Monday, July 05, 2010
I think this just might be my last post on this blog. I've been wanting to move to another platform and decided now is the time. One of the reasons is that the new location offers more flexibility. But I've also just begun using new software for audio editing of The Book & The Spade, so there are lots of developments. Check out the new place and let me know what you think.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Recent news reports have said that the Sea of Galilee has been over fished, and therefore commercial fishing has been banned for the next two years. On this program, some archaeological perspective on the Sea of Galilee fishing industry.
The second half of the program we discuss the latest information available on the oldest and largest commercial beekeeping operation discovered at Tel Rehov three years ago. Now there's news that the bees were imported. And why would someone want to house a million bees in the middle of a city. We have a few ideas.
Late breaking news: CNN has a story with photos on the discovery of the earliest known images of the apostles Andrew and John, found in Roman catacombs.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
An article in the New York Times has information on plans for a national Bible museum, being put together by the folks who run Hobby Lobby. The Bible expert who will be the executive director of this museum is Scott Carroll, who was a guest on our show back in 1998. So this week we're featuring another program from our archives, as we listen once again to Scott Carroll talk about his research into the state of writing in the first century, when the Gospels were written (according to the traditional view).
No definitive word yet on whether the Bible museum will be located in Dallas or Oklahoma City. But so far they have acquired 30,000 Bibles and related objects. That seems to be quite a collection.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
If you're studying a drawing of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as it looked in the time of Jesus, or some other historical period, chances are that drawing was made by Leen Ritmeyer.
Ritmeyer is a Temple Mount explorer who ranks right alongside Charles Warren, Charles Wilson and Edward Robinson. They got the jump on him, they were 19th century explorers. But our advantage is that Ritmeyer is still active and publishing his work.
About 13½ years ago I had a chance to talk with Ritmeyer about his work. This series of 3 programs from our archives replays that interview. Leen has a website which offers some examples of his work, as well as a blog with some of his commentary.
Here are some archaeological video reports, on the discovery of 3,500-year old cultic items in northern Israel, and a time lapse report on archaeology at Khirbet Al-Maqatir which may be the site of Ai.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
It's always a treat to have Mark Chavalas on the program, a professor of ancient history from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Mark always provides fascinating background information on the cultures of northern Mesopotamia (modern Syria). In the past we've talked about some of the important sites of the region. In these two programs we switch our focus to information gleaned from cuneiform tablets about the lives of the women of the Middle Bronze Age. In the Biblical chronology, this is the period of the patriarchs and women like Sarah, Hagar, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. We talk about how things have changed for women since then, and in some ways very little has changed.
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Twelve years ago, for the 50th anniversary of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery, I produced a documentary program featuring comments from William F. Albright, Yigael Yadin and others. At about that time I had inherited a collection of tapes from University of Wisconsin professor Menahem Mansoor featuring interviews done during production of a public radio documentary on the scrolls.
This week, in honor of the two museum displays currently being featured in Milwaukee and St. Paul, I am once again featuring that documentary, telling the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery and relating its importance.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
These programs focus on a fascinating artifact, a bronze 8th century B.C. bowl, inscribed with celestial images that offer clues into Aramean astral religion, and hence some of the cult worship described in the Old Testament. Our guest is Lawson Younger, a professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield IL.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
This is the program in which we announce our next Book & The Spade Holyland Study Tour. It will take place in February 2011, and include Egypt, Jordan and Israel.
We start where the Exodus starts, follow the route through the Sinai, jump ahead into Jordan, cross over to the Galilee and end up in Jerusalem. It's a comprehensive review of the Biblical landscape, with particular attention to the archaeological evidence for our Biblical roots.
We'll see some of the most breath-taking views that we can share with our Biblical forefathers: the pyramids of Egypt, the rose-red city of Petra, Moses' view of The Promised Land from Mt. Nebo, the Sea of Galilee, and the holy city of Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives. And so much more. Details are online at www.radioscribe.com/itinrar4.htm.
