Saturday, June 30, 2012

Weekend Roundup

In the 1920s, archaeologists had the chance to study remains underneath Al Aqsa Mosque. The findings of a Jewish mikveh, Byzantine mosaic, and other pre-Islamic items were not made public until recently. Nadav Shragai describes their importance and connects them with the discoveries made in the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

Shragai mentions in that same article that rebar and other construction material is now laying on the Foundation Stone, the holy rock inside the Dome of the Rock. Leen Ritmeyer has photos.

“The Palestine Archaeological Databank and Information System is now accessible openly without registration.”

The Tel Burna team has aerial photos showing the great progress they have made.

“The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Friday became the first World Heritage Site to be listed under the name of Palestine.” (JPost)

Four caves in Mount Carmel with early evidence of human occupation were also designated as a World Heritage site.

The ESV Concise Bible Atlas is now available. The 64-page paperback sells for $10, and both size and price may be attractive to the weak and the poor. (See here for my comments on its big brother.)

John Monson is interviewed this week on the Book and the Spade, with attention given to his upcoming participation in the Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation and the shrines discovered there.

The widening of Highway 1 will slow down traffic from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for many years.

Matti Friedman retells the story of the discovery of the Cave of the Treasure, a cache of more than 400 copper objects more than 5,000 years old.

“An ancient Phoenician port in Beirut dating back to at least
500 B.C. was destroyed Tuesday,” said archaeologists. There’s no port there, according to the Archaeological Assessment Report.

The Day of Archaeology 2012 was yesterday, but posts will continue to be added for another week.

HT: Charles E. Jones, Jack Sasson


Fortifications, silos, and architecture from the 9th-8th centuries at Tel Burna

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Friday, June 29, 2012

New Exhibit: Dead Sea Scrolls & the Bible

On Monday, the “Dead Sea Scrolls & the Bible” exhibit opens at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. I confess having a jaundiced view towards such American exhibits because they typically charge a high price for a glimpse at a handful of scraps of ancient writing. This display appears to be different, offering a wealth of materials as well as 22 manuscript fragments. This week’s article in the Baptist Press convinced me to plan to spend a day at the exhibit. Some excerpts:

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary hopes to ... give more people than ever a chance to see manuscripts that reveal the faithful transmission of the biblical texts over thousands of years through its Dead Sea Scrolls & the Bible exhibition, which will run from July 2012 to January 2013....

Weston Fields, guest curator for the Dead Sea Scrolls & the Bible exhibition and executive director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation, said that while the ancient scroll fragments do not "prove" the Bible is true, they prove, more or less, that the Bible Christians use today, including 66 books from Genesis to Revelation, is the Bible God intended Christians to have, even thousands of years after He first inspired its writing....

Owning more Dead Sea Scroll fragments than any institution of higher education in North America, Southwestern plans to showcase seven of its fragments together with others on loan from the Kando family of Bethlehem, Hebrew University, and the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, for a total of 22 manuscript fragments in the exhibit.

The exhibit also will contain archaeological artifacts, early copies of Scripture, and equipment used in excavations, including the Jeselsohn Dead Sea Stone, or "Gabriel's Vision"; the first published Greek New Testament; a page of the Gutenberg Bible; the Luther Bible; New Testament papyri; and tools from the excavation of Qumran, as well as a nearly 16-foot-long display of a portion of the St. John's Bible.


McCoy said the exhibition will offer a child-friendly component as well, where young visitors can experience the archaeological aspects of the Dead Sea Scrolls and learn about them alongside their parents, both through kiosks placed throughout the exhibit and through a simulated dig site located outside the exhibit hall.

At the dig site, visitors will have the chance to excavate and dig for ancient artifacts. A child may then take home a shard discovered in his digging.

And a bullet list, for those who prefer the short version:

In The Exhibit:
-- Murals of Dead Sea region
-- Artifacts such as coins, pottery and sandals
-- Replica Wailing Wall
-- Authentic Bedouin tent
-- Tent from Qumran dig site
-- Scroll stylus and ink well
-- Replica of Cave 4
-- Dead Sea Scroll fragments and other manuscripts
-- Dead Sea Scrolls film
-- iScroll kiosks
-- Portion of St. John's Bible
-- Early Bibles and texts
-- Gift shop
-- Interactive dig site

The story includes two free high-resolution photos. The official website is here. A few weeks ago I noted the excellent lecture series. In 2010 Southwestern purchased some of the Dead Sea Scroll fragments that will be on display.

Qumran Cave 4 from 4b, tb051106117

Cave 4 at Qumran (from the other side)
-buy this photo and 1,547 others for $40-

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Leeches Invade Sea of Galilee

From Haaretz:

Leeches have invaded Lake Kinneret's [the Sea of Galilee’s] shores - for the second time in seven years.

Standing in the water for as little as two minutes will cause your legs to be covered in hundreds of leeches. These particular types are not blood-suckers, making them relatively easy to remove once one is out of the water.

