Friday, November 30, 2012

Cyrus Cylinder Coming to the U.S.

From Art Daily:

The British Museum today announces that one of its most iconic objects, the Cyrus Cylinder, will tour to five major museum venues in the United States in 2013. This will be the first time this object has been seen in the US and the tour is supported by the Iran Heritage Foundation.

You have to skip to the end of the article to see where and when the object will be on display:

  • Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 9th March – 28th April 2013
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 3rd May – 14th June 2013
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 20th June – 4th August 2013
  • Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, 9th August – 22nd September 2013
  • J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa, Los Angeles, 2nd October – 2nd December 2013

What is the Cyrus Cylinder?

The Cylinder was inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform (cuneiform is the earliest form of writing) on the orders of the Persian King Cyrus the Great (559-530BC) after he captured Babylon in 539BC. It is often referred to as the first bill of human rights as it appears to encourage freedom of worship throughout the Persian Empire and to allow deported people to return to their homelands. It was found in Babylon in modern Iraq in 1879 during a British Museum excavation and has been on display ever since.

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, gave an interesting 20-minute talk on the Cyrus Cylinder at TED last year. The museum has posted a full translation of the inscription.

One caveat: visiting this exhibit does not excuse you from visiting the British Museum! (And before you go, you should purchase this excellent guide.)

HT: Jack Sasson

Cyrus Cylinder, tb112004173

The Cyrus Cylinder in the British Museum

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Picture of the Week: Robinson's Arch in the 1870s

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

Question: How much dirt does an archaeologist have to move? 

Answer: None. The volunteers do all the hard work.  ;-)

Actually, the answer to this question depends on the site.  Sometimes an archaeologist only has to scratch the surface and the Early Bronze Age or some other ancient period is revealed.  At other times, there is a massive amount of earth that has to be moved before the archaeologist gets down to the period he or she wants to study.  Here is a good example.

Our picture of the week, "Robinson's Arch," comes from a resource available through, the sister site of  The resource is called Picturesque Palestine, Volume I: Jerusalem, Judah, and Ephraim.  It is part of the "Historic Views of the Holy Land" collection.  This was originally a book that was published in 1881 and edited by none other than Charles Wilson, one of the most prominent explorers of the Holy Land in the nineteenth century.  The book is a fascinating read as it discusses the landscape, holy sites, archaeological sites, and local culture as they appeared at that time.

Robinson's "Arch" is really just the lowest section of what was originally an arch.  It is called Robinson's Arch because it was discovered by Edward Robinson in the 1830s.  You can see the remains of the arch on the right half of this drawing, towering above the two men and the oxen.  The arch originally spanned across the Tyropean Valley in Jerusalem and formed the upper section of a long stairway that provided access to the Temple Mount during the time of Christ.  (A reconstruction of this stairway can be seen here.)  The Tyropean Valley was filled in over the years, beginning with the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in A.D. 70.  Over the centuries the area was built up and torn down over and over again, accumulating debris until it looked like this in the nineteenth century.

Returning to our question ("How much dirt does an archaeologist have to move?"), archaeologists in the 1960s–1990s had to move several meters of debris during their excavation of this area.  The picture above is what the area looked like in the 1870s.  Compare that with what it looks like today:

This picture (taken from the Jerusalem volume of the PLBL) is looking at Robinson's Arch from the opposite direction as the drawing in Picturesque Palestine.  The arch is at the top of the photograph and circled in red in this photo.  You can see that it now towers over the remains of the 1st-century street below.  If you look carefully, there is a person standing on the street looking up at the arch.  That gives you an idea of the massive amount of dirt and stone that had to be moved by the excavation teams in recent decades.

This is just one example of the value of a work such as Picturesque Palestine.  It allows us to roll back the clock and see how the land appeared to the nineteenth century explorers before the excavations of the last 100 years.

This and other pictures of nineteenth-century Jerusalem are available in Picturesque Palestine, Volume I: Jerusalem, Judah, and Ephraim and can be purchased here.  Additional historic images of the Temple Mount can be seen here and here on the website.  Several websites related to this topic can be found on the BiblePlaces website here.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesday Roundup

Google Maps now includes floor plans of dozens of museums around the world, including the British Museum and the Smithsonian.

A couple of museums in Israel moved treasures to the vault because of danger from rockets from Gaza.

You can wait years to see an article about the New Testament city of Nain. Miriam Feinberg Vamosh ends the wait.

David Bivin thinks that the Nain where Jesus raised the boy from the dead is near Jerusalem in the upper reaches of the Wadi Qilt (subscription req’d for full article).

Joe Zias attempts to clear things up with regard to his role with the James Ossuary.

