Weekend Roundup

Last week I noted an article on the Nahal Yehudiyeh.  The author, Shmuel Browns, has a website with an expanded version of the article, plus many other interesting articles and beautiful photos.  I particularly like his shot of the Dead Sea sinkholes.

A team of archaeologists has created an online map of Israeli excavations in the West Bank.  The project won an award last week from ASOR.  You can search sites by period, type, or keyword.

Greece is planning to restore the theater of Dionysius at the foot of the acropolis.  This theater was first built in the late 6th century BC.

Google is planning to make a virtual copy of the collections of the National Museum of Iraq, to be online early next year.  This is good news, since the three official “re-openings” never included entrance to the public and only 8 of the 26 galleries have been restored.

The most famous place in Israel for hummus is Abu Ghosh.  Now the owner of the Abu Ghosh
Restaurant is planning to break the record by making a four-ton vat.  Come hungry.

HT: Explorator

Athens theater of Dionysus, tb031806337

Theater of Dionysius, Athens

Photos from Israel in 1948

About a year ago, Life Magazine made its archive of 10 million photos available online.  Ben Atlas has sifted through the collection and pulled out images related to Israel in 1948, particularly the War of Independence.

LIFE in Israel in 1948 – Part 1

LIFE in Israel in 1948 – Part 2

LIFE in Israel in 1948 – Part 3

This is a fantastic collection that proves the old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

You can search the archive yourself with Google if you add “+source:life” to your search.  So, for instance, you might try these searches:

Jerusalem in 1940s (176 images)

Palestine in 1940s (200 images)

Israel in 1940s (200 images)

The story of the birth of modern Israel is one of the most remarkable tales of the 20th century.  There are many books on the subject, but one I have enjoyed several times is O Jerusalem, a classic which is also available in audiobook format (22 CDs for $20 from Amazon).  I listened to the book this summer and profited greatly.

HT: David Reagan


Omrit Excavations 2009

I was invited this year to attend the Bible and Archaeology Fest in New Orleans.  This was the 12th annual series of lectures sponsored by the Biblical Archaeology Society.  While most professors and graduate students attend the annual professional meetings of SBL and ASOR, this series is targeted toward those with a high level of interest but who have less training.  Many of the lecturers commented that they enjoy the conference so much because the attendees are so highly motivated.  I certainly found that to be true, and I personally enjoyed the conference.  The presenters were all first-rate.  They were articulate, well prepared, and engaging.  All of them illustrated their lectures with visual aids.  I can recommend the series to you without hesitation or reservation.  I didn’t agree with everything the lecturers said, but my thinking was never unprovoked.  Hopefully some of that will come up in a short series I hope to post here.

I’ll start the series with the presentation on the 2009 excavations of Omrit, given by Co-Director, Dan Schowalter.  I noted Omrit here recently when the archaeologists made public their theory that the Omrit temple, and not the one at Caesarea Philippi (Banias), should be equated with King Herod’s imperial temple. 

In excavations since 1999, archaeologists have identified three successive temples at the site.  The first, dubbed the “Early Shrine,” was built not earlier than 50 BC and probably went out of use not later than 20 BC.  Schowalter suggested that the builders of Temple Two were unaware of the Early Shrine until they began construction.  They thought the Early Shrine was a tomb and so they left unguentaria behind, but the excavators think they were incorrect in their identification. 

Temple One is credited to King Herod, and the archaeologists believe this is the temple that Josephus mentions as being near Paneion (Caesarea Philippi; Ant. 15.10.3).  Built in 20 BC, this temple was much more impressive in construction than the Early Shrine.  For reconstruction diagrams, see this page at Macalester College’s website.

Temple Two was an expansion, built c. AD 80, which included a colonnade and staircase.  The columns were about 30 feet (10 m) tall, and niches (for statues?) flanked the monumental staircase. 

This temple may have been destroyed in the earthquake of AD 363.

In the future, archaeologists would love to discover the ancient name of the site.  A Greek boundary inscription with the name of Emperor Diocletian (late 3rd century) was broken off and the city name was not preserved.

Survey work in January 2011 will benefit from last summer’s grass fire.  The site is much larger than the temple area and includes an acropolis which is elevated above the temple site.

The government has proposed plans that would provide parking and an access path to the site. 

Currently, it’s a challenge to find by car and impossible to arrive by bus.

Some of the impressive architectural pieces from the temple will be part of a new display in the Biblical and Archaeology Wing of the Israel Museum, slated to open next summer.

For a few photos of the temple, see this previous post.

UPDATE: I’ve been asked about the date and time of the next Bible and Archaeology Fest.  If it
follows the pattern of previous years, it will be November 19-21, 2010 in Atlanta.


Beirut, As It Was

One of these days I’m going to get to Beirut, Lebanon.  Until then, I’m going to imagine that it looks just like this.

Beirut and St George's Bay, mat10591

Beirut and St. George’s Bay, probably in 1920s

J. L. Porter visited the city in the 1870s and wrote about it in The Giant Cities of Bashan and Syria’s Holy Places:  “The site of Beyrout is among the finest in the world. From the base of Lebanon a triangular plain juts into the sea, and round a little bay on its northern shore nestles the nucleus of the city, engirt by old walls and towers. Behind the city the ground rises with a gentle slope, and is thickly studded with villas of every graceful form which Eastern fancy, grafted on Western taste, can devise; and all embosomed in the foliage of the orange, mulberry, and palm. In spring time and summer Beyrout is beautiful. The glory of Lebanon behind, a mantle of verdure wrapped closely round it, fringed by a pearly strand; in front the boundless sea, bright and blue as the heavens that over-arch it. Such is Beyrout” (282).

The photo and quotation are both taken from the Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (Library of Congress, LC-matpc-10591).


Favorite Water Hike: Nahal Yehudiyeh

One of my favorite hikes in Israel is along the Nahal Yehudiyeh in the Golan Heights.  You have to swim, and in non-summer months the water is a bit chilly.  But it’s an exciting hike in many ways. 

Arutz-7 has a story which includes the details you need to know before you go.  One sample:

Hiking the upper section of Nahal Yehudia is considered to be appropriate for good hikers who can swim, as there are a couple of places where you have to climb down the rock face with the help of handholds or a ladder into a deep pool that you have to swim across. Note that you must start out on the well-marked trail by noon.
The hike starts above the wadi on the red trail, walking through a deserted Syrian village of basalt field stones built on the remains of an earlier Jewish town from the Roman-Byzantine period.
Remains of a wall have led archaeologists to suggest that Yehudia is Soganey, one of the three fortresses (the other two are Gamla and Sele’ukya) in the Golan built by Josephus at the time of the Roman Revolt.

I don’t know how easy it is to find any more, but a great resource for adventures like these is the book by Joel Roskin, Waterwalks in Israel (Jerusalem Post, 1996).

Nahal Yehudiyeh waterfall and pool, tb040703201 Nahal Yehudiyeh waterfall

UPDATE: The author of the article, Shmuel Browns, has commented below. Take a look at his website for a more comprehensive article and photos.


Magdala Project Blog

A recent comment on a previous post has alerted me to the existence of the Magdala Project Blog.  It appears to be current (the most recent post was 4 days ago), and it is loaded with lots of information and photos.  Recent posts include:

Another one that may be of interest to readers are statistics of the Sea of Galilee, with data from the Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection.

You can also see a slide show from the Magdala excavations here.


Crossway ESV Bible Atlas

On the one-year anniversary of the ESV Study Bible, Justin Taylor reveals that a new Bible atlas is in production.

For those who have appreciated the maps and illustrations in the ESVSB, in June we’ll release the Crossway ESV Bible Atlas, which we’re very excited about. It was a huge project, but OT scholar and archaeologist John Currid (RTS-Charlotte) and cartographer David Barrett have done an outstanding job with it. There’s about 65,000 words explaining the geography and cultures of the biblical world, along with 175 full-color maps, including some in 3D, 70 photos, numerous recreations, a fully searchable CD, and a detailed 16.5 x 22-inch map of Palestine.

He does not mention that David Barrett is also the creator of the recently released Bible Mapper 4

Readers here may be interested to know that the majority of the photos in the new atlas come from the image collection of BiblePlaces.com.

HT: Ted Weis


View from Mount Nebo, Then and Now

What is your favorite view in the Middle East?  I have a number of places that I aspire to be on the rare day when the air is crystal clear.  Perhaps my top three viewpoints in Israel are Nebi Samwil, Mount Carmel, and Arbel.  On the other side of the Jordan River, Mount Nebo ranks first. 

Unfortunately, I have never been there on a really clear day.

The photo below was taken in the 1930s, when factories and automobiles were less troublesome to photographers.  The view is from Mount Nebo, and you can see beyond the northern end of the Dead Sea to the Judean wilderness and even Jerusalem.

Dead Sea and Judean wilderness, view from Mt Nebo, mat03779
View from Mount Nebo with Dead Sea

I’m linking this photo to the highest resolution available (5200 x 3700 pixels), which will make it a slow download, but those of you with interest will be able to pick out a lot of detail.

For comparison, the photo below was taken from Mount Nebo on a more typical day.

Mt Nebo view to Dead Sea, tb031801859

The top photo is taken from the Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (Library of Congress, LC-matpc-03779).  The bottom photo is rotten and will never appear in one of my photo collections.


Tuesday Roundup

Apparently the story has been circulating that Cambyses’ lost army has been found.  But it’s not true.

This week UNESCO is holding in Acco the second annual World Heritage Workshop on “Disaster Risk Reduction to Cultural Heritage Sites.”

Ferrell Jenkins posts a beautiful aerial photo of the coastal side of Tel Dor.

We’re glad to see that The Bible and Interpretation now has an RSS feed.

I am off in a few hours to New Orleans for a couple of conferences related to the Bible and
archaeology.  I don’t know if I’ll have an internet connection or much time, but if I do, I may post some observations.  Readers of this blog going to the ETS meeting may be interested in this paper:

Seth Rodriquez, Site Identification: In Search of a Methodology
Wednesday, Nov. 18, 10:10-10-50am
Marriott, Ile de France I, 3rd Floor


Amman, Then and Now

If you’re not a subscriber to the BiblePlaces Newsletter (or if it landed in your spam box), you may not know that the Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection is now available.  Here is one of my favorite photos from the CD: Amman, aerial view, acropolis and theater, mat13641 This is an aerial view of Amman, looking down on the acropolis (foreground) and the ancient heart of the Roman city, including the theater.  The acropolis is notable because it is almost untouched, whereas today it has roads, a museum, and many excavated areas.  The area around the theater is now the center of a dense urban city. In biblical times, the city was known as Rabbah or Rabbath-ammon.  In the Roman period, the city was called Philadelphia and was one of the cities of the Decapolis. My attempts to get in an airplane over the city have been unsuccessful, but the photo below will give you some idea of how the area has changed. Amman theater, tb031801008 Amman theater from the acropolis The top photo is one of 25 photos of Amman in the Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (Library of Congress, LC-matpc-13641).  The bottom photo is from the Jordan volume of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.