Category Archives: Archaeology

Tel ‘Eton is thought to be biblical Eglon

Tel ‘Eton (also Tel Eiton and Tel Aitun) is not the easiest archaeological site to locate. The site is situated on Israel’s border with the Palestinian West Bank. Palestine is on the east side of the mound and a military firing range is on the west side. When Leon Mauldin and I located the place we decided it would be best to stick to the gravel road without straying too far to the left or the right — sort of like Joshua.

“Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left,  so that you will not associate with these nations, these which remain among you, or mention the name of their gods, or make anyone swear by them, or serve them, or bow down to them.  (Joshus 23:6-7 NAU)

Tel ‘Eton currently is equated with biblical Eglon by many scholars. Recent excavations have been conducted under the direction of Prof. Avi Faust of Bar Ilan University.

Here is a photo of the tel from the south and perhaps a little to the east.

Tel 'Eton (Tel Eiton; Tel Aitun) from the south (and east). Photo by

Tel ‘Eton (Tel Eiton; Tel Aitun) from the south (and east). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Eglon is mentioned at least eight times in the Bible, all in the book of Joshua (10:3, 5, 23, 34, 36, 37; 12:12). The Scripture emphasizes that Israel defeated the king of Eglon. Notice the relationship between Lachish and Eglon.

And Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Lachish to Eglon, and they camped by it and fought against it.  They captured it on that day and struck it with the edge of the sword; and he utterly destroyed that day every person who was in it, according to all that he had done to Lachish.  Then Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron, and they fought against it.  (Joshua 10:34-36 NAU)

The distance from Lachish to Eglon (on a straight line) is 7 miles. From Eglon to Hebron is 10½ miles.

A recent article in Popular Archaeology reports,

An archaeological team has uncovered remains of what may have been an administrative center during the period when Judahite kings ruled out of ancient Jerusalem.

Led by project director Avraham Faust, an archaeologist with Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, Israel, excavations at the site of Tel ‘Eton located on the edge of the fertile Shephelah and the Hebron hill country to its east have revealed structures, artifacts, and fortifications that tell of an ancient city that historically straddled the eastern edge of the lowlands between the biblical kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem in the east and the cities of the Philistines on the Mediterranean coastal plains of the west.

Among the finds was a large, 240 sq.m. 8th century BCE house structure built following a four-room plan typical of ancient Israelite dwellings, featuring high-quality construction and, with its location at the highest point on the mound, commanding a strategic view of all areas below. The ancient building, along with its town context, was strategically located at the cross-roads of important north-south and east-west routes, set above fertile agricultural country.

“The structure was excavated, almost in its entirety, and was composed of a large courtyard with rooms on three sides,” stated Faust. “The building was nicely executed, including ashlar stones in the corners and openings. Hundreds of artifacts were unearthed within the debris, including a wide range of pottery vessels, loom weights, many metal objects, botanical remains, as well as many arrowheads, evidence of the battle which accompanied the conquest of the site by the Assyrians.”

The article also reports,

But the most abundant finds for the early periods were dated to the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1550-1200/1150 BCE).

That is the period of Joshua.

Here is a portion of the excavation from 2011.

Tel Eton excavation in 2011. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tel Eton excavation in 2011. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Tel ‘Eton Excavations website contains many small photos, plans, history, bibliography, etc.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Parrot: It is necessary to see in order to understand

When I began to learn of and appreciate the work of André Parrot, Curator-in-Chief of the French National Museums, Professor at the School of the Louvre, and Director of the Mari Archaeological Expedition, I purchased most of those masterful little books he wrote about Biblical cities. In connection with the recent post about Nineveh I took down my well-marked copy of Nineveh and the Old Testament (1955) and began to read again.

André Parrot writes of his April 1950 arrival at Mosul.

During the twenty years spent in Iraq or in Syria, we had never had an opportunity to cross the ‘Assyrian triangle’ Once again we realized how necessary it is to see in order to understand, and especially to hold in the memory. Knowledge gained from books is certainly not enough, for names which are not attached to any reality are nothing more than ghosts. Ghosts of cities, shadows of men, vague floating shapes, without solidity, though one tries to capture it with the aid of a drawing, a photograph or a vivid description. All students of archaeology know this by experience: nothing can replace actual contact with the object. That is why museums are so important; because there one can recognize the long chain of human history stretching out continuously from its beginning, but in which, instinctively we have a special interest in detecting and observing the first links. But the object is a prisoner in its glass case. Tom from its natural surroundings it has lost its true speech. Nevertheless it exerts a pull, it beckons one to take the road. It is impossible to contemplate the Assyrian reliefs in the Louvre or the British Museum without calling up the image of Nineveh.

Parrot points out that a visit to Nineveh can be disappointing “if one expects to see murals or palaces.” These things, he says, have been destroyed or crumbled away.

No kingdom endures forever, as the prophet Daniel reminded us long ago. Parrot says that he had only four days to visit the Assyrian Triangle (Nineveh, Nimrud, Khorsabad, and Asshur). In the evenings during his visit, he stayed with the Dominican Fathers. He says his memory of Nineveh,

is bound up with that of Mosul and the white cell in the monastery where, every evening of that short stay, we were able to meditate only a few yards from the Assyrian capital, on the vanity of empires and the fate which awaits all of them.

For the same reasons I have spent many years encouraging Bible students to visit the Bible lands.

The British Museum displays many reliefs from Nineveh. Information posted with the relief below says that it dates to about 700-692 BC. It comes from the SW Palace, Rm. 14, panels 13-15. After the capture of Alammu, a town of uncertain location, the prisoners are brough before the Assyrian king. Some carry heads of the dead. The king, Sennacherib, was shown in his chariot, but this part is now lost (WA 124786-7). Click on the photo for a larger image.

This Assyrian relief from Nineveh shows Prisoners from the town of Alammu. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This Assyrian relief from Nineveh shows Prisoners from the town of Alammu. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

Pilate erected a Tiberium in Caesarea Maritima

An inscription bearing the name of Pontius Pilate was found at Caesarea Maritima June 15, 1961 during the excavation of the Roman theater. The stone on which the inscription is found had been reused in the theater. The photo below shows a replica of the inscription displayed in the building described by Murphy-O’Connor as the Palace of the Procurators. The original inscription is in the Israel Museum.

Pilate inscription displayed in the Palace area at Caesarea Maritima. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pilate inscription displayed in the Palace area at Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

It is the inscription that has bearing on our current study relating to the Imperial Cult in Roman Palestine. Murphy-O’Connor gives the following translation:

Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judaea, made and dedicated the Tibereieum to the Divine Emperor. (The Holy Land, Fifth Ed., p. 243)

The top line has the word for Tiberium. The second line has [Pon]tius Pilatus, and the third line seems to be the title of Pilate. Only one letter remains on the fourth line.

Joan Taylor, whose 2006 New Testament Studies article we have mentioned before, reads the inscription as follows:

  1. [_ _ _] S TIBERIÉUM
  2. [_ _ PO]NTIUS PILATUS
  3. [PRAEF]ECTUS IUDA[EA]E
  4. [_ _ _ _ _] É[_ _ _ _ _ _ _]

She translates the inscription as,

  1. [. . .] Tiberieum
  2. [.Po]ntius Pilate
  3. [Pref]ect of Judaea
  4. [. . .] e [. . .]

If you use Logos, you will be able to locate a suggested reconstruction of Pontius Pilate’s Inscription in the Faithlife StudyBible Infographics.

Taylor’s interpretation of the inscription is significant.

The word ‘Tiberieum’ is found nowhere else in the corpus of Latin inscriptions or literature and, given the relatively small size of the inscription and its terse quality, this Tiberieum should probably be understood as something of modest proportions. Possibly this small structure was attached to the theatre of Caesarea, located in the southern part of the city, which would explain its existence as a step in the remodelled theatre later on. (566)

Taylor describes the Tiberieum.

A dedicated structure in honour of the emperor Tiberius, a res sacra, would easily be called in Latin a ‘Tiberieum’. The most natural thing in terms of the Latin word would be to consider this to be not some secular lighthouse for the help of sailors or any other profane building, but an edifice or annex associated with the Roman imperial cult. (567)

Taylor’s excellent article covers Pilates coins, the shields he erected in Jerusalem, and the tiberium he built at Caesarea. This allows her to conclude that Pilate “does seem to have been purposively determined to maintain, if not advance, the Roman imperial cult in Judaea.” (582)

Once more, for those who wish to follow up on this subject, here is the bibliographic reference to Taylor’s article.

Taylor, Joan E. “Pontius Pilate and the Imperial Cult in Roman Judaea.” New Testament Studies 52. 2006: 555-582.

Other helpful materials include:

Bond, Helen K. “The Coins of Pontius Pilate: Part of An Attempt to Provoke the People or to Integrate Them into the Empire? Journal for the Study of Judaism XXVII 3. 1996: 241-262.

Carl Rasmussen has written about this topic on his Holy Land Photos’ Blog here. In a post here, Rasmussen emphasizes that Herod’s Imperial Cult Temples were “all less than 40 miles from Nazareth/Capernaum,” and that the temples “had been in existence for over 40 years!”

We may add that Pilate’s activities were closer to the time of the ministry of Jesus and the beginning of the church.

Note to Those Who Heard My Florida College Presentation. While I was working on this series of articles I noticed that I had misspelled the name of the Roman Emperor Tiberius throughout the presentation. I used the spelling of the town Tiberias. I am sure that all of my former students will agree that there should be no counting off for misspelled words. :-)

I am also aware of the different spelling of the structure credited to Pilate. Tiberieum is the more typical British-type spelling; Tiberium is often used by American writers.

Emperor Worship in Asia Minor. I have been asked if I will discuss Emperor Worship as it relates to the book of Revelation. At this time the answer is no. Perhaps later on. I always presented material on this when I taught Revelation, and I have included a chapter on the subject in Studies in the Book of Revelation which is available at the Florida College Bookstore.

Pilate promoted the Imperial Cult by setting up shields in Jerusalem

In addition to the use of coins, Pilate used other means to promote the Imperial (Emperor) Cult in Roman Palestine.

In the previous post we called attention to the article by Prof. Joan E. Taylor who said that the coinage of Pilate and the Pilate inscription from Caesarea,

“indicate a prefect determined to promote a form of Roman religion in Judaea.”

The residence of the governor of Judea was at Caesarea Maritima, but he came to Jerusalem for special events. Pilate would likely stay at Herod’s place. This is where he would have set up shields in honor of the Emperor Tiberius. Both Josephus (JW 2:169ff.) and Philo of Alexandria (Legatio ad Gaium) record this episode.

What were these shields? This coin that was minted later by Felix, prefect of Judea about AD 52-59 (Acts 23-24) might give us an idea. The obverse of the coin shows two oblong shields and two spears.

Coin of the Prefect Felix showing shields and spears.

Coin of the Prefect Felix showing two oblong shields and two crossed spears.

The actors involved in the RACE show at Jerash, Jordan, show us what the shields of the 6th Roman Legion might have looked like.

Enactment of soldiers of the 6th Roman Legion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Enactment of soldiers of the 6th Roman Legion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A denarius bearing the image of Augustus was struck in Lyon between 2 BC and AD 4. The reverse shows Gaius and Lucius standing, facing, holding shields and spears. In this case the shields are round, and are shown in association with the lituus and simpulum, symbols of the Imperial Cult. (I think you can easily find larger images of this coin on the Internet.)

Coin of Augustus showing shields, lituus, and simpulum.

Coin of Augustus showing shields, lituus, and simpulum.

Our point in all of this is to show that when Pilate erected the shields in Jerusalem it was in fact a symbol of the Imperial cult.

Next we plan to discuss the tiberium built by Pilate at Caesarea.

Herod’s temple to Roma and Augustus at Caesarea Maritima

We began this theme in the previous post with the temple Herod the Great erected to the emperor Augustus in the region of Caesarea Philippi. We pointed out that Herod had already built temples to the Emperor at Caesarea Maritima and at Sebaste (= Samaria).

Caesarea Maritima was built on the site of Strato’s Tower and became a center of Roman provincial government in Judea. It was located on the main caravan route between Tyre and Egypt. The harbor at Caesarea was built by Herod and named Sebastos (Greek for Augustus) in honor of the Emperor.

Our photo below shows the harbor and the location of the Imperial temple indicated by a red oval. The inner harbor extended over the grassy area, almost to the steps of the temple. When we first began visiting Caesarea it was thought that another building, north of the inner harbor, marked the site of the Augustus temple. It is now identified as a nymphaeum.

Aerial view of Caesarea Maritima showing the Sebastos harbor and the site of the Augustus temple. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Caesarea Maritima showing the Sebastos harbor and the site of the Augustus temple. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The excavation of the Temple Platform began in 1989 under the direction of Kenneth G. Holum of the University of Maryland. Holum says the temple of Augustus was torn down about 400 A.D. with most of the stone being used in others buildings. The scant ruins enable the archaeologists to determine that the temple measured 95 by 150 feet. He says it towered “perhaps 100 feet from the column bases to the peak.” The temple was made of local sandstone, called kurkar, and coated with a white stucco.

The Temple Platform was covered by an octagonal Byzantine church in the 6th century. Those are the ruins we see today within the Crusader city.

The 6th century Byzantine church was erected over the earlier temple to Augustus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The 6th century Byzantine church was erected over the earlier temple to Augustus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A sign at the site of the Temple, already stained in 2005, provides some indication of the appearance of the building.

An artists' reconstruction of the Temple of Augustus at Caesarea Maritima. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An artists’ reconstruction of the Temple of Augustus at Caesarea Maritima. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Like the Temple Mount [in Jerusalem], Caesarea’s Temple Platform would have been enclosed at least on the north, east and south by columned porticoes marking the sacred precinct (the termenos). and in the center, uipon a high podium, would have risen the temple that Herod dedicated to the goddess Roma, embodiment of imperial Rome, and to the god-king Augustus. (Kenneth G. Holum)

The article by Kenneth G. Holum appeared in an issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (September/October 2004) devoted to “Herod’s Fun City.” His article is entitled “Building Power: The Politics of Architecture.” There are numerous photographs and diagrams.

Charles Savelle left a comment to the previous post in which he called attention to a few additional sources here. I was especially pleased to see a reference to Caesarea Philippi: Banias the Lost City of Pan by John Francis Wilson. Speaking of the temple at Paneion, he says that the building itself would be scandal enough from the point of view of the Jews in the area.

Wilson states that Herod set the course for Imperial Worship in the east.

“Herod’s strategy in erecting this temple extended far beyond the symbolism represented by the structure itself. He was among the first of all provincial rulers in the empire to commit to the cult of Augustus. His Augustan temples, and the elaborate priesthood they required, may even have been influential in setting the course of imperial worship throughout the Eastern empire. While ostensibly the act of erecting these temples represented loyalty and commitment to Rome, it also furnished a basis for the social and political organization of diverse populations such as those in Herod’s kingdom. At the same time, because the new cult left the traditional local cults intact, it represented no threat to them. In fact, it symbolized an interest in protecting the local culture.” (p. 13)

When we think of Caesarea we recall the major events recorded in the book of Acts.

  • The residence of Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judea (A.D. 26-36), though there is no reference to this fact in the New Testament.
  • The visit of Peter to preach the gospel to the Roman Centurion Cornelius (Acts 10-11).
  • The visit and death of Herod Agrippa I (A.D. 37-44; Acts 12).
  • Paul’s return from his preaching journeys (Acts 18:22; 21:8)
  • The imprisonment of the apostle Paul (A.D. 58-60; Acts 23-26).

We plan to say more about Pilate and his role in upholding the Imperial Cult in Roman Palestine in another post.

Herod the Great and the Emperor Cult

Herod supported Mark Antony against Augustus in the Roman civil war. When Augustus was victorius at the battle of Actium (31 B.C.), Herod convinced Augustus that he was loyal to him. Herod, who already ruled Judea, was granted authority over Galilee and Iturea.

 “In turn, Herod ingratiated himself to Augustus by building monuments and temples in the emperor’s honor. Temples dedicated to the emperor in the early Roman period (20 B.C.E.–120 C.E.) were part of an empire-wide phenomenon known as “the emperor cult.” This Roman imperial institution played a pivotal role in spreading imperial propaganda and encouraging allegiance to the emperor, who was portrayed as a god, or imbued with the spirit of a deity. (Overman, Olive, and Nelson,“Discovering Herod’s Shrine to Augustus.” BAR 29:02).

Herod erected three temples to Augustus: (1) Caesarea Maritima; (2) Samaria, which he named Sebaste, Greek for the Latin Augustus; (3) Near Paneion (Caesarea Philippi; Banias] at the fountain of the Jordan (JW 1:404).

Josephus says,

So when he had conducted Caesar to the sea, and was returned home, he built him a most beautiful temple, of the whitest stone, in Zenodorus’ country, near the place called Panion. This is a very fine cave in a mountain, under which there is a great cavity in the earth, and the cavern is abrupt, and prodigiously deep, and full of a still water; over it hangs a vast mountain; and under the caverns arise the springs of the river Jordan. Herod adorned this place, which was already a very remarkable one, still further by the erection of this temple, which he dedicated to Caesar. (Ant 15:363-364)

We are concerned here with the third temple near Panion (Paneion). We know the same site as Caesarea Philippi because the city was built by Herod Philip and named to honor Caesar and himself. Excavators at Caesarea have identified a structure there, at the entrance of the cave, as the temple to Augustus. Other scholars suggest that this is part of a monumental entrance to the cave of Pan.

