No More Mr. Nice Guy
Israel Gets Tough on Excavators Who Don’t Return Materials
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) is cracking down on foreign archaeologists who take artifacts out of the country for study and then drag their feet when it comes to returning them. The new policy created a flurry of concern among American excavators last summer because many had already made plans to bring materials back home with them and have their staffs study the items here in the States. Meetings with IAA officials, however, made it clear that exceptions would be made for those digs that have acted responsibly and that the policy was really aimed at excavations that have large amounts of material still in their possession. Even so, the Authority is setting strict deadlines on those digs that are granted permission to take new materials out.
Sources have told BAR that the IAA acted under pressure from Israel’s Inspector General’s office, which reviewed the export licenses granted by the Authority to foreign excavations. The Inspector General found that the IAA was granting licenses even to digs that had large amounts of material out for many years. In response, the IAA announced its new get-tough policy, which represents stricter enforcement of export laws already on the books.
Several American excavators working in Israel told BAR that they understand and sympathize with the IAA’s position, but were concerned that the new policy not force foreigners away from digging in Israel. “They [the IAA] should be complimented,” said Seymour Gitin, the American director of the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, who dug last summer at Tel Miqne (ancient Ekron).
Gitin, together with Joe Seger, the incoming president of the American Schools of Oriental Research (the professional body that represents archaeologists studying the ancient Near East), and others met with IAA director Amir Drori and staff last summer to express their concerns. Seger told BAR that he told Drori that the new policy “would produce serious difficulty” for American researchers in Israel and would adversely “affect the development of the discipline in the United States.” Students here, Seger noted, rely on materials brought back from digs for study purposes.
Seger’s own Lahav Project was given until December of this year to complete study of materials still outstanding. “We’re planning to pull out all the stops” to get the lab analysis completed on time, Seger said. “We won’t have the luxury of three to five years to work on these materials.”
Department of Far-Out Theories
Geologist Says Carthaginians Discovered America
To the long list of the peoples who are claimed to have arrived in the New World before Columbus, you can add one more: the seafaring Phoenicians of Carthage. Mark McMenamin, a geologist at Mount Holyoke College, says the Carthaginians beat Chris to the punch by nearly 2,000 years, landing here around 350 B.C.
McMenamin bases his claim on computer-enhanced images of ancient gold coins called staters. He believes that tiny designs on the bottom of the coins are a map of the Americas and the ancient world. Yes, that’s what he says. McMenamin told BAR that he made his discovery while teaching his home-schooled children. Brushing up on his ancient history, McMenamin learned of a 1775 publication referring to a hoard of Phoenician coins in the Azores, 900 miles west of Europe. Those coins seem to have vanished, but as he perused catalogues of ancient coins, McMenamin spotted anomalies on some. He used computer technology to bring out the images, and what he saw reminded him of an ancient Carthaginian map shown to him by a geographer colleague. McMenamin’s article appears in the November issue of Numismatist magazine.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Assyria
Muhly to Head American School in Athens
For the first time in its 115-year history, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens has named an Assyriologist as its director. Scholar and excavator James D. Muhly takes over the post on July 1. A member of BAR’s Editorial Advisory Board, Muhly has taught at the University of Pennsylvania for the past 30 years, including a 15-year stint as chairman of the ancient history department.
Muhly specializes in ancient metallurgy and the metals trade. His article, “How Iron Technology Changed the Ancient World—and Gave the Philistines a Military Edge,” appeared in BAR 08:06. He has excavated at Tel Michal and Tel Gerisha, both in Israel, and, more recently, on Crete. Muhly’s honors include the Alexander von Humboldt Prize of the Max Planck Institute and, as co-winner, the 1994 Pomerance Science Medal of the Archaeological Institute of America.
The American School co-ordinates the activities of 149 colleges and universities with the Greek Ministry of Culture and is the permanent American archaeological presence in Greece. It provides graduate students in ancient history, classics, literature and archaeology training in the sites and monuments of Greece. Its flagship digs are at the ancient agoras of Athens and Corinth.
Muhly tells BAR that he hopes “to maintain the great traditions of the school while at the same time developing better relations with the other American foreign institutes from Rome to Amman.” We wish him much success.
The More Things Don’t Change …
Will BA Alter Its Name?
Biblical Archaeologist, the quarterly journal published by the American Schools of Oriental Research (the professional organization of Near Eastern archaeologists), has been grappling with its identity. Last spring, the magazine announced that it was soliciting readers’ comments about what it called “the seemingly perennial question” of whether or not to change its name. A brief questionnaire appeared on the outside wrapper of the March and June 1996 issues.
Based on the survey results, readers feel that a BA by any other name would not smell as sweet. Of the 600-plus respondents, 84 percent “strongly agree” or “agree” that “Biblical Archaeologist is a great name and should be maintained.” About 10 percent said, “If you change the name, I/my library will cancel the subscription.”
