Weekend Roundup

Leen Thobias has some impressive 360-degree images of Israel and Jordan here.

It must be a bit discouraging when you find in your sealed excavation locus a beer bottle cap. (Photos here.)

Theories about the identity of Khirbet Qeiyafa are discussed in this Haaretz article. The most helpful section is what everyone agrees on.

A Tel Aviv professor wants to know if a mound of stones in the Sea of Galilee marks the place where Jesus walked on water.

If you’ve been waiting to see the new Samson mosaic found last summer at the Huqoq synagogue, you should check out Jodi Magness’s new article in Biblical Archaeology Review, currently online for free.

The anarchy in Egypt has not been good for archaeological sites and museums.

Archaeologists have found evidence that cinnamon was produced on the northern coast of Israel in ancient times.

Fifteen foreign archaeological teams are preparing to begin fifteen projects in Saudi Arabia.

Foundation Stone shares a 7-minute video showing some results from this summer’s excavations at Azekah.

Leen Ritmeyer has created some new reconstruction drawings of Jerusalem throughout its history.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson


Private Museum Reopens in the Old City of Jerusalem

Ynetnews reports on the recently reopened Siebenberg House.

Miriam Siebenberg lives in a very unusual house – unusual because of the fact that her home was built on top of another home, one that existed over 2,000 years ago.
Within the ancient walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, Miriam and her husband Theo purchased a house after the Six-Day War, eventually discovering that it contained a treasure trove of history buried deep underground.
In the Siebenberg’s house, a collection of archaeological artifacts discovered after years of digging in the basement, appear on display. Arrowheads, ink-wells, coins, ancient pottery, a glass cup and pieces of jewelry including a bronze key ring, likely used in the Second Temple era by a woman to unlock her jewelry box, can all be seen in the display.
But even more intriguing is what lies beneath their home. One can see the remains of an ancient Jewish residence and a way of life that dates back to the days of King Solomon and the Second Temple period.
“The further we dug, the more history we uncovered,” Seibenberg told Tazpit News Agency in an exclusive interview.
During more than 18 years of unearthing, the Siebenbergs discovered a ritual bath, known as a mikveh used by Jews during the Second Temple era, an aqueduct, a Byzantine water cistern, and even empty burial chambers believed to have been used by Jewish royalty in the 10th century B.C. during King Solomon’s reign.
Eventually, the remnants of the base wall of what is believed to be a Jewish home that stood 2,000 years ago, were also uncovered as were ancient Hasmonean stones, including one with a menorah engraving. Evidence of the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. was also discovered – a line of ash sealed into sedimentary rock was sent to a special lab in South Africa for testing, which found that the ashes were indeed from that time.

The full story is here and includes photos.

HT: Joseph Lauer


Picture of the Week: Rock Badgers

(Seth M. Rodriquez)

Last week, our “Picture of the Week” was of camels: an animal that most people are familiar with, even though we don’t see them on a regular basis. This week, we will focus on an animal you may have never seen before but is highly praised in the Bible … the rock badger.

This type of animal is also called a “hyrax” or, as the KJV translates it, “coney.” In the Law of Moses, the rock badger is identified as an unclean animal which the Israelites were not allowed to eat (Lev. 11:5; Deut. 14:7). These animals are also mentioned in Psalm 104:18. While exulting the Lord for the amazing world that He created, the psalmist states, “The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers” (ESV).

However, the rock badger’s claim to fame is how it is described in Proverbs 30. In that passage, it is listed among “exceedingly wise” animals:

Four things on earth are small,
    but they are exceedingly wise:
the ants are a people not strong,
    yet they provide their food in the summer;
the rock badgers are a people not mighty,
    yet they make their homes in the cliffs;
the locusts have no king,
    yet all of them march in rank;
the lizard you can take in your hands,
    yet it is in kings’ palaces.  (Prov. 30:24-28, ESV)

In other words, ants demonstrate wisdom by storing up food for the winter, rock badgers demonstrate wisdom by choosing to live in well-protected places, locusts demonstrate wisdom by moving together like an army, and lizards demonstrate wisdom by somehow getting into kings’ palaces even though it is a lowly creature.

