The Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority has announced the establishment of the Brandt-Lewis Center for Ancient Jewelry and Artifacts, to be part of the Schottenstein National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel in Jerusalem.

The BBC reports on a dispute over oil pipelines that run under the ruins of Babylon.

The Jerusalem Post reviews the 30th volume of Eretz Israel.

The Freeman Institute has produced a 14-minute film on the Rosetta Stone and how they create full-size replicas.

James Tabor explains why he believes that finding Jesus’ remains in the Talpiot tomb does not contradict Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection. Michael Heiser writes an excellent response.

Joe Yudin describes the wonders of the Small Machtesh.

Don’t forget about Eisenbrauns 30/30/300 sale. It ends on the 30th.

I’ll be traveling the next couple of weeks, but I have some posts prepared and may have a little time along the way. When I return I’ll have the most important announcement in the history of this blog.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson

Machtesh Qatan panorama, tb042207334

Machtesh Qatan panorama

Bryant Wood has written a short summary of the 2009 and 2010 excavation seasons at Khirbet el-Maqatir, a site he believes may be biblical Ai.

Of the Talpiot Tomb, Richard Bauckham has a detailed examination of the four-line inscription, concluding that it does not have anything to do with Jesus or early Christianity but is nonetheless a very interesting ossuary inscription. Paleobabble observes that there is nothing in the “Jesus Discovery” related to Jesus or early Christianity. Those interested in reading about the first “Jesus tomb” in Talpiot can access a 2006 issue of Near Eastern Archaeology on the subject for free.

The Maps of the Zucker Holy Land Travel Manuscript have been digitized and put online by the University of Pennsylvania. The map was made in the late 1600s.

John Monson’s lecture on “Physical Theology: The Bible in its Land, Time, and Culture” at the Lanier Theological Library last month is now online.

Wayne Stiles visits the Mount of Beatitudes, Tel Dan, and Beth Shean. He provides an interesting quotation from George Adam Smith about Beth Shean, written in 1896: “There are few sites which promise richer spoil beneath their rubbish to the first happy explorer with permission to excavate.”

How right he was!

Joe Yudin describes a favorite hike in lower Galilee.

Turkey claims that Roman mosaics at a university in Kentucky were stolen in the 1960s and should be returned.

The Roman ruins in Palmyra are apparently being threatened by the Syrian army.

Greece is re-burying ruins because of a lack of funds.

HT: Jack Sasson, Joseph Lauer

Palmyra, triumphal arch, central portion, mat01428

Triumphal arch of Palmyra
source, with 30 free photos of the site)

I am going to forego a roundup of the Talpiot tomb(s) at this point, instead pointing you to Paleobabble’s “State of the Question,” Jack Poirier’s rebuttal of the name statistics, James Tabor’s colored drawing of the “fish,” and Robert Cargill’s case that the image was photoshopped. I’m not aware of any scholar who didn’t publish a book on the subject within the last week that subscribes to the fish/Jonah interpretation.

The first three chapters of Lois Tverberg’s Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus are available to read online.

While the snow in Jerusalem was pretty, and the Sea of Galilee rose more than a foot, the weekend storms caused about $8 million in damage to agriculture in Israel.

The “All Out Adventure” column this week describes hikes in the lower and upper sections of Nahal David.

Finding a place to volunteer to excavate in the spring is next to impossible, but Tel Burna is accepting volunteers the week of March 18-22.

Ferrell Jenkins has the latest on discoveries at the Colossi of Memnon. For additional photos, see the Luxor Times.

Luxor Times also reports on the discovery of the name of a king from the 17th Dynasty. While it is the first artifact related to the king, it is not the first time we’ve known of him.

Wayne Stiles has a post for the first day of the Insights for Living tour. (Unfortunately, they seem to have rejected my proposal that Herod Agrippa was struck down not in the theater of Caesarea, but in the amphitheater.)

More than 2,400 years ago, the Lord delivered the Jewish people from evil men in Persia. The remembrance of that deliverance begins tonight. Current threats from modern Persia (Iran) should
keep the celebration sober. Happy Purim!

Post by Chris McKinny

The following video illustrates the different phases of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher moving backwards in time from the Crusades until Crucifixion. Here is the information from the site:

A journey back in time to tell the story of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the site defined in many Christian traditions as “the Centre of the World”. This is the gift by ATS pro Terra Sancta to all the friends and the supporters of the Holy Land.Divided in chapters, the video by Mrs. Raffaella Zardoni for ATS pro Terra Sancta presents a 3D reconstruction of the basilica at different times, back to the stone cave which saw the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our being here, our commitment for this land and our deep desire to help its living stones start and gather meaning from here.

While the video is extremely well done it should be noted that it illustrates the architecture of the bench of “Jesus’ tomb” identically in each chapter of the video. This is not exactly historically accurate. The burial bench beneath the “Rotunda” was actually reconstructed by Byzantine emperor Constantine IX Monomachus in 1048 AD after it and much of the surrounding rotunda of Constantine/Helena had been destroyed by Fatimid Caliph Hakim in 1009 AD.

For more information regarding th the various stages of the development see the “Church of Holy Sepulcher” entry in the Anchor Bible Dictionary by Oliver Nicholson (pgs. 3: 258-260).


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.


I remember hearing some years ago that archaeologists have discovered only four tombs in Jerusalem with round rolling stones. In doing some research, I have learned that there are at least six. Rachel Hachlili’s book on Jewish Funerary Customs, Practices and Rites in the Second Temple Period says this:

A round rolling stone [golel], closing the entrance was found in several rock-cut tombs [in the cemetery of Jericho], dated to the end of the first century BCE and the first century CE. At the door a slot was cut to hold a round stone; the stone was rolled into the slot away from the entrance.
The following tombs in Jerusalem were sealed by means of rolling stones: the Tomb of Helene [the Tomb of the Kings], Herod’s family tomb, the Nicophoria tomb (east of Herod’s family tomb), a tomb on Mt. Scopus, a tomb in the Kidron Valley, and the Hinnom Valley tomb. Similar rolling stones were discovered at a tomb at Horvat Midras and at the cemetery of Hesban (page 64; quotation modified by the addition of a paragraph break and elimination of parenthetical material).

Rolling stone tombs have also been identified near Kiriath Jearim (Abu Gosh), Michmash (Mukmas), and Megiddo.

This looks like a great book, but when it’s published by Brill, you have to be satisfied with reading it in the library.

Rolling stone in Tomb of Mariamne, mat05008

View from inside “Herod’s family tomb” with rolling stone (photo source)