Current Events

Keep up to date on the latest developments in the world of Biblical Archaeology and related apologetic topics. In this section, you will find links to news reports, articles and staff commentary on the most recent discoveries, reports, and controversies in Biblical Archaeology. Enjoy!

Note: The views and comments made in materials from sources outside of the Associates for Biblical Research are not necessarily those of ABR. Such materials are included only insofar as they relate to the subject of archaeology and related apologetic subjects, and are provided for your information only.

New Study Suggests Whales Were Once Native to the Mediterranean Sea posted by Bryan Windle

A study recently published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biology), suggests that whales once swam in the Mediterranean Sea. Researchers from the Université de Montpelier used DNA barcoding and collagen fingerprinting to identity a collection of ancient whale bones from Roman and pre-Roman archaeological sites near the Strait of Gibraltar. The results indicated that the bones belonged to two species of whales: right whales and grey whales. Given the proximity to the Strait of Gibraltar, the researches believe that the Mediterranean Sea was once a calving ground for these whales. Furthermore, they conclude: "The evidence that these two coastal and highly accessible species were present along the shores of the Roman Empire raises the hypothesis that they may have formed the basis of a forgotten whaling industry" some 2000 years ago. Biblical critics have questioned where a fish big enough to swallow Jonah in the Mediterranean Sea came from. While the Bible never calls the fish that swallowed Jonah a whale – it simply describes it as a "great fish" – the new study is evidence that whales were once native to the Mediterranean Sea.

Off-site Link:

- http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/285/1882/20180961

Another Stunning Roman-Era Mosaic Discovered in Lod posted by Bryan Windle

Excavators have unearthed another spectacular 1700-year-old mosaic in the ancient city of Lod (called Lydda in the New Testament). In 1996, the famous Lod Mosaic was discovered, and in 2014, another one was found in the courtyard of the same structure. At that time, the corner of a third mosaic could be seen, but it was under a parking lot. Now, four years later, that mosaic has been unearthed and is another stunning example of Roman-era workmanship. The house in which the mosaics have been unearthed is believed to have been a luxurious villa belonging to a wealthy Jewish merchant. Based on pottery and coins uncovered in the excavations, it appears the villa was in use from the first century AD to the late third or early fourth century AD. The new mosaic, like the others, depicts scenes of nature with animals and fish, but not people. Archaeologists hypothesize that this may be because of the Jewish belief in the divine prohibition against graven images. The newly discovered mosaic has been rolled up and removed for the painstaking restoration process, to be carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority. It will eventually be displayed in the new Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center, an archaeological museum that is currently under construction to house the original Lod Mosaic. In the Bible, Lod is one of the cities that Jewish people returned to after the Babylonian captivity (Neh. 11:35) and where Peter healed a paralytic man named Aeneas (Acts 9:34).

Off-site Links:

- https://www.timesofisrael.com/second-stunning-lod-mosaic-unearthed-during-building-of-museum-to-house-original/
- https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/MAGAZINE-while-building-a-mosaics-museum-in-israel-another-mosaic-is-found-1.6318751

ABR's Shiloh Dig and Dr. Scott Stripling to be Featured in New Documentary posted by Bryan Windle

Representatives from Appian Media spent two days with Dr. Scott Stripling during ABR's recent excavations at Shiloh. During their visit, Dr. Stripling gave them an on-site lesson in archaeology and highlighted the ways the findings at Shiloh confirm the biblical record. Appian Media plans to include footage from their time at Shiloh in Episode One of their new documentary series, "Searching for a King." It will be released in early 2019, so stay tuned...

Off-site Link:

- https://www.appianmedia.org/blog/item/814-playing-detective-how-archeology-works-to-verify-what-we-read-in-scripture.html

Behind-the-Scenes Footage of Appian Media's Visit to Shiloh:

- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wzsav89yFnw

Ancient Stone from Temple Mount Comes Crashing Down posted by Bryan Windle

A large stone block in the Western Wall at the Temple Mount recently came loose and crashed into a mixed-gender prayer platform below, narrowly missing a woman who was praying there. The 220-pound boulder came loose from the original Herodian course above, although what caused it to become dislodged is still unknown. A team from the Israel Antiquities Authority is investigating the incident and plans to construct a scaffolding to determine whether vegetation, water build-up, or another factor caused the damage. They also plan to examine the surrounding stones by hand using laser technology to ensure that there is no risk of other ancient blocks of stone falling. The IAA also plans to analyze whether or not the stone that fell can be safely returned to its place in the wall. The Western Wall is part of the wall from the Second Temple complex which the Romans destroyed in 70 AD. The area surrounding the mixed-gender prayer platform is surrounded by hewn rocks from the Temple complex that the Romans cast down when they destroyed the temple 2000 years ago. Jesus predicted this event in Matthew 24:1-2 approximately 40 years before it occurred.

Off-site Links:

- https://www.timesofisrael.com/ancient-boulder-dislodges-from-western-wall-crashes-onto-egalitarian-plaza/
- https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/249506
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jr0vfwy9XLQ

Evidence of Battle Discovered at Sardis posted by Bryan Windle

Archaeologists excavating at the site of the ancient city of Sardis have uncovered a military shield and bronze arrowheads which they believe may be from the battle against Persia in 546 BC. While the city of Sardis is familiar to Bible students from the New Testament era, as the site of one of the churches of Revelation (Rev. 3:1-6), it was formerly the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia. In the sixth century BC, the Persian army under Cyrus the Great defeated the Lydians at Sardis during the Battle of Thymbra. The artifacts from this battle were unearthed in a section of the site believed to be the palace region. In addition to its fame as the capital of the Lydian Kingdom and the site of one of the churches in the biblical book of Revelation, Sardis is also believed to be the place where coins were first minted.

Off-site Link:

- http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/traces-of-war-found-in-ancient-lydian-city-sardis-134494

Possible Ptolemaic-Era Sarcophagus Opened in Egypt posted by Bryan Windle

A sealed, 30-ton, black granite sarcophagus was recently discovered during a construction survey in Alexandria, Egypt. The burial site was initially dated to the Ptolemaic period (ca. 323-30 BC), although some archaeologists believe that the sarcophagus itself may date to an earlier Egyptian period and was re-used at a later date. The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities oversaw the opening of the sealed sarcophagus and discovered that it was filled with sewer water and contained three skeletons. A preliminary examination of the remains by Egyptian mummy specialists suggests the skeletons may belong to three soldiers, as one of the skulls displays indications of an arrow-wound. An alabaster head of a man was also discovered near the burial site, indicating it may represent one of the occupants of the tomb. The Old Testament book of Daniel describes in detail specific prophecies about the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt (i.e., the "kings of the South" in Daniel 11). In the New Testament, Alexandria was hometown of Apollos (Acts 18:24) and an important center of Christianity during the first few centuries of the Church.

Off-site Links:

- https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2018/07/news-alexandria-egypt-coffin-sarcophagus-archaeology/
- http://luxortimesmagazine.blogspot.com/2018/07/breaking-news-alexandria-sarcophagus.html
- https://www.egypttoday.com/Article/4/54322/LIVE-UPDATE-Opening-of-ancient-sarcophagus-in-Alexandria

Two Different "Bethsaida" Sites Release Excavation Reports posted by Bryan Windle

Two sites near the north shore of the Sea of Galilee have claimed to be the biblical town of Bethsaida, which Josephus records was later made a Roman polis by Herod Philip and renamed Julias. Et-Tell has been proposed as Bethsaida, although critics have pointed out that it's too far (3km) and too high up from the shore for a fishing village, and it lacks Roman remains from the first century. Last year excavators at El-Araj, located right on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, declared it to be the site of Bethsaida/Julias, as they had discovered remains of a Roman bathhouse (reported by ABR HERE). Archaeologists from both sites have released information on this year's digs:

Et-Tell - This year the dig at Et-Tell focused on the gate and city wall that surrounded the site in the 10th-8th centuries BC. Guard towers were discovered along the wall at distances of 20 meters, the earliest examples of such features in Israel. Prof. Rami Arav, the co-director of the dig, hypothesizes that the site may have been the city called Tzer (which is mentioned only in Joshua 19:35) and that it may have been the capital of the region of Geshur. He further suggests that David may have visited the site when he married Maachah, the mother of Absalom, who was from Geshure. He also postulates that Tzer may have been pronounced Tzed, and that Beit-Tzaida may have been an early Hebrew name for Bethsaida.

Et-Tell News Reports: https://www.timesofisrael.com/ancient-city-gate-uncovered-in-the-galilee-may-have-tie-to-biblical-king-david/

El-Araj - This year's dig at el-Araj expanded the exploration of the site and examined various levels of occupation, from the Ottoman period back to the early Roman period. Many finds were unearthed, including coins, pottery sherds, and oil lamps, that date the site to the early Roman era, as well as limestone tesserae and marble floor tiles. The final dig report concludes, "We have uncovered multiple layers of human settlement and have brought to light a rich community in the Roman period. Their opulence is attested by the frescoes, bathhouses, beautifully ornamented oil lamps, and much, much more. This year we demonstrated that the settlement was widespread, and not limited to a small area. This was no mean city. What began around 30 CE as Herod Philip's transformation of a Jewish fishing village into a polis, evolved over the centuries into a wealthy community. The continuity of settlement reaching back into the Roman period continues to strengthen the claim that el-Araj is the best candidate for the historical site of Bethsaida-Julias."

El-Araj Excavation Reports: https://www.elarajexcavations.com/2018-dig-updates/categories/2018-dig-updates

NEWS RELEASE: Dr. Scott Stripling / Featured Guest on The 700 Club / July 16, 2018 posted by Lien Voong

ABR is excited to announce that Dr. Scott Stripling, Director of Excavations for ABR, will be interviewed on The 700 Club on Monday, July 16th. Dr. Stripling will be sharing his extensive experience and archaeological research from his most recent excavation at the ancient biblical city of Shiloh, Israel. Dr. Stripling will discuss how the dig brings further light on the Bible, affirming what God has revealed on the pages of Scripture.


 

Early Bronze Age Tomb Displays Evidence of Child Sacrifice posted by Bryan Windle

Archaeologists investigating a Bronze Age tomb in ancient Mesopotamia have uncovered signs of child sacrifice. The tomb chamber, which was discovered in 2014, contained the bodies of two 12-year-olds – a boy and a girl, along with hundreds of bronze arrow heads. The remains of eight other people, aged 11-20 years old, were also found carefully arranged outside of the door to the main chamber. Two of these displayed evidence of skeletal trauma from stabbing or cutting, leading researchers to conclude that the eight would have been retainer sacrifices – people sacrificed to accompany and serve the important deceased in the afterlife. Human "retainer" sacrifices like this have been found at the Royal Cemetery of Ur, the hometown of Abraham. Given the presence of retainer sacrifices and the large number of quality items buried in the main chamber, researchers believe the two 12-year-old children were from a family of high social standing. They have linked this burial with the rise in the hierarchical centralized societies in Mesopotamia in the third millennium BC.

Off-Site Links:

- https://www.dailysabah.com/history/2018/07/01/5000-year-old-tomb-in-southeast-turkey-gives-earliest-evidence-of-child-sacrifice
- https://www.livescience.com/62954-human-sacrifices-mesopotamia.html

ABR's Dig at Shiloh – 2018 Excavation Season in Review posted by Bryan Windle

The 2018 excavation season at Shiloh, overseen by archaeologists and experts from the Associates for Biblical Research, has concluded. In all, over 200 people from 30 states and 4 countries, including students from 11 different universities, participated in the dig. The excavations continued to expose the Amorite fortification wall around Shiloh on the northern side of the site. New technology, such as state-of-the-art, high-resolution 3-D photography, as well as the newly-built wet-sifting station, greatly increased the effectiveness of the fieldwork. The discoveries were numerous and included coins, sling stones, beads, seal impressions, scarabs, oil lamps, pithoi jugs, and much pottery from the Bronze and Iron Ages through to the Islamic era. ABR's archaeologists continued to see evidence of transition from the Amorite period to the Israelite period in the bones and pottery discovered. The teams also worked together to uncover a glacis – a 35-degree sloping earthen rampart, constructed around the outside of the ancient perimeter wall to hinder attacking armies from reaching the base of the fortifications. Perhaps the most significant discovery was a ceramic pomegranate. The pomegranate was a common decoration in the tabernacle and temple (1 Kgs 7:18, 20, 42; 2 Kgs 25:17; 2 Chr 3:16; 4:13; Jer 52:22–23) and on the priestly garments (Ex 28:33–34; 39:24–26). While the actual excavations have been completed for this season, the work of studying, interpreting, and publishing will continue throughout the year.

Links:

Week 1 Report – http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2018/05/28/Go-Now-To-Shiloh-The-2018-Excavations-Week-One.aspx
Week 2 Report – http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2018/06/05/Go-Now-To-Shiloh-The-2018-Excavations-Week-Two.aspx
Week 3 Report – http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2018/06/14/Go-Now-To-Shiloh-The-2018-Excavations-Week-Three.aspx
Week 4 Report – http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2018/06/22/Go-Now-To-Shiloh-The-2018-Excavations-Week-Four.aspx
Shiloh 2018: What A Dig Needs video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=82&v=dz2mKkP1lOU

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