New Videos and Update on Satellite Bible Atlas

Bill Schlegel has produced new two teaching videos as a companion to the Satellite Bible Atlas:
12 The Negev, Part 1, Maps 1-12, 1-13 (10 min)
13 The Negev, Part 2, Maps 1-12, 3-1, 3-2 (12 min)

Also worthy of note is that the second edition of the Satellite Bible Atlas has been released. Purchase of the atlas ($28, includes free shipping in U.S.) includes several free bonuses:

  • All maps as digital files (jpg)
  • 70 new aerial photos (jpg)

These are available as free downloads upon purchase.

Other free downloads include:
The Land and the Bible: A Historical Geographical Companion to the Satellite Bible Atlas – An in-depth commentary on the 11 historical sections in the new atlas. 190 pages, pdf format.

**New: Regional Maps Introduction – A brief commentary on the first section in the Satellite Bible Atlas.
Study Questions for the Satellite Bible Atlas – Ideal for personal or classroom use.

You can learn more and see sample photos here.


Most Beautiful Edition of Josephus’s Jewish War

Carta has just released what is likely the most beautiful and most useful edition of Josephus’s The Jewish War ever printed. Here’s why I think this is the edition you (and your students) will want to read:

  • Josephus needs maps, and this edition includes 40 maps. They are on the same page as the events, so you don’t have to flip around.
  • Almost every page has a photo or illustration of some kind. I love full-color double-page spread aerials of Masada, and I love architectural renderings of Herodium and Roman Jericho. This makes an exciting history even better.
  • The color-coded text makes it easier to read, with personal names in red, place names in blue, and references in green.
  • This edition provides both reference systems (Whiston and Loeb) so it’s easy to find your place no matter how another source cites it.

Josephus — Carta’s Illustrated - The Jewish War
Carta’s Illustrated The Jewish War uses the venerable Whiston translation and the maps follow the numbering system in The Carta Bible Atlas, with a table cross-referencing these to The Sacred Bridge.

Carta is offering 30% off through June (with the code “30-off,” bringing the price from $60 down to $42. They’ve also reduced shipping to $5 (from Israel) during the sale as well. This is a great deal on an essential resource.

Perhaps a further word for those of my readers who are not aware of how important The Jewish War is. If you know anything about the first century in Israel outside the New Testament, there’s a good chance it came from this book. There are other sources, but The Jewish War is the best, because it is (1) contemporary, (2) lengthy, (3) interested in subjects related to the New Testament, like Jerusalem, temple, Herod, Galilee, and Pharisees; (4) generally accurate as it was written by a historian who was eyewitness to so much. I will be leading a group of students throughout Israel for the next three weeks and probably not a day will go by when I am not quoting or referencing this book. I encourage my students to read it, mark it, and keep it handy.

Page 1, from the online sample pages

Judean Desert Excavation Project Begins

The Israel Antiquities Authority has issued a press release, forwarded to us by Joseph Lauer, about recent excavations in the Cave of the Skulls in the Judean wilderness. Here are a few paragraphs and photographs from the press release:

Last week, the Israel Antiquities Authority took a first step in the plan by commencing a complicated and extraordinary archaeological excavation in search of scrolls in Nahal Tse’elim. A team from the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery accompanied by researchers from the Caves Research Center of the Hebrew University and hundreds of volunteers from across the country is participating in the excavation, which is taking place with the support of the Heritage Project in the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs. The excavation is being directed by archaeologists Dr. Eitan Klein, Dr. Uri Davidovich, Royee Porat and Amir Ganor. For many years, IAA inspectors have been proactively enforcing the law in the desert, during the course of which they have made a number of seizures and foiled bands of antiquities robbers that sought to become rich through the detrimental exposure of items of great historical importance. However, these actions are a mere drop in the ocean and the Israel Antiquities Authority stresses that only by excavating all of the scrolls in the ground and transferring them to the state, will it be possible to ensure their well-being and preservation for future generations.
The Cave of Skulls, where the excavation is taking place, is located about 80 meters from the top of the cliff, and c. 250 m above the base of the wadi. Because of the difficulty in reaching the site, the Israel Antiquities Authority obtained a special permit from the Nature and Parks Authority to construct an access trail, which requires the use of rappelling equipment for the safety of the participants in the excavation. More than 500 volunteers and field personnel from Israel and abroad were required for the undertaking, and they are sleeping and living in a camp in desert field conditions. Many requests by individuals offering to participate have been denied because of the lack of infrastructure to provide for such a large group of archaeologists, volunteers and interested parties. The current excavation season will end in another two weeks, assuming this will be sufficient time in order to extract the valuable archaeological information from the cave.
According to Amir Ganor, director of the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, “The excavation in Nahal Tse’elim is an operation of extraordinary complexity and scope, and one that has not occurred in the Judean Desert in the past thirty years. Despite the rigorous enforcement actions taken against the antiquities robbers, we still witness acts of severe plundering that unfortunately are possible in such large desert expanses. There are hundreds of caves in cliffs in the area, access to which is both dangerous and challenging. In almost every cave that we examined we found evidence of illicit intervention and it is simply heart-breaking. The loss of the finds is irreversible damage that cannot be tolerated”.

The cave where the archaeological excavation is being conducted is situated c. 80 meters from the top of the cliff and c. 250 meters above the base of the wadi. Photographic credit: Guy Fitoussi, courtesy of the IAA Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery.
Volunteers at work in the archaeological excavation. Photographic credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The ancient text that dates to the Year Four of the Destruction of the House of Israel (139 CE), which was seized in a joint operation by the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery and the Israel Police. Photographic credit: Shai Halevi, courtesy of the Leon Levy Digital Library, Israel Antiquities Authority.

Arutz-7 has posted a 1.5-minute video.


Weekend Roundup

Archaeologists working at Jerash (biblical Gerasa) have discovered part of a life-size statue of Aphrodite.

“American and Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a rare structure called a nilometer in the ruins of the ancient city of Thmuis in Egypt’s Delta region.” It was built in the 3rd century BC and used for 1,000 years.

British archaeologists have identified the remains of a 16- to 18-week-old mummified fetus that was found in Giza nearly 100 years ago.

The Antiquities Ministry of Egypt has completed a project to lower the groundwater at the Edfu Temple.

A plan has been approved that will remove all the mines around the traditional area of John’s baptisms on the Jordan River.

Haaretz (premium) visits the site of Tell el-Ajjul, once a prosperous Canaanite city south of Gaza but today at risk of complete destruction.

“Those who trust in the Lord are as Mount Zion which cannot be moved but abides forever” (Psalm 125:1). Wayne Stiles uses photos to explain what this means today.

Two archaeology students have crowdsourced images to create a VR reconstruction of the Mosul museum. The article includes a cool YouTube 360 video.

The Palestinian Museum opened this week in Bir Zeit, but it has no exhibits.

The enforcement of a new antiquities law is making it harder for black market antiquities to be sold in Israel.

Israel will be returning two Bronze Age wooden anthropoid sarcophagus lids found by IAA agents in an Old City dealer’s shop.

Of 28 Egyptian obelisks standing today, only 6 are in Egypt. That’s one of many interesting facts about obelisks in a WSJ article that is based on a book by Bob Brier entitled Cleopatra’s Needles.

Allison Meier reviews the new exhibition in NYC, “Gods and Mortals at Olympus: Ancient Dion, City of Zeus.” The article includes many photos.

Charles Jones has recently updated the list of titles in JSTOR which focus on Antiquity. It now includes 243 titles.

Dubgallu is a new forum for scholars of the ancient Near East. Registration is free, and open to anyone who academically studies the ancient Near East.

There’s a sale on for various electronic editions of the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, Old and New Testaments Logos, Accordance, and Olive Tree.

The Atlas of Palestinian Rural Heritage looks interesting. Some themes covered: Tilling – Harvesting – Moving the Harvest – Threshing – Sifting – Grinding – Making Dough – Baking Bread – Cooking – Making Grape Syrup – Sesame Oil – Olives and Olive Oil – Storage – Bard – Domestic Birds – Honeybee Farming – Milk – Shepherd – Washing – Water – Gathering Rainwater.

If you have a passion for biblical geography, perhaps you would consider supporting Seth Rodriquez to go to Zimbabwe to teach future pastors about the land of Israel. This is a great opportunity to help others learn about what we love.

I’ll be traveling for a few weeks and the regular roundups will resume when I return.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Steven Anderson

Old City from west, db6605212212
On this day 50 years ago, David Bivin took this photo while standing on the edge of no man’s land looking toward the Old City of Jerusalem, then occupied by Jordan. Photo from Views That Have Vanished.

Caesarea Shipwreck Discovered

Two scuba divers made the find of a lifetime last month when they discovered a shipwreck dating to the 4th century AD. In what has been called the most extensive underwater discovery in Israel in 30 years, the divers found statues, anchors, and lumps of coins, all remarkably well preserved on the seabed near Caesarea. The following quotations and photos are from the IAA press release.

“Many of the artifacts are bronze and in an extraordinary state of preservation: a bronze lamp depicting the image of the sun god Sol, a figurine of the moon goddess Luna, a lamp in the image of the head of an African slave, fragments of three life-size bronze cast statues, objects fashioned in the shape of animals such as a whale, a bronze faucet in the form of a wild boar with a swan on its head, etc.”


Bronze artifacts discovered in Caesarea

“One of the biggest surprises in particular was the discovery of two metallic lumps composed of thousands of coins weighing c. 20 kilograms which was in the form of the pottery vessel in which they were transported.”


Two lumps of coins, together weighing about 45 pounds

“‘The location and distribution of the ancient finds on the seabed indicate that a large merchant ship was carrying a cargo of metal slated recycling, which apparently encountered a storm at the entrance to the harbor and drifted until it smashed into the seawall and the rocks.’ A preliminary study of the iron anchors suggests there was an attempt to stop the drifting vessel before it reached shore by casting anchors into the sea; however, these broke – evidence of the power of the waves and the wind which the ship was caught up in.”


The ship’s anchor

“Metal statues are rare archaeological finds because they were always melted down and recycled in antiquity. When we find bronze artifacts it usually occurs at sea. Because these statues were wrecked together with the ship, they sank in the water and were thus ‘saved’ from the recycling process.”


A figurine of Dionysus, the god of wine

“As soon as they emerged from the water divers Ran Feinstein and Ofer Ra‘anan of Ra‘anana contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority and reported the discovery and removal of several ancient items from the sea.”

צילום-מועדון צלילה קיסריה העתיקה.2

The divers, Ran Feinstein (right) and Ofer Ra’anan after the discovery. Photo by The Old Caesarea Diving Center

The IAA press release includes a 2.5-minute video. All of the high-resolution photos may be downloaded here. Unless otherwise credited, all photos are by Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The story is also reported by The Times of Israel, Haaretz, and others.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Caesarea harbor aerial from west, tb121704936

Caesarea harbor, aerial view from the west
Photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands

Gezer Water System—Is It a Water System?

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

At the annual meeting of the Near East Archaeological Society last November, Dan Warner gave an update on the excavation of the Gezer water system. The tunnel seems to date to the Middle Bronze Age: the pottery from the tunnel is Late Bronze and Middle Bronze, and the tunnel’s position vis-à-vis the Canaanite Tower indicates a relationship between the two. The tunnel possesses a number of interesting features which raise questions about its function—was it in fact a water system, or was it something else?

The tunnel descends 150 feet below the surface and has a barrel-shaped ceiling and stairs. There are two carved arches some distance apart, sort of like ribs, that have no real architectural purpose and appear to be ornamental. One of the rib-arches can be seen in the photo below. There are also niches carved into the walls of the upper part of the tunnel, some of them decorated with arches or recessed frames, and one of them with a betyl. Some of the niches can also be seen in the photo below.

 Photo from NOBTS Archaeology Blog.

Dan Warner’s team has now cleared 80 feet beyond the earlier excavation of Macalister. At the base of the tunnel, there is a basin and beyond that a man-made cavern which extends east. According the geologists, the aquifer is 30 meters beneath the cavern, so this is not obviously a water system. If it is a water system, why did they carve niches and arches and a cavern? And why is it so large? Could the tunnel have instead had a different function?

I was struck by some similarities to a cultic tunnel at Arsameia on the Nymphaios River, near the more famous site of Nemrut Dağ in Turkey. Dan Warner did make mention of the cultic use of caves in the Greek world (both in literature and archaeology), so I proceed to note the similarities here even though there is really no apparent geographical or chronological connection between Gezer and Arsameia. Arsameia-on-Nymphaios is a cultic center which occupies the highest elevation in the photo below.  

Arsameia-on-Nymphaios from southwest (from PLBL vol. 9).

At the site, there is a Great Rock Chamber carved into the mountain, various stelae, and a monumental staircase. But there is also a tunnel which descends diagonally into the mountain. Above the tunnel there is a relief of Heracles (Hercules) and Antiochus I Theos, king of Commagene, and the longest Greek inscription in all of Anatolia. Like Gezer, the tunnel has stairs and a barrel-shaped ceiling. The tunnel is 520 feet long and terminates in a small cavity with no indication of its function.

 Arsameia-on-Nymphaios tunnel entrance with inscription and relief (also from PLBL vol. 9).

Arsameia-on-Nymphaios tunnel entrance with inscription and stairs (also from PLBL vol. 9).

The tunnel at Arsameia-on-Nymphaios is described in Brijder’s new book. He calls it “a mysterious, dark and incredibly long tunnel in rock.”

After such enormous labour and effort it was disappointing that the very long, deep and dark tunnel had not yielded any evidence as to its function. It is clear that it did not lead to a subterranean spring. The suggestion of a water tunnel does not seem to be very convincing either, although it cannot be excluded. Dörner notes: ‘The tremendous effort that went into digging this rock tunnel of Arsameia could only have served a very special purpose, and since the tunnel is situated at a particularly central spot in the cultic area of the hierothesion, the thought of a cultic function of the tunnel simply occurred to me’ (figs. 161–162). According to him, the making of a rock tunnel was not defined by practical intentions, but by religious ones. ‘It seems rather logical to assign the large rock tunnel in Arsameia to the cult sphere of the god Mithras, who is the “God born from the rock.”’ (Brijder 2014: 255)

As a side note, the Great Rock Chamber/Hall also has a tunnel with barrel-shaped ceiling and stairs. The tunnel is not nearly as long—only 33 feet. The tunnel leads to a small platform which overlooks a square, 20-foot-deep chamber without any doors or stairs. Again, the function of the tunnel and chamber are unclear, but Brijder inquires whether this could have been intended as a burial chamber and later converted to a cenotaph.

Arsameia-on-Nymphaios Great Rock Chamber from below (PLBL vol. 9).
Arsameia-on-Nymphaios Great Rock Chamber interior with tunnel (PLBL vol. 9).

Arsameia-on-Nymphaios Great Rock Chamber tunnel with steps (PLBL vol. 9).

It will be interesting to see what new developments come from Gezer this summer, and if Dan Warner can come closer to determining the tunnel’s function. An article about last year’s work on Gezer tunnel can be read here, and the excavation website is here.

Brijder, Herman A. G., ed.
2014  Nemrud Dağı: Recent Archaeological Research and Conservation Activities in the Tomb Sanctuary of Mount Nemrud. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.


Weekend Roundup

A leaked report of a scan of King Tut’s tomb suggests that there are no hidden chambers. A few days earlier, scholars at a conference disagreed on the significance of radar scans.

Three tombs on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor are being opened to the public for the first time.

The symphony orchestra of the St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater performed in the Roman theater of Palmyra recently.

Of 28 Egyptian obelisks standing today, only 6 are in Egypt. That’s one of many interesting facts about obelisks in a WSJ article that is based on a book by Bob Brier entitled Cleopatra’s Needles.

The collapse of one of the walls of Solomon’s Pools has raised concern that the entire pool could be in danger.

If you’ve never visited the site of ancient Dan, this article is a terrific introduction, drawing out the biblical history, making sound application, and illustrating with numerous photos.

A new 15-volume series entitled the Dead Sea Scrolls Editions will be published by Brill.

The ASOR Archive Photos of the Month is an easy way to revisit the past.

Archaeologists have discovered the weight-loss diary of the prophet Daniel, according to a report in the Babylon Bee.

HT: A.D. Riddle, Joseph Lauer, Agade


Interview with Gabriel Barkay

Gabriel Barkay has been excavating in Jerusalem for more than 45 years and he is the winner of the Jerusalem Prize for Archaeological Research. He is also a favorite professor for many who have studied biblical archaeology and the history of Jerusalem. If you know him, or have a great interest in these subjects, you will enjoy a fascinating interview with him by Nadav Shragai, published today in Israel HaYom. Here are a few excerpts:

His greatest discoveries:

Although he has never worked for the Israel Antiquities Authority — Barkay says he prefers a university framework that offers freedom of opinion and thought — he has acquired an international reputation thanks to two things: The first is the historic discovery of the Priestly Blessing Scrolls, the most ancient archaeological discovery of a biblical text dating to the period the Bible is believed to have been put together. The discovery of the scrolls had wide-ranging influence on biblical research, and the assessment of its historical reliability. The second is the project of sifting dirt from the Temple Mount. Barkay describes the Mount as “a black hole in the history of archaeology in general and Israeli archaeology in particular.”

Why he chose to excavate at Ketef Hinnom:

“I got to Ketef Hinnom in Jerusalem, which is where I found the scrolls, through theoretical calculations. I tried to put myself in the shoes of the ancient residents of Jerusalem and ask myself where I would hold various activities that were part of the city but not inside it. For example: Where would I bury the dead? Or grow vegetables? Where would I set up army camps or quarry building stones? I looked for places that would meet the paradoxical demands of close enough and far enough.
“When I checked the map, these all coincided at the site where St. Andrew’s Church is located today, near the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. I also discovered that Josephus Flavius’ literary description put the siege camp of Pompeus in 63 B.C.E. there; that this was where Titus ‘ fortifications had been when he laid siege to Jerusalem in 70 C.E.”

His escape from the Nazis:

Gabi Barkay was born in 1944, the day his mother, Rachel, arrived in the Budapest ghetto. His father, Eliezer Breslaver, who later hebraicized his last name to Barkay, was imprisoned in a Nazi labor camp in the Ukraine.
The young Barkay and his mother avoided the death march from Budapest to Vienna. In January 1945, the Red Army entered the ghetto and liberated them.
“Many owe their death to Josef Stalin. I owe him my life,” Barkay says.

Read the full interview here.

G Barkay, Michael Avi-Yonah on Temple Mount, db6806245107
Gabriel Barkay and Michael Avi-Yonah on the Temple Mount in 1968. Photo by David Bivin.
Gabriel Barkay teaching on southern Temple Mount steps, tb110906700
Gabriel Barkay teaching on the southern steps of the Temple Mount in 2006.

HT: Joseph Lauer


New Book by McKinny on Sale

[UPDATE: The sale appears to be over. There are some new copies selling at 50% off in the Marketplace.]

I’m not sure why, and I’m not sure how long it will last, but at the moment Amazon is selling Chris McKinny’s new book for 90% off ($83.95 marked down to $8.61). My People as Your People: A Textual and Archaeological Analysis of the Reign of Jehoshaphat came out a few months ago and it’s a beautiful synthesis of historical and archaeological research on a particularly important era in Judah. Here are the chapter titles:

  • Chapter One: Introduction
  • Chapter Two: Israel of the Omrides
  • Chapter Three: The Battle of Ramoth-gilead in 1 Kings 22:1-36, 2 Chronicles 18, and Historical Implications from the Tel Dan Stele
  • Chapter Four: Jehoshaphat’s Reign According to 1 Kings 22:41-50
  • Chapter Five: An Archaeological Survey of Judah in the Late Iron IIA Using Archaeology as a Source for Reconstructing History
  • Chapter Six: Conclusion

The hardcover book is 159 pages plus an extensive bibliography. It is published by Peter Lang in their American University Studies series.

Readers of this blog know Chris McKinny from his many contributions here, including:

So I thought you’d want to know about this steal while it’s available.


Weekend Roundup

Shmuel Browns reviews the new “Pharaoh in Canaan” exhibit at the Israel Museum and shares many photos.

Carl Rasmussen gives two reasons why he likes to visit Magdala.

Haaretz posts several impressive photos from this year’s celebration of the Samaritan Passover.

Tom Powers visits the Pools of Siloam through photographs of the American Colony. He also suggests (in a comment) that both pools existed from much earlier than the time of Jesus and he proposes distinct purposes for each.

“In an area of Israel that offers fewer attractions to visitors, Tel Arad is like coming upon an oasis of archeology.”

Fifteen years after the excavation of the “Cave of John the Baptist,” Popular Archaeology revisits the site with James Tabor.

Birket Ram is an interesting lake in the Golan Heights. Ferrell Jenkins looks at several historical sources and shares a wide-angle photo.

Leon Mauldin pays tribute to Ferrell Jenkins on his 50th Anniversary Tour.

A slackliner walked from one tower to another in the Tower of David Museum. Video here.

A 23-year-old Israeli hiker fell to his death when climbing in Wadi Rum in Jordan.

An oil deposit has been discovered near the Dead Sea.

The Biblical Museum of Natural History opened in Beit Shemesh in 2014.

It’s time to stop referring to the urban legend about NASA discovering Joshua’s long day.

Emek Shaveh has petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court to halt the transfer of the library and artifacts from the Rockefeller Museum to west Jerusalem. The Israel Antiquities Authority has responded that they’re only moving the library to protect fragile books.

Archaeology of Jordan Online went live this week. They provide a lot of great links (but don’t yet list our photo collection).

The latest edition of The Holy Land Magazine is online and features articles on Magdala, Shiloh, Tiberias, and Neot Kedumim

Revue de Qumrân is finally available on JSTOR.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Agade, Charles Savelle, Paleojudaica