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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What Archaeology Cannot See

In a recent roundup I criticized Haaretz for writing a dishonest headline, and I chose not to include a link to the story. The headline was “A Chance Discovery Changes Everything We Know About Biblical Israel.” Because time was short, and because Haaretz was making it difficult at the time to access the article, I did not read it.

I have read it now, and I believe that Haaretz did a grave disservice to Erez Ben-Yosef in their headline. Though my assumption was that this story was mere clickbait, what Ben-Yosef writes is quite important.

At the heart of Ben-Yosef’s argument is that archaeology is often used to answer questions that it cannot answer. The foundation of his argument comes from his work at Timna as well as analysis of the comparable mines at Faynan in Jordan. Here’s one quotation:

We know about the existence of a strong nomadic kingdom in the Arava solely because of its copper production; if the economy of the nomadic tribes of the Kingdom of Edom had been based only on commerce and agriculture, archaeologists would probably have reconstructed an “occupation gap” in the Arava region.

You have several options in what to read, should the issue of “archaeological invisibility” be of interest to you. (I’m particularly interested in it with regard to the Israelites in the time of Merneptah, but that is not addressed here.) There is the popular-level Haaretz article which Ben-Yosef wrote himself. That is based on his article in Vetus Testamentum, “The Architectural Bias in Current Biblical Archaeology,” which is available on Academia. A three-page version is published in the current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (also available on Academia).

As noted before, Israel Finkelstein wrote a response on  Facebook. And Ben-Yosef posted a response on Facebook and Academia, concluding thusly:

In other words, while assertions such as that Genesis 36 depicts a 6th century BCE reality or that David’s activities in Edom reflect an 8th century reality might be based on valid arguments, archaeology cannot be one of these arguments. It is often the case that when convenient, biblical archaeologists from the minimalist school resort to biblical criticism, and when less so, to archaeology (mostly to “absence of evidence”). However, one cannot have one’s cake and eat it too.

Those keeping score at home might be most surprised when they realize that this argument is being made by a professor at Tel Aviv University.

HT: Joseph Lauer

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Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: The Ophel

I am personally very interested in Jerusalem in the Old Testament period (aka First Temple period), so I’m going to indulge myself by writing yet again on a third article (of four total) from that era in Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: Archaeological Discoveries, 1998-2018. This article is also by Eilat Mazar, and it is entitled “The Royal Quarter Built by King Solomon in the Ophel of Jerusalem in Light of Recent Excavations (2009-2013).”

As before, I am handicapped by not being able to show you the diagrams and archaeological photos in the article. There really are some spectacular views, without overgrown weeds, faded placards, or some tourist who just won’t move out of your way! But my goal in these brief summaries is to give you a sense for what they’ve found, along with a pointer to where you can read more.

Let’s start with a definition: the Ophel, according to this article, is the area between the City of David (to the south) and the Temple Mount (to the north). I’m not so sure that this is how the Bible uses the term (cf. 2 Chr 27:3; 33:14; Neh 3:26-27; 11:21), but that’s how it is used here. If you want to see these discoveries in person, you need to go to the “Southern Temple Mount Excavations,” later renamed the “Jerusalem Archaeological Park” (as if there is only one), and marked by the Davidson Center near the entrance.

This article focuses on Mazar’s work on the southern end of the excavation area (just north of the modern road that takes buses to the Western Wall). Here she found some monumental architecture which she dates to the time of Solomon. In fact, four of the five buildings date to the time of Solomon, with the fifth from the time of David. She writes, “One gets the impression that the construction of buildings in the Ophel ended during the third quarter of the 10th century BCE.”

Building I she identifies as “the Far House,” proposing that it served King David and his allies when he fled from Absalom (2 Sam 15:17). The NASB translation reads, “The king went out and all the people with him, and they stopped at the last house.” Mazar writes, “The features of bayt ha-merhaq [the far house] as described in the Bible match in date and location those of the early structure in the Ophel and it is possible that they are the same building.” I think I would have more confidence in that conclusion if we had other buildings from this time period to compare it with (and thereby determine that this in fact was the “farthest” one), but we don’t.

Building II was a fortress-tower even further than the “far house,” but she dates it to a few decades later. She estimates its size at 50 by 40 feet, though much of the structure has not yet been uncovered.

But she thinks it fits with a description in Nehemiah 3:27 of “the great projecting tower.”

Building III is the gatehouse and casemate wall. Other archaeologists aren’t so sure that this was a gatehouse (only a portion of the structure was preserved), but if it is, this is the only known gatehouse from Jerusalem prior to the “Middle Building” mentioned in the Babylonian conquest description of Jeremiah 39.

Building IV is the “Straight Wall” and it has a length of more than 100 feet, with a width of 8 feet.

Nehemiah mentions a portion of the wall that is called “straight” (Neh 3:25), and Mazar believes that she has found it.

Building V is the casemate wall, also built during the time of Solomon, as one of the elements in “the wall of Jerusalem” (1 Kgs 3:1). So Mazar has found this as well.

This is all truly fascinating, especially given the almost complete lack of material elsewhere in Jerusalem from the time of David and Solomon. My advice, though, to someone who has identified so much is to stop digging before you run out of biblical names to associate with your discoveries.

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Weekend Roundup, Part 2

Peter Feinman summarizes some papers on the subject of the 10th century BC given at the recent ASOR conference.

Andrea Nicolotti looks for archaeological evidence for the scourging of Jesus.

“Italy’s highest court ruled that a 2000-year-old bronze statue, known as ‘Victorious Youth,’ should be returned to that country by the Getty Villa.”

A well-illustrated BBC feature explains how ISIS’s destruction of a mosque revealed an Assyrian palace.

I am very happy that Wipf and Stock has re-published David Dorsey’s The Roads and Highways of Ancient Israel. For too long, you could only find used copies of this excellent resource for $200 and up.

Lois Tverberg’s excellent Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus is on sale with bigger discounts if you order 2-4 copies.

Everything at Eisenbrauns is 30% off with coupon EEOY18.

Bible Land Passages has now released 10 episodes that connect the biblical stories to the biblical world, using historical, geographical, and archaeological data. The episodes are available for free online as well as for purchase on DVD. The latest episode is entitled “Khirbet Qeiyafa: Witness to David’s Kingdom.” Episode 11, “The Power of Jesus in Galilee,” will be released next month.

HT: Agade, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Joseph Lauer

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Weekend Roundup, Part 1

In Caesarea, a remarkable Crusader-era cache of 24 gold coins and an earring was found in a small bronze pot, hidden between two stones in the side of a well.

The NY Times has a summary of the Pilate ring discovery. Robert Cargill prefers the theory that the ring belonged to one of Pilate’s papyrus-pushing administrators. Ferrell Jenkins shares a number of related photos.

Archaeologists working at Timna Park opened their excavation to volunteers from the public for three days during Hanukkah.

The second in a series of 12 objects from the Temple Mount Sifting Project is an arrowhead from the 10th century BC.

Jim Davila tries to unravel the latest with the Qumran caves with potential Dead Sea Scroll material (with a follow-up here).

Matthew Adams gives an update on the Jezreel Valley Regional Project on The Book and the Spade.

Israel is on pace to hit a new annual record of 4 million tourists this year.

Episode 1 in Wayne Stiles’s excellent “The Promised That Changed the World” is now available. You can sign up to get free access to all three episodes.

HT: Agade, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Joseph Lauer

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Weekend Roundup, Part 2

Appian Media has released a trailer for their new series, “Searching for a King.” They have some impressive footage. They also are asking for some quick help with a survey.

“At the annual meeting this week of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Denver, Colorado, scholars will discuss whether to rechristen the 118-year-old society on the grounds that its moniker is irrelevant and racist.” There’s more here.

Mary Shepperson recounts the “turbulent life” of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq. The article includes some interesting photos.

Iraqi technicians are restoring ancient Babylon under a U.S.-funded project, with the goal of making the site worthy of UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

New book: Archaeogaming: An Introduction to Archaeology in and of Video Games, by Andrew Reinhard.

Mosaics looted from Turkey and sold to Bowling Green State University are now being returned.

Lawrence Schiffman explains how Dead Sea Scroll forgeries were exposed by high-tech tests.

Yosef Garfinkel’s recent lecture at the Lanier Theological Library is now online, and Carl Rasmussen recommends it. The library has also made available many seminar videos from 2012 to present.

Artofthe.Bible is a new catalog of 5,800 works of art from wikimedia arranged in 116 Bible stories.

“A Biblical Spice Rack” was published in Bible Review in 1997 and is now available online through Bible History Daily.

Robert Alter has completed his translation of the entire Hebrew Bible. It will be released in time for
Christmas. (An Amazon coupon code good through today will save $5 off purchase of $20 or more: NOVBOOK18.)

HT: Joseph Lauer, Agade, Ted Weis, Mark Hoffman, Charles Savelle, Chris McKinny

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Weekend Roundup

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a mass slaying carried out during the reign of Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus. The article briefly mentions other updates provided at a conference this week in Jerusalem. (The conference schedule is online here.)

Breaking Israel News has created a 3-minute video about the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology in Israel, located on the Mount of Olives.

The inauguration ceremony for Tel Hebron is scheduled for Tuesday.

“The Story of Ancient Glass in Israel” is a 12-minute video created by the Friends of the Israel
Antiquities Authority.

There is controversy over a new bill in Israel that would allow guides without licenses to serve pilgrims and some foreign groups.

Walking the Text has just announced a Turkey Study Trip for next August.

James McGrath visited the Museum of the Bible and shares a photo essay.

Timothy P. Harrison will be lecturing at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School on Monday, Oct 29 at 7 pm in Hinckson Hall. His topic is “A Kingdom of Idols: Tayinat (ancient Kunulua) and the Land of Palastin.”

Now online: Yosef Garfinkel’s recent lecture on “Searching for the Historical King David: Excavating Kh. Qeyiafa and Kh. al-Ra’i.”

HT: Joseph Lauer, A.D. Riddle, Jared Clark

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Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Archaeologists working at et-Tell (aka Bethsaida) have been uncovering an 11th-10th century BC wall with towers this season.

The excavation season has concluded at el-Araj (aka Bethsaida) and daily updates have been posted here. An excerpt from the last day: “This year we demonstrated that the settlement was widespread, and not limited to a small area. This was no mean city. What began around 30 CE as Herod Philip’s transformation of a Jewish fishing village into a polis, evolved over the centuries into a wealthy community.”

Excavations this summer at Huqoq revealed mosaics in the synagogue’s north aisle, including a scene of the Israelite spies, a youth leading an animal, and a fragmentary Hebrew inscription reading
“Amen selah.”

Archaeologists are drawing conclusions on Christian-Muslim relations in the 7th century on the basis of a brass weight discovered at Hippos (Sussita).

The work at Tel Burna is still humming along.

From Aren Maeir’s posts, the excavators at Gath keep having one great day after another.

The wheeled cart depicted at the Capernaum synagogue is not the ark of the covenant.

Sixteen images of Qumran taken by Philip R. Davies in 1970–71 are posted online.

A new exhibit focused on life in New Testament times has opened in the Terra Sancta Museum in Jerusalem.

A rare coin from the fourth year of the Jewish Revolt has been discovered in debris from the City of David.

A complex rescue operation salvaged pottery from the Second Temple period in western Galilee.
Israel’s Good Name visited the Carmel region, with stops at Ramat HaNadiv, the Carmel Caves, Dor HaBonim, Tel Dor, and more.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project is running out of funds, and they now have a quadruple match grant.

New: A Walk to Caesarea, by Joseph Patrich. (Available only in Israel, apparently.)

Ephraim Stern’s life is remembered by Hillel Geva in the current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Ada Yardeni died recently.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Agade, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Mike Harney

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Weekend Roundup

Brian Peterson reviews the events and discoveries of Week 2 of the Shiloh excavations.

Scott Stripling is interviewed about the excavations at Shiloh on The Land of Israel Network (34 min).

Ferrell Jenkins looks at the importance of Shiloh, the longtime location of the tabernacle.


The Times of Israel has a lengthy follow-up on the study that suggests that the carbon-14 calibration scale for Israel is faulty.

ASOR has posted an update on the severe damage to the site of Ebla in Syria.

Israel is opening a new national natural history museum in Tel Aviv.

Israel’s Good Name went on a tour of the Tel Aviv Zoological Research Institute, a place not normally open to the public.

Aren Maeir has posted the lecture and field trip schedule for the Gath excavations.

The American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) in Amman has posted 9,000 low- to medium- resolution watermarked images from Jordan and the surrounding region, including many taken by Jane Taylor.

Wayne Stiles writes about an important event at the Water Gate in Jerusalem.

Ron Traub writes about the Baram synagogue near the northern border of Israel.

Leon Mauldin is visiting Rome and sharing photos.

Mitchell First has written an article on “The Earliest Surviving Texts of the Torah” for Jewish Link of New Jersey.

The Vatican Library has made 15,000 manuscripts available online, with another 65,000 to come in the next couple of decades.

The ESV Archaeology Study Bible has some recent video posts of interest:

“The Biblical Archaeology Society is now accepting applications for the 2018 Joseph Aviram, Yigael Yadin, and Hershel Shanks fellowships that allow scholars to attend the annual meetings” of ASOR and SBL. (The announcement mentions that Aviram, at age 102, is still the president of IES!)

Norma Dever died on Thursday. William Dever writes an obituary that may surprise you.

HT: Charles Savelle, Agade, Joseph Lauer

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Weekend Roundup, Part 2

Appian Media has released a trailer for episodes 6–10 of Following the Messiah. You can get further updates on their Facebook page.

See the Holy Land has created a mobile app that provides a guide to 110 sites in Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. The Android-only app is available for free from seetheholyland.net or for $0.99 from Google Play.

Philippe Bohstrom considers new evidence from ancient mining operations in discussing whether David and Solomon’s kingdom ever existed.

“The British Library last week launched a new website showcasing 1,300 Hebrew manuscripts, ranging from ancient Torah scrolls and prayer books to philosophical, theological and scientific works.”

“The newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi has been accused of displaying looted antiquities.”

Egyptian authorities are working to stop the illegal exporting of antiquities.
Some interesting discoveries were made during a recent excavation season at Gird-î Qalrakh in northern Iraq.

The Times of Israel provides some of the background of the making of the “Spoils of Jerusalem” relief that is now exhibited in the Arch of Titus exhibition at the Yeshiva University Museum.

Eisenbrauns has published a festschrift in honor of Israel Finkelstein: Rethinking Israel: Studies in the History and Archaeology of Ancient Israel in Honor of Israel Finkelstein, edited by Oded
Lipschits, Yuval Gadot, and Matthew Adams.

Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport may need to add a massive tent to accommodate travelers.

Chaim (Harold R.) Cohen died recently. A list of some of his publications is posted here.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Mike Harney, Agade

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