Weekend Roundup, Part 1

A sceptre about 3,200 years old made of copper and coated in silver leaf found in the biblical city of Lachish could be the first evidence of life-sized ‘divine statues’ in the Levant.”

Excavations of the underground Siloam Street have been (or were) halted after engineering instruments detected that the ground was moving.

Contrary to previous belief, chalkstone vessels continued to be used in the Galilee for several centuries after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple.

“Israeli archaeologists have published a 360-degree analysis of a rural, affluent Christian town in the Galilee that was most likely destroyed by Persian invaders in 613.”

Analysis of bird remains excavated in Jerusalem confirmed that specific species of birds – pigeons, doves – were indeed sacrificed in the Temple as the biblical text suggests. The story is based on an article in the latest issue of BASOR.

Roman and Byzantine mosaic floors provide insights into how humans restrained animals by the use of cages, ropes, knots, other tethering devices.

“A large number of archaeological sites in the West Bank, including many that are part of Jewish history and tradition, will be placed or remain under Palestinian control according to US President Donald Trump’s peace plan.”

An Explainer piece by Rossella Tercatin in the Jerusalem Post reveals who is in control of the archaeological sites in the West Bank.

Why is the Israel Museum still closed?

Ferrell Jenkins shares some photos and insights about the Judean wilderness.

Daniel Santacruz shares a dozen photos of wildflowers he took near his home in Maale Adumim.

This week we released volume #20 in the Pictorial Library of the Bible Lands. The Western Mediterranean collection focuses on Roman sites in Gaul (France) and Hispania (Spain) and includes more than 1,400 photos and 25 PowerPoints. The sale price ($25) ends on Tuesday.

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

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Weekend Roundup

A scholarly study uses radiocarbon dating to determine that “Wilson’s Arch was initiated by Herod the Great and enlarged during the Roman Procurators, such as Pontius Pilatus, in a range of 70 years, rather than 700 years, as previously discussed by scholars. The theater-like structure is dated to the days of Emperor Hadrian and left unfinished before 132–136 AD.”

A 1,800-year-old fountainhead in the shape of a face was uncovered by chance by a visitor at the Tzipori [Sepphoris] National Park in the Galilee.”

Rami Arav discusses his excavations at et-Tell and a newly discovered moon god stele (Haaretz premium).

Excavations will not be possible at el-Araj (Bethsaida?) this summer because of the high water level. The article includes many photos.

NPR has a story on the Israeli and Jordanian sides of the tourist site for Jesus’s baptism, including a discussion of creating a new “soft crossing” to allow tourists to enter Jordan from the Israeli side.

A new study of the DNA of 35 fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls is providing insight into the diverse origins of the parchments.

Mark Vitalis Hoffman has published an interesting article on “Jesus and Jerusalem and the ‘Things That Make for Peace.” He has also created a video to supplement the article.

Gabriel Barkay is on The Book and the Spade this week talking about the archaeology of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

Israel’s Good Name had a productive trip scouting out the birds and fish at the Beit Zayit Reservoir west of Jerusalem.

A Jerusalem Post piece looks at the resumption of tourism in Israel and the safety measures being put in place.

From boom to bust: with tourism in Israel all but gone, tour guides are considering their options.

The Winter 2019 issue of the ACOR Newsletter is now available (high-res; low-res).

The Bible and Interpretation provides a selection about ancient Moab and the Mesha Stele from the new book by Burton MacDonald.

Gulf News has a write-up on artifacts from Saudi Arabia that are featured in the traveling “Roads of Arabia” exhibit.

Smithsonian magazine has a long, well-illustrated piece on archaeological work in and around Aigai, Philip II’s capital of Macedon. A massive new museum is scheduled to open in January.

The latest historical city travel guide by the British Museum is of Athens in the 5th century BC.

Some stories on re-opening: excavations in Turkey, Vatican Museums, Rome’s Colosseum, Pompeii, Al Ula, Israel’s museums, the Temple Mount.

Two Asian lion cubs were recently born at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Chris McKinny, Agade, Keith Keyser, Steven Anderson, Charles Savelle, Explorator

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Weekend Roundup, Part 1

The Western Wall plaza reopened this week, with worshippers limited in number, required to wear masks and to have their temperature checked.

A new excavation has determined that Solomon’s Pools were built by the Romans in the 2nd century AD. The academic report was published in Palestine Exploration Quarterly last year.

“The Dead Sea Scrolls in Recent Scholarship” is a 4-day virtual conference hosted by NYU that begins on May 17. Registration is free and required for each day.

