Archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar passes away

We just learned today that Dr. Eilat Mazar passed away in Jerusalem. No details have been released except that she will be buried tomorrow. She became widely known in the archaeological world for her discovery of “David’s Palace” in Jerusalem, among other biblically-related finds.

Here is a release from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she taught.

(Jerusalem, May 25, 2021)—Dr. Eilat Mazar, a pioneering archaeology professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology died today, she was 64.  Mazar was a third-generation Israeli archaeologist who participated in digs from a young age, as the granddaughter of Benjamin Mazar who excavated the Land of Israel during the British Mandate period.  Eilat Mazar specialized in the Phoenician culture of Israel’s northern coastal plain and directed excavations in the City of David and the Temple Mount’s southern wall. 

During her tenure, Mazar discovered the possible remnants of King David’s palace and a portion of an ancient city wall presumed to be built by King Solomon. In 2013, Mazar unearthed a trove of gold coins and a rare Byzantine medallion with a menorah (candelabra) etched into it.  Most recently, Mazar made headlines when she unearthed clay seals “Belonging to Hezekiah, (son of) Ahaz, King of Judah” and later, seals that may have belonged to Isaiah the Prophet. 

Mazar is survived by a daughter and three sons.

In March of 2019, I had the privilege of meeting Eilat Mazar in Jerusalem. Ferrell Jenkins and I were visiting the archaeologist with whom I have worked, Prof. Yossi Garfinkel, who introduced us. May her family find comfort in this difficult time.

(L to R) Luke Chandler, Prof. Yossi Garfinkel, Dr. Eilat Mazar, Ferrell Jenkins in the pottery lab at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2019.
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New BiblePlaces volume for 2 Samuel now available

The BiblePlaces photo collections continue to grow. The 2 Samuel volume is now available, and on sale.

This set illustrates the entire book through 2,900+ photos and is pre-formatted in PowerPoint for teaching. Each photo slide is accompanied by researched, scholarly commentary in the Notes. You can read a fuller description of the 2 Samuel (“Book of David”) volume here.

The 2 Samuel volume is currently on sale for $39, but this price won’t last. Order this resource now and begin to enjoy its benefits. Whether you’re a student or teacher, this will benefit your understanding of the people, places, and events in the Bible.

While ordering, be sure to browse for other Bible photo collections you haven’t yet acquired!

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ca. 2,000 year-old Bible texts found by Dead Sea, First since Dead Sea Scrolls

Scholars just announced the discovery of ancient biblical manuscripts in a previously-excavated cave near the Dead Sea. They appear to be from a scroll of the Minor Prophets and include passages Zechariah and Nahum. The texts are written in Greek but the name of God is rendered in Hebrew letters.

Read more about these and other finds in the cave here, here and here. You can also enjoy this short video of the discovery and the overall project.

This is the first actual text discovered in an ongoing project to salvage ancient artifacts and texts around the Dead Sea and Wilderness regions before looters get them first.

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Finally, Fresh Fruit from Ancient Date Palms

Remember the 2,000 year-old date palm from Masada? The original tree, nicknamed Methuselah, is now a daddy thanks to patience, science, and a little bit of luck. In a happy, very un-2020 report, we have a harvest of new ancient dates. These fruits are direct, first-generation descendants of ancient seeds excavated at Masada and a site near Jericho.

A New York Times article shares the fascinating story of the extinct Judean Date Palm’s revival, along with several photos. No paywall at the time of the writing, but that could change. Keep an eye open for other reports on this wonderful result. For previous posts on the process of reviving ancient date palms, see here and here.

Scientists harvest dates that sprouted from 2,000-year-old seeds retrieved from archaeological sites in the Judean wilderness. Credit: Dan Balilty for The New York Times

Judean dates were famous in antiquity for their taste and medicinal properties. Ancient Roman authors and coins, and even the Koran, attest to their popularity long ago. How do these new, revived dates taste?

“They were tasty… with a fresh flavor that gave no hint of their two-millenium incubation period. The honey-blonde, semi-dry flesh had a fibrous, chewy texture and a subtle sweetness.”

My friend Shane Scott raises a frightening parallel with Jurassic Park, but perhaps we will avoid the spectacle of angry Date Palm Ents stomping around the Jordan Rift Valley.

Let’s close with another quote from the NYT article.

“Lucky, it tasted good,” Dr. Solowey said. “If it had been awful what would I have said? That in the old days they didn’t know what a good date was? There’s a lot of literature about how they were the best dates in the world.”