They are found on the lakebed, at depths of 0.5 to one meter, at two spots over the last few days: near the Sapir visitors center and along the western coastline. They live off snails and other invertebrates.

The leeches first overran the shores of the lake seven years ago.

Four types of leeches are known to live in the Kinneret, but they are usually present only in small numbers. This year, however, huge quantities have been detected.

The rest of the story suggests some explanations, including human activity and the rapidly changing water level.

Clouds over Sea of Galilee, tb102904607

Sea of Galilee


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wednesday Roundup

Subway construction has revealed two ancient roads from ancient Thessalonica.

Iraq will not cooperate with the US on archaeological exploration because Washington has not returned the Jewish archives.

A lecture by Tom Levy at TEDx on his excavations at Khirbet en-Nahas is now online.

Eleven sections of the Israel Trail are briefly described in this article at JPost.

The bronze statue of a she-wolf feeding the founders of Rome is actually 1500 years younger than previously thought.

HT: Al Sandalow

Capitoline she-wolf suckling Remus and Romulus, tb112102016

She-wolf suckling Remus and Romulus

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lecture Schedule for Azekah Expedition

The first season of excavations at Tel Azekah in more than 100 years begins in a few weeks and the directors have announced an impressive schedule of guest lectures:

The Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition and its Directors—Prof. Oded Lipschits, Prof. Manfred Oeming and Dr. Yuval Gadot—are proud to present the program of the guest academic lectures for the coming excavation season, starting July 15th. The lectures will be held at 6:00 p.m. in the academic hall of the Nes-Harim Guesthouse. Scholars and students are warmly invited.

Monday, July 16th, Prof. Aren Maeir (Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan) The Excavations of Philistine Gath

Wednesday, July 18th, Prof. Shlomo Bunomovitz (Tel Aviv University) The Excavations of Beth-Shemesh

Monday, July 23rd, Prof. Yosef Garfinkel (The Hebrew University, Jerusalem) The Excavations of Kh. Qeiyafa

Wednesday, July 25th, Mr. Ido Koch (Tel Aviv University) The Judean Lowland under Judahite Hegemony: The Great Eighth Century BCE

Monday, July 30th, Dr. Izhak Shai (Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan) The Excavations of Tel Burna

Wednesday, August 1st, Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef (Tel Aviv University) Iron Age Copper Production of the Southern Levant

Monday, August 6th, Dr. Yuval Shahar (Tel Aviv University) Late Hellenistic and Early Roman Period Hideout Systems in the Judean Lowland

Wednesday, August 8th, Ms. Shirley Ben-Dor Evian (Tel Aviv University) Egypt, Philistia and the Judean Lowland during the First Millennium BCE

Monday, August 13th, Dr. Ran Barkay (Tel Aviv University) The Pre-History of the Judean Lowland

Wednesday, August 15th, Prof. Bernard Levinson (University of Minnesota, USA) The Neo-Assyrian Influence upon Deuteronomy

Monday, August 20th, Prof. Manfred Oeming (Heidelberg University, Germany) David against Goliath (1 Sam 17) – an Old Fight in Modern Research

Wednesday, August 22nd, Prof. Konrad Schmitt (Zurich University) [TBA]

See the Azekah website for more information.

HT: Jack Sasson

Shephelah view southwest from Jarmuth panorama, tb030407652

Shephelah of Judah from Jarmuth (Yarmut)
Azekah is visible on horizon on right side
(photo source)

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Construction Begins on Israel National Archaeology Library

Construction began yesterday on a new headquarters for the Israel Antiquities Authority. From the Jerusalem Post:

After decades in the cramped but historic Rockefeller Museum in east Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority on Sunday started construction on the National Archeology Quarter next to the Israel Museum in the capital’s west.

The new 35,000-square meter building will hold the headquarters of the IAA as well as the Israel National Archeology Library, which will be one of the largest archeology libraries in the Middle East.

The building was designed by Moshe Safdie and will also include an archeological garden, classrooms, a coffee shop and laboratory and exhibition space for the Dead Sea Scroll fragments. The IAA owns some 15,000 fragments in addition to the well-known full scrolls owned by the Israel Museum.

Additionally, the museum will feature exhibitions about how archeologists conduct research and digs, and items from some of the 20,000 archeological sites around the country.

Digging the foundation for the new building took almost a year. After publicizing the tender for a contractor a few months ago, work began on the building itself on Sunday.

The story continues here. For more about the project, see the official website.


Schottenstein National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Weekend Roundup

We begin with reports from the field. Tel Burna has posted photos of their finds from Week 2. The Jezreel Expedition has completed its first season. Omrit wrapped up its season with the possible discovery of a bath complex. Work and discoveries continue at Ashkelon. Reports and photos from the first couple weeks at Bethsaida are posted. The team at Bethsaida is hoping to reveal a 10th-century gate this season and they have posted reports from Week 1 and Week 2. Excavations are scheduled to begin tomorrow at Tiberias, Khirbet Qeiyafa, Tel Hazor, Kfar HaHoresh, Tel 'Eton, and Tel Bet Yerah.

