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!

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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)

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Conference on Khirbet Qeiyafa in Bern, Switzerland

In case any of this blog’s readers can attend, there is a conference on Khirbet Qeiyafa this Saturday, September 6th, at the University of Bern. Speakers include Professors Yossi Garfinkel, Aren Maeir, Thomas Römer, Dr. Stefan Münger, Silvia Schroer, and Benjamin Sass.

The detailed schedule is on this flyer.


Aerial view of Khirbet Qeiyafa from the north with the Valley of Elah in the background. The city’s construction dates to Israel’s early United Kingdom, ca. 1000 BC. Evidence suggests this may be a Judahite city dating to the time of Saul or David’s governments. (Photo by Sky View, courtesy of the IAA)

HT: Todd Bolen

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Presentation on Tel Lachish Excavation near Tampa, FL

For anyone in the Tampa area, I will be making a presentation this Sunday evening (Aug. 17th) at 5:30pm on the archaeological excavations at Tel Lachish. See what was discovered in this biblical city and how it may illuminate our understanding of ancient Canaan.

This presentation is at the North Terrace Church of Christ in Temple Terrace, FL. (Click here for driving directions.) All are welcome!

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Explorations in Antiquity Center near Atlanta planning major expansion

The Explorations in Antiquity Center in LaGrange, Georgia, has announced plans for a major expansion onto adjacent land. Dr. Jim Fleming, a scholar who has lived and worked in the Bible Lands, founded this museum to “help people experience the ancient biblical world, its history and culture.”

An illustration of the planned expansion is visible here. Check out the “Walkable relief model” (labeled #17) that appears to be a multi-acre physical relief map of the Galilee. For those who have visited the center previously, note that areas 1 through 7 on the linked illustration comprise the current museum. The upcoming expansion will increase the size of the museum area by several times.

I visited the Explorations in Antiquity Center in 2010 with a group of young people from the Tampa area. Our group enjoyed an informative tour of the archeological gardens and filled up on the “biblical meal” for lunch. New exhibits have opened since that time, including a gallery with 250 genuine artifacts on long-term loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority. I am hoping for an opportunity to go back and see the new areas.

This is a must-see for people interested in the ancient biblical world. This museum provides experiences that bring the Bible to life and illuminate the words we read. Go ahead and Like the center’s Facebook page to receive news and updates.

Demonstration of an olive press at the Explorations in Antiquity Center. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Demonstration of an olive press at the Explorations in Antiquity Center. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

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Update and photos re: newly-discovered Lachish entrance(s)

This post has some clarifications on the entrance architecture uncovered at Tel Lachish this season. I described the entrances as “gates” but the excavators prefer a different term for one of them. Here is the text of a message I received from Yossi Garfinkel regarding these openings in the city wall.

Finally we completed the last points we needed to check before closing the season. Because of the fighting we were not permitted to take aerial photos of the site.

I read your blog and you can correct the information about the “gates” and their dating. Gate is a big word, and usually a gate has chambers on both sides. Currently we do not have indications of chambers, so we might have simple openings in the city wall rather than official gates.

The earlier one, already identified and published by Olga Tufnell as “blocked Iron Age,” is probably a Middle Bronze blocked gate. Next season I hope to excavate it and verify its plan.

The second opening in a city wall was found this season. It is dated to Level I (Persian) and Level II (586 BC destruction), so this opening is not “Early Iron Age” as you wrote.

To sum up, we have a newly-discovered Iron Age entrance that dates to the late-6th century BC and afterward. The “early” IA dating was a misunderstanding on my part. Another entrance below it has been preliminarily re-dated from the IA to the Middle Bronze Age. It was noted in the 1930’s but never excavated. Both entrances are located in the city wall on the NE corner of Tel Lachish, fully opposite from the known IA gate complex associated with Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar’s campaigns. The IA opening so far shows no evidence of gate chambers or related architecture. The IA and MB entrances are to be explored in the 2015 season and beyond.

This architecture is significant. There appears to be a significant gap (ca. 1000 years) in the dates of these two entrances. Perhaps we will find something in the next year or two that fills in the blank. Architecture from the earlier Iron Age, particularly Level 5, has been elusive so far and there is much debate about the habitation of Lachish between the 10th and 8th centuries BC. If the NE corner was an entrance to the city during and after the Middle Bronze period, we may find some answers in the near future.

Here are photos of these entrances.

The re-dated entrance at the end of the second excavation week of the 2014 season. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

The re-dated (Middle Bronze?) entrance at the end of the second excavation week of the 2014 season. The opening is blocked by collapsed stones. The line of the entrance runs down the center of the photo. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

 (Photo courtesy of the Fourth Tel Lachish Expedition)

The re-dated entrance after further cleaning. This blocked gate was first mentioned by Olga Tufnell from the First Lachish Expedition in the 1930’s. She classified it as a blocked Iron Age gate but the expedition never excavated further. Work in this area during the 2014 season has led Garfinkel to re-date it from the Iron Age (the biblical “Kingdom Period”) to the Middle Bronze Age (ca. the time of the biblical patriarchs). (Photo courtesy of the Fourth Tel Lachish Expedition)

 (Photo courtesy of the Fourth Tel Lachish Expedition)

The newly-discovered entrance that lies above the blocked Middle Bronze (?) gate. This entrance appears in a large wall but there is currently no indication of gate architecture. This is currently dated to Levels I and II in the Lachish strata. The 2015 excavation season should provide more information about this entrance and anything else around or just below it. (Photo courtesy of the Fourth Tel Lachish Expedition)

 (Photo courtesy of the Fourth Tel Lachish Expedition)

The newly-discovered Iron Age entrance at the end of the 2014 season. This is a ca. 3-meter opening in the wall on the edge of the NE slope, but appears to lack interior chambers. Excavators prefer to label this as an “entrance” rather than an official city gate. (Photo courtesy of the Fourth Tel Lachish Expedition)

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Location of the new gates at Tel Lachish

Here is a photo showing the northeast corner of Lachish, where Garfinkel has identified new entrances to the ancient city. These entrances are on the opposite side of the site from the late Iron Age gate discovered in the 1930’s.

Aerial view of Tel Lachish looking west. New excavations along the northeast corner have produced numerous finds, including new city entrances with preliminary dating to the Iron Age and Middle Bronze periods. (Photo courtesy of Ferrell Jenkins)

Aerial view of Tel Lachish looking west. New excavations have identified ancient openings in the city walls along the northeast corner, highlighted in the photo. Fresh excavation in and around the highlighted area has produced numerous finds. (Photo courtesy of Ferrell Jenkins)

As mentioned in my previous post, the newly-identified entrances have preliminary datings to the earlier Iron Age and the Middle Bronze periods. Readers can read about other special finds from the 2014 season here, here, here, and here. Garfinkel plans to begin excavation of the newly-discovered entrances in the summer of 2015.

Other areas along the slope and near the summit were excavated during the 2014 season. If you plan to be in San Diego for the annual meetings (BAS, ASOR, SBL, et al.) this November, keep an eye open for some informative sessions on Lachish.

Caveat: I will emphasize (as in this post and the previous one) that the gate discovery and dating is preliminary. Only excavation can confirm these conclusions. It is good to focus interest and enthusiasm on these finds, but it is also wise to patiently await the results of the 2015 season!

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New Gate Discovered at Tel Lachish

Prof. Yosef Garfinkel states that current excavations at Tel Lachish have discovered a new, earlier entrance to the city on the northeast side of the tel. This is the opposite side of the mound from the known Iron Age gate.

People who have visited Tel Lachish will recognize the Iron Age gate in the photo below. It lies on the southwest side of the tel and was discovered in the 1930’s by Starkey and Tufnell. This gate and its approach ramp relate to the city levels destroyed by Sennacherib of Assyria in 701 BC and Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 587/6 BC.

The gate associated with levels 2 and 3 at Tel Lachish. The gate for earlier levels has not yet been located. (Photo by Catherine Bishop)

The gate at Lachish associated with the Iron IIB and C periods. Entrances from earlier periods of habitation have eluded discovery until the new expedition in 2014.  (Photo by Catherine Bishop)

Garfinkel believes the northeast section of the tel would have been a natural entrance point to the city in earlier times. The 2014 excavations exposed and clarified ancient fortifications in this area. Garfinkel gives the newly-discovered entrances a preliminary dating to the early Iron and Middle Bronze ages. (Biblically, this is the period ranging from the early kingdom years back to the Patriarchs.) The 2014 season at Lachish was cut short by the Israel-Hamas conflict, so these new entrances will be excavated in the 2015 season.

A newly-excavated mud brick wall  (Photo by Luke Chandler)

A newly-excavated mud brick wall along the northeastern side of Tel Lachish. Some individual mud bricks can be seen below the sandbags. Notice the blackened destruction layer at the bottom of the photo. A similar layer of ash was found in numerous excavation squares in 2014, indicating a widespread burning of the city. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Gates are important discoveries for several reasons. They are key fortification points and can provide useful data on the defenses and layout of related city levels. City gates were also centers for trade, exchange, tax collection, worship/cultic practice, legal matters, and record keeping. Traces of these activities may be unearthed through excavation and illuminate much about ancient cultures. One prime example is the famous collection of Lachish Letters found in the southwestern gate of Tel Lachish back in the 1930’s.

Photos of the new northeast entrance(s) may become available later this year. This blog will monitor and provide updates as they become available.

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A Day of Biblical Sites – and Relaxing Along the Sea of Galilee

After a weekend at the Dead Sea, we began our final morning there with worship at 6:45am. We then began our trek north to Galilee and visited great sites along the way.

We stopped at Qumran, the site linked to the Dead Sea Scrolls, then went to Jericho and its ancient spring. We continued north to the Harod Valley and visited the Harod Spring (Gideon’s 300 men) and Tel Jezreel, an area linked to King Saul, David, Ahab, Jezebel, Jehu, and Elisha. We finished with a drive around Mount Tabor (Deborah and Barak) and went into Tiberias to eat a well-deserved dinner.


Gideon’s battlefield as viewed from above the Harod spring cave. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Our evening has ended gently at our nice hostel along Galilee’s shore. This establishment has a private beach on the Sea of Galilee and several in our group enjoyed a swim.

Timothy Chandler, Todd Chandler, and JT Ray relaxing in the Sea of Galilee at sunset. Tiberias is in the background. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Timothy Chandler, Todd Chandler, and JT Ray relaxing in the Sea of Galilee at sunset. The city of Tiberias is in the background. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Wayne and Dave Galloway sit along the Sea of Galilee after enjoying a swim. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Wayne and Dave Galloway sit along the Sea of Galilee after enjoying a swim. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

This gentle evening will be followed by a full day of sightseeing tomorrow. Until then!

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July 4th at Lachish


I remembered this post from Ferrell Jenkins a couple of days ago when someone noted that July 4th was near. It recounts a July 4th from 1980, during the previous evacuation at Lachish. Ferrell actually re-posted the story today on his blog. Here it is for your reading enjoyment.

Originally posted on Ferrell's Travel Blog:

In the previous post I mentioned that several former students and friends are participating in the dig at Tel Lachish this year.

Six years ago on this day I wrote about Lachish on July 4th, 1980. Since we have many more readers now I think it appropriate to re-post that entry here.

— • —

On July 4, 1980, I was participating in the excavation at Tel Lachish in Israel along with three of my colleagues from Florida College (James Hodges, Phil Roberts, and Harold Tabor). There were sizable numbers of participants from Israel, United States, Australia, South Africa, and Germany. In addition to the hard work out in the sun, we had some fun. On the morning of July 4th a few of the guys got an American flag and put together a drum and bugle corp and marched across the tel. Note especially the plastic bucket being used…

View original 413 more words

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