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!

Posted in 2015 Tel Lachish excavation, archaeologists, Biblical Archaeology, Israel, Lachish | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in 2015 Tel Lachish excavation, Bible Lands tour, Israel, Jerusalem, Overseas trips, Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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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My Radio Interview on Archaeology in Cali, Colombia

I was in Colombia for most of this month and had the privilege one morning to discuss archaeology on a live radio program in the city of Cali. The one-hour special broadcast was entirely in Spanish but seemed to go well. The program “30 Minutos a la Luz de la Biblia” is still airing each weekday in spite of my guest appearance.

The program focused on archaeology as it relates to the Bible. We discussed Israel’s early presence in Canaan, some assorted finds from the biblical period, some of the work I’ve been involved with, and even a bit of Indiana Jones. (He manages to pop up frequently.)

On the air January 14th in Cali, Colombia. (Photo by Jaime Restrepo)

On the air January 14th in Cali, Colombia, on Sonora 1500 AM to discuss archaeology and the Bible. (Photo by Jaime Restrepo)

Posted in Biblical Archaeology, Colombia, Overseas trips, Speaking engagements | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Mark’s Gospel in a Mummy Mask?

Sources have recently reported that a late-1st century copy of Mark’s Gospel on papyrus has been discovered in secondary use as mummy wrapping. The dating is said to be ca. AD 90 or earlier, making it the earliest known copy of a New Testament book.

An ancient mummy mask made from papyrus sheets. This is similar to the mask alleged to contain a portion of Mark's gospel. (Photo courtesy of Prof. Craig Evans)

An ancient mummy mask made from papyrus sheets. This is similar to the mask alleged to contain a portion of Mark’s gospel. (Photo posted on LiveScience.com)

But is this really true? Archaeological reports in popular media should be viewed with a healthy dose of caution. Rumors and tidbits of what *might* be are often presented as established facts. News articles are written by journalists who are, at best, trying to manage information beyond their personal level of expertise.

A CNN article co-authored by professors Joel Baden and Candida Moss asks some very good questions about the Mark Mummy Papyrus. It is worth reading the full piece, which you can do here.

Whenever we learn of some new archaeological discovery from any media outlet, we should first ask:

  • Where, specifically, was the artifact found? If unknown, be wary.
  • Who discovered it, and under what circumstances? Was it in a controlled, legal excavation? If not, be wary.
  • Who specifically has studied/analyzed it? Specialists are usually required but they don’t always get the microphone.
  • Do the simple facts of the discovery really support the conclusion being presented? People sometimes s-t-r-e-t-c-h interpretation.
  • Is the discovery actually new? If so, be patient and let scholars/specialists separate the wheat from the chaff. If not new, there may be more solid information available from scholarly sources.

The Mark Mummy Papyrus may be genuine, but we don’t really know yet. Nothing has been published at this point beyond the news rumors. Substantive details will hopefully come out soon, giving us a better idea of whether it is such an early text.

BTW, Todd Bolen has a nice checklist for managing Sensational Stories from Archaeology.

Update: Here is a short message noting errors in the LiveScience article linked at the top of this post. The message comments are also quite illuminating. After reading them, note again the paragraph in this post that begins with, “But is this really true?”.

HT: Prof. Ulrich Wendel, Todd Bolen)

Posted in Biblical Archaeology, Inscriptions and Manuscripts, Misuses of biblical archaeology, New Discoveries, New Testament | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Things learned from Yossi Garfinkel’s presentations in Tampa

We enjoyed a pleasant visit from Yossi Garfinkel Tuesday evening on the Florida College campus. He gave a lecture on Khirbet Qeiyafa to a full auditorium plus a summary of the first Tel Lachish season for a private dinner group. Here are a few interesting updates from his presentations:

  • As mentioned before, volume II of the Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation report is out. (I already have my copy.) Six more Qeiyafa volumes are scheduled to be published in the near future.
  • A second inscription from Qeiyafa (discovered in the 2012 season) is the subject of an article submitted a few months ago to one of the peer-reiewed journals. Word on its publication is still pending.
  • There is a third inscription from Qeiyafa (Hershel Shanks was right) that will be published in Kh. Qeiyafa Vol. 4..
  • A few new inscriptions were discovered at Lachish at the 2014 season. The expedition has begun work on their publication.
  • The 2014 excavation at Lachish found a candidate city wall for the elusive Level 5. (The character and date of the level 5 city are currently disputed.) The dating of this wall shall be ascertained over the next couple of excavation seasons.

Yossi Garfinkel is now in San Diego to present on both Qeiyafa and Lachish at Thursday’s ASOR sessions.

Yossi Garfinkel presenting on Khirbet Qeiyafa at Florida College in Temple Terrace, FL. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Yossi Garfinkel presenting on Khirbet Qeiyafa at Florida College in Temple Terrace, FL. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

We had a special cake for his reception at Florida College. How much detail can you notice? Feel free to zoom in and investigate.

How much detail can you make out from the "excavation" on top of this cake? The inside had three strata plus a "burn layer" of crushed Oreo cookies. (Photo by Melanie Chandler)

How much detail can you make out from the “excavation” on top of this cake? The inside had three strata plus a “burn layer” of crushed Oreo cookies. (Photo by Melanie Chandler)

Posted in 2012 Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation, 2014 Tel Lachish excavation, archaeologists, Biblical Archaeology, Inscriptions and Manuscripts, Khirbet Qeiyafa, Lachish, New Discoveries, Publications & Study Materials, Speaking engagements | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments