Saturday, April 08, 2017

Mishnah fragments from the Cairo Geniza

GENIZA FRAGMENT OF THE MONTH: A Genizah manuscript of the Mishnah. This is an old FOTM post from November 2012. I think I'm caught up now. Past posts on the Digital Mishnah Project are here and here.

An ancient column capital from the Temple Mount

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: A Capital from Solomon’s Porch on the Temple Mount. This is a recently reported discovery by the Temple Mount Sifting Project. Leen Ritmyer is an expert on such matters and he has detailed commentary on the report.

Paschal lamb sacrifice near Temple Mount

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Far-rightists Stage Sacrifice Away From Temple Mount, but Closer Than Before. For the first time the group was allowed to hold the ceremony just a few hundred meters from the Mount − which is administered by a Muslim religious trust (Yair Ettinger, Haaretz).
It was a reenactment of the Paschal sacrifice, staged by activists seeking to expand the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount and attended by hundreds of right-wing Jewish men, women and children. The bloody trail marked the route from the place where the lamb was slaughtered to the altar put up in the middle of the plaza.

This is the sixth year in which Temple Mount activists have staged the reenactment, with barefoot priests in white garments resembling those worn by priests in the ancient Temples and gold-painted vessels modeled after those of the Temples strewn about the altar.

But Thursday’s event marked a real achievement. For the first time the group was allowed to hold the ceremony in the heart of the Jewish Quarter, outside the Hurva Synagogue, just a few hundred meters from the Temple Mount − which is administered by a Muslim religious trust.

The activists had originally sought to hold the event at the Davidson Center in an archaeological park next to the Temple Mount. But the police scuttled that idea, and the High Court of Justice upheld the decision.

The Third-Temple movement has been slowly growing in Israel for some time. I don't have any problem with them engaging in this ritual at this particular place if they want to, but, as I have said many times before, I oppose all efforts to rebuild the Temple on the Temple Mount. No excavation or construction on the Temple Mount! Not even archaeology, until we have non-invasive and non-destructive technologies to do the work.

Last year's Paschal sacrifice ceremony was notes here. Cross-file under Politics and Passover is Coming.

The "Four Questions"

PASSOVER IS COMING: How Many Questions in the “Four Questions”? (Prof. Joseph Tabory,
A short history of how the Mah Nishtana changed: From three to four to five questions.
This quick survey has shown how liturgical texts can change over time, and more specifically how the original text of three question was modified, both by addition and subtraction, to reflect the changing realities of the paschal meal. The history of these modifications exemplifies the way Jewish custom struggles to adapt tradition to reality and reality to tradition. It also shows how certain liturgical forms that we feel are fundamental and ancient—such as the four Seder questions—are not as ancient as we might think, and are themselves the result of complex historical developments.

Humayma in Jordan

NABATEAN (NABATAEAN) WATCH: Canadian scholar examines ‘Nabataean colony of Humayma’ (Saeb Rawashdeh , San Diego Jewish World; rpt. from the Jordan Times).
AMMAN — Despite no “direct literary sources”, a Canadian scholar is piecing together archaeological clues to the origins of the ancient settlement of Humayma in southern Jordan.

The first settlement at Humayma, 280km south of Amman and 40km south of Petra, was founded by Prince Aretas, son of King Obodas, noted Professor John P. Oleson from the University of Victoria in Canada.

It was probably Aretas IV — ruled 9/8 BC to 39/40 AD — the Canadian archaeologist stressed, adding that “we have no literary sources by or about the early settlers, but they were Nabataeans, using pottery and coinage from Petra, and providing a small number of inscriptions in the Nabataean language”.

The town was named “Hawara,” meaning “white” in Aramaic, a name associated with the foundation myth involving a man clothed in white riding a white camel, he continued.

Some past PaleoJudaica posts on the Nabateans, their ancient Aramaic dialect, and the ancient city of Petra are here and here and links.

Friday, April 07, 2017

The Elephantine "Passover" Papyrus

PASSOVER IS COMING: A couple of web pages on the Aramaic Passover Papyrus from Elephantine:

CENTER FOR ONLINE JUDAIC STUDIES: The Passover Papyrus from Elephantine, 419 BCE.

JEWISH HISTORY CHANNEL: How the Jews in Elephantine, Egypt Celebrated Passover in 419 BCE. DO YOU HAVE TO BURN YOUR HAMETZ? IS WINE CHAMETZ?

HT Carla Sulzbach on Facebook.

And add this, hot off the press: Darius II Delays the Festival of Matzot in 418 BCE (Idan Dershowitz, [UPDATE: The URL and title have been updated at the request of the author.]
A new look at the “Passover Papyrus” from Elephantine and the nature of the Hebrew calendar in the Achaemenid Empire.
This essay points out that "Passover" doesn't actually appear on the papyrus. It is reconstructed in a gap. The author thinks it wasn't there at all. Conclusion:
In conclusion, the remarkable “Passover Papyrus” adds even more color to our already vibrant picture of the community of Yahwists in Elephantine. At a time when some of the books of the Bible were still being composed, these Judean immigrants celebrated an extraordinary Festival of Matzot. Its date was not set by their brethren in Jerusalem, nor did they determine it for themselves; it was dictated by the Zoroastrian emperor. Together with their Egyptian spouses and relatives, they observed the holiday that traditionally marks the Exodus from Egypt as they stood mere steps from the temple of Khnum, the Nile god, on the border of Egypt and Nubia.
Past PaleoJudaica posts on the Elephantine Papyri and the site of Elephantine are here and many, many links. For more on the Passover Papyrus, see here and here.

A Gnostic Film Festival at Rice University

THE FORBIDDEN GOSPELS BLOG: Gnostic Cinema in Modern America. April DeConick has posted the opening remarks she gave at this film festival at Rice University in March. I'm sorry I wasn't able to attend, although I would have skipped Avatar.

HT James McGrath. In relation to Professor DeConick's remarks, see also her public lecture after the festival, Gnosticism and the transpower of the book, and also my review of her fascinating recent book The Gnostic New Age.

Hebrew Ben Sira

AWOL BLOG: The Book of Ben Sira. A website on the Hebrew manuscripts of Ben Sira (Ecclesiasticus).

Cross-file under Old Testament Apocrypha Watch.

Another review of Smoak, The Priestly Blessing in Inscription & Scripture

RELIGION AND LITERATURE OF ANCIENT PALESTINE BLOG: Review of Jeremy D. Smoak, The Priestly Blessing in Inscription & Scripture: The Early History of Numbers 6:24-26 (Oxford, 2016) (Ryan Thomas).
I found Smoak’s general thesis to be well-argued and supported. The book represents a significant contribution to the study of apotropaic ritual/magic in Israel-Judah, which will be of interest to both biblical scholars and students of ancient Near Eastern religion. The careful use of material culture and inscriptions from the broader region so as to illuminate the thought-world of the biblical texts is exemplary, building a historically-informed hermeneutical context without forcing the evidence.
Past posts on Jeremy Smoak's work on the priestly blessing are collected here. Past posts on the Ketef Hinnom silver amulets (which contain a version of the priestly blessing) and the priestly blessing itself are there and links.

Gentiles and the Temple

READING ACTS: Core Beliefs of Second Temple Judaism: Gentiles and the Temple.
The prohibition of Gentiles in the main court of the temple during the first century is well known. Paul refers to a “dividing wall” of hostility between Jews and Gentiles in Ephesians 2:15, probably an allusion to the warning to Gentiles in the Temple courts that crossing into the Court of the Men would result in their death. Paul is accused of breaking this Law by sneaking a Gentile into the Temple courts (a false charge, but it nearly cost Paul his life).

There is more on the Greek Temple Warning Inscription here, here, and here.

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Funding for the Temple Mount Sifting Project?

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Netanyahu intervenes to save Temple Mount sifting project. Days after archaeological site said it would close for lack of cash, PM steps in, saying funding will continue (Ilan Ben Zion and Sue Surkes, Times of Israel).
A project to search for archaeological artifacts in soil removed from Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in the 1990s will continue, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced Wednesday, saying it had secured funding to keep it afloat.

On Monday, the Temple Mount Sifting Project, headed by archaeologist Gabriel Barkay, announced it was on the verge of closure because the Ir David Foundation, commonly known as Elad, which had financed it for 12 years, was pulling its funding.

“The Ir David Foundation, headed by David Be’eri, will continue to fund the important project,” the Prime Minister’s Office said Wednesday.

In a statement, the PMO said Be’eri and the director general of the Israel Antiquities Authority would meet in the coming days with the people involved with the project.

That sounds like good news. But the Temple Mount Sifting Project has issued the following statement (on its blog and elsewhere), which clarifies the background and the current situation somewhat: Press Release: A solution has still not been found for resuming the sifting of the Temple Mount soil. Excerpt:
We value the Prime Minister’s efforts to resolve the issue, and thank the Ir-David foundation for their long collaboration with our project. However, the scientific research is separate from the touristic activity which was, until recently, run by the Ir-David Foundation. The sifting and research are licensed by the Israel Antiquities Authority and directed by Dr. Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira under the auspices Bar-Ilan’s University’s Institute of Archaeology. The research is funded by the “Israel Archaeology Foundation” which promotes archaeological research. Funding the research of the Temple Mount finds must by managed by an organization whose primary impetus is scientific rather than focused primarily on tourism.

The overlap between the touristic activity and the scientific-archaeological research caused ruptures between the Temple Mount Sifting Project directors and the Ir-David foundation, leading the Ir-David Foundation to halt the funding for the sifting activity two weeks ago. Consequently, we concluded that it is best not to renew the sifting before securing the full funding for the research of the artifacts already found by the project.
Their bold-font emphasis. Read it all. The Ir-David foundation is also know as "Elad," on which more here and links. Background on the current funding issues for the Temple Mount Sifting Project is here.

I very much hope that the project finds the funding necessary to continue its work to its conclusion.

Georgia, "'Unless He Competes Professionally'"

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Dissertation Spotlight: Allan Georgia.
Allan Georgia, "'Unless He Competes Professionally': Agonism and Cultural Production among Christians and Jews in the Roman World," Ph.D. Dissertation, Fordham University, 2016.
The cultural ecosystem that resulted from this competition over Greekness was filled with the diverse peoples of Mediterranean whose competition and cooperation with one another functioned to establish the value of Greek paideia - education in Greek language and literature, but also the quality of having been civilized by a Greek education - which in turn was traded, invested and exchanged into social acclaim and public notoriety. This is the landscape that Christian and Jewish communities occupied in the early centuries CE. Describing the competition that characterized this ambitious cultural field in language is not easy. But I make the case that it can help us capture the kinetic, frictive and multi-dimensional fields of contest on which Judaism and Christianity presented themselves in the early Roman Empire.

UNESCO Director-General confirms Jewish connection to Jerusalem

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: UNESCO Director-General reaffirms historic bonds between Jerusalem and the Jewish people at ECI conference in European Parliament (
Brussels, April 4th, 2017 – UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has firmly rebuffed any attempts to deny Jewish history connected to Jerusalem. In a unique statement at the ECI policy conference in the European Parliament on Thursday she said that “in the Torah, Jerusalem is the capital of King David, where Solomon built the Temple and placed the Ark of the Covenant.”

Distinguishing between her role as the highest official of UNESCO and the resolutions passed by member states of the same organisation, she stated – “to deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justifies its inscription in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The protection of the heritage of Jerusalem is part of a broader vision for peace and the fight against all forms of denial of Jewish history, delegitimisation of Israel and anti-Semitism”, she said. UNESCO is the United Nations specialized agency for education, science and culture.

Good for her.

The wording of her statement is a little confusing: it is in the Deuteronomistic History (Joshua - 2 Kings) that Jerusalem becomes King David's capital city and Solomon builds the Temple and places the Ark of the Covenant in it. The term "Torah" usually means specifically the Pentateuch, although it can sometimes be used as a synonym for "Bible," as she is using it here.

But this is a nitpick and her point remains the same.

Background on those unhelpful UNESCO resolutions is here, here, here and links.

Real estate deals in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Art of the Deal. Talmudic rabbis regulated real estate transactions based on biblical principles of ownership and centuries of experience of the practicalities of Jewish life.
Last week’s Daf Yomi reading, in Chapter Four of Bava Batra, was entirely devoted to one question: When a piece of real estate is sold, what exactly is the buyer buying? Over seven pages, the rabbis lay down the rules governing several different kinds of property: cisterns, houses, olive presses, courtyards, and more. As so often in the Talmud, definitions are at stake: When we talk about a house, what do we mean? Is a house just the four walls and roof, or does it include the furniture and the key to the front door? Going case by case, the rabbis determine what implements and outbuildings belong to the property in question, and so are sold along with it, and which ones are considered extraneous, so that they must be named specifically if they are to be included in the sale. Each new detail raises vistas of potential litigation.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

The Temple

READING ACTS: Core Beliefs of Second Temple Judaism: Temple.
While the synagogue was a place for prayer and study of scripture, the Temple was a place for sacrifice. Just as sacrifice of animals is always a part of religion in the ancient world, it played an important part of the practice of religion in Jerusalem.

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

The Egyptian "Magicians"

PASSOVER IS COMING: The Egyptian “Magicians” (Prof. Scott B. Noegel,
Is the Bible’s portrayal of the magicians (Ḥarṭummīm) in accord with Egyptian literature and ritual practice? How did the Israelite writers obtain this knowledge?

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

The Geniza and the layout of the Song of the Sea

GENIZA FRAGMENT OF THE MONTH: MARCH 2017: Writing Lines: T-S D1.108 and the Song of Moses. A fragment that shows that there were conventions for writing out biblical poetry (in this case, the Song of the Sea/the Song of Moses in Exodus 15) that were not found in the minor talmudic tractates that dealt with such matters.

Past posts noting Cairo Geniza Fragments of the Month in the Cambridge University Library's Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit are here and links, plus here, here, and here.

The Sabbath

READING ACTS: Core Beliefs of Second Temple Judaism: Sabbath.
When it comes to distinctively Jewish practices, how much did the “average Jew” care about keeping these traditions? The great majority of Jews, comments N. T. Wright, “cared sufficiently about their god, their scriptures, and their Jewish heritage to take a fair amount to trouble over the observance of at least biblical law” (Jesus and the Victory of God, 213-214). Thi would certainly be true for the practice of Sabbath in the Second Temple period.

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

The Talmud on eating leaven of a non-Jew on Passover

PASSOVER IS COMING: Hametz Owned by a Non-Jew May be Eaten on Passover?! (Dr. Joshua Kulp and Dr. Jason Rogoff,
A striking talmudic passage asserts that it is biblically permitted to eat the ḥametz of a non-Jew on Passover. How are we to explain this strange claim? What might this development teach us about the dynamics of rabbinic texts?
In this essay, we will demonstrate how the Talmud’s surprising position does not reflect a fundamental legal change in the halakhot of ḥametz on Passover. Instead, it is the result of a series of literary and interpretive impulses, which carry unintended, and in this case extreme, consequences. Tracing the development of this remarkable talmudic assertion will give us a window into how complex chains of rabbinic literary processes can sometimes lead to strange conclusions.
A technical essay, but one that illuminates the process of internal exegesis in the rabbinic literature.

Another review of Glinert, The Story of Hebrew

BOOK REVIEW: From the Bible to Sir Isaac Newton: How Hebrew Survived and Thrived. Eschewing the familiar, triumphalist narrative of ancient glory and modern rebirth in Zion, 'The Story of Hebrew' follows the twists and turns of the Hebrew language from its beginnings to contemporary Israeli usage (Samuel Thrope, Haaretz).
For all its importance, Christian Kabbalah is usually deemed a curiosity of intellectual history, and is certainly seen as a side branch in the development of the Hebrew language. The fact that Glinert devotes two fascinating chapters to Christian Hebraicists like Newton is representative of his overall approach. Eschewing the familiar, triumphalist narrative of ancient glory and modern rebirth in Zion (with nothing worth mentioning in between), “The Story of Hebrew” follows the twists and turns, false starts and blind alleys of the Hebrew language from its biblical beginnings to contemporary Israeli usage. Glinert describes how, throughout the ages, Hebrew has fended off linguistic competitors — Aramaic, Greek, Arabic, German and, now, English — and, under the right circumstances of social stability and intellectual opportunity, has risen to the highest levels of scientific and poetic expression. “The Story of Hebrew” recasts Jewish history as a whole as a struggle to preserve not Judaism or Jewish culture, but the Holy Tongue itself.
It's an Haaretz premium article, so read it fast, before it goes behind the subscription wall.

An earlier review of the book was noted here.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Historical reliability of Luke-Acts, part 4

THE BIBLE PLACES BLOG: Luke & Acts: Historical Reliability - 4. This post is on Philip the Tetrarch.

By the way, Mark 6:12-29 does not mention Salome by name. We infer that the name of Herodias's daughter was Salome because that's what Josephus says.

Earlier posts in the series have been noted have been noted here and links.

Uranium Codices Unmasked!

Uranium Codices Unmasked!

Uranium Codices Unmasked!
How the Lead Codices Were Actually Used

by Rad I. O'Aktive
Winged Bull Press, Forthcoming spring 2017
235 pages, English
Cloth, 10 x 12 in

Seems legit.

HT James McGrath.

The Palestinian Talmud on Roman origins

THE ASOR BLOG: Rabbinic Tales of Roman Origins (Sarit Kattan Gribetz).
Livy and Ovid were not the only Romans who wrote about the origins of the empire in which they lived. The Jewish rabbis of late antiquity – also inhabitants of the Roman Empire – told their own tales about Roman origins. Just as Ovid embedded his history of Rome into a calendrical framework, the rabbis whose voices are recorded in the Palestinian Talmud also used a list of Roman festivals to tell their own version of Roman history.

The rabbinic tractate Avodah Zarah, devoted to regulating social and financial interactions between Jews and gentiles, includes a list of Roman festivals. The list, which incorporates public and private festivals, appears in the Mishnah to clarify the days on which Jews were forbidden from engaging in business transactions with their gentile neighbors (m. Avod. Zar. 1:3). We might view this list, however, also as a rabbinic version of an abbreviated Roman calendar, and, in its interpretation in the Palestinian Talmud (y. Avodah Zarah 1.2, 39c), as the impetus for recording rabbinic stories about Rome.

Aramaic and Hebrew in the Second Temple Period

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: The Choice of Aramaic and Hebrew: Ideological Consideration (Jonathan Ben-Dov).

As others have observed, the Aramaic writings from Qumran are limited in their putative historical background to either one of two periods. Some of these writings refer to the primordial history of the world, at the time of Enoch and Noah, or at the time of Israel’s patriarchs. Others relate to the time after the destruction of Jerusalem, when Israelites were under the rule of the oriental empires of Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia. In contrast, no Aramaic writing from Qumran relates to the main period of Israel’s existence in between these periods, that is, the days of Moses, Joshua, the Judges, and monarchies. A few words are due about each of these periods, as well as about the languages chosen to depict each of them, particularly regarding the mimetic function of Aramaic for these Qumran texts and how that language choice enhanced the message of the compositions in the collection. Since the golden age of Aramaic ultimately declined as Hebrew took its place in the first and second centuries BCE, the emergence of Aramaic writings dated generally to this period needs close consideration.

This essay has some fascinating observations. Some of the Aramaic evidence from Amherst Papyrus 63 (also here) is also potentially relevant, notably the Aramaic story about the revolt of Babylon against Assyria.

Earlier essays in AJR's current series on the Dead Sea Scrolls (in honor of the 70th anniversary of their discovery) are noted here and links.

More new Dead Sea Scrolls fragments

BUT HOW MANY ARE GENUINE? 28 New Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments Sold in US (Owen Jarus, Live Science).
Twenty-eight fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls that were purchased from the antiquities market have yet to be published, but are now sitting in three U.S. institutions, Live Science has found.

Forthcoming publications will describe some of these fragments within the next year, experts said. The 28 "new" fragments are part of a growing number of Dead Sea Scrolls that have appeared in the United States. At least 45 fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls have popped up in the U.S. over the past two decades.

Scholars have questioned whether some of these fragments are modern-day forgeries or if they come from caves in the Judean desert that were looted in the past few decades.

There are so many fragments out there now that I am no longer sure which ones I have mentioned in the past and which ones are new. But it sounds as though at least most of these are new. Whether they are genuine or forgeries remains to be established, pending full publication and analysis. If then.

Some recent past posts on new possible fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls are here, here, here, and here.

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Temple Mount Sifting Project has run out of funding

THE TEMPLE MOUNT SIFTING PROJECT: Is this the End of the Sifting Project?
To all of our friends and supporters,
We have an important announcement to make. We want to make our official announcement that the sifting of material from the Temple Mount has stopped. This is due to a number of different reasons including lack of funding and differences between the directors of the Sifting Project and the Ir David Foundation that has, until now, funded the operation of the Sifting Site at Emek Tzurim. We will not resume the sifting until the publication of research on the finds that we have already recovered has been fully funded and completed.

Thirty percent of the material that the Waqf illicitly excavated and dumped remains to be sifted. And quite a bit that has been sifted remained to be studied fully. I hope very much that funding comes through from somewhere to continue this important work. A similar situation arose back in 2008, but the project was able to continue.

Here's an article on the possible closing of the project: Innovative Temple Mount Sifting Project Facing Termination over Funding (JNi.Media). It contains background information and a brief account of the discoveries the project has made so far:
The research that has been conducted so far on the sifted artifacts has already yielded significant discoveries and innovations. Among them are: identifying many finds from the early days of the First Temple Period (debated in recent scholarly circles); deciphering a seal impression of a Priest from the Late First Temple Period that sealed a fabric parcel of precious metals, reconstruction of floor patterns of the lavish courts of the Second Temple; the discovery of many architectural finds from the Byzantine Period which are evidence of structures on the Temple Mount contradicting the notion that described the Mount as a garbage dump in this time period; and researching a large collection of Early Islamic coins and the most richly varied collection of common and extremely rare coins from the Crusader Period, as well as unearthing much evidence of the presence of the Knights Templar.
Notice that these finds cover the whole period between the First Temple up to the Crusades. These are just a few of the discoveries. There have been many others. (See, for example, here.) Imagine what other treasures still lie hidden in those heaps of dirt. If there are any philanthropists reading this who are looking for a project to fund, I am sure you will want to consider this one.

I have been covering the Temple Mount Sifting Project since its inception. Past posts on those floor tiles from the Herodian Temple courtyard are here and links. Background here with many, many links.

Solomonic-era donkey dung at Timna

CARBON DATING: FOUND: FRESH CLUES TO MYSTERY OF KING SOLOMON'S MINES. Analysis of 3,000-year-old animal waste confirms that an ancient mining complex in Israel dates to the golden age of the biblical monarch (MICHELLE Z. DONAHUE, National Geographic Australia).
Manure preserved for millennia by the arid climate of Israel’s Timna Valley is adding fresh fuel to a long-simmering debate about the biblical king Solomon and the source of his legendary wealth.

Archaeologists discovered the 3,000-year-old dung in an ancient mining camp atop a sandstone mesa known as Slaves’ Hill. The area is dotted with copper mines and smelting camps—sites where the ore was heated and turned into metal.

University of Tel Aviv archaeologist Erez Ben-Yosef began excavating the site in 2013. Last year he and his team were uncovering the remains of several walled structures, including a fortified gate, when they discovered what appeared to be animal excrement of relatively recent origin.

We thought maybe some nomads had camped there with their goats a few decades ago,” Ben-Yosef said, noting that the dung still contained undecayed plant matter. “But the [radiocarbon] dates came back from the lab, and they confirmed we were talking about donkeys and other livestock from the 10th century B.C. It was hard to believe.”

In January I noted a TAU press release announcing the discovery of the gatehouse complex and donkey stables at Timna. Notice this:
In the remarkably intact two-room fortification, located in one of the largest smelting camps in the Timna Valley, the researchers also found evidence of a complex long-distance trade system that probably included the northern Edomite plateau, the Mediterranean coastal plain and Judea. The complex featured pens for draught animals and other livestock. According to precise pollen, seed, and fauna analyses, they were fed with hay and grape pomace — high-quality sustenance that must have been delivered from the Mediterranean region hundreds of miles away.

"The gatehouse fortification was apparently a prominent landmark," says Dr. Ben-Yosef. "It had a cultic or symbolic function in addition to its defensive and administrative roles. The gatehouse was built of sturdy stone to defend against invasion. We found animal bones and dung piles so intact, we could analyze the food the animals were fed with precision. The food suggests special treatment and care, in accordance with the key role of the donkeys in the copper production and in trade in a logistically challenging region."
The C-14 dating of the donkey dung now confirms that the Timna excavation dates to the tenth century BCE. PaleoJudaica does not usually follow the archaeology of such early sites so closely, but I have a reason for keeping an eye on this one. Background here and links.

Torah, Tradition, and Scripture

READING ACTS: Core Beliefs of Second Temple Judaism: Torah, Tradition, and Scripture. Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and here and links.

A Penn exhibition with a Palmyrene inscription

PALMYRA WATCH: Culture on the frontline: Penn Museum shows artefacts curators are fighting to save in Syrian and Iraq. Exhibition features ancient objects and Medieval manuscripts, along with contemporary commissions by a Syrian-born artist (Julia Halperin, The Art Newspaper).
Many US museums have been closely monitoring the on-going destruction of heritage sites in Syria and Iraq. But few have had boots on the ground like the Penn Museum. The Philadelphia institution’s curators and researchers have been on the frontlines of the battle to safeguard cultural heritage in conflict zones. Now, they have organised an exhibition that seeks to illustrate just how high the stakes are.

Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories From Syria and Iraq (8 April-26 November) presents more than 50 artefacts from the museum’s collection, including a funerary relief from Palmyra (1st-2nd century CE), a 16th-century glazed terracotta tile from Damascus and Arabic illustrated manuscripts on complex mathematics, music theory and astronomy. Many of the objects were originally excavated from areas that have been torn apart by the Syrian civil war.

There is a photo of the Palmyrene funerary relief with the following caption:
Palmyrene Relief, Mortuary Portrait of Yedi’at, limestone, 1st-2nd centuries CE (Roman), Palmyra, Syria. Lavishly dressed and heavily draped, a woman lifts the edge of her veil as a gesture of piety. A Palmyrene inscription identifies her: “Yedi ‘at, daughter of Si’ona, son of Taime, Alas!” Dating to the 1st and 2nd centuries CE, funerary portraits like this one of wealthy patrons demonstrate the complexity and richness of Palmyrene identity. These busts combine Roman sculptural elements and local stylistic elements. Some of these portraits were accompanied by inscriptions in the Palmyrene dialect of Aramaic
The article reports that there is also a Hebrew tombstone in the exhibition.

Cross-file under Aramaic Watch. Background on Palmyra, its history, the ancient Aramaic dialect spoken there (Palmyrene), and the city's tragic reversals of fortune, for now shifting for the better, is here with many, many links.

"Susannah" playing in Texas

OLD TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA WATCH: TTU Opera Theatre Spring Opera: Carlisle Floyd's "Susannah."
Presented by the Texas Tech University School of Music Opera Theatre in collaboration with students in the University Symphony Orchestra, Carlisle Floyd's "Susannah" is a masterpiece of English-language opera that remains one of the most-performed American operas worldwide. The performances are March 31 & April 1 at 7:30pm at the Allen Theatre

The opera Susannah, based on the apocryphal addition to the Book of Daniel with the same name, has been around for a long time and PaleoJudaica has noted it playing here and there for many years. Past posts on it are here, here, here, here, here (an interview with Carlisle Floyd), and here.