Monday, September 30, 2013

Lectures in Chicago, October 2013

There are a few free lectures coming up for those in the Chicago area.

On October 2, Wednesday, Ian Morris of Stanford University will give a lecture at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago on "Why the West Rules — For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future." The lecture begins at 7:00 pm and is followed by a free reception. Information about this event can be found here. Future events are listed here.
A Malaysian lawyer told a British journalist: "I am wearing your clothes, I speak your language, I watch your films, and today is whatever date it is because you say so."
Do chaps or maps drive history? Human brilliance and folly, or geography? Or maybe genes, or culture? Ian Morris goes a level deeper than Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel to determine why the standards of Europe and North America now prevail in the world when it was the East that dominated for the 1,200 years between 550 and 1750 CE. Why did that happen, and what will happen next?

On October 3, Thursday, Ted Lewis from Johns Hopkins University will give a lecture on "Magic in Ancient Israel: Incantations in the Hebrew Bible and Archaeology." This appears to be the final lecture in this year's Wheaton College Archaeology Lecture Series. The lecture begins at 7:00 pm and will take place in the Billy Graham Center room 534. The information can be found here.

On October 5, Friday, Lisa Heidorn will present a lecture on "Dorginarti Island: The Fortress of the Lord of Eternity" at the meeting of the Chicago Chapter of the American Research Center in Egypt. The lecture will begin at 5:00 pm and will take place at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. More information can be found here. The site is located at about 21.829665°, 31.249143° (the island is now covered by Lake Nasser).
The fortress of Dorginarti, located in the northern part of the 2nd cataract, was excavated in 1964 by an Oriental Institute team; however, the excavations were abandoned after a few short months because rising waters behind the new High Dam at Aswan made continued work impossible. The fort was originally dated either to the Middle Kingdom because of its architecture, or to the late New Kingdom because of its objects and pottery. This ambiguity was due to the uncertainty in the 1960s about the dating of late New Kingdom and Third Intermediate pottery. Over the last two decades, great strides have been made in the identification of pottery to the periods after the New Kingdom, which now allows a more precise interpretation of the site. This ARCE Chicago lecture will give a recap of the fortress and its reasons for existence, in addition to the presentation of new material that is in preparation for the Oriental Institute’s publication of the site.

We noted before that on October 23, Wednesday, Gabriel Barkay will be giving a lecture on "Recent Archaeological Discoveries in Jerusalem" at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. This lecture is noted along with other speaking engagements at Barkay's new website.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Weekend Roundup

Haaretz profiles the late archaeologist Nahman Avigad on the anniversary of his birthday. Leen Ritmeyer shares some personal reflections.

Mark Hoffman shares a Google Maps Exercise for Biblical Geography.

Many ancient leopard traps have been discovered in Israel’s Negev.

What if Cyrus had not freed the Jews? The Jewish Journal asks the question.

Adam Zertal’s theory about Gilgal is detailed in Israel HaYom.

Lior, the lion king of Jerusalem, has died at the age of 16.

HT: Charles Savelle, Jack Sasson

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Friday, September 27, 2013

DigSight Summer 2013

The latest issue of the SAU Institute of Archaeology DigSight is now available online in pdf format.

Contents include:

  • Excavating Lachish 2013
  • Qeiyafa Final Celebration
  • New Museum Coordinator
  • Battle Over David in South Africa
  • Institute of Archaeology at ASI
  • Director's Letter
  • Recent Sightings
  • Upcoming Events

The first article reports on the initial season of excavations at Lachish. The team hopes to find answers for the following questions:

  • When was Lachish inhabited for the first time in the Iron Age?
  • When was Lachish first fortified in the Iron Age?
  • How did the economy, administration, international connections, writing, cult, and art develop in the first 200 years of the Kingdom of Judah?
  • Was there a fortified city in Lachish relating to 2 Chronicles 11:5–12, which recounts Rehoboam’s rebuilding of the city?

The archaeologists are focusing their work on the northeast quarter of the site and they have already exposed part of the fortification system near the well.

Information about upcoming lectures is provided on the last page of the newsletter, including these events:

October 22, 2013, 7 p.m.
“Excavating Nebuchadnezzar’s Destruction at Lachish”
Michael G. Hasel, PhD (Southern Adventist University)

February 11, 2014, 7 p.m.
“Tell Jalul: A Levitical City of Refuge in Jordan?”
Randall W. Younker, PhD (Andrews University)

March 11, 2014, 7 p.m.
“Ossuaries and the Burials of Jesus and James”
Jodi Magness, PhD (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

Lachish aerial from south, tb010703291

Lachish from the south

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Picture of the Week: Churning Butter

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

Proverbs 30:33 contains a interesting analogy that is not familiar to most of us who live in advanced cultures:

For the churning of milk produces butter,
and twisting a nose draws blood,
and stirring up anger produces strife.
(Prov. 30:33, HCSB)

The second and third lines are familiar enough in any culture: grab and twist someone's nose and naturally blood will come pouring out, or stir up someone's anger (or as we say in America, "press someone's buttons") and you will have a fight on your hands. However, the first line describes something that would have been familiar to most people throughout history, but unfortunately is not familiar to citizens in first world countries today. In this instance, we get the short end of the stick.

How do you make butter? Well naturally, the answer is ... you don't! You just go to the store and buy it! And that is where our problem lies. We've become so advanced that we have lost touch with some of these biblical analogies. Fortunately, we have resources that can help, such as the Historic Views of the Holy Land collections available at  Below is a photograph from The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection that was taken sometime between 1898 and 1946. It shows two Bedouins churning butter (click on the image to enlarge):

In his book Daily Life in Biblical Times, Oded Borowski explains the process and the reason behind it:

Fresh milk cannot be stored for long without refrigeration, especially in the warm climate of the Near East.  Therefore, to preserve it, milk has to be processed. ... Processing milk starts by churning, which separates the fat from the whey. This is done by using a container made of goatskin or clay. The vessel, still used in some present-day societies, is hung in a way that allows it to swing back and forth, a motion that separates the fat and permits the making of various products. Highly nutritious dairy products made and consumed by the Israelites were butter, cheese, and yogurt. (Borowski, Daily Life in Biblical Times, p. 66.)

So the two people in the photograph above have placed milk (probably goat-milk) inside a goatskin container, and are making butter by rocking the container back and forth. Now we can go back to our proverb with some additional insight:

Like many good proverbs, the saying goes from concrete examples which illustrate a truth to an abstract concept that parallels that truth. Churning milk, wringing someone's nose, and stirring up anger are all actions that are done intentionally. You don't accidentally make butter. As you can see in the photo, you have to work at it. And you wouldn't accidentally grab someone's nose and give it a firm twist. So it seems that this proverb is referring to intentionally doing things that you know will make someone angry. You can accidentally stir up someone's anger, but this proverb is referring to intentionally working at it.

In addition, all three of those actions produce an expected result every time you do them. Each time you churn milk, you will get a separation of the fatty parts of the milk from the watery parts (the whey). It is a scientific fact. It is the same with twisting someone's nose: every time it will cause them to bleed. So the wisdom shared in this proverb is that the natural consequence of stirring up someone's anger is a quarrel. If you intentionally get someone angry with you, then you will have a fight on your hands.

So the lesson here is not to stir up someone's anger in the first place. If you don't want the fight, don't cause the anger.

But secondarily we learn that if our local grocery store happens to run out of butter, we can make our own with three sticks, some rope, a goatskin, some goat-milk, and little bit of effort ... but let's hope things don't come to that.

This photograph and over 600 others are available in Volume 6 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection and can be purchased here for $20 (with free shipping). The excerpt was taken from Oded Borowski, Daily Life in Biblical Times, Society of Biblical Literature: Archaeology and Biblical Studies, no. 5 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003), which can be purchased here. An additional image of someone churning butter with a goatskin container can be see here on


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Archaeology Discovery Weekend at La Sierra University

The Center for Near Eastern Archaeology at La Sierra University is hosting its 5th Annual Archaeology Discovery Weekend on November 16–17, 2013 with this year’s focus on Jerusalem. Most of the lectures and events appear to be free though there is a charge for some workshops and the Grand Opening Gala and Middle Eastern Banquet on Saturday evening.

Lectures include:

Jerusalem through the Ages: Prehistory to Modern, by Dan Bahat. Respondents: Jane Cahill West, Mahmoud Hawari, and Larry Herr

Jerusalem in the Iron Age, time of Old Testament Kings, by Jane Cahill West

Jerusalem in the Roman Period, time of the New Testament, by Dan Bahat

Jerusalem and the Knights Templar, by Kent Bramlett

The “Golden Age” of Islamic Culture, Art and Architecture in Jerusalem: The Ayyubid and Mamluk Periods (AD 1187–1516), by Mahmoud Hawari

Jerusalem Inscriptions, by Larry Herr

The closing lecture is a series of short presentations on The Archaeology of Jerusalem in the Context of the Modern Middle East: Risk, Responsibilities, Opportunities. Presenters include Dan Bahat, Kent Bramlett, Mahmoud Hawari, Lawrence Geraty, Larry Herr, Robert Mullins, and Jane Cahill West.

For more information, follow the links from La Sierra University’s website. La Sierra University is located in Riverside, California.

HT: James Lancaster

Temple Mount and Western Wall aerial from southwest, tb010703235

The Temple Mount and Western Wall from the southwest
Photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Weekend Roundup

Yosef Garfinkel is interviewed about Khirbet Qeiyafa at The Bible and Interpretation. He explains why he believes that King David “certainly slept there a few nights every year.”

Bryant Wood has a round-up of significant archaeological discoveries made in 2013.

Ferrell Jenkins shares an illustration of bargaining in the Middle Eastern.

Clyde Billington and Gordon Govier discuss the discovery of gold near the Temple Mount on this week’s edition of The Book and the Spade (direct link here).

There’s a new website for the Montfort Castle project.

This video on the Bread Culture of Jordan addresses both ancient and modern aspects of this way of life.

Gordon Franz passes on word that Gabriel Barkay recently presented a paper in Jerusalem suggesting that Absalom’s Pillar in the Kidron Valley belonged to Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:20-23). If I hear more, I’ll note it in a future blog post.

HT: Jack Sasson, Aren Maeir

Pillar of Absalom with snow, tb022603216

The “Pillar of Absalom” in the Kidron Valley, Jerusalem
Photo from the
Pictorial Library of Bible Lands

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Website for Gabriel Barkay

Archaeologist Gabriel Barkay has a new official website that provides a brief bio, links to some of his publications, and his current speaking schedule. You can also request Dr. Barkay to speak at your institution.

Barkay is on a lecture tour in the U.S. now and he’s covering a lot of ground, including stops in PA, NC, TN, MO, KS, TX, MS, AR, IL, IA, WI, NY, NH, NJ, and NE. You can check to see if he’ll be in your area.

I consider Barkay to be one of the two best teachers I ever had, in any subject. His extensive knowledge and his clear style have long been a model for me. I recommend you try to attend one of his lectures, if at all possible.

Gabriel Barkay explaining Temple Mount discoveries, tb110906712

Dr. Gabriel Barkay lecturing at the Temple Mount Sifting Project


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Picture of the Week: Knossos Palace Throne Room (and Thoughts on the PLBL in the Classroom)

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

My wife and I homeschool our children and since I'm the one with the history degree, it became my responsibility to teach that subject. I also have been teaching a biblical archaeology class once a week to 5th and 6th graders. As I have been teaching through these subjects, I am finding more and more uses for the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and am finding that with search tools it is easy to quickly find things in there that relate to a particular lesson.

