Many will probably quickly skip over this article, but those who have visited or studied the sites of Penuel and Mahanaim will be interested, though the article mentions neither possible identification.  Excavations have (finally!) begun at Tall adh-Dhahab, often identified by biblical scholars as the place where Jacob wrestled with the angel, where David fled from Absalom, and where Jeroboam built his Transjordanian capital.  But what was not known (at least to me) was the Herodian attraction to the site.  This makes perfect sense, given its history.  A professor of theology at Technische Universität Dortmund began work last year.  From their recent press release.

This year Thomas Pola, professor for theology at TU Dortmund, and his team have continued the excavations in the East Jordan Land. With their findings on the mountain Tall adh-Dhahab (West) in the Jabbok Valley the archeologists could substantiate one assumption: everything points to the fact that the building remains from the Hellenistic and Roman era, found in 2006, were part of a yet unknown monumental building of Herod the Great (73-4 BC).
This assumption is based on the floors of one of the discovered peristyle yards (yards enclosed by continuous columns) which the archeologists were able to excavate. Prof. Pola sees the parallels with the architecture of Herod’s West Jordan Alexandreion as prove that there also was a monumental building of Herod the Great on the plateau of the mountain Tall adh-Dhahab. That would mean that in addition to his reign over the West Jordan Land, the Jewish king had a security system with which he could have controlled the ancient long-distance traffic in the middle Jordan Valley and the access ways to the plateau of the East Jordan Land.
Above that, the team of Prof. Pola for the first time discovered a layer from the late Bronze Age or the Early Iron Age on a natural terrace directly underneath the plateau. The ruins of a tower from the city wall at least show three building phases. “On the level of the oldest building phase we took samples from a burnt layer. A C14-analysis carried out by Prof. Manfred Bayer (Physics at TU Dortmund) showed that the charcoal originates from the time 1300 to 1000 BC. At this location we will continue to work in 2008.”
Finally Prof. Pola’s team discovered the purpose of the monumental military facility half way up the mountain: it is a casemate wall. It is supposed to have been finished in Roman times. This is yet another argument for the identification of the mountain with the stronghold Amathous mentioned in the ancient world. The historian Josephus (37 to 100 AD) described Amathous as the biggest stronghold in the East Jordan Land.

The press release continues here.

Penuel from southeast, tb031701999
Tall adh-Dhahab West, identified by some as biblical Mahanaim and by others (including myself) as Penuel

This story is from the Financial Times.  The best sentence is the last.

The Dead Sea scrolls, the most potent source of our knowledge of Judaism and early Christianity, are to be digitised for the internet in a project that could take up to five years. It will involve the manipulation of some 15,000 scraps of leather or papyrus, some no bigger than a speck of dust. Project leader Simon Tanner, of the Centre for Computing in the Humanities at King’s College London, said the difficulty of photographing the scrolls would be deepened by the fact that in many cases there is little contrast between the writing and the material on which it is written. The team would be using a digital camera offering up to 20 times more resolution than a conventional model and an infra-red camera that would enable the script to be more easily read against the background. Tanner said he had worked on more than 450 digitisation projects and the scrolls were the most technically challenging he had faced. The Israel Antiquities Authority faced complex handling and conservation issues in making the scrolls available for digitisation. The publication of the scrolls was completed in 2001 after a period of 35 years in which they were monopolised by a group of scholars. They have been photographed only once before, in the 1950s. Now the intention is to make them available to amateurs and professionals alike, allowing people to manipulate the images of the fragments in a number of different ways.

HT: Joe Lauer


Because the biblical dates in the Bible suggest that the Exodus occurred in the mid-15th century, some surmise that Hatshepsut might be the princess mentioned in the Bible.  In any case, she is a very important and interesting figure.  From the Associated Press:

Months after Egypt boldly announced that archaeologists had identified a mummy as the most powerful queen of her time, scientists in a museum basement are still analyzing DNA from the bald, 3,500-year-old corpse to try to back up the claim aired on TV. Progress is slow. So far, results indicate the linen-wrapped mummy is most likely, but not conclusively, the female pharaoh Queen Hatshepsut, who ruled for 20 years in the 15th century B.C. Running its own ancient-DNA lab is a major step forward for Egypt, which for decades has seen foreigners take most of the credit for major discoveries here. It’s time Egyptian scientists took charge, said Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s antiquities chief who spearheaded the quest to find Hatshepsut and build the lab. “Egyptology, for the last 200 years, it has been led by foreigners.”

The story continues here.


Ehud Netzer, the archaeologist who discovered Herod’s tomb and excavated most of Herod’s other sites throughout Israel, is lecturing (in Hebrew) this Thursday at Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem. 

The details are:

Lecture: The Discovery of King Herod’s Tomb at Herodium (in Hebrew) with Ehud Netzer

Location: HUC/JIR, 13 King David Street

Date: Thursday, Dec 27, 2007 at 5 PM

Website:  http://www.huc.edu/events/07/12/JE.shtml

HT: Joe Lauer