Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Stories of 2012

Looking back over the year is a profitable exercise for me personally because I forget so much and so quickly. Perhaps it is the volume of information coming from all corners of the globe that trains the mind to retain very little. A review of the posts here over the past year reminds us of recent history but it also allows us to judge what was more important and what was less.
I have compiled several lists of “top stories.” Today we will review major discoveries, top technology-related stories, and losses. Tomorrow we will survey significant stories, noteworthy posts, and favorite resources of the year.

These lists are subjective, and since they are based on what the authors of this blog decided to post (and not to ignore), they are doubly subjective. The primary criteria for inclusion here was that the story was posted on this blog and then it caught my eye when I reviewed the year’s stories. The lists follow a roughly chronological order.

Top 10 Discoveries of 2012:
Vessel of Jewelry Discovered at Megiddo (with update)
Egyptian Scarab Discovered in City of David
Cultic Objects Discovered at Khirbet Qeiyafa (and more)
New Gezer Boundary Inscription (and another re-discovered)
Seal Impression from Bethlehem Discovered in Jerusalem
New Sculpture from Tell Tayinat (and the treaty tablet) (and update)
Samson Mosaic Discovered in Galilee Synagogue
Massive Reservoir Discovered near Temple Mount
Desecrated Temple Discovered at Beth Shemesh
Judean Temple Discovered Near Jerusalem

More Discoveries of 2012:
Iron Age Fortress Excavated in Ashdod
Cave for Demeter Worship Identified in Judean Hills
Seal of Mattaniah Discovered in Jerusalem
Cave Discovered in Gezer Water System
Gold and Silver Treasure Hoard Discovered from Bar Kochba Revolt
Alleged Samson Seal Discovered at Beth Shemesh
Gold Coin Cache Discovered in Apollonia
Neolithic Jewelry Discovered near Sepphoris
Hasmonean Village Found in Jerusalem Neighborhood

Top Technology-Related Stories of 2012:
Microarchaeology in Gath Excavations
Egyptian Pyramids Discovered with Google Earth
Dead Sea Scrolls Now Online
Wikipedia wins: Photography is now allowed in the archaeology wing of the Israel Museum

Manfred Goerg
Itamar Singer
James Mellaart
Itzhak Beit-Arieh
Frank Moore Cross
Gus W. Van Beek
Jean Perrot

Tomorrow I will share my choices for most significant stories, noteworthy posts, and favorite resources.

Sunset over Jerusalem, tb123109454

Sunset over Jerusalem, December 31, 2009
Source: Pictorial Library of Bible Lands

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Weekend Roundup #2

SourceFlix’s latest video shows a shepherd seeking out a lost sheep.

Matthew Kalman has a summary of the recent dust-up between Amos Kloner and Simcha Jacobovici.

The Israel Museum will be hosting an exhibition on King Herod next year.

Shmuel Browns posts some of the earliest photos taken in the Holy Land.

A court ruling will preserve antiquities near the Roman aqueduct in Caesarea.

We now have a better understanding of the gruesome details of the murder of Ramses III.

A five-minute clip of General Allenby in Jerusalem is online. For a longer version without the Hebrew annotations, see here.

HT: Jack Sasson, Joseph Lauer

Allenby entry 1917, troops entering Jaffa Gate, mat02225

Entrance of General Allenby through Jaffa Gate
Photo from The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Weekend Roundup #1

The Times of Israel is reporting that Muslim authorities moved tons of illegally excavated earth from the Temple Mount into a city dump.

Aren Maeir posts an astounding video of a flood in the Harod Valley this week.

Frankincense has returned to Israel after 1,500 years.

More tourists visited Israel in 2012 than in any year before.

An Israeli committee will review modern prohibitions against mixed prayer at the Western Wall.

Jean Perrot died this week. Among other things, Perrot excavated several Chalcolithic sites near Beersheba.

Marked down to $1.99 for Kindle: The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible, by Matti Friedman. These sales are brief.

HT: Jack Sasson, Joseph Lauer

Western Wall prayer area from south, amd042108530

Segregated prayer areas at Western Wall.
Photo by Austen Dutton (source).

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Haaretz: Aphek and Antipatris

Miriam Feinberg Vamosh writes about the biblical site of Aphek in Haaretz (free subscription required).

The lumbering fortress that crowns the ancient mound at Yarkon Sources-Tel Afek National Park is just one of many must-see sights and a good place to start an approximately two-hour visit that effortlessly combines nature and heritage. 

From the northwestern tower of this 16th-century compound you’ll get a breathtaking view of the coastal plain. From the southeastern corner of the fortress you can peer down at remains of the Roman road, built by Herod the Great who named it Antipatris after his father. The road recalls the New Testament story of Paul the Apostle, who spent the night here with his Roman guards as they marched him from Jerusalem to Caesarea (Acts 23:31). But the road is a virtual historical toddler compared to the other antiquities you’ll see.

The city of Afek, straddling a strategic pass on the ancient highway from Egypt to Mesopotamia (the Via Maris) was founded in the fifth millennium BCE and is first mentioned in Egyptian writings some 4,000 thousand years ago. Among the finds unearthed in excavations of the Egyptian governor’s palace are documents written in hieroglyphics, Hittite, Akkadian, and Sumerian.

The story also notes the biblical connection as well as some modern history. The four-minute video does not include narration.

For more photos and history of the site, see the BiblePlaces page on Aphek and Antipatris.

Aphek Turkish fort with lake, tb052905334

Lake and Turkish fortress at biblical Aphek.
Photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mysterious Package for Indiana Jones Now on Display

From UChicago News:

The mystery began Dec. 12, when a package addressed to “Henry Walton Jones, Jr.” arrived at the University of Chicago Admissions Office.

A student worker realized that the package was meant for Dr. Indiana Jones, the famous archaeologist of Raiders of the Lost Ark fame. Inside the package was a journal of Abner Ravenwood, the fictional UChicago professor who trained Indiana Jones.

Six days after its arrival, the mystery was solved. The package, a collection of replica props from the Indiana Jones films, had been purchased online and shipped by its maker from Guam to Italy.

The original packaging was lost in transit in Honolulu, Hawaii, leaving only the parcel addressed to Henry Walton Jones Jr. of the University of Chicago, which the postal service then forwarded. Paul Charfauros, who created the journal, donated it to the University of Chicago.

Some suggest that two real-life pioneering scholars of the Oriental Institute—James Henry Breasted and Robert John Braidwood—inspired the fictional characters of Abner Ravenwood and Indiana Jones. Unlike some Hollywood depictions of archaeologists, Breasted and Braidwood were not treasure hunters.

The package and its contents will be on display in the lobby of the Oriental Institute Museum through March 2013.

HT: Jack Sasson


Photo by Robert Kozloff


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Judean Temple Discovered Near Jerusalem

A Judean temple from the 10th-9th centuries BC has been discovered four miles northwest of ancient Jerusalem. The structure has massive walls, faces east, and contained a cache of sacred vessels. The site of Tel Motza may be the town of Mozah mentioned in the city list of Joshua 18:26 and some believe the Emmaus mentioned in Luke 24 was located nearby.


Location of Moza in relation to Jerusalem.
Map from Google Earth.

Archaeologists have dated the building to the Iron Age IIA, a period dated by most scholars to 980–830 BC, contemporary with the reigns of Solomon, Rehoboam, Asa, and Jehoshaphat. Each of these kings was faulted for not “destroying the high places” (1 Kgs 11:7; 14:23; 15:14; 22:43). Few such illicit worship sites are known from the land of Israel; the best preserved ones were excavated at Dan and Arad.

According to Anna Eirikh, Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz, directors of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "The ritual building at Tel Motza is an unusual and striking find, in light of the fact that there are hardly any remains of ritual buildings of the period in Judaea at the time of the First Temple. The uniqueness of the structure is even more remarkable because of the vicinity of the site's proximity to the capital city of Jerusalem, which acted as the Kingdom's main sacred center at the time."

The site was excavated as part of road construction works on Highway 1, the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road.

The press release of the Israel Antiquities Authority is here and six high-resolution photos are available from this link. The story is reported by the Jerusalem Post, Arutz-7, and other sites.


Aerial view of excavation site. Photograph: Skyview, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.


Figurines of bearded men. Photograph: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.


Figurine of horse. Photograph: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Questions about Christmas

Religion News Service has begun a few feature called “Ask the Experts” and the first edition is focused on Christmas. They ask half a dozen scholars to weigh in on the following questions. I provide responses to three questions.

  • Why do some Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7th?
  • Why do we repeatedly hear about the “three wise men,” when biblical scholars tell us there were in fact many magi who attended Jesus after his birth?
  • Why did Mary and Joseph have to go to Bethlehem? How did civil authorities determine which town people had to report to at census-taking time?
  • Is it true that the word translated “inn” – kataluma – could also mean guest room? In other words, could Mary and Joseph been seeking shelter in relative’s guest rooms, rather than at the inn?
  • How was the birth of Christ celebrated before Constantine?
  • Is it true that most Christian churches did not celebrate Christmas in significant way until about a hundred years ago?
  • Is it true that department stores were the ones that started many of the traditions that we celebrate today?

The statement that Bethlehem was not on a major road is wrong. Bethlehem is located along the central ridge of the hill country and virtually everyone traveling to Jerusalem from the south would have passed by it. For more about the kataluma issue, see my previous post here.

Read all of the questions and answers here.

Shepherd with flock near Bethlehem, mat06290

Shepherd with flock near Bethlehem.
Photo from
The American Colony Collection.

