Tuesday, October 30, 2012

14th Annual Batchelder Conference for Biblical Archaeology

The schedule of the 14th Annual Batchelder Conference for Biblical Archaeology has been announced. More than a dozen lectures will be given at the University of Nebraska at Omaha on November 8, 9, and 10. Entrance is only $10. Lectures include:

Avraham Faust, Israel’s Ethnogenesis: How Israel Became a Nation

Harry Jol, Nazareth, Israel: What is Ground Penetrating Radar
Seeing at Mary’s Well?

Nick Jaeger, Digital Literacy in Biblical Archaeology

Jerome Hall, Jesus, Josephus, and the Migdal Mosaic: Rethinking the First Century Kinneret Boat

David Ussishkin, Jerusalem at the Times of Solomon, Hezekiah and Nehemiah: An Archaeologist’s View

Leonard Greenspoon, What the Bible Translator Has Learned – and Failed to Learn from the Biblical Archaeologist

Kris Udd, Has Radiocarbon Artificially Raised Dates for the Early Bronze Age?

Barney Trams, The Iron Age II Storehouse at Bethsaida

The website links to a promotional flyer and the full lecture schedule.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Weekend Roundup

Hershel Shanks: Authentic or Forged? What to Do When Experts Disagree? His example: Geologists vs. philologists on the Jehoash Inscription.

Michael S. Heiser recommends the archive of ISIS, the journal of the ancient chronology forum.

Charles E. Jones lists titles relating to antiquity from the Brooklyn Museum Publications now available online.

A husband and wife team have been leading an excavation of  ‘Ayn Gharandal in southern Jordan.

“A new ancient city considered to be the Zeugma of the West and thought to be one of the lost cities of Anatolia has been unearthed in İzmir.” (Hurriyet Daily News)

The Exhibition Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology is now open at the Discovery Science Center in southern California.

Israel: Seeing is Believing – This six-minute film has some nice footage. The focus is as much on the modern as on the ancient.

At only $8.54, the ESV Study Bible for the Kindle is a great deal. Note that the index feature does not work with Kindle 1, Kindle Fire, or the Kindle apps.

HT: Charles Savelle, Jack Sasson, G. M. Grena

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Friday, October 26, 2012

New Excavation Planned for City of David

Israel’s left-wing newspaper, Haaretz, reports on an agreement between Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority for a new excavation in the City of David.

A right-wing organization active in settling Jews in controversial parts of East Jerusalem, is providing the funds for excavations by Tel Aviv University archaeologists on a contentious site near the City of David. 

The excavations funded by the Elad organization have drawn the ire of Palestinian residents, as well as international and Israeli left-wing organizations. Some archaeologists say that the methodology – tunneling under village houses, and the speed at which the excavations are to be performed – violates accepted professional norms.

This is the first time a university has decided to formally take part project in such an excavation. The dig will be conducted by Tel Aviv University's Institute of Archaeology in coordination with the Israel Antiquities Authority, which will transfer funds from Elad to the university.


The excavation plans envisions work in what is known as area E, in the lowest part of the park, adjacent to the El-Bustan neighborhood of Silwan, where the Jerusalem Municipality is planning to establish a park called "King's Garden."

Critics question the role of Elad in the dig. “It's hard to believe that the Antiques [sic] Authority, with its meager budget, has suddenly found sources to fund someone else's projects,” says archaeologist Yoni Mizrachi of Emek Shaveh. 

TAU archaeologist Prof. Rafael Greenberg, another Emek Shaveh activist, is more outspoken: “This is a clear politicization of research. Whoever is familiar with the area is aware that all the diggings are annexed to Elad, supervised by Elad, and separate from the site of the City of David. In practice, the project is to become part of Elad's settlement drive.”

You can decide who is guilty of the “politicization of research.” Greenberg is wrong to imply that the archaeologists working in the City of David are forced to produce results compatible with a right-wing agenda. But you can understand why it’s driving the left-wingers nuts that one of their own would join the “enemy.”

The full article provides responses by Tel Aviv University and Elad.

City of David Area E excavations from south, tb022705709

Area E in the City of David. View to the north.
Photo from the Jerusalem volume.

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lecture: Woods on Gilgamesh

Christopher Woods of the Oriental Institute is giving a free lecture on “Gilgamesh” for the Assyrian American Civic Club of Chicago, the Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation, and the Mesopotamian Museum of Chicago. The lecture is this Sunday evening, at 5pm. More details are here.


Picture of the Week: Seven Species Display

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

Look around where you are sitting for things that are the color brown.  Then look for things that are red or blue.  You will probably be surprised at how many things you can spot that are those colors, and you never really notice how many there are until you specifically look for them.

The same can be said for plants mentioned in the Bible.  As you are reading through the scriptures, you probably don't even notice how many times trees or flowers or wheat or weeds are mentioned.  They are just part of the warp and woof of the text.  Yet when you stop to count them, it is shocking how often they appear.

Our picture of the week comes from Volume 16 of the revised and expanded edition of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, which focuses on "Trees, Plants, and Flowers of the Holy Land."  This is an entirely new volume of the PLBL.  A small number of the pictures in this volume were included in the previous version but they were scattered throughout the collection based on their location.  This new volume collects these photos together in one place and adds numerous new photos, creating a powerful tool for learning about biblical plant life.  Looking over the list of pictures included in the collection (which can be found here) the collection includes photographs of:
Numerous photographs in this new volume were taken by Gloria E. M. Suess, who was a long-term volunteer at the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem and an avid photographer of biblical plants.  Our picture of the week was taken by her and is entitled "Seven Species Display."  (Click on the photo for a higher resolution.)

The seven species represented here are the seven types referred to by Moses in Deuteronomy 8:7-10.
For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.  (Deuteronomy 8:7-10, ESV)
This photo captures all seven varieties of products in one shot.  Barley and wheat are at the far left, each represented by its grains and a loaf of bread made from that type of grain.  Vines are represented at the top of the photo by three types of grapes, along with a cup of wine and a plate of raisins.  Figs are at the far right side of the picture: fresh figs (top) and dried figs (bottom).  Pomegranates (two whole and one opened) can be seen at the top of the photo between the grapes and figs.  Olives are shown at the lower right side: both green and black olives along with a cup of olive oil, an oil lamp (behind the cup), and a branch from an olive tree.

Lastly, honey is represented by dates at the bottom center of the photo.  The juice that was squeezed from fresh dates was known as date honey, and can be seen in the cup just above the plate of fresh and dried dates.  Some scholars believe that date honey instead of bee honey makes the most sense in this list of agricultural products.

Once again, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Seeing all seven species together on one table whets that appetite and drives home the message in a different way than merely reading the text.  Looking at this feast, it is easy to see that this truly was a "good land" that God was giving to the Israelites.

This and other photos of biblical plant life are included in Volume 16 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and can be purchased here.  For further thoughts on why Moses may have chosen to mention these seven species, see my blog post on the Wild Olive Shoot blog here.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lecture: Golani on Silver Hoards and Jewelry in the ANE

If you’re near Penn State and are free Thursday evening, you might want to attend a lecture recently added to the 2012-13 program of the Central Pennsylvania Society of the AIA.

Dr. Amir Golani, Israel Antiquities Authority, “Economic Aspects of Silver Hoards and Jewelry at the End of the Iron Age in the Levant.” Thursday, October 25, 8:00 pm, in 101 Chambers  Building

Abstract:  The use of precious metals as a means for bartering throughout the ancient Near East dates back to the Bronze Age. The rise of the Neo-Assyrian Empire during the latter portion of the Iron Age II period (8th-7th century BCE) witnessed a steep rise in use of silver, appearing as silver ingots, cut silver chunks and whole and broken down silver jewelry.  The sources of the silver indicate far-ranging trade contacts and its increased use reflects changing geo-political processes in the eastern Mediterranean and the ancient Near East.  The silver, along with various textual sources that specify its use as a form of payment, are witness to the growing reliance on this metal as a medium of exchange.  This talk will explore the sources of silver found in the southern Levant, the various forms in which it appears and how and why silver became a preferred medium of payment in the economic systems of the ancient Near East.

HT: Eric Welch


Wednesday Roundup

SourceFlix has just released a new video short, “Follow Me,” with some great footage of sheep and shepherds.

Hezekiah’s Pool (aka Patriarch’s Pool) in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem has long been a swampy dump. The area was cleared last year and recently it held what Tom Powers believes is the first public gathering in its history.

Wayne Stiles: Beersheba epitomizes the faith God required to live in the Holy Land….God used this unassuming, barren place to shape some of the most significant lives in the Bible.

Heavy rains in the Eilat mountains and southern Aravah led to flooding of the Hai-Bar Yotvata Nature Reserve. Workers safely evacuated animals in danger of drowning.

Peter James answers some difficult questions about the Step Pyramid of Saqqara and the Bent Pyramid of Dashur based on his years of repairing damaged structures in Egypt.

The Penn Museum is opening to visitors its conservation process of ancient Egyptian mummies.

Back issues of Christian History magazine are available as free pdf files.

Here is what looks to be like an interesting lecture this evening (in Hebrew): “The Tomb of David on Mount Zion? Pierotti's Cave?”
Amit Reem, IAA. At the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, 7:30pm. Free with museum admission.

HT: Jack Sasson

Dashur Bent Pyramid northeast corner, tbs102049811

The Bent Pyramid of Dashur

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Recent IAA Excavation Reports

The final report of a small excavation of biblical Japhia (Josh 19:12) has been published. The excavators identified possible hiding places used during the Jewish Revolt but not the double fortification described by Josephus.

Another stone workshop was excavated two miles north of Nazareth in the village of er-Reina. Remains date from the Persian to Late Roman periods.

A final report was also recently published for Khirbet Keila near Zorah and Eshtaol, with remains from the Early Bronze, Intermediate Bronze, and Byzantine periods.

A final report is now available for a survey along the northern part of the “Diagonal Route,” from Shaar HaGai to the Elah Valley. The survey included portions of Tel Bet Shemesh and the area around Beit Jimal and Moshav Zekhariya.

Beth Shemesh and Sorek Valley aerial from southeast, tb010703219 ppt screenshot

Beth Shemesh and “Diagonal Route”
Labeled slide from Judah and the Dead Sea

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Monday, October 22, 2012

The Date of the Olive Trees in the Garden of Gethsemane

The olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane are about 900 years old and were all shoots of a single tree, according to a three-year study by the National Research Council announced last week in Rome. From TerraSanta.net:

The research results show that three of the eight olive trees (the only ones on which it was technically possible to carry out the study), as dating from the middle of the twelfth century. Hence, the trees are about nine hundred years old. But one point needs to be made clear: the date indicated refers only to the aboveground part of trees – the trunk and foliage. In fact, the same research has shown that the part below ground, i.e. the roots, is certainly more ancient.

The outcome of the investigation must also be put in relation with ancient travel chronicles of pilgrims, according to which the second of Gethsemane basilica was built between 1150 and 1170 (the period during which the Crusaders were engaged in the reconstruction of the great churches of the Holy Land and Jerusalem in particular). It therefore seems likely that, during the construction of the Basilica of Gethsemane, the garden was rearranged, creating a renovation of the olive trees present at that time.

The rest of the story describes the genetic relationship between the trees. Pat McCarthy (seetheholyland.net) informs me that radiocarbon tests carried out by the University of California in 1982 dated some of the tree roots to 2,300 years old. I have not been able to locate a reference for that study yet. Reuters covers the story here.