Thieves have plundered and destroyed remains at Khirbet Astunah as well as a number of other sites in the West Bank.

Bill Barrick has written an interested and well-illustrated post on the ancient city of Jezreel.

King Saul appears to be the theme of the week, as Ferrell Jenkins shares photos of Gibeah, Beth Shean and flowers on Mount Gilboa.

Shmuel Browns shares photos from a recent visit he made to Samaria-Sebaste.

Scott Stripling is interviewed in the second installment of “Discussions with the Diggers.”

Walking the Text has created a number of study guides for recent series, including Psalm 23, The Lord’s Prayer, and The Sabbath.

Patrick D. Miller died last week.

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

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Weekend Roundup

Israel is moving forward on plans to extend the high-speed train line to a station near the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Restoration work has begun on the floor of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Two ritual baths south of Jerusalem are overflowing with water following the winter rains.

$1.3 million has been given to support marine archaeological research off Israel’s coast.

Volunteer applications are being accepted for excavations at Tell Keisan this coming September.

A BBC documentary describes the discovery of a hoard of silver decadrachm coins in Gaza, and what happened to them next.

Egypt has sentenced the brother of an ex-minister to 30 years in jail for smuggling antiquities.

Iran’s Basij Resistance Force is apparently threatening to destroy the historic tomb site of Esther and Mordecai, located in Hamedan.

Wayne Stiles was at Colossae last week and he reflects on the significance of the site and Paul’s letter to the church.

An archaeology park featuring a Roman theater is being developed in Ankara.

Debate continues over whether a skull unearthed 120 years ago near Pompeii belonged to Pliny the Elder.

Italian archaeologists have found underneath the Roman Forum an ancient shrine and sarcophagus that was likely dedicated to Romulus.

A conference on “Sheshonq (Shishak) in Palestine” will be held in Vienna on March 6-7.

Ferrell Jenkins answers questions about the six water jugs at the wedding of Cana.

Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee during Jesus’s ministry, is the subject of the latest archaeological biography by Bryan Windle.

To listen to the latest episodes on The Book and the Spade, see this page.

HT: Agade, Ted Weis, Keith Keyser, Explorator

Gezer Solomonic gate from northeast, mjb1902200736

This week on our Facebook/Twitter/Instagram streams we featured sites related to Israel’s kings, including this one of the gate at Gezer that was built by King Solomon’s administration.

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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

A resident of the northern Israeli village of Araba discovered a Bronze Age settlement on his way to work.

This week Bryan Windle looks at el-Araj, the other candidate for Bethsaida. He provides the evidence both for and against this identification.

The Kingdom of Copper: Copper Production and Social Complexity in Iron Age Faynan, Jordan, is a good story that has been very creatively produced. (The subdomain “storymaps” is suggestive.)

In the last few years, Zedekiah’s Cave (aka Solomon’s Quarries) has become “a major venue for concerts and cultural events.”

Jerusalem looks as it has for the thousands of years, but that’s all about to change, writes Michael Kimmelman in the NY Times, because they are building a cable car to the Western Wall. (I think a case is considerably weakened when it is grossly overstated. And the cable car does not go to the Western Wall.)

Tourism to the West Bank is growing.

A high-tech analysis of the Temple Scroll helps to explain why this very thin parchment was so bright and possibly why it was so well preserved.

The excavations at Gath made it on Jeopardy this week. And you can now register for the penultimate season there.

Leon Mauldin shares several photos from Shepherds’ Field in Bethlehem.

If you enjoy virtually touring Israel, you can join John DeLancey as it posts daily about his current trip.

Tomorrow Duke is celebrating the conclusion of its years of excavating at Sepphoris.

Ahmed Shams describes the Library of Congress’s collections of photos related to the Sinai Peninsula Research project.

Archaeology in Jordan (AIJ) is a new, biannual open access (OA) newsletter published online by ACOR aimed at raising scholarly awareness of archaeological and cultural resource management projects being carried out in Jordan and to make this information accessible to a wider audience.”

I am on The Book and the Spade this week, talking with Gordon Govier about my visit to Susa, the Persian capital where Esther lived.

There will be no roundups for several weeks.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Charles Savelle

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Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Writing for Christianity Today, Steven Notley provides the background and evidence for identifying el-Araj as the New Testament city of Bethsaida.

Sergio and Rhoda have released a new video about Bethsaida and “The Church of the Apostles in Galilee.”

A mosaic floor in a church at Hippos apparently depicts Jesus’s multiplication of the fish and loaves (Haaretz premium).

NPR: Here’s what tourists might see if they were allowed to visit Gaza…


Smithsonian Magazine: Two tour guides—one Israel, one Palestinian—offer a new way to see the Holy Land.

The first post in Ferrell Jenkins’s new series “Agreement of Book and Land” is from Psalm 1:1-3.

Israel’s Good Name made a couple of evening trips to the Rishon LeZion sand dunes where he found gazelle, scorpions, and vipers.

New from DeGruyter: The Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages of Southern Canaan, edited by A. M. Maeir, Itzhaq Shai, and Chris McKinny.

The grandma whose congresswoman granddaughter refused to visit lives in the town once known as Upper Beth Horon.

HT: Agade, Tom Powers, Lois Tverberg

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The Best Article on En-Gedi

If you needed a quick summary of information about En-Gedi, where would you go? I’m doing research for an essay in a future volume of the Lexham Geographic Commentary series and this morning I was studying En Gedi in relation to David’s flight from Saul. I went through a dozen commentaries and pulled out various tidbits about David’s time in the area. Then I went to my standard Bible dictionaries. I usually consider Anchor Bible Dictionary to be the best, and so I started there. The article was decent. Then I went to others to see what else they had (ISBE, NIDB, EBD).

I recently pulled into my line-up the Lexham Bible Dictionary. I’ve been a bit skeptical of its value because it’s not a printed work and they used a wide variety of writers (including many students). But when I pulled up the LBD entry on En-Gedi I was immediately impressed. It was much longer and more thorough than the others. In fact, I think its length is probably twice that of the other four combined. That means there are separate sections on En-Gedi in Ancient Accounts (subdivided into biblical and extrabiblical), Geography and Geology (no one else has much on this), and Archaeological Investigations (which is subdivided into many sections). Then it closes with a bibliography, which is easily better than any I’ve seen elsewhere.

A final delight was to discover the author: Christian Locatell. I know this guy! He’s one of our ace creators of the Photo Companion of the Bible! (Many years before that, he was my student and he gave me various nicknames, but we won’t get into that…) He made a big contribution to our Acts volume, and his work on Romans has been spectacular! (That volume should be available in November.) So I figured I would write a little blogpost with three purposes: (1) to share some interesting tidbits about En-Gedi that you may not know; (2) to suggest you include the Lexham Bible Dictionary as part of your Bible study tools; and (3) to let you know that the author of this terrific article is creating more amazing resources for BiblePlaces followers. 🙂

Here are five ten interesting observations about En-Gedi from Dr. Locatell’s article:

1. Edward Robinson was the first modern explorer to identify En Gedi, and he did so on the basis of its Arabic name: Ain Jiddi.

2. David hid from Saul in the “strongholds” of En-Gedi (1 Sam 23:29), but when he wrote a psalm praising God for saving him from Saul, he called God his “stronghold” (2 Sam 22:2; Ps 18:2).

3. En-Gedi is believed to be the home of the Essenes (and not Qumran) by some scholars.

4. 700 inhabitants of En-Gedi were slaughtered by the Sicarii in the First Jewish Revolt.

5. Many ancient accounts rave about En-Gedi’s lush fertility.

[In one paragraph, Locatell quotes Karmon, Baly, and Efrat and Orni! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such geographical richness in one place. It’s a great paragraph, but too long to copy here. I am certainly proud to be this guy’s first geography teacher.]

6. Clouds over En-Gedi are rare, and the flash floods in the area are the result of the top rock layers being unable to absorb much of rainfall.

7. Most of the springs along the western shore of the Dead Sea have a high saline content, making En-Gedi such a precious resource of sweet water.

8. Between 1949 and 1972, there were seven archaeological expeditions to En-Gedi. [I had no idea there were that many.]

9. An Aramaic mosaic from the 5th-century AD synagogue refers to the “secrets of the town.”

10. Excavations on the northern slope of the tell revealed workshops and equipment probably used for producing the perfumes for which En-Gedi was famous.

There you have it. This is the best article on En-Gedi I know of. Thanks to Lexham and to Locatell for serving us so well.

BTW, we have some great photos of En-Gedi in our Judah and the Dead Sea volume.

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Weekend Roundup

Archaeologists working at el-Araj (Bethsaida?) are claiming that a Byzantine church they are excavating is the “Church of the Apostles.” The story is reported in Haaretz (premium); the excavation website has lots of photos.

The excavation season at Gath is over. Among this week’s posts is this one with their end-of-season photo shoot.

“A rare, very early rural mosque was unearthed during recent archaeological excavations in the southern Israel Bedouin city of Rahat.”

