Efforts are underway to resurrect Iraq’s tourism industry. CNN reported in January on conservation work at the site of Babylon, and the Global Heritage Fund has been involved in similar work at Ur. In 2009 and 2010, the Iraqi government reported 165 tourists visited the country.

The online edition of Archaeology magazine has posted a piece entitled “Letter from Iraq: The Ziggurat Endures.” It was written by Michael Taylor, a National Guardsman who visited Ur in May, 2008. There are a few photos of the ziggurat and one of the royal tombs.

Last fall, American archaeologists returned to southern Iraq for the first time in 25 years. A report at PhysOrg outlines the research of Jennifer Pournelle. She is studying the importance of marshland resources, and how proximity to marshlands may have helped determine where ancients cities were founded in southern Iraq. A short video can be seen here.

Last Sunday, the Cairo Museum reopened, along with five other museums and all of Egypt’s antiquities sites. On Wednesday night, looters attempted to make off with a 160-ton, red granite statue of Ramses II located at Aswan. Their efforts were thwarted by security personnel (and maybe the size of the statue).

Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, has claimed that a 3,200 year-old funerary mask owned by the Saint Louis Art Museum was stolen from Egypt. The mask was discovered in excavations at Saqqara in 1952 and purchased by the museum for half-a-million dollars. The museum has filed suit to prevent seizure of the mask by the U.S. attorney’s office in St. Louis.

Beginning today and running through September 4, the Tennessee State Museum is featuring a three-part exhibition entitled Egyptian Relics, Replicas & Revivals: Treasures from Tutankhamun. The exhibit brings together objects and replicas from the University of Memphis, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Vanderbilt University, and the International Museum Institute of New York.

Admission is free. Details are available at the museum’s website.

Anson Rainey Tributes
A week ago Saturday, Anson Rainey passed away at the age of 81. This past week, the radio program LandMinds produced a four-part tribute to Rainey in which they conducted interviews with Paul Wright of Jerusalem University College, and Yigal Levin and Aharon Demsky of Bar-Ilan University.

Audio of the program can be found here. Biblical Archaeology Review also has a brief note about Rainey’s passing on their website.

Thesaurus Linguae Graecae has made available an online edition of the Classical Greek lexicon Liddell-Scott-Jones, with hyperlinks to texts in the TLG database. The lexicon can be found here and an account of its print and digital versions here.

On Monday, March 21, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, Thomas Levy will speak at George Washington University’s Capitol Archaeological Institute in Washington, DC. His lecture is entitled “Quest for Solomon’s Mines: Cyber-Archaeology and Recent Explorations in Jordan,” and will be presented at the Elliott School, 1957 E St. NW, Room 113. Both the lecture and a reception are free and open to the public. Some information is provided here.

HT: Joe Lauer and Jack Sasson


According to an online news article, Turkey’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ertuğrul Günay, is pressuring Germany to return a gate sphinx found at Hattusa, even threatening to revoke the German Archaeological Institute’s permit to excavate Hattusa. The Germans have been directing excavations at Hattusa, the ancient capital of the Hittite Empire, since 1906.

The sphinx in question is presently on display in the Pergamonmuseum in Berlin. It belongs to a pair of sphinxes from the Sphinx Gate of the Yerkapi rampart at Hattusa. The complementary sphinx is on display in the Museum of the Ancient Orient in Istanbul, Turkey.

Berlin Pergamonmuseum.
This is a copy of the sphinx shown below. The sphinx which is being disputed is not in the photo; it is displayed on the opposite wall behind where the photographer stood. (The photographer is now kicking himself.)

Istanbul Museum of Ancient Orient.
Sphinx from Yerkapi rampart Sphinx Gate at Hattusa. This sphinx complements the one in Berlin.

Turkey has given Germany until the end of July to return the sphinx. Germany has apparently rejected previous requests. The sphinx was taken to Berlin in 1915 to be restored.

Hattusa is an enormous and complex site just on the outskirts of the modern village of Boğazkale (more commonly known by its former name Boğazköy). Hattusa had dozens of temples and a citadel.

The fortifications included various gates with parabolic arches, a massive rampart on the southern end, and casemate walls. The German excavations are currently directed by Andreas Schachner. From 1994-2005, Jürgen Seeher directed the excavations. Seeher is the author of the best guidebook on Hattusa, Hattusa Guide: A Day in the Hittite Capital, 3rd rev. ed. (Istanbul: Ege Yayınları, 2006). It is chock full of photos, plans, and descriptions, and has a fold-out map.

Much of the guide is available online here. If you have the opportunity to visit the site, allow yourself at least one complete day and make sure you have a car and Seeher’s guidebook.

Yerkapi rampart at the south end of Hattusa.
Below center is a postern gate and tunnel and directly above is the Sphinx Gate.

Buyukkale, the Royal Citadel at Hattusa.

HT: Jack Sasson

UPDATE (5/20): Germany has agreed to give the Sphinx to Turkey.  Details are here.


This isn’t exactly breaking news, but I did not find any other blogs that had written about it, and it seems worthy of mention.

Back in September 2007, Turkish Daily News (now known as The Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review) reported that operations to clear the land mines near the site of Carchemish had commenced. At the time, it was estimated the clean-up would take about one-and-a-half years. Todd mentioned it here.

As a follow-up to this story, it was reported last December in Today’s Zaman that the mines had been cleared and the land was now in the process of being turned over to the city. After bidding for the mine-clearing project, work actually commenced in March 2010. Three hundred days later, it was complete. Mine-sniffing dogs were used in the initial stages, and to avoid damaging antiquities, the mines were removed to another location for detonation (usually, mines are detonated on the spot). Now that the mines have been cleared, archaeologists will begin “serious and long-term” excavations, which it is hoped will attract tourism.

The site of ancient Carchemish is cut by the modern Turkey-Syria border. The citadel and inner town are located within Turkey, but most of the outer town is located in Syria. On the Turkish side is the modern village of Karkamiş and on the Syrian side is the village of Jerablus. As part of Turkey’s attempts to open up trade with its neighbors, plans are underway to open three new border crossings with Syria by 2012, one of which will be located at Karkamiş.

For an account of the earlier excavations conducted by Sir Leonard Woolley, see here.

Carchemish from the northwest, view of citadel and inner town wall.

Carchemish citadel from the northwest.

About four months ago, Todd announced the publication of a new guidebook for Turkey entitled Biblical Turkey: A Guide to Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor, by Mark Wilson (Ege Yayınları, 2010). What prompts this review is the news that the book can now be ordered from Amazon.com and sells for $39.95.

Biblical Turkey
is not a guidebook like Lonely Planet or Rough Guide—it does not tell you where to find accommodations or the best places for affordable dining. What Biblical Turkey does do, however, is give you just about all the archaeological and historical information you will need for numerous sites in Turkey. The book includes every well-known and lesser-known site which is mentioned in the Bible, but it includes much more than that. As such, this is rich resource, whether you travel to Turkey or not (though, I recommend that you take a trip at some point).

What sets this book apart from A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey, by Fant and Reddish (Oxford Univ. Press, 2003), is its comprehensiveness. Fant and Reddish did not include a number of sites that are mentioned in the Bible, such as Cnidus, Carchemish, and Harran. Wilson includes all of these as well as many other important archeological sites which are not mentioned in the Bible, such as Van Kalesi (ancient Tushpa, the capital of Urartu), Gordium (the capital of Phrygia), Kanesh/Kültepe (the Old Assyrian trading colony), and Nemrut Dağ (the mausoleum of Antiochus I of Commagene).

Nemrut Dağ west terrace, toppled heads from colossal statues.

Biblical Turkey is organized by five regions, beginning in eastern Turkey and working westwards. Each chapter begins with historical and geographic descriptions of ancient regions and provinces (e.g., Cappadocia, Galatia) and then covers the ancient cities within that region. For each region and city, biblical references are listed, a historical summary is given, and the relevant inscriptions and archaeological remains are described. Though written in a non-technical style, the text betrays a depth of technical knowledge in these areas which is quite impressive. Nearly every two-page spread is graced with a carefully selected photograph of the site, an architectural element, or an inscription, which is helpful for understanding the text. Finally, for many sites, Wilson provides a title or two for “further reading.” Most of the titles he suggests are guides available at the site itself, often written by the archaeologists, and published in Turkey. These can be difficult to obtain, but it is helpful nevertheless to have this information. (For those who are desperate enough to pay the stiff shipping charges, many of the titles can probably be purchased at Zero Books.)

I find several other features of Biblical Turkey helpful. The Turkish names are provided alongside the more common English names which facilitates navigating by maps and road signs. The book is also generously furnished with site plans and sidebars. The sidebars come in three types: “side trip” boxes provide brief descriptions of lesser-known sites you may want to add to your trip if you have spare time, “in-site” boxes give more background detail (e.g., a New Testament timeline, the seven ecumenical councils, or ancient travel on the Mediterranean), and “ancient voice” boxes discuss ancient textual sources in greater detail.

Maybe I’m gushing now, but I wish all guidebooks were written like this one. A lot of thought and research went into the content and its organization. Turkey is a vast country with many fascinating things to see and study. With this book in hand, no longer will so much of it go unnoticed.

FURTHER NOTE: Mark Wilson is the director of Seven Churches Network and Asia Minor Research Center. You can read more about Mark here. Leen Ritmeyer reviewed and recommended the book here.


We just received the sad news that Anson Rainey passed away early this afternoon. He was hospitalized about two weeks ago and had been battling pancreatic cancer. The funeral will be held at the cemetery in Barkan at 12 pm tomorrow (Sunday, Feb. 20).

Rainey is familiar to most readers of this blog for his enormous contributions to historical geography and to the study of the Amarna letters, but to many other areas as well. He was responsible for training several generations of students who have become our teachers, or even our teachers’ teachers.

He will be greatly missed. A biography and list of Rainey’s publications can be viewed at his Tel Aviv University webpage. His work, The Sacred Bridge, has been highly recommended before on this blog.

Rainey lecturing at the Solomonic Gate at Gezer in 1968 (David Bivin).

Rainey with K. Lawson Younger at Trinity Int’l University, 2010.

HT: Jack Sasson


In a steady stream of almost daily updates, Zahi Hawass continues to report on the status of Egypt’s archaeological sites and treasures. Many of the reports are preliminary and the extent of potential loss awaits further assessment.

On February 20, Egypt will reopen many of its archaeological sites to tourists.

Hawass’s blog features photos of the panther from a statue of Tutankhamun before and after its partial restoration.

Of the objects reported to have been taken from the Cairo Museum, three were found on the museum grounds. Last night, a fourth object, the limestone statue of Akhenaten, was handed over at a Cairo police station.

Akhenaten Statue before looting (www.drhawass.com).
Akhenaten Statue after return (Ahmed Amin, www.drhawass.com).

Hawass reports that antiquities storage magazines at Saqqara and Cairo University, and two tombs at Saqqara and Abusir were broken into. A storage magazine at Dahshur has been broken into twice, and several boxes of objects were stolen from another storage magazine at Qantara East, Sinai. Of the objects taken from Qantara East, 298 of them have been returned. The Egyptian military prevented additional break-ins at Tell el Basta and Lisht.