How To Discover Boundary Inscriptions

The discovery of a Sabbath boundary marker in the Galilee several months ago makes one wonder just how many more have been preserved. Surely this was not the only one, either for this village or for other villages. Inscriptions in the rock like the Sabbath one were made at least twelve times around the city of Gezer.

BibleWalks made the initial discovery and now they are encouraging others to join in the hunt. To assist in this endeavor, they have created several maps that show the Sabbath marker in relation to two ancient sites. Roads are then drawn out in each direction and the intrepid adventurer can explore these routes to discover the next inscription. As BibleWalks notes, when hiking the hills of Galilee, the joy is not only in reaching the destination but in the journey itself. You can get all of the details here.


Free: Ashkelon Excavation Reports

Volumes 1 and 2 of the Ashkelon Reports are now available for free download. From Dig Ashkelon:

As we continue our new discoveries, we are excited to be able to bring you a summary of our results from 1985-2004 in the form of two final report volumes:  Ashkelon 1 and Ashkelon 2.  These two volumes provide over 900 pages of information on the ancient city of Ashkelon and can be downloaded free of charge due to the generous sponsorship of the Leon Levy Foundation. For those scholars who need the printed volumes, please note that they are still for sale at Eisenbrauns.  These volumes – both in their publication, and now in their free distribution – reaffirm  our commitment to making the result of our excavation available to the widest possible audience, so that all can appreciate appreciate and learn from the wonders of the history of Ashkelon.

Elsewhere it is written:

Eventually, each volume in the series will be available for download making the excavation of Ashkelon one of the most accessible in the world.

I don’t have enough positive things to say. Ashkelon 1: Introduction and Overview (1985-2006) fills 700 pages and sells for $135. Ashkelon 2: Imported Pottery of the Roman and Late Roman Periods has 233 pages and sells for $45.

Ashkelon 3: The Seventh Century B.C. has 28 chapters, 800 full-color pages, and sells for $93. The third volume was published this year and is not currently available for download.

Under this model, libraries and institutions will purchase the book and help to cover publication costs. After several years the Leon Levy Foundation will provide the funding so that the digital file (pdf) is made available to researchers and students who otherwise might not be able to afford the purchase. There is much merit in this model and I would love to see other expeditions follow suit.

Ashkelon tell aerial from northwest, tb121704841

Ashkelon from northwest

Five Dead Sea Scrolls Online in High Resolution

Google and the Israel Museum are beginning to fulfill their promise to make the Dead Sea Scrolls available online. The first installment includes five scrolls:

  • Great Isaiah Scroll
  • Community Rule Scroll
  • Commentary on Habakkuk Scroll
  • Temple Scroll
  • War Scroll

The Jerusalem Post explains that readers can search the Isaiah Scroll in English:

The Isaiah Scroll was also translated line by line, allowing viewers to search in regular search engines in English for specific phrases or verses in the scrolls. A verse-by-verse Chinese translation will be finished shortly, as Bible scholarship is extremely popular in China, said Israel museum officials.

The article also describes the digitization process:

Ardon Bar Hama, a freelance photographer and one of the world’s premier experts in photographing ancient texts for online viewing, used a $50,000 camera that exposed the scrolls to the light for 1/4,000th of a second. Ben Hama’s camera shoots at a resolution of 1,200 megapixels, in comparison, a good personal camera shoots at about 12 megapixels.
Google utilizes cloud computing to store to the giant images, allowing people to browse the scrolls from their cell phones. Users will also be able to highlight their favorite verses and post them to their Twitter or Facebook pages, or to comment on verses through the site in an international dialogue.

The full article is here or you may go directly to the scrolls at the Israel Museum website. Prepare to be impressed.


Israel Returns 620 Artifacts to Jordan

From the AFP:

Jordan said on Monday Israel has returned 620 Early Bronze Age pottery items that were taken in the 1960s by a US archaeologist for research at a Jerusalem-based institute.
“Israel returned the items, including pots, plates and jars, in April. American archaeologist Paul W. Lapp borrowed them in the 1960s for study and research,” Fares Hmud, acting director of Jordan’s antiquities department, told the state-run Petra news agency.
“They were taken to the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, and because of the (1967 Six-Day War), Jordan could not take the items back at that time.”
Hmud said the antiquities will be displayed at a museum in the Jordan Valley.
Jordan has said it was still trying to restore from Israel books and manuscripts dating from the first century AD after being smuggled to Israel several years ago.
It is also demanding the return of the Dead Sea Scrolls, also known as the Qumran Manuscripts, which contain some of the earliest biblical texts. The oldest documents date back to the third century BC while the latest was written in 70 AD.

