Thursday, October 31, 2013

Picture of the Week: The Burnt House, Jerusalem

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

Our series on "Obscure Sites in the PLBL" hit a little snag this week as I turned to Volume 3 which focuses on Jerusalem. How do you pick an "obscure site" in a place as famous and as familiar as Jerusalem?  The solution is to go underground ...

Our obscure site for this week is The Burnt House in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. This place is probably familiar to many readers of this blog, but I don't think it makes it onto the itinerary of many tours to the Holy Land so it qualifies as "obscure." This is a site that dates back to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the first century. In his book, The Holy Land, Jerome Murphy-O'Connor introduces the site in this way:

A month after the destruction of the Temple and the Lower City in early September AD 70, the Romans stormed into the Upper City: 'when they went in numbers into the lanes of the city, with their swords drawn, they slew without mercy those whom they overtook, and set fire to the houses whither the Jews had fled, and burnt every soul in them' ([Josephus,]  War 6: 403). This was one of those houses. The latest coin found among the charred debris on the floor was dated AD 69; an unused spear stood in one corner.

One thousand, nine hundred years later, archaeologists working under Nahman Avigad uncovered this house that (presumably) had been destroyed by the Romans. What you see in the picture above is the bottom level of the house. Leen Ritmeyer has posted his reconstruction of the entire house on his blog here, along with some newspaper clippings from the time of its discovery. While discussing this site, Avigad once wrote:

This house was destroyed by an intense fire and was filled with fallen stones, wooden beams (carbonized) and layers of ash. The plastered walls were completely covered with soot, and the debris concealed many artefacts. What is unique here is the fact that the debris had not been cleared away or disturbed by later construction: Everything remained just as it was when the building was destroyed.

Many of these artifacts can be seen in the museum which now sits under the buildings of the modern Jewish Quarter. The most chilling aspect of this discovery was the fact that the archaeologists found the skeletal remains of an arm of a young woman, lying on the threshold of the entrance. Presumably this was one of the victims who died at the hands of the Romans in AD 70.

This photo and over 1,500 others (including pictures of the artifacts on display in The Burnt House Museum) are available in Volume 3 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, and can be purchased here for $39 (with free shipping). If you care to visit the site on your next trip, the Burnt House Museum is located at 2 Hakaraim Street, Jerusalem, near the top of the long staircase that leads down to the Western Wall Plaza.

The first excerpt was taken from Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700, 4th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 73-74.  The 5th edition can be purchased here.

The second excerpt was taken from Nahman Avigad, "Excavations in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, 1969-1971," p. 46, in Jerusalem Revealed: Archaeology in the Holy City 1968-1974 (Jerusalem: The Israel Exploration Society, 1975).

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Conference: The Kingdom of David and Solomon

Though the lectures are in Hebrew and in Haifa, the subject matter merits re-posting this conference schedule from the Agade list.


UNIVERSITY OF HAIFA / FACULTY OF HUMANITIES Department of Biblical Studies and Jewish History. Hecht Auditorium.

2013 Annual Meeting, Monday, December 2nd 2013
(All lectures will be presented in Hebrew)



Greetings: Prof. Reuven Snir, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, University of Haifa

Opening Remarks: Prof. Gershon Galil, Head of the MA Program "The Bible and its World", University of Haifa


0900-1050 1st Session: THE ARABAH, THE NEGEV HIGHLAND AND THE NORTH. Presiding: Prof. Sariel Shalev, University of Haifa

09:00-09:20 Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef, Tel Aviv University, Transparent Archaeology and Biased Interpretations in the Study of the United Monarchy: Methodological Insights from the Ancient Copper Mines of the Arabah

09:20-09:40 Dr. Moti Heiman, Israel Antiquities Authority and Bar-Ilan University, The Iron Age II in the Negev Highland: Material Culture, Economy and Population in A Desert Environment

09:40-10:15 Prof. David Ussishkin, Tel Aviv University, "Solomon's Gate" at Megiddo: A Debate of Fifty Years

10:15-10:35 Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Hazor in the Iron Age IIA: The Stratigraphical and Chronological setting of the First Fortified Town

10:35-10:50 DISCUSSION

10:50-11:00 BREAK


11:00-13:00 2ND SESSION: EPIGRAPHY, BIBLE AND ARCHAEOLOGY. Presiding: Prof. Shmuel Ahituv, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

11:00-11:20 Dr. Haggai Misgav, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The 10th Century BCE Inscriptions Reconsidered

11:20-12:00 Prof. Amihai Mazar, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The Kingdom of David and Solomon and the Archaeological Research: An Ongoing Story

