Saturday, December 15, 2007

CARTAGENA, Hannibal's home town, is gearing up for the tourist season. So far so good.

More on Cartagena here.
A SCHOLAR OF PHOENICIAN STUDIES has been appointed an honorary member of Malta's National Order of Merit:

(in absentia)

A Senior Research Fellow in Archaeology at the Centre for Classics and Archaeology, Melbourne University who since 1990 has devoted much of her scholarly efforts to a better and more detailed understanding of Malta’s ancient past especially the Phoenician and Punic periods. Her service to Malta is achieved through her international standing as a scholar and her promotion of Maltese heritage. Her publications include four substantial books on Malta and a large number of articles, reviews and reports. Her detailed studies on Malta are considered benchmarks in the discipline and are often cited in scholarly works. In 2005 she organised a Round Table at the 6th International Congress of Phoenician-Punic Studies in Lisbon and in 2006 she organised another conference in collaboration with Heritage Malta and the University of Malta on Phoenician-Punic Ceramics.

Since 1996 she has been senior investigator in charge of pottery finds at the excavations at Tas-Silg, conducted by the Department of Classics and Archaeology, University of Malta. Dr Sagona has a commitment to promote Maltese heritage to the public at large. She has done this through interviews for a film documentary and public lectures at the University of Melbourne and Sidney, the Maltese Historical Association (Melbourne), and the Archaeological Society (Malta). She encourages students in Australia to pursue the study of Malta, whereas in Malta, during her annual visit, she has willingly trained students in her specialist area and encouraged them with their research.
Congratulations to Dr. Sagona.
MODERN ALEXANDRIA is profiled in a Travel piece in the NYT. Some of its ancient history comes up as well.
A City of Legend Embarks on a New Journey

Published: December 16, 2007

ON a cloudless morning in mid-September, it was not quiet around the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the modern disc-shaped library in Cleopatra’s ancient hometown in Egypt. Outside, students flirted and joked on the edge of a reflecting pool. Behind them, cars whizzed by on the Corniche, the spruced-up sea road that hugs the Mediterranean.

Inside, a tour guide, a fast-talking young woman wearing a bright hijab, led a group of tourists into the library’s immense reading room, stopping on a wooden terrace that looked down onto more terraces. The sun threw spots of blue and green light onto the floors through colorful glass as she pointed out the library’s art galleries, theaters, rare manuscript collections and planetarium, as well as its more than half a million books.

But the thing that caught everyone’s attention was the Espresso Book Machine in the main reading room. The giant photocopier-like machine can print, on demand, virtually any book, complete with color covers and glue bindings in minutes.

It is a fitting symbol for Alexandria, a faded metropolis that is rising again from the sea, one replicated landmark at a time.


In recent years, however, efforts by preservationists and the government to restore the city’s luster have started to bear fruit. The first sign of Alexandria’s renewal was the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the glimmering vision in steel and glass that opened on the Corniche in 2002.

Built near the site of the original Library of Alexandria — perhaps the ancient world’s greatest, with an unrivaled collection that included original manuscripts of Euripides, Aeschylus and Sophocles — the Bibliotheca seeks to resurrect that lost monument with shelf space for eight million books and a massive granite wall inscribed with what officials say are characters from all the world’s written languages.


And there are plans, though still not financed, to restore the city’s Eastern Harbor with an underwater archaeology museum, a waterfront promenade and hotels, including one inspired by the third-century B.C. Pharos lighthouse, whose ruins lie underwater.

THE SAN DIEGO DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION has been extended for a week to 6 January. Not surprisingly, attendance has been very high:
The San Diego Natural History Museum extended the exhibition, which opened in June, to meet demand. Delle Willett, the museum's director of marketing, said 315,552 people had seen it as of Dec. 13 and 10,400 others have bought advance tickets.

"Our normal attendance for the entire year is usually under 300,000," she said. "So we've really outdone ourselves. This is huge."

Friday, December 14, 2007

John Strugnell, 1930 - 2007
Dead Sea Scrolls project editor lost post after anti-Semitic remarks

By Mary Rourke, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
December 14, 2007
John Strugnell, a prominent biblical scholar who was the editor in chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls project for six years but was dismissed from his position for anti-Semitic remarks he made during an interview with an Israeli newspaper, has died. He was 77.


He was replaced by Emanuel Tov, an Israeli scholar who had been a part of the team. With Tov's encouragement, Strugnell continued working on the scrolls.

In his close to 40 years on the project he translated and deciphered several liturgical and biblical texts, including, in the 1990s, a work of previously unknown Jewish wisdom literature that he completed with Father Daniel J. Harrington.

"John Strugnell was one of the first and most brilliant decipherers of the Dead Sea Scrolls," said Harrington, a former student of Strugnell who is on the faculty of Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass. "He had a genius for reading them and piecing them together."

Strugnell also trained several generations of scholars in the painstaking work of deciphering the scrolls and was generous with his time and expertise both toward students and colleagues, Harrington said.

UPDATE: There is also a brief and unhelpful mention of Strugnell's death in the Seattle Times (scroll down to "Passages"). I think it is unconscionable for them to highlight his dismissal for anti-Semitic remarks without mentioning his illness at all.

UPDATE: A short but excellent Strugnell obituary by Sidnie White Crawford has been posted at the Biblical Archaeology Society website.
BLOGGING ARCHAEOLOGY: Bill Caraher gives us an overview at the Ancient World Bloggers Group blog.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


UPDATE: More info here.

UPDATE: Hmmm ... I guess it doesn't actually say that it's a Coptic language channel does it? Oh well. But it does mention that
Egypt has a Coptic TV channel already, called Aghapi TV, which started brodcasting in 2005. But Aghapi specializes in broadcasting lithurgical services.
Presumably the liturgical services are in the Coptic language.
A DEAD SEA SCROLLS CONFERENCE is coming, to be held at the Center for Ancient Studies at NYU. Details are sketchy, but this has been posted on the Agade list:
From Diana Pittet

* Save the Date:

March 6 & March 7, 2008
Center for Ancient Studies Conference
"Dead Sea Scrolls at Sixty: Scholarly Contributions by NYU Faculty & Alumni"
New York University

We'll soon post information on our Web site ( and send e-mails and posters by February 2008. We hope that you can make it to our annual
This reads as though something was lost at the end of the message, but that's how it arrived.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

MEGILLAT ANTIOCHUS, The Scroll of Antiochus, is noted as relevant to the season in an Arutz Sheva article:
The Unknown Megillah of Chanukah
by Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple

The theme of the book is the Hasmonean victories.

Chanukah and Purim are often compared. But the differences are substantial. In particular, without Megillat Esther there would be no Purim, whilst Chanukah without its megillah is not only possible, but taken for granted.

Yet, there is actually a megillah for the festival. Known variously as Megillat Antiochus ("The Scroll of Antiochus"), Megillat Beit Chashmona'i(m) ("The Scroll of the House of the Hasmoneans") and Megillah Y'vanit ("The Greek Scroll"), it is a post-Biblical compilation in 76 verses, originally in Aramaic, in deliberate imitation of the style of the Scroll of Esther. Presumably, the authors hoped their work would achieve the status of Megillat Esther on Purim, but the dream was never realised, for reasons we shall explain.

The theme of the book is the Hasmonean victories, ending with the destruction of the Second Temple. It is more legend than objective history. ...
We first intended to include this text in the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project, but we couldn't find anyone willing to defend a pre-seventh-century date. Still, it's an interesting document that deserves more attention. A number of Geniza fragments were published in the 1970s and, as far as I know, there is no complete critical edition. There might be a good doctoral dissertation there.

(Via Joseph I. Lauer's list.)
A NONCANONICAL PAPYRUS ONLINE: A fragmentary papyrus of the Greek text of the Gospel of Thomas has been posted online by the Houghton Library of Harvard University.
MS Gr SM4367


Gospel of Thomas, [ca. 200-ca. 250]


Digital Images
The main page of the Houghton Library papyri site is here. Fragment of the New Testament, the Homeric epics, other known and unknown literary texts, and documentary texts are included as well.

(Via Peter Head at Evangelical Textual Criticism. An earlier version of this post implied incorrectly that Peter hadn't mentioned this fragment. Apologies for the error.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

MORE ON THE ALEPPO CODEX and the new effort to recover all surviving bits of it:
From Maimonides to Brooklyn:
The mystery of the Aleppo Codex

By Dina Kraft Published: 12/09/2007

TEL AVIV (JTA) -- It's been a long journey for the brittle pieces of parchment inked more than 1,000 years ago along the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

The manuscript considered the most authoritative text of the Bible, the Aleppo Codex, was studied by Maimonides, ransomed by Crusaders and dismembered during rioting in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

A tiny patch of the codex even spent several decades in the wallet of a businessman from Brooklyn, N.Y. -- Sam Sabbagh revered it as an amulet with sacred powers.

Several weeks ago that fragment was brought to Israel, prompting a new drive for the return of the text's other long missing pieces.

"Our feeling is that if there is one piece of it, there must be others," said Michael Glatzer, academic secretary of the Yad Ben-Zvi Institute in Jerusalem, which has worked to track and study the codex.

Last week, the institute launched a new campaign to bring other missing pieces of the famous codex home to the Holy Land.

Covers much the same ground as this article, but I think it has a few new details.
Support Sought for Temple Mount Synagogue

by Hillel Fendel

( Haifa's long-time Chief Rabbi She'ar-Yashuv Cohen, who has taken part in many interfaith conferences and gatherings with Moslem religious leaders, says he's trying to gather support for a synagogue on the Temple Mount.

Rabbi Cohen, son of the late renowned Torah scholar known as the Nazir, Rabbi David Cohen, chairs the Chief Rabbinate Council for the Establishment of a Synagogue on the Temple Mount. Speaking on a special Temple Mount radio program on Voice of Israel's Moreshet (Tradition)-channel this week, he said he is working in the United States to amass support for the project.

Other rabbis have also called for the construction of a Jewish prayer site on the Temple Mount. Former Chief Sephardic Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu is among them, though he has not campaigned for this cause. Other members on the Chief Rabbinate committee are Be'er Sheva's Chief Rabbi Yehuda Deri and Tzfat's Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again. No construction, please, on the Temple Mount unless it is done with controlled, scientific archaeological excavation. And I would prefer not even then. Let's wait a few decades until we have far more sophisticated technologies that might be able to scan and analyze what's there nonintrusively.
The 9th Mainz International Colloquium on Ancient Hebrew (9. MICAH) will take place at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz (Germany), from Friday, 14 to Sunday 16 November, 2008.

You are invited to give a lecture, either a short paper (20 min plus 5 discussion) or a full lecture (45 min plus 10 discussion), as you please.

Topics cover the grammar and linguistics of Ancient and Classical Hebrew (Epigraphic and Biblical Hebrew, Qumran and related Hebrew, and Ben Sira), as well as studies of adjacent languages and epigraphy, for instance Ugaritic, Phoenician-Punic, Old and Imperial Aramaic, Moabite and Edomite. Also welcome are topics on general epigraphy, paleography, and general linguistics in connection with these languages.

Submitted paper topics will be arranged into special sessions, within the following areas:

Biblical Hebrew
Postbiblical Hebrew
Lexicography & Semantics
Epigraphy & Palaeography
General topics of Northwest Semitic paleography.

Conference languages are German, English, and French. As we wish to avoid parallel sessions, sessions will be deemed closed when the optimal number of proposed papers for each are accepted. For this reason, if you are considering participation, the earlier you send your proposal the better.

Postgraduates, or PhD. doctorate students are explicitly invited to present their projects where they might benefit from collegial discussions. Any one applying In this category, please indicate clearly your institution and supervisor.

For participation, we request a fee of 35 Euro, which is due on site. For those who present a paper, participation is free. Active students can request the suspension of fees and it might be granted depending on the availability of funds.

Please send paper proposals to the undersigned ( and indicate the topic (preliminary or working title) and the preferred length of presentation.

While no formal pre-registration form is needed, for planning purposes, it is nevertheless important that we receive soon an email declaration of intent, at the above address.

We are not organizing travel or housing arrangements, but will gladly inform you on available lodging near the University. For all questions and concern please contact:

Dr. Reinhard G. Lehmann
Academic Director / Ancient Hebrew and NWS Languages
Research Unit on Ancient Hebrew and Epigraphy
Faculty of Protestant Theology
Johannes Gutenberg-University of Mainz
Tel. +49-6131-39-23284 (office)
Phone and fax +49-6132-799873

In co-operation with:
Anna Zernecke (University of Mainz)
Johannes F. Diehl (University of Frankfurt)

We look forward to hosting you in Mainz next year.
(From the Canaanite list.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

ANOTHER JOHN STRUGNELL OBITUARY, this one in the Harvard Crimson, the Harvard student newspaper. It's better and more balanced than any of the ones so far from the mainstream media. Excerpt:
“I think that while the things he said and did can’t be condoned, they can be forgiven because of his illness,” said Sidnie W. Crawford, who also worked with him on the Scrolls project. According to Crawford, Strugnell was instrumental in bringing both female and Jewish scholars to the team.


Strugnell’s students remember him as a inspirational teacher and scholar.

“He was a marvelous teacher—really was incredibly erudite,” Crawford said. “He just knew so much about so many things. No matter what you were working on, he always had something very helpful to say.”

Crawford, who is currently a professor of classics and religious studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said that Strugnell’s scholarly influence lives on.

“His students are going to be his legacy,” Crawford said. “All the students that he trained won’t forget him.”

According to Anne-Christine Strugnell, her father was so immersed in his work that it was sometimes difficult for him to find time for his family of five children.

“But it’s interesting to see that he was a father figure for a lot of his students­—that was where his interests lay,” she said. “He was totally engrossed and enthralled by his work.”
(Via Joseph I. Lauer's list.)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

PRETEND TO BE A TIME TRAVELER DAY was yesterday and I missed it! Just as well, maybe ...
REBECCA LESSES remembers John Strugnell.
ANOTHER PETRA TRAVELOGUE. There sure are a lot of these.
Following Indy's Footsteps
Visit to ancient city of Petra proves to be truly awe-inspiring

Larry Perry
Sunday, December 9, 2007

Walking down a mile-long, 25-foot-wide slot canyon known as the Siq in southern Jordan, Daniel Martin, son of Lee Martin of Knoxville, turned the corner and stopped suddenly to gaze in disbelief at the scene before him. With eyes as big as saucers, he looked at his dad and said, “Wow Dad!”

As we turned the corner from a narrow part of the canyon walls, there appeared a scene right out of Indiana Jones’ “The Last Crusade” movie. There before us stood the ancient city of Petra. The first structure seen is the Treasury Building, which bears a facade that is carved into the sandstone cliff wall and is about 150 feet high. It dates back to a civilization from the sixth century B.C., the Nabataean period.


Lee, Daniel, my wife, Eloise, and I were on a photo shoot that took us to most of the Holy Land and parts of Jordan. The shoot included the World Heritage Site of Petra, which, incidentally, was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World by the New Open World Corp.

While not mentioned by name in the Bible, Petra, which means “rock,” is often identified as “Sela,” which also means “rock,” in the Bible and other ancient writings. The Petra area was the home of the Edomites of the Old Testament. They were cave dwellers. Rekem is another ancient name for Petra and appears in the Dead Sea scrolls. This region in southern Jordan is on the main east/west trade route between much of Arabia and the Mediterranean and Red seas. The city of Petra is about 60 miles north of the Red Sea and easily accessible by the King’s Highway.

I'm pretty sure that the treasury building was built a lot later than in the sixth century B.C.E.
THIS IS FUNNY: With the Christmas season comes the dreaded Christmas letter. Here's an amusing parody:
Others equally haunted by the ghosts of Christmas letters past have launched dozens of Web sites this year where people can post the most egregious examples of self-absorption. An Internet favorite facetiously speaks to the trend: "Junior has re-translated the Rosetta Stone, correcting several errors previously made by linguists which has changed the meaning and importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls and shed new light and understanding on the Bible. ... He earned 72 Merit Badges in the Boy Scouts of America in one month and can field strip a F-116 fighter jet blindfolded and restore it to flight status using only a Swiss Army Knife."