Skeleton Wrapped in Gold Foil Discovered on Crete

This tomb in Crete dates roughly from the time of Kings Manasseh and Josiah.  From the AP:

ATHENS, Greece — Greek archaeologists have found an ancient skeleton covered with gold foil in a grave on the island of Crete, officials said Tuesday.
Excavator Nicholas Stampolidis said his team discovered more than 3,000 pieces of gold foil in the 7th-century B.C. twin grave near the ancient town of Eleutherna.
Cemeteries there have produced a wealth of outstanding artifacts in recent years.
The tiny gold ornaments, from 1 to 4 centimetres (0.4 to 1.5 inches) long, had been sewn onto a lavish robe or shroud that initially wrapped the body of a woman and has almost completely rotted away but for a few off-white threads.
“The whole length of the (grave) was covered with small pieces of gold foil — square, circular and lozenge-shaped,” Stampolidis told The Associated Press. “We were literally digging up gold interspersed with earth, not earth with some gold in it.”

The full story is here.  I have not seen any photos yet.

The archaeologists have produced a few videos of the excavation before this latest discovery:

The ruins are on the north slopes of Mount Ida, the mythical birthplace of the god Zeus.

Mount Ida from Phaistos, tb041204676Mount Ida from Phaistos, Crete 

HT: Joe Lauer


Visit Ancient Rome with Google

How many times have you rushed through an ancient site, taking as many pictures as you could, but when it was all done you didn’t realize exactly what you saw?  And when it comes time to label your photos or describe them to a friend, you’re at a loss?  Google Street View could be a useful tool in your attempt to “remember” what you saw and where.  The ambitious program is venturing not only into European cities, but their ancient ruins as well.  Pompeii was put online last year and now work is underway for the ruins of ancient Rome.  Once it is complete, you’ll be able to retrace the steps of your tour and make sure that you don’t confuse the Arch of Septimus Severus with the Arch of Constantine.  BBC News has a 2-minute video describing the project.

Arch of Constantine from east, tb112105093Arch of Constantine, Rome

1st Century Mosaic Found in Apamea, Syria

From the Syrian Arab News Agency:

Hama, central Syria, (SANA) –The national Archeological expedition found a unique reddish brown mosaic with a length of 4.8 meters and a width of 3 meters in addition to several coins dating back to the 1st century AD.
Head of Hama Antiquities Department Abdul Qader Farzat said the mosaic was uncovered in Chamber No. 5 Acriba Bath inside Apamea which is six meters long, five meters wide and 4 meters high.
Farzat pointed out that the expedition worked mainly on the western corridor of the bath which is 11 meters long where clay dishes dating back to Byzantine Age were found in addition to a wall upon which a clay canal was found.

The full article is here.

HT: Joe Lauer


The Palace of David: A Flawed Proposal

Several years ago Eilat Mazar announced with great fanfare that she had discovered the palace of David.  It was right where she had predicted it would be. Her analysis was based in part on the Bible, which she believed gave clues to where David’s palace was. 

The main verse in Mazar’s proposal is 2 Samuel 5:17:

When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. But David heard of it and went down to the stronghold.

The key word for locating the palace is “down.”  Because David went from the palace “down” to the stronghold, the palace must be north of the stronghold because of the topography of Jerusalem. 

But the Bible doesn’t say that David went from the palace, and it doesn’t say that he went to the stronghold of Jerusalem.  In fact, I’m certain that he did not. 

You might read the passage in 2 Samuel 5 yourself.  I think you’ll be surprised that Mazar ever made this proposal, that it has been published twice in Biblical Archaeology Review, and that it (apparently) has never been critiqued.

Then you might check out my analysis published today at The Bible and Interpretation.  Who do you think is right?  Does it matter how one reads the biblical text as long as it agrees with the archaeological discoveries?

image Area of excavations of possible palace of David

iPad May Revolutionize Archaeology

Archaeologists working at Pompeii are ecstatic about the value of iPads in the recording process, according to this article posted at

For Dr. Steven Ellis, who directs the University of Cincinnati’s archaeological excavations at Pompeii, perhaps the most significant discovery at the site this year was iPad. Ellis credits the introduction of six iPad devices at Pompeii with helping his team solve one of the most difficult problems of archaeological fieldwork: how to efficiently and accurately record the complex information they encounter in the trenches. Most archaeological researchers today collect data from their sites as others have for the past 300 years. “It’s all pencil and paper,” says Ellis. “You have to draw things on paper, or in preprinted forms with boxes. That’s a problem because all these pages could be lost on an airplane, they could burn, they could get wet and damaged, or they could be written in unintelligible handwriting. And eventually they have to be digitized or entered into a computer anyway.” Although portable computers offer a paperless solution, field archaeologists rarely use them in the trenches because their size, input limitations, battery life, and sensitivity to dirt and heat make them impractical in the harsh conditions of a dig. […]

image Photo from article

Ellis, who estimates that iPad has already saved him a year of data entry, plans to increase the number of iPad devices from one to two per trench. “The recovery of invaluable information from our Pompeian excavations is now incalculably faster, wonderfully easier, unimaginably more dynamic, precisely more accurate, and robustly secure,” he says. Beyond the scope of his project, Ellis sees iPad as revolutionizing the 300-year-old discipline of archaeological fieldwork. “A generation ago computers made it possible for scholars to move away from just looking at pretty pictures on walls and work with massive amounts of information and data. It was a huge leap forward. Using iPad to conduct our excavations is the next one. And I’m really proud to be a part of it.”

The article gives more details and includes a number of photos of the iPad in action.


Chalil Raad: Arab Photographer in Palestine

In connection with a new exhibit at Tel Aviv’s Nachum Gutman Museum, Dana Schweppe has a profile in the weekend magazine of Haarezt on the Christian Lebanese photographer Chalil Raad who lived and worked in Jerusalem from 1891 to 1948.  The article wrestles with whether Raad betrayed the Arab Palestinians because he also took photos of Jewish Palestinians (as they were then known). 

[The land of Palestine] could look like an exotic biblical land, like a wonderful wasteland, like a ripe fruit waiting to be picked. All that was needed was the right lens. This was the prevailing mentality when Chalil Raad (whose first name is often given as Khalil ) first picked up a camera and learned to use it. The idea was to photograph Eretz Yisrael not as it was, with its vibrant Palestinian towns and villages, but as the West world wanted to see it: mostly empty and available for the conquering.
“The Zionist and Palestinian narratives [in Raad’s work] exist in parallel but do not converge into a dialogue,” Sela says. “The photographs tell about two different places that do not interface, even though this is one small country. Each side describes its own fantastical reality.” What sets Raad apart, Sela says, is that his work incorporates both narratives.
Raad, too, “transgressed” by depicting the country from a viewpoint that Edward Said would decades later term “Orientalism.” He photographed a young Palestinian woman working in a field and titled the result “Ruth the Gleaner”; an Arab in a kaffiyeh evokes the New Testament parable of the prodigal son; and three Palestinians next to a tree are said to be at Gilgal, where the manna ceased to fall. But Raad went beyond the photographic mainstream. He was the first photographer who created an Arab-Palestinian identity by photographing both the Arab community and the rich local life. He photographed the society in which he lived – villages and cities, commerce and industry, agriculture and family life – and informed it with a presence that had never before been reflected in photography.

Raad sounds like an interesting figure and I would love to see his photographs.  I wonder, however, if the political angle is overplayed a bit here and Raad was more inspired to photograph scenes he found interesting and people who paid him than he was to contribute to some larger political agenda. 

Individual and undated photographs lend themselves beautifully to the viewer creating whatever narrative he wishes.


The Kazneh of Petra in the 1940s

The impressive “Treasury” is the first building to greet visitors walking through the Siq.  Tucked away from the most direct effects of wind and rain, the Nabatean tomb monument has been well preserved for the last two thousand years. 

Petra, Kazneh, mat04477

Date of photograph: between 1940 and 1946
Since that time, the site has been developed and restorations have been made.  The Treasury became well-known in Western culture with the release of the third Indiana Jones movie in 1989.


The first Westerner to visit Petra in modern times was Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.  Before his visit, he converted to Islam and spent several years living in Syria learning the language.  He was only able to enter the site by feigning desire to sacrifice at Aaron’s tomb (1812).  He died only a few years later (1817), but his writings were published posthumously (1822).  Travels in Syria and the Holy Land describes his visit to Petra and how he hid his notes by sewing them into his clothes.  The book is now available for free download at Google Books.  A reprint is $40 at Amazon.

The top photo is one of more than 100 photos of Petra included in the Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (Library of Congress, LC-matpc-04477).


Wednesday Roundup

Ferrell Jenkins has posted some great shots of the royal theater box at the Herodium, along with one of his recent aerial photos.

A bronze signet ring depicting the Greek god Apollo has been discovered at Tel Dor.  The University of Haifa press release includes a large photo.

A seal dated to 6200 BC has been discovered in the Yeşilova Tumulus in western Turkey.

G. M. Grena argues from LMLK seals and the Bible that Sennacherib did not devastate the economy of Judah.

Yeshiva University is hosting a conference in March entitled “Talmuda De-Eretz Yisrael: Archaeology and The Rabbis of Antique Palestine.” 

You can sign up now for Bible & Archaeology Fest XIII.  I went last year and thought it was excellent.  The list of speakers is a “who’s who” of archaeology and biblical studies.


Limited Offer: 2011 Calendar

Over the last decade, BiblePlaces has contributed photos to many calendars, but we think that the 2011 “Lands of the Bible” calendar is our favorite one yet.  Orange Circle Studio is a leading calendar publisher and they chose some of our favorite pictures to brighten our days through the next year.  Every month has two photographs for these scenic sites:image

  • Capernaum
  • Garden Tomb
  • Michmash
  • Nile River
  • Beth Shean
  • En Gedi
  • Jordan River
  • Dead Sea
  • Dome of the Rock
  • Sea of Galilee
  • Herodium

I have made special arrangements to purchase a limited number at an excellent price.  A large 12” by 12” wall calendar is not inexpensive to ship, but shipping charges are already included in these prices:

  • 1 calendar: $12 (retail $14)
  • 2 calendars: $21 (retail $28)
  • 3 calendars: $29 (retail $42)
  • 4 calendars: $37 (retail $56)
  • 5 calendars: $45 (retail $70)

We could have raised the prices and threw in a 20% off coupon, but we didn’t.  These are absolutely rock-bottom prices.  We have less than 150 left and when they are gone, they are gone.

You can see more about the calendar (with sample images) here, but the discount prices listed above are available only at


Samaritan Synagogue Discovered near Beth Shean

From the Israel Antiquities Authority:

According to Dr. Walid Atrash and Mr. Ya’aqov Harel, directors of the excavation for the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The discovery of another Samaritan synagogue in the agricultural hinterland south of Bet She’an supplements our existing knowledge about the Samaritan population in this period. It seems that the structures uncovered there were built at the end of the fifth century CE and they continued to exist until the eve of the Muslim conquest in 634 CE, when the Samaritans abandoned the complex. The synagogue that is currently being revealed played an important part in the lives of the farmers who inhabited the surrounding region, and it served as a center of the spiritual, religious and social life there. In the Byzantine period (fourth century CE) Bet She’an became an important Samaritan center under the leadership of Baba Rabbah, at which time the Samaritans were granted national sovereignty and were free to decide their own destiny. This was the case until the end of the reign of Emperor Justinian, when the Samaritans revolted against the government. The rebellion was put down and the Samaritans ceased to exist as a nation”.
The building that was exposed consisted of a rectangular hall (5 x 8 meters), the front of which faces southwest, toward Mount Gerizim, which is sacred to Samaritans. Five rectangular recesses were built in the walls of the prayer hall in which wooden benches were probably installed. The floor of the hall was a colorful mosaic, decorated with a geometric pattern. In the center of the mosaic is a Greek inscription, of which a section of its last line was revealed:

meaning “This is the temple”.
The full press release and four high-resolution photos are available here (temporary link).
1 Samaritan synagogue and farmstead.  Photograph: SKYVIEW, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
3Samaritan synagogue inscription: “This is the temple.”   Photograph courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.