Wednesday Roundup

I’m traveling this month, and this will be the last roundup before Thanksgiving. If you’re at SBL, come find us in the exhibition hall (booth #411).

Corinth’s Lechaion port has been discovered and it is impressively large.

The British Museum plans to allow you to print 3D artifacts at home.

Elad is appealing a ruling that prevents it from running the Jerusalem Archaeological Park along the southern end of the Temple Mount.

Brian M. Howell reviews Walking Where Jesus Walked: American Christians and Holy Land Pilgrimage for Christianity Today.

With the resident of the Amphipolis Tomb now being studied, the excavation has been concluded.

Robert Cargill critiques Simcha Jacobovici’s claim that he discovered the nails of Jesus’ crucifixion.

He concludes that it is “nothing but religious profiteering.” Another reviewer calls it a “sensationalist money-making scheme.”

Volume 2 of the Khirbet Qeiyafa Excavation Report is now available.

Leen Ritmeyer continues his series showing the Temple Mount through the ages, including during the times of Hezekiah and the Hasmoneans.

Ferrell Jenkins links to a video showing flash flooding in the Qumran area. He also notes some restoration work in the Protestant Cemetery on Mount Zion.

Mari is being looted while under ISIS control.

The Wall Street Journal has a video about plans to open Carchemish to tourists in the spring. The site
is only 60 feet away from the control of ISIS. (See here for the transcript.)

HT: Explorator, Ted Weis, Agade, Charles Savelle

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Questions To Ask of Sensational Stories in Biblical Archaeology

Every now and again a sensational story related to biblical archaeology hits the headlines. (This week it was this one.) It’s not long before I receive emails asking about the authenticity of the alleged discovery. To help my readers better discern whether they are dealing with a potentially legitimate discovery or not, I suggest that the following questions be asked as you read the report.

  • Does this discovery sound too good to be true? If so, it’s probably bogus.
  • It is reported by a news source you’ve never heard of? If so, it’s probably bogus.
  • Does it cite archaeologists that you’ve never heard of before and don’t appear on a Google search? If so, it’s probably bogus.
  • Does the report avoid getting input from known experts in the field? If so, it’s probably bogus.
  • Does the alleged discovery require a radical reinterpretation of the Bible? If so, it’s probably bogus.
  • Does the article use language such as, “This definitively proves…” or, “This is irrefutable evidence that shows…”? If so, it’s probably bogus.
  • Does it relate to newly discovered physical remains related to the crucifixion of Jesus? If so, it’s probably bogus.
  • Does the article mention Ron Wyatt, Robert Cornuke, or Indiana Jones? If so, it’s probably bogus.
  • Is it first announced in a TV special about the time of Easter/Passover? If so, it’s probably bogus.
  • Does the discovery relate to Noah’s Ark or the Ark of the Covenant? If so, it’s probably bogus.
  • Is it reported on a website with links to stories about Bigfoot, UFOs, and conspiracy theories? If so, it’s probably bogus.
  • Does the website name begin with www.world….? If so, it’s probably bogus.
  • Did I ignore it on this blog? If so, it’s probably bogus.

Did I miss some important questions? Feel free to suggest additional ones in the comments below.

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Wednesday Roundup

Ross Burns has created a website to mirror his Monuments of Syria with photos, itineraries, and maps. He has also put many photos on Flickr (with watermarks).

Luke Chandler explains why the excavators of Khirbet Qeiyafa have decided to return for one more partial season, with the remainder to be spent at either Socoh or Lachish.

Paleobabble addresses Simcha Jacobovici’s Conspiracy Fantasy.

Ferrell Jenkins reports on new discoveries at Paphos, Cyprus.

The Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology has a helpful list of links to universities and institutions with archaeological programs in Israel.

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Critiques of the Work of Robert Cornuke

I appreciate the careful work that Gordon Franz has done over the past several decades in exposing shoddy scholarship by those who make sensational claims in support of the Bible’s accuracy. Ron 102123642Wyatt was the long-time leader of fraudulent archaeology until his death in 1999. One of those who picked up the baton was Robert Cornuke, a one-time policeman who now alleges to have discovered the location of Mount Sinai, the ark of the covenant, Noah’s ark, and Paul’s shipwrecked vessel on Malta. Indeed, he discovers more on a two-week summer trip than any trained archaeologist discovers in a lifetime! What accounts for his popularity among evangelical Christians? Two things: he tells them what they want to hear in the way they want to hear it. Bible believers want to hear of great discoveries that support their faith, and if you package that in a charismatic presentation or a well-written paperback, you need not bother yourself with truth. 41iLwBUPx5L._SL500_AA300_Gordon Franz is serving the church by investigating Cornuke’s claims and writing critiques to help believers navigate these waters. Franz has recently created a convenient entry point for the articles he has written on Cornuke’s work over the years. Some of those articles include: Mount Sinai is NOT at Jebel al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia Part 1 Yahweh Inscription Discovered at Mount Sinai!111606056 Does “The Lost Shipwreck of Paul” Hold Water? Was the Ark of the Covenant Taken to Ethiopia? The full list is here. You may want to bookmark this link for future reference. For critiques of other dubious “archaeology,” see Franz’s “Cracked Pot Archaeology” section.

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Weekend Roundup

Haaretz has a lengthy profile of Ronny Reich and his 15-year excavation of the City of David. The article is partly based on Reich’s book and deals with the archaeological highlights and the political controversies. Walk the Land: A Journey on Foot through Israel is available as a free Kindle ebook for a limited time. A FoxNews story about the Chinese Christian version of the Noah’s Ark discovery interviews Randall Price and John Morris. The Oklahoma exhibit with the seals of Jeremiah’s captors is previewed in a four-minute video. Joe Yudin takes his readers on a tour of the City of David. He writes that one may walk underground to the Western Wall, suggesting that the tunnel collapse from late December has been cleared and the passage re-opened. An Asclepium has been discovered in central Greece. Christianbook.com’s Fabulous Friday sale includes a couple of great deals: Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, by Carl Rasmussen, and the audio NKJV Word of Promise New Testament, each for $14.99 for the weekend. HT: Craig Dunning, BibleX, Jack Sasson City of David aerial from east, tb010703201City of David aerial from the east

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Tomorrow: The Jesus Discovery

The Jesus Discovery: The New Archaeological Find That Reveals the Birth of Christianity by James D. Tabor and Simcha Jacobovici releases tomorrow.

The publisher’s description suggests that the book will reveal “an iconic image and a Greek inscription” on two ossuaries which pre-date AD 70 and which “constitute the earliest archaeological evidence of faith in Jesus’ resurrection.” The conclusion is that whoever was buried in this tomb was a Christian.

The authors go further and claim that since this new tomb is only 200 feet (60 m) from the so-called Jesus Family Tomb that it makes it more likely that the Talpiot Tomb is “the real tomb of Jesus of Nazareth.”

It sounds to me that this discovery is one part fact mixed with three parts speculation. If you read the book or listen to the reports in the impending media barrage, keep in mind the difference between the artifacts and the interpretation. If the history of the two authors is any guide, the quest for fame and fortune trumps the desire for truth. The best way to get your name and your book in the media is to question the foundations of Christianity.

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Weekend Roundup

Paleobabble posts a report on the Noah’s Ark fraud by one who knows the Turkish guides involved.

The report probably contains some of the true story, but it is obscured by a liberal dose of speculation and hearsay. Confidence in the author is further eroded by her lack of experience in the field, her photos of herself in conservative eastern Turkey, and her forthcoming book entitled Climbing Mount Ararat: Love and Betrayal in Kurdistan.

Eisenbrauns’ Deal of the Weekend is Ancient Place Names in the Holy Land: Preservation and History, by Yoel Elitzur. It is marked down from $65 to $26.

Ferrell Jenkins summarizes his survey of the Babylonian kings in the Bible, concluding yesterday with Belshazzar.

What did Jerusalem look like in Jesus’ days? A brief article at the Jerusalem Post describes the Herodian Quarter (Wohl Museum).

Archaeologists in Egypt have begun restoring a second boat buried next to the pyramid of Cheops (Khufu).

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, gives a 20-minute presentation at TED on the “biographies” of the Cyrus Cylinder. He believes this artifact is a major player today in the politics of the Middle East.

Eilat Mazar is warning that the antiquities on the Temple Mount are in danger because of plans to unite all of the mosques into one large one.

The seventh season of excavations at Tall el-Hammam concluded this week. According to email newsletters, the major discovery this year was a monumental gateway dated to the Middle Bronze period (2000-1550 BC).

The fifth edition of The Carta Bible Atlas (formerly The Macmillan Bible Atlas) is apparently more than just a cover re-design (as was the fourth edition). According to the publisher, “The Carta Bible
Atlas has been enriched by the addition of 40 new maps. Anson F. Rainey added maps and discussion on contemporary subjects surrounding the biblical narrative and R. Steven Notley revised and expanded the New Testament section. Prof. Notley further enhanced this volume by extending its historical reach to include the map of Palestine at the end of the third century as recorded by Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea.” Eisenbrauns has this updated classic in stock.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson

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Weekend Roundup

If you are looking for unique Christmas images, the Accordance Blog tells you where to find them.

A scroll containing the Ten Commandments from Deuteronomy has just been put on display at Discovery Times Square in New York City.

Iraq’s second largest museum is paying smugglers to return the artifacts.

If you’ve been intrigued by the title of Jodi Magness’ latest work, BAR has posted a review by Shaye J. D. Cohen of Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus. The book is available for $16 at Amazon or $20 at Eisenbrauns.

A bulla with the name of a biblical town has been discovered in the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

According to ANE-2, Gabriel Barkay will present it at a conference at Bar Ilan University at the end of the month.

The new Egyptian Minister of Antiquities has announced new policies for his department.

Ferrell Jenkins has written an illustrated series appropriate for the season:

Fishermen using illegal nets in the Sea of Galilee have been caught and detained.

The Biblical Archaeology Society has released a new edition of its free eBook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Discovery and Meaning. The new material looks at the War Scroll, the Temple Scroll, and the Book of Enoch. If you have not already, you must register to receive the eBook.

Olive Tree Bible Software now has the ESV Bible Atlas for sale for $22, the Zondervan Atlas of the Bible for $26, and the Holman Bible Atlas for $20. These atlases are supported on the Android, iPad, iPhone, Mac, and soon the PC.

If you ever hear the name Ron Wyatt in connection with some amazing archaeological discovery, run the other way. His death in 1999 did not prevent his frauds from being perpetuated in email forwards and on various websites. His alleged discovery of chariot wheels in the Red Sea and research claimed to date the objects based on the number of spokes is worthy of being featured as the latest post at PaleoBabble.

HT: Jack Sasson

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“Noah’s Ark”: Analysis of C14 Results

In April 2010, NAMI announced that they had discovered Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat. They supported this claim by declaring that the date of the wood had been scientifically tested as originating in 2800 BC.

NAMI has never followed up its sensational announcement with data that can be analyzed by scholars. In particular, they have withheld results from Carbon 14 tests done on four samples of wood. Andrew A. Snelling, Director of Research for Answers in Genesis, was provided the test results in order to gain his support ahead of the 2010 announcement. He explained to them why the data did not support their identification of the alleged object as Noah’s Ark, but they ignored his analysis and presented their claim as factual.

Since NAMI continues to attempt to deceive the world, Snelling is now revealing the confidential data they provided. In his report posted online last week, he presents the four test results from the wood. Samples A, B, and C are all less than 700 years old. Sample D was dated by an anonymous lab to approximately 2800 BC and is the basis for NAMI’s claim that the wood comes from Noah’s Ark.

Snelling’s report is lengthy and detailed, but he points to several problems with the date of Sample D:

(1) This sample was tested at only one laboratory, and a different one than the other samples. This
does not squelch rumors that a laboratory fabricated results for a price.
(2) The date of the death of the tree from which the wood came is between 9858-294 BC. That range is too broad to be useful, particularly with a single sample tested at a single laboratory.
(3) The tests of dendrochronology on this sample are not reliable.
(4) Comparison with samples of fossilized wood from trees killed in the Flood indicate that the date of Ark wood should be closer to 20,000 years BP.

In short, the burden of proof is on those who claim that they have discovered Noah’s Ark. Their unwillingness to report their data so that it can be analyzed by scholars suggests that they are perpetuating a fraud.

Previous posts on this blog about the NAMI discovery include:

Noah’s Ark Discovery Exposed (April 27, 2010)

Responses to the Latest Noah’s Ark Claim (April 29, 2010)

Questions about Noah’s Ark Discovery (May 20, 2010)

Noah’s Ark Confession (January 8, 2011)

Noah’s Ark Confession Repudiated (January 21, 2011)

Weekend Roundup – Link to Dufrene article (May 8, 2011)

“We Sell Hope” – written for another false claim, but relevant here also (August 8, 2006)

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The Tomb of Jesus: More Coming

Simcha Jacobovici is in Jerusalem this week working and filming in the area of the “tomb of Jesus” in the Talpiot neighborhood. Jacobovici previously claimed that he had discovered the actual tomb of Jesus and he is currently producing a new documentary with compelling new “proof.”

One possible strategy is that Jacobovici will take patina samples from the “tomb of Jesus” and claim that they match those from the James ossuary. Since this ossuary is inscribed “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus,” Jacobovici can argue that this was the family tomb of Jesus.

Much of this has been discussed at great length in past years, and with the exception of his partner James Tabor (who benefits financially from Jacobovici’s work), I don’t know of any scholars who accept this claim. Simon & Schuster’s website promotes their forthcoming book and promises a “primetime Discovery television commentary” and press conference.

A few basic points may be recalled:

1. The tomb of Jesus’ family was likely located in his hometown of Nazareth.

2. The economic status of Jesus’ family makes it unlikely that they could afford an expensive rock-hewn tomb.

3. The names Jesus, James (Jacob), and Joseph were very common in the first century.

4. Jacobovici is attempting to do what no one in the first century could do: prove that Jesus is still in the tomb.

5. Jacobovici has made it clear in interviews that his primary interest is entertainment, not truth.

Tabor appears ready to chase after anything that will undermine the historic Christian faith.

6. As long as people will buy, Jacobovici will keep selling his sensational stories, especially before major Christian holidays.

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