Category Archives: Archaeology

Eric Cline’s Lecture on Megiddo

It’s to be online. All the details here.

Avar: A New Journal

Take a look.

Avar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Life and Society in the Ancient Near East is a bi-annual open-access journal dedicated to publishing peer-reviewed scholarship on Anatolia, Egypt, the Levant, and Mesopotamia in the second and first millennia BCE that crosses and disrupts disciplinary boundaries.

Verdammt und vernichtet: Kulturzerstörungen Vom Alten Orient bis zur Gegenwart

This will be of interest to persons following the destruction of antiquities across the Near East-

Fassungslos blickte 2015 die Weltöffentlichkeit nach Palmyra – die antike Ruinenstadt war der Terrororganisation IS in die Hände gefallen. Der uralte Baaltempel, das heilige Zentrum zahlloser Kulturen, wurde gesprengt. Doch ist Kulturzerstörung keine Erfindung der Gegenwart. Sie zieht sich wie ein blutiges Band durch die Jahrtausende. Hermann Parzinger schreitet die Horizonte der Barbarei ab, erzählt die Geschichte vernichteter Kulturschätze und hält ein fulminantes Plädoyer für den Schutz des Menschheitserbes und der künstlerischen Freiheit.

Seine Tour d´Horizont führt ihn von der Tilgung der Erinnerung im Alten Ägypten und den Großreichen Mesopotamiens über die Zerstörung des Tempels von Jerusalem durch die Römer im Jahr 70 n. Chr. weiter durch die Bilderstürme der Reformation und der französischen Revolution bis hin zu den Verheerungen des europäischen Kolonialismus, dem Zivilisationsbruch des Nationalsozialismus und darüber hinaus bis in unsere Tage. Immer wieder wird deutlich, dass gezielte Verwüstungen und Plünderungen von traditions- und identitätsstiftenden Kulturgütern auch Ausdruck eines neuen Deutungs- und Herrschaftsanspruchs waren. Doch waren jenseits machtpolitischer, ideologischer oder religiöser Beweggründe Bilderstürme häufig auch von handfesten finanziellen Interessen geleitet: Raub und Enteignungen erweisen sich bei näherem Hinsehen geradezu als systematische Vermögensumverteilung. So erwartet Leserinnen und Leser ein Buch von schmerzlicher Aktualität, das uns zugleich die Kostbarkeit der kulturellen Zeugnisse auf allen Kontinenten vor Augen führt.

Jodi Magness’ Lecture on the Huqoq Synagogue Mosaics

Was fantastic!  Photos weren’t permitted or I would have snapped a dozen screenshots.  Suffice to say, you should DEFINITELY get the excavation report whenever it’s published.

If you missed the lecture, you missed a real treat.

Jodi Magness’ Lecture on the Mosaics at Huqoq

RAMAT RAḤEL VI: The Renewed Excavations by the Tel Aviv–Heidelberg Expedition (2005–2010): The Babylonian-Persian Pit – Pottery Assemblage, Stamp Impressions and Other Finds

This is part of a three-volume final report of the renewed excavations at Ramat Raḥel by the Tel Aviv–Heidelberg Expedition (2005−2010). It presents the finds from the Babylonian-Persian pit, one of the most dramatic find-spots at Ramat Raḥel. The pit yielded a rich assemblage of pottery vessels and yhwd, lion, and sixth-century “private” stamp impressions, including, for the first time, complete restored stamped jars, jars bearing two handles stamped with different yhwd impressions, and jars bearing both lion and “private” stamp impressions on their bodies. Residue analysis was conducted on many of the vessels excavated from the pit to analyze their contents, yielding surprising results. The finds contribute to our understanding of the pottery of the Babylonian and early Persian periods (6th−5th centuries BCE) and to the study of the development of the stamped-jar administration in the province of Yehud under Babylonian and Persian rule.

Edited by Oded Lipschits, Liora Freud, Manfred Oeming, and Yuval Gadot

Synagogues in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods: Archaeological Finds, New Methods, New Theories

The study of ancient Judaism has enjoyed a steep rise in interest and publications in recent decades, although the focus has often been on the ideas and beliefs represented in ancient Jewish texts rather than on the daily lives and the material culture of Jews/Judaeans and their communities. The nascent institution of the synagogue formed an increasingly important venue for communal gathering and daily or weekly practice. This collection of essays brings together a broad spectrum of new archaeological and textual data with various emergent theories and interpretative methods in order to address the need to understand the place of the synagogue in the daily and weekly procedures, community frameworks, and theological structures in which Judaeans, Galileans, and Jewish people in the Diaspora lived and gathered. The interdisciplinary studies will be of great significance for anyone studying ancient Jewish belief, practice, and community formation.

Review forthcoming.

#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!

Conference Announcement: ‘Contamination’ vs. ‘Contagion’

‘Contamination’ vs. ‘Contagion’
Diagnosing and Treating Infection (or Virus?) in Mesopotamia
Workshop with Professor Dr. Mark Geller (UCL)
Faculty of Theology, Zurich
Kirchgasse 9, CH-8001 Zurich
Room KIR-1-103
Friday, 29 October 2021, 14:00-18:00
Saturday, 30 October 2021, 10:00-12:00; 13:30-18:00

When Mesopotamian physicians or diagnostic priests labelled a disease vector as a ‘demon’, the modern ‘microbe’ analogy often turns out to be inaccurate, since a virus is not a living organism but a particle comprising protein molecules and its own genetic materials. Moreover, it is important to avoid the common error of assuming that ancients had a notion of ‘contagion’, which is a modern idea from the 19th century.

Mesopotamia physicians did, however, have the idea of ‘contamination’, which they referred to as either ‘unclean’ or ‘unholy’, meaning that all physical contact was to be avoided. Ironically, an ancient diagnosis of disease as ‘contamination’ often comes closer to how one needs to deal with the threat of a virus: rituals for washing, bathing, and general attention to hygiene, in addition to ‘social distancing’.

The use of quarantine was recommended in a recently published cuneiform tablet from the British Museum, from about 500 BCE, recommending assigning the patient with fever to separate quarters for at least three days, where he was wrapped in wool and sat in the dark, with a sign on the door indicating that he was ill. Drugs were applied, but what kinds of drugs? These questions will be addressed in our discussion.

Via Konras Schmid.

Happy 72nd Birthday, Israel Finkelstein!

Today is Israel’s birthday. He’s an incredibly influential Israeli archaeologist and he has overseen the excavation of most of Israel’s most important sites. Over the years he’s been a great friend and I appreciate his great work. Check out a plethora of posts in celebration of his birth-iversary and a gallery of images:

Happy birthday!

The Woman in the Pith Helmet

I got a copy of this for review a while back.

Edited by Jennie Ebeling and Philippe Guillaume: This volume celebrates the career of Norma Franklin, an archaeologist who has made important contributions to our understanding of the three key cities of Samaria, Megiddo, and Jezreel in the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the Iron Age. The sixteen essays offered herein by Franklin’s colleagues in archaeology and biblical studies are a fitting tribute to the woman in the pith helmet: an indomitable field archaeologist who describes herself as “happiest with complex stratigraphy” and dedicated to “killing sacred cows.”

This is so very well deserved!  And the editors!  Wow.  Top notch both!

The publisher provides the table of contents on the page linked to above, so I’ll set that aside from the present review and allow you to check it for yourself.

First, the good:  The book is a goldmine of detailed and sometimes fairly brief yet concise and cogent wide ranging scholarship.  It includes a poem honoring the honoree, a brief biography of said honoree, and essays dedicated to the interests which occupied Norma’s wondrous career.  There is, unsurprisingly, a lot having to do with Jezreel; but there are also essays devoted to broader topics such as Jack Sasson’s really utterly delightful investigation of the Samson and Delilah story.  Then too, there’s Eric Cline’s description of the first excavator of Megiddo, and Joan Taylor and Shimon Gibson’s really fascinating essay on Qumran as 6th century Judean outpost.   More esoteric matters appear as well, such as Louise Hitchcock’s investigation of mason marks and Margreet Steiner’s look at Cypro-Phoenecian juglets found in Moab.

Second, the better:  The volume has an impressive number of illustrations, including but not limited to maps, charts, photos, in both black and white, and color, and tables.  Each essay has a fulsome bibliography and footnotes, when appearing, are at a bare minimum.

Third, the best:  The essays are of varying length and this means that authors were given the freedom to cover the material they had chosen to honor their friend and colleague in a way they saw fit.  Tony Cartledge’s extremely concise paper is but 5 pages.  On the other hand, Jennie Ebeling’s ‘Gone to the Dogs’ is 20 pages, i.e., 4 times as long.  There is really something to be said for allowing scholars to say what they must as briefly or as lengthily as they deem necessary rather than providing a strict word limit both lower and upper.  This creates artifice.  And this volume is gloriously free of that particular vice.

This is a collection of essays that truly honor their colleague.  Norma should be proud, and I’m sure she is.  But the contributors to this volume should also be proud, because they have done a wonderful thing by sending out into the world essays that are useful and relevant, and in most cases advance the field.

Finally, a personal note about my reaction to the essays here found:  that by Jack Sasson is written in such a delightful, witty, engaging way that it alone is well worth the price of the volume.  And the essay by Joan Taylor and Shimon Gibson is a real gem of a piece that I think will change the perspective of many concerning the settlement at Qumran.   I don’t mean to suggest that the other essays are less valuable.  They are well worth the time it takes to read them (whether that’s 10 minutes or 30), I simply wish to point out that these two essays really are something to behold.

You should take yourself over to your library (or send a sharply worded email to the purchasing department of said library) and require them to include this book on their shelves.  And then you should go to the distributor’s website and order one for yourself.

Oh, and, Norma, congratulations!

Roberta Mazza’s Lecture

Joseph Lauer’s Roundup of Sources For the Latest Dead Sea Scroll Discovery

For the moment the ghosts of Moses Shapira and his Deuteronomy Fragment have been pushed to the sidelines as this morning, Tuesday, March 16, 2021, the IAA circulated English and Hebrew press releases over its insignia and those of other agencies. The release, titled “Thrilling finds have been uncovered by a challenging Israel Antiquities Authority operation in the Judean Desert Nature Reserve,” announced that “The finds include dozens of fragments of a biblical scroll from the Bar Kokhba period, a 6,000-year-old skeleton of a child and the oldest complete basket in the world” and “For the first time in approximately 60 years, archaeological excavations have uncovered fragments of a biblical scroll. The scroll, which is written in Greek, includes portions of the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets, including the books of Zechariah and Nahum.”

The English release is attached hereto and I can forward the Hebrew release to any interested reader. The English release (titled “New scroll fragments uncovered in the Judean Desert Nature Reserve”) may also be read at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs site at See also [Hebrew]

As noted in the release, 47 high resolution pictures and three videos may be downloaded at the place in the release stating “Click here to download photos and video clip:” (The credits that should be noted if the items are used are also in the attached release.)

The pictures may also be accessed at or

The finds have received media attention, including at the following sites, and more will surely appear.

Among the Hebrew articles are:

Ha’aretz has taken advantage of the discoveries to publish three online Premium articles:

‘Newly Discovered’ Dead Sea Scroll Fragments

Skepticism is best when it comes to discoveries.  Let’s see if the find is real after it has been tested and authenticated by actual experts and not journalists.

The Israel Antiques Authority (IAA) announced on Tuesday that fragments of a scroll had been found in a cave in the Judean Desert. The discovery came during a several-year-long survey of all the caves in the area, carried out by the IAA.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are among the earliest texts written in the Hebrew language and are 2,000 years old. Some two dozen have been newly discovered during a daring rescue operation.

The newly found fragments of the scrolls are Greek translations of the books of Nahum and Zechariah from the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets. The only Hebrew in the text is the name of God while the rest is written in Greek.

The fragments were found in the Cave of Horror in Nahal Hever. According to an Israel Antiquities Authority press release, the cave is “flanked by gorges and can only be reached by rappelling precariously down the sheer cliff,” hence it was given its name.

The IAA has been excavating caves across the Judean Desert since the rescue operation began in 2017. The dig was underway due to fears that any remaining Scrolls, which were left over from the original discovery by shepherds around 70 years ago, could be stolen.

Israel Hasson, director-general of the IAA said: “For years now our most important heritage and cultural assets have been excavated illicitly and plundered in the Judean Desert caves for reasons of greed.”

Mr Hasson went on to call the discovery a “wake-up call to the state,” adding: “Resources must be allocated for the completion of this historically important operation. We must ensure that we recover all the data that has not yet been discovered in the caves before the robbers do. Some things are beyond value.”

So we know nothing of the exact contents, the circumstances of the find, nor any test results of the materials.   Rather thin on details that matter, isn’t it…

UPDATE: The Times of Israel has a bit more information than the Independent, including some photos.  With thanks to Jim Aitken for the heads up.

The team has reconstructed 11 lines of Greek text that was translated from Zechariah 8:16–17, as well as verses from Nahum 1:5–6. Only the name of God appears in Hebrew, written in the Paleo-Hebrew script used during the First Temple period, as well as by some adherents of the Bar Kochba revolt (132–136 CE), including on coinage, and in the Qumran community.

Among the academic fruit already born of the new discovery is the realization that the “new” text is different from the traditional Masoretic texts. “These differences can tell us quite a bit regarding the transmission of the biblical text up until the days of the Bar Kochba Revolt, documenting the changes that occurred over time until reaching us in the current version,” said the IAA.

Pioneering Women in Archaeology for this #InternationalWomanDay

Give it a read here.  And yes, of course Kathleen Kenyon is mentioned.  It wouldn’t be a responsible essay if she weren’t.

“The National Knowledge Center on the History and Heritage of Jerusalem and its Environs: New Digital Tools in Jerusalem Research”

Via Avraham Faust-

A workshop on “The National Knowledge Center on the History and Heritage of Jerusalem and its Environs: New Digital Tools in Jerusalem Research” will take place this Thursday (March 11, 2021).

The workshop, which will be held in Hebrew, will present the internet platform we are currently developing (financed by a grant from Israel’s ministry of science and technology), and which will enable scholars to study the wealth of archaeological and historical information we currently possess on Jerusalem and its environs using GIS tools. The platform itself will have full interface in both Hebrew and English and, once completed, could of course be adopted for use in any region or context.

A separate session will include some additional papers covering related topics.

I am aware of the language barrier (as the workshop is in Hebrew), but hope that some of you will find it to be of interest and relevant.

Details for registration are provided below: .  For help in registration and additional information please contact

An ASOR Webinar on Mithraism in Caesarea

The registration details are here.

Zooming in Oxford and Hearing Ron Tappy – ‘Letters from Tel Zayit: The Hebrew Alphabet Carved in Stone’

It was a good lecture and a good discussion.  Zoom lets us all be in places we can’t normally get to.



Newly discovered Mosaics from the Huqoq Synagogue

Today’s Oxford Old Testament Seminar covered this fascinating discovery.  And what a discovery it was!  Be sure to look for the publication of the find forthcoming some time this year.

Ra’anan Boustan (Princeton) & Karen Britt (Northwest Missouri State University) – Scenes in Stone: Newly Discovered Mosaics from the North Aisle in the Huqoq Synagogue.

Participants were asked not to share screen shots so naturally I will respect that request, as is only right.  Suffice to say… WOW!

Again, watch for the publication of the discovery.

‘Letters from Tel Zayit: The Hebrew Alphabet Carved in Stone’

This Thursday, 6-7 PM (Oxford U. time).  HT2021 DP Week 6 Ron Tappy.  All the details are available in this PDF.