Recent News and Resources

I’ve been collecting items of interest over the past week:

Archaeologist Shimon Gibson claims that a concert near Jaffa Gate would damage antiquities (JPost).

A Christian organization in Colorado Springs is spending $2.3 million on a replica of the Western Wall, and a building to showcase it.  50 million tons of stone will be brought from Israel.

King Tut comes to Dallas on Friday.

The JPost Magazine has a profile of Eilat Mazar, currently excavating in the City of David.  She says,
“I work with the Bible in one hand and the tools of excavation in the other. The Bible is the most important historical source.”

The ESV Study Bible, which was mentioned before here, is due out in a couple of weeks and its visual components (maps, charts, drawings) gets further explanation in an interview with Justin Taylor.

Leen Ritmeyer, renowned for his architectural work on the Temple Mount, is now offering some of his excellent work in affordable PowerPoint files.

I’ve just added Ferrell Jenkins’ Travel Blog to the blogroll.

This is not new, but I do not remember really recognizing all that is here before, so perhaps you did not either.  The Archaeological Study Bible website has many dozens of photos, charts and maps (medium-resolution) available for download.  You can find your way around from here, or go directly to Introduction, Old Testament, New Testament, or Maps.

David Padfield has photos of a Roman army enactment performed at Jerash.  There are 15 free PowerPoint-size images.

If you’re an image junkie, you’ll save time downloading images from the last two sites if you have a download manager.  (I use Free Download Manager with FlashGot on Firefox)

Shana tova (happy new year)!


Wheaton Lectures: From Migdol to Aswan

The first one has passed, but Wheaton College has many more in their fall lecture series entitled, “From Migdol to Aswan: Geoarchaeology in Egypt and Sinai.”  I don’t see it stated explicitly on the website, but in previous years the lectures were open to the public, free of charge.  For locations and other information, see their website.

Monday, October 6, 7:00 PM

The Application of Satellite Imagery to Archaeological Research
Sarah Parcak, University of Alabama-Birmingham

Mining Operations in Sinai in Pharaonic Times Greg Mumford, University of Alabama-Birmingham

Monday, November 3, 7:00 PM

“Moses Slept Here:” A Critical Review of Popular Exodus Theories James K. Hoffmeier, Trinity International University
Stephen O. Moshier, Wheaton College

Monday, November 10, 7:00 PM

Some Applications of Geologic Science in Ancient Egyptian Archaeology James A. Harrell, University of Toledo

Monday, November 17, 7:00 PM
New Insights into the Geography of the Exodus: Reports from Excavations in the Eastern Delta and Northwest Sinai James K. Hoffmeier, Trinity International University
Stephen O. Moshier, Wheaton College

Monday, December 1, 7:00 PM

Paleolithic Occupation of the Sinai Jim Phillips, Field Museum of Natural History


Work Continuing on Herod’s Tomb

Since most people don’t read comments on blogs, especially on posts from a year and a half ago, I’ll note one made today by Sigho concerning Herod’s tomb at Herodium.

Thanks for your information. I was preveledged to be able to enter the site of Herod’s Tomb Yesterday (Sept. 21, 2008). The site is open for public from a distance. But we (3 people) were granted by on site-archaeologists to enter the site. It is still being excavated. Unfortunately, pictures I took yesterday cannot be publicized. Just wait for the official publication by the archaeologists.

I did not realize that work was on-going here.  The restriction on taking photos may indicate that they’re doing more than sweeping dirt.

Herodium tomb of Herod, tb051708036dxo Herod’s tomb, May 2008
UPDATE (9/23): Ferrell Jenkins has given me permission to post a photo he took of construction work going on at the tomb last month.
Photo courtesy of Ferrell Jenkins, August 23, 2008

“Christ” Inscription in Egypt

Here’s a strange one: An archaeologist in Alexandria, Egypt claims to have found a cup with a Greek inscription, “Dia Chrestou Ogoistais” (“through Christ the Magi”).  What’s stranger is that he’s claiming that he found it in a stratified context dating to A.D. 50. 

You can read the article (in Spanish) here.  Some comments and nice photos are here.  More comments are here.

HT: Gene Brooks


Khirbet Qeiyafa Status Update

I’m working on a lengthy (or two-part) post on Khirbet Qeiyafa, but in the meantime, the excavator of the site has given an update, summarized by G. M. Grena and posted on biblicalist:

Prof. Yossi Garfinkel, co-director of the excavation, has given me permission to share his team’s tentative publication schedule (quotes mark his exact words): 1) Their website "is under reorganization and shortly many photos of the site and the excavation will be available to the public." 2) They are still working on an official press release that should be ready "in a week or so." 3) They have already given the Israel Exploration Society "a preliminary text and 7 photos" for the "Notes and News section" of their journal, IEJ. 4) "A larger Hebrew article with 14 photos was given to a book conference to be published in 2 month[s]", but he wasn’t sure about the official name of the book yet. "The conference is a cooperation between the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University and the Jerusalem district of the IAA. It will present to the public the latest results of research and excavations carried out in the Jerusalem area in the last year."

In a later post, the location of some new photos of a pottery presentation is given.


Dead Sea Scroll Lecture Series in NC

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is running a Distinguished Lecture Series in conjunction with its exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

The list includes:

The Dead Sea Scrolls: Controversies and Theories of Early Judaism and Christianity
Eric Meyers

Wednesday, October 1

Women in the Dead Sea Scrolls and at Qumran
Sidnie White Crawford

Thursday, October 16

The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls
Jodi Magness

Thursday, October 30

The Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls
Emanuel Tov

Thursday, November 20

The Dead Sea Scrolls and Early Christianity
Bart Ehrman

Wednesday, December 10

For more information, see the details hereTickets are $25.  For the subject of the Dead Sea Scrolls,
you really cannot beat this line-up of speakers and topics.

HT: Joe Lauer


Art and Scrolls in New York Museums

The press release of the Israel Antiquities Authority:

Two Exhibitions from the Vast Collections of the IAA in New York City Beginning September 21, 2008

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will exhibit the dazzling Gold – Glass Table from Caesarea.  

The Gold Glass Table will be on display in the Byzantine Galleries of the Metropolitan Museum.

Dating to the late 6th, early 7th century CE, this extraordinary, one of a kind panel was excavated in a Byzantine period mansion in the coastal city of Caesarea, when a large mosaic floor known as the Birds Mosaic, was exposed for conservation in 2005. The nearly intact panel is shaped like the letter sigma and made of small glass pieces using the opus sectile technique. The panel was discovered with its face down directly on the mosaic floor and was covered by ashes and debris from the ceiling and the second floor. It comprises a wide frame surrounding the central part, both made of a combination of delicate, translucent gold – glass pieces and opaque, colored mosaic glass pieces. The square gold – glass pieces were decorated with a stamped design of flower or cross. A workshop for wall opus sectile made of stone panels was recently excavated in Caesarea, and one can assume the Gold Glass Table was produced by local artists. The conservation, restoration and exhibition of the Gold Glass Table, was made possible by generous funding from the Margot and Tom Pritzker Foundation. Also at the Met, in the Ancient Near Eastern Art Galleries, are remarkable Chalcolithic period objects on long-term loan to the museum, including examples from the Nahal Mishmar treasure such as the Hippopotamus tusk with circular perforations, and the wonderful copper standard, as well as ivory figurines from Beer-Sheva.

Separately, at the Jewish Museum, a wonderful exhibition – The Dead Sea Scrolls: Mysteries of the Ancient World, will include six Dead Sea Scrolls from the collections of the Israel Antiquities Authority – the largest and most comprehensive collection of Dead Sea Scrolls in the world. The scrolls on display represent the important transformation that occurred in Jewish worship from sacrifice to Bible study and prayer, the debates among Jewish groups of the Second Temple Period, and the indirect connections between the scrolls and early Christianity. The scrolls on display include a part of one of the earliest copies of the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Jeremiah, which dates to 225-175 BCE. Other texts include an apocryphal Jewish work, the Book of Tobit, which was rejected for the Hebrew canon but eventually accepted into the Christian Old Testament; an early example of a prayer from Words of the Luminaries; and Aramaic Apocryphon of Daniel, which mentions a son of God.

Also shown will be excerpts from two sectarian compositions.

The Israel Antiquities Authority is the pre-eminent organization in the field of Biblical and Israeli archaeology, custodian of more than 1.5 million objects among them 15,000 Dead Sea Scrolls, and 30,000 archaeological sites. These exhibitions are part of our continued effort to share the archaeological treasures of the Land of Israel with audiences around the world.

For downloading images please click here [ ]

1. The Gold Glass Table – Photo by Niki Davidov, Israel Antiquities Authority

2. A Fragment of a 2,000 Year Old Psalm Scroll- Photo by Tsila Sgiv, Israel Antiquities Authority

HT: Joe Lauer


Avraham Biran (1909-2008)

From the Agade list via Joe Lauer:

It is my sad duty to inform you that Prof. Avraham Biran passed away last night. He was one month shy of his 99th birthday. Avraham Biran, a third generation Israeli, received his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University under William Foxwell Albright and was Thayer Fellow in the American Schools of Oriental Research, Jerusalem, 1935-37. Formerly Director of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums, he served as Director of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology in Jerusalem from 1974-2003. He participated in the excavations of the University of Pennsylvania in Iraq, at Tepe Gawra near Mosul, and at Khafaje near Baghdad. He accompanied Nelson Glueck in his epoch-making discoveries at the head of the Gulf of Eilat. Professor Biran directed the excavations of Anathoth, Tel Zippor, Ira, Aroer, the synagogue of Yesud Hama’alah, and the longest ongoing excavations in Israel at Tel Dan (under his direction from 1966 to 1999). He is already sorely missed. Dr. David Ilan, Director
Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

UPDATE (9/19): HUC has posted an obituary.

UPDATE (10/6): The NY Times has posted an obituary.


Speculation on the Khirbet Qeiyafa Inscription

With regard to the Khirbet Qeiyafa inscription, there are those who know and those who don’t.  Those who know have been sworn to secrecy, leaving only those of us who don’t know to speculate.  I am happy to oblige and suggest below some reasons on why this inscription is significant, thereby possibly fueling more speculation by others also in the dark.

What is not speculation is the fact that the inscription is being studied by Haggai Misgav, a Northwest Semitic epigraphist (source).  Given the location of its discovery, this is no surprise, but it clearly rules out the possibility that inscription was written in another language.  Misgav Haggai says at present that his conclusions are “doubtful and temporary” and he does not know when he will be ready to publish (reported by Jim West).  That suggests that the inscription is difficult.  I offer some ideas that may explain archaeologist Aren Maier’s comment that this inscription “is going to be

1. The inscription is long.  This is a guess based upon a photograph of the potsherd and a friend’s report that the inscription is 4-5 lines long.  Too many inscriptions are known only from a small portion preserved.  The recent ostracon found at Gath with a name similar to Goliath received much attention, but it contained only two words.

2. The inscription is meaningful.  This is in contrast to other early inscriptions, such as the Tel Zayit abecedary (10th c.) and the Izbet Sartah abecedary (11th c.).  Certainly alphabetic inscriptions are meaningful, and scholars can write much about them.  But the primary reason why they get so much attention is because there are few other contemporary inscriptions.  Sometimes conclusions about the state of writing are made that may be without warrant.  The combination of a brief or ambiguous text with a lack of contemporary material makes possible many wrong interpretations.

3. The inscription was discovered in a stratified context.  This is in contrast to the Gezer Calendar,
which was found in the debris pile in 1908.  The Tel Zayit abecedary was found in a wall, not in its original context.  Archaeologists do not have a clear stratigraphical context for many important inscriptions. 

4. The inscription is early.  Khirbet Qeiyafa has occupation from the 10th century and then a gap until the Hellenistic period (2nd c.).  The inscription certainly dates to the time of the settlement, which guarantees a 10th century date (assuming that the site itself has been correctly dated).  There are very few 10th century inscriptions in Israel, and all have some problems.  (The only 10th c. inscriptions from Israel that come to mind are the Gezer Calendar, Tel Zayit abecedary, and the Shishak inscription, but there are probably others.)  The significance of an inscription increases exponentially each century that you go back in time.  A seal impression in the city of David from the 6th century is less rare and thus less valuable than a letter or poem from the 10th century.

5. The inscription dates to a period now highly controversial in biblical archaeology.  In the mid-1990s Israel Finkelstein proposed a “Low Chronology,” which essentially re-dated all material believed to be from the 10th century to the 9th century.  The poor material culture from the 11th century was brought down to the 10th century.  Historically, then, Israel and Judah were impoverished and weak, or, more likely, non-existent (according to Finkelstein) at the time when the Bible describes the great United Monarchy.  Like so many theories in biblical archaeology, this one is highly dependent upon a large amount of “white space,” in which one’s own ideas can be inserted. 

Almost certainly this new inscription will fill in some of the gaps, as well as spawn its own controversies.

More speculating remains to be done on the site identification of Khirbet Qeiyafa, but that will need to await a future post.