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Weekend Roundup

The Nash Papyrus is now online, thanks to the University of Cambridge. The Jerusalem Post article gives a new meaning to the word “second”: “It is the world’s second oldest known manuscript containing a text from the Hebrew Bible. The oldest are the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

This Jerusalem Post article suggests the Top 5 Christmas activities in Jerusalem.

The traditional King David’s tomb has been vandalized by a man desperate to get married.

If you missed last week’s Christmas broadcast of the Land and the Book radio program, you can listen to it in the archives.

Simcha Jacobovici is suing Joe Zias in an Israeli court because the warnings of the latter led the Discovery Channel and National Geographic to cancel the broadcast of films of the former. (Note: this article, like many cited on this blog, is on the Haaretz website. Free access to 10 articles per month is available with an easy registration.)

Mark Goodacre notes the publication of Archaeology, Bible, Politics, and the Media and he shares his article “The Talpiyot Tomb and the Bloggers.”

The Huffington Post has a slideshow of the year’s archaeological highlights. None are related to the biblical world.

The full-size replica of Noah’s Ark floats.

Officials are optimistic about the rainfall in Israel this winter. Amir Givati: “To see the Jordan River flowing at this time of year – that’s a phenomenon that takes place once every 20 years.”

Smuggling gangs in Iraq are using satellites to locate antiquities.

HT: Jack Sasson

Tomb of David, exterior, mat00855-001

A view of David’s Tomb taken ca. 1900 before the construction of the Dormition Abbey. Photo from the American Colony and Eric Matson Collection.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Picture of the Week: Pyramids of Gizeh

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

People often wonder how the Great Pyramids of Giza were built and how much work it took to construct them. But have you ever asked yourself, "How much work would it take to tear down the pyramids?" In the late twelfth century, some people tried to do just that. Volume 4 of Picturesque Palestine, Sinai and Egypt provides us with the story.

The image below is entitled "Pyramids of Gizeh" and is one of the few steel engravings in this volume.  (The rest of the images are wood engravings.)  In the section below, the author summarizes the work of a 13th century physician known as ’Abd-el-Latif of Baghdad.  ’Abd-el-Latif visited Egypt and wrote of his experiences there.  In 1196, the governing authorities decided to tear down one of the pyramids to provide raw material for a new construction project.

’Abd-el-Latif tells us how he saw the workmen of El-Melik El-’Azîz, son of Saladin, employed in 1196 in pulling down the Third Pyramid—that at the left in our steel engraving of the Three Pyramids of Gîzeh, from a sketch made during the inundation. A large body of engineers and miners pitched a camp close to the Red Pyramid (as the Third was called from its beautiful granite casing), and with their united and continuous efforts achieved the removal of one or two stones a day. The blocks fell down with a tremendous shock, and buried themselves in the sand, whence they were extricated with immense toil and then were laboriously broken up. At the end of eight months the treasury was exhausted and the work of destruction abandoned. To look at the quantity of stone taken away you would think, says the observer, that the whole monument had been razed to the ground; but when you lift your eyes to the Pyramid itself, it is hard to see that it has suffered the least diminution! One day ’Abd-el-Latîf asked one of the workmen, who had assisted in laboriously removing one stone from its place, whether he would put it up again for a thousand gold pieces? The man answered that they could not do it if the reward were many times multiplied. And so in spite of the efforts of man and the wearing of time, the Red Pyramid of Menkara still stands besides its two sisters at Gîzeh, and verifies the saying that “Time mocks all things, but the Pyramids laugh at Time.”

Quote taken from Picturesque Palestine, Sinai and Egypt, vol. 4, pp. 170-173.  This and other images of nineteenth-century Egypt are available in Picturesque Palestine, Volume IV: Sinai and Egypt and can be purchased here.  Additional images of the Giza Pyramids can be seen here and here.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dead Sea Scrolls Now Online

More than 5,000 high-resolution images of the Dead Sea Scrolls are now online at From the announcement by the Israel Antiquities Authority:

On the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Israel Antiquities Authority and Google are pleased to launch today the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library website, The public is invited to experience, view, examine, and explore this collection of over 5000 images of Dead Sea Scrolls, in a quality never seen before.

The library was assembled over the course of two years, in collaboration with Google, using advanced technology first developed by NASA. It includes some 1000 new images of scroll fragments; 3500 scans of negatives from the 1950s; a database documenting about 900 manuscripts, two-thousand years old, comprising thousands of scroll fragments; and interactive content pages. It enables scholars and millions of users worldwide to reveal and decipher details hence invisible to the naked eye. The site displays infra-red and color images at a resolution of 1215 dpi, at a 1:1 scale, equivalent in quality to the original scrolls. Google has provided hosting services and use of Google Maps, image technology and YouTube. The project was made possible by an exceptionally generous grant from the Leon Levy Foundation, and further contribution by the Arcadia Fund, as well as the support of the Yad Hanadiv Foundation.

