Saturday, August 09, 2008

THE NINTH OF AV (Tisha B'Av) begins this evening at sundown. An easy fast to all those observing it.
THE GAZA MUSEUM OF ARCHAEOLOGY is profiled in the Independent:
The refuge that allows Gaza to reflect on past glories

By Donald Macintyre in Sudaniya, Gaza
Saturday, 9 August 2008

It may seem an odd dilemma in a territory where more than half of families live below an internationally defined poverty line, but Jawdat Khoudary is wondering whether there should be museum charges in Gaza.

As the owner and creator of the Strip's first purpose-built archaeological museum, he has no doubt that the most prized patrons, the organised parties of schoolchildren already starting to flock to it, must come for free. And having sunk a small fortune – he won't say how much – into building this elegant and air-conditioned space overlooking the Mediterranean just north of Gaza City's Shati refugee camp, he certainly isn't trying to make money from it. But the 48-year-old owner of one of Gaza's biggest construction companies worries that if he doesn't charge a couple of shekels for individual entry, Gazans may not realise the value of their heritage as much as he does.


But even Mr Khoudary's collection is only a small fraction of the dazzling archaeological treasures of the Gaza, those already dug up and dispersed among collections round the world, those plundered and stolen, and those still waiting to be excavated.

However, this half of that fraction is rich enough to make the trip worthwhile. It ranges chronologically from sun-dried clay pots and mud-brick wall fragments from 5,500 years ago to a single – relatively – modern curiosity: a confectionery tin decorated with the portrait of Gamal Abdel Nasser.

In between are hundreds of objects that testify to Gaza's long and turbulent history from the early bronze age to the Ottoman Empire: heavy stone anchors and more recognisable Roman ones; ancient Egyptian alabaster plates; clay wine jars and Corinthian columns from the Byzantine period; oil, water and perfume pots, and a clay wheel from a [now reconstructed] child's toy cart from the Philistine period between 1600BC and 1200BC; glass bottles from the Hellenistic age and miniature sculptures in ivory. And "a very important piece", says Mr Khoudary, the clay coffin lid in the form of a man's head from the 11th century BC.


The story of Israeli archaeology in Gaza is complex, told in fascinating detail in a new book on the collection at the Israel Museum by Trude Dothan, its greatest practitioner, and the woman who between 1972 and 1982 conducted the scientific excavations at Deir el-Bala in central Gaza. These established that it had been, in the 14th and 13th centuries BC, a prosperous Egyptian or Egyptian-style settlement, including a large official palace with, in its later years, an artisans' village turning out the extraordinary, haunting, anthropoid coffins of the kind now in the Israel Museum.

Background here.
MORE ON THE DIG AT RAMAT RACHEL from the perspective of the volunteers:
Christians Excavate Holy Land Treasures for Summer Fun
Friday, August 08, 2008
By Julie Stahl

Ramat Rachel, Jerusalem ( – Imagine spending your summer vacation covered with dust, swinging a pickaxe into stones that are thousands of years old.

Dozens of Christian volunteers and students from around the world are spending a month this summer doing just that -- digging for artifacts from biblical times at an archeological excavation on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

A joint project of Tel Aviv University and Heidelberg University in Germany, the excavations at Ramat Rachel are in their fourth season.

Professor Oded Lipschits from Tel Aviv University told there are about 75 students – 20 from TAU, 40 from Germany and the rest from North America -- among the 100 volunteers working at the site. Some of the volunteers return year after year, he said.

Background here.

Friday, August 08, 2008

OH, AND BY THE WAY, happy birthday to me. I'm having a pizza and video evening to celebrate. Later I may go wild and pop some popcorn.
Dr Abraham Terian, recently a visiting professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as Fulbright Distinguished Chair in the Humanities, points to a rare manuscript as his source.

He notes that in the Armenian Gospel of the Infancy, translated into Armenian in the 6th century from a much older lost Syriac original, a passage tells of Jesus playing what may well be the precursor of cricket, with a club and ball.

Terian discovered the manuscript more than a decade ago at the Saint James Armenian Monastery in the Old City of Jerusalem.

His English translation of the book has been published by Oxford University Press.


"The most amazing part of the story of the nine-year-old Jesus playing a form of cricket with the boys at the sea shore, is that he would go on playing the game on water, over the sea waves.''

He gives the following translation: "He (Jesus) would take the boys to the seashore and, carrying the playing ball and the club, he would go over the waves of the sea as though he was playing on a frozen surface, hitting the playing ball. And watching him, the boys would scream and say: 'Watch the child Jesus, what he does over the waves of the sea!' Many would gather there and, watching him, would be amazed.''

Obviously, this is not about the historical Jesus. But it's very interesting that a Syriac apocryphal tradition that made it into Armenian has Jesus playing something like cricket. The Armenian manuscript is from the thirteenth century, but I would think that the Syriac tradition might well go back to late antiquity, as Professor Terian suggests. I hope Tony Chartrand-Burke takes this one up at Apocryphicity.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A BYZANTINE-ERA OLIVE PRESS has been discovered in the Galilee:
Large Ancient Olive Press Discovered In Nth Israel
Thursday, 7 August 2008, 10:40 am
Press Release: Israel Government

Large Olive Press Discovered In Northern Israel

6 August 2008 - An ancient olive- oil production complex dating from the 6th-7th Centuries CE – one of the largest ever exposed in Israel – was discovered at Ahihud, in excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

A unique and impressive complex for producing oil that dates to the Byzantine period, which is also one of the largest uncovered in the country so far, was discovered recently during trial excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in Moshav Ahihud, in the Western Galilee. The excavations are being carried out as part of a development plan to enlarge the village.

According to Michael Cohen, the excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “a mighty conflagration occurred in the olive press in the seventh century CE. Remains of the blaze, which are quite evident on the walls of the building, destroyed the structure and negated the installation’s use”. This event “preserved” many of the details of the olive press.

UPDATE" Here's the press release at the IAA website. (Via the Agade list.)
THE RALEIGH DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION is reviewed by Brian Howe in Excerpt:
Regardless of the controversy surrounding the exhibit, which we'll address shortly, the presentation is quite impressive. Impatient museumgoers may proceed directly to the dim, climate-controlled room that houses the scroll fragments, but spending an hour or so perusing the background exhibits preceding the scrolls is advisable. A preliminary video looping in a stylized cave, shot in the gauzy style of a Discovery Channel documentary, summarizes the discovery of the scrolls and some of the still-unanswered questions about them, the most troublesome being who actually wrote them and the nature of the settlement of Qumran. This summary video is developed with texts, maps, models, artifacts and a useful audio tour throughout the presentation. You'll learn about the major players in the discovery, interpretation and circulation of the scrolls, and about what daily life was like in this region of the Middle East more than 2,000 years ago.

This being a science museum, you'll also learn how the climate of the caves helped to preserve the scrolls (which began to decompose badly once they were removed from the caves and their linen wraps), and about modern techniques of preservation and reconstruction. You'll learn about the religious and political climate in which the scrolls were written, and you'll see an amazing array of ancient artifacts recovered from Qumran: coins, ossuaries, leather sandals, linen tunics, phylacteries (or tefillin, in Hebrew), combs, pottery and oil lamps. All of this provides a remarkably thorough and immersive context in which the viewer can perceive the scroll fragments with the proper depth and gravity.
Background here, here, and here.
EMPEROR HADRIAN: YOU-TUBE HERO. Sort of. Tom Holland reviews the British Museum Hadrian exhibition for the London Times. Excerpt:
It is the supreme merit of the new exhibition Hadrian: Empire and conflict at the British Museum that it meets these issues head on, and from the start. Directly inside the vestibule, the darkness is lit by the flickering of a video screen: images of our moody, backlit hero loom, then morph back into the shadows, just as they might do on a particularly stylish YouTube promo. This is Hadrian as international man of mystery: “always in all things changeable”, as the Historia Augusta described him. Next to the screen there stands a solitary display-case, containing a couple of Marguerite Yourcenar’s notebooks, and a manuscript of Mémoires d’Hadrien.

It is possible that not a few visitors, drawn by the promise of a blockbuster show, will feel themselves to have been mildly short-changed as they stare down at an assortment of scribblings in French and Latin – but they should not abandon hope. Carry on into the Reading Room, where the main body of the exhibition is being staged, and all their expectations will be spectacularly met. For directly ahead of them, positioned at the top of a stairway, they will find three hulking pieces of marble, fragments of the kind of statue that form our own picture of Imperial Rome. A giant foot, a chunk of leg, and a colossal head: here are exhibits that have never before been displayed. Indeed, only a year ago, no one even suspected that they so much as existed: for they lay buried amid the ruins of the Pisidian city of Sagalassos, in what is now south-west Turkey. A photograph of the head at the precise moment of its discovery, still half-covered by dirt, serves to emphasize the point that is being made here. There can never be a final history of Hadrian. New finds will always be made. Memorials to the Emperor’s reign will continue to be uncovered and dusted down. Dead he may be, and the Empire he ruled as well, but the study of ancient Rome, and the ways in which we interpret it, refuse to stand still.


This is an exhibition in which context is all.

Take, for example, the section which showcases what is, to a British audience, the most familiar monument from Hadrian’s reign: his Wall. To earlier generations – and it may be to the Romans themselves – this massive undertaking served as an inspiringly visible stamp of Rome’s civilizing mission. “An encamped army encloses the fairest portion of the world in a ring like a rampart”: so gushed Aelius Aristeides, enthusing over Rome’s supposed eirenic vocation. Recent scholarship, however, has given such rhapsodies predictably short shrift. The Wall now tends to be seen in a much more sinister light, less as a bulwark of civilization than as a deliberately intimidatory tool of control and repression. Even so, it can still give a jolt to turn from inspecting artefacts as familiar as the Vindolanda tablets to the adjacent display-case, where there is another letter, very different in tone, waiting to be perused. Written on the orders of the Jewish insurrectionist Simon bar Kokhba – or perhaps even in his very hand – it was found in the so-called Cave of Letters, where desperate refugees had ended up taking refuge after the failure of the third Jewish uprising against Roman rule in barely fifty years.

The twin troves of letters, one found on the moors of northern England, and the other in a desert wadi beside the Dead Sea, have never before been brought together – and their close proximity serves to inspire a measure of sombre reflection. Britannia and Judaea, for all that they stood at the opposite ends of the Empire, suddenly do not seem so far apart. We know that the general entrusted by Hadrian with the ultimate suppression of the Jewish revolt throughout 135–6 was one Sextus Julius Severus, a former governor of Britain. The same man who was to show himself so proficient in the arts of counter-insurgency and extermination in Judaea would also have been intimately involved in the construction of the Wall. This, in Hadrian’s Empire, was what globalization could mean.

A thoughtful review, although, as usual, it tries too hard to find improving parallels to the world of 2008.

Background here.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Background here.
THE CARTHAGINIANS and their ancient Mediterranean neighbors as consultants for modern global computer networking? Yep.
You might be forgiven for wondering just what the traditions, techniques and technologies of crafts-people from Ancient Greece who lived between 1500 and 200 BCE could have to do with the development of something so cutting-edge as global ubiquitous computing.

Yet a University of Leicester-led project, working with teams from the Universities of both Exeter and Glasgow in the United Kingdom, has just been awarded UKP £1.75 million from the Leverhulme Trust to investigate just that.

'Tracing Networks: Craft Traditions in the Ancient Mediterranean and Beyond' received the award for its theme of networking. Combining archaeology, archaeological science and computer science to investigate not only ancient cultural networks but to apply that knowledge to modern computer networking concepts.

Looking at these ancient networks across the Mediterranean region, encompassing Greek, Punic and other peoples, the research will focus on crafts-people of the period. It will ask how, and why, their traditions, techniques and technologies changed during that time and managed to cross cultural boundaries.

Gosh, £1.75 million. Wish I'd thought of that.
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH – New decisions on the Mughrabi (Mugrabi) Gate bridge reconstruction project:
Panel nixes expansion at Western Wall
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent
Tags: Mugrabi Gate, Western Wall

The Interior Ministry's Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee approved the original plan of the reconstruction project for the Temple Mount's Mugrabi Gate on the condition that certain changes be made in it. At the end of a hearing some two weeks ago, the committee accepted the objections submitted by the Ir Amim organization to the plan for transformation of the area underneath the new bridge into a space for Jewish prayers. In so doing, it rejected an initiative of the Western Wall's rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, which had gained the support of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, to take advantage of the collapse of the bridge as an opportunity to expand the women's section at the site.

The bridge leading from the Western Wall plaza collapsed in 2004, and the "rescue dig" conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority ahead of construction of a new bridge sparked the anger of the Muslim Waqf, the Arab world and especially Jordan and Turkey. The significance of this latest decision is that it will now be necessary to revise the construction plans according to the committee's directives before a building permit is issued.

Background here and keep following the links back.
THE HEBREW UNIVERSITY is advertising a number of academic posts:
Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Tenure-track and tenured positions for appointments beginning in the academic year of 2009/10

The academic departments of the Faculty of Humanities invites applications from outstanding candidates (Ph.D. required, postdoctoral training highly desireable) for tenure-track and tenured positions in the following fields:

Arabic Language and Literature
Comparative Literature
Hebrew Language: Biblical Hebrew/ Modern Hebrew
Holocaust Studies
Islamic Material Culture and Archaeology
Jewish History of the Biblical period
Modern Hebrew Literature
Romance Studies: Spanish Language and Literature
Theatre Studies
Yiddish Language and Literature

Responsibilities will include teaching both required and elective courses in the candidate's field(s) of specialization and related disciplines.

The language of instruction is Hebrew.

Candidates should provide 12 copies of the application no later than September 1, 2008.

For details please see our site at "faculty news".

Please note that finalists may be requested to deliver a lecture on the subject of their research. Rank will be determined according to the candidate's qualifications. Appointment will begin on October 1, 2009.

Contact Info:
Prof. Israel Bartal
Faculty of Humanities
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Mount Scopus 91905
From the H-Judaic list.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

LARRY SCHIFFMAN will be speaking on the Dead Sea Scrolls in Raleigh, N.C.:
NC Museum To Host Dead Sea Scrolls Lecture
By The Raleigh Telegram Staff 04.AUG.08

RALEIGH The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh is hosting an eight-part lecture series about Israel at the time of the scrolls as part of its The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition.

The museum says that New York University Professor Lawrence Schiffman will present the second lecture of the series called "Israel at the Time of the Dead Sea Scrolls," on Wednesday, August 27 at 4pm and again at 7 pm in the Museum's WRAL Digital Theater. The museum says that due to the overwhelming popularity of the first lecture, the Museum strongly recommends purchasing tickets in advance.


According to the museum, the Second Temple period (538 BC - 70 AD) was a pivotal time in ancient Israel, beginning with the conquest of Alexander the Great that expanded
the rise of Hellenism and the great Jewish religious movements.

Schiffman will survey these developments and illustrate their significance, providing background for the Dead Sea Scrolls and explaining how they have enriched the understanding of the history of this period, says the museum.

Schiffman is Edelman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies and Chair of the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, New York University. He lectures widely on the Dead Sea Scrolls; Jewish religious, political and social history in late antiquity; as well as
the history of Jewish law and Talmudic literature.

A COIN FIND at the Ramat Rachel excavation:
J'lem Dig turns up gold coins from end of Second Temple period
By Ofri Ilani (Haaretz)
Tags: archeology, second temple

In ancient times, the inhabitants of the Land of Israel and its environs would raise pigeons in underground caves. Called "columbariums," the caves had small niches, in which the birds laid their eggs. Over the years many columbariums have been unearthed at ancient sites around the country, particularly at those containing finds from the Second Temple period. A few days ago, archaeologists made a most surprising find at the bottom of such a columbarium, at a site at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel near Jerusalem - a hoard of coins from the time of the destruction of the Second Temple (70 C.E.).

Late in July, archaeologists from Tel Aviv University identified, beneath the floor of the columbarium, a ceramic cooking pot from the 1st century C.E. that held 15 large gold coins. "It's very special to find a hoard like this, and it's very exciting," related the director of the excavations at the site, Dr. Oded Lipschits, of TAU. "We discovered the hoard with a metal detector, and then we went down into the niche and found this small cooking pot inside it."

The article also mentions the find of Byzantine coins noted earlier on PaleoJudaica. Follow the link for the Ramat Rachel excavation blog.

Also, reader Brent Neely points out that the article seems to have confused the Babylonian Exile of Judah with the earlier (8th century BCE) Assyrian exile of Israel:
Lipschits believes that the palace was built during the period of the Assyrian subjugation. "This entire complex is, in my opinion, an administrative center for the occupying regime, a place where agricultural produce was collected, for delivery as a tax to the Assyrians."

During the period of the return to Zion (beginning 539 B.C.E.), the Assyrian regime was replaced by a Persian one, but the administrative center continued to operate. ...
UPDATE (6 August): Todd Bolen thinks the journalist got it right.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Archaeologists unearth proof of plot to kill Prophet Jeremiah
By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz Correspondent
Tags: Jerusalem, Israel

Israeli archaeologists have unearthed a seal impression belonging to a minister of the biblical King Zedekiah, which dates back 2,600 years, during an archeological dig in Jerusalem's ancient City of David. The finding helps corroborate the story pertaining to the biblical minister's demand to have the prophet Jeremiah killed.

The seal impression does support the probability that the book of Jeremiah remembers some historical details from Jeremiah's time, but it's a long stretch from there to say it proves the historicity of this particular story.

Background here.

(Via Joseph I. Lauer, who comments, "I'm sure that the article's title will bring comments on many a blog." Indeed. He also notes, "Ha'aretz's Hebrew on-line article is longer and includes a reference to the Temple Mount Antiquities Salvage Operation of Dr. Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Zweig and that project's use of wet sifting of debris, a method which the article credits for the find of the Gedalyahu bulla in the City of David excavations of Dr. Eilat Mazar.")

Sunday, August 03, 2008

BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL XXXII has been published by John F. Hobbins at the Ancient Hebrew Poetry blog. It is very thorough and comes in three parts: (1) Rock Hard Rockin’ Scholarship based on Primary Sources; (2) Controversies; and (3) Posts on Specific Texts.