Qeiyafa Ostracon Update

There was some news this month regarding the Qeiyafa Ostracon.  I previously posted the new reading by Gershon Galil.  That was criticized by some, including Christopher Rollston who has some good thoughts on his blog.  The Khirbet Qeiyafa team has attacked Galil in an open letter for ethical concerns as well as problems of scholarship and “scientific methodology.”

Gordon Govier interviewed a number of scholars about the ostracon in an article for Christianity Today. Govier also interviewed Seth Sanders and Chris Rollston for the radio program, The Book and the Spade (also online temporarily as #1210 and #1211).

The Mormon Times has an article that summarizes the latest, with input from BYU professor Jeffrey R. Chadwick.

The Khirbet Qeiyafa website has been updated with new photographs and drawings of the ostracon (and page two here).

An article has just been published (and posted online in pdf format) in PalArch’s Journal of Archaeology of Egypt/Egyptology by Gregory Bearman & William A. Christens-Barry entitled “Spectral Imaging of Ostraca.” The article includes several photos of the Qeiyafa Ostracon.


Thursday Roundup

I continue to catch up on stories from earlier this month.

A building from the Neolithic period has been discovered in Tel Aviv.

Scholars in the British Museum discovered a couple of fragments similar to the Cyrus Cylinder in their collection.  Iran is upset that this will delay the promised loan of the artifact.

Abu Gosh decided it wanted to take the world record for the largest hummus dish ever made.  I drove by the restaurant a day after the big event and thus missed the opportunity to sample part of the 8,000 pounds of hummus, but I did see the satellite receiver in which the dish was served.

If you’re looking for a more academic trip of Turkey, I’d recommend this BAS tour led by Mark Wilson.

The sad state of the “Sanhedrin Tombs” in Jerusalem is reported in an article in Haaretz.

Sanhedrin Two-Columned tomb, tb062907604dxo

Two-Columned Tomb in Sanhedria neighborhood of Jerusalem

HT: Joe Lauer


Jaffa Gate Excavations

One of the items on my list for this blog was some new photos of the renovations at Jaffa Gate.  Tom Powers has beat me to it, however, and done a much better job.  He has a number of high-resolution photographs, along with explanations of what you’re seeing (as best as can be determined by an outsider).  I have heard through the grapevine that the archaeologists uncovered both ancient and modern aqueducts as well.  This makes sense given the location of Jaffa Gate and the nearby presence of the Towers/Hezekiah’s Pool.

Read the post on his Tom’s new blog and subscribe to future posts using the RSS feed.

Jaffa Gate area with excavations, tb010310770

Jaffa Gate area with excavations underway
Photo taken January 3, 2010

360 Degree Views in Jerusalem

360 degree views in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher – if you didn’t want to stand in the long line to enter the tomb, this gives you a perfect view without the crowds, noise, or fragrances.

360 degree views in the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque – if you’re not Muslim, you can’t stand in a line long enough.  One other 360 degree view is the Western Wall, but these photos are less unique.  The entry point to all three sites is here.

Holy Sepulcher, line to enter tomb, tb011610713

Line to enter tomb at Church of Holy Sepulcher, earlier this month. One tour guide estimated the wait time to be two hours.

Tuesday Roundup

Ynetnews has a story on renovations of David’s Tomb on Mount Zion.

Leen Ritmeyer’s recent lecture on how he identified the location of Solomon’s Temple is recounted in a story in the Baptist Press.

A sarcophagus cover with a Medusa decoration is the now on display at Caesarea.  The IAA press release (temporary link) also has some high-resolution images (direct link).

A hoard of 1,300 silver coins apparently from the Hellenistic period have been discovered in Rafah in the Gaza Strip, announced the Hamas-run “ministry of tourism and antiquities.”

The Museum of Tolerance to be built in the Mamilla neighborhood of Jerusalem will be half the size of the original plan because of reduced sources of funding.  Plaintiffs who filed suit against the
construction have lost their case and been fined by the court.

I’ve had little time this month for noting the latest stories.  As time permits, I’ll continue to try to catch up.

HT: Joe Lauer and Paleojudaica


Glo for $40

I’ve recommended Glo before, and I see that it’s available for a few days (until 1/28) for only $40 from Rejoice Software (click “buy now” to see lower price).  That’s quite a bit cheaper than I’ve seen it before.  The email announcement I received claims that Zondervan has raised the retail price to $90.

You can learn more about this multimedia Bible program here.

(Disclosure: about half of the photographs in the product are mine, but I don’t benefit from the sales.)


Fishing Banned on Sea of Galilee

From Arutz-7:

Minister of Agriculture Shalom Simchon has announced a ban on all fishing in the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) for two years. The ban also extends to the part of the Jordan River that empties into the Sea of Galilee, and to all the other rivers that empty into the famous lake.
The authority to ban fishing is within the Minister of Agriculture’s authority according to the official Fishing Order, and the ban is set to take effect on March 1, 2010, extending until February 28, 2012. Minister Simchon has asked the Finance Ministry to allot NIS 15 million for enforcing the ban and compensating the fishermen who will be hurt by it.
Simchon explained that according to Agriculture Ministry statistics, the quantity of fish in the Sea of Galilee has plummeted in the past decade, and especially in the last two years, by tens of percentage points annually. It has now reached  a critical level, he said, and these statistics mean that the sea may be facing an ecological disaster in which all its fish would die out.

The full story is here.

Boats filled with fish, mat07411

Fishing boats on Sea of Galilee, early 1900s

This photo is from the Traditional Life and Customs volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (Library of Congress, LC-matpc-07411).


Mount of Olives Cemetery Online

From the Jerusalem Post:

The world’s oldest Jewish cemetery just went online.
A new project undertaken by the City of David archeological Park, located south of Jerusalem’s Old City and at the foot of the Mount of Olives cemetery, has begun the process of identifying and documenting tombstones throughout the entirety of the Mount of Olives and uploading the data to the Web.
Tens of thousands of graves on the mount have already been mapped and incorporated into a database, in the first-ever attempt to restore the graves and record the history of those who were buried there. The project includes the creation of a Web site (www.mountofolives.co.il) that aims to raise awareness of the City of David and to honor the memory of those buried in the cemetery, as well as to inform about the tours and activities available.
Additionally, the Web site tells stories of the people buried in the cemetery and, through a simple search window, one can locate the documented graves by name.
“We hope that this Web site will give people all over the world the opportunity to remove the dust of generations from the graves of their loved ones, and to both restore and reveal the stories buried underground,” Udi Ragones, the public relations director for the project, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
“There’s so much history there, so many stories, that this project is fascinating both from a personal perspective as well as an historical one,” he said.
While more than 20,000 gravestones have already been documented, organizers estimate that there are between 200,000 and 300,000 in the cemetery, which leaves an enormous amount of work left to be done.
The already documented graves include those of the reviver of the Hebrew language, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, Nobel Prize for Literature laureate Shai Agnon, former prime minister Menachem Begin, Hadassah Women’s Organization founder Henrietta Szold, founder of the Bezalel Art School Boris Schatz, Chaim ben Moses ibn Attar, also known as the Ohr ha-Chaim after his popular commentary on the Torah, and Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British Mandate.

The full story is here.

HT: Joe Lauer

Tomb of Zechariah, religious ceremony, mat06376Jewish ceremony in cemetery on Mount of Olives, early 1900s

This photo is taken from the Jerusalem volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (Library of Congress, LC-matpc-06376).


The Ultra-Orthodox Western Wall

This editorial at Ynetnews gives one side’s perspective on how the Western Wall prayer plaza came to be controlled by the ultra-orthodox.

Here’s a snippet:

But then, for the first time in its history, iron barricades were placed in the forward part of the plaza, close to the Kotel itself. This was the first mehitzah, the first separation between men and women, in the history of the Kotel. There had already been such attempts in the past. At the end of Turkish rule and under the British Mandate attempts had been made to separate between the sexes in the area next to the Kotel, but they failed. During most of those years when Jews had access to the Western Wall and during those years when they did not, there was never a mehitzah at the Kotel. But now a mehitzah was put up, which put aside most of the area – and the best part thereof – for the use of the men; barricades were put up to mark the entrances; and ushers were placed to assure the separation and to distribute paper kippot to those men who wished to approach the Kotel itself.
The escalation of more recent years is due particularly to Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, known as the “Rabbi of the Kotel.” He did not invent anything, but he perfected the system: swearing-in ceremonies of the IDF became fewer and further between; an attempt was made to separate the sexes at the ceremony in which new immigrants received their identity cards; signs calling for modesty were posted in every corner; Israeli flags suddenly disappeared (and meanwhile were returned). Most of world Jewry is not Orthodox, but the rabbi of the holiest place in the world to the Jewish people is Orthodox – and not just ordinary Orthodox, but Haredi.

The full editorial is here.

HT: The Bible and Interpretation

Jews at Western Wall, mat08511  Jews praying at Western Wall, early 1900s
Source: The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection: Jerusalem

Western Wall prayer area, db6804154111

Western Wall prayer area, April 1968
Source: Views That Have Vanished

Conserving the Dead Sea Scrolls

From Haaretz:

For the past two and a half months, Tania Treiger, a conservator with the Israel Antiquities Authority, has been pouring over a piece of parchment about 20 centimeters square. It began with a microscopic examination of the fragment to gauge its condition, and continued with the placement of special paper over the writing to very slowly remove the circa 1970s adhesive tape.
Treiger, whose tools include Q-tips, tweezers and lots of patience, is one of four “guardians” of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These four women, all from the former Soviet Union, are the only people in the world permitted to touch the scrolls.
The first of the Dead Sea Scrolls, among the most important archaeological finds in the world, were discovered in the mid-1940s in the Dead Sea area, and have been making headlines ever since. This week, the Hebrew daily Maariv reported that the IAA had decided to stop sending the scrolls abroad to exhibitions for fear of legal complications, after the Jordanian government demanded that Israel return scrolls to Jordan. In 1967 the Jordanians tried to remove the scrolls from the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem to Jordan, but Israel took East Jerusalem before that could happen and found the scrolls in the museum storerooms.
The scrolls, dating from about 300 BCE to 70 CE, survived amazingly well in the dry conditions of the caves of Qumran, on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea. The first scroll scholars, an international consortium of eight researchers, tried to piece together the fragments as best they could. “They were geniuses who did amazing work, but they were not aware of the physical needs of the material,” Shor says.
Using adhesive tape, they stuck together what they believed to be related fragments and laid them between two pieces of glass. The scholars created a total of 1276 such plates. But adhesive tape, an amazing invention in the 1950s, became a conservation catastrophe for the scrolls. The chemicals in the adhesive ate into the organic material, stained it and wiped out letters. Later scholars also did damage. In the 1970s, they began to piece together fragments using rice paper and plastic material, which caused additional damage. Luckily, this process was halted and most of the fragments remained within the glass plates.
The digitalizing of the scrolls, under preparation for three years, is to begin in about six months. The project, whose cost is estimated at more than $5 million, will use special photographic techniques, including infrared and full-spectrum photography, which are also expected to reveal hidden letters. The intent of the project, which will take five years, is to place everything on the Internet so scholars around the world can take part in the greatest puzzle of all – piecing together tens of thousands of fragments of some 900 different compositions.

The full article is here. The Hebrew version has two photographs.

HT: Joe Lauer