Thursday, January 30, 2014

Picture of the Week: Mitylene

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

Our "obscure site" for the week is the Roman city of Mitylene, a city that Paul visited during his third missionary journey. (Click on the map above to see its location on an island off the coast of modern Turkey.)  If you don't remember reading about this city in the New Testament, don't feel too bad. It is only mentioned in passing and Paul spent less than a day there while he was traveling back to Jerusalem. Perhaps the best way to remember it is to tie it to the story of Eutychus.

Eutychus was the young man (or boy) who fell asleep while listening to Paul preach late into the night. Unfortunately, Eutychus was sitting in a window sill and fell to the ground from the third floor after he dozed off. Luke writes that he was "picked up dead" (Acts 20:9, NASB). But fortunately Paul miraculously brought him back to life (Acts 20:10-12). This happened in Troas on the western shore of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). Paul left Troas the next day, walked twenty miles to the city of Assos, and then boarded a ship where Luke was waiting for him. Luke continues the story by saying:

And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene. Sailing from there, we arrived the following day opposite Chios; and the next day we crossed over to Samos; and the day following we came to Miletus. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 20:14-16, NASB)

So only a few days after raising Eutychus, we find Paul in Mitylene. This passage makes clear that Paul was quickly moving through this territory and it is not even clear that he set foot on the island of Lesbos where this city is located. Consequently, the city finds itself on our list of "obscure sites in the Pictorial Library of the Holy Land" instead of prominently displayed on the BiblePlaces website along with Samos, Miletus, and Ephesus.

In the image above, you can see the modern city of Mitylene through the window of a medieval castle that sits on the city's peninsula. This peninsula is actually man-made, similar to the one at Tyre. The castle sits on what was once an island that stood a short distance from the shore. At some point in the city's history, a causeway was constructed from the shore to the island, and subsequently two harbors were formed (one of which probably sheltered Paul's ship during the night he was there). The ancient city was inhabited from about 1200 B.C. until A.D. 151 when it was destroyed by an earthquake. In addition to the apostle Paul, the city also played host to Aristotle and Epicurus during its long history.

Now, you probably did not get up this morning and expect to read a blog post about the obscure city of Mitylene or the biblical story of Paul and Eutychus, but this post illustrates an interesting phenomenon ... We are curious creatures and images have a way of drawing us into a story. They lead us to want to know more. If you are a teacher, a preacher, a professional in the corporate world ... someone who stands up in front of people and delivers information verbally ... you should take note of this and use it to your advantage. We live in a visual culture. We also live in a generation that has resources which previous generations could only dream of, if they could imagine them at all. We have at our fingertips photographs and illustrations of places and things all over the world! So the next time you stand up to talk about obscure (or not-so-obscure) topics, start with a photograph. Draw your listeners in by using an image as a springboard to your discussion. Equip yourself with collections such as the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, Historic Views of the Holy Land, or something similar that exists in your field of expertise. Then use people's natural curiosity to lead them where you want them to go. Once you have their attention, you can take them anywhere.

This photo is available in Volume 12 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and is available here for $24 (with free shipping). This volume focuses on the Greek Islands, and includes the islands of Samothrace, Samos, Patmos, Cos, Rhodes, and others.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Artifact of the Month: The Merneptah Stela

(Posted by Michael J. Caba)

This month’s artifact is an engraved slab of granite that is more than ten feet tall. It was discovered in 1896 in Western Thebes, Egypt by Sir Flinders Petrie and it contains the oldest* certain reference to “Israel” outside of the Bible. It is commonly referred to as the Merneptah Stela and the text was carved c. 1210 BC in hieroglyphs under the auspices of Pharaoh Merneptah.  It is now located in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and the word "Israel" is in the darkened section in the second line from the bottom that can be seen more clearly by clicking on the photo to enlarge it. 

The wording on the stela is hymnic in nature and recounts the military exploits of Pharaoh Merneptah, especially against the Libyans. Indeed, of the 28 lines of inscribed text, 23 deal with the Libyan conflict. It is only in the later part of the inscription that Israel is mentioned, and in this regard the Israelites are referred to with the language designating them as an ethnic group instead of a settled nation state. This description is fully in line with the Biblical portrayal of the Israelites during the era of the Judges, which represents them as a  people group lacking in central leadership and without a capital city.  
(Photo: Significant resource for further study: The Context of Scripture, Volume 2, page 40-41.)
*The Berlin Pedestal may contain a reference to Israel that is older than the Merneptah Stela. See:  Israel in Canaan (Long) Before Pharaoh Merenptah? A Fresh Look at Berlin Statue Pedestal Relief 21687. Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections 2.4: 15–25.

Israel Tourist Statistics

The latest Caspari Center Media Review includes a brief summary from the Hebrew-language Yerushalayim Shelanu of tourism to Israel in 2012.

56% of the 2.88 million tourists who visited Israel were Christian. Of these, 90% visited Jerusalem, 68% visited the Dead Sea, 62% visited Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee, and 60% visited Bethlehem. Most Christian tourists come from Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Poland, Mexico, Russia, Romania, and Nigeria.

A photo of a flock of tourists all wearing floppy orange hats would fit right here.


Monday, January 27, 2014

IWC Spring 2014 Lecture Series

In my estimation, perhaps the most interesting lecture series related to biblical archaeology is that held each year by the International Women’s Club at Tel Aviv University. They bring in outstanding lecturers who discuss topics of broad interest.

This year’s theme is “In the Eye of the Storm—‘Jerusalem in History and Archaeology Through the Ages.’” The schedule is as follows:

February 18: Dr. Gabriel Barkay, Jerusalem of Kings and Prophets

February 25: Prof. Avraham Faust, Jerusalem and Sennacherib: The City, before, during, and after the Assyrian Campaign of 701 BCE

March 4: Dr. Joe Uziel, Recent Excavations in Jerusalem and Their Importance for Understanding the First Temple City

March 11: Dr. Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg, “The Hezekiah Tunnel.” How Was It Built and Why Was It Built?

March 18: Dr. Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg, The History and Archaeology of the Book of Esther

March 25: Dr. Guy Shtibel, “By Far the Most Famous City of the East” - Herod and Jerusalem

April 1: Dr. Guy Shtibel, The Eagle and the Flies - The Roman Siege of Jerusalem

April 8: Dr. Guy Shtibel, “Between Two Cities” - From Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina

April 29: Dr. Yonatan Adler, Mikva'ot (Ritual Baths) in Late Hellenistic and Early Roman Jerusalem

May 13: Dr. Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, Jerusalem (Aelia Capitolina) in the Roman Period: The Foundation of the Roman Colony and the Bar-Kokhba Revolt

May 20: Dr. Oren Gutfeld, From Aelia Capitolina to Hagia Polis Hierosalima: Changes in the Urban Layout of Jerusalem

June 10: Mr. Perez Reuven, The Umayyad Building Project on the Temple Mount and Its Environs

Individual lectures cost 50 NIS; the entire series is 400 NIS. The lectures will be held 9-11:30 am in the Gilman Building, Room 282, Tel Aviv University. A flyer with contact details is available here.

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Weekend Roundup

Excavations in Hebron have already revealed an Iron Age house, artifacts from the 10th century, and Second Temple period items.

Nadav Shragai writes in Israel HaYom on recent Temple Mount discoveries that have not been publicized.

Plans are underway for a new museum at Petra.

The Rapid City Journal recounts how a collection of cuneiform tablets came to be in the collection of Black Hills State University in South Dakota.

National Geographic presents “Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology,” a new exhibition coming to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

Ferrell Jenkins has posted several entries recently in his Visualizing Isaiah series: a skirt of sackcloth, trusting in horses and chariots, and a booth in a vineyard.

Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo has welcomed a new male lion to replace the one who died last year.

ASOR has a roundup of stories from around the world.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Charles Savelle, Jack Sasson

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Lecture Series: History and Archaeology of the Three Jerusalems

The American Jewish University in Bel Air, California, is hosting the Simmons Family Charitable Foundation’s Twenty-Fifth Annual Program in Biblical Archaeology on Sunday, February 16, 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. The registration fee is $55. The schedule includes the following lectures:

Carol Bakhos, The Idea of Jerusalem in the Hearts of Those Who Call Out “Lord” or “Allah” or “Adonai”

Shimon Gibson, Christian Jerusalem: From Constantine the Great in the 4th Century to Emperor Heraclius in the 7th Century

Shimon Gibson, Jerusalem under the Moslems: from Caliph Omar to Saladin

Gabriel Barkay, When the Second Temple Stood

Gabriel Barkay, The Footprints of Kings in Jerusalem

The website includes more details about each lecture and provides a link for online registration. Gibson and Barkay are both excellent lecturers, and Jerusalem is a fascinating subject.

HT: G. M. Grena

Dome of the Rock, mat06204

The Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque, early 1900s 
Photo from the American Colony Collection

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Picture of the Week: Cenchrea

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

Our "obscure site" for the week was the location of a famous haircut.  Acts 18:18 tells us, "After this, Paul stayed many days longer [in Corinth] and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow." (ESV)

The city of Cenchrea (or Cenchreae) was a port city near the Corinthian isthmus in Greece.  Paul was on his second missionary journey and had just completed his 18-month stay in the city of Corinth.  When he passed through Cenchrea, he was reaching the end of his journey.  After this, he made a short stop at Ephesus, and then continued on to Caesarea, Jerusalem, and finally Antioch where he started his journey.  Cenchrea is also mentioned in Romans 16:1 where Paul mentions a lady named Phoebe who served the church in that city.

In the photograph below you can see the harbor of Cenchrea. This city served as the eastern port of Corinth, which explains why Paul passed through here on his way back to Jerusalem and Antioch.

John McRay, in his book Archaeology and the New Testament, provides the following information about Cenchrea:

Virtually nothing has been found of the main city of Cenchreae, which lay northwest of the harbor, because during five seasons of excavation from 1963 to 1968 the government restricted work to the harbor except in 1966. ... The picturesque harbor thus far excavated, dates to the Roman period. ... The Roman harbor originally contained about 1600 feet of shoreline and was 98,000 square feet. In comparison with other Greek and Roman harbors, this one was rather small .... Two large breakwaters, were constructed around a natural bay. The modern shore is about 7.5 feet lower than during New Testament times, due to seismic activity. The harbor's breakwaters or moles are completely submerged. Pottery and coins give evidence to a city whose commercial life, prosperity, and general status was inextricably tied to Corinth's. Almost all the coins uncovered have been of Greek mintage or from the eastern Mediterranean, confirming that Cenchrea's commercial significance was the link it provided between Corinth and the east.

It is unfortunate that further excavations of the site have not been allowed, but that probably explains why we have not yet found the hair that was cut from Paul's head. ;-)

This map and photograph, along with over 800 other images, are available in Volume 11 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, which can be purchased here for $34 (with free shipping).  Another photograph of the harbor at Cenchrea can be seen here on the BiblePlaces website. Ferrell Jenkins has a picture of the harbor available on his blog here. For other posts in our series on "obscure sites in the PLBL," see here.

The excerpt is taken from John McRay, Archaeology and the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991), pp. 336-337.

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Byzantine Basilica Discovered near Kiryat Gat

Archaeologists in Israel revealed an impressive Byzantine church building with beautiful mosaic pavements at Moshav Aluma near Kiryat Gat. The site is in the eastern coastal plain, about 10 miles (16 km) east of Ashkelon and 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Jerusalem.

The director of the Israel Antiquities Authority excavations, Daniel Varga, describes the structure in a press release issued by the IAA:

An impressive basilica building was discovered at the site, 22 meters long and 12 meters wide. The building consists of a central hall with two side aisles divided by marble pillars. At the front of the building is a wide open courtyard (atrium) paved with a white mosaic floor, and with a cistern. Leading off the courtyard is a rectangular transverse hall (narthex) with a fine mosaic floor decorated with colored geometric designs; at its center, opposite the entrance to the main hall, is a twelve-row dedicatory inscription in Greek containing the names Mary and Jesus, and the name of the person who funded the mosaic's construction.

The press release gives more detail of the mosaic floor:

The main hall (the nave) has a colored mosaic floor adorned with vine tendrils to form forty medallions. The medallions contain depictions of different animals, including: zebra, leopard, turtle, wild boar, various winged birds and botanical and geometric designs. Three medallions contain dedicatory inscriptions in Greek commemorating senior church dignitaries: Demetrios and Herakles. The two were heads of the local regional church. On both sides of the central nave are two narrow halls (side aisles), which also have colored mosaic floors depicting botanical and geometric designs, as well as Christian symbols.

The site will be open to the public on Thursday and Friday (Jan 23–24) before the mosaics are removed for future display in a local museum. The church building itself will be buried. More information is available in the press release. The photos posted below are available via this link. Brief news articles have been published by the Jerusalem Post, Washington Post, and Times of Israel.

1Excavation of the Byzantine basilica at Moshav Aluma

2An excavation volunteer cleans the mosaic floor

3 (1)

Mosaic floor of the Byzantine basilica
All photos by Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Now Available: Edward Robinson’s Works on Logos

Logos Bible Software is offering a set of 8 volumes entitled “Classic Studies and Atlases on Biblical Geography.” What you need to know is that it includes the three volumes of Edward Robinson’s Biblical Researches in Palestine. The collection is now listed on the Community Pricing, which is always the most affordable way to purchase books from Logos. Once they receive enough orders, the price will jump up $100 or so. Now you can bid what you feel the set is worth.

For those who don’t know, Edward Robinson’s set is the seminal work on historical geography of the land of Israel. Robinson and his student Eli Smith traveled throughout Palestine in 1838 with a goal of locating ancient sites, primarily on the basis of name preservation. I have a couple of sets of this work, including one original edition from 1841. I once began creating an electronic edition, but other matters came in the way and it was set aside. Now you can purchase this at an attractive price. (And, yes, Google Books has long had this for free, but what you save in money you’ll pay for in the headache of trying to sort out the volumes from various editions that do not go together.)

I do wish that Logos would add to this collection the fourth volume, Later Biblical Researches in Palestine (1856). This was based on a later trip that Robinson and Smith made to answer some outstanding questions.

The other titles included:

Once upon a time, I created a list of the best resources by 19th-century explorers of Palestine.

You can put in your bid here. And here is another collection of similar works, but no longer at the attractive Community Pricing.

HT: Charles Savelle

Robinson's Arch with new excavations, db6806245201

Robinson’s Arch in Jerusalem, named for Edward Robinson
Photo by David Bivin


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Weekend Roundup

Noah Wiener has a follow-up article on the spring tunnel discovered in the Rephaim Valley. He includes a great photo of the tunnel.

Zachi Zweig disagrees with Leen Ritmeyer’s dating of the newly revealed course of ashlar stones on the Temple Mount. He dates it to the Early Islamic period.

A woman has turned over to the IAA a large collection of pottery discovered by a relative in the Mediterranean Sea.

The winter dig at Khirbet el-Maqatir began in the snow. They spent several weeks excavating three caves.

The ancient Myceneans once used portable grills at their picnics.

Archaeologists have discovered grain from the Neolithic period at Çatalhöyük.

The report for the 2013 excavation season at Tall el-Hammam is now online.

The first two volumes of NGSBA Archaeology are available for download. (NGSBA = Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology.)

Just published: The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Levant: c. 8000-332 BCE, edited by Margreet L. Steiner and Ann E. Killebrew. Oxford University Press. 912 pages. $165.

Wayne Stiles explains how to make the maps in your Bible atlas fully searchable.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Tim Graham, Jack Sasson

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Picture of the Week: Myra

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

Our "obscure site" this week is mentioned only once in the Bible and almost in passing. However, it was the starting point of one of the most famous adventures of the apostle Paul.

In the first century, the city of Myra stood near the southern shores of western Asia Minor. It lies over two miles from the shore so it was closely associated with its port city of Andriace. In fact the harbor city was sometimes just referred to as Myra. The city and its harbor were most likely founded in the fifth century B.C. In the Roman period it was a key location along the trade route used by sailing vessels as they transported grain to Rome. The harbor of Myra was a staging ground where grain from Egypt would be transferred to boats that would carry it on to Rome. In fact, the boat that Paul boarded in Myra may very well have been one of these granary boats (see Acts 27:5-6, 38).

Paul visited Myra while he was a prisoner of the Romans, on his way to a trial before Caesar in Rome. The Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands, by Charles F. Pfeiffer and Howard F. Vos, provides the following description of what it would have been like to travel by boat from Caesarea to Myra like Paul did:

The westerly winds which favored the voyage from Patara or Myra to Tyre made the return voyage from Tyre to Myra an impossibility. The regular course for ships from Palestine or Phoenicia was northward past the east end of Cyprus and thence along the Asia Minor coast. Then, by means of ocean currents and land winds which blew off the coast, they made their way westward toward Myra. The voyage from Caesarea to Myra might be done in as short a time as ten days, but recorded trips over that route took as long as twenty days. Ships of the Roman grain fleet (on one of which Paul probably sailed) might take the same route if the winds required, but normally they sailed directly from Alexandria to Myra on the Lycian coast ...

In the photograph below, you can see the area where the ancient harbor once existed (it has since filled up with silt):

Pfeiffer and Vos provide the following details about Myra and its significance:

In Greek times Patara surpassed Myra, but in Roman times Myra, forty miles eat of Patara, became the chief seaport of Lycia. It grew especially as a result of the Alexandrian grain trade with Italy. Though Myra was located two and one-half miles up the Andracus River from the coast, the same name was often applied to its harbor, Andriaca.

There are several "obscure sites" that Paul passed on his journey to Rome. In future posts we will explore some of them.

This photo and map are available in Volume 10 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and is available here for $34 (with free shipping). This volume also includes the less obscure sites of Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamum. For other posts in our series on "obscure sites in the PLBL," see here.

The excerpts are taken from Charles F. Pfeiffer and Howard F. Vos, Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands (Chicago: Moody Press, 1967), p. 376.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Lecture in Dallas on Tel Burna

If you’re in the Dallas area this Friday, you might want to stop in for a free lecture on Tel Burna (possibly biblical Libnah) at Dallas Theological Seminary. The announcement gives location details but is not clear who is giving the lecture. I think it is Chris McKinny, one-time writer of our popular “Secret Places” series. (We’re hoping we see Chris back around these parts before too long!)

Ceramic mask fragment discovered at Tel Burna

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Lecture Series: "Assyria in Israel, Judea, and the Levant"

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

The University of Chicago's Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion is sponsoring a three-part lecture series on "Assyria in Israel, Judea, and the Levant."

The first lecture presented by Irene Winter (Harvard University, emerita) is on February 11 (Tuesday). No title is yet provided for this lecture.

The second lecture by David Wright (Brandeis University) on "The Covenant Code Appendix (Exodus 23:20–33) and Assyrian Royal Inscriptions" will be given on February 26 (Wednesday).

The last lecture by Elizabeth Bloch-Smith (Saint Joseph's University) will address "The Assyrian Military Impact on the Ground and in Biblical Texts" on March 13 (Thursday).

The series will take place in the Divinity School's Swift Hall Common Room on the 1st floor. Lectures begin at 5:00pm and end at 6:30pm. The website for the lectures is here.

Relief from Sennacherib's palace in Nineveh depicting
the Assyrian siege of Lachish in the reign of Hezekiah.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Old Excavation Photos Sought!

There is a great opportunity for older archaeology enthusiasts to have their photographs preserved in the Non-Professional Archaeological Photographs-project. The team is particularly interested in photographs taken by students and volunteers in excavations prior to 1980. If you have some of these photos, or if you know someone who does, please get in touch with NPAPH Project as soon as you can.

The official website has lots of details. You can also check out their Facebook page. The trailer below describes their vision.

Some archives are already online for viewing:

Dan P. Cole Photo Collection – Shechem and Gezer

Gordion Expedition Collection – the ancient Phrygian capital

Leo Boer Photograph Collection, 1953-1954 – travels of a student

Others cover Italy, The Netherlands, and Guatemala.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Weekend Roundup

Leen Ritmeyer has photos and interpretation of the latest illegal excavations on the Temple Mount. Ritmeyer suspects the revealed wall line may be the northern boundary of the 500-meter square pre-Herodian Temple Mount.

New excavations began at Tel Hebron this week.

Gershon Galil has translated the earliest Jerusalem alphabetic inscription be a reference to “wine part.”

Some rare fabrics dyed with extract from the murex shell have been discovered. The three colors found “represent the most prestigious colors in antiquity: indigo, purple and crimson.”

A couple of Top Discoveries of 2013 have been posted: Gordon Govier (Christianity Today) and Noah Wiener (Biblical Archaeology Society).

In 2012, from time to time I surveyed excavation reports published by the Israel Antiquities Authority. I did not have time for that in 2013, but you can peruse the list here.

Scholars are using Google Earth to trace ancient trade routes around Antioch of Syria.

Currently on exhibition at the Israel Museum: Mapping the Holy Land II: Cartographic Treasures from the Trevor and Susan Chinn Collection.

Logos Bible Software has a pre-publication sale on Biblical Archaeologist/Near Eastern Archaeology 1992–2011 ($140).

Timothy Valentino has written an outstanding eulogy for Professor David A. Dorsey.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson, Charles Savelle

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Royal Water System Excavated in Judean Hills

Some intrigue surrounded the recent discovery of a well-preserved Israelite proto-Aeolic capital when the tour guide who stumbled across it reported that the authorities told him to keep silent about it, ostensibly for political reasons. For the background and photos, see this report from last April.

This week a story in Arutz-7 claims that the secret location will be revealed next Friday. The article begins:

The location of a major archaeological find that was kept secret until now will be revealed to the public on Friday, next week. The find is being touted as a royal castle that could have belonged to Israel's most celebrated king – the Bible's King David.

There are several problems with this sensational report: (1) this type of architecture in Judah dates to several centuries after the time of David; (2) the impressive proto-Aeolic capital is in a water system and evidence of a palace is so far lacking; (3) the location has already been published in D. Ein-Mor and Z. Ron, “An Iron Age Royal Tunnel Spring in the Region of Nahal Rephaim,” in G. Stiebel et al., eds., New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region, 2013. An abbreviated version is available online in Hadashot Arkheologiyot. (This reference comes from Zachi Dvira, via Joseph Lauer.)

It is possible that by overreaching in claims, the media may obscure the true significance of this discovery. Rather than speak of palaces and David, the comparison should rather be made with Hezekiah’s Tunnel.

(1) Both of these tunnels are water systems that bring water from a spring to a storage pool. (2) These are two of the longest underground water channels in the Judean hills, with Hezekiah’s Tunnel running 1,750 feet and the new one at ‘Ain Joweizeh running about 700 feet. (3) Both date to about the 8th century BC, with the date of the ‘Ain Joweizeh tunnel coming from a comparative analysis of other proto-Aeolic capitals found in Judah and Jordan. (4) Both seem to have royal connections, with the Siloam Inscription in Jerusalem and the royal architecture at ‘Ain Joweizeh.

What was the purpose of the ‘Ain Joweizeh tunnel? The excavators suggest that it may have been connected to “an estate or royal palace similar to Ramat Rahel here during the eighth–seventh centuries BCE; another possibility is a settlement from this period that is mostly buried beneath the farming terraces covering the ravine.” Presumably significant features are not visible on the surface and the excavators did not have the time to begin a large-scale excavation of the area. The proximity of the site to the security wall may complicate present or future attempts at excavation.

The site is located 5.5 miles (9 km) southwest of the Old City of Jerusalem, 3.5 miles (5.5 km) northwest of Bethlehem, and just down the slope to the west of Har Gilo. The map below shows the site circled in red.


Western environs of Jerusalem
Map from the Survey of Western Palestine (1881)


Western environs of Jerusalem
Screenshot from Google Earth

Location map and plan of the spring based on Marcus and Ben-Yosef and Ron. Image from Hadashot Arkheologiyot

Proto-Aeolic capital in location
Image from Hadashot Arkheologiyot

Reconstruction of proto-Aeolic capital
Image from Hadashot Arkheologiyot

Another image showing the inside of the tunnel itself is posted at Maariv. (HT: Joseph Lauer)

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Thursday, January 09, 2014

Picture of the Week: Catalhoyuk

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

After a holiday break, we are back with the next installment of our series on "obscure sites in the PLBL." Today we will be focusing on the Neolithic site of Catalhoyuk in central Turkey. Like many archaeological sites, at first glance this location looks like a normal hill.  But there is much more than meets the eye...

The PLBL provides the following general information about the site in the PowerPoint annotations:

Çatalhöyük (Catal Hoyuk, Catal Huyuk) is located in the Konya Plain, about 21 miles (37 km) southeast of Konya (ancient Iconium). It is the largest Neolithic site that has been discovered and is very well-preserved. The site consists of two flat mounds, a large mound to the east and a smaller mound to the west. The mounds are said to resemble the shape of a fork, hence the name of the site (çatal is Turkish for fork). The eastern mound of Catalhoyuk rises 65 feet (21 m) above the surrounding plain and covers an area of 32 acres (13 ha). Thirteen occupational strata have been excavated dating to the Neolithic period, the earliest of which dated to ca. 7200 BC and the latest to ca. 5500 BC. The town had a population of up to 8,000 people.

And the surface of the tell is nothing to write home about, as you can see in the photograph below.

However, there are some striking features about this site. As the archaeologists dug into the tell, they discovered a city that was comprised of houses connected to houses with no streets. It appears that the inhabitants of the city walked over the flat roofs of the houses to get from one end of town to the other! Below is a photograph of some of the excavations being conducted at the site. (You get two-for-one this week.)

Again we turn to the annotations in the PLBL for more information:

Catalhoyuk is made up of domestic dwellings packed together without any streets. The people moved about on the roofs of the houses and entered the houses through holes using ladders. The houses were made of mudbrick and the interiors were plastered and decorated with murals. Houses typically consisted of two rooms with raised platforms along the walls.... An oven was often located near the ladder, beneath the hole in the roof. Throughout the town, there are a number of large courts.

So the next time you are tempted to complain about your neighbor's kids playing too loud in the backyard or the high volume of traffic that passes in front of your house, just be grateful that you don't live in the ancient city of Catalhoyuk where your neighbors would have walked on your roof on their way to work.

These photographs and annotations are available in Volume 9 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and is available here for $34 (with free shipping). Other photographs from this volume can be seen here, here, and here.

A helpful video that shows a reconstructed time lapse of how the city was built and the ruins were formed can be found here.

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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Roads of Arabia in Houston

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

We have been following the journey of the "Roads of Arabia" exhibition since its opening in 2011. (Previous posts can be seen here, here, and here.) It is now being shown at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, until March 9. An article in the Houston Chronicle describes the exhibit and provides hi-resolution images of some of the highlights. Further information can be found at the Museum of Fine Arts website and at the Roads of Arabia exhibition website.
Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia examines the impact of ancient trade routes that traversed the Arabian Peninsula, carrying precious frankincense and myrrh to Mesopotamia and the Greco-Roman world and allowing for a vibrant exchange of both objects and ideas. With the later rise of Islam, pilgrimage roads converged on Mecca and gradually replaced the well-traveled incense roads.

This unparalleled exhibition features objects excavated from more than 10 archaeological sites throughout the peninsula. Among the works on view are alabaster bowls and fragile glassware, heavy gold earrings, and monumental statues. These objects testify to the lively mercantile and cultural exchange between the Arabs and their neighbors, including the Egyptians, Syrians, Babylonians, and Greco-Romans.

The surprising discoveries on display in Roads of Arabia open a new window onto the culture and economy of this ancient civilization. The unprecedented assembly made its U.S. debut at the Smithsonian Institution’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in 2012 before traveling to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. An earlier version of the show was exhibited in Barcelona, Berlin, Paris, and Saint Petersburg.

 Sandstone statue of Lihyanite ruler from Al-Ula.
4th-3rd centuries B.C.


Tuesday, January 07, 2014

David Dorsey, 1949-2014

David Dorsey, longtime professor of Old Testament at Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown, Pennsylvania, died last week. The local newspaper carries his obituary and the seminary website provides his faculty profile. Carl Rasmussen shares some personal reminiscences on his blog.

The first I heard of Dr. Dorsey was in a class with Anson Rainey. He described one of his students who purchased a motorcycle so he could drive throughout the country, studying the sites and roads. One result of his dedication was the discovery of biblical Makkedah, location of the cave where five Canaanite kings hid from Joshua (Josh 10:16).

1 View of Kh el Qom from W--view E, with caves on left dd

Makkedah of Joshua 10.
Photo by David Dorsey.

This research led to Dr. Dorsey’s dissertation on The Roads and Highways of Ancient Israel, published by Johns Hopkins in 1991. This work is the standard reference on the subject and I’ve benefited it from it in numerous ways. One of my dissertation readers had little to say in one of his passes through my early chapters, but of all the works he could have chastised me for neglecting, the one he chose was Dorsey’s book. While all who knew Dr. Dorsey could testify to the impact that Israel had on his life, Dr. Dorsey forever left his mark on historical geography of ancient Israel through this book.

Another way that Dr. Dorsey changed lives was through his trips to Israel. His passion brought many to Israel and some caught the bug and returned. One of those became a close friend to my wife and me more than 20 years ago and she served our students at IBEX for more than 10 years. Without Dr. Dorsey’s vision and work, many hundreds would have missed out from just this one relationship.

On a family vacation several years ago, I asked Dr. Dorsey if we might visit with him. He and his wife Jan provided the warmest possible welcome and while our kids swam in the backyard, they shared with us their lives, treasures, and dreams. It was a splendid day and I left with the desire to imitate Dr. Dorsey’s gracious spirit.

Several things remained. Dr. Dorsey had been long at work on a two-volume project on every law in the Old Testament from a Christian perspective. For years I have prayed weekly that the Lord would sustain his health to complete this project. Dr. Dorsey also had an extensive collection of photos from his motorcycle years, and while I included a handful in the recent edition of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, I wanted to reserve most of these for a separate collection in the future.

To many, Dr. Dorsey has been a model Old Testament scholar, an inspiring teacher in the classroom, and a faithful man of God. His departure is a tremendous loss.

Narrow Jabneel valley and cows (I was charged by bull!) dd

Jabneel Valley.
Photo by David Dorsey.


Monday, January 06, 2014

January Lectures

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

January 8, Wednesday, 7:00 pm
The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago presents a lecture by Hartmut Kühn on "The Collapse of the Assyrian Empire and the Evidence of Dur-Katlimmu." The event begins at 7:00pm. Registration is free and can be completed here.
The collapse of the Assyrian Empire was the prelude to the end of the Mesopotamian domination of the Ancient Near East in 539 BC to be followed by the Persian hegemony. The metropolitan core region of Assyria laid waste, as is known from extensive excavations in the Assyrian capitals; neither the Babylonian nor the Median successors cared for a reconstruction program. But how did the Assyrian home provinces survive the collapse? This poorly known chapter of history is now elucidated by the long term excavations at Tell Sheikh Hamad (Syria), the Assyrian provincial centre of Dur-Katlimmu. In historiography long thought to have vanished, the Assyrians prove to have lived on, as the archaeological evidence unmistakably demonstrates.

January 18, Saturday, 7:00 pm
The Lanier Theological Library is hosting a lecture by James K. Hoffmeier and Stephen O. Moshier on "Moses Did Not Sleep Here! A Critical Look at Some Sensational Exodus and Mt. Sinai Theories." Go here for more information and to register for the free event.
Over the past 10-15 years there have been a number of sensational ideas advanced for where and how the Red Sea crossing occurred as the Hebrews departed Egypt and where Mt. Sinai is located. Many of these are known from popular TV programs on the History, Learning, Discovery and National Geographic Channels. Some of these theories, such as the one that has the Israelites crossing the Gulf of Aqaba and landing in Saudi Arabia will be examined biblically, archaeologically (Hoffmeier) and geologically (Moshier). Was Mt. Sinai a volcano? Is there any basis for identifying Mt. Sinai with the traditional site, Gebel Musa? These and other questions will be treated, using film clips, slides and maps.

 Jebel Musa, traditional Mt. Sinai.