
    • The former gets 1,700 hits and the latter 500.
  • Succoth or Sukkoth?
    • The former is the place name; the latter is an autumn feast.
  • Beersheba or Beer Sheba?
    • (The former gives 4,800 hits and the latter 3,700. Many Bible dictionaries prefer Beer-Sheba.)
  • Elath or Eilat?
    • The biblical name is the former; the modern city is the latter.
  • Medeba or Madaba?
    • My Logos library is consistent with the former but notes that Wikipedia uses the latter.
  • Michmethah or Michmethath?
    • The latter has the clear edge.

Here is a screenshot of what a Logos search looks like for “Beth Shean.”


You can use this approach also to identify clear misspellings. No one would claim that Meggido is correct, despite the fact that this spelling can be found in ABD, ISBE, EDB, HALOT, some issues of BA and BAR, commentaries in Hermeneia and NIGTC, and Neusner’s translation of the Talmud. (One can hope that publishers in the future will take advantage of computer technology to reduce misspellings.)

I’m happy to have found a new, quick method to determine the best way to spell names of biblical sites in English. If you don’t already own a library in Logos or the Mac program Accordance, I wouldn’t claim that it’s worth investing in one just for this, but for those who already committed, this may be a useful tip. Google Books may be another alternative, although I have not checked to see if they include the resources I would consider most authoritative.

Instructions for Logos users: Open program. Click the “Search” button. Make sure “All Text” and “Entire Library” are selected. Then type in search term. Wait 0.59 seconds.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Weekend Roundup

Michael S. Heiser, at the Paleobabble blog, shares an article on limestone quarrying in Spain that may shed light on how similar activity was carried out in Israel. From the abstract:

It appears that one of the quarrying methods used was based on the chemical dissociation by fire of standing stone blocks at their  attachment points,a technique hitherto unknown or unreported in the literature.

Israel has its first crocodiles in the wild since the last one was shot in 1912. Fortunately the 50 escapees from the crocodile farm in the Jordan Rift have now been captured. Bonus question: where is the Crocodile River located in Israel?

Paul’s first preaching stop in what is today Turkey was at Perga (Acts 13:13). Archaeologists there are now celebrating 65 years of excavation.

An archaeological park has opened at Claros (Klaros), not far from Smyrna (Izmir).

The Jordan Times is reporting an uptick in the number of visitors to the “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” baptismal site.

Archaeological sites in Syria are apparently not faring well in the current bloodletting. The danger to Mari is noted in a recent story.

The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Full History, by Weston W. Fields, is reviewed by Jaqueline Du Toit. She writes,

“In conclusion, volume 1 of The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Full History is an inestimable contribution to scrolls historiography. It will appeal to scholars and students of biblical scholarship, but also to academia in general and a popular audience. Despite its price, which curtails its mass appeal, it is highly recommended. And, based on the riveting narrative still unfolding, volume 2 is awaited with great anticipation.”

Joe Yudin takes readers on a tour of part of the Old City of Jerusalem, focusing on remains of the Tenth Roman Legion. He gives a good tour but he makes a significant mistake in dating the Cardo to the Roman period. While the northern portion (beginning at Damascus Gate) was constructed by Hadrian, the southern portion was only built in the time of Justinian in the Byzantine period. (Excavator Nahman Avigad was surprised to make this discovery in his excavations; he discusses it at length on pages 225-27 of the excellent Discovering Jerusalem. I was about to write this is a very difficult work to find, for indeed it was for many years, but now Amazon has used copies starting at $4.63. I’ve bought several over the years for $60.)

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a camera that lets you focus after you’ve taken the shot?

Answer to the crocodile question: the Nahal Taninim (Crocodile River) runs on the northern end of the Sharon Plain, just below Mount Carmel.

