“Archeologists in Saudi Arabia have discovered the largest inscriptions in the Kingdom depicting the Babylonian King Nabonidus in the north-western city of Hail.”

Egypt has found remains of a military vessel from the Ptolemaic era at the ancient submerged port city of Thonis-Heracleio.

Treasures similar to those from King Tut’s tomb were allegedly found at a site recently discovered in southern Iraq.

“Turkey’s Izmir Archaeology Museum recently launched a new, unique exhibition centered around the historical artifact known as a ‘strigil,’ which 2,300 years ago was a tool used for cleansing the body by scraping off dirt, perspiration and oil.”

Lee Lawrence provides a well-illustrated introduction to the “meticulous, miniature world of Mesopotamian cylinder seals.”

Robert Deutsch is the guest this week on The Book and the Spade, discussing seals, seal impressions, and wet sifting.

Stephanie Lynn Budin takes issue with recent studies that assume that nude terracotta figurines are all related to fertility and childbirth.

New release: Egg Whites or Turnips? Archaeology and Bible Translation, by Paul J. N. Lawrence. The book has endorsements from Alan Millard and James Hoffmeier.

The Bible Mapper Blog has posted some new maps, with downloadable high-res versions:

HT: Agade, Charles Savelle, Ted Weis, Arne Halbakken, Joseph Lauer


A new study indicates that Egypt was using copper mined at Timna during the reigns of David and Solomon, suggesting an important trade route was in use at the time.

A journalist proposed that Sennacherib’s failure to capture Jerusalem was owing to Tirhakah’s intervention on behalf of Judah. The Journal of Hebrew Scriptures commissioned eight scholars to evaluate it, with six scholars affirming the theory. Alice Ogden Bellis summarizes the discussion.

The City of David YouTube channel has released a Tisha B’Av special in which they look at newly discovered evidence of the destructions of Jerusalem in 586 BC and AD 70 (25 min).

Zachi Dvira is the guest on the “Times Will Tell” podcast, talking about the history of the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

Nadav Shragai discusses some of the stories and controversies of the 49 cisterns under the Temple Mount.

“Was a well-preserved set of game pieces and other childhood items buried [at Tel Kedesh] by a young woman before she got married?”

The team excavating Tell es-Safi/Gath has concluded their third week.

In a new episode on the Biblical World podcast, Mary Buck and Chris McKinny discuss the topography of ancient Jerusalem and the possible identification of the Millo with the Spring Tower.

From the maker of “Ushpizin,” and now playing in theaters in Israel, “Legend of Destruction” is a 90-minute film that “tells the story of the Jewish revolt against Rome in 70 CE, from the perspective of Ben Batiach, a good-hearted scholar who turns zealot, leading to the Roman siege on the city and the destruction of the Second Temple.”

HT: Agade, Charles Savelle, Ted Weis, Arne Halbakken, Joseph Lauer


Archaeologists have discovered an inscription with the name “Jerubbaal” at Khirbet al-Ra‘i in the Judean foothills, not far from Lachish. Jerubbaal was another name for Gideon (Judg 6:32). If the inscription can be identified with Gideon, this would be the first ancient inscription with the name of a biblical judge.

3.Jerubbaal inscription. Photo Dafna Gazit-Israel Antiquities Authority-sm

Jerubbaal inscription. Photo by Dafna Gazit and the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The inscription was published in the Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology (free pdf). Stories have been published in The Times of Israel, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, Bible History Daily, and elsewhere. The IAA has posted a 1.5-minute video (in Hebrew). The following is my summary of the main points.

The Sherds: Three pottery fragments were discovered with letters written in brown ink. Two of the sherds join together, but the third does not and its relationship to the other two is unclear. The sherds came from a small jug whose broken pieces had been swept into a stone-lined pit.

The Archaeologists: The excavations at Khirbet al-Ra‘i are directed by Yosef Garfinkel of the Hebrew University, Sa’ar Ganor of the IAA, and Kyle Keimer and Gil Davies of Macquarie University. The lead writer of the journal article is Christopher Rollston of George Washington University. Luke Chandler is credited with organizing a team of volunteers.

Date: The inscription is dated based on its stratigraphical context, pottery typology, and the shape of its letters to the late twelfth or first half of the 11th century, or approximately 1100 BC. This is approximately the time of Gideon. This is also the first Iron Age I inscription found in the Shephelah.

Language: The inscription was written by a trained scribe from right to left. The article’s authors identify the language as “Proto-Canaanite” or “Early Alphabetic,” in part because of their dubious assumption that Hebrew did not exist this early in history.

Baal: Two other inscriptions with the name “baal” have been found in the Shephelah in recent years. The Eshbaal inscription was discovered at Khirbet Qeiyafa, and the Baal inscription was unearthed at Beth Shemesh.

