Weekend Roundup

A team has been excavating the so-called “Cave 12” at Qumran and a statement of their latest work will be released soon.

One of the last unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls has been deciphered using high-tech imagery to put together a puzzle of 60 tiny scroll fragments.

The Times of Israel has more on the depiction of the birth of Athena on the potsherd from et-Tell.

Moshe Gilad, in a lengthy and well-illustrated article at Haaretz, asks why Qasr el-Yahud, the traditional place of Jesus’s baptism, is still mined and booby-trapped seven years after the site opened to tourists.

A conference on the Archaeology of the Dead Sea Region will be held next month at the State Museum of Archaeology Chemnitz in preparation for an exhibition on “Life at the Dead Sea” in the fall of 2019.

In a journal article for NEASB, Brian Peterson considers whether a ram’s head discovered at Khirbet el-Maqatir provides evidence for the Israelite conquest of Ai.

New images of mosaics discovered at the Huqoq synagogue will be displayed for the first time in a lecture at the University of Chester in the UK.

Carl Rasmussen shares photos of reliefs that illustrate the “dogs eating the crumbs” that fall from the table.

Leen Ritmeyer discusses the importance of the Trumpeting Stone discovered below the Temple
Mount and shares some photos from its original discovery.

Wayne Stiles explains why the Lord took his people to Mount Sinai before the Promised Land.

Kenneth Seeskin explains why the Hebrew Bible is so easy/difficult to interpret.

The Caspari Center is running a course on “Discovering Jesus in His Jewish Context” in April and May of this year.

Les and Kathy Bruce of Biblical Byways are leading a tour to Turkey and Greece in May and June.

Elisha Qimron has been awarded the Israel Prize for his work on the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The ESV Archaeology Study Bible is coming in March, and you can read about the editors and their approach.

Appian Media has released a trailer for their next big project: Searching for a King. Filming will begin this summer.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Agade, Charles Savelle


Weekend Roundup

A 4th century BC vase discovered at et-Tell (Bethsaida?) has a depiction of an image copied from the Parthenon in Athens.

Haaretz (premium): “A team of Israeli scientists and archaeologists has embarked on a massive four-year project to accurately radiocarbon-date the complex layers of ancient Jerusalem.”

A stele from the reign of Ramses II has been discovered at San al-Hagar.

Roman funeral mummy portraits from Egypt, dating to the first three centuries AD, are on exhibit at Northwestern University’s Block Museum. There’s a 3-minute video here.

ASOR Blog: “What were the types of musicians and instruments in Ancient Egypt, how were they used, and where did they come from?”

How do scholars reconstruct the rules for ancient board games?

David Z. Moster of 929 Chapters has launched a new YouTube channel with a video on “How to 
Study the Bible with Ancient Near Eastern Texts.”

The Spring 2018 issue of DigSight includes reports on the Fourth Expedition to Lachish, ecology on ancient seals, and more.

Scott Stripling reports on Week Two of the winter’s work processing material from Khirbet el-Maqatir.

Leon Mauldin writes of the possible connection between the apostle Paul and Gush Halav in Galilee.

Ferrell Jenkins shares photos that illustrate a king making a footstool of his enemies.

Wayne Stiles is leading a tour to Israel this October.

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


Weekend Roundup

“Excavations are being carried out to make an underground pedestrian passageway, leading from beneath the Church of All Nations at Gethsemane to a private area on the other side of the Jericho

Scientists have discovered evidence of Byzantine agriculture in the Negev on the basis of bones of a gerbil.

Popular Archaeology considers whether there was an “iron throne” in the void of the Pyramid of

“Egyptian and American archaeologists unveiled two new discoveries in Aswan, including a royal administrative complex in the ancient Egyptian city of Tel Edfu and a collection of artefacts in the Kom Ombo temple.”

Scott Stripling reports on Week One of processing objects from ABR’s excavation of Khirbet el-Maqatir.

The lecture schedule for the Albright Institute for January and February has been released.

The Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem has posted its spring lecture schedule.

The National Geographic Museum has opened a new exhibit now through August: Tomb of Christ: 

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre Experience. Samuel Pfister at the Biblical Archaeology Society provides a solid review.

Episodes 6-10 of “Following the Messiah” were released yesterday. All are free.

John DeLancey of Biblical Israel Ministries and Tours has created a 17-minute video on “Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus.”

Crossway has announced its Bibles coming in 2018, including the ESV Archaeology Study Bible.

Leon Mauldin has been visiting the British Museum and shares photos of a golden diadem and the 

Israel’s Good Name had a successful trip looking for wildlife in the Huleh Valley.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Charles Savelle


Weekend Roundup, Part 2

The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities has posted a “Special Edition” of their Newsletter, featuring a list of archaeological discoveries, openings (and re-openings), major projects, temporary exhibitions, repatriated antiquities, changes to archaeological services (including photography fees and student discounts), publications, conferences, and more.

Archaeological work has revealed a fortress at Tell el-Maskhuta in the eastern Nile Delta.
Al-Ahram Weekly reviews the 30 top discoveries made in Egypt in 2017.

“Researchers in London have developed scanning techniques that show what is written on the papyrus that mummy cases are made from.”

The Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt, edited by Kathryn A. Bard (Routledge, 1999) is now online for free download.

Archaeologists working at Perga in Turkey plan to restore two towers, water fountains, the theater, and the stadium by 2019.

Turkey will resume issuing visas to American tourists after stopping for several months.

Pompeii has opened three restored Roman houses to visitors.

Scholars are using a fine-detail CT scanner to attempt to read a codex of Acts that dates to the 5th or 6th centuries.

At ANE Today: “A Proper Answer: Reflections on Archaeology, Archaeologists and Biblical
Historiography,” by Israel Finkelstein.

For purchase or free download: Highlights of the Collections of the Oriental Institute Museum, edited by Jean M. Evans, Jack Green, and Emily Teeter.

If you’re not a subscriber to ARTIFAX Magazine (in print), you can sign up here.

Lois Tverberg’s Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus is out.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Keith Keyser


Herodium’s Royal Winery Discovered

The link posted in this morning’s roundup to the Google-translated version of the Herodium’s royal winery had some significant errors, and Joseph Lauer has sent an improved translation so we can avoid “wine ghettos” and the like. The Hebrew press release, with photos, is here.

Israel Nature and Parks Authority

December 14, 2017

The first royal winery of its kind in Herod’s palaces was discovered at Herodion

The large royal winery that is now being revealed in Herodion sheds light on, among other things, the reasons for the agricultural flourishing of vineyards and wine presses in Judea at the end of the Second Temple period.

Among the remains that were found are dozens of huge jugs, densely arranged in the storage space, which is located in the structure that surrounds the circular palace

During archaeological excavations conducted at the Herodion National Park, which is run by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Chief Officer of the Nature Reserves and Parks Unit of the Civil Administration, were revealed for the first time in the palaces of King Herod remains of a large royal winery. These remains are now exposed to the public for the first time as part of a Heritage Week in Israel, held annually during Hanukkah by the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the  Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites, and intended to raise public awareness of the importance of preserving the heritage.
Ze’ev Elkin, Minister of Jerusalem and Heritage said: “When I stand here today in Herodion, a five minute drive from my home in the village of Kfar Eldad and pass in my imagination all the important events in the history of our people that took place on this mountain or at its foot, I do not need to explain why it is easy to mark Heritage Week in the State of Israel. In every corner of our country, no matter where you live, you will know how to discover a heritage site near the home of each and every one of you. Thousands of years of our history are folded into every square kilometer in the Land of Israel and there is nothing like Chanukah to feel and demonstrate to our children the spirit of the saying ‘in those days in this season’.”
Shaul Goldstein, Director General of the Nature and Parks Authority said: “King Herod’s palace in Herodion is a site that changes its face all the time, every day there is revealed there ancient and fascinating history. There is nothing like the Herodion site to open the Heritage Week of our country. In the coming year we will also continue in the Nature and Parks Authority, together with our natural partners, to invest a great deal of resources in the heritage sites and to expose the findings to the general public, while enhancing the experience of visiting the sites.”
The winery was discovered during an excavation that was carried out in the past year in the warehouses and impressive cellars of the fortified palace that Herod built at the top of Herodion Mountain. The remains include tens of gigantic pits, densely arranged in the storage space, which is located in the structure of the circular palace. They were probably used as fermentation tanks, from which the wine was poured into jars and amphorae, which may have been stored in cellars with vaulted ceilings that were built at this point in the area, and which were exposed in recent excavations.

These excavations are being conducted by the Ehud Netzer Expedition [to Herodium] of the Institute of Archeology at the Hebrew University, headed by archaeologists Roi Porat, Yakov Kalman and Rachel Chachy. The excavations are being conducted as part of the development of the Herodion site, led by the Jerusalem and Heritage Authority, the Israel Nature and National Parks Authority, the Antiquities Authority and the Israel Institute of Archaeology.
Wineries of this type from the Roman period are known from archaeological finds from the Italian region and around the Empire. The use of ceramic fermentation tanks is common in wineries for many periods, and in fact to this day (for example, in Georgia, etc.). The wine industry was of great importance in the Roman period, and the production, importation and use of high quality wines by Herod was, of course, also an expression of economic and cultural status. It should be noted that during the course of the excavations at Herodion, as well as at Masada,  dozens of amphorae (large jars) were discovered bearing shipping inscriptions and seals, indicating large shipments of fine Italian wine to Herod the King. The great royal winery that is now being discovered in Herodion sheds light, among other things, on the reasons for the agricultural flourishing of vineyards and wine presses in Judea at the end of the Second Temple Period.
The winery, like the palace-fortress of the entire mountain, ceased to be used upon the death of Herod, during the conversion of Mount Herodion to the monumental tomb of the king. During the Great Revolt, about 70 years later, when Herodion was used as a bastion for the rebels, the warehouses in which the winery was located were used as a residential area, and even as a goat pen. The rich finds from this period include many coins from the rebellion, pottery and glass vessels and remains of food. During the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-136 CE), the basements of the palace served as passages to the system of guerrilla tunnels that were quarried in the mountainside. To support the tunnels, the rebels used many wooden beams that were removed from Herod’s palace, and these survived well in the recently discovered cellars.

Another surprising discovery in Herodion — a fortification from the time of the Hasmonean revolt against the Greeks — the Hellenistic period
In the meantime, during the course of the excavations were also revealed by surprise, under the level of King Herod’s Palace’s courtyard, remains of buildings and a water reservoir that dated to the Hellenistic period — mid-second century BCE. The remains were buried and sealed under the walls of the palace and under the layer of garden soil that was based in the courtyard at its establishment. It should be noted that to date no evidence has been found at the site of any activity prior to Herod.
The remains of the structures indicate a well-organized construction project that was built at the top of the mountain, including straight, wide walls that delineated large square rooms. Next to the buildings was exposed a large rock-hewn water reservoir, which was also dated to this period. The construction of these structures at the top of Mount Herodion, with its strategic characteristics, and not near the agricultural area in the valleys below it, indicate that these are remains of a fortification rather than an agricultural settlement.
It is possible that the holding of the site was connected to the events that took place in the region during the outbreak of the Hasmonean revolt. This is the case of the campaign that the Seleucid commander Bacchides conducted in 156 BCE against Yonatan and Shimon the Hasmoneans in the community of Beit-Betzi, located northwest of Herodion, as well as the line of fortifications that Bacchides built in Judea a few years earlier, and fortifications he built in this area. It may be, then, that the fortification at the top of Mount Herodion was built as part of these systems, whether by the Greeks or by the Hasmoneans. However, it should be noted that until now there has not been discovered at Herodion any ceramic assemblages characteristic of the Hasmonean period itself, and it is possible that in this period until the time of Herod the mountain remained empty.


Weekend Roundup, Part 1

“The Legio camp [at Megiddo] is the only full-scale imperial Roman legionary base found so far in the eastern empire” and to date they’ve unearthed a monumental gate, a dedicatory inscription, and the cremated remains of a Roman soldier.

The first royal winery of King Herod was discovered at the Herodium. The story does not seem to be in the English press yet, but you can read a Google-translated version of the Israel Nature and Parks

Authority story here. UPDATE: I’ve posted Joseph Lauer’s improved translation here.

Some Israelis are accusing authorities of not protecting Herod’s palace at Jericho from destruction caused by the nearby building of homes.

A new exhibit at the Haifa Hostel tells the story of ancient Castra on the slopes of Mount Carmel.

A new exhibit at the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa documents the transition of the city of Sussita (Hippos) from pagan to Christian.

The ASOR Blog has a well-illustrated piece on the Ottoman and Turkish history of Majdal Yābā (aka Migdal Aphek, Mirabel).

Leen Ritmeyer explains how Jerusalem’s garbage dump refutes the theory that the temple was built over the Gihon Spring.

New from Wayne Stiles: How to follow God by pondering amazing bird migrations in Israel.

Now published: The Elephant Mosaic Panel in the Synagogue at Huqoq, by Karen Britt and Ra’anan
Boustan. Authorized photos are available at National Geographic. Dr. Britt will lecture on the subject on Feb. 21 at UNC Asheville.

At The Book and the Spade, John DeLancey talks with Gordon Govier about Excavation Plans for 2018.

Israel’s Good Name describes his experience in an archaeological survey of Tel Goded (Moresheth-Gath?) in part 1 and part 2.

With 3.6 million tourists in 2017, Israel hit a new record. This was a 25% increase over 2016. For some trends in tourism between 1990 and 2011, see this booklet.

Israel saw lots of rain yesterday, but probably not the “100 inches” claimed in this article’s subhead.

Lawrence Stager died at the age of 74 after a fall at his home. He directed the excavations at Ashkelon for 30 years.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Keith Keyser, Charles Savelle


“Following the Messiah,” Episodes 6-10

The next five episodes of “Following the Messiah” are set to release next week, and there is some relevant information that I wanted to pass on.

First, Episodes 6-10 will all be free on Appian Media’s website as well as on YouTube, beginning January 12. They will also be posting several “Behind the Scenes” videos. Episode 6 focuses on Jesus’s miracles, Episode 7 is on his teaching, and Episodes 8, 9, and 10 address his crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

They are also hosting three events, with invitations to the general public. The events are free, but reservations are required.

  • Indianapolis, IN, January 12
  • Athens, AL, January 19
  • Birmingham, AL, January 20

You can also see the first event streamed live on Facebook on January 12 at 6:45 Eastern Time. It’s recommended that you like Appian Media on Facebook in order to see the event.

This is a great project to enjoy, share with friends, and support.


“Governor of the City” Seal Impression Discovered in Jerusalem

At the top of candidates for “best discoveries of 2018,” a seal impression reading “belonging to the governor of the city” was announced today by the Israel Antiquities Authority. The find was made by conservationists in the wall of an Israelite four-room house built on the slope of the Western Hill opposite the Western Wall. The seal impression features two figures and what may be the moon above them.

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Photo by Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority

The “governor of the city” was not the king of Judah, but was the equivalent of the mayor of Jerusalem. This position may be mentioned in two passages in the Bible.

  • 2 Kings 23:8 “Josiah brought all the priests from the towns of Judah and desecrated the high places, from Geba to Beersheba, where the priests had burned incense. He broke down the shrines at the gates—at the entrance to the Gate of Joshua, the city governor [sar], which is on the left of the city gate.”
  • 2 Chronicles 34:8 “In the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign, to purify the land and the temple, he sent Shaphan son of Azaliah and Maaseiah the ruler [sar] of the city, with Joah son of Joahaz, the recorder, to repair the temple of the Lord his God.”

The house in which the impression was made dates to the 7th century BC, which is the time referenced in these two passages. The archaeologist believes that this part of the city was inhabited by high-ranking city officials.

Scholars who studied the seal impression described in this way:

Above a double line are two standing men, facing each other in a mirror-like manner. Their heads are depicted as large dots, lacking any details. The hands facing outward are dropped down, and the hands facing inward are raised. Each of the figures is wearing a striped, knee-length garment.
The story is reported by many sources, including The Times of Israel. The press release is posted on Facebook. Leen Ritmeyer has a brief post, including a diagram of how Jerusalem looked at this time. 
A 2-minute video is posted here.
Western Wall prayer plaza excavations, tb010312518
Excavation area where seal impression was discovered