Canaanite Temple Discovered at Lachish

Archaeologists from Hebrew University excavating at Lachish have uncovered a temple from the Canaanite period. The full study is published in Levant, and the university has issued a press release, portions of which are excerpted here.

In a study published last month in Levant, [Yosef] Garfinkel and his co-authors revealed, for the first time ever, extensive ruins of a Canaanite temple dating to the 12th century BCE that they uncovered in National Park Tel Lachish, a large Bronze Age-era settlement near the present-day Israeli city of Kiryat Gat…

The layout of the temple is similar to other Canaanite temples in northern Israel, among them Nablus, Megiddo and Hazor.  The front of the compound is marked by two columns and two towers leading to a large hall.  The inner sanctum has four supporting columns and several unhewn “standing stones” that may have served as representations of temple gods.  The Lachish temple is more square in shape and has several side rooms, typical of later temples including Solomon’s Temple.

In addition to these archaeological ruins, the team unearthed a trove of artifacts including, bronze cauldrons, Hathor-inspired jewellery, daggers and axe-heads adorned with bird images, scarabs, and a gold-plated bottle inscribed with the name Ramses II, one of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs.  Near the temple’s holy of holies, the team found two bronze figurines.  Unlike the winged cherubs in Solomon’s Temple, the Lachish figurines were armed “smiting gods”.

Of particular interest was a pottery sherd engraved with ancient Canaanite script.  There, the letter “samek” appears, marked by an elongated vertical line crossed by three perpendicular shorter lines.  This makes it the oldest known example of the letter and a unique specimen for the study of ancient alphabets.

The story is currently being reported by Jewish Press and Arutz-7, with more surely to follow.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Temple at Tel Lachish_Courtesy of the Fourth Expedition to LachishJPG

Temple at Tel Lachish, courtesy of the Fourth Expedition to Lachish

Plan of the North-East Temple_Credit J. Rosenberg.

Plan of the North-East Temple, by J. Rosenberg

Letter samek, 2nd row on right, inscribed on storage jar_Credit T. Rogovski

Letter samek, 2nd row on right, inscribed on storage jar; photo by T. Rogovski

Pottery uncovered in Temple_Credit C. Amit_IAA

Pottery uncovered in temple, photo by C. Amit, IAA

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Weekend Roundup

Archaeologists believe that a well-preserved complex at Horvat Tevet, near Afula in the Jezreel Valley, served as a royal estate for Israel’s kings.

Archaeologists working at Tell Damiyah (biblical Adam) are uncovering a religious complex that dates to 700 BC.

Ann Killebrew shares about her experience and discoveries made in the last decade of excavating Tel Akko.

16 tombs from the 26th dynasty have been found at Al-Ghoreifa in Egypt.

New research of the mummified remains of Takabuti, held at the Ulster Museum, reveals the Egyptian had genetic roots to Europe and was likely stabbed to death.

Ueli Bellward explains the complex water collection system of Petra, including how its flash flood system enabled the city to survive.

Archaeologists are concerned about the increasing popularity of Gobekli Tepe.

A story in Discover magazine explains how archaeologists know where to dig.

Archaeologists believe that they have found a second example of crucifixion, discovered near Venice.

The AP has a number of photos of a massive locust invasion in eastern Africa.

Caesarea’s ancient theater stage is undergoing a major renovation.

John DeLancey has just wrapped up another tour of Israel, blogging about each day.

Holly Beers is on The Book and the Spade discussing her new book, A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman.

Bryan Windle identifies the top three reports in biblical archaeology in the month of January.

BiblePlaces.com celebrated its 20th anniversary this week, and we are thankful for many encouraging words, including reflections from Mark Hoffman, Ferrell Jenkins, Leon Mauldin, and Charles Savelle.

HT: Agade, Ted Weis, Cam von Wahlde, Joseph Lauer

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Weekend Roundup

A stone measuring table and several dozen stone weights were discovered in a plaza along the first-century AD street from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount. Archaeologists believe that the area it was found served as the Jerusalem’s central market. The Times of Israel article includes a video and many photos.

It’s not quite a copy of the Tel Dan Inscription, but a pottery restorer discovered a faint ink inscription of a single Hebrew word on a storejar excavated at Abel Beth Maacah (Haaretz premium).

“Egypt’s recent decision to transport ancient Pharaonic artifacts to a traffic circle in the congested heart of Cairo has fueled fresh controversy over the government’s handling of its archaeological heritage.”