One of the earliest known texts is a copy of the Book of Deuteronomy, which includes the Ten Commandments; part of chapter 1 of the Book of Genesis, dated to the first century BCE, which describes the creation of the world; a number of copies of Psalms scrolls; tiny texts of tefillin from the Second Temple period; letters and documents hidden by refugees fleeing the Roman army during the Bar Kochba Revolt; and hundreds of additional 2000-year-old texts, shedding light on biblical studies, the history of Judaism and the origins of Christianity.

Shuka Dorfman, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said: "Only five conservators worldwide are authorized to handle the Dead Sea Scrolls. Now, everyone can "touch" the scrolls on-screen around the globe, and view them in spectacular quality, equivalent to the original! On the occasion of the 65th anniversary of their discovery, the IAA, in collaboration with Google, presents the scrolls online, using the most advanced imaging technology. Thus, this most important national treasure is available to the general public, preserving it for future generations."

This project was first announced in October 2010. Many news stories can be found here. This really is a fantastic resource and I hope they will expand it to include every scroll fragment.


4QDana includes portions from Daniel chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, and 11. Image from the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

No Room for the Dead on the Mount of Olives


For the past 3,000 years, Jewish families have been bringing their dead to the Mount of Olives cemetery.

A maze of hillside tombs, this graveyard is the holiest place for those in the Jewish faith to be laid to rest.

Many Jews believe that when the Messiah comes to Earth riding on a white donkey, the dead will rise from their graves and walk to the holy Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City.

From the Mount of Olives cemetery, that’s only a few hundred metres.

“Everyone in that cemetery is buried with their feet facing the Temple Mount so they come straight up and don’t even have to turn around. No one is going to get confused on the walk,” said Ira Rappaport, 67, who moved from New York to Israel 41 years ago and whose parents are buried in the cemetery.

“Some Jews also believe in a mystic interpretation of the scriptures that the dead roll over in the grave to get rid of their sins,” Rappaport said. “But because the land at the Mount of Olives is so pure, you don’t have to worry about that.”

Authorities have identified more than 150,000 burials here — the cemetery has been used for more than 3,000 years so there are surely other undiscovered plots — but administrators say new plots are becoming scarce.

In as few as 10 years, there will be no room for new graves, said Chananya Shachor, manager of the Jerusalem Burial Society, the largest of 13 societies that arrange funerals.

The rest of the article gives some more history and gives the price of a plot. It is interesting that the author connects the resurrection with Zechariah 9 and the Messiah on the donkey and not Zechariah 14 where the Lord lands on the Mount of Olives to save Jerusalem.

HT: Charles Savelle

Mount of Olives aerial from southeast, bb00030046

Cemetery on the Mount of Olives.
Photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands


Monday, December 17, 2012

Recent IAA Excavation Reports

Most of the settlement layers of Tel Afula were destroyed by construction activity in the 1950s, but a recent salvage dig found remains from the Early Bronze I and Roman period.

Archaeologists working in the Ir Gannim neighborhood of Jerusalem excavated a winepress possibly first used in the Iron Age II and again in the Hasmonean period. A large storage pool was built here in the first century AD.

A preliminary report from the 2011 season at Horbat Huqoq describes the project’s goals (synagogue and 2-3 houses) and reports on the initial progress including the excavation of a mikveh. This report does not describe the beautiful mosaic floor depicting Samson that was found in the 2012 season.

Excavations near a site that Charles Wilson incorrectly thought was Capernaum have exposed three strata from the 13th-14th centuries. The dig at Huqoq Beach is 80 meters east of the entrance to the Khirbet el-Minya Umayyad palace.

Excavations on the east side of the Mount of Olives were prompted by the chance discovery of a relatively rare Armenian mosaic from the Byzantine period.

Two adjacent quarries were excavated in Beit Hanina north of Jerusalem. They provided Jerusalem with maleke limestone from the time of Jesus until modern day.


Quarry K in Beit Hanina, looking north. Photo by IAA.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Weekend Roundup

Leen Ritmeyer discusses the restoration work on the building that sits over the location of the Antonia Fortress and hopes that they don’t damage the important archaeological remains. (He has an illustration showing where he believes Paul addressed the crowd in Acts 22.)

The Herodium—A Monument to…whose sovereignty? Wayne Stiles provides a surprising twist on this one.

“The greatest church in the world” has been undergoing excavation since 2006 and I had no idea.

Amihai Mazar and Emanuel Tov were among a group of scientists inducted into the Israel Academy of the Sciences and Humanities this week.

The newest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review is the first to carry a photo of the Samson mosaic showing the fox tails on fire. I am disappointed that Samson himself was not preserved. You’ll need a subscription to either the print or digital version to see the photo. For the original press release, see here.

