Weekend Roundup

Parts of Caesarea are in danger of being destroyed by the erosion caused by ocean waves, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.  At risk is the port, the restaurants, and the sand on the beach. 

Officials would like $15 million to protect the site.

Ancient gardens at Ramat Rahel are profiled in a recent article at ScienceBlog.

UNESCO has issued a report which refers to “Rachel’s Tomb” as a mosque.  Israel’s prime minister disagrees.

A couple of archaeologists are lecturing at Queen’s College in New York in November.  Eric Meyers is speaking on the “Origins of Nabratein’s Synagogue” on the 3rd.  Jodi Magness’ topic on the 9th is
“Ancient Synagogues: Their Origins and Paradox.”

Anson Rainey will be lecturing on the “Ancient Hebrew Language: Recent Trends in Research” on November 29 in Fort Worth.

Female visitors to Egypt now have some electronic assistance in avoiding the ubiquitous sexual harassment.

A bill in the Knesset may eliminate nearly all hunting in Israel.

More has been published about the untimely death of Ehud Netzer, including this article in Haaretz.

HT: Joe Lauer


Falling Stones Endanger Women at Western Wall

From Arutz-7:

A recent report by engineers says that the condition of the Mugrabi Gate is continuously deteriorating and that a few incidents of rocks collapsing from it were recently reported.
The Mugrabi Gate is the only entry point for Jews and other non-Muslims to the Temple Mount.
Jerusalem District Archaeologist Yochanan Zeligman recently addressed a letter to Israel Antiquities Authority Director-General Shuka Dorfman, in which he warned that “a danger exists to the crowd in the women’s section of the Western Wall Plaza, as well to those who walk on the temporary bridge, should stones fall from above.”
The temporary bridge to which Zeligman referred is a wooden pedestrian pathway to the Temple Mount which was constructed in 2007 after a landslide two years earlier made the earthen ramp leading to the Mugrabi Gate unsafe and in danger of collapse. Zeligman’s letter was based on a report he submitted which determined that since the construction in the Mugrabi Gate has not yet been completed, there are sections which are unsupported and could endanger visitors to the site.
Archaeologist Dr. Gabi Barkai, Jerusalem Prize Winner, member of the Committee for the Prevention of the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, and lecturer at Bar Ilan University, spoke with Arutz7 on Thursday and expressed his sorrow that the Mugrabi Bridge is not being maintained for illogical political reasons.

The story continues with Barkai giving the background to the ramp.  The Temple Mount was closed to non-Muslims until 2003, not 2008 as stated in the article.

New and old ramp to Temple Mount at Western Wall, tb042605549

New temporary ramp (left) alongside original ramp leading to Mugrabi Gate.  Al Aqsa Mosque and the Mount of Olives are visible in the background.

Rainey: Teaching History and Historical Geography

Eisenbrauns has announced a new book by Anson Rainey entitled Teaching History and Historical Geography of Bible Lands: A Syllabus.  Few details about the publication are available beyond its release date in December.  Rainey taught a popular course in advanced Historical Geography for decades at the Institute of Holy Land Studies (now Jerusalem University College).  A lifetime of research culminated in The Sacred Bridge, the most detailed resource on the subject ever written.  I look forward to his latest contribution.


Ehud Netzer, 1934-2010

Ehud Netzer, an Israeli archaeologist renowned for his excavations of projects of King Herod, has passed away in Jerusalem following a fall at Herodium a couple of days ago.  Limited details are posted at the blogs of Jim West, Menachem Mendel, and Aren Maeir, as well as the Jerusalem Post

His fall was reported today in the Hebrew press here, here, and here. Netzer excavated at Herodium, Masada, Caesarea, Jericho, and in Jerusalem.  His recent work, The Architecture of Herod, the Great Builder, is an excellent survey that makes available to the public the decades of his research.  His death is a great loss to many.  May his family and friends be comforted.

HT: Joe Lauer


Samaritans Celebrate Feast of Tabernacles

The Samaritan calendar differs from the Jewish calendar, and their celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) began last week.  Haaretz has a brief article about the observance, along with the notice that there are 712 living Samaritans (not “about 500” or “about 600,” as I’ve always heard, but “712”).

The Samaritans, members of an ancient sect closely associated to Judaism, marked the holiday of the Tabernacles, or Sukkot, on Friday.
Followers of the religion held an annual pilgrimage ceremony on Mount Gerizim, the sect’s holiest site, near Nablus.
Though the Samaritans numbered well over one million in late Roman times, there are now only 712 remaining members, who live mostly on Mount Gerizim and in Holon.

The newspaper has a gallery of six photos, but you’ll do better to head over to the Denver Post, which has beautiful images of previous Samaritan and the Jewish celebrations.  The Samaritan community also has a page with video (Hebrew) about the event.  China View has even more information about the Samaritan community and Sukkot.

Samaritan Passover, praying standing, mat01846

Samaritan prayers on Mount Gerizim

This photo is from the Traditional Life and Customs volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (Library of Congress, LC-matpc-01846).

HT: Joe Lauer


Bethlehem Church of Nativity To Be Restored

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was built in the middle of the 6th century, making it more than 1400 years old.  Unlike Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher, it escaped the Persian destruction in 614 and the Egyptian attack in 1009.  The church not only suffers from age, but from the inability of its occupants to cooperate with each other.  But now the Palestinian Authority has announced plans to renovate the church.  From the Associated Press:

The Palestinian government announced Monday it is planning an ambitious restoration project for the ancient church that marks the traditional birthplace of Jesus, an important Christian site that draws millions of visitors.
The renovation of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity is expected to take several years and millions of dollars, according to Ziad Bandak, an official overseeing the restoration.
Bandak said this is the first comprehensive restoration project on the church since it was completed in the fourth century. He said the roof, pillars and mosaics in the church all need work.
“Rain leaking in has caused great damage to all of those, which led us to move quickly to repair the damage,” Bandak said, adding that the project would also aim to fix general wear and tear on the centuries-old church.
The fortress-like church, built in the classic style with a long central area under a basilica lined with columns on both sides, is dark and damp. The main Christmas event, the Midnight Mass, is celebrated in the 19th century St. Catherine’s Church next door to the Church of the Nativity.
The Palestinian government has appealed to European and Arab nations to help fund the project, Bandak said. He said the three churches that administer sections of the church have agreed to the project. Officials from the Latin, Greek and Armenian churches could not be reached for comment. Their rivalries have often led to fistfights between monks at the holy site.

The full story is here.  For modern photos of the church, see this Pictorial Library volume.  For historic black-and-white photos, see this American Colony CD

Bethlehem Church of Nativity interior, tb102603439

Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

Dead Sea Scroll Fragments Purchased by SWBTS

From a story posted by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary:

Less than a year after acquiring three fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, has added three more biblical fragments, making it the largest collection of an institution of higher education in the United States. The new fragments were obtained from a private collector in Europe through the generous gift from a friend of the seminary. “The acquisition constitutes another significant milestone in the development of our programs in biblical studies and archaeology,” said Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern. “We are especially grateful for the friends of Southwestern who have made these acquisitions, as well as three other fragments, possible and for Mrs. Patterson and Candi Finch who worked so tirelessly to get them to Fort Worth.” The set of six fragments is one more than the set owned by Azusa Pacific University near Los Angeles, which acquired five pieces in 2009. The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago also owns a fragment. Steven Ortiz, associate professor of archaeology and biblical backgrounds and director of the Charles D. Tandy Archaeology Museum at Southwestern, noted that having one fragment would be just as important as owning six. “It is not a race to see who can collect the most fragments,” Ortiz said. “The goal is to get these out of the hands of private collectors and make them available to the public, especially scholars. […] Early analysis shows the new fragments include portions of Deuteronomy 9:25–10:1, Deuteronomy 12:11-14, and Psalm 22:4-13. Psalm 22 is known as a prophetic messianic psalm that describes the brutality of Jesus’ death 1,000 years before he was crucified.

The full story is here.


Weekend Roundup

Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg has written a summary of major archaeological stories in September.

Aren Maeir critiques an article in the current issue of BASOR in which three geologists argue that
Hezekiah’s Tunnel took about four years to dig and was constructed not by Hezekiah but by his son Manasseh.

Leen Ritmeyer has just released “The Ark of the Covenant: Its Journey from Sinai to Jerusalem” digital image collection.  I’ve used a number of these images from the slide set over the years, but now Leen writes that so much has been added that the CD is “an entirely new presentation.”

I received some criticism for daring to suggest that last week’s 60 Minutes report on the excavations in the City of David would be one-sided.  But according to this eight-point critique by CAMERA, I was right.  Another website responds to the claim that there is “no evidence” of King David in

Carol Meyers will be lecturing this week in Fort Worth.  Her title is “Holy Land Archaeology: Past Meets Present” and tickets are $20.  Details are here.

Claude Mariottini points out National Geographic’s slideshow on “12 Ancient Landmarks on Verge of Vanishing.”  The photo of Nineveh is striking, but I can’t agree with the inclusion of Hisham’s Palace (Jericho) in the list.  It is surprising to me that the description of the ruins of Famagusta in Cyprus does not mention the city’s ancient name, Salamis.  Barnabas and Saul (Paul) landed here on Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13:5).

The photograph in the blog header was taken twenty years ago this week.  I was with a group of students from the Institute of Holy Land Studies excavating with Amihai Mazar at Tel Beth Shean. 

Even in late October that place is hot!


Dead Sea Scrolls To Go Online

The Israel Antiquities Authority is collaborating with Google to put all of the Dead Sea Scrolls online for free.  From Device Magazine:

As part of the celebrations on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of its establishment, the Israel Antiquities Authority is launching a unique project – The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library – to document the entire collection of  the Dead Sea Scrolls. A major lead gift from the Leon Levy Foundation, with additional major funding from the Arcadia Foundation and the support of Yad Hanadiv Foundation, will enable the Israel Antiquities Authority to use the most advanced and innovative technologies available to image the entire collection of 900 manuscripts comprising c. 30,000 Dead Sea Scrolls fragments in hi-resolution and multi spectra and make the digitized images freely available and accessible to anyone anywhere in the world on the internet.  This is the first time that the collection of Scrolls will be photographed in its entirety since the 1950’s. The IAA announced this morning that it is collaborating with the Google R&D center in Israel in this milestone project to upload not only all of the digitized Scrolls images but also additional data online that will allow users to perform meaningful searches across a broad range of data in a number of languages and formats, which will result in unprecedented scholarly and popular access to the Scrolls and related research and scholarship and should lead to new insights into the world of the Scrolls.

The full story is here.  Many other similar articles can be found here.


Weekend Roundup

National Geographic has a beautiful seven-shot photo gallery of King Herod’s tomb, including good information about the recent discoveries.  The Book and the Spade discusses the tomb in its current radio broadcast (direct link from this page).

Leon Mauldin has posted a beautiful aerial photograph of Aphek/Antipatris

No, I didn’t watch the 60 Minutes piece on the excavations in the City of David.  After a while, dishonest reporting is no longer even entertaining.

The Jerusalem Post has a short article on the stones of Jerusalem, including mention of the British
Mandate law requiring that buildings in the city be faced with it.

Logos 4 was released a year ago, but I waited until recently before installing it on my computer.  I’ll add my voice to the chorus praising the program.  If you didn’t already know, each of the base packages includes a module entitled “BiblePlaces.com Image Library,” which features 350 selected photographs from our collection.

The new Holman Christian Standard Bible Study Bible arrived in the mail Saturday.  I am impressed by the attractiveness of the pages (full color) and the selection of writers for the notes.  I like the appropriately chosen photos of biblical sites and artifacts, and I was usually pleased with what was written about the controversial issues I checked.  Apparently the whole Bible is online at mystudybible.com, but it was a bit slow when I tried.

Last week my family welcomed another son into our home.  He missed the 10-10-10 date by one day, but otherwise he is perfect.