HT: Explorator, Joseph Lauer, G. M. Grena


Nahal Taninim and Sharon Plain from Mount Carmel

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Excavation of Gezer’s Water System

Two articles (at one link) describe this summer’s excavation of Gezer’s ancient water system, alleged to be the largest in all of Israel. The reports are lengthy and only a few excerpts will be given here. See the full articles for more details and photographs. Fans of the bumbling Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister will not be disappointed.

It is believed the Canaanites cut the massive tunnel around the time of Abraham using flint tools. Measuring nearly 13 feet wide by 24 feet high at the opening and stretching 150 feet into the ground at a 38 degree slope, the Gezer tunnel is the largest ancient water system ever unearthed.

Late in the last week of the 2011 dig, the NOBTS team found the natural cave at the end of the massive rock-hewn water system -- the prime objective of this season's dig. It is believed that the system's original water source is located in or near the opening of the cave.


During next summer's dig, scheduled for May 27-June 15, the New Orleans team will focus on excavating the cave in hopes of answering several lingering questions about the water system. First and foremost, the team will try to discover how the Canaanites knew about the water source. Warner believes the Canaanites found the water source through an opening in the cave located outside the city walls. He speculates that the tunnel was cut to provide the city with a safe water source during times of siege....Another question involves the date of the tunnel's construction.


After slowly digging through the rocks for a day and a half, the team reached the cave on June 7. It was 15 feet deeper into the water system than Macalister had recorded. The cave was filled to the top with fine, muddy silt. The last two days of the dig were spent cutting a 3-foot by 17-foot trench into the cave silt, readying the site for the 2012 dig.

The final statistics from this summer are helpful in understanding the massive scope of the dig. According to Parker's calculations, the team removed 231 tons of debris (1,372 bags) in 17 days of digging. Warner and Parker's smaller 2010 team removed 68 tons of debris.

The full reports are here.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Gezer water system, tbs102149811

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Campaigns against Privatization of Israel’s National Parks

From the Jerusalem Post:

Both the Society for the Protection of Nature and liberal NGO Ir Amim have launched in the past two days parallel but unrelated campaigns against government plans to privatize 120 national parks.

Led by MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima), the government bill that would make the parks available for sale passed by majority vote in its preliminary Knesset reading on July 27.
Among the parks slated for privatization, SPNI expressed specific concern about Palmachim Beach, the Judean Mountains National Park, Mekorot Hayarkon National Park, Hof Hasharon, the Carmel, Mount Tabor, the Alexander River and Masada.

While the two campaigns against the bill have no direct affiliation to each other, they have nearly the same names – SPNI’s movement is called “Nature is not for sale” and Ir Amim’s operation is called “Not for sale” – and both argue that natural, public space must remain under national control.

“The goal of the campaign is to convey the unequivocal message that it is forbidden to sell nature and to arouse the public to oppose the bill and sign a petition,” a spokesman from SPNI said in a statement.

The story continues here.

Masada aerial from southwest, tb121704219sr

Masada National Park may be sold by the government of Israel.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

More Sounds of the Shofar

I have received, via Jack Sasson’s list, notice of a book accompanying the exhibition at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem.

Sound the Shofar - A Witness to History
Filip Vukosavovic (ed.)
ISBN - 965-7027-23-3
Paperback, 72 pages (55 English, 15 Hebrew)
Price: $20


From the Introduction:

The shofar is a natural sound-producing wind instrument made out of Bovidae horn. It has been a part of human history for thousands of years and is probably among the earliest musical instruments played by mankind. Moreover, the shofar is one of the oldest and most recognizable symbols of Judaism, which has been in continual use in a wide variety of circumstances for more than 3,000 years.

In this catalogue, which accompanies the exhibition Sound the Shofar - A Witness to History, at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, we examine the shofar not only as an artifact, but as an integral and everlasting part of Jewish history, faith and tradition. Throughout the ages, the shofar has been a powerful witness to the tumultuous history of the Jewish people in times of rejoicing and triumph, as well as sadness and catastrophe.

The catalogue, like the exhibition, is divided into two parts. In the first section we discuss the zoology and anatomy of the animal horn from which a shofar is created. In the second section we explore the history, iconography and function of the shofar in Judaism from its earliest attestation in the Bible until the present day.

It appears that shipping to addresses outside of Israel costs $10. The book is published by the museum and does not seem to be available via regular book channels.

Reader Paul Mitchell has sent along some comments and links to more sounds of the shofar.

We read in the Bible of "horns," and in English this is sometimes interpreted as a "trumpet." Usually the instrument wasn't metal (maybe never, I'm not sure) but was a ram's horn (a foot long, curved), and sounds like this:

...or that of an ibex with a curly 3-4 ft long horn, and sounds like this:

You have to wonder if anyone figured out cutting holes in it might make it more versatile, like a flute. When I was in Israel I bought both a ram's horn, and, an ibex horn. Both are in the congregational resources room now, and used to show the kids mostly what these horns from the Bible are like. But the best sound I could ever replicate was a sad moan you might hear from an asthmatic goat who had just been stepped on while in his deathbed.

Here is a short clip that shows the ibex horn can be played quite expertly (the example is disappointingly short):

The horns were used for signaling various things, from warnings to battle orders, to temple commencements. Here is an expert Jewish cantor, in robes, giving varied riffs:

Josh 6:5 It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him."

You might get a small idea of this ancient sound of horns and shouting at (these guys blow the horn as good as I do... a herd of my comrade asthmatic goats).

If someone in your congregation is PC-savvy, these clips might be good to save to a sound-file for classes.

1 Kings 1:34 There let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel; and blow the horn, and say, 'Long live King Solomon!'

2 Kings 11:14 When she looked, there was the king standing by a pillar according to custom; and the leaders and the trumpeters were by the king. All the people of the land were rejoicing and blowing trumpets.

Ps 98:6 With trumpets and the sound of a horn; Shout joyfully before the LORD, the King.

UPDATE: Someone replied with this link, and man oh man can this guy blow!!  Imagine you are in the city of Jericho and a whole nation of horns are blowing this at you, unsheathing their swords etc.  GULP.

Man blowing shofar at Western Wall, tb042605429

Blowing the shofar at the Western Wall


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wednesday Roundup

A 600-lb metal anchor from the Byzantine period has been discovered off the coast south of Tel Aviv. The find led investigators to two others in the area. Photos are available from the IAA in a zip file.

The Sound the Shofar exhibition opened last week in Jerusalem with more than 140 of the horns on display at the Bible Lands Museum. The story includes a two-minute video.

The Jerusalem Post has more information about Google Street View in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa.

Wayne Stiles takes readers on a visit to Shiloh, the longtime home of the tabernacle.

The Archaeology of Libya is discussed in this week’s radio program at the Book and the Spade. (Here’s the direct link to the mp3 file).

ATS Pro Terra Sancta has plans to renovate “the Holy Place of Sebastia.” I certainly support improving the conditions at the ancient city of Samaria, though it strikes me as odd to consider as holy the place where Ahab built a temple for Baal worship and Herod built another for the worship of the Roman emperor.

An inscription in Aramaic and Greek on a stone lintel has been discovered in the area of ancient Sepphoris. The report is in Hebrew and includes a photograph.

A Roman-era style bathhouse was constructed in the middle of a Early Islamic period fortress, say archaeologists excavating at Yavneh-Yam on Israel’s coast.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson

Yavneh-Yam aerial from west, tb121704859


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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Historical Geography of Jordan

What do you do after you’ve learned the historical geography of Israel? Recognize that the other half of the biblical story is on the east side of the Jordan River and plan to learn that.

The best way I know how to do that is through the Historical Geography of the Bible II course offered by the University of the Holy Land. I’ve participated in this study trip taught by Dr. Ginger Caessens and I highly recommend it. You simply cannot find another trip where you will learn and see more about biblical history in Jordan.

The class runs from July 2 to 16, 2012, and the cost is $2200 for full board, double occupancy (single supplement is $376). This includes two hours of credit but does not include airfare to Tel Aviv or transport from the airport to Jerusalem.


