Category Archives: Archaeology

Leichty: “We have forty thousand of these things here”

The Agade list reports the passing Monday night of Dr. Erle Verdun Leichty (1933-2016), Emeritus Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (Assyriology) at the University of Pennsylvania.

The announcement says,

In 2006, a number of colleagues and students banded together to produce “If a Man Builds a Joyful House. Assyriological Studies in Honor of Erle Verdun Leichty” (Brill). This volume is available for download at < http://tinyurl.com/zgdf9pb>. In it, his Penn colleague Barry Eichler tells about “Cuneiform Studies at Penn: From Hilprecht to Leichty,” where can also be found details on Leichty’s fine career and contributions.

I did not know Dr. Leichty, but did have a chance meeting with him at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in 2004. I was looking for a particular ancient document and inquired of the staff. They could not provide the answer but said that Dr. Leichty might be able to help me. When I arrived at the research area where the cuneiform tablets were kept, Dr. Leichty cheerfully left the work he was doing and spent some time with me. He said the document was not in their collection. He told me about the dictionary he was working on.

Dr. Erle Leichty showing the cuneiform tablets at the University of Pennsylvania. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dr. Erle Leichty showing the cuneiform tablets at the University of Pennsylvania. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

What impressed me that day was that Erle Leichty cheerfully took time to answer a question from an unknown. As I was leaving the research lab we passed the cabinets where some of the cuneiform tablets were stored. He pulled open one of the drawers and picked up one of the tablets. He said, “We have forty thousand of these things here.”

I have forgotten what document I was looking for, but I have not forgotten that pleasant meeting with Erle Leichty. That was a nice day.

Getting as close as possible – “zero on the border”

Saturday afternoon I was reading an article about the Turkish military moving across the Euphrates River at Karkamiş (Carchemish) into the Syrian town of Jarabulus. In modern times it is not possible to follow a line of travel that one might wish—for example, following the travels of Abraham, or the movement of the Babylonians and the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish.

We do our best to get as close as possible. In Syria I have visited the Euphrates river about 25 miles south of Jarabulus/Carchemish, but in Turkey I have been to the base of the Tell of the ancient city of Carchemish, and seen the bridge crossing the river to Jarabulus. A travel expert in Istanbul once described Carchemish to me as being “Zero on the border.”

The mound of ancient Carchemish overlooking the Euphrates River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.The mound of ancient Carchemish overlooking the Euphrates River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The mound of ancient Carchemish overlooking the Euphrates River. To the left of the tell you may get a glimpse of a blue structure above the trees. That is the bridge crossing the Euphrates River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next picture shows the bridge that crosses the Euphrates. Click on the photo for a larger image. A small portion of the ancient city of Carchemish is in Syria.

Tell Carchemish is mostly hidden behind the trees. The bridge crossing the Euphrates River is clearly visible. Syrian hills are visible in the distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.Tell Carchemish is mostly hidden behind the trees. The bridge crossing the Euphrates River is clearly visible. Syrian hills are visible in the distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tell Carchemish is mostly hidden behind the trees. The bridge crossing the Euphrates River is clearly visible. Syrian hills are visible in the distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The ancient site of Carchemish (modern Karkamiş in Turkey) was identified by George Smith in 1876, and later excavated by the British Museum beginning in 1911. The various directors included Hogarth, Thompson, Wooley, and Lawrence (of Arabia). Many remains of Assyrian and Neo-Hittite periods were uncovered.

Carchemish is mentioned only a few times in the Bible, but it was one of the most significant cities in the ancient Bible world.

  • Isaiah made a reference to Carchemish (Isaiah 10:9). The city had been sacked by Sargon II in 717 B.C.
  • Pharaoh Necho of Egypt went up to Carchemish on the Euphrates to assist the Assyrians against the Babylonians in 609 B.C. (2 Chronicles 35:20; Jeremiah 46:2). King Josiah of Judah tried to stop him, but was killed.

One of the Babylonian Chronicles says that Nebuchadnezzar “crossed the river to go against the Egyptian army which lay in Carchemish.”

As we left Carchemish on our way to Gaziantep we saw a local Kurdish shepherd tending a few sheep. Shepherds like to take the sheep to the wheat fields after they have been cut. Times do change. Another photo I have shows clearly that this shepherd is using a piece of PVC pipe as a staff. He is wearing the baggy pants typical of older Kurdish men.