Excavations on Mount Zion have revealed a moat from the Crusader siege of Jerusalem in 1099.

“An unprecedentedly vast Neolithic settlement — the largest ever discovered in Israel and the Levant, say archaeologists — is currently being excavated ahead of highway construction five kilometers from Jerusalem

The University of Basel announced its possession of the oldest autograph of a Christian letter.

Researchers are studying the harbor technologies of Portus, the maritime harbor of Rome in the first centuries AD.

For the first time in decades, Egypt has opened the Bent and Red Pyramids of Dahshur to tourists.

Wayne Stiles draws spiritual lessons about closed doors from Paul’s second missionary journey.

New from Eerdmans: Scribes and Scrolls at Qumran, by Sidnie White Crawford

Now at the top of my wish list (but more difficult to acquire outside of Israel): Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: Archaeological Discoveries, 1998–2018, edited by Hillel Geva.

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

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Weekend Roundup (and the fake “Ziklag”)

The big story of the week was the “discovery of Ziklag,” a claim made by archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel regarding his recent excavations of Khirbet a-Ra‘i. You can read about it in the The Times of Israel, The Jerusalem Post, and Haaretz (premium). You can download high-res photos or watch a one-minute silent video showing excavations at the site. I think the whole thing is sad.

Now, to the week’s stories, of which there are not so many:

You might have trouble picking out your friends in this year’s group photo of the Gath excavation team. (Very clever!) You can poke around the blog for recent updates and lots of photos.

The Tel Burna excavation season is over. John DeLancey created a video of the site with his drone.

A journal article has been published on last year’s discovery of a ceramic pomegranate at Shiloh.

Scott Stripling is back on The Book and the Spade discussing this year’s excavations at Shiloh.

A newly constructed building on an archaeological site in the hills near Hebron has been bulldozed.

On the Logos blog, Karen Engle explains the value of biblical archaeology.

It’s always more enjoyable to think about a difficult passage when you feel more immersed in its setting, and that’s what Wayne Stiles does this week with Jesus’s question at Capernaum.

Israel’s Good Name enjoyed a fascinating outing to the Nizzana Dunes. Don’t skip this one if you love wildlife.

Carl Rasmussen has begun a very interesting series (part 1, part 2) on Paul’s shipwreck on the island of Malta.

Ferrell Jenkins shares a photo of Capernaum with a unique perspective.

OK, so I’ll elaborate briefly on my thoughts on “Ziklag.” First, the lead archaeologist who made the claim has a track record of making dubious sensational claims. Second, the archaeologist was very careful to conceal his idea from other scholars until he made his big announcement to the press. Now, that may be the way to do things in the competitive business world, but in academia, you’re supposed to share your ideas with colleagues for fruitful critique. Garfinkel’s approach, once again, is more designed to make headlines than to discover truth.

Third, other sites, such as Tel Sera, have appropriate occupation levels, from the Philistines followed by the Israelites, with destruction layers. From the biblical text, we know that there were dozens of sites in this area, and David no doubt removed the Philistines from more than one of them (1 Chr 18:1). Furthermore, the minimal amount of Philistine pottery gives reason to doubt that Kh. a-Ra‘i was actually a Philistine site at all.

Fourth, Khirbet a-Ra‘i (coordinates 31°35’26.83″N, 34°49’10.03″E), is near Lachish (2.5 miles northwest), but according to Joshua 15, Ziklag is located in a more southern district (grouped with sites like Beersheba and Hormah). That is why scholars have proposed for Ziklag the sites of Tel Sera (15 miles southwest of Lachish) and Tel Halif (13 miles south of Lachish). If Khirbet a-Ra‘i was Ziklag, it should be in verse 38 of Joshua 15, not in verse 31. Fifteen miles distant is a long way in the land of Israel!

As with Kh. Qeiyafa, Garfinkel simply ignores what the Bible says about the geographical situation of sites and chooses the most spectacular name to attach to his site. The press will let him get away with it, because sensational stories mean more money for them. By the time that journal articles are written or professors speak up, the headlines have already raced around the world, and the public’s attention is elsewhere. Khirbet a-Ra‘i is a fine archaeological site; it doesn’t need false claims in order to make it worthy of study or publicity.

Final note: Amanda Borschel-Dan has written a solid report for The Times of Israel in which she quotes at length two scholars dumbfounded by Garfinkel’s claim. Luke Chandler (a volunteer at the site this year) and Ferrell Jenkins also weigh in. My analysis here was written before I read these reports, but you’ll see there’s a good bit of overlap.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Agade, Keith Keyser, BibleX

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