Archaeologists believe they have uncovered the 1st-century villa where Pliny the Elder watched Mount Vesuvius erupt.

“Archaeologists conducting extensive excavations in the ancient Sumerian city of Girsu, now known as Tello in southeastern Iraq, have unearthed twin temples built on top of each other.”

Egypt’s “project of the century”—a reinstallation of the granite cladding on one of the pyramids of Giza—has been cancelled.

Turkey will be expanding its “Night Museums” project with the goal of setting new records in tourism every year.

“Archaeologists working in Saqqara recently unearthed three funerary masks at least 1,800 years old.”

A new study claims that “ancient Romans used the poisonous nightshade Black henbane as a hallucinogenic drug.”

New release: Teaching Ancient Egypt in Museums: Pedagogies in Practice, edited by Jen Thum, Carl Walsh, Lissette M. Jiménez, Lisa Saladino Haney (Routledge, $40-$170)

Hybrid lecture on May 23: “From Ground to Page: Wrapping up the University of Michigan/University of Minnesota Excavations at Kedesh,” by Andrea M. Berlin

Revelation Media is creating an animated Bible project comprised of seven-minute episodes that will eventually cover the entire Bible.

Carmen Joy Imes writes about some connections to the Old Testament that she observed during a recent tour of Egypt with James Hoffmeier.

HT: Agade, Ted Weis, Arne Halbakken


“Architectural remains of the 1,800-year-old Roman VIth ‘Ferrata’ Iron Legion military base were uncovered in a recent excavation carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) at the foot of Tel Megiddo.” But archaeologists are concerned that they will pave it over instead of incorporating it into a larger archaeological park.

Raz Kletter is not convinced there is an inscription on the Mt. Ebal Curse Tablet.

The Jerusalem Post gives a history of the little-known Ein Dor Archaeology Museum.

The latest issue of “Jerusalem in Brief” takes a look at “Kerosine street lamps, a historical photo of Dung Gate, Jerusalem’s lighthouse, and one ridiculously expensive book.” That expensive book is available as a free scan at archive.org.

Registration is now open for the 2024 excavation season at Tel Burna.

Emanuel Tov explains how the copying of Torah scrolls became sacred.

Zoom lecture on Feb 27: “Dawn of the Aleph Beit,” by Orly Goldwasser, Christopher Rollston, and Yossi Garfinkel. This is a panel discussion jointly hosted with the AIAS and British Friends of the Hebrew University.

“The February Bible and Archaeology Fest on February 24 & 25 offers live talks from 13 leading Bible scholars and archaeologists via the Zoom app.” Topics include Phoenicians, Nabateans, Ophel excavations, and sacred prostitution in ancient Corinth. The $149 registration fee includes access to the recordings.

Accordance Bible Software has a sale on graphics resources, with up to 67% off.

The Bible Mapper Atlas has created some new, free maps:

Charles Savelle shares some Valentine’s Day card ideas.

HT: Agade, Ted Weis, Arne Halbakken


I am thankful that I was asked to join an outstanding team of scholars contributing to the latest volume in the Lexham Geographic Commentary series. I noted last week one of the articles I wrote, and I wanted to do the same for my second article. I’m excited about what I learned, and I know that not everyone will be able to purchase the volume. This post will give you a little taste for the nature of what an investment in this work will provide.

The official name for my article is “The ‘Land’ Given to Abraham and His Descendants: A Geographic and Socio-spatial Analysis,” and the listed references are Genesis 15:18–21, Exodus 23:31, Numbers 32:1–33, and 34:1–12. In short, my goal was to untangle the apparently contradictory border descriptions given in various passages in the Pentateuch.

A good way to introduce my article to you, I believe, is to give my five “Key Points,” with a brief explanation for each.

1. The land where Abraham’s descendants live corresponds to the land that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob walked and claimed (from Dan to Beersheba).

This is a helpful observation when one considers that the Lord promised Abraham the land “from the River of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates” (Gen 15:18). Abraham, however, lived in and traveled through only the southern portion of this area, essentially between Shechem and Beersheba. The same is true for Isaac and Jacob. When the Israelites returned from Egypt, they settled in this same area, not in northern lands such as Zobah or Ugarit, though technically they are within the territory delimited in Genesis 15.

2. By identifying the territory promised to Abraham as from the river Euphrates to the River of Egypt, the Lord provided that sufficient land would be available as the Israelites increased in size and demonstrated covenant loyalty.

A smaller nation needs less land than a larger one, and the Lord anticipated that Israel’s population would expand and so would their need for more territory. In Deuteronomy 7:22, Moses said that “the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little,” and the law required that three additional cities of refuge be set aside when Israel’s territory increased (Deut 19:8-9). Under David and Solomon, Israel’s land increased beyond the “Dan to Beersheba” holdings, and this was in keeping with God’s design. Similarly, the tribe of Reuben “occupied the land up to the edge of the desert that extends to the Euphrates River, because their livestock had increased in Gilead” (1 Chr 5:9).

3. In giving certain land to Abraham and his descendants, the Lord also excluded certain land from their inheritance.

The most obvious lands excluded from the promise are the lands of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Abraham and the people of Israel had been called by God out of those lands and given territory between them. But Israel was also excluded from land that the Lord gave to the Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites (Deut 2:5, 9, 19). In addition, Jacob’s treaty with Laban suggests that the land of the Arameans was outside of the territory intended for Israel (Gen 31:45-54). Thus, even in the most ideal circumstances, Israel was never intended to fully occupy all the land between the Euphrates River and the River of Egypt.

4. Within the broader border descriptions given, Abraham and his descendants were to displace Canaan and his descendants and to rule over other nations.

It was God’s intention not merely to give Abraham’s descendants land but to give them land occupied by other people groups. This required that they remove them, an act of divine judgment on people who had defiled the land. The list of the ten people groups in Genesis 15:19-21 provides further definition to the land where Israel was expected to settle. Other people groups submitted to Israel’s kings and were allowed to remain in their settled lands.

5. A built-in tension exists between wider and narrower boundary descriptions of the land. This tension reflects the patriarchal travels, the possibilities of expansion, and ultimately the messianic hope.

As with my other article, my favorite point is my last, as this is where I came to see how the “contradictory” descriptions actually point to Israel’s eschatological hope. The most expansive border descriptions align neatly with prophecies in Genesis 22:18, 49:10, Psalm 2:8, 72:8, Isaiah 11:6-9, Zechariah 9:10, and elsewhere to fuel an expectation that Messiah would establish his righteous reign over all of this land for the peace of all people and the worship of their faithful God.

This gives you a taste of two of the articles in the new Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Pentateuch. I would like to write some summaries of articles written by others, but I will make no promises. If you purchase either the print (hardcover; Amazon) or digital (Logos) formats, you can pick and choose from all 47 articles as well as enjoy the maps and photos.


A group of students used “computer vision, machine learning, and hard work” to translate a portion of a scroll from Herculaneum and win a $700,000 prize. “This is a complete gamechanger,” said one scholar.

A reservist hiking in Galilee discovered a scarab made of carnelian and dating to about 800 BC, possibly related to the Assyrian conquest.

“Egypt’s antiquities ministry said Saturday it was setting up a committee to review the restoration of Giza’s Menkaure Pyramid after a public outcry over the project.”

“Excavations have given proof of a flourishing wine industry in the Byzantine and early Arab period, especially at sites like Shivta, Halutza, Nitzana, and Avdat.”

The latest episode of This Week in the Ancient Near East looks at the use of artificial intelligence to translate Mesopotamian texts.

Bryan Windle joins John DeLancey to talk about the top 10 archaeological discoveries related to Jesus.

Now online: Deborah Hurn’s dissertation, “Identifying and Delineating the Geographic Regions of the Israelite Migration from Egypt to Canaan Using a Hydrological Approach”

Hybrid lecture on Feb 29: “A Queen, her Son, and her Chamberlain. Seal Imagery and Socio-Administrative Hierarchies at Persepolis,” by Mark Garrison

Walking The Text’s recommended resource of the month is The Essential Archaeological Guide to Bible Lands, by Titus Kennedy.

Appian Media has released a trailer for “Out of Egypt.”

Abigail Leavitt shares some photos from her recent explorations in Jerusalem.

HT: Agade, Gordon Dickson, Arne Halbakken, Ted Weis


I mentioned recently the newly released Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Pentateuch, edited by Barry J. Beitzel. I thought it would be useful here to provide a short summary of one of the two articles I contributed.

Chapter 8 (of 47) is entitled “The Patriarchal Travels in Canaan: A Geographic Assessment.” Two helpful features for each article is that they begin with a list of relevant biblical references and as well as an inset box with the “Key Points.” This particular article covers a bit of ground in Genesis, and the listed references are Genesis 12:6–8; 13:1–18; 14:13–24; 20:1–13; 22:1–19; 23:2–20; 26:7–33; 28:11–22; 33:18–20; 35:1–7; 46:1–5.

As with previous volumes in the Lexham Geographic Commentary, I find the “Key Points” overview to be extremely useful in getting a quick feel for the article and whether it’s one I want to read now or later. I think what might be most interesting here is if I give each of my five Key Points along with a little bit of commentary.

1. As the book of beginnings, Genesis explains the origins of significant sites and regions in the history of Israel.

I suppose that this point shouldn’t really be a surprise, but I must say for myself that it took me a long time to put two and two together. Yes, I think of Genesis as the book of origins, but I’m always thinking in terms of the origins of the earth, humanity, sin, promise, covenant, and theological categories. But Genesis also explains where Shechem “came from” (that is, before Moses sent the Israelites there to renew the covenant, it was the place where God promised Abram the land). So many sites that were later prominent in Israel’s history have their beginnings explained in Genesis.

2. The patriarchs lived in the southern hill country and Negev, avoiding the plains and valleys where major cities were located.

This point explains why the average tourist to Israel hears almost nothing about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—because the average tour doesn’t visit the southern hill country or the Negev. The patriarchs’ stomping grounds was in less traveled areas, avoiding major Bronze Age sites such as Hazor, Megiddo, Joppa, and Sodom. They generally stayed away from the coastal plain, the Shephelah, and the Jezreel Valley. This leads to the next point.

3. The places where the patriarchs lived and worshiped became significant sites for the Israelites when they returned from Egypt and settled the land.

Many of the sites most important in Israel’s history following the conquest feature prominently in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Shechem, significant to both Abraham and Jacob, was the northern kingdom’s first capital. Jacob made a vow to the Lord at Bethel, and the tribes later inquired of the Lord there before Jeroboam built his infamous high place. Hebron first was the place of the patriarchs’ burial, but it became important to Caleb, David, and Absalom.

4. The places where the patriarchs had conflicts became places where the Israelites had conflicts.

Not only do the patriarchal locations reappear in Israel’s history, but often we see that the Israelites imitated the actions of their ancestors in these places. Bethel and Beersheba were each worship sites for Jacob and for his descendants. Shechem saw the painful episode with the violation of Jacob’s daughter, and in the time of the judges Abimelech slaughtered his own people there. The Jewish commentator Ramban observed this pattern, noting that “not a single incident that befell the father didn’t befall the children.”

5. The patriarchal sites served as signposts, pointing forward to Israel’s future hope.

This is easily my favorite point, and the most delightful discovery of my studies. The lessons learned at Shechem, Bethel, Hebron, Beersheba, and Moriah all were intended to point Israel to God’s fulfillment of the covenant promise through a greater priest-king, a divinely provided substitute, resurrection from the dead, and restoration to the land.

As I mentioned before, the Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Pentateuch is available in both print (hardcover; Amazon) and in digital (Logos) formats. I plan to do a similar post in the coming weeks on my second article in the volume.


The occupants of the 4th century BC Royal Tombs at Vergina have been identified as Alexander the Great’s father Philip, his stepmother, half-siblings, and son.

An Egyptian antiquities official was criticized after he announced that Egypt was restoring the granite casing on one of the three main pyramids of Giza.

The Times of Israel: “A Tel Aviv University team is using muon detectors to track powerful particles, hoping to build a 3D map of undiscovered tunnels, chambers and fortifications under the holey city,” Jerusalem.

Kathryn Oliver describes how conservators at the British Museum restored a sarcophagus relief in conjunction with the ongoing exhibit, “Legion: Life in the Roman Army.”

In the latest video from the Institute of Biblical Culture, David Moster compares Torah scrolls from Yemen with others from around the Jewish world.

Chandler Collins looks at what we can learn about Jerusalem from a travelogue published by William Barlett in the 1840s.

John Drummond gives a preview of “The Seven World Wonders” article that is in the current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Bryan Windle’s top three reports in biblical archaeology for the month of January includes a bonus story.

The BBC gives a history of beds through the ages.

“The Bible and Its World” international academic conference will be held in Israel on July 1-3.

Now open access: Syria’s Monuments: Their Survival and Destruction, by Michael Greenhalgh (Brill, 2016, $229; open access pdf – download link temporarily not working)

Stephen Mitchell, author of many books on Asia Minor in the Roman era, died this week.

Zoom all-day seminar today: “In Search of Ancient Israel,” with Gary Rendsburg ($90)

HT: Agade, Gordon Dickson, Arne Halbakken