New Archaeology Documentary on Lachish Dig (It’s free)

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a new documentary video on the recent archaeological expedition to biblical Lachish. This video shares perspectives from both directors and volunteers who worked on the dig, and shows some new discoveries that are significant to the early Kingdom of Judah.

The filmmakers, Bob Henry and Rachel Martin, offer this video freely to everyone. You may screen it openly to anyone or any group that may have an interest in archaeology and the Bible. Here is a description of the video and its purpose directly from Bob and Rachel.

This documentary brings you into the exciting world of Biblical Archaeology as it reveals the history of one of the largest Old Testament cities and tells the story of the volunteers who dig it up. This epic story reveals the turbulent warfare of the first temple period of Biblical history, the discoveries that expand the Biblical narrative, and the impact this experience had on the people who came to Israel to dig. Watch as these determined volunteers unearth a Biblical land mark’s secrets that haven’t been touched in over two thousand five hundred years.
What were we trying to achieve in making the documentary?
We had a number of hopes and aspirations for this piece. First, it was our heartfelt desire to connect people with the amazing Biblical archaeology going on in Israel. The work being done there is revealing the Biblical story in breathtaking ways, and it’s our passion to share the excitement the digging experience brings. For us, as well as for so many we encountered, digging in Israel has been transformative in many ways.
Second, we are passionate about the Biblical text. We wanted to tell this story in a way that would make the Old Testament come alive by showing it through the lens of the history of the Ancient Near East. Revealing Lachish in the context of the legendary events that surround this Biblical city has been incredibly challenging, and exciting. One of our most important goals has been to share this narrative in a way that does justice to the First Temple period’s epic saga. In the case of Lachish, the real story is so exciting that you don’t have to reach to hold people’s attention. It is an unbelievable story all by itself.
Finally, we wanted to share the story of the Fourth Expedition to Lachish, and the incredible contribution they’ve made to both Jewish history and Biblical archaeology. We wanted the world to know the teams lead by Dr. Yossi Garfinkel and Dr. Michael Hasel did more than just show up. They unearthed Rehoboam’s wall, and changed the way the history of the southern Levant will be written.- –
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Here is the video. Feel free to contact me for a download link, or to get contact information for Bob and Rachel.
Posted in Biblical Archaeology, Documentary, General Archaeology, Israel, Lachish, Tech & Resources | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Isaiah’s Personal Seal Found?

Archaeologists may have found Isaah’s “autograph” during excavations in Jerusalem. This clay impression (bulla) was uncovered a few years ago along with others, including one belonging to King Hezekiah.  It was finally announced this morning in a press release. Dr. Eilat Mazar has an article on this find, calling it “a unique and fantastic discovery” in the upcoming issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

The damaged bulla bears the inscription, “Yesha‘yah[u” (Isaiah), followed by the word “nvi” which, with the addition of the Hebrew letter aleph, would mean “prophet.” The area where the missing aleph should be located is damaged, so we can’t know if it was originally there. Without the missing aleph, the word “nvi” can be translated as a place name (“from Nob”). There is room for the missing letter, so is this the prophet Isaiah’s personal seal?


The Isaiah Bulla, a 2,700-year-old clay seal impression which potentially belonged to the biblical prophet. (Ouria Tadmor/© Eilat Mazar) The top portion (damaged) appears to have a motif (symbol or picture), likely a grazing doe according to Dr. Eilat Mazar. The middle line has the name of Isaiah in Hebrew, and the bottom line read “NVI” from right to left. If the damaged space to the left had a Hebrew aleph, the bottom line would translate as “prophet.”

The illustration below shows how the full circle around the inscription allows room for additional letters. The middle line in this drawing imagines the last letter of Isaiah’s name along with a letter for the word “the,” which would be expected if the bottom word is “prophet.”


Drawing by Reut Livyatan Ben-Arie of the Isaiah Bulla, a 2,700-year-old clay seal impression which potentially belonged to the biblical prophet Isaiah. (Illustration: Reut Livyatan Ben-Arie/© Eilat Mazar; Photo by Ouria Tadmor/© Eilat Mazar)

Isaiah the prophet is frequently named alongside King Hezekiah in the Bible, so it is notable this Isaiah impression was found only feet away from Hezekiah’s personal seal. It could have belonged to another Isaiah, but several scholars who have weighed in say this seal could have belonged to the famous prophet.

Even though this could be the seal of the biblical Isaiah, we lack the letters that would confirm it. (This sort of thing happens a lot, but then we’re talking about very old, breakable objects.) This impression was found in a proper excavation, which makes it more authentic than many others seals we encounter. (Have you noticed how many seals on display in the Israel Museum have “Provenance Unknown” on the labels? How many of those might be fakes?)


Area of the Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. (Courtesy of Andrew Shiva)

As mentioned above, the Isaiah bulla was found just a few feet away from an intact seal impression that belonged to King Hezekiah, shown below.

Hezekiah bulla_Tadmor_big

The seal impression of King Hezekiah unearthed in the Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount, conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology (Courtesy of Eilat Mazar; photo by Ouria Tadmor)

You can read a good article on the discovery here., plus another writeup by National Geographic. You may also enjoy this 12+minute video on the Isaiah impression discovery.

Posted in archaeologists, Biblical Archaeology, Inscriptions and Manuscripts, Israel, Jerusalem, New Discoveries, Short videos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Video on Lachish Excavation

If you are interested in Archaeology and the Bible, and especially if you’re curious what it’s like to join a dig, a new video is available for your enjoyment. The video covers recent work at biblical Lachish and was created by Bob Henry and Rachel Martin, a couple that participated in recent excavations there. Lachish is one of the most important sites in Israel with major discoveries, old and new, that illuminate our understanding of the Bible and its times.

Screen Shot_Tel Lachish

Aerial view of Tel Lachish from the new video. Notice the tent shades over several of the work areas. (Screen shot)

Why dig at Lachish, specifically? What is it like to be on a dig? How do these excavations affect our understanding of biblical times and events? The video interviews dig volunteers from all walks of life plus co-Directors Prof. Yossi Garfinkel and Prof. Michael Hasel. (I also make a couple of appearances along the way.)

Screen Shot_Yossi

Archaeologist Yossi Garfinkel, co-Director of the Fourth Expedition to Tel Lachish. (Screen shot)

Screen Shot_Luke

Yours Truly in the new video on the Tel Lachish excavations. (Screen shot)

The video includes what is certainly the most significant discovery of our work at Lachish. It fills in a large archaeological blank on the early Kingdom of Judah.

Screen Shot_HooGoo on wall

Archaeologist Hoo Goo Kang standing on the most significant discovery of our multi-year excavation. What is it? See the video for an explanation! (Screen shot)

Watch the full video and consider joining a dig! I will be organizing a group of volunteers to dig in the summer of 2019. Follow my Facebook page or visit my tour website to see details when they become available later this year.

Posted in Ancient Battles, archaeologists, Biblical Archaeology, Israel, Lachish, New Discoveries, Short videos, Tech & Resources | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Museum of the Bible opening today in DC

Today marks the grand opening of the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC, just blocks from the U.S. Capitol and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. The Museum of the Bible is free and boasts a massive collection of artifacts and biblical manuscripts. It includes a special exhibit on my first dig site, Khirbet Qeiyafa., called “In the Valley of David and Goliath.”

The museum website states the building has 430,000 square feet of space providing an immersive, high-tech experience on “the history, narrative, and impact of the Bible.” Features include a 472-seat theater with immersive visuals and sound, several smaller theaters, a café and restaurant, a biblical garden, recreations of biblical places, and many interactive displays. It is clearly made to provide a grand experience and the designers, in the words of Jurassic Park‘s John Hammond, “spared no expense.”

This CGI preview shows some impressive looking displays. I even caught a glimpse of what appeared to be replicas of Sennacherib’s wall panels depicting the conquest of Lachish, my second dig site.

This new museum drew controversy before its grand opening when its chief benefactor, Hobby Lobby founder Steve Green, was discovered to have imported many Middle Eastern artifacts with unknown origins and improper documentation. While it appears this was done out of naiveté and over-eagerness, the museum faces the real prospect that portions of its collection are fake or looted. The museum manuscript collection includes several unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls, but many scholars are convinced some or most are modern-day forgeries. These issues have threatened the museum’s reputation before its grand opening.

The Green family and the museum have responded about as well as one would hope, paying a large settlement and bringing in credentialed experts to assist in evaluating and vetting the collections. The museum website includes a page that discusses these issues and states new policies to counter these problems in the future.

The Museum of the Bible was originally conceived as a way to promote specific theological and apologetic viewpoints of the Bible. In light of the clouds hanging over its collections, and on the advice of some scholars, the museum decided to take a more objective approach. Exhibits and displays focus less on theology and more on the facts of textual transmission, history, culture, and impact of the Bible. In short, it’s intended to be more “we report, you decide.” While I likely agree with some theological viewpoints of the founders, I believe this a wiser approach. Presenting the Gospel is work for a church, not a museum. Organizations with specific theological agendas run a high risk of over-interpreting available facts. Conclusions that may just be possible have sometimes been presented as certain in attempts to define opinion (or misinterpretation of Scripture) as orthodoxy. Remember when the Catholic Church tried to mic drop on Galileo?

If the Museum of the Bible continues in its new course, I believe it has tremendous potential to promote discussion and understanding of the most influential book in history – the Bible. I plan to arrange a visit at my earliest opportunity. It’s free, but be sure to reserve tickets in advance!


Artist construction of the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC. (Courtesy of The Museum of the Bible)

Posted in Biblical Archaeology, Inscriptions and Manuscripts, Interesting places to visit, Khirbet Qeiyafa, Links to interesting stuff, Museums | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Jerusalem Discoveries: New stone courses for Western Wall, theater-type structure

The IAA has announced new discoveries from excavations under Wilson’s Arch, near the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The press release includes interesting details and I encourage you to read it.

Some excerpts and photos:

“Eight stone courses of the Western Wall that had been buried under an 8-meter layer of earth were recently uncovered in excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Western Wall Tunnels in Jerusalem.  These stone courses, completely preserved, are built of massive stones and are outstanding in the quality of their construction.

“Furthermore, after the removal of this layer of soil, the archaeologists were surprised to discover that it covered the remnants of an extraordinary theater-like structure from the Roman period… Apparently, a great deal was invested in the construction of the theater which contained approximately 200 seats.”

Uziel at theater structure

Dr. Joe Uziel of the Israel Antiquities Authority, sitting on the steps of the theater structure. (Photograph: Yaniv Berman, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

The new stone courses match the level of others in the Western Wall tunnels. Having been buried for so many centuries, these are better preserved than the exposed stones at the Western Wall. They show typical massive, high-quality Herodian masonry.

New stone courses_Kotel

Eight courses of the Western Wall were discovered in the excavation. (Photograph: Yaniv Berman, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

I suggest watching this short video to see exactly what they found.

Wilson’s Arch is visible inside a synagogue to the left (north) of  the Western Wall plaza today. The larger archway in this photo is the synagogue entrance.

Western Wall plaza looking NE

Wilson’s Arch is inside the larger of the two archways in this photo. The archway visible here is currently the entrance to a synagogue. Wilson’s Arch dominates the view inside when you look up. 2,000 years ago, Wilson’s Arch supported a bridge leading to the Temple Mount. (photo by Luke Chandler)

Wilson Arch_Kotel

The Western Wall and the Western Wall Tunnels – general view. (Photograph: Yaniv Berman, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Western Wall plaza

The Western Wall is among the most familiar sights to visitors of modern Jerusalem. The new discoveries were found under the structures immediately to the left of the plaza. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Western Wall plaza excavations

Most visitors today do not see this view. The Western Wall plaza clearly sits on top of the past. For years, archaeologists have been excavating below visitors’ and worshippers’ feet. A street from 2nd-century Jerusalem is easily visible near the bottom left of this photo. (photo by Luke Chandler)

Not surprisingly, there are plans to open this new area to tourists. Perhaps it will be ready in time for my May, 2018 tour?

Update: Leen Ritmeyer has images on his blog  showing how Wilson’s Arch appeared with the Temple Mount some 2,000 years ago. He also has an impressive photo of Wilson’s Arch inside the modern synagogue by the Western Wall.

Posted in Ancient Architecture, archaeologists, Biblical Archaeology, Jerusalem, New Discoveries, Short videos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Masada Dig Yields New Discoveries from Jewish War

Preliminary results from the new excavations at Masada have been released, with “tremendous amounts” of new finds illuminating the famous Roman siege. Here are some excerpts:

“We’re actually excavating a refugee camp,” said Guy Stiebel, the archaeologist leading excavations carried out earlier this year by Tel Aviv University. Masada’s inhabitants during the seven years of the revolt were “a sort of microcosm of Judaea back then,” comprised of refugees from Jerusalem and across Judaea, including priests, members of the enigmatic monastic group from Qumran that wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, and at least one Samaritan.

… “We have the opportunity to truly see the people, and this is very rare for an archaeologist,” he said. Among them are women and children, who are too often underrepresented in the archaeological record. Through archaeology, the study of the material culture found on Masada, architecture and a restudying of Josephus, he and his team can even pick out where different groups originated from before coming to Masada.

“We know people by name, we know people by profession. We can learn about the way this group of rebels lived,” he said.

Stiebel was loath to disclose too many particulars about his team’s finds until they could be published in a scientific journal. He divulged, however, that he and his team have managed to extract “tremendous amounts of data” from the newly excavated areas of the site…

Excavating at Masada not only sheds light on its inhabitants, but on the people who lived in Jerusalem and Judea in the nascent years of Christianity, and the twilight of Jewish independence.

