Picture of the Week: The Burnt House, Jerusalem

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

Our series on “Obscure Sites in the PLBL” hit a little snag this week as I turned to Volume 3 which focuses on Jerusalem. How do you pick an “obscure site” in a place as famous and as familiar as Jerusalem?  The solution is to go underground …

Our obscure site for this week is The Burnt House in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. This place is probably familiar to many readers of this blog, but I don’t think it makes it onto the itinerary of many tours to the Holy Land so it qualifies as “obscure.” This is a site that dates back to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the first century. In his book, The Holy Land, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor introduces the site in this way:

A month after the destruction of the Temple and the Lower City in early September AD 70, the Romans stormed into the Upper City: ‘when they went in numbers into the lanes of the city, with their swords drawn, they slew without mercy those whom they overtook, and set fire to the houses whither the Jews had fled, and burnt every soul in them’ ([Josephus,]  War 6: 403). This was one of those houses. The latest coin found among the charred debris on the floor was dated AD 69; an unused spear stood in one corner.

One thousand, nine hundred years later, archaeologists working under Nahman Avigad uncovered this house that (presumably) had been destroyed by the Romans. What you see in the picture above is the bottom level of the house. Leen Ritmeyer has posted his reconstruction of the entire house on his blog here, along with some newspaper clippings from the time of its discovery. While discussing this site, Avigad once wrote:

This house was destroyed by an intense fire and was filled with fallen stones, wooden beams (carbonized) and layers of ash. The plastered walls were completely covered with soot, and the debris concealed many artefacts. What is unique here is the fact that the debris had not been cleared away or disturbed by later construction: Everything remained just as it was when the building was destroyed.

Many of these artifacts can be seen in the museum which now sits under the buildings of the modern Jewish Quarter. The most chilling aspect of this discovery was the fact that the archaeologists found the skeletal remains of an arm of a young woman, lying on the threshold of the entrance. Presumably this was one of the victims who died at the hands of the Romans in AD 70.

This photo and over 1,500 others (including pictures of the artifacts on display in The Burnt House Museum) are available in Volume 3 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, and can be purchased here for $39 (with free shipping). If you care to visit the site on your next trip, the Burnt House Museum is located at 2 Hakaraim Street, Jerusalem, near the top of the long staircase that leads down to the Western Wall Plaza.

The first excerpt was taken from Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700, 4th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 73-74.  The 5th edition can be purchased here.

The second excerpt was taken from Nahman Avigad, “Excavations in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, 1969-1971,” p. 46, in Jerusalem Revealed: Archaeology in the Holy City 1968-1974 (Jerusalem: The Israel Exploration Society, 1975).


Conference: The Kingdom of David and Solomon

Though the lectures are in Hebrew and in Haifa, the subject matter merits re-posting this conference schedule from the Agade list.

UNIVERSITY OF HAIFA / FACULTY OF HUMANITIES Department of Biblical Studies and 
Jewish History. Hecht Auditorium.
2013 Annual Meeting, Monday, December 2nd 2013
(All lectures will be presented in Hebrew)

Greetings: Prof. Reuven Snir, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, University of Haifa

Opening Remarks: Prof. Gershon Galil, Head of the MA Program “The Bible and its World”, University of Haifa

0900-1050 1st Session: THE ARABAH, THE NEGEV HIGHLAND AND THE NORTH. Presiding: Prof. Sariel Shalev, University of Haifa

09:00-09:20 Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef, Tel Aviv University, Transparent Archaeology and Biased Interpretations in the Study of the United Monarchy: Methodological Insights from the Ancient Copper Mines of the Arabah

09:20-09:40 Dr. Moti Heiman, Israel Antiquities Authority and Bar-Ilan University, The Iron Age II in the Negev Highland: Material Culture, Economy and Population in A Desert Environment

09:40-10:15 Prof. David Ussishkin, Tel Aviv University, “Solomon’s Gate” at Megiddo: A Debate of Fifty Years

10:15-10:35 Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Hazor in the Iron Age IIA: The Stratigraphical and Chronological setting of the First Fortified Town

10:35-10:50 DISCUSSION
10:50-11:00 BREAK

11:00-13:00 2ND SESSION: EPIGRAPHY, BIBLE AND ARCHAEOLOGY. Presiding: Prof. Shmuel Ahituv, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

11:00-11:20 Dr. Haggai Misgav, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The 10th Century BCE Inscriptions Reconsidered

11:20-12:00 Prof. Amihai Mazar, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The Kingdom of David and Solomon and the Archaeological Research: An Ongoing Story

12:00-12:40 Prof. Gershon Galil, University of Haifa, Israel and Palistin in the 11th-9th Centuries BCE in Light of New Epigraphic and Archaeological Data

12:40-13:00 DISCUSSION
13:00-14:00 LUNCH

14:00-16:00 3RD SESSION: THE COAST, THE SHEPHELAH AND PHILISTIA. Presiding: Prof. David Ussishkin, Tel Aviv University

14:00-14:20 Dr. Ayelet Gilboa, University of Haifa and Prof. Ilan Sharon, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Capital of Solomon’s Fourth District? Israelite Dor

14:20-14:40 Mr. Saar Ganor, Israel Antiquities Authority, Seven Seasons of Excavation at Khirbet Qeiyafa

14:40-15:00 Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu and Prof. Yosef Garfinkel, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, New Light on Solomon’s Palace and Temple and on the Second Temple in View of the Shrine Model from Khirbet Qeiyafa

15: 00-15:30 Prof. Avraham Faust, Bar-Ilan University, Between Judah and Philistia: Settlement Dynamics and Changes in Material Culture in the 10th Century BCE

15:30-16:00 DISCUSSION

Secret Places: Qumran Cave 1 3D Facade

post by Chris McKinny

This post is slightly different than previous “Secret Places” posts in that the secret to finding Qumran Cave 1 (and 2) has been out for a while due to Todd’s excellent post from back in 2010.

If you are interested in visiting Cave 1 (depsite Todd’s health warning) then you should definitely refer to the post linked above. If you don’t plan on making the dangerous trek up the cliffs of the Judean Wilderness or if you just want a slightly better idea of what Cave 1 looks like up close check out the model below. Click on the option “3D Model” to get an interactive view.


IAA Catches an Antiquities Thief

From the Jerusalem Post:

Antiquities Authority anti-theft officers and police from the Kiryat Gat station arrested a man on Sunday from Moshav Sde Moshe suspected of stealing antiquities from archeological sites in the Lachish region.
A few months earlier, Antiquities Authority enforcement officials caught him with a metal detector digging illegally in an archeological site, and they began to perform surveillance on him.
The arrest came two days after Antiquities Authority enforcement officials caught three men, two from Beit Lehem [Bethlehem] and one from Kfar Nahalin, illegally digging in an archeological site in Eila [Elah] Valley, near Beit Shemesh.
According to enforcement officials, the antiquities theft industry is a highly lucrative multi-million dollar illicit business involving illegal excavators, dealers and collectors working in Israel, the West Bank and abroad.
The most highly-skilled excavators come from villages in the South Hebron Hills, where generations have made a living illegally excavating antiquities from archeological sites within the Green Line. They search for all types of relics, but particularly coins from the Bar-Kochba era, which can fetch thousands of dollars from collectors abroad.

The full story is here. For every one they catch, there are probably 99 they miss.

UPDATE: A follow-up article is posted here.

Tekoa corner of large building, tb111706982
Illegal excavations at the biblical city of Tekoa
Photo from Judah and the Dead Sea

Raiders of Egypt’s Heritage

Mohamed Ibrahim, Egypt’s minister of state for antiquities, requests help in the Washington Post in fighting antiquities theft in his country.