The PowerPoint annotations included in Volume 17 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands (where this picture can also be found) has the following description of the rock badger:

The Syrian coney, also known as the hyrax or rock badger (Hebrew shaphan) looks like an overgrown guinea pig. It can easily move about on rocks and difficult terrain because its feet have built-in suction. Its diet consists of plants and various grasses, but although it does have a three-part digestive tract, it does not ruminate. As is necessary for survival in the desert, the coney can maintain water well, but has difficulty with direct heat, and thus hides in the rocks.

Last week we talked about how a photograph can help a bible teacher or preacher transport their listeners back to the world of the Bible. Yet sometimes a photograph can do even more. Sometimes, things that were familiar to someone living in ancient Palestine are completely outside the experience of someone living in the 21st century, so you not only need to transport your listeners back to the world of the Bible … you need to paint a picture for them about what they would have seen there!

You need to educate them about things that existed in that world. That is what makes a collection like the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands so valuable. With just a picture or two, you can deepen someone’s understanding of the Bible forever.

This photograph was taken at the Hai-bar Nature Reserve in Israel, where many animals mentioned in the Bible are on display. This photo and over 1,000 others are available in Volume 17 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, and can be purchased here for $34 (with free shipping). An additional photo of a rock badger can be found on the BiblePlaces website here, along with several other biblical animals.


Canaanite Altar Discovered at Tel Rekhesh

Tel Rekhesh (Tell el-Mukharkhash) is located on the northern side of Nahal Tabor, five miles (8 km) southeast of Mount Tabor. Yohanan Aharoni identified it as biblical Anaharath (Josh 19:19), a city also mentioned in the records of Thutmose III, Amenhotep II, as well as in the Amarna Letters.

From The Jewish Press.com:

An archaeological discovery in the Tel Rechesh excavations at the Tabor River Reserve in northern Israel: a joint archaeological expedition, which included researchers from the University of Tenri, Japan, and the Institute of Archaeology of Galilee Kinneret Academic College, have unearthed a Canaanite cult altar.
The excavations in this area have been going on for six years now.
The same excavations also revealed large parts of a Jewish farmhouse dating back to the Second Temple. Researchers were able to establish that this was a place of Jewish dwellers based on typical stone tools, oil lamps and coins minted in the city of Tiberias.
“The diggers received a big surprise,” said Chairman of the Institute of Archaeology of Galilee Kinneret Academic College Dr. Mordechai Avi’am. “In the ruins of the second floor of the farmhouse, they discovered a Canaanite cult statue, similar to a statue that stood in the sanctuary of a temple which is yet to be located.”

The full story is here. The basis for the report is this press release (Hebrew). The official excavation website is here. Excavations began at the site in 2006.
HT: Joseph Lauer
Tell Rekhesh Pan southeast 1 dd
Tel Rekhesh from northwest. Photo by David Dorsey.

Great Study Program in Jordan

Today a river separates Israel from Jordan leading many to assume that the east side includes little of interest to biblical studies. In ancient times, Israel lived on both sides of the river and many biblical characters traveled in what is now the country of Jordan, including David, Jacob, Ruth, Jephthah, Elijah, John the Baptist, and Jesus.

The best study program in Jordan is that led by Dr. Ginger Caessens. I participated in the course ten years ago and I learned a lot. I highly recommend it.

The course is entitled Historical Geography of the Bible II, Jordan, and it is offered through the University of the Holy Land. I believe that you have the option of taking it for graduate credit or for pleasure. The cost is very reasonable: $2,200 for two weeks with full board sharing a double room.

All of the information, including a detailed itinerary, is available at the UHL website.

Jabbok River with Penuel, tb060403030
Jabbok River with possible site of Penuel near ford where Jacob crossed (Gen 32:22).

Picture of the Week: Camels Feeding at Nazareth in 1890s

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

This week I have been working my way through the book of Job. In chapter 1 we read that Job owned 3,000 camels (v. 3) and that these camels were stolen from him by the Chaldeans:

While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” (Job 1:17, ESV.)

I’m willing to bet that most readers of this blog probably don’t see 3,000 camels on a regular basis (but I would not be surprised if a few of you do!). Like you, a large herd of camels is not part of my everyday life, so this verse stuck out to me. I know where the zoo is in my city where I can see a couple of camels, and I’ve even kissed a camel before at Jericho (a little trick that tourists do where you put a date between your lips and allow the camel to eat it from your mouth). Yet seeing a whole herd of these animals roaming free in a field would be remarkable.

Thus, our picture of the week is of (you guessed it) a herd of camel. This particular herd lived in the 1890s and wandered the fields near Nazareth. This photo comes from a collection available at LifeintheHolyLand.com called Earthly Footsteps of the Man of Galilee.  (A few months ago I wrote about another picture of Nazareth from this collection; that post is available here.)

The original book where this photo was published has the following caption for this picture:

CAMELS FEEDING AT NAZARETH.- The Bedouins … live by cattle breeding, and possess immense herds of sheep and camels, as we said under a former picture. The eastern branch of the plain of Esdraelon and the valley of Jezreel, are the home of the wandering Bedouins who often pitch their tents near there. The little town of Nazareth is often harrassed by the quarrels of the Arab chiefs and the predatory attacks of the Bedouins. Their herds feed upon the grassy slopes, the camels seeking the sunshine, or loaded with tents and the multifarious furniture of the camp, go roaming abroad “for fresh fields and pastures green.” To the stranger the slow-paced camel with his soft-cushioned feet, his noiseless solemn tread, imperturbable patience imprinted upon his dun colored face, seems a picturesque and amiable animal, but to one who knows him well he is cross, discontented and often treacherous. H. M. Field in his “Review of Recent Events in Egypt” says: “As my camel and I were to be on somewhat intimate terms, I approached to make her acquaintance, and even tendered her some little caressing. I attempted to stroke her gently; she instantly swung around her long neck and gave me a vicious snap which warned me not to presume on any familiarity.” The camel, with all its faults, is an interesting animal. The riding camel, which forms an indispensable feature in processions of special character, when smartly caparisoned with shawls and strings of coins, is exceedingly artistic.

Fortunately for Job, at the end of his adventure, a herd of camel was restored to him (Job 42:12).

Actually he received twice as many camels as he started with! But unfortunately for the rest of us, the importance of camels as a means of transportation in the Middle East has seriously diminished in the last 120 years. Air conditioned cars, trucks, and buses have taken the place of this “interesting animal” and thus the modern world looks vastly different from the world of Job. That is why collections such as Earthly Footsteps of the Man of Galilee are such valuable tools for the modern teacher and preacher. Photos such as this help us to turn back the clock and place our listeners in the world of the Bible.

This photo and almost 400 others are available in Earthly Footsteps of the Man of Galilee which is available here for $20 (with free shipping). Additional images of and information about camels are available on the BiblePlaces website here and here, and on the LifeintheHolyLand website here and here.  Almost 20 photos of camels are included  in Volume 17 of the PLBL which is available for purchase here. To see a traffic sign warning drivers of passing camels, see the post I wrote a few months ago here.


Answer: Nabi Yoûnis

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

The answer to yesterday’s challenge is Nabi Yoûnis (or Nebi, Neby, Yunus, Younes, Yunas—there are a variety of English spellings. I will use the spelling “approved” by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names). It was answered correctly and quickly in the comments, so maybe next time, we should leave out the Google Earth view. The name Nabi Yoûnis is Arabic for Prophet Jonah, and the site commemorates the location where the great fish spit Jonah out onto dry land. It is located in Google Earth at 33.660894°, 35.418515°.

At 8:10 am on Tuesday, June 26, 1838, Edward Robinson passed by Khan Nabi Yoûnis on his way from Sidon to Beirut. He mentions that nearby was “Wely Neby Yunas, with a white dome, marking the place where, according to the Muhammedan legend, the prophet Jonas was thrown up by the fish” (Biblical Researches 3: 430-431). A nearly identically-worded description is found in Picturesque Palestine 3: 40. 

Drawing of Nabi Yoûnis from Picturesque Palestine, vol. 3.

Today, the Muslim shrine described by Robinson is surrounded by the Shiite village named Nabi Yoûnis and bears little resemblance to the drawing above. Also, the dome is now green.

Modern Nabi Yoûnis. 

The Muslim shrine occupies the site of an earlier Byzantine church which was apparently destroyed by earthquake. Some remains from this church can be seen in reuse inside the shrine. During the Mamluk period, the structure was rebuilt and converted into a Muslim shrine.

Nabi Yoûnis, Corinthian capital from Byzantine church reused in modern Muslim shrine.

I have no way for evaluating whether or not this tradition is historically accurate, that Nabi Yoûnis is the place where Jonah was spit out. It is interesting to note that according to 2 Kings 14:25, a prophet named Jonah son of Amittai lived during Jeroboam II’s reign. This verse explains that Jonah announced large territorial gains for the kingdom of Israel in the time of Jeroboam II. For a brief moment in history, the boundary of the kingdom extended north to Lebo-Hamath, identified with modern Labwe in Lebanon. The Aramean kingdoms of Damascus and Hamath were also subjected to Israel. Nothing is said concerning the Phoenician coastal cities, so I do not know if Nabi Yoûnis would have been under some kind of Israelite control or not at this time as well.

Further note: a small side room in the Nabi Yoûnis shrine supposedly houses the tomb of Jonah. As with Noah, there are apparently multiple sites that are believed to be Jonah’s burial place. Another such tomb of Jonah is located in el-Meshhad, Israel, the site identified with Jonah’s hometown, Gath-hepher (see Picturesque Palestine 2: 61, illustration on 56).


Harb, Antoine Khoury.
2008     The Roots of Christianity in Lebanon. Beirut: Lebanese Heritage Foundation.


Wednesday Roundup

For last year’s Water in Antiquity Conference, Chris McKinny provided some brief notes. Now the papers and PowerPoints are available for many of the presentations.

Archaeologists in Turkey are claiming to have found a long-lost city where Abraham lived.

Carl Rasmussen considers why Paul skipped the ship and walked to Assos. The photo of the Roman road is available for download. Mark Wilson interacts with the discussion in the comments.

Leen Ritmeyer has the scoop on where and when the Jerusalem IMAX movie will be showing.

The Ancient Near East Today, produced by Friends of ASOR, is a good resource for staying up-to-date. You can sign up for free here.

HT: Jack Sasson


Where in the World . . .?: Jonah’s LZ

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

“The LORD commanded the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon dry land” (Jonah 2:11, JPS).

Can anyone name the place where, in church tradition, Jonah was vomited back onto land? Here is a Google Earth view to get the ball rolling.

Post your answers in the comments below, and tomorrow we will post a follow-up with photo. I think it is safe to allow research for this one. Please give some indication of your source(s).


7th Century BC Inscription Found in City of David

Archaeologists working in the City of David have discovered an inscription from the 7th century that may have had the name of Zechariah the son of Benaiah (2 Chr 20:14). The inscription was found in a layer of thousands of pottery sherds, oil lamps, and figurines near the Gihon Spring.

From the IAA press release:

While not complete, the inscription presents us with the name of a seventh century BCE figure, which resembles other names known to us from both the Biblical and archaeological record (see examples below) and providing us with a connection to the people living in Jerusalem at the end of the First Temple period. This fascinating find will be presented at Megalim’s Annual Archaeological Conference which will take place on Thursday, August 29th in the City of David.
The most similar name to our inscription is Zechariah the son of Benaiah, the father of the Prophet Jahaziel. The name Zechariah the son of Benaiah appears in 2 Chronicles 20:14 where it states that Jahaziel, son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, prophesized before the Biblical King Jehoshaphat before the nation went off to war against the ancient kingdoms of Ammon and Moab.
Israel Antiquity Authority archaeologists Dr. Joe Uziel and Nahshon Zanton, who discovered the bowl while excavating remains associated with the First Temple period destruction, explained that the letters inscribed on the shard likely date to the 8-7th centuries BCE, placing the production of the bowl sometime between the reign of Hezekiah and the destruction of Jerusalem under King Zedekiah. The archaeologists also explained that the inscription was engraved on the bowl prior to firing, indicating that the inscription originally adorned the rim of the bowl in its entirety, and was not written on a shard after the vessel was broken.

The press release also includes an analysis of the inscription. Three high-resolution images are available here. The story is reported by the Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, and others.

Details about the City of David 14th Annual Archaeological Conference are here.

Pottery sherd with inscription “ryhu bn bnh”


Figurine heads, oil lamps, and seal impressions from the debris in which the inscription was found. Photos by Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority.