2011-12 Lectures at Southern Adventist University

September 21: Steven M. Ortiz, Gezer: The Search for the City of Solomon

October 12: Michael G. Hasel, The 2011 Excavation Season at Khirbet Qeiyafa, Israel

February 15: Martin G. Klingbeil, Ancient Near Eastern Passports: Two Stamp Seals from Khirbet Qeiyafa

March 21: Daniel Master, Transformations in the Twelfth Century BC: The Coming of the Philistines to Ashkelon

All lectures begin at 7:00 p.m., are free of charge, and are open to the public. For more information, see the website of the university’s Institute of Archaeology. SAU is located in Collegedale, Tennessee. Previous lectures may be ordered on DVD for $10, including shipping. (The above information is taken from the Institute newsletter, as the website has not yet been updated with this year’s schedule.)


Gaddafi and the Bible

A headline in the Jerusalem Post catches my eye: “Libya interim rulers set Saturday ultimatum for Sirte.” The first paragraph identifies Sirte as Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown. The name sounds familiar and I turn to Acts 27:17 where it says of the sailors carrying Paul to Rome: “Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along.”

Sirte sounds a lot like Syrtis and so I wonder if the city is perhaps along Libya’s northern shore. Google Maps confirms that it is.

View Larger Map

I open up the article on “Syrtis” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary and learn that this is the name of two dangerous gulfs off the coast of modern Libya. In that article, Mark J. Olson identifies the Greater Syrtis with the modern Gulf of Sirte:

According to Strabo (2.5.20), the Greater Syrtis covered an area approximately 450–570 miles in circumference, and 170–180 miles in breadth. This is the modern Gulf of Sirte, off the coast of Libya. The Lesser Syrtis is the modern Gulf of Gabes off the coast of Tunisia. The ancient mariners’ fears of running aground while still far out at sea are echoed in Dio Chrysostomus’ warning: “Those who have once sailed into it find egress impossible; for shoals, cross-currents, and long sand-bars extending a great distance out make the sea utterly impassable or troublesome” (Or. 5.8–9)” (6: 286).

I don’t think this helps me understand the passage in Acts better, but it may help me to remember the name of Syrtis. And it does provide a modern connection when teaching students today.

A search on Google reveals that Peter Kirk has observed this connection. He wrote in March, “How appropriate it is that a biblical place of danger has now become a place of danger for Gaddafi.”

In January I recommended Gordon Franz’s article, “Why Were the Sailors Afraid of the Syrtis Sands (Acts 27:17)?


This screenshot from Google Earth shows Sirte in relation to Crete, Paul’s place of departure. The ship was not destroyed by the sandbars of Syrtis but instead sailed west and was wrecked on the island of Malta (Acts 28:1).


Discoveries at Khirbet Qeiyafa in 2011

The Spring/Summer 2011 issue of DigSight has just been released by the Institute of Archaeology of Southern Adventist University. The newsletter includes a good primer on biblical minimalism and its shifts in the last two decades. Another article discusses “Evident Silence or Silenced Evidence” in defense of the historicity of Daniel 5.

The lead article summarizes the major tasks and discoveries of the 2011 team:

  • Completion of excavation of 4th-century BC large building with olive press
  • Discovery of early 10th-century BC stone quarry that continued in use in Hellenistic and/or Roman times
  • Excavation of three Iron Age rooms with some partially restorable vessels and a standing stone (signifying a cultic area?)
  • Discovery of best-preserved example of Iron Age floor at the site.
  • Significant small finds including a faience scarab seal, a bone seal with lion and man, an iron ring, and a portion of an Aramaic ostracon
  • Excavation of more than 25,000 pieces of pottery in Area D alone

The newsletter notes that the Institute’s three-year excavation of Qeiyafa has now concluded and the next two years will be used for publishing the final results.

The quality of the newsletter is superb but reading it in the issuu format has its drawbacks. Unlike previous issues, downloading the newsletter in pdf format requires login and the only login I could see to use was Facebook. (And I don’t know yet what adverse effects there may be from that.)


Weekend Roundup

The Associated Press reports on the restoration of the Old City walls of Jerusalem.

The Wadi Rum in Jordan has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Eldad Keynan refutes Joes Zias’ insinuation that Jacobivici’s nails were used to seal the ossuary of Caiaphas.

Wayne Stiles makes a good case that Lachish was the second-most important city in the kingdom of Judah.

Eric and Carol Meyers will answer questions about their archaeological work, Jewish history, and controversies on the Duke Ustream channel on September 1, noon Eastern Daylight Time.

The Biblical Archaeology Society 2011 Publication Awards Winners have been announced.

Plans for a wastewater reservoir near Gezer are moving forward after a judge rejected a petition by local communities.

On a lighter note, you can see how zoo animals in Jerusalem cool off in the summer. One of the animals even has an air-conditioned home.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Syrian Brown Bear in Jerusalem Zoo, tb080404956

Syrian Brown Bear at Jerusalem Zoo

Franz on “Apostolic Archaeology”

Gordon Franz has coined a term for those who assert their authority rather than provide evidence for their archaeological claims.

“Apostolic” Archaeology, a phrase that I have coined, is a sub-discipline of pseudo-archaeology. The practitioners of this discipline are usually adventurers, sometimes treasure hunters, and generally with neither field training in archaeological methodology nor academic credentials in Near East archaeology, but perhaps a superficial knowledge of the Bible. They claim to have discovered objects or places of great Biblical importance and declare it to be whatever they want it to be. They usually try to justify their pronouncements with a Bible verse. Their declarations are made as if they were speaking ex cathedra (i.e., with authority). These self-declared experts have found from experience that the gullible masses will blindly accept the legitimacy of their claims and buy the goods that they are hawking in spite of scholarly academic testimony to the contrary (contra 1 Thess. 2:9-12). So buyers beware!

His brief article continues here. My previous post, “We Sell Hope,” may be relevant.


Tell Qarqur: Survival in the Midst of Collapse

From the University of Arkansas:

The end of the third millennium B.C. – roughly 2200 to 2000 B.C. – is often described as a dark age because this period experienced the collapse of many major states, including the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia, Old Kingdom Egypt and the Harappan culture of the Indus Valley. Major cities and small towns across the Middle East that had been occupied for centuries were suddenly abandoned, leaving a gap in the archaeological and historical record.
“Tells” are the name for ancient cities and towns, preserved today as large mounds, throughout the Middle East. Until the 1980s, little was known about Tell Qarqur, the site of two large mounds that archeologists know was occupied continuously for more than 10,000 years, from 8500 B.C. to the medieval period. Tell Qarqur experienced particularly large occupations during the Bronze and Iron Ages, from 3000 to 500 B.C.
The researchers are now trying to understand why Tell Qarqur survived, when nearly all civilizations in the region during that time collapsed. Some anthropologists have attributed the demise of these settlements to widespread drought. If there was a drought, Casana said, the important question was how it affected the environment and ancient communities, that is, how susceptible were their agricultural strategies to drought and did they adapt to changing conditions? These are some of the questions Casana seeks to answer with continued research at the site.

The full press release is here, Live Science reports on the excavations here, and nine photos may be viewed here.

HT: Joseph Lauer


Wednesday Roundup

Hershel Shanks asks whether it is legitimate for Eilat Mazar to speculate that her excavation has uncovered the palace of David. He invites readers to respond and I suspect there will be some good discussion. The editorial includes a drawing of the main wall of Mazar’s Large Stone Structure, a reconstruction which seems to me to be wishful thinking.

An article in Popular Archaeology explains why Nineveh must be preserved.
CNN reports on the challenges of protecting the cedars of Lebanon. The four-minute video report is accompanied by a story that gives the main points.

Fake Fake Metal Codices vs. Real Fake Metal Codices – Paleojudaica has the latest twists in the saga.

Wayne Stiles’ column on Hazor includes a video fly-over of the largest of ancient sites in Israel.

The price on the 16-volume collection of William M. Ramsay has come down from $30 to $20 in the last week. A few more orders will push the price down to $15 before the deal closes on Friday.

I was visiting a friend a few weeks ago and he observed that his out-of-print book now sells in the used market for over $200. I never thought I’d see my Jerusalem CD selling for $219 on Amazon.

(Note: it’s still only $25 at BiblePlaces.com.)

Crossway has posted a beautiful image of an open Bible with Jerusalem in the background. The publisher is using this image to promote the new ESV Study Bible, Personal Size, but teachers might find this image useful (click through for high resolution). I note that the Bible is open to the beginning of Psalm 48, but you must flip over one page in order to read some of my favorite words about Jerusalem:

Psalm 48:12–14 (ESV) — Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.


Tuesday Roundup

Masada is profiled by Elad Benari and accompanied by a five-minute video produced by Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

CitySights has created a one-minute wordless video of the Ramparts Walk atop the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. The accompanying article includes a few statistics:

The walls stretch for some 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles), rising to a height of up to 15 meters, (49 feet), with an average thickness of 3 meters (10 ft). Along the course of the walls are 11 gates to the Old City, seven of which are open: New Gate, Damascus Gate, Herod’s Gate, Lions’ Gate, Dung Gate, Jaffa Gate, and Zion Gate.

Ferrell Jenkins uses one of his aerial photos to make a powerful point about what is “known but mostly unknown.”

A five-year old boy and a 25-year-old woman drowned in separate incidents in the Sea of Galilee earlier this week.

The Israel Museum has welcomed one million visitors since the renovated campus reopened last year.

HT: ShalomIL, Paleojudaica


Google Street View Approved in Israel

Today’s government decision is reported in the Jerusalem Post:

The Justice Ministry announced on Monday its decision to allow the controversial Google Street View service to run in Israel. A function of Google’s existing maps service, Street View allows users to view panoramic street level photographs of city streets and other locations in the country. […] Only after lengthy negotiations with Google did the Israeli Law, Information and Technology Authority (ILITA), part of the Justice Ministry, agree to roll out the service here. […] To produce the images that make up Street View, for example, Google uses vehicles that drive down streets taking millions of digital photographs and recording location data using sophisticated technology. These images and data are transferred to a database held in the USA, which is outside Israel’s jurisdiction. Under the agreement ILITA has reached with Google, however, Israeli citizens will be able to file civil litigation against Google regarding the company’s Israeli operations, via Google Israel, the internet giant’s local branch. Under the same agreement, Google Israel will provide an online service for Israelis to opt out of the service by demanding that Google blur all images of their homes, license plates and themselves. Google also agreed that the cars used to take the millions of digital photographs will be clearly marked so that residents can recognize them as they pass along the streets.

More of the legal issues are discussed in the Jerusalem Post. I would like to see Street View including antiquities sites, such as the excavations south of the Temple Mount, the site of Beth Shean, and even more distant ruins such as those at Beersheba and Arad.


Caesarea’s Seven Aqueducts

In the weekend edition of Haaretz, Moshe Gilad reports on a tour that explored the water sources of ancient Caesarea.

Two thousand years ago, Herod’s engineers devised a way to bring water to what was then the second largest city in the land, after Jerusalem, in terms of population. These were wise, exacting professionals who figured out the best route, and optimal height, for an aqueduct, so that the water would flow smoothly and calmly, without pumping systems, from the springs at the foot of Mount Carmel to the seashore.
The impetus for our tour was the recent publication of a book called “Water at the End of the Tunnel: To Tour the Ancient Waterworks” (published jointly by the Ben-Zvi Institute and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, in Hebrew). Author Tzvika Tzuk, an archaeologist, studied the subject for years, and this serious and comprehensive work presents the information he gathered about the impressive engineering feats that allowed residents of this desert land, thousands of years ago, to enjoy a ready supply of drinking and bathing water. Tzuk’s guidebook proposes 40 routes for touring ancient waterways. Seven aqueducts reached Caesarea, he explains, and vestiges of many parts of them can still be seen. What is more, these days, any hike that ends at the beach will be particularly popular.

The article continues with recommendations of sites to visit, one of which is the section of aqueduct shown below.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Herodian aqueduct turn near Tell Mevorakh, tbs103339904

Roman aqueduct near Beit Hanania