Thursday, January 31, 2013

Picture of the Week: Interior of Barclay's Gate

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

This was a difficult week to come up with a photo to share.  The problem wasn't due to a lack of good material ... the problem was that there were too many good photos available!

This week's photo comes from Volume 2 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection, which focuses on Jerusalem.  These are photographs of Jerusalem taken in the first half of the 20th century before many of the modern developments were built.  So much has changed in the city since that time (both physically and politically) that this volume is a gold mine of material for Jerusalem studies.

Here is a list of some of the photos I could have chosen for this week's post:

  • The City of David when it was still being used for farmland.
  • A German zeppelin hovering over the Old City.
  • The interior of the Golden Gate on the Temple Mount.
  • The interior of the Double Gate on the Temple Mount.
  • The interior of Solomon's Stables in the Temple Mount (but see here for a similar photo).
  • The interior of the Hurvah Synagogue before it was destroyed in the War of Independence.
  • The Pool of Hezekiah filled with water instead of trash (but see here for similar images).
  • Sealed entrances to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
  • The short-lived and aesthetically questionable clock tower built on top of Jaffa Gate (but see here for a previous post on that subject).
  • Remains of a Crusader-period monastery in the Kidron Valley, a small portion of which was only briefly excavated in 1937 and then buried again.
  • Crowfoot and Fitzgerald's 1927-28 excavations in the City of David.
  • A smog-free landscape looking east which includes the Hinnom Valley, Mt. Zion, the Judean Wilderness, the Dead Sea, and the mountains of Moab.
  • The Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall as they looked before the War of Independence (but see here for a similar photo).
Instead, I will present the following rare photo of the interior of Barclay's Gate (or at least the top section of the gate) on the western side of the Temple Mount, taken sometime between 1940 and 1946.

Barclay's Gate was one of the entrances to the Temple Mount during the Second Temple Period (the time of Jesus and the apostles). A modern photo of the outside of Barclay's Gate, in the women's area of the Western Wall Plaza, can be seen here.  Only the stone that formed the lintel is visible today from the outside.  In the PowerPoint notes included in the collection, Tom Powers explains what we can see in the photograph above:

This fascinating photograph (looking northwest) shows a room lying beneath the surface of the Temple Mount (to Muslims, the Haram esh-Sharif, or “Noble Sanctuary”). This space was the subject of several descriptions and drawings by 19th century explorers but has rarely been seen by Westerners—or photographed. Much better known, actually, is the opposite side of the thick wall seen here at the end of the vaulted room: it is the massive lintel and blocked opening of an original western entrance of the Herodian Temple Mount, the so-called “Barclay’s Gate” partially visible in the very southern end of today’s Western Wall (women’s prayer area).  
The ancient gate was identified in modern times by James T. Barclay, an American Protestant medical missionary and amateur explorer of Jerusalem’s ancient places. In the course of recounting his identification of the exterior gate elements, Barclay also described the space pictured here: 
“During the period of my admission into the Haram enclosure I discovered in this immediate vicinity, on the interior, a portion of a closed gateway, about fourteen or fifteen feet wide; but whether it is connected with that on the exterior, I was not enabled to determine, for the guards became so much exasperated by my infidel desecration of the sacred room, el-Borak, where the great prophet tied his mule on that memorable night of the Hegira, that it was deemed the part of prudence to tarry there but a short time and never to visit it again . . . . Only the upper portion of the gateway can be seen—the lower part being excluded from view by a room, the roof or top of which is formed by the floor of this small apartment.”
-- James Barclay, City of the Great King (1857), pp. 490-91 
In the passage quoted above Barclay, alas, garbles some elements of the Muslim tradition (he calls the mythical beast a “mule” and confuses Mohammed’s Night Journey with the hegira, his flight from Mecca to Medina). Nonetheless, his notion that this “small apartment” might be connected to the gate he had identified from the outside was correct, as confirmed by other explorers only several years later. Barclay was also correct that the mosque occupied only the uppermost part of the gateway. But, whereas Barclay presumed the existence of a lower room, the mosque actually overlies a great volume of debris deposits (or fill) behind the blocked gate. 
In this photo, the vaulting overhead is the top of the Herodian gate passage, and the dark line in the masonry of the far wall (beneath the shallow arch) corresponds to the bottom of the great lintel (apparently the lintel itself is not visible). Experts estimate the height of the Herodian gate opening, from sill to lintel, at 25 to 30 feet (7.8 to 9.3m), with the sill lying only a few yards (meters) above the Herodian street. Thus, in the original gate passage here, a broad stairway no doubt ascended (far beneath the floor shown here) toward the east and the surface of the Temple Mount. The original passage ran eastward from the western wall for at least 70 feet (22 m), but it was reconfigured and altered in many ways over the ages. For example, the distinctive arch of chamfered voussoirs (beveled and molded arch-stones) seen here, and others like it, point to a major redesign and rebuilding of the passage in Omayyad times (7th-8th centuries), when the gate was still open and in use. Since the Arab chronicler Al-Muqadassi in 985 still lists the gate (called by him, and all previous Arab sources, Bab Hitta) among the active entrances into the Haram, it must have gone out of use and was blocked sometime after that date. The eastern part of the passage was walled off at some point, plastered, and used as a cistern. 
The “al-Buraq” Mosque pictured here, again, is built into the vaulted internal gate passage of Barclay’s Gate, along the western wall and inside the Haram (Temple Mount) enclosure. It is situated immediately next to the Mughrabi Gate, to the north, and below the level of the Haram platform, from which it is accessed by the two flights of stairs pictured here. The Matson-supplied date for this photo is 1940 to 1946, and the mosque apparently still exists today. ... 

This photograph and over 650 others are available in Volume 2 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection and can be purchased here for $25 (with free shipping).  Other historic photos can be seen on various pages of  You can find the links the Jerusalem pages in the left column of the homepage.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wednesday Roundup

Mark Hoffman comments on BibleX’s picture-taking tips and adds some suggestions of his own.

