Nebuchadnezzar in Lebanon

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

The ArchéOrient blog recently posted a piece by Rocio da Riva on the inscriptions and reliefs in Lebanon belonging to the Neo-Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar II. (This is the king mentioned in 2 Kings 24-25; 2 Chron 36; Jeremiah; Daniel; and elsewhere in the Bible.) The original article is in French, but Google Translate does an almost-semi-respectable job of producing an English version here.

The article mentions four places in Lebanon where Nebuchadnezzar left inscriptions and/or reliefs.

  • Nahr el-Kalb
  • Wadi Brisa, aka Wadi esh-Sharbin
  • Shir es-Sanam
  • Wadi es-Saba’

Three of these sites are in the northeast of the Lebanon Mountains, oriented in the direction of Riblah, Nebuchadnezzar’s headquarters in the west (2 Kings 25; Jer 39 and 52). The inscriptions/reliefs are located along routes which lead up into the mountains and which were used by the Babylonians for felling and transporting cedars of Lebanon for construction. The locations can be viewed here in Google Maps (if I did it right).

The Nahr el-Kalb inscriptions are alone on the other side of the Lebanon Mountains, at the mouth of a river named Nahr el-Kalb on the Mediterranean coast. (Well, not entirely alone, because on the opposite bank of the river is a rocky promontory where one will find nearly two dozen other stelae left by conquerers from Ramesses II in ca. 1276 B.C. to the “Liberation of South Lebanon” in A.D. 2000. See Seth’s post here.)

Nahr el-Kalb (“Dog River”).
The inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar are secretly hidden
behind all the vegetation just right of the bridge.

Da Riva has been working on the royal inscriptions of all the Neo-Babylonian kings. A lot of her recently-published work concentrates in particular on the Lebanon inscriptions listed above, but she has also just completed an edition of the inscriptions of Nabopolassar, Amel-Marduk and Neriglissar (cover shown below). Many of her articles are available at her page (sign up required).

As a prelude to her editions of the Neo-Babylonian royal inscriptions, Da Riva published a short introduction entitled The Neo-Babylonian Royal Inscriptions: An Introduction (2008). We recommend especially the first 19 pages where one will find a very nice, up-to-date, historical summary of the Neo-Babylonian period.

HT: Jack Sasson


Weekend Roundup, Part 2

After 31 years of hosting The Book & The Spade, Gordon Govier shares some personal reflections.

An aging Lebanese potter laments the passing of his craft.

Archaeologists have found evidence of the “plague of Cyprian.”

Satellite images from the US State Department’s Cultural Heritage Center “document the scale of destruction that looters continue to inflict on archaeological heritage sites during the ongoing conflict in Syria.”

Identifying a complete set of Edward Robinson’s Biblical Researches in Palestine at is a bit confusing, but David Stark has posted links to volumes 1 and 2 (3 volumes from 1841 in a 2-volume set, 2nd/11th eds.) and volume 3 (the 1856 volume, Later Biblical Researches, 11th ed.).

Now on pre-pub for Logos Bible Software: Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin (1958–2013) (78 issues) – $99.95.

ASOR’s Archaeology Weekly Roundup has more.

I’ll be traveling the better part of the next two weeks and will not be posting much. If they discover an archive at Hazor, Gezer, or Gath, I’m sure that one of my fellow contributors will let you know.

HT: Charles Savelle, Jack Sasson, Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis


Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Luke Chandler reports on the first week of excavations at Lachish. They made some significant finds in his square on each of the first three days.

They had a fantastic third week of excavations at Tel Burna.

A Roman theater (or amphitheater?) has been discovered in ancient Smyrna as the municipality demolishes a poor neighborhood. This may have been the place where Polycarp was martyred.

Beit Guvrin National Park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Wayne Stiles captures the beauty and historic significance of Nahal Zin with photos, a video, and Google Street View.

“The truth about Jesus’ tomb, romance and the Holocaust” is a rather flashy title for an update of Simcha Jacobovici’s lawsuit against Joe Zias.

ABR has created a new video series, Is It Time To Throw Away Your Bible? They have now shared a couple of free episodes: King David and Solomon: Men or Myths? Part One and Part Two. The video set is on sale for only $20.

Robert Cargill reflects on the passing of Yuval Peleg.

Bet Guvrin cave with view to sky, tb022807541
Cave at Beit Guvrin National Park
Photo from Judah and the Dead Sea

Yuval Peleg Killed in Archaeology Accident

Very sad news out of Israel today. Archaeologist Yuval Peleg was conducting a salvage excavation ahead of the construction of a road in the West Bank when he was killed by falling rocks.

From The Jerusalem Post:

A 46-year-old man was killed in an accident at an archaeological dig site between Homesh and Karnei Shomron in the West Bank on Thursday. He was later identified as Yuval Pelleg.
An initial investigation into the incident found that an Israeli and several Palestinian workers were digging at the entrance to a cave when rocks began falling down the mountain, trapping the man.
People on the scene succeeded in removing some of the rocks from on top of the man. A military medical crew attempted to resuscitate him while his lower half remained trapped under the rocks, but were forced to pronounce him dead on the scene.

From Jerusalem Online:

Gershon Mesika, the head of the Shomron Regional Council, stated, “In the framework of building a new road, a new cave was discovered. According to the procedure, an archaeologist was sent to survey the cave and to study it. Then, there was the disaster. We are sorry for the loss of the senior level archeologist doing research in Samaria.”

The Times of Israel has a map of the area in which was working. Jerusalem Online has a photo of the accident scene. Arutz-7 has another here. Robert Cargill has a photo of Yuval here. A lecture that he gave in 2012 about recent excavations at Qumran is online here. The preliminary report that he wrote with Yitzhak Magen of Qumran excavations from 1993 to 2004 is online here. Jim West notes that Yuval had a wife and two small children.

HT: Joseph Lauer


Artifact of the Month: Sennacherib Prism

(Posted by Michael J. Caba)

This month’s artifact is known as the Sennacherib Prism. Made in ancient Assyria in c. 700 BC of baked clay, the prism is approximately 15 inches tall. The cuneiform script in the Akkadian language refers to Israelite King Hezekiah and to Assyrian King Sennacherib, both of whom are mentioned in the biblical text (cf. 2 Kings 19:9). In the inscription the Assyrian ruler boasts of trapping Hezekiah in Jerusalem like a caged bird. The artifact was purchased from a Baghdad antiquities dealer in c. 1919 and is now in the Oriental Institute Museum, University of Chicago. It is one of eight similar prisms with nearly identical text found so far (e.g., the Taylor Prism in the British Museum).

Of particular interest to biblical studies is the “spin” Sennacherib put on the story of his assault into the land of Israel in comparison to the typical portrayals in the biblical text of this and similar events. For instance, Sennacherib included his victories such as his aforementioned claim to have locked up Hezekiah in Jerusalem like a caged bird; yet he conveniently neglected to mention that he lost his entire army in the process. In fact, this approach to recording events is quite typical for Ancient Near Eastern rulers. In contrast, the Biblical text repeatedly takes a more evenhanded attitude to historical events by recording both the victories and defeats of the Israelites, and, perhaps more importantly, the reasons thereof. The more balanced approach by the biblical authors speaks to their interest in historical and theological accuracy, and also to the fact that they were inspired by One who has similar interests.

For information on similar artifacts related to the Bible, see Bible and Archaeology – Online Museum.

(Photo: Significant resources for further study of this “group” of prisms: The Context of Scripture, volume 2, pages 302-303; Lost Treasures of the Bible, by Fant and Reddish, pages 158-163.) 


Roads of Arabia Exhibition

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

A friend and I recently took a 24-hour road trip to Kansas City, Missouri to see the “Roads of Arabia” exhibition. We have been following the exhibition on this blog since just after it began showing in 2010 (see here), and it looks like Missouri is about as close as it was ever going to get to where I live.
The exhibition was larger than I had envisioned and it took about four-five hours to explore most of the exhibit (we had to skim over some parts). It begins with stone tools from the Lower Paleolithic and works its way up to the modern kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I learned a lot of interesting things, and there were a few surprises. Writing the curator in advance ensured I was able to take photographs, but that did not stop guards and docents from stopping us several times and telling us photography was not permitted. If you visit the exhibit, do not assume you will be able to take pictures—find out ahead of time, if that is something you want to do.

My interest in going was motivated by (1) the difficulty (or impossibility) of ever visiting Saudi Arabia to see these objects and sites, and (2) the occasional connections to Arabia sprinkled throughout the Bible. In particular, the exhibit displayed a number of objects from these biblical sites/kingdoms:

  • Midian
  • Dedan
  • Kedar (Qedar)
  • Sheba/Sabeans
  • Tema
  • Nabateans
Stela of Babylonian king Nabonidus from Tema.
The exhibition catalog was available in the museum store for $70, and after him-hawin’ over the price tag, I decided to get it. It was well-worth the cost.
Al-Ghabban, Ali Ibrahim;  Béatrice André-Salvini; Françoise Demange; Carine Juvin; and Marianne Cotty, eds.
2010 Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Paris: Somogy Art Publishers and Musée du Louvre; Washington, D.C.: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.
The volume is 607 pages long, and it is far more than a catalog. Not only does it have high-quality color photographs of all the objects on display, it has chapters on archaeology and history, each accompanied by maps, site plans, drawings and photographs. The chapters that caught my eye were:
  • “Geographic Introduction to the Arabian Peninsula,” by Paul Sanlaville
  • “The Story of the Origins,” by D. T. Potts
  • “Antiquity,” by Christian Julien Robin
  • “Languages and Scripts,” by Christian Julien Robin
  • “The Frankincense Caravans,” by Françoise Demange
  • “North-Eastern Arabia (circa 5000-2000 BC),” by D. T. Potts
  • “The Kingdom of Midian,” by Abdulaziz bin Saud Al-Ghauzzi
  • “The Oasis of Tayma,” by Arnulf Hausleiter
  • “Dedan (al-Ula),” by Said F. Al-Said
  • “The Kingdom of Lihyan,” by Hussein bin Ali Abu Al-Hasan  
The full table of contents is available in pdf here.

The book does not appear to be affordably priced at Amazon ($221), but it can be ordered from the Smithsonian ($79.50 including shipping) or from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art ($82.50 including shipping). One blogger gives something of a book review here with several snapshots of pages.

Here is a list of stops the “Roads of Arabia” exhibition has made since it opened in 2010.

Jul 14–Sep 27 Musée du Louvre, Paris
Nov 12–Feb 27 CaixaForum, Barcelona

May 17–Sep 4 The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

Jan 26–Apr 9 Pergamon Museum, Berlin
Nov 17–Feb 24 Smithsonian Institution’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, DC

Jun 15–Nov 4 Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh
Dec 22–Mar 9 The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Apr 25–Jul 6 Neslon-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO
Oct 17–Jan 18 Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

I continue to see notices that the exhibition will show in Chicago and Boston, but no locations or dates have been given yet.


The Sacred Bridge, Second Emended and Enhanced Edition

I noted on the Weekend Roundup that Carta had released a second edition of The Sacred Bridge but it was not clear what changes had been made.
I have since learned from sources at Accordance Bible Software what those changes include:

1. Many typographic corrections, both in the text and in the map descriptions. That’s good, since I don’t think I’ve seen a book with more typos than this one.
2. A few newer or updated pictures and maps.
3. A few places with rewritten text or updates in the archaeological information, especially from Steven Notley.
4. In the Accordance version, the detailed graphic timelines in the inside covers are now added, which were omitted in the first edition on Accordance.

Here’s the kicker: if you purchased the first edition in print, you have to pay full price for the second edition. (That’s the way it’s always been with print publishing.) But if you had purchased the electronic edition from Accordance, the second edition is a free upgrade. I think that is great business practice, but I don’t recall seeing it implemented very often. Kudos to Accordance for taking care of their customers!

I have praised the first edition previously here.


Weekend Roundup

Yad HaShmonah and its Biblical Village are profiled in The Times of Israel. Aviva and Shmuel Bar-Am treat their subject honorably.

Wayne Stiles explains the connection between Horeshat Tal National Park and the Bible.

The video of the “Roast and Toast” for retiring Albright director Sy Gitin is now online with handy links to each segment.

Popular Archaeology looks forward to the coming season of excavations in Jaffa, including new work in the harbor looking for ancient shipwrecks.

Progress in the Ashkelon excavations is being reported on the Dig Ashkelon blog.

