The Edmond Sun has a brief article on three local college students who spent five months excavating the so-called “palace of David” in Jerusalem.  Much of the article is not new to those following the story, but some information that I haven’t seen elsewhere is the fact that phase 3 of the project will begin this summer, and only 20% of the excavation is considered complete.  Apparently the dig will continue to the west of the present area, if the comment about moving “inland” is any indication.  Mention is made again of a wall that is 7 meters thick and 20 meters long.

HT: Explorator


A museum of archaeological discoveries from the Masada excavations opened this weekend at the visitor center at the base of the mountain.  The display includes 700 artifacts, including 12 inscribed potsherds which might be related to the final casting of lots described in Josephus’ account.  The Jerusalem Post has the story.

The visitors’ museum experience begins in the lobby, where they receive audio headsets. They then pass through nine rooms, each of which features artifacts placed in three-dimensional scenes that depict facets of the Masada story.
In the Herod room, for example, visitors enter a display of black, statue-like figures at a banquet scene. Spread amongst these figures are artifacts such as a stone table, amphoras which held Herod’s provisions, and terra sigillata ware (the finest dishware of the time.) As visitors move from room to room, their headsets automatically begin the narration for the corresponding space.
The first eight rooms delve into the worlds of the Jewish rebels, the Romans, and Josephus Flavius, while the final room pays homage to Yadin’s work.

Masada from the east; the new museum is located at the bottom left-center of the photo.

My friend Tom Powers is something of an independent scholar and I was happy to note recently that he has made several of his studies available online.  His ground-breaking article on the ossuary of Simon of Cyrene (who carried Jesus’ cross) was published by the Biblical Archaeology Society, which is quite a notable feat for one not formally trained as an archaeologist.  A version of that article, and a recent follow-up, is available at Tom’s site.  Among others, Tom has posted:

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre: Some Perspectives from History, Geography, Architecture, Archaeology and the Holy Scriptures – this is an extensive article on the history of the church.  If you have only one hour and want to get the story of the church, this is highly recommended.

The Ancient Aqueduct System of Jerusalem – Tom and I spent a full day recently tracing various aqueducts south of Solomon’s Pools.  They are more fascinating (and better preserved!) than you imagine.  Tom’s study synthesizes some of the more difficult and expensive works on the subject.

Horatio & Anna Spafford and Jerusalem’s American Colony – I read this several years ago and asked Tom if I could put it online so that others could read it.  I am happy to see that it now is available for all.

I should note that Tom is a trained tour guide living in Israel, and his knowledge is voluminous.  I could relate some anecdotes to illustrate that, but I’ll suffice with saying that I’m happy to recommend both his articles and his guiding.


Interest in the “Jesus Tomb” seems to be fading, but here are a few recent stories of interest:
The Jerusalem Post headlines their story “Jesus tomb film scholars backtrack.”  I don’t think that’s entirely accurate.  In reality, there were never any scholars besides James Tabor (and possibly Shimon Gibson) supporting the claim.  The story explains how the statistician revised his claim, so perhaps that is the point of the headline.

The article is largely based on (but without a link) a recent essay by Dr. Stephen Pfann entitled, “Cracks in the Foundation.”  He summarizes the problems with the theory and cites scholars who claim to have had their remarks taken out of context.

As before, you can get the other side of the story from the blog of Dr. James Tabor.  He has just left Jerusalem and promises more information in coming days.  Ironically, he says this:

I have wanted as much as I can in my own work on the Talpiot tomb to separate the site and its evaluation from the discussion of the issues related to the film itself and its role in the ensuring heated discussion. That is of course not wholly possible and my intent is to address, as much as possible, the factual matters related to this later flash of media coverage on Talpiot. In the end I am confident that the truth will win out and that a time will come when the Talpiot tomb site, and all we can know about it, will be considered in a less biased manner and with a more professional style and approach.

This, of course, is what all the other scholars claimed was the problem from the start.  Tabor appears to be claiming that he is the victim of the media sensationalism, when it seems that he was party to creating it.  The existence of non-disclosure agreements contribute to the impression that the film and its supporters were not interested in a professional, non-biased discussion of the factual matters.

I spoke last week with an Israeli archaeologist who was present at the excavation of the “Jesus tomb.”  As far as I know, he has not been quoted in any of the discussion, but Dr. Gabriel Barkay is highly respected in the field and without any personal interest in the matter.  In his words, the tomb is “not news.”


Periodically I am asked where one can go to study biblical archaeology. The list is quite short, but just increased by one. I’m not quite sure what they mean that this is the only M.A. in archaeology and biblical studies. Wheaton has one, and there are others. I still favor studying biblical archaeology in the land of the Bible, and the best place I know of for a Master’s degree in the subject is Jerusalem University College. One significant advantage of the program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is that Professor Steven Ortiz is heading up an excavation at Gezer. Thus, you’re guaranteed to get plenty of hands-on experience, both in the field and in the lab. Here’s the press release:

Archaeology degree approved Trustees unanimously approved what is the nation’s only program currently offering a Master of Arts in archeology and biblical studies. The program will be administered through the School of Theology. This graduate-level degree offers advanced work in the classical archaeological disciplines of archaeological methods; fieldwork; archaeological, historical and biblical backgrounds; and ancient biblical and cognate languages. “It is a 98-hour, comprehensive program that will be the premier program of its kind in the United States” said David Kammler, chairman of the trustees’ Academic Administration committee and professor of mathematics at Southern Illinios University at Carbondale. “I am personally delighted that the seminary is going in this direction,” said trustee chairman McClain. “As a professor of Old Testament, I know there is a great need.” “Our new archeology program is developing and is critically important [because] archaeology programs in our seminaries have ceased to exist,” said President Paige Patterson. “Yet there is both apologetic and educational value in these studies.” Steven Ortiz, associate professor of archaeology and biblical backgrounds and director of Southwestern’s Charles C. Tandy Museum, was impressed by the trustees’ action. “I am encouraged by the boldness and visionary leadership of the trustees to support our new archaeology program,” Ortiz said afterwards. “This program will be preparing students for the field of archaeology and also bringing Southwestern back as a major contributor to current biblical archaeological research.”


I think in the year and a half that this blog has been going, I’ve only mentioned one review of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.  Today I’m linking to another.  The fact that both were posted in the span of one week may trouble those who are looking for more than self-promotional material. 

But since this blog is written by a real person who has worked very hard to make this collection of photos, I confess it’s sometimes good to hear how it benefits others.  In this case, twice in one week.

More on other matters soon.