Some remnants of Christendom’s most ancient shrine, the “mother of all churches,” still stand in Jerusalem says Bargil Pixner in “Church of the Apostles Found on Mt. Zion.” Dating to about 80 A.D., the Church of the Apostles—marking the place where the apostles prayed after Jesus’ ascension to heaven, and the traditional site of the Last Supper and of Peter’s Pentecost sermon—has gone unrecognized until now because the original Judeo-Christian synagogue-church was altered by the Crusaders and venerated by them as the Tomb of King David. Using both archaeological and written evidence, Pixner traces the site’s complex architectural history through a succession of fascinating transformations.
In carrying out the dig that led to his article, Pixner experienced the rare convenience of excavating in his own “backyard.” A Benedictine monk, he lives in the Dormition Abbey, which stands on top of some of the walls and column bases from the Crusader church that incorporated the first-century synagogue-church. Pixner teaches Biblical archaeology on the Abbey’s theology faculty. He is also the co-author, with George Hintilian, of The Glory of Bethlehem (Jerusalem Publishing House, 1981). His previous excavations include the southwest tower of the Gate of the Essenes in Jerusalem and Bethsaida-Julias, by the Sea of Galilee.
Don’t try to overcome a fortified city without first reading “Five Ways to Conquer a City,” by Erika Bleibtreu. If you decide to adopt the ancient Assyrian methods described there, you will find that you can’t use machine guns, but you can use missiles—of a sort. And while tanks are out, another type of engine is in. But after seeing the vivid battle scenes preserved in extraordinary reliefs from Nineveh, Nimrud and Khorsabad, you may want to abandon all thoughts of conquest.
Bleibtreu wrote her doctoral thesis on Neo-Babylonian inscriptions and later studied under Sir Max Mallowan at Oxford. Since 1963, she has worked as research assistant at the Oriental Institute of Vienna University, where she has also served, since 1978, as senior lecturer in ancient Near Eastern art history and archaeology. Her excavations include sites in eastern Anatolia (Turkey) and in Austria. In collaboration with Geoffrey Turner and the late Richard D. Barnett, she is preparing a catalogue titled The Sculptures of Sennacherib (705–681 B.C.) and Ashurbanipal (668–627 B.C.) from the Southwest Palace at Nineveh.
Polydactylism is as strange as its name. So strange, in fact, that archaeologists seem to avoid talking about it even when they see examples in ancient art. The word refers to the physiological condition of people born with extra digits on their hands or feet. Although not as rare at birth as one might think, extra digits today are often removed by surgery. The late Richard D. Barnett—he died in 1986—fills the scholarly void with “Six Fingers and Toes: Polydactylism in the Ancient World,” which surveys thousands of years of archaeology and art for examples of polydactylism and considers how ancient people regarded the condition.
With the exception of the war years, when he served as a Royal Air Force intelligence officer in the Near East, Barnett devoted his entire career to the British Museum. He came to the museum in 1932 to fill the post of Assistant Keeper in the Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities and in 1955 became the first Keeper of Western Asiatic Antiquities, a position he held until his retirement in 1974. An authority on the art and archaeology of western Asia in the first millennium B.C., Barnett was the first to distinguish between the Phoenician and Syrian ivory-carving styles. His studies of the Nimrud ivories culminated in a landmark work, A Catalogue of the Nimrud Ivories … in the British Museum (1957). His other major works dealt with Neo-Assyrian palace sculptures. Barnett’s strong interest in Biblical history led him to serve for many years on committees of the Palestine Exploration Fund and the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem.
When one of this country’s leading archaeologists puts pen to paper on the relationship between archaeology and the Bible, we naturally want to know what he says. William G. Dever, is no stranger to these pages (see “Dever Stars at Lackluster Annual Meeting,” BAR 15:02), despite his consistent refusal, as a matter of principle, to write for BAR. Now he has agreed to allow us to adapt an article from his just-published book, Recent Archaeological Discoveries and Biblical Research (Univ. of Washington Press); he avoids sacrificing principle by writing in BAR, but not for BAR. The result is “Archaeology and the Bible—Understanding Their Special Relationship,” in which Dever considers what archaeology has corroborated in the Bible, what archaeology seems to have disproved and—equally important—what issues it should steer clear of entirely. Michael David Coogan reviews Dever’s new book in Books in Brief.
Dever is professor of Near Eastern archaeology at the University of Arizona. From 1971 to 1975 he was director of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem. He directed the excavations at Gezer for six consecutive seasons from 1966 to 1971 and again in 1984. He has also excavated at Shechem, Khirbet el-Kom and Jebel Qa-aqir (all on the West Bank) and at Tell el-Hayyat (in Jordan). He is editor of the Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research and has written and lectured widely.
Some remnants of Christendom’s most ancient shrine, the “mother of all churches,” still stand in Jerusalem says Bargil Pixner in “Church of the Apostles Found on Mt. Zion.” Dating to about 80 A.D., the Church of the Apostles—marking the place where the apostles prayed after Jesus’ ascension to heaven, and the traditional site of the Last Supper and of Peter’s Pentecost sermon—has gone unrecognized until now because the original Judeo-Christian synagogue-church was altered by the Crusaders and venerated by them as the Tomb of King David. Using both archaeological and written evidence, Pixner traces the site’s complex architectural history […]