12:00-12:40 Prof. Gershon Galil, University of Haifa, Israel and Palistin in the 11th-9th Centuries BCE in Light of New Epigraphic and Archaeological Data

12:40-13:00 DISCUSSION

13:00-14:00 LUNCH


14:00-16:00 3RD SESSION: THE COAST, THE SHEPHELAH AND PHILISTIA. Presiding: Prof. David Ussishkin, Tel Aviv University

14:00-14:20 Dr. Ayelet Gilboa, University of Haifa and Prof. Ilan Sharon, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Capital of Solomon's Fourth District? Israelite Dor

14:20-14:40 Mr. Saar Ganor, Israel Antiquities Authority, Seven Seasons of Excavation at Khirbet Qeiyafa

14:40-15:00 Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu and Prof. Yosef Garfinkel, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, New Light on Solomon's Palace and Temple and on the Second Temple in View of the Shrine Model from Khirbet Qeiyafa

15: 00-15:30 Prof. Avraham Faust, Bar-Ilan University, Between Judah and Philistia: Settlement Dynamics and Changes in Material Culture in the 10th Century BCE

15:30-16:00 DISCUSSION

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Secret Places: Qumran Cave 1 3D Facade

post by Chris McKinny

This post is slightly different than previous "Secret Places" posts in that the secret to finding Qumran Cave 1 (and 2) has been out for a while due to Todd's excellent post from back in 2010.

If you are interested in visiting Cave 1 (depsite Todd's health warning) then you should definitely refer to the post linked above. If you don't plan on making the dangerous trek up the cliffs of the Judean Wilderness or if you just want a slightly better idea of what Cave 1 looks like up close check out the model below. Click on the option "3D Model" to get an interactive view.

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Monday, October 28, 2013

IAA Catches an Antiquities Thief

From the Jerusalem Post:

Antiquities Authority anti-theft officers and police from the Kiryat Gat station arrested a man on Sunday from Moshav Sde Moshe suspected of stealing antiquities from archeological sites in the Lachish region.

A few months earlier, Antiquities Authority enforcement officials caught him with a metal detector digging illegally in an archeological site, and they began to perform surveillance on him.


The arrest came two days after Antiquities Authority enforcement officials caught three men, two from Beit Lehem [Bethlehem] and one from Kfar Nahalin, illegally digging in an archeological site in Eila [Elah] Valley, near Beit Shemesh.

According to enforcement officials, the antiquities theft industry is a highly lucrative multi-million dollar illicit business involving illegal excavators, dealers and collectors working in Israel, the West Bank and abroad.

The most highly-skilled excavators come from villages in the South Hebron Hills, where generations have made a living illegally excavating antiquities from archeological sites within the Green Line. They search for all types of relics, but particularly coins from the Bar-Kochba era, which can fetch thousands of dollars from collectors abroad.

The full story is here. For every one they catch, there are probably 99 they miss.

UPDATE: A follow-up article is posted here.

Tekoa corner of large building, tb111706982

Illegal excavations at the biblical city of Tekoa
Photo from Judah and the Dead Sea


Friday, October 25, 2013

Raiders of Egypt’s Heritage

Mohamed Ibrahim, Egypt’s minister of state for antiquities, requests help in the Washington Post in fighting antiquities theft in his country.

Egypt’s future lies in its history, particularly its archaeological history. For hundreds of years the mystery and wonders of the pyramids, the sphinx and the Valley of the Kings have attracted visitors from around the world. Tourism is the lifeblood of Egypt’s economy and touches the lives of most Egyptians, whether they work as tour guides, restaurant owners, craftsmen or bus operators. Egypt’s history holds the prosperity of the country’s future generations, including that of youths — more than 40 million Egyptians are age 30 or younger — who are seeking opportunities.

But thieves are raiding our archaeological sites and selling their findings to the highest bidders. They are taking advantage of Egypt’s security situation to loot our nation’s economic future and steal from our children.

Egyptians need the people and the government of the United States to support our efforts to combat the systematic and organized looting of our museums and archaeological sites. Imagine a world in which the stories of King Tut, Cleopatra, Ramesses and others were absent from the collective consciousness. And with much of our history still waiting to be discovered under the sand, the potential losses are staggering. Antiquities theft is one of the world’s top crimes — after the trafficking of weapons, narcotics and people — but it is seldom addressed.

