Saturday, March 31, 2012

Weekend Roundup

Haaretz has a lengthy profile of Ronny Reich and his 15-year excavation of the City of David. The article is partly based on Reich’s book and deals with the archaeological highlights and the political controversies.

Walk the Land: A Journey on Foot through Israel is available as a free Kindle ebook for a limited time.

A FoxNews story about the Chinese Christian version of the Noah’s Ark discovery interviews Randall Price and John Morris.

The Oklahoma exhibit with the seals of Jeremiah’s captors is previewed in a four-minute video.

Joe Yudin takes his readers on a tour of the City of David. He writes that one may walk underground to the Western Wall, suggesting that the tunnel collapse from late December has been cleared and the passage re-opened.

An Asclepium has been discovered in central Greece.’s Fabulous Friday sale includes a couple of great deals: Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, by Carl Rasmussen, and the audio NKJV Word of Promise New Testament, each for $14.99 for the weekend.

HT: Craig Dunning, BibleX, Jack Sasson

City of David aerial from east, tb010703201City of David aerial from the east

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Haaretz: Golan and Reich on the Forgery Case

The Haaretz Weekend Magazine has two interesting articles related to the forgery trial of Oded Golan. I think they express well some of the arguments of the defense. I agree with Golan (and archaeologists who are not usually mentioned in the news) that the Jehoash Inscription is too sophisticated to be a forgery. The photograph from the 1970s showing the James Ossuary with the full inscription is significant testimony that the prosecution could not counter.

I don’t think there’s any question that the motivation of many of those claiming forgery here is a desire to eliminate the antiquities trade. As noble as that may be, it does not overturn the weight of the evidence that the primary artifacts in question (including also the ivory pomegranate) are authentic.

According to Golan, contrary to the argument of the IAA, the world of antiquities forgeries in Israel is very small and makes no economic sense: “In order to make the Jehoash tablet, you would have to work on it for at least a year and keep a team of experts on writing and on biology and geochemistry and archaeology, among others, and in the end you wouldn’t be able to sell it. You have to do everything in secret and you’ll always get someone who will say it is a fake.

“If you can do all that,” he continues, “you might as well go and print yourself dollars.”

According to Golan, the community of antiquities collectors constitutes a very limited group of knowledgeable individuals, all of whom are experts, to whom it is not easy to sell fakes. He also mentions the absence of any logic in the forgery of which he was accused in the case of the Jehoash tablet.

“I said during the investigation that even if I had intended to make forgeries, I definitely wouldn’t have written 200 letters [of the alphabet], in which you can make mistakes in syntax and shape, and all this on stone that’s going to break,” he asserts. “If I were to forge, I’d make do with writing: ‘The Temple, entrance here.’ And if I’ve already written ‘brother of Jesus,’ wouldn’t it have been logical to add ‘of Nazareth’? Without that, it all remains in the realm of fantasy.”

The prosecution claims that Golan is a “genius” who is able to convince scholars of all different fields that his creations are authentic. Golan doesn’t give himself so much credit.

The full article is worth reading, as is the sidebar about Ronny Reich who says, “It’s hard for me to believe that a forger ‏(or group of forgers‏) could be so knowledgeable in all aspects of the inscription − that is, the physical, paleographic, linguistic and biblical ones − that they could produce such an object.”

It would be nice if the Jehoash Inscription went on public display in a museum. For previous posts about the Jehoash Inscription, see the following:

Jehoash Inscription: Five Scholars Claim Authentic

Jehoash Inscription: Geologists Think Authentic

Forgery Conference Report

HT: Joseph Lauer


Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Book: The Horsemen of Israel

If you don’t end up making it to the end of the current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, you’ll miss a great review of what appears to be a terrific book. Ziony Zevit raves about The Horsemen of Israel: Horses and Chariots in Monarchic Israel (Ninth-Eighth Centuries B.C.E.), calling this doctoral dissertation by a horse lover a “page-turner” that may have a significant impact on our understanding of the subject. From the review:

imageAlthough recent scholarship tends to assume that there were few horses in ancient Israel and that chariotry was relatively insignificant, Cantrell concludes otherwise based on sophisticated inferences from Biblical as well as ancient Near Eastern texts and from an abundance of archaeological evidence. In Iron Age Israel, she argues, there were large numbers of horses.

Concerning those “storehouses” at Megiddo:

Cantrell convincingly argues that archaeological excavations at Megiddo uncovered a major equine complex with stables, an exercise area, watering troughs, hitching stalls, and an adjacent granary for feed.

The author’s background is relevant:

Cantrell has been a rider, trainer, breeder and importer of horses and has engaged in competitive barrel racing, jumping and dressage. Consequently, she approached her research with understanding and a large body of practical knowledge.

The entire review is online. Zevit has convinced me that this is a work I will enjoy reading. The book is published by Eisenbrauns and also available from Amazon.

Eisenbrauns also has recently published a work on Donkeys in the Biblical World. I’m looking forward to a book on those non-kosher mules that keep showing up with a king’s saddle.

Megiddo southern stables, tb032507596

Reconstructed stable at Megiddo


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wednesday Roundup

Shmuel Browns shares some photos from his recent hike of Nahal Darga, which he calls “Israel’s most extreme and challenging” hike.

BAS: “Named by The Sunday Times as one of the world’s top ten walks, the Lycian Way hiking trail weaves along 300 miles of Turkey’s southern coastline through hundreds of archaeological sites.”

Leen Ritmeyer has word of an expansion to the Davidson Center in the excavations south of the Temple Mount.

The audio files are now online for Bryant Wood’s recent lecture series on “Archaeology and the Conquest: New Evidence on an Old Problem.”

Wayne Stiles: “Passover and Easter bring to mind pictures of the Messiah—both for Jews and for Christians. The Mount of Olives echoes these hopes from its slopes.”

The Washington Post reports on a battle in Israel to save the ancient Canaan dog.

Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a left-wing petition against the City of David Archaeological Park. The article notes that “the City of David site receives around 450,000 visitors a year, up from 2,000 in 2001.”

Craig Evans writes about the Archaeological Evidence for Jesus. The accompanying photos are disappointing.

The Elvis Presley® Holy Land Tour is now taking sign-ups. In addition to stops at the Sea of Galilee and Western Wall, the tour will stop at the “infamous Elvis Inn Restaurant in Abu Ghosh - an Elvis-themed diner and souvenir shop popular with tourists from around the world.”

HT: Joseph Lauer

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Lecture: King David and Hittite Monarchs


Harry A. Hoffner, Jr.
Emeritus John A. Wilson Professor of Hittitology
The Oriental Institute
The University of Chicago

“Getting to be King and Staying There: David of Israel Seen in Comparison with Selected Hittite Monarchs”

Monday, April 23, 2012
7:00 p.m. – Hinkson Hall, Rodine Building
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois

More details about the speaker are given on the university’s announcement flyer.


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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Weekend Roundup

Using satellite images, a researcher has identified potentially 9,000 new sites in northeastern Syria. “With these computer science techniques, however, we can immediately come up with an enormous map which is methodologically very interesting, but which also shows the staggering amount of human occupation over the last 7,000 or 8,000 years.”

The Jezreel Expedition “just released three-dimensional LiDAR models detailing the site’s architecture and ancient landscape taken from recently collected LiDAR data.”

The spring season at Tel Burna has ended.

A writer for the Detroit Free Press describes one day on a dig at Khirbet Qeiyafa.

A New York Times article describes problems facing archaeologists returning to Iraqi sites.

Travelujah tells the “beautiful and tragic" story of Naharayim and Peace Island.

Joe Yudin visits Chorazin this week.

The Winter 2012 issue of DigSight is now online (pdf). Topics include: The "Jesus Family Tomb" Revisited, The Oldest Egyptian Reference to Israel?, Recent Sightings, and Upcoming Events.

James Tabor: “Discovery TV has confirmed that the one hour special titled ‘The Resurrection Tomb’ will air on Thursday, April 5th, at 10pm EST.”

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, the previous work by Lois Tverberg and co-author Ann Spangler, is available for $3.99 for Kindle for a few more days.

HT: ANE-2, Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson

Chorazin panorama from west, tb041103211

Chorazin from the west

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Friday, March 23, 2012

The Best Maps of Israel

The best maps for detailed work in historical geography of Israel are the 1:50,000 series published by the Survey of Israel and the Survey of Western Palestine maps produced in the 1880s by the Palestine Exploration Fund. The first set comprises 20 maps and the second 16 (only going as far south as Beersheba), indicating the level of detail involved. Maps in the first set cost about $20 each and the second set costs in the thousands of dollars in the rare event that one comes on the market. In order to gain access to the Survey of Western Palestine, when one went on the market for sale in Germany some years ago, we purchased it and “shared the cost” by making an electronic version available.

An excellent new resource is available that combines the two maps in a single (free) website entitled amud anan (“pillar of cloud”). You can navigate on either map and then toggle to the other to see the land 130 years earlier (or later). The differences are dramatic. In addition, a “3D” option overlaps the maps on Google Earth topography so that the hills and valleys look like hills and valleys.

The 1:50,000 maps are in Hebrew. If you need to use detailed maps of Israel, and you don’t think you need to know Hebrew for anything else, these maps provide sufficient justification to learn the alphabet. (It really doesn’t take that long; there are only 22 letters and everything is phonetic.)

With a tablet and a good internet connection (or with purchase of the iPad app; Android coming), hiking in Israel may never be the same!

Northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, Survey of Western Palestine sheet 6


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Three Articles at The Bible and Interpretation

Excavations at Kh. el-Maqatir 1995–2000, 2009–2011: A Border Fortress in the Highlands of Canaan and a Proposed New Location for the Ai of Joshua 7–8. In this 11-page report, Bryant G. Wood surveys the major results of his excavations from the Late Bronze, Iron I, Late Hellenistic/Early Roman, and Byzantine periods. The well-illustrated article provides diagrams of the Late Bronze I fortress (Ai?) and the Byzantine monastery.

The Ossuary of James the Brother of Jesus: From Trial to Truth? Paul V. M. Flesher argues that “the trial produced no truth,” wonders whether Yuval Goren has changed his mind about the inscription’s authenticity, and concludes that unprovenienced objects must be ignored lest they distort the historical record.

Archaeology in Israel Update--February/March 2012. Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg reports on some recent stories.

  • Cultivation of ancient citrons (etrogim) at Ramat Rahel, Jerusalem
  • Restoration of historic sites, the Montefiore Windmill in Jerusalem
  • Another controversial find by Simcha Jacobovici
  • Sale of ancient shekel in New York auction
  • Forgery trial verdict announced

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Summer at Tel Dan

Off the top of my head, I cannot think of more appealing places to excavate than the beach or Tel Dan. Summers can be hot in Israel and Jordan and instead of baking at Tel Rehov or Feinan, you can excavate at Ashkelon, with its cool ocean breezes, or at Tel Dan, a lush garden “which lacks nothing whatsoever” (Judg 18:7).

While the registration window is quickly closing for this season’s dig at Dan, there is still time to get in at the site where the famous Tel Dan Inscription was found and where the high place of Jeroboam still stands.

The official website lists the Goals of the 2012 season:

1. We will continue digging in Area B, into the early Iron Age levels (circa 1200-1000 BCE), to flesh out the architectural plans and to facilitate spatial analysis of houses and neighborhoods, to understand lifestyle, economy, social identity (ethnicity) and political organization.  We are especially interested in retrieving carbonized grain from the Strata V and IVA destruction levels and to submit them for C14 dating (we have dates from wood, but the wood might already have been old when the town was destroyed).

2. We will continue digging in the new area in the center of the site, Area L, in the 8th cent. BCE levels destroyed in an earthquake.  What does a town look, one minute before disaster strikes?  How to people react to such a catastrophe? We will also be emphasizing “household archaeology” here. Is the earthquake mentioned in the book of Amos (Chapter 1)?

3. We will continue working in the area outside the city gate, Area A, in an attempt to date and understand the phantom gate of the Iron Age.  Was it constructed in the 10th century BCE, the 9th century or even later?  Will we find more pieces of the famous victory inscription of Tel Dan?

You can download an application here.

HT: Alexander Schick

Dan Iron Age gate with plaza and ruler's podium, tb052907083

Iron Age gate at Tel Dan

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Questions and Answers at Neot Kedumim

An article in Haaretz gives a little history and suggests a few reasons to put Neot Kedumim on your list of places to go.

Why for example, one might wonder, did that forefather of all forefathers Abraham camp under the “oak of Moreh” when he, Sarah and their nephew Lot first came to this land?  Is there significance to the oak? A deeper story behind the simple tale?

Have you always wanted to know why the children of Israel used the hyssop plant to brush paint on their doorposts when leaving Egypt? Or maybe you are one of those ancient history buffs more interested in why the Roman soldiers used the very same hyssop - dipped in vinegar - to quench Jesus’ thirst when he was on the cross?

And where on earth could one look for the answers to such questions?

Look no further than magical Neot Kedumim, Israel’s biblical landscape reserve, where the physical setting of the bible has been recreated on 625 acres teeming with everything from the majestic cedar of Lebanon to the scrappy hyssop bush.


One can rest in the shade of a willow around “Solomon’s Pool,” traipse around “Jotham’s Garden”, draw water from an ancient cistern, and then stop for a biblical themed lunch (which needs to be organized in advance) at “Abraham’s Tent.” Don’t expect tomatoes in your salad here, or any eggplant dishes, or, for that matter, any food not around when Rachel and Rebecca were in the kitchen. Sorry kiwi enthusiasts. And no surprise here: the restaurant is kosher.

Depending on the season, other activities offered at Neot Kedumim might include harvesting grain on a threshing floor, plowing and sowing a field, and plucking olives or operating an authentic olive press. Some activities such as shepherding, learn to write like Torah scribe and parchment preparation, and tree planting involve extra charges.

The full article is here. We recommended a visit several months ago. If you would like answers to some of the questions in the article but can’t wait for a visit, the books produced by Neot Kedumim (listed here) are the place to start.

Pool with date palms, Neot Kedumim, tb112103295

“Solomon’s Pool” at Neot Kedumim


Monday, March 19, 2012

Greatest Archaeological Finds in Israel

An article published by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs lists the most important sites excavated in the last 25 years, according to a couple of archaeologists. The article’s introduction, however, contains some information perhaps as valuable as the list itself. Quoting Jon Seligman, the head of excavations and surveys for the Israel Antiquities Authority, the article reports:

The IAA supervises about 300 annual excavations, accounting for about 95 percent of all the archeological digs in Israel. The digs usually take place at mounds composed of the remains of ancient settlements (tel in Hebrew). “We have 30 excavations every day,” says Seligman. Israel is so rich in archeology that even at this pace, he adds, “We can carry on for many more years.”


The digging, discovery and analyzing is part of a carefully considered process, Seligman stresses. “We have to look not only at what we excavate but also at what we don’t. We do the minimal amount necessary, since excavation is a destructive process and we have to think about what we must leave for future generations,” he explains.

“In general, we try to keep material at the site in its context, and only consider bringing things to a museum when there is no alternative. A mosaic, for example, is meant to be on a floor, not hanging on a wall.”

Not every excavation site is preserved for public viewing. “Maintenance is expensive, so we can’t afford to make each into a presentation site,” Seligman says. Those that aren’t developed into national parks are covered over after the archeologists have finished their investigations.

The list of “best finds” is more of a list of sites, and the 16 sites were selected by Seligman and Aren Maeir. They include: Hazor, Dan, Rehov, Mishmar David, Ramla, Herodium, Yiftach-El, Tel Kabri, Hilazon Cave, Te’omim Cave, Khirbet Qeiyafa, Tell es-Safi, Ramat Rahel, Omrit, Khirbet Wadi Hamam, and Jaffa.

The most glaring omission from the list is the City of David, with the discovery of the Middle Bronze fortifications, cuneiform tablet, fish bones, and Pool of Siloam. Other sites that I would judge as of greater significance in the last 25 years of excavation than some listed above are Bethsaida (et-Tell), Hippos, Sepphoris, Dor, Caesarea, Mount Gerizim, and Beth Shemesh.

Sepphoris Orpheus mosaic, tb110106436

Orpheus mosaic, Sepphoris


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Weekend Roundup

Joe Yudin’s weekly travel column suggests a way to get a taste of everything in a one-day hike in the Golan.

Looters searching for treasure mentioned in the Copper Scroll uncovered a mikveh near Modiin before they were arrested.

The “Million Dollar shekel” actually sold for 1.1 million at a New York auction. This sets a record for the sale of a Judean coin.

“The Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) will open 22 of its nature reserves and national parks for free to the public for a couple weeks in honor of Nature and Heritage Conservation Week.”

Haaretz profiles a 20-year plan to publish every ancient inscription ever discovered in Israel. The photo that accompanies the story shows one of the most easily accessible inscriptions, at the base of the first lamppost in Jerusalem, just inside Jaffa Gate.

Norma Franklin, co-director of the Jezreel Expedition, is interviewed on the LandMinds radio show (part 1, part 2).

The IAA chairman is unhappy about the destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount.

A U.S. archaeological team is back excavating in Iraq.

ASOR is making progress in its efforts to digitize its archives. Here is a direct link to hundreds of thumbnails from the collection of Nelson Glueck.

Significant discussion continues about Talpiot Tomb B. If you’ve fallen behind, the best place to catch up is with James McGrath’s recent roundup. The preliminary report has been updated a third time.

The Bible and Interpretation has a single entry point for their dozens of articles published over the years related to the James Ossuary and the Jehoash Inscription.

I doubt that there are many tours of Israel that do as well as Insight for Living in sharing their experiences with the world.

ASOR rounds up the news in the broader world of archaeology.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson

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Friday, March 16, 2012

The Green Collection

The Christian Post reports on a collection of nearly 50,000 artifacts of biblical significance that may one day form the basis for a biblical museum.

A collector deemed "the Indiana Jones of biblical archaeology" has helped amass the world's biggest private collection of biblical texts and artifacts, which are on a worldwide traveling tour and will be on display one day at a nonsectarian Bible museum.

Dr. Scott Carroll has personally inspected, studied and bought nearly 50,000 ancient biblical papyri, texts, and artifacts since Nov. 2009, when he was hired by the Green Collection, named after the Green family, founders and leaders of Hobby Lobby, the world's largest privately owned arts and crafts retailer, the reported.

Among the highlights of the Green Collection are one of the largest private collections of Dead Sea Scrolls; 4,000 Jewish Torahs; rare illuminated manuscripts; early tracts and Bibles belonging to Martin Luther; and the Western Hemisphere's largest collection of cuneiform tablets, an early form of writing.

This month, the Green Collection is showing off its exhibit to the Vatican, featuring 152 artifacts displayed contextually in settings ranging from re-creations of the Qumran caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered to a monastic scriptorium and an excavation of a Roman garbage city in Egypt.

The full story is here. Wikipedia has more information about the collection, dates of exhibitions, and participating scholars. We’ve mentioned related stories previously here and here.

imageGreen Collection photo

HT: Jack Sasson


Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Geopolitics of Israel: Biblical and Modern

Strafor Global Intelligence has an interesting analysis of how Israel’s geographical realities have affected its political situation in biblical times as well as today. It’s an interesting read. The article begins:

The founding principle of geopolitics is that place -- geography -- plays a significant role in determining how nations will behave. If that theory is true, then there ought to be a deep continuity in a nation's foreign policy. Israel is a laboratory for this theory, since it has existed in three different manifestations in roughly the same place, twice in antiquity and once in modernity. If geopolitics is correct, then Israeli foreign policy, independent of policymakers, technology or the identity of neighbors, ought to have important common features. This is, therefore, a discussion of common principles in Israeli foreign policy over nearly 3,000 years.

The article discusses the importance of the Levant as a land bridge:

The Levant in general and Israel in particular has always been a magnet for great powers. No Mediterranean empire could be fully secure unless it controlled the Levant. Whether it was Rome or Carthage, a Mediterranean empire that wanted to control both the northern and southern littorals needed to anchor its eastern flank on the Levant. For one thing, without the Levant, a Mediterranean power would be entirely dependent on sea lanes for controlling the other shore. Moving troops solely by sea creates transport limitations and logistical problems. It also leaves imperial lines vulnerable to interdiction -- sometimes merely from pirates, a problem that plagued Rome's sea transport. A land bridge, or a land bridge with minimal water crossings that can be easily defended, is a vital supplement to the sea for the movement of large numbers of troops. Once the Hellespont is crossed, the coastal route through southern Turkey, down the Levant and along the Mediterranean's southern shore, provides such an alternative.

There is much more, and I recommend the article to students of geography. I might also point out a few critical geopolitical principles that the author neglected to mention.

“Woe to those...who do not look to the Holy One of Israel...the Egyptians are men and not God” (Isaiah 31:1).

“If you fully obey the Lord your God...the Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you” (Deut 28:1,7).

Judean hills near Debir, Khirbet Rabud, tb030407777

“I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Not Guilty: James Ossuary Trial Ends

A judge in Jerusalem today declared defendants Oded Golan and Robert Deutsch not guilty of charges that they forged an inscription on the James Ossuary. The court ruled that the prosecution failed to prove that the inscription was forged and denounced the Israeli police forensics laboratory for contaminating the ossuary. Matthew Kalman has been covering the trial for the last 7 years. He reports:

Mr. Golan had been accused of adding the second half of the inscription linking it to Jesus, and then fabricating the patina, the bio-organic coating that adheres to ancient objects, to pass it off as genuine.

But Judge Farkash said the prosecution had failed to prove any of the serious charges against Mr. Golan and acquitted him on all but three minor charges of illegal antiquities dealing and possession of stolen antiquities. Robert Deutsch, a co-defendant, was acquitted on all charges.

“The prosecution failed to prove beyond all reasonable doubt what was stated in the indictment: that the ossuary is a forgery and that Mr. Golan or someone acting on his behalf forged it,” Judge Farkash told the court, summarizing his 475-page verdict.

He noted that it was the first time a criminal court had been asked to rule in a case of antiquities forgery.

The spectacular collapse of the trial, nine years after Mr. Golan was arrested and thousands of items were seized from his home, office and warehouses in Tel Aviv, was a severe blow to the Israeli police and Israel Antiquities Authority, who claimed they had exposed “the tip of the iceberg” of an international conspiracy selling fake artifacts to collectors and museums worldwide.

Kalman’s full report is here. The judge’s verdict does not prove that the inscription is authentic, but that the 100+ witnesses of the prosecution failed to prove that it was forged. Dan Bahat appears to have been the one behind the 60 Minutes charade to condemn Golan on the basis of testimony of an Egyptian craftsman.

A humbled Israel Antiquities Authority immediately issued a press release.

During the trial the judge was presented with the conclusions of an expert committee of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the universities, which unequivocally established that the finds are forgeries. The court had to decide professional issues in the field of archaeology, which are not frequently heard in a court of law.

In other words, the judge is not competent to decide the case. Their claims that forgery were “unequivocally established” is a slap in the face of the court and indicates that their desperate measures have not ceased.

The release then continues to explain just how this case was a “win” for them and why seven years and significant resources spent was worth it for the public.

Hershel Shanks has written a brief but helpful report with some behind-the-scenes details about the investigation of the ossuary and other disputed artifacts.

In conclusion, it should be noted that the verdict does not prove that (1) the inscription is ancient or (2) the ossuary belonged to someone mentioned in the New Testament or (3) forgeries do not abound in the antiquities market.


The James ossuary was on display at the Royal Ontario Museum from November 15, 2002 to January 5, 2003.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Book: Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?

Crossway has just released a 540-page book with more than 20 articles from a number of leading evangelical scholars. The full title is Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture.

Amazon has a list of endorsements, but I find the table of contents to be much more helpful in seeing the potential value of this book for my studies and thinking. (It’s probable that most of the reviewers endorsed the book based on the table of contents and did not read the book.)

Before adding the (lengthy) contents listing, a few additional notes: (1) Crossway’s website has the first chapter for free; (2) the paperback sells for $23, but the Kindle version is now just $10; (3) I have put in bold the chapters of most interest to me personally.

Part 1: Biblical, Systematic, and Historical Theology:

1. Thomas H. McCall, “Religious Epistemology, Theological Interpretation of Scripture, and Critical Biblical Scholarship: A Theologian’s Reflections”image

2. Graham A. Cole, “The Peril of a ‘Historyless’ Systematic Theology”

3. Mark D. Thompson, “The Divine Investment in Truth: Toward a Theological Account of Biblical Inerrancy”

4. James K. Hoffmeier, “‘These Things Happened’: Why a Historical Exodus Is Essential for Theology”

5. Michael A. G. Haykin, “Fundamentum et Columnam Fidei Nostrae: Irenaeus on the Perfect and Saving Nature of the Scriptures”

Part 2: Old Testament and Issues of History, Authenticity, and Authority

6. Richard E. Averbeck, “Pentateuchal Criticism and the Priestly Torah”

7. Robert B. Chisholm Jr., “Old Testament Source Criticism: Some Methodological Miscues”

8. Robert D. Bergen, “Word Distribution as an Indicator Authorial Intention: A Study of Gen. 1:1-2:3″

9. John W. Hilber, “The Culture of Prophecy and Writing in the Ancient Near East”

10. Richard L. Schultz, “Isaiah, Isaiahs, and Current Scholarship”

11. Alan Millard, “Daniel in Babylon: An Accurate Record?”

12. Willem A. VanGemeren & Jason Stanghalle, “A Critical-Realistic Reading of Psalms Titles: Authenticity, Inspiration and Evangelicals”

13. Jens Bruun Kofoed, “The Old Testament as Cultural Memory”

Part 3: New Testament and Issues of History, Authenticity, and Authority

14. Robert W. Yarbrough, “God’s Word in Human Words: Form-Critical Reflections”

15. Craig L. Blomberg, “A Constructive Traditional Response to New Testament Criticism”

16. Darrell L. Bock, “Precision and Accuracy: Making Distinctions in the Cultural Context that Give Us Pause in Pitting Gospels Against Other”

17. Eckhard J. Schnabel, “Paul, Timothy, and Titus: The Assumption of a Pseudonymous Author and of Pseudonymous Recipients in the Light of Literary, Theological, and Historical Evidence”

18. Thomas W. Davis, “Saint Paul on Cyprus: The Transformation of an Apostle”

Part 4: The Old Testament and Archaeology

19. John M. Monson, “Enter Joshua: The Mother of Current Biblical Debates”

20. Richard S. Hess, “Yahweh’s ‘Wife’ and Belief in One God in the Old Testament”

21. Michael G. Hasel, “New Excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa and the Early History of Judah”

22. Steven M. Ortiz, “The Archaeology of David and Solomon: Method or Madness?”


Monday, March 12, 2012

Swifts Welcomed at Western Wall

From Arutz-7:

The Common Swift, a unique bird that spends most of its life on the wing, returns to Western Wall for a short vacation from Africa. Nature-lovers are planning a welcoming ceremony Monday.

The Friends of the Swifts Association, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, and Tel Aviv University are working together to save existing nesting sites of the special bird. Its arrival at the Western Wall also symbolizes the approaching spring, said the sponsors of the welcoming ceremony.


They said that a special study to map the nests was conducted in 2002 by researcher Ulrich Tigges and by the late Prof. Mendelssohn, during which 88 nests were noted. This study map served as a guideline during the work of strengthening the Western Wall, keeping the nests unblocked.

The full story is here.

Birds have been making their nests near the temple ever since the psalmist wrote, “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young, a place near your altar....Blessed are those who dwell in your house” (Psalm 84:3-4).

Bird perched on stone of Western Wall, tb090705995

Pigeon perched in hollow of the Western Wall

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Weekend Roundup

Bryant Wood has written a short summary of the 2009 and 2010 excavation seasons at Khirbet el-Maqatir, a site he believes may be biblical Ai.

Of the Talpiot Tomb, Richard Bauckham has a detailed examination of the four-line inscription, concluding that it does not have anything to do with Jesus or early Christianity but is nonetheless a very interesting ossuary inscription. Paleobabble observes that there is nothing in the “Jesus Discovery” related to Jesus or early Christianity. Those interested in reading about the first “Jesus tomb” in Talpiot can access a 2006 issue of Near Eastern Archaeology on the subject for free.

The Maps of the Zucker Holy Land Travel Manuscript have been digitized and put online by the University of Pennsylvania. The map was made in the late 1600s.

John Monson’s lecture on “Physical Theology: The Bible in its Land, Time, and Culture” at the Lanier Theological Library last month is now online.

Wayne Stiles visits the Mount of Beatitudes, Tel Dan, and Beth Shean. He provides an interesting quotation from George Adam Smith about Beth Shean, written in 1896: “There are few sites which promise richer spoil beneath their rubbish to the first happy explorer with permission to excavate.” How right he was!

Joe Yudin describes a favorite hike in lower Galilee.

Turkey claims that Roman mosaics at a university in Kentucky were stolen in the 1960s and should be returned.

The Roman ruins in Palmyra are apparently being threatened by the Syrian army.

Greece is re-burying ruins because of a lack of funds.

HT: Jack Sasson, Joseph Lauer

Palmyra, triumphal arch, central portion, mat01428

Triumphal arch of Palmyra
source, with 30 free photos of the site)

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Friday, March 09, 2012

Great Deal: New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible is running a Fabulous Friday sale on The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible for only $130. 33468: The New Interpreter"s Dictionary of the Bible: Five Volume SetThis five-volume work includes 7,100 articles and many illustrations. NIDB is not quite as comprehensive or detailed as Anchor Bible Dictionary but it is more up-to-date. Amazon sells it for $316.

Carl Rasmussen’s excellent Zondervan Atlas of the Bible is also marked down to $18 for the sale (which lasts through Monday).


Thursday, March 08, 2012

Survey of Gerasa Region

One does not often read reports in the media of archaeological surveys, and this review of the Jarash Hinterland Survey is an interesting account of the final season in October 2010. The article notes that the population of Jerash (biblical Gerasa) has doubled in the last 15 years, making the survey of field and farm, tomb and quarry, an important project. They estimate that about “10% of the archaeological sites around the city are being lost to development year upon year.”

The team faced dangers such as scorpions, shabab-ed, and nappies. But they had great success as well, identifying 203 tombs, along with numerous other ancient features.

It is all too easy to get distracted from the survey by kind offers of tea, but as always local knowledge is gained as a result. For instance, to be informed that a tomb containing about twenty sarcophagi on Abu Suwan had been used as a bomb shelter in 1973 and had subsequently been filled in leaving no visible trace represented a great result. The route of a Classical water course in the Wadi Deir – now scattered and bulldozed – was shown to us by a man who played in it as a child. An intense artefact scatter also got us excited, only to be told to our disappointment that it had been deposited by trucks moving earth from elsewhere in the preceding few months.

The article includes a video and some great photos (click one to begin a slideshow).

HT: Jack Sasson


Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Wednesday Roundup

I am going to forego a roundup of the Talpiot tomb(s) at this point, instead pointing you to Paleobabble’s “State of the Question,” Jack Poirier’s rebuttal of the name statistics, James Tabor’s colored drawing of the “fish,” and Robert Cargill’s case that the image was photoshopped. I’m not aware of any scholar who didn’t publish a book on the subject within the last week that subscribes to the fish/Jonah interpretation.

The first three chapters of Lois Tverberg’s Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus are available to read online.

While the snow in Jerusalem was pretty, and the Sea of Galilee rose more than a foot, the weekend storms caused about $8 million in damage to agriculture in Israel.

The “All Out Adventure” column this week describes hikes in the lower and upper sections of Nahal David.

Finding a place to volunteer to excavate in the spring is next to impossible, but Tel Burna is accepting volunteers the week of March 18-22.

Ferrell Jenkins has the latest on discoveries at the Colossi of Memnon. For additional photos, see the Luxor Times.

Luxor Times also reports on the discovery of the name of a king from the 17th Dynasty. While it is the first artifact related to the king, it is not the first time we’ve known of him.

Wayne Stiles has a post for the first day of the Insights for Living tour. (Unfortunately, they seem to have rejected my proposal that Herod Agrippa was struck down not in the theater of Caesarea, but in the amphitheater.)

More than 2,400 years ago, the Lord delivered the Jewish people from evil men in Persia. The remembrance of that deliverance begins tonight. Current threats from modern Persia (Iran) should keep the celebration sober. Happy Purim!

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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Recommended: Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus

Some books are a pleasure to recommend and Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus is the first that I would suggest to those interested in understanding Jesus’ teaching better with the help of the historical background. I’ve enjoyed several works of Lois Tverberg in the last few years, but this one is hands-down my favorite. Here’s why:tverberg-dust-rabbi-jesus

This book brims with insights. I love to learn new things about familiar and dear subjects, and again and again I found myself writing in the margin an exclamation mark or a reminder to return to that page. For example, concerning the command to love God:

You see this in ancient treaties, when an enemy king who signed a covenant would pledge to ‘love’ the king with whom he was making peace. This meant that the enemy king would act loyally, not that he would have warm thoughts about what a great guy the other king was every time he came to mind (44-45).

This book is biblically solid. Some subjects lend themselves to subbiblical treatments of Scripture, and Jewish backgrounds of Jesus is one of them. Tverberg never compromises what the Bible teaches in favor of the latest fad or scholarly theory. I appreciated her statement about a regular abuse in studies about the Jewish background of Jesus:

Part of the reason is from what I’ve experienced as I’ve seen people get interested in their Jewish roots. Sometimes in their enthusiasm, they take on a whole new [Hebrew] vocabulary that creates barriers between themselves and others. My thinking is that if you’ve discovered insights that bring you closer to God, you’re obligated to share them. To do so you need to be a bridge, not an island. So I deliberately use a more widely known vocabulary (83).

This book is entertaining. I carried this with me on an overseas flight, expecting to read a few chapters and then pick up my “fun” book. I never put this one down. The stories are fascinating and the quotes are going into my teaching notes. For example:

Just as rain water comes down in drops and forms river, so with the Scriptures: one studies a bit today and some more tomorrow, until in time the understanding becomes like a flowing stream. –Song of Songs Midrash Rabbah 2:8 (15).

This book is well-researched. The genre of this book with its devotional emphasis and its writing style geared towards any literate Christian is not normally associated with careful scholarship. Each chapter, however, has 10-25 endnotes.

This book echoes my thinking in some of my favorite subjects. To give but one example:

Often Jesus’ words in the Gospels presuppose an intimate familiarity with the biblical text. Sometimes Jesus made bold claims about his mission as Messiah through the Scriptures he quoted. If you don’t have the text in the back of your mind, some of his powerful statements can sail right past you (146). [Yes, and this is true for all of New Testament! I re-issue my call for a law banning the reading of the NT until one masters the OT. :-)]

This book challenges my thinking in a number of areas. For example:

One sage commented: ‘It’s better to give one shekel a thousand different times than a thousand shekels all at once, because each time you give, you become a kinder person’ (76).

I agree with my friend David Bivin who writes on the dust jacket: “It is filled with great practical wisdom that you can put to work in your life immediately.” The questions at the end of the chapter make this 14-chapter book easy to use in a group study.

There are many pitfalls in studying the background of Jesus’ time, but with only a few quibbles, Tverberg has avoided them by careful research and wise analysis. If you’re like me, after you read it, you’ll think of people who would enjoy the book as a gift. I’m a better person because of this book, and, I hope, a better blogger as well.


Monday, March 05, 2012

James Ossuary Verdict Scheduled

Seven years after the trial began, a verdict is scheduled to be announced a week from Wednesday. From Bible History Daily (BAS):

The Biblical Archaeology Society has learned that Judge Aharon Farkash of the District Court in Jerusalem will announce the verdict on the alleged forgery of the famous James “brother of Jesus” Ossuary on Wednesday, March 14 at 9 a.m. (2 a.m. EST).

After more than seven years, hundreds of exhibits and thousands of pages of testimony, the case against defendants Oded Golan and Robert Deutsch will be decided by the trial judge. The case, which includes allegations of forgery for numerous other artifacts, has accurately been described as the “forgery trial of the century.”

Anyone care to make a prediction? I’m expecting the defendants to walk.

Last year I posted a review of nine world-class scholars who testified in court that they believe the inscription on the James Ossuary is authentic or possibly authentic.

HT: Joseph Lauer


Herod’s Tomb Reconstruction Defended

A month ago, a plan was announced to construct a 1:1 scale model of Herod’s tomb on location at Herodium. Haaretz ran a story on it with a misleading headline (later revised): “Top archaeologists condemn Israeli plan to rebuild ancient tomb.”

This weekend The Bible and Interpretation published an article by two on the planning team, giving their motivation for proposing the reconstruction. While much of the article reviews the historical importance of the Herodium, Zeev Margalit and Roi Porat conclude with the rationale for the plan that they concede is “unique, extraordinary, and unprecedented at an archaeological site.” They describe their principles as follows:

1. Construction of the model will not damage the antiquities!

2. New construction will be clearly separated from the original remains.

3. The principle of reversibility will be strictly observed at all times; after implementation is complete, the model will be able to be dismantled and the site returned to the previous state.

4. Conservation of all archaeological findings at Herodium will be carried out together with the construction of the model, including the nearby structures – the royal chamber, the theater, the monumental steps, etc.

The full article is here.

Herodium with lower pool, tb102603555

Upper and Lower Herodium from the north

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Saturday, March 03, 2012

Weekend Roundup

There are enough items related to the “Jesus Discovery”/Talpiot Tombs that I am going to exclude those from today’s roundup. Perhaps I will catch up next week. In the meantime, you can take a look at new photos posted at the official website.

A bronze Greek warrior’s helmet was discovered off the shore of Haifa.

The City of David is the focus of this week’s Jerusalem Post column by Wayne Stiles.

I think that Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence, by Craig Evans, would be a much better use of time and money than any books about Jesus discoveries. (Two dings: it’s marketed as “provocative,” and it’s only 208 pages.)

A copy of Edward Robinson’s 3-volume Biblical Researches in Palestine just became available for $75. And a copy of Picturesque Palestine (4 vols.) was just listed for $1100. (Or pick up an electronic edition for $55.)

A Jerusalem Post article lists the Top 5 Spring Activities in Jerusalem as: Ramparts Walk, Tisch Family Zoological Gardens, Bezalel Fair, Café Itamar, Sacher Park. (The article’s introduction leaves something to be desired: “When rain let up, Spring will be upon us; here are some great outdoor activities in the capital to prepare for.”)

G. M. Grena has another riddle, but this one is so easy (he claims) that he has disqualified me from answering. So what is this great discovery that is pictured?

Congratulations to Aren Maeir for sending the final proofs off for the first double volume of the Tell es-Safi/Gath excavations.

If you’re interested in the broader world of biblical studies, you might check out the March Biblical Studies Carnival with dozens of links to the latest.

It snowed in Jerusalem on Friday. (For photos of a previous snowfall, see here.) The storm also filled Caesarea’s hippodrome with water.

Snow in Jerusalem. Photo by Austen Dutton.

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Friday, March 02, 2012

Turkey Halts Loan of Museum Artifacts

From The Art Newspaper:

Turkey is refusing to lend artefacts to leading British and American museums until the issue of disputed antiquities is resolved. The ban means Turkey will not lend artefacts to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and London’s British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A).

The British Museum had asked for 35 items for the exhibition “Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam” (until 15 April). Although Turkish museums were agreeable to the loans, the ministry of culture blocked them, leaving the British Museum to find alternative artefacts at short notice.

As part of the growing Turkish campaign, loans have been blocked to museums with disputed objects in their collections.

The Met has confirmed that a dozen antiquities are now being claimed by Turkey, but would not identify the individual items. A museum spokeswoman says: “The matter is under discussion with the Turkish authorities.” This month, the Met is due to open “Byzantium and Islam” (14 March-8 July). Many loans are coming from the Benaki Museum in Athens, with none requested of Turkish museums.

The full story is here. For previous reports of a similar nature, see here and here.

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Jonah, Jesus and the Talpiot Ossuary

by Chris McKinny

In light of the current discussion concerning the so-called “Jesus Discovery” of the depiction of a Jonah/resurrection motif on a 1st century CE ossuary (see here) it is probably prudent to re-examine the typological relationship between the two prophets of Jonah and Jesus.

Besides the explicit connection of “the sign of Jonah” mentioned in Matt. 12:38-41; 16:4; Luke 11:29-32 there are several probable connections that can be derived through comparing the Gospels to the book of Jonah and 2 Kings 14:25 (i.e. the only Old Testament mention of the prophet outside of the prophetic book of Jonah). 

Consider the following suggested similarities/parallels:

1. Each prophet heralded from and began his ministry in Lower Galilee. Jonah/Gath-Hepher and Jesus/Nazareth – 2 Kings 14:25; Matt. 2:23.

2. Each prophet’s ministry occurred during a time in which Israel’s hierarchical, wealthy members “trampled upon the poor.” Jonah/“cows of Bashan” during the time of Jeroboam II (8th cent. BCE); Jesus/”devourers of widow’s households” – Amos 4:1-3; 5:11-12; 8:3-7; Matt. 19:23-25; Mark 12:41-44; Luke 16:19-31; 20:46-47.

3. Each prophet preached Yahweh to Gentiles despite a desire to primarily minister to their own Israelite/Jewish population. Jonah joined Phoenicians on their way to North Africa (i.e. Tarshish) to avoid the goyim of Nineveh (Jonah 1:1-3) and Jesus stated that he was sent “only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). However, both eventually ministered to Gentile populations – Jonah with Nineveh and Jesus for example with the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mark 7:25-28), Legion of the tombs of Gadera (Luke 8:26-34), and the centurion's servant at Capernaum (Matt. 8:5-13).

4. Each prophet slept in the bottom of a ship in the midst of a raging storm while the ship’s sailors were wracked with fear and bewilderment due to the prophet’s slumber (Jonah 1:4-6; Mark 4:35-38). Additionally, each prophet was the reason for the ceasing of the storm (Jonah 1:7-16; Mark 4:39-41).

5. Explicit connection (see above) Each prophet spent “three days and three nights” in the “heart” of the earth before being “brought up from the pit.” Compare Jonah’s prayer (Jonah 2) and Jesus’ “sign of Jonah” (Matt. 12:38-41; 16:4; Luke 11:29-32) to Jonah’s expulsion (Jonah 3:1) and Jesus’ resurrection (e.g. Matt. 28:1-6).

6. Each prophet, despite being from northern Israel (i.e. Israel in the 8th cent. BCE and Galilee in the 1st cent CE), were obedient to the Law of Moses in worshipping Yahweh at his chosen location of Jerusalem (Deut. 12:5-7; 2 Sam. 7:13; 1 Kings 5:5). Compare Jonah’s “worship in the temple” (Jonah 2:4, 7), despite the enduring presence of the syncrestic temples of Dan and Bethel, to Jesus going up to Jerusalem for various feasts (e.g. Luke 2:41; 22:1).

7. Each prophet proclaimed coming destruction upon his audience’s capital city. Compare Jonah’s proclamation to Nineveh (Jonah 3) and subsequent, vengeful grief over their repentance (Jonah 4:1-4) to Jesus’ prophecy of doom to Jerusalem (e.g. Matt. 24) and subsequent, knowing grief over their rejection (Matt. 23:37; and especially Luke 19:41-44). As an aside, I find Jonah’s statement in Jonah 4:3 to be an ironic double entendre in the vein of Caiaphas’ statement in John 11:49-50.

Dominus Flevit - looking at Temple Mount (copyright BiblePlaces) 

8. Each prophet left the city that they had just preached in and went to the east of the city and prayed. Compare Jonah’s selfish, languishing prayer concerning the loss of his shade east of Nineveh and Yahweh’s response (Jonah 4:5-11) to Jesus’ selfless, anguish-filled plea to “let this cup pass” in Gethsemane and Yahweh’s silence (e.g. Luke 22:39-44).

More could be said about the typology of Jonah in relation to Jesus, especially with regards to the notable differences between the two. Nevertheless, in my opinion the above similarities undergird the connection between Jonah and early Christian motifs (see for example Jensen’s post which mentions 4th cent. CE depictions in Rome). Whether, the Talpiot ossuary is the first known example of this connection is an open, debatable question, but in either case it seems clear that the motifs derive from a clear typology that is rooted in the Gospels. 

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Thursday, March 01, 2012

One Shekel for One Million Dollars

I’ve seen bad exchange rates, but this must set a record. From ArtDaily:

The first silver shekel struck in Jerusalem by Jewish forces rebelling against Roman oppression in the first century CE, one of only two specimens known, will be auctioned as part of The Shoshana Collection of Ancient Coins of Judea, March 8-9, at the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion (Ukrainian Institute of America) at 2 East 79th St (at 5th Ave.). The auction begins on March 8 at 6 p.m. ET.

The Shoshana Collection, assembled over the course of four decades by an American collector of Judaean coins, is perhaps the greatest assembly of ancient coins related to the foundation of ancient Israel ever offered, with more than 700 coins spanning more than 11 centuries. Auction estimates on the coins range from $200 to $950,000.

“This Year 1 silver shekel, struck shortly after the Jewish War began in May of 66 CE, is the prototype for all subsequent shekels,” said Cris Bierrenbach, Executive Vice President of Heritage Auctions. “Only a handful of coins were struck from this first set of dies before the design was radically changed. Only two ‘prototypes’ have survived to the present day, with the only other known specimen in the Israel Museum’s collection.”

In fact, the Israel Museum has stated that it would like to acquire many of the coins from The Shoshana Collection and has a “wish list” available to potential bidders interested in purchasing coins from the auction and donating them to the museum’s collection, or in making them available on long-term loan. This can be done through the American Friends of the Israel Museum, a tax-exempt organization.

The full story is here. James Davila would like to know of any who purchase in order to donate so that the Israel Museum can display the coins to the public.


Vessel of Jewelry Discovered at Megiddo

And I thought the days of archaeological treasures was long past...

The Megiddo Expedition have recently discovered a collection of gold, silver and bronze jewelry, wrapped in fabric, hidden in a vessel at Tel Megiddo. The vessel was found in a domestic context that was dated to the Iron Age I (around 1100 B.C.). This vessel was actually excavated during the 2010 season, but remained uncleaned while awaiting for a molecular analysis of it's [sic] content (soil). When it was finally emptied during the summer of 2011, the pieces of jewelry appeared.

Both the textile and the jewelry itself were sent to analysis that should tell us more about the origins of this exceptional collection.

According to the biblical record, Megiddo was held by the Canaanites during the period of the judges (Judg 1:27).

Check out the Megiddo Expedition website for some small photos.

HT: Roi Brit

Megiddo aerial from northwest, tb121704980

Megiddo from the northwest

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