For example, I was teaching my children about the Minoan civilization last week. We have a helpful book called The Usborne Book of World History which provides numerous images about various historical peoples and events, so I was using that to illustrate what the Minoans looked like and how they lived.  Then on a whim I turned to the PLBL to see if I could find any photographs of the excavations at the Minoan city of Knossos ... and I was not disappointed.  After a quick search in Picasa, not only did I find a whole section of Volume 13 that is devoted to Knossos, but I even found a picture of one of the same items that was illustrated in the Usborne book.

The image below shows the throne room of the palace at Knossos. The walls are decorated with colorful frescoes, and on one side of the room stands a gypsum throne. According to The Usborne Book of World History, this is "the oldest throne in Europe still standing in place" (p. 25).

So once again, the PLBL comes to the rescue. I was able to use this image and others in the collection to give my kids a feel for what it would be like to visit Knossos on the island of Crete. There is no sign yet that any of my kids will follow in my chosen profession, but it's still early (my oldest is only 7) and I have plenty of time to whet their appetite for a lifetime of study in the fascinating world of the ancients.  And I am sure the PLBL (and the Historic Views collections) will continue to play an important role in educating my children.

This photograph and over 700 others are available in Volume 13 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, and is available here for $24 with free shipping. For more photos and information on sites in Crete, see the BiblePlaces website here, herehere, and here.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wednesday Roundup

Excavations on Mount Zion this summer revealed a Early Roman period mansion that archaeologists suggest belonged to the family of a priest in the first century. The story is also reported by livescience.

A summary of this year’s excavations of Tel Yafo (Jaffa) is now online. The work focused on the only Egyptian gate known in Israel.

There’s another article on the alleged discovery of Dalmanutha.

Why was Samaria made the capital of the Kingdom of Israel? Norma Franklin argues from her archaeological research that it was the city’s economic potential.

The University of Pennsylvania is celebrating a century since it received the Sphinx.

Logos Bible Software is looking for a Bible Map Designer.

“Explorations in Antiquity in LaGrange will soon open its Biblical Life Artifacts Gallery.”

Philologos explains why Sukkot is a harvest holiday, even though there’s little to harvest. For those beginning the joyous celebration of Sukkot tonight, we say hag sameah!

HT: Mark Hoffman, Jack Sasson, Joseph Lauer

Sphinx, red granite, 19th Dynasty, from Memphis, tb072311783

The Sphinx of the University of Pennsylvania

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

First Season of Excavations at Abel Beth Maacah

The excavators of Abel Beth Maacah provide a summary of their first season of digging at the ASOR Blog. After an introduction, they explain what they are looking for.

For one thing, there is Abel’s Aramean connection. References to a political entity called “Aram Maacah” (1 Chronicles 19:6) and to the “king of Maacah” (2 Samuel 10:6, 8) evoke possibilities of Aramean presence at the site, allowing us to examine such an entity in relation to other presumed Aramean sites like Bethsaida, Tel Hadar, and En Gev. Even though the Arameans are specifically mentioned in ancient records, we know very little about them “on the ground,” especially within the borders of modern Israel. Can they be defined in terms of a distinct material culture? The location of Abel Beth Maacah on the northern borders of Israel (then and now) makes this site a viable candidate for the study of Aramean cultural and political influences.

Passages in the Hebrew Bible suggest that Abel Beth Maacah became an Israelite town during David’s reign, and it apparently remained so until its destruction by the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III in 733 BCE. In the story of the Wise Woman of Abel Beth Maacah (2 Samuel 20:14-22), the city is enigmatically referred to as “a mother in Israel.” Her power and influence is apparent in that she directly negotiates the surrender of the Benjaminite rebel Sheba ben Bichri with Joab, David’s military commander.

The Abel Beth Maacah project is also intent on pursuing Phoenician connections in Iron Age II. The city’s location on a branch road of the International Highway leading north to Ijon (Tell ed-Dibbin) in Lebanon’s Marj Ayyun Valley, and roads leading west to Tyre and Sidon, will enable us to study cross-cultural ties with coastal Lebanon during the Bronze Age and Iron Age.

The report continues with some suggestions as to why the site has never been excavated before along with a description of this season’s prize find. I’m hoping they find another copy of the Tel Dan Inscription. Intact, of course.

