Paleojudaica points to a new article in Haaretz on the Pool of Siloam. It’s basically an update of things since the last big reporting in August. There are a few new things of note, which I may or may not have mentioned here before. This includes:

  • The discovery of the 1st century street near the pool. For those of you who know, they found this street in the excavations underneath the road/path that runs between the old pool and the garden which covers the new pool. The archaeologist told me that he would like to reveal the entire length of the road from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount. I told him he was crazy. Unless he is thinking of digging a tunnel underneath all of those houses. Then he’s still crazy :-).
  • The recovery of “cylinder seals.” This is clarified in a post to the ANE list that the Hebrew original has “seals and bullae.” (Bullae are seal impressions.) The archaeologist told me that these date to the 9th century and do not contain personal names (as do most of the bullae found in Area G, dating to the early 6th century B.C.). The importance of these seals, if they date to anything before the mid-8th century, is that they will give evidence of an administrative center in Jerusalem at that time. Many scholars reject the biblical evidence for that, and there’s not much else evidence for it outside the Bible. The article doesn’t say, but I can tell you that these seals were found around buildings which were constructed inside the Middle Bronze pool, which is just to the north of the Gihon Spring and protected by the Pool Tower. That’s the area shown in this photo.

Boy, here’s a line that I can’t believe. At least it wasn’t true a few weeks ago. “Garbage is being collected on a regular basis.” Or maybe they’re collecting the garbage, but they just can’t get the residents to understand that they have to put it in those large containers.

UPDATE: The Hebrew version of the article has a photo montage which shows some of the seals.


Three years ago I started a new project. One year ago I started a new website for this same project. Today it is “done.”

Entitled Life in the Holy Land . com , this website is the historic counterpart to BiblePlaces.com. Whereas BiblePlaces.com give you the here and now, LifeintheHolyLand.com gives you the there and then.

Take a look. There’s a lot there, and I hope that it will provide both for fun browsing and for help in research.

There is more to come, but we’re launching it with five major regional categories (Galilee, Jerusalem, Judah, Lebanon, Egypt) and three cultural categories (Bible Illustrated, Peoples of the Holy Land, Way of Life). Altogether there are about 100 pages and 400 illustrations. I think it is unique in the internet. There are sites with tons of thumbnail pictures and no explanations, and other sites with entire books but no pictures, but this combines the best of both.

Many thanks to Seth Rodriquez for countless hours of work in putting this together. It took the two of us all of 2005 (with breaks for work, school, and the like :-)). David Niblack created the design.

So you, the fine readers of this blog, know first. I’m thinking about a way to promote the site, by giving a way a free CD to anyone who puts a link on their website (or gets one on someone else’s site). That would include blogs. If you’re interested, send me 1) the website; 2) your CD of choice; any one you like from any of my work; if you think you already have them all, ask for something special and I’ll see what I can do; 3) your address. My email address is tbolen23 at bibleplaces.com.


The first point of this post is that this is not news. It happened about five years ago or so. But it took me a few years after it occurred before I visited the site, and then a few more years before I got the idea to put a photo comparison here.

The Shephelah is full of caves, tunnels, and tombs. One of the nicest rolling stone tombs in the country was in the area of Khirbet Midras. This is how it used to look:

Some years ago, vandals destroyed the majority of the tomb. Most suspect that the vandalism was caused by ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are against the archaeological excavation of tombs. This is how the tomb looks now:

Of course, archaeological sites are being destroyed all the time, but not usually sites that are well-known and extraordinary. Sites are destroyed by 1) building contractors who don’t want the delay that would be caused by an excavation of their property; 2) looters who are looking for artifacts to sell; and 3) vandals. My guess is that the frequency is in the order listed.


Two very early inscriptions were found in excavations in the Shephelah this summer and word leaked about them both this week, in advance of the annual SBL/ASOR meetings in Philadelphia. Since lots of news reports and bloggers have written about them, I am not motivated to say more, though both are more interesting to me than the “Megiddo church,” which was also announced this week.

An inscription found at Gath (Tell es-Safi) has a name that is similar to the foreign name Goliath, known from the Bible as the giant who was defeated by David. Higgaion has the best summary of the story with lots of links and a few photos.

South of Gath is Tell Zayit, for which a biblical identification is yet unknown. A 38-pound stone had the alphabet written on it in the 10th century B.C. (which constitutes one of my favorite words in the English language, an abecedary; see why?). The best run-down of the best and most recent articles is at the Language Log. This is not the earliest abecedary (the Izbet Saratah inscription dates to the 11th century), nor is it the only 10th century inscription from the Shephelah (the Gezer Calendar is also dated to this time, though not on the basis of stratigraphy as the mound was “excavated” by Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister). It is important because of the paucity of inscriptions from this time.


I used to think that I took good photos in Hezekiah’s Tunnel. I remember when most people’s photos didn’t come out and mine did (because of the difficulty of focusing in the dark). That was back in the days when I was mainly shooting students in the tunnel for the early IBEX website. But yesterday I had the chance to shoot some photos of the tunnel without students; ones that should have more general use.

As of a few years ago, this was my best shot (currently on the Hezekiah’s Tunnel page at BiblePlaces.com). It was used a few years ago by NationalGeographic.com when they did an article about the tunnel.

This is one of the shots I took yesterday. I think it’s better.

Curiously enough, some poster on a forum at dpreview.com asked a question a couple of days ago about how to get a good photo in Hezekiah’s Tunnel. Now that I had done some experimenting, I had an answer for him.


I’m being asked for my opinion on the latest archaeological discovery: the “earliest church” found at Megiddo (AP story, Washington Post, photos and more photos). Frankly, I’m not all that excited. 

Here’s why.

1. It seems like every few years the “earliest church” is discovered (in Jordan). Of course, they mean the earliest church building, and that means a building which is decorated with things which I do not find necessarily helpful nor biblical.

2. Israel has plenty of ancient churches, chapels, and monasteries. They are everywhere, and usually in exactly the wrong place. Many of them have beautiful mosaics, like this one. Thus the only thing that makes this “newsworthy” is the claim that the church is from the 3rd century (before 300 A.D.).

Now that would be remarkable, since Christianity was a persecuted religion until about 310. I suppose I can imagine a group of believers meeting publicly in Israel (far from the Roman center) at this time, but it is harder to imagine them building a lavish structure. Perhaps this will help to re-write history. And if so, that is fine. But I also confess that I am a bit suspicious of the claim, knowing as I do, that this would be a non-story if it were a few decades later. Knowing that the archaeologist can get a lot of attention out of this and quite likely get the site preserved on the basis that this is a unique structure. Perhaps it is, but I see too many other motivations for preferring a lower date if the evidence is ambiguous.

3. Even if it were everything claimed for it, I still wouldn’t be very excited because it’s just a church building. I don’t see how it is going to help me to better understand any of the things I care about, including the Bible and theology. That doesn’t mean it’s not important, just that it’s not important to me.

Today, however, was a good day of excavating in the City of David. There will be more news about the work there in the years to come.