Egypt’s future lies in its history, particularly its archaeological history. For hundreds of years the mystery and wonders of the pyramids, the sphinx and the Valley of the Kings have attracted visitors from around the world. Tourism is the lifeblood of Egypt’s economy and touches the lives of most Egyptians, whether they work as tour guides, restaurant owners, craftsmen or bus operators. Egypt’s history holds the prosperity of the country’s future generations, including that of youths — more than 40 million Egyptians are age 30 or younger — who are seeking opportunities.
But thieves are raiding our archaeological sites and selling their findings to the highest bidders. They are taking advantage of Egypt’s security situation to loot our nation’s economic future and steal from our children.
Egyptians need the people and the government of the United States to support our efforts to combat the systematic and organized looting of our museums and archaeological sites. Imagine a world in which the stories of King Tut, Cleopatra, Ramesses and others were absent from the collective consciousness. And with much of our history still waiting to be discovered under the sand, the potential losses are staggering. Antiquities theft is one of the world’s top crimes — after the trafficking of weapons, narcotics and people — but it is seldom addressed.
Egyptian antiquities are flooding international markets. Recent auctions at Christie’s in London and New York included several items from Egypt. Fortunately, when contacted, Christie’s in London withdrew a number of items that had been stolen from the tomb of King Amenhotep III, discovered in 2000 in Luxor. Among the items was a steatite bust of an official dating from 1793 to 1976 B.C.

The full op-ed is here.

HT: Jack Sasson

Three great pyramids with smaller pyramids of queens, tbs89289701
The Pyramids of Giza
(photo source)

Picture of the Week: Tel Dor

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

What is the most significant, ancient harbor city in Israel that hardly ever gets visited by tourists?

Everyone has heard of Caesarea, but that place is a young sprout compared to this site. Acco and Joppa are potential candidates, but even they get more publicity than this site. Continuing our series of “Obscure Sites in the PLBL” (or “What You Missed on Your Trip to the Holy Land”) we focus this week on the small but significant site of Dor.

The map below is from the PowerPoint files included in Volume 2 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. Dor is circled in the top left section of the map.

Tel Dor is located on the small Plain of Dor, which is nestled between Mount Carmel and the Mediterranean Sea. For a description of this small region, you can read a post I wrote on the Wild Olive Shoot blog here. In that post you will learn that this small strip of land in Israel’s central region was more often controlled by foreigners than it was by Israelites. It served as a foothold into the region for Phoenicians and the Sea Peoples. In fact, in ancient times it was easier to get to this region by boat than it was by foot, due to the marshy terrain in the area.

This brings us to the photo itself. Below you can see three boat slips used in ancient times by the inhabitants of Dor. The city was built right next to the sea which made it easy to haul boats in and out of the water. According to the excavators of Tel Dor, “The boat-slips are probably Hellenistic and/or Persian; they may have been dry-docks for fishing vessels, or berths for war-galleys.” (Reference: http://dor.huji.ac.il/areaE.html.) According to the photo annotations included in the PLBL, you won’t find boat slips like this at any other site on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean.

So the next time you’re in Israel, take a little time to explore this small (but significant) site. Archaeological remains from the time of Abraham to the period of the Crusaders have been found here. In addition to the boat slips, you will find the remains of a two-chambered gate from the Iron Age, two temples from the Roman Period, a purple dye factory used from the 1st to 6th centuries AD, a museum where you can see artifacts found in the area, and beautiful harbors where you can take a refreshing dip in the sea.

This photo and over 1,200 others are available in Volume 2 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, which can be purchased here for $39 (with free shipping). Aerial shots of Tel Dor are available here and here on Ferrell Jenkins’s blog, and the Tel Dor excavation team has a very informative website at http://dor.huji.ac.il/. For more information on the region and additional photographs, see my post here.


Catholic Conflicts: Electric Poles and Holy Sites

The Caspari Center Media Review reports on a couple of items in the Israeli press of interest to this blog. The first is from an article in Haaretz on October 17.

The Catholic Church in Israel launched a petition demanding the removal of an electricity pole that was put up two years ago across from the Garden of Gethsemane, which is “one of the holiest [sites] to Christians – the place where tradition says Jesus and his disciples prayed together before Jesus was arrested by the Romans and crucified the next day.” The pole was put up at the request of Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem “who have asked to be disconnected from the Jerusalem District Electricity Corporation, which supplies electricity to Arab neighborhoods on the city’s east side.”
The Catholic custodian of the Garden of Gethsemane wrote in his petition that “the huge pylon obstructs the view of the Old City from the prayer garden of the church used by pilgrims. … One of the significant reasons for the popularity of the church is the unique view of the Temple Mount and the Old City, and the pylon utterly destroys this uniqueness.”
The judge presiding over this case criticized the placement of the pole, saying that “it was a beautiful corner of Jerusalem and in addition a holy place.” He later added, off the record, that the Israel Electric Corporation “would not have done it in the Kotel [Western Wall] plaza.” By the end of the hearing, “the two sides agreed to transfer the matter to the appeals committee of the Jerusalem Regional Planning and Building Committee.”

I do not have a photo of the pole, but if any of our readers do, you’re welcome to send it in and we’ll post it here.

UPDATE: See photo below.

The second is from HaModia and HaMevaser.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be traveling to Rome next week to meet with the pope; they will discuss, among other things, the transfer of certain holy sites to the custody of the Catholic Church. “It turns out,” says HaModia, “that the new pope has set a public declaration of the transfer as a condition for his promised visit to the land.” One of the sites in question is David’s Tomb, “which the Catholics have claimed as their own for hundreds of years.”
HaMevaser reports that Rabbi Haim Miller has appealed to Knesset Members in an effort to stop the deal from going through. Miller claims that it is better for the pope not to visit Israel than that the tomb be handed over to the Catholic Church, even if this causes a rift between the Vatican and Israel.

The full Caspari Center Media Review is here.

David's Tomb and Upper Room on Mount Zion, mat14676
David’s Tomb and the Upper Room on Mount Zion
Photo from Jerusalem

UPDATE: A.D. Riddle has sent along a photo that shows the electrical pole. On the right side of the photo, there’s a purple bush with the pole to the left.

Church of All Nations and Garden of Gethsemane

UPDATE #2: Pat McCarthy notes that Haaretz has posted two photos of the pole.

UPDATE #3: Paul Mitchell points to Google Images which has a link to this image in an article dated to last year in the Jerusalem Post.

UPDATE #4: Shawn French has sent a photo of an old electric pole that tarnishes the view from Gethsemane.

View from Gethsemane towards Temple Mount, 2008
Photo by Shawn French

New Book: Everyday Life in Bible Times

John A. Beck has just published a new book that will be of interest to many readers here. The Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times is an attractive, full-color guide to the culture and customs of the ancient world. Beck is familiar to readers here as one of the authors of the popular A Visual Guide to Bible Events and A Visual Guide to Gospel Events.

The book is comprised of about 100 articles, each three pages long. Every subject is carefully illustrated, and it is difficult to find a page without a photo (or two or three).

The book covers a wide range of subjects such as sacred days, family relationships, agriculture, warfare, clothing, and food. Specific articles include:

  • Anoint
  • Clap Hands
  • Crucify
  • Engrave
  • Kiss
  • Land On Hands
  • Naked
  • Run
  • Shave
  • Thresh
  • Widow

I made note of a few items that may be new to readers here:

  • “We can safely say that no activity was more ordinary in Bible times than the baking of bread.”
  • “The belt of our Western world is very different in appearance and function from the belt of the ancient world.”
  • The clapping of hands sends one of four messages in the ancient world: “(1) to mark a time of joy-filled celebration, (2) to mock or scoff at someone’s misfortune, (3) to express grief or anger, or (4) to play a part in a magical incantation.”
  • The Gadites are noted for their military greatness in part because of their ability to cross the Jordan during flood season (1 Chr 12:14-15).
  • There is one positive use of the word “drunk” in the Bible (Deut 32:42).
  • There are four categories of kissing in the ancient world: (1) the greeting kiss, (2) the departure kiss, (3) the kiss of respect, and (4) the erotic kiss. Beck gives biblical examples for each one and mentions three other types of kisses mentioned in Scripture: the deceptive kiss, the holy kiss, and the figurative kiss.
  • “Jews of the first century carried a combined tax burden that was near or slightly exceeded 50 percent of their income.”

In every article I read, I learned something new. Though written for a popular audience, the book includes footnotes that point to the source of the information or related good resources.

The book is also available on Kindle, but I would guess that it’s not as attractive as it is in print format.

On a related subject, if you’re looking for a collection of photos of Cultural Images of the Holy Land, we know of a good one.


Weekend Roundup

Yitzhak Sapir claims that Matthew Kalman has misrepresented the verdict regarding the ownership of Oded Golan’s artifacts. Kalman has responded briefly.

A report from this season’s excavations of the Roman camp of Legio near Megiddo is now online.

Wayne Stiles provides a perspective, with photos and video, from atop the walls of Jerusalem.

The lecture schedule for the Bible and Archaeology Fest is now online. There are many interesting topics planned.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is now offering a masters of arts in biblical archaeology in partnership with Mississippi State University.

Haaretz reports on students excavating in the port of Dor as part of a new English MA in Maritime
Civilizations at Haifa University.

An article at The Christian Science Monitor about Khirbet Qeiyafa is more interesting for its profile of Israel Finkelstein.

Barry Britnell suggests a number of opportunities to learn.

Britnell also links to a beautiful video on the Sky Above Jerusalem.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson

Dor harbor area from north, tb090506883
The ancient harbor of Dor
Photo from Samaria and the Center

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Oded Golan

The forgery case against Oded Golan has been concluded with the court’s rejection of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s claim of ownership of the Jehoash Inscription. Matthew Kalman has covered the case for nearly a decade and he reports on the 2-1 decision by an appeal panel of Israel’s Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruling caps a crushing defeat for the Israel Antiquities Authority following the sweeping 2012 acquittal of Golan and dealer Robert Deutsch on multiple charges of archaeological forgery. Israeli prosecutors advised by the Israel Antiquities Authority had argued that even though they continue to believe the inscription is a modern forgery, the reverse of the stone had been “dressed” in ancient times and was therefore classified as an antiquity that should belong to the state. But those arguments were rejected by the majority decision of the court. Oded Golan is now poised to reclaim both the tablet and the more famous item, the James ossuary, along with dozens of pieces confiscated by the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israeli police at the time of his arrest in 2003. Golan greeted the decision as “good news.” He says he plans to put both the ossuary and the tablet on public display. The latest about-turn could be the final twist in a nail-biting finale to the decade-long pursuit of Golan. However, a sternly-worded ruling by the same court in September suggests that the battle over the future of the antiquities trade is just beginning. In an 8,000-word ruling handed down on September 29, a panel of three Supreme Court Justices rejected Golan’s appeal against his conviction and sentence on three minor charges and used the opportunity to declare war on the antiquities market. Branding the trade in antiquities “damaging” and motivated by “avarice,” the ruling authored by Supreme Court Justice Daphne Barak-Erez depicts “a world of collectors exchanging treasures teeming with trembling hands and heart – often within the law, and sometimes without,” and notes with approval that “in most countries of the world there is a general ban on the trade in antiquities, because of their recognition as a national resource.” She further observed, that this "conception also serves as the basis for the antiquities law” in Israel.

The full story is at The Bible and Interpretation and includes Golan’s response to the court’s broadside on the antiquities market. Since I believe that the tablet is likely authentic, I am happy to hear that Golan plans to put the artifact on public display.