Category Archives: Old Testament

Byzantine compound discovered during construction

Many significant archaeological discoveries are made during construction. This can be private construction, road work, improvement of water or gas lines, or large construction projects.

The most recent announcement comes from the area of Beth Shemesh (Bet Shemesh, Beit Shemesh). The Israel Antiquities Authority released the following information Thursday.

An archaeological survey conducted on foot along the hills south of Bet Shemesh brought to light remarkable finds. During the survey blocked cisterns, a cave opening and the tops of several walls were visible on the surface. These clues to the world hidden underground resulted in an extensive archaeological excavation there that exposed prosperous life dating to the Byzantine period which was previously unknown.

The compound is surrounded by an outer wall and is divided on the inside into two regions: an industrial area and an activity and residential area. An unusually large press in a rare state of preservation that was used to produce olive oil was exposed in the industrial area. A large winepress revealed outside the built compound consisted of two treading floors from which the grape must flowed to a large collecting vat. The finds revealed in the excavation indicate the local residents were engaged in wine and olive oil production for their livelihood. The impressive size of the agricultural installations shows that these facilities were used for production on an industrial-scale rather than just for domestic use. In the residential portion of the compound several rooms were exposed, some of which had a mosaic pavement preserved in them. Part of a colorful mosaic was exposed in one room where there was apparently a staircase that led to a second floor that was not preserved. In the adjacent room another multi-colored mosaic was preserved that was adorned with a cluster of grapes surrounded by flowers set within a geometric frame. Two entire ovens used for baking were also exposed in the compound.

The directors of the excavation believe the site is a monastery from the Byzantine period. The photo below provides an aerial view of the complex.

Byzantine compound near Ramat Bet Shemesh. Photo: Griffin Aerial Photography, IAA.

Byzantine compound near Ramat Bet Shemesh. Photo: Griffin Aerial Photography, IAA.

Based on the driving instructions provided by the IAA, I can show you the general area. My photo was made from the top of Tel Azekah. The road below the tel runs across the Valley of Elah. In the distant left you will see a white area on the hill with high-rise apartments under construction. The discovery was made near this large construction area. Left of the construction, Tel Yarmuth (Jarmuth, Joshua 10:3, 5, 23; 12:11; 15:35) rises above the trees. Khirbet Qeiyafa is on the hill in the right of the photo.

View from Azekah toward Bet Shemesh and Tell Yarmuth (Jarmuth). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View from Azekah toward Ramat Bet Shemesh and Tel Yarmuth (Jarmuth). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, made May 4, 2013.

The next photo is a zoom shot of the construction area in May, 2013, from Tel Azekah. Tel Yarmuth is just off the left of the photo, as well as the town of Ramat Bet Shemesh.

The construction area from Azekah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The construction area from Azekah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation has been concerned about this new community and its possible encroachment upon the site. Luke Chandler reported on the threat here.

 

Group claims world’s oldest pyramid “ruined” by restorers

According to a report in the International Business Times, activists in Egypt are angry with the Minister of Antiquities for re-hiring a company to restore the Step Pyramid of Zoser at Saqqara. The group says the firm “caused damage and major deterioration to the structure while trying to repair it.” The report may be read here.

Saqqara is significant because it is the location of the oldest freestanding stone building in the world. The architect of this structure was the vizier and physician Imhotep. Zoser reigned about 2600 B.C.

Hachette World Guide on Cairo, Alexandria and Environs, describes the pyramid in these terms:

The Step Pyramid is formed of six unequal sections and is not, in the strict sense, a pyramid tat all. The plan is not square, but oblong in the S-W sense, and the summit is formed by a terrace (also oblong) and not by a Pyramidion. The dimensions of the base are approximately 397 feet by 357 feet. The present height of the Pyramid is 193 feet. It would originally have been some 196 feet. The verticle slope of the steps is on an average of some 16°, the horizontal [slope is] 22°.

