Category Archives: Archaeology

Emperor Hadrian inscription uncovered in Jerusalem

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday the discovery earlier this month of a partial inscription bearing the name and titles of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-135). The English translation of the Latin inscription reads,

(1st hand) To the Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, son of the deified Traianus Parthicus, grandson of the deified Nerva, high priest, invested with tribunician power for the 14th time, consul for the third time, father of the country (dedicated by) the 10th legion Fretensis (2nd hand) Antoniniana.

Inscription bearing name and titles of Hadrian is displayed in front of the Rockefeller Museum, headquarters of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Jerusalem. Photo by Yoli Shwartz, courtesy IAA.

Inscription bearing name and titles of Hadrian is displayed in front of the Rockefeller Museum, headquarters of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Jerusalem. Photo by Yoli Shwartz, courtesy IAA.

The discovery was made north of Damascus Gate during a salvage operation. Dr. Rina Avner and Roie Greenwald were the excavation directors. IAA experts discovered that this inscription was part of an inscription already known from a discovery by French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau (1846-1923) in the late 19th century. That inscription is displayed in the courtyard of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum.

Part of the Hadrian inscription discovered in the late 19th century by Clermont Ganneau, now located in Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum. Photo by Garo Nalbandian, courtesy of the Museum.

Part of the Hadrianic inscription discovered in the late 19th century by Clermont-Ganneau, now located in Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum. Photo by Garo Nalbandian, courtesy of the Museum.

The IAA Press Release says,

The events of the Bar Kokhba revolt are ascribed to the reign of the emperor Hadrian. He is remembered in Jewish history for having issued dictates imposing the persecution and forced conversions of Jews, which the sources referred to as the ‘Hadrianic decrees’.

The history of the Bar Kokhba revolt is known from, among other things, the works of the contemporary Roman historian Cassius Dio, who also mentions Hadrian’s visit to Jerusalem in the year 129/130 CE, within the framework of the emperor’s travels in the eastern empire. These travels are also documented on coins issued in honor of the occasion and in inscriptions specifically engraved prior to his arrival in different cities. This is apparently exactly what happened in Jerusalem.

The completion of the two parts of the text reveals an especially large inscription that is quite impressive. According to Dr. Abner, “The inscription itself might have set in the top of a free-standing triumphal arch on the city’s northern boundary such the Arch of Titus in Rome.”

The fate of Jerusalem following the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE) and prior to the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-136 AD) is one of the major issues in the history of the city and in terms of the Jewish people’s connection to it.

We know from ancient writers and the inscriptions on coins that the new city, which Hadrian established, was granted the status of ‘colonia’ (that is, a city whose citizens and gods are Roman) and its name was changed to Aelia Capitolina (COLONIA AELIA CAPITOLINA in Latin). That name incorporates within it the emperor’s name that is in the inscription, whose full name is Publius Aelius Hadrianus, and Rome’s main family of dieties [sic, deities].

The complete English Press Release is available here.

I read this first in the The Times of Israel, but soon found that it was discussed widely on several blogs. Todd Bolen has included several additional links at Bible Places Blog here.

We have written about other Hadrianic arches in Athens, Antalya (Attalia), and Jerash. A recent series on the Tenth Roman Legion is available here.

Unearthing Magdala Conference Streaming Live Today

Nyack College, in partnership with the Center for the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins, will host a gathering of scholars and dignitaries from 4:00–7:30 pm at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Manhattan, focused on discoveries from the excavations at Magdala.

Dr. R. Steven Notley, director of Nyack’s graduate program in Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins, says,

“Perhaps the most significant discovery at Magdala is its synagogue. Within the walls of the synagogue was found a stone artifact engraved with distinct and meaningful images, giving students of Judaism, early Christianity, and ancient art a tangible piece of religious history from the late Hellenistic and Roman periods.”

The Unearthing Magdala Livestream is scheduled for today from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. EDT. Use this link: http://www.nyack.edu/content/Magdala

Magdala Synagogue Table. End view. Replica at Notre Dame, Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Magdala Synagogue Table. End view showing columns, menorah, and two vases. Replica at Notre Dame, Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Conference presentations will include:

  • Magdala: History And Geography During The Late Hellenistic And Roman Periods by R. Steven Notley, Nyack College
  • The Importance Of Magdala’s Synagogue by Steven Fine, Yeshiva University
  • Mary Magdalene In Eastern Orthodoxy by John McGuckin, Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University
  • Mary Magdalene in Armenian Orthodoxy by Roberta Ervine, St. Nersess Theological Seminary.
  • Visual Journey Of The Magdalene Liturgical Cycle In Late Medieval Art by Sarah Wilkins, Pratt Institute:
  • Magdala Today And Its Importance In Christian Pilgrimage by Father Eamon Kelly, LC, Pontifical Institute of Notre Dame of Jerusalem.

The town of Magdala is not mentioned in the Bible, but Mary Magdalene is mentioned a total of 12 times in the four gospels. This place may have been her birthplace or her home. A few late manuscripts mention Magdala (Matthew 15:39 KJV), but earlier manuscripts read Magadan. Magdala is located about 4 miles north of Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.

See here for one of our earlier posts about Magdala.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

1700 B.C. Hittite city wall unearthed

The Hurriyet Daily News reports the discovery of a 3,700-year-old city wall built to protect the ancient Hittite city of Hattuşa (now Bogazkale).

Archaeologists have unearthed part of the 3,700-year-old city wall of Hattuşa, capital city of the ancient Hittites, in the northern province of Çorum.

The Hittites had built the 4.5-kilometer city walls to protect their capital Hattuşa. “The city walls were first unearthed during the first year of excavations between 1906 and 1907. Some 700 meters of the 4.5-kilometer-long city walls have been unearthed. We worked for the restoration of 400-meter parts of the walls over the last three years. These walls were the first big project of the Hittites. The wall surrounds the whole city,” said Dr. Andreas Schachner, who is caryring out the excavations for the German Archaeological Institute, noting that their most recent archaeological work had focused on restoring the walls.

A view of Hattusas from the Upper City. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of Hattusas from the Upper City. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Schachner said they had also discovered 10 underground tunnels in some parts of the wall. “These tunnels were made for soldiers to leave the city in secret during an attack or occupation and fight. There is a tower in every 20-25 kilometer of the walls. The Hittites built the walls on an artificial hill to show the city’s power and magnificence,” he said.

He said the city walls were 10 meters high when they were built but later fell to five-six meters.

See this report and a photo here. For additional photos and information about this ancient Hittite city, use the Search box to look for Hittite or Hattusas.

HT: Jack Sasson

New Discoveries from the Antikythera Shipwreck

The Antikythera Shipwreck was a special exhibition at the Athens (Greece) National Museum between April 2012 and April 2013.

The shipwreck off the eastern coast of Antikythera is dated to 60-50 BC, a period during which maritime trade and transportation of works of Greek art from the Eastern Mediterranean to Italy flourished. Its cargo dates from the 4th to the 1st century BC. The ship was a freighter of about 300 tons capacity and was sailings towards Italy.

Thera (aka Santorini) has been one of the stops on several of our tours that included an Aegean cruise. Antikythera (“opposite Kythera”) is a Greek island between Crete and the Peloponnese (where Corinth is located).

Now comes word (Oct. 10, 2014) that a team of archaeologists have recovered additional items including a bronze spear measuring more than 7 feet, a golden ring, an anchor, and an amphorae cluster. More information is available in TO BHMA here. Three short videos are included with the article.

The photo below, part of the Athens exhibit, shows some of the pottery from the earlier expedition scattered on the sea bottom.

Pottery and the cast of a horse on the sea bottom at Antikythera.

Pottery and the body of a horse sculpture on the bottom of the sea at Antikythera. Photo: Ferrell Jenkins

The ship was carrying numerous statues in bronze and Parian marble. The photo below shows Odysseus the mythical king of Ithaca wearing a one-sleeved chiton fastened on the left shoulder, and a conical cap on the head (museum display sign).

A statue of Odysseus, the mythical king of Ithaca. Parian marble. Before the middle of the 1st century B.C.

A statue of Odysseus, the mythical king of Ithaca. Parian marble. Before the middle of the 1st century B.C. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We typically think of coasting vessels from the Roman period, and earlier, staying near the shore. This was certainly true of many of the sea journeys of the Apostle Paul (Acts 20:5, 13-16 27:5-7).

Greek archaeologists announced here the discovery of two Roman-era shipwrecks in water nearly a mile deep. Sailing to Italy required leaving the safety of the nearby shore for deep waters. Such was true of Paul’s journey to Rome after leaving Crete (Acts 27).

Paul spoke of the dangers at sea in his second letter to the Corinthians (11:24-29) about A.D. 55.

  • Three times I was shipwrecked.
  • A night and a day I was adrift at sea.
  • He mentioned “Danger at sea.”

The Malta shipwreck is the only one recorded in Acts, and it occurred after the writing of 2 Corinthians. Hughes mentions at least nine voyages between Acts 9 and 18. Paul says three of these ended in shipwreck. Hughes says there were at least another nine voyages between the writing of 2 Corinthians and the Malta shipwreck (The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT, 410-411).

At least some of the ships used by Paul seem to have been grain ships (Acts 27:38), but there may have been other cargo on some of them.

More photos from the special exhibition are available here and here.

New discoveries at Amphipolis

A new excavation at Amphipolis has revealed what the excavator and others think is a Macedonian tomb from the about 300 B.C. I have been following Carl Rasmussen’s HolyLandPhotos’Blog. He now has combined them into one here. In addition, he has called attention to the possibility of this tomb being similar to the one found at Vergina.

Drawing showing progress of the excavation. Source: Greek Reporter.

Drawing showing progress of the excavation. Source: Greek Reporter.

Here is a list of interesting articles, mostly with photos and drawings, to give you some idea of the exciting potential at Amphipolis.

The obvious answer is that it was most likely to have been built for Alexander, and either left empty when he was buried in Alexandria, or re-used for another Macedonian monarch – eg it could have become the tomb of Antigonus I Monophthalmus and the mausoleum of the Antigonids, for example.

Professor Rasmussen includes photos of jewelry and a golden oak wreath found in the area of Amphipolis.

Map showing Amphipolis. Credit: Bible Atlas.

Map showing Amphipolis. Credit: Bible Atlas.

Our photo below show the entrance to the Royal tombs at Vergina, a city located just a few miles from Berea, a city visited by Paul, Silas and Timothy (Acts 17:10-14). After the tumulus at Vergina was excavated a museum was built and then covered over to have the natural appearance. Notice the tumulus behind the ornamental fence.

Entrance to the Ancient Cemetery of the Royal Tombs at Vergina. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Ancient Cemetery of the Royal Tombs at Vergina. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Without the sign and ticket office one might pass this museum as just another rolling hill. In the photo below you see a sign on the left pointing to the entrance. The exit is near the center of the photo. The museum is filled with items of silver and gold and photography was not allowed when I was there. I am pleased to have a copy of Vergina The Royal Tombs, by Manolis Andronicos, given to me by a Greek guide and friend nearly 30 years ago. The book includes photos of the artifacts that are displayed in the museum. A popular theory says that this is the tomb of Phillip II of Macedon. One may only imagine the glory of the tomb of Phillip of Macedon, or Alexander.

Tumulus covering the Royal Tombs at Vergina. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tumulus covering the Royal Tombs at Vergina. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo by Sarah C. Murray shows a golden wreath suspended over a golden larnax.

Golden wreath suspended over a golden larnax. Photo by Sarah Murray.

Golden wreath suspended over a golden larnax. Photo by Sarah Murray.

 

Uruk (Erech) in the Pergamum Museum

The Pergamon Museum’s Ancient Near Eastern Department (Vorderasiatisches Museum) has a collection of artifacts from Uruk, now know as modern Warka in Iraq. German excavators began work at Uruk in November 1912. An English sign with the display of artifacts explains the significance of the city.

In the Old Testament, Uruk is mentioned under the name Erech, along with Babylon and other important ancient cities. But written references to Uruk extend much further into the past. The city plays a role in the Gilgamesh epic which can be traced back to the second half of the 3rd millennium BC. The legendary Sumerian king Gilgamesh whose exploits are the subject of the poem is credited with building the wall that surrounded the city. A number of objects uncovered at Uruk before 1939 came to Berlin and the museum with the division of finds following on the excavations. Together with artifacts from Babylon and Assur, they document the material legacy of ancient oriental cultures.

Uruk was the major center for the worship of the goddess Inana/Ishtar. The first photo shows a portion from the façade of the Inanna Temple built by the Kassite ruler Kara-indash at Uruk about 1413 B.C. The museum explains,

Standing male and female deities alternate in the niches. Life-giving water pours forth onto the earth from the vessels in their hands. The hump-like symbols on the projecting elements of the niched façade and on the garments of the male divinities refer to the mountainous region where the Kassites originated. An inscription on the bricks names the Kassite ruler Kara-indash as the person who commissioned the structure.

Portion of the façade of the Inanna/Ishtar Temple at Warka (Uruk/Erech). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Portion of the façade of the Inanna/Ishtar Temple at Warka (Uruk/Erech). Display in the Pergamum Museum, Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows a reproduction of a limestone cult vessel from Uruk.

Stone cult vessel from Uruk. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Stone cult vessel from Uruk. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Museum explains the design on the vessel.

The limestone vase from the Eanna Temple precinct at Uruk is one of the most impressive works of pictorial art produced in the Uruk Period. The arrangement of the motifs reflects the Sumerian world view, with life-giving water flowing forth in the lowest zone to sustain the plant and animal world above. The representations continue with a procession of nude men bearing votive offerings for the goddess Inanna which culminates in the upper register.

The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology points out,

There are no direct references to Sumer in the Bible, although it corresponds to the “land of Shinar” mentioned eight times in the OT.

Amraphel is designated as the king of Shinar (Genesus 14:1). Notice a couple of other references.

The beginning of his [Nimrod] kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. (Genesis 10:10 ESV)

And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. (Genesis 11:2 ESV)

This map of southern Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) shows the location of Erech (Uruk) north of traditional Ur.

This map shows the location of Erech (Warka). Map: biblos.com.

This map shows the location of Erech (Warka in southern Iraq). Map: biblos.com.

Book on the origin of Israel available

Daniel I. Block’s book, Israel: Ancient Kingdom or Late Invention?, is available in Kindle format today for $2.99. The retail price of the hardback is $28.

The publisher (B&H) of the 2008 book describes it as

a collection of essays responding to the radical claims that Israel and its history actually began following the Babylonian exile, and that the history of Israel we read about in the Bible is a fictionalized account.

Contributors are leading Bible and archaeology scholars who bring extra-biblical evidence to bear for the historicity of the Old Testament and provide case studies of new work being done in the field of archaeology.

The book includes the following essays dealing with some of the current discussions in Biblical studies.

  • Israel – Ancient Kingdom or Late Invention? – Daniel I. Block
  • The Value and Limitations of the Bible and Archaeology – Alan R. Millard
  • Contextual Criticism as a Framework for Biblical Interpretation – John M. Monson
  • North-West Semitic Inscriptions and Biblical Interpretation – Joel Drinkard
  • From Joseph to David: Mari and Israelite Pastoral Traditions – Daniel E. Fleming
  • Major Geographical Issues in the Accounts of the Exodus – James K. Hoffmeier
  • Slavery and Slave Laws in Ancient Hatti and Israel – Harry A. Hoffner Jr.
  • Were the Israelites Really Canaanites? – Alan R. Millard
  • Syria and the Bible: The Luwian Connection – Richard S. Hess
  • David and Solomon’s Jemsalem: Do the Bible and Archaeology Disagree? – Alan R. Millard
  • Who Were Israel’s Transjordanian Neighbors and How Did They Differ? – Gerald L. Mattingly
  • Shalmaneser III and Israel – K. Lawson Younger Jr.
  • Did the Israelites Really Learn Their Monotheism in Babylon? - Simon J. Shenvin
  • Did Persian Zoroastrianism Influence Judaism? – Edwin M. Yamauchi
  • Interpreting the Bible as an Ancient Near Eastern Document – John H. Walton