Perhaps you didn’t know: Wayne Stiles’ weekly column is available each Monday at the Jerusalem Post, but the edition on his personal site includes more content and higher-resolution photos. This week he travels to Chorazin (“Capernaum with a View”).

The PowerPoint presentation for Itzhaq Shai’s recent lecture on Tel Burna is available for download. It is interesting to look through even without the audio.

Ferrell Jenkins shares some of his observations from the recent annual meeting of the Near East Archaeological Society.

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit formerly at Discovery Times Square and Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute has now rolled into Cincinnati.

A golden brooch from the treasure of King Croesus is returning to Turkey after the museum director sold it to pay off his gambling debts.

The National Museum of Iraq is scheduled to have a grand re-opening early next year.

Conservation efforts at Herculaneum are more successful than at its sister site of Pompeii.

HT: Jack Sasson, Joseph Lauer

Herculaneum Cardo IV from west, tb111405666

Ruins of Herculaneum from the west
Photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Exhibit and Lectures: Weapons and War in the Iron Age

An exhibit at the Western Science Center in Hemet, California, and sponsored by La Sierra University, has a display of military equipment from Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, and Syria open through the end of the year. Two lectures will be given this Thursday by university professors:

Kent Bramlett, “Ride that Chariot: The Rise and Fall of Chariot Warfare in the Ancient Near East.”

Douglas Clark, “Burn that Building: The Rise and Fall of a Village in the Early Iron Age.”

For more information about the lectures, see this article in The Press-Enterprise. For details and photos of the museum exhibit, see the university’s press release.

Ramses II on chariot, dg041901630

Ramses II in chariot, Abu Simbel
Photo from Pictorial Library of Bible Lands

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Sale: Rose Guide to the Temple

The Rose Guide to the Temple is available from the publisher today for $10 plus shipping (reg. $30; Amazon $20). We’ve recommended the book previously here.

HT: Daniel Wright



Top 5 Gifts for Bible Lands and Bible Study

I did not put this list together, but my choices would be quite similar to Wayne Stiles’ picks. He writes:

Most of us give Christmas gifts that are quickly forgotten.

After the iPhone gets cracked, or the DVD gets watched, or the sweater gets snagged, they all end up at the landfill.

This year, why not give a gift that will last a lifetime?

Bible Lands study tools make great gifts because they take your personal Bible study to the next level. What’s more, they don’t wear out.

Here are my top 5 recommendations for gifts you’ll enjoy giving.

You can click over to see Wayne’s top 5, but his comments on the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands are worth quoting:

Even though I’ve been to the Holy Land many times, I’ll never see all of it. One resource will show you more than any other.

israel collection Top 5 Gifts for Bible Lands and Bible Study

All together, the 18-Volume Expanded Edition of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands includes more than 17,500 High Definition photographs from 9 countries in the ancient Mediterranean world.

My recommendation for starters? Get the “Israel Collection.” It includes volumes 1-5:

  • There are more than 1500 photos of Jerusalem.
  • More than 1500 photos of Judah and the Dead Sea area.
  • More than 2300 photos of the areas of Galilee and Samaria.

These are more than just High-Resolution pictures from the Holy Land. Special care has been taken to photograph biblical sites.

Nothing else rivals the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. If a picture paints a thousand words, then thousands of high-resolution pictures are even better. I use these images almost daily on my blog, and I have used them for years in my teaching and personal Bible study.

His recommendations include an atlas, a study Bible, several devotional books, and an exclusive tour of Israel.

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Renovations Planned for Jordan River Baptismal Site

From the Caspari Center Media Review:

The Yardenit Baptism Site, situated on the Jordan River, is to undergo extensive development in the coming year. In order to improve the site, a fourth baptism station will be opened up, and “10 new ceramic wall hangings with the text from the Book of Mark 1:9-11, which speaks of John baptizing Jesus, [will be] added to the 70 plaques” that constitute the “Wall of New Life.” A representative from the site says that “the guiding principle underlining Yardenit ... is the fact that it is totally non-denominational, and pilgrims are welcome to perform their baptism rituals in accordance with their particular beliefs and traditions.”

This must mean that business is good. In the meantime, it may be more difficult to get photos of the river without bulldozers and rebar.

The above article is not yet online. Copyright of the article remains with the Caspari Center.

Jordan River baptism at Yardenit baptismal site, tb011406482

Jordan River baptismal site at Yardenit
Photo from Galilee and the North


Friday, November 23, 2012

Gibson Lecture on the Bethesda Pool

The German Protestant Institute of Archaeology announces the upcoming lectures:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013: Florian Lippke (Universität Bern, Schweiz) "Comparative remarks on Late Persian iconography: The case of Samaria."

