A new study suggests that the mining operations in the Timna Valley and Faynan thrived in the 10th century because of good management. The underlying journal article is here.

Moshe Gilad wonders whether the Bible can be used as an archaeological travel guide to Israel, and his article in Haaretz is based on the responses of Israel Finkelstein, Aren Maeir, and Yoram Bilu.

Saul Jay Singer writes about the life of Yigael Yadin and his father Eliezer Sukenik.

A couple of scholars are suggesting that Mary Magdalene was not from Magdala. (Now seems to be the perfect time for such a proposal, with all the great finds coming out of 1st-century Magdala…) The underlying journal article is here.

Questions have been raised about artifacts in the Israel Museum that were donated by Michael Steinhardt.

John DeLancey and Kyle Keimer complete their four-part tour of the archaeological wing of the Israel Museum.

The Museum of the Bible and Digital Interactive Virtual Experiences are offering virtual tours of Caesarea on January 20 and Qumran on January 27.

The materials in the Israel Film Archive are now online for public viewing. The Times of Israel identifies some highlights.

Andrew Lawler is on The Times of Israel podcast talking about his recent book, Under Jerusalem. (I enjoyed the book, and I hope to say more later.)

The Jerusalem Post reviews Adventure Girl: Dabi Digs in Israel, an illustrated book for children.

Israel’s Good Name reports on his trek around Horvat Hanut and Salvatio Abbey.

The 200th anniversary of the birth of Conrad Schick is on January 27, and Christ Church in Jerusalem will be having a special event to celebrate on the 28th (10:00-13:00). Their museum includes some of Schick’s models, including the one pictured below.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Arne Halbakken, Wayne Stiles, Alexander Schick


Model of Conrad Schick on display at Christ Church, Jerusalem. Photo by Michael Schneider.


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. The underlying article will be posted soon at the website of the Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology, but is available now on Academia.

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.

“Almost four miles of alleys in Jerusalem’s Old City were recently made wheelchair-friendly, while an innovative accessibility system for visually impaired people is also being installed after ten years of work.”

There is a new virtual tour of the City of David. To access it, you have to enter your email address, but once you are in, you can virtually walk around the tour areas of the City of David. I am more impressed with the 360-degree views than the very brief explanations given, but I do not know of anything comparable.

The Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society has announced its upcoming lectures to be held on Zoom:

  • Jan 20: Three Decades of Excavations at Bethsaida, by Rami Arav
  • Feb 17: New Light on Iron Age and Persian Period Jerusalem, by Yuval Gadot
  • Mar 15: Did Rabbis Write Down the Mishnah? Orality and Writing in the Jewish World in Late Antiquity, by Philip Alexander

Aren Maeir reflects on his work as an archaeologist in an interview in the Discussions with the Diggers series.

Israel’s Good Name reports on a couple of recent excursions in the vicinity of Givat Ze’ev in the territory of Benjamin.

Suzanne Singer, one of the original correspondents for Biblical Archaeology Review, has died in Jerusalem.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Alexander Schick, Arne Halbakken, Mark Hoffman


Hundreds of Israelis trekked to Har Karkom on December 21 to see the “Burning Bush” phenomenon.

Israel’s (quasi-)observance of the sabbatical year may provide income for Gaza’s farmers.

Dozens of ancient sites in Jerusalem are suffering from neglect.

Israeli police caught a group of antiquities thieves plundering Horvat Zaak, a Jewish village from the Second Temple period in southern Judea.

Elisabeth Yehuda writes about wine production in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The Israeli government has approved a $48 million aid package for the tourism industry, some of which is designated for retraining programs.

The list of speakers and topics has been released for JUC’s Transitions in the Land online seminar. Registration is free and open to all.

The complete series of 26 episodes is now available of “Conversations in the Archaeology and History of Ancient Israel with Israel Finkelstein.”

Releasing today: Footsteps Every Day: A Daily Devotional is a year-long journey through all four Gospels, led by Bob Rognlien, author of Recovering the Way. The website includes a video introduction and sample devotions.

Ralph W. Klein died this week.

Bryan Windle highlights the top three reports in biblical archaeology for the month of December.

Three new top 10 lists for 2021:

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Alexander Schick, Arne Halbakken, Charles Savelle


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:


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 2-minute video announcing the discoveries has been produced by the IAA.

“New research suggests that the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate is the one that built the Biar Aqueduct, the most sophisticated ancient aqueduct of the Jerusalem area” and the main one supplying Solomon’s Pools (Haaretz premium). The underlying journal article is available on Academia.

“Archaeologists say discovery at Tel Tsaf in the Jordan Valley is first known instance of alcohol being imbibed inside a community in the ancient Middle East.”

Authorities found the lid of a Roman sarcophagus in a garbage dump in Ashkelon.

The Jerusalem Post runs a brief story on the legend of the ark of the covenant being brought to Ethiopia.

The Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem has added a number of new programs and educational opportunities in the last year.

This Week in the Ancient Near East podcast: “Even More New Amazing Iron Age Finds from a Cult Site West of Jerusalem, or, To Gaze Upon the Knees of God”

A recent video of the Temple Mount shows the interior of the Golden Gate now furnished as a mosque.

The Conversation provides an explainer on what it is like to volunteer on an archaeological excavation.

The second episode in the “State of Jerusalem” miniseries by The Times of Israel looks at the Christian community in the city.

The Israeli government has again cancelled Christmas in the Holy Land for most, but not all, tourists.

Chris McKinny and Kyle Keimer discuss the history and archaeology of Christmas on the Biblical World podcast.

Andy Cook at Experience Israel Now has created a two-part special entitled “The Journey to Christmas.” Part One came out a few days ago, and Part Two will be released tomorrow. The videos include drone footage of the route that Joseph and Mary took from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

We’ll have a part 2 for this roundup on Sunday.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Arne Halbakken, Alexander Schick, Charles Savelle, Explorator


Israel Nature and Parks Authority has created an educational farm in the Hinnom Valley, and some people aren’t happy about it.

Antiquities robbers have removed some steps and seating in the Roman amphitheater of Sebastia (ancient Samaria).

Jerusalem police arrested a man after a search of his home turned up a Hasmonean coin, a Hasmonean oil lamp, and a seal ring with Hebrew inscriptions.

Israel has returned to Egypt 95 artifacts illegally smuggled into Israel.

The Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem has ordered that there be no singing of Christmas carols in church on December 25.

Bryan Windle has written a well-researched, well-illustrated article on Bethlehem.

Jordan Ryan is the guest on The Book and the Spade, discussing architectural features of churches in the Holy Land.

“The Wisdom of Peers: The Madaba Plains Project After Fifty Years” tells the story of the longest-running archaeological project in Jordan (15 min).

New release: The Prophets of Israel: Walking in the Ancient Paths, by James K. Hoffmeier

Steve Mason: “If we leave biblical and New Testament authors out of the frame, Flavius Josephus (37–100+ CE) was the most consequential ancient writer in the West.”

Zoom lecture on Dec 15: “The Political Expansion of the United Monarchy,” by Steven Ortiz.

The free Jerusalem University College global online seminar, Transitions in the Land, will be held on January 8-9. A full schedule is coming, but registration is now open. Speakers include Gabriel Barkay, Lynn Cohick, Richard Hess, Steven Ortiz, Sandra Richter, William Schiedewind, and your roundup writer.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Alexander Schick, Arne Halbakken, Paleojudaica, Explorator