Shepherd with sheep near Carchemish, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shepherd with sheep near Carchemish, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some other interesting things happened that afternoon at Carchemish, but I will save them for another post.

Subscribe to the BiblePlaces Newsletter

Perhaps many of our readers already follow Todd Bolen’s BiblePlaces Blog and receive his BiblePlaces Newsletter. But there may be a few who do not receive the Newsletter.

The most recent BiblePlaces Newsletter was distributed Tuesday. It includes some featured BiblePlaces Photos under the title “Never Been There Before!” One would think that Dr. Bolen, who lived and taught ten years or more in Israel, and visited the country other times, would have already visited all of the places where Bible events took place. It doesn’t work that way. In the current BiblePlaces Newsletter he takes us to some places he had never been to…

  • Kerioth, possible hometown of Judas Iscariot
  • …see a Canaanite Wall in Hebron
  • the location of the Praetorium entrance in Jerusalem
  • Ramah, the hometown of the prophet Samuel
  • the tomb of Joseph
  • the Wadi Farah

After fifty years of traveling to Israel half of these are now on my bucket list. With each Newsletter you receive free high resolution photos and a free PowerPoint presentation.

Not on the list to receive the Newsletter, and missed this valuable one? Todd has given me permission to share the link to this Newsletter. Click here. At the bottom of the page you will have an opportunity to sign up to receive it whenever it is published (usually several times a year).

I don’t recall when I first began to use the Pictorial Library of Biblical Lands (PLBL), but I do recall the first time I met Todd Bolen. It was in Jerusalem in 2005. Leon Mauldin and I had made our way from the City of David to Gihon Spring. Todd and his students from the Master’s College IBEX program in Israel were helping clean out some of the area and working on the pottery. We had made prior arrangement to meet. It was about lunch time so Todd took his students on a tour of the area known as the tombs of the kings, down to the place where the Kidron and Hinnom valleys join, and to the site of En Rogel. He invited us to go along and visit as we walked.

Ferrell Jenkins and Todd Bolen at the plaza in front of Gihon Spring. The "Pinnacle" of the Tempe (the south east corner) may be seen in the distance.

Ferrell Jenkins and Todd Bolen at the plaza in front of Gihon Spring. The “Pinnacle” of the Tempe (the south east corner) may be seen in the distance. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Leon snapped this photo of us. I see that Todd has aged a bit since then. We have had several occasions for short visits since that time, and I am delighted to say that BiblePlaces licenses my photos for publication.

If you teach the Bible you need the PLBL. You may buy the entire set, or begin with a few volumes covering areas you are now teaching. For complete information visit BiblePlaces.com.

Statue of an Egyptian official found at Hazor

Hebrew University announces this morning the discovery of a statue of an Egyptian official at Tel Hazor.

— “ —

Jerusalem, July 25, 2016 — In a historic find, a large fragment of an Egyptian statue measuring 45 X 40 centimeters [about 18 x 16 inches], made of lime-stone, was discovered in the course of the current season of excavations at Tel-Hazor, north of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Only the lower part of the statue survived, depicting the crouching feet of a male figure, seated on a square base on which a few lines in the Egyptian hieroglyphic script are inscribed.

The archaeologists estimate that the complete statue would equal the size of a fully-grown man. At present only a preliminary reading of the inscriptions has been attempted, and the title and name of the Egyptian official who originally owned the statue, are not yet entirely clear.

The statue was originally placed either in the official’s tomb or in a temple – most probably a temple of the Egyptian god Ptah – and most of the texts inscribed on the statue’s base include words of praise to the official who may have served and most probably practiced his duties in the region of Memphis, the primary cult center of the god Ptah. They also include the customary Egyptian funerary formula ensuring eternal supply of offerings for the statue’s owner.

The monumental Egyptian statute of a high official from the Middle Kingdom in Egypt, found in the administrative palace at Hazor, north of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. (Photo credit: Shlomit Bechar)

The monumental Egyptian statute of a high official from the Middle Kingdom in Egypt, found in the administrative palace at Hazor, north of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. (Photo credit: Shlomit Bechar)

This statue, found this year, together with the sphinx fragment of the Egyptian king Mycerinus (who ruled Egypt in the 25th century B.C.E.) discovered at the site by the research team three years ago, are the only monumental Egyptian statues found so far in second millennium contexts in the entire Levant.

The discovery of these two statues in the same building currently being excavated by the research team, indicates the special importance of the building (probably the administrative palace of the ruler of the city), as well as that of the entire city of Hazor.

The three volunteer excavators who found the statue, from left to right: Valentin Sama-Rojo from Spain, Bryan Kovach from the United States, and Elanji Swart from South Africa. (Photo credit: Shlomit Bechar)

The three volunteer excavators who found the statue, from left to right: Valentin Sama-Rojo from Spain, Bryan Kovach from the United States, and Elanji Swart from South Africa. (Photo credit: Shlomit Bechar)

According to Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who has been conducting excavations at Tel-Hazor for over 27 years, Hazor is the most important site from the Biblical period. Shlomit Bechar, a doctoral student at the Institute of Archaeology who has been excavating at Hazor for a decade, is co-director of the Hazor excavations and director of the main excavation area.

In the course of close to 30 years of excavation, fragments of 18 different Egyptian statues, both royal and private, dedicated to Egyptian kings and officials, including two sphinxes, were discovered at Hazor. Most of these statues were found in layers dated to the Late Bronze Age (15th-13th centuries B.C.E.) – corresponding to the New Kingdom in Egypt. This is the largest number of Egyptian statues found so far in any site in the Land of Israel, although there is no indication that Hazor was one of the Egyptian strongholds in Southern Canaan nor of the presence of an Egyptian official at Hazor during the Late Bronze Age.

Interestingly, most Egyptian statues found at Hazor so far date to Egypt’s “Middle Kingdom” (19th-18th centuries B.C.E), a time when Hazor did not yet exist. It thus seems that the statues were sent by an Egyptian king in the “New Kingdom” as official gifts to the king of Hazor, or as dedications to a local temple (regardless of their being already “antiques”). This is not surprising considering the special status of the king of Hazor who was the most important king in Southern Canaan at the time. The extraordinary importance of Hazor in the 15th-13th centuries B.C.E. is indicated also by the Biblical reference to Hazor as “the head of all those kingdoms” (Joshua 11:10).

All the statues at the site were found broken to pieces and scattered over a large area. Clear signs of mutilation indicate that most of them were deliberately and violently smashed, most probably in the course of the city’s final conquest and destruction sometime in the 13th century B.C.E. The deliberate mutilation of statues of kings and dignitaries accompanying the conquest of towns, is a well-known practice in ancient times (I Samuel 5:1-4; Isaiah 11:9) as well as in our time.

The Hazor excavations, which began in the mid 1950 (under the direction of the late Prof. Yigael Yadin), are carried out on behalf of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The excavations were resumed in 1990 – still on behalf of the Hebrew University, and the Israel Exploration Society, and are named “The Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin”. The excavation takes place within the Hazor National Park, in full support and cooperation with the National Parks Authority.

Hazor is the largest biblical-era site in Israel, covering some 200 acres, and has been recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The population of Hazor in the second millennium BCE is estimated to have been about 20,000, making it the largest and most important city in the entire region. Its size and strategic location on the route connecting Egypt and Babylon made it “the head of all those kingdoms” according to the biblical book of Joshua (Joshua 11:10). Hazor’s conquest by the Israelites opened the way to the conquest and settlement of the Israelites in Canaan. The city was rebuilt and fortified by King Solomon and prospered in the days of Ahab and Jeroboam II, until its final destruction by the Assyrians in 732 BCE.

Documents discovered at Hazor and at sites in Egypt and Iraq attest that Hazor maintained cultural and trade relations with both Egypt and Babylon. Artistic artifacts, including those imported to Hazor from near and far, have been unearthed at the site. Hazor is currently one of Israel’s national parks.

—”—

The archaeological season for the major excavations is closing down and interesting reports are coming in almost daily.

Tel Hazor (upper mound) from the south. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tel Hazor (upper mound) from the south. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Meeting Professor Carl Rasmussen in Jerusalem

holylandphotos, aka Prof. Carl Rasmussen, left a helpful comment on our recent post, “A crown of thorns and a reed.”

Great article! Some of your readers might be interested in the “crown of thorns” that I have posted on my web site.

He left a link to a beautiful example of a crown of thorns posted at holylandphotos here. This photo, along with those we posted, will certainly enrich any lesson on the subject.

And this gives me the opportunity of share a Jerusalem experience from this spring.

Our group had just finished a visit to the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Western Wall. We exited through Dung Gate on the south-east corner of the Old City to meet our bus. I got on the bus and sat down as a good example to my tour members who are sometimes distracted by peddlers. A man stuck his head in the front door of the bus and said, “I’m Carl Rasmussen.”

It was the first time Carl and I had met in person, but we had exchanged several emails and assisted each other in locating some significant places in the Bible world over the past few years. Carl was on his first outing with a new class of students at the Jerusalem University College. We didn’t have much time to talk, but enough to pose for a photo beside the south wall of the Old City.

Carl Rasmussen and Ferrell Jenkins in Jerusalem. April 5, 2016.

Carl Rasmussen and Ferrell Jenkins in Jerusalem. April 5, 2016.

Prof. Carl Rasmussen is known for his academic teaching, his tours, and his Bible atlas, his Holy Land Photos’ blog, and his large collection of photos at holylandphotos.

We have called attention to the Zondervan Atlas of the Bible several times. I recommend this book for home study, and the Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible to use when traveling to Bible lands, or to take to Bible class. I see that Kindle currently has this book for $12.96.

The Holy Land Photos site now has a database of more than 4700 photos available for use by teachers.

I have developed friendships with several individuals who are recognized for their interest and knowledge in Bible lands as a result of this blog. A wonderful side benefit to this work.

The 2016 excavations at Gath

Tell es-Safi/Gath. Prof. Aren Maeir continues to report almost daily about progress in the excavation at Tell es-Safi/Gath. Staff and volunteers are working in at least five areas and Maeir continues to give a brief summary of finds of the dig with multiple photos here. The photos are not labeled, but if you know something about the site you may be able to determine which area is pictured.

Since the announcement at the close of last season (2015) about a possible Iron Age gate, and the teaser post with 1 Samuel 21:13 as a title, I have been following this. I am not expecting they will find David’s spittle or a hair from his beard, but as a believer of the Biblical account I do draw a connection between the text and the factual reality that seems to be coming to light on the tell.

Below is an aerial photo published last year showing the gate area of Gath. For a larger photo go to the Gath website here.

Aerial general view of area D fortifications at Gath.

Aerial general view of area D fortifications at Gath.

Area D, with the gate and fortifications, is located below the parking area visible in the lower right quarter of the photo.

Aerial view of Gath showing the area where the gate has been uncovered. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Gath showing the area where the gate has been uncovered. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Earlier this year when my group visited the site in April, some of the tour members enjoyed examining the stone walls. I am looking forward to seeing new photos at the end of this season (in about a week). It only takes a short time after the rains for new growth to begin to cover the excavations.

Members of my group looking at the walls uncovered in 2015. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Members of my group looking at the walls uncovered in 2015. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

David’s relationship with the Philistines is fascinating. At the Valley of Elah, a few miles away, he killed the giant Goliath who was from Gath (1 Samuel 17), but later, when fleeing from King Saul he sought refuge from Achish king of Gath. It was at that time that David “pretended to be insane” at the gate of Gath.

 10 And David rose and fled that day from Saul and went to Achish the king of Gath.  11 And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?”  12 And David took these words to heart and was much afraid of Achish the king of Gath.  13 So he changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard.  14 Then Achish said to his servants, “Behold, you see the man is mad. Why then have you brought him to me?  15 Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to behave as a madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?” (1 Samuel 21:10-15 ESV).

Read here for my more detailed post about Gath and the possible gate from last year.

Thanks to Aren Maeir for the good updates and photos from Gath. Follow his blog to read more about it.

Philistine cemetery uncovered at Ashkelon

Friends Trent and Rebekah Dutton alerted me last evening that there would be a significant press release today about the excavation of a Philistine cemetery at Ashkelon over the past three years. All of this information has been kept secret until today with an announcement to coincide with the opening of a permanent Ashkelon exhibit at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem. Trent and Rebekah have been working with the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon during this time in connection with others from Wheaton College, Harvard, and other educational institutions. They both have earned the Master’s degree in Archaeology from Wheaton.

Sign at Ashkelon reminding visitors that the Philistines once lived here.

Sign at Ashkelon reminding visitors that the Philistines once lived here.

Certain news outlets have been given an advance notice of this discovery and have already broken the news. I am directing you to some of the better reports thus far. What you learn may surprise you.

Trust you will enjoy some of these reports this afternoon.