Time is reporting on Simcha Jacobovici’s lawsuit against Joe Zias. Aren Maeir isn’t happy with the article’s title: “A Feud Between Biblical Archaeologists.”

The Sea of Galilee is up to within 6 feet of capacity.

Raphael Golb’s appeal resulted in the vacating of one count and the affirmation of 30 other counts.

The NY Times is calling it “The Great Giveback,” as American museums hand over prized antiquities due to threats by foreign governments.

You can take a “virtual tour” of the tabernacle at the Creation Museum website. Click on this link and then select “The Tabernacle.”

The Dead Sea Scrolls are headed for Boston.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson, David Coppedge

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

More Recent Excavations in Jerusalem

Binyanē Ha-Umma (South): Finds included cooking pots from the first century, brick and roof tile debris from the Tenth Legion pottery workshop, and four coins.

Shu‛fat: A survey a couple of miles north of Damascus Gate identified 64 sites including an Iron II farmhouse, two Second Temple period tombs (one with a Latin inscription), nine tumuli, a Roman road, a large quarry, and more.

Mount Zion: An excavation was conducted in the courtyard south of the building that houses David’s Tomb and the Upper Room. The five strata excavated date from the Byzantine to the modern period.The excavation was prematurely halted at a depth of 5 feet when the archaeologists reached bones. “Further excavations will clarify if a massive wall from the fourth century CE was indeed exposed at the bottom of the trial square.”

The Old City, IDF House: Located along the Street of the Chain to the west of the Western Wall prayer plaza, this excavation identified primarily remains from the Ottoman period.


Quarry in Shu’fat. Photo by IAA.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

New Resource: Satellite Bible Atlas

There is a fabulous new resource available that I’m delighted to be the first to tell you about. For the last four years when teaching seminary and church groups in Israel, I’ve had as the class guide an outstanding resource that nobody else could buy. I joked with my last group that this book cost $3,640 because they could only get it by coming with me on the trip. The other option was to enroll as a student in one of the short- or long-term study programs at The Master’s College’s campus in Israel for even more money.sba500

Today, for the first time ever, you can purchase your own copy of the Satellite Bible Atlas. This new work by Bill Schlegel replaces the venerable Student Map Manual but is superior to it in many ways. One obvious advantage is that you don’t have to spend 60+ hours marking it before it is usable! All the historical markings are printed in bright colors on top of satellite map imagery.

Another advantage is that the commentary is on facing pages with the maps, so you have easy access to everything that is going on. If you want more, you can download the free, 200-page expanded commentary, The Land and the Bible: A Historical Geographical Companion to the Satellite Bible Atlas.

This resource is ready for personal use, classroom use, and field trip use. The author, Bill Schlegel, has been teaching college and seminary students in Israel for 25 years. Everything in the Satellite Bible Atlas is field-tested by a professor who knows God’s land and loves God’s Word.

Here are 7 more reasons I love the Satellite Bible Atlas:

1. The maps are full-size, full color, and full of rich detail of the hills, wadis, plains, and passes.


2. There are 85 maps which means that every major historical event is covered, from Abraham to Paul. Too often the New Testament gets short-changed in atlases, but not here: the Satellite Bible Atlas has 9 maps for the life of Christ and 6 for the apostolic period.

3. The Satellite Bible Atlas includes 17 detailed topographical maps without historical markings. These are ideal for getting the best view of the terrain as well as both ancient and modern sites.

4. I fully trust the markings and the commentary. There are not many works in this field for which I can say that.

5. The north-orientation of the maps means there is no immediate learning curve as there was with the previous atlas we used which put east at the top. I put this atlas in the hands of my church group last year and they were immediately off and running. Several have commented to me in the last few weeks that they regularly use the Satellite Bible Atlas as they read the Bible.

6. The atlas comes with a free copy of all the maps in digital (jpg) format. You will receive a link to download the maps with your order confirmation.

7. For $30, plus $3 shipping and tax where applicable, you get an excellent atlas at an outstanding price. (For an additional discount on purchases of 10 or more copies, contact us.)

Check out the sample maps, the table of contents, endorsements, teaching videos, and the free downloads. You can order here.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Weekend Roundup

This is a series I should have done on this blog. But BibleX has done it first and quite well: Picture Taking Tips for the Holy Land, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Thank you, Dr. Savelle.

The Shephelah is a great place to live. The ancients knew it and now modern people are catching on. That’s bad for those who care about the preservations of ancient sites, as Luke Chandler explains in his well-illustrated post, Khirbet Qeiyafa to be Enveloped by City Expansion.

Beth Shean—A Place for Happy Explorers: Check out the photos, the video, and the city’s lingering lesson.

“Huge flocks of synchronized starlings that appear like a black cloud returned to Israel last year for the first time in 20 years.” This free Haaretz article includes impressive photos.

Jerusalem Online has a 4-minute video on The Search for Herod’s Grave. You can read the transcript at the same link.

The ancient Corinthians liked to feast, a fact confirmed by the recent excavation of more than 100,000 bones excavated in the abandoned theater.

The Guardian reports on Turkey’s on-going efforts to blackmail museums around the world.

For more, check out the Archaeology Weekly Roundup at the ASOR Blog.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson

Beth Shean aerial from northeast, tbs118210011

Beth Shean aerial from northeast.
Photo from Samaria and the Center.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Recent Excavations in Jerusalem

Old City: A small excavation inside a dwelling south of Damascus Gate and west of the Austrian Hospice revealed pavement and pottery from the Mamluk period.

Rasm al-‘Amud: This site on the lower southeastern slopes of the Mount of Olives is located nearly 1 mile east of the City of David. Excavation of fifty squares revealed six strata dating from the Intermediate Bronze (VI-V), Middle Bronze IIA (IV), Middle Bronze IIC-Late Bronze (III), Iron II (II), and Late Roman-Early Byzantine (I). The best preserved remains are the earliest and come from a semi-nomadic group that settled down near the water source. In the 9th-7th centuries, the site was a cultivated garden and a jar handle was found with an inscription that reads “ ...ל (?)מ/נחם ” (“Le[?]m/nhm”). The report includes a photo of the inscription.

