Friday, January 19, 2024

Ancient Jewish tunnel complexes in Israel

ARCHAEOLOGY: The True History of Ancient Jewish Underground Hiding Places in Israel. New finds show that the rock-cut shelters, once linked to the Bar Kochba Revolt, originated earlier as a Jewish strategy to resist all foreign encroachment (Ariel David, Haaretz).
Crucially, coins and other finds from the site [of Nesher-Ramla] date from the end of the Hasmonean period, in the first half of the first century B.C.E., to the first century C.E. The almost total lack of finds from the second century C.E. indicates the settlement had already been abandoned by then, possibly as a consequence of the devastation wrought during the First Revolt, Melamed says.

More broadly, only some two dozen coins from the Bar Kochba Revolt have been found in the hundreds of hiding complexes across Israel, [excavator Alexander] Melamed noted in a 2022 study.

This indicates that scholars may have been too quick to link them so closely to this revolt and interpret them as part of a centralized preparation plan ahead of the war, he says.

Not surprisingly, not all archaeologists agree with his conclusions.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Archaeomagnetic dating of Babylon's Ishtar Gate

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Babylon's Ishtar Gate may have a totally different purpose than we thought, magnetic field measurements suggest (Jennifer Nalewicki, Live Science).
Babylon's bright-blue Ishtar Gate was thought to have been built to celebrate the conquest of Jerusalem — but a new analysis finds that it may have been erected years later.


The Live Science article seems to assume, and the Plos One article to hint, that specialists thought that the Ishtar Gate was built to celebrate the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II. I try to keep up with the archaeology of ancient Babylon, but this question is outside my expertise. Still, I have never seen anyone propose this before and Nebuchadnezzar's dedicatory inscription on the gate (which you can read in translation here) says nothing about the conquest of Jerusalem. But apparently the connection has been suggested.

Be that as it may, the key points of interest from this project are (1) the relatively precise dating this new technique provides and (2) that it can work on architectual elements such as mud brick (and, in the case of Jerusalem, floor tiles).

The conclusions are that the Ishtar Gate was built well after the destruction of Jerusalem and that the whole gate was built more or less at the same time, not in stages over a substantial length of time. These are more fine-grained results than we could get from C-14 dating.

There is a recent book on the Ishtar Gate of Babylon by Helen Gries.

For the use of archaeomagnetic dating to anchor the date of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, see here, here, and here.

Many PaleoJudaica posts on ancient Babylon are collected here.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

C14 dating of a Bodmer Greek Psalms manuscript

VARIANT READINGS: Radiocarbon Analysis of Museum of the Bible Manuscripts: Bodmer Psalms (Brent Nongbri).

Neither radicarbon analysis nor paleography is a very precise tool for dating manuscripts. But its nice when they sort of agree.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Very early coin and other goodies excavated in the Judean Hills

SALVAGE ARCHAEOLOGY: Extremely rare 2,550-year-old silver coin unearthed in Judean Hills . Stone shekel weight and ancient arrowhead also found during excavation of First Temple-era house uncovered during highway expansion (GAVRIEL FISKE, Times of Israel).

Cross-file under Numismatics.

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Bauckham, "Son of Man," volume 1

Richard Bauckham, "Son of Man" Early Jewish Literature (Eerdmans 2023)
A copy kindly sent to me by the author.

Noted earlier here and link.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Revelation and Material Religion in the Roman East (Friesen Festschrift, Routledge)

Revelation and Material Religion in the Roman East
Essays in Honor of Steven J. Friesen

Edited By Nathan Leach, Daniel Charles Smith, Tony Keddie
Copyright 2024

Hardback £104.00
eBook £31.19

ISBN 9781032382678
344 Pages 38 B/W Illustrations
Published November 30, 2023 by Routledge


This collection of essays from a diverse group of internationally recognized scholars builds on the work of Steven J. Friesen to analyze the material and ideological dimensions of John’s Apocalypse and the religious landscape of the Roman East.

Readers will gain new perspectives on the interpretation of John’s Apocalypse, the religion of Hellenistic cities in the Roman Empire, and the political and economic forces that shaped life in the Eastern Mediterranean. The chapters in this volume examine texts and material culture through carefully localized analysis that attends to ideological and socioeconomic contexts, expanding upon aspects of Friesen’s research and methodology while also forging new directions. The book brings together a diverse and international set of experts including emerging voices in the fields of biblical studies, Roman social history, and classical archeology, and each essay presents fresh, critically informed analysis of key sites and texts from the periods of Christian origins and Roman imperial rule.

Revelation and Material Religion in the Roman East is of interest to students and scholars working on Christian origins, ancient Judaism, Roman religion, classical archeology, and the social history of the Roman Empire, as well as material religion in the ancient Mediterranean more broadly. It is also suitable for religious practitioners within Christian contexts.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.