Peter Goeman invited me to join him on The Bible Sojourner podcast to talk about how understanding geography helps us to better understand Scripture. It was a fun episode, and I was able to share some of my favorite stories along with some new ones.

Peter has a lot of interesting guests and topics related to biblical studies in general, so you may want to add this podcast to your rotation (Spotify, Apple, etc.—full list here).

If you listen on YouTube or Spotify or another channel that has video, you’ll see some photos, maps, and plans that I use to illustrate our discussion.

Here are the time stamps for the YouTube video:

00:00 Introduction

1:20 Todd Introduces Himself

3:05 Background to Bibleplaces.com

6:30 How Does Todd Motivate Students to Care about Geography?

10:30 How Does Geography Impact the Ancient Israelite?

16:17 What are some Key Geographical Locations in Israel?

19:40 Are There Key Locations that Carry Religious Significance?

23:33 How do Archaeologists Determine Where an Ancient City Was?

32:41 What are some Interesting Biblical Examples of Geography in Scripture?

35:00 The Location of Nob

38:50 Esther and the City of Susa

43:16 Acts 12 and the Death of Herod Agrippa I

46:32 The Deliverance of the Demoniac in Mark 5 (in region of Gerasenes or Gadarenes?)

53:03 The Connection between Geography and Modern Israel Life

1:00:50 How Can We Pursue a Further Study in Biblical Geography?

1:05:52 Conclusion


The most interesting story of the week is that of the “Darius ostracon,” but I need more space for that, so see below.

There are currently 80 archaeologists working on 14 active excavations in Jerusalem. This story is focused on the Pilgrimage Road excavation.

Moshe Gilad visits the Bar’am synagogue and notes that a very “complicated and significant restoration” is underway. The story is illustrated with some beautiful photos of the site.

Aren Maeir provides a translation of a public statement made by the Israel Archaeological Association about the effect of governmental changes upon archaeological sites and research.

Ilan Sharon, longtime co-director of the excavations at Tel Dor, died recently.

A trailer is out for “Quest for the Throne of God,” a movie that follows the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant, featuring Craig Evans and Scott Stripling, produced by Gesher Media.

Season 3 of “The Holy Land: Connecting the Land with Its Stories,” hosted by John Beck, has been released.

Now to the story of the week. On Wednesday, the Israel Antiquities Authority made a dramatic announcement: a visitor walking around Tel Lachish in December picked up a potsherd reading “Year 24 of Darius,” a reference to the Persian king who ruled over the land of Israel from 522 to 486 BC. It seemed incredible that an inscription would just be laying on the surface, never before noticed, so the archaeologists worked very carefully to confirm its authenticity.

After several months of investigation by the leading researchers of the IAA, press releases were crafted, a video was created, and the discovery was announced. There was no doubt, the experts concluded, that the inscription was genuine. According to The Jerusalem Post:

A few weeks later, [Eylon] Levy received a phone call from the authority’s Saar Ganor. He said he was “on his way from the Dead Sea Scrolls labs. We’ve put it through three scanners. This is authentic. No modern hand could do it, and it’s from two and a half thousand years ago, from before the story of Purim.”

Ganor analyzed Levy’s discovery with Dr. Haggai Misgav of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and they both confirmed that the artifact dated to the Persian royal administration at Lachish in the Achaemenid period, at the turn of the fifth century BCE.

Haaretz has this:

How confident are they in their interpretation? “Very,” Ganor answers, adding that the writing is so clear that Misgav could read it on the spot. Even so, the ostracon was of course handed over for restoration, during which process its authenticity was confirmed. The inscribed potsherd will be published in the Israel Antiquities Authority journal ‘Atiqot, vol. 110.

But on Friday someone reading about the discovery contacted the IAA to let them know that she had inscribed the potsherd in a demonstration to students. The piece was then tossed aside at the site, to be picked up several months later.

The IAA took full responsibility:

In terms of ethical and scientific practices, we see this as a very severe occurrence. Leaving the newly inscribed sherd on the site was careless.

Yes, indeed. And they are going to do something about it, working to “refresh proper procedures and policies with all foreign expeditions working in the country,” so that no one else dares leave a modern inscription at any archaeological site.

For my part, I will continue to put my full trust in the archaeological experts and their three scanners as long as we know the truth from other sources. As James Davila observes, “What are all those scans and laboratory tests worth if they can’t even identify a modern pedagogical showpiece that wasn’t intended to fool anyone?”

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


It’s that time of the year for the highly subjective exercise of determining the “top 10” of books, movies, news stories, and the rest. My contribution is my own subjective list of the most significant discoveries in the world of biblical archaeology in the last 12 months.

I spent this past year creating this list, first by culling through dozens of stories each week to identify the most important for the weekend roundups. This month I read through all of those roundups, with approximately 1,300 news items, to determine what is the best of the best. In all, it is clear that 2022 was a productive year in many ways.

I’ll note, as I usually do, that my own interests incline me to prioritize discoveries related to Israel and the Bible. The most important discoveries that didn’t make my top 10 are listed below as “noteworthy stories.” In addition, given my personal passion for guiding students throughout the biblical world, there are several sections for tourism stories and notable resources. As always, I am indebted to many fine journalists, especially those at The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post. I am grateful to those who pass on to me stories and links. At the end you will find links to other top 10 lists that may help you come up with your own Top 10 for 2022.

Top 10 Discoveries

1. Some 1,500 ivory fragments were discovered in the City of David, dating to the final decades of Judah’s monarchy. Only a few ivory pieces have otherwise been discovered in 150 years of excavations in Jerusalem. These beautiful ivories decorated the furniture of the wealthiest inhabitants of the capital city.

2. A seven-word inscription on an ivory comb discovered at Lachish and dated to about 1600 BC is the earliest Canaanite sentence ever found. “The inscription is a plea, a wish, or a desire that the small comb be successful in getting rid of the irritating lice.”

3. Archaeologists excavating el-Araj discovered a mosaic in the Byzantine church that mentions the “chief and commander of the heavenly apostles,” further strengthening the site’s claim to be Bethsaida, the hometown of the apostle Peter.

4. The first known depictions of Deborah and Jael were discovered in a mosaic in the Jewish synagogue of Huqoq dating to about the 5th century AD. This same synagogue has already produced mosaics depicting the tower of Babel, Noah’s Ark, the parting of the Red Sea, Samson, Daniel’s four beasts, and Alexander the Great.

5. The ancient language of Linear Elamite has been almost completely deciphered, about a century after its discovery.

6. The discovery of bullae in Jerusalem indicates that at the time of Hezekiah there were two central treasuries, one a temple treasury and the other the royal treasury of Judah located at the “Royal Building” in the Ophel excavations.

7. Imported vanilla used to flavor wine was discovered in residue on 6th-century BC jugs in Jerusalem, suggesting widespread trade connections near the end of Judah’s monarchy.

8. Archaeologists uncovered 250 colorful sarcophagi and 150 small bronze statues of gods and goddesses and other antiquities at Saqqara in Egypt.

9. A first-century villa with its own ritual bath was discovered near the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem.

10. The first Roman military amphitheater ever found in Israel was uncovered at Megiddo.

Noteworthy Stories from Jerusalem

According to a new theory, Hezekiah’s Tunnel was fitted with a sluice gate to allow water to flow into the Siloam Tunnel and Round Chamber.

An analysis of remains found under a toilet south of ancient Jerusalem reveals that the people who used it were infected with a variety of parasites.

Gershon Galil claimed he deciphered a stone tablet discovered in Jerusalem with a curse against the city’s governor. The claim has been challenged.

Gershon Galil recently posted on Facebook that he discovered and deciphered several inscriptions in or near Hezekiah’s Tunnel that identify Hezekiah as the maker of the tunnel, give the very day of its construction, and describe other accomplishments of the king that agree with the biblical account. We now await evidence to support his extraordinary claims. (This recent public statement by archaeologists was likely motivated in part by Galil’s Facebook scholarship. See also this follow-up story by The Times of Israel.)

Excavations at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher have uncovered rock layers of a stone quarry used for the construction of Constantine’s 4th-century church.

Excavations revealed that part of Jerusalem’s Old City wall was built without a foundation.

Rocco Buttliere built a model of Jerusalem in the 1st century using 114,000 Legos.

Noteworthy Stories from Israel

A massive Roman column base was discovered near the foot of Mount Hermon.

Archaeologists found 44 pure gold coins hidden in a wall at Banias. They date to the last two Byzantine emperors before the Muslim conquest in AD 635.

Byzantine-era mosaics with four inscriptions were discovered at Hippos.

Archaeologists have uncovered a Hellenistic farmstead in eastern Galilee that was abandoned in haste. They also found a significant agricultural settlement dating to the time of David and Solomon.

Some evidence has emerged for a first-century synagogue at Chorazin.

A tomb marker for “Jacob the proselyte” was discovered in the Jewish necropolis at Beit Shearim. This inscription from the 4th century AD is rare evidence for a convert to Judaism at this popular ancient cemetery.

Archaeologists claim they have discovered a tiny Hebrew curse inscription on a folded lead tablet discarded on Mount Gerizim. This artifact has not been published, and so I can’t tell if it qualifies as a “top 10” discovery yet. For more, see the original press conference, an overview by Nir Hasson, comments by Christopher Rollston, Aren Maeir, Shawn Zelig Aster, James Davila, and Bryan Windle. (See, again, the recent public statement by archaeologists against sensational claims made absent peer review.)

Archaeologists found what they believe to be the door of a gate complex at Shiloh.

Excavations began at Kh. Tibnah, possibly Joshua’s city of Timnath-heres.

Archaeologists discovered an intact burial cave from the 13th century BC on the Palmachim Beach south of Tel Aviv. Unfortunately, the cave was plundered while it was being excavated.

Scientists have identified the earliest use of opium in a 14th century BC burial pit at Tel Yehud.

A beautiful Byzantine mosaic floor was discovered in the Gaza Strip.

A new study suggests that the mining operations in the Timna Valley and Faynan thrived in the 10th century because of good management.

A very rare papyrus fragment with paleo-Hebrew writing from the time of King Josiah and his sons was returned to Israel several decades after it was sold to an American tourist. There are questions about its authenticity.

A new study by Israeli scientists and archaeologists argues that archaeomagnetic dating will provide secure dating for archaeological material previously difficult to date. This may be especially useful for the Hallstat Plateau (800-400 BC) when radiocarbon techniques are less helpful.

Other Noteworthy Stories

Egyptian archaeologists working in Saqqara made the unusual discovery of a complete sarcophagus in its original tomb, one that belonged to the treasurer of Ramses II.

One of the iron daggers in King Tut’s tomb apparently came from a meteor that landed in Syria.

Syria announced the uncovering of a large, remarkable 1,600-year-old mosaic depicting scenes of the Trojan War.

Extraordinary 2,700-year-old rock carvings were discovered in Mosul.

Seven very fine wall reliefs from the time of King Sennacherib were discovered in Nineveh.

Archaeologists found the VIP seats of the ancient amphitheater of Pergamum.

In recent years, work has been carried out in about 40 theaters in Greece.

Remains of a bridge over the Tiber built by Emperor Nero have been exposed by historically low levels of the river.

Top Stories Related to Tourism in Israel

After 10 years of work, the alleyways in Jerusalem’s Old City are now accessible to wheelchairs and another system for the visually impaired has been installed.

A $40 million renovation project was completed this year at Jerusalem’s Tower of David Museum.

The plan to build a cable car to Jerusalem’s Old City is moving forward after numerous petitions against it were rebuffed by Israel’s supreme court.

The first bicycle tunnel in Israel was built as part of the Jerusalem Ring Path encircling the capital city.

A new visitors center being built at the Armon Hanatziv Promenade south of Jerusalem’s Old City will incorporate some impressive technology.

A Byzantine-era mosaic floor from a Christian basilica in Nahariya has been restored and will be opened to the public.

A renovation project on an ancient Samaritan priestly residential compound is the first step in making the Mount Gerizim archaeological park more welcoming to tourists.

A brush fire cleared the overgrowth at Tel Gezer but did not cause damage to the archaeological ruins.

With the return of its featured mosaic, the Shelby White & Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Archaeological Center was dedicated.

A facelift to the Ashkelon National Park included reconstruction of fifty massive marble columns, the return of five marble statues, and the display of several magnificent 4th-century AD Roman sarcophagi.

Israel plans to build hotels, guest villas, and a conference center on manmade islands in the Dead Sea.

Plans to build a red heifer farm for Christian tourists were furthered with the arrival in Israel of five perfectly red heifers.

Top Stories Related to Tourism Outside Israel

Jordan is planning to spend $100 million to develop the baptismal site at the Jordan River, including construction of a biblical village, restaurants, and a museum.

Cyprus opened its first underwater archaeological park, giving scuba divers a look at one of the best-preserved harbors from the ancient world.

The world’s largest mosaic is now open to the public underneath the newly built Antakya Museum Hotel (in biblical Antioch on the Orontes).

Restoration work on the ancient Greek theater at Laodicea was completed.

Hierapolis’s Plutonium (aka “gate to hell”) opened to tourists for the first time. The vapors are still deadly, but visitors can approach the gate “from a safe distance” to peek into the portal to the underworld.

Major progress has been made in the project to recreate a harbor for ancient Ephesus.

Notable Resources of 2022: Books

Women and the Religion of Ancient Israel, by Susan Ackerman (Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library)

Encyclopedia of Material Culture in the Biblical World: A New Biblisches Reallexikon, edited by Angelika Berlejung (Mohr Siebeck)

Under the Yoke of Ashur: The Assyrian Century in the Land of Israel, by Mordechai Cogan (Carta)

Connecting the Dots: Between the Bible and the Land of Israel, by John DeLancey (Stone Tower)

Tiglath-Pileser III, Founder of the Assyrian Empire, by Josette Elayi (SBL Press)

The Ishtar Gate of Babylon: From Fragment to Monument, by Helen Gries (Schnell & Steiner)

Excavating the Evidence for Jesus: The Archaeology of Christ and the Gospels, by Titus Kennedy (Harvest House)

Paul and Asklepios: The Greco-Roman Quest for Healing and the Apostolic Mission, Christopher D. Stanley (The Library of New Testament Studies)

King of the World: The Life of Cyrus the Great, by Matt Waters (Oxford University Press)

Rose Guide to the Feasts, Festivals, & Fasts of the Bible, edited by Paul H. Wright (Rose)

Notable Resources of 2022: Digital Resources

The Sacred Thread released an initial episode of a forthcoming series, created by Walking The Text and EvolveStudios, that “explores the original context and culture of the Bible.”

Gesher Media released the first episode from its new documentary series, “In Those Days: The Ark Chronicles.”

This was a productive year for my team at BiblePlaces.com as we released seven new volumes in the Photo Companion to the Bible series: 1 Kings, 2 Kings, Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, Jude, 1, 2, & 3 John, and Revelation (finishing the New Testament!). We also released a music video for Psalm 23.

Losses This Year

Joseph Aviram, long-time director of the Israel Exploration Society

Ghazi Bisheh, excavator of many sites in Jordan

Joseph Blenkinsopp, prolific biblical scholar

Amanda Claridge, archaeologist and author of Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide

Bruce Cresson, director or co-director of excavations at Aphek-Antipatris, Dalit, Ira, Uza, Radum, and Malhata.

Richard Freund, excavator of et-Tell (“Bethsaida”)

Norman Gottwald, Old Testament scholar

Emanuel Hausman, founder of Carta Jerusalem Publishing House

Michael Homan, theologian, archaeologist, and author

Martha Sharp Joukowsky, excavator of the Great Temple in Petra

Burton MacDonald, surveyor of Jordan

John P. Meier, author of the multi-volume A Marginal Jew

Rivka Merhav, pioneer curator of Neighboring Cultures at the Archaeology Wing of The Israel Museum

Robert Miller, archaeologist working throughout the Middle East

Other Top 10 Lists

Gordon Govier counts down his top 10 discoveries in an article for Christianity Today.

Bryan Windle’s top discoveries list at Bible Archaeology Report provides a detailed list of his criteria and explanation for each selection.

Writing for Haaretz, Ruth Schuster identifies some major “Biblical Jewish archaeology” stories of the year, as well as a separate list of “Christian archaeology” stories.

Nathan Steinmeyer lists the top ten biblical archaeology stories of 2022, in no particular order.

Greek City Times lists some significant Greek archaeological discoveries of the year.

Greek Reporter proposes the top 10 discoveries in Greece in 2022.

Art News has selected their top 12 discoveries from all over the world.

CNN lists 15 of the most exciting art and archaeology discoveries of the year.

Gizmodo rounds up the archaeological discoveries from around the world that were the “most significant, bizarre, or just plain fun in 2022.”

Business Insider identifies 12 fascinating discoveries from the ancient world.

The Archaeologist presents their top 10 most fascinating archaeological discoveries in the world in 2022 in video format.

I will add other lists here as I become aware of them.

Previous Years

You can revisit the top stories of previous years with these links:


The second of my three articles published recently belongs to an issue (pdf) in The Master’s Seminary Journal devoted to the Messiah in the Old Testament. My article is entitled “The Messiah in Isaiah 7:14: The Virgin Birth” (on Academia, or direct link here).

Some may roll their eyes at the idea that there is anything left to be said on a subject debated for a couple of thousand years now. I have, however, endeavored to break new ground, particularly in my first section. There I argue that the greater context (Isaiah 1-12) is all about the coming of God to be with his people after judgment. I don’t recall this argument being clearly articulated before with respect to the interpretation of Isaiah 7:14. My logic is that if Isaiah consistently presents Israel’s hope as lying beyond the exile, then it is most natural to expect that a “God-with-us” child was never intended to give hope to a wicked Ahaz but was for a future generation. If a woman gave birth in a dramatic sign in Isaiah’s own day, it would contradict Isaiah’s message in chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 11.

In the second section, I try to show why hermeneutical efforts to see two fulfillments are textually illegitimate. Here I cite a number of conservative Christian writers who believe the text demands an 8th-century fulfillment, but who are compelled by Christian confession to affirm that Jesus was somehow also related to the passage. In my opinion, the only valid hermeneutical options are (1) the Jewish view, in which the prophecy was fulfilled in Ahaz’s day, or (2) the traditional Christian view, in which the prophecy was fulfilled only in the birth of Jesus.

In the third section, I make the case that the details of Isaiah 7 decisively preclude the birth of the child in the 8th century. If one accepts that almah means virgin, then the case is closed. (This, of course, is why some conservatives have labored so strenuously to insist that almah can signify a non-virgin.) But even were I to be wrong on that matter, an 8th-century fulfillment is impossible. Here’s how I summarized this argument in the article’s abstract.

Analysis of Isaiah 7:14–17 reveals that an 8th-century fulfillment is impossible given the nature of the sign, the meaning of almah, the syntax of the announcement, as well as the child’s name, role, diet, and character. A closer look at the timeline in Isaiah 7:16–17 shows that Immanuel could only be born after the land of Judah was laid waste, a reality that did not occur in the 8th century.

In other words, the greater context of Isaiah aligns with the particular details of the Immanuel prophecy. Those who wish to identify the Immanuel child with Maher-shalal-hash-baz necessarily ignore many details in the text, including the child eating curds and honey in a time of exile.

Here is the concluding paragraph of the article:

The best understanding of Isaiah 7:14 agrees with the interpretation of Matthew and the view of the church for most of its history. Because of Ahaz’s refusal to trust the Lord, Isaiah prophesied judgment against him and his kingdom. Like most other prophecies against Israel, this one had a silver lining. A special child would be born during the time of exile and would be called “Immanuel.” This prophecy could not have been fulfilled in the time of Isaiah because the conditions did not match the prophecy, and it was fulfilled once and only once in the person of Jesus the Messiah. The historical-grammatical interpretation of Isaiah 7 eliminates the need for hermeneutical liberties, fits the greater context of Isaiah, and corresponds with the fulfillment recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. The prophecy of the virgin birth heralded the earth-shaking tidings of the coming of God to live with his people as a man, making him qualified to atone for their sins and rule over God’s kingdom in righteousness.

My desire is that this article will help students of the Word to think more clearly about this most debated passage. If you know someone interested in the subject, please pass the article on them.

In fact, I recommend the entire issue and believe it will be quite valuable in strengthening the church’s understanding and appreciation of the unity of God’s Word, the divine origin of Scripture, and the need for hermeneutical integrity.


I mentioned in a recent roundup the strange quirk of publication timing that saw three of my articles published in one week. None of the three are about biblical archaeology or geography, but all are subjects I’ve been studying for some years, and all are very important to me. (Might that go without saying?) I’ll introduce the first one today, and save the second and third for the coming weeks.

My article on “The Date of the Davidic Covenant” was published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (65.1). In this article, I argue that the Davidic Covenant was made with David early in his reign. This may sound obvious to one reading the narratives of 2 Samuel (where it occurs two chapters after his coronation in Jerusalem) or 1 Chronicles (also early in the narrative), but I haven’t been able to find one scholar in the last thirty years who has defended that view.

The chronology of David’s life was flipped in a proposal made by Eugene Merrill in the 1980s. He argued that since the rule of Hiram king of Tyre only overlapped with the final years of David’s life, he must have built David’s palace in those final years (2 Sam 5). Since the palace was built before the ark was transferred to Jerusalem (2 Sam 6), and the ark was transferred before the eternal covenant was made with David (2 Sam 7), all of these events occurred within a few years prior to David’s death. This quickly became the consensus view among conservative historians and commentators.

My article challenges this view by showing two things. First, the biblical text demands that the palace-ark-covenant events occurred early in David’s reign. It is not just one or two indicators, but multiple indicators that all consistently place these events soon after David conquered Jerusalem.

Second, I explain that the only evidence that provides the dates for Hiram’s reign is found in Josephus, a historian who lived 1,000 years later. I try to show why this data is insufficient to overturn the testimony of the biblical text.

I will be interested to see if my argument is deemed persuasive by the experts in the field. In circulating an earlier draft, I received positive feedback from Eugene Merrill and several other scholars.

Why does this matter? And why am I so passionate about it, particularly when teaching a course on the Psalms? The first thing is that I want to interpret the biblical text accurately. Second, I believe that it affects how you read David’s writings. If David received God’s promise to raise up a son to reign on his throne near the end of his days, he had relatively little time to reflect on that covenant. But if he was promised an eternal dynasty early on, it is most reasonable to expect that he wrote songs about his coming son and for his coming son. This chronology is an important basis for seeing a significant messianic component in many Davidic psalms, including Psalms 2, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 24, 26, 69, 101, 109, 110, 144, and others.

Members of ETS can view the entire issue online here, and others can view my article via my Academia page (or with this direct link).

Comments are appreciated, either here or by direct correspondence.


When I was first studying biblical archaeology and history, we would learn about the latest discoveries every few months from the newest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review or from The Jerusalem Post, if we scanned its printed pages carefully, or from reports from our professors. Journal articles were also helpful, when we had some extra time in the library.

Today we hardly need to go looking and we are overwhelmed with updates from every part of the biblical world. This year alone I wrote about 100 weekend roundups, covering more than 1,000 stories or events, including discoveries, resources, and online lectures. The sheer mass of information makes a year-end review valuable, as we can look back over the last twelve months and enjoy a better perspective on what was most important.

This top 10 list is my own, reflecting what I judge to be of greatest interest for biblical archaeology and history. I tend to attach greater significance to stories more closely related to the biblical lands and biblical time periods. Following the top 10, I have included several lists of noteworthy stories from Jerusalem, Israel, and elsewhere.

In addition, I’ve compiled lists of the top stories related to tourism, notable resources of 2021, and a review of some we lost this year. A final section provides links to other top 10 lists of 2021. I am of course greatly indebted to many, including the archaeologists who made the discoveries, the journalists who reported them, and many friends who sent links. In terms of archaeological discoveries, 2021 was a very good year.

Top 10

1. Archaeologists discovered two dozen scroll fragments in a cave near the Dead Sea. Most are Greek translations of portions of Zechariah and Nahum.

2. A team working at Khirbet al-Ra‘i near Lachish found an inscription with the name “Jerubbaal.” Jerubbaal was another name for Gideon (Judg 6:32). If the inscription can be identified with Gideon, this would be the first ancient inscription with the name of a biblical judge. Even though I doubt this association, it’s still a significant find.

3. A Late Bronze Age potsherd found at Lachish has an inscription that may make it the oldest text written in an alphabetic script ever found in Israel.

4. Archaeologists discovered a portion of Jerusalem’s city wall from the time of Hezekiah and Josiah.

5. A second synagogue was discovered at Magdala, making the site the first to have two known synagogues in the first century AD.

6. Archaeological evidence of Roman crucifixion is so rare that the discovery of a nail through a man’s heel, though far distant in England, makes this list.

7. Archaeologists believe they have discovered the place where the Aramean king Hazael breached the walls of the Philistine city of Gath. Hazael’s conquest of Gath is mentioned in 2 Kings 12:17.

8. An Egyptian farmer discovered a well-preserved stele dating to the reign of Pharaoh Hophra (Apries), ruler of Egypt at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction in 586 BC (Jer 44:30). There is a nice photo here.

9. Archaeologists working in the City of David believe that they have found evidence of the 8th-century BC earthquake that occurred in the reign of Uzziah (Amos 1:1; Zech 14:5). Other archaeologists found evidence from the same earthquake at a site in the Jezreel Valley.

10. The first-ever ancient depiction of the balm of Gilead was discovered on an amethyst seal in soil from the Temple Mount area.

Noteworthy Stories from Jerusalem

Archaeologists working near the Western Wall of the Temple Mount have discovered the largest collection of ancient dice ever found.

A rare 1st century AD oil lamp, shaped like a grotesque face cut in half, was discovered in the City of David. Its apparently matching partner was found nine years ago in Budapest.

Several dozen fossilized shark teeth were discovered in the City of David.

Archaeologists uncovered a Second Temple period quarry in northwest Jerusalem.

A private toilet in Jerusalem that dates approximately to the time of Manasseh or Josiah was unearthed in Jerusalem.

Sifting of debris from the Temple Mount revealed a rare 2,000-year-old silver shekel coin that may have been minted on the Temple Mount itself.

Noteworthy Stories from Israel

The first-known Crusader army camp in Israel was located near ancient Sepphoris.

Archaeologists working at el-Araj (Bethsaida?) discovered a large apse and two partial inscriptions in the mosaic floor of what they believe is the Church of the Apostles.

A diver found a Crusader-era sword in perfect condition off the coast of northern Israel. There is a short video here.

Marine archaeologists working near Caesarea have discovered a gold ring with a green gemstone depicting the “Good Shepherd,” a red gemstone depicting a lyre, and a hoard of Roman coins.

A portion of the “altar site” on Mount Ebal was destroyed by road construction work. A firestorm erupted, and repairs were made.

Analysis of soil from Herod’s palace garden in Jericho reveals that the king raised “lush bonsai versions of pines, cypresses, cedars, olives and other trees.”

Archaeologists have discovered dramatic evidence of the conflagration that destroyed Azekah circa 1130 BC, leading them to dub the site as a “small Pompeii.”

The 25th and final summer season of excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath concluded.

Archaeologists working in Yavne on Israel’s southern coast discovered a colorful mosaic from a Byzantine mansion.

Also at Yavne, a complex of Byzantine-era winepresses was discovered.

A study of fish remains at sites through Judah concludes that ancient Israelites/Jews broke the dietary laws by eating scaleless fish. Other scholars reject this conclusion.

The Israel Antiquities Authority has identified 20 caves in the Judean desert “with the potential for good artifacts” that will be excavated in the future.

Researchers sequenced the genome of date palm trees living 2,000 years ago.

Other Noteworthy Stories

A new study claims that Tall el-Hammam was destroyed by a cosmic airburst circa 1650 BC. Not all are convinced that this proves the site is Sodom.

Egyptian archaeologists discovered a new group of 50 wooden sarcophagi at Saqqara, dating to the New Kingdom period.

A “lost city” from the time of Amenhotep III was discovered near Luxor.

The first known example of an embalmed pregnant Egypt mummy was discovered.

Large inscriptions depicting the Babylonian king Nabonidus were found in Saudi Arabia.

Archaeologists in western Turkey have found a hoard of 651 silver coins dating to the 1st century BC.

A nearly intact 4-wheel ceremonial carriage has been found near Pompeii.

A perfectly preserved room inhabited by slaves was discovered near Pompeii.

A new book by Idan Dershowitz argues that the scrolls of Moses Shapira, long believed to be forgeries, are actually the earliest Dead Sea Scrolls and were a “pre-canonical antecedent” of Deuteronomy. Christopher Rollston and Drew Longacre disagree.

Top Stories Related to Tourism in Israel

A permanent exhibit for the Omrit temple, including a large column, is now on display at Tel Hai College.

The Iron Age gate at Megiddo often associated with Solomon has been reconstructed.

Israel opened its first underwater national park at Caesarea.

A new “Emmaus Trail” allows walkers to travel the 11 miles (18 km) from Abu Ghosh to Nicopolis/Latrun. The trail begins near a new visitor center that includes a museum dedicated to the life of Jesus.

A $12 million renovation project was completed at Hisham’s palace in Jericho.

With the mines removed, worshipers were able to celebrate Epiphany near the Jordan River for the first time in more than 50 years.

A major renovation project at Ashkelon will open up new areas of the site to visitors along with more than a mile of new pathways.

Construction has begun on a new reception center at the traditional Shepherds’ Field site near Bethlehem.

Top Stories Related to Tourism Outside Israel

The ancient Diolkos of Corinth is being restored.

A new project aims to restore five ancient theaters in central Greece, including Nicopolis and Dodona, in order to increase tourism to the sites.

Greece has announced plans for five new or upgraded museums in Chios, Trikala, Sparta, Thyrreio and Ermioni.

Cyprus is planning to build a marine archaeological park at the ancient port of Amathus.

The renovated mausoleum of Emperor Augustus in Rome has reopened after being closed for many years.

A new, retractable floor will be installed in the Colosseum of Rome, along with trapdoors, lifts, and other mechanical elements, in a $18 million remodeling project.

Saudi Arabia has opened the Nabatean site of Hegra to foreign tourists for the first time ever.

The indoor model of 1st-century Jerusalem that was located at the Holy Land Experience in Orlando will be part of a new exhibit at the Ark Encounter.

Notable Resources of 2021: Books

Ancient Israel: From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple, 4th edition, edited by John Merrill and Hershel Shanks.

Camels in the Biblical World, by Martin Heide and Joris Peters.

Encountering Jesus in the Real World of the Gospels, by Cyndi Parker

Excavations in the City of David, Jerusalem (1995-2010), by Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron

Guide to Biblical Coins, 6th edition, by David Hendin. The author talks about his life in numismatics and why he has written six editions.

The Koren Tanakh of the Land of Israel – Samuel, edited by David Arnovitz. Contributors include Aren Maier, Yosef Garfinkel, Erez Ben-Yosef, and Chris McKinny (Amazon).

Messiah’s Ministry: Crises of the Christ, by William Varner. See my introduction here.

Olga Tufnell’s ‘Perfect Journey,’ by John D. M. Green. A free pdf download is available. Also on Kindle.

The Road Taken: An Archaeologist’s Journey to the Land of the Bible, by Seymour (Sy) Gitin.

The Story of the Apostle Paul, by J. Carl Laney

Under Jerusalem: The Buried History of the World’s Most Contested City, by Andrew Lawler

Where Was the Biblical Red Sea? Examining the Ancient Evidence, by Barry Beitzel

Notable Resources of 2021: Digital Resources

A new app created by an Episcopal church in South Carolina allows users to traverse a 98-mile path that follows the Gospel of Luke.

Biblical Israel Ministries & Tours has released a new collection of 385 enhanced aerial photos of Israel (and a few sites in Jordan).

“The 7 Churches of Revelation: Times of Fire,” available on DVD and streaming.

Trial & Triumph: Revelation’s Churches,” produced by Appian Media, is a two-hour movie featuring interviews with leading archaeologists. Available to watch online for free.

Several new volumes in the Photo Companion to the Bible, created by us here at BiblePlaces.com:

Losses This Year

Norman Golb, the unorthodox Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, died at the age of 92 in the last days of 2020.

Claus-Hunno Hunzinger died in January. He was the last living member of the original Dead Sea Scrolls team.

Hershel Shanks, founder of Biblical Archaeology Review, died in February at the age of 90. An entire issue of BAR celebrates his life.

George Bass, often called the father of underwater archaeology, died in March.

Robert E. Cooley died in April at the age of 91. During his career, he excavated Tel Dothan and helped to found the Near East Archaeological Society.

Eilat Mazar died in May at the age of 64. Following in the footsteps of her grandfather, Benjamin Mazar, her work focused especially on the City of David and southern Temple Mount excavations.

Ram Gophna, Professor Emeritus at Tel Aviv University, died in July.

Thomas Parker, director of several archaeological projects in Jordan, died in September.

William J. Fulco died in November. He worked extensively with the Pontifical Biblical Institute Museum in Jerusalem and advised on a number of films related to the Bible.

Baruch Levine died in December. He wrote dozens of articles along with commentaries on Leviticus and Numbers.

Other Top 10 Lists

Gordon Govier identifies biblical archaeology’s top 10 discoveries of 2021 in a report for Christianity Today.

Bryan Windle has created a well-illustrated list of the top 10 discoveries in biblical archaeology in 2021.

Ruth Schuster lists her top archaeology stories of 2021 as well as her top Christian archaeology stories of 2021 for Haaretz.

Emily Master posts the top discoveries of the Israel Antiquities Authority in 2021.

The Greek Reporter gives the 10 best ancient Greek archaeological discoveries of 2021.

Archaeology Magazine lists its top 10 discoveries of 2021 from around the world. (Daily Mail’s report is based on this list.)

Smithsonian Magazine describes ninety-nine fascinating finds revealed in 2021.

Previous Years

You can revisit the top stories of previous years with these links: