Report on the Near East Archaeological Society Annual Meeting (2018)

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Excerpt The Near East Archaeological Society (NEAS) under the umbrella of the Evangelical Theological Society met in Denver, CO from 13-15 November 2018. Every year, this meeting seems to get better and better and this year was no different. Continue reading

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The Near East Archaeological Society (NEAS) under the umbrella of the Evangelical Theological Society met in Denver, CO from 13-15 November 2018. Every year, this meeting seems to get better and better and this year was no different. According to the overall conference coordinator, over 2,700 attendees gathered to hear presentations on just about every subject within the Christian studies environment. A quick look at the conference catalog reveals sessions on scripture, theology, ethics, bio-ethics, chronology, philosophy, Greek and Hebrew languages, and the list could go on and on! Of course, the sessions devoted to biblical archaeology within the NEAS sessions would be mainly interesting to those that frequent the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR) website and others that have an interest in the subject. Although at times, I noticed that some of the attendees to the NEAS sessions would step out for a session or two to attend a different presentation.

The NEAS gathered twenty scholars together over two and a half days into four categories of presentations. On Tuesday morning, we had four general biblical archaeology presentations, followed that afternoon with four presentations centered on our conference theme of "Challenging Generally Accepted Archaeological Paradigms." Our eight Wednesday presentations were devoted to a variety of archaeological excavations, excavated artifacts, and the answers pulled from the sands of time in Israel and Jordan that answer questions related to scripture. Our final four presentations focused on general topics within biblical archaeology. During these sessions, we averaged around 31 attendees with a high of 57 attendees.

So, what were some of the topics during these three hectic days? As noted above, we had one full day devoted to excavation reports. Scott Stripling presented a review of the ABR sponsored Shiloh dig, while Dale Manor presented ten years of excavation at a teaching "fake" site constructed at Harding University to teach students the principles of field work. Additionally, we heard reports related to some new Qumran caves by Randall Price, ancient roads in Turkey by Mark Wilson & Bob Wagner, the supposed tomb of Herod on the slopes of the Herodium by Terrence Nichols, and excavations at Abila in the area called the Decapolis during the time of Jesus by David Vila. We also hosted our special speaker, Avraham Faust (Bar-Ilan University), who spoke about the conception, birth, life, and death of a four-room house at Tel 'Eton, Israel. It is amazing how much information and understanding obtained from the careful excavation of an archaeological site. This was our third year of hosting a special speaker, and I am sure the NEAS will continue to do so in the future. In some of our other presentations, we heard presentations on sling stones by Boyd Seevers, and Victoria Dennis, Roman weapons and fortress towers by Mark Hassler and Katherine Streckert, and our own Henry Smith presented a talk on his research efforts in chronology and the various textual variants that are influencing chronology. Steve Rudd also spoke on the significance of coins for understanding messianic understandings from the first century BC.

Note that ABR, as it has been in the past, was well represented. Of the twenty presentations, ABR members and people that have excavated at either Kh. el-Maqatir or Tel Shiloh led eight of the sessions. Additionally, the NEAS annual bulletin published one of the presentations. Finally, these presentations assist in sharing the tidbits of knowledge gathered from the geographically dispersed sites.

While all of the above is true, the best part of these meetings is the chance to get back together with friends for some times of fellowship. The people present at the conference associated with the Shiloh dig got together on Wednesday night to reminisce about the dig season and think about the future dig season. At other times, small enclaves of folks would get together and talk about the various presentations and other matters. It is during the breaks, lunches, and dinners that plans made, decisions are finalized, and friendships renewed. Bottom line, this conference continues to be one of my best investments in time, money, and just plain hard work.
Next year, the NEAS annual meeting will be in San Diego, CA and I hope to see you there as we continue to learn from each other the truths gleaned from the dirt. See you next year!

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