Church of Jesus’s Tomb Dates to 4th Century

Last year scientists conducted a first-ever examination of the traditional tomb of Jesus inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Test results now reveal that the mortar used to secure a slab over the traditional burial bench of Jesus dates to the 4th century. This confirms that this is the tomb venerated by Christians when Constantine built the first church here.

The story is reported by various sources, including National Geographic. This paragraph is the most important:

While it is archaeologically impossible to say that the tomb is the burial site of an individual Jew known as Jesus of Nazareth, who according to New Testament accounts was crucified in Jerusalem in 30 or 33, new dating results put the original construction of today’s tomb complex securely in the time of Constantine, Rome’s first Christian emperor.

Elsewhere the article several times mentions “surprises” from the investigation. But I think those are best understood either as journalistic editorializing or perhaps the researchers trying to justify the expense. The best word for this study is “confirmation.” We now have physical evidence for what historians have long thought: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was first built in the 4th century over a tomb believed to have been used by Jesus.

HT: Wayne Stiles, Ted Weis


Weekend Roundup, Part 2

Appian Media has released a trailer for episodes 6–10 of Following the Messiah. You can get further updates on their Facebook page.

See the Holy Land has created a mobile app that provides a guide to 110 sites in Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. The Android-only app is available for free from or for $0.99 from Google Play.

Philippe Bohstrom considers new evidence from ancient mining operations in discussing whether David and Solomon’s kingdom ever existed.

“The British Library last week launched a new website showcasing 1,300 Hebrew manuscripts, ranging from ancient Torah scrolls and prayer books to philosophical, theological and scientific works.”

“The newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi has been accused of displaying looted antiquities.”

Egyptian authorities are working to stop the illegal exporting of antiquities.
Some interesting discoveries were made during a recent excavation season at Gird-î Qalrakh in northern Iraq.

The Times of Israel provides some of the background of the making of the “Spoils of Jerusalem” relief that is now exhibited in the Arch of Titus exhibition at the Yeshiva University Museum.

Eisenbrauns has published a festschrift in honor of Israel Finkelstein: Rethinking Israel: Studies in the History and Archaeology of Ancient Israel in Honor of Israel Finkelstein, edited by Oded
Lipschits, Yuval Gadot, and Matthew Adams.

Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport may need to add a massive tent to accommodate travelers.

Chaim (Harold R.) Cohen died recently. A list of some of his publications is posted here.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Mike Harney, Agade


Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Archaeologists working at el-Araj (Bethsaida?) discovered a lioness relief in a pile of debris.

A mosaic from a Georgian church or monastery has been excavated in Ashdod-Yam, leading archaeologists to believe they may have finally discovered the Roman-Byzantine city of Ashdod-Yam.

“Rock art in Saudi Arabia showing what appears to be Israel’s national breed depicts vivid scenes of man’s earliest known use of canines in taking down prey.” Science shares a video.

Three Roman shipwrecks were discovered this week near Alexandria.

A ancient temple of Isis was discovered in excavations in Banha City in Egypt.

A new video shows an ancient fortress under the waters of Turkey’s Lake Van.

A new study of the cemetery of Qumran strengthens the argument that the site was inhabited by celibate men.

Elad has been granted the right to run the Davidson Center archaeological park south of the Temple
Mount (Haaretz premium).

Tourists can now enjoy virtual reality experiences when visiting  Caesarea, Acco, and the underwater observatory in Eilat.

A colleague visited the Museum of the Bible for its opening weekend and offers some initial impressions.

If you’re looking for a unique gift for a lover of the ancient world, check out the Museum Shop (The Suq) at the Oriental Institute.

HT: Charles Savelle, Lois Tverberg, Joseph Lauer, Agade


What I Am Thankful For

The Bible places great emphasis on giving thanks, and the fourth Thursday in November provides Americans with a prominent reminder of our need to express gratitude. On the assumption that this applies even to photographers and bloggers, I thought I might take a few minutes to verbalize my appreciation for some of the many people in the “Bible places” world that I am thankful for.

I’ll start with my teammates who are currently working with me at A.D. Riddle has been working with me for about 15 years, first in a voluntary way and then later as a travel companion, proofreader, map maker, and all-around problem-solver. Steven Anderson brings his exhaustive knowledge of the Bible to bear in his masterful development of the Photo Companion to the Bible. Chris McKinny is an OT history whiz, and I can’t wait until you see some of what he is creating in Joshua, Samuel, Kings, and elsewhere. Kaelyn Peay stepped in at the perfect time this summer to keep me from drowning in thousands of new photos. My son Mark is helping me in key (and keyword) ways, and my children Luke, Bethany, and Katie are tremendously helpful in a myriad of assignments. (And 7-year-old Jonathan makes sure I get the exercise breaks I need.)

I’m thankful for fellow bloggers, including Ferrell Jenkins. He not only writes great posts and takes fantastic photos, he has encouraged me through his life and his words many times. James Davila has been blogging on PaleoJudaica forever, and he is a model to me of how faithful blogging should be done. Aren Maeir is my favorite archaeologist-blogger, and Charles Savelle is my favorite “all-around Bible” blogger. I always appreciate the posts by Luke Chandler, Mark Elliott, Carl Rasmussen, Leen Ritmeyer, and Wayne Stiles. Joseph Lauer doesn’t blog, but he regularly sends me great stories and warm encouragement.

I couldn’t do what I do without some awesome teachers at some outstanding institutions, beginning with The Master’s University where I first studied and have now taught since 1996. The Institute of Holy Land Studies (now Jerusalem University College) gave me a love for the geography and archaeology of Israel, and I am especially grateful for the instruction of Gabriel Barkay, Ginger Caessens, Robert Mullins, and Anson Rainey. The Master’s Seminary and Dallas Theological Seminary trained me in ways you don’t see as much in the photo collections or on this blog, but that I depend upon every single day.

The best years of my life were spent teaching at the Israel Bible Extension (IBEX) of TMU, and I cannot calculate my debt to Bill Schlegel, Randy Cook, Phyllis Cook, and Rebecca Bange. The kind folks at Yad HaShmonah were the best neighbors, and David Bivin and Gloria Suess have blessed me in many ways.

I am thankful for the great people at the Associates for Biblical Research who are eagerly pursuing the truth in the ground. The longtime director, Bryant Wood, has long been one of my heroes, not only for his excellent scholarship but for his godly character. I first met Eugene Merrill on an ABR dig, and in the years since he has taught me more than I can say from his writings and example.
Bible software makes so much of what I do possible, and Logos Bible Software has served me well since I first purchased it on floppy disks 20-some years ago. I am grateful too for Roy Brown and the outstanding Accordance team for their creative genius and servant attitudes.

On the photography side of things, Nikon’s Coolpix 950 changed my life and I’ve been loyal to Nikon ever since for cameras, lenses, and scanners. Once upon a time, Google’s Picasa organized my photo collection, but in recent years I’ve become entirely dependent on the awesome Adobe Lightroom.

This blog has been hosted since its inception in 2005 by Blogger, but I’ve been able to avoid the web interface by using Windows Live Writer until its replacement by Open Live Writer. These tools have made my life easier.

I am very grateful to so those who have spurred me on in this work since 1999 when a group of seminary students started pressing me to make a photo collection. It was John Dix’s initial partnership and Dr. Richard Rigsby’s enthusiastic encouragement that breathed life into a fuzzy vision. Along the way, so many people have contributed in significant ways, including Bill Krewson, Seth Rodriquez, Doug Bookman, Wayne Wells, G. M. Grena, Doug Downer, Jim Weaver, Will Varner, Brad Hilton, Matt Floreen, David Niblack, Jenn Kintner, Jeremy Francis, Carl Laney, Greg Hatteberg, and Chet Bolen.

I’ve worked with many wonderful authors, editors, and publishers over the years and two who have been the most encouraging for the most years are Kim Tanner (Zondervan) and Judi King (WordAction).

More than anyone, my wife Kelli has supported me and served me in countless ways so that I could travel, teach, write, and process photos. For most of my trips, she has born the full burden of the kids while I was away. She encourages me through the early mornings and late nights, and often when I’m writing weekend roundups, she’s cooking up a hearty breakfast. She has listened and advised me through decades of challenges and opportunities.

Finally, I am thankful to those who have read, commented, emailed, encouraged, recommended, and purchased our work over the years. Without you, my life would be less interesting, less encouraging, and less fulfilling. Thank you, and may the Lord bless you.

“How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?”
(1 Thessalonians 3:9)

Weekend Roundup

Noam Chen has produced a photo essay of the “hidden gems of Jerusalem,” including the Kishle, Siebenberg House, the Italian Synagogue, Jason’s Tomb, Helena’s Well, Little Western Wall, Church of St. John the Baptist, and the Mamluk Halls inside the Western Wall Tunnels.

Israel’s Good Name recently participated in an excavation of the Upper Aqueduct south of Jerusalem.

“More than half a dozen lost Bronze Age cities have been tracked down in Turkey through a mathematical analysis of the accounts left on 12,000 clay tablets by ancient Assyrian traders.” (Registration required.)

“An international seminar about the recently discovered gap in the Great Pyramid of Giza will be held in the upcoming period.”

Golden sheets from Tutankhamun’s tomb will be on display for the first time ever at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. There are more photos here.

An exhibition of the photographs of the excavation of King Tut’s tomb has opened at The Collection in Lincoln, UK.

Michael Press challenges the notion that Palestine was “desolate” in the 19th century. (I observe that his essay does not include any photos.)

For those who have long been wondering: eggplant arrived in Jerusalem just over 1,000 years ago.

Excavations at Ein Hatzeva, home of the “Biblical Tamar Park,” are summarized.

What can we learn from the cities of refuge?

The Museum of the Bible is now open and The Times of Israel gives some highlights. The Washington Post calls it “an up-to-date version of an old-fashioned museum.” World Magazine reviews some of the controversy associated with the museum.

New release: Walking through Jordan: Essays in Honor of Burton MacDonald, edited by Michael Neeley, Geoffrey Clark, and P. M. Michèle Daviau (Equinox, 2017).

Accordance has a big sale going on now in conjunction with the annual meetings of ETS/ASOR/SBL.

Karl Katz, founding curator of the Israel Museum, died this week.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer


Weekend Roundup

Seven inscriptions were discovered in three Byzantine churches excavated in Galilee this summer. Haaretz (premium) also covers the story. Archaeologists have discovered a Hellenistic-era gymnasium in the Fayoum province of Egypt. A recently discovered Assyrian tablet provides the first-known diagnosis to determine infertility. An intact sundial from the Roman period has been discovered in the excavation of a theater near Mount Cassino in Italy. A year-long mysterious excavation with high security in Tarsus ended with no explanation of what they found or why they were excavating. A gemstone discovered in Pylos, Greece, from the 15th century BC is a “masterpiece of miniature art.” Megan Sauter describes the Terra Sancta Museum, a new stop on the Via Dolorosa. Wayne Stiles’s post this week on Lachish includes some new drone video footage he shot recently. The Museum of the Bible is the topic of discussion this week on The Book and the Spade. Israel welcomed its 3 millionth tourist of 2017 this week. A new Biblical Archaeology Review Archive provides every article from 1975 to 2016 and is on sale for $130. Or you can subscribe to All-Access Membership for $35/year. HT: Jared Clark, Agade, Charles Savelle


Weekend Roundup, Part 2

“Archaeologists in Greece have uncovered rare jewels, coins and other artefacts while excavating tombs near the ruins of the classical city of Corinth dating to between the fourth and first centuries A.D.”

A preliminary report of the 2017 excavation season at Hala Sultan Tekke in Cyprus has been posted.

Participants interested in joining for the 2018 season will receive free accommodations and meals.

Iranian authorities have acted to prevent a gathering at the tomb of Cyrus the Great on the Persian king’s birthday.

Christopher Rollston believes that an erroneous construct form proves that the “Jerusalem Papyrus” is a modern forgery.

Lawrence Schiffman reflects on the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls 70 years after the initial discovery.

Carl Rasmussen shares a video with sounds of a Christian liturgy from the Hagia Sophia (and how they did it).

John DeLancey is posting daily on his current Egypt-Jordan-Israel tour.

BAS is celebrating the retirement of Hershel Shanks with a sale on some of his works.

“What’s So Funny: Discovering and Interpreting Humor in the Ancient World” is the title of a conference to be held in April at The Ohio State University.

You can try Logos 7 Platinum for free now through November 14.

HT: Agade, Ted Weis, Joseph Lauer, Charles Savelle


Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Scientists have discovered a void in the Great Pyramid of Giza that is 100 feet long.

Archaeologists excavating in the Timna Valley have discovered remains of a pregnant Egyptian woman.

A swimmer in the Sea of Galilee found a Byzantine-era “chicken-shaped object.”

Young Gazans have begun a campaign on social media to stop the destruction of Tall es-Sakan.

An international team from Spain, Portugal, and the Palestinian Authority conducted excavations at Tirzah (Tell el-Farah North) last month in order to “1. to evaluate the state of conservation of the site in order to implement a program of protection and restoration; 2. topographical survey; 3. archaeological sounding on the Iron Age II sector.” (Not online, as far as I can tell.)

A paper in Astronomy and Geophysics by Colin Humphreys and Graeme Waddington dates the oldest solar eclipse yet recorded to October 30, 1207 BC and suggests this is the “sun-standing-still” event mentioned in Joshua 10. But this connection was proposed last year by H. Yizhaq, D. Vainstub, and U. Avner. The biblical texts, however, date Joshua’s conquest a couple of centuries earlier than this eclipse.

New research suggests that about 80% of antiquities available for sale online are looted or fake.

This week marked the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration and the 100th anniversary of a significant Australian victory over the Ottoman defenses at Beersheba.

A new release on an important subject with many nice photos: The Old Testament in Archaeology and History, edited by Jennie Ebeling, J. Edward Wright, Mark Elliott and Paul V. M. Flesher. Waco, TX:
Baylor University Press, 2017.

HT: Agade, Ted Weis, Joseph Lauer, Charles Savelle