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A Canaanite fortress from the middle of the 12th century BCE (the days of the biblical judges), was unearthed in an excavation . . . outside Kiryat Gat.”

The headlines are more sensational, but the real story is this: a wall on Mount Zion dated by Bargil Pixner to the Iron Age does not date to the Iron Age. A revolution in our understanding of the size of Jerusalem in the time of Hezekiah is not warranted.

A hoard of 425 gold coins from the Abassid period was discovered by students working on an excavation in central Israel. There is a 2-minute video here.

Atlas Obscura has posted an article on the Sidonian Cave (Apollophanes Cave) at Beit Guvrin and one of its mysterious inscriptions.

The Legacy Hotel in Nazareth has a display of artifacts from the Bronze and Iron Ages that were discovered during the hotel’s construction.

The Daily Mail has a well-illustrated story on Rami Arav’s continued insistence that et-Tell is Bethsaida.

The ‘Digging for Identity’ program is a four-day journey for Israeli 10th-grade students, which includes taking part in an active archaeological dig” and more.

John DeLancey’s latest video focuses on Lachish.

Ralph Ellis provides his interpretation of the elephant mosaic discovered in the ancient Huqoq synagogue.

Aren Maeir and Nick Barksdale talk Philistines and DNA (12 min).

Bryan Windle highlights the “top three reports” in biblical archaeology for August. (He also wrote a nice resource review of our new 1 Samuel Photo Companion.)

HT: Agade, Ted Weis, Joseph Lauer, Alexander Schick

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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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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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With summer excavations wrapping up, some dig directors are calling up journalists to report their prize discoveries…

Excavations at Gath this summer uncovered portions of an earlier Philistine city, with massive fortifications suggesting that this period was the city’s actual heyday (=time of David and Goliath). This story by Ariel David is reported in Haaretz (premium), and Aren Maeir provides a pdf version. The Jerusalem Post has a brief account here. The Times of Israel write-up is here.

No, they didn’t find the archive at Hazor, but they did discover a staircase.

Excavators working at Hippos have discovered well-preserved mosaics in the “Burnt Church” that include poorly spelled inscriptions.

Tel Shimron in Galilee has a daily blog for its summer excavations. Here is yesterday’s post.

You have only two more seasons to volunteer in the excavations at Gath before they put the shovels into the shed for good.

In a video posted yesterday, David Moster looks at seven types of rare verses, including the longest and shortest verses in the Hebrew Bible. You can see a list of the rare verses in the notes below the video.

Madeline Arthington writes about her tour of the tabernacle model in southern Israel (with lots of photos).

A new documentary goes in search of the “Apollo of Gaza,” a bronze statue discovered in 2013 that disappeared shortly thereafter. The 47-minute video will be posted online until August 14.

The temperature at the southern end of the Dead Sea last week broke a record at 122° Fahrenheit (49.9° Celsius). That’s still under the national record of 129°F (54°C ) in June 1942 near Beth Shean.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Agade, Charles Savelle, Keith Keyser, Explorator

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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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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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