Weekend Roundup

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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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

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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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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Weekend Roundup, Part 1

I go away for one week, and I come back to a large pile of stories in the biblical and archaeological world. This is going to take three long posts to catch up.


Discoveries:

Excavations at the synagogue of Huqoq have uncovered a mosaic depicting the Israelites’ encampment at Elim as well as two of the four beasts of Daniel 7.

Recent research has revealed that Tel Shikmona was not a trading settlement but a purple dye manufacturing center.

The Siloam Road, connecting the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount of Jerusalem, was officially opened this week.

Archaeologists discovered an ancient baptismal font hidden inside another baptismal font at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

An ancient Roman-era shipwreck has been discovered at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea off the eastern coast of Cyprus.”


Excavations:

The Tel Burna crew has finished three weeks of their summer dig, with daily posts providing summaries of the finds along with photos. Here’s the latest. John DeLancey has posted his perspective as a volunteer.

The Gath expedition is halfway finished with their season, and they are unearthing a road, a window, architectural remains, and a monster wall.

This summer’s excavations at el-Araj (Bethsaida?) have produced more mosaics from the Byzantine church, a mold for making lead fishing weights, part of a roof roller, and Roman flagstones.


The Jerusalem Report has a feature piece on recent excavations at Tell Beth Shemesh.

Excavations are beginning in Laodicea on the road that leads to the ancient stadium.


Studies:

A new DNA study indicates that Philistines living in Ashkelon in the late 12th century BC originated from Greece, Crete, or Sardinia. These articles are based on a journal article published in Science Advances (pdf).

“New research explains why salt crystals are piling up on the deepest parts of the Dead Sea’s floor.”

Joe Zias argues that nearly all, if not all, of the human remains found at Masada are ethnically non-Jewish.

A new study shows that masons’ marks were used at Hippos only from the late first century to the late second century (Haaretz premium).


Sad News:

Doug Greenwold died on June 23. Doug was the Senior Teaching Fellow at Preserving Bible Times and a co-founder of The Institute of Biblical Context. He will be greatly missed.

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

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Weekend Roundup

This year’s Institute of Biblical Context conference was superb. If you can make it to next year’s conference (theme: the contextual world of the apostle Paul), I’d recommend it (June 8-10 in Zeeland, Michigan).

(Re-)Opening day for the Temple Mount Sifting Project was a great success.

Abigail VanderHart provides an interesting look into how the antiquities market is regulated in Israel.

The Israel Antiquities Authority is offering visitors a chance to volunteer in an archaeological excavation. There are other options with Volunteers for Israel.

Biblical Israel Ministries and Tours has produced a 6-minute devotional video with footage from Gamla.

With the summer excavations about to begin at Gath, Aren Maeir shares a preview of the 2019 shirt.

Israel’s Good Name recounts his travels in the southern Aravah, including Timna Park and several other off-the-beaten-track sites.

Walking the Text has just released the 2nd edition of “The #1 Mistake Most Everyone Makes Reading the Bible.” Select “More” at the top right.

The American Center of Oriental Research Newsletter for July-December 2018 is now online.

Egypt is asking the UK to stop Christie’s auction of a bust of King Tut.

In a well-illustrated article on the ASOR Blog, Vanessa Davies explains why the Egyptians and the Hittites made “peace”  16 years after their major battle.

Crowds of tourists are causing big problems at major tour destinations around the world.

All of Jerusalem will become a “clean air” zone under a new law passed by the City Council.

Ferrell Jenkins explains the history of the cedar of Lebanon trees at Neot Kedumim Biblical Landscape Reserve.

HT: Agade, Charles Savelle, Ted Weis

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Weekend Roundup

Scientists have produced alcohol from ancient yeast excavated at four archaeological sites in Israel.

Aren Maeir is compiling a list of press reports and shares some of the video clips. One reporter offers a review.

After a Second Temple period burial cave in Jericho’s impressive necropolis was damaged by tractor work, hundreds of the bones were re-buried elsewhere.