Garden of Gethsemane olive trees, tb051906423

Ancient olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Weekend Roundup

Frank Moore Cross died this week. Hershel Shanks has written some reflections on their relationship. James Davila describes his experience as a student. Eisenbrauns has a 50% sale on a volume of 55 key articles he wrote. Chuck Jones has created a list of his articles available on JSTOR. And Frank Moore Cross: Conversations with a Bible Scholar is available as a free ebook.

A two-part interview with Robert Mullins on the new excavations of Abel Beth Maacah is now available at The Book and the Spade.

The Smithsonian Channel delayed the release of the documentary on the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” Hershel Shanks disagrees with Harvard Theological Review’s decision to delay publication of the article.

The historic souk of Aleppo, Syria, is a battleground today.

The Dead Sea will live again: Wayne Stiles explains and includes a slideshow, a video, and a map.

The 200th anniversary of the rediscovery of Petra is celebrated in a new exhibition in Basel.

"From Papyrus to Print: A Journey through the History of the Bible" is the central exhibit at the new Bible and archaeology museum at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Rachel Hallote will be lecturing on “Not-So-Innocents Abroad: The Beginnings of American Biblical Archaeology” on October 28 at Emory University.

Manfred Bietak will be lecturing on “Recent Discoveries at the Hyksos Capital, Tell el-Dab‘a (Egypt)” on November 12, 7:00 PM in Hinkson Hall, Rodine Building, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

HT: Al Sandalow, Jack Sasson, Joseph Lauer

Petra Siq, df072007322

The Siq of Petra
Photo from Pictorial Library of Bible Lands

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Conference Report: Innovations in Archaeology in Jerusalem

The Jerusalem Post reports on recent discoveries made in connection with development projects in the Jerusalem area. (Emphasis added.)

In order to secure the necessary construction permits from the Interior Ministry, public works projects need approval from the IAA [Israel Antiquities Authority]. Preconstruction surveys during preparation for the expansion of Highway 1 around the Motza Interchange have yielded a plethora of new discoveries, including Iron Age buildings at Tel Motza, explained Dr. Doron Ben Ami, a chief researcher at the HU archeology institute. At the Motza Stream, archeologists discovered ruins dating back to the Neolithic period and an enormous underground water reservoir from the Crusaders.

Pre-construction surveys of the Ramot highway have yielded discoveries of Roman terraces. And when baseball fans in Ramat Beit Shemesh decided to build a baseball field, they discovered a new field of dreams: Just a few centimeters below the surface, there were hundreds of clay pots and figurines.

Nearby, archeologists discovered an enormous burial ground from the Bronze Age.

Even in the posh Jerusalem neighborhood of Rehavia, construction of fancy new apartments can sometimes lead to the most startling archeological discoveries. A 6-meter-high column was unearthed during construction of a new apartment building on the leafy neighborhood’s Abarbanel Street, leading scholars to believe it could have been a Byzantine era quarry. The column was mostly likely destined for one the magnificent cathedrals of the era before it cracked and became dangerous to move.

The full story is here.

HT: Joseph Lauer

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Picture of the Week: Appian Way with Ancient Paving Stones

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

When people think of "biblical archaeology" they usually think of cities such as Jerusalem, Jericho, or Capernaum.  However, sometimes a road can be just as valuable as an archaeological "site."

Our picture of the week is from Volume 15 of the revised and expanded version of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, which focuses on Rome. The photo is entitled, "Appian Way with Ancient Paving Stones."

Although never explicitly mentioned in Acts 28, there can be little doubt that the Apostle Paul walked this road as he traveled from Puteoli (Acts 28:13) to Rome (Acts 28:14).  From Puteoli, Paul and his escort of Roman soldiers probably travelled north to Capuae (also spelled Capua) where they travelled the rest of the journey to Rome on the Appian Way.  In his 1962 work on Archaeology and the New Testament, Merrill F. Unger describes the journey in this way:

Not far from Puteoli at Capua, Paul and the group got on the Appian Way which connected with Rome via The Forum of Appius and The Three Taverns.  Extensive sections of this well-paved road, planned by the censor Appius Claudius Caecus in 312 B.C., still exist, lined with tombs, sites of ancient Roman villas, and ruins of ancient aqueducts. ... From Capua it was 132 miles to Rome. ...

Since the Appian Way from Capua to Terracina Romeward skirted near the shore, picturesque vistas of land often combined with a magnificent view of the sea. ...

At the Forum of Appius, 43 miles from the metropolis on the Tiber, Paul and the group had a pleasant surprise.  Some of the believers at Rome, Luke writes, "came to meet us" (Acts 28:15), employing a word (apantēsis) technically used for the official welcome of a visiting dignitary by a deputation which went out of a city to greet him and conduct him on his way for the last part of his journey. ...

Now on both sides of the Appian Way were seen the tombs and funerary memorials of the generals, conquerors, and distinguished men who had raised an obscure Italian town to the position of the first city of the world, and surrounded it with a halo of martial glory unexcelled by any other metropolis.  Many of these illustrious Romans had passed over this same road to enjoy a magnificent triumph in the city.  But the prisoner who that day was surrounded by a retinue of converts and a few Roman soldiers was being led in a triumph far more memorable than that of any victorious Roman general.

Excerpt is taken from Merrill F. Unger, Archaeology and the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962), 314-316, and can be purchased here.  This and other photos of Rome are included in Volume 15 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and can be purchased here.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday Roundup

Ross Burns has created a website to mirror his Monuments of Syria with photos, itineraries, and maps. He has also put many photos on Flickr (with watermarks).

Luke Chandler explains why the excavators of Khirbet Qeiyafa have decided to return for one more partial season, with the remainder to be spent at either Socoh or Lachish.

Paleobabble addresses Simcha Jacobovici’s Conspiracy Fantasy.

Ferrell Jenkins reports on new discoveries at Paphos, Cyprus.

The Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology has a helpful list of links to universities and institutions with archaeological programs in Israel.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Haaretz: Following the Dream of a Third Temple in Jerusalem

Haaretz’s article on the Third Temple and Jewish visits to the Temple Mount is probably the most thorough and helpful report I’ve read on the subject.

They are proposing what they consider to be the key to solving all of our problems: building a Third Temple. In the meantime, they are trying to get permission to pray on the Temple Mount, where Jewish religious ritual has been prohibited since East Jerusalem was taken by Israeli forces in the 1967 war.

Shortly after the war, the government decided not to allow Jews to pray on the Temple Mount ‏(which is known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary, and is the site of two major Muslim holy places, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock‏). Jews could pray below the Mount, at the Western Wall, Israeli authorities decreed.

In terms of religious ritual, the Temple Mount remains a Muslim preserve. According to a survey conducted by the joint directorate of the Temple movements, only 17 percent of Israeli Jews, religious and secular alike, want to see a Third Temple built. However, the numbers shoot up in regard to the possibility of praying on the Temple Mount, with 43 percent of the secular public and 92 percent of the religious public in favor, which averages out to 52 percent of the entire Jewish public.

The police, though, are convinced that allowing Jewish religious ritual to be performed on the Temple Mount will stir unrest among Muslims on a scale that is hard to gauge. Accordingly, the police make every effort to enforce the long-standing government decision, even though this involves repeated skirmishes with the Temple movements. Some of their activists, Yehuda Glick among them, are barred from even approaching the entrance to the Temple Mount.

The full, lengthy article describes a meeting with leaders interested in rebuilding the temple, a visit to the Temple Mount on a bride’s wedding day, the modern Bezalel, preparations for rebuilding the sacrificial altar, and a plot to blow up Al-Aqsa Mosque.

HT: Bill Soper

Temple model overlooking Temple Mount, tb010312507

Replica of the temple overlooking the Temple Mount
(Photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Notes on the Water in Antiquity Conference

(by Chris McKinny)

Today, I was able to make it over to the Cura Aquarum conference on Water in Antiquity that was mentioned previously here. The first session of lectures dealt with several topics of interest for readers of this blog. Below I have added a few brief notes from the lectures.

1. Is There Light at the End of the Tunnel? The Gezer Water System Project – Dan Warner*, Tsvika Tsuk, Jim Parker and Dennis Cole

Warner gave an update of their project after two seasons and discussed their plans for the 2013 season. The following are a few difficulties that they have encountered and a few goals that the seek to accomplish in their project:
  • Macalister's plans of the system differ from the seemingly more accurate plans of Father Vincent (no great shock there).

Entrance to Gezer Water System

  • Macalister built a large retaining wall for the material that he removed from the system, however, that retaining wall collapsed towards the end of the Gezer expedition - re-filling the system back to 60% of its original fill level. This is what they have spent the last two seasons removing. They have successfully excavated two of the systems three parts - 1.) the "keyhole opening" (see pic above) and 2. the "stepped and sloping water shaft". On the last few days of excavation this past season they reached the water cavern itself (part 3.). All told they have removed around 439 tons of fill so far. 
  • Vincent's drawings seem to indicate that there was an opening or exit in the cavern section of the system. One of their goals is to determine the location or existence of this opening. 
  • Dating: While admitting to not finding any datable materials in their excavations, Warner concluded that he believes that the Gezer water system should be preliminarily dated to the Canaanite period/Middle Bronze Age. He dates the system based on its close proximity to the Middle Bronze Age fortifications (conta the site's former excavator William Dever). He also made note of several "cultic niches" along the walls of the water system one of which has what he referred to as an embedded massebah (i.e. "standing stone") similar to what is seen on top of the tell. If this system does in fact date to the Middle Bronze age, Warner theorized that it would then be one of the largest such systems from that time period in all of the ancient Near East. 
2. A New Assessment of the Upper Aqueduct to Jerusalem: its Date and Route – David Amit and Shimon Gibson*

  • Very nice presentation on all of the available date including some recent excavations near Jaffa Gate/Mamilla. 
  • Concludes that the Upper Aqueduct was originally constructed during the time of Herod the Great, in order to provide water for the Temple Mount and the Herodian Palace on the Western Hill of Jerusalem. They interpret the large amount of "10th Roman Legion" epigraphic evidence (i.e. bricks with the imprint of "XLEGFR") around the Upper Aqueduct near Rachel's Tomb as evidence of repair and not initial building. 
3. Dating and engineering of Siloam Tunnel, Jerusalem – Amos Frumkin* and Aryeh Shimron

  • Frumkin showed convincingly that the Siloam Tunnel (i.e. Hezekiah's Tunnel) dates to around 700 BCE on the basis of a date range provided by the assessment of C14 (piece of charcoal found in the original plaster) and speleothems (stalactites). As both of these pieces of evidence fit the textual data, they concluded that the tunnel was dug by Hezekiah. On a side note, since both of the authors are geologists, it was very nice to see them consider all of the evidence including the biblical and extra-biblical texts. This has not always been the case with geological assessments of Hezekiah's tunnel see here
City of David with Hezekiah's Tunnel in Blue

  • Frumkin also showed that Hezekiah's tunnel was not excavated along natural karstic shafts. This common theory he referred to as the "Karst Theory." Instead of following any natural, easier path for excavation, he demonstrated that the tunnel's excavators passed through many bedding plates or fractures perpendicularly.  
  • Of even more importance, Frumkin provided some very interesting rationale for why Hezekiah's tunnel meanders on both starting points instead of being excavated in a straight line. He believes that the entire excavation process was marked by changes "on the fly." He comes to this conclusion based on the several "false starts" inside the shaft and the "semi-circular loops" on the north-eastern and south-western beginning points (he also makes the point that the NE starting point dropped 5 meters from its initial starting point, another indication of a mistake). Frumkin hypothesized that the excavators soon realized that they were not going to be able to find each other by digging in a direct line, diagonally across the city. So instead, both excavation teams began excavating towards the slopes of the Kidron Valley, an area much closer to the surface, with hopes that they would be able to "hear" one another above ground. Testing this hypothesis - Frumkin and Shimron's claim that they were able to hear someone inside of the tunnel from directly above, which would mean that their theory is plausible, at the very least. 

