National Geographic has posted their top 10 discoveries of the broader archaeological world, and that has prompted me to create a list of the 9 most important discoveries from 2009 related to the biblical world. It is too difficult to rank these, especially as the significance of some of them is not yet fully known. The order follows the chronology as they were mentioned on this blog, from February to December.
1. Heliodorus Stele Discovered – This temple inscription from Maresha-Beit Guvrin features a proclamation from Seleucus IV and dates to 178 BC.
2. Foot-Shaped Stone Enclosures Discovered in Israel – Five large stone enclosures were discovered in and near the Jordan Valley. From the air, they look like footprints. They appear to date from the period when Israel was recently settled in the land.
3. Seal of Saul Found in Jerusalem – Seals with personal names from the biblical period in Jerusalem continue to be helpful. Apparently Judeans in the time of Hezekiah were still naming their sons after Israel’s failed monarch.
4. Cryptic Ten-Line Inscription Found on Mount Zion – This lengthy inscription from the 1st century AD continues to confound scholars.
5. Middle Bronze Passageway Found in City of David – This discovery solves the problem of how the Jerusalem inhabitants accessed the secure water source in the 18th century BC. What’s not new, but still most impressive, is the monumental construction found in the city.
6. First-Century Synagogue in Magdala – Dozens of synagogues exist in Galilee from later periods, but this is now an excellent example of one from the time of Jesus, and at a place that he almost certainly visited.
7. Temple Mount – This makes the list because of the collective discoveries, not only on the platform itself, but also in the debris sifting operation. Some of the finds made have not yet been publicized.
8. Minoan-Style Wall Paintings on Israel’s Coast – Canaanite rulers on the coast liked the decorating style of the Cretans.
9. First-Century House in Nazareth – The first residential structure from the time of Jesus will not only help scholars understand the ancient village but will become a popular destination for pilgrims.
If you think something else should be added (or substituted), feel free to note that in the comments.
Likewise, if you see a similar list elsewhere, include that link in the comments.
Other Important Posts of the Year: (in reverse chronological order)
Leper Wrapped in Cloth Buried in Jerusalem – A new scientific publication on a decade-old discovery brings renewed attention.
Photos from Israel in 1948 – Ben Atlas has created several sets of images from the huge Life Magazine online archive.
Qeiyafa: Survey vs. Excavation – The results don’t differ a little, but they contradict each other in each period.
Qeiyafa Inscription Details – This ostracon from c. 1000 BC is difficult to decipher.
“Joseph’s Coins” – This story would have fared better if it had been released on April 1.
Bar Kochba Coin Cache Discovered – An outstanding collection of coins from the 2nd century AD were found in a cave in the Judean hills.
The James Ossuary Inscription Proven Fraudulent in Court of Law – Oh, wait, that’s never happened. Apparently the prosecution is less than convincing.
Virtual Walking Tour of Temple Mount – In some ways, this is better than visiting the Jerusalem holy place in person.
Alexander the Great Carving Found at Dor – A very tiny gemstone with a portrait on the Greek conqueror attests to the abilities of the artist.
Aphrodite and Odeon Found at Hippos – This Roman-Byzantine city overlooking the Sea of Galilee is home to beautiful discoveries large and small.
Another Herodian Quarry Found in Jerusalem – This quarter-acre quarry north of the Old City might have made the list of top discoveries if several other Herodian quarries had not been found in recent years.
The Bones and Face of the Apostle Paul – Excavators found the remains of a person dating to the right period at the traditional location of Paul’s burial site.
Roman Quarry = Ancient Gilgal? – Archaeologists have proposed a connection between this underground quarry and the missing site of Gilgal.
Survey of Western Palestine – This post gathers together known links to electronic versions now available online for free.
Norman Golb’s Son Arrested on Charges of Impersonation – Bloggers suspicious of hundreds of comments and links in the past few years were not surprised to learn that they apparently are all the
work of a single individual.
That Rope Around the High Priest’s Ankle – It didn’t exist.