Category Archives: Archaeology

Tell Us More, Christopher: The Ataroth Inscription

Yes, tell us more.

A 2,800-year-old inscribed stone altar, found within a Moabite sanctuary in the ancient city of Ataroth in Jordan, may shed light on an ancient biblical war.

The altar bears two inscriptions. The words are in the Moabite language and script, while the numerals in the inscriptions are in Hieratic (an Egyptian writing system). The altar appears to date to a time after Mesha, king of Moab, successfully rebelled against the Kingdom of Israel and conquered Ataroth (sometimes spelled Atarot), a city that the Kingdom of Israel had controlled. By this time, Israel had broke in two with a northern kingdom that retained the name Israel and a southern kingdom called Judah.

The Hebrew Bible mentions the rebellion, saying that before Mesha rebelled, Moab had to give Israel a yearly tribute of thousands of lambs and a vast amount of ram wool. The rebellion is also described in the so-called Mesha stele discovered in 1868 in Dhiban, Jordan, which claims that Mesha conquered Ataroth and killed many of the city’s inhabitants.

One of the two inscriptions written on the altar appears to describe bronze that was plundered after the capture of Ataroth. “One might speculate that quantities of bronze looted from the conquered city of [Ataroth] at some later date were presented as an offering at the shrine and recorded on this altar,” the researchers wrote in the journal article.

The second inscription on the altar is fragmentary and harder to understand. Part of it appears to say (in translation) that “4,000 foreign men were scattered and abandoned in great number,” while another part of the inscription mentions “the desolate city.”

“Much remains unclear about this inscription,” the researchers wrote, noting that this inscription may discuss events that occurred during Mesha’s rebellion against Israel and capture of Ataroth.

The inscribed altar provides confirmation that the Moabites succeeded in taking over Ataroth, said study co-author Christopher Rollston, a professor of northwest Semitic languages and literatures at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

The altar also shows that, 2,800 years ago, the Moabites had skilled scribes who used their own script. The inscriptions on the altar “are the earliest evidence we have so far for a distinctive Moabite script,” Rollston told Live Science, noting that the inscription discovered in 1868 used the Hebrew script to write the Moabite language.

“We often talk about the sophistication of the scribal education of ancient Israel, and rightfully so, [but the inscriptions on the altar show] that ancient Moab had some gifted scribes as well,” Rollston said.

This merits further discussion.

Here’s the official essay title and abstract:

An inscribed altar from the Khirbat Ataruz Moabite sanctuary
Adam L. Bean, Christopher A. Rollston, P. Kyle McCarter and Stefan J. Wimmer

Abstract: A cylindrical stone incense altar inscribed with seven lines of text in two separate inscriptions was discovered in a cultic context during 2010 excavations at Khirbat Ataruz in Jordan. The two short inscriptions are written in Moabite language, using an Early Moabite script datable to the late 9th or early 8th century BCE. Both inscriptions also employ Hieratic numerals. Inscription A appears to tabulate small quantities of metal, possibly for some purpose relating to the cultic context of the inscription. The longer Inscription B appears to be potentially dedicatory and/or commemorative in focus, but remains largely enigmatic. These inscriptions provide a new important historical witness to the period after the Moabite conquest and occupation of Khirbat Ataruz/Atarot described in the Mesha Inscription.

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Posted by on 22 Aug 2019 in Archaeology


New Essays By Avraham Faust

Faust, 2019, ‘The Inhabitants of Philistia’: On the identity of the Iron I settlers in the periphery of the Philistine Heartland, Palestine Exploration Quarterly 151: 105-133.

Faust, A., 2019, A Social Archaeology of the Kingdom of Judah, in A. Yasur-Landau, E. Cline and Y. Rowan (eds.), The Social Archaeology of the Levant: From Prehistory to the Present, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 337-353.

Faust, A., 2018, Social Stratification in the Iron Age Levant, in J.S. Greer, J.W. Hilber, and J.H. Walton (eds.), Behind the Scenes of the Old Testament: Cultural, Social and Historical Contexts of Ancient Israel, Baker Academic, pp. 482-491.

As always, well worth a read.

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Posted by on 13 Aug 2019 in Archaeology, Biblical Studies Resources


Joe Zias on Crucifixion

An excellent essay on the ASOR website you’ll want to read.

Crucifixion and the cross continue to fascinate religious believers and non-believers alike. But the history of both remains poorly understood.

Archaeologists, biblical scholars, and others have long pointed to the “crucified man from Giv‘at Ha-Mivtar” as the earliest, indeed only, evidence of crucifixion. But they have consistently failed to point out that what appears to be the only direct evidence of crucifixion in the ancient world is, in fact, a fragmentary and heavily restored calcaneum, or heel.


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Posted by on 9 Aug 2019 in Archaeology


Schweich Lectures on Biblical Archaeology- George Brooke

If you can attend, do.

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Posted by on 27 Jul 2019 in Archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls


Near Eastern Archaeology: Quality Archaeological Essays

If you’re interested in Archaeology, it behooves you to skip the pablum publications popular amongst the Fundamentalists and read a magazine that really does the most excellent job of communicating archaeological facts:  Near Eastern Archaeology.

Archaeological discoveries continually enrich our understanding of the people, culture, history, and literature of the Middle East. The heritage of its peoples – from urban civilization to the Bible – both inspires and fascinates. Near Eastern Archaeology brings to life the ancient world from Mesopotamia to the wider Mediterranean with vibrant images and authoritative analyses. NEA (ISSN 1094-2076) is published four times each year (quarterly): March, June, September, and December.

All manuscripts submitted to Near Eastern Archaeology are subject to a peer review by independent scholars. All articles are sent to two external specialists in the field who are asked to evaluate the manuscripts for their academic quality; these assessment include comments on the contribution and a recommendation to the editor (accept / minor revision required / major revision required / reject). The time assigned for the review is normally 30 days; the peer-review process and (if required) the resubmission of revised manuscripts is handled through NEA’s Editorial Management system. If revisions are required, the system mandates authors to state how the reviewers’ points of critique have been addressed. NEA’s Editorial Board assists the editor in the peer-review process, e.g., through the recommendation of external reviewers, acceptance decisions, and the revision of manuscripts.

Quality scholarhip for interested layfolk.  No magazine on the topic even comes close.

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Posted by on 16 Jul 2019 in Archaeology


Israel Finkelstein’s Observations on the Ziklag ‘Discovery’

Israel emails concerning the Ziklag claim-

Identification of places mentioned in historical texts, including the Bible, with a given archaeological site is done according to three criteria: the geographical context in which the place is mentioned in the text/s, chronological match between the period of the text or the period portrayed in the text and the finds at the site and, when possible, preservation of the ancient name in the modern (usually Arabic) one.

In the case of biblical Ziklag, the name is not preserved. Regarding the two other criteria:

  1. Geographically, the story of David at Ziklag seems to require a site located in the territory of Gath, as close as possible to the desert fringe. Khribet er-Rai is located too far from the desert fringe, in the heartland of the Shephelah. Moreover, 1 Samuel 27: 6 is typically Deuteronomistic in language, that is, from the late 7th century BCE; it seems to show that Ziklag was contested between Judah and the Philistine cities, which does not fit a place close to Lachish, the second most important city in Judah. Most important, in Joshua 15: 21, Ziklag is listed among the towns of the Negev, rather than the Shephelah. This too does not fit the location of Khirbet er-Rai.
  2. Chronology: the list of towns of Judah in Joshua 15, in which Ziklag is mentioned, is dated to the days of King Josiah of Judah in the late 7th century BCE. From the preliminary report, there seems to be evidence for some activity at Khirbet er-Rai at that time. But the main phases of occupation at the site are centuries earlier and the 7th century finds are no more than some sherds on the surface.

For these reasons the identification of Ziklag at Khirbet er-Rai can hardly be accepted. Indeed, in the long history of geographical-historical research scholars sought Ziklag further south and/or west of this place.

Israel Finkelstein

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Posted by on 9 Jul 2019 in Archaeology


Ziklag ‘Discovery’ Video

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Posted by on 8 Jul 2019 in Archaeology


Have they Found Ziklag?

Joseph Lauer writes

This morning, Monday, July 8, 2019, the IAA circulated English and Hebrew press releases over its insignia and that of the Hebrew University, titled “Researchers from the Hebrew University, the Israel Antiquities Authority and Macquarie University in Sydney: “We Have Found Biblical Ziklag”, and announcing that “The site, from the time of King David, was discovered near Kiryat Gat * According to the Biblical narrative, David found refuge in Ziklag while fleeing from King Saul. From there he went to Hebron to be anointed as King * Dozens of complete pottery vessels were found at the site, 3,000 years old.” The IAA’s cover e-mail also stated: “According to the Biblical narrative, Achish, King of Gat, allowed David to find refuge in Ziklag while fleeing King Saul and from there David also departed to be anointed King in Hebron. According to scripture, Ziklag was also the scene of a dramatic event, in which the Amalekites, desert nomads, raided and burned the town taking women and children captive.”

Here is the press release, via Joseph L.-

The site, from the time of King David, was discovered near Kiryat Gat * According to the Biblical narrative, David found refuge in Ziklag while fleeing from King Saul. From there he went to Hebron to be anointed as King * Dozens of complete pottery vessels were found at the site, 3,000 years old.

How was Biblical Ziklag found? Researchers from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority and Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, believe they have discovered the Philistine town near Kiryat Gat, immortalized in the Biblical narrative. Ziklag is mentioned multiple times in the Bible in relation to David (in 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel). According to the Biblical narrative, Achish, King of Gat, allowed David to find refuge in Ziklag while fleeing King Saul and from there David also departed to be anointed King in Hebron. According to scripture, Ziklag was also the scene of a dramatic event, in which the Amalekites, desert nomads, raided and burned the town taking women and children captive.

The excavation, which began in 2015 at the site of Khirbet a-Ra‘i in the Judaean foothills – between Kiryat Gat and Lachish, has proceeded in cooperation with Prof. Yosef Garfinkel, Head of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Dr. Kyle Keimer and Dr. Gil Davis of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. The excavation was funded by Joey Silver of Jerusalem, Aron Levy of New Jersey, and the Roth Family and Isaac Wakil both of Sydney. The excavation has been ongoing for seven seasons with large areas being exposed – approximately 1,000 sq.m., leading to this new identification for Ziklag.

The name Ziklag is unusual in the lexicon of names in the Land of Israel, since it is not local Canaanite-Semitic. It is a Philistine name, given to the town by an alien population of immigrants from the Aegean. Twelve different suggestions to identify Ziklag have been put forward, such as Tel Halif near Kibbutz Lahav, Tel Sera in the Western Negev, Tel Sheva, and others. However, according to the researchers, none of these sites produced continuous settlement which included both a Philistine settlement and a settlement from the era of King David. At Khirbet a-Ra‘i, however, features from both these populations have been found.

Evidence of a settlement from the Philistine era has been found there, from the 12-11th centuries BC. Spacious, massive stone structures have been uncovered containing finds typical of the Philistine civilization. Additional finds are foundation deposits, including bowls and an oil lamp – offerings laid beneath the floors of the buildings out of a belief that these would bring good fortune in the construction. Stone and metal tools were also found. Similar finds from this era were discovered in the past in excavations in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron and Gath–the cities of the Lords of the Philistines.

Above the remains of the Philistine settlement was a rural settlement from the time of King David, from the early 10th century BC. This settlement came to an end in an intense fire that destroyed the buildings. Nearly one hundred complete pottery vessels were found in the various rooms. These vessels are identical to those found in the contemporary fortified Judaean city of Khirbet Qeiyafa—identified as biblical Sha‘arayim—in the Judaean foothills. Carbon 14 tests date the site at Khirbet a-Ra‘i to the time of King David.

The great range of complete vessels is testimony to the interesting everyday life during the reign of King David. Large quantities of storage jars were found during the excavation- medium and large-which were used for storing oil and wine. Jugs and bowls were also found decorated in the style known as “red slipped and hand burnished,” typical to the period of King David.

Following a regional archaeological study in the Judaean foothills managed by Professors Garfinkel and Ganor, a picture of the region’s settlement in the early Monarchic era is emerging: the two sites – Ziklag and Sha‘arayim-are situated on the western frontier of the kingdom. They are both perched atop prominent hills, overlooking main routes passing between the Land of the Philistines and Judea: Khirbet Qeiyafa in the Elah Valley sits opposite Philistine Gath, and Khirbet a-Ra‘i, sits opposite Ashkelon. This geographic description is echoed in King David’s Lament, in which he mourns the death of King Saul and Jonathan in their battle against the Philistines: “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon.”

Aside from the circular reasoning that always comes with these ‘biblical archaeology’ reports that ‘prove the Bible’, it looks to be a fun discovery.  Whether or not it is what it is claimed, remains to be proven (since a press release can scarcely be counted as proof).

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Posted by on 8 Jul 2019 in Archaeology


Joe Zias With an Anthropological Critique of Masada

Over on Bible and Interpretation.

Masada, known throughout the western world for the suicide narrative described by Josephus and later excavations by Professor Yigal Yadin, is not without controversy. Outside the academic world, few are aware of the controversy surrounding Masada; however, scholars have long questioned the veracity of the narrative and its interpretation by Yadin. Unfortunately, few scholars have subjected the narrative to rigorous anthropological research, the basis upon which the final Masada drama rests. Professor Amnon Ben-Tor, who excavated Masada, has attempted to summarize the archaeological along with the anthropological findings for a wider public audience. However honest his attempt, the anthropological findings strongly suggest that nearly all, if not all of the human remains found to date, are ethnically non-Jewish.


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Posted by on 3 Jul 2019 in Archaeology


The Incredibly Hot June Biblical Studies Carnival, Including Lots of Scandal Because of an Unprovenanced Manuscript…

Hot Hebrew Bible / Old Testament Posts

Ayrton da Silva mentions Hosea and an article on Hosea 4-14.  Who doesn’t love Hosea?

The fear of God is the subject of this posting over at B&I.  Acknowledging the linguistic and geographical breadth of comparable terminology is a good starting point for seeing how this conception of “fear” does, and does not, overlap with the conception of “fear” that modern readers may bring to ancient texts. These terms from antiquity can and do indicate a feeling of fear. Yet they regularly go beyond feelings, and they convey a conception of feelings per se in ways that reveal taxonomical challenges.

Who were the Patriarchs?  Michael Langlois has the answer.  Or, does he?  😉

Father’s Day is observed in June.  Christian Brady is a person who observes about Father’s day.  Is it coincidence?  It seems not.  So what that it’s a post from 2016.  He reposted it this month and so it’s fair game for carnivalizing.

Is water wet?  Is the Pope Catholic?  Is NT Wright publishing a book this week?  Is Mike Bird?  Do you even have to ask?

Bart Ehrman has a post on the OT and the early Church that may whet your appetite enough to join his network so you can see the whole thing.  I’d join up myself but to be honest all of my income goes on books, food, and clothes.  And food and clothes only if I have a little left over from book buying.

ANEE is looking for a doctoral candidate.  If you’re studying the Hebrew Bible and other ancient Near Eastern kinds of things and you’re interested in living in Scandinavia for awhile, you should apply, thou lowly undergrad.

Tavis has apparently been having interactions with Marcionites (or Andy Stanley- but I repeat myself) as he feels compelled to mention the fact that it’s ok to preach from the Old Testament.  Why yes, Tavis, it is.  It always has been.

Apparently Lego contests don’t like depictions of biblical scenes of violence.  Who knew…  Deane has the story.

A new volume in the ‘Alexandrian Bible’ is out.  William *The Septuagintialist* Ross shares the fun facts.

Has God cursed the earth?  Is climate change a result?  Here’s a post on the topic.

Ian Paul wonders if the Bible is clear about marriage.  Or anything.  Interesting question, isn’t it.

Hot New Testament Posts

James Tabor is following discussions concerning the Last Supper and the Passover and has some cogent points to make.  Mike Aubrey is on a tear about verbal aspect theory.  Apparently he doesn’t like Aktionsart as well.  What has the world come to?  What next, no Santa?  No Easter Bunny?

Joan Taylor gave a brief talk up in Canada about Jesus.  You can watch the YouTube video here.  It’s only around 25 minutes, so even thouse with tiny attention spans should be able to manage it.  And it’s very good.

James Tabor had some thoughts on the ‘virgin birth‘.

Gary Greenberg has some thoughts about the parable of the wicked tenant.  Give it a read.

So called ‘First Century’ Mark has returned…  blerg.  It is worth noting that the Green Collection, though having received title to the fragments (see point 10 of the purchase agreement), never took physical possession of the fragments. Instead, in accordance with other terms of the agreement (see points 10.1-10.2) the fragments were left in Obbink’s custody for research and publication (the intended venue of initial publication being specified in 10.3).  You’ll have to read the post and its attachments to figure out what all that is supposed to mean.  Blerg.

Larry Hurtado writes in connection with the scandal (this is as close to scandal as scholarship gets, unless you count Richard Pervo…):  This new evidence is personally dismaying, as it raises questions about the actions of Obbink, in whom I placed trust earlier (as in my blog posting here).  It now appears that my confidence may have been misplaced.  In a comment on Nongbri’s posting  [NB- It’s actually a comment on Elijah Hixson’s post, not Nongbri’s][JW], Peter Head says these developments now make me and Ehrman look “stupid”.  I’m not clear how he reached that judgment.  I may have been mistaken in my trust in Obbink, but trusting someone until there is reason to think otherwise is hardly stupid, Peter.  Also chiming in is Elijah Hixson over on ETC.  Enjoy the comments there too.

But the best analysis of the whole debacle is by Bart Ehrman.  His take is here.  And his response to demonstrably false claims and statements is here.

And then there’s this analysis of the receipt for the documents.  Gonzo work!  This first century (not) Mark thing will be made into a mystery film before long.  I suggest ‘On the Trail of Mark: Fraud for Profit’…

But if you want a more Obbink friendly take on the whole thing, don’t worry.  There’s this guy.  He seems to think the whole thing is a setup….  And Larry Hurtado thinks the fragment probative.  Allow me to remind you, however, that it is unprovenanced.

And, finally, as the month drew to a close, this shows up in Christianity Today.  What a bunch of shady characters doing shady things.  And worst of all, they knew they were.

Whew… That’s a lot of talk about an unprovenanced trinket.  Hey, you know how these problems and scandals can be avoided in the future?  Scholars can decide to have NOTHING to do with anything unprovenanced!  ‘Oh, hey Bob, you have a trinket you think is ancient and you want me to stake my reputation on it but you got it from some dude in a back alley?  Nah, hard pass, dude.  You go ruin your reputation, I think I’ll keep mine’.

On a happier topic- there’s, according to the title, a post about Paul here.  But I have to be honest, I didn’t read it.  Not because I didn’t want to, but because it’s a Patheos blog and I couldn’t actually find the post amidst all the pop up ads and advertisements on the page.  Or, I did find it, and Paul had hemorrhoid issues and a very bad case of eczema.  I hope you can hack through the weeds and find the fruit.

Joan Taylor was interviewed.  That’s always worth watching.

J.M. asks ‘what did Jesus learn from Mary of Bethany?’  Nothing so far as the NT is concerned, but that doesn’t at all hinder the speculation and the need of many to make women more and more prominent in the early Church, thus rendering history falsely and misrepresenting the facts.  But hey, there are ideological points to make.  So texts must be violated.  If trends continue, Jesus will soon himself be declared a woman.

Speaking of Mary and Martha… a Duke U scholar has discovered textual evidence of the practice of some scribes to remove mention of them.  It’s a fascinating report.

Nijay Gupta has a series of 16 posts on the topic of Women in Ministry.  Definitely worth taking a look at.  It’s a hot topic these days, along with complementarianism and egalitarianism and such things.  Women are big news, it seems.  It reminds me of what Paul wrote to the Galatians-  There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither slave nor freeman, there can be neither male nor female — for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28)

Larry Hurtado has some thoughts on scribal harmonizations.  Can’t we all just get along?  And then he goes on to talk about scribal changes, which he views as mostly intentional reader’s adjustments to texts.   Hmmmm……..   It seems progressives were at work centuries ago, adjusting texts to suit their views……  And Larry also has some thoughts on the baby Jesus in artistic representations… and whether he’s Jewish (baby Jesus that is, not Larry).

Speaking of texts- over at ETC they have mentioned a series available from de Gruyter and concerned with texts and textual studies.

What happens when a publisher of ANE texts and related books posts on the Letter of James?  This does…

Stephen Carlson made a rare guest appearance on Bart Ehrman’s blog!  It’s like sighting a Yeti, a UFO, and an intelligent and honest politician all on the same day!!!!   Oh and he talks about Mark.  Or something.

Q.  Steve Wiggins.  Q.

Michael Kok on pseudonymity.  At least he says he’s Michael.

Hot Archaeology Posts

Sarah Bond posted a gem about museum exhibitions.  It includes – These are just a few of the colorful objects that caught my eye in this luscious exhibition. There is is no doubt that there are problems of provenance and museum acquisition glimpsed at within World Between Empires; a fact noted by Press in his Hyperallergic review. But there is also a potent message to visitors throughout, one which asks viewers to consider the impact of the looting of cultural heritage today in places like Iran, Iraq, and Palmyra.

Michael Langlois posted on the Norwegian ‘Lying Pen of Scribes’ folk and their work.  In case you haven’t heard of it-  “The Lying Pen of Scribes” is the name of a new research project led by my Norwegian colleague Årstein Justnes.  The title comes from the biblical Book of Jeremiah, chapter 8 verse 8. The idea was born after I suspected the presence of modern forgeries in the Schøyen collection of Dead Sea Scrolls. Our international core team—Torleif Elgvin, Årstein Justnes, Kipp Davis, Ira Rabin and myself—conducted additional research, which confirmed my suspicions. Etc.

John the Baptist died.  In fact, he was killed.  And stuff from where he was killed has been brought to light.  And Chris Rollston is involved with deciphering it.  And that means that whatever comes to light will be reliable and accurately described.  Because Chris is a true scholar.

A new project regarding stamp seals in the southern Levant has been announced by Ido Koch.  Take a look.

Jodi Magness’s work on Masada is discussed here.  It’s also a book review.  But since it’s both, I’ve posted it here, on the cusp of the book review section.  You’re welcome.

Hot Book Posts

First off- if you are a fan of open access books in religion, there’s a new twitter account to follow.  Announced here.

Heather Thiessen blogged a review of a book on Judges. It’s a good review and hers is a delightful blog.  If you aren’t familiar, you should most definitely check it out.  I don’t know if she is related to Gerd Thiessen but if she is, it would make me UNNATURALLY and GLORIOUSLY happy.

Bart Ehrman has a book in preparation and a couple of book ideas percolating.  And he discusses them here.  Hartmut Leppin wrote a book on the Early Church.  It’s reviewed here.  You’ll find it quite enjoyable.

A new volume on the Psalms is available, in Open Access, by V&R.  Give it a look, and see if it’s something you’d like to read.

I don’t want to be one of ‘those’ people, but I reviewed John Barton’s new book.  It’s wonderful.  And so is the book!  😉

Bird reviews deSilva on Galatians.  MB remarks I’ve finally been able to read over David A. deSilva’s long-awaited Galatians commentary in the NICNT series and it is definitely one to put on your shelf. The commentary is characterized by deSilva’s eye for exegetical details, historical investigation, interest in background, and awareness of socio-cultural factors.   Yes, but what does he say about the ‘if cutting off a little helps, hack the whole thing off’ bit????  Inquiring minds…

Anthony Royal reviews a book on Paul’s use of the Old Testament in Romans.  It’s a nice review and the book looks very interesting.

The Coptic Dictionary (Berlin U. project) is online.  “The “Database and Dictionary of Greek Loanwords in Coptic” (DDGLC, Freie Universität Berlin), the research project “Strukturen und Transformationen des Wortschatzes der ägyptischen Sprache ”Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae” (TLA, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften) and “Coptic Scriptorium: Digital Research in Coptic Language and Literature” are happy to announce the release of version 1 of the “Comprehensive Coptic Lexicon“.”

Andrew Judd reviewed a book introducing the Hebrew Scriptures.  An Introduction to the Scriptures of Israel.  An Introduction to the Scriptures of Israel offers a fresh way in to the Hebrew Bible as a work of literature and theology.  Says the reviewer.  Fresh.  Or as the kids say it, Phresh.

Scot McKnight has a fantastic post on bible translation tribalism.  It’s witty and humorous and if you missed it, don’t miss it today.

Bible Gateway did an interview with a chap who wrote a book on the bigness of God.  It’s big.

Rick Wadholm reviewed a book about the antichrist.  Enjoy it, if you dare.

Larry Hurtado wrote the world’s shortest (so far) book review.  David Allen’s recent study of the appropriation and influence of OT texts on NT references to Jesus’ death is very much worth noting:  According to the Scriptures:  The Death of Christ in the Old Testament and the New (SCM Press, 2018).  I’ve just finished a short review of the book for Expository Times, and I can commend it.   I don’t know if that means he can commend the book or his review of the book.

Ian Paul excerpts bits of a book review by Mike Bird on transgender children.  Talk about a hot subject… it’s sure to engender loads of angry, letter-writing-campaign-generating discussion.

Hot Miscellaneous Posts

James McGrath made mention of the 20th anniversary of ‘The Matrix’ and reminisced about the title of his own blog in its first incarnation.  James is still worth following as he continues to explore the matrix we all inhabit.  Michael Langlois discusses the events of the intertestamental period.  By the by, if you want to know anything about the Scrolls or epigraphy Michael is your guy.

Helen Bond offered some thoughts on Mary Beard’s Gifford Lectures.  A must read.

Travis Bohlinger is at Cambridge for the Tyndale House conference and he’s posted some super photos that make me wish I were back in Cambridge right now.  I guess I will just have to pine and long for it till I get to return in January for SOTS.

James Crossley’s lecture from down in Australia is online.  It’s about English people and the Bible.  Loads of fun.

Christian Brady reminds us that the hard right has no interest in faith- it simply sees faith as a means of manipulation.  Give his post a read.  It’s quite timely.

Roberta Mazza has a post about Josh McDowell and his co-conspirator’s Russian appearance.  My favourite duo, Scott Carroll and Josh McDowell, is still around; this time, they went to Russia pretending as usual to be manuscript experts. Incredible as it may seem, there are people happy to join their show. 


The First Jewish Studies Society Conference is ongoing at this very moment.  ML has the deets.  The 411.  The skinny.

Charlotte Hempel talks about the job of journal editing.  It’s a behind the scenes description.

There will be a digital papyrology workshop in Parma in 2020.  Details here.

Oh Larry… no.  Just no…  We don’t encourage people to visit ‘wikepedia’ or wikipedia.  In a number of publications over the last several years, scholars have drawn attention to the ground-breaking work of several early scholars who date from the late second through the early fourth centuries AD.  In particular, the massive and innovative projects of Origen (ca. 184-253 AD) are noteworthy (see, e.g., the lengthy entry on him in Wikepedia here).  Nor do we encourage appreciation for Origen, who, according to the blessed Saint Jerome, is the chief of all heretics.   No, Larry.  Bad Larry.  Bad.

Spend a bit of time reading the Newman Research Blog’s 30 days of biblical wildness.  There’s a post for each day of June on an aspect of wildlife and environmentalism.

Steve Walton wants to help you be a better writer.  So, to that end, he has uploaded slides he used at a writing workshop that may be of interest to you.

Claude kicked off the month with his hosted Carnival.  Take a look if you missed it earlier.


Well friends seeking relief from the oppressive heat of summer- thanks for stopping by.  And look for the next Carnival in about a month.  And if so inclined, host one yourself.  They are a lot of fun.  As Phil ‘the Host’ Long writes

If you are a new blogger, a graduate student or established scholar who is actively blogging, I would love to have you host a future carnival.

As you can see there is no one for the rest of the year (September through December are wide open). I have a few asks out there, but there is still time for you to volunteer as Carnival Host. Hosting the carnival is a great way to draw attention to your work, so consider hosting in the near future.

Seriously….PLEASE email me  (plong42 at or direct message on Twitter (@plong42) to volunteer. You can also leave a comment here with your contact info and I will get back to you.

You can also review older carnivals by browsing this tag. Follow me on twitter (@plong42) if you are into that sort of thing. I have a Biblical Studies magazine on Flipboard, an essential app for your iOS device. I use it on my iPad for news and other special interests (including biblioblogs).

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Posted by on 1 Jul 2019 in Archaeology, Bible, Biblical Studies Carnival, Books


Three Stones Make a Wall

Eric Cline’s book arrived for review last month and I’m happy to say that it’s an excellent volume. My review will appear here in a few weeks.

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Posted by on 22 Jun 2019 in Archaeology, Book Review, Books


New Project Announcement: Stamp Seals from the Southern Levant

Ido Koch announces the commencement of a new project:

Stamp Seals from the Southern Levant: A Multi-faceted Prism for Studying Entangled Histories in an Interdisciplinary Perspective

A SINERGIA research project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation [CRSIIS_La6426]

The project is co-directed by Christoph Uehlinger (Zurich), Silvia Schroer (Bern), Stefan Münger (Bern) and yours truly. Our interdisciplinary, collaborative and multi-site project focuses on ancient stamp seals as a key medium for the study of second and first millennia historical entanglements in the Southern Levant. It engages a board of directors and an additional team of postdoc researchers and PhD students, an ICT technician, draftsperson(s) and student assistants.

There are several PhD and PostDoc positions open for application, in Zurich, Bern, and Tel Aviv, and I would be most grateful if you would spread the word. Please note, application deadline is July 1, 2019, 24:00 CET. See attached CSSL factsheet for further details.

CSSL_factsheet+researchjobs_June 2019

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Posted by on 15 Jun 2019 in Archaeology


When it Comes to Archaeological and Textual ‘Discoveries’…

These days, I think our default position should be skepticism and everything should be viewed a fake until it’s PROVEN to be authentic instead of blindly accepting claims made in the media. That approach has gotten a lot of scholars a lot of egg on their faces.

Indeed, the default position of scholars should ALWAYS be skepticism. An object is guilty of being fraudulent until it is proven innocent by thorough peer reviewed analysis.

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Posted by on 11 Jun 2019 in Archaeology


When You Keep Your Dig Secret for Political Reasons…

Politics have trumped science.  But that’s par for the course in Israel.

Israel is not obligated to release information about archaeological digs in the West Bank, the Supreme Court ruled last week, rejecting an appeal by two nongovernmental organizations.  The decision upholds both the state’s position and a lower court ruling. The state had argued that releasing the names of the archaeologists carrying out the digs would make them vulnerable to academic boycotts.  It also argued that releasing the location of the digs could undermine Israel’s position in future diplomatic negotiations.

So they will keep digs secret to safeguard academics participating in them from adverse publicity.  And to allow Israel to pretend it is neutrally involved in the West Bank in future negotiations.

Political considerations are determining archaeological practices.

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Posted by on 20 May 2019 in Archaeology


Michael Langlois, The Mesha Inscription, and An Interview

ML writes

I was interviewed by the Times of Israel on the possible mention of King David’s dynasty on the Mesha stele.

This mention was first suggested by André Lemaire and recently rejected by Israel Finkelstein, Nadav Na’aman and Thomas Römer. But, as I showed at a conference on the Mesha stele last November, new imaging techniques suggest that André Lemaire’s reading is, so far, the best.

The paper I gave at the conference will soon be published in Semitica, and I will post it here.

In the meantime, you can go ahead and read the paper written by journalist Amanda Borschel-Dan, whom I warmly thank for contacting me.

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Posted by on 7 May 2019 in Archaeology


More on Mesha: Langlois On the Case

With thanks to Joseph Lauer for the heads up about the Times of Israel piece-

Since the early 1990s, scholars have pointed to a barely readable bit of text on a nearly 3,000-year-old stone as possibly the first extra-biblical historical proof of the Davidic Monarchy. The reading, based upon decades of educated guesses, is notable for what can’t be fully discerned in the Moabite script almost as much as what can.

A pair of dueling papers, one of which was released on Thursday, again puts the tiny bit of inscription, as well as primitive copies of it, under a microscope, offering divergent views on what the 9th-century Mesha Stele arguably offers.

In a paper published in the Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University Thursday, a trio of scholars dismisses a decades-old hypothesis that line 31 of the stele refers to Beit David, the biblical House of David. However, using a combination of high-tech imaging methods, another researcher shores up the Davidic reading in an upcoming article in the Collège de France’s Semitica journal.

While the battle over a few ancient letters in the Moabite alphabet may seem purely academic, it is only one of several dramas attached to this ancient monument inscribed with battles and the spoils of war.

Today the Mesha Stele is housed in the Louvre. Back in 1868, the block of basalt was unveiled to the western world in a scene straight out of Hollywood. Found by Bedouins in the rubble of Jordan’s biblical Divon, it was initially offered for sale to French missionary, F. A. Klein. Realizing its worth, he agreed to pay a handsome sum but was later outbid by a competing collector.

After a tangled web of political intrigue, extortion and defiance against the ruling Ottoman Empire, however, the enraged Bedouin smashed the 1.15-meter-high, 60-68-centimeters-wide tablet to pieces. These were distributed among their tribesmen and many are yet to be recovered.

Slowly, painstakingly, the majority of the tablet was purchased piecemeal by some of the period’s archaeological luminaries — the French Charles Clermont-Ganneau and British Captain Charles Warren. But Humpty Dumpty couldn’t exactly be put back together again; only some 700 of its circa 1,000 Moabite script letters were in hand.

Amazingly, before it was smashed, an emissary of Clermont-Ganneau named Ya‘qub Karavaca had made a visit to see the tablet lying in the rubble of Dhiban (biblical Divon), and made a “squeeze,” or paper impression, of the monument. To make a squeeze, researchers wet paper and press it into every nook and cranny of carved stone.

But even while the paper was still wet, a violent fight erupted among the Bedouin: Karavaca’s colleague Sheikh Jamil snatched up the drying squeeze from the rock — ripping it into seven pieces in the process — and took off on horseback, according to a 1994 Biblical Archaeology Review article on the stele and its House of David hypothesis.

“This squeeze remains the only evidence of the inscription in its original condition,” writes scholar André Lemaire in the article.

Betting on Beit

Due to the wear on the stone, a break down the middle, and lack of pieces, only a few of the Moabite letters are clear enough for confirmation and could arguably be read as — a bet, a gap, and then a waw and a daled.

In 1992, Lemaire, a French philologist and epigrapher, built on the work of decades of proposed readings of the mysterious line 31, and proposed a controversial combination of his own: Beit David, or the House of David.

There is precedence in the Bible for the compound syntactic structure Beit David. Likewise, other examples of dynasties are similarly named in inscriptions after kings, such as Beit Omri.

But, even if the letters did all add up to spell Beit David, the meaning of the word could range from a place name — such as Beit-El — or a proper name. Likewise, there is some thinking that “David” could be a title, such as “Beloved,” or even the name of an ancient, little-known god, epigrapher and historian Michael Langlois told The Times of Israel.

A lucky find came on the heels of Lemaire’s proposal: a second inscription, almost exactly the spelling of his hypothesized House of David, on a stone from the same period found at Tel Dan.

Plan B

But this reading of the Mesha stele still rests on assumption that the missing letters would fill in the rest of the word to spell out House of David.

Now, however, based on new interpretations of high-resolution images of the paper squeeze, two Tel Aviv University professors — archaeologist Israel Finkelstein and Jewish historian Nadav Na’aman — and Collège de France biblical scholar Thomas Römer are proposing that the hypothesized documentation of a Davidic dynasty should be dismissed.

In “Restoring Line 31 in the Mesha Stele: The ‘House of David’ or Biblical Balak?” the trio describes an important “vertical stroke” that, according to the authors, “marks a transition between two sentences.”

“In most cases, it is followed by a word starting with a waw, as is the case here. This stroke can be seen in the squeeze and the upper part of it can also possibly be detected in the small original part of the stele that was inserted into the plaster restoration; this, in turn, may explain the full restoration of a dividing line in the plaster-restored section,” the authors write.

Rather than the missing letters spelling out the end of Beit and the beginning of the word David, the scholars say the waw letter previously assumed to be the middle letter of “David” is actually the start of a new word.

What that means is that rather than “Beit,” the letter “bet” is the start of a name.

In interpreting the new images, the renowned scholars (none of whom are trained epigraphers) cautiously propose that perhaps the name of the biblical Moabite King Balak is recorded there instead.

In the Bible, Balak predates David by hundreds of years. In one of the stranger episodes recorded in the Pentateuch, Balak attempts to have the then-wandering Jews nearing his land cursed by the prophet Balaam. Instead, aided by his talking donkey, Balaam blesses the Hebrews with the famous epitaph “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob.”

A new picture, an old reading

Not all scholars are convinced by the Balak theory. As Ronald Hendel, a professor of the Hebrew Bible and Jewish studies at the University of California, Berkeley, told told LiveScience, “We can read one letter, b, which they’re guessing may be filled out as Balak, even though the following letters are missing… It’s just a guess. It could be Bilbo or Barack, for all we know.”

Contacted by the Times of Israel this week, Langlois was similarly dismissive of the Balak hypothesis.

Puzzled, he said, “there is no such divider on the picture — including on the picture they used.” Rather, the line break comes below it on the subsequent line 32.

Langlois has spent years poring over these lines of text and will soon publish a groundbreaking paper that employs a mix of high-tech imaging to confirm the House of David as the most likely reading of the line being looked at.

There are many ways in which the faint letters can be read, said the Sorbonne-trained Langlois, but the House of David interpretation definitely cannot be ruled out — quite the contrary. Likewise, in terms of the other researchers’ paper’s claim that there isn’t enough space to write House of David, Langlois said, “The space is exactly perfect — no more, and no less.”

With a background in formal sciences, including mathematics, computer science, physics and chemistry, a few years ago Langlois decided to take on a long-term project in which he would utilize computer algorithms to perform Polynomial Texture Mapping (PTM) of the stele.

The result would be a much more detailed, 3-D image, utilizing photographs of the stone itself as well as the paper squeeze rescued by Sheikh Jamil on horseback and others made later by Clermont-Ganneau on the already broken stone.

Using Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) — essentially taking pictures of the artifact from a variety of angles and light sources — in 2015 Langlois and a team of scientists photographed the stele and its original squeeze at the Louvre, as well as additional squeezes in the Academy of Inscriptions and Fine Letters. Additionally, in 2018, the Louvre with the help of a professional photographer created a high-resolution backlit image of the squeeze, which also indicates depth of engraving.

After layering the images together, in a startling discovery, Langlois found a previously overlooked dot, which indicates a break between words throughout the entire tablet, as was customary among scribes at the time. The word-breaking dot, which is very clear under the new imaging, comes exactly after the area interpreted to read “House of David” and indicates a space after the final daled of David.

That rules out the Tel Aviv University paper’s proposed “vertical stroke,” said Langlois. No new sentence could start before the vav, since there are no Moabite words that are spelled only with a vav and final daled.

Langlois repeatedly stated to The Times of Israel that he is not trying to “prove the Bible.” However, he said, “from a purely historical standpoint, the most obvious solution is that there was a kingdom of David.”

“In my paper I’m not trying to discuss whether King David exists, just trying to read the stone, and my conclusion for line 31 is that the most likely reading is Beit David, which takes into account the traces of letters and the combination of them,” said Langlois. To read any other way, he said, is basically stating a refusal to believe in the possibility of a biblical King David.

“The new imaging technology that we have confirms the reading of Beit David,” said Langlois, adding, “It’s a good thing when science can confirm a hypothesis.”

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Posted by on 3 May 2019 in Archaeology


This Is Progress: ‘Loot to Order’ Pages Removed from Facebook

Facebook has shut down 49 “loot-to-order” antiquities-trafficking pages selling bespoke artifacts from war zones to clandestine collectors, in response to a two-year BBC investigation.

The BBC probe, published Thursday, found that looters were smuggling everything from ancient statues to Roman mosaics out of Iraq and Syria into Turkey, where they could be sent to the buyers who ordered them through the social-media pages.

Two things.  1), good.  2), if you are using ‘loot to order’ services, you are an evil person.

Archeologist Amr Al-Azm, who is a professor at Shawnee State University in Ohio, worked with the BBC to expose the racket. He found pictures of mosaic floors still embedded in the ground in Syria, which were offered with an option for the buyer to choose styles and colors “if available.”

He also showed BBC reporters the Facebook pages offering any number of statues from the looted ancient city of Palmyra, implying that the Islamic State terror group fighters had not destroyed all the antiquities there. Some 70 percent of all artifacts purported to come out of Syria are fakes, but the Facebook sites guaranteed authenticity.

“What we’ve seen is an explosion of sites and users on Facebook,” he told the BBC. “It’s transnational and Facebook is essentially allowing this to happen on its watch.”

Al-Azm told the BBC that buyers are often working on behalf of anonymous collectors across the world, including some in the U.S. who are looking for rare art from war-torn areas that might easily be written off as destroyed. As such, the provenance of the artifacts will more easily escape notice.

The BBC found that several sites offered a way for buyers to ask for specific antiquities. “In one case, Facebook administrators ask for Islamic-era manuscripts to be made available in Turkey,” the BBC reports. It is not clear if the purchase and delivery was carried out.

“It’s really opened our eyes to how accelerated these trafficking networks are,” researcher Katie Paul told the BBC. “Now if you dig something up in your backyard and you don’t know a trafficker, you can hop on Facebook, share pictures of what you’ve found and connect with people who are willing to buy it.”

Good for him!

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Posted by on 2 May 2019 in Archaeology


A New Reading of the Mesha Stele

The biblical King Balak may have been a historical figure, according to a new reading of the Mesha Stele, an inscribed stone dating from the second half of the 9th century BCE.

A name in Line 31 of the stele, previously thought to read ‘House of David’, could instead read ‘Balak’, a king of Moab mentioned in the biblical  of Balaam (Numbers 22-24), say archaeologist Prof. Israel Finkelstein and historians and biblical scholars Prof. Nadav Na’aman and Prof. Thomas Römer, in an article published in Tel Aviv: The Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University.

The authors studied new high-resolution photographs of the squeeze, and of the stele itself. These new images made it clear that there are three consonants in the name of the monarch mentioned in Line 31, and that the first is the Hebrew letter beth (a ‘b’ sound).

While the other letters are eroded, the most likely candidate for the monarch’s name is ‘Balak’, the authors say. The seat of the king referred to in Line 31 was at Horonaim, a place mentioned four times in the Bible in relation to the Moabite territory south of the Arnon River. “Thus, Balak may be a historical personality like Balaam, who, before the discovery of the Deir Alla inscription, was considered to be an ‘invented’ figure,” they suggest.

“The new photographs of the Mesha Stele and the squeeze indicate that the reading, ‘House of David’ – accepted by many scholars for more than two decades—is no longer an option,” the authors conclude. “With due caution we suggest the name of the Moabite king Balak, who, according to the Balaam story of Numbers 22-24, sought to bring a divine curse on the people of Israel.

“This story was written down later than the time of the Moabite  referred to in the Mesha Stele. Yet, to give a sense of authenticity to his story, its author must have integrated into the plot certain elements borrowed from the ancient reality, including two personal names: Balaam and Balak.”

I’m looking forward to reading their essay (and not just about it).  I love these guys.

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Posted by on 2 May 2019 in Archaeology, Biblical Studies Resources


#ICYMI – An Interview With Philip Davies of the Palestine Exploration Fund

Prof. Davies was gracious and generous and granted an interview about his work with the PEF

What exactly is the PEF, and when was it founded?

The Palestine Exploration Fund was set up 150 years ago ‘for the purpose of investigation the Archaeology, Geography, Geology and Natural History of the Holy Land’. The word ‘Fund’ appropriately designated its primary activity of raising money by subscription and donation in order to finance this ambitious undertaking.

After a meeting on May 12th 1865 in the Jerusalem Chamber, Westminster, London, chaired by the Archbishop of York, the Fund, with the patronage of Queen Victoria, held its first meeting on June 22nd. Here the Archbishop declared three principles: whatever done must be on scientific principles; the Society should abstain from controversy; and it should not be started, nor conducted, as a religious society.

The meeting resolved further ‘that the exploration of Jerusalem and many other places in the Holy Land by means of excavations would probably throw much light upon the Archaeology of the Jewish people’. Accordingly, although there was obviously a focus of interest on biblical antiquity, the meeting called for a systematic survey, including the collection of plants and minerals, of the ‘Holy Land’, and recommended that ‘facts requisite for a systematic history be noted by competent observers on the spot’. So geography, geology and ecology were also part of its remit. In addition, it was noted ‘that the Biblical scholar may yet receive assistance in illustrating the sacred text from careful observers of the manners and habits of the people of the Holy Land’. This last comment reflects a view that might be criticized as an aspect of colonial mentality and ‘orientalism’—that life in nineteenth century Palestine very closely resembled that in the biblical period. But it was born, I think, less of an imperialist mindset and more from a mixture of naivety, curiosity and enthusiasm. Nor was it totally untrue in every respect, although many of those sent out on the Fund’s behalf to carry out research quickly came to realize that it was far from being entirely the case.

Among those who have explored Palestine under the Fund’s patronage are Charles Wilson, Charles Warren, Claude Conder, Horatio Kitchener, Gottlieb Schumacher, William Flinders Petrie, Frederick Bliss, Robert Macalister, Leonard Woolley, T.E. Lawrence, John Garstang, John Crowfoot, Kathleen Kenyon and Olga Tufnell.

What is its mission?

We still maintain the original aims of the Fund: to promote knowledge and understanding of every aspect of the land of Palestine at all periods, though archaeology, ethnology, anthropology, geology and any scientific means. In keeping with the founding principle of non-controversy, too, we continue to disclaim any political or religious ideology, though our membership obviously embraces a wide range of interests. The Fund initially published a Quarterly Statement of its activities, which became the Palestine Exploration Quarterly, and this we continue to produce, along with the PEF Annuals and other books. We have accumulated a great deal of material from our activities—written records, an extensive repertoire of pictures and photographs, and some artifacts—and these need curating, preservation, editing and digitizing. We also maintain a large library, to which our members and visitors have access. In addition, we provide grants for research and, in conjunction with the British Museum, we organize monthly lectures. We also lend materials to exhibitions and hope to continue to be able to organize touring exhibitions of our own.

How did you become involved with the organization?

Like many scholars, I have long known of, and used, the Fund’s facilities, and when I was asked whether I would like to join the Committee, I had little hesitation in agreeing because I have been so often to Palestine and developed a great affection for it, and a concern for its past, present and future. Having been elected as the Chair of the Committee I shall, I hope, remain actively involved with it for five more years. Biblical scholars have always contributed to the work of the PEF but our interest in the entire history and culture of Palestine means that a very wide range of people and of expertise is represented at every level. This makes us a bit different from societies interested mainly in biblical antiquity.

How might others become involved?

First of all, by joining: there are no restrictions on membership; the subscription is modest and includes the PEQ. There is still a wealth of material in our possession that requires analysis and we are keen to encourage new members to participate in our ongoing work to make the material more accessible through publication and digitization. We are also in the process of increasing our international profile by establishing a North American presence, which, under current plans, will be centred in Chicago. Although a lot of information is already accessible on our website (, we are also planning to provide a members’ area which will afford restricted access to further materials, including videocasts of our lectures.

What do you see as the most important aspect of its work?

Different people will give different answers, because we cover so much ground and from so many different angles. But we would all accept that Palestine’s history and culture are nowadays strongly contested and subject to a great deal of popular misunderstanding. Much of its heritage is disappearing, and the PEF is an important, neutral promoter of all aspects of that heritage. As a biblical scholar, I naturally have a professional interest in just one small part of that history, though I was trained also as a student of Islam and I have an interest in Palestine especially as a place in which both imperial powers (from Egypt to Britain) as well as major religions, have settled, fought and sometimes come to some accommodation. As a bridge between three continents, it is also in its own right a very special part of our planet. I think the PEF’s dedication to the whole of its history (and prehistory) makes us special.

How does the PEF refrain from the trap of the politicization of archaeology?

Politicians always seek to control our understanding of the past, and the PEF’s own efforts were from the outset subject to attempts at political influence, especially in the years before the war of 1914-18. It is also, I think, well known that archaeology in modern Israel is part of a national effort not only to neutrally explore the past but to promote knowledge of Jewish connections with it. We are often approached from many sides by those interested in what we regard as political agendas, and we take care not to be seen to lend support to these aims. We encourage scholars and non-scholars of all persuasions to make full use of our resources but also to share our own aims and principles.

What are the perils involved in even using the name ‘Palestine’ in the organization’s title?

We have always used Palestine as a geographical designation, including Israel, part of Jordan and some of Syria, and it has been used continuously for the region for 2000 years. There really is no sound reason to abandon this usage. I am aware that ‘Land of Israel’ is the Jewish name for Palestine, and there is of course an Israel Exploration Society that covers the same geographical area as the PEF and publishes a corresponding Journal. But ‘Israel’ belongs to only a part of Palestine’s history and geography, and the same would be true of any territory occupied by a State of Palestine.

What are the future aims and goals of the PEF?

We need, most of all, to continue the digitizing of our collections, and with that our use of social media and digital communication, in order to offer members from outside the UK the tangible benefits they should enjoy of having access to news and material online as well as visiting our offices when in London. So in the last few years we have created in addition to a Facebook page, our own blog and Twitter feed, and we plan to create a members’ area on our website through which they can freely access some of our archives and download podcasts of our monthly lectures at the British Museum.

How can those interested in archaeology in the Levant help the PEF achieve its goals?

First of all by helping to finance our work. This can be through becoming members, but we are also most grateful for any other contributions in the form of bequests or endowments or donations of books to our library. We are a charity and while our income matches our expenditure there is much more we would love to be able to do to display our collections more fully and to develop them further. Second, by contributing to our publications, and participating in our online activity. For those living in London or nearby, we also have work to offer to volunteers. The Fund was not established as a learned society, and its membership is by no means dominated by scholars. We want to attract anyone with a genuine interest in any aspect of the land of Palestine.

Thank you, Philip!

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Posted by on 20 Apr 2019 in Archaeology


Reports of damage in the royal tomb of Cyrus II in Pasargadae- A Guest Post

After releasing some news regarding the flooding in Fars province and the resulting damage from the flood in Persepolis and Pasargadae, the Head of World Cultural Heritage Site of Persepolis has found it necessary to comment on this issue.

Hamid Fadaii indicates that about 2400 meters of underground waterways have been found and excavated at the terrace of Persepolis so far. Those waterways cover almost all of the palaces of the Terrace. During the time of Achaemenids as the buildings existed completely, the rainwater on the roofs flowed through ceramic tubes installed within the walls which emptied into those waterways.

The waterways, as he says, have all been built more or less at the same width to ease the flow of water during heavy rains. In some places, they have about 6 meters in height and 50-80 centimeters in width. The Achaemenid architects have carefully designed them with proper a slope to guide the flow of water to the southeast corner of the Terrace.

It seems that the waterways continued to work very well until the end of the Achaemenid dynasty. After the invasion of Alexander and destruction of some parts of the Terrace, the debris resulting from this destruction gradually filled the waterways.

Parseh-Pasargadae Research Foundation initiated excavations and dredging the waterways in 2003. In this project, the Iranian archaeologists working with the Foundation found out that the main waterway which provides an exit for the water gathered by the waterways on the Terrace is located at the southeast corner.

H. Fadaii indicates that making such a discovery faced some major obstacles, i.e., tons of debris and dust removed from the Terrace during decades of archaeological excavations at Persepolis and deposited at the southeast corner of the Terrace. Such a huge amount of debris and dust had closed the main waterway.

However, as the excavations of the waterways started once again under the supervision of the Archaeological office of the World Cultural Heritage Site of Persepolis in 2012, that waterway was cleaned. Since then, the rainwater gathered in the waterways on the Terrace has been guided to the southeast corner and the main exit. Now the problem of gathering water from the Terrace has been solved with the help of the original waterways and excavations and regular dredging by the staff of Foundation.

The Head of the World Cultural Heritage Site of Persepolis adds that there is no problematic gathering of water resulting from recent heavy rains. The slight number of water gatherings on the surface of the Terrace during the rainfall is due to the differences in the levels of the buildings and the ground which have also been solved with the efforts of the staff.

Regarding the situation of the tomb of Cyrus II at Pasargadae, Hamid Fadaii says that the tomb is protected from the flood and it has not suffered from any damage during the March and April rains of 2019. According to him, the tomb of Cyrus II is located between two rivers, i.e., Polvar River on the east and Subatan River (Tang-e Xersi) on the west of the tomb. Since those two rivers are capable of draining water from the heavy rain and guiding the flood properly, the tomb has not been damaged from any flood during its long history. He noted that the video which was released recently from the flood close to the tomb is showing the seasonal Subatan River which flows about 150 meters west of the tomb and joins with the Polvar River at the entrance of Tang-e Bolaghi.

Fadaii indicates that the efforts of Parseh-Pasargadae Research Foundation in the first decade of 2000 to protect the tomb from the flood at Pasargadae were very promising. The staff of the World Cultural Heritage Site of Pasargadae have built a protective wall between the tomb and Subatan River, dug a protection canal behind the tomb and used gabion river barriers there to protect the tomb as well as possible. With those efforts, the tomb, as well as other monuments at Pasargadae, have been protected during the recent flood in Fars.

Soheil Delshad
PhD Student at the Institute of Iranian Studies, Free University of Berlin

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Posted by on 12 Apr 2019 in Archaeology