14th Annual Batchelder Conference for Biblical Archaeology

The schedule of the 14th Annual Batchelder Conference for Biblical Archaeology has been announced. More than a dozen lectures will be given at the University of Nebraska at Omaha on

November 8, 9, and 10. Entrance is only $10. Lectures include:

Avraham Faust, Israel’s Ethnogenesis: How Israel Became a Nation

Harry Jol, Nazareth, Israel: What is Ground Penetrating Radar
Seeing at Mary’s Well?

Nick Jaeger, Digital Literacy in Biblical Archaeology

Jerome Hall, Jesus, Josephus, and the Migdal Mosaic: Rethinking the First Century Kinneret Boat

David Ussishkin, Jerusalem at the Times of Solomon, Hezekiah and Nehemiah: An Archaeologist’s View

Leonard Greenspoon, What the Bible Translator Has Learned – and Failed to Learn from the Biblical Archaeologist

Kris Udd, Has Radiocarbon Artificially Raised Dates for the Early Bronze Age?

Barney Trams, The Iron Age II Storehouse at Bethsaida

The website links to a promotional flyer and the full lecture schedule.


Weekend Roundup

Hershel Shanks: Authentic or Forged? What to Do When Experts Disagree? His example: Geologists vs. philologists on the Jehoash Inscription.

Michael S. Heiser recommends the archive of ISIS, the journal of the ancient chronology forum.

Charles E. Jones lists titles relating to antiquity from the Brooklyn Museum Publications now available online.

A husband and wife team have been leading an excavation of  ‘Ayn Gharandal in southern Jordan.

“A new ancient city considered to be the Zeugma of the West and thought to be one of the lost cities of Anatolia has been unearthed in İzmir.” (Hurriyet Daily News)

The Exhibition Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology is now open at the Discovery Science Center in southern California.

Israel: Seeing is Believing – This six-minute film has some nice footage. The focus is as much on the modern as on the ancient.

At only $8.54, the ESV Study Bible for the Kindle is a great deal. Note that the index feature does not work with Kindle 1, Kindle Fire, or the Kindle apps.

HT: Charles Savelle, Jack Sasson, G. M. Grena


New Excavation Planned for City of David

Israel’s left-wing newspaper, Haaretz, reports on an agreement between Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority for a new excavation in the City of David.

A right-wing organization active in settling Jews in controversial parts of East Jerusalem, is providing the funds for excavations by Tel Aviv University archaeologists on a contentious site near the City of David. 
The excavations funded by the Elad organization have drawn the ire of Palestinian residents, as well as international and Israeli left-wing organizations. Some archaeologists say that the methodology – tunneling under village houses, and the speed at which the excavations are to be performed – violates accepted professional norms.
This is the first time a university has decided to formally take part project in such an excavation. The dig will be conducted by Tel Aviv University’s Institute of Archaeology in coordination with the Israel Antiquities Authority, which will transfer funds from Elad to the university.
The excavation plans envisions work in what is known as area E, in the lowest part of the park, adjacent to the El-Bustan neighborhood of Silwan, where the Jerusalem Municipality is planning to establish a park called “King’s Garden.”
Critics question the role of Elad in the dig. “It’s hard to believe that the Antiques [sic] Authority, with its meager budget, has suddenly found sources to fund someone else’s projects,” says archaeologist Yoni Mizrachi of Emek Shaveh. 
TAU archaeologist Prof. Rafael Greenberg, another Emek Shaveh activist, is more outspoken: “This is a clear politicization of research. Whoever is familiar with the area is aware that all the diggings are annexed to Elad, supervised by Elad, and separate from the site of the City of David. In practice, the project is to become part of Elad’s settlement drive.”

You can decide who is guilty of the “politicization of research.” Greenberg is wrong to imply that the archaeologists working in the City of David are forced to produce results compatible with a right-wing agenda. But you can understand why it’s driving the left-wingers nuts that one of their own would join the “enemy.”

The full article provides responses by Tel Aviv University and Elad.

City of David Area E excavations from south, tb022705709

Area E in the City of David. View to the north.
Photo from the Jerusalem volume.

Picture of the Week: Seven Species Display

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

Look around where you are sitting for things that are the color brown.  Then look for things that are red or blue.  You will probably be surprised at how many things you can spot that are those colors, and you never really notice how many there are until you specifically look for them.

