Saturday, July 21, 2007

Friday, July 20, 2007


Background here.
ATV drivers 'conquer,' destroy archaeological mounds
By Yoav Kaveh (Haaretz)

Archaeological mounds attract all-terrain vehicle (ATV) drivers. Not because of the antiquities or the view from the top. These people - and let it be clear at the outset, it is a small, noisy and damage-doing minority - want to conquer the mound, snap a picture for a souvenir and drive away for the next off-road challenge. Their tires leave ugly ruts in the ground into which surface runoff is channeled, detouring the natural course and disturbing the ecological balance.

The ATV drivers' two favorite archaeological mounds are in central Israel not far from Beit Shemesh: Tel Azeka and Tel Foded. These mounds were settled from the time of the Judean monarchy to the Byzantine period and contain water systems, hideout caves and other antiquities. They are located within the confines of the Jewish National Fund's British Park.

FACEBOOK now has an Ancient World Bloggers Group, founded by Chuck Jones. If you have a blog related to ancient history and you are registered with Facebook, consider yourself invited to join.

Here are a couple of other Facebook groups of interest:

The Only Good Language Is A Dead Language...
All the Cool Kids Know Dead Languages

Thursday, July 19, 2007

THE (TRADITIONAL) TOMB OF NAHUM in Iraq has it's own website. There are lots of photos, including some of inscriptions in Hebrew script inside the synagogue. (Via WorldNetDaily.)

Background here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

VATICAN LIBRARY CLOSURE - This has been causing a stir lately:
Vatican Library closure irks scholars

By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

One of the world's oldest public libraries, the Vatican Library, has closed for rebuilding.

It is not expected to reopen before September 2010.

The reading rooms were unusually full last week.

Bespectacled university professors, graduate students from famous universities around the world, monks wearing brown and black habits, and Biblical researchers from more than 50 countries were sitting elbow-to-elbow at desks piled with documents and crowded with laptops and ancient manuscripts.

They were working desperately against time to complete their work before the closing down for the next three years of this powerhouse of academic research.


UPDATE: But here's a backup resource:
Vatican Library in Rome Closes: Saint Louis University Becomes Hub for World's Leading Scholars

ST. LOUIS -- On Saturday, July 14, the Vatican Library in Rome is closing for a three-year renovation. The closure will make Saint Louis University's renowned Vatican Film Library even more important for the world's leading scholars and researchers.

The Knights of Columbus Vatican Film Library, located in the University's Pius XII Memorial Library, holds microfilm copies of approximately 37,000 of the Vatican Library's 70,000 manuscript codices. Because of this extensive collection, officials from Rome are encouraging scholars to come to St. Louis during the renovation period.

Holding major portions of the Vatican's Greek, Latin and Western European vernacular collections as well as materials in Arabic, Ethiopic and Hebrew, the Vatican Film Library at Saint Louis University is one of the largest and most comprehensive libraries in the world for medieval and Renaissance manuscript studies. The Vatican Film Library also has microfilm of some of history's most important treasures, including early complete texts of the Bible and early works of Virgil.


Joseph I. Lauer writes:
Arutz Sheva has an eight-minute English audio interview with Dr. Eilat Mazar concerning the Temple Mount. It was apparently conducted yesterday (7/16).
Arutz Sheva's home page's URL is
Those interested in hearing the interview should go to the site, scroll down to the section entitled "Radio Highlights" and click on Dr. Eilat Mazar: Fighting for the Temple Mount
For an alternative that may also work, paste the following onto the address line of your Web searcher (such as Internet Explorer): mms://
Also, Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review and Bible Review, has an editorial in the Wall Street Journal (unfortunately the full text is available only to paid subscribers):
Biblical Destruction
July 18, 2007; Page A14
Within the last few days, a trench two-feet deep -- starting from the northern end of the platform where Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock sits -- has begun working its way toward the southern end of the Temple Mount. The work is being done without any regard for the archaeological information or treasures that may lie below. Destruction is particularly great in places where bedrock is no deeper than the trench. Some of the digging is being done with mechanical equipment, instead of by hand as a professional archaeological excavation would be conducted.

I don't know who are worse: the Muslim religious authorities digging up Jerusalem's Temple Mount, or the Israeli authorities who are allowing it to happen.

The Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israeli Government are coming in for a lot of criticism on this one - rightly, as far as I can tell.

UPDATE: The full text is available in Google News (use search term "shanks temple mount") but otherwise the URL leads to the subscribers-only page.
A NEW GENESIS FRAGMENT FROM THE JUDEAN DESERT: James Charlesworth has presented on it at the IOSOT meeting in Slovenia and Chris Brady has notes at Targuman.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

BBC won't remove anti-Semitic posting
By JONNY PAUL (Jerusalem Post)

The BBC is refusing to remove a provocative and anti-Semitic message posted on one of its message boards despite a barrage of complaints.

The message was posted on the BBC Radio Web site message board following a discussion about a television program on anti-Semitism that screened on the UK's Channel Four network last week.

The offensive message, left by someone using the alias "Iron Naz," reads: "Zionism is a racist ideology where jews [sic] are given supremacy over all other races and faiths. This is found in the Talmud. There is a law called Baba Mezia which allows jews to lie as long as its to non-jews. Many pro jewish supporters will cringe at this being exposed because they know it exists, yet they keep quiet about it, hey frip, jla and co [the aliases of other people taking part in the discussion]. The Law of Baba Mezia!! Tsk tsk tsk! It's in the Talmud."

For more on Talmud libel and its unfortunate history, see here. For a refutation of the particular item in this message (which doesn't even refer to the right Talmudic tractate being misconstrued), see "Claim (27)" here.

I can't imagine that a similar posting about women, people of color, or gays would be left on the BBC website.

UPDATE (19 August): More here.
BACK TO ARAMAIC? Just in case Latin isn't enough for you.
STILL MORE ON THE SILOAM TUNNEL INSCRIPTION - This is the press release from the Office of the Mayor of Jerusalem:
16 יולי 2007

סימוכין: 2007-0225-1662

Turkish officials to Mayor Lupolianski: "The tablet with Siloam Inscription will be returned to Jerusalem"

Following a meeting between mayor Lupolianski and Turkish ambassador to Israel, Mr. Namik Tan, it was agreed to look into the option of lending the tablet with Siloam inscription to the city of Jerusalem.

The 2,700-year-old tablet, which is now presented in the Archeology Museum in Istanbul, holds a great historical and cultural significance to the Jewish people. It contains testimonies from the days of the first temple and describes the construction of the tunnel by king Hezekiah. The tunnel was dug in order to maintain water supply to besieged Jerusalem. The tablet was discovered in 1880 by the British and taken by the Ottoman rulers when they left the region in 1917, after world War 1.

These days there have been indications that Turkey sees Lupolianski's request in a positive light. Therefore, the tablet might be returned to Jerusalem as a gesture of goodwill and as a sign of friendship between the 2 peoples.

The municipality sees it as a great archeological and cultural achievement.

Throughout the years, attempts have been made in order to bring the tablet back to its natural environment -Jerusalem .However, back then these attempts did not succeed.

The mayor, on his part has, agreed to promote a plan to build a monument to commemorate the Turkish soldiers who died on Israeli land/here during World War one.

For more information please contact Meital Jaslovitz, Foreign Media Assistant 02-6297744

Gidi Schmerling,

Municipality's spokesman
A reader who does not wish to be named notes the following:
Note: the story gets one thing wrong. The tunnel and inscription were discovered by Edward Robinson, of Robinson's arch, a Connecticut born, Hamilton College grad and professor at Union theological Seminary in New York, in 1838 (not 1880)
The same reader notes that the discussion seems to be about a loan of the inscription rather than its return.

CORRECTION (18 July): The same reader writers to say she got the date wrong: "Robinson discovered/explored the tunnel in 1838. the inscription was only found about 1880. sorry." I should have double checked that. Here's a good website on the inscription.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Turkey may return Hezekiah tablet found in Jerusalem
(Israel Today)

A visiting Turkish delegation told Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski on Sunday that their government is seriously considering returning an ancient tablet from the time of King Hezekiah that was found in the Israeli capital prior to Britains defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I.

Background here.
Antiquities Department to renovate synagogue holding Nahum’s tomb

By Ammar Imad

Azzaman, July 15, 2007

The Antiquities Department has included an ancient synagogue where Biblical prophet Nahum is purportedly buried in its 2008 renovation plans.

“The Antiquities Department has added the tomb of Prophet Nahum, peace be on him, to its 2008 preservation plan,” said department’s chief, Abbas al-Hussaini.