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the identities of archaeologists working in the West Bank must not be released by the government.

A new entrance to the Tel Zafit National Park (the Philistine city of Gath) was dedicated this week. Aren Maeir shares lots of photos.

With temperatures in Israel soaring above 100 degrees F (37 C), wildfires are causing the evacuation of many communities in central Israel, including the Neot Kedumim Biblical Landscape Reserve.

Gordon Govier talks about Psalm 122 and the archaeology of Jerusalem on this week’s The Book and the Spade.

Peter Hessler tells the story of a how an Egyptian guard improvised in the early days of the Arab Spring to protect a site from looting.

Archaeologists working at Kirikkale in central Turkey have uncovered nine layers of Hittite ruins.

Ferrell Jenkins shares a favorite photo of the ancient Diolkos near Corinth.

Carl Rasmussen explains why early Christians very likely frequented places like the local thermopolium.

In a 20-minute video, David Moster shows what there is to see at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC.

Ferrell Jenkins explains why he thinks that “the two current volumes on Daniel and Esther may be the best.”

HT: Agade

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Weekend Roundup

A 3rd-century milestone found on the road leading from Sussita to Caesarea Philippi attests to the existence of Emperor Maximinus Thrax. (Haaretz premium)

Yosef Garfinkel is claiming that he discovered the fortifications that Rehoboam built at Lachish (Haaretz premium).

A few spaces remain for this summer’s excavations at Shiloh.

Aren Maeir posts some new aerial photos of Gath.

David Bivin has updated his article on the history and identification of Emmaus.

Carl Rasmussen visits Nabi Shu’ayb, the holiest Druze site in Israel.

The village of Aphrodito provides a glimpse at daily life in southern Egypt in the 6th century AD.

Zahi Hawass identifies three tunnels in the Sphinx.

A newly published inscription describes the Assyrian king “Sargon’s conquest, occupation, and reorganization of Karkemish, including his rebuilding the city with ritual ceremonies usually reserved for royal palaces in capital cities.”

An Italian team is planning to begin a partial restoration of Persepolis.

A team from Greece is photographing thousands of ancient manuscripts at St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai.

“More than 300 artifacts from Queen Nefertari’s tomb are part of the National Geographic Museum exhibit ‘Queens of Egypt,’ which is on view in Washington through September 15.”

Rock&Gem explains the Minerals and Metals of the Bible (Part 1, Part 2)

The May/June issue of Biblical Archaeology Review includes articles on the Huqoq Synagogue, dogs in the biblical world, and the Assyrians.

The Biblical Archaeology Society is having a DVD Blowout Sale, with prices marked down 60-75%.

George Giacumakis died earlier this month.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Chris McKinny, Steven Anderson

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Weekend Roundup, Part 2

The nymphaeum in downtown Amman has reopened to the public.

A Palestinian was caught trying to smuggle 70 ancient coins from Jordan into the West Bank.

Another man was arrested for trying to smuggle two tetradrachm from the time of Alexander the Great out of Gaza.

The Guardian posts a review of the “I am Ashurbanipal” exhibit that opened this week at the British Museum.

The British Museum Shop offers a number of interesting items related to the Ashurbanipal exhibit.

The Vatican Museums are considering putting a daily cap on the number of visitors.

A new festschrift honors Aren Maier: Tell it in Gath: Studies in the History and Archaeology of Israel.

Ada Yardeni’s final book, The National Hebrew Script, is now available for pre-order at Carta.

New from Baylor University Press: Magdala of Galilee: A Jewish City in the Hellenistic and Roman Period, edited by Richard Bauckham.

The Land and the Book audio program visits the Oriental Institute Museum.

Scott Stripling, Scott Lanser, and Henry Smith discuss “Relating the Bible to Archaeology” in the latest episode of Digging for Truth.

Flash floods in Jordan killed 12 and forced the evacuation of 4,000 in Petra. Here’s another video and several more showing the deadly torrent.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Explorator, Charles Savelle, Ted Weis, Paleojudaica, Alexander Schick

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