Saturday, May 28, 2016

More on the Cave of Skulls excavation

EXPEDITION UPDATE: Searching for the next Dead Sea Scrolls. A group of archeologists are in a race with antiquities thieves to find artifacts in the Judean Desert. Haaretz joins the diggers as they explore the Cave of Skulls, an inaccessible space below a cliff top (Haaretz). Nir Hasson has a follow-up article to the story reported widely in the media last week (see here). This one has some good new information, but is behind the subscription wall. But you can still read it with a free registration with Haaretz, which gives you limited access to premium articles (I think 6 per month). So read it all. Meanwhile, I'll give a few excerpts, with commentary.

On the recovery of the Wadi Tse'elim (Se'elim) papyrus in 2009:
It took three months for the faux Yankee to win the trust of the thieves, and for them to remove the papyrus from its hiding place and show it to him. Finally, they brought it in all its glory to their fourth meeting, in the lobby of the Hyatt Hotel in Jerusalem. The agent, meanwhile, brought a suitcase ostensibly containing $2 million in cash. When satisfied that the thieves had brought along the real deal, he raised a hand to his hat brim and the police forces pounced, arresting the sellers and seizing the papyrus.

Asked where the papyrus had come from, the thieves answered, “Wadi Tziel” (also known as Wadi Tze’elim) – among the larger of the desert’s water courses. The item, says the IAA, dated to 139 C.E. and had apparently been found in one of the desert's many caves.
In my earlier post I forgot to include a link to the post reporting the recovery of the papyrus. Go there for the IAA press release and a downloadable image of the papyrus

Five years later, in 2014, looters were spotted coming from the Cave of Skulls. Notice of the report of their capture and trial is here.

The article indicates some uncertainty whether the papyrus comes from just after the Great Revolt in 68-70 CE or (more likely) just after the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 132-135. Paleography might be of some help here, but the issue is not addressed. That said, I don't think the Palestinian Hebrew script developed a great deal between the mid-first century CE and the mid-second century.

On the gruelling work in the cave, done mostly by volunteers:
Sitting in the cave mouth, secured by ropes, yet more volunteers sift dirt extracted from the cave. The wind blows a lot of what they filter right back into the cave. Such is life. The volunteers and everything else tend to get covered in suffocating layers of dust.

Armed with their filters and buckets the diggers have made quite a few discoveries, including pottery sherds, animal bones, combs, arrowheads, seeds and fruit pits, bits of leather, remnants of textiles – and fragments of papyrus. None have contained writing. Yet.
And this tantalizing conclusion:
This quasi-military mission to find and remove artifacts not yet located by thieves ends in another week or so. The IAA hopes the state will have the nous to allocate a substantial budget to seriously explore the hundreds upon hundreds of caves dotting the desert – whether used as dwellings or as sanctuaries over the millennia.

They need to act before the thieves find them all, leaving behind nothing but plastic fan bits, cigarette butts and evidence of their liking for peanut butter-flavored snacks.
I had the impression that the expedition in the early 1960s thoroughly cleared out the caves in the Judean Desert, but it seems that there remains considerable work to do. If so, it should be an urgent priority.

Meanwhile, we'll see whether more manuscripts emerge from the Cave of Skulls. I would be surprised if they do, but some suprises are nice.

Background here.

UPDATE (30 May): Archaeologist David Stacey e-mails: "Jim don't forget the many, many caves, mainly between Qumran and Jericho, that were dug by IAA in the 90s - see Atiquot 41"

Magic bowls of antiquity

ARAMAIC WATCH: Magic bowls of antiquity. Ancient Babylonia’s magic bowls offer a glimpse into the society of the Talmud, and today’s shadowy antiquities market (Samuel Thrope, The header phrases it "What should be donw with the magic bowls of Jewish antiquity?" A very pertinent question. This is a good article that presents some general information about the ancient Babylonian Aramaic incantation bowls and then discusses the current controversy over whether possibly looted bowls should still be studied. It seems to make a good effort to visit all sides.

Colin Refrew is correct in the quotation in the first paragraph below, but ...
Colin Renfrew, now senior fellow of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge. ‘The tragedy is that all these incantation bowls would have contributed so much to knowledge and understanding if [the details of] their context and discovery had been known.’

However, Renfrew and others say that not only are these bowls not worth studying, but that they shouldn’t be studied. They argue that the study of these incantations, innocent as it might seem, is the last link in a chain of lawbreaking that begins with looting, theft and cultural destruction.
I doubt very much that Dr. Renfrew or any other specialist said that the bowls are "not worth studying." That sounds like the author of the article over-interpreting what they did say. As for what he is quoted as saying, yes, much crucial contextual and stratigraphic information has been lost, but written objects like these inscribed bowls are different from other artifacts like pottery in that each unprovenanced bowl still preserves a considerable amount of unique information. While recognizing and acknowledging the problems, I come down in the end with Shaul Shaked:
Shaked, for his part, is adamant that he will continue studying and publishing the bowls. ‘As a researcher, I won’t allow anything that has historical meaning and importance to rot someplace and not touch it, or be destroyed because someone can’t sell it,’ he said. ‘I think that it is a crime against humanity to allow this material to be lost.’
One concern not raised in the article, but worth at least mentioning, is whether some of these unprovenanced bowls on the antiquities market could be modern forgeries. As far as I can tell, this is unlikely. Manufacturing a persuasive fake Aramaic incantation bowl would require a wide-ranging expertise in late antique and early medieval Aramaic language and paleography, as well as the ability to recreate a convincing material object. It would be extraordinarily difficult to produce one that would be likely to fool specialists, and therefore forging them would not be cost effective. For now, anyway.

For many, many past posts on the ancient Babylonian Aramaic incantation bowls, start here and just keep following the links all the way back to one of PaleoJudaica' first substantive posts. Past posts on the bowls from the Schøyen Collection at UCL are here, here, and here. I was unaware of the more recently released Wikileaks document mentioned in the article.

Brik the Golem

GOLEM WATCH: 'Little STALIN' & Russian Mafia vs. A Modern-Day Golem In Oni’s BRIK Zack Smith, Newsarama [Comics]).
What if you were a bullied 12-year-old in New York City who found access to an ancient power – the power of a Golem? What kind of creature would you create? What would a being of clay and magic be like in today’s world? And most of all…what kind of dangers would you have to face?

Writers Adam Glass (Suicide Squad, Rough Riders) and Mike Benson (Moon Knight, Deadpool) and artist Harwinder Singh team up to answer these questions in Brik, a new series from Oni Press that premieres in July. It’s a uniquely personal urban fantasy that touches on elements of Jewish mythology, real-life New York landmarks, and of course, big clay creatures.

Newsarama talked to Glass, Benson, and Singh about how this book came about, with a first look at character designs from the project.

There are many, many past PaleoJudaica posts on the Golem legend. Start here and follow the links.

Lag B'Omer celebrated safely at Djerba

THAT WAS BRAVE: Jewish pilgrims mark Lag Ba'omer on Tunisian island (AP/Israel HaYom).
Amid fears of religious violence, southern island of Djerba hosts annual Jewish pilgrimage under unprecedented security • Some 2,000 Jews gather at ancient Ghriba synagogue to mark holiday • Rabbi: Site a symbol of tolerance between Muslims and Jews.
The pilgrims chose to defy the recent terrorism alert for the island. I'm glad they came through it safely.

Biblica 97 (2016)

A NEW VOLUME OF THE JOURNAL BIBLICA (vol. 97 [2016]) is now available online. The full texts of the articles are available for free. TOC:
Fascicolo 1
Finkelstein Israel, «The Old Jephthah Tale in Judges: Geographical and Historical Considerations.» Vol.97 (2016) 1-15
In this article I intend to reveal the old, orally-transmitted heroic tale that lies behind the Jephthah story in the Book of Judges, which is obscured by massive Deuteronomistic and post-Deuteronomistic additions and redactions. The old story deals with a conflict on the settlement boundary between Israelites and Ammonites in Transjordan, around the towns of Gilead and Mizpah. It probably reflects realities before, or in the early days of the Northern kingdom.
TAGS Jephthah

Wong Gregory T.K., «Psalm 73 as Ring Composition.» Vol.97 (2016) 16-40
This article seeks to analyse the structure of Psalm 73 as a ring composition based on characteristics identified by Mary Douglas. With special attention paid to key structural markers used throughout the psalm, it will be argued that Psalm 73 is an elegant and almost perfect ring, with the introductory and concluding sections merging into each other and closely interconnected with a middle turning point. The rest of the psalm is arranged chiastically with matching parallel sections on either side of the turning point.

Gregory Bradley C., «Vice and Virtue in the Moral Vision of the Latin of Sirach.» Vol.97 (2016) 41-61
Beginning in the Second Temple period some Jewish literature begins to reflect an increased influence from Hellenistic conceptions of virtue and vice. This paper analyzes the expansions and alterations found in the Latin version of Ben Sira to show how the vices of pride, desire, and avarice are elevated in importance and integrated into the larger contours of the moral theology of the book. Their content, amount, and distribution suggest that their piecemeal production arose from attempts to integrate the virtue/vice thinking prominent in late antiquity into the teaching already found in the Book of Sirach.
TAGS virtue vice

Andrejevs Olegs, «Reexamining Q2: Son of God Christology in Q’s Redactional Layer.» Vol.97 (2016) 62-78
This essay analyzes three important Christological texts in the reconstructed synoptic sayings source Q: 4,1-13 (the temptation legend), 6,20b-49 (the Q sermon) and 10,21-22 (the thanksgiving of Jesus). According to the current consensus in Q studies, these texts belong to three different compositional strata and reflect different theological concerns. I coordinate them in the document’s redactional layer (Q2), demonstrating their compatibility on literary-critical and traditionhistorical grounds. My hypothesis is that these texts provide the necessary Christological framework for Q2’s depiction of Jesus as the messianic Son of Man and Lord by stressing his identity as God’s unique Son.

Grindheim Sigurd, «Faith in Jesus: The Historical Jesus and the Object of Faith» Vol.97 (2016) 79-100
Did Jesus call his followers to believe in him? or did he merely call them to believe in God or in the contents of his teaching? This article examines the evidence found in the Synoptic Gospels and discusses its possible Christological implications in light of the Scriptures of Israel and the writings of Second Temple Judaism. If Jesus expected to be the object of his disciples’ faith, his expectation may be understood in light of his redefinition of messiahship. But he may also be seen to have placed himself in the role of God, who was the object of Israel’s faith in the Scriptures of Israel and in Second Temple Judaism.
TAGS Jesus Messiah faith

Filtvedt Ole Jakob, «A "Non-Ethnic" People?» Vol.97 (2016) 101-120
This article engages critically with some recent re-interpretations of ethnic language in Paul, as represented by D.K. Buell and C.J. Hodge. I begin by arguing that their case against a metaphorical interpretation of Paul is weak, in that it is based on a problematic understanding of what metaphors are. Turning to Galatians, I attempt to demonstrate that, although Buell and Hodge correctly identify a paradox in Paul’s argument pertaining to his use of ethnic terminology, their own explanation of this paradox is unsatisfying. The essay ends with an attempt to approach the paradox in Paul’s argument from the perspective of a metaphorical reading of Paul.
TAGS ethnic language metaphors

Lanier Gregory R., «"From God" or "from Heaven"? "ex upsous" in Luke 1,78» Vol.97 (2016) 121-127
The phrase a)natolh e9c u3yous* in Luke 1,78 has long proven enigmatic. This note focuses on the meaning of e9c u3yous. Scholars have debated whether it should be interpreted as "from God/Most High" or "from upon high/heaven". The use of e9c u3yistoj elsewhere in Luke 1–2 appears to be impacting the reading of 1,78 unnecessarily. An analysis of ~280 instances of e9c u3yoj and ~230 of e9c u3yistoj in the relevant Jewish/christian sources suggests that while e9c u3yistoj often refers to God, e9c u3yoj never does. The a)natolh, should be understood as coming "from heaven", thus impacting one’s reading of this metaphor in the Benedictus.
TAGS from God from heaven
HT Jim West.
*The Greek fonts are glitched in the original, at least in my browser.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Report on Dublin DSS workshop

Three members of the CSTT’s Team 4 – Jutta Jokiranta, Elisa Uusimäki, and Sami Yli-Karjanmaa – travelled to Ireland in the beginning of May in order to foster the co-operation between biblical scholars working at the University of Helsinki and Trinity College of Dublin. Landing to the greenness of Dublin on a sunny day was a most beautiful start for our visit, and the next days of academic activities and college life fulfilled our expectations.

Past posts involving the Chester Beatty Library are here and links.

Vanderbilt Symposium

SYRIAC WATCH: Vanderbilt Libraries to host ‘Cultural Heritage at Scale’ symposium (Ann Marie Deer Owens).
Understanding the opportunities and challenges related to building sustainable national-scale digital humanities projects is one of the goals of a free symposium at the Vanderbilt University Central Library June 2 and 3.

“Cultural Heritage at Scale” is co-sponsored by Vanderbilt Libraries, the Council on Library and Information Resources, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The event is open to scholars, students and other interested individuals. However, space is limited and registration is required.

“We are pleased to convene this symposium in conjunction with Vanderbilt’s continuing involvement in and support for national-scale digital projects,” said Jody Combs, interim dean of libraries. “Digital resources have tremendous potential to help transform higher education in terms of global access, scholarly productivity, teaching and sustainability.”

Vanderbilt faculty members Jane Landers and David Michelson are among the speakers who will discuss their digital cultural preservation projects.

Professor Michaelson brings us to the Syriac part:
Michelson, an assistant professor of the history of Christianity at Vanderbilt Divinity School, is one of three researchers to receive an NEH Humanities Collections and References Resources grant to support the work of, an online scholarly reference work on the Syriac language and culture, now hosted by Vanderbilt’s library. Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic used by early Christians across the Middle East and Asia. aims to make resources for the study of Syriac accessible to a wider audience and works closely with the Syriac heritage communities to preserve and document their endangered culture.
The website has been mentioned previously here.

Diarna and the Jobar Synagogue

PHOTO ESSAY: Before Its Destruction: Jobar Synagogue in Syria. An organization called Diarna has created an online ‘geo-museum’ where visitors to explore historical Jewish sites in the Middle East and Northern Africa that no longer exist (Rose Kaplan, Tablet Magazine).
Enter Diarna, an organization dedicated to preserving historical remnants across the region—online. Through extensive field research, Diarna, which translates to ”our homes” in Judeo-Arabic, has photographed and digitally “mapped” these sites, creating an online museum complete with data and narratives through which visitors can learn about the synagogues, schools, and other structures that once comprised Mizrahi Jewish life. Diarna operates from the American Sephardi Federation in New York City.