A summary for week 2 is posted at the Tel Burna excavation blog. Two more weeks remain this season.

Luke Chandler has arrived in Israel to join the new excavations at Lachish. Watch his blog for updates. There’s more information about the Fourth Expedition to Lachish at the website of Southern
Adventist University.

Bible History Daily has published the first of several studio-quality videos about excavations of Tell Timai in the Nile Delta.

The Sacred Bridge is out in a second “emended and enhanced” edition. Eisenbrauns and Carta list it for sale but do not provide details for what has changed. (Anson Rainey died in 2011.)

Suzanne Marchand provides some interesting background on German-Turkish relations in archaeological work and how that was affected by World War I.

A number of scholarly teams are working on archaeology survey maps of northern Iraq.

“Authorities now know that ISIS is partially funded by pillaging ancient artifacts from Iraq and Syria to sell on the black market.” (International Business Times)

Mick Jagger was spotted at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. website is back online after a lengthy absence.

Amazon is now listing a book I contributed to: Jesus, A Visual History. It is due to be released in November.

HT: Jack Sasson, Craig Dunning, A.D. Riddle

Tabor oak, Horeshat Tal, tb032905182
Tabor oak at Horeshat Tal
Photo from Trees, Plants, and Flowers of the Holy Land

Nava Panitz-Cohen: Excavating Abel Beth Maacah

One of the directors of the Abel Beth Maacah excavation writes about the site and previous results on the eve of the second season. From the Jerusalem Post:

The site commands the narrow passageway from the Lebanese Beq’a to the north towards the Huleh Valley to the south, as well as the road to the east towards Damascus – via nearby Tel Dan – and Mesopotamia. This strategic border location has determined much of its occupation history until modern times. Curiously, despite its biblical and topographic prominence, the site has never been excavated before. Perhaps this is because of its border location, where Lebanese farmers, U.N. personnel and local kibbutzniks are all in pretty close eye contact. Short surveys were conducted and plans were made; Yigael Yadin was going to dig there, but turned his sights to nearby Hazor; but excavations never materialized. In 2012, a team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – in partnership with Azusa Pacific University in Los Angeles (who provided the critical funding and support for the project) and Cornell University in Ithaca, New York – took up the initiative. A preliminary survey took place in 2012, and a full-blown month-long season was conducted in 2013. The second season is set to begin in July and will also last a month. The full story includes biblical connections and discoveries made last year.

Joseph Lauer has sent along a series of related links from the last few months:

The Book and the Spade episodes:

Mount Hermon and Abel Beth Maacah from Misgav Am, adr08070895011 Huleh Valley, Abel Beth Maacah, and Mount Hermon
Photo by A.D. Riddle


Weekend Roundup

The Western Wall prayer plaza will have a smaller version of a museum and office building after the planning committee listened to opponents.

A Muslim crowd on the Temple Mount attacked police when they opened the site to visitors yesterday afternoon.

A Jewish journalist describes his visit to the Temple Mount with Rabbi Chaim Richman.

The first week of excavations at Tel Burna has concluded.

Luke Chandler explains how a discovery from Khirbet Qeiyafa may help us to understand some details of Solomon’s temple described in 1 Kings 6. He includes a link to the Israel Exploration Journal article by Garfinkel and Mumcuoglu.

Shmuel Browns’ photo of the week is of Nahal Zavitan in the Golan Heights.

Where did Jesus change the water into wine? And what was the purpose of this miracle? Wayne Stiles explains and illustrates.

Scott Stripling is on The Book and the Spade this week, talking about last month’s excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir (Ai?). Direct link here.

Tourism to Israel is at record levels, with 1.5 million visits from January to May this year.

The Sacred Bridge is on sale for Father’s Day at the Biblical Archaeology Society store. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it lower than $79.95. (Amazon has it for $118 used or $125 new.) This is the standard reference for historical geography. These photos give a sense for how detailed the work is.

The Biblical Archaeology Society has a new free eBook: Masada: The Dead Sea’s Desert Fortress.

And BAR is now available for the iPad, Android, and Kindle Fire.

The ASOR Blog has more from the broader world of archaeology.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Temple Mount aerial from west, bb00030096
Jerusalem’s Temple Mount from the west
Photo by Barry Beitzel, from the Pictorial Library, volume 3