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

Khirbet Qeiyafa Excavation Report, Vol. II now available

The second published volume of the Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation has just come off the press. It should be available any day now through the Israel Exploration Society.

Cover for Khirbet Qeiyafa, Volume II.

Cover for the Khirbet Qeiyafa Excavation Report, Volume II.

Additional volumes from the Khirbet Qeiyafa excavations are due in the near future.

Posted in 2009 Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation, 2010 Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation, 2011 Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation, 2012 Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation, 2013 Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation, Khirbet Qeiyafa, Publications & Study Materials | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Yossi Garfinkel giving presentation near Tampa, Florida

Prof. Yossi Garfinkel will be at Florida College in Temple Terrace, FL, next Tuesday (Nov. 18th) to give a presentation on the archaeological finds from Khirbet Qeiyafa in Israel. This event is part of the school’s Life Enrichment program and is free and open to the public.

This is the excavation I was with for five years. Several Florida College faculty and alumni worked at Khirbet Qeiyafa under Prof. Garfinkel. The site is located along the Elah Valley where David fought Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. Its finds have recharged scholarly debates over David and the existence/character of an early Israelite kingdom. If you are interested in the Bible or in biblical history, this presentation is a must.

The presentation begins at 7:30pm in Puckett Auditorium on the FC campus.

Prof. Yossi Garfinkel describing a gate complex at Khirbet Qeiyafa. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Prof. Yossi Garfinkel describing a gate complex at Khirbet Qeiyafa. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Yossi Garfinkel and Yours Truly at Khirbet Qeiyafa. (Photo by Royce Chandler)

Yossi Garfinkel and Yours Truly in front of ancient fortifications at Khirbet Qeiyafa. (Photo by Royce Chandler)


Posted in archaeologists, Biblical Archaeology, Conference, General Archaeology, Israel, Khirbet Qeiyafa | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee

Internet service was problematic for most of the trip and prohibited me from connecting to this blog. I am in the airport waiting my flight home, and finally have a reliable connection. I will post information from the trip once I am home. This visit to the Bible Lands was fantastic.

Here is one of my favorite photos from early in the trip. It shows sunrise over the Sea of Galilee as viewed from my hotel in Tiberias.

Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee in late October, 2014. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee in late October, 2014. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Posted in 2014 Bible Lands Tour, Bible Lands tour, Galilee, Overseas trips | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Overlooking a Biblical Battleground

One of our visits yesterday was to the traditional site of Elijah’s contest with Baal on Mount Carmel. This location for the contest is probably correct and offers a wide view of the Jezreel valley. The valley has an intense military history – no less than 34 separate battles have taken place here, and those are just the ones we know about. For 35 centuries of military history, (the 15th century BC to the 20th century AD), every invader of Canaan has had to secure the route through this valley. It is the only way by which one can travel north-south in Canaan without having to climb mountains.

This photo shows the hill of Moreh (left) and Mount Gilboa (right) as viewed from Mount Carmel. This view is looking east. If you traveled straight ahead between these hills, you would quickly reach the Jordan River.

(Photo by Luke Chandler)

A portion of the Jezreel Valley viewed from Mount Carmel. The hill of Moreh is on the left and Mount Gilboa on the right. Famous events involving Gideon, King Sau, Elisha, Jehu, and Jezebel occurred on/between these two hills. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Biblical battles took place on/between these mountains. Gideon chose his 300 men by a spring at the foot of Mount Gilboa and crossed to the left to fight the Midianites by Mount Moreh. Saul faced the Philistines here (their camp was by Mount Moreh) and killed himself on Mount Gilboa. Jehu also rode up between these hills to Jezreel (by Mount Gilboa) to assassinate King Joram along with his mother, Queen Jezebel.

Not all of the biblical history here was bloody. A married couple by Mount Moreh (left) added a room onto their house for the prophet Elisha. He could deal with Israelite kings and officials by day in Jezreel (right) and cross back over to his private Bed & Breakfast by Mount Moreh to enjoy the evening.

It continues to strike me how close together things are in this land. One is never far from multiple historic places, both biblical and non-biblical.

Today we enjoyed visiting sites around the Sea of Galilee. The weather has been great and everyone is doing wonderfully. Internet permitting (it wasn’t last night!) I will keep posting updates on our tour. Very best wishes, and please check back soon.

Posted in 2014 Bible Lands Tour, Ancient Battles, Bible Geography, Bible Lands tour, Israel, Philistines, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In Israel for a long-planned Bible Lands tour

My group arrived safely in Israel today for a Bible Lands tour. We will spend the next week visiting biblical places and soaking in the history and culture of the land. No digging this time! We are here to experience, learn, observe, know, and connect with many remarkable places where Bible events occurred.

Our direct flight from New York was smooth and more restful than expected. We are spending tonight by the Mediterranean Sea, straight up the coast from Tel Aviv. The hotel is very nice and provided an excellent dinner that just made everyone feel happy. We plan to continue our experience tomorrow morning with visits to Caesarea and Megiddo, among other sites. I will post photos and updates as we continue. For now, it’s off to bed!

Posted in 2014 Bible Lands Tour, Israel, Overseas trips, Travel | Tagged , | 1 Comment

New Israeli National Park for Khirbet Qeiyafa, Elah Valley

The Jerusalem Post reports on plans for the Elah Valley, famous for the fight between David and Goliath.

The northern portion of the approved area is particularly important on an archeological and historical level due to the presence of Khirbat Qeiyafa, an ancient city and fortress overlooking the Ela Valley, the Interior Ministry said. Excavated recently, the site is of great importance for understanding the biblical period – identified by researchers as Sha’arayim, mentioned in the story of David and Goliath, according to the ministry.

The new park is being established in an area under pressure from urban expansion to the north and oil shale fracking in the Ela[h] Valley to the south. These development projects have recently been modified to preserve space around the new park.

View showing the designated border of the new Elah Valley national park in Israel. "North" is to the right. (Photo courtesy of INPA)

View showing the designated border of the new Elah Valley national park in Israel. “North” is to the right. For some reason, the Jerusalem Post article used this image that cuts off the top (western) border of the park area, where Khirbet Qeiyafa is located. (Photo courtesy of INPA)

I was privileged to have worked with the Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation over five seasons. It is the only known site in modern Israel whose construction dates to the early days of the biblical United Kingdom (Saul, David). The surrounding area was a strategic border location that saw numerous battles, including the famous incident with Goliath.

Menachem Fried of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority noted the site of Kh. Qeiyafa.

“Qeiyafa is a very special site,” Fried told the Post. “It really has barely changed since the biblical period.”

The park will involve minimal development, including just signs, a few pedestrian and cycling paths and maybe a small theater, Fried added.

Read the full article here.


Aerial view of Khirbet Qeiyafa looking south over the Elah Valley. The new National Park zone extends to the left (east) of this site. (Photo courtesy of the Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation)

Posted in Bible Geography, Biblical Archaeology, Interesting places to visit, Israel, Khirbet Qeiyafa | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments