Weekend Roundup

Archaeologists working in Kurdistan have exposed ten new rock inscriptions from the reign of Sargon II. There are some excellent photos here.

A 7th-grader walking near Caesarea after heavy rains discovered a Byzantine inscription.

Archaeologists are studying a cave in southern Sinai with colorful inscriptions from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods.

Scott Stripling believes that the archaeological material discovered in recent excavations at Shiloh supports the existence of the tabernacle at the site. This includes altar horns, bones of sacrificed animals, pomegranate figurines, storage rooms, and a permanent cultic platform.

Researchers used an algorithm to determine that 31 of the Samaria Ostraca were written by two people. These date from early in the reign of Jeroboam II. The journal article is available here.

A new study challenges the theory that the eruption of Mount Vesuvius vaporized the blood and brains of the inhabitants of Herculaneum and Pompeii.

Recent investigation indicates that olive horticulture in the southern Levant began in approximately 2500 BC.

A new study suggests that the rise and fall of the Neo-Assyrian Empire correlates with heavy rainfall followed by a megadrought.

Aaron Koller explains various theories concerning the origin and earliest use of the alphabet.

Leon Mauldin looks at references to Hadad and Ben-Hadad in the Bible, and he shares a photo from the Jordan Museum.

Bryan Windle does another great job with his archaeological biography of Shishak.

The National Archaeology Museum in Athens is slated to undergo a major renovation.

A new exhibit at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem focuses on the kingdoms of South Arabia, including Sheba, Qataban, Hadhramaut, and Ma’in.”

The “Faces of Jesus” exhibit at Columbia Bible College will be closing soon.

A workshop will be held at the Albright on January 30, 4-6 pm: “Biblical Imagery in the Late Antique Synagogues of the Galilee.”

Christopher Siwicki writes about Nero’s Golden Palace, recently opened to the public.

An Italian diplomat has been convicted in absentia for smuggling Egyptian antiquities.

High-quality archaeological reproductions will now be sold in Egyptian airports.

An ancient Roman cookbook provides insights into the diet of those living in the first centuries after Christ.

New: Digging Up Jericho: Past, Present and Future, edited by Rachael Thyrza Sparks, Bill Finlayson, Bart Wagemakers, and Josef Mario Briffa.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Explorator, Chris McKinny, Alexander Schick

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Weekend Roundup

Israel has announced the creation of seven new nature reserves in the West Bank: Ariel Cave, Wadi Og, Wadi Malha, the Southern Jordan River, Bitronot Creek, Nahal Tirza, and Rotem-Maskiot.

The Mausoleum of Augustus in Rome is set to reopen this spring after being closed for 80 years.

The Grand Egyptian Museum, set to partially open in the coming months, expects more than 5 million visitors annually.

Passages, a Christian version of Birthright Israel, is on track to bring 10,000 students to Israel by the end of this year.

Carl Rasmussen shares his experience in using Global Entry for international travel.

A DNA analysis of the York Gospels was done using DNA extracted by using erasers.

Emily Master of The Friends of Israel Antiquities Authority is the featured guest on The Book and the Spade.

Available for pre-order: The Koren Tanakh of the Land of Israel: Exodus. There are early reviews here and here.

King David is the subject of Bryan Windle’s latest archaeological biography.

Shmuel Browns shares his favorite photos of the year and gives his readers a chance to vote on their favorite.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Mark Hoffman, Explorator

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Weekend Roundup

A stone measuring table and several dozen stone weights were discovered in a plaza along the first-century AD street from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount. Archaeologists believe that the area it was found served as the Jerusalem’s central market. The Times of Israel article includes a video and many photos.

It’s not quite a copy of the Tel Dan Inscription, but a pottery restorer discovered a faint ink inscription of a single Hebrew word on a storejar excavated at Abel Beth Maacah (Haaretz premium).

“Egypt’s recent decision to transport ancient Pharaonic artifacts to a traffic circle in the congested heart of Cairo has fueled fresh controversy over the government’s handling of its archaeological heritage.”

Rainfall this week led to flooding in the Judean wilderness. The video at the bottom of this page shows waterfalls in Nahal Qumran. Aren Maeir shares videos and photos of a river running through the Elah Valley.

The Biblical Archaeology Society is offering dig scholarships for excavations this coming year.

The most recent maps posted on the Bible Mapper Blog are of Southern Greece, the Judean Wilderness, and Philistia.

The photographs of Nancy Lapp, taken during excavations around the Middle East from the 1950s to the 1990s are the subject of an interesting photo essay by Rachael McGlensey. More than 2,000 images from Jordan have been digitized in the Paul and Nancy Lapp Collection at ACOR.

Bob Rognlien’s new book is out: Recovering the Way. The book trailer will introduce you to it. Here’s my endorsement:

Recovering the Way is an enjoyable and fascinating read, combining historical insights from the time of Jesus with practical encouragement for our lives today. All that Bob has learned and experienced in three decades of leading pilgrims through the land of Israel provide the reader with a rich treasure of biblical instruction, wise application, and captivating stories. All of this benefits from dozens of beautiful illustrations which help the reader to see the world where Jesus ministered.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis

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Weekend Roundup

Bryan Windle has created a list of the top 10 discoveries of the decade for biblical archaeology.

Amanda Borschel-Dan identifies her top 10 Holy Land archaeology stories of 2019.

“A hoard of seven ancient [7th-century AD] gold coins was found hidden inside a small clay juglet during a dig in the area of Yavne.”

A Hasmonean fortress not far from Beit El is “suffering from robbery and neglect.”
Melissa S. Cradic and Vanessa Linares consider why vanilla was used in a tomb at Megiddo.

The discovery of “The Book of Two Ways,” a precursor to “The Book of the Dead,” is the subject of a NY Times article on what is called the oldest copy of the first illustrated book.

The British chef Heston Blumenthal created a meal inspired by foods discovered in the Pompeii destruction.

Now online: the schedule for the conference at Tel Aviv University on “Mass Deportations: To and From the Levant during the Age of Empires.”

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer

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Top 10 Discoveries in Biblical Archaeology in 2019

We live in remarkable days, archaeologically speaking. More excavations at more sites are uncovering a tremendous amount of all kinds of information about ancient civilizations. Much of what is learned doesn’t make for a sensational news story, but is perhaps more important than the headline discovery.

The end of the year is a good time to look back over the stories, and attempting to identify highlights, and even to rank them, provides a good opportunity to determine what we consider important and why. My list here is decidedly subjective, and with my own undeniable biases towards discoveries from the biblical periods made in the land of Israel. The value isn’t in the accuracy of the list but in the opportunity to reflect on what we’ve gained and what may lie ahead. Here, then, is my list of the top 10 discoveries in biblical archaeology in 2019:

1. A seal impression belonging to “Nathan-Melech, servant of the king” discovered in Jerusalem’s City of David. Why is this in my top 10? Scholars believe this is likely the same individual who served Josiah, king of Judah (2 Kgs 23:11). If so, this is an archaeological artifact created by someone named in the Bible.

2. A statue likely depicting an Ammonite king in the 9th or 8th centuries BC discovered in Amman. Why is this in my top 10? Depictions of ancient kings are quite rare from Israel or their neighbors in Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Phoenicia, or Aram.

3. A destruction layer from the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BC discovered on the Western Hill of Jerusalem. Why is this in my top 10? The Babylonian conquest is well-documented in the Bible, but archaeologists have found less trace of it in excavations than you might expect.

4. Massive fortifications exposed at Gath. Why is this in my top 10? This provides further insight into the nature of this Philistine city at the time when Goliath went out to battle and never came home.

5. A 7th-century BC seal impression “belonging to Adonijah, the royal steward” discovered in the City of David. Why is this in my top 10? Though this is not the famous Adonijah, son of David, it gives us an ancient example of the same name, in the city where he lived. In addition, this Adonijah was “chief of staff” to one of the kings of Judah, possibly Manasseh and Josiah.

6. The possible discovery of the “Church of the Apostles” at el-Araj (Bethsaida?). Why is this in my top 10? Anything that furthers the discussion about the correct identification of Bethsaida is valuable.

7. A mosaic depicting the Israelites’ encampment at Elim as well as two of the four beasts of Daniel 7 discovered in the ancient synagogue of Huqoq. Why is this in my top 10? Before there were photographs illustrating the biblical record, there were mosaics. But most synagogue mosaics depict Zodiacs and other non-biblical subjects.

8. A mosaic floor in a church at Hippos apparently depicts Jesus’s multiplication of the fish and loaves (Haaretz premium). Why is this in my top 10? This may well be an ancient depiction of a miracle near the place where it happened.

9. An Byzantine Church near Beth Shemesh with an inscription mentioning a “glorious martyr.” Why is this in my top 10? This church is well-preserved, and its mosaics are beautiful.

10. A new DNA study indicating that Philistines living in Ashkelon in the late 12th century BC originated from Greece, Crete, or Sardinia. Why is this in my top 10? The origins of the Philistines has long been debated, and this provides some definitive scientific evidence of their Aegean origin.


Fake News:

Khirbet a-Ra‘i is Ziklag.

Kiriath Jearim is Emmaus.

Temple that housed the Ark of the Covenant discovered at Beth Shemesh.


Top Stories Related to Tourism:

The Ketef Hinnom Archaeological Garden opened, no longer requiring passage through the Begin Center to visit the First Temple period tombs.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project was relaunched at a new location.

A $6 million, 9-year project has made much of Jerusalem’s Old City accessible to wheelchairs.

The outer courtyard of the Tomb of the Kings was reopened to tourists.

$55 million will be invested to renovate several sites in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, including the Burnt House, the Wohl Archaeological Museum, and the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue.

With restorations complete, Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity was removed from UNESCO’s list of endangered world heritage sites.

A new sound-and-light show, used advanced technologies, was unveiled at Masada.

A new visitor’s center opened at Caesarea in four reconstructed vaults underneath Herod’s temple.

A new archaeological visitor center opened at Jokneam, at the base of Mount Carmel not far from Megiddo.

The new Petra Museum was inaugurated.

Egypt opened a 105-mile hiking trail called the “Red Sea Mountain Trail” that is west of Hurghada.

Greek authorities granted permission for the restoration of the interior of the Parthenon in Athens.

The palace of Nero, with virtual reality features, opened to visitors.

Saudi Arabia is now giving visas to foreign tourists.

Losses This Year:

Tim Bulkeley

George Giacumakis

Doug Greenwold

Philip J. King

Amos Kloner

William B. Tolar


Other Compilations:

The two I would recommend first are those by Gordon Govier and Bryan Windle. Others are a bit broader in scope or have different criteria, including those by Owen Jarus, Stephanie Pappas, and Aaron Earls. Israel HaYom suggests the top 5 of the decade, and Haaretz (premium) offers their top discoveries of the decade.

I compiled my lists before reading any others, and I see there’s quite a bit of difference between them. One reason: I excluded discoveries made or announced in previous years. But it can be tricky knowing when a discovery was “made,” as sometimes a lengthy analysis delays the announcement. Of course, in some cases, the announcement is necessarily made before the analysis!


Previous Years:
You can revisit the top stories of previous years with these links:

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