Beit Hanina: Remains were excavated of seven phases of the Roman road that branched off from the Jerusalem-Shechem road heading towards the Beth Horon ridge. The report doesn’t mention it, but this is the route Paul would have taken on his way to Antipatris and Caesarea (Acts 23:31). Other road segments were excavated, but no map has been published.

Nahal Rephaim: A survey of this valley southwest of the Old City (see 2 Sam 5:18-25) identified 42 sites including watchman’s huts, a limekiln, a burial cave, a cistern, five roads, and farming terraces. “Based on the rural nature of the surveyed area, it seems that it constituted part of Jerusalem’s agricultural hinterland, at least during some of the ancient periods.” Compare Isaiah 17:5: “It will be…as when a man gleans heads of grain in the Valley of Rephaim.”


Ancient road between Jerusalem and Beth Horon.
Photo by IAA.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Picture of the Week: Lower Beth Horon in the Early 20th Century

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

It is impossible to send a photographer back to biblical times to capture the sights that were familiar to Abraham, David, and Peter...but a photographer taking pictures in the early 20th century could come pretty close.

Our picture of the week comes from Volume 1 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection.  This is a remarkable collection of photographs from the first half of the 20th century.  I had a hand in the early stages of this project, working through and cataloging thousands of photos.  It was a remarkable experience and in the process I learned much about the cultures of that period, the daily life of the inhabitants, the notable events of the day, and the various archaeological sites.  The collection published by is a selection of the best of the photographs taken by the American Colony and Eric Matson.  Over 4,000 photos from Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt are presented in eight volumes. We will spend the next few weeks highlighting a photo from each volume. describes the collection in this way:

Founded in 1881 by Horatio Spafford (author of the famous hymn, It is Well With My Soul), the American Colony in Jerusalem operated a thriving photographic enterprise for almost four decades. Their images document the land and its people, with a special emphasis on biblical and archaeological sites, inspirational scenes, and historic events. One of the photographers, G. Eric Matson, inherited the archive, adding to it his own later work through the “Matson Photo Service.”

As you spend time in the collection, you really do feel like you have stepped back in time.  The landscapes are picturesque because buildings are sparse or non-existent and the air is free from smog. The local villages are full of primitive dwellings while the new churches, hospitals, and municipal buildings are pristine.  You see dirt roads, horse-drawn carriages, boats powered by wind, and people walking from one town to the next.  Archaeological sites are untouched by the excavator's spade or are being subjected to excavation for first time.  What an amazing time to be a photographer in the land of the Bible!

For example, as I was looking through Volume 1 the picture above stood out to me.  Two women are walking barefoot along a narrow, dirt path in the hills of Ephraim, balancing water jugs on their heads.  Behind them is the small town of Lower Beth Horon surrounded by farmland and a handful of trees.  You can almost feel the silence that must have hung in the air in this sleepy countryside.  Such a scene must have been familiar during the biblical period, and a photo such as this has the ability to transport us back to biblical times and to help us read Scripture in its historical context.

This photograph and 600 others are available in Volume 1 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection and can be purchased here for $20 (with free shipping).  Volume 1 focuses on "Northern Palestine," and other photos from the volume can be seen here, here, and elsewhere on  Images and information about other work carried out by women during this period can be found here.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wednesday Roundup

The level of the Dead Sea has risen for the first time in the last ten years.

Egyptian police seized a carload of 863 ancient artifacts, including 10 scarabs, 180 amulets, 120 Ptolemaic coins, 407 Roman coins of bronze, 3 Osirion wooden statues, and a limestone statue.

Victor Avigdor Hurowitz, Professor in the Department of Bible, Archaeology and Ancient Near East at Ben-Gurion University, has died after a long illness.

Shmuel Browns’ Photo of the Week is an impressive shot of the Keshet Cave in western Galilee.

The Samaritans on Mount Gerizim can vote twice this week.

Accordance Bible Software has an outstanding sale going on right now for both sets (9 volumes) of the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary, Old and New Testaments. It’s marked down now 63% to $150. These volumes have lots of images you can easily search and use. Sale ends on Monday.

HT: Charles Savelle

Dead Sea, Ras el Feshkha, mat01742

Western shore of the Dead Sea in early 1900s
Photo from Southern Palestine photo collection

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Excavations below Jerusalem’s Church of the Redeemer

This may be the most interesting archaeological excavation in the Old City of Jerusalem in the last few years. The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer is located next door to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. From DW:

Two-thousand years of biblical history lay buried 14 meters beneath the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. German archeologist Dieter Vieweger led the excavation of the site.

A Herodian quarry, the remains of Golgotha, buildings from the period of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, mosaics from the Church of Saint Maria Latina: At the end of 2012, the Archaeological Park was opened under the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem, giving visitors the chance to take a tour of these locations and understand the city's colorful past. German archeologist Dieter Vieweger spent three years building the park together with a team of students and experts.


The archaeological park makes 2,000 years of history in Jerusalem visible - from Herod to the Crusaders to today. As a biblical archeologist, which chapter in history do you find most interesting?

For me, of course, the oldest layers are the most interesting - those buried 14 meters (46 feet) under the Church of the Redeemer. That's where we found a stone quarry built by Herod the Great. You can actually walk around it and see how thick the stones were carved out, sawn and broken. The quarry was used to expand the city to the east of the site at Herod's instruction. But not all of the stone was taken from the ground where the Church of the Redeemer now stands. This area was later called Golgotha, the location where Jesus was crucified. In this section of the archeological park, visitors come very close to Christian and Jewish history.

The full article is here. The site is now open to the public, but it closes early in the afternoon. In a post last year, Tom Powers wrote about his tour of the site before it opened.

