New Discoveries at Tel Lachish – June 29th Edition

We discovered some nice things at biblical Lachish over the past two days of excavation. Here are photos of some of them.

I will start with a typical oil lamp from Old Testament times. Scorching is visible around the area of the wick.

A mostly-intact oil lamp from the time of the biblical kings. These kinds of lamps were typical light sources in all kinds of buildings. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

A mostly-intact oil lamp from the time of the biblical kings. These kinds of lamps were typical light sources in homes and other buildings. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

We found a beautiful decorative bead made of faience, which is powdered quartz with a special glaze. The bead is powder blue and easily stands out. I am not permitted to post a closer photo at this point, but…

Kaiser holding a small decorative bead made of faience. A closer photo of the object is not permitted at this point, I'm afraid. (Photo - from a distance - by Luke Chandler)

Kaiser holding a small decorative bead made of faience. A closer photo of the object is not permitted at this point, I’m afraid. (Photo – from a distance – by Luke Chandler)

… The bead would go nicely with this necklace in the Israel Museum. This necklace was found at Lachish in the 1930’s and dates to the same time period as the faience bead we just found.

A Late Bronze necklace discovered at Tel Lachish in the 1930's. The powder-blue decorations are made of faience, the same material as the decorative bead we found. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

A Late Bronze necklace discovered at Tel Lachish in the 1930’s. The powder-blue decorations are made of faience, the same material as the decorative bead we found. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

We found a very nice pyxis, an imported vessel from ancient Greece. It is in excellent condition after 3,000+ years under the ground. Finds like this help to reveal the state of politics and trade between ancient peoples. It appears Lachish (and other Canaanite cities) had trade relations with Greece during the period of the biblical Judges.

A 3,000+ year-old "pyxis" imported from ancient Greece. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

A 3,000+ year-old “pyxis” imported from ancient Greece. Evidence of painting is still visible. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Lachish has a well-known gate complex from the time of the later Judahite kings but we are looking for older gates in different parts of the city. Does this intact socket stone indicate anything? A large wooden door post used to sit in this hole. Was it part of a city gate or perhaps some large, monumental building? We will know more soon.

A socket stone for a large door, perhaps part of a gate. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

A socket stone for a large door. Perhaps part of an ancient gate? A large door to an important building? (Photo by Luke Chandler)

We thought we had a sling stone yesterday, but when we took it out we noticed the bottom was flat. Sling stones are perfectly spherical. This little round stone appears to be a weight for measuring quantities on a scale. It has not yet been analyzed but we will eventually discern its unit of weight.

A small weight discovered early this week. We thought it was a sling stone at first, but then we noticed that the bottom was flat. This was likely used to weigh out quantities of food and/or valuable metals.

A small weight discovered early this week. We thought it was a sling stone at first, but then we noticed that the bottom was flat. This was likely used to weigh out quantities of food and/or valuable metals.

I will conclude this update with a photo of the sunset from Lachish. More news and finds to come later, so please check back!

Sunset at Lachish. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Sunset at Lachish. This same sun was producing 100+ degree temperatures in the U.S. but providing us with a gorgeous view to end our day. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

 

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Biblical Artifacts in the Israel Museum

We are free this weekend and enjoyed 3 hours this morning in one of the world’s great museums for biblical artifacts. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem is the repository for many discoveries we see in Bible dictionaries, commentaries, and other materials. It is one thing to view a photo but a much different experience examining an artifact with your own eyes.

A full visit to the museum cannot possibly be summarized in one post. I will start with a few highlights from Lachish, our current dig site.

Fortified cities normally kept large quantities of supplies on hand during attacks. These jars held grain, olive oil, wine, and other supplies collected as taxes. In Judah, these jars were stamped LMLK (“belonging to the king”) on the handle to designate them as government property. Here is a storage jar found at Lachish in a previous excavation. If you zoom in on the center handle, the LMLK stamp is visible.

A typical storage jar from around the time of Hezekiah. These jars were stamped with "LMLK" on the handle, marking them as belonging to the government.

A typical storage jar from around the time of Hezekiah. These jars were stamped with “LMLK” on the handle, marking them as belonging to the government. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Some pottery vessels were specialized. Here is one designed to scoop grains. Notice how the handles are attached off center, making it easier to dip the bowl into a granary or large storage container. Someone at Lachish used this to bring home food for the family each day.

A scooping tray from the time of Judah's kings. Notice how the handles are off center, permitting the front end of the vessel to scoop into a large container of grain. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

A scooping tray from the time of Judah’s kings. Notice how the handles are off center, permitting the front end of the vessel to scoop into a large container of grain. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

The inhabitants of Lachish burned incense in their worship. Here are two incense burning stands from the time of the Judges, during the city’s Canaanite period. (I found a portion of a similar incense stand a few days ago at Lachish.)

Incense stands. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Incense stands from the Late Bronze Period. Biblically, this is the time of the Conquest and Judges. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Canaanite Lachish had some remarkable imports. Here is elephant ivory carved into the form of a human arm, complete with closed fist. This was found in the First Lachish Expedition during the 1930’s.

Ivory in the shape of a human arm. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Ivory in the shape of a human arm. Many luxury items existed in Canaanite Lachish. Many expensive imports, including this one, were found in the city’s temples. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

A series of military dispatches from the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s attack in 586 BC were found in the Lachish city gate. Here is Letter #3, on display during today’s visit.

One of the Lachish Letters. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Lachish Letter #3, which mentions an officer of Judah going down to Egypt. There might be a connection with this dispatch and events in Jeremiah 26:20-23.  (Photo by Luke Chandler)

The museum rotates the Lachish Letters that are on display. Last year, we saw Letter #4 that specifically mentions Lachish. Here is a flashback:

MY 2014 group posing with Lachish Letter #4 in the Israel Museum last year.

Our 2014 group posing with Lachish Letter #4 in the Israel Museum last year.

We return to the dig tomorrow afternoon. Things are going very well and we are having an excellent time. More information and photos to come!

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Tidbits from the Tel: The 2015 Dig at Lachish

Busy day with the excavation, but with some nice discoveries. We have nearly completed our first week at this year’s archaeological dig. Here are a few highlights.

First, the new ancient gate.

The ancient gate at Lachish with a newly-constructed visitor's ramp matches the level during the time of the Babylonian conquest, though it is criticized by some archaeologists for distracting attention from the actual ruins. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Dig participants entering the ancient gate at Lachish.  The newly-constructed visitor’s ramp matches the level during the time of the Babylonian conquest, though it is criticized by some archaeologists for diverting attention from the actual ruins. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

My dad is a beast when it comes to heavy tools.

My father broke the sledgehammer while breaking rocks. This may be attributed to the fact that his is a Texan.

My father broke the sledgehammer while breaking rocks. This may be attributed to the fact that his is a Texan.

I found a beautiful piece of pottery today. It was imported from Cyprus and dates to the Late Bronze Age, around 1300 to 1200 BC.

Imported ware from Cyprus, dating to some 32 or 33 centuries ago. The design caught the eye of several senior staff. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Imported ware from Cyprus, dating to some 32 or 33 centuries ago. The design caught the eye of several senior staff. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

How about this nice piece? Another import from ancient Cyprus. The Canaanites made and collected some beautiful pottery. The Israelites, by comparison, were fairly boring with their pottery.

Imported Cypriot ware from the Late Bronze Age. The potter's skill is obvious. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Imported Cypriot ware from the Late Bronze Age. The potter’s skill is obvious. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Speaking of pottery, here is much of the archaeological staff plus some interested volunteers attending the pottery reading. Pottery vessels and fragments such as these tell us the time period(s) in which we are digging.

Daily pottery reading by the archaeologists. Styles and shapes of pottery changed over the course of centuries and are the key tool for archaeologists to date sites. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Daily pottery reading by the archaeologists. Styles and shapes of pottery changed over the course of centuries and are the key tool for archaeologists to date sites. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Evenings are gentle at an excavation. The archaeologists offer free presentations on biblical archaeology.

Dr. Yossi Garfinkel giving an evening lecture on Biblical Archaeology. The excavation offers three lectures each week to dig participants. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Dr. Yossi Garfinkel giving an evening lecture on Biblical Archaeology. The excavation offers three lectures each week to dig participants. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

More to come later!

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2015 Season at Lachish Begins

The new archaeological season has begun at the biblical Lachish, the second city of the Kingdom of Judah. Lachish played roles in geopolitics, conspiracy, assassination, and was a key objective for multiple invaders.

We began our season on Sunday afternoon after lunch. Yossi Garfinkel gave an introduction and site tour to volunteers including my group, students from Oakland University (Detroit Metro area), and others from various countries. At the time of this writing we have finished three days of excavation and have already found some nice things.

Yossi Garfinkel, co-director of the excavations at Tel Lachish, giving an introductory presentation to this year's volunteers. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Yossi Garfinkel, co-director of the excavations at Tel Lachish, giving an introductory presentation to this year’s volunteers. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Why excavate here? Lachish has already seen a lot of archaeological work from three previous expeditions. A key question for our project involves understanding the city’s status and history during the time of the the biblical kings. Little is known about the city between the time of Joshua and the early Israelite/Judahite monarchies, a period of several centuries.

We seek to understand the character of the city and the dates of its construction, destruction, and reconstruction between the time of David (ca. 1000 BC) and the invasion of the Assyrian king Sennacherib (701 BC). The biblical text provides few details on Lachish in that period and previous archaeological work has yielded little information. Our goal is to discover more about the city, and the biblical Kingdom of Judah, in the time of the early kings. I will speak more on these questions in a later post.

Steve Braman enjoying his first day in the field at Tel Lachish. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Steve Braman enjoying his first day in the field at Tel Lachish. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Steve Sebree taking heigh measurements in the field. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Steve Sebree taking heigh measurements in the field. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Reassembling a Bronze Age oil lamp during the first day of pottery washing at Tel Lachish. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Reassembling a Bronze Age oil lamp during the first day of pottery washing at Tel Lachish. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

More details to come later!

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The other word in the new “Eshbaal” inscription – suggested interpretations

The new “Ishba’al, son of Beda” inscription from our Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation is now reported on major news agencies and internet media. I cannot count the number of Facebook posts noting the find. Yet most news summaries do not mention the other word found with this biblical name.

(Note: news of this inscription first appeared on this blog, with a HT to my friend Alla Rabinovich who had initially linked the Academia article on FB.)

“Eshbaal (Ishba’al) son of Beda,” is inscribed with a firm hand on the 3,000 year-old jar, but there is another word preceding the name. The word appears to consist of four letters but is heavily damaged and difficult to reconstruct. At this moment I’ve seen three interpretations of what this word may be.

The authors of the original article believe it could refer to either a) the place from which the jar’s contents originated or b) specific information about the jar’s contents.

I saw last week that Prof. Gershon Galil posted a suggestion in a Facebook discussion group. (Jim West also noted it.)

“In my opinion the correct reading of the second Qeiyafa inscription is: KPRT ‘SHB’L BN BD'[M] = The expiation of Ishba’al son of bdʿ[m].”

Galil believes the inscription may designate the contents as an atonement/expiation offering (Lev. 5:5ff ) for the named individual.

The complete inscription, reading right-to-left. The damaged word in question is on the far right. (Photo by T. Rogovski)

The complete inscription. It reads right-to-left, with the damaged word is on the far right. (Photo by T. Rogovski)

If this jar is connected to levitical religious practice in the late-11/early 10th-century BC, that would be particularly exciting.

The restored storage jar with the "Ishba'al inscription. (Photo by Tal Rogovski)

The restored storage jar with the “Ishba’al” inscription near the top. (Photo by Tal Rogovski)

Posted in 2012 Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation, archaeologists, Biblical Archaeology, Inscriptions and Manuscripts, Khirbet Qeiyafa, New Discoveries | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In Jerusalem for Lachish excavation and Bible Lands tour

My group arrived safely in Tel Aviv after a pleasant and uneventful flight from New York. The second season of the new excavations at Tel Lachish begins Sunday afternoon. Tomorrow we will explore Jerusalem and acclimate to the new time zone.

"Steve Chandler" in front of the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. (Selfie by Luke Chandler)

“Steve Chandler” in front of the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. From L to R: Luke Chandler, Royce Chandler, Steve Sebree, and Steve Braman. (Selfie by Luke Chandler)

My dig group is small this year but we have some curious things in common. All four of us are bearded and we share names. Two of the group are named “Steve” and the other two share the name “Chandler.” Steve Braman suggested this year’s travel group should be called “Steve Chandler.”

The view from our hotel roof in the Old City. The Dome of the Rock stands on the biblical Temple Mount with the Mount of Olives in the background. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

The view from our hotel roof in the Old City. The Dome of the Rock stands on the biblical Temple Mount with the Mount of Olives in the background. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Last year we discovered quite a few things at Lachish. What will we find this year? Stay tuned to see what we uncover.

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New Khirbet Qeiyafa Inscription Published. What Does it Say?

An inscription discovered in 2012 at Khirbet Qeiyafa has been published, and it contains a name found in the Bible.

The inscription is incised on a storage jar from the late-11th/early-10th century BC, the biblical period of Saul and David. The article appears in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASORand is attributed to Yosef Garfinkel, Mitka R. Golub, Haggai Misgave, and Saar Ganor.

The storage jar shows the name ʾIšbaʿal incised along the top. This name appears in the Bible in 1 Chronicles 8:33.  (Eshbaal in English translations.) Eshbaal was Saul’s son who is known as “Ish-bosheth” in 2 Samuel chapters 2 through 4. After Saul’s death, Eshbaal reigned as a rival of David from across the Jordan River and was eventually assassinated by his own servants.

The name in this new inscription refers to a different individual (son of Bedaʿ) but demonstrates the use of this particular name in Canaan during this period. The context of this name on the jar has not been established, but it may refer to the origin of the contents.

(Photo by T. Rogozin)

The “Išbaʿal” (Eshbaal) inscription from Khirbet Qeiyafa, discovered in 2012.  (Photo by Tal Rogovski)

The article points out that the name “Baal” often refers to a deity in the biblical text but can also mean “lord/master” in a general sense. The root “Baal” appears in numerous biblical names but disappears from the region of Judah in textual/biblical and archaeological records after the 10th century BC.

The article can be viewed on Academia.com. It will also be available soon via JSTOR.

My previous post mentioned that this inscription would soon be published. (Thanks to Yossi Garfinkel for the heads-up.) Another inscription discovered at Tel Lachish in 2014 should be published in the near future.

Posted in 2012 Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation, archaeologists, Biblical Archaeology, General Archaeology, Inscriptions and Manuscripts, Israel, Khirbet Qeiyafa, New Discoveries, Publications & Study Materials | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Inscriptions from Kh. Qeiyafa and Tel Lachish to be published soon

Yossi Garfinkel has given an update on inscriptions recently discovered at Khirbet Qeiyafa (2012) and Tel Lachish (2014).

The Qeiyafa inscription found in 2012 dates to the early 10th century BC in Iron IIa. An article on this has been written and accepted for publication. I will name the journal when that detail comes to me.

The inscription from Lachish was located in Level VI (ca. 12th century BC). An article has now been written detailing this inscription and is about to be submitted for publication.

Posted in 2012 Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation, 2014 Tel Lachish excavation, General Archaeology, New Discoveries | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Presentation on Lachish at Florida College Lectureship

I will be making a presentation this Thursday, February 5th, at 9:00am on Illuminating Biblical Kingdoms: The New Excavations at Lachish. This is part of an annual Lectureship at Florida College, near the city of Tampa.

Special thanks to Prof. Yossi Garfinkel, co-director of the current excavations at Tel Lachish, for sharing updates and photos he presented at the recent ASOR meetings in San Diego.

Former professors of Florida College (Dr. Phil Roberts, Ferrell Jenkins, Harold Tabor, and Dr. Jim Hodges) participated in the Third Lachish expedition, and the school is listed as an affiliated institution for the 1980 archaeological season. Most of my group at Lachish last year were students, faculty or alumni of Florida College as well. It is nice to be building on the previous relationship. For anyone currently in the Central Florida area, you are welcome to attend the presentation Thursday morning.

Upcoming presentation on Thursday, Feb. 5th at Florida College.

Upcoming presentation on Thursday, Feb. 5th at Florida College.

Posted in 2014 Tel Lachish excavation, Biblical Archaeology, Conference, Lachish, New Discoveries, Speaking engagements | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Weekend series in North Florida on Archaeology and the Bible

For anyone in the Florida panhandle, I will be speaking this weekend (January 23rd – 25th) on Archaeology and the Bible at the Live Oak Church of Christ in Crestview (NE of Pensacola). Here is the schedule:

Friday, 7:00pm – “Remarkable Artifacts from Bible Times”

Saturday, 7:00pm – “The Archaeology of David’s Dynasty”

Sunday, 10:00am – “The Archaeology of Jesus’ Ministry”

There is an additional presentation Sunday morning that is not listed on the flyer, so that day is a 2-for-1. All are welcome!

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