Scroll will frequently feature a new Diarna historical site, serving up architectural glimpses into a Jewish world that is fast decaying, if not being destroyed outright. This week, we begin with the Eliyahu Hanabi Synagogue, also known as the Jobar Synagogue, in Jobar, Syria, a suburb of Damascus. Some say the synagogue’s Jewish roots date back to the Talmud.

According to Diarna, the synagogue is said to mark the location where Elijah anointed his disciple Elisha, although historical data suggests that multiple structures have existed there since antiquity. Romanian-Jewish traveler and historian Israël Joseph Benjamin visited the site in the mid-19th century and wrote that the original structure had been destroyed by the Roman Emperor Titus, as well as a second synagogue, supposedly rebuilt in the first century by the Rabbi Eleazar ben Arach and destroyed in the 16th century.
The Jobar Synagogue was badly damaged in 2013 and destroyed in 2014. Additional background here and links.

Genetic analysis of an ancient Carthaginian

PUNIC WATCH: DNA Captured From 2,500-Year-Old Phoenician. Analysis of the ancient man's DNA reveal he had European ancestry (Rossella Lorenzi, Seeker).
Researchers have sequenced the complete mitochondrial genome of a 2,500-year-old Phoenician, showing the ancient man had European ancestry.

This is the first ancient DNA to be obtained from Phoenician remains.

Known as “Ariche,” the young man came from Byrsa, a walled citadel above the harbor of ancient Carthage. Byrsa was attacked by the Roman general Scipio Aemilianus “Africanus” in the Third Punic War. It was destroyed by Rome in 146 B.C.

2,700-Year-Old Phoenician Shipwreck Discovered

Ariche’s remains were discovered in 1994 on the southern flank of Bursa hill when a man planting trees fell into the ancient grave.

Analysis of the skeleton revealed the man died between the age of 19 and 24, had a rather robust physique and was 1.7 meters (5’6″) tall. He may have belonged to the Carthaginian elite, as he was buried with gems, scarabs, amulets and other artifacts.

Technically, he was a Carthaginian, not a Phoenician. (Hence, Punic Watch rather than Phoenician Watch.) The Phoenicians founded the city-state of Carthage in North Africa, but in this case Ariche's genetic profile is anomalous. Read the whole article for details. Past posts on Phoenician genetics (which, perhaps not surprisingly, seem to have some overlap with Jewish genetics) are here, here, and here. And there is lots more on Jewish genetics here and links. Cross-file under Technology Watch.

Translations of 1 Enoch

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Translations of 1 Enoch (Phillip J. Long, Reading Acts). This is a good survey of the available English translations and I agree with his recommendation at the end. But I understand that Stuckenbruck is working on a new translation that takes into account important new manuscript evidence. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Those Jerusalem tunnels

SUBTERRANEAN ARCHAEOLOGY: Underground Jerusalem: An Interactive Journey (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
"Jerusalem is like an Atlantis that sank into the sea
everything there is submerged and sunken
This is not the heavenly Jerusalem but the one down below,
way down below. And from the sea floor they dredge up ruined walls
and fragments of faiths, like rust-covered vessels from sunken
prophecy ships. That's not rust, it's blood that has never dried"
(Yehuda Amichai, 1998)

Jerusalem has vastly expanded in the 7,000 years of its existence. Including, in the past two decades, downwards.

Beneath the Old City, one can already walk hundreds of meters underground, pray in subterranean spaces of worship and see shows in subterranean caverns and halls. There are plans in place to dramatically increase this area – essentially, restoring the true ancient city beneath the visible one. Jerusalem 2.0, below ground.

A long, detailed article that explores both the full range of underground archaeological sites in Jerusalem and the political controversies surround the tunneling projects. It seems to make at least some effort to present all sides of those controversies.

One comment:
A handful of coins discovered inside a mikveh that had been blocked up ahead of building the Western Wall cast doubt on the story that King Herod built the walls of the Temple Mount. The coins were from the years 15 and 16 CE, about 20 years after Herod's death.

Reich and Shukron believe the inevitable conclusion is that it was heirs of the famous king, not himself, who completed the vast Temple Mount construction project.
This is true, but is presented in a misleading way. We already knew from Josephus that the Herodian Temple Platform was completed after the time of Herod the Great. This discovery confirmed what Josephus said. If it casts doubt on a story (and no primary sources are cited), it was a story we already had good reason to doubt. See here.

There are many past PaleoJudaica posts on the underground tunnel excavations in Jerusalem. Some of them are here, here, here, here, here and links. There are also many past posts on the Elad nonprofit organization. See here and here and follow the links. Past posts on the Cave of Zedekiah are collected here. Cross-file under Temple Mount Watch.

Palmer on the ger

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Dissertation Spotlight | Carmen Palmer. Carmen Palmer, Converts at Qumran: The Ger in the Dead Sea Scrolls as an Indicator of Mutable Ethnicity (University of St. Michael’s College, 2016).
The dissertation offers the first complete study to assess, and conclude, that the term ger could represent a convert within the Dead Sea Scrolls. In order to do that, the dissertation also had to establish the nature of a conversion more broadly. The study finds that primary features of ethnic identity for the Qumran movement consist of a shared notion of kinship, a connection to land, and common culture in the practice of circumcision. A Gentile’s conversion, in order for that individual’s inclusion in the movement, would be contingent upon making a change in ethnic identity in these features. Therefore, ethnic identity is mutable where the D tradition is concerned in its inclusion of the ger, and immutable where the S tradition is concerned, where the ger remains an outsider. Most broadly, mutable ethnicity and conversions are indeed embraced within some of the Qumran movement, just as they are across multiple Mediterranean groups.

Anton interview, part 1

FIFTY SHADES OF TALMUD: The Talmudic Sex exchange, part 1: What can the sages teach us about sex? (Shmuel Rosner, Jewish Journal).
Maggie Anton is the award-winning author of "Rashi's Daughters," historical novels set in the household of the great medieval Jewish scholar, whose daughters studied Talmud when these sacred texts were forbidden to women. The first book of her new series, "Rav Hisda's Daughter: A Novel of Love, The Talmud and Sorcery," which takes place in 3rd-century Babylonia as the Talmud is being created, was selected for 2012 National Jewish Book Award in Fiction and Library Journal's choice for Best 2012 Historical Fiction.

The following exchange will focus on her new book, Fifty Shades of Talmud: What the First Rabbis Had to Say About You-Know-What.
Background on Ms. Anton's latest book, as well as her novels, is here and many links. Some other past posts on sex and sexual consent in the Talmud are here (and links), here, here, and here.

Lag B'Omer celebrations

THIS YEAR: Thousands at Mt. Meron as Lag B’Omer bonfires lit throughout Israel. Health and fire authorities on alert to treat injuries and blazes during annual celebration (DANIEL STIEGLITZ, Times of Israel).
Throngs of Israelis celebrated Lag B’Omer with traditional bonfires throughout the country Wednesday night, with thousands visiting the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Mount Meron in northern Israel.

Lag B’Omer, which is observed on the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar and the 33rd day of the Omer — the seven-week period between the festivals of Passover and Shavuot — is the anniversary of the death of the rabbi, a prominent sage and mystic who lived in ancient Israel in the second century CE.

This is just one of a number of reports on last night's festivities. The holiday continues until sundown this evening.

Background here and links.

Restroom lawsuit

NO, NOT THAT RESTROOM LAWSUIT, THIS ONE: Israel sues Waqf over restroom built at archaeological site (Times of Israel).
The Antonia Fortress, which is believed to date from at least 31 BCE, sits atop the Western Wall tunnels sparking fears that sewage from the restroom will seep into the structures below, Channel 10 reports.
Cross-file under Temple Mount Watch.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Finding more Judean Desert scrolls?

EXPEDITION: IAA Plans to Excavate Judean Desert Caves, Save Scrolls from Robbers (JNi.Media).
The Israel Antiquities Authority is promoting a national plan for comprehensive archaeological excavations in the Judean Desert caves, and for rescuing the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are among the earliest texts written in the Hebrew language. The plan is carried out in cooperation with the Heritage Project in the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs, and Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev (Likud).

Israel Hasson, director-general of the IAA, said in a statement, “Tor years now our most important heritage and cultural assets have been excavated illicitly and plundered in the Judean Desert caves for reasons of greed. The goal of the national plan that we are advancing is to excavate and find all of the scrolls that remain in the caves, once and for all, so that they will be rescued and preserved by the state.”

I had always thought that the Yadin-Aharoni-Aviram-Bar-Adon expedition, which was aided by the IDF, had recovered all significant archives of ancient scrolls in the Judean Desert back in the early 1960s. Since then only scraps have been found here and there. But this story makes me wonder if the IAA knows something I don't. I hope so.
In November 2014, inspectors of the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery apprehended a band of robbers, residents of the village of Sa‘ir near Hebron, in the act of plundering the contents of the Cave of the Skulls in Nahal Tse’elim. The suspects who were caught “red-handed” were arrested on the spot, interrogated, and later sentenced and served a prison sentence, and are required to pay the State of Israel a fine of $25,000. At the time of their arrest they were in possession of important archaeological artifacts that date to the Roman period, c. 2,000 years ago, and the Neolithic period, c. 8,000 years ago.

In 2009 an ancient papyrus that was written in Hebrew and dates to the Year Four of the Destruction of the House of Israel (139 CE) was seized. The papyrus was confiscated in a joint operation by the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery and the Israel Police during a meeting with antiquities dealers in which the papyrus was offered for sale for the amount of $2 million. The investigation of the robbers revealed that this papyrus had also been discovered in Nahal Tse’elim. The contents of it, which mention the towns and settlements in the area of the Hebron hill-country, suggest that the papyrus was part of an archive of documents belonging to Jews who fled to the desert from the Hebron area after the Bar Kokhba uprising. Now, the IAA hopes to find similar documents.

The Cave of Skulls, where the excavation is taking place, is located about 80 yards from the top of the cliff, and about 750 ft above the base of the canyon. Because of the difficulty in reaching the site, the IAA obtained a special permit from the Nature and Parks Authority to construct an access trail, which requires the use of rappelling equipment for the safety of the participants in the excavation. More than 500 volunteers and field personnel from Israel and abroad were required for the undertaking, and they are sleeping and living in a camp in desert field conditions. Many requests by individuals offering to participate have been denied because of the lack of infrastructure to provide for such a large group of archaeologists, volunteers and interested parties. The current excavation season will end in another two weeks, assuming this will be sufficient time in order to extract the valuable archaeological information from the cave.
The Cave of Skulls (Camp B, Cave 32) was explored by Aharoni's team, but it had already been plundered by the Bedouin before the archaeologists got there. The archaeologists found no scrolls or scroll fragments. Apart from the disarticulated bodies of some hapless participants in the Bar Kokhba revolt (which gave the cave its name), nothing very significant was recovered from it. Some of the "Seiyal Collection" of unprovenanced scrolls may have come from Nahal Tse’elim (Se'elim). It is conceivable that some of them even could have come from the Cave of Skulls, although there is no positive evidence for that.

But now there seem to be new developments. I wonder if an internal cave-in or the like could have opened up a new passage containing additional artifacts. That is pure speculation, so don't quote me. But the important thing is that the IAA has hopes of finding more in what one would have thought was a doubly (or now even triply) cleaned-out cave. That is exciting news and I hope they are successful.

Lag B'Omer 2016

LAG B'OMER: THE COUNTING OF THE OMER begins tonight at sundown. Best wishes to all observing it.

Related: The Grateful and the Dead. It’s easier than ever to visit the gravesites of beloved rabbis and sages (Rishe Groner, Tablet Magazine).
Lag Ba’Omer is this Wednesday evening and Thursday, and on a mountaintop in northern Israel, pilgrims will congregate on a color-coded parking lot swarmed with endless rows of buses. Hikers will set up tents, and teenagers in long skirts or knitted kippot will disembark alongside Hasidic families. In a tradition that dates back to the 16th century, they will be converging on the sacred mountain of Har Meron in the Galilee to pray at the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, purported author of the Zohar.


While visiting graves is nothing new in Judaism—in the Torah, Caleb split from the other spies to visit the patriarchs in Hebron after scoping out the land—it’s seen a recent explosion thanks to opened borders, reduced cost of travel, and the burgeoning kosher tourism industry. What was once the inspired side trip of a college student is becoming a growing movement, filled with highly professionalized travel agencies and increasingly routinized tour routes.

Welcome to Jewish grave tourism.


Rabbi Henoch Dov Hoffman of Denver is a grave-spotter who has been taking students with him to visit graves in Israel for over 25 years. Inspired by a statement in the Talmud Yevamot—“When you study the works of a Torah scholar at the gravesite, his lips move in the grave”—Hoffman’s annual grave tours take his students all over the Galilee, from hidden caves to Arab villages, and has included occasional side tours to Eastern Europe. At each grave, the scholar or rebbe’s texts are studied while tapping into the divine energy of that soul’s presence at the physical burial site.

Hoffman visits a “mixed bag” of gravesites, teaching the Torah of each sage at their gravesite in order to connect with their soul on an existential level. “The idea is to study there,” Hoffman said. “You don’t just go in. We dance around seven times, sing a niggun, and then sit down and learn.” Hoffman’s list of gravesites is impressive: From Talmudic sages such as Chanina ben Dosa and Nachum Ish Gam Zu; to biblical heroes such as King Solomon’s chief of staff Benayahu ben Yehoyada; Kabbalists like the Arizal; and in Europe, Rabbi Nathan of Breslov, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, the Apter Rav, and the Ba’al Shem Tov.

Some Lag B'Omer-related posts over the last Jewish-calendar year are here, here, here, and here – with lots of links to earlier posts.

Caste in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Know Your Place. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic scholars undermine the Jewish caste system.
Today, what lineage a Jew belongs to matters only in occasional ritual contexts. But in Temple times, the boundaries between the priestly caste and the general population of Israelites were sharply patrolled. Indeed, the rules and privileges pertaining to priestly families—the elite of Second Temple Judea—constitute a major concern of the Talmud, especially when it comes to who is entitled to terumah, the portion of the sacrificial offerings reserved for priests. In this week’s Daf Yomi reading, Tractate Kiddushin explaines the detailed rules for how lineage is defined and passed down, especially in the case of marriages between different castes.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links. Some past posts dealing with genetic studies and priestly (cohen) DNA are here, here, here, here, and here.

Awards for "Salome"

THEATRE: ‘Salome,’ ‘Avenue Q,’ ‘Yerma’ are major Hayes Award winners (Nelson Pressley, WaPo).
The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s “Salome” came out head and shoulders above its rivals at Monday night’s Helen Hayes Awards, earning seven trophies, including outstanding play — an overall honor akin to best picture — and the directing award for the show’s mastermind, Yael Farber.

Background here. And congratulations to the members of this Salome production.

Celebrating Slavonic philology

SAINTS CYRIL AND METHODIUS DAY (24 May) – Some Reports: Bulgaria Celebrates Day of Education, Culture, Slavonic Alphabet. A prospective overview of events.

The Sophia Globe: Bulgaria celebrates Day of Cyrillic script, Slavonic literature. Lots of parade pictures.

Focus Information Agency: Bulgarian PM greets Bulgarians on May 24 holiday.

It's always good to see people celebrating philology.

Background here and links

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Contributing to AJR

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Traveling for the Summer? Contribute to AJR!

Cueva and Martínez (eds.), Splendide Mendax

NEW BOOK: NASSCAL Member Publication: Scott Brown, “Mar Saba 65: Twelve Enduring Misconceptions.” This post flags one article in the book. The full bibliographical information for the volume is also given:
Edmund P. Cueva and Javier Martínez, eds. Splendide Mendax: Rethinking Fakes and Forgeries in Classical, Late Antique, and Early Christian Literature. Groningen: Barkhuis, 2016.
Follow the link for description and TOC. Both Second Temple Judaism and New Testament Apocrypha have some representation.

The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, IX

The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, IX
English–Hebrew Index; Word Frequency Table

Edited by David J.A. Clines

Volume IX offers a valuable enhancement of the 8-volume Dictionary of Classical Hebrew (1993–2011).

In DCH I–VIII, each volume had its own English–Hebrew Index, but this volume presents a much improved gathering together of all those indexes. The Index here contains every word used as a translation (gloss) in the Dictionary, that is, all the words printed in bold. In addition—a feature not seen before in Hebrew dictionaries—beneath each listed word are noted all the Hebrew words it translates, together with the volume and page reference of the relevant article.


The second element in this volume is the Word Frequency Table. This is a combination of the Word Frequency Tables in the various volumes of DCH. There, the lists of word frequencies were arranged under each letter of the alphabet. In the present publication, all the words in the Dictionary are combined in a single list arranged in order of frequency of occurrence.


William Foxwell Albright

"THE DEAN OF BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGISTS": Digging with the Bible: William F. Albright proved the Bible was a book of factual, historical, real, places and people (BENJAMIN GLATT, Jerusalem Post).
He worked at the site of Gibeah or Tel el-Ful, possibly the location of the Book of Judges’ Battle of Gibeah and the first site of the capital of the Holy City, which is located in what is now the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina.

The archeologist also discovered Tell Beit Mirsim, which Albright identified as Dvir (Debir), or Kiryat Sefer, on the border of the Shfela and the Hebron Hills.

The scholar played a role in authenticating the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1948, calling it “the greatest manuscript find of modern times.” Out of all his articles, archeological excavations and research, his authentication of the Dead Sea Scrolls made him well known outside of the scholarly field.
The headline rather overstates the actual quotation(from the 1975 issue of “Ministry – the International Journal for Pastors”) cited in the article: "The Bible became real to him, a book of factual, historical, real, places and people." This is true, although the view of scholars and archaeologists today is that he somewhat overstated the conclusion. For example, he thought there was at least some historical basis for the patriarchal narratives in Genesis, whereas I don't think any specialist would argue that today. Albright's most enduring contributions were not really in biblical studies, but rather archaeology and epigraphy. He contributed a great deal to the consolidation of Palestinian ceramic typology and he also laid the fundamental groundwork for the paleographical typology of Northwest Semitic inscriptions (Hebrew, Aramaic, Phoenician, etc.) And, of course, much of his fame today comes from his early recognition of the genuineness and importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls. A biography of Albright was published by Leona Glidden Running in 1975. And, as the article notes, Thomas Levy and David Noel Freedman published a brief biographical memoir of Albright in 2008, which you can read at the link or in a longer 2009 version here.

Cyril and Methodius Day 2016

SLAVONIC PHILOLOGY: Bulgaria marks Bulgarian Education and Culture and Slavonic Literature Day (FOCUS News Agency).
Sofia. On May 24 Bulgaria celebrates Bulgarian Education and Culture and Slavonic Literature Day.

The holiday, which commemorates the deed of Saints Cyril and Methodius, was first marked in the southern city of Plovdiv in 1851 at the initiative of the Bulgarian linguist, folklorist and writer Nayden Gerov. The capital Sofia celebrated the holiday in 1859 for the first time. After Bulgaria’s Liberation the first commemoration was held on May 11, 1880.

Background on Saints Cyril and Methodius, their foundational work on making Old Church Slavonic a literary language, why their day is celebrated multiple times in the year, and why PaleoJudaica cares about any of this, is here and here with many links.

Monday, May 23, 2016

New monograph series on Christian Apocrypha

NEW TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA WATCH: NASSCAL Monograph Series: Studies in Christian Apocrypha. The founding of the North American Society for the Study of Christian Apocryphal Literature (NASSCAL) last year was noted here.

Corpus Inscriptionum Phoenicarum

AWOL: Corpus Inscriptionum Phoenicarum. Cross-file under Phoenician Watch and Punic Watch.

Anabasis 6 (2016)

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: New issue of Anabasis.
The sixth issue of ANABASIS: Studia Classica et Orientalia is published by department of Ancient History and Oriental Studies, Institute of History at Rzeszów University.
Follow the link for the TOC. The topics are wide ranging, but ancient Judaism is well represented.

Fellowship on Jews and the Material in Antiquity

H-JUDAIC: Fellowship Opportunity: 2017-18 Frankel Institute Theme "Jews and the Material in Antiquity."
The Frankel Institute’s 2017–2018 theme year will ask how Jews in the ancient world related both to matter itself and to issues of materiality. How did ancient Jews sense, understand, and even construct material entities such as artifacts, bodies, environments, and so on? How did those who were not Jewish perceive or represent the relationships between Jews and matter? Finally, how has the history of Jews and matter been reconstructed in modern scholarship and how might scholars approach the nexus of Jews and the material more productively?

Follow the link for further particulars. The application deadline is 7 October 2016.

Anton on Fifty Shades of Talmud

AUDIO INTERVIEW: Rejuvenation: “Fifty Shades of Talmud: What the First Rabbis Had to Say about You-Know-What” (Jewish Press).
In her first nonfiction book, award winning historical novelist Maggie Anton combines her Talmudic scholarship with curiosity about the Sages ideas on Sex and Intimacy. Listen in as the popular author of the ‘Rashi’s Daughters’ series discusses with Eve Harow everything from exactly how we are supposed to be “fruitful and multiply’ to why the modern world needs Judaism’s refreshing honesty on physical relationships in all their forms. Pithy and pious, hilarious and serious, ’50 Shades of Talmud’ gives surprising perspective on a much discussed old/new topic. (Note: If you’re a prude, give this interview a miss…..)
Background on Ms. Anton and her latest book is here and links.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

OI Open Access Publications on Persepolis

AWOL: Open Access Publications on Persepolis from the Oriental Institute. Persepolis has been mentioned from time to time by PaleoJudaica, mostly in connection with the Persepolis Fortification Archive, which has preserved, among other things, many texts in Persian-era Aramaic. For past posts on the Archive and its complex and contentious political history (an ongoing court case on whether it can be sold to compensate terrorism victims), start here and follow the links back.

Origin of the Samaritan Pentateuch

BIBLE ODYSSEY: Origin of the Samaritan Pentateuch (Terry Giles). HT AJR. Past posts on the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Samaritans are here and here and links.

Ceriani’s facsimile of Codex Ambrosianus B.21

LIV INGEBORG LIED: What facsimiles may do for you: the Syriac Codex Ambrosianus (7a1) reimagined.
However, what I want to run with you in the current blog post is the ways in which facsimile editions may also shape our imagination, both of a manuscript and its texts, using Ceriani’s facsimile edition as a test case. The effects of a facsimile may be more subtle and therefore sometimes harder to pin down, since a facsimile edition is supposed to be a reproduction of the manuscript page and because it is sometimes used by scholars as a manuscript replacement. “Facsimile” – the very word promises an exact copy, right?
More on Codex Ambrosianus B.21 is here and links. Cross-file under Syriac Watch.

Villeneuve, Nuptial Symbolism

Nuptial Symbolism in Second Temple Writings, the New Testament and Rabbinic Literature
Divine Marriage at Key Moments of Salvation History

André Villeneuve, St. John Vianney Theological Seminary
In Nuptial Symbolism in Second Temple Writings, the New Testament and Rabbinic Literature, André Villeneuve examines the ancient Jewish concept of the covenant between God and Israel, portrayed as a marriage dynamically moving through salvation history. This nuptial covenant was established in Eden but damaged by sin; it was restored at the Sinai theophany, perpetuated in the Temple liturgy, and expected to reach its final consummation at the end of days.

The authors of the New Testament adopted the same key moments of salvation history to describe the spousal relationship between Christ and the Church. In their typological treatment of these motifs, they established an exegetical framework that would anticipate the four senses of Scripture later adopted by patristic and medieval commentators.

Judeo-Persian Literature

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Judeo-Persian Literature.
Iran Nameh, New Series, Volume 1, Number 2 (Summer 2016)

The second issue of Iran Nameh, New Series, Volume 1, Number 2 (Summer 2016), a memorial volume in honour of Professor Amnon Netzer (1934-2008), the Iranian-Jewish historian and researcher of Iranian Jewry and Judeo-Persian Literature is published. The volume comprises bilingual Persian and English contributions on different aspects of Judeo-Persian Literature and Iranian Jewry.
Follow the link for the TOC. Past posts involving Judeo-Persian are here, here, here, here, and many links.