Saturday, April 26, 2003


"Mary's Well waters down to a trickle" (Times Picayune)

NAZARETH, GALILEE -- After a bumper season of winter rains, the streams and rivers of Galilee are brimming with water for the first time in a decade. But there is one sacred and mysterious Galilee water source, Mary's Well in Nazareth, whose waters are a mere trickle of what they were in Jesus' time.

Nazareth is the Galilee town where Jesus grew to manhood, and the place from which he set out across the nearby hills and valleys in his brief but revolutionary ministry. Mary's Well marks the site in Nazareth where Orthodox Christians believe the Angel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus. And it is undoubtedly a place Jesus often visited with his mother in his childhood.

This is a Christian pilgrimage site, but it seems there is some archaeological evidence that the pool does go back to the Roman era:
Yardena Alexandre, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority, supervised two seasons of excavations at the site, undertaken during the renovations.

"We found remains from the Mameluke, Crusader and Roman period," she said. "The Roman finds were very minimal, remains of a few wall stubs and the remains of an ancient water channel. But from the Crusader period, there was an impressive structure, a well house built over the water cistern. Among the finds were hundreds of broken glass bracelets and hundreds of coins, which were most likely thrown into the well house by pilgrims and visitors. The coins indicate a presence at the well house from the Roman, Crusader, Mameluke and Ottoman period."

THE WEB PAGE OF THE JEWISH NATIONAL AND UNIVERSITY LIBRARY has an online searchable catalogue and displays of "ancient" (i.e., medieval to modern) maps of Jerusalem, a collection of ketubbot (marriage contracts) going back to the eleventh century, and an "Online Treasury of Talmudic Manuscripts." I can't get the last item to work. Your browser needs to be configured to handle Hebrew fonts, but mine is and that's not the problem.

Friday, April 25, 2003


An article found in lots of places (I've taken this from CNN on 23 April: "TV employee charged with smuggling Iraqi art") has the following interesting photo and caption:

Civilians inspect Torah scrolls in a vault of Iraq's National Museum after looters broke in and went on a rampage.

Civilians inspect Torah scrolls in a vault of Iraq's National Museum after looters broke in and went on a rampage.

Torah scrolls in the Baghdad Museum. And they seem to have survived. Wish I knew more about them.

"Iraqis say US ignored pleas to halt museum looting" (ReutersAlert)

(This is the first account I've seen of the looting of the Baghdad museum which takes testimony from the commanding officer in charge of securing the area. Despite the article's title, it sounds to me as though it will be pretty hard to maintain negligence.)

Lieutenant Colonel Eric Schwartz, commander of the tank battalion which fought Iraqi forces around the museum as Saddam Hussein's rule crumbled, said the U.S. military was "absolutely not" to blame for the thefts from the world-renowned museum.


The "Battle of the Museum" began on April 7 when U.S. forces took control of an intersection less than 500 metres (yards) away. They met fierce resistance and three days of fighting with Fedayeen militia and Special Republican Guard followed.

By the time it was over, looters operating right under the nose of U.S. forces had emptied the museum of priceless antiquities documenting the development of mankind in ancient Mesopotamia, one of the world's earliest civilisations.


"I was responsible for securing this site," Schwartz said outside the museum on Thursday. "But you can't just charge into a city straight to the museum, you have to secure the zone first, and we were taking some pretty heavy casualties."

Schwartz said he was aware the museum was a protected site and had orders to "identify it and ensure its integrity".

[Dr Donny] George [director-general of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities] said one of his staff had run to a U.S. tank to tell them about the looting, only to be told: "It is not our responsibility".

Schwartz recalled a similar incident but said the man had been suspected of belonging to the Fedayeen.

Schwartz said his men from the 3rd Infantry Division around the museum came under fire from small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. He said one U.S. soldier was killed and 35 wounded.

"There were 30 to 50 Fedayeen defending the compound. Once it was defended, it lost its protected status," he said.

In other words, the U.S. troops were under fire and facing "fierce resistence"- in which many were wounded and one died, and in the fog of combat they could not even be sure who were allies and who were enemies. If this account turns out to be accurate, I see no way they could be blamed for making the museum a low priority.

Another article:

"Iraq and Ruin" (Christian Science Monitor)

UPDATE (17 June): The URL for the first article has gone dead, so I have replaced it with the Google cache link.
"SECOND TEMPLE SYNAGOGUES" is a cool website owned by Donald D. Binder. It includes the full text of his book Into the Temple Courts: The Place of the Synagogues in the Second Temple Period (Atlanta: The Society of Biblical Literature, 1999), an image gallery of Second Temple synagogues, and many other goodies. I don't have time to profile his library of resources in detail right now, but I'll try to say more about parts of it later.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

BY THE WAY, today is PaleoJudaica's one-month anniversary. Time flies and all that.

