Category Archives: Archaeology

Kiriath Jearim Will Finally Be Excavated

By Finkelstein and Römer no less!

The Shmunis Family Excavations at Kiriath Jearim‘s first season kicks off in August under the aegis of Tel Aviv University’s Israel Finkelstein and Christophe Nicolle and Thomas Römer of College de France.

“The place is important for several reasons,” Finkelstein told The Times of Israel. “It’s a large, central site in the Jerusalem hills that hasn’t been studied until now. It may be the only key site in Judah that hasn’t undergone a systematic archaeological excavation.”

The crown of the tel is largely bare, save for a 20th century monastery dedicated to Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant, which sits atop the ruins of an earlier Byzantine edifice at the summit. The dig will focus on the area around the monastery. Much of the site, Finkelstein said, is believed to be relatively undisturbed.

One of the tantalizing aspects of Kiryat Ye’arim is the likelihood of there having been an ancient temple at the site, remains of which may lie buried. Such a discovery could help scholars better understand cultic practices in Judah during the Iron Age.

In several parts of the biblical narrative, Kiryat Ye’arim is alluded to as a site of religious worship. It’s referred to variously as Kiryat Ba’al, Ba’alah and Ba’ale Judah in the Book of Joshua, suggesting the site was at some point affiliated with worship of Ba’al, storm god of the Canaanite pantheon.

This really is an exciting site. I hope they find great things.

Minerva Center Conference Announcement

Via Aren Maeir-

The planned schedule for the 2nd Annual Meeting of the Minerva Center for the Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times (RIAB), which will be held on March 1-3, 2017, at Bar-Ilan University and the Hebrew University. The meeting this year is in collaboration with the Jeselsohn Epigraphic Center for Jewish History (BIU).

If you are interested in participating in one or both of the days for the conference (the 3rd day is a field trip only for invitees), please go to the link below and register accordingly.

Here is the link to the form:

Three Stones Make a Wall: The Story of Archaeology

Eric Cline’s new book is out.

In 1922, Howard Carter peered into Tutankhamun’s tomb for the first time, the only light coming from the candle in his outstretched hand. Urged to tell what he was seeing through the small opening he had cut in the door to the tomb, the Egyptologist famously replied, “I see wonderful things.” Carter’s fabulous discovery is just one of the many spellbinding stories told in Three Stones Make a Wall.

Written by Eric Cline, an archaeologist with more than thirty seasons of excavation experience, Three Stones Make a Wall traces the history of archaeology from an amateur pursuit to the cutting-edge science it is today by taking the reader on a tour of major archaeological sites and discoveries, from Pompeii to Petra, Troy to the Terracotta Warriors, and Mycenae to Megiddo and Masada. Cline brings to life the personalities behind these digs, including Heinrich Schliemann, the former businessman who excavated Troy, and Mary Leakey, whose discoveries advanced our understanding of human origins. The discovery of the peoples and civilizations of the past is presented in vivid detail, from the Hittites and Minoans to the Inca, Aztec, and Moche. Along the way, the book addresses the questions archaeologists are asked most often: How do you know where to dig? How are excavations actually done? How do you know how old something is? Who gets to keep what is found?

Taking readers from the pioneering digs of the eighteenth century to the exciting new discoveries being made today, Three Stones Make a Wall is a lively and essential introduction to the story of archaeology.

A 12th Cave Has Been Found Which Houses Dead Sea Scrolls

Here’s the Hebrew University Press release:

Hebrew University Archaeologists Find 12th Dead Sea Scrolls Cave

Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Oren Gutfeld: “This is one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries, and the most important in the last 60 years, in the caves of Qumran.”

Jerusalem, February 8, 2017 – Excavations in a cave on the cliffs west of Qumran, near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, prove that Dead Sea scrolls from the Second Temple period were hidden in the cave, and were looted by Bedouins in the middle of the last century. With the discovery of this cave, scholars now suggest that it should be numbered as Cave 12. [Photos are available for download below.]

The surprising discovery, representing a milestone in Dead Sea Scroll research, was made by Dr. Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology, with the help of Dr. Randall Price and students from Liberty University in Virginia USA. The excavators are the first in over 60 years to discover a new scroll cave and to properly excavate it.

The excavation was supported by the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), and is a part of the new “Operation Scroll” launched at the IAA by its Director-General, Mr. Israel Hasson, to undertake systematic surveys and to excavate the caves in the Judean Desert.

Excavation of the cave revealed that at one time it contained Dead Sea scrolls. Numerous storage jars and lids from the Second Temple period were found hidden in niches along the walls of the cave and deep inside a long tunnel at its rear. The jars were all broken and their contents removed, and the discovery towards the end of the excavation of a pair of iron pickaxe heads from the 1950s (stored within the tunnel for later use) proves the cave was looted.

Until now, it was believed that only 11 caves had contained scrolls. With the discovery of this cave, scholars have now suggested that it would be numbered as Cave 12. Like Cave 8, in which scroll jars but no scrolls were found, this cave will receive the designation Q12 (the Q=Qumran standing in front of the number to indicate no scrolls were found).

“This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years. Until now, it was accepted that Dead Sea scrolls were found only in 11 caves at Qumran, but now there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave,” said Dr. Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and director of the excavation. “Although at the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we ‘only’ found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing, the findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen. The findings include the jars in which the scrolls and their covering were hidden, a leather strap for binding the scroll, a cloth that wrapped the scrolls, tendons and pieces of skin connecting fragments, and more.”

The finds from the excavation include not only the storage jars, which held the scrolls, but also fragments of scroll wrappings, a string that tied the scrolls, and a piece of worked leather that was a part of a scroll. The finding of pottery and of numerous flint blades, arrowheads, and a decorated stamp seal made of carnelian, a semi-precious stone, also revealed that this cave was used in the Chalcolithic and the Neolithic periods.

This first excavation to take place in the northern part of the Judean Desert as part of “Operation Scroll” will open the door to further understanding the function of the caves with respect to the scrolls, with the potential of finding new scroll material. The material, when published, will provide important new evidence for scholars of the archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea caves.

“The important discovery of another scroll cave attests to the fact that a lot of work remains to be done in the Judean Desert and finds of huge importance are still waiting to be discovered,” said Israel Hasson, Director-General of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “We are in a race against time as antiquities thieves steal heritage assets worldwide for financial gain. The State of Israel needs to mobilize and allocate the necessary resources in order to launch a historic operation, together with the public, to carry out a systematic excavation of all the caves of the Judean Desert.”

Photos for download: (Credit for all photos to Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld):

-More photos are available from the media contact below.

To contact the researchers: Dr. Oren Gutfeld, Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology, Telephone number available via the media contact below.

Media contact:
Dov Smith
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Schiffman on Post Maccabean Jerusalem

Here’s an interesting essay:

The period following the Maccabean Revolt ushered in tremendous expansion in the city of Jerusalem and even on the Har Habayit (Temple Mount). Jerusalem expanded westward to include the area known as the Upper City and a combination of enlargement and refurbishing of the enclosure of the Har Habayit resulted as well. As a result, Jerusalem in this period once again became a prosperous and beautiful city. But to understand these important developments, it is necessary first to know what happened in the aftermath of the re-conquest of the city and Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) under Yehudah (Judah) the Maccabee in the revolt of 168-164 BCE.

Jerusalem in Virtual Reality: The App

A virtual reality company has produced a visual app that is touted to present an archaeologically accurate 3D reconstruction of ancient Jerusalem as it appeared during the time of King Herod, around the time of Jesus of the Christian New Testament accounts. The company, known as Lithodomos VR, was founded in Melbourne, Australia in 2016 and is purposed to produce meticulously researched, accurate reconstructions of various locations and subjects of the ancient world. It has just unveiled its first app, Ancient Jerusalem in VR, and the  founder, Simon Young, believes it will serve not only as an entertainment product but as an educational tool, as well.


A New Excavation: A Note From Israel Finkelstein

Dear friends,

A new excavation is about to commence at the site of biblical Kiriath-jearim near Jerusalem. The first season will take place in August 2017. The dig is a joint project of Tel Aviv University and the College de France. It will be led by Christophe Nicolle, Thomas Romer and me.

I am attaching a flyer which describes the project. We would be grateful if you could print it and post it on the board of your department, post it on the website of your department, or simply circulate it among your students. We are looking for students to join us, with preference to graduate students. We promise an interesting academic program, with the three of us giving lectures. Students who want more information should go to our website, at The registration forms can also be found there.

Many thanks in advance and best wishes for a happy 2017,


Israel Finkelstein
Institute of Archaeology
Tel Aviv University


They’ve Found More ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’

But they can’t even tell what language they’re in or what they contain.  So, they’ve found bits of scrap.  Yay.  It’s only news because it’s Christmas and the ‘Bible has been proven to be right, again, by archaeology’ crowd eats this sort of thing up, book tours to Israel, and boosts the tourism economy.

New fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been found in the Cave of the Skulls by the Dead Sea in Israel, in a salvation excavation by Israeli authorities. The pieces are small and the writing on them is too faded to make out without advanced analysis. At this stage the archaeologists aren’t even sure if they’re written in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic or another language.

Oh boy!  This discovery changes absolutely nothing at all even remotely so it had to be announced!!!  But wait, there’s more!

“The most important thing that can come out of these fragments is if we can connect them with other documents that were looted from the Judean Desert, and that have no known provenance,” says Dr. Uri Davidovich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, among the scientists investigating the caves.

Ah yes, if even the most tenuous connection can be found it will prove…  something important I’m sure…  But wait, there’s more!!!!

The latest finds, two papyri fragments about two by two centimeters with writing and several fragments without discernible letters, were made during a three-week salvage excavation in the Cave of the Skulls this May and June by a joint expedition of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The excavations were led by Uri Davidovich and Roi Porat of the Hebrew University, together with Amir Ganor and Eitan Klein from the IAA.

That’s right campers, they’ve had them since May and June and still can’t read them but since it’s Christmas they have to be announced!  Glory!  But wait, there’s still more!!!!

The renewed excavations in the Cave of the Skulls is just the first step in a new project of the IAA and the Hebrew University to continue exploring the Judean Desert caves, to salvage hidden treasures that might still lay in the caves, at least before robbers get there first. “We have all the reasons to believe that there are still scrolls hidden,” Davidovich says. “Several documents from the Roman times and even from the Iron Age have surfaced in recent years in the antiquities market. They must have originated in the Judean Desert caves.”

Yes, there must still be scrolls there and we have to loot them from the Palestinians first (since Qumran is in Palestinian Authority land) before other looters get their Arab hands on them!  The looters have to beat the looters to the loot…

The Kiriath Jearim Videos

Visit here and scroll down the page for the various segments of this morning’s VERY EARLY video introduction to the site by Finkelstein and Römer.


A Livestream Event from Kiriath Jearim with Thomas Römer and Israel Finkelstein

Two of my favorite people will be livestreaming from K-J.  Here are the details-

Israel Finkelstein and Thomas Römer will be visitng Kiriath-Jearim and it will be livestreamed to the Kiriath-Jearim Expedition facebook:

Please stay updated for the exact time!  For more information regarding the Kiriath-Jearim Expedition check out our website, at:

The Putative ‘Tomb of Jesus’ in the News

The tomb believed to be the place where Jesus was laid has been opened for the first time in centuries.  For decades, archaeologists and theologians have debated over whether the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is the site where Christ was supposedly buried and resurrected after being crucified.   The tomb has been sealed in marble since the 1500s in order to prevent visitors from stealing pieces as relics.

What?  Christians stealing stuff?  They kind of missed the point of being Christians, didn’t they?

Over the preceding centuries, the famous church had been destroyed and rebuilt so many times that experts were left unsure about whether the tomb had been moved and what it might contain. Lifting the tomb’s marble lid for the first time in 500 years, researchers discovered the limestone shelf where Jesus’s body was thought to have been placed, the Mirror reported. Also discovered, was a second grey marble slab previously unknown to the researchers, engraved with a cross they believe was carved in the 12th century by the Crusaders.

This is the splotch of ground Constantine the Wretch’s mom was told was the spot of Jesus’s burial.  Personally I’ve never thought it the right one.  Nor, frankly, is the Garden Tomb.  The site is unknown, like most of the ancient sites pilgrims visit as though they were the ‘real thing’.

Anyway, if you’re looking for something to read this afternoon, enjoy.  And if you don’t like to read, just look at the pictures.

A Previously Unknown Roman Governor of Judah Discovered: Marco Paccius

Antonio writes

Era stato in carica durante la Rivolta di bar Kokhba (132-135 d.C.). Il reperto è stato rinvenuto in mare, al largo di Tel Dor. L’iscrizione decifrata recita «… la città di Dor rende onore a Marco Paccius, figlio di Publio Silvano, governatore della Giudea». SPETTACOLARE!!! L’articolo su Ha’retz.

Ha’aretz says

An underwater survey conducted by divers off Tel Dor, on the Mediterranean Sea, yielded an astonishing find: a rare Roman inscription mentioning the province of Judea – and the name of a previously unknown Roman governor, who ruled the province shortly before the Bar-Kochba Revolt. Historians had thought that based on Roman records, the leaders Rome imposed on its provinces were all known.

The rock with the 1,900-year-old inscription was exposed by a storm on the seabed at a depth of just 1.5 meters in the bay of Dor. The town had been a thriving port in Roman times that even minted its own coins, which proudly proclaimed the city to be “Ruler of the Seas”.
Found by Haifa University archaeologists surveying the remains of the ancient Roman harbor at Dor in January 2016, the rock, 70 by 80 centimeters in size, was partly covered in sea creatures when it was found.

Etc.  And here’s the stone-


As Antonio says, ‘spectacular!!!!’

The Miqveh

Antonio has the details of the discovery of a ritual bath at Herod’s palace tomb.  And he has some fantastic photos too.

The Discovery of a 3800 Year old Statuette in Israel

thinkingI’m thinking it’s the ‘Thinking Man’…

Mi riferisco alle parole di Gilad Itach, capo della missione archeologica che, a Yehud, ha rinvenuto una statuina di argilla che raffigura quello che sembra essere un pensatore. Un uomo assorto nei suoi pensieri. Una versione arcaica della famosa scultura di Auguste Rodin. Il reperto, alto una ventina di centimetri, è databile al 1800 a.C. È assolutamente unico: ma trovato nulla di simile dell’Antico Vicino Oriente. Ne parlano Ha’aretz e il Times of Israel.

Thank you, Antonio.

The 10 Commandments- The Samaritan Pentateuch Edition

Via Antonio Lombatti

Nella versione samaritana. Non dimenticate che esistono, nella Bibbia, due versioni dei Dieci Comandamenti: una in Esodo 20 e l’altra in Deuteronomio 5. Ciascuna è il frutto di un processo editoriale indipendente. I samaritani, di fronte a questa ambigua versione delle leggi di Yahweh, dovettero cercare di armonizzare le norme. Ecco perché i loro Dieci Comandamenti sono diversi da quelli presenti nella Bibbia. Non solo: il decimo è totalmente differente: afferma che il Monte Gerizim è il luogo più sacro dell’ebraismo. Lì si dovrà edificare il tabernacolo di YHWH. E non sul Monte Ebal come riportano le nostre Bibbie.

Questo cappello introduttivo per dire che la tavoletta d’argilla che contiene la più antica versione dei Dieci Comandamenti, quella samaritana appunto, è stata venduta all’asta per 850.000 dollari. Ne parla la CNBC.

The Barbaric Destruction of Nimrud by ISIS

With thanks to Antonio Lombatti for the link.  What ISIS has done to a site of such significance is nothing less than barbarism.

Over at the Palestine Exploration Fund Blog…

Last month the four women behind Trowelblazers, a digital platform for crowd-sourced biographies of pioneering women in archaeology, geology and palaeonology, in collaboration with photographer Leonora Saunders launched a new project, Raising Horizons.  Supported by Prospect, Raising Horizons will feature a photographic exhibition, oral histories and associated events celebrating the long history of women working in these subjects.

Fourteen women actively working in archaeology, geology and paleontology today have been paired with a historical counterpart. Leonora and Trowelblazers have been working together to resurrect these historical women, creating new portraits as their modern ‘pairs’ represent them in costume. Their goal is to highlight the diversity of the fields today, and provide role models for younger generations while referencing and paying homage to the women who came before them.

Read the rest and enjoy the several photos.

The Five Minute Archaeologist

cseInterested in ordering “The 5 Minute Archaeologist in the Southern Levant”? Place an order online at to receive a 25% discount. Enter the code ARCHAEOLOGY at the checkout when prompted and your order will be discounted.

Via the author on the face book.

The Five-Minute Archaeologist in the Southern Levant is a user-friendly exploration of basic concepts within archaeology and the techniques and methods used by archaeologists in the field. It is intended for students and lay readers alike, such as those participating in community archaeology for the first time, and would be an excellent reader for introductory level courses on the archaeology of the Southern Levant. Topics range from basic questions such as ‘how do archaeologists chose where to dig?’ to surveys of archaeological concepts and types of archaeology, written by specialists in those particular fields. Chapters are informal and relaxed – more like a chat or discussion that will help to answer some of the basic questions that archaeologists are often asked.

Archaeology Has Always Been a Political Tool: The ‘Jerusalem Papyrus’ Is Just the Latest Iteration

Archaeology has long been used by the state of Israel as a means of demonstrating modern Jewish rights to an old land. Palestinians, for their part, have often resisted these findings, either rejecting them outright or pointing to other ancient artifacts to support their own national claims. In the Holy Land, historical heritage is one of the few truly abundant resources, and it stands at the center of the latest battle in the decades-old conflict.

Last week, the U.N.’s culture and heritage body, Unesco, passed a resolution referring to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount exclusively by its Arabic name—the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary—and only mentioning its significance to Islam. For Muslims, Jerusalem is the third holiest city, behind Mecca and Medina. For Jews, it is the most sacred: Two Jewish temples stood there in antiquity.

The Unesco resolution outraged Israel. The head of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the government body in charge of archaeology and artifacts, likened Unesco to Islamic State in its destruction of cultural heritage. The Palestinian Authority praised the move for preserving the city for the three monotheistic faiths and saw it as a political win, with one official accusing Israel of “using archaeological claims and distortion of facts as a way to legitimize the annexation of occupied east Jerusalem.”

And more, which do read.

Michael Langlois on the ‘Jerusalem Papyrus’

Here.  He says

MichaelLangloisLe sensationnel assorti à la présentation de ce papyrus en finirait presque par éclipser les questions que soulève sa lecture. Est-ce le roi de Juda qui fait venir à Jérusalem du vin pris sur ses réserves personnelles ? Est-ce l’un de ses sujets qui lui envoie ce vin, comme cadeau ou comme impôt ? Est-ce un roi voisin qui offre à son homologue judaïte quelques-unes de ses meilleures bouteilles ? Que contenaient les lignes précédentes ? S’il est authentique, ce papyrus n’a pas fini de nous livrer ses secrets !