Sunday, March 26, 2017

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

Haaretz (premium): “Archaeologists in Rome have uncovered the [very fragmentary] remains of a second triumphal arch dedicated to the emperor Titus and his success in putting down the Great Revolt of the Jews in the first century C.E.”

“The remains of a huge Roman temple, the size of St Paul's Cathedral in London has been found by a Cambridge University archaeological team in central Italy.”

Philippe Bohstrom has written an interesting and well-illustrated article on the Greek site of Poseidonia (Paestum) in southern Italy.

“The location where the Greek naval forces had gathered before the historic sea battle of Salamis against Persians in 480 BC has been discovered.”

“A unique statue, possibly of Queen Tiye, the wife of King Amenhotep III and grandmother of King Tutankhamun, has been unearthed at her husband’s funerary temple in Kom El-Hittan on Luxor's west bank.”

The intact tomb of the brother of a 12th Dynasty Elephantine governor has been uncovered, containing a range of funerary goods.”

Antiquities dealers in the US imported $100 million in artifacts from Egypt and Turkey last year.

In order to thwart the plundering of antiquities, Syrian archaeologists have begun painting their treasures with a clear, traceable liquid.

The New York Times previews the new “Mummies” exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.

The ABWG has a roundup of links for Awards for Books in Classics, Ancient Near East, and Antiquity.

HT: Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Steven Anderson, Agade, Joseph Lauer

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Archaeologists working along Highway 1 near Abu Ghosh discovered a cache of bronze coins from the time of the Persian invasion in AD 614.

A study of a core sample from 1,500 feet below the floor of the Dead Sea points to lengthy droughts in the past.

With Easter approaching, the IAA gave reporters a tour of its storage facility. Haaretz goes with the sensational headline.

For two more articles on this week’s story about the edicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, see The New York Times and National Geographic. The latter includes some terrific photos.

Carl Rasmussen highlights a video that allegedly shows the original stone wall of Jesus’s tomb inside the edicule.

A World of Emotions: The Making of an Exhibition” describes the new exhibit at the Onassis Center in New York. Many photos are included.

Bible History Today has a preview of “Where Are the Royal Archives at Tel Hazor?” from the latest issue of BAR.

Philip F. Esler writes about the ancient Jewish woman that we know the most about: Babatha.

Timothy Lim explains what we know about the Dead Sea Scrolls 70 years after the initial discovery.

Wayne Stiles reveals how the events at Shechem teach us how to live more faithful lives.

HT: Gordon Franz, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Jared Clark, Agade, Joseph Lauer

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Holy Sepulcher Edicule, Restored but Now in Danger of Collapse

The iron cage holding together the edicule built over the traditional tomb of Jesus has been removed in time for the Easter celebrations, but now scientists are warning that the structure is in danger of collapsing because the foundation is built on rubble.

From Daily Mail:

The team that led the recent restoration work said the foundations are so shaky that they could suddenly give way.

'When it fails, the failure will not be a slow process, but catastrophic,' Antonia Moropoulou, from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), told National Geographic.


Parts of the Edicule rest on steep and sloping bedrock was once the site of an ancient quarry, and the foundation mortar of the tomb has crumbled after decades of moisture exposure.

The survey also pinpointed secret tunnels and channels that run directly beneath the Edicule.


But the researchers are now calling for another $6.5million (£5.2million) to fix the fractured foundations surrounding the Edicule.

They plan to remove the precarious stone paving surrounding the Edicule and excavate the 1,000-foot site underneath to install new sewage and rainwater drainage.

The article includes more of the history of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and many great photos from today’s unveiling.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Conference: Jesus in His Context

I’ve recommended this before, but I wanted to do so again before the early bird price ends in a few weeks. The three-day conference is being held in Zeeland, Michigan on June 12-14. You can see the faculty and conference schedule here. I expect it will be a unique conference, with lots of discussion-provoking presentations about fascinating details in the Gospels. I look forwarding to seeing some old friends and meeting others for the first time. You can register here.

The Institute of Biblical Context


Monday, March 20, 2017

The Longest Stone in the Temple Mount

Those interested in the Temple Mount in Jerusalem are probably aware that the largest stone is visible on a tour of the “Western Wall Tunnels.” This massive monolith is located just south of Warren’s Gate and measures 43.4 feet (13.55 m) long. There is, however, a longer stone that was discovered only recently.

Western Wall with largest Herodian stone, tb123109463

Largest (known) stone in the Temple Mount

In Eilat Mazar’s survey of The Walls of the Temple Mount (reviewed here), she identified an even longer stone, and it has been seen by dozens of archaeologists and thousands of visitors for many years without its significance being realized.

The longest stone in the Temple Mount is in the photo below. Can you spot it?

Robinson's Arch from west, tb050312430

The pier of Robinson’s Arch

Eilat Mazar determined that the second course of Robinson’s Arch is actually a single stone. The break in the middle is simply a crack in a single stone, not the division between two stones. This stone beats out the other by 2.2 feet (0.7 m), measuring 45.6 feet (14.27 m) long. It is not nearly as tall, so the other retains its title as the largest.

Robinson's Arch from west, tb050312430-labeled

The pier of Robinson’s Arch with the longest stone identified

A final note: I learned about this discovery when preparing an essay for the recently released Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels, edited by Barry J. Beitzel. Image result for Lexham Geographic Commentary  on the GospelsThat essay, “Magnificent Stones and Wonderful Buildings of the Temple Complex,” provides more interesting details about the construction of the Temple and its surrounding structures. This commentary is included with purchase of a Logos 7 base package (silver and up). I plan to say more about this excellent work in the future. In the meantime, there’s a preview here, more details here, and a discussion group here. I’m told they plan to release the volume as a standalone digital work, with hopefully a printed book to follow.

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Archaeologists have discovered a Crusader ship that wrecked in the harbor of Acco.

A replica of a 2,500-year-old ship discovered at Ma’agan Michael launched yesterday from Haifa.

That colossus they recently dug up belongs not to Ramses II, but to Psamtik (Psammetichus) I of the 26th Dynasty.

High-tech imaging is revealing the text of erased and recycled parchments at St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai.

Carl Rasmussen has visited the Archaeology Museum of Nazareth and shares photos of Crusader capitals that depict scenes from the New Testament.

Philippe Bohstrom considers the problem of diving thieves who are looting antiquities from the ocean floor.

The Huis Marseille Museum of Photography in Amsterdam is hosting a spring exhibition about 19th-century photography in Egypt.

A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece, 700 BC – 200 AD has opened at the Onassis Cultural Center in New York.

The founder of Elad, the City of David Foundation, has been awarded the 2017 Israel Prize.

You can get caught up on what happened in the Gezer excavations last year by watching a 16-minute video.

How do you do math in Roman numerals?

After a successful fundraiser and launch of the initial episodes of “Following the Messiah,” Appian Media kicked off a new campaign to raise funds to complete the series. In the first few days, they’ve already raised more than half of their goal. You can pitch in here.

Jodi Magness will be lecturing on “The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls” at William Jessup University on March 23. You can register here.

This week’s program on The Book and the Spade is an interview with Clyde Billington entitled, “Dead Sea Scrolls and the Sinai Inscription.”

Wayne Stiles is leading a trip to Israel this fall and there’s an early-bird discount if you sign up soon.

HT: Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Agade, Joseph Lauer, Paleojudaica

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

A new McDonalds in Italy incorporates a 150-foot section of Roman road that dates to the 1st or 2nd centuries BC.

Film footage from excavations of Nineveh in the late 1920s and early 1930s has been digitized by the Royal Asiatic Society.

Carl Rasmussen asks if the house of Jesus has been found in Nazareth.

Shmuel Browns provides the history of Naharayim and its short-lived hydroelectric plant. Naharayim gets its name from the junction of two rivers: the Jordan and the Yarmuk.

Israel’s Good Name took a walking tour of the abandoned village of Lifta and shares many photos.

John DeLancey, director of Biblical Israel Ministries & Tours, is now offering a “Physical Settings of the Bible” weekend seminar for local churches.

Aren Maeir has posted the schedule for this week’s conference at Tel Aviv University entitled, “From Nomadism to Monarchy? ‘The Archaeology of the Settlement Period’—30 Years Later.”

The director of the Met has apparently been forced to resign.

ASOR’s March Fellowship Madness is underway and they are only $5,300 short of their $50,000 goal.

The Associates for Biblical Research have a $10,000 matching gift for the Shiloh Excavations for donations made this month.

We post a photo and verse/caption every weekday on Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram. If you’re on any of those, we invite you to follow us.

HT: Explorator, Joseph Lauer, Agade

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Archaeologists have excavated a dolmen on the Golan Heights that is unique because of its large size and artistic decorations. The capstone weighs about 50 tons. You can watch a 2-minute video here.

Two large pharaonic statues, believed to be from the 19th dynasty, have been found near the ruins of Ramses II’s temple in Heliopolis. Zahi Hawass has responded to criticism of the rescue work.

Haaretz (premium): “The long-lost wreck of a Crusader ship and sunken cargos dating to the 13th century C.E. have been found in the bay of the crusader stronghold city Acre, in northern Israel.”

The Sea of Galilee is at its lowest level in a century, and it's only March.

Here’s a short video of the Assyrian palace remains beneath the destroyed Tomb of Jonah.

Jordan’s Department of Antiquities has announced that the lead codices discovered in 2010 have “not been proven to be authentic so far.” James Davila provides a good review of why he (and others) rejects their authenticity.

The New York Times offers a guide to “make the most of the British Museum,” including sections on “5 Must-Sees,” “Off the Beaten Path,” and “Tips for Visiting.”

The Grand Egyptian Museum is scheduled to open in the middle of next year.

ISD has a sale on two multi-volume archaeology works: The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Archaeology, ed. Daniel M. Master (was $395; now $150); The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, ed. Neil Asher Silberman (was $595; now $99; sold out?).

The new Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible is for sale on Kindle now for $3.99.

Purim begins at sundown. You might want to grab the kids and read them the book of Esther. Or check out the Maccabeats’ interpretation.

HT: Explorator, Joseph Lauer, Agade, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Bill Soper

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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Roman Road Discovered near Elah Valley

Archaeologists have discovered a well-preserved Roman-period road in the Shephelah of Judah. Based on a milestone previously discovered with the name of Hadrian, they have dated the road to circa AD 130, though numismatic evidence may indicate a first-century date for the revealed section. The road was discovered during the process of laying a water pipeline to Jerusalem.

Roman road near Elah Valley, ws030817362

Stone construction of Roman road

The road is located near the junction of the “Chalk Moat” route running south from Beth Shemesh and the Elah Valley road that runs up into the Judean Hill Country towards Bethlehem and Jerusalem. On a modern map, the road is near the intersection of Highways 375 and 3855.

Satellite Bible Atlas 1.11, Roman road

Map from the Satellite Bible Atlas, with red circle identifying location of discovery

The Israel Antiquities Authority has determined that the road is about 20 feet (6 m) wide and one mile (1.6 km) long, but only 150 meters of the road have been exposed and will be preserved for visitors to view.

Roman road near Elah Valley aerial from south, ws030817228

Aerial view showing relationship of excavation to Highway 375 (foreground) and Highway 3855 (approaching from distance)

The ancient road was a spur that apparently connected the ruin of Khirbet Beit Natif on the hills north of the Elah Valley with the “Emperor’s Road.” This latter road was constructed in the time of Hadrian and ran from Bet Guvrin (ancient Eleutheropolis) through the Elah Valley near the newly discovered road and then up into the hills along the Hushah ridge.

Roman road near Elah Valley aerial from south, ws030817211

Aerial view of Roman road from the south

Ilan Ben Zion identifies Beit Natif as the first-century site of Bethletepha, “a town sacked by Vespasian’s army during the First Jewish Revolt, between 66 and 70 CE.”

Coins were discovered between the pavement stones that suggest a first-century date:

  • a coin of Pontius Pilate, dating to AD 29
  • a coin of Agrippa I, dating to AD 41 and minted in Jerusalem
  • a coin from Year 2 of the Jewish Revolt (AD 67)

Roman road near Elah Valley aerial from southeast, ws030817218

The Roman road (aerial view from the southeast)

All photos in this post were taken earlier today by Bill Schlegel. More photos from the IAA are posted here.

It’s too bad that when they laid a similar water pipeline along the Roman road to Emmaus from Jerusalem that they didn’t take steps to preserve it.

HT: Joseph Lauer, David Bivin

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Tuesday, March 07, 2017

The Edicule of the Holy Sepulcher Unwrapped

For the first time in 70 years, the iron cage around the edicule built over the traditional tomb of Jesus has been removed. The British Mandatory authorities installed the girders as a temporary measure in 1947 while church leaders squabbled over a restoration plan.

Alexander Schick was in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on Monday and took the photo below. The renovations are scheduled to be completed in time for Easter next month. The most recent story I see about the restoration is this one by Nir Hasson in Haaretz (premium) last week.


The edicule of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher


Sunday, March 05, 2017

The Destruction of the Road to Emmaus

David Bivin has long lived within close proximity of the Roman road that runs from Jerusalem to Emmaus. He has led a number of tours along this route as well, showing pilgrims the way that Jesus walked with two disciples on the day of his resurrection (Luke 24). I had the privilege of being on one of those tours about 20 years ago. But Bivin is no longer guiding these trips because these ancient remains are being gradually destroyed by neglect and construction projects.

This situation has been a burden for Bivin for some time now, and for years he has talked of writing an article to document the destruction, with hope that someone might listen and act. A few weeks ago he published just such an article, beginning with the identification of Emmaus, detailing the archaeological finds at the site, and then presenting evidence of the road’s deterioration.

The article is lavishly illustrated with maps, photos, videos, a chart, and several slideshows showing the conditions over from the last several decades.

He writes:

When I first became acquainted with the Roman road below Motza, some of the pavement and many of the curbing stones were still clearly visible. Sadly, over the past recent decades I have watched as the Roman road has fallen prey to severe erosion, such that in many places the remains of the road have been completely obliterated. The IAA’s report notes that the condition of the Roman road is poor, adding that “the road in its present state is torn up, and often it is accompanied by the smell of sewage.” The odor of which the IAA’s report complains, is undoubtedly caused by the sewage pipe, which follows the path of the ancient Roman road.

In his conclusion, he notes:

Despite the probable construction of the Roman road below Motza after the time of Jesus, the route it follows traces the same path Jesus and his two disciples followed to Emmaus. The ravine is so narrow that any road built in it could not have been more than a few meters to the left or right of path on which Jesus and his disciples walked. It is therefore a shame to see the remnants of this potent reminder, which has withstood the passing of so many centuries, disappearing so dramatically in so short a time.

This is an important article that should never need to have been written. Well-preserved Roman roads in Israel are sparse, and this one’s proximity to Jerusalem and its connection to New Testament history should have ensured its protection by authorities. We can only hope that someone will listen before it is too late.

Roman road to Moza, possible Emmaus, tb030803362
Remains of the Roman road to Emmaus in March 2003

Highway 1 new construction at Moza aerial from northwest, ws120514762-labeled
Aerial view showing relationship of Roman road to modern Highway 1 from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

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Saturday, March 04, 2017

Weekend Roundup

A new study concludes that the Roman siege ramp of Masada was never completed and thus was not used to conquer the site.

The Times of Israel has more on the latest discoveries at Omrit.

Syrian troops have recaptured Palmyra from ISIS and the latest damage is being assessed.

The site of the ancient temple of Artemis in Ephesus is suffering from neglect.

The Museum of Archaeological Excavations on Elephantine Island in Aswan has been re-opened after a six-year closure.

The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo was opened to the public last week.

2,000 libraries around the world will receive true color photographs of the Sistine Chapel.

“A 19th-century view of the Egyptian temple complex of Karnak is to go on display at the British Museum for the first time this week.”

Wayne Stiles provides a brief history of the Temple Mount, with lots of photos.

John DeLancey of Biblical Israel Tours now has posts up for every day of his recent tour of Israel and Italy.

Gordon Govier interviews Randall Price about “Qumran Cave 12” on The Book and the Spade.

Gary Byers has written a well-illustrated post on the use of mudbricks in the Bible.

Steve Mason’s A History of the Jewish War, A.D. 66-74 is positively reviewed on the BMCR blog.

LandMinds interviews Guy Stiebel on his return to excavating Masada (40 min).

Eisenbrauns is offering 70-80% off dozens of feschriften, including The Fire Signals of Lachish (now $21) and Exploring the Longue Duree (now $23).

The new issue of Biblical Archaeology Review includes articles on Laodicea and a banquet hall near the Temple Mount.

BAS has launched a new video streaming site, with a special introductory offer of 75% off.

David Rubinger, photographer of the iconic scene of Israeli paratroopers at the Western Wall, has died at the age of 92.

HT: Agade, Ted Weis, Paleojudaica

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Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Luke and Acts: Historical Reliability - 3

(Posted by Michael J. Caba)

This ongoing series of posts considers the historical reliability of the New Testament books of Luke and Acts by examining the relationship between these texts and other ancient sources while also giving background information on key elements of the various narratives.

One of the persons mentioned in Luke 3:1-2 is "Herod tetrarch of Galilee." This particular Herod, who is also known as Herod Antipas, was the son of Herod the Great and Malthace, being born in 20 BC. After the death of his father, Herod Antipas was appointed by the Romans as ruler of Galilee and Perea over which he reigned from 4 BC to AD 39.

Herod appears at several points in the Gospels, with one notable event being his execution of John the Baptist who denounced Herod's marriage to Herodias, his brother Philip's former wife (Mark 6:17-29).

Later, during the trial of Jesus, Pontius Pilate learned that Christ was from Galilee and he therefore sent Jesus for examination to Herod, who was in Jerusalem at that time. Though Herod plied Jesus with "many questions," he received no answers from the Lord. Still, the cooperation between Herod and Pilate led to a friendship between them (Luke 23:6-12).

In addition to such references as those noted above from the Gospels, Herod is also referred to by the historian Josephus. Concerning the aforementioned execution of John the Baptist, Josephus notes: "Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God . . . as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist; for Herod slew him" (Antiquities 18.5.2).

Josephus also notes the building projects undertaken by Herod in various passages including the following: "And now Herod the tetrarch, who was in great favor with Tiberias, built a city of the same name with him, and called it Tiberias" (Antiquities 18.2.3).

The photo shown below is an aerial view of the ruins of ancient Tiberias looking from the south.

For similar correlations between the biblical text and ancient sources, see Bible and Archaeology - Online Museum.