Monday, February 18, 2013: Dr. Shimon Gibson (University of the Holy Land) "The Bethesda Pool Excavations, 1863 – 1967: A Re-assessment."

All lectures takes place in the institute (Auguste Victoria Compound, Mount of Olives) at 5 pm.

Source: The Agade list


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Video: Does Archaeology Support the Bible?

Randall Price answers the question in a 15-minute video available at The video is clearly aimed at those who are less familiar with the subject and it covers discoveries from both the periods of the Old and New Testaments. Price is the author of the recently published Rose Guide to the Temple.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Captain, the Witch, and the Tunnel

One of the most head-shaking stories of early explorers in Jerusalem is that of Montague Parker’s expedition to discover the Ark of the Covenant. Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg tells the story in the Jerusalem Post, and if you haven’t heard it before, it’s worth the read. Here’s an excerpt:

With the help of his two Turkish supervisors, Parker and his men claimed an area of ground near the entry to the Gihon water system, known at the time as the Virgin’s Spring, which was then fenced off and guarded by Turkish troops, who did not allow entry to any locals or other visitors. The Jerusalem Pasha Azmey Bey had been suitably bribed to turn a blind eye to the work.

Parker’s activity naturally aroused the intense concern of the local archeological community. The Germans, French and British all had their missions in Jerusalem, but Parker would give out no communication and allow no inspection. His men proceeded with the digging, but they were amateurs and it went slowly and with little result.

Back in London, the Finnish scholar Juvelius had hired an Irish medium, who studied the documents and sent directions to the team about suitable locations. He advised Parker to search the long water tunnel, so Parker sent to London to obtain the services of two mining engineers who had worked on the Metropolitan Railway, the first line of the London Underground. Then he made another excellent move.

The full account is here. If you like stories like this, I recommend Neil Asher Silberman’s Digging for God and Country. The book is  out of print, but still available in used bookstores.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Gihon Spring, tb031003202

The Gihon Spring of Jerusalem


Monday, November 19, 2012

Chandler on the new Pictorial Library

Luke Chandler:

I’ve used Todd Bolen’s Pictorial Library of the Bible Lands collection for several months. I’ve tried it with Bible classes, history classes, sermons, etc. and my conclusion is…


I posted on the new expanded set a few months ago before I had actually obtained it. It was clearly a useful product. Now that I’ve used it, I can’t imagine life without such a valuable, enriching tool.

The Pictorial Library set includes some 17,500 photos of nearly everything you could imagine in the Bible Lands. For me, the best part is the 400+ PowerPoint presentations included with the set. The PowerPoint files contain all of the photos ready-to-go. They are organized by location and contain great slide notes that inform and complete your presentation.

You can read all of Luke’s assessment at his blog.

You can learn more about the new Pictorial Library of Bible Lands here, download a free PowerPoint presentation of Caesarea here, and place an order here. Individual volumes cost $24-$39. The complete set of 18 volumes is now marked down to $389 (a 35% discount). Larger discounts are available for upgraders.



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Picture of the Week: Survey of Western Palestine Maps

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

Having worked through the revised and expanded edition of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands in this series, we will begin highlighting pictures in a lesser known (but extremely fascinating) series called Historic Views of the Holy Land.  This is a sister collection to the PLBL and is featured in a website called

Here is a brief description of the series from the website:

The Historic Views of the Holy Land series is an extensive collection of thousands of photographs, drawings, and maps of the biblical lands from the 19th and 20th centuries.   

The collection, upon which this website is based, features  

  • the most detailed and accurate maps of Palestine made before the birth of the state of Israel  
  • pictures from award-winning photographers who traveled through Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and Greece in the 19th century  
  • photographs and drawings which illustrate biblical scenes, including Psalm 23, the Good Samaritan, and the Woman at the Well.

The first bullet point relates to our "Picture of the Week."  These are the maps created by the Palestine Exploration Fund in the 1870s and published as the Survey of Western Palestine.  The maps contain an amazing amount of detail, were the most accurate maps produced in its day, and were created before the massive political and cultural changes were made in the country during the 20th century.  Produced at a scale of 1 inch to 1 mile, these maps are a treasure trove for students and scholars interested in biblical geography.  A full explanation of the maps and their value can be found here.

Our picture this week focuses on one small area of the maps: the region of Bethel and Ai.

This section shows Beitin as a pink oval in the upper center of the map, which is usually identified as Bethel. It also shows et Tell in the right center and Khirbet el Mukatir to the east of et Tell.  The city of Ai (Gen. 12:8; Josh. 7:2) is identified by many scholars as et Tell, but the Associates for Biblical Research have been conducting excavations at Khirbet el Mukatir over the last couple of decades to investigate the possibility of identifying that site as Ai instead.  Below is an enlargement of the section of the map that shows Beitin, Kh. el Mukatir, and et Tell so that you can see the relationship between the three sites (click on the picture for a higher resolution):

This is just one example of the many uses of the Survey of Western Palestine Maps.  The originals of these maps are not easily accessible in libraries, but the electronic versions are available to all through the Historic Views of the Holy Land collection.

Further information and other images of the Survey of Western Palestine Maps can be found here.  You can download the index to the maps for free here, and you can purchase the maps by visiting here.  For another example of how these maps can be used, see my post on the Wild Olive Shoot blog here.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Conference: R.A.S. Macalister's Contributions to the Archaeology of Palestine

As you might have guessed, one afternoon is all the time they need to discuss the contributions of Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister. From the Agade list:

R.A.S. Macalister's Contributions to the Archaeology of Palestine 100 Years Later: An Evaluation

Workshop to be held at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeology, 26 Salah ed-Din Street, Jerusalem on Thursday, December 13, 2012

1:15 Light refreshments

1:30 Welcome and Introduction, Sam Wolff, Israel Antiquities Authority and Albright Institute

Tel Gezer

1:40 Jonathan Tubb, Keeper, Middle East, The British Museum, R.A.S. Macalister: Villain or Visionary?

2:10 William H. Dever, Professor Emeritus, University of Arizona, A Response to Jonathan Tubb (to be read by S. Gitin)

2:25 Baruch Brandl, Israel Antiquities Authority, Are the Finds from Macalister's Gezer I-III Still Relevant for Current Research a Century Later?

2:40 Tsvika Tsuk, National Parks Authority, Digging in Macalister's Footsteps: The Gezer Water System

3:00 Eric Mitchell, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, The Gezer Survey: An Assessment of Macalister’s Work (to be read by S. Wolff)

3:15 Discussion

3:30 Break

Jerusalem and Judean Shephelah Sites

3:45 Shimon Gibson, University of the Holy Land R.A.S. Macalister: with Bliss at Tell el-Judeideh and with Duncan at Jerusalem

4:15 Oded Lipschits and Yuval Gadot, Tel Aviv University "Kabdehu veChasdehu" ("Respect Him but Suspect Him"): Digging Azekah after 113 Years

4:30 Amos Kloner, Professor Emeritus, Bar-Ilan University Subterranean Complexes at Mareshah and Additional Notes on the Judean Shephelah Hiding Complexes

4:45 Aren Maeir, Bar-Ilan University and Rona Avissar, Albright Institute, Bliss and Macalister's Work at Tell es-Safi: A Reappraisal in Light of Recent Excavations

5:00 David Ussishkin, Professor Emeritus, Tel Aviv University and Ronny Reich, University of Haifa, concluding remarks, followed by discussion

The workshop is open to all interested scholars. Please RSVP your intention to attend to Sam Wolff (sam at

Gezer Calendar large replica, tb070506092

A replica of the Gezer Calendar, found in the Macalister’s excavation dump


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Desecrated Temple Discovered at Beth Shemesh

A press release from the American Friends of Tel Aviv University announces the recent discovery of a holy place that was not always a holy place.

Tel Aviv University researchers have uncovered a unique 11th-century BCE sacred compound at the site of Tel Beth-Shemesh, an ancient village that resisted the aggressive expansion of neighboring Philistines. The newly discovered sacred complex is comprised of an elevated, massive circular stone structure and an intricately constructed building characterized by a row of three flat, large round stones. Co-directors of the dig Prof. Shlomo Bunimovitz and Dr. Zvi Lederman of TAU's Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology say that this temple complex is unparalleled, possibly connected to an early Israelite cult — and provides remarkable new evidence of the deliberate desecration of a sacred site.


After ruling out the use of the site as a domestic structure, the researchers knew that they had found something unique. Excavations revealed almost only shards of painted chalices and goblets found spread on the floor but no traces of domestic use. One of the three flat stones was surrounded by animal bone remnants, and the two other stones were seemingly designed to direct liquids. These clues convinced Prof. Bunimovitz and Dr. Lederman that they had uncovered a likely place of sacred worship.

But the temple didn't remain sacred. Samples of earth taken from layers above the destroyed temple and analyzed at the Weizmann Institute of Science revealed astonishing results. Directly above the temple was a packed-in layer containing phytoliths (remains of weeds that are commonly eaten by livestock) and spherulites (microscopic remnants of manure produced by grass-eating animals), indicating the presence of animal pens directly on top of the sacred site, explains Prof. Bunimovitz. Intermittent burning in order to clean the pens likely resulted in the concentrated state of the layer.

This desecration was no accident or coincidence, the researchers believe. Instead, it represents the see-saw of political might between the Philistines and the local population. Presumably the Philistines gained temporary control of Beth-Shemesh, and brought in livestock to live on what they knew had been a sacred site to their enemies.

The article does not mention Samson, but this is roughly the period when he lived in the town across the valley.

HT: David Coppedge

Zorah and Eshtaol from Beth Shemesh, tb062300343

View from the excavations of Beth Shemesh towards Samson’s place of birth and burial

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Top 5 Best Alternative Ways to See Jerusalem

Jerusalem Old City western wall, tb051908285

The title of this article at the Jerusalem Post will get your attention, but it’s a bit misleading. If you think of it primarily as ways to leave Jerusalem, it’s more accurate. The top 5 are:

  • Segway
  • ATV
  • Bike Tours
  • Jeep Tours
  • Horse-riding

The article gives more details and includes phone numbers. If you want to see Jerusalem, you really need to walk.

HT: Charles Savelle

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Weekend Roundup

The Associated Press reports on the Carchemish excavations. Six photos are featured. (A version with photos embedded is here.)

NT Blog: The Jesus’ Wife Fragment: How the Forgery Was Done

Logos Bible Software, my Bible study program of choice for more than 15 years now, has released version 5. The Biblical Studies and Technological Tools blog is reviewing it. In Part 1, Mark Hoffman provides excuses for upgrading, and in Part 2, he gives reasons, with plenty of illustrated examples.

Eisenbrauns’ Deal of the Weekend is Exploring the Longue Duree: Essays in Honor of Lawrence E. Stager. Don’t let the title fool you: there are many interesting articles in this book. (Click on the Table of Contents link for a full list.)

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Friday, November 09, 2012

New Video: An Exciting New Dig at Abel Beth Maacah

A new 3-minute video produced by Azusa Pacific University should certainly capture interest and motivate volunteers for the new excavation at Abel Beth Maacah. You might consider showing it to a class or other interested group.

Azusa Pacific Presents: Abel Beth Maacah

HT: Chandler Collins


Thursday, November 08, 2012

Picture of the Week: Signs of the Holly Land (pun intended)

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

Perhaps the most curious volume in the revised and expanded Pictorial Library of Bible Lands is the last one: Volume 18, "Signs of the Holy Land." If you have never visited the Holy Land, then you don't know what you're missing! If you have been there, then you can imagine what humorous (and not-so-humorous) signs you can find in this collection.

It goes without saying that English is not the primary language of any of the biblical regions today, so the charm of many of these signs lies in the fact that the grammar, spelling, and choice of words are frequently not the most eloquent. "This Holly Church," "Danger of Death," "You Are Hear," and "Bewar of Loose Rocks" are just some of what you will find when you visit the Holly Land ... I mean, Holy Land.  Or perhaps you will run across this one:

With directions like these, it's no wonder the Israelites had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. (How do you even pronounce that?!)

Another source of their charm is in the cultural differences that they reveal. Some of these differences are rather serious: such as signs requiring modest clothing in certain areas, signs warning you of a mine field, or signs of Jews denouncing Arabs or of Arabs denouncing Jews. But some of these are quite humorous, such as "Temptation Restaurant" in Jericho (near the traditional Mount of Temptation), signs forbidding honking, an advertisement for windsurfing on the Sea of Galilee, and "Do not play soccer on the grass!" (You can just hear the municipality's frustration with the local youth in that last one.) Or, one of my personal favorites, this sign for a camel crossing taken by Daniel Frese:

Perhaps we are not as far removed from the time of Abraham as we think we are.

Yet much of their charm comes from the fact that these are modern signs that often reference biblical people, places, and events. One of the values of visiting the Holy Land is that it helps you connect with the Bible in a unique way because you are there. You are in the same place where the drama of the Bible unfolded. Seeing road signs that reference the cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, Nazareth, Tarsus, or Corinth drives home the point that you are in the land of the Bible. You also will see streets and shops named after biblical events or people. 

Much of this volume of the PLBL is devoted to such signs. Biblical people, places, and events are part of the lifeblood of these cultures and this is evident in how they name things. Most of the time, these references are intentional and add dignity to a place. However, I'm not sure that the people who named the "Kfar Shaul (Village of Saul) Mental Health Center" really thought through all the biblical associations:

If only this place had existed in Saul's day then maybe he wouldn't have needed to hire David to play music for him (1 Sam. 16:14-16).

There are so many interesting signs in this collection that I couldn't narrow it down to just one for this post, so once again I broke tradition by giving you three. And although this volume may be one of my personal favorites, you may be wondering, "What in the world would I use these pictures for?" So here are some ideas for you ...

  • Ice Breakers for a Lesson or Sermon
  • Teaching Illustrations
  • Humor
  • Attention Grabbers
  • Demonstrating the Relative Geographical Location of One Site to Another (using highway signs)
  • Hebrew or Arabic Vocab Lessons and Tests (gleaned from real-life examples)
  • Lessons in Jewish and Arab Culture
  • Decorative Art for a Bulletin or Brochure
I'm sure the readers of this blog can think of more uses than that, and you are welcome to leave your ideas in the comment section. Until next time ... drive safely, watch out for passing camels, and (as one sign in Cyprus puts it) remember that "Driving in the lake is forbidden."

These and other photos of "Signs of the Holy Land" are included in Volume 18 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and can be purchased here.


Rare Neolithic Well Revealed in Jezreel Valley

From the IAA press release:

A rare well dating to the Neolithic period was uncovered in recent excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority carried out at ‘Enot Nisanit’, along the western fringes of the Jezreel Valley prior to enlarging Ha-Yogev Junction (Highway 66) by the National Roads Company. Archaeologists estimate the well was built approximately 8,500 years ago.

During the excavations the skeletal remains of a woman approximately 19 years of age and a man older than her were uncovered deep inside the well. How did these come to be in the well? Was this an accident or perhaps murder? As of now the answer to this question remains a mystery.

According to Yotam Tepper, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “What is clear is that after these unknown individuals fell into the well it was no longer used for the simple reason that the well water was contaminated and was no longer potable”. Tepper adds, “The impressive well that was revealed was connected to an ancient farming settlement and it seems the inhabitants used it for their subsistence and living. The upper part of the well was built of stones and its lower part was hewn in the bedrock. Two capstones, which narrowed the opening, were set in place at the top of the well. It is c. 8 meters deep and its upper part measures about 1.3 meters in diameter”.

Tepper says, “Numerous artifacts indicating the identity of the people who quarried it – the first farmers of the Jezreel Valley – were recovered from inside the well. The finds include, among other things, deeply denticulated sickle blades knapped from flint which were used for harvesting, as well as arrow heads and stone implements. The excavation of the accumulations in the well shaft yielded animal bones, organic finds and charcoal which will enable future studies about the domestication of plants and animals, and also allow researchers to determine the exact age of the well by means of advanced methods of absolute dating”.

‘Enot Nisanit is located one mile north of Tel Megiddo. The full press release and six high-res photos are here.

UPDATE: The story is being reported, with some sensational titles, in the Jerusalem Post, Arutz-7, The Times of Israel, and Reuters. HT: Joseph Lauer


Well discovered in Jezreel Valley. Photo by Yotam Tepper, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.


Skeletal remains discovered inside well. Photo by Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Wednesday Roundup

Excavations are underway now at ancient Carchemish. We’ve commented on the plans previously here.

I really like how Wayne Stiles takes our photos and creates beautiful articles that explain the biblical history so well. This week he writes about the tabernacle at Shiloh.

James Davila points to a new article on the metal codices from Jordan and explains why he thinks they’re still fake.

Caspari Center Media Review: Jerusalem’s local conservation committee rejected plans to build a four-story hotel next door to Mary’s Well in the pastoral village of Ein Karem. Those who opposed the plan said that the construction posed a great risk to the well, which, according to Christian tradition, is where Mary the mother of Jesus bathed. “The water from the well is considered holy for Christians and pilgrims from all over the world come to this place to fill up bottles with water from the well. ... Damaging the well would be very harmful to the country.”

HT: Jack Sasson

Shiloh from east, tb120806865

Shiloh, home of the tabernacle
(photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

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Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Ancient Cedar Beams on Temple Mount

Archaeologists have long known about some ancient cedar beams on the Temple Mount. Recent tests indicated that they dated back to the time of Solomon’s temple. (I don’t have an English reference for that at the moment.) The Temple Mount Sifting Project team recently wrote about these cedar beams:

Some of these beams predate the first Al-Aqsa Mosque and have been used and reused numerous times in various structures, which actually aided their preservation. We have some fragments of these beams among the finds at the Sifting Project.

We have been monitoring these beams for many years as they lay exposed to the weather in the open courts of the Temple Mount. We hope the Israel Antiquities Authority will succeed in placing them in a safe shelter before the coming winter. We have been requesting that the IAA deal with this issue more than three years, but these ancient beams have yet to be properly secured.

Arutz-7 reported on Sunday that some of the beams are being used as firewood.

The wood, consisting of giant beams, first appeared at the end of the 1930s, when the Al-Aqsa mosque which currently occupies the Temple Mount was refurbished. The beams had been used in the roof structure of the mosque, and already at that time they were said to be thousands of years old by archaeologists – preserved only because they had been used in the building. Some of the beams were dated to the first Temple period, others to Roman times, and at least one beam was found to have Byzantine-era designs etched on it.