Masada is famous for Josephus’ account of the battle between the besieging Romans and the Jews atop this Dead Sea fortress. Josephus writes that the Jews committed mass suicide rather than surrender to the assaulting Tenth Legion. Scholars debate whether the Jews actually killed themselves, but the impressive remains on the summit and the complete Roman siege works preserved below indicate a compelling battle.

Read the full article here. I have previously written about the beginning of this new excavation. We will leave it to Dr. Stiebel and the staff to identify structures and finds in later reports. Their next excavation season is scheduled for February, 2018.


One of the excavation areas from the 2017 Masada expedition. (Nikki Casey)

Read one of my previous posts with general information on Masada here.

I had the pleasure of working under Guy Stiebel during my first excavation season at Khirbet Qeiyafa back in 2009.

HT: Joe Lauer

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The New “Photo Companion to the Bible” – It’s Much More Than Pictures

A new resource has just become available and is a “must have” for any Bible teacher. The Gospels: Photo Companion to the Bible has thousands of images that illustrate and illuminate nearly every verse in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The photos are already formatted in PowerPoint with insightful commentary from multiple sources. Each slide’s “Notes” contain information on the archaeology, geography, historical and cultural contexts, along with textual insights. Anyone teaching or studying from the Gospels will benefit from this.

To understand the breadth and value of this collection, it’s best to visit the web site and look it over.  Watch the introductory video and download the free sample chapters. The Photo Companion to the Bible is from the same people who created the incredible BiblePlaces photo collection. (17,500+ high-res photos from the Bible Lands with commentary.) I use BiblePlaces photos all the time in my teaching and cannot imagine going without them.

I was fortunate to obtain a preview copy of the Photo Companion collection before the official release. Here is an excerpt from my review to Todd Bolen, one of the creators of this new set:

This new photo collection on the Gospels is stunning. It’s far beyond what I imagined, even with the experience of the full BiblePlaces photo collection. The amount of work and the level of detail defy an easy description.


There is nothing like this resource available for teachers today. I cannot recommend the Gospels Photo Companion to the Bible strongly enough. Take advantage of an affordable introductory price that is good through Monday, August 21st. Check it out now and invest in this valuable resource for your own understanding and teaching.

Posted in Bible comments, Bible Geography, Biblical Archaeology, Flora and Fauna, Galilee, General Archaeology, Jesus, Links to interesting stuff, Publications & Study Materials, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Dead Sea Scrolls Cave Found (Photos)

For the first time in over 60 years, scholars have identified another Dead Sea Scrolls cave. This newly excavated cave has everything one finds in a DSS cave (storage jars with lids, protective cloth wrap, leather binding straps, etc.) except for the actual scrolls. Evidence indicates the scrolls were looted during the 1950’s by scroll hunters trying to make a quick profit.

Modern publications say the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered amongst eleven caves. We can now identify twelve that contained hidden scrolls during the Jewish war against Rome in the 1st century AD.

A lightly edited version of the press release is below, followed by several photos.The full press release is here with links to the full set of downloadable high-res photos. (Probably a temporary link, so take advantage now.)

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Excavations in a cave on the cliffs west of Qumran, near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, prove that Dead Sea scrolls from the Second Temple period were hidden in the cave, and were looted by Bedouins in the middle of the last century. With the discovery of this cave, scholars now suggest that it should be numbered as Cave 12.

The surprising discovery, representing a milestone in Dead Sea Scroll research, was made by Dr. Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology, with the help of Dr. Randall Price and students from Liberty University in Virginia, USA.


… Excavation of the cave revealed that at one time it contained Dead Sea scrolls. Numerous storage jars and lids from the Second Temple period were found hidden in niches along the walls of the cave and deep inside a long tunnel at its rear. The jars were all broken and their contents removed, and the discovery towards the end of the excavation of a pair of iron pickaxe heads from the 1950s (stored within the tunnel for later use) proves the cave was looted.

Until now, it was believed that only 11 caves had contained scrolls. With the discovery of this cave, scholars have now suggested that it would be numbered as Cave 12. Like Cave 8, in which scroll jars but no scrolls were found, this cave will receive the designation Q12 (the Q=Qumran standing in front of the number to indicate no scrolls were found).

“This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years. Until now, it was accepted that Dead Sea scrolls were found only in 11 caves at Qumran, but now there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave,” said Dr. Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and director of the excavation. “Although at the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we ‘only’ found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing, the findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen. The findings include the jars in which the scrolls and their covering were hidden, a leather strap for binding the scroll, a cloth that wrapped the scrolls, tendons and pieces of skin connecting fragments, and more.”

The finds from the excavation include not only the storage jars, which held the scrolls, but also fragments of scroll wrappings, a string that tied the scrolls, and a piece of worked leather that was a part of a scroll.

… This first excavation to take place in the northern part of the Judean Desert as part of “Operation Scroll” will open the door to further understanding the function of the caves with respect to the scrolls, with the potential of finding new scroll material. The material, when published, will provide important new evidence for scholars of the archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea caves.

“The important discovery of another scroll cave attests to the fact that a lot of work remains to be done in the Judean Desert and finds of huge importance are still waiting to be discovered,” said Israel Hasson, Director-General of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “We are in a race against time as antiquities thieves steal heritage assets worldwide for financial gain. The State of Israel needs to mobilize and allocate the necessary resources in order to launch a historic operation, together with the public, to carry out a systematic excavation of all the caves of the Judean Desert.

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Remnants of a scroll from the newly discovered Q12 cave. This fragment was blank, apparently being prepared for use. (Credit: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld)


Remnant of the blank scroll removed from its storage jar. (Credit: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld)


Cloth that was used for wrapping the scrolls. (Credit: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld)


Cliff by the Dead Sea with cave entrance on the left. (Credit: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld)


Archaeologist Ahiad Ovadia digging in cave Q12. (Credit: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld)


Ziad Abu Ganem and a student sifting material from the cave. (Credit: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld)


Fragments of jars that contained Dead Sea Scrolls. (Credit: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld)


Posted in archaeologists, Biblical Archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls, Inscriptions and Manuscripts, Israel, New Discoveries | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bible Lands Museum Video: “Khirbet Qeiyafa in the Elah Valley”

The Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem has a special exhibit, “In the Valley of David and Goliath,” on the archaeological site of Khirbet Qeiyafa in the Elah Valley. The exhibit’s feature video is now online and can be viewed from the comfort of your home or office.

The video is just under 9 minutes long and does a nice job explaining why Khirbet Qeiyafa is important for understanding the time of the biblical United Monarchy. Archaeologist Yossi Garfinkel does much of the talking but others share in the explanations. (I make an appearance for about 3 seconds.)

The Bible Lands Museum website allows you to download a free app with the audio guide for both the Khirbet Qeiyafa exhibit and the museum’s permanent collection. Scroll down the page to find the links for Android and iPhone.

For a unique archaeological experience, check out this music video with an original composition for harp, cello and pecussion inspired by the Kh. Qeiyafa exhibition, composed by Rali Margalit. The video provides views of the exhibit area and the actual Qeiyafa site.

Posted in archaeologists, Biblical Archaeology, Israel, Khirbet Qeiyafa, Links to interesting stuff, Museums, Short videos, Tech & Resources | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Join My 2017 Bible Lands Tour

Registration is open for my next Bible Lands Study Tour from June 7th – 17th, 2017. This is an immersive experience in the biblical text, its history, archaeology, culture, and geography that helps your study become deeper and more vivid. Enjoy the thrill of connecting so personally with events and people who inspire your life as a Christian.

This 11-day tour is available for $2,890, including round trip airfare between New York and Tel Aviv. All of our lodgings in Israel are in excellent locations and include free Wi-Fi.

This will be my 11th trip to Israel. I have put together a customized itinerary that brings you up close to a great number of Bible events. Walk where Jesus and others walked. Sail on the Sea of Galilee. Swim in the Dead Sea. Spend the night in places that allow you to soak in the history around you.

Are you interested in archaeology? For just under $1,100 more you can stay until June 30th and spend time with the dig at biblical Lachish. Meet renowned archaeologists and get a taste of real archaeology as you uncover objects and buildings from the past. Enjoy free lectures on biblical archaeology (given by the archaeologists), field trips to nearby biblical sites, and bonus days in Jerusalem.

For details, download my Bible Lands Tour brochure and registration form and the trip itinerary.

Want to stay longer and join a dig? Download the dig trip brochure and registration and the extended itinerary.


Join my 2017 tour to the Bible Lands from June 7th to 17th. If interested, stay longer and join the archaeological dig at biblical Lachish.

People with the Lachish excavation made this 10-minute video that asks volunteers (including me) what it’s like to experience a biblical dig. Check it out!


Fla. Seller of Travel Ref. No. ST37750

Posted in 2017 Tel Lachish excavation, Bible Lands tour, Biblical Archaeology, Interesting places to visit, Israel, Jerusalem, Short videos, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments