Construction May Destroy Ancient Port of Gaza

A report from the Media Line describes plans to construct a boardwalk along the beach of Gaza City.

Archaeologists are concerned that the construction will destroy remains from the city’s past.

The Tourism and Antiques Ministry in Gaza has come out against the plan to give displaced residents land in the Beach Camp, saying they have archeological remains of an ancient port from the Roman era.
“These lands are the location of very important archeological sites. Excavations were conducted on this site from 1995 till 2005 by the French School of Antiques and Excavation,” says Hayam Al-Bittar, the head of the ministry’s museums department. “We should be doing our best to protect this site, not to offer it as compensation for people to build on it who don’t appreciate their heritage and history.”
She has vowed to file a complaint to the cabinet and, if all else fails, will resign from her position. “Not on my watch,” Hayam warns. “We will not rest until we ensure the safety of this location.”
The United Nations Education and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) and the French School of Antiques and Excavation are backing her, but an informal survey of Gazans about the corniche and its impact finds little concern about the damage to the archeological remains.

The full article is here.

Beach in Gaza Strip, tb040305579

Beach south of Gaza City

Reconstruction of Herod’s Tomb Criticized

Last week a model of Herod’s tomb was erected at the Herodium. The 13-foot (4-m) high structure cost $13,000 and is made of light plastic. Plans have been drawn up to create a full-size replica of the entire mausoleum which would serve as a visitor’s center.

Haaretz runs the story with the headline “Top archaeologists condemn Israeli plan to rebuild ancient tomb.” Unfortunately the story doesn’t support the headline. The primary criticism cited comes from an archaeologist who asked to remain anonymous. Journalistic ethics should preclude Haaretz from quoting an anonymous source on a subject of this nature. A named critic is Haim Goldfus, the head of the archaeology department at Ben Gurion University, who believes that a reconstruction would only be a distraction. Gideon Foerster observes that there are still too many unknowns to justify a reconstruction.

Whether or not a monument that helps the public to visualize the tomb (and thus increases visits to the site) is a good thing or not can be debated. Haaretz misleads, however, in suggesting that there is a widespread movement among archaeologists against a plastic model. A more accurate headline would be: “Two archaeologists condemn Israeli plan to rebuild ancient tomb.”

An unmentioned factor in the story is the contention that the tomb of the “king of the Jews” belongs to the Palestinians because Arab armies held this territory at the conclusion of the War of 1948. Thus Israeli archaeologists should not be excavating, let alone reconstructing, any site in the West Bank.

Tom Powers provides another perspective on his blog.


Model of Herod’s Tomb erected at the Herodium. Photo: Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

UPDATE (2/2): Joseph Lauer notes that the article was re-published with a revised headline,
“Archaeologists slam plan to rebuild Herod’s tomb.”


Weekend Roundup

The “Roads of Arabia Exhibition,” mentioned here in February, opened this week in Berlin. The transfer of the collection from St. Petersburg was quite a challenge. In the fall the exhibition is
scheduled to move to Washington, DC.

Luke Chandler explains exactly where the Khirbet Qeiyafa ostracon was discovered.

The process of wine-making in ancient times is described in the Jerusalem Post (but the editor chose to illustrate it with a photo of an olive press).

Aren Maeir is always ahead of the curve, but now he outdoes himself by restoring pottery from the 2012 season. The photos show that they’re digging up some great artifacts.

Students of Ephesus may be interested in a new historical work by Hans Willer Laale. Ephesus (Ephesos): An Abbreviated History From Androclus to Constantine XI is now available from Amazon ($26-34 for paperback or hardcover; $4 for Kindle).

The Biblical Archaeology Society has produced a 9-minute video on the excavations at Bethsaida.
Zahi Hawass is writing a book.

The ASOR Blog has a round-up of news from the world of archaeology.

The Jerusalem Post has a story on the top 5 bookstores in the city.

Bethsaida Iron Age gate with stela replica, tb011412618

Iron Age gate at Bethsaida

Lectures in Houston

The Lanier Theological Library in Houston was recently profiled in the Baptist Standard. This private research library is building its impressive collection of 100,000 volumes by purchasing the libraries of retiring scholars. They have announced a series of free lectures for the spring.

John Monson, Physical Theology: The Bible in its Land, Time, and Culture, February 11 (abstract and details). Responses by Emanuel Tov, Steven Lancaster, and Mark Lanier. Note: Registration is now full.

Sy Gitin, Ekron of the Philistines: From Sea Peoples to Olive Oil Industrialists, March 18 (abstract and details)

Peter Williams, Things Which Ought To Be Better Known About The Resurrection of Jesus,
April 7 (more information)

Olive oil jugs at Ekron Museum, tb031500014

Olive oil jugs, Ekron Museum of the History of Philistine Culture

HT: Charles Savelle


Two New Views in Jerusalem

A couple of new buildings in the Jewish Quarter provide good views from the rooftop or balcony.

Both cost but both provide unique perspectives that are worth the price of admission.

A one-hour tour of the Hurva Synagogue concludes on the balcony with views in all directions.

Jewish Quarter courtyard from Hurva Synagogue, tb010312412

Jewish Quarter from the Hurva Synagogue

For 10 shekels, you can get access to the rooftop of Aish HaTorah and its unobstructed view of the Western Wall plaza and Temple Mount.

Western Wall prayer plaza from southwest, tb010312492

Western Wall plaza and Temple Mount from Aish HaTorah

Aish HaTorah also has a model of the temple on display on the roof.

Temple model overlooking Temple Mount, tb010312511

Temple model on rooftop of Aish HaTorah

While on the rooftop a few weeks ago, I could see down into the area of the Temple Mount ramp that is otherwise blocked from public view by a fence. An archaeologist employed by the IAA was with a group of workers, leading me to wonder if any (quiet) progress is being made in the excavations there.


Excavate at Khirbet el-Maqatir in 2012

After some years away from the site, the Associates for Biblical Research have recently returned to excavating Khirbet el-Maqatir, a candidate for the city of Ai destroyed by Joshua.

The location of Joshua’s Ai has been a matter of mystery and controversy since the beginnings of archaeological research in Israel. Scholars have concluded that the location of Joshua’s Ai is at et-Tell. They have also used this conclusion to discredit the Biblical account of Joshua 7-8 because there is no evidence of occupation at et-Tell during the time of Joshua. We believe they are incorrect, not the Bible.
Since 1995, under the direction of ABR Director of Research Bryant G. Wood (PhD, University of Toronto), ABR research and excavation has uncovered important archaeological finds at Khirbet el-Maqatir, just .6 miles (1 km) west of et-Tell. The discoveries include a city gate and wall system, large amounts of pottery from the time of Joshua, evidence of destruction by fire, ancient coins, a house dating to the first century AD, and a Byzantine monastery. This area is located about 9 miles due north of Jerusalem, near the modern villages of Beitin and Deir Dibwan.

I’ve worked at the Maqatir excavation for a number of seasons and I would offer three reasons for you to seriously consider joining the team this year.

1. The opportunity to be part of a dig which has the potential of revolutionizing our archaeological understanding of Joshua’s Conquest.

2. The opportunity to work and live alongside committed Bible believers, including first-class scholars such as Bryant Wood and Eugene Merrill.

3. The opportunity to learn about biblical archaeology and Joshua’s conquest through evening lectures.

In addition, the team is based at the beautiful Yad HaShmonah, a guest house in the Judean hills overlooking the coastal plain. Because this excavation runs for two weeks, you are not required to make a longer commitment of three to six weeks as at other digs.

More information about the site, its potential significance, and volunteering this summer is available at

Khirbet el-Maqatir, tbs99

Excavating at Khirbet el-Maqatir

Updated: Bible and Archaeology

Last year I recommended a visit to Bible and Archaeology, a virtual museum of artifacts related to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. The site is significantly improved now, with a chronological ordering of 50 major artifacts connected to Scripture.

As before, the site features high-resolution images and helpful explanations. I appreciate Mike Caba’s work in creating a single resource where I can go when asked the question, “Does archaeology contribute to our understanding of the Bible?”

The site could also serve as the basis for a list of most important artifacts as well as provide inspiration for a lecture (or series) on archaeology’s value to the Bible reader today.

Baal figurine from Ugarit, tb060408296

Baal figurine from Ugarit (Louvre Museum)

More Excavation in the Western Wall Tunnels

In his column today at the Jerusalem Post, Wayne Stiles traverses the length of the Western Wall underground, recommending this as an ideal way to get more out of your day in Jerusalem.

Traveling though these excavated tunnels a few weeks ago, I saw several discoveries made in recent years. The steps of a very large mikveh (ritual bath) are visible about 10 meters below the modern path (noted previously on this blog here).

Mikveh near Western Wall, tb010112167Eastern steps of mikveh built next to western wall of Temple Mount

Last month, they finished excavating and opened up to visitors a new portion of the Struthion Pool.

This is located to the east of the part of the pool that once served as the terminus of the tour.

Struthion Pool, tb010112215Struthion Pool
Excavations continue in the Great Hall, not far from the location of the largest stone in the Temple Mount.
New excavations in Western Wall tunnels, tb010112171Excavations in the Great Hall, January 2012

Weekend Roundup

In Old City Odds ‘n Ends, Tom Powers reports on the clean-up of Hezekiah’s Pool, repairs at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and construction in Solomon’s Quarries. He also lists some posts he hopes to write in the months ahead.

Luke Chandler has some new photos of Khirbet Qeiyafa.

Over on the Accordance Forum, David Lang asks whether commercial graphics collections are useful in light of Google Images.

Larry Hurtado highly recommends the Atlas of the Early Christian World (1958).

The reformatted Soncino Babylonian Talmud is now available online.

In recent weeks, Wayne Stiles has taken readers of his column at the Jerusalem Post to Masada and the Citadel of David.

A 64th tomb has been discovered in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. (The tomb of King Tut was number 62.)

Some thieves were caught looting a site in the Judean wilderness near Tekoa.

The Harvard Semitic Museum is baking thousands of ancient clay tablets.

HT: Jack Sasson, Joseph Lauer