Picture of the Week: Qumran Caves

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

This seems to be a week where Hebrew scrolls are in the news more often than normal (see herehere, and here), so our picture of the week focuses on the Qumran caves where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.  If you have ever studied the Dead Sea Scrolls, you have probably heard statements such as “The Copper Scroll was found in Cave 3,” or “The Habakkuk Commentary was discovered in Cave 1,” or “Cave 11 contained 30 scrolls.”  The scrolls are even labeled using the cave number as part of the reference, such as 2Q3 from Cave 2 at Qumran and 11Q19-20 which was found in Cave 11 at Qumran.

Yet with eleven caves in the area with written texts, it quickly becomes difficult to keep them all straight.  Fortunately the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands is available to help walk you through the location of each cave, provide pictures of the outside of each cave (and sometimes pictures from within!), and helpful commentary on which scroll was found where.  It is a great way of exploring the caves without the cost of traveling to the Dead Sea, without hiking through the blistering heat of the desert, and without any of the risks involved in climbing onto the edge of steep cliffs with loose gravel below your feet.  (Thanks for doing all the legwork, Todd!)

The picture above is a prime example of the resources available in the Qumran Caves collection in Volume 4 of the PLBL (click the image to enlarge).  The site of Qumran is to the right, outside of the frame. The photographer is facing west, looking at the edge of the hills of the Judean Wilderness.  In the shot, you can see six out of the eleven Qumran caves: Caves 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. (Please note that the image above includes the labels from one of the PowerPoint® slides. The photograph by itself without any labels is also provided in the collection.) Much of Caves 7 through 10 have eroded away, but their positions can still be seen.  Cave 4 yielded a large number of scroll fragments and is typically the one photographed in Bible dictionaries and other reference works.

The value of a shot like this becomes apparent when you are trying to give a lecture to your students on the Dead Sea Scrolls. With a picture like this, you can easily explain the arid terrain, the difficulty of reaching the caves, and their relative positions to one another.  Within the collection, each cave is photographed from various angles so that you can get a feel for its size and shape.

The collection is also useful if you are planning a trip to the site.  I only wish I could have had these pictures and diagrams with me the last time I visited Qumran so that I could pick out the location of each cave while standing there.  The PowerPoint® notes even include instructions on how to get to some of the harder to reach caves when you are on-site (although the reader is cautioned against visiting Caves 1 and 2 because of the difficult terrain).

So whether you are preparing for a lecture on the Dead Sea Scrolls, are packing for a trip to Israel, or just want to learn more about the place where the scrolls were found, the PLBL offers a valuable guide to the Qumran caves.

This photo and over 1,500 others are available in Volume 4 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and is available here for $39 with free shipping.  For additional photos and information on the Qumran caves, visit this page on the BiblePlaces website.

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Wednesday Roundup

Gary Byers summarizes the result of the first week of excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir. He thinks it may have been the best first week of finds at the site. Shimon Gibson will be resuming his excavations on Mount Zion from June 16 to July 11. Volunteers are welcome. A list of papers for the Noah’s Ark conference at Sirnak University in Turkey has been announced. Among the list is this one by Gordon Franz: “Did Sennacherib, King of Assyria, Worship Wood from Noah’s Ark?” Don Wimmer, director of excavations at Tall Safut in Jordan, died last week. Worsening conditions at the Cairo Museum are causing concern. The Green Scholars Initiative Series on Early Jewish Texts is a new book series to be published by Brill and led by Emanuel Tov. Scholars are using artificial intelligence programs to help reassemble more than 100,000 manuscript fragments from across the Mediterranean world. Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg has written the latest Archaeology in Israel Update—April 2013. Luke Chandler is leading a tour of Italy this fall. The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols.) is now marked down 78% to $90. Until Friday. HT: Jack Sasson, Bill Soper Pompeii Consolare Street and Modesto Street intersection, tb111505131 Preserved ruins of Pompeii
Photo from Pictorial Library, Italy and Malta

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Dead Sea Scrolls for Sale

By the Associated Press:

Parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls are up for sale — in tiny pieces.
Nearly 70 years after the discovery of the world’s oldest biblical manuscripts, the Palestinian family who originally sold them to scholars and institutions is now quietly marketing the leftovers — fragments the family says it has kept in a Swiss safe deposit box all these years.
Most of these scraps are barely postage-stamp-sized, and some are blank. But in the last few years, evangelical Christian collectors and institutions in the U.S. have forked out millions of dollars for a chunk of this archaeological treasure. This angers Israel’s government antiquities authority, which holds most of the scrolls, claims that every last scrap should be recognized as Israeli cultural property, and threatens to seize any more pieces that hit the market.
“I told Kando many years ago, as far as I’m concerned, he can die with those scrolls,” said Amir Ganor, head of the authority’s anti-looting squad, speaking of William Kando, who maintains his family’s Dead Sea Scrolls collection. “The scrolls’ only address is the State of Israel.”
Kando says his family offered its remaining fragments to the antiquities authority and other Israeli institutions, but they could not afford them.
“If anyone is interested, we are ready to sell,” Kando told The Associated Press, sitting in the Jerusalem antiquities shop he inherited from his late father. “These are the most important things in the world.”

The article continues to describe recent purchases by Azusa Pacific University, Southwestern Seminary, and the Green Collection. For the largest available fragment the dealer is asking $40 million.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Qumran Cave 1 wide, tb011703346
Qumran Cave 1, location of discovery of first Dead Sea Scrolls
Photo from Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, volume 4
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Weekend Roundup

Barry Britnell has the scoop on the forthcoming update to Google Maps and he shares some impressive examples.

Following the discovery of the mosaic near Bet Qama, Miriam Feinberg Vamosh provides a “flying [mosaic] carpet”-themed itinerary through Israel.

Matti Friedman follows up on an article in Biblical Archaeology Review to find out whether wooden beams on the Temple Mount might date back to the time of Solomon’s or Herod’s temples.


Smithsonian magazine reports on the Rise and Fall and Rise of Zahi Hawass.

Two months of excavations annually for the last 56 years is not enough, so a Turkish team will join the Italians and excavate the ruins of Hierapolis year-round.

Phase 2 of Eilat Mazar’s Ophel Excavation is now underway.

The University of Liverpool’s second annual conference on Archaeology and the Bible focused this year on “Egypt and the Bible” with lectures by James Hoffmeier and others.

HT: Daniel Wright, Jack Sasson

Hierapolis view from east, tb041305832
The ruins of Hierapolis
Photo from the Pictorial Library, Western Turkey
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Picture of the Week: Tabernacle Replica

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

Most readers of this blog are familiar with reconstructions, sketches, and diagrams of the Tabernacle.

From our reading of the text and with some help from Bible encyclopedias and study Bibles, we know the Tabernacle inside and out … the courtyard, the altar, the tent itself with its various coverings, the outer room, the Holy of Holies, the various articles in the rooms, how the items were arranged in the court and in the tent, etc., etc.

But did you ever stop to think what the Tabernacle looked like to an ancient Israelite?  I’m not talking about the priests and Levites who ministered in the Tabernacle, but just your average Israelite man or woman who would have passed by the Tabernacle on their way from one side of the camp to the other.  What it would have looked like to their kids as they approached the Tabernacle, bringing the sacrificial animals that God had required?  How much of God’s tent could the average person see from outside the courtyard?

Our picture of the week seeks to portray just that:

This photo comes from Volume 5 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands which focuses on the Negev and the Wilderness.  Within this volume you will find a collection of pictures that captures a life-sized replica of the Tabernacle that stands in the Timna Valley in Israel.  The PLBL states the following about the replica’s history:

The model was created in 1986 by the Bible Center Theological Vocational School in Breckerfeld, Germany. It was displayed at exhibitions in seven European cities, mainly in Germany and Switzerland, before being erected in the Timna Valley.

You can see better pictures of the model on the BiblePlaces website here, but this particular image caught my attention because it is what the average Israelite would have seen on an average day.  The outer screen of the Tabernacle’s courtyard blocked most of the tent from view (Exod. 27:9-18), but someone standing outside could still see the top of the Tabernacle itself over the top of the screen.