Reacting to two other questions in the survey, 48 percent of the respondents believed that the magazine should focus on the Bible; 65 percent were in favor of covering “the entire history and region of the Near East.”
Readers also proposed several new monikers for the journal: Near Eastern Archaeologist, Witness of Archaeology, The Ancient Near East, The Journal of Ancient Western Asia, Archaeology and the Bible, Biblical Archaeologist’s World and Levantine Archaeologist, among others.
The decision is now up to ASOR. We will let readers know if BA changes its name.
Borrowed from geology, the term “stratigraphy,” when used by excavators, refers to the concept that archaeological remains lie in layers, called “strata” (singular “stratum”), with the earliest on the bottom and the most recent near the surface. Sometimes it’s easy to differentiate between strata—a level of windblown sand gives way to a Roman mosaic floor; other times only minute differences in color, texture and smell distinguish the layers.
Archaeologists excavate stratigraphically, that is, layer by layer, to prevent material from one level contaminating another. This may not seem so hard, except that strata aren’t uniform, like layers in a cake. Some are several feet thick, others less than an inch deep, and many vary in width. Also, one level may dip below an earlier layer—where a deep pit or a foundation trench was dug through older strata. Such inconsistencies make our work more difficult, but they also allow us to see how people really lived—where they dug graves, threw out their trash or cooked their meals, and how they built their homes, temples and cities.
Because of the variations in individual strata, a narrow trench cut across a tell may miss entire layers or may incorrectly imply that one stratum is more important than it really is. Archaeologists try to chart the stratigraphy of an entire site by dividing the tell into a grid of squares, separated by unexcavated walls of earth and debris, called balks. As the excavators dig deeper in the squares, these walls, about a yard wide, preserve the stratigraphy of that square area. After carefully drawing the stratigraphy, excavators might remove a balk if it covers something significant, such as a mosaic floor. However, balks are usually left in place as stratigraphic “reference guides” and catwalks.
Once the strata are identified and dated by the latest objects they contain, archaeologists know something about the sequence of events at the site. If they find pottery, an inscription, a coin or another object that can be firmly dated, they may be able to date the whole stratum. The most reliable dates come from objects found in a sealed context, such as under an intact floor or paved road. These sealed surfaces protect the stratum from later intrusions, which will give a false date; any objects found beneath them must predate the construction of the floor or road.
Archaeologists often say that the answers lie below. The seemingly simple concept of stratigraphy provides the key to both discovering and interpreting these answers hidden further and further beneath the surface.
From Rock’n’Roll to Rocks
Answer: Frank Zappa and Masada. What is the question?
Question: What are two subjects photographed by Baron Wolman?
Wolman’s aerial photographs have drawn many favorable comments from BAR readers over the years. His dramatic shot of Masada serves as the opener for our story on p. 58. A lovely overhead view showing Jerusalem’s holy sites is a best-selling BAR poster (copies can be ordered for $9.95 plus $3 for shipping and handling by calling toll-free 1-800-221-4644).
Wolman made his professional breakthrough in the sixties, photographing the San Francisco rock-’n’-roll scene. A chance meeting with Jann Wenner, founder of Rolling Stone, led to Wolman’s appointment as the magazine’s first chief photographer. In the mid-seventies, Wolman fell in love with flying. He bought his own Cessna and combined his two passions by turning to aerial photography. Wolman has published two books in the genre, California from the Air: The Golden Coast and The Holy Land: Israel from the Air.
The Dim Sun
For those readers suffering from the DTs after having to survive an entire issue without Tabloid Watch, we bring relief: an extra dose of ridiculous headlines, absurd predictions and not-to-be-believed “news” stories.
We’ll begin with the Sun, that favorite of ex-Clinton campaign manager Dick Morris. The September 24, 1996, headline touts, “Hidden Prophecies of the Dead Sea Scrolls.” Subheads announce, “Doomsday’s Exact Date,” “Christ vs. Satan Final Battle,” “Food for Long Life” (huh?) and “Your Future in Millennium.” The Sun quotes “Biblical expert Dotson Meade,” said to be from London, as saying, “The Dead Sea Scrolls spell out a frightening Armageddon and the enlightenment that comes after…. One [date] clearly points to 2000 and even shows the specific day as August 13. Another date specifies July 7, 2077…. Many of us believe following Christ’s battle with and victory over Satan in 2000 we will enjoy the spiritual Heaven-on-Earth promised us. But in 2077 the inhabitants of earth will leave this planet and migrate to others.” The Sun modestly points out that last summer its psychics predicted just such a mass 21st-century Exodus, to Pluto. The tabloid also interprets a passage in the scrolls as a reference to the health benefits of olives. “Olive oil has been praised by health experts and featured in past Sun issues.”
We also have the Sun to thank for news of a whole new set of commandments (and you thought ten were hard enough). On April 9, 1996, it informed us that the “discovery of a second sensational set of 10 Commandments has stunned theologians and historians around the world.” The new set is said to have been found, together with the original ten, on a mountain in Saudi Arabia. Number 11 states, “Thou shalt discover everlasting life in the herbs that grow” (combined with olive oil, perhaps?), Number 15 declares, “Thou shalt honor women for in the eyes of the Lord they are blessed” and Number 16 says, “Thou shalt use the power of prayer to heal thyself of all sickness.”
Turning lastly to the Weekly World News of September 21, 1993 (we know it’s old, but we feel we owe you one), we learn, “Jesus’ Cross Found in Holy Land.” The story begins, “A leading archaeologist claims to have found a crown of thorns and the cross that Jesus Christ was crucified on almost 2,000 years ago—in 33 A.D. And far from jumping to conclusions, Dr. Ronald Worthin matched bloodstains on the cross with bloodstains on the Shroud of Turin—proving that they came from the same man!”
Not bad for a day’s work. Far from jumping to conclusions, indeed.
(Our thanks to Meredith Flax, of Richmond, Virginia, for submitting several items.)
Mark Your Calendar
Faces in Ancient Egypt
Through March 9, 1997
Egyptian artists differentiated young children from adults by gestures (such as placing a finger to the mouth), by hairstyle, or by lack of clothing. Cheek bones were a particular hallmark of Middle Kingdom style and may have been copied from images of the kings, which often provided the model for representations of the Egyptian elite. Forty-five objects of portrait and figurative art (like the statue of Basa, shown below), most of which have never been exhibited before, explore how ancient Egyptians represented themselves and others.
David and Alfred Smart Museum
University of Chicago
Chicago, Illinois (312) 773-0200
Queen Nefertiti and the Royal Women: Images of Beauty from Ancient Egypt
Through February 2, 1997
Reliefs, artist’s sketches, objects of minor art and a dozen sculptures demonstrate the remarkable transformation of the ancient Egyptian ideal of female beauty that emerged during the Amarna Period (ca. 1353–1336 B.C.). At the center of the exhibit are sculptures of the queen mother Tiye, Queen Nefertiti and the royal daughters.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York, NY (212) 535-7710
Mistress of the House, Mistress of Heaven: Women in Ancient Egypt
February 21 to May 18, 1997
Gold, silver and faience jewelry, statues and reliefs are among the 250 art objects used to explore the roles of ancient Egyptian women, as servant, priestess or queen. The exhibit’s opening marks the 175th anniversary of the founding of the museum’s collections and the beginning of an 18-month celebration of the centennial of its landmark building.
The Brooklyn Museum
Brooklyn, NY (718) 638-5000 ext. 330
The Glory of Byzantium
March 18 to July 6, 1997
A treasure trove of Byzantine art borrowed from museums around the world demonstrates the richness of Middle Byzantine culture (from mid-9th to mid-13th centuries) and documents the religious, aesthetic and cultural influences Byzantium had on neighboring peoples and on the lands of the Islamic East and the Latin West. Some of the 350 objects—mosaics, frescoes, ivories, enamels, silks, stone carvings, gems, ceramics, gold and silver secular and liturgical objects, and icons—are traveling for the first time due to historic new collaborations between the various lending countries. (Chalice of the Emperor Romanos shown below.)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York, NY (212) 535-7710
Abila’s Undisturbed Tomb
February 10 to March 7, 1997
A recreation of an undisturbed Roman tomb discovered last year at Abila of the Decapolis provides rare insights into first-century burial practices.
Cincinnati Bible College and Seminary
Cincinnati, OH (513) 244-8100
BAS Florida Study Seminar
January 30 to February 1, 1997
During the winter months, join BAS in the sun at our West Palm Beach seminar, “Exploration of the Bible and Archaeology” Speakers include P. Kyle McCarter, Maxwell Miller, James Tabor, James Strange and Bart Ehrman. Call (202) 364-3300 for more information.
January 12, 1997
University of Virginia professor Robert L. Wilken discusses “Christians as the Romans Saw Them” at a 2 p.m. brunch at the Panevino restaurant at 1755 Duke St., Alexandria, for the Biblical Archaeology Society of Northern Virginia. Call (703) 370-7381 for more information.
What Is It?
A. Game pieces
B. Back scratchers
D. Ceremonial mortar scrapers
E. Turn signs for chariot traffic
What It Is, Is …
These Egyptian ivory pieces date to the second millennium B.C. and depict the godess Hathor with her typical cow ears (at right) and in the profile of a woman (at left). The piece on the right also shows, above Hathor’s head, cow horns flanking the facade of a temple. Castanets and drums are frequently depicted in musical scenes from Egyptian tombs.
No More Mr. Nice Guy