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.

Roman Ring Inscribed with Pilate's Name Revealed posted by Bryan Windle

A copper ring unearthed during the 1968-69 excavations at the Herodium was recently cleaned, photographed and analyzed, revealing the name of Pilate. This discovery was announced in the latest issue of Israel Exploration Journal under the title, "An Inscribed Copper-Alloy Finger Ring from Herodium Depicting a Krater." The artifact itself is a simple stamping ring with the image of a Krater (a wine vessel) surrounded by Greek letters which translate to, "of Pilatus." It was found in a room at the Herodium with an archaeological layer dating no later than 71 AD. Given the rarity of the name Pilate in the first century, many are naturally asking whether this ring belonged to Pontius Pilate, the Roman Prefect of Judea who sentenced Jesus of Nazareth to be crucified. The authors of the article write, "Simple all-metal rings like the Herodium ring were primarily the property of soldiers, Herodian and Roman officials, and middle-income folk of all trades and occupations. It is therefore unlikely that Pontius Pilatus, the powerful and rich prefect of Judaea, would have worn a thin, all copper-alloy sealing ring." They do allow that it may have belonged to someone under Pilate's command, a member of his family or one of his freed slaves. Another scholar has suggested that Pilate may have had a gold ring for official duties and a simple copper ring for his private, everyday affairs. This is only the second archaeological artifact discovered in Israel that bears the name of Pilate. The other is the famous "Pilate Stone," which was discovered in Caesarea Maritima in 1961 and refers to "Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea."

Off-site Links:

- https://www.timesofisrael.com/2000-year-old-ring-engraved-with-pilate-may-have-belonged-to-notorious-ruler/

- https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/.premium-ring-of-roman-governor-pontius-pilate-who-executed-jesus-found-in-herodion-site-1.6699353

First Temple-Era Stone Weight Unearthed in Jerusalem posted by Bryan Windle

A small stone weight which was once used to measure the half-shekel temple tax during the First Temple period has been unearthed in Jerusalem. The weight was found at the City of David's wet-sifting project in the Emek Tzurim National Park amidst the rubble taken from the 2013 excavations under Robinson's Arch. Exodus 38:26 mentions the "beka" in regard to the weight of silver brought by the Israelites for the maintenance of the temple: "A beka a head (that is, half a shekel, by the shekel of the sanctuary), for everyone who was listed in the records, from twenty years old and upward, for 603,550 men." Archaeologist Eli Shukron explained, "When the half-shekel tax was brought to the Temple during the First Temple period, there were no coins, so they used silver ingots. In order to calculate the weight of these silver pieces they would put them on one side of the scales and on the other side they placed the Beka weight. The Beka was equivalent to the half-shekel, which every person from the age of 20 years and up was required to bring to the Temple." This particular stone weight is extremely rare, as it is the only one yet discovered that has the word "beka" inscribed in ancient Hebrew script in reverse. Scholars hypothesize that it was inscribed by someone who was used to making seals, which are also inscribed in reverse. The fact that the "beka" was discovered in dirt taken from next to the foundations of the Temple Mount confirms what is known biblically and historically about payments at the Jewish Temple.

Off-site Links:

- https://www.timesofisrael.com/straight-from-the-bible-tiny-first-temple-stone-weight-unearthed-in-jerusalem/
- https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Half-shekel-from-First-Temple-era-unearthed-near-City-of-David-572423
- https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/MAGAZINE-second-first-temple-weight-this-one-with-mirror-writing-found-in-jerusalem-sifting-1.6676037

Early Depiction of Jesus Discovered in Byzantine Church in Negev posted by Bryan Windle

In a recent article in the journal Antiquity, scholars revealed their discovery of what they believe is an early depiction of Jesus. The image was found in the baptistery apse of a sixth century AD church located in the ancient village of Shivta in the Negev Desert. While it is fragmented, the depiction is of a young man's face, with short, curly hair, large eyes, and an elongated nose. Art historians recognize it as an early style of short-haired pictures of Christ that were popular in Egypt and Syro-Palestine. Remains of paint found in the apse suggest that the face was part of a bigger scene which may have contained other images. The article's authors conclude: "Thus far, it is the only in situ baptism-of-Christ scene to date confidently to the pre-iconoclastic Holy Land. Therefore, it can illuminate Byzantine Shivta's Christian community and Early Christian art across the region."

Off-site Links:

- https://www.timesofisrael.com/jesus-image-hidden-in-plain-sight-at-negev-church-is-one-of-earliest-in-israel/
- https://www.breakingisraelnews.com/117035/earliest-depictions-jesus-byzantine/
- https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/antiquity/article/christs-face-revealed-at-shivta-an-early-byzantine-wall-painting-in-the-desert-of-the-holy-land/1D3584D4866168E6764035D5DE740781/

Ramp Used to Move Quarry Stones Discovered in Egypt posted by Bryan Windle

Archaeologists working at the ancient Hatnub Quarry in the Eastern Desert of Egypt have discovered a ramp system that was used to move the large alabaster stone blocks. A central ramp was unearthed with a set of stairs on each side containing post holes. The Egyptians used a sled which was attached by ropes to the wooden poles to carry the quarried stones. These ropes would have acted as a "force multiplier" making it easier to pull the sled and stone blocks up the steep 20% slopes. Researchers have also been studying the multiple inscriptions at the site and have discovered at least two that mention Pharaoh Khufu. This has led them to date the ramp system to at least the Fourth Dynasty in Egyptian history, and suggest that it may have been used in the construction of the Great Pyramid in Giza. Comparing conventional Egyptian chronology with biblical chronology, Pharaoh Khufu's reign in Egypt predated Abraham.

Off-site Links:
- http://luxortimesmagazine.blogspot.com/2018/10/discovered-how-ancient-egyptians-moved.html
- https://www.livescience.com/63978-great-pyramid-ramp-discovered.html

Intact Greco-Roman Statues Unearthed at Biblical Gerasa posted by Bryan Windle

The Department of Antiquities at Jerash (biblical Gerasa) recently unveiled some of the statues that have been unearthed over the past three years by French archaeologists. To date 27 statues of Greco-Roman gods have been discovered, including a colossal figure of Aphrodite, a statue of Zeus, and images of the Nine Muses sitting on their thrones. The statues were all discovered in a monumental bath complex dating to the second century AD. The statue of Aphrodite is made of Pentelic marble from Athens, and includes an inscription that indicates it was donated by a local priest named Demetrios and dedicated on March 20, 154 AD. Some of the statues are currently on display at the Visitor Center of Jerash. It was in this predominately Gentile area around Jaresh/Gerasa that Jesus healed the demon-possessed man who lived among the tombs (Mark 5/Luke 8).

Off-site Links:
- http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/unearthed-graeco-roman-statues-unveiled-jerash
- https://www.archaeology.org/news/7012-181004-jerash-roman-sculptures
- http://www.ansamed.info/ansamed/en/news/nations/jordan/2018/10/04/archaeology-rare-roman-sculptures-discovered-in-jerash_1b2e14b1-5af7-43ce-afbe-3c18e470e034.html

Tests Show Some Dead Sea Scroll Fragments are Forgeries posted by Bryan Windle

The Museum of the Bible announced that tests done by Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM) in Germany on five of its purported Dead Sea Scroll (DSS) fragments showed that they exhibited "characteristics inconsistent with ancient origin." BAM submitted the group of fragments to a battery of tests, including 3D digital microscopy, scanning X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDX) material analysis of the ink, sediment layers and chemical nature of the sediment. These five fragments, along with two others which came from the same batch and are also assumed to be forgeries, will no longer be displayed. The museum is not releasing the full report because modern forgers could use the information contained in it to make more authentic-looking forgeries. The museum has nine other purported DSS fragments in its collection that will be tested. Jeffrey Kloha, the chief curatorial officer for Museum of the Bible, said in a statement, "Though we had hoped the testing would render different results, this is an opportunity to educate the public on the importance of verifying the authenticity of rare biblical artifacts, the elaborate testing process undertaken and our commitment to transparency."

Off-site Links:

- https://www.museumofthebible.org/press/press-releases/museum-of-the-bible-releases-research-findings-on-fragments-in-its-dead-sea-scrolls-collection
- https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/23/arts/design/bible-museum-fake-scrolls-dead-sea.html
- https://www.timesofisrael.com/five-proven-dead-sea-scroll-forgeries-only-the-tip-of-the-iceberg-says-scholar/

New Study: Significant Fish Trade Between Egypt and Canaan in the Late Bronze Age posted by Bryan Windle

A new study analyzing fish teeth points to an extensive trade in fish between Egypt and Canaan some 3500 years ago. The researchers studied 100 teeth from the gilthead sea bream found at 12 different archaeological sites in the southern Levant (modern-day Israel). By analyzing the content of oxygen isotopes in the tooth enamel of the sea bream, they were able to determine the salinity of the water from which the fish came. The results showed that ¾ of the fish came from water that had a higher salt ratio than is normally found in the Mediterranean Sea. Researchers believe the fish were caught in hypersaline water of the Bardawil Lagoon on the northern Sinai coast, and then were transported from Egypt into Canaan by both land and sea. The study demonstrates that from the Late Bronze Age through to the Byzantine Period there was a significant trade in fish between Egypt and the southern Levant.

Off-site Links:

- http://www.uni-mainz.de/presse/aktuell/6256_ENG_HTML.php
- https://phys.org/news/2018-10-extensive-fish-egypt-canaan-years.html

Oldest Hebrew Inscription of "Jerusalem" Found posted by Bryan Windle

A 2100-year-old inscription on a stone column drum with the full spelling of the modern Hebrew word for Jerusalem was recently discovered. The stone column was unearthed in a pottery production site where cooking vessels were manufactured, that operated from the Hasmonean period to the Roman era. The inscription reads, "Hananiah, son of Dodalos, of Jerusalem." This is the first stone inscription ever found with the word "Yerushalayim" spelled in full, rather than in shorthand as it usually appears. The column would have originally been part of a Jewish structure, likely belonging to Hananiah, son of Dodalos. It was discovered in secondary use as part of a workshop used by the Tenth Roman Legion, which had taken over the area before they destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD. The inscription is now being displayed in the Israel Museum as part of an exhibit on Second Temple-era artifacts. From a biblical point of view, the word "Yerushalayim" is spelled in this rare, long form five times in the Old Testament (Jer 26:18, Est 2:6, 2 Chr 25:1, 2 Chr 32:9, and 2 Chr 25:1). This discovery confirms that the modern full spelling was used in ancient times, just as it is in the Bible.

Off-site Links:

- http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/IsraelExperience/History/Pages/Second-Temple-Period-stone-inscription-found-9-October-20181009-6325.aspx
- https://www.timesofisrael.com/earliest-known-stone-carving-of-hebrew-word-jerusalem-found-near-city-entrance/
- https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/2000-year-old-Roman-find-reveals-usage-of-the-name-Jerusalem-in-Hebrew-568973

Archaeologists Discover Tomb of Fifth Dynasty Egyptian Official posted by Bryan Windle

The tomb of a prominent official in the Egyptian Court of the Fifth Dynasty was discovered in Abusir, just north of the Saqqara region in Giza. Archaeologists unearthed a large limestone and mud brick tomb with the name of the owner and his titles engraved on the walls. The official named "Ka Ir Is" was known as the "Supervisor of the King's affairs," "¬ĚSecret Keeper of the Morning House," and "His Master's Beloved." A large pink granite statue of the tomb's owner was also discovered which portrays him seated on a small chair inscribed with his name and titles, and wearing a wig. According to biblical chronology, the tomb itself predates Abraham's visit to Egypt (Gn 12:10) by a several hundred years.

Off-site Links:

- https://luxortimesmagazine.blogspot.com/2018/10/czech-archaeologists-discover-keeper-of.html
- https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1414846/ancient-egyptian-tomb-%E2%80%98morning-secret-keeper%E2%80%99-uncovered-aswan
- https://www.egyptindependent.com/huge-tomb-from-fifth-dynasty-discovered-in-giza/

Mt. Zion Excavations Unearth First-Century Mansion and Ancient Road posted by Bryan Windle

Archaeologists digging at Mount Zion have uncovered the remains of a priestly mansion dating to the first century AD, as well as an adjacent structure that dates from the Hasmonean era (late first century BC). The rooms of the mansion were well-preserved with ceilings despite the fact that it had been destroyed when the Romans took Jerusalem in 70 AD. Another important find was the discovery of an ancient road dating to the Byzantine era, if not earlier. The paved street had a central drain and may be a continuation of the famous Cardo Maximus street which extended across Mt. Zion. Various coins, pottery sherds, and other artifacts were discovered which helped date the various strata excavated.

Off-site Link:

- https://jamestabor.com/a-short-report-on-our-2018-excavations-at-mt-zion-in-jerusalem/

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