New book: The Photographs of the American Palestine Exploration Society, by Rachel Hallote, Felicity Cobbing, and Jeffrey B. Spurr. “This volume includes over 150 never previously published photographs of archaeological sites in the Middle East (Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Israel) taken in 1875 by photographer Tancrede Dumas for the American Palestine Exploration Society.” 368 pages, $90.

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible exhibit at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth closes in one month. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend it (and I challenge you to find the large Jerusalem photograph printed in mirror image). Groupon has a 2-for-1 deal, but you’ll have to act fast as these sold out before I could mention it last time.

HT: Jack Sasson, Mark Vitalis Hoffman


Renovation of building over the location of the Antonia Fortress. Photo by Alexander Schick.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Radio: The Geography of the Christmas Story

If you’ve ever wondered which way Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem or how the Magi were able to flee without Herod chasing, you should listen in tomorrow to the broadcast of The Land and the Book. Hosts Charlie Dyer and Jon Gauger interview me on the background of the familiar Christmas story.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...or so goes the song! From the music on the radio to the decorations in store windows, it's hard to miss the fact that Christmas is almost here. But what would it have been like for Mary and Joseph that very first Christmas? If we could somehow go back in time, what would the sights, sounds and smells of that first Christmas season have been like? We don't have a time machine here on The Land and the Book, but we have the next best thing…someone who has lived in the land of Israel and who knows it like the back of his own hand. We'll be talking with Todd Bolen about what it would have been like for Mary and Joseph that first Christmas season.

You can find more details and a link for listening live on the Moody Radio website.


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Vamosh: On the Jesus Trail

Miriam Feinberg Vamosh describes her journey on the Jesus Trail in Galilee:

If you're a pilgrim in Israel interested in Christian history, consider devoting a chunk of your visit to the Jesus Trail, an approximately 60-kilometer trail that begins in the northern city of Nazareth and ends at the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The trail allows hikers to follow the landmark sites of the Galilee Ministry of Jesus as the ancients did – on foot.

Traversing the classic Jesus Trail takes four days, although that can be extended to five for walkers with less stamina. Additional sites can also be added farther afield, such as Mount Tabor, the site of the transfiguration of Jesus.

“As they walked,” is a very common expression in ancient Jewish as well as Christian sources. People walked everywhere, and it wasn't just the destination that mattered; so too did the journey. There was plenty of time on the way to talk about what mattered. The Jesus Trail was born out of a desire to get people to walk the Galilee just as in biblical times, taking in first and foremost all the highlights of the region’s New Testament sites and also enjoying Israel at eye level, at its multi-cultural best, where it overflows with history and natural beauty.

The first day of the trail usually begins in Jesus's hometown of Nazareth and continues down to Sepphoris National Park, the main Roman city when Jesus was growing up. At the time, Sepphoris was the hub of Roman life. From here, trekkers continue on through the town of Meshed to Cana, where a beautiful church marks the traditional site where Jesus turned water into wine.

The story continues here.

Galilee north of Horns of Hattin, tb041003207

On day 3 of the hike, you’ll climb up the Horns of Hattin and have a splendid view of the hills of Galilee. (Photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Picture of the Week: Cultural Images of the 19th Century

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

Have you ever asked yourself, "How can I make my preaching and teaching come alive? How can I grab people's attention?" There are many ways to answer that question. Today we will look at one of them.

One value of a work such as Picturesque Palestine, written and illustrated in the late 1800s, is how it shows Middle Eastern culture as it was before the modern era. Things changed slowly over the centuries and in many ways the Middle East seen by the early explorers was the Middle East of biblical times. That said, many of the drawings can be used effectively in preaching and teaching to transport the listener to biblical times and grab their attention. Due to the arrival of the digital age, modern western culture is highly visual, so Bible teachers and preachers should use this to their advantage.

For example, observe how the following pictures enhance the reading of these biblical passages:

A Peasant Woman Churning

"For as churning cream produces butter,
and as twisting the nose produces blood,
so stirring up anger produces strife."
Proverbs 30:33, NIV.

Ploughing in the Plains of Philistia

"So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat,
who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him,
and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed
by him and cast his cloak upon him."
1 Kings 19:19, ESV.

Scene in the Bazzar at Jaffa
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’"
Matthew 20:1-4, ESV.

It is often hard for people living in the modern era to get their head into the ancient world.  Pictures such as these can go a long way to painting the correct picture.

This and other images from the nineteenth-century are available in Picturesque Palestine, Volume III: Phoenicia, Philistia, and the South and can be purchased here.  Additional images of domestic work performed by women can be seen here, images of agricultural work can be seen here, and images of the marketplace can bee seen here.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wednesday Roundup

Leen Ritmeyer has photos from Alexander Schick of a wooden version of the formerly Holyland Hotel model of Jerusalem, now on display at Ben Gurion Airport.

Haaretz has a story about a Canaanite banquet hall discovered at Tel Kabri.

The Samaritans are using genetic testing (and abortion) to reduce the chances of birth defects caused by inbreeding.

The first snow of the season has fallen on Mount Hermon.

Vandals have attacked the Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem for the second time this year.

You can now purchase the high-resolution artwork from the ESV Study Bible. The maps, illustrations, and charts/diagrams are available in packages for $10, or you can download everything for $25.

Eisenbrauns has a 30-50% off sale on the 4 volumes of the Ashkelon reports.

HT: Jack Sasson


Model of Jerusalem at Ben Gurion Airport.
Photo by Alexander Schick.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sale: Guide to Places in the Bible

Eisenbrauns has a one-day special on The Uttermost Part of the Earth: A Guide to Places in the Bible, written by Richard R. Losch. Until about mid-day tomorrow, the book is marked down from $16 to $1.60 (90% off).

Here’s the publisher’s description of the 260-page book:

Richard Losch sets the stage with a brief history of the Holy Land from ancient LOSUTTERMtimes to the present. Writing clearly and vividly, he then offers alphabetically listed entries on dozens of locations found in the Old and New Testaments. He devotes considerable attention to the Roman Empire because of its prominence in the world of early Christianity. Also included are a number of places not specifically named in the Bible that nonetheless played significant roles in shaping biblical events.

I not read the book but a few minutes of flipping through suggests that it is a generally reliable guide to about 75 sites and regions mentioned in the Old and New Testaments.

HT: Daniel Wright


Hasmonean Village Found in Jerusalem Neighborhood

From the Times of Israel:

Israeli archaeologists digging under a road in Jerusalem have uncovered the remains of an agricultural community that could yield new information on the lives of residents before and after the rise of the Hasmonean dynasty around 2,200 years ago, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Monday.

The excavation in the city’s modern-day Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood has yielded a perfume bottle, wine press, bread oven and the remains of houses and agricultural buildings, according to an IAA statement.

Archaeologists also found a hand-made lead weight with a letter carved on it — seemingly the letter “yod,” the tenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet and the equivalent of the English letter “y.”

The community seems to have been active both before and after the Maccabees took Jerusalem and re-dedicated the Temple in 164 BCE, marking the beginning of Hasmonean rule, according to the IAA.

That victory is commemorated this week by the festival of Hanukkah.

The story continues here. Kiryat Hayovel is three miles southwest of the Old City.

HT: Joseph Lauer


Excavations in Kiryat Hayovel. Photo by Israel Antiquities Authority.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Recent IAA Excavation Reports

An agricultural complex one mile northeast of the Church of the Nativity of Bethlehem in Khirbet el-Qatt was in use during the Roman period and included cisterns, terrace walls, watchman’s huts, winepresses, olive presses, and a coin from the time of Herod.

Some ancient pits excavated in Ramat Aviv in Tel Aviv had remains of mountain gazelle, dogs, and a donkey.

A quarry of unknown date and sections of plastered wall and floors from a Byzantine monastery were excavated along Nablus Road north of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Two squares were excavated on the western slope of Jonah’s hometown of Gath Hepher, revealing remains from the Early Bronze, Middle Bronze, and Iron II. If the excavators were a little more media-savvy, they could have made their fame and fortune showing off the cooking pot and jar that were certainly used by Jonah’s mother.

Excavations on the edge of Tel Yafo (biblical Joppa) revealed lots of Iron Age pottery (the canteen Jonah dropped on his way to the boat?) as well as finds from the Hellenistic, Early Islamic, Crusader, and later periods.

Vandals excavated a winepress in Horbat Pezaza but they left a second one untouched for those paid by the day rather than the piece. The archaeologists dated the winepresses to the Late Roman and Byzantine period.


Winepress in Horbat Pezaza. Photo by IAA.

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Saturday, December 08, 2012

Weekend Roundup

The blog for Eilat Mazar’s excavations south of the Temple Mount has some new posts, including one reporting the discovery of a 10th-century Egyptian scarab. Mazar asks if the scarab belonged to Solomon’s wife.

The largest Egyptian sarcophagus ever identified belonged to Merneptah and is now being re-assembled.

The Harvard Gazette: “In a high-tech project that would have been impossible even four years ago, technicians are attempting to re-create a 2-foot-long ceramic lion that likely flanked an image of the goddess Ishtar in a temple in long-ago Nuzi.”

NY Times: “The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology . . . is undertaking an ambitious effort to become more accessible to the public.”

Seth Rodriquez continues his biblical geography series with the Coastal Plain – Plain of Dor.

SourceFlix records a funeral procession in front of the tomb of Lazarus and reflects on the meaning of Jesus’ miracle.

Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus is $2.99 on Kindle for a few days (recommended previously here).

Glo is now available for $35 (reg. $90).

Logos has several new Archaeology sets available at a discount. All of them include the standard surveys by Mazar and Stern. The medium size includes the “Cities of Paul” images volume.

HT: Jack Sasson

Dor harbor area from north, tb090506883

View of Dor’s harbor from the tell
Photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands

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Friday, December 07, 2012

Conference: What Is Archaeology?

What is Archaeology? Trends and Currents in Contemporary Archaeological Discourse in Israel. Thursday, December 27, 2012. Room 496, Gilman Building, Tel Aviv University

9.00-9.30: Reception

9.30-9.45: Opening statement – Assaf Nativ and Mark Iserlis

9.45-10.00: Shlomo Bunimovitz, Children of three paradigms: my generation in Israeli archaeology

Session One: Archaeology and the personal; Chair Shlomo Bunimovitz

10.00-10.30: Yifat Thareani, Margins’ Girl: On frontiers as multi-cultural archaeological spaces

10.30-11.00: Haggai Misgav, Archaeology and contemporary religious conceptions

11.00-11.15: Recess

Session Two: Archaeology as profession; Chair Oded Lipschits

11.15-11.45: Ianir Milevski, What is archaeology? A materialist dialectic approach

11.45-12.15: Alon Shavit, Community archaeology in Israel: on the connection and discord between the archaeological community and society

12.15-12.45: Eran Arie, Archaeology in a museum: visit and Critique

12.45-14.00: Lunch break

Session Three: Archaeology as a discipline; Chair Yuval Goren

14.00-14.30: Steve Rosen, Archaeology: a personal perspectivemarshalltown_46114s_trowel

14.30-15.00: Amihai Mazar, The rusty Marshalltown

15.00-15.30: Yuval Yekutieli, Archaeology as a story

15.30-15.45: Recess

Session Four: Summary and discussion; Chairs Mark Iserlis and Assaf Nativ

15.45-16.15: Summaries: Rafi Greenberg, Avi Gopher, Snait Gisis

16.15-17.00: Discussion

HT: Jack Sasson


Thursday, December 06, 2012

Picture of the Week: The Ruins of Tell Hum

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

Site identification can be tricky business.  Just because a Bible atlas or a scholar says that site X was once the ancient city of Y, doesn't mean that you have to believe him.  Let's look at an historical example.

Our picture of the week comes from Picturesque Palestine, Volume II: Samaria, Galilee, and Syria.  It is entitled "The Ruins of Tell Hum."  Here you can see the ruins of an ancient synagogue as they appeared in the 1870s.  Today these ruins have been reconstructed and look like this:

Look familiar?  Chances are that if you have visited Israel, you have been here.  But today we don't call it Tell Hum ... we call it Capernaum.

In addition to digital pictures in this collection, there is also a full copy of the 1881 book in pdf files.  The book provide us with a window into the scholarship of the late nineteenth century, with all its related observations, conclusions, and debates.  At the time, the location of Capernaum was in question.  Today we are fairly certain that Tell Hum was the location of Capernaum.  Yet back in 1881, the site had not been excavated and it was a debated issue, similar to how other sites are debated today.  Unfortunately, the author of this section of the work was on the wrong side of the debate.  This is how the author argues against identifying Tell Hum with Capernaum:
Tell Hûm itself is so thickly overgrown with thistles and weeds of every kind, that at certain seasons it is almost impossible to get about. Among the ruins the absence of blocks of stone will be noticed, and instead, the extensive use of boulders in all the common houses. In fact, the ruins, as such, are of a very inferior kind. With the exception of what is thought to have been a synagogue, including a large building which at some time enclosed it, Tell Hûm has no ruins that would be worth visiting. The remains of this synagogue have been referred to as an evidence that Tell Hûm represents the site of Capernaum of the New Testament; but the preservation of these ruins is such as to justify the conclusion that they date from the second to the fourth century of our era, rather than from the time of Christ. Besides, Tell Hûm is two and a half or more miles from the point where the Roman road touched the lake, and hence would be a most unlikely place for a custom-house. It has no remains of a road or of a castle, and the unimportant character of the ruins has just been noticed. If Capernaum was here, it could have no possible connection with the plain of Gennesaret, which, we infer from the Gospels, should be the case. The place possesses no harbour, and in fact hardly a landing-place for a boat. This would be quite true in a storm, or at any time if the sea were very rough.  (Selah Merrill, "Galilee," in Picturesque Palestine, Vol. 2, p. 86)
What Dr. Merrill says about the date of the synagogue is correct.  The synagogue from the first century was most likely torn down and replaced with this beautiful building that later fell into ruin.  But in the end it is a moot point and his other arguments have not withstood the test of time.  The general consensus today is that Tell Hum is the site of ancient Capernaum.

It is true that we have come a long way since the nineteenth century explorers were doing their pioneering work.  And yet, one has to wonder ... What site identifications do we hold to today that will cause people in the next century to chuckle and shake their heads at our ignorance?  I guess that's part of the appeal of archaeology.  There are so many mysteries still left to unravel.

This and other pictures of nineteenth-century Galilee are available in Picturesque Palestine, Volume II: Samaria, Galilee, and Syria and can be purchased here.  Additional historic images of the Capernaum can be seen here, and modern images of Capernaum can be found here.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Wednesday Roundup

“Scattered throughout Israel are dozens of archeological exhibits, indoor and outdoor, that anyone can visit at no charge.” Aviva and Shmuel Bar-Am recommend three of those sites to visit.

Iraqi authorities captured two smugglers in possession of rare statues and coins.

The Dallas Museum of Art is sending one of its 2nd century mosaics to Turkey after determining that it was probably stolen years ago from the area of Edessa.

The Jewish philanthropist who funded the excavation of the bust of Nefertiti was expunged from the records by the Nazis but is now being honored for his contributions.

Shmuel Browns has opened a new online store for products with his photographs and artwork.

El Al is offering reduced rates on winter flights to Israel.

Charles Savelle on the new Pictorial Library of Bible Lands: If you teach the Bible, plan to go to the Bible lands, or have been there before, I would suggest you check this resource out.

HT: Jack Sasson, Joseph Lauer

Amarna, limestone, gypsum and rock crystal bust of Nefertiti, 18th dynasty, adr070511363

Bust of Nefertiti.
Photo by A.D. Riddle.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Big Discount on American Colony Collection for Accordance

Accordance Bible Software has just announced an End of Year Sale which includes $40 off the American Colony Collection. This is one of the “staff favorites,” and Martha Holladay writes,

My favorite module is the BP American Colony.  The ability to view photos which illustrate the way the land looked in Biblical times helps bring Bible study alive.  Also, the historical views of Israel before modern technology and the founding of the nation are fascinating.  This module is an excellent resource for teaching illustrations as well.

I agree! The Accordance edition of this collection has a number of improvements over the original edition, and this is a great deal for a limited time.88866-m

Recreation of feast in fields of Bethlehem, such as described in the book of Ruth

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Monday, December 03, 2012

Road Found at Bethsaida from Time of Jesus

From the Christian News Network:

Archaeologists have uncovered what they believe is a road that was traveled by Jesus and the disciples in the ancient town of Bethsaida.

In conducting a dig near the Northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel, which was originally meant to serve as a mission to find artifacts from the Roman period, archaeologists came across a distinctive discovery.

“We uncovered a paved street from the time of Jesus’s disciples, which runs westward through the residential area from the corner of the Fisherman’s House down toward the Jordan valley,” Nicolae Roddy of Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, one of the leaders of the dig, told the publication Popular Archaeology. “I tell people that Andrew, Peter and Phillip almost certainly walked on it because they would have had to have gone out of their way to avoid it!”

The article does not include a photo, and I don’t see any other reports on this besides this brief one.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Bethsaida house of fisherman, tb060105684

Newly discovered road ran from the “house of the fisherman” shown above toward the Jordan River. Photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.

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Saturday, December 01, 2012

Weekend Roundup

Archaeologists working at Acco have discovered harbor remains and four shipwrecks from the early 19th century.

Deane Galbraith summarizes a new article in which Yigal Levin rejects the identification of Khirbet Qeiyafa as Shaaraim and proposes instead that it is the Israelite encampment.

Bible History Daily has a short story on a new exhibit about Famous Americans Who Made Holy Land Tours. Featured tourists include Mark Twain, Herman Melville, and Theodore Roosevelt.

The Muriel and Jeremy Josse Collection of Holy Land Maps includes more than 250 maps of late 19th- and early 20th-century Palestine and the African continent.

Harvard University is returning to archaeology in Iraq after nearly a century, but they’re doing so without touching the ground.

National Geographic has word (and photos) of the Oldest Pharaoh Rock Art Rediscovered in Egypt.

Bible History Daily posts more than a dozen high-res images of “King David’s Tomb.” You need a subscription to read Jeffrey Zorn’s related article, but the images are available to all. And if you ever teach about the subject, you should grab the nicely colored drawings from Weill’s excavations while they’re available (below the photos).

The city of Jerusalem has approved plans for rebuilding the second of two domed synagogues in the Old City. Both were destroyed in the 48 war, and the Hurvah Synagogue was rebuilt several years ago. A donation of $12 million is launching the rebuilding of the Tiferet Israel Synagogue.

For a look at what’s going on in the broader world of biblical studies in the past month, head over to the Carnival.

HT: David Coppedge

Tiferet Israel Synagogue, tb010312424

Tiferet Israel Synagogue in Jerusalem
Photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands

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