Those in Jerusalem this month have a rare opportunity to visit the Kishle prison inside Jerusalem’s Old City. For two thousand years, this site atop Jerusalem’s Western Hill has served the city’s rulers as a fortress and police station. King Herod’s palace was constructed on the site and guarded by three towers. After the Romans destroyed the palace, the Tenth Roman Legion placed their encampment on the site. The Ottoman rulers constructed the present prison in the 1800s, and the British occupiers continued its use. From 1948 to 1967 the Jordanians used the site as a police station, and the Israelis have followed suit. According to the AP article, the jail has never been open to visitors.

An old Turkish prison in Jerusalem is briefly opening to the public this weekend, allowing visitors a rare glimpse inside an infamous local landmark.
Israeli archaeologists dug underneath the Kishle a decade ago and found important remains dating back nearly three millennia, including walls built by King Herod and medieval facilities for dyeing fabric.
“On this tiny spot we have the whole story of Jerusalem, from the Judean kings to the British mandate,” said Amit Re’em, the Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist who excavated the Kishle.
The prison sits next to the Tower of David, an ancient fortress on the western flank of Jerusalem’s Old City. The tower complex, used as a stronghold and palace by Herod, early Muslim rulers, Crusaders and the Jordanian army, among others, is now a museum dedicated to Jerusalem’s history.

The full story is here.

If I was in Jerusalem this month, I’d get a group together and hire an expert like Gabriel Barkay or Shimon Gibson to give an archaeological tour.

HT: The Bible and Interpretation

Police station Kishleh in Armenian Quarter, tb042403893

Kishle police station from north

Over the last decade, BiblePlaces has contributed photos to many calendars, but we think that the 2011 “Lands of the Bible” calendar is our favorite one yet.  Orange Circle Studio is a leading calendar publisher and they chose some of our favorite pictures to brighten our days through the next year.  Every month has two photographs for these scenic sites:image

  • Capernaum
  • Garden Tomb
  • Michmash
  • Nile River
  • Beth Shean
  • En Gedi
  • Jordan River
  • Dead Sea
  • Dome of the Rock
  • Sea of Galilee
  • Herodium

I have made special arrangements to purchase a limited number at an excellent price.  A large 12” by 12” wall calendar is not inexpensive to ship, but shipping charges are already included in these prices:

  • 1 calendar: $12 (retail $14)
  • 2 calendars: $21 (retail $28)
  • 3 calendars: $29 (retail $42)
  • 4 calendars: $37 (retail $56)
  • 5 calendars: $45 (retail $70)

We could have raised the prices and threw in a 20% off coupon, but we didn’t.  These are absolutely rock-bottom prices.  We have less than 150 left and when they are gone, they are gone.

You can see more about the calendar (with sample images) here, but the discount prices listed above are available only at BiblePlaces.com.


Volunteer coordinator for the excavations at Magdala has written that they are preparing to excavate around the newly discovered synagogue and they are looking for volunteers.  But they’re offering something that few (or no?) excavations do: free room and board.

The dig will finance accommodations (meals and transportation) for volunteers for up to one month, if you wish to stay more, we can prepare a special price for you. The accommodations will be in Tiberias, a town 5km /3 mi from Migdal, right in the center of town in a house in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, great location, near shops and restaurants, it’s beside the hospital and right across the street is the information center.
All rooms have bathrooms with towels, Air Conditioning system, internet and there are 2 small kitchenettes. A big dining room an outdoors dining area with TV, washing machine, refrigerator, freezer and parking lot.

Volunteers are responsible for their own transportation costs. Excavations begin next month and are scheduled to go through 2013. 

A new blog has lots of information, including several videos (in Italian) of previous discoveries.

This could be a great opportunity to uncover a town very close to the center of Jesus’ ministry and dating from his time (unlike most of the excavations at nearby Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida).  If you’re already in Israel (student or otherwise), you might consider a “summer vacation” in Magdala/Tiberias as a nice chance to get away and serve, learn, and make new friends.

Sea of Galilee view west to Arbel and Magdala, tb060105640

View towards Magdala and Arbel from east

The Tel Dor team is looking for support and volunteers, and I’m glad to help out by posting a recent letter I received here.  Times are tough for archaeology, as noted by Jeffrey Zorn in this column in the current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.  They would appreciate your support.

Dear Madam/Sir,
The exquisite gemstone of Alexander the great that captured your attention is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, of one of the largest, long-lasting and high-profile archaeological projects in Israel. If you care about the archaeology of biblical times (Israelites, Phoenicians and Sea People), the Classical periods, and the cultural heritage of Israel and the Mediterranean; and if you are interested in forging a bond between Israel and the international community – please take a moment to look at the attached file. Like almost cultural projects around the globe, we need your help to endure.
We would be grateful if you could pass this message to any other interested parties.
Dr. Ilan Sharon,
Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University Jerusalem
Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem 91905
Tel. 972-2-2881304
Dr. Ayelet Gilboa
Chair, Dept. of Archaeology,
University of Haifa, Mount Carmel
Haifa 31905, Israel
Tel: 972-4-8240234, 972-4-8240531
Tel Dor website: http://dor.huji.ac.il/
Email: [email protected]
Tel Dor has also a facebook page; you are welcome to visit us.

The cover story this month in BAR is about a beautiful mosaic found in the excavations of Dor. 

If your idea of a perfect summer is excavating on the beach in the best climate in the world, you have found what you’re looking for.

Dor harbor area from north, tb090506883

Harbor of Dor, looking south

From a press release from the Israel Antiquities Authority:

The Israel Antiquities Authority is embarking on a first of its kind campaign to register the antiquities collections that are held by the general public in Israel. An individual that is listed in the state’s databank as the owner of an antiquities collection will be recognized by the state as a “collector of antiquities”.
Israel is one of the world’s richest countries in archaeological artifacts. As such, over the years private individuals have discovered thousands of archaeological finds during the course of development work, agricultural work, etc.
In 2002 the legal status of a collector of antiquities in Israel was regulated, which is defined as “one who collects antiquities otherwise than for the purpose of trading therein”. The law defines an antiquities collection as: “an assemblage of fifteen antiquities or more”.
It is estimated that there are at least 100,000 people in Israel who can be considered by definition “collectors of antiquities”, but only several hundred of them are recognized by the state.
In February 2009 regulations took effect that will enable enforcing the law which was passed in 2002. The IAA is now calling on the public to comply in accordance with the law and report any antiquities they possess. An individual doing so will be granted the status of collector according to law and will be issued a certificate. The antiquities will be registered as the property of the collector and anyone who wishes to sell the collection they own can receive permission from the IAA to do so. Thus on the one hand, the collector can sell the antiquities he possesses, and on the other, the state will know to whom the object was transferred. 
Amir Ganor, in charge of the campaign on behalf of the IAA, explains that, “The country’s antiquities are a national, cultural and historical asset of utmost importance. We call on members of the public that hold pieces of history to assist us in gathering the archaeological information, which is part of the whole puzzle that makes up our past. Without parts of the puzzle it is difficult to know what the complete picture is exactly. The campaign is likely to result in a “flood” of important archaeological discoveries that are today hidden behind closed doors. The reporting will not affect adversely the public’s ownership of the items and the goal of the campaign is to document the national treasures and enable the IAA to keep proper track of them. Individuals who wish to hand over the inventory they possess to the IAA can do so, and whoever is interested can receive an appraisal regarding the historical importance of the items they own”.

The release continues here.

HT: Joe Lauer


Prof. Aren Maeir, archaeologist directing the excavations of Philistine Gath, mentions that there are still openings for this summer’s excavation.  He adds, “Remember – talking about the ANE, archaeology and the Bible, without actually experiencing excavations – is like a Bedouin who lives in the Sahara learning to swim thru a correspondence course…”  He writes:



JULY 5 – 31, 2009


Tell es-Safi/Gath (Hebrew Tel Tsafit), Israel, is a commanding mound located on the border between
the Judean foothills (the Shephelah) and the coastal plain (Philistia), approximately halfway between Jerusalem and Ashkelon. At about 100 acres in size, it is one of the largest and most important pre-Classical period archaeological sites in Israel. Tell es-Safi is identified as Canaanite and Philistine Gath (known from the Bible as the home of Goliath and Achish) and Crusader Blanche Garde. The site was inhabited continuously from the Chalcolithic period (5th millennium BCE) until 1948 CE.


All able and willing people between 16 and 80 are invited to join us for a unique and exciting experience uncovering the history and culture of the Holy Land. In addition to participating in all facets of the excavation process, participants will be provided with an opportunity to learn cutting-edge techniques of field archaeology, gain experience in archaeological science applications (with a unique program in inter-disciplinary archaeological science in the field), hear lectures about the archaeology and history of the region and related issues, and go on field trips to nearby sites of historical/archaeological and/or contemporary interest. Participants will join a young, vivacious team comprised of staff, students and volunteers from Israel and the world-over. Students can earn either 3 or 6 university credits through Bar-Ilan University, the second largest university in Israel.

Accommodations (including kosher food) will be provided at idyllic Kibbutz Revadim, a short drive
from the site. Rooms (4-6 per room; single and double rooms available at extra charge) are air-conditioned and there will is to the Kibbutz pool. And don’t forget the weekly, Thursday evening, Bar-B-Q!

WORKDAY (more or less)

6am to 1 pm excavation; Afternoon: various excavation related processes (such as pottery reading) and occasional tours; Evenings: occasional lectures. We work Sunday afternoon to Friday mid-day.

You can get more details here, and the registration form here (pdf).