Egyptian antiquities are flooding international markets. Recent auctions at Christie’s in London and New York included several items from Egypt. Fortunately, when contacted, Christie’s in London withdrew a number of items that had been stolen from the tomb of King Amenhotep III, discovered in 2000 in Luxor. Among the items was a steatite bust of an official dating from 1793 to 1976 B.C.

The full op-ed is here.

HT: Jack Sasson

Three great pyramids with smaller pyramids of queens, tbs89289701

The Pyramids of Giza
(photo source)

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Picture of the Week: Tel Dor

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

What is the most significant, ancient harbor city in Israel that hardly ever gets visited by tourists? Everyone has heard of Caesarea, but that place is a young sprout compared to this site. Acco and Joppa are potential candidates, but even they get more publicity than this site. Continuing our series of "Obscure Sites in the PLBL" (or "What You Missed on Your Trip to the Holy Land") we focus this week on the small but significant site of Dor.

The map below is from the PowerPoint files included in Volume 2 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. Dor is circled in the top left section of the map.

Tel Dor is located on the small Plain of Dor, which is nestled between Mount Carmel and the Mediterranean Sea. For a description of this small region, you can read a post I wrote on the Wild Olive Shoot blog here. In that post you will learn that this small strip of land in Israel's central region was more often controlled by foreigners than it was by Israelites. It served as a foothold into the region for Phoenicians and the Sea Peoples. In fact, in ancient times it was easier to get to this region by boat than it was by foot, due to the marshy terrain in the area.

This brings us to the photo itself. Below you can see three boat slips used in ancient times by the inhabitants of Dor. The city was built right next to the sea which made it easy to haul boats in and out of the water. According to the excavators of Tel Dor, "The boat-slips are probably Hellenistic and/or Persian; they may have been dry-docks for fishing vessels, or berths for war-galleys." (Reference: According to the photo annotations included in the PLBL, you won't find boat slips like this at any other site on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean.

So the next time you're in Israel, take a little time to explore this small (but significant) site. Archaeological remains from the time of Abraham to the period of the Crusaders have been found here. In addition to the boat slips, you will find the remains of a two-chambered gate from the Iron Age, two temples from the Roman Period, a purple dye factory used from the 1st to 6th centuries AD, a museum where you can see artifacts found in the area, and beautiful harbors where you can take a refreshing dip in the sea.

This photo and over 1,200 others are available in Volume 2 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, which can be purchased here for $39 (with free shipping). Aerial shots of Tel Dor are available here and here on Ferrell Jenkins's blog, and the Tel Dor excavation team has a very informative website at For more information on the region and additional photographs, see my post here.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Catholic Conflicts: Electric Poles and Holy Sites

The Caspari Center Media Review reports on a couple of items in the Israeli press of interest to this blog. The first is from an article in Haaretz on October 17.

The Catholic Church in Israel launched a petition demanding the removal of an electricity pole that was put up two years ago across from the Garden of Gethsemane, which is “one of the holiest [sites] to Christians – the place where tradition says Jesus and his disciples prayed together before Jesus was arrested by the Romans and crucified the next day.” The pole was put up at the request of Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem “who have asked to be disconnected from the Jerusalem District Electricity Corporation, which supplies electricity to Arab neighborhoods on the city’s east side.”

The Catholic custodian of the Garden of Gethsemane wrote in his petition that “the huge pylon obstructs the view of the Old City from the prayer garden of the church used by pilgrims. ... One of the significant reasons for the popularity of the church is the unique view of the Temple Mount and the Old City, and the pylon utterly destroys this uniqueness.”

The judge presiding over this case criticized the placement of the pole, saying that “it was a beautiful corner of Jerusalem and in addition a holy place.” He later added, off the record, that the Israel Electric Corporation “would not have done it in the Kotel [Western Wall] plaza.” By the end of the hearing, “the two sides agreed to transfer the matter to the appeals committee of the Jerusalem Regional Planning and Building Committee.”

I do not have a photo of the pole, but if any of our readers do, you’re welcome to send it in and we’ll post it here.

UPDATE: See photo below.

The second is from HaModia and HaMevaser.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be traveling to Rome next week to meet with the pope; they will discuss, among other things, the transfer of certain holy sites to the custody of the Catholic Church. “It turns out,” says HaModia, “that the new pope has set a public declaration of the transfer as a condition for his promised visit to the land.” One of the sites in question is David’s Tomb, “which the Catholics have claimed as their own for hundreds of years.”

HaMevaser reports that Rabbi Haim Miller has appealed to Knesset Members in an effort to stop the deal from going through. Miller claims that it is better for the pope not to visit Israel than that the tomb be handed over to the Catholic Church, even if this causes a rift between the Vatican and Israel.

The full Caspari Center Media Review is here.

David's Tomb and Upper Room on Mount Zion, mat14676

David’s Tomb and the Upper Room on Mount Zion
Photo from Jerusalem

UPDATE: A.D. Riddle has sent along a photo that shows the electrical pole. On the right side of the photo, there’s a purple bush with the pole to the left.


Church of All Nations and Garden of Gethsemane

UPDATE #2: Pat McCarthy notes that Haaretz has posted two photos of the pole.

UPDATE #3: Paul Mitchell points to Google Images which has a link to this image in an article dated to last year in the Jerusalem Post.

UPDATE #4: Shawn French has sent a photo of an old electric pole that tarnishes the view from Gethsemane.


View from Gethsemane towards Temple Mount, 2008
Photo by Shawn French

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Monday, October 21, 2013

New Book: Everyday Life in Bible Times

John A. Beck has just published a new book that will be of interest to many readers here. The Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times is an attractive, full-color guide to the culture and customs of the ancient world. Beck is familiar to readers here as one of the authors of the popular A Visual Guide to Bible Events and A Visual Guide to Gospel Events.

The book is comprised of about 100 articles, each three pages long. Every subject is carefully illustrated, and it is difficult to find a page without a photo (or two or three).

The book covers a wide range of subjects such as sacred days, family relationships, agriculture, warfare, clothing, and food. Specific articles include:

  • Anoint
  • Clap Hands
  • Crucify
  • Engrave
  • Kiss
  • Land On Hands
  • Naked
  • Run
  • Shave
  • Thresh
  • Widow

I made note of a few items that may be new to readers here:

  • “We can safely say that no activity was more ordinary in Bible times than the baking of bread.”
  • “The belt of our Western world is very different in appearance and function from the belt of the ancient world.”
  • The clapping of hands sends one of four messages in the ancient world: “(1) to mark a time of joy-filled celebration, (2) to mock or scoff at someone’s misfortune, (3) to express grief or anger, or (4) to play a part in a magical incantation.”
  • The Gadites are noted for their military greatness in part because of their ability to cross the Jordan during flood season (1 Chr 12:14-15).
  • There is one positive use of the word “drunk” in the Bible (Deut 32:42).
  • There are four categories of kissing in the ancient world: (1) the greeting kiss, (2) the departure kiss, (3) the kiss of respect, and (4) the erotic kiss. Beck gives biblical examples for each one and mentions three other types of kisses mentioned in Scripture: the deceptive kiss, the holy kiss, and the figurative kiss.
  • “Jews of the first century carried a combined tax burden that was near or slightly exceeded 50 percent of their income.”

In every article I read, I learned something new. Though written for a popular audience, the book includes footnotes that point to the source of the information or related good resources.

The book is also available on Kindle, but I would guess that it’s not as attractive as it is in print format.

On a related subject, if you’re looking for a collection of photos of Cultural Images of the Holy Land, we know of a good one.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Weekend Roundup

Yitzhak Sapir claims that Matthew Kalman has misrepresented the verdict regarding the ownership of Oded Golan’s artifacts. Kalman has responded briefly.

A report from this season’s excavations of the Roman camp of Legio near Megiddo is now online.

Wayne Stiles provides a perspective, with photos and video, from atop the walls of Jerusalem.

The lecture schedule for the Bible and Archaeology Fest is now online. There are many interesting topics planned.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is now offering a masters of arts in biblical archaeology in partnership with Mississippi State University.

Haaretz reports on students excavating in the port of Dor as part of a new English MA in Maritime Civilizations at Haifa University.

An article at The Christian Science Monitor about Khirbet Qeiyafa is more interesting for its profile of Israel Finkelstein.

Barry Britnell suggests a number of opportunities to learn.

Britnell also links to a beautiful video on the Sky Above Jerusalem.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson

Dor harbor area from north, tb090506883

The ancient harbor of Dor
Photo from Samaria and the Center

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Oded Golan

The forgery case against Oded Golan has been concluded with the court’s rejection of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s claim of ownership of the Jehoash Inscription. Matthew Kalman has covered the case for nearly a decade and he reports on the 2-1 decision by an appeal panel of Israel’s Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruling caps a crushing defeat for the Israel Antiquities Authority following the sweeping 2012 acquittal of Golan and dealer Robert Deutsch on multiple charges of archaeological forgery. Israeli prosecutors advised by the Israel Antiquities Authority had argued that even though they continue to believe the inscription is a modern forgery, the reverse of the stone had been “dressed” in ancient times and was therefore classified as an antiquity that should belong to the state. But those arguments were rejected by the majority decision of the court. Oded Golan is now poised to reclaim both the tablet and the more famous item, the James ossuary, along with dozens of pieces confiscated by the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israeli police at the time of his arrest in 2003. Golan greeted the decision as “good news.” He says he plans to put both the ossuary and the tablet on public display.

The latest about-turn could be the final twist in a nail-biting finale to the decade-long pursuit of Golan. However, a sternly-worded ruling by the same court in September suggests that the battle over the future of the antiquities trade is just beginning.

In an 8,000-word ruling handed down on September 29, a panel of three Supreme Court Justices rejected Golan’s appeal against his conviction and sentence on three minor charges and used the opportunity to declare war on the antiquities market. Branding the trade in antiquities “damaging” and motivated by “avarice,” the ruling authored by Supreme Court Justice Daphne Barak-Erez depicts “a world of collectors exchanging treasures teeming with trembling hands and heart - often within the law, and sometimes without,” and notes with approval that “in most countries of the world there is a general ban on the trade in antiquities, because of their recognition as a national resource.” She further observed, that this "conception also serves as the basis for the antiquities law” in Israel.

The full story is at The Bible and Interpretation and includes Golan’s response to the court’s broadside on the antiquities market. Since I believe that the tablet is likely authentic, I am happy to hear that Golan plans to put the artifact on public display.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Picture of the Week: Kedesh in Galilee

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

For the next few posts of our "Picture of the Week" series, we will be working our way back through the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and focusing on obscure sites included in the collection. One of the great things about the PLBL is that it includes places that you would never typically go when you visit the lands of the Bible. Even if you spent a semester or a whole year in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, or one of the other countries covered in the collection, you would probably not visit every site that Todd Bolen and his team of photographers have assembled in the PLBL. So this little sub-series can be called "Obscure Sites in the PLBL." Or perhaps, "What You Missed on Your Trip to the Holy Land."

Our first stop is the ancient city of "Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali" (Josh. 20:7). This site is located just west of the Huleh Basin, in the region north of the Sea of Galilee. Below is a section of a map provided in Volume 1 of the PLBL which shows the location of Kedesh.

Tel Kedesh itself can be seen image below, covered with spring wildflowers. In the Old Testament period, this was one of the places designated a "city of refuge" where someone could escape from an avenger if they had accidentally killed someone (Josh. 20:1-9). There were six cities of refuge scattered throughout the Israelite territory and Kedesh was the one that was farthest to the north.

Kedesh also shows up in Judges 4. This was the where Barak lived, and it is where the Israelite army assembled before they marched out to war under the leadership of Deborah and Barak. At the time, the king of Hazor was oppressing the Israelites. Hazor is only about 8 miles southeast of Kedesh, and in the image above the camera is looking in that direction.

Lastly, Kedesh is mentioned in 2 Kings 15:29 where it was conquered by Tiglath-pileser of Assyria, along with many other cities in the region. However, the site continued to be occupied for many centuries after that. In the Roman period a temple was built here, and if you visit the site today you can see part of one wall still standing. Several pictures of the Roman temple at Kedesh are available in Volume 1 of the PLBL.

This image and over 1,100 others (along with the map) are included in Volume 1 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and is available here for $39 with free shipping. Additional photographs taken in this region can be seen here, here, and here on Historic images of this region can be seen herehere, and here on

Update: Another suggested location for the Kedesh of Barak is Kh. el-Kidish, southwest of the Sea of Galilee. Both of these sites were within the territory of Naphtali.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Archaeology for the Kids

The Jerusalem Post reports on an excavation near the coast south of Haifa where thousands of teenagers are taught the value of archaeology each year.

The Tel Esur dig is the largest communal excavation in the country, [Dr. Shay] Bar said.

“It’s a project of the community, for the community, for the education of the children of this community,” Bar said last week at the dig’s makeshift headquarters. He said that different skills involved in archaeology – from the meticulous digging required to unearth artifacts to careful record keeping – allow the teenagers to discover their talents.

“Here they open like a flower,” he said. “They are flourishing.”

On a typical day in Tel Esur, 150 children from four different schools work at different areas at the dig site, supervised by 20 staff members, volunteers and the students’ teachers.

The teenagers don’t necessarily mix with students from other schools, in order to simplify the logistics, Bar said. Still, students from Arab and Jewish schools “can work five meters from each other” on a common project under the supervision of researchers from a variety of backgrounds, he said.