Congrats to the team on reviving ancient and DELICIOUS dates. Wouldn’t it be nice if they can be produced and harvested in sufficient quantities to allow the common folk to experience a taste of the ancient past? With a little bit of luck…

Posted in Biblical Archaeology, Dead Sea, General Archaeology, Israel, Links to interesting stuff, Masada, New Discoveries | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

New 1 Samuel volume from BiblePlaces.com

Few Bible books match the geographical detail and vivid storytelling of Samuel. BiblePlaces has a promotional $49 price for its new Photo Companion volume to 1 Samuel. Every chapter is brought to life by the 3,000+ PowerPoint photo slides with illuminating descriptions and study notes. This important resource helps you visualize – and better understand – events surrounding Saul, Samuel, David, and the transition towards Israel’s United Kingdom.

The volumes of the Photo Companion to the Bible series provide distinct perspectives from other resources. The images and their descriptions bring us closer to the original perspective of the biblical authors and audience.

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The 1 Samuel volume to the Photo Companion to the Bible series. More than 3,000 photo PowerPoint slides with informed descriptions to illuminate the entire book.

BiblePlaces continues to create these unique and valuable resources for study and teaching. I am thankful to have my copy. Order before the price goes up!

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“How Archaeology Works” webinar!

There is a special opportunity to see and learn how archaeology really works this Sunday evening, August 9, at 8pm Eastern Time. For just $10 (only $5 for ASOR members) you can attend a live webinar from the Biblical Archaeology Society on “Digging Deeper: How Archaeology Works.”

This affordable webinar is hosted by Dr. Eric Cline, an internationally renowned archaeologist with more than thirty seasons of excavation experience. His archaeological work ranges from Greece and Crete to Egypt, Israel, and Jordan. Dr. Cline is also a Pulitzer-nominated author and is currently co-directing a new dig at biblical Hazor with Yossi Garfinkel, the archaeologist with whom I have worked for years.

Your $10 (or $5) registration includes several benefits:

  • Get a firsthand look at how archaeology really does work. Break through media misconceptions and see how archaeologists perform their craft. How do they know where to dig? What is it like to discover something? How do we know how old something is? Who keeps the artifacts? What can these finds tell us about people and events from the past?
  • The Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS) will include an exclusive subscription discount for all webinar registrants: 1 Year of All Access to Biblical Archaeology Review (library, digital, and print) for only $0.99/month. You will be emailed the discount link when you register and pay for the webinar. This is a great value by itself!
  • Registrants also receive a 25% discount coupon code for Dr. Cline’s new book, Digging Deeper (retail: $12.95), published by Princeton University Press.
  • All proceeds will help to fund scholarships and virtual resources for ASOR members and recipients. ASOR (American Schools of Oriental Research) is a consortium of scholars and students who work together to facilitate understanding of people and cultures from the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean world.

To register and pay, click here. Again, the price is $5 for ASOR members and $10 for non-members. To receive your ASOR member discount, log into the online store. If you are new to ASOR, please click on the “New Visitor Registration” link. Please e-mail membership@asor.org with any questions or issues with registering.

You will be e-mailed the Zoom Webinar link prior to the lecture on August 9, 2020.

Prof. Cline graciously offered my 2014 Bible Lands tour group a personal guided tour of Megiddo. I had inquired about a staff member taking us around since many in my group were working at the Lachish excavation that year. I had visited Megiddo numerous times previously but no visit before or since has offered what he did. It was an entertaining, insightful journey through the site and its history, sprinkled with fun anecdotes.

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Prof. Eric Cline giving my group a personal tour of Megiddo in 2014.

luke chandler and eric cline at megiddo

Conversing with Prof. Eric Cline at Tel Megiddo.

This webinar will be worth far more than the small expense. I hope you will join!

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Gov’t complex from time of Hezekiah, Manasseh discovered near US Embassy in Jerusalem

The Israel Antiquities Authority has announced the discovery of a large building from the ancient Kingdom of Judah that has been dated to the time of kings Hezekiah and Manasseh (Heb. – Menashe). The Jerusalem Post article includes photos and a drone video with clear views of the excavated building and surrounding area.

This new discovery is in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona and lies just a few hundred yards south of the US embassy in Jerusalem. This new discovery is also close to Ramat Rachal, an ancient governmental site that belonged to the biblical kingdom of Judah.

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Aerial Photo of the Israel Antiquities Authority excavation on the slopes of Arnona (photo credit: ASSAF PEREZ / ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)

Among the numerous finds are many LMLK (pronounced “l’melekh”) jars. These were storage vessels that have been linked to Hezekiah’s “storehouses” in 2 Chron. 32:27-28, and held taxes paid in the form of olive oil, food, wine, etc. The term “LMLK” was stamped on the handles of those jars and translates as “belonging to the king.” In other words, “government property.” Concentrations of these jars have been uncovered in numerous administrative buildings from biblical Judah.

Excavations such as this also revive the names of long-forgotten people.

Along with the jar handles bearing the royal seal impressions, several similar items featuring private names were uncovered, Naham Abdi, Naham Hatzlihu, Meshalem Elnatan, Zafan Abmetz, Shaneah Azaria, Shalem Acha and Shivna Shachar. The names appear on jar handles found in other sites from the Kingdom of Judah, suggesting that the people were probably senior officials or wealthy individuals.

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Israel Antiquities Authority Excavations at the Arnona Site from the First Temple Period Reveal the Impressive Remains of Structures (Israel Antiquities Authority)

Excavators also found a number of figurines that were likely used for religious purposes. The Bible describes how Hezekiah worked to suppress the use of images in worship, and how his son Manasseh worked to undo his father’s policies.

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Clay Figurines of Women and Animals Found at the Site. These kinds of objects were frequently used in worship by inhabitants of ancient Canaan, including Israel and Judah. (Yaniv Berman / Israel Antiquities Authority)

This excavation was carried out in preparation for construction of a new residential neighborhood. There is no word yet as to whether any of this newly-discovered site will be preserved as construction eventually moves ahead.

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Lipscomb U. scores SWBTS’s canceled Archaeology program

In a surprising announcement, Lipscomb University in Nashville has acquired the premier Archaeology graduate program that formerly belonged to the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. SWBTS’s program had become prominent in Biblical Archaeology but fell victim to financial pressures that have been credited to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program was axed this past April with all professors let go and 25 graduate students dropped before completing their degrees. SWBTS’s work had included recent excavations at Tel Gezer and Tel Burna (possibly biblical Libnah).

Thanks to the generosity of Mark Lanier (whose sponsorship of archaeological research includes the Lanier Theological Library in Houston), Lipscomb has hired SWBTS’s program chair, archaeologist Dr. Stephen Ortiz, as well as archaeologist Dr. Tom Davis, SWBTS’s full graduate program, and most of its archaeological collections. The new center at Lipscomb will be known as the Lanier Center for Archaeology and will offer Lipscomb’s first doctoral program.

You can read the illuminating announcement from BAS that is titled, “The Summer Lipscomb Saved Biblical Archaeology.” The formal announcement from Lipscomb University has additional information you may find interesting.

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6 more 2,000 year-old seeds sprout to give “Methuselah” Date Palm a family

In 2008, Dr. Sarah Sallon successfully revived a 2,000 year-old seed from the extinct Judea Date Palm. This tree is named “Methuselah” and currently stands more than 11 feet tall.

An Israeli research team has now germinated six more date palms from ancient seeds excavated at Dead Sea sites including Masada and Qumran. These young plants have been named Adam, Jonah, Uriel, Boaz, Judith, and Hannah. Date palms have gender, so the female trees produce fruit when cross pollinated with male trees. Once the “Judith” and “Hannah” trees produce flowers, scientists plan to add pollen from Methuselah and revive these ancient varieties of dates.

There are several short articles on this and they’re all interesting. Learn how the seeds were selected and revived, and how they got their names. Read about it all herehere, and here. You can also read the formal announcement published in Science Advances. See photos of the ancient seeds and saplings below.

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(A) Adam, (B) Jonah, (C) Uriel, (D) Boaz, (E) Judith, (F) Hannah, and (G) HU37A11, an unplanted ancient date seed from Qumran (Cave FQ37) used as a control. Scale bars, 0.5 cm (A, no bar size as unmeasured before planting). Photo credit: Guy Eisner.

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Ages in months at time of photograph (A to C) Adam (110 months), Jonah (63 months), and Uriel (54 months). (D to F) Boaz (54 months), Judith (47 months), and Hannah (88 months). Photo credit: Guy Eisner.

Stay tuned for more news on ancient dates (the fruit, hopefully).

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Recognize this famous ancient spot in Israel?

If you have traveled to Israel, you’ve likely visited the place in the photograph below. Do you recognize it? Take a few seconds to figure it out before reading further.

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Photo by Mark Ziese (visit the Bible Land Explorer blog at MarkZiese.com)

It looks quite different now due to recent work to show more of the ancient ruins.

 

 

If you haven’t identified it yet, the solution is below…

 

 

 

This is the Roman theater in Caesarea Maritima with the stage area removed. The stage visitors have seen and stood on for decades was a modern reconstruction. Now we can see the ancient chambers below. For an explanation, see this post by Mark Ziese.

 

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