Weekend Roundup

Jezreel is one of my favorite biblical sites and I’m happy to see that excavations will begin again under the direction of Norma Franklin of Tel Aviv University and Jennie Ebeling of the University of Evansville. A new website has the details.

The Sea of Galilee dropped nearly a foot last month and is now 17 inches below the red line.

Shmuel Browns went on a Photo Walk in Jerusalem and would like our feedback in deciding which image he should submit to the competition.

Browns is also offering a free guided tour of Khirbet Qeyiafa on October 14 at 9 am.

A volunteer at the Gezer excavation this summer writes of her experience on the ASOR blog, noting that they ended the season on what they believe is a 10th-century floor.

The Virtual Amarna Project is now online. “This archive resulted from the 3D digitisation of objects from the ancient Egyptian city of Amarna using a Konica Minolta Vivid 9i system. Data includes images, 3D PDF files, meshes (obj) and point clouds (ascii).”

Another resource is the Amarna Tablet Photograph Database Online where you can view the inscriptions held by the Vorderasiatisches Museum of Berlin.

Aaron Burke is interviewed about the excavations in Jaffa (Joppa) on the LandMinds radio show (part 1, part 2).

Jimmie Hardin will be lecturing on the archaeology of David and Solomon at the University of Mississippi on October 26.

One million visitors viewed the Dead Sea Scrolls in their first week online.

HT: ANE-2, Jack Sasson


Transfiguration Celebrated on Mount Tabor

I am not very familiar with this annual observance. From the Jerusalem Post:

On August 18 and 19 the Greek Orthodox Church will celebrate the annual Feast of the Transfiguration, which celebrates the transfiguration of Jesus that is traditionally thought to have occurred at Mount Tabor in the Galilee. The Catholic Church celebrated the holiday earlier this month on August 6 with a festive mass at the Church of the Transfiguration at Mount Tabor.
During this feast a night vigil occurs in the Greek Orthodox Church, which is the most unique experience associated with the holiday. Arab Christians camp in the woods surrounding the church and spend the night there, during which time the Divine Liturgy is celebrated outside the church. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated inside the Church on the August 19.
To commemorate Jesus’s climb up the mountain, some pilgrims will ascend Mount Tabor by foot.

The full article gives some details about the Transfiguration from the New Testament. It does not mention that most scholars reject Mount Tabor as the location for this event or give any of the reasons why. Three reasons may be suggested:

1. The Gospels record that Jesus was in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi before the Transfiguration (Matt 16:13). Nothing suggests that he traveled southward to Mount Tabor.

2. The event was intentionally private, and a setting on Mount Hermon or even in the mountains of Upper Galilee would be more suitable than a location on Mount Tabor. The international highway traveling through the Jezreel Valley passed next to the Mount Tabor and would have made privacy unlikely.

3. A military fort on the summit of Mount Tabor during Hasmonean and Roman times was probably in use during Jesus’ ministry and would have precluded the site as a get-away for Jesus.

Nevertheless, early Christian pilgrims were attracted to Mount Tabor as the location for this event. It is possible that its convenient location on the way to Capernaum was a factor. This would have eliminated the need for a multi-day trek up to the environs of Caesarea Philippi.

For more information (and links), see the Mount Tabor page at BiblePlaces.com (also in Spanish and French).

Mount Tabor aerial from east, tbs121280011

Summit of Mount Tabor. Nazareth is visible in the distance.

Hercules Statue Discovered in Jezreel Valley

The Israel Antiquities Authority has announced the discovery of a headless statue of Hercules at a site 3 miles (4 km) northwest of Afula in the Jezreel Valley. From the press release:

A rare statue of Hercules was exposed at Horvat Tarbenet in the Jezreel Valley in excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority, within the framework of the Jezreel Valley Railway project, directed by the Israel National Roads Company
A marble statue of Hercules from the second century CE was uncovered in excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting at Horvat Tarbenet, within the framework of the Jezreel Valley Railway project, directed by the Israel National Roads Company.
According to Dr. Walid Atrash of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This is a rare discovery. The statue, which probably stood in a niche, was part of the decoration of a bathhouse pool that was exposed during the course of the excavations. It is c. 0.5 m tall, is made of smoothed white marble and is of exceptional artistic quality. Hercules is depicted in three dimension, as a naked figure standing on a base. His bulging muscles stand out prominently, he is leaning on a club to his left, on the upper part of which hangs the skin of the Nemean lion, which according to Greek mythology Hercules slew as the first of his twelve labors”.

The press release continues here. Three (similar) photos of the statue are available in a zip file.


Hercules statue discovered at Horvat Tarbenet. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority.

UPDATE (8/16): The story is reported in the Jerusalem Post.


Dating the Destructions of Iron Age Megiddo

For the last fifteen years, scholars have disagreed sharply over the archaeological chronology of the early Iron II period.  Israel Finkelstein began advocating a “Low Chronology” in the mid-1990s, with the result that the time of Kings David and Solomon was said to be poor and insignificant. 

Now Finkelstein plans to put his theory to four tests, using scientific analysis of the destruction material from his excavations of Megiddo.  The implications may be far-reaching, though I’m dubious about the claim that they’ll settle matters “once and for all.”  From Matthew Kalman at AOL News:

Now Finkelstein, together with Tel Aviv University physicist Eli Piazetsky, is spearheading an international effort to settle the chronology once and for all. A scientific conference at Megiddo, “Synchronizing Clocks at Armageddon,” launched a project to analyze 10 separate Iron Age destruction layers using four state-of-the-art scientific techniques: radiocarbon dating, optical luminescence, archaeo-magnetism and rehydroxilation — a new method pioneered in Britain within the last two years.
Megiddo is the only place in the world with so many destruction layers — archaeological strata resulting from a calamity such as a fire, earthquake or conquest — that resulted from a specific event in history.
Finkelstein told AOL News that the site provides “a very dense, accurate and reliable ladder for the dating of the different monuments and the layers.”
“These destruction layers can serve as anchors for the entire system of dating,” Finkelstein said. “Megiddo is the only site which has 10 layers with radiocarbon results for the period 1300 to 800 B.C.E.”

The full article explains the techniques and how the archaeology of Israel impacts the dating of sites in Greece.


Diamonds in the Kishon River

The Kishon River drains the Jezreel Valley into the Mediterranean Sea, and it was the location of the slaughter of the prophets of Baal during the time of Elijah (1 Kgs 18:40).   From Arutz-7:

The Kishon River, considered the most polluted river in Israel, will soon be the object of a major cleaning and purification project. The initiative is a joint project of the Ministry of the Environment, the Kishon River Authority, and factories and chemical plants on the river’s banks. At the same time, the Shefa Yamim company continues to seek diamonds under the Kishon riverbed, based on advice from the late Lubavitcher Rebbe. The company, which has already found diamonds and associated minerals in the vicinity, plans a stock issue of $100 million in the coming months. The Kishon River’s pollution stems in part from daily contamination for over 40 years by runoff of mercury and other metals from nearby chemical plants. It has been claimed that there are more chemicals than water in the Kishon. The river runs 70 kilometers from Jenin in Samaria, via the Jezreel Valley and Zevulun Valley, and into the Mediterranean Sea near Haifa.

The full story is here.