Another article adds that the artifacts were discovered at Bab al-Thira’a. Though the articles do not say, it seems likely that the failure to return the objects was related to the archaeologist’s death in 1970. Paul Lapp died in a drowning accident at the age of 39, leaving behind a wife and five kids (BA 33: 60-62, via jstor).

HT: Daniel Wright


Weekend Roundup

Corrections and Updates to “Identifying Biblical Persons in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions of 1200-539 B.C.E.”

This article updates the cutoff point for the inscriptions treated in the book mentioned in the title, which was mid-2002, to July 31, 2008. It evaluates 32 proposed identifications (IDs) of biblical persons in ancient Near Eastern inscriptions of 1200-539 B.C.E. All 32 IDs or non-IDs are listed and indexed at the end.

Shmuel Browns explains the significance of Khirbet Qeiyafa and concludes with a report of Israel Finkelstein’s paper on the Large Stone Structure and the Stepped Stone Structure in the City of David. He dates the SSS to both the Iron Age and the Hellenistic period.

An ancient shipyard near Rome is being excavated.

Dan Brown and the Grail That Never Was. Paleobabble posts a link to a scholarly article that is “a succinct, readable dismantling of Brown’s bogus history.”

Antioch on the Orontes was a significant city in the early church. Today known as Hatay, the city’s museum boasts some impressive mosaics and other finds. But most is in storage until a new museum is built.

The new museum is to have the capacity to host 800 people at a time and 10,700 square meters of exhibition space.
Visitors who come to the Hatay museum can see around 906 square meters of mosaics at this point, though around 300 square meters are still in the museum’s warehouse due to space shortages. In fact, the museum’s total holdings include 35,433 pieces, but only 1,425 of these are on display due to serious space problems.
With pieces from the Hittite, Hellenic, Byzantine and Roman eras on display, the Hatay Archeologicy Museum was always known as the second most significant mosaic museum in the world, following Tunisia’s Bardo Museum. That is, until last week, when the Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum opened, and the Hatay Archeologicy Museum dropped to third place for mosaics.

I’m surprised the Medeba Museum in Jordan is not ranked in the top three.

HT: Jack Sasson

Nude fishermen mosaic, 5th c AD, tb122900316

Nude fishermen mosaic in Antioch (Hatay) Archaeological Museum

Rolling Stone Tombs in Jerusalem

I remember hearing some years ago that archaeologists have discovered only four tombs in Jerusalem with round rolling stones. In doing some research, I have learned that there are at least six. Rachel Hachlili’s book on Jewish Funerary Customs, Practices and Rites in the Second Temple Period says this:

A round rolling stone [golel], closing the entrance was found in several rock-cut tombs [in the cemetery of Jericho], dated to the end of the first century BCE and the first century CE. At the door a slot was cut to hold a round stone; the stone was rolled into the slot away from the entrance.
The following tombs in Jerusalem were sealed by means of rolling stones: the Tomb of Helene [the Tomb of the Kings], Herod’s family tomb, the Nicophoria tomb (east of Herod’s family tomb), a tomb on Mt. Scopus, a tomb in the Kidron Valley, and the Hinnom Valley tomb. Similar rolling stones were discovered at a tomb at Horvat Midras and at the cemetery of Hesban (page 64; quotation modified by the addition of a paragraph break and elimination of parenthetical material).

Rolling stone tombs have also been identified near Kiriath Jearim (Abu Gosh), Michmash (Mukmas), and Megiddo.

This looks like a great book, but when it’s published by Brill, you have to be satisfied with reading it in the library.

Rolling stone in Tomb of Mariamne, mat05008

View from inside “Herod’s family tomb” with rolling stone (photo source)

Springs in the Dead Sea

The Dead Sea not only has freshwater springs along its shore—En Gedi, Ein Feshka, Ein Bokek—but underneath the water’s surface as well. From the Jerusalem Post:

A Ben-Gurion University research team has discovered a series of deep freshwater springs that spring from the floor of the Dead Sea and help replenish the body’s dwindling water supply, while a German group has meanwhile pinpointed new types of microorganisms growing in fissures on the saline seafloor near the springs, the university announced on Wednesday.
Dead Sea groundwater springs have been known and visible for decades as they produce ripples on the water surface, but the current research has given scientists to the ability to study springs that are hidden from the eye, according to the statement.
Much like the Dead Sea itself, the springs have been around for thousands of years, and while it is “uncertain” whether they’ve existed quite as long as their host body of water, they have been there “for a very long time indeed,” Laronne told The Jerusalem Post.
The springs, he continued, can be found at locations within the sea as deep as 30 meters down, and the largest spring observed thus far was 15 meters in diameter – with some spring systems totaling hundreds of meters in length.