We know this because the height of the Tabernacle was at least 10 cubits (Exod. 26:15-16) while the height of the screen was around 5 cubits (Exod. 27:18), so the screen was only half as high as the tent.

A cubit is the length from the tip of your fingers to the tip of your elbow, thus in modern measurements a cubit is approximately half a meter or 18 inches.  So to be more exact, the Tabernacle stood at least 5 meters (15 feet) tall and the screen was about 2.5 meters (7.5 feet) high.  You would not be able to see anything if you were standing right next to the screen (unless you were extremely tall, like Goliath), but if you stood back away from the screen, the top of the Tabernacle could be seen towering over its surroundings.

On the one hand, the screen would have served as a reminder of the separation between a holy God and sinful man.  Yet on the other hand, the tent itself was a visible reminder of the nearness of God.

The book of Exodus teaches that God didn’t deliver Israel from Egypt and then just walk away, but instead He delivered them so that He could dwell among them:

Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God. (Exod. 29:45-46.)

This image and over 700 others are available in Volume 5 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and can be purchased here for $34 (with free shipping).  Additional information and images of the Tabernacle model can be seen here and here on the BiblePlaces website.  For my thoughts about what happened to the Tabernacle after it was retired, see my posts on the Wild Olive Shoot blog here and here.

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Wednesday Roundup

Matti Friedman posts new photos and information about the royal (proto-Aeolic) capital discovered in a water tunnel not far from Bethlehem.

The first official Israeli exhibit in the Louvre is the Lod Mosaic. It opens tomorrow and runs through August 19.

Wayne Stiles explains why Nazareth Village is not just another tourist trap.

The Jewish Voice suggests 13 Must-See Museums in Israel.

Jerusalem Experience has a new video of the Pools of Bethesda.

All of the articles of the latest issue of Atiqot are now online.

Ferrell Jenkins recommends the new Satellite Bible Atlas for tours anywhere in Israel.

Rockefeller Museum entrance, tb042403209
The Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem
Photo from the Pictorial Library, volume 3
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How the British Museum Protects Its Collection

The BBC has an interesting piece on how they protect their seven million objects from six million visitors annually. Threats include curious hands, inadvertent bumps, and chewing gum.

David Saunders, head of conservation and scientific research at the museum, said there had been very little malicious damage.
“The most worrying thing is people bumping into them,” he said.
“On a busy Saturday the museum can be very crammed and we obviously keep things in cases but not everything can be cased.
“Massive statues and architectural monuments can’t be so these have to be on open display.”
To protect them, the placement of every object is carefully considered.
Those that are vulnerable to breaking, such as porcelain statues, are placed in cases while bigger objects are placed behind a screen.
The FOI figures also show several objects – including a first century Roman marble statue and a Middle-eastern alabaster statue had to have chewing gum removed from them.
“It’s a strange thing to do, to stick a piece of chewing gum on an object,” said Mr Saunders.
“It’s very easy to remove and although we think of chewing gum as being something that is extremely sticky, it doesn’t pull away the surface when you remove it… [but] it’s a nuisance.
“Anything that has a surface where we absolutely would not want a piece of chewing gum attached to it we wouldn’t have on display.”

The full article is here. In my opinion, the British Museum is the best in the world for students of the Bible. An excellent guide is that by Peter Masters.

HT: Jack Sasson

Black and White Obelisks, tb112004859
Some ancient Assyrian monuments, including the White Obelisk and Black Obelisk, are protected by a low glass wall that does not block the visitor’s view.
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Weekend Roundup

Shmuel Browns has posted a series of high-res photos of the new mosaics at Bet Qama.

Donald Trump wants to build Israel’s second 18-hole golf course. It will be located along the coast between Ashkelon and Ashdod.

Israel’s Water Authority will begin allowing 1,000 cubic meters of water per hour to flow out of the Sea of Galilee into the Jordan River.

Wayne Stiles shows why Beth Shemesh is an appropriate place to reflect on the feast of Shavuot (Pentecost).

Coastal plain south of Ashdod aerial from south, tb121704850
Coastal plain south of Ashdod once claimed by the Philistines and now the proposed location of Donald Trump’s golf course.
Photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.
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Picture of the Week: Graf Zeppelin Over Jerusalem

Our picture of the week is one of the most surprising images in any of the collections available on BiblePlaces.com and LifeintheHolyLand.com.  It was taken on April 11, 1931 and displays a German dirigible floating over Jerusalem.

Several familiar landmarks can be clearly seen in the photograph. (You can click on the image to enlarge it.)  The dirigible is hovering over the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Dome of the Rock can be seen in the background just above the church’s dome.  To the right is the tower of the German Lutheran Church, and framing the whole scene in the background is the Mount of Olives.

The photo comes from Volume 2 of the American Colony and Eric Matson Collection which focuses on Jerusalem.  There is another photo of this zeppelin in that collection which shows a clear profile of the airship as it passed by the Citadel of David near Jaffa Gate.

How and why did a zeppelin get here in 1931?  The PowerPoint® notes in the collection provide the following explanation (hyperlinks in the quote were added for the convenience of our readers):

The viewpoint is a rooftop, or perhaps the city wall, in the Christian Quarter, west of the Holy Sepulcher. The photo documents the visit of the German dirigible “Graf Zeppelin” to Jerusalem on April 11, 1931. The famous airship began its journey on April 9th in Friedrichshafen, Germany and it landed at Heliopolis near Cairo at dawn on the 11th. It then set off on a one-day, round-trip excursion to Jerusalem, reaching there at 10 a.m. The airship reportedly hovered for some time, with its engines stopped, about 100 meters above the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and that seems to be exactly what was captured in this photo. That date–April 11, 1931–being Holy Saturday in the Eastern calendar, the dirigible’s passengers were almost certainly viewing the colorful spectacle of the annual “Holy Fire” ceremony being played out in the streets below.  Without touching down in Palestine, the Graf Zeppelin (average speed approx. 60 miles (100 km) per hour) returned to Egypt and landed in Cairo at 4 p.m. the same day.  [Source: web-site of the German Embassy in Cairo, www.kairo.diplo.de]

This particular zeppelin traveled the world over the course of a decade.  It crossed oceans, traversed hemispheres, made a “round the world” voyage, and even helped explore the Arctic.  With such a colorful career, I guess it couldn’t resist squeezing in a quick trip to Jerusalem at some point.

This photograph and over 650 others are available in Volume 2 of the American Colony and Eric Matson Collection, and is available here for $25 (with free shipping).  Further information and images of Jerusalem in the 1800s and early 1900s can be found on LifeintheHolyLand.com here, here, and elsewhere.  Further information on the Graf Zeppelin can be found here and here.

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Wednesday Roundup

A proposal to create a large platform for mixed prayers along the Temple Mount’s western wall south of today’s prayer plaza has evoked some cries of protest. Though the elevated platform would create space for visitors to tour the archaeological remains below, this is “absolutely not an option,” says Eilat Mazar. “It’s a sacred archaeological site.” Nir Hasson’s article in Haaretz is superior to the reporting in the Jerusalem Post.

If you’re interested in the history of the Western Wall, from the earliest Jewish prayers to the present day, Ofer Aderet’s article in Haaretz is quite interesting. The final quotation implicitly reveals why the Jewish people no longer refer to it as the Wailing Wall.

The LMLK Blogspot reports on a letter written from Jerusalem in 1868 by a member of Charles Warren’s excavation team.


The Times of Israel: Gleaning just like Ruth would have done, if she’d had Google Maps
Leen Ritmeyer links to an interview with archaeologist Yuval Gadot who describes the earliest results from his excavation in the City of David.

The Spring 2013 issue of the electronic newsletter DigSight is now online. The focus is on Southern
Adventist University’s upcoming excavations of Lachish.

There is an explanation for the photo showing a Ferris wheel on the Temple Mount.

HT: BibleX, Mike Harney

Western Wall, mat00027
Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall, early 1900s
Photo from the
American Colony and Eric Matson Collection
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