Mazar: Seal of Temah Reading Wrong

The Biblical Archaeology Society has a section now that features Mazar’s original announcement, the rejection of this reading by Deutsch and Rainey, and Mazar’s acceptance of the reading of Shlomit. 

The site also includes a high-res photograph of the seal.  The original posting about this discovery is here.  Rainey suggests that this might be Shlomit, the daughter of Zerubbabel, mentioned in 1 Chronicles 3:19.

Update (2/5): The Jerusalem Post now covers the story.


Dead Sea Scrolls at 60: Conference at NYU

The Ranieri Colloquium on Ancient Studies

The Dead Sea Scrolls at 60:

The Scholarly Contributions of NYU Faculty and Alumni

Co-sponsored by the New York University Center for Ancient Studies and
the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies

March 6-7, 2008

Hemmerdinger Hall, Room 102
Silver Center, 100 Washington Square East

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Matthew S. Santirocco (Dean, College of Arts and Science, New York University) – Welcome

10:00a.m. – Session One: Rewriting the Bible

Erik Larson (Florida International University) – On The Identification of Two Greek Texts of Enoch

Mark Smith (New York University) – “In-between Texts”: Biblical Texts, Inner-Biblical
Interpretation, Second Temple Literature, and Textual Criticism

Moshe Bernstein (Yeshiva University, New York University) – The Dead Sea Scrolls and Jewish
Biblical Interpretation in Antiquity

12:00 Noon – Lunch

1:30p.m. – Session Two: The Dead Sea Sect

Gary Rendsburg (Rutgers University) – Language at Qumran

Shani (Berrin) Tzoref (Hebrew University, University of Sydney) – The Pesharim and the Pentateuch:
Explicit Citations, Overt Typologies, and Implicit Interpretation

Alexei Sivertsev (DePaul University) – Sectarians and Householders

4:00p.m. – Keynote Address

Lawrence H. Schiffman (New York University) – The Dead Sea Scrolls and the History of Judaism
and Christianity

6:00p.m. – Reception

Friday, March 7, 2008

9:00a.m. – Session Three: The Scrolls and Second Temple Judaism

Alex Jassen (University of Minesota) – The Contribution of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Study of
Prophecy in Ancient Judaism

Yaakov Elman (Yeshiva University) – Zoroastrianism and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Joseph Angel (Yeshiva University) – The Historical and Exegetical Roots of Eschatological
Priesthood at Qumran

11:00a.m. – Session Four: Judean Desert Texts

Judah Lefkovits (Independent Scholar) – The Copper Scroll (3Q15): A Reconsideration

Baruch Levine (New York University) – Judean Desert Documents of the Bar Kokhba Period:
Epistolary and Legal

Andrew Gross (University of Pittsburgh) – The Judean Desert Formulary: A Case Study in the
Continuity and Innovation of Ancient Near Eastern Traditions

The school’s announcement is here.

HT: Joe Lauer, who says that the event is free and open to the public.  You can confirm attendance
with Shayne Leslie Figueroa at shayne dot figueroa at nyu dot edu.


Eight Inches of Snow in Jerusalem

From the AP:

A rare snowstorm swept the Middle East on Wednesday, blanketing parts of the Holy Land in white, shutting schools and sending excited children into the streets for snowball fights. The weather in Jerusalem topped local newscasts, eclipsing a government report on Israel’s 2006 war in Lebanon. Men in long Arab robes pelted each other with snowballs in the Jordanian capital, Amman, and the West Bank city of Ramallah, seat of the Palestinian government, came to a standstill. “I’m originally from Gaza where snow never falls,” said Bothaina Smairi, 28, who was out in Ramallah taking photographs. “The white snow is covering the old world and I feel like I am in a new world where everything is white, clean, and beautiful.” Jerusalem’s Old City was coated in white. A few ultra-Orthodox Jews, wearing plastic bags over their hats to keep them dry, prayed at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site. Snow falls in Jerusalem once or twice each winter, but temperatures rarely drop low enough for it to stick. The Israeli weather service said up to 8 inches of snow fell in the city. By late morning, the snow changed to rain, turning the city into a slushy mess. But forecasters said temperatures were expected to drop, and the snow would continue through Thursday morning. Heavy snow also was reported in the Golan Heights and the northern Israeli town of Safed, and throughout the West Bank.

The story continues here. You can see some photos of Jerusalem in the snow from previous years here.


New Western Wall Tunnel Approved

Haaretz reports the approval of the construction of a tunnel near the Western Wall. 

The Israel Antiquities Authority has decided to dig a tunnel under the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, close to the Temple Mount. Two weeks ago, the IAA denied such a decision had been made. The tunnel will connect those under the Temple Mount and the site of Ohel Yitzhak, some 150 meters from the Temple Mount wall. The decision to begin the dig was taken in spite the fact that no plan was filed to the planning authorities. Moreover, the Palestinians under whose homes the tunnel will pass were not consulted, even though the law grants them ownership over the territory under their property. (Meron Rapoport)

The third sentence should be corrected to read: “The tunnel will connect the Western Wall ‘rabbinic tunnels’ and the site of Ohel Yitzhak….”  Such a mistake might be excusable if not for the fact that dozens were killed as a result of a similar falsehood perpetuated by Yasser Arafat in 1996.  He inaccurately claimed that Israel was digging under the Temple Mount and 85 Muslims and 16 Israelis died in the riots that resulted

HT: Joe Lauer


Survey of Western Palestine

Here’s a set I almost never see available for sale (and for many years I have had a continuous search for it going through ABEBooks).  But it’s a bit out of my price range, so I’m passing it on to you.

The Survey of Western Palestine, Col. Sir Charles Warren; Capt. Claude Reignier Conder 1881, Published for the committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF), 1881-1889 – First Edition (according to bibliographic resources). A set of six cloth folios, being 11. Bookseller: Orr Hirschauge, Tel-Aviv  Price: US$ 4500.00

View or Order this Book:

Of course, if you just want the maps, in super high-resolution, you can get those on CD for $35.  Or you can get the Index for free. Archive Books has the reprint set available for £2,995 ($5,966).


Glass Mosaic from Caesarea

Haaretz has a story and photo on the unveiling of a Byzantine-era glass mosaic from the Bird Palace.

Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has restored a unique 1,400-year-old glass mosaic, which was discovered in 2005 during excavation of the ancient Bird Palace in Caesarea, Haaretz has learned.
Yael Gurin-Rosen, head of the IAA’s glass department, said that the mosaic panel is the first of its kind to be excavated in Israel, and due to the quality of its preservation, given its age, and its gleaming, gilded craftsmanship indicating Christian origins, it is most likely the only one in the world.

You can read the rest and see the photo here.

HT: Yehuda Group.

Update: Joe Lauer sends along two related articles, one from the AP and one from the Israel Antiquities Authority.  Both have nice photos.

Update #2: has a short video showing the glass mosaic.  There is some confusion in terminology – this is a glass mosaic found in the “Palace of the ‘Bird Mosaic.'”  The palace has many mosaics, some of which are birds, and which you can see from above at 15-20 seconds into the video.  The photos below are from this palace.

  Caesarea Byzantine mansion mosaic, tb011006326

 Caesarea Byzantine mansion mosaic, peacock, tb011006334

 Caesarea Byzantine mansion mosaic, dog, tb011006336


Renfrew on "The Dawn of Civilization"

The Scotsman has an interesting preview of an upcoming lecture by Colin Renfrew.  The article is entitled, “Cemetery Looting Robs Archaeologists of DNA Link to Past,” but I think the more interesting discussion is about other subjects.  For instance:

A greater puzzle is why, after Homo sapiens dispersed from Africa about 60,000 years ago, pockets of human culture developed in different ways at different rates. Urban civilisations developed independently in six or seven locations, thousands of years apart, with no contact between the different groups, from Sumerian culture in 4,000BC, to West African in AD1,000.
“It’s one of the great unanswered problems of the human story,” Lord Renfrew says. “Why did societies working independently in different parts of the world come up with civilisations, including cities, which are in some ways quite similar?
“For a long time, archaeologists assumed there was a diffusion of cultures from one area to another. There was even a theory that everything emerged from ancient Egypt, and wise people from there went over the world and built their pyramids in Mesoamerica. But as we get a much better understanding of the archaeological record, it is clear that there wasn’t sailing over great distances until the time of the Conquistadores and early colonists, although the Polynesians did make some amazing voyages in their canoes.”

You can read the whole here. The lecture is in Scotland on Monday.

HT: Joe Lauer


Herodian Quarry: To Preserve or Not to Preserve?

The Herodian quarry in Jerusalem (see previous on discovery, location, and photos) is back in the news, as construction of a school begins on part of the site.  An archaeologist notes that there’s no plan currently to turn part of the area into a tourist site, despite a previous agreement.  Some portions of the article:

Seligman said that no “concrete” decision has been taken whether to turn the defined archeological area to a tourist site or to set up a back-covering to protect it, adding that the issue needed to be worked out between the Antiquities Authority and the Jerusalem Municipality….
“We have not been consulted on the issue, and it is unclear whether the archeological site is important enough,” said head of the city’s tourism division Ekey Bar-Yossef….
The part of the quarry that has been unearthed is likely only 30 to 40 percent of its total size, but archeologists have no plans to excavate the rest of the area because it is private property….

You can read the whole JPost article here.

HT: Joe Lauer


New ASOR Session on Judaism and Christianity

Readers may find this of interest:

Dear Friends and Colleagues, We are writing to inform you of a new session being proposed for the 2008 ASOR annual meeting in Boston that will focus on the archaeology of Judaism and Christianity in the Roman and Byzantine periods.  The session chairs are seeking papers that present architectural, art historic, inscriptional, or any type of material discussion of synagogues, churches, necropoleis, and/or their associated communities in either Palestine or the Diaspora.  We are also looking for papers that address material evidence for cultural and religious communication among Jews, Christians, and their neighbors.  Reports on field seasons are also encouraged where relevant. This new session has not yet been accepted for the 2008 ASOR annual meeting.  Before it is proposed, we would like to demonstrate the interest in such a session to the Program Committee by assembling a list of possible presenters.  If you are interested in submitting an abstract for this session, please notify us before January 31 by emailing  We do not necessarily need abstracts or paper titles by then — only a stated interest and intent to submit an abstract. Please feel free to forward this message to colleagues, students, and others who may be interested in taking part in the proposed session.  Thank you for your support. Sincerely, Steve Werlin and Carrie Duncan