  • Interestingly, Frumkin points out that this subterranean-to-above-ground communication could very well be what is meant in the Siloam Inscription where it reads, "... the tunnel ... and this is the story of the tunnel while ...the axes were against each other and while three cubits were left to cut? ... the voice of a man ... called to his counterpart" (italics mine).
All told, it was a very interesting set of lectures that showed that even old excavations can be given new interpretation and nuanced meaning through the advancements and developments of the discipline.


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New Resource: Israel Topographical Relief Map

I’ve been asked many times over the years if I know of a place where one can purchase a 3-D relief map of Israel. The first one I ever saw was hand-crafted and not for sale. Some years later I found a company making large maps. While I knew one guy who actually carried the small (6-foot) edition back as “luggage” from Israel, this is impractical for most.

I just learned that Preserving Bible Times, Inc. is selling 10” x 20” 3-D relief maps. These are now available in both framed ($39) and unframed ($29) versions, with shipping of $9.95 for the first map and $1.95 for additional maps in the same shipment. Take a look at the images below to see the quality and detail.

To order, contact the good folks at Preserving Bible Times at 410-953-0557 by mail at PBT, POB 83357, Gaithersburg, MD, 20883. Questions can be directed by email here. This can be a great resource for home, church, school, clubhouse, beach house, or treehouse. The timing is perfect for Christmas as well.


Framed version


Close-up of Sea of Galilee and Golan Heights


Close-up of Jerusalem area and Dead Sea


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Weekend Roundup

Have they found a “smoking gun” proving that the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife was forged?

A plan to build a water reservoir west of Jerusalem near Har Adar is being opposed because it will mean the loss of 800 pine, cypress, and oak trees.

Shahar Shilo will speak about new discoveries from Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and the City of David in Simi Valley, California next week. I know that he is speaking in Dallas and probably elsewhere, but I do not have public links for those events.

“The Metropolitan Museum of Art today launched MetPublications, a major online resource that offers unparalleled in-depth access to the Museum’s renowned print and online publications, covering art, art history, archaeology, conservation, and collecting.”

The latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review is online (digital subscription required).

HT: Jack Sasson, Joseph Lauer

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Conference: Water in Antiquity

The Cura Aquarum in Israel will be held next week at Neve Ilan. Many of the lecture topics are of interest.

Monday October 15, 2012 (Neve Ilan Hotel)
Session A: 09:00 – 10:30 Ancient water systems in Israel 1
Chairperson Jim Parker

1. Is There Light at the End of the Tunnel? The Gezer Water System Project – Dan Warner, Tsvika Tsuk, Jim Parker and Dennis Cole

2. A New Assessment of the Upper Aqueduct to Jerusalem: its Date and Route – David Amit and Shimon Gibson

3. Dating and engineering of Siloam Tunnel, Jerusalem – Amos Frumkin and Aryeh Shimron

Session B: 11:00 – 12:50 Ancient water systems in Israel 2
Chairperson Dennis Cole

4. The Inverted Siphon Pipelines to Tel Bet Yerah/es-Sinnabris – Yardenna Alexandre

5. The “’Otzar” in Ancient Ritual Baths: Second Temple Period Innovation or Anachronistic Interpretation? – Yonatan Adler

6. When were the Qanat Systems introduced to the Holy Land? – Yosef Porath

7. The Early Islamic aqueducts to Ramla and Hebron – Amir Gorzalczany and David Amit

Session C: 14:15 – 15:15 Ancient and modern water systems in Israel 3
Chairperson Ronny Reich

8. Touring Israel’s ancient water systems – Tsvika Tsuk

9. Water in Israel and in the Middle East – past, present and future – Shimon Tal

Session D: 15:35 – 17:00 Turkey 1
Chairperson Werner Eck

10. Grundwassernutzung in der hethitischen Hauptstadt Hattusa um 1600 v. Chr. – Hartmut Wittenberg

11. Ancient Water Systems of the Lamas Çayi and the surrounding hinterland – Dennis Murphy

12. Die Datierung der römischen Kaikos- und Madradag-Kanalleitungen in Pergamon – Henning Fahlbusch

Session E: 17:20 – 18:50 Turkey 2
Chairperson Henning Fahlbusch

13. Das städtische Abwassersystem von Pergamon - seine Entwicklung in hellenistischer und römischer Zeit – Kai Wellbrock

14. The aqueducts and water supply of Tralleis – Eddie Owens

15. Antike Wasserbauten von Antiochia (Tuerkei) – Mathias Döring

Tuesday October 16, 2012 (Neve Ilan hotel)
Session F: 08:30 – 09:30 The Military
Chairperson Mathias Döring

16. Das Heer und die Infrastruktur von Städten in der römischen Kaiserzeit – Werner Eck

17. Water as weapon and military target in Ancient Mesopotamian warfare – Ariel Bagg

Session G: 09:50 – 11:20 Groundwater and Roman Aqueducts
Chairperson Eli Dror

18. Ground water use and understanding in ancient times: lessons for today and tomorrow – Michael Knight

19. Sinter deposits in Roman aqueducts – Gül Sürmelihindi and Cees Passchier

20. The Atlas Project of Roman Aqueducts (ROMAQ) – Cees Passchier, and Gül Sürmelihindi

Session H: 11:50 – 13:15 Greece and Spain – Sanctuaries, Mills and Aqueducts
Chairperson Dennis Murphy

21. The role of water in ancient sanctuaries. The Sanctuary of Amphiaraos – Anna Androvitsanea

22. When Ceres commands her nymphs – An investigation of the relation between mills and aqueducts in the antique Mediterranean – Stefanie Preißler

23. The Glass kiln (Horno de Vidrio), a drop tower in the water supply to the city of Toledo (Spain) during the Roman era – Marisa Barahona

More details about the conference are available here.

HT: Jack Sasson

Hezekiah's Tunnel, tb110705559

Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Jerusalem
Photo: Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, volume 3

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Picture of the Week: Pompeii, House of Sallust, Atrium

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

In 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, Paul describes an extremely dysfunctional church event.  When the church gathered to observe the Lord's Supper, there were divisions and factions (v. 18-19) due to the fact that people were not sharing food with those who were hungry and were eating before the others arrived (vv. 21, 33-34).  What could have possessed them to act in such an unloving way during one of the holiest events in the life of their church?

In his book St. Paul's Corinth: Texts and Archaeology, Jerome Murphy-O'Connor suggests a historical context which could help explain this passage.  His suggestion centers around the fact that wealthy homes in that culture typically had two public areas: a room just inside the entrance called an atrium and a dining room called a triclinium.

Our picture of the week is an example of an atrium found in one of the houses at Pompeii.  This photo comes from Volume 14 of the revised and expanded version of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, which focuses on Italy and Malta. The photo is entitled, "Pompeii House of Sallust Atrium."  An atrium typically had a a rectangular pool in the center of the room called an impluvium.

Murphy-O'Connor suggests that part of the problem in the Corinthian church was due to the fact that a small group of the wealthiest church members were invited to dine in the triclinium while the rest of the members had to sit in the atrium.  He explains a hypothetical historical background in the following way:
Private houses were the first centers of church life.  Christianity in the 1st cent. A.D., and for long afterwards, did not have the status of a recognized religion, so there was no question of a public meeting-place, such as the Jewish synagogue. Hence, use had to be made of the only facilities available, namely, the dwellings of families that had become Christian. ...
Given the social conditions of the time, it can be assumed that any gathering which involved more than very intimate friends of the family would be limited to the public part of the house ...
... [T]he average size of the atrium is 55 sq. meters and that of the triclinium 36 sq. meters.  Not all this area, however, was usable. The effective space in the triclinium was limited by the couches around the walls; the rooms surveyed would not have accommodated more than nine, and this is the usual number .... The impluvium in the center of the atrium would not only have diminished the space by one-ninth, but would also have restricted movement; circulation was possible only around the outside of the square. Thus, the maximum number that the atrium could hold was 50, but this assumes that there were no decorative urns, etc. to take up space, and that everyone stayed in the one place; the true figure would probably be between 30 and 40. ...
The mere fact that all could not be accommodated in the triclinium meant that there had to be an overflow into the atrium.  It became imperative for the host to divide his guests into two categories; the first-class believers were invited into the triclinium while the rest stayed outside.  Even a slight knowledge of human nature indicates the criterion used.  The host must have been a wealthy member of the community and so he invited into the triclinium his closest friends among the believers, who would have been of the same social class.  The rest could take their places in the atrium, where conditions were greatly inferior. Those in the triclinium would have reclined, as with the custom ... where as those in the atrium were forced to sit ....
The space available made such discrimination unavoidable, but this would not diminish the resentment of those provided with second-class facilities.  Here we see one possible source of the tensions that appear in Paul's account of the eucharistic liturgy at Corinth (1 Cor 11:17-34).  However, his statement that "one is hungry while another is drunk" (v. 21) suggests that such tensions were probably exacerbated by another factor, namely, the type of food offered. ...
The reconstruction is hypothetical, but no scenario has been suggested which so well explains the details of 1 Cor. 11:17-34.  The admonition "wait for one another" (v. 34) means that prolambano in v. 21 necessarily has a temporal connotation; some began to eat before others.  Since these possessed houses with plenty to eat and drink (vv. 22, 34), they came from the wealthy section of the community and might have made a contribution in kind to the community meal. This, they felt, gave them the right to think of it as 'theirs' (to idion deiphon).  Reinforced by the Roman custom they would then have considered it their due to appropriate the best portions for themselves. Such selfishness would necessarily include a tendency to take just a little more, so that it might happen that nothing was left for the 'have-nots' (v. 22), who in their hunger had to content themselves with the bread and wine provided for the Eucharist.  However, as Paul is at pains to point out, under such conditions no Eucharist is possible (v. 20). 
Excerpt is taken from Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, St. Paul's Corinth: Texts and Archaeology, Good News Studies, vol. 6 (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, Inc, 1983), 153-161, and can be purchased here. This and other photos of Pompeii are included in Volume 14 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and can be purchased here.  More information on Pompeii and additional photos (including another atrium) can be found on the BiblePlaces website here.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wednesday Roundup

Streams in the Desert: A 20-second clip from SourceFlix.com

New exhibit at the Oriental Institute Museum: Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt, October 16, 2012-July 28, 2013

The Sea of Galilee is entering fall at a higher level than in six years.

Wayne Stiles: Connecting Cisterns, Rain, and Reading the Bible

Haaretz: Samson follows the sun to Galilee

The date palm growing from a 2,000-year-old seed is shown and discussed on video.

The Mazotos shipwreck is the oldest shipwreck found off Cyprus to date. The vessel sank in 350 BC with a load of 1,000 amphorae of wine.

Elizabeth Payne, conservator of the Yale Babylonian Collection, is interviewed in the school paper.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson


Monday, October 08, 2012

Covert Visit inside the Tomb of the Patriarchs

From the Jerusalem Post:

On October 9, 1968 a thirteen-year-old girl made history, as she squeezed through a narrow hole into the underground chambers of the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, which the Jews had been forbidden to enter for 700 years under Mamluk, Ottoman, British and Jordanian rule. Jews were only allowed access to the staircase at the southeast of the site, initially only up to the fifth step and later increased to the seventh.


"On October 9, 1968, my mother asked me if I would agree to climb into a narrow hole that would lead me to a cave," Arbel wrote in her personal account of the event published on the Hebron website. "After I agreed, my mother told me that it was the Cave of the Patriarchs."

Arbel recalls how her father later woke her and bundled her into the car "wrapped like a parcel with a blanket over her head" and they made their way to Hebron from their Jerusalem home. When they arrived they stopped at the police for a while and then continued to the cave. "I got out of the car, wrapped in the blanket, and entered the Muslim mosque. I saw the opening that I would need to fit into." The hole measured 28 centimeters in diameter. Arbel was harnessed with ropes and equipped with a flashlight and matches in order to check the air inside the cave. "They lowered me down onto a pile of paper and money. I found myself in a square room." She describes seeing three tombstones opposite her, "the middle one adorned and taller than the other two." Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah are all believed to be buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs.

The story continues here. For more photos and information about Hebron and the Machpelah constructed by King Herod, see here.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Hebron Machpelah, shaft to caves below, tb092204022

Hebron Machpelah. The shaft to the subterranean cave is protected by the green railings. (photo source)


Saturday, October 06, 2012

Animal Attractions in Israel

The Jerusalem Post suggests six tourist attractions you might have missed:

1. Camel Riders—Mamshit

2. Alpaca Farm—Negev Highlands

3. Deer Farm—Gush Etzion

4. Robotic Cowshed—Kfar Yehezkel

5. Hai Park—Kiryat Motzkin

6. Ma’ayan Zvi Fishing Park—Sharon Plain

The full article is here.

Gazelle in Nahal Paran, tb042107595

Gazelle in Nahal Paran.
Photo from
Cultural Images of the Holy Land.

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Friday, October 05, 2012

Recommended: The Land and the Book

One of my book sets that was acquired through some measure of trial and tribulation is William Thomson’s The Land and the Book. If you’ve done much reading of ancient customs and how they may illuminate the Bible, then you’ve certainly heard of this three-volume work if you haven’t read it yourself. You also may have enjoyed selections from it if you have The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection that was produced by us and published for Accordance.

Logos Bible Software has put the set in its Community Pricing which gives you the opportunity to get the full text for a low price. (The way that C.P. works is that a single bid of $20 is equal to two bids of $10, so feel free to bid low if you get a friend to join you.)

To give you a sense for some of Thomson’s writings, I opened up a few of the American Colony presentations and started reading. I very quickly found a number of quotes that relate very well to my recent study and teaching in Genesis.

For instance, when I was reading Genesis 18, I was struggling with the timeline. The three men show up “in the heat of the day,” eat a prepared calf, and then walk down to Sodom by evening. Apart from the fact that this makes it very difficult (i.e., impossible) to locate Sodom on the northern side of the Dead Sea, I was wondering how the calf could have been cooked so quickly. Thomson’s experience was helpful.

With the Bedâwin it is nearly universal to cook the meat immediately after it is butchered, and to bake fresh bread for every meal. Visit any Arab sheikh, for example, whose tent is now in the valley below us, and you will witness the entire process. A sheep or calf will be brought and killed before you, thrust instanter into the great caldron which stands ready on the fire to receive it, and, ere you are aware, it will reappear on a large copper tray, with a heap of bûrgûl, cracked wheat, or of boiled rice and leben, sour milk. In Cincinnati, a hog walks into a narrow passage on his own feet, and comes out at the other end bacon, ham, and half a dozen other commodities; at the sheikh's camp, it is a calf or sheep that walks past you into the caldron, and comes forth a smoking stew for dinner. (2: 205)

Of course, we cannot assume that the way things were in the late 1800s are the way things were more than three thousand years ago. But it is possible that traditional ways were maintained for a long time.

Certainly the practice of killing a choice animal for visitors was similar in Abraham’s day as it was among Arabs in 19th century Palestine.

Not only is this true, but amongst the Bedâwin Arabs the killing of a sheep, calf, or kid in honor of a visitor is required by their laws of hospitality, and the neglect of it is keenly resented. They have a dozen caustic terms of contempt for the sheikh who neglected to honor his guest with the usual dabbîhah, sacrifice, as it is universally called—a name suggestive of the religious rite of hospitality as practiced in ancient times by the patriarchs, and frequently confirmed by a solemn oath and covenant" (2: 205).

I’ll close with one more, this one related to the story of Esau.

In my rambles about the outskirts of the town last evening I lit upon a company of Ishmaelites sitting round a large saucepan, regaling themselves with their dinner. As they said "Tŭfŭddâl"—oblige us—very earnestly, I sat down amongst them, and, doubling some of their bread spoon-fashion, plunged into the saucepan as they did, and found their food very savory indeed. The composition was made of the red kind of lentiles which we examined in the market at Jaffa; and I can readily believe, from the little experience I had of its appetizing fragrance and substantial taste, that to a hungry man it must have been very tempting" (2: 252).

I wouldn’t let that Thomson’s experience take anything away from your disdain for a son who despised the glorious promises of God, but it is certainly valuable to be able to “see” things more clearly.

You can bid on the Logos set here. There’s a free Google version here. There are many used copies available, but they come in abridged and 2-volume formats that can make purchasing confusing. You might also consider one of the volumes in The American Colony Collection, such as the fascinating Traditional Life and Customs. For $20, you get 600 photographs and hundreds of interesting quotations from Thomson and many other early explorers.

Bedouin hospitality, having coffee in sheikh's tent, mat05980

Bedouin hospitality (photo source)

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Thursday, October 04, 2012

Picture of the Week: Olive Press on Cyprus

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

In modern America, olive oil is something that is not given much thought or attention. It is occasionally used while cooking, but many people only encounter it while dining at an Italian restaurant when the waiter makes some available for dipping bread. All in all, it is not important in day-to-day life and we could readily do without it.

However, in biblical times, this was not the case. In fact, the opposite was true. Olive oil was something that was used everyday in every house for a variety of imporant purposes. It was used for cooking as it is today, but also much more. Olive oil was used as a base for purfume (Esth. 2:12) or used to anoint someone's head to show them honor (1 Sam. 16:13, Luke 7:46). It was used as fuel in clay lamps to provide light (Matt. 25:3-4) even in a holy place such as the Tabernacle (Exod. 27:20). It was used in sacrifices (Exod. 29:40) and for medicinal purposes (Luke 10:34). The reason it became so important was not only because it was so versatile, but also because it was readily abundant in the Mediterranean basin where olive trees flourish. But the question arises, how was this vital product produced? One common process used in antiquity is described below.

For our "picture of the week" we will actually be focusing our attention on three photographs because they complement each other so well. They all come from Volume 13 of the revised and expanded version of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, which focuses on Cyprus and Crete. This volume is an entirely new addition to the collection. The previous version of the PLBL had no pictures of either island.

The first photo is entitled "Olive Press at Palaipaphos." (Click on the photo for a higher resolution.) After the olives had been harvested, this type of press was used to break the olives up and prepare them to be squeezed by a second type of press. The olives would be placed in the bottom of the basin and the round stone would be rolled over them.

The second and third photos show the type of press used in the second stage of the process. The second photo is entitled "Olive Press at Larnaca Museum," and the third, "Idalion Olive Press Factory."

The top picture is a reconstruction of an olive press at a museum in Cyprus and the bottom shows the archaeological remains of the same type of press at the site of Idalion. They both are of the same type of press but are photographed from opposite angles: the round circles in the foreground of the bottom picture are barely visible in the background of the top picture. Placing the pictures side by side, you can get a good idea of how this type of press worked.

After the olives had been broken up, they were placed in flat, circular baskets and laid on top of the stone circles.  Several baskets would be stacked together. The stack would then be pressed using the large wooden beams shown in the top picture. The pressure on the beams would come from the stone weights which can been seen in both of these pictures: the standing stones with holes drilled through their top section. These stones would be tied onto the beam pulling it down and placing pressure on the baskets and the olives, forcing the oil to ooze out. The oil would then drip down onto the stone bench and would be caught by the circular channel which had been cut into the bench. Within the channel, the oil would be funneled into a spout where it would pour into a basin or vessel. From there the oil would be taken and used for a variety of purposes.

These and other photos of Cyprus are included in Volume 13 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and can be purchased here. More information on olives and olive trees can be found on the BiblePlaces website here and at the Life in the Holy Land website here.


Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Wednesday Roundup

Vandals spray-painted anti-Christian graffiti on the Dormition Abbey church. UPDATE: The graffiti was near the Dormition Abbey, just outside Zion Gate on the door of the Franciscan Convent. Haaretz has a photo. (Thanks, Dina.)

Israel and Jordan are planning to work together to rehabilitate the Jordan River.

The case for the authenticity of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife is getting weaker.

Aren Maeir posts an archaeological note relating to Sukkot.

If you’re interested in historical fiction set in the life of the early church, The Scribes is currently free for Kindle.

The problem with blackmail is that it never stops, even between governments and world-class museums.

How is the Messiah related to the feast of Sukkot? Wayne Stiles explains and illustrates.

HT: Jack Sasson

Man with four species during Sukkot at Western Wall, cd091006002

Sukkot prayers (photo source)

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Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Barcodes on the Road of the Patriarchs

The Jerusalem Post describes a new program that will allow tourists with smartphones to watch videos instead of enjoying the ancient sites.

Visitors to Judea and Samaria should bring their smartphones along with bottles of water, if they want to learn about the biblical sites that dot Route 60.

Thanks to a program of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, new signs have been placed at selected spots along the highway, known as the Path of the Patriarchs.

Signs have also been posted at archeological sites in the settlements of Elon Moreh, Susisya and Shiloh as well as in Hebron and by the Lone Tree in Gush Etzion.

Each sign has a bar code that can activate smartphones, whose users have downloaded the free app Scanlife. Once activated, smartphone owners can view videos describing the sites.

The full story is here. Perhaps the plan is not as awful as it sounds.

HT: Charles Savelle

Lebonah valley, tb070507648

The Lebonah Valley along the Road of the Patriarchs

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Monday, October 01, 2012

Decades of Archaeological Survey Work in Israel

Nir Hasson writes of Israel’s efforts to survey the whole country for any signs of man-made activity from the past. Archaeologist Adam Zertal has worked on the survey for the last 34 years and is the focus of the report in Haaretz.

"It could be said there isn't a meter we haven't covered," says Prof. Zertal, who walks using crutches, a remnant of an injury from the 1973 Yom Kippur War. "Walking is my rehabilitation. I walk slowly with crutches. The younger guys go much faster."

This is how the national archaeological survey, one of Israel's longest-running scientific projects, is being carried out. The aim is to clamber down every ravine, scale every hill and walk through every furrow in the country.

The Israel Antiquities Authority seeks to precisely map every historical and archaeological site west of the Jordan. The project, which began in 1964, is due to end - if at all - in a few decades.

Six years ago the authority stopped publishing thick volumes of the survey's results; it now uploads the data onto the Internet. It recently launched a revamped website containing 3,000 archaeological sites out of the 25,000 sites mapped to date in half the country.

The Hebrew version of the article has several illustrations, and Joseph Lauer has provided the legend for the survey map:

Red- Active survey sites
Blue - Completed survey sites
Grey - As-yet unsurveyed sites 
Each square on the map - 10 x 10 kilometers


Illustration from Haaretz

The IAA website has more details about the survey’s progress and goals. The online database with the 3,000 sites is available here.

I recently compiled, with the help of some friends, a preliminary bibliography of archaeological surveys of Israel and Jordan published in the last few decades. If you know of any additional works, please let me know and I will update the list. The Hebrew publications for the regional surveys are given here.