The synagogue and the tomb are situated in the northern Christian Iraqi town of al-Qoush, 40 kilometers north of Mosul.

Al-Qoush, a major Christian center in northern Iraq, had a large Jewish community before the Jewish exodus to Palestine in 1948.

The renovation of the synagogue and the tomb, archaeologists say, is an urgent matter. Some scientists say the synagogue might be irreparably damaged.

The department has put off the renovation of the tomb mainly because it lacked the right expertise and resources to have it refurbished and reconstructed.

UPDATE (19 July): More here, including photos.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH - the Jerusalem Post editorializes:
Temple Mount travesty

A bulldozer was seen last week ripping up earth on the Temple Mount, at the Dome of the Rock platform. It slashed a long gash, purportedly to lay new electric cables. With crude, damaging handling, it exposed a largely gray deposit, which according to archeologists is a sure-fire indication of "archeologically significant" matter.

Incomprehensibly, despite TV air-time and print space, these revelations by the Archeologists Committee for the Prevention of the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount (CPDATM) failed to cause much stir. The public has perhaps grown numb due to official abdication of control on the Mount. But the expedient turning of official blind eyes amounts to abetting the Wakf's ongoing construction at Judaism's most sacred site.

Read it all. Background here.

UPDATE: Also in the Jerusalem Post:
Archeologists slam Temple Mount dig

A group of Israeli archeologists has condemned the Antiquities Authority for authorizing Islamic trust officials to carry out a dig on Jerusalem's Temple Mount as part of work to repair electrical lines.


The Committee Against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, which is composed of archeologists and intellectuals from across the political spectrum, has lambasted Israel's chief archeological body for permitting the work.

"The Antiquities Authority would never have allowed such damage to antiquities at any other archeological site in Israel," said group spokeswoman Dr. Eilat Mazar, a leading Temple Mount expert.

"The Antiquities Authority has the ability and full backing of the police to enforce real archeological supervision, but does not do so," she said, adding that the dig was being carried out "without real, professional and careful archeological supervision involving meticulous documentation."

CONTROVERSY ALIVE AND WELL: A Chicago professor is at the center of a dispute about who really wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls
By Pauline Dubkin Yearwood (07/13/2007) (Chicago Jewish News)

When Professor Norman Golb leads a weekend trip to an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the San Diego Natural History Museum this fall, it won't be the ordinary excursion in which visitors admire the exhibit and learn some extra tidbits about its content from the visiting scholar.

Instead Golb, the Ludwig Rosenberger Professor of Jewish History and Civilization at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, will try to convince travelers that much of the information in the exhibit is wrong.

Golb, who describes himself broadly as a scholar of the Jewish people, has been a controversial figure in the world of Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship since 1995, when his book, "Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? -- The Search for the Secret of Qumran" (Scribner) was published.

In it, he goes against a scholarly consensus that has been at the forefront of scroll scholarship since the awe-inspiring documents' accidental discovery in 1947. That conventional wisdom holds that the scrolls were written by the Essenes, an ancient Jewish communal society of ascetic pacifists.

Golb contends instead that the scrolls were the work of individuals from many segments of the ancient Jewish world and that they were hidden near the Dead Sea, among other locations, by Jews fleeing the Roman army around 70 C.E.

For more on Golb see here. It seems that his idea that Qumran was a fortress could be catching on.
THE SILOAM TUNNEL INSCRIPTION has been requested back from Turkey by the Mayor of Jerusalem:
Jerusalem Seeks Return of Ancient Tablet
The Associated Press
Friday, July 13, 2007; 7:54 AM

JERUSALEM -- Jerusalem's mayor has asked the Turkish government to return a 2,700-year-old tablet uncovered in an ancient subterranean passage in the city, sugggesting that it could be a "gesture of goodwill" between allies.

Known as the Siloam inscription, the tablet was found in a tunnel hewed to channel water from a spring outside Jerusalem's walls into the city around 700 B.C. _ a project mentioned in the Old Testament's Book of Chronicles. It was discovered in 1880 and taken by the Holy Land's Ottoman rulers to Istanbul, where it is now in the collection of the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.

There's more on the Siloam Tunnel Inscription here [bad link now fixed]. The project is mentioned in 2 Kings as well.

UPDATE (16 July): More here.

UPDATE (17 July): More here.