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.

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/

Excavations at Abel Beth Maacah Reveal Cultic Shrines posted by Bryan Windle

Archaeologists excavating at Tel Abil el-Qameh, identified as the biblical city of Abel Beth Maacah, continue to uncover evidence of cultic activity at the site spanning several hundred years. One structure, dating to the Iron Age I, had two standing stones, benches and fragments of a bull figurine. A series of later buildings included a room with standing stones, an offering table, a cylindrical cultic stand and plastered basins. Another discovery dating to the ninth century BC was a jar on a round podium filled with astragaloi (knucklebones) which were often used in divination. The most recent discovery was yet another shrine with unmarked standing stones. Excavators have suggested this site may be associated with the "wise woman" of 2 Sam. 20:18-19, who they propose may have served in the role of an oracle. Given the number of cultic shrines in the city, some have suggested that both Dan and Abel Beth Maacah were the two main northern cities for divine inquiry in the Iron Age.

Off-site Links:

- https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-signs-of-3-000-year-old-oracle-cult-found-in-israel-archaeology-1.6472911

Submerged Church Honoring Council of Nicea Discovered posted by Bryan Windle

Aerial photographs commissioned by the government of the Bursa Province in Turkey revealed the remarkable outline of a church submerged in Lake Iznik, near ancient Nicea. It is located in only 10 feet of water, about 160 feet from shore. Archaeologists believe the church may have been built on the site of the former Senate Palace, where the first Council of Nicea took place in 325 AD. Underwater excavations have revealed several graves dating to the fourth century underneath the basilica's main wall which included coins dating to the reign of Emperor Valens (364-378 AD). There is evidence that an earlier pagan temple to Apollo might lie beneath the church. Plans are being made for the construction of an underwater museum that would include a walkway over the submerged church and an underwater glass room in the nave of the basilica.

Off-site Links:

- https://www.livescience.com/63498-ancient-church-hidden-in-turkey-lake.html
- https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-6139027/Submerged-ruins-church-heralded-one-Christianitys-important-places-spotted.html

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

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