German Church of the Redeemer, mat00862

Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, early 1900s
Photo from The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection

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Monday, January 21, 2013

King Herod Exhibit Opening at Israel Museum

The Israel Museum’s largest and most expensive archaeological project will open on February 12 and run for nine months. From

Israel's national museum said Tuesday it will open what it calls the world's first exhibition devoted to the architectural legacy of biblical King Herod, the Jewish proxy monarch who ruled Jerusalem and the Holy Land under Roman occupation two millennia ago.

The display includes the reconstructed tomb and sarcophagus of one of antiquity's most notable and despised figures, curators say.


Herod's final grandiose project was to prepare for death. Curators believe Herod constructed an extravagant, 25-meter-high (80-foot-high) tomb. Israeli archaeologist Ehud Netzer spent 35 years of his career searching for it.

In 2007, Netzer drew international attention when he announced he had found what he believed was the tomb at the Herodion, the ruler's winter palace, located on a cone-like hill that still today juts out prominently in the barren landscape of the Judean Desert, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

In 2008, the archaeologist approached the Israel Museum about creating an exhibit that would display artifacts from one of the greatest finds of his career. While surveying the Herodion site with museum staff, Netzer fell to his death. Museum staff pushed forward with planning the exhibit.

In 2011, the museum used a crane to remove dozens of half-ton columns and the roof of what Netzer identified as the top floor of Herod's tomb, which he thought held his sarcophagus. Each stone was affixed with an electronic chip so it could be more easily be put back together at the Israel Museum.

Three sarcophagi were found at the site, and curators believe one was Herod's. Though it bears no inscription, it is made of a special reddish stone, found smashed into hundreds of pieces. The Jewish zealots who took over the Herodion after Herod's death likely smashed the sarcophagus to pieces, destroying the symbol of a man who worked with the empire they were rebelling against, curators said.

The full story is here. Barry Britnell also notes a 60-second promo video made by the Israel Museum.

In related news, The Times of Israel reports:

As part of a new plan, a replica of his tomb at Herodium, situated outside the West Bank city of Bethlehem, will tower to 83 feet and will be visible from Jerusalem.

Herodium Herod's tomb, tb051708036

Remains of Herod’s tomb at the Herodium.
Photo from Judah and the Dead Sea.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

The New York Times has a profile of the Carchemish excavations, including results from the first two years. I particularly enjoyed Mr. Marchetti’s story of discovering an almost intact monolith lying on the surface on his first day on the site.

This Jerusalem Post article on Jesus and the Jordan River discusses both tourist sites on the northern and southern ends.

This Haaretz article on “Masada for runners” isn’t what I expected. (I wanted fastest times to the top; they tell you to run around the bottom.)

Google Street View now covers much of Israel, including “most of Israel’s large and medium sized towns, many villages in central Israel and the Galilee, and historical and tourist sites such as the Dead Sea, the coral reefs of Eilat, the Dead Sea, Megiddo, and many more.” It does not include Judea and Samaria.

“Museum staff in Manchester have devised a computer console which allows visitors to ‘handle’ ancient artefacts. The technology at Manchester Museum – the first of its kind in the UK – allows the public to virtually touch delicate objects which would normally be kept behind glass.”

Tyndale Tech has a great run-down of computer resources for Old Testament Studies.

HT: BibleX, Jack Sasson

Carchemish citadel and Euphrates River from north, adr1005191620

Carchemish citadel and Euphrates River from the north.
Photo from the fantastic Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Shmuel Browns has photos of the Dome of the Chain now that the metal sheeting for renovations has been removed.

Lois Tverberg (“Our Rabbi Jesus”) suggests resources to help you learn about the life of a shepherd. I particularly like her first and last recommendations.

Leen Ritmeyer reports on the upcoming move of the Temple Institute in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Exploring Bible Lands has a great photo of the Jerusalem model (at the Israel Museum) covered with snow. You might want to subscribe to this newer blog while you’re there.

To return to familiar subjects, Leen Ritmeyer has photos old and new of Jerusalem in the snow.

A new book by Baruch Sterman, The Rarest Blue tells the 4,000-year-long story of the biblical blue tekhelet. Last week it was awarded the Book Prize for 2013 by the Jewish Journal.

Shepherd with sheep near Sede Boqer, tb042007446

Shepherd with sheep in Negev Highlands
Photo from Cultural Images of the Holy Land

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Recent Excavation Reports

Horbat Hazzan and Horbat Avraq – A building from the late Iron Age was excavated along with several winepresses, columbaria, and a limekiln.

Jerusalem, Shuafat Ridge – Several miles north of ancient Jerusalem, archaeologists completed excavation of a farmhouse from the 8th-7th centuries BC.

Jerusalem, Qiryat Moriyya – Part of the low-level aqueduct that brought water to Jerusalem from Solomon’s Pools was exposed in Arnona.

Mount Tabor – An excavation near the Gate of the Winds revealed a portion of the Ayyubid fortification, built in 1212-1213 by the nephew of Saladin when the mountain was being contested by the Muslims and Crusaders.

Jaffa – Excavations of two areas in the modern flea market revealed a large pool “as well as pottery, glass vessels and coins dating to the Persian, Hellenistic, Late Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic and Crusader periods.”


Columbarium from area near Horbat Hazzan.
Photo by IAA.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Picture of the Week: Nazareth in 1894

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

Why is it that the more important the biblical site, the more it tends to be surrounded by modern buildings?  Sites such as HazorMegiddo, and Gezer have a lower level of biblical significance (see 1 Kings 9:15) yet they are delightful places to visit because they are relatively untouched by modern developments.  But take a city like Jerusalem, Bethlehem, or Nazareth, and you need to hire a professional guide to help you find the ancient remains among the modern.

Take Nazareth for example.  I have been to Nazareth a number of times, but I have seen few (if any) ancient remains in that city.  It is completely covered by modern buildings.

Nazareth Today

This is not to criticize the modern inhabitants of the city.  They have a right to live there and build comfortable houses and reliable roads.  I am merely pointing out that often modern developments can diminish the usefulness of a location for teaching purposes.  This is why a site such as and the resources available through that site are so helpful.

