Mark Twain on the Sea of Galilee

My earliest memory of a large lake is of Lake Tahoe in northern California, but the body of water I’ve been to the most is the Sea of Galilee.  Mark Twain compared the two on his visit in the 1860s:

The celebrated Sea of Galilee is not so large a sea as Lake Tahoe by a good deal—it is just about two-thirds as large. And when we come to speak of beauty this sea is no more to be compared to Tahoe than a meridian of longitude is to a rainbow. The dim waters of this pool cannot suggest the limpid brilliancy of Tahoe; these low, shaven, yellow hillocks of rocks and sand, so devoid of perspective, cannot suggest the grand peaks that compass Tahoe like a wall, and whose ribbed and chasmed fronts are clad with stately pines that seem to grow small and smaller as they climb, till one might fancy them reduced to weeds and shrubs far upward, where they join the everlasting snows. Silence and solitude brood over Tahoe; and silence and solitude brood also over this lake of Gennesaret. But the solitude of the one is as cheerful and fascinating as the solitude of the other is dismal and repellent” (Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad, pp. 375-76).

The sea of Galilee, from the heights of Safed, pp2071b
Sea of Galilee and Plain of Gennesaret pan1d, tb032507719sr
A few months ago

Jerusalem Quarry: Photos

ABC has some photos of the quarry, or you can watch a two-minute video with relatively poor footage of the site (and two guys who can’t correctly pronounce the object of the discovery). has some exclusive photos of the quarry area, with thanks to Aubrey Laughlin for sharing them with us.  Click on each photo for a higher-resolution version, which you are free to use for personal and educational purposes.

Herodian quarry, al092407516sr
General view showing how the ancients cut away the mountain
Herodian quarry from north, al092407543sr
View showing the proximity of the quarry to Ramat Shlomo
Herodian quarry, al092407541sr
Showing a cross-section of the mountain and Jerusalem in the distance
Herodian quarry, al092407527sr
Notice the trenches cut in the rock in the foreground
 Herodian quarry, al092407550sr
A view showing where quarrying activity ended.
Herodian quarry, al092407555sr 
You can easily see where the rocks were extracted
Herodian quarry, al092407538sr
A trench made in order to extract the stone
Next challenge: Identify the stones removed from this quarry (bonus points if you can put each one back in its original location!).

Jerusalem Quarry: The Location

I have been asked where exactly the quarry was located.  Here are two maps from Google Earth that show the area of the quarry, about 2 miles (3 km) north of the Old City.  You can click on each for a larger view.

General view.  Note the highway to the east of the quarry is similar to the ancient route (known sometimes as the Central Ridge Route or the Road of the Patriarchs).
Closer view, which will be helpful if you’re in the neighborhood and want to see it yourself.

NEAEH Update Volume Status

It seems like it has been years that rumor has been circulating that a fifth “update” volume is due out for the New Encyclopedia of neaehArchaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (NEAEH). 

Word  from the Israel Exploration Society today is that the volume “will not be released before the beginning of next year.”  I guess that means that it can be anytime after January 2008.  Which guarantees that it will need a significant update by the time it first appears.  That’s true for many published and delayed works, but especially true in the archaeology of Israel.  (You can still get the four-volume set at Eisenbrauns for the great price of $150).


Jordan Gives Money for Temple Mount

Haaretz reports:

Jordan will allocate 1.113 million Jordanian Dinars ($1.5 million dollars) to the Jordan Hashemite Fund for the Reconstruction of Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, King Abdullah II announced yesterday during a meeting of the trustees of the new fund… The fund will pay for a new fire detection system that will be installed in the complex of mosques, as well as a modern fire suppression system. In addition, the fund will acquire a fire truck that will be stationed near the Al-Aqsa Mosque. A team in charge of preserving mosaics and antiquities will also undergo further training at the expense of the new fund. Jordan’s decision to intensify its role in the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex stems in part from the presence of other Arab interest groups that have made increasing inroads there.


Quarry of Temple Mount Discovered

Archaeologists in Jerusalem have made a significant discovery of one of the quarries used in the construction of Herod’s Temple Mount.  Located 3 miles (4 km) northwest of the Old City, the 1.25-acre quarry has remains of massive stones measuring 9-25 feet (3-8 m) long, comparable to the stones visible in the Western Wall today.  The quarry is located near the main road coming from the north and at an elevation that is 250 feet (80 m) higher than the Temple Mount, making it an ideal location for quarrying activity.  Coins and pottery found in the quarry help to secure the date of its use to the 1st century B.C.  The story is carried by the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, and Arutz-7.

Photo below: Another quarry that many believe was used by Herod’s crews is the so-called “Solomon’s Quarries,” near the Damascus Gate of the Old City.

Solomon's Quarries, tb051706274
“Solomon’s Quarries”

Turkey Trip for College Profs

If you’re a college professor or other tour group leader, you might be interested in this familiarization tour to Turkey in March.  This came via Mark Wilson, who has led two college/seminary groups this year that I recommended.  Both were delighted with their trips.  It’s not clear to me if he is apart of this trip or not, but here are the details they sent:

Dear Professors, Colleagues, and Group Leaders, We are currently taking sign ups for the MARCH 7-15, 2008 FAM. TRIP! The March familiarization trip is for professors who are bringing or would like to bring a group to Turkey and want to come beforehand to do the tour. This is very limited space because of the special price.  The professor price of $1,095 is land, airfare & tax inclusive, based on double occupancy, with airfare from New York, JFK. The cost of a single room is $1,390 per person. Please ask for our spouse rate. Participants of this trip are responsible for their own transport to and from JFK. If you are interested in signing up for this trip please contact me for further details. We are also exciting for Tutku Tours’ Newest programs; January Trips, Study Abroad Programs and of course our Ephesus Meeting May 2008, in which we will have many wonderful groups and fascinating speakers.  We customize all of our groups’ itineraries to fit their needs. Please ask for any brochures or further details. We hope to meet you AT OUR BOOTH in San Diego, November 14-16, at ETS (booth #216), and November 17-20, at AAR & SBL, (booth #737).  We will also be offering additional meetings slide show presentations, The Seven Churches, and the Footsteps of St. Paul in Asia Minor.  ETS additional meeting, date and time will be announced and the SBL additional meeting is Sunday, November 18 from 4:00- 6:30 pm.  We look forward to discussing your future plans for travel in Turkey, as well as our other destinations Greece, Israel, Egypt, Ukraine, and Northern Cypress. Attached, you will find the inaugural issue of the latest news of Biblical Turkey, in the ‘Asia Minor Report’ newsletter, put together by Dr. Mark Wilson. We hope it is of interest to all of the scholars that we work with! We have great references from other college and university groups, which we would be happy to share with you! Please let me know if I can help answer any questions you may have. We look forward to seeing you and your groups here in 2008!

Best Regards,
Erin Dailey
Director of Operations
Ephesus Meeting Tutku Tours

After a trip to Israel, Turkey is the place to go.  You need more than a week, but this is just the familiarization trip to get you to come back for a longer time with a lot of people.


Israeli Court on Temple Mount Destruction

A legal attempt to stop the Temple Mount destruction was met with more governmental corruption today.  A five-minute video by Arutz-7 describes how the court chose to meet behind closed doors without allowing the participation of the plaintiffs.  If there’s a case for allowing Muslim destruction of Jewish antiquities, it should be made publicly and not hidden behind the skirts of political cowards.

UPDATE (9/21): The Jerusalem Post has a written version of the story here.  Key quotation:

“It is more than clear that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has instructed the Antiquities Authority to cooperate with the Wakf and conceal the damage to antiquities being done during the infrastructure work at the site,” said Hebrew University archeologist and leading Temple Mount expert Dr. Eilat Mazar.


Book: Flights into Biblical Archaeology

This looks like fun. The description is from a press release from the Israel Antiquities Authority:
Albatross Aerial Photography Ltd – the photographer Dubi Tal and pilot Moni Haramati – has published a new book in cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority: Flights into Biblical Archaeology, which combines aerial and land photographs of the sites together with photographs of ancient artifacts and artistic creations that have not yet been made public. The unique texts that accompany the photographs were written by Shimon Gibstalon, professor of archaeology at the University of North Carolina.

The book Flights into Biblical Archaeology is a journey into the colorful past of the Land of Israel; a journey across thousands of years of history which is both a visual and spiritual experience.

The breathtaking aerial photographs allow the reader to participate in the experience of exposing the past and discovering details and meanings which can no longer been seen by the eye of the observer on the ground. While at the same time the special stories of the archaeological sites that conceal the historical secrets of the country are laid out before the reader.

In addition to their aesthetic value, the pictures provide a great deal of important information about the archaeological compounds and the environment in which they are located. Next to each site mentioned in the book is a map with a dot that denotes its location and provides the reader with a point of reference relative to the site.

The book, which was conceived and edited by Dubi Tal, is a sort of a professional encyclopedia on the one hand, and popular photographic album on the other, which the reader can easily use. It is meant for the general public and is an asset worthy of lovers of artistic photography, scholars and professional people, as well as tourists and the simply inquisitive.

256 pages

Price: 160 NIS ($38; shipping is $5-10)

Available for purchase at the Israel Antiquities Authority website and by telephone: +972-2-

UPDATE (10/9): You can now get the book from Eisenbrauns a bit faster and cheaper.