Canaanite Temple Discovered at Lachish

Archaeologists from Hebrew University excavating at Lachish have uncovered a temple from the Canaanite period. The full study is published in Levant, and the university has issued a press release, portions of which are excerpted here.

In a study published last month in Levant, [Yosef] Garfinkel and his co-authors revealed, for the first time ever, extensive ruins of a Canaanite temple dating to the 12th century BCE that they uncovered in National Park Tel Lachish, a large Bronze Age-era settlement near the present-day Israeli city of Kiryat Gat…

The layout of the temple is similar to other Canaanite temples in northern Israel, among them Nablus, Megiddo and Hazor.  The front of the compound is marked by two columns and two towers leading to a large hall.  The inner sanctum has four supporting columns and several unhewn “standing stones” that may have served as representations of temple gods.  The Lachish temple is more square in shape and has several side rooms, typical of later temples including Solomon’s Temple.

In addition to these archaeological ruins, the team unearthed a trove of artifacts including, bronze cauldrons, Hathor-inspired jewellery, daggers and axe-heads adorned with bird images, scarabs, and a gold-plated bottle inscribed with the name Ramses II, one of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs.  Near the temple’s holy of holies, the team found two bronze figurines.  Unlike the winged cherubs in Solomon’s Temple, the Lachish figurines were armed “smiting gods”.

Of particular interest was a pottery sherd engraved with ancient Canaanite script.  There, the letter “samek” appears, marked by an elongated vertical line crossed by three perpendicular shorter lines.  This makes it the oldest known example of the letter and a unique specimen for the study of ancient alphabets.

The story is currently being reported by Jewish Press and Arutz-7, with more surely to follow.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Temple at Tel Lachish_Courtesy of the Fourth Expedition to LachishJPG

Temple at Tel Lachish, courtesy of the Fourth Expedition to Lachish

Plan of the North-East Temple_Credit J. Rosenberg.

Plan of the North-East Temple, by J. Rosenberg

Letter samek, 2nd row on right, inscribed on storage jar_Credit T. Rogovski

Letter samek, 2nd row on right, inscribed on storage jar; photo by T. Rogovski

Pottery uncovered in Temple_Credit C. Amit_IAA

Pottery uncovered in temple, photo by C. Amit, IAA

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Weekend Roundup

Few people will get excited about a “large stone found at Beth Shemesh,” but if you claim that the ark of the covenant sat there, that’s another matter. The archaeologist helpfully notes that the stone is located in the wrong place, and I’ll add that the temple dates to the wrong century and the stone looks to be much too small to qualify as a “large stone” in Israel.

An ancient seawall near Haifa allegedly was built to prevent flooding caused by climate change in the Neolithic period. The journal article on which these stories are based is here.

“A small 1st century factory that produced fermented fish sauce — arguably the most desirable foodstuff of the Roman era — was recently uncovered during excavations near the southern coastal Israeli city of Ashkelon.”

A Bronze Age painting of an Asian monkey on a Greek island suggests that trade and cultural contacts were more far-reaching than previously known.

“Two large tombs have been discovered and excavated at the site of the ancient city of Pylos in southern Greece, suggesting that Pylos played a surprisingly prominent role in early Mycenaean civilization.”

Archaeologists have found physical evidence of the mysterious pointy “head cones” found in Egyptian art.

“Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities witnessed a fortuitous weekend, discovering rare red granite Ramses II statue and seizing 135 relics in a Kidney dialysis centre.”

The homes of ancient Egyptians, Mesopotamians, and “Israelis” are presented in this collection of 40 photographs.

Shawn Zelig Aster has written a short but interesting article explaining how Assyria treated ambassadors from Israel, Judah, and other nations in order to turn them into emissaries for Assyrian ideology.

Bryan Windle pulls together all of the evidence, and a number of photographed inscriptions, in his archaeological biography of Quirinius.

Carl Rasmussen shares a few photos from his visit to the new museum at Caesarea Maritima.

The final Stars Wars movie is the latest Hollywood production to be filmed in Jordan’s Wadi Rum.

Phillip J. Long is quite positive in his review of the new Lexham Geographic Commentary on Acts through Revelation.

Don McNeeley provides a summary of the presentations given at the 2019 meeting of the Near East Archaeological Society.

Pac McCarthy (seetheholyland.net) has written a hymn with a Holy Land theme. A video recording is now on YouTube.

HT: Agade, Ted Weis, Keith Keyser, Joseph Lauer, Mark Hoffman

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Weekend Roundup, Part 3

Here’s a gem: a video about the excavations at Corinth made in 1945.

The first season of The Holy Land: Connecting The Land With Its Stories with John (Jack) Beck is now available on YouTube.

The Bible and Interpretation has an abridged version of a chapter from Margreet Steiner’s new book, Inhabiting the Promised Land: Exploring the Complex Relationship between Archaeology and Ancient Israel as Depicted in the Bible. This chapter surveys the history of modern scholars trying to locate the patriarchs in various periods.

A new exhibit at the Oriental Institute reveals the original colors of Assyrian reliefs.

Analysis of clay jar lids from the Qumran caves reveals residue of papyrus, supporting the theory that scrolls were once stored in the jars.

Ferrell’s Favorite Foto #33 is of the Cave of Adullam.

John Byron is on The Book and the Spade discussing the subject of his new book, A Week in the Life of a Slave (and Part 2).

The Temple Mount Sifting Project is now enjoying a new state-of-the-art greenhouse.

If you’ve ever been to an academic conference, you may appreciate this series of videos, especially the last one.

Biblical Archaeology Society is selling many DVDs for $5.

A couple of sets of Lois Tverberg’s excellent books are available for reduced prices this month.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer

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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, Part 2

Tourism:
National Geographic has a beautifully illustrated article on the history of Jerash (ancient Gerasa).

Saudi Arabia is now giving visas to foreign tourists.

A $6 million, 9-year project has made much of Jerusalem’s Old City accessible to wheelchairs. And now you can rent a golf cart at Jaffa Gate (for $100/hour).

The entry fee for Rome’s Colosseum is jumping to €16.

Ferrell Jenkins shares a number of photos from his visit to the Brook Besor.

The first photograph of the Acropolis of Athens was taken in 1842.

I enjoyed talking about my visit to Susa on The Book and the Spade. Part 2 is now posted.


Lectures:
Peter Machinist will be lecturing on “Assyria and the Hebrew Bible: A Reassessment” at NYU on Nov 14. Registration required.

Felix Höflmayer, Katharina Streit, & Lyndelle Webster will be lecturing at the Albright Institute on Oct 31 at 4:00. Their topic:  The Austrian-Israeli Expedition to Lachish After Three Years of Excavation.


Videos:
New series on YouTube: “The Holy Land: Connecting the Land with Its Stories is a nine-episode series hosted by Dr. John (Jack) Beck that takes you to regions throughout Israel to experience the land, the culture, and the customs that surround the sacred stories of the Bible.” The first two episodes have been released, and you can see a 2-minute special feature about Jerusalem here.

The latest video from Biblical Israel Ministries and Tours: “It Happened Here” – Life Lessons from Israel: Beth Shemesh (6 min).

Appian Media is posting regularly to their YouTube channel, including some behind-the-scenes videos.

We’ll have more in part 3 tomorrow.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Keith Keyser, Explorator

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Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Discoveries:
Tablets excavated at Gezer and the nearby Tel Hadid indicate that Israelites were not living in the area following the Assyrian invasions in the late 8th century BC (Haaretz premium).

A new study by Tel Aviv University has determined that the kingdom of Edom was flourishing in the 12th and 11th centuries BC, led in part by a high-tech copper network. The underlying journal article is available here.

Tin ingots from the 13th-12th centuries BC discovered near Haifa were apparently mined in Cornwall, England.

“Egyptian authorities have unintentionally discovered several historical monuments dating back to the Greco-Roman and Ptolemaic era in roughly 20 archaeological sites in the east and middle of Alexandria.”

A temple of Ptolemy IV was discovered in northern Sohag, Egypt, while drilling for a sewage drainage project.

An archaeologist in Aphrodisias, Turkey, discovered a Roman milestone that had long been used as a table base in a coffee shop.

Excavators continue to work to expose the forum area in ancient Alexandria Troas.

Nadav Shragai reports on the Adonijah seal impression and other discoveries that have come as a result of the excavations at the foundations of the western wall of the Temple Mount.


Museums and Exhibits:
The Bank of Israel in Jerusalem has opened an archaeological exhibit featuring “several spectacular ancient coin caches,” one of which includes more than 10,000 large coins.

Two Roman statues discovered last year near Beth Shean are joining the permanent collections of the Gan Hashlosha–Sahne Museum.

The largest-ever exhibition of treasure from King Tut’s tomb will be on display at the Saatchi Gallery from November 2, 2019 to May 3, 2020.

The Palestinian Museum in Bir Zeit recently won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. The museum does not have a permanent collection.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum is returning a beautiful gold coffin of a high-ranking priest to Egypt after learning the item was stolen and its import papers forged.


Books:
Available at a pre-pub discount on Logos: Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology, by Randall Price and Wayne House.

Two new books from the Oriental Institute:

  • Discovering New Pasts: The OI at 100, edited by Theo van den Hout. Purchase ($134). Free download.
  • 100 Highlights of the Collections of the Oriental Institute Museum, edited by Jean M. Evans, Jack Green, and Emily Teeter. Purchase ($80). Free download.

The Times of Israel reviews Jodi Magness’s new book, Masada.

The German Protestant Institute of Archaeology in the Holy Land (GPIA) has produced a catalogue of the exhibition “Tall Zirā’a—Mirror of Jordan’s History.”

In tomorrow’s roundup, we’ll cover tourism, lectures, and videos.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Keith Keyser, Explorator, Jared Clark

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Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Madeleine Mumcuoglu and Yosef Garfinkel explain how a shrine model discovered at Khirbet Qeiyafa may help us to better understand Solomon’s Temple.

Samuel Dewitt Pfister asks whether the latest claim about Bethsaida and the Church of the Apostles should be trusted.

ABR has announced the discovery of three altar horns in their excavations at Shiloh this summer. (Press release not online as of this writing.)

Applications for excavating at Shiloh in 2020 with the Associates for Biblical Research are now being accepted.

“Hamas has done little to protect Gaza’s antiquities and in some cases actively destroys them.”

Though rare and significant, few people know about a First Temple period cistern discovered near the Western Wall of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

Joe Zias looks at ancient crucifixion, considering the difficulties of the lone archaeological bone and arguing that crosses were shaped as a T.

Clyde Billington reviews the latest archaeological news on this week’s The Book and the Spade.

A slideshow/video on the work of M. G. Kyle at Tell Beit Mirsim’s excavations from 1926 to 1932 is on YouTube. The photos have captions, and if you read faster, you can advance more quickly through parts. The video clips may be the earliest from an excavation in the Holy Land. Near the end, there are scenes from a grain harvest as well as footage from Jerusalem in 1930.

HT: Ted Weis, Agade, G. M. Grena

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Weekend Roundup

New excavations in Perga have revealed the well-preserved(!) foundation of the Tomb of Plancia Magna. And Carl Rasmussen also has photos of new reconstruction work at Thyatira.

Pat McCarthy’s newest page at Seetheholyland.net is about the Sisters of Nazareth excavation, including a church possibly built over Jesus’s childhood home.

Aaron Demsky explains how the Samaria Ostraca shed light on the names of Zelophehad’s daughters and Israel’s settlement in Manasseh.

Mark Barnes draws out some lessons from Shechem, including how conflict, covenant, and choice defined its history.

In a new podcast, Clint Burnett discusses the background of the Nazareth Inscription as well as assessing whether it provides evidence of Jesus’s empty tomb (Apple).

Peter grew up in Bethsaida and ended up in Rome. Wayne Stiles explains how he got there by a series of “hard left turns.”

Shemesh Online reports on the compromise reached that will allow for the construction of the highway over the tell, the reduction of the width of that road, as well as the building of a pedestrian overpass to connect the two sides.

Kristina Killgrove gives five reasons why you shouldn’t buy that ancient artifact.

Cathie Spieser looks at the theology of birth and rebirth in ancient Egypt.

Chapter 8 of The Gospel of Mark in the LUMO Project has been dubbed in Koine Greek.

On The Book and the Spade, Clyde Billington and Gordon Govier discuss some recent stories, including Macherus, Melchizedek, and the Philistines.

In his ongoing Footsteps series, Bryan Windle identifies three things Paul likely saw in Corinth.

Ferrell’s Favorite Foto #24 is of Gibeon.

HT: Agade, Jared Clark, Joseph Lauer

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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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