At points throughout the day, students take a break from digging to hear short educational lessons about archaeology. Instead of discussions about who recently owned the land, the archaeologists attempt to instill an appreciation for the craft of the research.

“They have to understand the value of history before they understand the relationship to different ethnicities that existed here,” said Netanel Petrushka, one of the archaeologists.

The full story is here.

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

Gordon Franz reports on his time at the “International Noah and Judi Mountain Symposium” in Sirnak, Turkey. He also provides a summary of a number of the presentations.

On The Book and the Spade this week: “Discovering Dalmanutha” with Ken Dark (direct link).

Norma Franklin believes the Megiddo water system was built during the Middle Bronze Age.

George Athas asks, “What’s New in Biblical Inscriptions?” and he suggests a cautious approach in announcing new discoveries.

An enormous Corinthian capital has been excavated at a temple of Hadrian in western Turkey.

A report in the Belfast Telegraph provides details about the ongoing excavations at Sidon.

Aviva and Shmuel Bar-Am provide a tour of Gezer.

Before there was writing, there were clay balls. Scholars are trying to decipher the code from objects found in Iran.

Dove Booksellers reports that the retail price is jumping up to $395 for The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Archaeology. It’s on sale for $257 until Tuesday (cheaper than Amazon).

HT: Jack Sasson, Joseph Lauer, Explorator

Mount Cudi from west, adr1005222380

Cudi (Judi) Dagh, possible location of Mount Ararat, from west
Photo from Eastern and Central Turkey

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

The world’s largest Ark of the Covenant has been donated to Israel.

Leen Ritmeyer discusses the little-known Jewish excavation underneath the Temple Mount.

As for the recent challenge to the identification of Herod’s tomb at the Herodium, Ritmeyer sides with Netzer.

Have you been to Joseph’s tomb at Shechem? Ferrell Jenkins gives the biblical significance and a recent photo.

The Ephraim of Jesus’ day is modern Taybeh. There are more reasons to visit than ever before.

The “most popular photo” at The Bible and Interpretation is one our sunset shots over the Sea of Galilee.

Tomb of Joseph, Nablous, ef0131

Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem
Photo source

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Archaeologists Dispute Claim of Herod’s Tomb

Two former students of Ehud Netzer are disputing their teacher’s claim that he discovered Herod’s tomb at the Herodium. Prof. Joseph Patrich and Benjamin Arubas, both of Hebrew University, presented a paper yesterday in which they argued that the hillside shrine may have served Herod’s family but not the king himself.

They argue that the newly discovered tomb could not have been built for King Herod:
  • The tomb is too modest for one who considered himself the greatest king.
  • The plaza next to the tomb was too small to accommodate the large crowd that Josephus describes.
  • The later construction of the monumental staircase does not reflect the careful planning characteristic of Herod.
Nir Hasson provides a detailed summary in Haaretz of the presentation given at the seventh annual “Innovations in Archaeology in Jerusalem and the Surrounding Area” conference. The article also includes some counter-arguments by Netzer’s successor Roi Porat. I find the latter more convincing.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Herodium model tomb of Herod, tb042512613
Replica of Herod’s mausoleum at Herodium


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Picture of the Week: A Snapshot of the Holy Land from 1880s

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

In 1886, J. Leslie Porter finished a book called Jerusalem, Bethany, and Bethlehem which captured what life was like in Palestine in the mid- to late nineteenth century. It was in some sense a "snapshot" of the Holy Land at that time. In the book, he takes the reader on a journey from Joppa to Jerusalem and then to the surrounding regions. All along the way, he describes what you would have seen if you could have traveled there yourself and explains to you the historical significance of each place. In his own words, he says:

I have not attempted to write a learned treatise on the topography or history of Jerusalem. My task has been far simpler—to produce a book whose pictures, by pen and pencil, may perchance direct the attention of readers of all classes to scenes of absorbing sacred interest.

Things were beginning to change in Palestine during the mid-1800s, but at that point the Holy Land still looked more like the primitive culture it was in biblical times than like the modern country it became in the 1900s. You almost see the transformation taking place in the following excerpt from Porter's work ...


The road from Joppa to Jerusalem is the best in Palestine; in fact it may be said to be the only road in the country, for all others are merely bridle-paths, sometimes more like goat-tracks. The present road, thanks to French influence and money, is fit for wheeled conveyances, though the drive will call forth many a groan from those of delicate frames or weak nerves. But the scenery is fine; and the villages, people, ruins, and historic associations are sufficient to draw away the attention from physical discomfort. At first we wind through gardens of vegetables and groves of fruit-trees. Many imposing houses have recently been built; and we have all around us evidences of active life and reviving prosperity. Colonists from America, Germany, and even from Egypt, have settled here, attracted by a soil of unsurpassed fertility and a grand climate. Nowhere in the world are the orange-groves more luxuriant or the fruit of finer flavour. As we pass along we may notice the Egyptians at work in the fields, with their yokes of oxen and their ploughs so rude and primitive in design that it might be supposed they had come down unchanged from the days of Abraham. The ploughman, too, carries his goad—a weapon apparently better fitted for a lancer than a peaceful husbandman. After examining the size and make of one of those goads, I did not think the story of the sacred historian so very wonderful, that Shamgar, the Israelitish judge of old, should have slain six hundred men with an ox-goad.

To read more of the work, you can see an excerpt on by going here (for a high-resolution image) or here (for a low-resolution image). This image, about 90 other images, and the entire 170 pages of text from Jerusalem, Bethany, and Bethlehem are available here for only $15 (with free shipping). Additional images from the book can be seen here, here, and here (note that images from other historical works are shown on those pages as well).


Tuesday, October 08, 2013

New Moody Atlas—Translated

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

About four years ago, we were happy to see the arrival of Barry Beitzel's revised atlas, The New Moody Atlas of the Bible.

And now, this year, the atlas has been translated into Dutch, Italian, and German—for those who know a missionary, a mother-in-law who does not speak English, an overseas pen-pal, or a graduate student who has to learn foreign languages. (This list is not exhaustive. Some humor is intended.)

The newest translation which just appeared is the German Großer Atlas zur Bibel for €49,95. (Note that the link is to Amazon Germany, not Amazon USA.)

For the Dutch speaker/reader in your life, there is De grote Bijbelatlas for €35,28. (Note that the link is to Amazon Germany, not Amazon USA.)

For those seeking Italian, there is Nuovo atlante biblico (we could not find a link for ordering).

In the coming months, we have heard that the atlas will also be translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, and Chinese.


Saturday, October 05, 2013

Weekend Roundup

A life-size statue of Ramses II was uncovered this week in Tell Basta in Egypt. The article does not note that Tell Basta is likely the site of biblical Bubastis (Ezek 30:17).

Israel has halted the auctioning of stolen Egyptian artifacts.

Ferrell Jenkins reports on recent vandalism in the Protestant Cemetery on Mount Zion.

Mark Hoffman has now shared his Google Earth Exercise for Biblical Geography (see here for the Google Maps Exercise).

The Encyclopedia of Ancient History (13 vols.) is reviewed by John Vanderspoel.

“In Israel, Dig Beneath the Headline for Archaeological Truth.” There are important things to be said concerning the sensationalism of archaeology and the truth of the Bible, but you won’t find them in this article at The Media Line.

Lucas L. Schulte will be lecturing on “Archeology of the Lands of the Bible: Illuminating Nehemiah” on Oct. 22, 4:30 p.m. at the Dumke Commons of Occidental College.

Wayne Stiles explains why you should send your pastor to Israel.

Aren Maeir reviews The Archaeology of Israelite Society in Iron Age II, by Avraham Faust.

“The British Museum and US-based Penn Museum are collaborating on the creation of a web resource to display archaeologist Leonard Woolley’s Mesopotamian excavations from 1922-34.”

An op-ed in the LA Times argues that if you want to protect Syria’s antiquities, don’t buy them.

Today you can purchase the HCSB Study Bible on Kindle for just $2.99. The work includes several of our photos.

HT: Jack Sasson

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Friday, October 04, 2013

Replica of King Tut’s Tomb Planned To Save Original

From UPI:

Egypt says an exact replica of the tomb of Tutankhamun will be installed near the 3,000-year-old original to divert tourists away from the threatened site.

Officials said they hope the $675,000 project will prolong the life of the original tomb while maintaining sustainable tourism in a country where many ancient archaeological sites are under severe threat.

Tutankhamun's tomb, in Luxor's Valley of the Kings, is one of many burial sites deteriorating from the impact of years of tourism, while restoration efforts will likely to make the problem worse, they said.

"The attempt to fix the tombs to make them visitable is itself now the largest long-term risk to the tombs," said Adam Lowe, whose firm Factum Arte, based in Spain, led and funded the creation of the tomb's replica.

The full story is here. The price of visiting Tut’s tomb has long been many times the cost of visiting other bigger and better tombs, and I recommending skipping Tut in favor of the pharaohs who ruled much longer. The Cairo Museum has a large display of items discovered in Tut’s tomb.

HT: Jack Sasson

Tutankhamun gold coffin, tb110900522

Gold coffin of King Tutankhamen

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Thursday, October 03, 2013

Picture of the Week: Sheep with Tails

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

A few years ago while I was in grad school, one of my classmates did a presentation that included a discussion of sheep in the Ancient Near East. She learned something about sheep that surprised her very much ... She was shocked to learn that sheep have tails!

It is a common practice in many parts of the world to remove a sheep's tail while it is young. This is done to prevent "flystrike" where flies will deposit their eggs in "stuff" that gets caught in the tail which later causes serious health issues for the sheep. (I'll spare you the gory details, but if you would care to learn more you can go here or here ... just don't read it while you're eating.) Consequently, many people in the world have never seen a sheep with a tail before, including my classmate. So our picture of the week comes from Volume 17 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and features ... you guessed it ... sheep with tails (click on photo to enlarge):

The tails on the sheep in that picture may be a little difficult to make out, so here's an image from The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection that shows a sheep's tail more clearly (you get two-for-one this week):

By the way, the sheep in that picture is about to be slaughtered (hence the knife).

So now that you have been enlightened that sheep even have tails, let's turn to a biblical text where these tails are mentioned. In Leviticus 3, Moses details the process for making a peace offering to the Lord. In verses 6 through 11, he describes the steps involved if this offering is a sheep:

If his offering for a sacrifice of peace offering to the Lord is an animal from the flock, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish. If he offers a lamb for his offering, then he shall offer it before the Lord, lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it in front of the tent of meeting; and Aaron's sons shall throw its blood against the sides of the altar. Then from the sacrifice of the peace offering he shall offer as a food offering to the Lord its fat; he shall remove the whole fat tail, cut off close to the backbone, and the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. And the priest shall burn it on the altar as a food offering to the Lord. (Lev. 3:9-11, ESV.)

The photo annotations included in Volume 17 of the PLBL provides the following information on the subject:

Native to Israel, the fat-tailed Awassi sheep is white with a brown or black head and feet. Their tails can weigh as much as 33 pounds on females and 22 pounds on males, and are similar to the humps of the camel in that they store nutrients in order to sustain the sheep in times of scarcity. Together with their high tolerance of heat and fast replacement of water, this enables them to survive in the desert climate of the Negev.

So once again we see that a single picture can go a long way in illuminating the biblical text. When you woke up this morning, you may not have even known that sheep have tails! But now you can see how the whole animal, from head to tail, was involved in making a peace offering to God back when the Tabernacle and Temple were still standing.

The top photograph and over 1,000 others are included in Volume 17 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, and is available here for $34 (with free shipping).
The bottom photograph and over 600 others are included in Volume 6 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection, and is available here for $20 (with free shipping).
For additional pictures and drawings of sheep from the PLBL and HVHL collections, see here, here, and here.


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Accordance for Windows

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

Accordance Bible Software has been one of the best Bible software packages for Mac users for almost 20 years. Today, Accordance announced the release of Accordance for Windows.
Native Code 
Accordance for Windows is fully native and does not require the use of an emulator. Our developers also chose not to use a compatibility layer, even though this would make it much easier to code for multiple platforms. Instead, Accordance for Windows is based entirely on native Windows code to ensure that Windows users experience the same speed and reliability that Mac users have enjoyed for almost 20 years. 
Fast & Efficient 
While we are on the topic of speed, Accordance for Windows is fast. Really fast. Even complex Greek and Hebrew searches deliver results that feel instantaneous. Even better, you do not need to buy a brand new computer with maxed out specs in order to experience this speed because Accordance for Windows is an efficient program that will not bog down your system. 
Backwards Compatible 
Accordance runs on many different versions of Windows. The full compatibility list includes Windows 8 (including the Surface Pro tablet), Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. 
Universal License 
All you need is one Accordance 10 license to run Accordance on up to five separate Windows, Mac, or iOS devices. If you already own Accordance 10 for Mac, no additional purchase is necessary to run Accordance 10 on your Windows PC. Just download the app, enter your user name and password, and begin downloading your Accordance modules.

The link takes you to videos about the Windows software and its features, as well as a FAQ. Accordance offers six packages (Starter, Bible Study, Original Languages, Essential, Advanced, and Ultimate) which range in price from $49.99 up to $1,999.99.

We take advantage of this opportunity also to remind readers that two volumes from the Historic Views of the Holy Land collection are available in Accordance: "Views That Have Vanished: The Photographs of David Bivin" and "The American Colony Collection."