Our picture of the week comes from a book entitled Earthly Footsteps of the Man of Galilee, which has been reproduced in electronic form and is available through  It contains nearly 400 photographs taken in 1894.  The book follows the life of Christ and the apostles chronologically, traveling back and forth through various countries.  Below is a picture entitled "Nazareth from the East" and is followed by an excerpt from the book.  In this image, the city of Nazareth is much smaller than it is today.  The Nazareth of 1894 was probably much larger than the Nazareth of the 1st century, and yet this photograph provides a better impression of the Nazareth that Jesus knew than any modern photograph could hope to reproduce.

Nazareth in 1894
NAZARETH FROM THE EAST.--After an absence, according to Dr. Andrews, of something like six months, the Holy Family with the infant Jesus came in sight again of their own home.  If they approached the city from the East they would get the view, as far as the topographical features are concerned, given above.  Nazareth stands almost mid-way between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, as we have already said.  It lies on the eastern slope of the hill, from the summit of which a magnificent prospect opens out.  Toward the north are the hills of Galilee and the majestic summits of the snow-crowned Hermon.  On the east is the Jordan valley and in dim outline the heights of the ancient Bashan.  To the south spreads the beautiful plain of Esdraelon, with Mount Tabor, Little Hermon and Gilboa; in sight, beyond, are the hills of Samaria, and on the west Carmel faces the blue waters of the Mediterranean.  No traveler should miss this view from the hill behind Nazareth.  It is perhaps the richest and most extensive in all Palestine.  The nearer hills are wooded, and drop in graceful slopes to broad and widening valleys of "living green."  In the village below, upon this eastern slope, the Savior of the world passed his childhood.  His feet must frequently have wandered over these hills, and his eyes looked again and again from the summit as do the eyes of pilgrims now.  Here the Prince of Peace looked upon the great plain of Esdraelon, where had so often been heard the din of battle; and upon that sea over which the swift ships were to bear the tidings of his salvation to continents and nations then unknown.  The history of Nazareth seems to cluster about one remarkable event, "The Annunciation."  Before that the place was unknown.  But to the Christian, Nazareth is the home of the Savior's boyhood; the scene of his early labors, his prayers, his domestic relations, his whole private life for thirty years.  This gives unspeakable charm to the town.

Quote taken from John H. Vincent, James W. Lee, and R. E. M. Bain, Earthly Footsteps of the Man of Galilee (New York: N. D. Thompson Publishing, n.d.), p. 101, which can be purchased here.  The entire work contains almost 400 images, each with an explanatory note. Additional images of Nazareth can be seen here (1800s and 1960s) and here (modern day).

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Archaeological Archive of Israel Online

The first stage of the archive is now available online, but my first impression is not positive. The viewer is clunky and the server is slow. They’ve also made it difficult to save any of the files for personal study. Perhaps improvements will come; the project is certainly a worthy one. Here’s the full press release from the Israel Antiquities Authority:

The archaeological archive of Israel, which is administered by the Israel Antiquities Authority and amasses data on all of the activity of the archeological entities in the country, is computerized and will go online in the coming days. This is being underwritten with joint funding provided by the “Landmarks” heritage program in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Israel Antiquities Authority. The scientific archive has its beginnings in the British Mandatory Department of Antiquities. It was continued by the Israel Department of Antiquities and is managed today by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which invests considerable thought and resources in its operation. [Yes, they really said that about themselves!]

The first stage, containing tens of thousands of documents, photographs, maps and plans from the years 1919–1948 from Akko and Jerusalem, is already available for viewing online at Most of this material was written in English.

Uploading the old and valuable material to the website required special preparations. In order to scan the material, the Israel Antiquities Authority engaged the services of ImageStore Systems Ltd. This is because the archival material is especially delicate and sensitive and cannot be scanned with industrial equipment; rather it can only be done individually and manually. The documents in the archive include texts photographs, maps, and plans etc. on many different kinds of paper.

According to Israel Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hausner and Reuven Pinsky, director of the heritage project in the Prime Minister’s Office: “The Mandatory archive constitutes the principal foundation of archaeological research of the past one hundred years. This program, as part of the Israel Archives Network project for scanning and digitalization of the material on file in the archives, will make it possible for the public in general and particularly scholars in Israel and abroad to access these resources of knowledge”.

According to Dr. Uzi Dahari, Deputy Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The scientific importance of the archive is invaluable, and it is the only one of its kind in Israel and in the world. In Israel there are approximately 30,000 known and declared antiquities sites that constitute our cultural heritage – the largest and most important asset of the State of Israel. The Israel Antiquities Authority declares, treats, surveys, and researches the antiquities sites in the country. One of the many activities of the Israel Antiquities Authority is the management and running of the scientific archive. The Israel Antiquities Authority decided to transfer the archive to the digitalized media, in order to disseminate the information throughout the world”. To this end, all of the information was scanned and it was indexed according to rules that are suitable for research needs”.

According to Ephraim Reich, director general of ImageStore Systems Ltd., “We are proud to have been given the opportunity by the Israel Antiquities Authority to take a significant part in preserving this important information for the public. The utilization of advanced technology for the purpose of accessing enormous amounts of information that were stored until recently in libraries and archives not sufficiently accessible to the average user is a matter of utmost importance to ImageStore Systems Ltd. We are confident that this work will help preserve this important archival material for our benefit and that of future generations”.


Aerial photograph of Jerusalem, undated. From the Archaeological Archive of Israel.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Copper Wash Basin Moved to Temple Exhibit

From Arutz-7:

The Temple Institute moved a giant copper laver, or wash basin, to the new home of its exhibit of Temple articles on Monday.

A statement by the Temple Institute said the basin, which is 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) tall and 2.8 meters (9.1 foot) in diameter is kosher for use in the Third Temple and can be used to purify 12 priests at once.

The statement also said the new basin has advanced systems that make it possible to overcome certain problems in Jewish law, as was done at the time of the Second Temple.

See the full article for a photo. For more information about the background of the construction of the laver, see the website of the Temple Institute.

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Antiquities Theft at Shiloh

Arutz-7 reports on the theft of a vessel from Shiloh discovered a week ago.

An ancient vase that provided evidence that Shilo was sacked by Philistines has been stolen from the Shilo site.

Avital Sela, who manages the site, told Arutz Sheva that once the vase was discovered to have been stolen, a complaint was filed with police.

Sela explained that the vase, which was dated precisely to the year in which the destruction of Shilo was assumed to have taken place, "connected all of the Biblical pieces into one puzzle."

The full story is here.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Gezer Excavation 2013

I picked up a brochure for this summer’s excavation at Gezer and was impressed with their season’s goals. In a brief look online at the BAS website and the official website, I did not see the specifics given in the brochure.

The 2013 season will focus on excavating

  • a Late Bronze Age Pillared Building probably destroyed by the Egyptian pharaoh Merneptah,
  • the Iron Age I occupation (1200-1000 BCE),
  • the 10th century BCE administrative quarter next to the Solomonic Gate Complex, and
  • a 9th century destruction possibly due to the Arameans.

If you’re thinking about digging this summer, this is certainly a good excavation to consider. The 9th-century destruction is that of Hazael mentioned in 2 Kings 12:17 and discovered at the nearby Philistine city of Gath.

The best way to get up to speed on the results of the first six seasons of excavations is the recent article in Near Eastern Archaeology, by Steven Ortiz and Sam Wolff, “Guarding the Border to Jerusalem: The Iron Age City of Gezer” (on JSTOR, or subscribe here).

Gezer casemate wall excavations, tb070506121

Excavations of casemate wall of Gezer.
Photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Weekend Roundup

For photos of Jerusalem in the snow, check out the Jerusalem Post and Shmuel Browns’ post. Aren Maeir has some night photos of the city in the snow. SourceFlix has a 30-second time-lapse from the Mount of Olives. The Sea of Galilee rose 30 inches last week, with 20 more expected as rivers drain into the lake.

Biblical Archaeology Society posts its Top 20 Biblical Archaeology Events and Discoveries of 2012.

Archaeologists in Egypt have found ancient tombs underneath the mortuary temple of Amenhotep II.

Excavations are revealing ancient Myra, a city famous for St. Nicholas, but also visited by the apostle Paul (Acts 27:5). If The New York Times had looked the verse up, they might have avoided an error.

Haaretz has two “Tourist Tip” stories that are not restricted to subscribers. One is about Muhraqa on Mount Carmel and the other the City of David.

If you’ve never heard of Lake Jerusalem, you might check out Arutz-7’s story and find out why it was a bust. (It’s in the news this week because the storm filled it up.)

For stories in the broader world of archaeology, check out the roundup at the ASOR Blog.

Faithlife Tours is giving away a free tour of Israel.

HT: Jack Sasson

Myra, Santa Claus statue, tb062406394

Town square in Myra, the home of St. Nicholas. Photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Recent Excavations in Jaffa and Acco

Jaffa, Yehuda Ha-Yamit Street: Stratum III dates to the 1st-2nd centuries (the time of Simon the Tanner) and includes remains of a large building, glass vessels, and a coin minted in Jerusalem from the time of Emperor Tiberius (AD 17-25). Finds from the modern period include a bullet from a German Mauser rifle, a British uniform button, and an Austrian, blue-coated iron bowl. The lengthy report includes 30 figures.

Jaffa, Shimon Ben Shetah Street: This excavation on the northeast side of town revealed 13 tombs, including “one sarcophagus, two built tombs, four uncovered cist tombs and six covered cist tombs.” Restrictions by the Ministry of Religious Affairs prevented excavation of all the tombs.

Acco, Ha-Haroshet Street: Excavations between the tell and the Old City uncovered four strata from the Hellenistic to the Byzantine periods. The Hellenistic finds were “very rich,” and included amphorae from Rhodes, Cos, and Cnidus. Unfortunately they have published only one tiny photo of a glass vessel.

Acco, the Post Office: Expansion of the city post office prompted this salvage excavation which identified a Hellenistic strata (III), four phases of the Roman period strata (II), and Crusader and Ottoman remains (I). Among the small finds were a loom weight, a lead weight, a bone disk, 12 coins, 72 glass fragments, and 6 stamped amphora handles.

Metallic finds from the Acco post office excavation, including (1) a lead weight (?) from the Early Roman period; (2) a copper weight in the shape of a cube; (3-5) pyramidal arrowheads probably from the Crusader period; (6) a nail; (7-8) and tacks. Photo by IAA.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Picture of the Week: Joppa in the 1880s

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

If you have been to Israel today then chances are that you flew there and your first glimpse of the country was from the air.  But what was it like to visit the Holy Land before the luxuries of modern travel?

Our picture of the week comes from a book written in the 1880s by a scholar and traveler named J. L. Porter.  The book is called Jerusalem, Bethany and Bethlehem and chronicles Porter's travels and reflections in the Holy Land. It has been reproduced electronically and is available through

Joppa from the Southwest

In the introduction, Porter describes the port city of Joppa.  Today Joppa is engulfed by the modern city of Tel Aviv, but in Porter's day it stood alone and was one of the most common places for travelers to enter the Promised Land.  In the picture you can see the shallow waters of the Mediterranean and the city rising above the boats in the harbor.  The following excerpt gives you a taste of Porter's writing style as he describes his experience in this city:

     Joppa is one of the oldest cities in the world. Pliny says it was founded before the Flood; and Josephus attributes its origin to the Phoenicians in the earliest stage of their commercial enterprise. Strabo has another story, making it the scene of Andromeda’s exposure to the sea-monster.
     But Joppa has a far higher claim upon our attention than could be given by heathen fables, or by even the most extravagant ascription of mythical antiquity and commercial greatness. It was the port of Jerusalem three thousand years ago, when the mariners of Hiram brought down timber from Lebanon for the building of the Temple. It is the port of Jerusalem to this day [in 1886]. Most Western travellers there first touch the sacred soil of Palestine, and thence go forward on their pilgrimage journey to the Holy City. ...
     When one reaches the shore, through barriers of rocks,—rather a difficult and even dangerous task if the wind happens to blow from the west,—he is charmed at once with the quaintness of the streets and houses, the picturesque beauty of the fountains, gates, and Crusaders’ walls, and the crowd of people dressed in the costumes of nearly every country of Europe and Asia. ... The views obtained from the terraced roofs of the higher houses of the town, and from some of the old towers along the walls, are singularly rich. The eye roams over a vast sea of verdure, many-tinted and varied in outline, with the palm, the pomegranate, the spreading terebinth, the golden orange and lemon, and the stately cypress. Beyond the orchards appear wide reaches of the green meadows and corn-fields of the Plain of Sharon; while on the eastern horizon, miles away, is the long range of the Judean hills, delicately coloured with light-gray summits, russet sides, and deep purple glens. It is a grand panorama, and, as it seemed to me, it is a fitting introduction to the traditional and historic glories of the Promised Land. 

Quote taken from J. L. Porter, Jerusalem, Bethany and Bethlehem (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1887), pp. i-ii, which can be purchased here.  The entire work contains over 90 images and almost 200 pages of text.  Additional images of Joppa can be seen here (1800s) and here (modern day).


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Wednesday Roundup

The rain in Israel has turned to snow. Jerusalem is all but closed. A meter of snow fell on Mount Hermon overnight. The Sea of Galilee is up 6 inches. Haaretz is calling this the biggest storm in a decade with Israel’s main highway closed for 9 hours. Wind gusts in Haifa reached up to 75 miles per hour.

BBC reports that Gaza’s archaeological treasures are at risk from war and neglect.

Ferrell Jenkins explains the significance of Gaza.

Artifax and The Book & The Spade Radio program have posted their Top Ten 2012 Discoveries. They are similar to our (unnumbered) list. Leen Ritmeyer picks his top two.

The conclusion from the 2012 excavations south of the Temple Mount (aka “Ophel”) is posted in an 11-minute video, concluding with a tour by archaeologist Eilat Mazar.

Thirty Days in the Land with Jesus: A Holy Land Devotional, by Charles H. Dyer, is for sale on Kindle for $1.99 this week. The 248-page book was released in 2012.

HT: Charles Savelle

Ophel Walls Iron Age tower, tb010112136

Iron Age tower in Ophel Excavations
Photo from Pictorial Library of Bible Lands

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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Photos of Heavy Flooding in Israel

Arutz-7 has posted a couple dozen photos and two videos of flooding from this week’s rains.


Wadi Qilt


Nahal Shiloh

See the article for more.


Bryant Wood Presents Biblical Archaeology Seminar in SLC

From the Daily Herald (Provo, UT):

Calvary Chapel of Salt Lake will be hosting a weeklong presentation by Biblical archaeologist Bryant G. Wood next [this] week. Wood will present a "college level" overview of Biblical archaeology at three different workshops; Wood's "Biblical Archaeology Seminar" is free and open to the public.

The first session will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, followed by a session from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday. The concluding session will be held Jan. 12 from 8 a.m. to noon, and will be preceded by a complimentary breakfast.

Wood, a specialist in Canaanite pottery, has pursued Biblical archaeology since 1973. He received international media attention in the 1990s for his study of the ancient city of Jericho. Wood disputed earlier findings that suggested the city was not inhabited at the time of the Old Testament account of its destruction and capture by the ancient Israelites.

See the article for contact information. Bryant Wood is director of Associates for Biblical Research and excavator of Khirbet el-Maqatir, a possible location of biblical Ai.

Jericho fallen mudbrick with Bryant Wood, tbs94229709

Bryant Wood examining ancient walls of Jericho

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Monday, January 07, 2013

Evidence of Shiloh’s Destruction Claimed

Arutz-7 is reporting today on the excavation of biblical Shiloh.

A new archeological find at ancient Shilo fits in with the Biblical narrative regarding the war at Even Ha'ezer [Ebenezer], and could confirm scholars' conjectures as to how Shilo was destroyed.

The First Book of Samuel does not say when and how Shilo, which served as the Israelite capital for 369 years, was destroyed. The latest archeological find at the Shilo site – a broken vase and remains of ashes from a fire – indicate large scale destruction. The remains are from the same period in which the War of Even Ha'ezer [Ebenezer] against the Philistines was waged.

Israel suffered a crushing defeat in that war, which is believed to have been waged near present-day Afek. The two sons of Eli the High Priest were killed, and Eli himself died upon hearing the news. Worst of all, the Holy Ark, which the Israelites had brought to the battleground, was taken by the Philistines.

Archeologists and scholars now have more evidence to back the assumption that after defeating the Israelites at Even Ha'ezer [Ebenezer], the Philistines advanced upon Shilo and sacked it.

Other Biblical passages, in Psalms and Jeremiah, confirm that Shilo was destroyed by Phlistines [sic].

Shiloh aerial from east, bb00120068-labeled

Shiloh from east. Screenshot from the new Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. Photo by Barry Beitzel.

A few comments:

1. The minimalistic reporting makes it impossible to evaluate the claim. The discovery of a broken vase and remains of ashes could indicate nothing more than the presence of a family hearth. Perhaps the archaeologists did find a destruction layer, but you have to believe that the journalist has evidence he was unwilling to share.

2. A destruction layer from the time of Samuel was already identified in Israel Finkelstein’s excavations in the 1980s. “This complex of buildings [in Area C] was destroyed by a violent conflagration whose traces were visible everywhere: charred floors and heaps of fallen bricks, sometimes more than one meter deep….As suggested by Albright following the Danish expedition’s excavations, this may be attributable to the Philistine destruction of the site (mid-eleventh century BCE)” (NEAEH 4: 1368).

3. The theory that the Philistines destroyed Shiloh in the aftermath of their capture of the ark at Aphek seems to be supported by the absence of Shiloh in the biblical narrative in the years of Samuel, Saul, and David. Its destruction by Philistines is suggested by its mention in two passages.

Psalm 78:60 — “He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent he had set up among men.”

Jeremiah 7:12–14 — “‘Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel. While you were doing all these things, declares the Lord, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer. Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your fathers.”

The Arutz-7 story, with a photo of a jar, is here.

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Saturday, January 05, 2013

Weekend Roundup

One archaeologist is calling the 900-seat arts center built by Hadrian the most important Roman discovery since the discovery of the Forum in the 1920s. There is a photo of the dig site here.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project blog has a series of posts on the recent debris removal from the Temple Mount. Nadav Shragai provides a summary in Israel Hayom. Leen Ritmeyer provides a brief commentary.

A baptistery has been discovered in the Byzantine monastery of Khirbet el-Maqatir.

Ferrell Jenkins has wrapped up his series of photo illustrations for the book of Acts.

The BBC has a month-by-month review of archaeological stories in 2012.

Our Archaeological Surveys Bibliography has been significantly expanded.

HT: Jack Sasson, Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis

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Friday, January 04, 2013

Terrace Farming near Petra Attributed to Nabateans

From ScienceDaily:

A team of international archaeologists including Christian Cloke of the University of Cincinnati is providing new insights into successful and extensive water management and agricultural production in and around the ancient desert city of Petra, located in present-day Jordan. Ongoing investigations, of which Cloke is a part, are led by Professor Susan Alcock of the Brown University Petra Archaeological Project (BUPAP).

Using a variety of tools and techniques, including high-resolution satellite imagery and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating of soils, Cloke, a doctoral student in the Department of Classics at UC, and Cecelia Feldman, classics lecturer at UMass-Amherst, have suggested that extensive terrace farming and dam construction in the region north of the city began around the first century, some 2,000 years ago, not during the Iron Age (c. 1200-300 BC) as had been previously hypothesized. This striking development, it seems, was due to the ingenuity and enterprise of the ancient Nabataeans, whose prosperous kingdom had its capital at Petra until the beginning of the second century.

The successful terrace farming of wheat, grapes and possibly olives, resulted in a vast, green, agricultural "suburb" to Petra in an otherwise inhospitable, arid landscape. This terrace farming remained extensive and robust through the third century. Based on surface finds and comparative data collected by other researchers in the area, however, it is clear that this type of farming continued to some extent for many centuries, until the end of the first millennium (between A.D. 800 and 1000). That ancient Petra was under extensive cultivation is a testament to past strategies of land management, and is all the more striking in light of the area's dry and dusty environment today.

The full story is here.

HT: David Coppedge

Mampsis Nabatean dam in Nahal Mampsis, tbs72039211

Dam from Nabatean period in Wadi Mampsis
Photo from Pictorial Library of Bible Lands

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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Recent IAA Excavation Reports

Horbat Hadat Modiin – Two strata from the Chalcolithic period were exposed, revealing high quality construction and a flint repertoire with more than 500 pieces.

Petah Tiqwa, Kefar Abraham – This Middle Bronze IIA industrial site with a tabun and kiln was probably related to the major city of Aphek.

Amazya, Al-Dawayima – A survey northwest of Moshav Amazya on the western end of Nahal Lachish in the Shephelah revealed 37 sites with abundant remains from the Iron, Roman, and Byzantine periods.

Amazya South – A survey south of Moshav Amazya identified 40 sites including many cisterns and cave dwellings.

Yattir Forest – A salvage excavation exposed a farming terrace and a square field tower, both of which might date to the Byzantine period.

Be’er Sheva‘, Bet Eshel Street – Excavations in downtown Beersheba uncovered pottery from the 8th century BC and a home from the Byzantine era.


Middle Bronze kiln excavated at Petah Tiqwa, Kefar Abraham.
Photo by Israel Antiquities Authority.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2013

More Top Stories of 2012

For the year that just ended, we posted about 325 times. According to Blogger statistics, our readers come from many countries, the top 5 of which are:

#1: United States
#2: United Kingdom
#3: Israel
#4: China
#5: Canada

Yesterday we listed the top stories related to discoveries and technology. Today we conclude with three additional categories. Yesterday’s disclaimers apply here as well.

Significant Stories in 2012:
Reconstruction of Herod's Tomb Criticized (and Defended)
Jesus Discovery: Early Christian Burial in Jerusalem, with lots of follow-up
Temple Mount Model at Christ Church, Jerusalem
New Visitor Center Approved for City of David
Not Guilty: James Ossuary Trial Ends
Turkey Halts Loan of Museum Artifacts
$100 Million for Biblical Tourism in Jerusalem
Construction Begins on Israel National Archaeology Library
Greek Economic Crisis Threatens Antiquities
Seven Wonders of Israel
Somebody Once Believed Jesus Had a Wife (and lots of links)
Cyrus Cylinder Coming to the U.S.
Ancient Cedar Beams on Temple Mount
Noteworthy Posts:
The Promised Land Includes Transjordan (No, It Doesn’t)
Speculating on the Mysterious Marks in City of David, by A.D. Riddle
Biblical Problems with Locating Sodom at Tall el-Hammam, by Bill Schlegel
The Best Maps of Israel
Jonah, Jesus and the Talpiot Ossuary, by Chris McKinny
My Recent Trip to Israel
Picture of the Week: Mount Hermon and Caesarea Philippi, by Seth Rodriquez
Critiques of the Work of Robert Cornuke
Notes on the Water in Antiquity Conference, by Chris McKinny

Favorite Resources in 2012:
In the Footsteps of Paul
Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? 
Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus
Books from Eretz Magazine
The Walls of the Temple Mount
Free Volumes in the Loeb Classical Library
Alexander to Constantine
The Archaeology of the Holy Land
ARTIFAX Magazine 
Israel Topographical Relief Map
The Land and the Book

Our favorite, naturally, is the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, Revised and Expanded (recommended by Jenkins, Gundersen, Chandler, and Savelle).

As 2013 begins, we wish our readers all the best in the coming year.

The 2012 release of the new Pictorial Library of Bible Lands marked the culmination of 9 years of travel, research, and writing.

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