Jerubbaal: Four letters can be read clearly, reading rb‘l, equivalent to “rubbaal.” The initial letter is not fully preserved, but it may be a yod. If so, this would be the first discovery of the name Yrb‘l (Jerubbaal).

Is this the biblical Gideon?: The article’s authors raise the possibility but do not come to a conclusion either way. Here are some factors in favor of each position:

In Favor of Identifying with Gideon:

  • Name: There is a possible match between the name on the potsherd and the name given to Gideon. There are no other people known from the ancient world with the name Jerubbaal.
  • Date: This ostracon dates to the time of the judges, but it is difficult to know how close it is to Gideon’s day, because (1) the dating of the inscription is not precise; (2) the dating of Gideon’s judgeship is uncertain. Eugene Merrill dates Gideon to approximately 1180-1140, while Andrew Steinmann dates him to 1172-1133. If the inscription is truly from 1100, it is a few decades too late. In that case, perhaps the individual in the inscription was named after the biblical figure.

Against Identifying with Gideon:

  • Geography: All of Gideon’s known activity was in northern Israel or Transjordan. The southern Shephelah where this inscription was found is too far away. The tribe of Judah is never mentioned in the context of Gideon’s life. All of the biblical judges served in particular regions; there is no reason to believe that Gideon had a national ministry.
  • Patronymic: Though no other men named Jerubbaal are mentioned in the Bible, it is possible that there were men with this name at this time. If the sherd had included the name of Gideon’s father (Joash), that would make an identification more compelling.
  • Incomplete: The initial letter is fragmentary and may not be “J” (yod). It is also possible that there were other letters before or after that have not been preserved. In other words, the name may not be Jerubbaal. Haggai Misgav suggests the name could be Azrubaal. Other possibilities from names known from the ancient world include Zekharbaal and Merib-baal (1 Chr 8:34).

Conclusion: This discovery is valuable because inscriptions are rare in the land of Israel at this time. The potential connection with Gideon’s alternate name, and the proximity of the date, makes the identification possible but by no means certain.


Location of discovery of “Jerubbaal inscription”; map from the Satellite Bible Atlas


Archaeologists have announced the discovery of a portion of Jerusalem’s city wall dating to the time of Hezekiah and Josiah. The story is reported in many outlets, including The Times of Israel, The Jerusalem Post, and Haaretz. A 2-minute video has been created by the Israel Antiquities Authority. Here are the main points:


Newly discovered wall; photo by Koby Harati/City of David

Location: The excavated portion is on the eastern slope of the City of David just south of the Gihon Spring, between previously known sections of this wall to the north (a 100-foot section in Kathleen Kenyon’s trench) and to the south (a 300-foot section in Yigal Shiloh’s Area E).

City of David aerial from east, tb010703201-labeled

City of David from the southeast; marked portion shows entire extent of all wall sections discovered to date

Size: The excavated sections are about 15 feet (5 m) wide and up to 10 feet (3 m) high. One section is 130 feet (40 m) long, and the other is 10 feet (3 m) long.

Date: The wall is believed to have been built in the late 8th or early 7th centuries BC. This corresponds to the reign of Hezekiah whose sole reign was from 715 to 686 BC. The archaeologists have not determined if the wall was built before or after the Assyrian invasion in 701. We do know that Hezekiah built a massive wall (the “broad wall”) on Jerusalem’s western hill (cf. Isa 22:10). The archaeologists have not yet received results from material submitted for radiocarbon dating.

Archaeologists: The excavation was directed by Filip Vukosavović of the Ancient Jerusalem Research Center and Joe Uziel and Ortal Chalaf on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Excavated eastern wall with archaeologists, Koby Harati

Archaeologists (from l to r): Vukosavović, Chalaf, Uziel; photo by Koby Harati/City of David

Significance: The discovery ends the debate that portions of the wall found by Kenyon and Shiloh were not city fortification walls. These three known sections allow archaeologists to reconstruct the line of Jerusalem’s eastern wall for about 650 feet (200 m).

Small finds: Near the wall, archaeologists uncovered a building, LMLK seal impressions, rosette-stamped handles, a Babylonian stamp seal, and a seal impression with the name “Tsafan.”

Seal of Tsafan, Koby Harati

Seal of Tsafan; photo by Koby Harati/City of David

Contradiction: Stories are more interesting if there is a conflict, and so some reporters have framed this discovery of a standing wall as a “contradiction” to the biblical notice in 2 Kings 25:10 that the Babylonians destroyed all of Jerusalem’s walls. But this is a poor interpretation of the biblical text.


  1. In the context of 2 Kings, the Babylonians had previously besieged Jerusalem (in 597; 2 Kgs 24:20-17), but they did not destroy the walls when they captured the city. This time (in 586), they destroyed the walls.
  2. Contrary to some translations in the news reports, 2 Kings 25:10 simply reads that the Babylonians “destroyed the walls around Jerusalem.” It does not say that they destroyed every wall in every place.
  3. By destroying the walls around Jerusalem, the biblical author is indicating the extent of the damage. The Babylonians did not destroy only the massive (broad) wall on the northern side.
  4. The destruction of a wall does not require removing every stone from its place. By comparison, the Romans destroyed the Temple Mount and knocked down many but not all of its stones.
  5. The archaeologists have suggested that this portion of the wall was not torn down because the slope of the hill in this area is quite steep, making it more difficult to access.
  6. That the Babylonians sufficiently destroyed Jerusalem’s walls is evident from the fact that the city lay in ruins for many years, and the reconstruction of the walls required a major effort under Nehemiah.
  7. Imagine if today’s Old City walls of Jerusalem were destroyed, but that stretches of the wall were preserved to 10 or 15 feet in height. Would it be inaccurate to say that the walls around Jerusalem were destroyed?

Conclusion: This is an outstanding discovery that contributes significantly to our knowledge of ancient Jerusalem. There is no need to try to make it more exciting by inventing contradictions.


Two discoveries were announced this week that will both likely make the “top 10” list for 2021: a Jerubbaal inscription and a city wall of Jerusalem. Those will summarized at greater length here tomorrow and Monday.

Archaeologists have discovered remains of an uneaten pig in a house in the City of David dating to about 700 BC. The underlying journal article is here.

Two coins from the First and Second Jewish Revolts were discovered in an archaeological survey in eastern Benjamin. The survey report was published in the Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin.

Week 2 has concluded at the Tell es-Safi/Gath excavations, and Aren Maeir is faithful as always to post updates and photos. The most recent is here.

Eve Harow interviewed Aren Maeir on the Rejuvenation podcast.

Gordon Govier reviews the discoveries and developments in biblical archaeology this summer on The Book and the Spade podcast.

Once again, Bryan Windle has a post that you could adapt for a lecture or lesson, with his Top 10 Discoveries Related to Abraham.

“In ‘Legend of Destruction,’ Gidi Dar’s new film about the destruction of the Second Temple, artists David Polonsky and Michael Faust faced a serious challenge: make an animation movie composed entirely of still paintings. It took them eight years to complete” (Haaretz premium).

Glenn Schwartz believes that “the world’s first fully developed alphabetic writing arrived on the scene some 500 years earlier than what archaeologists have long believed.” Christopher Rollston offers his reflections.

New release: Ramat Raḥel VI: The Renewed Excavations by the Tel Aviv–Heidelberg Expedition (2005–2010). The Babylonian-Persian Pit, by Oded Lipschits, Liora Freud, Manfred Oeming, and Yuval Gadot. Save 30% with code NR21.

Excavation of the second Khufu Boat has concluded, and final restoration work is now being done at the Grand Egyptian Museum.

David Ian Lightbody writes about the origin of the cartouche in Old Kingdom Egypt.

Italian authorities have recovered 782 ancient artifacts stolen by a Belgian art collector.

“The Colosseum Archaeological Park reopens the House of the Vestal Virgins to the public fully on 6 July following an extensive restoration that began in 2013.”

The Museum with No Frontiers has launched a new website.

Here are some recent episodes on Digging for Truth:

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Arne Halbakken, Steven Anderson, Charles Savelle, Roger Schmidgall, Explorator


“Scientists have reconstructed the Eastern Mediterranean silver trade, over a period including the traditional dates of the Trojan War, the founding of Rome, and the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.”

A survey has located 11 new hills around Gobeklitepe, and a major study will be released in September. Tourism officials are referring to the area as “12 hills” and the “pyramids of southeast Turkey.”

An excavation of an underground complex in the Western Wall Tunnels is a candidate for an international award.

“For the first time, a large, commercial flour mill has joined scientists and other experts to revive the lost varieties of wheat of the Land of Israel.”

The oldest living olive tree is 3,000 years old and located on the island of Crete.

Carl Rasmussen explains, with photos, how the Lycian League was a model for the United States.

The first issue of the Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology is a special issue on “State Formation Processes in the 10th Century BCE Levant”, edited by A. Faust, Y. Garfinkel and M. Mumcuoglu. All 16 articles may be downloaded for free.

The SBL website has an updated list of works in their ANE Monographs series, all available for purchase or free download.

New release: The Archaeology of Daily Life: Ordinary Persons in Late Second Temple Israel, by David A. Fiensy

Cyndi Parker’s course on historical geography is now available on BiblicalTraining (free with registration).

Danya Belkin writes about 11 adventures in Israel, including rappelling, parasailing, wakeboarding, snorkeling, and camel riding.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Arne Halbakken, Charles Savelle, Explorator