When is a high place not a high place? When it’s a bamah. Victims of an early imprecise translation, the bamot (the plural of bamah) of ancient Canaan and Israel still often appear in our Bibles as “high places,” but they were frequently much more than that, including open-air cultic sites, sacrificial altars and temples. In “What’s a Bamah?—How Sacred Space Functioned in Ancient Israel,” Beth Alpert Nakhai surveys the archaeological evidence for bamot to define the term more expansively and to clarify their role in ancient Israelite religion.
Nakhai earned her Ph.D. in Biblical archaeology from the University of Arizona in 1993 with her dissertation on “Sacred Places in Canaan and Israel: The View from Archaeology.” Since 1985, she has co-directed the Tell el-Wawiyat excavation in Israel’s lower Galilee, on which she has published several papers. As a student, Nakhai also worked as an illustrator and cartographer for numerous excavations in Israel. She has contributed several articles to the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Near Eastern Archaeology (Oxford).
Another “House of David” has been found! Less than a year after the discovery at Tel Dan of a ninth-century B.C. inscription mentioning the House of David—featured in “‘David’ Found at Dan,” BAR 20:02—a new reconstruction of a well-known inscription has yielded a second early mention of the Judahite royal dynasty. Coincidentally, this second mention also dates to the ninth century B.C. and appears—as does the Tel Dan inscription—on a stela commemorating a claimed victory over the Judahites. With this new reconstruction by André Lemaire, historians may better understand the text on this stela erected by King Mesha of Moab, as Lemaire explains in “‘House of David’ Restored in Moabite Inscription.”
A professor at the Institute of Semitic Studies of the College de France, Lemaire has excavated at Gezer, Beersheba and Lachish. He was the first to identify and photograph the only surviving artifact from the First Temple—a small ivory pomegranate with an inscription he translated as “Belonging to the Tem[ple of the Lor]d, holy to the priests,” as described in his article, “Probable Head of Priestly Scepter From Solomon’s Temple Surfaces in Jerusalem,” BAR 10:01. He has also contributed two other BAR articles: “Who or What Was Yahweh’s Asherah?” BAR 10:06, and “Fragments from the Book of Balaam Found at Deir Alla,” BAR 11:05.
In the village of Silwan, adjacent to Jerusalem on the eastern slope of the Kidron Valley, some residents literally live in caves—caves containing a wealth of archaeological information. Carved into limestone cliffs, the caves served as burial chambers for Jerusalem’s elite during the First Temple Period (ninth–sixth centuries B.C.), when the kings of Judah still ruled the region. A recent book by David Ussishkin surveys the 50 caves of Silwan, including the well-known, though misnamed, “Tomb of Pharaoh’s Daughter” and the appropriately named “Tomb of the Royal Steward,” the final resting place of an important official who was condemned by the prophet Isaiah. In a detailed review article, BAR editor Hershel Shanks assesses Ussishkin’s definitive new study in “The Tombs of Silwan.”
Ussishkin teaches at Tel Aviv University, where he has chaired the archaeology and ancient Near Eastern studies departments and has headed the university’s Institute of Archaeology. He co-directs the new excavations at Megiddo and directed the excavations at Tel Lachish and Betar; he has also dug at Kultepe, Chalcolithic Beer-Sheva, Hazor and Masada. In addition to his book on Silwan, Ussishkin is the author of The Conquest of Lachish by Sennacherib (Tel Aviv 003Univ. Institute of Archaeology, 1982). Ussishkin serves on BAR’s Editorial Advisory Board and has appeared frequently in these pages, most recently in “Back to Megiddo,” BAR 20:01 (with Israel Finkelstein).
“Sing to the Lord for he has triumphed gloriously; Horse and rider he has thrown into the sea” begins Moses’ Song of the Sea (Exodus 15:1–19). His sister, Miriam the prophet, then leads the women of Israel in their own song—which consists merely of the first verse of Moses’ song. Has Miriam’s song been truncated? Or was the Song of the Sea originally Miriam’s and only later put into the mouth of Moses? A recently published Dead Sea Scroll fragment indicates that Miriam’s song was indeed longer than the version we have. George J. Brooke explores the new text in “A Long-Lost Song of Miriam.”
Brooke is lecturer in intertestamental literature at the University of Manchester, England, and a co-editor of the new scrolls journal Dead Sea Discoveries. He began Dead Sea Scrolls research in 1974 and in 1992 joined the international team of editors, with responsibility for the Cave Four Genesis commentaries. A frequent lecturer at the annual BAS summer seminar in Oxford, Brooke is the author of Exegesis at Qumran (JSOT Press, 1985), editor of Temple Scroll Studies (JSOT, 1989) and co-editor of Septuagint, Scrolls and Cognate Writings (Scholars Press, 1992).
BAR publishes earliest known representations of Yahweh! Don’t expect to see new discoveries, however; these depictions of the Israelite God will be familiar to long-time BAR readers. But even if you recognize the well-known objects—an elaborate, tenth-century B.C. cult stand from Taanach (on the cover of
Taylor is associate professor of Old Testament and dean of students at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto. His Ph.D. dissertation at Yale University was recently published as a book entitled Yahweh and the Sun: Biblical and Archaeological Evidence for Sun Worship in Ancient Israel (JSOT Press, 1993). A lay reader in the Anglican Church of Canada, Taylor has his own chance to enjoy the sun when pursuing two of his favorite hobbies: skiing and camping.
The site of Biblical Gezer needs to be rediscovered. Twenty years after the end of the dig there, the training ground for many of today’s Biblical archaeologists, the site receives few visitors as neglect takes it toll. Yet this important Israelite city, fortified by King Solomon, features uniquely impressive remains, including ten monumental standing stones, the best-preserved Solomonic gate in Israel and a huge underground water system. In “Memorandum Re: Restoring Gezer,” BAR editor Hershel Shanks urges the Israel Antiquities Authority to undertake the resotation of Gezer.
When is a high place not a high place? When it’s a bamah. Victims of an early imprecise translation, the bamot (the plural of bamah) of ancient Canaan and Israel still often appear in our Bibles as “high places,” but they were frequently much more than that, including open-air cultic sites, sacrificial altars and temples. In “What’s a Bamah?—How Sacred Space Functioned in Ancient Israel,” Beth Alpert Nakhai surveys the archaeological evidence for bamot to define the term more expansively and to clarify their role in ancient Israelite religion. Nakhai earned her Ph.D. in Biblical archaeology from the University […]