We’ve written about Abel Beth Maacah previously here and here.


The Huleh valley with Abel Beth Maacah and Mount Hermon.
Photo by A.D. Riddle.

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Archaeology and Ancient Near East Studies at Trinity

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

This blog has on occasion mentioned schools or programs where one might go to study biblical archaeology. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL has for over a decade offered an M.A. in Biblical and Near Eastern Archaeology and Languages. Now, beginning with this year's catalog, the school also offers a Ph.D. in Theological Studies with a focus in Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern History, Archaeology, and Languages. Whew! One wonders if the diploma will have to be enlarged to fit the degree title.

The list of required courses for the Ph.D. includes:
Literature of the Ancient Near East
Religions of the Ancient Near East
History and Archaeology of the Ancient Near East I
History and Archaeology of the Ancient Near East II
9 hours of Ancient Near Eastern languages
Old Testament Studies I: Pentateuch and Historical Books
Old Testament Studies II: Poetic and Prophetic Books 

Trinity's faculty features several individuals whose names have appeared before on this blog: James Hoffmeier, Lawson Younger, Richard Averbeck, Barry Beitzel, John Monson.

This past summer, students and faculty from Trinity joined the first season of excavation at Abel Beth Maacah (and here). Later this fall, Trinity will feature two speakers in the Trinity Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology Lectures. On Monday, September 23, Samuel Wolff of the Israel Antiquities Authority will speak on “Recent Excavations at Gezer.” On Wednesday, October 23, Gabi Barkay will speak on “Recent Archaeological Discoveries in Jerusalem.” Both lectures are free and open to the public. They begin at 7:00 pm and will take place at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Hinkson Hall in the Rodine Building.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Picture of the Week: Site of the First Excavation in Palestine

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

This week we focus our attention on the site of the first excavation in Palestine. When and where did this event take place? According to Neil Asher Silberman in his fascinating book Digging for God and Country, the year was 1810 and the site was Ashkelon.

We actually have two pictures this week: one is from Volume 4 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, and the other is from Volume 3 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection. The first image is how this site looked around 1910 or 1920 (a hundred years after the first excavation) and the second image is how the site looked in 2001 (almost two hundred years after the first excavation). Both pictures were taken from almost the exact same spot. Notice the same set of columns protruding from the cliff in each picture. (Apparently the horses were unavailable for the photo op in 2001.)

On pages 24 to 27 of Digging for God and Coutnry, Silberman tells the fascinating story of an eccentric woman named Lady Hester Lucy Stanhope. She came from a prominent family in England and so was a lady with some means. She attempted to put that wealth to good use by pursuing exploration in the Middle East.

After a daring visit to Palmyra in 1810, she received a copy of "an intriguing ancient document" from some Franciscan monks which "described a fantastic treasure of gold bullion said to have been secretly buried in the ruins of the ancient city of Ashkelon on the Mediterranean coast, giving precise details of its location." After getting further proof from the monks that the document was authentic, she reached out to the British government to help her retrieve the treasure, but (unsurprisingly) she was turned down. The story continues...

Sending word of her intentions directly to the sultan in Constantinople, Lady Hester began the journey down the coast to Ashkelon.... Arriving at the ruins of the Philistine city, Lady Hester settled into a comfortable cottage in a nearby village and conscripted hundreds of local fellahin to begin the work of excavation. The treasure map indicated that the gold was buried beneath a ruined mosque, and it was there that the digging began.

At the end of the fourth day of excavation, several huge pillars were discovered lying side by side as if to conceal a secret hiding place. The sultan's representative hastily summoned special winches and ropes, but as the huge stone cylinders were lifted and removed, it became clear that the treasure they concealed was of neither silver nor gold. It was the huge headless statue of a Roman emperor—the first archaeological artifact ever discovered by excavation in Palestine.

But beneath the statue was nothing, and Lady Hester was seeking gold, not classical art. Ordering the statue to be set upright—and out of the way—she ordered the workers to resume digging for the treasure at another part of the site.

After several more weeks of excavation, a maze of empty trenches and haphazard piles of overturned earth testified grimly to the fruitlessness of the search.... Rather than admit to herself that the treasure map was a hoax, she became convinced that the late al-Jazzar had himself removed the treasure only a few years before. All that was left to her was the Roman statue.

Lady Hester was determined to demonstrate, however, that unlike other British antiquarians she had no interest in filling a museum; her search had been undertaken unselfishly, with regard only for the friendship of the Ottoman ruler. She had seen for herself the aftereffects of Lord Elgin's removal of the Parthenon frieze while in Athens several years before, and she did not want her excavations to encourage similar plundering in the Holy Land. With a wave of her hand, she ordered the workers to destroy the monumental statue and cast its fragments into the sea.

With that act, Lady Hester Stanhope ended her brief but memorable archaeological career.... 

Wow. How times change. There's a lot we could say about that first excavation, but I will content myself by saying that fortunately the current excavations are being carried out much more responsibly. But if you would like a piece of the first artifact ever excavated in Palestine, allow me to suggest a walk along the beach at Ashkelon looking for fragments of a Roman statue discovered (and destroyed) in 1810.

These photos and hundreds more are available in Volume 4 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and Volume 3 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection. The former volume is $39 and is available here; the latter volume is $20 and is available here (both include free shipping within the U.S.). Additional photos and information about Ashkelon can be found here on the BiblePlaces website. The excerpts were taken from Neil Asher Silberman, Digging for God and Country: Exploration, Archaeology, and the Secret Struggle for the Holy Land, 1799-1917 (New York: Anchor Books, Doubleday, 1982), pp. 24–26, and is available for purchase here.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wednesday Roundup

There are many Biblical archaeology programs scheduled for the Washington DC area.

Haaretz provides a review of the significance of Magdala and the recent excavations.

Paleojudaica links to the latest “bad-news articles on the Middle East for the last couple of weeks.”

St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai has closed due to the security situation in Egypt.

Shmuel Browns provides the latest Israel Roundup.

Aren Maeir announces that a new exhibit is opening at Bar-Ilan University entitled “The Rise and Fall of Philistine Gath (Tel Zafit).

Some Palestinians are claiming that the golden treasure recently announced by Eilat Mazar is a fake.

Wayne Stiles provides a very good overview of the Garden of Gethsemane.

St Catherine's Monastery, mat02025

St. Catherine’s Monastery, circa 1915
Photo from the American Colony and Eric Matson Collection

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Monday, September 09, 2013

Golden Treasure from Byzantine Period Discovered in Jerusalem

In the summer excavations of Eilat Mazar south of the Temple Mount, two collections of gold and silver were discovered, including one golden medallion depicting a menorah, shofar and Torah scroll.

From the press release:

A third-generation archaeologist working at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, Dr. Mazar directs excavations on the City of David’s summit and at the Temple Mount’s southern wall. Calling the find “a breathtaking, once-in-a-lifetime discovery,” Dr. Mazar said: “We have been making significant finds from the First Temple Period in this area, a much earlier time in Jerusalem’s history, so discovering a golden seven-branched Menorah from the seventh century CE at the foot of the Temple Mount was a complete surprise.”


Golden medallion with depiction of menorah, shofar, and Torah scroll

The discovery was unearthed just five days into Mazar’s latest phase of the Ophel excavations, and can be dated to the late Byzantine period (early seventh century CE).  The gold treasure was discovered in a ruined Byzantine public structure a mere 50 meters from the Temple Mount’s southern wall.

The menorah, a candelabrum with seven branches that was used in the Temple, is the national symbol of the state of Israel and reflects the historical presence of Jews in the area. The position of the items as they were discovered indicates that one bundle was carefully hidden underground while the second bundle was apparently abandoned in haste and scattered across the floor.


View of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount from the south, with area of discovery marked. Photo by Ouria Tadmor.

Given the date of the items and the manner in which they were found, Mazar estimates they were abandoned in the context of the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614 CE. After the Persians conquered Jerusalem, many Jews returned to the city and formed the majority of its population, hoping for political and religious freedom. But as Persian power waned, instead of forming an alliance with the Jews, the Persians sought the support of Christians and ultimately allowed them to expel the Jews from Jerusalem.

Hanging from a gold chain, the menorah medallion is most likely an ornament for a Torah scroll. In that case it is the earliest Torah scroll ornament found in archaeological excavations to date. It was buried in a small depression in the floor, along with a smaller gold medallion, two pendants, a gold coil and a silver clasp, all of which are believed to be Torah scroll ornamentations.

“It would appear that the most likely explanation is that the Ophel cache was earmarked as a contribution toward the building of a new synagogue, at a location that is near the Temple Mount,” said Dr. Mazar. “What is certain is that their mission, whatever it was, was unsuccessful. The treasure was abandoned, and its owners could never return to collect it.”

The Ophel cache is only the third collection of gold coins to be found in archaeological excavations in Jerusalem, said Lior Sandberg, numismatics specialist at the Institute of Archaeology.  “The thirty-six gold coins can be dated to the reigns of different Byzantine emperors, ranging from the middle of the fourth century CE to the early seventh century CE,” said Sandberg.


36 gold coins from the Byzantine period

Found with the coins were a pair of large gold earrings, a gold-plated silver hexagonal prism and a silver ingot. Remnants of fabric indicated that these items were once packaged in a cloth purse similar to the bundle that contained the menorah medallion.


Archaeologist Eilat Mazar holding medallion affixed to necklace

The finds are also announced on a rather dramatic 2-minute video.

The story is reported by the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, Ynetnews, and many others.

The Trumpet has an exclusive interview with Eilat Mazar.

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Saturday, September 07, 2013

Weekend Roundup

This week’s edition of The Book and the Spade features Matthew Adams in a discussion of new excavations east of Megiddo (direct link here).

BibleX provides links to a new resource called ASORtv.

Ferrell Jenkins provides a new illustration for the story of the serpents in the wilderness.

Derbe is one of the last sites on Paul’s itinerary to remain unexcavated. That has now changed with a new project by Selçuk University.

A preliminary report of the 2013 excavation season at Tel Kabri is now available.

L. Y. Rahmani and Robert J. Bull died this week.

HT: Jack Sasson

Derbe from west, tb041105424

Derbe from the west
Photo from Eastern and Central Turkey

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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

King Solomon’s Mines, After All

A new study by a team from Tel Aviv University concludes that the copper mines at Timna, near Eilat, were in operation during the reign of Solomon. The new dating is based upon Carbon-14 studies which shift the peak of copper production down three centuries from the 13th century to the 10th.

Because of close similarities between the mines at Timna and those at Feinan (biblical Punon) further north, the scholars believe that the Timna mines were operated by the Edomites but not by Solomon. Perhaps this is correct. Another possibility is that Solomon controlled both. The biblical texts do not identify either site as Solomonic, but the Israelite king did control territory as far south as Eilat.

1 Kings 9:26–28 (NIV) “King Solomon also built ships at Ezion Geber, which is near Elath in Edom, on the shore of the Red Sea. And Hiram sent his men—sailors who knew the sea—to serve in the fleet with Solomon’s men. They sailed to Ophir and brought back 420 talents of gold, which they delivered to King Solomon.”

During David and Solomon’s reigns, the Edomites were subject to Israel (2 Sam 8:11-14; 1 Kgs 11:14). Perhaps they operated the mines to pay the annual tribute.

If I had time, it would be interesting to go back through the literature and review the statements of those who used the absence of evidence at Timna from Solomon’s time as evidence against the biblical account. Once again we see why we should hold to the assured results of archaeological research lightly.

The full BASOR journal article is online as is a summary in Haaretz. A video from this year’s excavations is posted at YouTube.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Timna Solomon's Pillars, tb010612876

Solomon’s Pillars near the copper mines of Timna
Photo from Negev and the Wilderness

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