I stumbled across this photo recently and thought that some of my readers might find this map of the Wadi Qilt (Nahal Perat) environs to be helpful. This is a great area for hiking, but I’d avoid it in the hottest part of summer.
Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, has posted an update of the looters in the Cairo Museum and elsewhere in Egypt. He writes:
What is really beautiful is that not all Egyptians were involved in the looting of the museum. A very small number of people tried to break, steal and rob. Sadly, one criminal voice is louder than one hundred voices of peace. The Egyptian people are calling for freedom, not destruction. When I left the museum on Saturday, I was met outside by many Egyptians, who asked if the museum was safe and what they could do to help. The people were happy to see an Egyptian official leave his home and come to Tahrir Square without fear; they loved that I came to the museum. The curfew started again on Saturday afternoon at 4.00pm, and I was receiving messages all night from my inspectors at Saqqara, Dahsur, and Mit Rahina. The magazines and stores of Abusir were opened, and I could not find anyone to protect the antiquities at the site. At this time I still do not know what has happened at Saqqara, but I expect to hear from the inspectors there soon. East of Qantara in the Sinai, we have a large store containing antiquities from the Port Said Museum. Sadly, a large group, armed with guns and a truck, entered the store, opened the boxes in the magazine and took the precious objects. Other groups attempted to enter the Coptic Museum, Royal Jewellery Museum, National Museum of Alexandria, and El Manial Museum. Luckily, the foresighted employees of the Royal Jewellery Museum moved all of the objects into the basement, and sealed it before leaving.
The deteriorating situation in Egypt has affected the archaeological museum in Cairo. While some locals attempted to take advantage of widespread riots by looting the museum, other Egyptians formed a barricade to prevent access. Two mummies lost their heads before the army arrived. From the Associated Press:
Early Saturday morning, Egyptian army commandoes secured the museum and its grounds, located near some of the most intense of the mass anti-government protests sweeping across the capital.
Before the army arrived, young Egyptians — some armed with truncheons grabbed off the police — created a human chain at the museum’s front gate to prevent looters from making off with any of its priceless artifacts.
“They managed to stop them,” Hawass said. He added that the would-be looters only managed to vandalize two mummies, ripping their heads off. They also cleared out the museum gift shop.
The story reports that the museum is still threatened by the potential collapse of a neighboring building. Tanks are protecting the museum in Luxor.
I enjoy historical fiction, but I seem to be unable to combine my interest in the biblical world with a good story because worthwhile books are just not being written. I was happy to hear that Tim Frank has just published a book set in the late 8th century of Judah. Daughter of Lachish tells the story of a girl who survived the siege of Sennacherib and tries to rebuild her life in its aftermath. From the bookjacket:
The mighty Assyrian army has invaded the tiny kingdom of Judah to crush the rebellion against the great king Sennacherib. After a long siege, the Assyrians capture the fortified city of Lachish. They show no mercy to the vanquished people. But one girl is able to escape-Rivkah. She hides in the hills and finds refuge in the company of other survivors. In a devastated land they seek to rebuild their lives. The words of the prophet Micah-spoken to the people over many years-speak to Rivkah anew, allowing her to see the events in a new light.
Drawing on extensive scholarly research, Daughter of Lachish brings to life the world of Ancient Judah. It melds archaeology and biblical studies to tell a story of the people who first heard the words of the Psalms and Prophets. It is a story of one girl, her search for a place in the world, and her quest to make sense of loss and joy. Through her eyes we experience the daily tasks, the seasons of the agricultural year, the bonds that hold together a household and a village, and the tensions that threaten to tear them apart.
Tim Frank brings extensive knowledge of the ancient world to his writing, serving as a supervisor at the Lahav Research Project (Tell Halif), excavating at Tel Burna (near Lachish), and presently working in the Middle Eastern collection at the Cobb Institute of Archaeology. Judith McKinlay praises Frank’s abilities as a storyteller:
I could not stop reading this story. This is a biblical world engagingly alive, with its carefully researched details of the Assyrian war machine devastating life in eighth-century Judah and its strong characters determined to survive. I felt for Rivkah, survivor of Lachish. With biblical passages interwoven, most significantly the prophecies of Micah, met in person in the latter part of the novel, it is also a tale true to the biblical faith.
—Judith McKinlay, University of Otago
Full details and ordering information are here. The book costs more than your average mass-market work of fiction and that’s because this isn’t a book for the “mass market.” For a great education that takes me on a delightful journey, I’m happy to pay a little more, with hopes that we’ll see more such works in the future.
The Bible and Interpretation has the latest “Archaeology in Israel Update” by Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg. He reports on six stories from November and December 2010.
Non-Destructive Investigation by X-Ray: X-ray fluorescence spectrometry allows for non-destructive analysis of clay and other materials.
Aelia Capitolina, A Roman Bathing Pool in Jerusalem: Excavations revealed where soldiers of the Tenth Roman Legion free time.
Monastery of St. George in Wadi Qelt: A new access road has been completed.
Funding for Restoration of Historic Sites: Sixteen sites will receive additional government funding, including the Herodium.
Sudden Fierce Storm, Destruction and Recovery: The site with the most damage is Caesarea.
Early Homo Sapiens from Cave in Israel, 400,000 Years Ago? Ancient teeth were discovered near
The full review is here.
The channel from the Western Wall area to the Pool of Siloam is not yet open to the public, but you can get a look inside with photos posted by the Israel Antiquities Authority. Three high-resolution images are currently available at this page (or try this direct link to the zip file).
You can also watch a 3-minute video posted by the Israel Antiquities Authority, with archaeologist Eli Shukrun showing off the results of seven years of his work.
Archaeologist Eli Shukrun gave the Jerusalem Post a tour of the recently completed excavations of the drainage channel that runs from the area of the Western Wall to the Pool of Siloam. The article includes details that have not been previously reported. From the Jerusalem Post:
The channel was an early drainage system for the city of Jerusalem, which emptied into the Shiloah Pools on the southern end, in today’s Silwan neighborhood. Archeologists believe that the other side of the channel is near Nablus gate [Damascus Gate]. The channel was extensively excavated more than 100 years ago by British explorer Charles Warren in 1867 and archeologists Bliss and Dickey in the 1890s. The southern section of the channel has been open to the public for many years, but this was the first time that it was discovered that it is a continuous channel, about 600 meters long altogether.
Shukron led the Post on a tour of the channel following the announcement on Tuesday afternoon. The channel is about 1/3 of a meter wide and ranges in height from one to two meters, and is between 15 to 20 meters underground. The channel’s clearing also allowed archeologists to see the lower stones of the Kotel that are currently underground, though Shukron dismissed the Kotel stones as the least exciting part of the project.
“You know the Kotel already; that’s already been overdone,” he said, hurrying past the bottom of the Kotel to point out an underground mikve (ritual bath) and an ancient manhole.
Shukron also pointed out the remnants of previous explorations, including old wires and writing on the wall in French. He stressed that the channel did not go anywhere near the Temple Mount or the mosques, in contradiction to some claims. The channel follows the Tyropoeon Valley, which is the lowest area in ancient Jerusalem. “That’s why I can’t go up to the Temple Mount, because the Temple Mount is high. There’s no way that a drainage pipe could reach there,” Shukron explained.
HT: Joe Lauer
As noted here over the weekend, archaeologists have completed excavation of a drainage channel that ran below street level in the 1st century. It is now possible to walk along the street and then through the channel from the Pool of Siloam at the south of the City of David up to the Jerusalem Archaeological Park just inside the Old City walls. In the future visitors will be able to exit the tunnel in the Davidson Center, the archaeological museum at the southwest corner of the Temple Mount.
This will effectively create a protected route of passage for visitors through a sometimes dangerous Arab neighborhood. Tourists would enter the archaeological area on the north end of the City of David, walk down to “Area G” before entering the Warren’s Shaft. From this point, visitors have two options. Those who are more adventurous and prepared to get wet can walk through Hezekiah’s Tunnel. Others may choose the dry Siloam Tunnel. Once at the Pool of Siloam, the tourist can walk along the newly excavated street (first photo below) and then through the newly excavated drainage channel (second photo below).
The Israel Antiquities Authority has completed an archaeological dig of a tunnel that will enable visitors to cross under the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, not far from the Temple Mount.
The tunnel, which was uncovered during excavations conducted over the past few months, was formerly used for drainage and dates back to the Second Temple. It links the City of David in Silwan with the Archaeological Park & Davidson Center, which is located near the Western Wall.
The Antiquities Authority stressed that the newly uncovered tunnel does not come near the Temple Mount and that it has no plans to dig in that direction.
The digging had been going on for seven years and was delayed for about a year by order of the High Court of Justice, after Silwan residents filed a petition claiming the dig was damaging their homes.
One of the most exciting action stories in Scripture is the narrative of Paul’s voyage to Rome, interrupted by the shipwreck on the island of Malta (Acts 27). The vivid detail of these events is best explained by Luke’s presence on the journey and his writing of Acts shortly thereafter.
One of the details that Luke includes is the sailors’ fear that they would wreck on the “sandbars of Syrtis.”
When the men had hoisted [the lifeboat] aboard, they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along (Acts 27:17).
What are the “sandbars of Syrtis”? Gordon Franz has delved into the ancient sources to learn that these were dangerous bodies of water off the coast of North Africa. He quotes Strabo:
The difficulty with both [the Greater] Syrtis and the Little Syrtis is that in many places their deep waters contain shallows, and the result is, at the ebb and the flow of the tides, that sailors sometimes fall into the shallows and stick there, and that the safe escape of a boat is rare. On this account sailors keep at a distance when voyaging along the coast, taking precautions not to be caught off their guard and driven by winds into these gulfs” (Geography 17:3:20; LCL 8: 197).
Why were the sailors afraid of the Syrtis Sands? The Syrtis is two bodies of water in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of North Africa. Even with “good luck” (Procopius’ words), the sailors on the Alexandrian grain ship carrying the Apostle Paul and Dr. Luke were terrified because they knew they were doomed if they hit the Syrtis Sands. The grain ships were the largest ships plying the Mediterranean Sea at that time, with a deep draft, and they would easily have gotten grounded on a sandbar in the middle of no-where and many miles from any shoreline! The old sailor’s axiom would hold true: “Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink!” They would have had plenty of grain to eat on the ship, but not a drop of water to go with it. They were afraid of a slow and painful death by dehydration.
Read the whole article for all the fascinating details.
Alexander Schick passes on word that the excavated tunnel is now open that allows you to walk on the 1st-century street from the Pool of Siloam up the City of David to the area of the visitor’s center.
(A previous report about these excavations is here.)
Leen Ritmeyer is in Jordan and has photos of the newly opened baptismal site at “Bethabara.”
Ferrell Jenkins reports that Egyptian authorities are now prohibiting cameras from entering the Valley of the Kings.
The Ohel Yitzchak Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem was looted and vandalized during the Jordanian occupation (1948-67), but its renovation has restored some of its former beauty, as you can see in Shmuel Brown’s recent photos.
With the verdict about to be announced in the forgery trial in Jerusalem, Hershel Shanks has written an e-book entitled, James, Brother of Jesus: Forged Antiquities and the Trial of Oded Golan and Robert Deutsch. Shanks believes the James Ossuary inscription was not forged and he plans to release the e-book when the judge issues the verdict. See the sign-up details here.
The eastern Mediterranean is overdue for a big earthquake, says the Jerusalem Post. The area has not had a seven or eight magnitude quake in nearly a millennium. The 1927 tremor was a mere 6.2 on the Richter scale.
The newly re-opened Israel Museum has served half of a million visitors in the last half year.
The LandMinds radio show has interviewed the recently retired Amihai Mazar, reflecting back on the excavations he directed at Tel Qasile, Giloh, Beth Shean, and Tel Rehov.
A Swiss architect is hard at work restoring and protecting the beautiful mosaics of Hisham’s Palace in Jericho. A new excavation began at the site last week and new Russian museum is now open.
The season’s excavations at Tall el-Hammam are wrapping up and the team has posted a couple of videos. The first shows what they have identified as a Middle Bronze temple (with a 10-foot thick wall!) and the second summarizes the finds in the Roman area. They suggest that this was the city of Livias in the Roman-Byzantine period.
HT: Ferrell Jenkins, Roi Brit