"Some looted artifacts find way home" (San Mateo County Times)


"Assyrian statue, going cheap" (The Guardian)

"Iraq: The Next Adventure Travel Destination?" (Frommer's)

"Iraq's Dead Teacup" (Tech Central Station)

"Experts Call for Guards at Iraqi Museums" (The Guardian)
ARCHAEOLOGY ONLINE is a blog by Anita Cohen-Williams. There's an article on the blog and its owner in Archaeology Magazine.
HERSHEL SHANKS AND BEN WITHERINGTON III will be speaking about the "James Ossuary" on April 30th in Washington D.C.:

An evening with Hershel Shanks and Ben Witherington III about the headline-making archaeological discovery, the "James ossuary," the oldest evidence of Jesus.

What: The authors of the new bestseller The Brother of Jeusus (Harper SanFrancisco, 2003), Hershel Shanks and Ben Witherington III, will discuss major new archaeological evidence for Jesus at a talk Wednesday evening, April 30, at Washington National Cathedral.

Earlier I noted their new book on the ossuary. The $%&£(%^ Blogspot permalink isn't working at the moment, but it was on Monday, 21 April, so just scroll down.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

TIME MAGAZINE has an article in its current issue on the Iraq antiquities lootings:
"The Taking of Iraq's Heritage"

Could the U.S. have stopped the looting of the country's priceless antiquities? The answer is not that simple

It's balanced and covers most of what we know or guess at present. Worth a read.

"FBI: Looted Iraqi Antiquities Surfacing" (ABC News)
MESOPOTAMIA AND THE BIBLE: I wasn't going to link to the two reviews of the following book in the Review of Biblical Literature because the book didn't seem particularly relevant to this blog. But after reading the reviews I see that it at least does move into the period of paleojudaic interest and the topic, after all, is very relevant to current events (and how often can you say that about Mesopotamian studies?). So here it is:

Mesopotamia and the Bible: Comparative Explorations
Younger Jr., K. Lawson and Mark W. Chavalas, editors

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

a survey of recent commentary on the Iraqi museum lootings from a Slate bulletin board. Is this looting like the burning of the library of Alexandria? Should Saddam's government have armed the museum staff? Should American soldiers have shot a few looters to maintain order? Scroll down to Friday, Apr. 18.
THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION is a website on biblical studies which tracks breaking news daily and which also gets major scholars to contribute essays. Some recent examples of the latter include:

"Flavius Josephus and the Pharisees"
By Steve Mason

"Another look at the James Ossuary"
by Bruce Chilton

"Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity"
by Larry Hutado

by Philip Hammond

"The Myth of a Gentile Galilee"
by Mark A. Chancey

There's more, so do have a look.
"LOST TREASURES FROM IRAQ" - a slide show of looted antiquities, under construction on the website of the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago.

Monday, April 21, 2003


The article "U.S. Set to Rebuild Iraq Banking System" (the Mercury News, etc.) has the following intriguing paragraph:

One vault was in the Central Bank, which had caught fire before the looting. By some accounts, it holds some of Iraq's most precious items: ancient gold artifacts that were taken from the National Museum. It may also contain an accounting of Iraq's nebulous debt burden and possibly records of Iraq's overseas deposits or hidden accounts.


"Bible-Era Artifacts Highlight Archaeology Controversy" (on the "James Ossuary" and the "Joash Inscription")

"Jesus' Brother's 'Bone Box' Closer to Being Authenticated"

Also, on Ioudaios-L, Torrey Seland has noted the publication of The Brother of Jesus: The Dramatic Story & Meaning of the First Archaeological Link to Jesus & His Family by Hershel Shanks and Ben Witherington III

Sunday, April 20, 2003


"Iraqis return 20 looted treasures" (MSNBC)

"Iraq to rid ancient Babylon of Saddam brick by brick" (Reuters AlertNet UK)


Rare coins from second Jewish rebellion found (Atlanta Journal Constitution via Archaeologica News)

"Dead Sea Scrolls fragments highlight Murfreesboro exhibit of historic biblical texts"

The Tennessee exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls has been mentioned off-and-on in the press recently. This article gives more detail on it than the others I've seen.
THE JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF THE PSEUDEPIGRAPHA has a searchable website that has abstracts of articles but, alas, not the articles themselves.