Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cache of Punic coins found in sea near Sicily

PUNIC WATCH: Sunken Treasure Found in the Seas Of Sicily (Discovery News).
Lying at depth of about 68 feet, the coins most likely represent an episode of the Romans and Carthaginians struggle.

Amazingly, all 3,422 coins feature the same iconography.

On one side, they show Kore/Tanit, the ancient goddess of fertility, whom Carthaginians worshipped on the island around 550 BC.

On the other, the coins display the head of a horse, surrounded by symbols such as stars, letters and a caduceus. A staff often surmounted by two wings and entwined with two snakes, the caduceus was the symbol of Hermes, the messenger of the gods in Greek mythology.
Apparently they were deliberately hidden on the ocean floor, with a big stone anchor nearby as a landmark. Follow the link for some photos.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Recent PhDiva posts

PHDIVA DOROTHY LOBEL KING has been blogging up a storm lately. Have a look at her posts on Telamon: A Republican Crucified Man, A Crucified Man from 1st century Jerusalem (related PaleoJudaica posts are here and here), and Evidence for The Temple Menorah (related posts here, here, here, and here).

First woman to receive Talmud doctorate from Y.U.'s Revel

Y.U.’s Revel school giving Talmud doctorate to woman for first time

August 11, 2011

NEW YORK (JTA) – Yeshiva University's graduate school of Jewish studies will award a doctorate in Talmud to a woman, Shana Strauch Schick, for the first time.

While Yeshiva has multiple programs in Talmud, Schick, 30, is the first woman to obtain a doctorate in the subject from the Bernard Revel Graduate School. A New Jersey native now living in suburban Detroit, Schick successfully defended her dissertation on Aug. 4 and will formally graduate in September.

Congratulations to Dr. Schick.

UPDATE: Photo at the Talmud Blog.

Great Isaiah Scroll in Colorado?

THE GREAT ISAIAH SCROLL on display in a church in Colorado?
Rare piece of Old Testament on display in Grand Junction
A historical and rare piece of the Old Testament has made its way to Grand Junction.

Posted: 12:08 PM Aug 11, 2011
Reporter: Matt Vanderveer (KKCO-TV)

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - A historical and rare piece of the Old Testament has made its way to Grand Junction.

Calvary Chapel is hosting the Great Isaiah Scroll that was found as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947.

It's pretty obvious that there is a misunderstanding here. The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa) was on display in the Israel Museum in 2008 for the 60th anniversary celebrations, but it is very fragile and I would be surprised if the Museum let it out of their sight to go even to another major museum, let alone to a church in Colorado. There is a facsimile of the Isaiah Scroll in circulation and it is possible that this is what will be on display there.

For more on the Great Isaiah Scroll (and the facsimilie), go here and follow the links.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Duane Smith on elusive giants in Shumma Izbu

DUANE SMITH: I Almost Made A Giant Error. And Deane Galbraith comments over at Remant of Giants. On the one hand, it would have been cool if this omen had been about giants. On the other, perhaps we should be relieved that this sort of thing wasn't actually happening to the ancient Mesopotamians enough to make an omen out of it.

Seth Sanders on P

SETH SANDERS: Judean Scholasticism and Religion on the Ground. In which he summarizes some important outside-the-box research questions for the Priestly source.

Hurtado on modern NT Apocrypha etc.

LARRY HURTADO: Hoaxes from the Past (that Keep on Re-appearing) (on modern New Testament apocrypha and suchlike).

Reviewlet of Miles, "Carthage Must Be Destroyed"

REVIEWLET of Richard Miles, Carthage Must Be Destroyed: How ancient Rome built its Mediterranean empire (Carl Hartman, AP).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Video of those Second Temple-era drainage channels


Background here and links.

UPDATE: AP slideshow: Glimpse of ancient war in Jerusalem tunnel.

Aramaic potsherd from Tal al-Humira

ARAMIAC WATCH: SANA has published another of its profile articles on Syrian archaeological sites and, as usual, there are chronological difficulties:
Stone Basins and Ovens, Mud Brick Houses from 2000 BC Discovered in Damascus Countryside

Aug 09, 2011

DAMASCUS COUNTRYSIDE, (SANA) – Mud brick houses dating back to the late Jomon period (from about 2000 to 1000 BC) were discovered at Tal al-Humira archeological site in Deir Attiya in Damascus Countryside.

In a statement to SANA, Director of Damascus Countryside Antiquities Department Mahmud Hammoud said that the national archeological mission working at the site unearthed stamps, pottery vessels and stone basins and ovens of different sizes in addition to Basalt instruments and vessels.

He added the importance of Tal Humira site emerges from witnessing the prosperity of Aramaic Kingdoms, in addition to the Assyrian kings' attacks on Damascus Kingdom.

Hammoud indicated that the archeological mission also unearthed an inscribed pottery fragment with Aramaic letters which indicates the possibility of finding a temple at the site.

R. Raslan/ Ghossoun
First, I am baffled by the reference to the "Jomon period." This is not my field, but the only "Jōmon period" I've heard of refers to Japanese prehistory.

Be that as it may, the article puts the finds as "dating back to ... from about 2000 to 1000 BC." Does that mean that they are supposed to come from within that range of time, or that they extend that far back but also include a later period? It isn't clear, but apparently the latter is what is intended. I say that because of the potsherd inscribed with Aramaic. An Aramaic inscription before 1000 BCE would be very remarkable and probably unprecedented. All Aramaic inscriptions I know of are from the Iron Age II (ca. 1000-600 BCE) or later, so presumably this one is as well.

In any case, I hope they do find that Aramean temple. Preferably with its archive intact.

Some Jewish-Temple denial for Tisha B'Av

JEWISH-TEMPLE DENIAL WATCH: A brief article circulated by The Palestinian Information Center was promoting some Jewish-Temple denial in honor of Tisha B'Av: Senior Israeli archaeologist casts doubt on Jewish heritage of Jerusalem (Middle East Monitor). Excerpt:
Professor [Israel] Finkelstein, who is known as "the father of biblical archaeology", told the Jerusalem Post that Jewish archaeologists have found no historical or archaeological evidence to back the biblical narrative on the Exodus, the Jews' wandering in Sinai or Joshua's conquest of Canaan. On the alleged Temple of Solomon, Finkelstein said that there is no archaeological evidence to prove it really existed.
Joseph Lauer has written to Professor Finkelstein and has circulated his reply by e-mail:
There is no point of answering them. This is typical Palestinian propaganda, aimed at showing that there was no Temple in Jerusalem etc. Of course, this is not what I say. What a pity. As long as they go this way, there is no chance for real peace in the Middle East.
And, as Jim West correctly notes, it was William Foxwell Albright who was "the father of biblical archaeology."

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

BMCR reviews

BMCR REVIEWS: a couple of new ones of tangential interest:
Stephen Mitchell, Peter Van Nuffelen (ed.), One God. Pagan Monotheism in the Roman Empire. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Pp. 239. ISBN 9780521194167. $95.00.

Reviewed by Michele Renee Salzman, University of California at Riverside (

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This is one of two volumes edited by these same scholars after a 2006 conference at Exeter on ‘Pagan Monotheism in the Roman Empire (1st-4th century A.D.)’.1 This conference aimed to clarify the differences between pagans and Christians in matters of monotheism.

The title of this volume, One God, suggests that the authors agree that there was a notion of ‘one god’ among pagans and that some form of religion had existed that could rightly be called ‘pagan monotheism.’ This is not the case, however, for there is no agreement on the existence of pagan monotheism, nor is there agreement among those scholars who accept this term on how to define it. Two of the papers argue strongly for the view that most of the documentary evidence for what others see as pagan monotheism should be interpreted from a polytheistic viewpoint, that is, as a exalting a divinity within a pluralistic context.

The argumentation on both sides of the issue by authors with strongly held views makes this an exciting volume to read. The contributors confront central issues of definition and theory as well as praxis. Their disagreement on the concept of pagan monotheism shows that there is room for more work on a topic that has contemporary relevance; as Christoph Markschies’s paper shows, the political consequences ascribed to monotheism, including its potential to justify hate and violence based on religious intolerance, would be called into question if one could argue that pagans also practiced monotheism. Indeed, the attributes of monotheism might have to be redefined if pagans could be demonstrated as having practiced it.

I noted this conference at the time here and here.
Wolfgang Hübner (ed.), Manilius, Astronomica, Buch V (2 vols.). Sammlung wissenschaftlicher Commentare. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter, 2010. Pp. x, 303; 4 p. of plates; 450. ISBN 9783110206708. $249.00.

Reviewed by Joanna Komorowska, Paedagogical University, Krakow (

Table of Contents

The second half of the twentieth century may well be considered a lucky period for Manilius’ Astronomica: the renewed interest in it, fueled by the research both in historical poetics and in the history of science, which finally came to encompass the history of non-Sartonian disciplines, resulted in re-evaluation of the work, which came to be recognized not only as the oldest surviving treatise on Greco-Roman astrology, its contents displaying considerable complexity and advanced character of the doctrines involved, but also as a consummate poem, a veritable testimony to the supreme craft of its author and a proof of the descriptive as well as pedagogical capacities of the epic genre. Its structure, language, and metaphorical apparatus aimed to project an image of a continuous and interconnected world, each part linked to the others by ties of sympatheia, the Astronomica aim to provide an exposition of astrology – yet, their contents remain strangely truncated, for Manilius never enters into the discussion of planetary influence. He does, however, incorporate into his work a discussion of the subject of paramount importance in the astral lore: the concept and influence of paranatellonta, the extra-Zodiacal ‘accompanying’ constellations. The last (i.e. fifth) book of his poem remains devoted to this one subject, a subject often disparaged in scholarly research (particularly in the history of science), yet of considerable influence in the history of Western civilization. It is possibly here that the Manilian art reaches its climax – as the author wanders through the celestial realm, he faces several challenges, posed respectively by philosophical implications, astrological (divinatory) content, and the descriptive character of the section. Following in the footsteps of Hesiod, Aratus, Virgil and others, he nonetheless faces complexities of Fachsprache foreign to all these; even if one regards the Astronomica as ‘a coffee-table book’,1 one has to acknowledge its immense innovativeness and appreciate the flawless execution of the task at hand. Yet, to appreciate it, one needs to consult a commentary… And it is to the great credit of Wolfgang Hübner that he provided us with such a tool, a tool improving on the earlier commentaries, including that of Feraboli and Scarcia2 by virtue of its detailedness alone.

It was only after going through the Loeb Astronomica that I felt I understood ancient astrology. I'm glad to see this new edition and commentary coming out.

Ancient sword and menorah sketch found in Jerusalem

NEW DISCOVERIES IN JERUSALEM are reported in an IAA press release published by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Artifacts breathe new life into the destruction of the Temple (also taken up widely elsewhere). The key facts are here:
A 2,000 year old iron sword, still in its leather scabbard, was discovered in work the Israel Antiquities Authority is doing in the channel, which served as a hiding refuge for the residents of Jerusalem from the Romans at the time of the Second Temple's destruction. In addition, parts of the belt that carried the sword were found.

According to the excavation directors Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, "It seems that the sword belonged to an infantryman of the Roman garrison stationed in Israel at the outbreak of the Great Revolt against the Romans in 66 CE. The sword's fine state of preservation is surprising: not only its length (c. 60 cm), but also the preservation of the leather scabbard (a material that generally disintegrates quickly over time) and some of its decoration".

A stone object adorned with a rare engraving of a menorah was found in the soil beneath the street, on the side of the drainage channel. According to Shukron and Professor Reich, "Interestingly, even though we are dealing with a depiction of the seven-branched candelabrum, only five branches appear here. The portrayal of the menorah's base is extremely important because it clarifies what the base of the original menorah looked like, which was apparently tripod shaped".
Follow the link for nice photos of both objects. The thematic connection between the sword and Tisha B'Av is obvious, and one might guess that the timing of the announcement is not entirely coincidental. The speculation about the origin of the menorah engraving, while not implausible, is just speculation. These artifacts were found in a Second Temple-era drainage ditch, apparently the one that recently gave us that golden bell.

More on that Buckinghamshire "infanticide" "brothel"

MORE ON THE BUCKINGHAMSHIRE SITE that may preserve evidence for extensive ancient infanticide at a brothel. I noted the original story here last year. The BBC now has a follow-up:
Roman dead baby 'brothel' mystery deepens

By Louise Ord
Assistant Producer, Digging For Britain

New research has cast doubt on the theory that 97 infants were killed at a Roman brothel in Buckinghamshire.

In 2008, the remains of the newborn babies were rediscovered packed in cigarette cases in a dusty museum storeroom by Dr Jill Eyers from Chiltern Archaeology.


Brett Thorn, keeper of archaeology at the Buckinghamshire County Museum, has disputed her hypothesis.

"My main concern with the brothel theory is that it's just too far away from any major population centres. I'm just not convinced," he said.

He has put together an exhibition of other objects from the villa excavation that could point to the villa having associations with a series of mother goddess cults from around the world.

"There are a few significant religious objects from the site that indicate possible connections with a mother goddess cult," he explained.

"They may indicate that the site was a shrine and women went there to give birth, and get protection from the mother goddess during this dangerous time. The large number of babies who are buried there could be natural stillbirths, or children who died in labour."

Last year during filming for BBC Two's Digging for Britain series, presenter Dr Alice Roberts noticed cut marks made by a sharp implement on one of the bones, a discovery that was not revealed to the public until now.
Then we turn to some macabre matters for which evidence from ancient Ashkelon becomes relevant:
Last year during filming for BBC Two's Digging for Britain series, presenter Dr Alice Roberts noticed cut marks made by a sharp implement on one of the bones, a discovery that was not revealed to the public until now.

Cut marks can indicate anything from ritual practices involving human sacrifice, the de-fleshing of bones before burial, or the dismembering of a baby during childbirth to save the life of the mother.

Keri Brown at the University of Manchester carried out DNA tests on the 10 sets of the ancient bones to determine the sex of some of the infants.

It is common throughout history in cases of infanticide for girls to be killed rather than boys, but the opposite holds true for brothel sites. A brothel site at Ashkelon in Israel revealed that nearly all of the babies were boys.

Although the tests represented a very small sample of the total amount of baby skeletons found, there seemed to be an equal number of victims of both sexes at the Buckinghamshire site, and so the mystery for now remains unsolved.

Dr Eyers said she believed that only further excavation at the site would clear up the mystery once and for all.
And it would be great if someone would come up with the money for that.

Assyrian Rights Website Launched

CHALDO-ASSYRIAN WATCH: Assyrian Rights Website Launched.

(Cross-file under "Aramaic Watch.")

Monday, August 08, 2011

Tisha B'Av

TISHA B'AV (The Ninth of Av) begins today at sundown. A healthy fast to all those observing it.

More on DSS in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

MORE ON THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, collected by Joseph Lauer. Both articles are behind a subscription wall.
Provenance studies on Dead Sea scrolls parchment by means of quantitative micro-XRF

Timo Wolff, Ira Rabin, Ioanna Mantouvalou, Birgit Kanngießer, Wolfgang Malzer, Emanuel Kindzorra and Oliver Hahn


In this study, we address the question of the provenance and origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts. A characteristic low ratio of chlorine to bromine, corresponding to that of the Dead Sea water, may serve as an indicator for local production. For this aim we developed a non-destructive procedure to determine the Cl/Br ratio in the parchment of these manuscripts. Micro-X-ray fluorescence (μ-XRF) measurements of a large number of parchment and leather fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls were analyzed with a routine we developed based on fundamental parameter quantification. This routine takes into account the absorption of the collagen matrix and the influence of the different sample thicknesses. To calculate the representative Cl/Br ratio for each fragment, we investigated the lateral homogeneity and determined the total mass deposition using the intensity of the inelastically scattered, characteristic tube radiation. The distribution of the Cl/Br ratios thus obtained from the μ-XRF measurements make it possible to distinguish fragments whose origin lies within the Dead Sea region from those produced in other locations.

Solid-state and unilateral NMR study of deterioration of a Dead Sea Scroll fragment

A. Masic, M. R. Chierotti, R. Gobetto, G. Martra, I. Rabin and S. Coluccia


Unilateral and solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analyses were performed on a parchment fragment of the Dead Sea Scroll (DSS). The analyzed sample belongs to the collection of non-inscribed and nontreated fragments of known archaeological provenance from the John Rylands University Library in Manchester. Therefore, it can be considered as original DSS material free from any contamination related to the post-discovery period. Considering the paramount significance of the DSS, noninvasive approaches and portable in situ nondestructive methods are of fundamental importance for the determination of composition, structure, and chemical–physical properties of the materials under study. NMR studies reveal low amounts of water content associated with very short proton relaxation times, T 1, indicating a high level of deterioration of collagen molecules within scroll fragments. In addition, 13C cross-polarization magic-angle-spinning (CPMAS) NMR spectroscopy shows characteristic peaks of lipids whose presence we attribute to the production technology that did not involve liming. Extraction with chloroform led to the reduction of both lipid and protein signals in the 13C CPMAS spectrum indicating probable involvement of lipids in parchment degradation processes. NMR absorption and relaxation measurements provide nondestructive, discriminative, and sensitive tools for studying the deterioration effects on the organization and properties of water and collagen within ancient manuscripts.

Conference on Gustaf Dalman's legacy

A CONFERENCE ON GUSTAF DALMAN'S LEGACY is taking place in Jerusalem later this month. English program:

of the international project »Gustaf Dalman’s “Arbeit und Sitte in Palästina” in Hebrew«

18-19 August 2011
Austrian Hospice, Via Dolorosa 37, Jerusalem

Thursday, 18 August, starting at 3:00 p.m.:

Afternoon lectures and project presentation at the Austrian Hospice (in English)

Markus Stephan Bugnyar (Rector of the Austrian Hospice):
On the history of the Austrian Hospice in Jerusalem

Friedrich Schipper (University of Vienna):
On the history of the German and Austrian exploration of the Holy Land

Dieter Vieweger (Director of the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology in Jerusalem):
Conrad Schick and the archaeological excavation of the Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem

Coffee break

Julia Männchen (University of Greifswald):
The life and legacy of Gustaf Dalman

Ronny Reich (University of Haifa):
Presentation of the international project »Gustaf Dalman’s “Arbeit und Sitte in Palästina” in Hebrew. A commentary and translation.«

Evening reception

Friday, 19 August, starting at 10:00 a.m.:

Morning tour in the Church of the Redeemer (in English)

Dieter Vieweger (Director of the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology in Jerusalem):
The touristic development of the excavations below the Church of the Redeemer.
An archaeological tour through the old excavations below the Church of the Redeemer

Information: Dr. Friedrich Schipper, University of Vienna, Austria, E-mail:
A PDF file of the program in multiple languages is here. (Via the Agade list.) More on Gustaf Hermann Dalman here. I still have his Aramäisch-neuhebraeisches Wörterbuch on my bookshelf and still refer to it.

Happy birthday to me!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! I will be out celebrating most of the time today, but I have pre-posted this and that, so stay tuned.

Sunday, August 07, 2011