The same can be said for plants mentioned in the Bible.  As you are reading through the scriptures, you probably don’t even notice how many times trees or flowers or wheat or weeds are mentioned.  They are just part of the warp and woof of the text.  Yet when you stop to count them, it is shocking how often they appear.

Our picture of the week comes from Volume 16 of the revised and expanded edition of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, which focuses on “Trees, Plants, and Flowers of the Holy Land.”  This is an entirely new volume of the PLBL.  A small number of the pictures in this volume were included in the previous version but they were scattered throughout the collection based on their location.  This new volume collects these photos together in one place and adds numerous new photos, creating a powerful tool for learning about biblical plant life.  Looking over the list of pictures included in the collection (which can be found here) the collection includes photographs of:

Numerous photographs in this new volume were taken by Gloria E. M. Suess, who was a long-term volunteer at the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem and an avid photographer of biblical plants.  Our picture of the week was taken by her and is entitled “Seven Species Display.”  (Click on the photo for a higher resolution.)

The seven species represented here are the seven types referred to by Moses in Deuteronomy 8:7-10.

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.  (Deuteronomy 8:7-10, ESV)

This photo captures all seven varieties of products in one shot.  Barley and wheat are at the far left, each represented by its grains and a loaf of bread made from that type of grain.  Vines are represented at the top of the photo by three types of grapes, along with a cup of wine and a plate of raisins.  Figs are at the far right side of the picture: fresh figs (top) and dried figs (bottom).  Pomegranates (two whole and one opened) can be seen at the top of the photo between the grapes and figs.  Olives are shown at the lower right side: both green and black olives along with a cup of olive oil, an oil lamp (behind the cup), and a branch from an olive tree.

Lastly, honey is represented by dates at the bottom center of the photo.  The juice that was squeezed from fresh dates was known as date honey, and can be seen in the cup just above the plate of fresh and dried dates.  Some scholars believe that date honey instead of bee honey makes the most sense in this list of agricultural products.

Once again, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Seeing all seven species together on one table whets that appetite and drives home the message in a different way than merely reading the text.  Looking at this feast, it is easy to see that this truly was a “good land” that God was giving to the Israelites.

This and other photos of biblical plant life are included in Volume 16 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and can be purchased here.  For further thoughts on why Moses may have chosen to mention these seven species, see my blog post on the Wild Olive Shoot blog here.


Lecture: Golani on Silver Hoards and Jewelry in the ANE

If you’re near Penn State and are free Thursday evening, you might want to attend a lecture recently added to the 2012-13 program of the Central Pennsylvania Society of the AIA.

Dr. Amir Golani, Israel Antiquities Authority, “Economic Aspects of Silver Hoards and Jewelry at the End of the Iron Age in the Levant.” Thursday, October 25, 8:00 pm, in 101 Chambers  Building
Abstract:  The use of precious metals as a means for bartering throughout the ancient Near East dates back to the Bronze Age. The rise of the Neo-Assyrian Empire during the latter portion of the Iron Age II period (8th-7th century BCE) witnessed a steep rise in use of silver, appearing as silver ingots, cut silver chunks and whole and broken down silver jewelry.  The sources of the silver indicate far-ranging trade contacts and its increased use reflects changing geo-political processes in the eastern Mediterranean and the ancient Near East.  The silver, along with various textual sources that specify its use as a form of payment, are witness to the growing reliance on this metal as a medium of exchange.  This talk will explore the sources of silver found in the southern Levant, the various forms in which it appears and how and why silver became a preferred medium of payment in the economic systems of the ancient Near East.

HT: Eric Welch


Wednesday Roundup

SourceFlix has just released a new video short, “Follow Me,” with some great footage of sheep and shepherds.

Hezekiah’s Pool (aka Patriarch’s Pool) in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem has long been a swampy dump. The area was cleared last year and recently it held what Tom Powers believes is the first public gathering in its history.

Wayne Stiles: Beersheba epitomizes the faith God required to live in the Holy Land….God used this unassuming, barren place to shape some of the most significant lives in the Bible.

Heavy rains in the Eilat mountains and southern Aravah led to flooding of the Hai-Bar Yotvata Nature Reserve. Workers safely evacuated animals in danger of drowning.

Peter James answers some difficult questions about the Step Pyramid of Saqqara and the Bent
Pyramid of Dashur based on his years of repairing damaged structures in Egypt.

The Penn Museum is opening to visitors its conservation process of ancient Egyptian mummies.

Back issues of Christian History magazine are available as free pdf files.

Here is what looks to be like an interesting lecture this evening (in Hebrew): “The Tomb of David on
Mount Zion? Pierotti’s Cave?”

Amit Reem, IAA. At the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, 7:30pm. Free with museum admission.

HT: Jack Sasson

Dashur Bent Pyramid northeast corner, tbs102049811
The Bent Pyramid of Dashur

Recent IAA Excavation Reports

The final report of a small excavation of biblical Japhia (Josh 19:12) has been published. The excavators identified possible hiding places used during the Jewish Revolt but not the double fortification described by Josephus.

Another stone workshop was excavated two miles north of Nazareth in the village of er-Reina.

Remains date from the Persian to Late Roman periods.

A final report was also recently published for Khirbet Keila near Zorah and Eshtaol, with remains from the Early Bronze, Intermediate Bronze, and Byzantine periods.

A final report is now available for a survey along the northern part of the “Diagonal Route,” from Shaar HaGai to the Elah Valley. The survey included portions of Tel Bet Shemesh and the area around Beit Jimal and Moshav Zekhariya.

Beth Shemesh and Sorek Valley aerial from southeast, tb010703219 ppt screenshot

Beth Shemesh and “Diagonal Route”
Labeled slide from Judah and the Dead Sea

The Date of the Olive Trees in the Garden of Gethsemane

The olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane are about 900 years old and were all shoots of a single tree, according to a three-year study by the National Research Council announced last week in Rome. From TerraSanta.net:

The research results show that three of the eight olive trees (the only ones on which it was technically possible to carry out the study), as dating from the middle of the twelfth century. Hence, the trees are about nine hundred years old. But one point needs to be made clear: the date indicated refers only to the aboveground part of trees – the trunk and foliage. In fact, the same research has shown that the part below ground, i.e. the roots, is certainly more ancient.
The outcome of the investigation must also be put in relation with ancient travel chronicles of pilgrims, according to which the second of Gethsemane basilica was built between 1150 and 1170 (the period during which the Crusaders were engaged in the reconstruction of the great churches of the Holy Land and Jerusalem in particular). It therefore seems likely that, during the construction of the Basilica of Gethsemane, the garden was rearranged, creating a renovation of the olive trees present at that time.

The rest of the story describes the genetic relationship between the trees. Pat McCarthy (seetheholyland.net) informs me that radiocarbon tests carried out by the University of California in 1982 dated some of the tree roots to 2,300 years old. I have not been able to locate a reference for that study yet. Reuters covers the story here.

Garden of Gethsemane olive trees, tb051906423
Ancient olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane

Weekend Roundup

Frank Moore Cross died this week. Hershel Shanks has written some reflections on their relationship.

James Davila describes his experience as a student. Eisenbrauns has a 50% sale on a volume of 55 key articles he wrote. Chuck Jones has created a list of his articles available on JSTOR. And Frank 
Moore Cross: Conversations with a Bible Scholar is available as a free ebook.

A two-part interview with Robert Mullins on the new excavations of Abel Beth Maacah is now available at The Book and the Spade.

The Smithsonian Channel delayed the release of the documentary on the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.”

Hershel Shanks disagrees with Harvard Theological Review’s decision to delay publication of the article.

The historic souk of Aleppo, Syria, is a battleground today.

The Dead Sea will live again: Wayne Stiles explains and includes a slideshow, a video, and a map.

The 200th anniversary of the rediscovery of Petra is celebrated in a new exhibition in Basel.

“From Papyrus to Print: A Journey through the History of the Bible” is the central exhibit at the new 
Bible and archaeology museum at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Rachel Hallote will be lecturing on “Not-So-Innocents Abroad: The Beginnings of American Biblical Archaeology” on October 28 at Emory University.

Manfred Bietak will be lecturing on “Recent Discoveries at the Hyksos Capital, Tell el-Dab‘a
(Egypt)” on November 12, 7:00 PM in Hinkson Hall, Rodine Building, Trinity Evangelical Divinity

HT: Al Sandalow, Jack Sasson, Joseph Lauer

Petra Siq, df072007322
The Siq of Petra
Photo from Pictorial Library of Bible Lands