The full story is here. The Arutz-7 report is here.

Dead Sea hot spring on shore, tb022806413

Hot spring on shore of the Dead Sea

Wednesday Roundup

Excavations at the Central Bus Station of Beersheba are turning up remains from the Byzantine city.

The southern steps leading to the Temple Mount may have been used by worshippers singing the 15 Psalms of Ascent, writes Wayne Stiles. Not so, argues Leen Ritmeyer, former architect of the excavations. “There are, however, more than 15 steps, in fact, there are 27 at the eastern end and 31 at the southern end.” I don’t think that is correct, and I do know that if you read Psalm 120 at the bottom of the staircase and advance by two steps (to the broader steps) for the next psalm, you’ll be reading Psalm 134 at the top of the staircase. Perhaps that’s just coincidence. Of course, the psalms could be sung in many places as the pilgrim came up to Jerusalem and the temple to worship.

Southern Temple Mount steps with psalms of ascent, tb090705061

Southern steps leading to Double Gate of Temple Mount

Shmuel Browns reports that the public can now walk from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount via the (now underground) first-century street and drainage channel.

If you’re tired of going to the Dead Sea and seeing scantily-clad men, there is now hope. A beach was dedicated on Monday for separate bathing. If they’d only open a third section for the men in Speedos, we would all be happy.

A one-minute video at the Jerusalem Post shows the highlights of the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.

An automated ticket-selling machine is now in operation at the Giza Pyramids.
Zahi Hawass’ successor has resigned.

A Roman villa and a Byzantine mansion are being excavated in Antioch of Pisidia.

If you’ve ever wondered what the Israel Antiquities Authority looks like, Leon Mauldin has a picture of her. 🙂


Rare Find: Student Map Manual

If only…

I needed these a few years ago, but there were none to be found. Not under rocks, not under bushes, not under sycamore-fig trees. One of my students was teaching a class in Europe and bought every loose copy he could find on the internet. (Indeed, that put him on my black list.)
Eisenbrauns has not only come up with some copies of the Student Map Manual, but they’re selling them for $3 each. It’s the “Deal of the Day” which I believe expires mid-day tomorrow (9/21).

You might want to purchase one if:

  • You want to do a serious study of historical geography that involves marking maps.
  • You want to re-do your serious study (that wasn’t so serious because you were young, dumb, and in a hurry) when you went to study at the Institute of Holy Land Studies/Jerusalem University College or the Israel Bible Extension.
  • You heard stories of this great work but never had a chance to purchase one.

You might want to purchase more than one if:

  • You want to teach a course using this classic work.
  • You want each of your kids and grandkids to have a copy.

There are newer works out that aim to replace this (a big cheer to the folks at Biblical Backgrounds here), but this work retains a value that I don’t think will ever be completely replaced.

Note that in order to do the markings you will need a copy of James Monson, The Land Between. Amazon has a few used copies of this, starting at $4.


A map from one of the two Student Map Manuals I marked. This depicts the events in Joshua 10.

New Site: Bible and Archaeology

Bible and Archaeology is a virtual museum of many of the most important artifacts, sites, and ancient texts related to the Bible. Three features make this online exhibit particularly helpful.

  • The photos can be viewed in high-resolution. For one example, the image of the Merneptah Stele is the best I’ve seen.
  • The artifacts are listed in chronological order. That makes it easier to find what you’re looking for, even if you don’t know the correct name (is it the Dan Stele or the Tel Dan Inscription?).
  • Each photograph has a brief explanation of the significance of the artifact and its relationship to the Bible. You can do do additional research if you desire, but the description provides the basics.

Note: it may be user error, but I had better success viewing the some of the high-res images in the Chrome browser than in Firefox.

Gallio inscription all fragments, tb051603812

The Gallio Inscription, before it was put on display in the Delphi Museum