The New York Times has a travel piece on the four-day hike through Galilee on the Jesus Trail.

The pilot study for the Arch of Titus Digital Restoration Project has concluded and results have been announced.

Aren Maeir has posted three short videos on: (1) food in Philistine and Israelite society; (2) Philistine religion; (3) work in the archaeological lab.

National Geographic has photos of gold treasures recently found in Israel.

Claude Mariottini notes the publication of The Iron Age I Structure on Mt. Ebal, by Ralph K. Hawkins. Had another publisher released this work, it would have been certainly included “Joshua’s altar” in the title.

A study by Norwegian archaeologists has revealed how the great city of Palmyra could exist in the middle of the Syrian desert.

Wayne Stiles describes each of the 8 gates of the Old City of Jerusalem, providing a photo with each one as well as video footage of General Allenby entering Jaffa Gate.

Google is sponsoring a project to read some unrollable Dead Sea Scrolls. A video shows how the technology works.

The Times of Israel has more information on the tomb robbers caught in the act of plundering an antiquities site near Modiin.

HT: David Coppedge, Joseph Lauer

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Two Winners of Israel Collection

Congratulations to Mark M. and Jason A., winners of the Israel Collection of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. Thanks to all who entered.

We plan to have giveaways of other resources in the weeks to come and you’re invited to enter those drawings. If you’re brave enough to enter the Punchtab drawing (and there’s no downside to it as far as I can tell), your odds of winning are greatly increased because of the smaller number of entrants and opportunities to earn more entries.

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To Shoot or Not to Shoot

Recently Tim Challies reflected on the tension between capturing a moment and enjoying a moment. I think there’s some relevance to our favorite subject.

For as long as we have had easy access to cameras and then to video cameras we have been torn between enjoying a moment and recording a moment. It’s difficult to do both in equal measure. Many a father has returned home from a visit to the mountains having experienced the whole vacation with one eye closed and the other eye peering through a tiny little rectangle. Today the sheer ubiquity of cameras has escalated this problem. Almost every one of us now has a pocket-sized camera and video camera in our pocket or purse at all times. Comedian Jim Gaffigan pokes fun at himself saying, “I have more pictures of my kids than my father ever looked at me.”

I’ve seen too many people exchange the full-sensory, 360-degree experience of standing on the Mount of Olives or walking down a street in the Old City of Jerusalem in the hope of sharing a 2-D image on a screen with family in the future.

Challies concludes:

I wonder how many beautiful moments we miss because we are afraid we will miss them. Instead of living fully in the moment, enjoying the music or the sunrise or the games with our children, we fall into this strange habit of recording it all. We experience the sunrise through the lens of an iPhone instead of just basking in it, we tinker with focus and angles recording quality instead of just enjoying the music. When all is said and done, we’ve recorded an experience that we missed out on, and the replay is just never as good.

We need to stop believing that everything worth experiencing is worth recording. There’s nothing wrong with taking pictures and shooting video—of course there’s not!—but in all our clicking and in all our capturing, let’s make sure that we’re not missing out on life’s best experiences. Let’s learn to enjoy the moment. Give me one beautiful moment fully lived and fully enjoyed and I will trade it for a hundred moments where my phone stood between me and the source of that beauty.

His full post is here. A wonderful collection of photos of biblical lands that will free you up to relish your next visit is here. :-)



Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thirty Years at Gerasa

From The Jordan Times:

Regional politics, Jordanian hospitality and a stroke of luck kindled a three-decade-old love affair between a team of French archaeologists and one of the Kingdom’s most important archaeological sites.

Last week marked the 30th anniversary of an excavation by the team that led to the reconstruction of the ancient city of Jerash and the shattering of many assumptions about daily life 2,000 years ago.

According to the archaeologists, their lifelong bond with the Greco-Roman city sprouted from a chance encounter.

Besides the temple of Zeus and the ancient oracles, the article notes the discovery of a “seating chart” for the northern theater.

Perhaps one of the team’s more groundbreaking discoveries was a seating chart of the city’s northern theatre.

The inscription demarcating various tribes’ seats on the tribal council — a local democratic assembly found throughout the empire — leaves approximately one-fourth of the seats empty.

The team believes that the unmarked seats were reserved for a second chamber, making Jerash one of the first and perhaps only cities in antiquity with bicameral legislatures.

The article concludes with the team’s plans for the future.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Gerasa north theater, tb060603182

North theater of Gerasa

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Excavations at Shiloh

A news report in February stated that Tel Shiloh was to receive $4 million in government and private funding for developing the antiquities site. Recent visits to the site reveal that the money is being spent on several excavation areas, the improvement of paths, and the construction of a new observation platform.

I am especially interested in excavations on the northern side of the site, in the relatively flat area where scholars have speculated that the tabernacle may have once rested.

Shiloh excavations in potential tabernacle area, tb042612724

View from summit of potential area of tabernacle

Shiloh excavations in possible tabernacle area, tb042612731

Excavations on northern side of Shiloh

Shiloh excavations in possible tabernacle area, tb042612732

Excavation square on northern side of Shiloh

Shiloh excavations in possible tabernacle area, tb042612729

Cuttings in bedrock on northern side of Shiloh

Excavations continue on the western side of the tell where they have discovered a Byzantine olive press.

Shiloh excavations on western side, tb042612715

Excavations on western side

Shiloh Byzantine olive press, tb042612748

Olive press from Byzantine period

On top of the summit, work has proceeded since last year on a new viewing deck.

Shiloh new observation platform, tb042612722

Viewing platform under construction, April 2012

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Giveaway: The Israel Collection (5 Volumes)

This week we are going to give away two copies of the Israel Collection (volumes 1-5) of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. Just as any father likes all of his children, I like all 18 volumes. But since these are not children, I can say without hesitation or fear of repercussion that the first five volumes are my favorite ones.

Israel is not only the center of God’s redemptive plan for the world, but it was my home for a long time. These photos reflect that, not only in terms of comprehensive coverage, but also in quality of photos because of repeated visits in various seasons and at different times of the day.

If you asked a father to describe a few characteristics of his children, he would beam with joy and respond immediately. I’m not going to tell you about my five children, but I will offer a few words about these five volumes.

Galilee and the North – my favorite place in Israel is on the shore of a lake where Jesus walked, talked, and gave us a tiny taste of the kingdom to come.

Samaria and the Center – this volume easily wins the “most improved” award because so many of the sites had restricted access during the years I was making the previous editions (Shiloh, Shechem, Samaria, Jericho, etc.).

Jerusalem – the “city of the Great King” is my favorite city in the whole world. I could teach a whole course on it. But I enjoy even more a quiet stroll along the walls in the early morning.

Judah and the Dead Sea – this really is a 3-in-1 volume, with about 700 photos of the Judean Wilderness and the Dead Sea area, another 300 photos of the Hill Country, and another 500 of the Shephelah and Coastal Plain.

Negev and the Wilderness – I added a lot to sites previously included (Beersheba, Arad, tabernacle model, etc.), but a LandRover and some great friends got me to beautiful places you’ll probably never see. Indeed, the wilderness is “vast and dreadful,” but it also is majestic and inspiring.

This week you can sign up to win one of two free copies. One will be given away to entrants who use the email form. The other will go to those who enter with PunchTab. You can enter either or both. If you don’t win, you can purchase the Israel Collection with all of its 6,000 photographs for $149.99. If you do win and you already own the collection, we’ll refund your purchase or surprise you with something else. The drawing ends this Friday at 10 am Pacific Time.

(We need your email address to notify you if you win. We will not use it for anything else.)

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Renovations on Temple Mount

A report by Jordan answers questions about the work being done on the Temple Mount. From the Jerusalem Post:

Israelis got a rare glimpse of the planned renovations on the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, in a Jordanian report given to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The report was issued ahead of a UNESCO conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, which starts on June 24.

UNESCO characterizes Jerusalem as a separate entity administered by both Israel and Jordan. The Wakf Muslim religious trust, a body under the auspices of the Jordanian government, retains administrative control over the city’s Muslim holy sites while Israel runs everything else.

Because the Temple Mount is administered by the wakf, it is difficult to discern exactly what work is being conducted. Both Jordan and Israel submitted plans and ongoing work in the Old City ahead of the St. Petersburg conference.

According to Jordanian authorities, workers are restoring the plastering and mosaics inside the Dome of the Rock, laying lead sheet over the roof of the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, renovating the Al-Marwani mosque, and renovating the Khanatanyah School and library below the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The full story is here.

Lead sheets on Temple Mount, tb010112098

Lead sheets for roof of Al-Aqsa Mosque

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Weekend Roundup

Ferrell Jenkins describes the biblical significance of the Black Sea coast of Turkey, his visit to the city of Sinop, and some famous Sinopeans.

Dorothy D. Resig provides an introduction to the newest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

The current issue of Near Eastern Archaeology is free for a limited time, with a Facebook account and a MyJSTOR account.

Israel is still on a record pace for number of tourists this year.

Finding the Dead Sea Scrolls Isn’t Enough, says Wayne Stiles.

Antiquities thieves caught in the act were arrested near Modi’in.

The Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem is celebrating its 20th anniversary with an exhibit entitled “Pure Gold.”

The James Ossuary and its trial was the subject of several stories this week. Matthew Kalman describes his experience as the only journalist at the seven-year-long trial as a way of introduction to his article in The Jerusalem Report (subscription required). Hershel Shanks declares the ossuary inscription authentic and observes that opposition seems motivated by politics, not scholarship. One of the figures in the case, Yuval Goren, is interviewed on the LandMinds show (Part 1, Part 2). A small survey of evangelical archaeologists and biblical scholars polled by Christianity Today shows that half believe the inscription authentic with most others unsure.

The best article of the week is an interview with the director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the controversial Shuka Dorfman. Among other matters, he addresses charges made against Elad and how left-wingers hurt the people they claim to help.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Excavation Roundup

According to the schedule here, excavations this summer have already concluded at Qumran, Tel Achziv, Tell Jalul, Abel Beth Maacah, Tel Megiddo East, Khirbet el-Maqatir (Ai?), and Gezer. We noted the Gezer water system discovery yesterday and you can view other videos at their Youtube channel. Excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir revealed the third arch in the Byzantine church, dozens of coins from the first-century house, and houses from the time of the Judges.

Excavations are currently underway at Hurvat Eres, Omrit, Shikhin/Asochis, Ashkelon, Tel Burna, and Abila. The crew at Tel Burna has posted about Day 1, Day 2, and the first week, having already found a collection of flint tools, an amulet of Bes, and a scarab of Thutmose III. The Ashkelon blog is alive as well, describing workshops, walking tours, discoveries, photos, and more. Omrit has an Official Student Blog, and you also might want to take a look at the beautiful 18-page park brochure for the site.

Excavations begin next week at Megiddo, Bethsaida, and Tel Dan, with half a dozen others beginning on June 24. If you know of any online reports of these or other excavations, please let us know.

We’ll try to have a roundup of the week’s other stories here tomorrow.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Cave Discovered in Gezer Water System

This week a team excavating the ancient water system at Gezer discovered a natural cavern that measures 26 by 30 feet with a height of up to 7 feet. The date of the system is still under discussion, but it may belong to the Middle Bronze Age (2000-1500 BC). From Baptist Press:

The team, under the direction of the NOBTS Center for Archaeological Research, located a large open section in the cave at the eastern end of the ancient water system at Tel Gezer in Israel....

The team still plans to locate the water source for the system and explore the entire cave, seeking a possible rear exit and pottery evidence to help date its construction in future digs.


"We're able to see a part of the cave that Macalister never saw," Parker said. "This leaves the possibility that there is another entrance [to the cave] from another location off the tel...."

"We did some sound tests to see if we could hear inside the cavern from outside on the tel," Parker said. "The sound was very clear, which leads us to believe that it leads to some sort of opening or fissure in the rock that in ancient days the water may have traveled outside the tel."

At the start of this dig season the team intended to open the entire mouth of the cave. However, the left side of the mouth was blocked with boulders and the rest of the cave was filled with silt and dirt. So the team continued a probe along the southern wall that they began in 2011.

About 26 feet into the probe, Warner and Parker made a crucial decision. With time running out on this year's dig, Warner and Parker wanted to expose more of the interior of the cave.

The full story is here. The team has posted a five-minute video with the archaeologists chatting in the cave.

Gezer breakthrough from Baptist Press on Vimeo.

HT: Joseph Lauer

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sale on Photo Resources for Accordance

Until June 20, Accordance Bible Software has reduced prices on some of their most popular photo resources.

The Accordance Graphics Bundle includes the Bible Atlas 2.2, the Timeline and the Bible Lands Photo Guide Version 3.

The Biblical World in Pictures is a collection of more than 1300 images from 10 different slide sets produced by the Biblical Archaeology Society. It includes photos of archaeological sites, artifacts, inscriptions, ancient manuscripts, and architecture. The photos are accompanied by extensive captions written by world-renowned scholars.

The American Colony Collection contains over 4,000 high-resolution black and white photos that were taken from matson_dvd_front_200approximately 1898 to 1945. These images are of sites and scenes from Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. They are combined with searchable captions, descriptions, bibliography and Scripture links.  The collection is of great value because the photos are of the land prior to many of the modern alterations and represent a more traditional way of life.  For example, would it not be wonderful when teaching on the topic of "shepherds" to have a few of the pictures below at your fingertips? This is one of the outstanding benefits of owning the American Colony Collection.

The last one is my favorite! Follow the links above to take advantage of the deals before Wednesday.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Lecture Series at Southwestern Seminary

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary opens an exhibit next month entitled “Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible.” In addition to the display of 16 fragments, the Fort Worth school is also hosting a weekly lecture series on Tuesday evenings. Tickets for the lectures are $20 and details are available at the exhibition website.

July 10: Shalom Paul, “The Ever-Alive Dead Sea Scrolls and their Significance for the Understanding of the Bible, Early Judaism and the Birth of Christianity

July 17: Steven Ortiz, “The Search for Solomon: Recent Excavations at Tel Gezer

July 24: Matthias Henze, “A Dead Sea Scroll on Stone? The Gabriel Revelation and its Significance?

July 31: Randall Price, “Evangelicals and the Dead Sea Scrolls

August 7: Peter Flint, “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible: Ancient Texts and New Readings

August 14: Lawrence H. Schiffman, “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the History of Judaism

August 21: Ryan Stokes, “Satan in the Dead Sea Scrolls

August 28: Steven Collins, “Sodom: Discovery of a Lost City

September 4: Ziad Al-Saad, “The Lost Archaeological Treasures of Jordan

September 11: Emmanuel Tov, “The Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls

September 18: Jim Hoffmeier, “Where is Mt. Sinai and Why It Does Not Matter

September 25: Bruce Zuckerman, “New Light on the Dead Sea Scrolls

October 2: Yosef Garfinkel, “Khirbet Qeiyafa Excavations: New Light on King David

October 9: Kenneth Mathews, “The Living Among the Dead: The Dead Sea Scrolls

October 23: Martin Abegg, “The Influence of the Modern New International Version of the Bible on the Ancient Jewish Scribes

October 30: Tom Davis, “Archaeology, Cyprus and the Apostle Paul: New Evidence on the Transformation of Christianity

November 27: Amnon Ben-Tor, “Archaeology (Hazor)-Bible-Politics—the Unholy Trinity

December 4: Weston Fields, “100 New Dead Sea Scroll fragments from Qumran Cave 4: How Did It Happen?

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Greek Economic Crisis Threatens Antiquities

An article by Randy Kennedy in The New York Times describes how budget cuts in Greece are harming archaeological excavations, publications, and preservation. The article begins with efforts that Greek archaeologists are making to alert the world to the dangers to the nation’s heritage.

A jarring public-awareness ad that has appeared recently on Greek television news shows a little girl strolling with her mother through the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, one of the country’s cultural crown jewels. The girl skips off by herself, and as she stands alone before a 2,500-year-old marble statue, a hand suddenly sweeps in from behind, covering her mouth and yanking her away.

An instant later, she reappears, apparently unharmed but staring forlornly at an empty plinth: The kidnappers weren’t after the girl — they were after the statue.

Staff cuts of nearly 20% have left sites vulnerable to developers and the weather.

In a dry riverbed one late April morning on the island of Kythira, Aris Tsaravopoulos, a former government archaeologist who was pushed out of his job in November, pointed out a site where a section of riverbank had collapsed during a rainstorm a few months earlier. Scattered all along the bed as it stretched toward the Mediterranean were hundreds of pieces of Minoan pottery, most likely dating to the second millennium B.C., some of them painted with floral patterns that were still a vivid red....

In years past Mr. Tsaravopoulos would have organized an emergency dig at such a site. Now, he said, he can no longer do anything but alert already overburdened colleagues in the state archaeological service, with little hope any rescue work will be done in time.

The article also describes the special position in society that archaeologists have long held in Greece.

Despite its relatively low pay, the profession of archaeology has long been held in high esteem in Greece; it is a job that children aspire to, like becoming a doctor. And in a country where the public sector has been plagued for decades with corruption, archaeologists have retained a reputation as generally honorable and hard-working.

“They used to say that we were a special race,” said Alexandra Christopoulou, the deputy director of the National Archaeological Museum. “We worked overtime without getting paid for it — a rarity in Greece — because we really loved what we did.”

The full article is here. The link to the ad is here.

Athens National Archaeological Museum, tb030806854

National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece


Monday, June 11, 2012

Gundersen Reviews the New Pictorial Library

David Gundersen has posted a review of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. You can go there for the full review but I want to quote one paragraph:

The images also reflect the eye of an experienced teacher rather than a casual tourist or even a commercial tour guide. I have used plenty of these images in sermons, lectures, and distance education PowerPoints to illumine biblical stories, splash color on scriptural events, orient the audience to geographical dynamics, illustrate concepts and truths, visualize ancient metaphors, and show significant artifacts. Literally, no collection of images comes close in volume, coverage, quality, useability, information, copyright freedom, or customer service. Far from hyperbole, this image library truly is the only one of its kind.

He concludes:

This new and revised Pictorial Library of Bible Lands should be high on the list of resources for the serious or would-be Bible teacher. It would make a very special and practical gift from a college or seminary Bible class to their teacher, from a group of church members to their pastor or pastoral staff, or from a grown family to one of their Bible-hungry parents. Thanks to Professor Todd Bolen for his exhaustive work which is already serving Bible teachers, students, pastors, and church members around the world.

We love to hear how the photos are serving others. Thank you, Gunner.

The full review is here. Details and links to the collection start here. Free photos are here.

Ibex at En Gedi, tb052307902

“The high mountains are for the ibex” (Ps 104:18).


Saturday, June 09, 2012

Weekend Roundup

The Archaeology in Israel Update—May 2012 reviews the major stories, including the Qeiyafa shrines, Megiddo jewelry, Bethlehem bulla, forgery trial, and more.

A summary of the recent survey of Abel Beth Maacah indicates a long history of occupation.

Ferrell Jenkins asks and answers the question of whether Paul docked in Perga or Attalia on his first missionary journey.

In a new article, Reinhard Achenbach argues that the Qeiyafa Ostracon is written in Hebrew and should be translated “Give rights to slaves and to widows! Give rights to orphans and foreigners! Protect the rights of the poor and protect the rights of minors!”

Israeli Archaeological Activity in the West Bank 1967-2007: A Sourcebook is now available as a free pdf. We noted the searchable online map version in 2009. An introduction to the study can be found at the UCLA Newsroom.

The Past is Yet to Come... is a short video introducing the Israel Antiquities Authority and the significance of its work.

A large satellite photographic map of Israel is now available from Our Rabbi Jesus, with free shipping through Monday.

HT: G. M. Grena, Charles Savelle, A.D. Riddle

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Friday, June 08, 2012

My Recent Trip to Israel

Until last month, every tour that I had led in Israel was of a student group under the auspices of an educational institution. For that reason, I could never reply with personal experience to inquiries about which travel agent to use, which tour guide to hire, or similar questions. Several weeks ago I returned from a two-week tour with a group of 45 from my church in the Dallas area. The trip went very well and I thought I might share about some of those who made the trip successful.

For arranging our group flight, we used Shirley Fleig of Group Advantage. Shirley has arranged group travel for The Master’s College ever since I first traveled to Israel in 1990. She has always done an outstanding job and this time was no different. (Note: Group Advantage arranges travel for groups only.)

Several friends recommended I contact Yoni Gerrish of Jerusalem Cornerstone Foundation to be our land agent. Yoni is a licensed tour guide who has some similar educational background to me. I appreciated his flexibility and excellent prices. I could not ask for anything more than he provided.

I did all of the teaching but for legal purposes we had a licensed Israeli guide traveling with us. Since this was a new experience for me, I had some concerns, but Yehuda Zabari was a perfect partner for the trip and I would happily work with him again.

A friend had a great experience with Elie Mamann at TalknSave and while our group did not end up needing many cellphones, those who did had a smooth experience with Elie.

What would I consider to be the most important places for a two-week study tour of Israel for a physically fit and mentally prepared church group? My schedule answers that question.

I might close by noting that the above does not mean that there are not other excellent agents and guides. I know that there are! But I thought it might be helpful to share my experience for those interested in knowing some of the options.


Preparing to recite the blessings and curses between Mounts Gerizim and Ebal

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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Free Volumes in Loeb Classical Library

Many volumes in the Loeb Classical Library are now in the public domain and available for free download in pdf files. Loebolus has made these conveniently available, including a zip file with all 245 volumes. The list there is organized by volume number, but we find organization by author easier to navigate. Below we have listed the available volumes of works most relevant to our studies. These are not necessarily the best editions to read. For instance, for Josephus’s Jewish War, we recommend the Penguin edition. But for study and access to the original language, the Loeb Classical Library is best.







Dio Cassius

Apostolic Fathers


Many other volumes are available, including works by Homer, Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle, Pliny, Plutarch, and Augustine. Some of these volumes have been updated and these editions are not in the public domain.

HT: Jack Sasson


Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Wednesday Roundup

Gary Byers has posted a summary of Week One for the excavation of Khirbet el-Maqatir (Ai?).

Lawyer Hershel Shanks reflects on the James Ossuary trial verdict and on-going antics of the Israel Antiquities Authority in a Jerusalem Post op-ed.

Wayne Stiles suggests 7 Israel Museum “must-sees.”

The Chief Rabbinate Council of Israel has condemned vandalism of the Hammat Tiberias synagogue by religious Jews (Hebrew).

The Arch of Titus Digital Restoration Project intends to “capture traces of pigments . . . and the geometric detail of the relief.”

Locust swarms are moving through north Africa.

For a limited time, free Kindle books are available for:

HT: Bible X, Bill Soper, Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson

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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Gold and Silver Treasure Hoard Discovered from Bar Kochba Revolt

A woman apparently hid her jewelry and coins in advance of the Bar Kochba Revolt (AD 132-135) and never returned to claim them. Archaeologists announced today the discovery of a hoard of 140 gold and silver coins along with some beautiful pieces of jewelry. The objects were discovered in a salvage excavation near Qiryat Gat, 5 miles (8 km) northwest of Lachish and 13 miles (20 km) east of Ashkelon. The Israel Antiquities Authority has issued a press release:

A rich and extraordinary hoard that includes jewelry and silver and gold coins from the Roman period was recently exposed in a salvage excavation in the vicinity of Qiryat Gat....

