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.

Over 1000 Clay Seals Discovered in Central Israel posted by Bryan Windle

A huge cache of clay seal impressions (known as bullae) was found at the ancient Hellenistic city of Maresha, located in the Bet Guvrin-Maresha National Park. Archaeologists recently discovered seven previously unknown rooms in the cave complex of Maresha, including one that had 1020 untouched clay seals lying on the floor amidst broken pottery. An initial study of 300 of the clay seals suggest they date primarily from the second century BC and may have been part of a private archive. The delicate, unfired bullae depict images of various gods, such as Apollo, Athena, and Aphrodite, as well as cornucopia, masks and animals. Only a few bore Greek letters and numbers, perhaps indicating dates; none of the seals in the initial survey had written inscriptions. The trove of seal impressions confirm that Maresha was a significant city in the Hellenistic world with major ties to the outside world.

Off-site Links:

- https://www.timesofisrael.com/1020-untouched-clay-sealings-discovered-after-two-millennia-in-hidden-cave/
- http://huc.edu/news/2018/09/04/hundreds-hellenistic-period-seal-impressions-discovered-maresha-israel

Evidence of Aramean Destruction Unearthed at Biblical Gath posted by Bryan Windle

Archaeologists working at Tell es-Safi – biblical Gath – have released their first summary from the 2018 excavation season. This year they focused entirely on the lower city at the site, and unearthed significant evidence of the destruction by Hazael, King of Aram at Damascus in the ninth century BC. This confirms what is recorded in the Bible in 2 Kings 12:17: "About this time Hazael king of Aram went up and attacked Gath and captured it. Then he turned to attack Jerusalem." The remains of the siege system built around the site have been discovered, as well as evidence of defensive actions taken by the residents of Gath in attempting to use soil from the garbage dump to fortify and buffer the inside of the city wall against the Aramean forces. Four new squares were also opened in one area that revealed the half-meter-thick "Hazael Destruction Layer" just a few centimeters below the surface. Archaeologists have concluded that the lower city was not substantially resettled after the destruction of the city.

Off-site Links:

- https://gath.wordpress.com/2018/08/30/first-summary-2018-season/
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoKurlGaWKM

Ceramic Pomegranate Discovered at Biblical Shiloh posted by Bryan Windle

The Associates for Biblical Research has announced the discovery of a ceramic pomegranate during the 2018 excavation season at biblical Shiloh. Shiloh was the center of Israelite worship and site of the tabernacle for over 300 years. The 20 cm-long pomegranate was unearthed in situ, and still had four of the five prongs intact. Pomegranates were common motifs in the Israelites' worship at the tabernacle, having adorned the hem of Aaron's robe (Ex 28:34; 39:26), and later in the first temple (1 Ki 7:17, 42). This discovery confirms the biblical description of Shiloh as a temenos (a sacred, dedicated precinct) early in Israel's history. Dr. Scott Stripling, ABR's Director of Excavations at Shiloh, is currently working on a peer-reviewed article about the pomegranate.

ABR'S News Release:
- http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2018/08/22/NEWS-RELEASE-ABR-Makes-Important-Discovery-at-Biblical-Shiloh.aspx

Digging for Truth Episode (Hear Dr. Scott Stripling describe the discovery starting at 16:14):
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IC2W1gSXUpI

5000-Year-Old Looted Artifacts Returned to Iraq posted by Bryan Windle

A collection of eight ancient artifacts was confiscated by British police in 2003, after the dealer failed to provide paperwork as to their provenance. After spending 15 years in storage, police turned them over to the British Museum in 2018, and researchers there were able to identify the place the objects originated. The collection includes an inscribed polished river stone, an inscribed gypsum mace-head, a marble bull pendant, two stamp seals, and three clay cones with Sumerian cuneiform inscriptions. All of the objects date from 2200 BC–3000 BC. It was the three cones that, when translated, identified the temple they came from and the Sumerian king who ordered the construction. In an incredible coincidence, the British Museum actually had an archaeologist training a team of Iraqi archaeologists on-site at Tello (ancient Girsu). An investigation at the temple of Eninnu revealed not only the wall the cones came from, but the actual holes in the wall that they were looted from. The British Museum will be returning the artifacts to Iraq with the hopes that they can be studied.

Off-site Links:

- https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-45132517
- https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/09/looted-iraqi-antiquities-return-home-after-uk-experts-crack-cold-case

- https://www.dawn.com/news/1426119

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

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