Rainfall this week led to flooding in the Judean wilderness. The video at the bottom of this page shows waterfalls in Nahal Qumran. Aren Maeir shares videos and photos of a river running through the Elah Valley.

The Biblical Archaeology Society is offering dig scholarships for excavations this coming year.

The most recent maps posted on the Bible Mapper Blog are of Southern Greece, the Judean Wilderness, and Philistia.

The photographs of Nancy Lapp, taken during excavations around the Middle East from the 1950s to the 1990s are the subject of an interesting photo essay by Rachael McGlensey. More than 2,000 images from Jordan have been digitized in the Paul and Nancy Lapp Collection at ACOR.

Bob Rognlien’s new book is out: Recovering the Way. The book trailer will introduce you to it. Here’s my endorsement:

Recovering the Way is an enjoyable and fascinating read, combining historical insights from the time of Jesus with practical encouragement for our lives today. All that Bob has learned and experienced in three decades of leading pilgrims through the land of Israel provide the reader with a rich treasure of biblical instruction, wise application, and captivating stories. All of this benefits from dozens of beautiful illustrations which help the reader to see the world where Jesus ministered.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis

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Top 10 Discoveries in Biblical Archaeology in 2019

We live in remarkable days, archaeologically speaking. More excavations at more sites are uncovering a tremendous amount of all kinds of information about ancient civilizations. Much of what is learned doesn’t make for a sensational news story, but is perhaps more important than the headline discovery.

The end of the year is a good time to look back over the stories, and attempting to identify highlights, and even to rank them, provides a good opportunity to determine what we consider important and why. My list here is decidedly subjective, and with my own undeniable biases towards discoveries from the biblical periods made in the land of Israel. The value isn’t in the accuracy of the list but in the opportunity to reflect on what we’ve gained and what may lie ahead. Here, then, is my list of the top 10 discoveries in biblical archaeology in 2019:

1. A seal impression belonging to “Nathan-Melech, servant of the king” discovered in Jerusalem’s City of David. Why is this in my top 10? Scholars believe this is likely the same individual who served Josiah, king of Judah (2 Kgs 23:11). If so, this is an archaeological artifact created by someone named in the Bible.

2. A statue likely depicting an Ammonite king in the 9th or 8th centuries BC discovered in Amman. Why is this in my top 10? Depictions of ancient kings are quite rare from Israel or their neighbors in Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Phoenicia, or Aram.

3. A destruction layer from the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BC discovered on the Western Hill of Jerusalem. Why is this in my top 10? The Babylonian conquest is well-documented in the Bible, but archaeologists have found less trace of it in excavations than you might expect.

4. Massive fortifications exposed at Gath. Why is this in my top 10? This provides further insight into the nature of this Philistine city at the time when Goliath went out to battle and never came home.

5. A 7th-century BC seal impression “belonging to Adonijah, the royal steward” discovered in the City of David. Why is this in my top 10? Though this is not the famous Adonijah, son of David, it gives us an ancient example of the same name, in the city where he lived. In addition, this Adonijah was “chief of staff” to one of the kings of Judah, possibly Manasseh and Josiah.

6. The possible discovery of the “Church of the Apostles” at el-Araj (Bethsaida?). Why is this in my top 10? Anything that furthers the discussion about the correct identification of Bethsaida is valuable.

7. A mosaic depicting the Israelites’ encampment at Elim as well as two of the four beasts of Daniel 7 discovered in the ancient synagogue of Huqoq. Why is this in my top 10? Before there were photographs illustrating the biblical record, there were mosaics. But most synagogue mosaics depict Zodiacs and other non-biblical subjects.

8. A mosaic floor in a church at Hippos apparently depicts Jesus’s multiplication of the fish and loaves (Haaretz premium). Why is this in my top 10? This may well be an ancient depiction of a miracle near the place where it happened.

9. An Byzantine Church near Beth Shemesh with an inscription mentioning a “glorious martyr.” Why is this in my top 10? This church is well-preserved, and its mosaics are beautiful.

10. A new DNA study indicating that Philistines living in Ashkelon in the late 12th century BC originated from Greece, Crete, or Sardinia. Why is this in my top 10? The origins of the Philistines has long been debated, and this provides some definitive scientific evidence of their Aegean origin.


Fake News:

Khirbet a-Ra‘i is Ziklag.

Kiriath Jearim is Emmaus.

Temple that housed the Ark of the Covenant discovered at Beth Shemesh.


Top Stories Related to Tourism:

The Ketef Hinnom Archaeological Garden opened, no longer requiring passage through the Begin Center to visit the First Temple period tombs.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project was relaunched at a new location.

A $6 million, 9-year project has made much of Jerusalem’s Old City accessible to wheelchairs.

The outer courtyard of the Tomb of the Kings was reopened to tourists.

$55 million will be invested to renovate several sites in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, including the Burnt House, the Wohl Archaeological Museum, and the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue.

With restorations complete, Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity was removed from UNESCO’s list of endangered world heritage sites.

A new sound-and-light show, used advanced technologies, was unveiled at Masada.

A new visitor’s center opened at Caesarea in four reconstructed vaults underneath Herod’s temple.

A new archaeological visitor center opened at Jokneam, at the base of Mount Carmel not far from Megiddo.

The new Petra Museum was inaugurated.

Egypt opened a 105-mile hiking trail called the “Red Sea Mountain Trail” that is west of Hurghada.

Greek authorities granted permission for the restoration of the interior of the Parthenon in Athens.

The palace of Nero, with virtual reality features, opened to visitors.

Saudi Arabia is now giving visas to foreign tourists.

Losses This Year:

Tim Bulkeley

George Giacumakis

Doug Greenwold

Philip J. King

Amos Kloner

William B. Tolar


Other Compilations:

The two I would recommend first are those by Gordon Govier and Bryan Windle. Others are a bit broader in scope or have different criteria, including those by Owen Jarus, Stephanie Pappas, and Aaron Earls. Israel HaYom suggests the top 5 of the decade, and Haaretz (premium) offers their top discoveries of the decade.

I compiled my lists before reading any others, and I see there’s quite a bit of difference between them. One reason: I excluded discoveries made or announced in previous years. But it can be tricky knowing when a discovery was “made,” as sometimes a lengthy analysis delays the announcement. Of course, in some cases, the announcement is necessarily made before the analysis!


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

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Weekend Roundup

Few people will get excited about a “large stone found at Beth Shemesh,” but if you claim that the ark of the covenant sat there, that’s another matter. The archaeologist helpfully notes that the stone is located in the wrong place, and I’ll add that the temple dates to the wrong century and the stone looks to be much too small to qualify as a “large stone” in Israel.

An ancient seawall near Haifa allegedly was built to prevent flooding caused by climate change in the Neolithic period. The journal article on which these stories are based is here.

“A small 1st century factory that produced fermented fish sauce — arguably the most desirable foodstuff of the Roman era — was recently uncovered during excavations near the southern coastal Israeli city of Ashkelon.”

A Bronze Age painting of an Asian monkey on a Greek island suggests that trade and cultural contacts were more far-reaching than previously known.

“Two large tombs have been discovered and excavated at the site of the ancient city of Pylos in southern Greece, suggesting that Pylos played a surprisingly prominent role in early Mycenaean civilization.”

Archaeologists have found physical evidence of the mysterious pointy “head cones” found in Egyptian art.

“Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities witnessed a fortuitous weekend, discovering rare red granite Ramses II statue and seizing 135 relics in a Kidney dialysis centre.”

The homes of ancient Egyptians, Mesopotamians, and “Israelis” are presented in this collection of 40 photographs.

Shawn Zelig Aster has written a short but interesting article explaining how Assyria treated ambassadors from Israel, Judah, and other nations in order to turn them into emissaries for Assyrian ideology.

Bryan Windle pulls together all of the evidence, and a number of photographed inscriptions, in his archaeological biography of Quirinius.

Carl Rasmussen shares a few photos from his visit to the new museum at Caesarea Maritima.

The final Stars Wars movie is the latest Hollywood production to be filmed in Jordan’s Wadi Rum.

Phillip J. Long is quite positive in his review of the new Lexham Geographic Commentary on Acts through Revelation.

Don McNeeley provides a summary of the presentations given at the 2019 meeting of the Near East Archaeological Society.

Pac McCarthy (seetheholyland.net) has written a hymn with a Holy Land theme. A video recording is now on YouTube.

HT: Agade, Ted Weis, Keith Keyser, Joseph Lauer, Mark Hoffman

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Weekend Roundup

“The Amman Theatre Statue is the ninth standing male figure discovered in Amman.” Joel S. Burnett and Romel Gharib try to explain why there are so many.

A pink granite statue of Ramses II, almost 3.5 feet tall, has been discovered near Giza.

Archaeologists have discovered the oldest known church in Ethiopia, one that indicates Christianity had spread there not later than the 4th century.

“Decorative pavements in the floor of a recently unearthed Roman house in Pompeii offer a glimpse into the life and work of an ancient land surveyor.”

Leon Mauldin looks to the Isthmian Games for background to Paul’s athletic imagery.

The “find of the month” at the Temple Mount Sifting Project is the fragment of an ancient key.

The Jerusalem Post has published four articles on Masada, including one by Jodi Magness and another by Lawrence H. Schiffman.

The destruction of Caesarea’s harbor is the subject of National Geographic’s Overheard podcast.

Jewish worshipers are again praying on the Temple Mount.

There are no archaeologists who believe that the temple was in the City of David, not even Eli Shukron.

David Moster explains why the letter heh is the “swiss army knife” of biblical Hebrew.

All 5 (available and future) volumes of the Lexham Geographic Commentaries are for sale now in Logos format.

The approach of Christmas is a good time for an illustrated archaeological biography on Caesar Augustus.

Robert Cargill introduces the “New BAR,” including a re-designed cover, an expanded table of contents, a new section called “Epistles,” a change of typeset, and the elimination of “jumps” from all articles.

Philip J. King, longtime professor at Boston College and president of ASOR and SBL, has died. Three of his most helpful books are:

BAS is having a warehouse closeout sale, with all books priced at either $5 or $9. There are some good deals, including recent books on Caesarea, Hazor, and Megiddo.

HT: Agade, Charles Savelle, Ted Weis

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Weekend Roundup, Part 2

Aaron’s tomb in Jordan will re-open to Israeli tourists after the site was closed following a group that allegedly prayed there.

A researcher claims that the world’s oldest chess piece was discovered in Jordan.

Sara Toth Stub explains what happened to Petra after it was abandoned by the Nabateans.

It’s not clear where Egyptians came up with five million African sacred ibises, but a DNA study shows that they were not raised in breeding farms.

Archaeologists have discovered five lion mummies in excavations in Saqqara.

3-D scans of the bust of Nefertiti are now available online.

The Ilisu dam will soon flood Hasankeyf, one of the oldest known and continuously inhabited settlements in the world.

The Central Baths at Pompeii have now been opened to tourists.

A reconstruction of the god Moloch is part of an exhibit on Carthage in Rome.

Cyrus, king of Persia, is the latest subject in Bryan Windle’s series of bioarchaeographies.

Save the date: the annual conference of the Institute of Biblical Context, now redubbed the Infusion Bible Conference, will be held on June 8 to 10, 2020 in west Michigan. The topic is “Paul and His Roman World.”

Gift subscriptions are now available for Walking the Bible Lands.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Explorator, Keith Keyser

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Weekend Roundup, Part 2

Leen Ritmeyer has written an informative and well-illustrated post on the significance of Shiloh and the recent excavations. Ritmeyer’s reconstruction drawings are available for purchase in his image library, including his new drawing of Shiloh.

A government committee in Jerusalem has authorized the construction of a cable car to the Dung Gate.

A $37 million visitors’ center has been opened at the Huleh Valley Nature Reserve.

Anthony Ferguson shares 5 surprising details about the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls from Weston Fields’ history.

“The only project agreed on by Israel and Jordan that could possibly, in the foreseeable future, help save the Dead Sea from further shrinkage is stuck in a byzantine web of politics, bilateral tensions and Israeli foot-dragging.” This is a well-researched article on a subject frequently in the news.

Excavations have resumed at Tell Ziraa in Jordan, with the recent discovery of an Iron Age house with several dozen loom weights.

Colin Cornell considers whether the Jews living in Elephantine worshipped a goddess in addition to Yahweh.

Egyptian authorities have announced the discovery of a cemetery in Ismailia that dates to the Roman, Greek, and pre-dynastic eras.

The October issue of the Newsletter of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities is online.

History Magazine has the story of how Howard Carter almost missed King Tut’s tomb.

Two vast reproduction Assyrian statues were unveiled in Iraq on Thursday as part of a project designed to restore the cultural heritage of Mosul.”

Wayne Stiles explains the significance of the Arch of Titus and the relevance of an olive tree planted beside it.

“A team of international scholars versed in culinary history, food chemistry and cuneiform studies has been recreating dishes from the world’s oldest-known recipes.”

In a 10-minute video, David McClister explains who Flavius Josephus was.

On sale for Kindle:

Tim Bulkeley has died. He began his biblioblog in 2004 and was a regular encouragement to me over the years. He will be missed.

HT: Agade, Charles Savelle, Keith Keyser

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Weekend Roundup

The Tel Moza website gives details for joining the spring excavation as well as background about recent discoveries.

A family volunteering at an excavation in Lower Galilee discovered remains of an iron industry from the 6th century AD.
Some of the latest discoveries from Shiloh are described in a somewhat disjointed article in the Jerusalem Post.
The “Tomb of the Kings” in Jerusalem has been reopened to visitors (again) by France, which owns the site. Access is allowed only to the outer courtyard.

Naama Sukenik explains how new technology is being used to provide insights into counterfeiting dyes in the ancient textile industry.
Mark Barnes looks at the significance of the Mount of Olives in the Bible, including some interesting comparisons and contrasts between David’s and Jesus’s time there.
Who is Gallio and why is he so important to New Testament history? Bryan Windle explains in a well-illustrated article.

The “world’s oldest natural pearl” has been discovered in excavations on an island near Abu Dhabi.

“Ancient Assyrian stone tablets represent the oldest known reports of auroras, dating to more than 2,500 years ago.”

“Life at the Dead Sea” is a new exhibit about the cultural history of the lowest place on the planet that recently opened at the State Museum of Archaeology Chemnitz.

An exhibit of Egypt’s southern neighbor, “Ancient Nubia Now,” is on display until January 2020 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Sculptures from the Torlonia Collection will go on public display for the first time ever at the Capitoline Museums in Rome beginning in March.
The Washington Pentateuch is going on display at the Museum of the Bible.
The archaeological museum in Basra is adding English labels in hopes of welcoming more international visitors.
Jaafar Jotheri provides an overview of excavations in Iraq in the last year.
A conference will be held at the Louvre on November 25 on Tappeh Sialk: A Key Site for the Archaeology of Iran.
Farrell Monaco will be lecturing on “Dining with the Romans” at the Walters Art Museum on November 10.
4,500 tourists watched the sun illuminate the face of Ramses II in the temple of Abu Simbel.
Wayne Stiles is leading a tour of Israel (and pre-tour to Egypt) in October 2020.
There will be no roundup next weekend.
HT: Ted Weis, Mike Harney, Joseph Lauer, Keith Keyser
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Weekend Roundup

If you don’t pay attention, you would think they’re finding all kinds of first-century streets in Jerusalem. But it’s the same one, again and again. The story this week, based on a journal article in Tel Aviv, is that the Siloam Street/Stepped Street/Pilgrim’s Path was built by Pilate. The date is based on the most recent coin, from AD 30/31, found in the fill under the pavement. Leen Ritmeyer rejects the study, saying that the road was actually built by Herod Agrippa II. That last link has a nice map that shows the location of the Herodian/Pilatian/Agrippian Road.

A three-year salvage excavation near Beth Shemesh uncovered a Byzantine Church with an inscription mentioning a “glorious martyr.” The mosaics are quite well-preserved, and there is an intact underground burial chamber. Some of the artifacts are featured in a new exhibition at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.

Excavators have found a second monumental gate at Hacilar.

These reports from Beirut are from last year, but I did not see them then:

Rachel Bernstein provides an update on the Temple Mount Sifting Project since its recent reboot and relocation.

Israel Finkelstein responds to the “discovery that changes everything we know about biblical Israel.”

Artificial intelligence is better at deciphering damaged ancient Greek inscriptions than humans are.

The ArcGIS Blog interviews Tom Levy and one of his students about their use of GIS and 3D modeling in their work in the copper mines of Faynan.

Officials in Thessaloniki are arguing about what to do with a “priceless” 6th century AD Byzantine site found during work on a subway tunnel.

Spanish experts have replicated for Iraq two Assyrian lamassu statues previously destroyed by ISIS.

Dirk Obbink denies the charges against him of selling items owned by the Egyptian Exploration Society.

Two scholarships are available for students interested in participating in February’s excavation of Timna’s copper mines.

An international conference entitled “Philistines! Rehabilitating a Biblical Foe” will be held on Nov 17 at Yeshiva University Museum. Registration is required.

‘Atiqot 96 (2019) is now online, with reports on excavations at Rosh Pinna, Mazor, and el-Qubeibe.

Biblical Israel Ministries and Tours has released the 16th video in their series, “It Happened Here.” This one features life lessons from Beth Shean.

Jim Hastings shows how he built a model of a gate of Ezekiel’s temple.

Ferrell Jenkins shares photos from his 1970 tour of Iraq.

Aron Tal reflects on the remarkable return of the ibex. There was a day, apparently, when there were no ibex to be found at En Gedi.

HT: Gordon Franz, Mark Hoffman, Agade, Ted Weis, Joseph Lauer, A.D. Riddle, Steven Anderson

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