Monday, July 2, Transfer from Israel to Jordan via Allenby Bridge; traditional baptismal site (Bethany-Beyond-Jordan?). Overnight in Amman. (Special arrangements can be made for those who
wish to join the group in Jordan rather than in Israel.)

Tuesday, July 3, Lectures. Overnight in Amman.

Wednesday, July 4, The Land of Ammon Field Trip: Amman Citadel (Rabbath-Ammon) and National Museum; remains of Philadelphia (Theater, Odeon); Rujm al-Malfouf (Ammonite tower); Tall al-`Umayri; Kh. es-Sar; Iraq al-`Amir. Overnight in Amman.

Thursday, July 5, Upper Gilead Field Trip: Tall adh-Damiyya/ ancient Adam (view from road); Tulul adh-Dhahab (Mahanaim?); Tall Dayr `Alla (Penuel?); Ajlun Castle; Mar Elias, Listeb, and Umm al-Hedamus (Tishbeh?, home of Elijah). Overnight in Olive Branch Hotel near Jerash.

Friday, July 6, Lower Gilead Field Trip: view of Tall al-Maqlub (Jabesh-gilead?) from the village of Judeita; Tabaqat Fahel (Pella); Umm Qeiss (Gadara); Beit Ras (Capitolias); Tall ar-Rumeith (Ramothgilead?). Overnight in Olive Branch Hotel near Jerash.

Saturday, July 7, Jerash (Gerasa). Overnight in Amman.

Gerasa city from south theater, tb052908616

Gerasa from south

Sunday, July 8, Free day. Overnight in Amman.

Monday, July 9, Quiz and Lectures. Overnight in Amman.

Tuesday, July 10, Medeba Plateau Field Trip: Tall Hisban (Heshbon); Kh. al-Mukhayyat (ancient village of Nebo); Mt. Nebo; Madaba Mosaic Map; Kh. `Attarus (Ataroth); Mukhawir (Machaerus); Tall Araʼir (Aroer); Tall Dhiban (Dibon); W. Mujib/Arnon River Gorge. Overnight in Kerak.

Wednesday, July 11, Moab and Edom Field Trip: Kerak Castle; Sela (climb); Buseira (Bozra); view of W. Danna; `Udruh (Roman Fort). Overnight in Wadi Musa.

Thursday, July 12, Little Petra (Siq al-Barid); Petra. Overnight in Wadi Musa.

Friday, July 13, Caravan Routes East and South of Petra: Humayma (ancient caravan stop); Wadi Ram (2-hour jeep ride Wadi Rum Jebel Khazali crevice, tb061504535followed by traditional meal in Bedouin tent); Wadi Yitm. Overnight in Aqaba.

Saturday, July 14, Wadi Arabah Field Trip: ancient Copper Mines at Feinan (Punon?); Kh. en-Nahash; Sanctuary of St. Lot/Deir `Ain Abata; Bab adh-Dhra (view from road); Hot springs of Kallirhoe. Overnight in Madaba.

Sunday, July 15, Exam. Overnight in Madaba.

Monday, July 16, Return to Jerusalem; program ends.

Jebel Khazali in Wadi Rum

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Google Street View To Photograph Jerusalem Today

If you are around and about Jerusalem and want to be immortalized in Google Street View, you might spend more time walking on the sidewalk in the coming days. From Janglo:

If you spend your days in Jerusalem, you might want to try spending as much of them outdoors as possible. That is, if you want to have a chance at ending up in Google Street View maps of Jerusalem.

Google recently received permission to start imaging cities in Israel and including them in the street view maps. This afternoon they are firing their opening shots, having decided to begin their imaging in Jerusalem. They will be holding a ceremony in Jerusalem with Mayor Nir Barkat to kick off the process..

So, if you hang out in the great outdoors of Jerusalem enough in the immediately near future, you might just end up as a pedestrian in Google Street View maps.

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TV Series: Astonishing Discoveries in the Land of the Bible

The following notice was sent out to the Archeologylist at Southern University.

The exciting new archaeology series “Astonishing Discoveries” with Dr. Michael G. Hasel and Dr. Ron Clouzet will be downlinked live to hundreds of churches across the United States this coming week, September 14-18, at 7:30 p.m. EDT. It can also be seen on Hope Church Channel ( See the attached schedule for programing. Invite your friends and participate for this major event!

The schedule, available in pdf here, lists the following shows:

Wed., Sept 14, 7:30 pm: Egyptian Wonders That Stunned the World

Thurs., Sept 15, 7:30 pm: Babylon, Sumer, and the Quest for Power

Fri., Sept 16, 7:30 pm: The Greatest Discoveries in the Land of Israel

Sat., Sept 17, 7:30 pm: The Spade and the Historical Jesus

Sun., Sept 18, 7:30 pm: Living Rocks from the Apocalypse


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Weekend Roundup, Part Two

The Jordan Lead Codices are fake, fake, fake. This video by Tom Verenna explains why.

JPost’s weekly column “Off the Beaten Track” is inaptly titled this week, but you still may enjoy the tour of Jaffa Gate and the Old City wall running south to Mount Zion.

Less satisfying is Yoni Cohen’s story describing the trails at Ramat Hanadiv (but little about the site!).

In “Archaeology in Israel Update—August 2011,” Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg writes about the “Boundary stone found in Lower Galilee, “Ancient Shechem to be opened to the Public,” “Jerusalem sewage ditch yields up more treasures,” “Phaesalis [sic] City Unvovered” [sic], and “Bathhouse Hercules in the Jezre’el Valley.”

“Seventy-five archaeological missions will resume excavation projects in Egypt as of Monday.”

It is being reported that Egypt will require visitors to acquire a visa before arriving. If it happens, it will no doubt reduce the number of tourists.

Gertrude Bell is remembered in the Jerusalem Post 85 years after her death.

USA Today has named the Glo Bible the #1 coolest book app for the fall. They are impressed with the “700 images of religious art, 2,300 full-color photos and 500 virtual tours of Biblical sites, 140 interactive maps and study tools.” An Android version is coming for all of those with iPhobia.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson

Old City western wall, tb122006005

Western Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem

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Friday, September 09, 2011

Weekend Roundup, Part One

Last week I lamented that Joe Yudin’s tour of Jerusalem tombs would have benefited from some photos. Shmuel Browns has fulfilled that need with pictures and a map.

In the heart of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, the Ultra-Orthodox have held the first conference on “Torah archaeology.” This is a welcome change for a group known for its vocal, and sometimes violent, opposition to archaeology.

The editors at Bible and Interpretation reflect on how they have scooped Biblical Archaeology Review multiple times this year.

A couple of stories about the 12th Annual City of David Archaeology Conference were widely circulated this week. I held off posting, preferring a story that described what happened rather than predicted what might happen. What “newest research and discoveries” was revealed? Did the conference “overturn popular theories”? So far I have seen no reports.

Seth Rodriquez has written and illustrated a simple way to teach people how to “draw the map” of Israel with its major geographic features.

Illustration from Seth Rodriquez’s “Biblical Geography: Drawing the Map

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Search for a Buried Tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings

A blogger’s report on Stephen Cross’s presentation at the Ancient World Tours Conference last week suggests that a buried tomb may have been identified in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. KV62 is the tomb of King Tutankhamen and KV63 is the most recently identified tomb.

At the end of his talk he turned to the possibility of a tomb KV64.  He listed some facts about KV62:

  • it is at an elevation of 170m above mean sea level; 
  • it is sited below an overhang in the rock;
  • there is a leveled area just outside the entrance.

After the 2008/9 excavations, he identified one location in the central area which matches these same facts.  The levelled area was confirmed by ground penetrating radar.  It is about 3 feet from the edge of the excavated area.  The radar also suggested what may be a tunnel filled with limestone chipping stretching from somewhere near that possible entrance location beneath the Rest House, although I don't think it was shown as reaching the theorised tomb entrance.

There is no proof, but it could turn out that KV64 has been identified, although there have been many false dawns on this story over the past 5 or 6 years.  (He says that the Reeves radar anomalies were mostly checked and were surface features such as minor fissures or even modern conduits.)

The full report is here.

HT: Jack Sasson

Valley of the Kings, tbs59329012

Entrance to the Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

2012 Holy Land Calendar

The theme of the 2012 Holy Land Calendar produced by Lamb & Lion Ministries is “The Galilee of Jesus” and it includes twelve of my favorite photos related to Jesus’ ministry. At the very affordable price of $5, the calendar would make a great gift for family, friends, pastors, and teachers. You might even want to pick up an extra for a church or school classroom.
The featured sites include the Arbel cliffs, Caesarea Philippi, Capernaum, Chorazin, the Jordan River, the Mount of Beatitudes, Mount Tabor, Nazareth, and the Sea of Galilee. The cover photo shows the traditional location where Jesus was on shore cooking breakfast when he told the disciples to throw their nets on the other side (John 21).

You may purchase the calendar online here or by calling 972-736-3567 between 8am and 5pm Central time, Monday through Friday. For orders of 10 or more, the phone price is $4 each, plus the cost of shipping.


Critique: Cornuke’s Video on Paul’s Shipwreck on Malta

Robert Cornuke is well known in evangelical circles as a non-archaeologist with several astonishing archaeological discoveries. His latest video describes “possibly the Biblical find of this century!” He claims to have discovered the four anchors from Paul’s shipwrecked vessel off the coast of Malta.

Gordon Franz does us all a service by evaluating Cornuke’s presentation. He notes a series of minor mistakes, but he focuses on the four pillars of Cornuke’s case, concluding that:

1. Cornuke’s video misleads in claiming that only his location has the ocean depths as given in Act 27.

2. Cornuke’s video fails to inform viewers that there are other qualified bays that have a beach.

3. Cornuke’s greatest mistake is claiming that sailors would not have recognized the east coast of Malta.

4. Cornuke’s argument cannot account for the specifics of the shipwreck as described in Acts 27.

Franz’s article expands upon each of these points and addresses other problems with this sensationalized “discovery.”

For previous posts on Cornuke’s work on Malta, see here and here.

Malta St Thomas Bay view northwest from Munxar Reef, tb112005864

St. Thomas Bay as seen from Munxar Reef, location of Cornuke’s discovery

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Update on the Grand Egyptian Museum

Today the museum committee begins reviewing bids for the construction of the main exhibition halls. The new museum is scheduled to open in March 2015. The Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) is located near the pyramids of Giza.

From Al-Ahram Online:

Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud supervisor of the GEM pointed out that the first and second phases of the GEM project have been completed and included construction of the labs, storehouses, power station and fire fighting unite.

He told Al-Ahram Online that until now 10,000 objects were transferred to the GEM from archaeological galleries all over Egypt and before the opening of the museum set for March 2015, the other 80,000 objects will be transferred.

Among the objects on display are the unique funerary objects of Tutankhamun, Hetepheres, mother of the Pharaoh Khufu, Yuya and Thuya, the grandfathers of Pharaoh Akhenaten, Senedjem, the principal artist of Pharaoh Ramses II, the royal mummies and the treasures of Tanis.

Mohamed Abdel Fatah secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) said that the museum will also house a conference centre with an auditorium for 1,000 to cater for theatrical performances, concerts, conferences and business meetings. The main auditorium will be supplemented with seminar rooms, meeting halls, a multi-purpose hall, along with an open plan gallery for accompanying exhibitions. A special section for children will be created in order to encourage young people to learn about their heritage.

The full story includes two illustrations.

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Saturday, September 03, 2011

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

Timna Park, 20 miles (32 km) north of Eilat, has benefitted from a multi-million dollar spending spree, resulting in the creation of four new bicycle paths, hundreds of shade trees, and talk of a new hotel. The article says not a word about the best attraction of the park: the life-size model of the tabernacle.

In a BAR editorial, Aaron A. Burke describes how his detective work in the records of a deceased archaeologist revealed more about the city of Joppa (Jaffa) and cleared the archaeologist of claims of misdeeds.

At the Bible and Interpretation, Paul V. M. Flesher describes what a synagogue of Jesus’ time looked like.

CITYsights takes viewers on a one-minute video tour of Solomon’s Quarries (Zedekiah’s Cave) in Jerusalem. The audio track consists of music only and if you turn the volume off, you’ll enjoy it more.

The Jerusalem Post has more details of Jerusalem: IMAX 3D, slated for release in 2013.

The headline of this Arutz-7 story would lead you to believe that it is about Ein Gedi, but it is primarily about the synagogue at the site.

BibleX notes that the Biblical Archaeology Society has 17 free e-books (with login/registration).

A group in Jordan is threatening to sue Israel over its opening of a baptismal site on the Jordan River. They claim that the Israeli site is located in Jordan.

A story about ancient graffiti in caves in Israel is accompanied by a six-minute video.

Wayne Stiles in the Jerusalem Post: “There’s much to see in the area of Tel Maresha and Beit Guvrin. Remnants of pottery, war, industry, entertainment, and tombs—all gifts of archaeology.”

Bet Guvrin cave with staircase, tb022807547

Cave at Maresha/Beit Guvrin with ancient staircase

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Friday, September 02, 2011

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

There is so much going on that I need to make an early start on the Weekend Roundup. There will be more tomorrow.

Ferrell Jenkins and Leon Mauldin are now traveling in Israel, with the goal of visiting places they have never seen before. Ferrell’s first post shows a well-preserved Roman road in the western hills of Judah and Leon’s features a Roman milestone.

Shmuel Browns posts his list of “Top Ten” Jerusalem Sites. You might bring this list on your next visit to Jerusalem (or hire Shmuel to guide you around).

Joe Yudin guides his readers on a tour of significant tombs in Jerusalem, including “King David’s tomb,” the so-called family tomb of King Herod, the Muslim cemetery in Mamilla, and Jason’s Tomb. I think an illustration or two would enhance the article.

A group of archaeologists and students in Israel have submitted a petition to lawmakers to drop support for a law that would allow the continuation of excavations in the City of David that are funded by Elad.

If you missed the “Office Hours” interview with Carol and Eric Meyers on Thursday, you may watch the video online. In the 50-minute interview, they discuss both professional and personal aspects of their lives in archaeology, including vandalism of sites, their children’s presence on digs, middle-of-the-night excavations, how to get a start in archaeology, and forthcoming books.

Reuters has a brief story about tunnel systems carved by rebels during the first and second Jewish revolts.

Jason's Tomb through entrance arch, tb100102

Jason’s Tomb in Jerusalem

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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Lectures on the Historicity of Solomon

The Memory and Identity Working Group, University of California, Berkeley is hosting a lecture entitled “Mining for Solomon” by Professor Steven Weitzman (Stanford University) on Tuesday, September 6, 2011, 4:00 pm, 254 Barrows Hall.

After a century-long search for traces of the historical King Solomon, archaeologists have recently claimed to locate the possible source of his fabled wealth in southern Jordan. Has scholarship at last found evidence of the real King Solomon? Weitzman's presentation will address this question by exploring the pre-history of the archaeological quest for Solomon, a quest with surprisingly important historical consequences that go beyond our understanding of the biblical past.

For other upcoming lectures sponsored by the group, see their website.

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School invites the public to a lecture by William G. Dever entitled “The Golden Age of Solomon: Fact or Fancy?” The lecture will be held on Monday, October 3, 2011 at 7:00 pm in Hinkson Hall, Rodine Building. A flyer may be viewed here (pdf).

HT: Jack Sasson, A.D. Riddle

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