The rooms of a building dating to the Roman and Byzantine period were exposed during the course of the excavation. A pit that was dug in the earth and refilled was discerned in the building’s courtyard. To the archaeologist’s surprise, a spectacular treasure trove of exquisite quality was discovered in the pit wrapped in a cloth fabric, of which only several pieces remained on the artifacts.

According to archaeologist, Emil Aladjem, the excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The magnificent hoard includes gold jewelry, among them an earring crafted by a jeweler in the shape of a flower and a ring with a precious stone on which there is a seal of a winged-goddess, two sticks of silver that were probably kohl sticks, as well as some 140 gold and silver coins. The coins that were discovered date to the reigns of the Roman emperors Nero, Nerva and Trajan who ruled the Roman Empire from 54-117 CE. The coins are adorned with the images of the emperors and on their reverse are cultic portrayals of the emperor, symbols of the brotherhood of warriors and mythological gods such as Jupiter seated on a throne or Jupiter grasping a lightning bolt in his hand”.

Saʽar Ganor, District Archaeologist of Ashkelon and the Western Negev for the Israel Antiquities Authority, adds “the composition of the numismatic artifacts and their quality are consistent with treasure troves that were previously attributed to the time of the Bar Kokhba Revolt. During the uprising, between 132-135 CE, the Jews under Roman rule would re-strike coins of the emperor Trajan with symbols of the revolt. This hoard includes silver and gold coins of different denominations, most of which date to the reign of the emperor Trajan. This is probably an emergency cache that was concealed at the time of impending danger by a wealthy woman who wrapped her jewelry and money in a cloth and hid them deep in the ground prior to or during the Bar Kokhba Revolt. It is now clear that the owner of the hoard never returned to claim it.


Hoard of coins and jewelry. Photo by Sharon Gal, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.


Gold earring in shape of flower. Photo by Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.


Gold ring with seal of winged goddess. Photo by Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The press release is here and eight high-resolution photos are here. The story is also reported by Haaretz, Ynetnews, and the Jerusalem Post.


Monday, June 04, 2012

Seven Wonders of Israel

Seven wonders of Israel were selected last year in an online vote sponsored by an Israeli television station. Stas Misezhnikov, the Israeli Minister of Tourism, declared the following winners according to the number of votes received:

1. Baha’i Gardens, Haifa

2. Dead Sea

3. Western Wall, Jerusalem

4. Masada

5. Coral Reef, Eilat

6. Stalactites Cave, Judean Hills

7. Caesarea

One obvious omission from this list are large erosional craters (machteshim) in southern Israel. I would also vote for the Sea of Galilee, surely a wonder in a land with limited fresh water supplies.

Machtesh Ramon at sunrise, tb030707948

Machtesh Ramon from west (source)

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Saturday, June 02, 2012

Weekend Roundup

Archaeologists excavating at Magdala have discovered a sword from the Roman period.

Two ancient synagogues in Israel were vandalized in the last week: Hammat Tiberias and Naaran (near Jericho).

The judge in the James Ossuary forgery case gave the prosecution a month to justify their desire to confiscate dozens of objects from the collection of Oded Golan.

Joe Yudin describes the aliyah (“going up”) to Jerusalem from Israel’s international airport.

Though housed in a single building, the traditional tomb of David and the Upper Room don’t seem to have much in common. Wayne Stiles disagrees.

Mark Wilson has crossed a Pauline site off of his “bucket list” with his recent visit to Antipatris. We might note that the new Pictorial Library of Bible Lands has photos of every site that Paul is recorded as having visited, with one exception.

HT: Paleojudaica

Vandalism of Hammat Tiberias synagogue.
Photo by Moti Dolev/National Parks Authority.

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Friday, June 01, 2012

Ferrell Jenkins on the New Pictorial Library

Ferrell Jenkins has warm words for the new edition of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, suggesting that “every church should have a set of this material for the teachers to use in their teaching.” He knows from his own experience what is involved in creating a collection such as this:

Would you prefer to make your own photos? Try buying a good digital SLR camera starting at about $1500, flying to Israel (not to mention Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, the Greek Islands, Italy, et al.), renting a car for a few weeks, buying the gas. Oh, and don’t forget to hire a private plane for a few hours so you can get some good aerial photos. That might cost at least $389. SmileAnd what if the lighting conditions were not right for a good photos the day you were at a site? What if you don’t have time to get your photos organized and write a description of each one? Need I go on to make a point? Did I mention that living and teaching in Israel for a decade helps?

Every church should have a set of this material for the teachers to use in their teaching. Over the years I have found that some short-sighted groups (churches) will not make such an expenditure. The other choice is to buy the set for yourself.

I hear several lessons a week, and every one of them could be improved by the use of photos from this wonderful collection.

Thank you, Ferrell! And we thank all the others who have written us privately to express their appreciation. You can read the rest of Ferrell’s review here.

Airplane, tb031900801

One of the first planes we hired for aerial photos of Jerusalem.