On my last visit to Egypt in January, 2011, I noticed scaffolding on all sides of the step pyramid.

The Step Pyramid of Zoser at Saqqara. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Step Pyramid of Zoser at Saqqara. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This pyramid, as well as the great pyramids of Giza, was built long before the time of the  biblical characters who visited Egypt — Abraham, Joseph, Jacob, et al.

HT: Jack Sasson

The Route of the Exodus and the Location of Mount Sinai

Over the past 48 years I have had the opportunity to visit almost all parts of the Bible World. I certainly have not solved all of the problems that are raised about locations of certain events, but I have tried to look at the major claims whether it is the location of Cana, the site for the baptism of Jesus, the place of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, the location of Ararat, or the route of the exodus and the location of Mount Sinai, et al.

In this post I have pulled together a list of some things I have written about the route of the Exodus and the location of Mount Sinai. I hope you will find the posts helpful when you study this subject.

  • Pharaoh’s chariot wheels and other things that won’t float – Examining the claims of the late Ron Wyatt here.
  • Location of the Red Sea crossing and Mount Sinai here.
  • Location of Mount Sinai here.
  • Solomon’s Seaport at Ezion-geber here.
  • Sharks at Sharm el-Sheikh in the Sinai here. Sharm el-Sheikh is at the Straits of Tiran.
  • “Cracked Pot Archaeology” here.
  • Pseudo Archaeologists here.
  • Goshen and the Great Bitter Lake here.
  • Another day in Goshen here.

Below are a couple of photos that show the changing scenery that one sees in the Sinai Peninsula.

Sinai Peninsula near the Gulf of Eilat or Aqaba. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sinai Peninsula near the Gulf of Eilat or Aqaba. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Read some scholarly presentations on the subject. Such as these recent Bible atlases.

  • Beitzel, Barry J. The New Moody Atlas of the Bible, 106-114.
  • Currid, John D. and David P. Barrett. Crossway ESV Bible Atlas, 77-91.
  • Rasmussen, Carl G. Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, 100-105.
Wadi Feiran in the Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wadi Feiran in the Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Or books such as…

  • Hoffmeier, James K. Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition, chs. 8-9.

The Associates for Biblical Research includes several articles about the Exodus at their website here.

  • Is Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia? here.
  • Mount Sinai is Not Jebel Al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia here.

I am hopeful you will browse through this material and remember to examine it more closely the next time you study Exodus.

London and the British Museum

We finally reached the third of the big three museums with Ancient Near Eastern collections that we had planned to visit. We spent large portions of two days in the museum. The museum is open every day of the week. Closing time is 5:30 p.m. every day except Friday when the time is 8:30 p.m. There is no required entry fee, but a request is made for a £5 (about $8.50) or more donation.

I have emphasized the crowds in the Pergamum Museum, and the Louvre. The same was true in the British Museum. The photo below was made a few years ago at the end of September. Once school is in session one should be able to find times without hugh crowds. Many galleries have natural light that comes in. Some photos are better with the natural light and others are better with the artificial light, depending on the glare on the case.

British Museum entrance on Great Russel Street, London. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

British Museum entrance on Great Russell Street, London. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The British Museum was founded in 1753 to house the collection of Sir Hans Sloane which had been left to the nation. It is now among the greatest museums of the world.

Each of the big three museums has a specialty depending on the areas where the country has done archaeological work. The Pergamum museum is loaded with material from Mesopotamia and Turkey. The Louvre has a fabulous collection from the Levant, especially Syria, and Iran (Persia). The British Museum is big on the Levant, Egypt and Mesopotamia. All three have nice Roman and Greek galleries.

I knew that the Cyrus Cylinder had been part of a traveling exhibit for a few years. When we got near the Ancient Iran Room I told my wife that I would make a quick run to see what was there. I was delighted to see the Cyrus Cylinder prominently displayed.

Cyrus Cylinder in the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cyrus Cylinder in the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Cyrus Cylinder is important to Bible students because Cyrus is the Persian king who allowed the Judeans to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:  “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up.’” (2 Chronicles 36:22-23 ESV; cf. Ezra 1:1-4).

Some artifacts that I had expected to see were not on display. Cases are changed and artifacts are moved around. Sometimes there will be a sign saying that the items is on loan, being photographed, or studied. In other instances there is no reference to the removed item. One significant item that I missed seeing in its usual place is the Babylonian Chronicle that gives the date of the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem in 597 B.C. Another missing item was the Standard of Ur.

A BBC report says that the 80,000 artifacts displayed in the British Museum amount to only 1% of the artifacts held by the Museum. On several occasions I have made inquiry about an artifact and been given a time when someone would be available to show it to me.

The British Museum web site provides information about planning a visit, and it also includes an online collection with photos.

Traveling in Europe

For the past week my wife and I have been traveling in Europe, revisiting some of the places we have enjoyed with groups over the years. Berlin is one of those places. We did some of the typical sightseeing, but the main visit was the museums with Ancient Near Eastern collections.

My first visit to the Pergamum Museum was about 1978. I returned several times when the Museum was behind the Berlin Wall, and have been there several times since the fall of the wall.

The Egyptian collection formerly was in the west, but now is housed in the Neues Museum in the building on the left of the photo below. Considerable construction is underway in the area. The former entry to the Pergamum Museum is closed. The red sign in the distance points to the temporary entry. Crowds are so large that people wait in line for four hours or more to buy at ticket and gain admission to the Museum. The only way to avoid this is to purchase a ticket online with a 30 minute time span for admission. I purchased a two day Museum pass after I arrived in Berlin and then made an appointment online for two different days. A single entry costs about 13 Euro (a little under $20 per entry).

berlin_pergamum-crowd-01fj_1

Crowds waiting in line to enter the Pergamum Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Pergamum Altar already has some scaffolding in place. At the end of September the exhibition will close for __________ years (you know about government projects).

The visit was somewhat disappointing because of the appointment requirement, but mostly because portions of the Museum are closed. Whole galleries pertaining to the the Greco-Roman world are not open. The great Ishtar Gate from Babylon is open, and the Miletus Marketgate, which was covered with netting the last time I was in Berlin, is now one of the nicest exhibits. The halls dealing with Babylon, Assyria, and the Hittites were open.

Later I hope to share some representative photos with you, but I confess that I am traveling with a Samsung Tab 4 and have had difficulty getting the single photo above loaded into the blog. I refused to pay the $20+ a day to be online at the hotel. I only ate at one place that offered time online, and they could not locate the card with the passport. :-(

We are in Paris now and I have Wi-Fi at the hotel. The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays, so I went to the Tourism office and purchased tickets to the museum in order to avoid the long lines the next two days. The tickets here are under $20 per entry.

If any reader has experience in loading photos from an Android tablet into WordPress I would be glad to hear about it. Who knows, maybe I will be able to load a second photo.

 

When is a gate not a gate? Rethinking the Lachish discovery

Last Monday, following material posted by Luke Chandler, I posted a blog here with this heading: “Have new gates been discovered at Lachish?”

Yesterday Luke posted a clarification here that was sent to him by the Fourth Lachish Expedition director Yossi Garfinkel. Garfinkel suggests that the new architectural features discovered at Lachish probably should not be called “gates.” He says there are no chambers on both sides of the opening. He says, “so we might have simple openings in the city wall rather than official gates.” The first opening had already been noted by Olga Tufnell after the first expedition at Lachish by Starkey. Tufnell said it was a “blocked Iron Age” gate. Garfinkel thinks it “is probably a Middle Bronze blocked gate.”

Prof. Garfinkel says the second opening found this year is “dated to Level I (Persian) and Level II (586 BC destruction), so this opening is not ‘Early Iron Age’ as [Chandler] wrote.”

