More Top Stories of 2013

Yesterday we listed the top stories related to discoveries and technology. Today we conclude with three additional categories. Yesterday’s introduction applies here as well.

Significant Stories in 2013:

Museums Return Artifacts to Turkey (and here and here)

The Level of the Dead Sea Rose (and may keep rising)

King Herod Exhibit Opening at Israel Museum (and here and here)

Israel’s Water Crisis Is Over

The Cyrus Cylinder Toured the US (and here)

Dead Sea Scrolls for Sale

IAA: Jehoash Tablet Is an Antiquity and Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Oded Golan

King Solomon’s Mines, After All

Replica of King Tut’s Tomb Planned To Save Original

Antiquities of War-torn Syria Are Being Extensively Looted

Two Major Snow Storms in Jerusalem

Noteworthy Posts:

Arguments Against Locating Sodom at Tall al-Hammam

Online Museum: Bible and Archaeology

Report Published for Gezer Regional Survey 

Picture of the Week: Jordan River Flooding in 1935

Why Is There Little Evidence for David’s Kingdom?

Video below the Temple Mount

Picture of the Week: Locust Plague of 1915

The Grotto of Saint Paul in Ephesus

Secret Places: 1st Century Synagogue at Magdala

Favorite Resources in 2013:

Satellite Bible Atlas, by William Schlegel (and here)

Views That Have Vanished (in Accordance)

The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Archaeology, ed., Daniel M. Master

Everyday Life in Bible Times, by John Beck

The World of the New Testament, eds., Joel B. Green and Lee Martin McDonald

Previous Years:

Top Stories of 2012 (and more)

Top Stories of 2011 (and more)

Top Stories of 2010 (and more)

Top 8 of 2008 (and more)

We wish our readers a happy new year!


Top Stories of 2013

As 2013 winds down, I thought it would be worthwhile to review the top discoveries and stories of the year in the world of biblical archaeology and geography. Not only is the review helpful in refreshing the memory, it also makes it more possible to discern what was more important and what was less.

Today we will review major discoveries, top technology-related stories, and losses. Tomorrow we will survey significant stories, noteworthy posts, and favorite resources of the year.

These lists are subjective, first by the fact that they had to be chosen for inclusion in a post on this blog this year, and second by the process of selecting the best. Readers are welcome to suggest other significant stories in the comments below. These lists are organized chronologically.

Top 10 Discoveries of 2013:

Royal Architecture Found Near Jerusalem

Large Stone Structure Discovered on the Floor of the Sea of Galilee 

Unique Ritual Bath Complex Excavated in Jerusalem

Jerusalem Quarry Discovered

Earliest Alphabetic Inscription in Jerusalem Discovered

Sphinx Fragment Discovered at Hazor 

Claim: Evidence Discovered of the Tabernacle at Shiloh and Evidence of Shiloh’s Destruction 
Claimed and Stone Altar Discovered at Shiloh

7th Century BC Inscription Found in City of David

Golden Treasure from Byzantine Period Discovered in Jerusalem

Large Stele of Nebuchadnezzar Discovered at Carchemish

More Discoveries of 2013:

Beautiful Mosaic from Byzantine Period Discovered near Beersheba

Hiding in Jerusalem: New Evidence for Roman Siege 

Possible Discovery of Dalmanutha

“Palace of David” Discovered at Khirbet Qeiyafa (and here)

“Prophet Elisha’s House” Discovered at Tel Rehov

Roman Road Discovered near Jerusalem

Early Roman period mansion discovered on Mount Zion

Chalcolithic Temple Discovered at Eshtaol

Hasmonean Building Discovered in City of David

Top Technology-Related Stories of 2013:

Archaeological Archive of Israel Online

LiDAR facilitating research at Petra

Visit Ancient Sites with an Augmented Reality App

The BibleMap App

Google Maps Exercise for Biblical Geography and Google Earth Exercise for Biblical Geography


Geza Vermes

John Hayes

Sean Freyne

L. Y. Rahmani

Robert J. Bull

Jerome Murphy-O’Connor

J. B. Hennessy

David Livingston

The continuation of this compilation is here.

Earliest alphabetic inscription discovered in Jerusalem.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar; photographed by Ouria Tadmor.

Weekend Roundup

The Book and the Spade has a two-part interview with Kenneth Bailey on the biblical account of Jesus’ birth. (Direct links: part 1, part 2)

Of the James ossuary inscription, Gabriel Barkay says, “It is an authentic inscription.”

The Washington Post reports the Christians who are coming to Bethlehem and the Christians who are leaving.

Ferrell Jenkins takes a moment out to describe the blogs he reads and more.

The Israeli State Comptroller’s report on the illegal excavations on the Temple Mount has been kept secret, until now.

A report in a Knesset committee this week described Israel’s failure to protect ancient wooden beams on the Temple Mount.

Fox News suggests six unusual ways to visit the Holy Land.

Scholars are now studying graffiti left by medieval pilgrims at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity.

The ASOR Blog has a roundup from the broader world of archaeology.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Charles Savelle


Weekend Roundup #2

The Israel Museum has acquired the world’s “first Jewish coin.”

Eric Cline and Christopher Rollston have been selected as the new co-editors of BASOR.

Accordance Bible Software has a sale on their collection of Dead Sea Scrolls Images.

The Fall 2013 issue of the electronic newsletter DigSight is now online.

The Top 10 Discoveries of 2013 at Archaeology include Egypt’s oldest port.

Three lectures related to Egyptian history given at the Harvard Semitic Museum are now online.

War-torn Syria is being extensively looted by antiquities thieves, according to the head of UNESCO.

HT: Jack Sasson


Weekend Roundup #1

The recent snowstorm killed six animals in the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.

Shmuel Browns shows what it’s like to guide in the Jerusalem snow.

Ferrell Jenkins notes that his favorite single-volume Bible dictionary is now on sale for Kindle for $4.99.

Biblical Archaeology Society is offering a new free eBook: Life in the Ancient World.

Christopher Rollston has published a preliminary report on the Ninth-Century “Moabite Pedestal 
Inscription” from Ataroth.

Aren Maeir gives his viewpoint on the ASOR Blog of how archaeologists should use the Bible. (I would argue that it is precisely the approach that he advocates that leads to the mess that biblical
archaeology is in.)

Princeton University Press is giving away 5 copies of the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World app this weekend (iPad only).

HT: Jack Sasson, Charles Savelle


Notes on Christian Tourist Sites

This week’s edition of the Caspari Center Media Review has several stories of interest.

Of tourist sites in Nazareth:

In anticipation of the Christmas season, Zvika Boreg compiles a list of places to visit in Nazareth, including Mount Precipice, “where the people of Nazareth tried to throw Jesus to his death but he escaped, and – according to the legend – jumped from there to Mount Tabor,” and the Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches of the Annunciation.

Of trash on the “Jesus Trail”:

Christian pilgrims walking the Jesus Trail are sure to encounter mounds of trash at various points along the way, writes Yair Kraus. The 65-kilometer trail runs from Nazareth to Capernaum and passes through sites that are associated with the life of Jesus. But the lack of supervision has made it possible for people to use the trail as an illegal dumping ground. Says one tour guide: “Christians think we are a third world country.” The Minister for the Protection of the Environment has asked the local municipalities to form a joint council to deal with the issue.

Of the St. John in the Wilderness Monastery that is not in the wilderness:

Dr. Adam Ackerman writes about the St. John in the Wilderness Monastery, located in the village of Ein Kerem on the outskirts of Jerusalem. According to Christian tradition, John the Baptist lived in a cave that is now hidden within the monastery, where he “fed on honey, locusts, and plant roots, and drank from the waters of the spring….” The monastery is located within a pastoral setting, which raises the question of why it is called St. John of the Desert. The monks explain that the name is “spiritual and not geographical, a ‘desert’ in the sense of a place of solitude and detachment for spiritual elevation.” Ackerman goes on to describe how John the Baptist left this place when he was twenty years old and went to the Judean desert where he “joined the cult of the Essenes … and baptized Jesus.”

The full report is here.

Monastery of St John in Wilderness, tb020305195
Monastery of St. John in the Wilderness
Photo from Judah and the Dead Sea

Accordance Sale: Views That Have Vanished

Accordance Bible Software has a number of items discounted for their Christmas sale, including this one:
Views That Have Vanished: The Photographs of David Bivin

This collection includes more than 700 photos taken in the 1960s by David Bivin as he traveled throughout Jerusalem, Israel, the West Bank, and the broader Middle East with his Yashica-D medium-format camera. This is a special collection, as I explain here.

You save $10 off the regular price of $39.99 until the sale ends tomorrow (December 17, 11:59 pm EST). These are great photos, and Accordance adds extra value with the search capability and integration with other Bible resources.

I love this set.


Weekend Roundup

The recent snowfall in Jerusalem was the heaviest December storm since 1953. Haaretz has the latest.

Where is Mount Sinai in Arabia (Galatians 4:25)? This is the final article in Gordon Franz’s series challenging the arguments of Robert Cornuke.

Can you trace the presence of God on earth throughout history? Wayne Stiles begins with the Garden of Eden and the tabernacle and goes from there.

Emek Shaveh posts some details on the forthcoming seven-story visitors’ center to be constructed in the Givati parking lot below the Dung Gate of Jerusalem. (Scroll down for the English version.)

The Cyrus Cylinder is wrapping up its tour of the U.S. and heading for India.

Miriam Feinberg Vamosh describes life for the wealthy in New Testament times.

Ferrell Jenkins reviews the new Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible.

David Livingston, founder of the Associates for Biblical Research, died recently. In honor of his life,
ABR has posted an issue of Bible and Spade devoted to his years of service.

Ferrell Jenkins asks, If not Tell Hesbân, where is Heshbon?

The National Museum of Iraq remains closed to the public. This is one Iraqi journalist’s tale of trying to get an explanation.

Wayne Stiles recommends the Top 5 Gifts for Bible Lands Study.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson


Two Major Snow Storms in Jerusalem

With a foot of snow on the ground already, Jerusalem is bracing for a weekend storm that is estimated to be triple the size of the last one. The city’s mayor, Nir Barkat, said that that the city is facing “a battle against a rare storm, the likes of which we have never seen.” Some highways are closed and residents are being urged to stay home. From the Jerusalem Post:

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the next storm will likely strike in the early evening and last throughout tomorrow. “There are still hundreds of abandoned cars to deal with and it will be closed again during the next storm,” he said. “Police units are working to secure the city and will make patrols throughout the storm.”
Sprung added that residents and visitors should not leave their homes and are asked to check on and assist disabled and elderly neighbors.
“We need everyone to stay off the roads, secure their homes and wait until this next storm passes tomorrow,” she said.
Some 2,000 stranded motorists in the capital and on the highways leading to the city were rescued by police, IDF and Border Police forces.
We are currently using all means available to save the people stuck in the storm. Only after the weather calms will we be able to open all of the roadways in the city,” Barkat said Friday morning, adding that the city was facing “a battle against a rare storm, the likes of which we have never seen.”

The story includes more details and 8 photos of the recent storm. For scenic shots of Jerusalem in the snow some years ago, see our page here.

Photo of the Judean wilderness from the Mount of Olives
Photo from the Jerusalem volume

Picture of the Week: Nahr el-Kalb

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

In our everyday lives, most of us feel far removed from the biblical world. The stories of Israelites and Judeans, Assyrians and Babylonians, and Jews and Romans seem like they happened long ago in a far off place. And yet every now and then you run across something that makes you think about how connected we are with those times. Our picture of the week is one such example.

We continue our series on obscure sites in the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands with a photograph of some of the inscriptions at Nahr el-Kalb (a.k.a., Dog River) in Lebanon. There is a limestone cliff near the end of the river, and the inscriptions carved on that cliff are a virtual “Who’s Who” of military leaders who have passed through the area in both ancient and modern times. In the map below, you can see the site’s location along the coast of Lebanon between Byblos and Beirut. (Thanks again are due to A.D. Riddle for the map graphic.)

There are numerous inscriptions on this cliff, ranging from 1276 BC to AD 2000. These inscriptions commemorate the actions of Ramses II (Egyptian pharaoh in 13th c. BC), Esarhaddon (Assyrian king in 6th c. BC), Caracalla (Roman emperor in 3rd c. AD), Proculus (Phoenician governor in 4th c. AD), Barquq (Mamluq sultan in 14th c. AD), Napoleon III (French emperor in 19th c. AD [not to be confused with his uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte]), and others. Not all of the inscriptions are about military victories. Some of them just commemorate road improvements or the construction of a bridge. Yet the fact that leaders from various times and places all carved inscriptions in this place over the course of over 3,000 years is quite remarkable. This site provides us with a visible link between the modern day and all of the historical periods from the time of the ancient Egyptians onward.

For example, in the photograph above (taken by A.D. Riddle) you can see four inscriptions clustered together (click on the photo to enlarge). The one on the left was originally an Egyptian stela carved by the army of Ramses II in the 13th century BC. In AD 1861, this space was re-used by Napoleon III to commemorate the French intervention in the war between the Druze and Maronites. The two inscriptions to the right of Napoleon’s were carved by the ancient Assyrians (the man in the picture is looking at one and the other can be seen directly behind him). The texts of these two stelae have not endured the ravages of time, but the relief of an Assyrian king can still be seen on one of them. These inscriptions date to sometime in the Iron Age. Above the Assyrian stelea, you can see an inscription carved by the British Desert Mountain Corps during World War I, which records their military victories at Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo in 1918.

So in this one photograph we have the armies of ancient and modern nations represented. The juxtaposition of ancient Egypt and Assyria with the French and British reminds us that we are all part of an unbroken string of history. We are not so far removed from the ancients as we think.

This photograph and map, along with over 700 other images, are included in Volume 8 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, and is available here for $34 (with free shipping). Further images of the inscriptions at Nahr el-Kalb can be found here at, and photographs from nearby Byblos can be seen here on