10 New Additions to the New York Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibition

Near Qumran, where the original Dead Sea Scrol...

If you’ve been to the exhibition, you might want to go back.  And if you’re in the New York area you really need to go.

Ten new scrolls have been installed at the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition in New York City.  They replace 10 other scrolls that have been removed. The ancient scrolls must be rotated due to their fragile nature and sensitivity to light.  …    Exhibition curator Risa Levitt Kohn says the newly installed scrolls include one of only six scrolls written with red ink and a Psalms scroll with poetry that is still part of Jewish liturgy today.  She said the exhibition now has on display at the same time scrolls in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.  The exhibit is created by the Israel Antiquities Authority from the collections of the Israel National Treasures.

I’ve seen the scrolls at the Shrine of the Book; I’ve seen the exhibition in San Diego when SBL was there a few years back, and I’d dearly love to go see this one.

More Archaeological Exaggeration: Finds ‘Verify’ Life at the Time of Jonah…

From the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

At Giv’at Yonah (the Hill of Jonah) in Ashdod, which according to various traditions is identified with the burial place of the prophet Jonah, archaeological finds were exposed that verify the existence of life there during the First Temple period, at the time of Jonah.  In a trial archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority carried out on Giv’at Yonah in Ashdod prior to development work by Hofit – Ashdod Development & Tourism Company, Ltd. remains of massive walls more than 1 m wide were found that are dated to the late 8th century and early 7th century BCE.

What?  These finds verify that there was life at the Tell in the First Temple Period and somehow that ‘verifies’ Life at the Time of Jonah????  Bible in one hand, spade in the other, much, MFA?

In the estimation of the excavation director, Dmitri Egorov, of the Israel Antiquities Authority, these walls constituted the base of a large building from the First Temple period, the time when Jonah the prophet was active, who lived in the eighth century BCE and was famous for having been swallowed by a fish after he refused to “go to Nineveh… and proclaim against it.” (Jonah1:2).

Oh my….  Oh my….  Here we go.  Next, a Discovery Channel movie touting the find as proof of Jonah!

The Preliminary Report on Robinson’s Arch, Jerusalem

From Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron-

Circular cistern

At the beginning of 2011, an excavation was conducted near Robinson’s Arch in the Old City of Jerusalem (Permit No. A-6131). The excavation was directed by E. Shukron, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and by R. Reich, on behalf of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology of the University of Haifa, with the assistance of V. Essman and Y. Shmidov (surveying and drafting), V. Naikhin (field photography), O. Cohen and A. Tsagay (engineering and conservation), C. Amit (studio photography), L. Kupershmidt (metallurgical laboratory) and D.T. Ariel (numismatics).

And a LOT more.  Via Antonio.

Robert Deutsch on the ‘Temple Seals’

Robert writes, quoting the earlier report (see the link below)

“The team believes the tiny seal was put on objects designated to be used in the temple, and thus had to be ceremonially pure.”

To which he responds

Very interesting BUT the interpretation has to be different: The seal impression (the bullae) has two finger prints on the back and there is no evidence that it served to seal or to be attached to an artifact.

In the Mishna (Kedoshim, Tamid 3:3) is mentioned the “chamber of the seals” which was in the temple. There the seals were kept, whose impressions on bullae served as evidence of the payment for sacrifice.

The purchase of “seals” which are probably Bullae, is also mentioned in the Mishna:  “Who wishes to get libations, goes to Yohanan who is over the seals, hands him over coins and receives a seal. He goes to Ahiya who is over the libations, hands him over a seal and receives libations. At evening they meet, and Ahiya presents the seal and exchanges them for coins”. (Moed, Shekalim 5:4).

Therefore the bulla discovered by Shukrun and Reich is in fact a receipt, or the means of payment which was used to buy offerings.

Robert Deutsch

The First Written Evidence Confirming Jerusalem Temple Ritual Practices

Photo by: Vladimir Naykhin

Israeli archaeologists have uncovered the first archeological find to confirm written testimony of the ritual practices at the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.  An Israeli Antiquities Authority archaeological survey at the northwestern corner of the Temple Mount yielded a tiny tin artifact, the size of a button, inscribed with the Aramaic words: “Daka Le’Ya,” which the excavation directors on behalf of the IAA, archaeologists Eli Shukron and Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, explain means “pure for God.”

Researchers believe the artifact, dated to the first century, towards the end of the Second Temple period, is a seal similar to those described in the Mishnah. If they are correct, this is the first time physical evidence of the temple ritual was found to corroborate the written record.  The team believes the tiny seal was put on objects designated to be used in the temple, and thus had to be ceremonially pure.

A first century artifact is quite interesting.  Let’s hope for higher resolution photos soon.

UPDATE:  Joseph Lauer provides a link for hi res photos.  Thanks Joseph!

An Old Jewish Bathhouse

Remains of an ancient bathhouse dating to the Byzantine period were exposed during work being conducted on the modern water infrastructure near Moshav Tarum in the Judean coastal hills. …  According to Dr. Rina Avner, the excavation director, together with Dr. Yitzchak Paz on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This is a bathhouse that measures 20 x 20 m and dates to the fourth-fifth centuries CE. The remains visible in the field include the frigidarium (cold room), tepidarium (warm room) and caldarium (hot room), as well as a courtyard attached northeast of the bathhouse rooms. Two steps led up to a small cold-water pool located in one of the corners of the courtyard.

Because even travelers need a bath.  Let’s just hope no visitors were told ‘sorry, there’s no room in the bathhouse…’

The Telegraph and the Guardian on the Question of ‘The Jesus Nails’

The Telegraph reports Simcha’s suggestion that the nails of Jesus’ crucifixion have been found.  Dan Bahat responds

“Nails can be for example of a wooden sarcophagus in which the deceased was laid until his body decayed and decomposed and then put into an ossuary. So the possibility of finding nails […] is not something which should have too much meaning.”

More than that, the suggestion is nothing more than supposition piled on top of fantasy.  There’s just NO WAY that a couple of nails found in the back drawers of the IAA can be connected with Caiaphas’ ossuary and EVEN if they could be- there’s NO WAY to connect those nails to the crucifixion of Jesus.  It’s all just nonsense.

And why’s it being mentioned again unless there’s a TV special coming out or a book about to be published?  This nonsense was debunked by everyone 8 moths ago.

It’s nothing more than the misuse of archaeology for the sake of personal profit.  There’s no way to spin it otherwise.

The Guardian (back in April) did a better job than the Telegraph in showing this absurdity absurd, cleverly linking these nails with such rubbish as the Turin Shroud and the Jesus Towel.

Canadian-Israeli director Simcha Jacobovici’s The Nails of the Cross is the veteran investigator’s second film claiming to have discovered artefacts linked to Christ. He also directed 2007’s The Lost Tomb of Jesus. But experts have poured scorn on the latest findings, suggesting that the film is little more than a publicity stunt. However, this time around, Jacobovici says he has historical and archaeological context for his claims.

“What we are bringing to the world is the best archaeological argument ever made that two of the nails from the crucifixion of Jesus have been found,” he told Reuters. “Do I know 100% yes, these are them? I don’t.”

The Nails of the Cross suggests the artefacts were found in the grave of Jewish high priest Caiaphas, who according to the New Testament sent Jesus to his death after handing him over to the Romans. They disappeared centuries ago but were later tracked by Jacobovici to the Tel Aviv laboratory of an anthropologist who is an expert on ancient bones.


The Israel Antiquities Authority, which oversaw the excavation of the tomb – it has since been resealed – cast doubt upon suggestions that the grave was definitively the burial place of Caiaphas, and said nails are commonly found in such locations.

“There is no doubt that the talented director Simcha Jacobovici created an interesting film with a real archaeological find at its centre,” said a spokesman. “But the interpretation presented in it has no basis in archaeological findings or research.”

The last sentence says it all.  So if you want to buy Simcha’s theory go ahead.  Just know, it’s a cotton candy spun whole cloth out of a non-naked non archaeologist’s imagination.  It is the equivalent of von Daniken’s ‘Chariots of the gods’ as legitimate interpretation of the evidence.

An Addition to the Dead Sea Scroll Exhibit in New York: The 10 Commandments Fragment

The New York Times reports

Discovery Times Square – the crowd-pleasing exhibition space on West 44th Street that is now the host to “The Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times” – announced that it planned to briefly add a new scroll to the show, one of the oldest and best-preserved manuscripts of the Ten Commandments.

The show, which opened Oct. 28 and will continue through April 15, brings together hundreds of artifacts drawn from archaeological explorations by the Israel Antiquities Authority and from the historic discovery of the scrolls in 1947 by Bedouins in caves near the Dead Sea. The Ten Commandments scroll – which dates from 30 B.C. to 1 B.C. and was discovered in 1952 – will be added to the show from Dec. 16 through Jan. 2. Like many of those on display, the scroll is extremely sensitive to light and humidity and can be shown for only a limited amount of time.

Such things are always worth seeing if one can.  Chris Tilling and I saw it in San Diego when it opened there during SBL (because Bob Cargill provided us tickets).  It was excellent.  I suspect the NY edition is as well.

Bob Cargill, The Dead Sea Scrolls, Linen, and The Tie that Binds Them All…

Is an essay in LiveScience.com which suggests that there may now be a clue concerning the authorship of the Scrolls.

The Dead Sea Scrolls may have been written, at least in part, by a sectarian group called the Essenes, according to nearly 200 textiles discovered in caves at Qumran, in the West Bank, where the religious texts had been stored.

Scholars are divided about who authored the Dead Sea Scrolls and how the texts got to Qumran, and so the new finding could help clear up this long-standing mystery.

The research reveals that all the textiles were made of linen, rather than wool, which was the preferred textile used in ancient Israel. Also they lack decoration,  some actually being bleached white, even though fabrics from the period often have vivid colours. Altogether, researchers say these finds suggest that the Essenes, an ancient Jewish sect, “penned” some of the scrolls.

Not everyone agrees with this interpretation. An archaeologist who has excavated at Qumran told LiveScience that the linen could have come from people fleeing the Roman army after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and that they are in fact responsible for putting the scrolls into caves.

I’m afraid that last bit is true.  There’s no reason to suggest that the linen discovered at Qumran was produced there.

Orit Shamir, curator of organic materials at the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Naama Sukenik, a graduate student at Bar-Ilan University, compared the white-linen textiles found in the11 caves to examples found elsewhere in ancient Israel, publishing their results in the most recent issue of the journal Dead Sea Discoveries.

Sounds like a very interesting essay.  So here’s where Cargill comes in-

The owners of the clothing likely were not poor, as only one of the textiles had a patch on it.”This is very, very, important,” Shamir said. “Patching is connected with [the] economic situation of the site.”

Shamir pointed out that textiles found at sites where people were under stress, such as at the Cave of Letters, which was used in a revolt against the Romans, were often patched. On the other hand “if the site is in a very good economic situation, if it is a very rich site, the textiles will not be patched,” she said. With Qumran, “I think [economically] they were in the middle, but I’m sure they were not poor.”

Robert Cargill, a professor at the University of Iowa, has written extensively about Qumran and has developed a virtual model of it. He said that archaeological evidence from the site, including coins and glassware, also suggests the inhabitants were not poor.

“Far from being poor monastics, I think there was wealth at Qumran, at least some form of wealth,” Cargill said, arguing that trade was important at the site. “I think they made their own pottery and sold some of it, I think they bred animals and sold them, I think they made honey and sold it.”

Go to the link above for the whole piece.

Herod Didn’t Construct the Entire ‘Western Wall’

Antonio relates

Who built the Temple Mount walls? Every tour guide and every student grounded in the history of Jerusalem will immediately reply that it was Herod. However, in the archaeological excavations alongside the ancient drainage channel of Jerusalem a very old ritual bath (miqwe) was recently discovered that challenges the conventional archaeological perception which regards Herod as being solely responsible for its construction.

He’s got some observations of his own as well as links elsewhere.  Take a look at the photos provided by the IAA-

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Matthew Kalman’s Lecture at the Albright on the ‘James Ossuary’ Trial

Matthew writes to inform that he lectured on the trial of the century the other night at the Albright Institute.  And he’s generous enough to send along a link to the slides he used at the lecture– which will give you the substance of his talk.

Take a look- and if you’re in Jerusalem or around, Matthew’s willing to re-deliver his lecture.  So contact him.

[Matthew is a reporter who has covered the story since its very beginning.  He knows the details better than anyone else].

The Dead Sea Scrolls Road Show Hits New York

So the New York Times

A new exhibition of more than 500 ancient artifacts from Israel — including 20 of the Dead Sea Scrolls, four of which have never been made available for public viewing — is set to make its world premiere on Oct. 28 at Discovery Times Square in Manhattan, the producers announced. Ten scrolls at a time will be displayed in “Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times,” which has been assembled by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

If you’re in the tri-states go see it!

Regarding Last Week’s ‘City of David’ Conference

From the goodly Joseph Lauer this note

Courtesy of Barnea Levi Selavan … a taste of last week’s Ir David conference in a 1:52-minute YouTube video giving a view of the crowd, the site, and the speakers, with some words of background in Hebrew from Eli Shukron of the IAA. Also at the YouTube site is a Hebrew paragraph about the conference. The video may be accessed below or directly at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZGGK7mtOGY. The following may also be accessed at http://tinyurl.com/658eyzn and there is a link there (and below) to buy a book of the Hebrew lectures delivered at the conference. It’s also at http://www.shop.cityofdavid.org.il/pl_product~NEW-KENES-BOOK~3~29.htm. Another short (53-second) English YouTube video (“Understanding underground Jerusalem”) was posted about the conference at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFay9kNU_dk.

Thanks, Joseph.  It’s not as good as being there, but it’s better than not.

Shut Up, Shut Up, Just SHUT UP!

It really is beyond tiresome that news organizations continue to talk about the ‘Miriam Ossuary’ as a ‘clue to the crucifixion of Jesus’.  It DOESN’T.  And those researching it have NEVER said that it does.  EVER.    So, news outlets, please, please for the sake of my sanity, SHUT UP about biblically related things.  It would be preferable for you never to report them than to report them wrongly (as you do 99% of the time).

More on the ‘Miriam Ossuary’, Or at Least Catching Up

An interesting piece which commences

In Jerusalem and Judah, ancient limestone burial boxes containing skeletal remains — called ossuaries — are fairly common archaeological finds from the 1st century BCE to the 1st century AD period. Forgers have also added inscriptions or decorations to fraudulently increase their value. So three years ago, when the Israel Antiquities Authority confiscated an ossuary with a rare inscription from antiquities looters, they turned to Prof. Yuval Goren of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology to authenticate the fascinating discovery.   Prof. Goren, who worked in collaboration with Prof. Boaz Zissu from Bar Ilan University, now confirms that both the ossuary and its inscription are authentic. The ossuary’s inscription, which is unusually detailed, could reveal the home of the family of the biblical figure and high priest Caiaphas prior to their exodus to Galilee after 70 AD. Caiaphas is infamous for his involvement in the crucifixion of Jesus.  Prof. Goren’s finding has been reported in the Israel Exploration Journal.

I’m not sure why this is just now being mentioned by the Eureka Alert people.  The IEJ essay came out in July as I noted then.  But at least the Eureka people aren’t peddling lead.

[Joel’s not sure if the story is new.  I think he’s intentionally trying to hurt my feelings].

They’ve Found the Sword that Pierced Jesus’ Side and the Lamp that the Author of Revelation Saw!

Or at least that’s what BAR or Jacobovici will claim as soon as they hear about the discovery of a Roman sword and menorah found under the streets of Jerusalem.  After all, the nail found in an ossuary has been claimed by simple Simcha to be the very nail used in Jesus’ crucifixion…  so nothing – not even the facts or evidence – can stop him from making the same sort of claim now.

For the truth, though, turn to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which announces

During the course of work the Israel Antiquities Authority carried out in Jerusalem’s ancient drainage channel, which begins in the Siloam Pool and runs from the City of David to the archaeological garden (near the Western Wall), impressive finds were recently discovered that breathe new life into the story of the destruction of the Second Temple. The excavations are being conducted on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority and are underwritten by the City of David Foundation.

A 2,000 year old iron sword, still in its leather scabbard, was discovered in work the Israel Antiquities Authority is doing in the channel, which served as a hiding refuge for the residents of Jerusalem from the Romans at the time of the Second Temple’s destruction. In addition, parts of the belt that carried the sword were found. According to the excavation directors Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, “It seems that the sword belonged to an infantryman of the Roman garrison stationed in Israel at the outbreak of the Great Revolt against the Romans in 66 CE. The sword’s fine state of preservation is surprising: not only its length (c. 60 cm), but also the preservation of the leather scabbard (a material that generally disintegrates quickly over time) and some of its decoration”.

A stone object adorned with a rare engraving of a menorah was found in the soil beneath the street, on the side of the drainage channel. According to Shukron and Professor Reich, “Interestingly, even though we are dealing with a depiction of the seven-branched candelabrum, only five branches appear here. The portrayal of the menorah’s base is extremely important because it clarifies what the base of the original menorah looked like, which was apparently tripod shaped”. The fact that the stone object was found at the closest proximity to the Temple Mount to date is also important. The researchers suppose a passerby who saw the menorah with his own eyes and was amazed by its beauty incised his impressions on a stone and afterwards tossed his scrawling to the side of the road, without imagining that his creation would be found 2,000 years later.

• The sword with remains of the scabbard on it. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
• The stone engraved with the image of the menorah. Photographic credit: Vladimir Naykhin.

Archaeology and Politics, Again

Senior archaeologists are up in arms over an amendment to the Antiquities Authority Law proposed by Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat , which they say will shift the political slant of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s board of directors to the right. Critics say Livnat has proposed the legislation to prevent the appointment of Prof. Yoram Tsafrir as chairman of the board of directors of the authority and to allow her to instead appoint archaeologists identified with the political right. Opponents of the bill also say Livnat has also been changing the makeup of the country’s senior archaeological body, the Archaeological Council, which advises the director of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the minister who oversees the Israel Antiquities Authority.

It seems that Elad has its tongue in the ear of the IAA chief-

Over the past year,three new members were appointed to the Archaeological Council: Dr. Gabriel Barkay, Dr. Ronny Reich and Dr. Eilat Mazar. All three are known for their work in excavations funded by Elad in East Jerusalem. Reich was elected head of the council.


Archaeologists critical of Livnat’s moves also say scholars from Bar-Ilan University have a greater representation on the Archaeological Council than other universities.


Emek Shaveh, an organization of archaeologists and community activists identified with the left wing said: “The day is coming when Israeli archaeology will be nationalistic archaeology whose main function is to serve as a tool in political debate about the country.”

I thought that had already happened, on the whole. What a shame that politics continues to muck around in archaeology.

The IEJ Essay on the Miriam Ossuary

The abstract of the newly appeared essay by Yuval Goren and Boaz Zissu in IEJ 61 states

The Israel Antiquities Authority recently acquired a decorated limestone ossuary purportedly from a burial cave in the area of the ºElah Valley. An inscription, incised on the front of the ossuary, reads:(‘Miriam daughter of Yeshua son of Caiaphas, priests of Maªaziah from Beth ºImri’). The script is formal, of the style common in ossuary inscriptions in Jerusalem of the late Second Temple period. On palaeographic grounds, it should be dated to the late first century BCE or to the first century CE. The prime importance of the inscription lies in the reference to the ancestry of the deceased — the wellknown family of Caiaphas priests active in the first century CE. The article discusses whether Beth ºImri is a toponym or the name of a priestly family that settled there. The relatively careless execution of the design suggests that this ossuary was produced in a Judaean workshop and can be dated to 70–135 CE, a dating supported by two pottery oil-lamps apparently found in the burial cave.

Since the ossuary in question was not found in a controlled excavation and due to its importance, it was subjected to scientific analyses in order to address the question of authenticity. The examinations focused on the patina coating the stone surface, with emphasis on the inscribed area. The patination of the stone, in and around the inscription, indicates a complex process that occurred over a prolonged sequence of time, which is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to replicate in laboratory conditions. It may be concluded, therefore, that the patina and the inscription should be considered authentic beyond any reasonable doubt.

It’s a brilliant essay and I thank Professor Goren for sharing it.

The ‘Miriam, Daughter of Yeshua, Son of Caiphas’ Ossuary

This is the first I’ve heard about this ‘discovery’-

Israeli scholars say they have confirmed the authenticity of a 2,000-year-old burial box bearing the name of a relative of the high priest Caiaphas of the New Testament. The ossuary bears an inscription with the name “Miriam daughter of Yeshua son of Caiaphas, priest of Maaziah from Beth Imri.” An ossuary is a stone chest used to store bones. Caiaphas was a temple priest and an adversary of Jesus who played a key role in his crucifixion. The Israel Antiquities Authority says the ossuary was seized from tomb robbers three years ago and has since been undergoing analysis. Forgery is common in the world of biblical artifacts. The IAA says in Wednesday’s statement that microscopic tests have confirmed the inscription is “genuine and ancient.”

Here’s the photo, which you’ll want to click to enlarge- it’s quite a big file, courtesy Bar Ilan University- Dr. Boaz Zissu (who also has now been interviewed and the video is available-  as Joseph Lauer reports- The Jerusalem Post added a 2:40-minute video interview with Dr. Boaz Zissu to its article (published June 29, 2011) “2,000-year-old ossuary authentic, say researchers”.   The article, which was at http://www.jpost.com/NationalNews/Article.aspx?id=227184, is now at  http://www.jpost.com/VideoArticles/Video/Article.aspx?id=227184 ) :

Here’s the transcription by Antonio Lombatti


מרים ברת ישוע בר קיפא כהן דמעזיה דבית עמרי

Maria, figlia di Gesù figlio di Caifa sacerdote di Maaziah di Bet ‘Imri

UPDATE:  Joseph Lauer sends along the IAA press release- which you can read below – and he also sent along the photos here:

I’ve also asked Yuval Goren for any information he might have.

Despicable Destruction: The Vandalism of Hirbet Madras

Joseph Lauer writes

As readers will remember, on February 2, 2011, the IAA circulated a press release announcing that “A Byzantine church and a Large Beautiful Mosaic were uncovered in an Israel Antiquities Authority Salvage Excavation at Hirbet Madras”. Many articles and postings followed, with pictures of the mosaics.  I’m sorry to report that today, March 24, the IAA circulated a Hebrew press release with the disturbing news that during the night unknown vandals had destroyed a beautiful mosaic floor at the site and that a criminal investigation had been commenced. The damage was described as if the mosaic had been hit by mortar shells.

Here’s a slideshow of the discovery and the damage:

People who do such things really are messed up.