Temple Mount updates

There is news for three items related to the Temple Mount:

Quarry: The Orthodox Union has new photos online (or if you prefer a slide show)

First Temple Period Remains: Leen Ritmeyer has marked out the find location on a couple of diagrams.  The discovery matches his previous conclusion that this area was within the temple area of Hezekiah’s time.

Temple Mount Destruction: The transcript from the government meeting about the bulldozer excavations is now online in Hebrew.  Yitzhak Sapir has made the following observations:

Present at the meeting were archaeologists Yuval Baruch (district archaeologist of Jerusalem for the IAA), Gabriel Barkai and Meir Ben-Dov, as well as Shuka Dorfman, head of the IAA. Eilat Mazar was also invited but she doesn’t appear to speak during the meeting.
Aside from their statements on the topics, which are really interesting, there are also some interesting statements by Limor Livnat, who was in the past Minister of Education and responsible for the IAA, and an architect who claims that when the dig began two months ago, he found a segment of the Northern Wall of the Temple, that was covered up the next day.


Ron Tappy and the Abecedary

I don’t think this recently discovered alphabetic inscription has received coverage in the popular press like it deserves.  From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Ron Tappy became a committed Christian in his mid-20s, after deciding to read the Bible straight through.
When he did, “the Old Testament just floored me, and the history of Israel became my history, and I became a Christian in that process. To this day, I have an abiding respect for the texts of Scripture,” he said.
It seems fitting, then, that Dr. Tappy’s most famous discovery as a biblical archaeologist is a 38-pound limestone rock inscribed with a 2,900-year-old alphabet.
The stone was found two years ago at Tel Zayit in Israel, a dig about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem. Using distinctive pottery and carbon dating of the soil levels above it, the stone was firmly traced to the 10th century B.C., the time when the biblical King Solomon was supposed to have lived.
The discovery was described by some experts as the most important find in biblical archaeology in the last 10 years.
One reason for the buzz was that the stone suggests the earliest Hebrew Scriptures could have been written down in that era — hundreds of years earlier than many scholars had believed.
For Dr. Tappy, the alphabet stone also suggests not only that King Solomon was a real historical figure, but that he did in fact have a growing kingdom at the time, because Tel Zayit sits on the border of Solomon’s Judah and the kingdom of Philistia, where the Philistines lived.

The story continues here.  The excavation’s website is here, but has not been updated recently. 

Photographs of the inscription appear to be more sacred than the ark rare but here’s one with Tappy and another showing a few of the letters.

UPDATE: Offline there is a lot of information and photographs in this article:

Tappy, Ron E., P. Kyle McCarter, Marilyn J. Lundberg, Bruce Zuckerman (2006). “An Abecedary of the Mid-Tenth Century B.C.E. from the Judaean Shephelah”. BASOR 344 (November): 5-46.


Ancient Site of Bene-Berak to be Developed

This summer I was out scouting around trying to locate some sites on the Coastal Plain, including Ono, Eltekeh, and Bene-berak.  Bene-berak is mentioned in Josh 19:45; 21:45; 1 Chr 9:14; Neh 11:15.  The most likely location is el-Kheriyah, located about 3 miles south of the modern Israeli city of Bene-berak.  I wasn’t quite sure if I had found the right spot or not.  It wasn’t for lack of remains that I lacked certainty, but for an overabundance.  Today it was announced that the government is going to transform the Hiriya landfill into the “Ariel Sharon Park.”  While I’m not sure if I’d feel honored if a trash dump was named aft er me, I am hopeful that the $250 million project will make the ancient Israelite site accessible to tourists.

The Hiriya Landfill, located between Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv is a mountain of garbage that was used from 1952 until 1998. The government is now planning on transforming the site and the area around it into one of the largest parks in the country.The Hiriya site stretches out along 112 acres and the garbage mountain itself is elevated around 200 feet.
“The restoration project will transform Hiriya from a waste landfill into a flourishing, green park which will attract thousands of visitors each year, providing leisure and recreational opportunities as well as pleasant walks along its paths,” organizers say.
“Today is the opening shot in the building of this incredible park,” said Danny Shternberg of the Ayalon Park Government Company. “We are proud to name it for former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was an enthusiastic backer of the idea, advancing the park himself.” Shternberg declined to comment on the unorthodox nature of deciding to name a park after someone who is still living.
The park will contain within it sheltered areas (such as the Menachem Begin Park), open areas, forested regions, agricultural tracts and man-made lakes and streams.
Archeological sites will also be refurbished and put on display. The ancient city of B’nei Brak, spoken of in the Passover Haggadah, lay at the site and an Arab village named Hiriya was built atop its ruins until its residents fled in 1948. Emergency plans when Israel feared an Arab victory in the 1967 Six Day War called for mass graves to be dug in the area for the expected Jewish casualties.

For more, see the Arutz-7 report.

Playground in Bene Berak, tb062807402sr
Playground in modern Bene-Berak.  It’s pretty nice for a neighborhood park.  It doesn’t have any relation to the landfill, but it is certainly more picturesque than the subject of the story.  Apologies if it makes your kids jealous.

Persian Period Finds in City of David

I was talking with a scholar the other day about the general lack of archaeological material in Israel from the Persian period (530-330 B.C.).  This is especially true for the city of Jerusalem.  Then today I learned this from a reliable source:

Just yesterday, Eilat Mazar found a Persian period layer with much pottery and bullae, mostly fragments, but one with a beautiful 5th century B.C. inscription from the Persian Period.

Mazar is excavating in the City of David, above Shiloh’s Area G, on the summit of the hill in an area where she believes she is excavating the palace of David.  When I know more, or when this is reported in the media, I’ll mention it here.


"But I Used the Tractor Carefully…"

The Jerusalem Post story on the on-going saga of “excavations” on the Temple Mount is here.  The abbreviated version follows:

Genius #1: Shmuel Dorfman

“There was no damage to the remains of buildings or artifacts.”

Sir, can you tell me if you excavated with a tractor?

“They were under time pressure.”

It’s good to know that you can excavate with a tractor and cause “no damage” to ancient remains. 

This guy wouldn’t pass Archaeology 101.  Unfortunately he is the Director-General of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Genius #2: Meir Ben-Dov, retired archaeologist

“There were no archeological findings in the ground,” Meir Ben-Dov told the committee. “They dug
a total of 50 cm. [18 inches] deep and all of it was fill-in from the earlier infrastructure that had been installed.”

Somebody should have told this guy about the Iron Age remains from an undisturbed layer that were discovered in this trench.  Ben-Dov is not an honest man.  He just expected that the Muslims would have destroyed it all so thoroughly that no one would ever be able to prove him wrong.  Fortunately somebody was watching “the excavation” between tractor scoops and not all was lost.

The good news:

“The Knesset State Control Committee on Monday decided to ask the State Comptroller’s Office to investigate procedures for allowing the Wakf Islamic trust to excavate on the Temple Mount, amid claims by archeologists that the laying of electric cables there in August endangered ancient artifacts.”


Material from First Temple Period Found on Temple Mount

A remarkable discovery of undisturbed archaeological material from the Temple Mount and dating to the Old Testament period was announced yesterday by the Israel Antiquities Authority.  This is remarkable for a few reasons:

By all appearances, there was little apparent archaeological supervision of the Muslim digging of a trench on the Temple Mount last month.  That’s why lots of people were screaming.  It’s not that digging itself is bad, but digging without proper archaeological procedure is simply destruction.

Undisturbed layers from the First Temple period (1000-586 B.C.) are not often found anywhere in Jerusalem.  This is because of later building activities and because of current inhabitation of the city.

No undisturbed layers from any period have been excavated on the Temple Mount, ever.  This is owing to Muslim control of the site and their prohibitions against archaeological excavation.  This dates back to the earliest “archaeologists” in Jerusalem, including Charles Warren in the 1860s.

It has been expected that the construction of the present Temple Mount by King Herod in the 1st
century B.C. was so extensive and destructive that little would remain (in stratified contexts) from the previous eras.  The present discovery does not seem to constitute significant material in and of itself, but it certainly gives hope that more could be recovered should excavations be permitted.  Similar discoveries from this time period have been made by Gabriel Barkay in his Temple Mount Sifting Project, but they were not from a stratified context as this was.

Enough of the significance of the discovery, here are some details:

Items discovered: ceramic table wares, animal bones, olive pits, bowls, juglet base, storage jar rim. 

Date of items: 8th-6th century (roughly the times of Hezekiah to Josiah)

Location of discovery: southeastern corner of raised platform on Temple Mount

Archaeologist in charge: Yuval Baruch, Jerusalem District Archaeologist

Consulting archaeologists: Sy Gitin, Director of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological
Research in Jerusalem, Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University and Ronny Reich of Haifa University

The key statement making this an important discovery: “The layer is a closed, sealed archaeological layer that has been undisturbed since the 8th century B.C.”, Jon Seligman, Jerusalem regional archaeologist.

The skeptic: Eilat Mazar, “I think it is a smoke screen for the ruining of antiquities.”

The future: examination of the discoveries in a future seminar to be organized by the Israel Antiquities Authority

More information: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (with photos), Israel National News (with wrong dates), Haaretz, Jerusalem Post, Maariv (more detailed article in Hebrew)


Wheaton Archaeology Lecture Series

The 52nd Annual Archaeology Lecture Series is underway at Wheaton College, entitled “Ashkelon and the Ports of the Mediterranean.” The remaining lectures are:

Wednesday, Oct 31, 6:30pm

Brian Brisco, “The Persian Period at Ashkelon”

Billy Graham Center, Room 140

Wednesday, Nov 7, 6:30pm

Tracy Hoffman, “The Byzantine and Islamic Periods at Ashkelon”

Billy Graham Center, Room 140


Lectures at Oriental Institute

The following lectures are free, open to the public, and held in the Breasted Hall of the University of Chicago, Oriental Institute.  

Wednesday, Nov 7, 7pm-9pm

Allison Thomason, “Banquets, Baubles and Bronzes: Material Comforts in Neo-Assyrian Palaces”

Wednesday, Dec 5, 7pm-9pm

Scott Branting, “Mapping the Past”

Wednesday, Jan 9, 7pm-9pm

Harald Hauptmann, “Neolithic Revolution of the Ancient Near East”

Wednesday, Feb 6, 7pm-9pm

Terry Wilfong, “Anxious Egyptians: Personal Oracles as Indices of Anxieties in the Later Periods”

Wednesday, Mar 5, 7pm-9pm

David Schloen, “Excavations at Zincirli”

Wednesday, Apr 2, 7pm-9pm

Nadine Moeller, “Tell Edfu, Egypt”

Wednesday, May 7, 7pm-9pm

Larry Stager, “Excavating Ashkelon, Sea Port of the Phillistines”

Wednesday, Jun 4, 7pm-9pm

Stuart Tyson Smith, “Death at Tombos: Pyramids, Iron, and the Rise of the Nubian Dynasty”


Online Lectures by Younger

Someone asked recently about online lectures related to archaeology.  I have learned about a couple that aren’t exactly archaeological in nature, but may be of interest to readers here.

K. Lawson Younger is a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a highly regarded scholar in the field of Ancient Near Eastern Studies.  He recently gave two lectures at Brigham Young University which can be viewed online.

Biblical Studies and the Comparative Method – Younger’s expertise on this is obvious when you realize that he was co-editor of the monumental Context of Scripture.

Finding Some of the Lost Tribes of Israel – Some might be surprised that a Mormon university would ask a Christian scholar to speak on this.  I bet you that he doesn’t say that the ten lost tribes are in America!  Younger has written much on this subject.

Start with these:

1998    The Deportations of the Israelites. Journal of Biblical Literature 117, pp. 201-227.

2002    Recent Study of Sargon II, King of Assyria: Implications for Biblical Studies. Pp. 288-329 in Mesopotamia and the Bible. Ed. M. Chavalas & Younger. Grand Rapids: Baker.

2003    Israelites in exile: their names appear at all levels of Assyrian society. Biblical Archaeology Review 29, no. 6 (Nov-Dec), pp. 36-45, 65-66.

But these are also relevant:

1999    The Fall of Samaria in Light of Recent Research. Catholic Biblical Quarterly 61, pp. 461-

2002    Yahweh at Ashkelon and Calah?: Yahwistic names in Neo-Assyrian. Vetus Testamentum 52, pp.207-218.

2003    ‘Give Us Our Daily Bread’: Everyday Life for the Israelite Deportees. In Life and Culture in the Ancient Near East. Ed. R. Averbeck, M.W. Chavalas & D.B. Weisberg. Maryland: CDL.

2004    The Repopulation of Samaria (2 Kings 17:24, 27-31) in Light of Recent Study. Pp. 254-80 in The Future of Biblical Archaeology. Ed. J. Hoffmeier & A. Millard. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Thanks to A.D. for the notice and the references.