Now, many of the beams have been placed at what appears to be a dumping ground next to the Golden Gate of the Old City, apparently for the use of local Arabs as firewood. Jewish groups that visited the Mount saw the beams being moved, but reported that the Arabs forbade them to take photos of the activity. Officials of the Archaeology Authority, who are responsible for the safety of these ancient beams, are nowhere to be seen.

The Arutz-7 story includes a short video allegedly showing the beams being burned next to the Golden Gate.

Cedar of Lebanon, adr090510661

Cedar trees in Lebanon
Photo from the new Lebanon volume


Monday, November 05, 2012

Three Free Years of the Palestine Exploration Quarterly

You can read or download the last three years of Palestine Exploration Quarterly for free with a simple registration, for a limited time. You can see the table of contents here. The issues from 2009-2011 appear to be free without registration from the table of contents. Here are a few recent articles that caught my eye:

What Would the Egyptian Pharaoh Shoshenq I Have Seen If He Had Visited the Central Jordan Valley?, by Lucas P. Petit.peq

Palestinian Antiquities Looters, Their Skill Development, Methodology And Specialised Terminology: An Ethnographic Study, by Salah H. Al-Houdalieh.

The Location of Ziklag: A Review of the Candidate Sites, Based on Biblical, Topographical and Archaeological Evidence, by Horton Harris.

The Location of Tarichaea: North or South of Tiberias?, by Nikos Kokkinos.

The Protestant Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, Englishwomen, and a Land Transaction in Late Ottoman Palestine, by Ruth Kark and Seth J. Frantzman.

Members of the Palestine Exploration Fund receive four issues of PEQ a year (as of 2013) as well as other privileges.

UPDATE (11/10): They changed the free access noted above. You should still be able to get to the content by registering for their free and informative mailing list.


Saturday, November 03, 2012

Weekend Deal: Jerusalem in Original Photographs 1850-1920

Shimon Gibson’s excellent work is the “Deal of the Weekend” at Eisenbrauns right now. Marked down from $49.95 to $14.99, this is a great deal.

The publisher’s description:

Jerusalem in Original Photographs brings together pictures taken by the early travel photographers who captured unique moments in history. jerusalem-original-photographsStructured around a contemporary map of the town, the selection of illustrations leads the reader on a walking tour through streets often little changed over the course of the intervening century. These black and white photographs have been drawn from the Palestine Exploration Fund archives and are accompanied by masterful commentary by the renowned archaeologist, Dr. Shimon Gibson.

From a review in Near Eastern Archaeology:

"Jerusalem in Original Photographs, 1850–1920 is an impressive volume, an entry point to important archival materials, a contribution to the history of photography in the Middle East, and an opportunity to reclaim the visual legacy of the last century. Photographs are valuable resources for research into the past. The immediacy of the images, the scope of the representation covering small details up to landscapes, and the visual information make for intriguing insights… "Jerusalem in Original Photographs, 1850–1920 is a multifaceted book. It could be displayed on a coffee table and examined for its fine images. The layout of the volume is an engaging way to remember the late Ottoman and early British Mandatory city. The volume documents an important mode of representing the city. For the specialist in the period, the book is a superb resource to examine critically architectural and other material changes during the transition from Ottoman to British rule. Reading and studying this book may prove a very enlightening endeavor for many types of audiences. Gibson deserves congratulations for producing an important scholarly resource and an attractive compilation." -- Uzi Baram, New College of Florida in Near Eastern Archaeology 65:4, 2002

The Eisenbrauns website has more details. Recommended!


Weekend Roundup

A dog fell into a hole in Jerusalem and now it will become an open biblical tourist park.

Work continues in Georgia in constructing a museum for artifacts from Israel.

The next time you travel to the Golan Heights, you can remember your day this way: Bastions, Burials, Battles, and Borders.

Ferrell Jenkins shares a photo of a beautiful sunrise over the Sea of Galilee.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher may close its doors for a day to protest its bank account being frozen for not paying its water bill.

Al Jazeera posts 15 photos on the Western Wall prayer plaza and excavated tunnels.

The Zondervan Atlas of the Bible is marked down to $14.99 for the Fabulous Friday sale at (Amazon: $26.39). It might make a great gift for someone who wants to understand the Bible better.

The latest SourceFlix video short is about the olive harvest. (If you appreciate their work, you might consider making a donation some time.)

A special exhibition opens next week at the Lynn H. Wood Archaeological Museum on “The Battle over King David: Excavating the Fortress of Elah.”

I bet that this is the first (future) motion picture reference to Shaaraim in connection with the David and Goliath story. (If they ever read 1 Samuel 17, they’ll get rid of it. Shaaraim is not Qeiyafa and it’s not the Philistine base either.)

HT: Charles Savelle, Joseph Lauer

Woman harvesting olives near Bethlehem, tb111106855

Woman harvesting olives near Bethlehem
Photo from Cultural Images of the Holy Land

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Friday, November 02, 2012

Trail around the Sea of Galilee

Much progress has been made on the 40-mile trail encircling the Sea of Galilee, reports Miriam Feinberg Vamosh in Haaretz:

Now, about 45 of the trail’s 60 kilometers (28 out of 38 miles) are cleared, and the path is returning the lakeshore to a natural treasure open to all. You don't have to be a seasoned hiker to enjoy a walk on the Kinneret Trail; just follow the markers – a purple stripe between two white ones, guiding you through the lake's premier natural, historical and religious attractions.

The trail is divided into seven segments, allowing a casual trekker to meander one segment for an easy walk and a more adventurous hiker to combine several into a full day's outing. Part of the trail has been paved, and information and directional signs are on hand to guide you from site to site.

One segment that will appeal to heritage buffs and pilgrims is the two-hour walk from Capernaum National Park on the Kinneret’s north shore to the inlet of the Jordan River, a bird-watcher’s paradise. It takes in the little-known Greek Orthodox Church of the Apostles with its trademark red domes, and continues to the Ayish Ruins, where the very first lakeside cottage may have been built back in the second millennium BCE.

The full article is here. I agree that the northern shore is the most interesting for hikers.

Sea of Galilee from west, tb022107099

Sea of Galilee from the west (photo source)

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Thursday, November 01, 2012

Picture of the Week: Treading Winepress

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

Someone recently asked me, "Can you understand the Bible without understanding the culture of the people in the Bible?"

My answer was: "Yes, you can understand the Bible without knowing the cultural background.  The Bible was written in such a way that anyone can understand its main message.  However, an understanding of the biblical backgrounds allows you to understand that message with greater depth."

Isaiah 63 is a good example of this:
Who is this who comes from Edom,
    in crimsoned garments from Bozrah,
he who is splendid in his apparel,
    marching in the greatness of his strength?
“It is I, speaking in righteousness,
    mighty to save.”
Why is your apparel red,
    and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?
“I have trodden the winepress alone,
    and from the peoples no one was with me;
I trod them in my anger
    and trampled them in my wrath;
their lifeblood spattered on my garments,
    and stained all my apparel.” (Isa. 63:1-3, ESV)

Revelation 19:15 uses the same imagery when describing Jesus returning to triumph over His enemies:
From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. (Rev. 19:15, ESV)

In poetic language, these passage describes a day when God will execute his wrath on the earth. That is the main message.  However, an understanding of the ancient practice of treading a winepress brings a fuller understanding of the imagery used here.

Our picture of the week comes from Volume 17 of the revised and expanded edition of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, which provides "Cultural Images of the Holy Land."  Like Volume 16, which we discussed last week, this is a new volume of the PLBL.  It covers such cultural images as animals familiar in the biblical world (both domestic and wild), agricultural practices, Jewish cultural practicesJewish holidays, Christian holidays, the Samaritan Passover ceremony, various types of dwellings, sources of water, shepherding, pottery making, scribes, and more.  It is a valuable resource for any Bible teacher or preacher who wants to help people understand the biblical world.

The picture is entitled simply "Treading Winepress." It is one of a series of photos in the collection where people are reenacting the process of harvesting and treading grapes. At once, you can understand why it is called "treading" as you see the people stomping on the grapes to release the juice.  (As a side note, the juice then drained out of the winepress through a hole on one end of the vat.)

You can also see why God is asked "Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?" (Isa. 63:2, ESV).  If you look closely at the bottom of their robes you will see that some of the red juice has splattered up onto the people's clothes.  You can imagine what this scene would look like if someone was angry while treading out the grapes, stomping and smashing the fruit violently.  Even more juice would splatter and would look similar to blood ("their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel," Isa. 63:3).  Such a picture brings a deeper understanding of the biblical reference to Jesus in Revelation 19: "He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty" (Rev. 19:15, ESV).

A collection such as this can be a valuable tool in the hand of a Bible teacher.  Illuminating the biblical background helps illuminate the Bible itself.

This and other photos of "Cultural Images of the Holy Land" are included in Volume 17 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and can be purchased here.  Additional information and pictures of cultural images can be found here and here on the BiblePlaces website.  Those interested in this topic should also check out the many resources listed on the sister website of BiblePlaces at