The roots of the world's first alphabet seem to be located in the Sinai peninsula, at a place called Serabit al-Khadem. The Sinai is also the territory where our monotheistic religious roots were incubated. No direct links have been identified but the commonalities are intriguing.
On this program we review an article by professor Orly Goldwasser, an Israeli Egyptologist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who suggests that the role played by hieroglyphics in the development of the alphabet may have been more important than previously suspected. She also identifies the person who may be responsible for inventing the alphabet.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
The day after we did our interviews with professor James Hardin on the 10th century problem (programs 1219 & 1220) and the archaeology related to Jerusalem in the time of David and Solomon, Israeli archaeologist Eilat Mazar announced the discovery of a wall in Jerusalem that she credited to the reign of Solomon.
So in this program professor Keith Schoville and I discuss the discovery as well as some questions that have been raised about the discovery. It's a perfect example of the debate over the 10th century problem and it will be interesting to see if the identification sticks, as more and more archaeologists take a look at the evidence.
We also spend a few minutes discussing reports of vanishing 3,000-year old timbers on the Temple Mount. An archaeologist who has studied timbers used in Temple Mount construction says some of them date back to the time of of David and Saul. But after his work was published, the timbers have disappeared.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
What does the lack of archaeological evidence for 10th century B.C. Jerusalem have to say about the reigns of David and Solomon, which were supposed to have taken place at that time? That's one of the issues that archaeologists have been arguing about for the past decade or two. James Hardin, a professor at Southern Mississippi State University, takes some time to explain why the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, as the saying goes.
BREAKING NEWS - The details of our planned 2011 Book & The Spade Holyland Archaeological Study Tour are now out in a preliminary form. You can get that information by going here. We'd love to have you join us.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Back around 2000 archaeologist Shimon Gibson made one of the most intriguing archaeological discoveries of the last decade, a 2,000-year old shrouded corpse in a tomb in Jerusalem's Hinnom Valley. There was no news release at the time, Gibson wanted some research done on the remains first. Now, finally, the results of the investigation into this shrouded 2,000-year old burial are finally being released. That's the topic on this episode: some new information about leprosy in Bible times and a new perspective on the Shroud of Turin.
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Archaeologists have been working on the street just inside the Jaffa Gate on the west side of the Old City of Jerusalem. On this week's program we discuss their findings: remains of a Byzantine street and a Herodian aqueduct. We also spend some time discussing the Byzantine period, when Christians ruled the Holyland.
We've talked in the past about some of the exciting new discoveries in the City of David area of Jerusalem. This week CBN News has a report on two developments which we have discussed previously.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
One of the most distinguished British scholars we've been privileged to have on our show was Donald Wiseman. In 1986 we featured remarks from a lecture he'd given and we've pulled those old files out of our archives upon hearing about the passing of this gentleman. He's talking about Nineveh on the first program and Babylon on the second program.
Alan Millard, another distinguished British scholar, has a nice tribute to his colleague on the website of Tyndale House, where we found this photo. The photo shows Wiseman with Agatha Christie, her husband Max Mallowan (another distinguished archaeologist) and Neville Chittick.
Update: The London Telegraph has posted an obituary of Donald Wiseman.
In our third and final program in this series, prof. Schoville and I add some additional details about the legacy of prof. Wiseman. Program 1216 also includes some information about Dead Sea Scrolls museum exhibits this spring in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
On these two programs, as we do at the beginning of every year, we roll out the long list of the year 2010 planned institutional excavations in Israel. We also discuss some of the past findings and some of the Biblical links to these sites. We encourage our listeners to actually participate in archaeology and volunteer at one of the sites we discuss. Information on excavating at these sites is online and readily accessible. From Ashkelon (shown) to Zayet, there are all kinds of opportunities available. Who knows what exciting finds the 2010 season will bring?
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Interest in the Khirbet Qeiyafa ostracon jumped this month with the release of a new reading by professor Gershon Galil of Haifa University. Galil says his translation confirms that the Kingdom of Israel existed in the 10th century B.C. (the time of King David), and that the Biblical scriptures were written centuries earlier than many modern scholars believe.
Christianity Today asked me to investigate the claims and do a short article (link posted as soon as it's online). With the help of a friend who knows a little bit about the Hebrew language I was able to get hold of Seth Sanders, author of the new book The Invention of Hebrew. Seth referred me to another expert on Semitic languages of this period, Chris Rollston, of Emmanuel School of Religion in Johnson City TN.
Chris has posted some of his thoughts online. Both interviews of this series are now on my website. And here's my article.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
One of the least archaeological spots in Israel seems to be Nazareth. As a tiny village in Jesus' time, there aren't many remains to be found. Archaeologists recently announced the discovery of a house that dated back to the first century, an apparent neighbor of Jesus' family. They called it the first house from Jesus' time to be excavated in Nazareth. We had some questions about that assertion, and reviewed what we know about archaeology in Nazareth, done at a few other excavation sites at and near the Church of the Annunciation.
This house that has been excavated is just across the street from the Church of the Annunciation. While walking through this area during our last tour, my attention was attracted to the vacant windows in the third floor of one building. Just guessing, but I think this building is the one that was razed for this construction project to build the new International Marian Center of Nazareth. Or else it's the one right next to it.
LOCUSTS: I've read about locusts in the Bible but don't really know much about them. Now my friend Todd Bolen has a photograph and some background information on locusts in the Holyland on his Bibleplaces blog.
Friday, January 01, 2010
For 15 years now, we've been visiting Sepphoris on our Book & The Spade Holyland Tours. Just over the hill from Nazareth, this capital city no doubt had a huge influence on life in that little village where Jesus grew up. Richard Batey was one of the Bible scholars who initiated archaeology on this important site. We talked with him back in 1993, just after a book he wrote about the Sepphoris archaeology was published. A number of excavations have taken place at Sepphoris over the years, and work continues there still. Richard Batey retired from his position at Rhodes College last summer, at the end of a 40-year teaching career.
Friday, December 25, 2009
In the early days of The Book & The Spade, we would annually receive a recorded program from the Israel Broadcasting Service called Christmas in the Holyland. They were always well-done and offered great archaeological and cultural background information about the sacred holiday.
Unfortunately only a few of these great programs were saved. This is one from the archives, dating back to 1992. It features Helga Abraham, talking with James Fleming, Father Jerome Murphy O'Connor, and Suzanne Bartel. It's focused on the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Political conditions have changed in Bethlehem since then, but the church still stands and it's story is fascinating.
As a special Christmas gift to blog followers, here's a short video of the discovery of a tomb in Egypt that has not been disturbed for 2600 years.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
On this week's program we discuss the excavations at Tall Jalul in Jordan, part of the Madeba Plains Project, as well as the Roman ruins at Omrit, possibly the remains of a temple that Herod built to honor Augustus Caesar. These are two excavations that are slightly off the beaten path, but very important for Biblical Archaeology.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
In 2004, the last time I talked with Jerusalem archaeologist Dan Bahat, he told me about his plans to excavate under the western wall plaza. It seemed like a pretty ambitious plan, but now there are reports that the excavations just might happen. People would still be able to pray at the wailing wall, a platform would be cantilevered out over the excavation area. If the plans proceed as outlined, the first century street that runs along the western wall may be uncovered from the SW corner all of the way to the Via Dolorosa. Meanwhile, other excavations near the Pool of Siloam are revealing the other end of the street. Perhaps it will be uncovered all of the way from the Pool of Siloam to the western wall at some point.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
An exciting find at an ongoing excavation in Egypt. Austrian archaeologist Manfred Bietak has dug up a seal impression connected to the reign of Hammurabi in Babylonia in his excavation at Tel Al-Dabaa in the Nile delta. Tel Al-Dabaa is a very important excavation of the Egyptian capital city once called Avaris and later Pi-Ramses, located in the land of Goshen area where the Israelites had settled.
Also on this program, discussion of an additional find linking the Jordan River Valley and Galilee shore area with Egypt going back to 3,000 B.C.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I've never done this before on The Book & The Spade, presented a condensed audio version of one of MY talks on Biblical Archaeology. But the Milwaukee Area Biblical Archaeology Society was kind enough to invite me and I put together a presentation for them covering some of the most important excavations we've featured in recent months on The Book & The Spade and in the pages of ARTIFAX magazine.
It might not be hard to guess what is the top dig on my list: the recently launched excavation at Khirbet Qeiyafa, also known as the Elah Fortress. As I say in my talk, the line between fact and legend in Biblical Archaeology seems to pass through the tenth century, the time of David and Solomon . This is a tenth century site that seems to have a lot of potential to address that debate. No big new discoveries there in 2009, as far as I'm aware, but nonetheless I think this is the most important dig going right now. For the rest of the Top Ten, give a listen, and let me know what you think I've left off.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Even earlier than the Merneptah stele, there's evidence of the Israelites in Egyptian inscriptions. Two tomb inscriptions dating to the reigns of Ramses II and Amenhotep III mention Shasu of Yahweh. Professors Charles Aling and Clyde Billington, my colleagues in producing ARTIFAX, our quarterly magazine, discuss their article on this topic which appears in the latest issue. This information is strong evidence for the early date of the Exodus.
Here's an interesting article:
Excavations have been taking place at Bethsaida, near the NE shore of the Sea of Galilee for almost 25 years. This interesting first century site also has important remains from 1000 B.C., when it may have been the city of Geshur, home of the mother of Absalom. Rami Arav of the University of Nebraska Omaha directs the excavation. UNO has an annual archaeology conference. Here's a report on the most recent conference.
Thursday, November 05, 2009
A news item got my attention, "One million artifacts on display in Israel." That's where we start our discussion this week. Israel's archaeological riches are on display all over the country, not just in the big museums in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. For instance, I mention a visit to Kibbutz Ein Shemer to do an interview with archaeologist Adam Zertal a number of years back. We sat in a corner of a museum at the kibbutz (shown) that was dedicated to Zertal's archaeology. The rest of the museum focused on Ein Shemer's agricultural history. The Alon museum at Kibbutz Ginosar features "The Jesus Boat," the remains of a 2,000-year old boat found along the shore of the Sea of Galilee in 1986. Just a couple of examples of what's on display all over Israel. Israel has dozens and dozens of museums, which are catalogued on this page.
On this week's program we also discuss recently announced plans by the Israel Antiquities Authority to have private antiquities collectors register their collections with the government. There may be a flood of important archaeological discoveries to come from these collections, numbering around 100,000, IF collectors allow the IAA access to their collections. Not sure how they're going to accept this idea. It'll be interesting to watch.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
This week's program ranges east and west of the traditional Holyland to look at archaeology and what it has revealed about the Lost Tribes of Israel, who were carried off by the Assyrians and then the Babylonians. And then we turn our attention to the ruins of Cyrene in eastern Libya. Jews from Cyrene played an influential role in the early Christian church. It wasn't just Simon of Cyrene, who carried the cross for Jesus on the way to Golgotha. Cyrene is mentioned several tims in the book of Acts, residents of which played an important role in establishing the Christian community in Antioch. Cyrene today is waiting for comprehensive archaeological investigation that could reveal important information on the Jewish community of the first century A.D.
One major component of archaeology in Israel is salvage archaeology (as opposed to institutional archaeology--that planned and carried out by college professors and volunteers). Salvage archaeology is often done in front of bulldozers. It takes place wherever construction is planned or in-progress. The Jerusalem Post has a great article explaining salvage archaeology, called Guardians of the Underground.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Some late breaking news items popped up just as we prepared to record some more programs, so we have the details on this week's program. The Khirbet Qeiyafa inscription is one of the oldest examples of Hebrew writing. It was discovered a little over a year ago and now finally we have some idea of what it says, thanks to Aren Maier's weblog. Aren reported on a conference in Jerusalem where the inscription was discussed, and then provided a rough translation.
We also focus in on a report on what was found when the Lod mosaic was raised: footprints that were 1700 years old. It's amazing that the technology of raising a mosaic to move and preserve it is so precise that scholars can now study what was underneath the mosaic.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
One of our favorite sources of information, ever since we began doing this program, is Biblical Archaeology Review. In fact, when we first started doing this program, it was about our only source of information, outside of the international edition of The Jerusalem Post and a few stray articles in the newspaper. We don't always agree with BAR, but it takes Biblical Archaeology seriously, and we like that.
The latest issue, the 200th issue, has some articles that are worthy of comment, including Gabriel Barkey's roundup of the results of the Ketef Hinnom excavation. There was a lot more than a couple of amulet scrolls containing the oldest known Bible texts found in those burial caves. Another article is a Top Ten review of some of the top discoveries of Biblical Archaeology. The list doesn't include the Dead Sea Scrolls, but maybe the DSS transcends such a list.
Some great articles, and BAR makes a great companion to The Book & The Spade and our own magazine, ARTIFAX.
This issue of ARTIFAX also recognizes some of the top recent books about Biblical Archaeology, including Eric Cline's From Eden to Exile, a book we discussed with Eric a year and a half ago.
In the book Eric does a great job in summarizing what archaeology has to tell us about a number of Biblical scenarios. He does it again in an online article focusing on whether David and Solomon existed, and what archaeology has to say. He sums it up rather clearly.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
A great adventure story for a young lady named Megan Webb, who decided to go to Israel as a volunteer on the Tel Dor excavation. Digging in a dusty corner of a Hellenistic era building, Megan turned up the most exciting find of this past summer's dig season, a gemstone with the image of Alexander the Great. Archaeology, one of the few sciences were complete amateurs can make major discoveries.
This week's program also discusses the discovery of a major Canaanite wall, dating back to nearly the time of Abraham, in excavations neat the Gihon spring. The excavation of a 2,000-year old Mikva ritual bath in the area of the Western Wall tunnel has turned up remains of some major 2,000-year old buildings, including what may have been the home of the Sanhedrin. Lots of exciting discoveries to report on this week's program.
Sunday, October 04, 2009
Archaeologists have been excavating at Magdala, the ruins of an ancient village along the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Magdala is the traditional home of Mary Magdalene. The 2,000-year old synagogue they are excavating is no doubt one of the synagogues visited by Jesus during his ministry in Galilee, it's just a couple of miles from Capernaum. The menorah found at this site is the oldest depiction of a menorah that has ever been found, and may more closely resemble the menorah depicted in the famous Arch of Titus in Rome. This is an exciting discovery, a location we will certainly expect to visit in future Holyland study tours.
We also discuss some coins found by archaeologists that date to the time of the Bar Kochba revolt, 130-133 A.D., and reports of ancient coins uncovered in the Egyptian Museum that are linked to the patriarch Joseph. The latter story sounds highly suspicious to us, there are a lot of unanswered questions regarding its claims. When a discovery of this nature sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
The trail over the authenticity of the James Ossuary inscription ("James the son of Joseph, brother of Jesus) is heading into its fourth year in Jerusalem. Only one journalist has sat through the almost 100-courtroom sessions so far, and he is our guest on these programs.
Is the James Ossuary the only archaeological discovery that's connected to Jesus Christ? Or is it an audacious fabrication? Will we ever know? This trial may not settle the question but it does have some interesting things to say about archaeology. I think you'll enjoy hearing the insights of Matthew Kalman, as he discusses the courtroom action and personalities. You can also read his reports on the ossuary trial (including the recent TIME magazine article), on his James Ossuary weblog.