Conference: Temple and Cult in the Bronze and Iron Ages

Temples and Cult in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin During the Bronze and Iron Ages. Conference Marking the Retirement of Prof. Eliezer Oren and the Appearance of a Festschrift in His Honor
The Department of Bible, Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Thursday, March 7, 2013. 
Minkoff Senate Hall, Ayerton University center Marcus Family Campus, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva
10:00 Morning Session. Prof. Shmuel Ahituv, Chair

On Prof. Victor Avigdor Hurowitz z”l
Presentation of FestschriftAll the Wisdom of the East: Studies in Near Eastern Archaeology and History in Honor of Eliezer D. Oren, Orbis Biblicus et Orentalis 255, Fribourg and Göttingen, 2012

10:40 The Bronze Ages

Keynote Address: Gods and Rulers in Mycenaean Citadels: A Very Special Relationship. Prof. Josef Maran, University of Heidelberg (English)

Aspects of Temples and Cult in the Early Bronze Age in the Land of Israel. Prof. Pierre de
Miroschedji, CNRS, Nanterre (English)

The Cultic Precinct at Nahariyah: New Aspects of Cult during the Middle Bronze Age in the Land of Israel. Dr. Sharon Zuckerman, Hebrew University, Jerusalem (English)

13:30 Afternoon Session. Prof. Gunnar Lehmann, Chair
13:30 The Bronze Ages

Hathor in Canaan in Light of the Decorations on Jewelry Boxes. Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

The Temple Precinct at Megiddo; A New Look after Twenty Years of Excavations. Prof. David Ussishkin, Tel Aviv University

The Temple and the City: The Cases of Jericho and Batrawy in the Bronze Age. Prof. Lorenzo Nigro, Universita degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza” (English)

Distribution of Cultic Implements in the Tel Haror Temple: Spatial Analysis. Pirhiya Nahshoni, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

15:30 The Iron Age. Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor, Chair

Evidence for Cult and Religious Activity in the 9th and 10th Centuries at Tel-Rehov. Prof. Amihai Mazar, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

The Arad Temple and its Cancellation: A Reevaluation. Prof. Zeev Herzog, Tel Aviv University

Popular Belief and Popular Art: Sacred Implements from the Favissa of a Philistine Temple at Yavneh. Dr. Irit Ziffer, Eretz Israel Museum
Summary and Conclusion. Prof. Eliezer Oren, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

The full conference announcement is here. Lectures not marked as English will be given in Hebrew.

HT: Jack Sasson


Wednesday Roundup

10.5 Million Visits to the Western Wall in 2012 – The increase in tourism requires a doubling in restroom capacity.

Archaeology in Israel Update—February 2013 – Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg selects the top five stories of the month.

48 hours in the Negev – Onnie Schiffmiller provides a two-day itinerary beginning at Beersheba and moving south.

How to Prepare for a Holy Land Tour – Wayne Stiles recommends ways to prepare mentally, practically, physically, and spiritually.

8 Tips to Maximize Your Holy Land Tour – Stiles follows up his preparation post with suggestions on what to do once you’re in Israel, including what photos to take and not take, how to keep up, and why you should ask lots of questions.

Men praying at Western Wall during Sukkot, tb100906912
A “full house” at the Western Wall prayer plaza during the feast of Tabernacles. Photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, volume 3.

Arguments Against Locating Sodom at Tall al-Hammam

The proposal that Sodom has been found on the northeastern side of the Dead Sea has been around for a decade or so, but with the publication of an article by Steven Collins this month it will receive the widest hearing to date. I thought it might be helpful for readers of Biblical Archaeology Review to know where to go for another perspective.

The proposal that Tall al-Hammam is Sodom fails on at least two counts, and these are helpfully summarized by two experts in their respective subjects.

Geography Fail: Bill Schlegel, professor in Israel for 25 years and author of the Satellite Bible Atlas, explains why the biblical text does not fit the geography of Tall al-Hammam.

Chronology Fail: Eugene Merrill, Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies at Dallas
Theological Seminary and author of Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel, shows in a recent Artifax article that for Tall al-Hammam to be Sodom one must deny all of the biblical dates before the time of the judges.

I’ve written about the issue several times as well:

Excavator Finds Evidence of Destruction at “Sodom” (Dec 2011)

Video: Search for Sodom and Gomorrah (Aug 2009)

Tall el-Hammam: Sodom, Abel Shittim, Abila, or Livias? (Jan 2009)

Sodom Identified? (May 2006)

One final point: the excavator of Tall al-Hammam insists that by identifying the site as Sodom he is supporting the historicity of the Bible. In fact, if his theory is true, we cannot trust the Bible for accurate details about times and places. Tall al-Hammam is certainly a significant site, but Sodom is surely to be found elsewhere.

Dead Sea northern end aerial from west, tb010703242
Northern end of the Dead Sea
Photo from Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, volume 4

Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal Deemed Feasible

The Red to Dead canal is moving along faster than I realized. THe last hearings are being held now before the World Bank issues a final report. The Inter Press Service provides a good summary of the plans and problems.

The World Bank has declared the Red Sea-Dead Sea canal project feasible. Designed to “save the Dead Sea”, “desalinate water and/or generate hydroelectricity at affordable prices in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority”, and “build a symbol of peace in the Middle East”, the scheme, green groups warn, is fraught with environmental hazards.
Currently at 426m below sea level, the Dead Sea, Earth’s lowest elevation on land, is drying and dying in the desert by roughly 1.1 metres a year. Its surface area has shrunk by a third during the last 50 years from 960 square kilometres to 620 square kilometres.
What could save the Dead Sea from death foretold is a 180-km development project called the ‘Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance’.
This is how it would work: marine water would be pumped from the Red Sea. A pipeline conveyance system with six pipes and a tunnel would then flow the water by gravity, exploiting the difference in elevation at and below sea level, to a high-level desalination plant and two hydroelectric plants.
The high-salinity brine reject would be discharged to the Dead Sea to halt and, eventually, reverse its decline.
After a decade-long argument, the World Bank released a series of studies last month which deem the proposed ‘Red-Dead Canal’ (as the ambitious scheme is dubbed) technically, environmentally and socio-economically feasible.
The main objectives would thus be fulfilled, the World Bank assesses. All that for a total capital cost of 9.97 billion dollars, the World Bank estimates; half of it amortised by selling desalinated water and hydroelectricity, the other half financed out of international aid to development – “a win-win situation,” hails Shalom.

The rest of the article discusses objections to the plan, including chemical problems, earthquakes, groundwater contamination, and damage to the Red Sea coral reef. The article concludes with a forecast: “The canal could be built within six years and start operating in 2020, reaching its maturity stage by 2060.”

HT: Charles Savelle

Dead Sea from Masada, tb010810995
The disappearing Dead Sea, as seen from Masada
Photo from Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, volume 4

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

Three Syrian Historical Sites under Threat (Here & Now)

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 2-22-13 (ASOR Blog)

Exclusive video of the work to save the two colossal statues of Amenhotep III (Luxor Times)

Exclusive footage: The Sphinx Avenue lit up for the first time (Luxor Times)

Collection of Graeco-Roman tombs uncovered in Alexandria (Ahram Online)

Ancient Stolen Artifacts Discovered in Beit Jann (Arutz-7)

Pillaging of Gaza Antiquities an Archaeological Tragedy (Al-Monitor)

New Testament Scholar: Chasing Biblical Manuscripts Is Nothing Like ‘Indiana Jones’ (Christian Post) Interview with Daniel Wallace.

HT: Charles Savelle, Jack Sasson

Luxor Temple Avenue of Sphinxes, tb110500232
Avenue of Sphinxes leading to Luxor Temple
Photo from Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, volume 7

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Information on the second Qeiyafa inscription coming later this year (Luke Chandler)
The Tel Burna Arch
aeological Project (ASOR Blog)

Israel approves drilling for oil in Golan Heights (Jerusalem Post)

John the Baptist: The First Christian Martyr (Bryant Wood)

Review of The Unsolved Mystery of Noah’s Ark (Gordon Franz and Bill Crouse)

NIV Study Bible for Kindle marked down to $6.64 (Amazon)

Ferrell Jenkins has begun a series on famous people buried in the Protestant Cemetery on Mount
Zion, including Horatio G. Spafford and James Leslie Starkey.

Online Battle Over Sacred Scrolls, Real-World Consequences (New York Times) Includes an interview with Raphael Golb.

Oak forest on Golan Heights, tb020506169
Oak forest on Golan Heights
Photo from Galilee and the North

King Herod Roundup

Several articles this week are related to King Herod and the new exhibit at the Israel Museum. With a lengthy list for tomorrow’s roundup, I thought a separate post might be worthwhile.

Herodium, home of the most reviled monarch in Judea – Miriam Feinberg Vamosh writes about Herod’s fortress in a free article in Haaretz.

A King on Exhibition: Herod is Ready for His Close-Up – Karl Vick gives some background on the new exhibit in Time. There are errors.

In Search of Herod’s Tomb – This article by the Herodium’s excavator, Ehud Netzer, was published posthumously in Biblical Archaeology Review.

Herod the Great—The King’s Final Journey – Suzanne F. Singer describes the museum exhibit in the current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. A slideshow is included.

Over the years, I’ve written about sites important to King Herod, including Masada, Herodium, Caesarea Maritima, Caesarea Philippi, and Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. See also King Herod: Ten 
Things You Didn’t Know.

HT: Jack Sasson

Jerusalem model Herod's Palace from southwest, tb020101208
Model of Herod’s Jerusalem palace, now on display at the Israel Museum. Photo from Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.

Picture of the Week: The Disappearance of Philae

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

From the legend of Atlantis to the recent ABC television series called Lost, disappearing islands have always fascinated people.  Modern history tells the story of another disappearing island, but unlike other stories, there is little mystery about why it happened.

Our picture of the week (the second image displayed below) comes from Volume 5 of The American Colony and Maston Collection which focuses on Egypt and Sinai.  To show the development of the site over the last century, I have also included a drawing from Picturesque Palestine, Sinai and Egypt and a photograph from the revised Pictorial Library of Bible Lands in this week’s post.

From the Roman Period until the late 19th century, the island sanctuary of Philae looked similar to the image below.  A temple to Isis was built on the site in the Roman Period and later was converted to a Christian worship site.

Philae in the 1800s

In 1898, the British constructed the Aswan Dam near the first cataract of the Nile.  The dam helped control the flow of the Nile River but it also flooded the area to the south, including the island of Philae.  The ruins of Philae were partially submerged, as can be seen in the photo below.  This photo was taken sometime between 1910 and 1920.  (Volume 5 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection includes a couple of pictures of the Aswan Dam when it was in use, and of tourists visiting Philae by boat.) 

Philae in the Early 1900s

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the High Dam was built which raised the waterline even further.  So if you visit the area today, there is nothing left of the island of Philae.  Fortunately, the ruins on the island were dismantled and moved to the nearby island of Agilika, so you can still see the ruins of Philae … you just can’t see them in their original spot.

Philae Today

The photograph of the partially submerged ruins of Philae and over 450 others images of Egypt and Sinai are available in Volume 5 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection and can be purchased here for $15 (with free shipping).

The drawing of the island before the dams were built is from Volume 4 of Picturesque Palestine, Sinai and Egypt which can be purchased for $20 here (with free shipping).

The photo of Philae today is from Volume 7 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, Revised and Expanded Edition which can be purchased here for $34 (with free shipping).

Additional images and information on Philae can be found here on and here on


Byzantine Winepress Excavated in Jaffa

The Israel Antiquities Authority has issued a press release on the latest discovery:

Recently impressive remains of an industrial installation from the Byzantine period which was used to extract liquid were exposed on Hai Gaon Street.
Installations such as these are usually identified as wine presses for producing wine from grapes, and it is also possible they were used to produce wine or alcoholic beverage from other types of fruit that grew in the region. Yafo’s rich and diverse agricultural tradition has a history thousands of years old beginning with references to the city and its fertile fields in ancient Egyptian documents up until Yafo’s orchards in the Ottoman period.
According to Dr. Yoav Arbel, director of the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This is the first important building from the Byzantine period to be uncovered in this part of the city. The fact that the installation is located relatively far from Tel Yafo adds a significant dimension to our knowledge about the impressive agricultural distribution in the region in this period. The installation, which probably dates to the second half of the Byzantine period (sixth century – early seventh century CE), is divided into surfaces paved with a white industrial mosaic. Due to the mosaic’s impermeability such surfaces are commonly found in the press installations of the period which were used to extract liquid. Each unit was connected to a plastered collecting vat. The pressing was performed on the mosaic surfaces whereupon the liquid drained into the vats. It is possible that the section that was discovered represents a relatively small part of the overall installation, and other elements of it are likely to be revealed in archaeological excavations along adjacent streets which are expected to take place later this year.”

The full story is here. Three high-resolution images are available here. Haaretz has a report here.

inst west-east
Byzantine winepress excavated in Jaffa. Photo by IAA.

Online Museum: Bible and Archaeology

Fifty important artifacts and discoveries are listed in chronological order at The collection includes photographs from a variety of sources. If I only had time to teach ten to a class, I would choose these:

  • #2: Merneptah Stele
  • #3: Ten Dan Inscription
  • #6: Kurkh Monolith
  • #7: Black Obelisk
  • #8: Mesha Stele
  • #13: Hezekiah’s Tunnel
  • #16: Lachish Reliefs
  • #20: Ketef Hinnom Amulets
  • #28: Cyrus Cylinder
  • #43: Pool of Siloam
  • #46: Gallio Inscription

Alternately, you can just pass on the link to your class (or friends or pastor) and they can get a quick study in the world of biblical archaeology.

Hezekiah’s Tunnel
(photo source)