Egypt and the Bible Symposium, Toronto

There was a notice yesterday in ANE-2 of two conferences related to Egypt in Toronto next weekend.  You can read more about the Scholarly Colloquium on Ancient Egypt (Nov 6, 8) here.

The Egypt and the Bible symposium falls on the middle day between the colloquium and, while not free like the other, has a number of interesting lectures.  I heard Hoffmeier give the same lecture as listed below last month and it was very good.  I imagine that most of the others are as well.


Saturday, November 7th, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Location: University of Toronto campus, 5 Bancroft Ave., Room 1050

Advance online registration: Public $90.00, Member $80.00, Student $40.00, SSEA Members $80.00


Of plots, women and lawgivers: Egypt as pictured in Genesis & Exodus Prof. Donald B. Redford, Pennsylvania State University

Abraham in Egypt Prof. John Gee, Brigham Young University

Exodus Geography and Location of the Re(e)d in the Light of Recent Archaeological and Geological Work in North Sinai 
Prof. James K. Hoffmeier, Trinity International University

The Campaign of Pharaoh Sheshonq, the Bible’s `Shishak’, to the Levant, ca. 920 B.C: Myth, Legend, or Something you can put your (hand-)pick into?
Prof. John S. Holladay, Emeritus University of Toronto
The Rescue of Jerusalem: The Alliance between Hebrews and Kushites
Henry T. Aubin, author of The Rescue of Jerusalem

Two Hymns as Praise: Poems, Royal Ideology, and History in Ancient Israel and Ancient 
Egypt: A Comparative Reflection Prof. Susan T. Hollis, Empire State College – State University of New York

Egypt and the Infant Jesus Dr. F. Terry Miosi


Herodium, Then and Now

Early Western visitors were intrigued by a conical mountain about 4 miles (6 km) southeast of Bethlehem.  Known by the Arabs as Jebel el Fureidis (Little Paradise Mountain), the site was believed to be the monument built by King Herod and named after himself. 

Herodium, ruins on summit, mat01383

Herodium, eastern tower, date of photograph: 1910-26.
From the Southern Palestine volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (Library of Congress, LC-matpc-01383).

Edward Robinson visited the site in 1838.  He described his visit in his second volume of Biblical Researches in Palestine: “Leaving here our horses, a steep ascent of ten minutes brought us to the top of the mountain, which constitutes a circle of about seven hundred and fifty feet in circumference. The whole of this is enclosed by the ruined walls of a circular fortress, built of hewn stones of good size, with four massive round towers standing one at each of the cardinal points. . . . The tower upon the East is not so thoroughly destroyed as the rest” (170-71).

Today one can see how impressive that solid eastern tower is.  Excavations began at Herodium in 1962 under the Franciscan Virgil Corbo.  After Israel took the area in 1967, Ehud Netzer continued the archaeological work.  Two years ago, Netzer discovered the long-sought-for tomb of Herod.

Herodium interior, tb102603570

Herodium with eastern tower on right

Support Sought for Tel Dor

The Tel Dor team is looking for support and volunteers, and I’m glad to help out by posting a recent letter I received here.  Times are tough for archaeology, as noted by Jeffrey Zorn in this column in the current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.  They would appreciate your support.

Dear Madam/Sir,
The exquisite gemstone of Alexander the great that captured your attention is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, of one of the largest, long-lasting and high-profile archaeological projects in Israel. If you care about the archaeology of biblical times (Israelites, Phoenicians and Sea People), the Classical periods, and the cultural heritage of Israel and the Mediterranean; and if you are interested in forging a bond between Israel and the international community – please take a moment to look at the attached file. Like almost cultural projects around the globe, we need your help to endure.
We would be grateful if you could pass this message to any other interested parties.
Dr. Ilan Sharon,
Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University Jerusalem
Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem 91905
Tel. 972-2-2881304
Dr. Ayelet Gilboa
Chair, Dept. of Archaeology,
University of Haifa, Mount Carmel
Haifa 31905, Israel
Tel: 972-4-8240234, 972-4-8240531
Tel Dor website:
Tel Dor has also a facebook page; you are welcome to visit us.

The cover story this month in BAR is about a beautiful mosaic found in the excavations of Dor. 

If your idea of a perfect summer is excavating on the beach in the best climate in the world, you have found what you’re looking for.

Dor harbor area from north, tb090506883

Harbor of Dor, looking south

Menorah Cave Opened at Beth Shearim

The cave previously known as the “Cave of the Coffins” has been restored and renamed. From Arutz-7:

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin unveiled a huge ancient relief depicting a seven branched menorah at Beit Shearim in the Galilee Tuesday. The menorah, which is 1.90 m. (75”) high, is one of the major tourist attractions at the renovated ancient burial cave site.
The burial caves were discovered decades ago but their recent renovation took place largely thanks to Rivlin’s initiative. In 2004, during his first term as Knesset Speaker, Rivlin visited the site and was stirred by the site of the numerous depictions of the menorah, which is the modern State of Israel’s symbol as well.
He took action to make sure that the site received special preference and that funds were allocated to its restoration and preservation. A team, which included restoration expert Jacques Neger and architect Ram Shoef, got rid of roots that had invaded the caves and restored the wall carvings, and the renewed site was opened to tourists.

The rest of the article, with photos, is here.

The Haaretz report adds this note:

Another two newly discovered burial caves not far from the current archaeological site will be opened to the public in three months.

Another Haaretz article notes the claims of a 93-year-old architect that he discovered the necropolis of Beth Shearim and not the famed watchman Alexander Zaid.

Beth Shearim Cave of Coffins menorah, tb040603019 Menorah decoration before restoration, Beth Shearim

HT: Joe Lauer


New Blog for Tel Burna Excavation

A promising new blog started last week with the intention of chronicling the excavation of a site from the very beginning.  The Tel Burna Excavation Project is headed by Itzhaq Shai and Joe Uziel of Bar Ilan University and we look forward to continued informative postings.  So far, they have covered:

The Arabic name for the site is Tell Bornat, and it has been identified as Libnah by W. F. Albright and A. F. Rainey.

Tell Bornat, possible Libnah, from west, tb011606860 Tel Burna from the west

Pottery Baskets

Pottery pails, tb110704006

If you’ve ever thought it strange that they call them “pottery baskets” when they’re really just plastic buckets, the photo below may help.

Tell Beit Mirsim, pottery baskets, mat05733

This photo was taken in the first season of William F. Albright’s excavation of Tell Beit Mirsim (1926).  It is one of 25 photos taken at the site included in the newly published Southern Palestine volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (originally Library of Congress, LC-matpc-05733).


Hazor 2009 Report

Amnon Ben-Tor and Sharon Zuckerman have posted a brief summary of the excavation results of this year’s season at Hazor.  The focus was on Iron Age material in Area M.  Among other things, they report:

One wide wall, built with a mudbrick superstructure on a stone foundation, was uncovered in the final week of this season. This wall, 1 m. wide and 15 m. long, oriented east–west, is the first of its kind in the area. It must have belonged to a large public structure. The two central rows of worked limestone pillars are parallel to this wall, and most probably form the inner partition walls of an administrative structure. This assumption will be further checked in the next season.
The main finds attributed to the Iron Age phases in the area are pottery sherds and some complete and restorable vessels. In addition, several scarabs and seals, three Egyptianised beads made of faience, zoomorphic and anthropomorphic clay figurines, iron and bronze objects and an incised bone lid were found.

Unfortunately the website was created using frames, so you have to click this link and then select “Report of 2009 Season” unless you want to see the page without the header.

A promo video created by SourceFlix heads the page with information about the 2010 season.


Weekend Roundup

Salvage archaeology is the unplanned kind which occurs when construction reveals ancient remains.  In a city like Jerusalem, modern builders uncover the past far more than they would like.  This Jerusalem Post article gives some good insight into the challenges and rewards.

Archaeologist Yoram Tsafrir is unhappy that the Israel Antiquities Authority is planning to build a three-story museum over the ruins of the Roman “Valley Cardo” on the western side of the Western Wall Plaza.

Stephen G. Rosenberg writes in the Jerusalem Post on two synagogues in the Golan Heights at Ein Nashut and Yehudiya.

An American geologist argued in a recent lecture that David chose the city of Jerusalem because of the karstic limestone formations.  The brief article in the Jerusalem Post only covers the basics and doesn’t reveal what he has contributed to the discussion.  An abstract of the article can be read here.

Case Western Reserve University has about 300 out-of-copyright books on the Ancient Near East available on their website.

The Jerusalem Post has a 3-minute video on the recent story (previously noted here) on the Western Wall tunnels and new discoveries made there.

Bridges for Peace sent me their 2010 calendar because they used one of my photos on the cover.  The calendar is full of beautiful photographs and I see that they are for sale here for $10.

HT: Joe Lauer, Mondo Gonzales, David F. Coppedge


Double-Decker Plaza at Western Wall Planned

From Arutz-7:

Israel is planning a major archaeological dig under the Western Wall (Kotel) plaza, opposite the Temple Mount, officials announced Thursday. The excavations will create an archaeological park directly underneath the area where worshippers currently stand while praying at the Kotel.
The current prayer area will remain open, supported by pillars, while a new area will be added underneath, at the level at which worshippers at the ancient Temple stood in the past.

Don’t expect the Arab leaders to miss this opportunity.

The dig may be met with harsh reactions from Muslim and Arab leaders in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, many of whom have accused Israel of attempting to damage the Al-Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount. Jerusalem-area Muslims recently rioted for several days after it was rumored that “Jewish settlers” had planned to pray on the Temple Mount.

You can see an artist’s sketch of what the area will look like here.  The full article is here.

The present plaza level was lowered in the 1960s, as I noted with this interesting photo comparison.


Cline on the Distortion of Archaeology

The Bible and Interpretation has published a number of provocative essays since its return earlier this year.  A recent one that relates to a matter occasionally noted on this blog is Eric Cline’s “The Distortion of Archaeology and What We Can Do About It: A Brief Note on Progress Made and Yet To Be Made.”  The essay is adapted from a forthcoming book and thus may feel a bit long for internet reading, but you can profitably skim it, slowing down for the sections of greater interest.  After an opening illustration, the article begins:

We find similar situations every year in archaeology, for the junk science which is practiced by many pseudo-archaeologists and amateur enthusiasts (against which I have railed elsewhere) not only cannot withstand serious scrutiny, but in many cases the “results” themselves are not really results in the first place. However, when gratuitous claims of amazing finds, especially concerning Noah’s Ark, the Ark of the Covenant, and Sodom and Gomorrah, are first made, they are featured prominently in the media, but subsequent rebuttals are given little or no attention.
We have to face the reality of the situation, which is that the media are going to keep reporting such stories because they sell newspapers and get people to watch TV or click on Internet links. While they are not nearly as interested in later negative responses, reporters almost always seek immediate reactions which can be used in the original story. So, we have to decide what we are going to do about this and how to turn it to our advantage. (emphasis mine)

You can read it all here.