Josephus’ expression “near the place called Panion” [Banias, later Caesarea Philippi] indicates a place closer to the Pan temples. However, the Greek term used in Matthew 16:13 (meros) can be translated district, region, or geographical area.

In the drawing below we see an artistic reconstruction of the Pan temenos at Panias (Banyas). The Temple to Augustus is the building on the left that backs up to the cave.

Reconstruction of the Pan temenos at Panias. From Archaeological Sites in Israel, published by the Israel Information Center, Jerusalem, 1998.

Reconstruction of the Pan temenos at Panias. From Archaeological Sites in Israel, published by the Israel Information Center, Jerusalem, 1998.

Archaeologists from Macalester College and Carthage College, working since 1999, have suggested that the third temple was built at Omrit, about three miles southwest of Banias on a bluff overlooking the Hula Valley from the east. If this is correct, then this may be the site of Caesarea Philippi (Mt. 16:13; Mk. 8:27).
Currently the site of Omrit is practically impossible to reach by car, but you can reach the area and then walk to the excavation.

View of the site of Omrit from the south. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of the site of Omrit from the south. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

If we look West from Omrit we have a good view of the northern end of the Hula Valley.

A view NW to the Hula Valley from Omrit. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view NW to the Hula Valley from Omrit. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

According to the excavators, a total of three ornate Roman temples were built at Omrit over a period of about 120 years. The steps we see below belong to the third temple erected near the end of the first century A.D.

Temple steps at Omrit. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Temple steps at Omrit. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The photo below looks below the ground level to the earlier temples or monumental buildings that are now covered to protect them.

The earlier temples at Omrit. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The earlier temples at Omrit. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A brochure, Omrit A Unique Archaeological Site in the Upper Galilee, is available in PDF here. Note that it presents the viewpoint of the excavators that this is the site of Herod’s Augusteum (p. 5).

In “Debate: Where Was Herod’s Temple to Augustus” BAR 29:05 (Sept./Oct. 2003), Andrea Berlin argues that Banias is still the best candidate for the Augustan temple. Overman, Olive, and Nelson reply and reaffirm their preference for Omrit.

A third suggestions is made by the late Ehud Netzer that an opus reticulatum (latice-type stone work) building at Banias is the site of Herod’s temple to Augustus. This site is about 100 yards west of the Cave of Pan.

Carl Rasmussen calls Omrit his favorite site in Israel here.

Post-traumatic stress as early as 1300 B.C.

A team of scholars at Anglia Ruskin University in the East of England released a report showing evidence of post-traumatic stress as early as 1300 B.C. The study involved documents from ancient Mesopotamia.

Accounts of soldiers being visited by “ghosts they faced in battle” fitted with a modern diagnosis of PTSD.

The condition was likely to be as old as human civilisation, the researchers concluded.

Prof Jamie Hacker Hughes, a former consultant clinical psychologist for the Ministry of Defence, said the first description of PTSD was often accredited to the Greek historian Herodotus.

The brief notice is available at BBC here. I found it interesting that the photo associated with the article shows an Assyrian king of the 9th century B.C. with a bow and arrow, and two others with javelins. In fact, this is not a war or battle relief. A view of the entire relief shows that it was the king is on a lion hunt. But, that has nothing to do with the validity of the report.

Several examples of the cruelty of war in ancient times is the limestone relief of the siege of Lachish which was found in Sennacherib’s (704-681 B.C.) palace at Nineveh. A replica of the relief may be seen in the Israel Museum, but the original is in its own designated room in the British Museum.

An Assyrian warrior kills one of the locals at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An Assyrian warrior kills one of the locals at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Bible mentions the siege of Lachish in several places, including 2 Chronicles 32:9-10.

After this, Sennacherib king of Assyria, who was besieging Lachish with all his forces, sent his servants to Jerusalem to Hezekiah king of Judah and to all the people of Judah who were in Jerusalem, saying, “Thus says Sennacherib king of Assyria, ‘On what are you trusting, that you endure the siege in Jerusalem? (ESV)

Counting the heads of the dead at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Counting the heads of the dead at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some scholars suggest that the next panel portrays the Assyrians flaying the Judeans.

Bodies of the dead at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bodies of the dead at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

One panel shows local citizens being impaled on poles. After a day of impaling, beheading, or counting heads, it might be easy enough to see “ghosts”.

We can desire that all men come to accept the teaching of Jesus when one of His disciples used a sword to advance the cause of the Lord.

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52 ESV)

HT: Agade list