This illustrates one of the reasons archaeologists often withhold their findings from the public until they can be more certain about what they have, and even then they point out that the findings are preliminary.

I have dabbled in archaeology enough through personal study, participation at Lachish in 1981, and attendance at the annual meetings of the professional societies fairly regularly for the past 40 years, to know that interpretations change from day-to-day, and season-to-season. Patience is recommended.

Chambered gate at Gezer. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Chambered gate at Gezer. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

Göbekli Tepe excavator Klaus Schmidt dead at 61

The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reports the death of Professor Klaus Schmidt.

Professor Klaus Schmidt, a pioneer of excavations in Göbekli Tepe, known as the “zero point in history” in the eastern Turkish province of Şanlıurfa, died of a heart attack while swimming in Germany at the age of 61.

Schmidt had been working at Göbekli Tepe for 20 years for the German Archaeology Institute. Through his works, he proved that the Neolithic-age ancient site was the world’s oldest temple.

When Leon Mauldin and I visited Göbekli Tepe in May of this year Schmidt was providing a personal tour for an educational tour group from the United States. He is wearing a light blue shirt and a cap (just right of center). We followed along for a while and listened to his explanations. I thought it might be Schmidt but wasn’t sure until I checked for photos on the Internet at the hotel that evening.

Professor Klaus Schmidt lecturing to an American group at Gobekli Tepe. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Professor Klaus Schmidt lecturing to a group at Gobekli Tepe. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Schmidt explains the site and significance of Göbekli Tepe.

Göbekli Tepe is one of the most fascinating Neolithic sites in the world. It is a tell, an artificial mound dating to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic. It was not used for habitation; it consists of several sanctuaries in the form of round megalithic enclosures. The site lies about 15km north-east of the Turkish city of Sanlıurfa, at the highest point of an extended mountain range that can be seen for many kilometres around. It is a landmark visible from far away…. Its enormous deposition of layers, up to fifteen metres high, have accumulated over several millennia over an area of about nine hectares. Even today, the place has lost nothing of its magic appeal. For example, a wishing tree which stands on top of the ridge is still sought out by the residents of the surrounding area.

Archaeologists found an important piece of the puzzle in the early history of humanity at the site, which contributes to a completely new understanding of the process of sedentism and the beginning of agriculture. The hill, which is strewn with countless stone implements and large-format, regular-shaped ashlars, revealed its secret as a result of the excavations carried out since 1995 by the German Archaeological Institute in cooperation with the Archaeological Museum in Sanlıurfa (Schmidt 1995). (DOI: 10.4312/dp.37-21)

The photo below shows the enclosure protecting the T-shaped monolithic pillars.

The enclosed area of Gobekli Tepe. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The enclosed area of Gobekli Tepe. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A Google search for Göbekli Tepe will produce numerous images of he site before the protective roof was built. A popular article in Actual Archaeology is available at Academia.edu here. It is now difficult to get photos of many of the pillars. See the article by Schmidt here. Some of the pillars are plain, but many of them contain reliefs of animals, birds, and a few humans. The art looks like what we might expect of children, but these pillars are definitely not the work of children.

Some of the T-shaped monolithic pillars. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some of the T-shaped monolithic pillars. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Göbekli Tepe is no more than 30 or 40 miles north of Harran (or Haran), the ancient home of Abraham (Genesis 11:21). Muslim belief says that Abraham was born at nearby Sanliurfa.

Schmidt explained to the American group that this site marked the change from the time of hunter-gatherers to a time of domestication of plants and animals.

There are many mysteries associated with Göbekli Tepe. The death of Schmidt is a blow to the continued work at the site, but perhaps others will be able to provide helpful information in the future.

Additional Photos (July 23, 2014). Carl Rasmussen has added several photos of Göbekli Tepe prior to the building of the roof over the excavated area. These photos allow you to see the arrangement of the stones. Go to his Holy Land Photos’ Blog here.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer