Queries & Comments
BAR Is His Baedeker
I just returned from a trip to Israel. This was not my first trip, but this time I brought a number of issues of BAR that contained articles and drawings of the Temple Mount. I found these most useful and informative. They put the walls, niches and rocks into perspective.
Hartsdale, New York
Let’s Not Be Unrealistic
Biblical archaeology has become a pursuit with no realistic goal. Unless someone invents a time machine or credibly discovers Noah’s Ark, it is impossible to either prove or disprove the Bible via archaeology. To those who desire it, there is adequate evidence to support the Bible as history. To others, there are modernist interpretations to support denial. Until the next divine intrusion into human history, the Bible will remain a matter of faith.
Larry Pelton, Jr.
Archaeology Won’t Prove Miracles
The Old Testament is an ancient history book. There is no reason that archaeologists cannot turn up evidence of a history that is in agreement with that expressed in the Bible. What the excavations will not turn up, however, is evidence of the historical existence of supernatural gods or demons or spirits of the air.
Cecil W. Blank
San Francisco, California
Hebrew University’s Cheap Shot
I should like to respond to comments made by Professor Yehoshua Ben-Arieh, rector of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in Bonnie Rochman’s article on the C.G. Foundation Jerusalem Project (Strata, BAR 22:06). I do this as chair of the Department of Land of Israel Studies, home of the C.G. Foundation Jerusalem Project at Bar-Ilan University.
The plain fact is that two institutions competed for a project [that includes archaeological publication of the tunnel along the western wall of the Temple Mounta]. Bar-Ilan won.
The rector of the Hebrew University has used BAR to vent his feelings of sour grapes. Professor Ben-Arieh claims:
1. The Jerusalem Project should be in Jerusalem, at the Hebrew University. Nonsense. Universities from all over the world have programs and projects on Jerusalem. Why does Professor Ben-Arieh feel that Bar-Ilan cannot do this?
2. To get the project, Bar-Ilan had to hire Dr. Bahat. Dr. Dan Bahat has been working with us for the last eight years, long before anyone thought of the project. Dr. Bahat has recently been promoted based on the usual academic criteria. I have seen a letter, though, in which the Hebrew University promised to hire Dr. Bahat if they received the project.
3. The archaeologists of the Department of Land of Israel Studies are second- and third-rate. Let your readers decide what to think about such a statement regarding archaeologists like Amos Kloner (see his article, “Underground Metropolis,” in this issue.—Ed.), David Adan-Bayewitz, Shimon Dar and Hanan Eshel.
Our only sin is that we are successful. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is a fine and venerable institution, but that does not mean that Bar-Ilan, the Department of Land of Israel Studies and the C.G. Foundation Jerusalem Project cannot study Jerusalem in all its aspects.
Prof. Zeev Safrai, Chair
Dept. of Land of Israel Studies
Does Wonders for My Ego
Thank you for many years of interesting reading. Your Queries & Comments section does wonders for my ego, for I find I am intelligent enough to reject an opinion expressed or see something that might be offensive and still go about my daily life knowing that I now have more knowledge about the world in which I live.
S. R. Stahl
The Persistence of Edomite Religion
I very much enjoyed “Edomites Advance into Judah,” BAR 22:06 by Itzhaq Beit-Arieh. I was particularly fascinated by Beit-Arieh’s discussion of the theophoric use of the name of the Edomite god Qos in Edomite names such as Qosgebar and Shubnaqos. It is interesting that the inclusion of the theophoric element Qos in personal names apparently continued into the Herodian and Roman periods. It is also possible that a cult of this god persisted in some form even after the Edomites—then called Idumeans—had been forcibly converted to Judaism by the Hasmonean king John Hyrcanus. For example, I believe that we can discern Qos in the name Costobar, which is mentioned frequently by the historian Josephus. One such Costobar is described as a noble Idumean whom King Herod appointed governor of Idumea and Gaza and to whom he married his sister Salome. Josephus mentions that this man’s ancestors had been priests of Qos. Of particular significance is Josephus’s description of how this Costobar as governor angered King Herod by, among other things, not making use of Jewish customs and not compelling Idumean obedience to them—an apparent reference to the continued use of Edomite religious practices 60 to 70 years after the imposition of Judaism (Antiquities 15.253–260).
Josephus discusses another Costobar who lived about one hundred years later. He describes this man as a wealthy kinsman of King Herod Agrippa II and as a power in Jerusalem politics at the time of the great Jewish Revolt in 66 C.E. (Antiquities 20.214).
These theophoric uses of the name of the god Qos, as well as Josephus’s brief reference to the apparent persistence of traditional Edomite religion during King Herod’s reign, indicate a survival of some elements of the Edomite/Idumean culture until the Jewish Revolt, well after the time that this people had been converted to Judaism and absorbed into the Jewish nation.
William K. Schultz
Silver Spring, Maryland
Viewed From the Edomite Perspective
One of the things I enjoy doing when reading newspaper or magazine articles is examining the unstated perspective(s) of the author.
Certain phrases struck me as I read Itzhaq Beit-Arieh’s “Edomites Advance into Judah.” I have nothing against Beit-Arieh; his article reflects the way most scholars working in Israel write—from an Israelite perspective. For example: “the pottery from Edomite sites during the period of Assyrian hegemony reflects Assyrian influence, but it also reflects the material culture of Judah.” Could this phrase be turned around to: “the pottery from Judahite sites during the period of Assyrian hegemony reflects Assyrian influence, but it also reflects the material culture of Edom”? In the same paragraph we find, “The Edomite script also differs in some respects from the normative [italics added] contemporaneous Hebrew script.” I wonder if the ancient Edomites would have thought that the Hebrew script was the norm, rather than their own. Even the title of the article reads like a headline from an American newspaper covering a Soviet intervention in Eastern Europe.
Much of the focus of the article, after a quick reference to the Book of Numbers 20 and the (implied) perfidiousness of the Edomites in not allowing the Israelites to 019cross their territory, is on the spread of Edomite culture into the Negev. Note the language used: “Edomites took advantage of this opportunity [the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions] to expand into a severely weakened Judah.” The phraseology is clearly designed to evoke our sympathies for Judah. Later we find: “The Edomite military threat to Judah … was finally realized by Edomite expansion into the eastern Negev.” Catch the buzz phrase “military threat”?
What happens if we write a secular history from the Edomite perspective? I wonder how many nations today would allow a mass migration across their territory such as the Israelites asked of the Edomites? Were not the Edomites perfectly within their rights to refuse? Israel’s first king, Saul, launched attacks against Edom, though we hear nothing of the cause other than that they were his “enemy” (1 Samuel 14:47); how many wars have been fought because someone was said to be “our enemy”? Later David killed 18,000 Edomites, plundered their land and stationed a permanent occupation force in their cities (2 Samuel 8:11–14). First Kings 11:15–16 expands on this, noting that Joab spent six months in Edom, in an obviously vain effort to kill every Edomite man. First Kings 22:47 notes that Judahite aggression, in the form of a foreign imposed governor, continued until the reign of Jehoshaphat. In the reign of Joram, the Edomites threw off this oppressive yoke under their own king and regained their freedom (2 Kings 8:20–22). Later Amaziah, attempting to again subjugate his neighbor, repeats the atrocity of his ancestor David by killing another 10,000 Edomites and renaming one of their cities (2 Kings 14:7). Considering the genocide that Judah attempted to inflict upon the Edomite people, the loss of part of the Negev does not seem like such a big deal.
I have obviously taken a pro-Edomite stance in the foregoing paragraph and employed a variety of buzzwords to show how language can be used to sway emotions. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Edomite Liberation Front. The point is that no one has yet written a history of Syria-Palestine, or the “Land of the Bible,” from anything but an Israelite perspective. I would dearly love to see a series of short articles in BAR summarizing the history of Israel’s relations with its neighbors, but written from the neighbors’ position.
Ithaca, New York
The Doctored Statue
I was shocked by the photo of a statue with its genitals “censored.” (Strata, BAR 22:06). I am dismayed that the editorial staff of a publication dedicated to historical research in archaeology, art and architecture can’t present art in its original form.
John J. Ernst
See reply following Gerald R. Maxwell’s letter.
BAR’s Credibility Lost
By censoring part of a work of art and history, you negated the purpose of your magazine. If this censoring was done to placate a segment of the population that happens to be a vocal minority that tries to impose its warped moral values on the rest of the population, you have lost your credibility as a scientific, aesthetic and objective publication.
You have spared the readers from seeing that ugly phallus on the statue in Strata, BAR 22:06 (was he supposed to be a Philistine newsboy?). As an artist, I am sure it was probably in the Golden Mean proportion. Please thank the ladies on the editorial staff for saving us puritan readers from viewing another ugly penis!
Gerald R. Maxwell
If the picture of the statue had illustrated a story, we would not have blocked the genitals (see the uncensored scenes on lamps from Ashkelon published in “Eroticism and Infanticide at Ashkelon,” BAR 17:04, because they were relevant to the story). We did so here, however, because of the possibility that the illustration might be taken to be insulting to the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, which was the subject of the item. Even so, we probably erred. We will not do it again.—Ed.
Do The Statues from Ain Ghazal Represent a Married Couple?
John Shea’s suggestion that the double-headed statues from Ain Ghazal, Jordan, express a “marriage union” (Queries & Comments, BAR 22:06), has been raised by many archaeologists as well.
Mr. Shea’s comments suffer from a problem he could not control. The photo he interpreted as male and female heads and necks on the same statue is actually a cropped segment of the larger original image, and what is actually depicted is a single-headed statue near the camera, with another statue in the background.
But there are three double-headed statues in the exhibit, although the pictured heads belong to none of them. The heads and necks of all three double-headed statues are roughly equal in size.
The question of when society first developed the institution of monogamy as the recognized norm for male-female sexual, procreational, economic and social relationships is of long interest. Some 19th-century people had visions of mindless, lust-driven “savage hordes,” but these were clearly armchair ruminations of (possibly frustrated) Victorian-era citizens who viewed foreign populations (especially “people of color”) as examples of earlier “stages of social evolution.”
Prehistoric archaeology has consistently shown, however, that the “single-family” (if not monogamous) structure has dominated since the famous three-million-year-old footprints at Laetoli, in Tanzania, long before our ancestors are considered to be “human,” at least in the modern view of human physiognomy. We cannot trace “marriage” as a solemn agreement between one man and one woman until written records show that kind of socially recognized contract, but archaeologically the “one-to-one” relationship is pretty clear. In the Levant hunting-and-gathering groups of the pre-Neolithic periods generally made small houses or shelters that would not have easily accommodated a male and his plural families. Instead, the archaeological evidence suggests small structures to support an adult pair and their children. The same situation is true for Neolithic villages in the Levant; each house has a single hearth, a reliable sign of the number of wives in a dwelling.
So Mr. Shea’s suggestion that double-headed statues might well indicate some kind of “marriage union” is quite plausible. There are other possible interpretations of the double-headed statues, of course. Some colleagues have stressed the psychological impact on society of the birth of Siamese twins, mentioned but discarded by Mr. Shea.
The “twins” of Ain Ghazal appear at a tumultuous time in the (pre-)history of the southern Levant. In the early seventh millennium B.C.E., farming settlements that had been inhabited for hundreds of years in Israel and the Jordan Valley were being abandoned rapidly, and by 6500 B.C.E. (uncalibrated), every known permanent village had been deserted. Where did the populations go? Some people probably established new, smaller hamlets that haven’t been discovered yet. But the great majority pulled up stakes and “moved in” with relatives in other settlements in the highlands of Jordan, including Ain Ghazal. Thus, the two-headed statues might possibly represent a union of the mythical ancestors of both groups.
One other explanation I’d like to propose is related to the pressure of the populations in the mid-seventh millennium B.C.E. on the environment. If people were leaving Jericho and moving to the security of their relatives in Ain Ghazal, for example, stress would be placed on the resources in the immediate vicinity of the adopting settlement. An adaptation appears to have involved an eastward movement of goat- and sheepherders into the steppe and deserts of eastern Jordan, documented by faunal material at Ain Ghazal and several sites in the Azraq basin. Relationships between the “desert and the sown” were probably never very antagonistic, at least in earlier periods, when hunting was very sporadically practiced by settled farmers far 021beyond the range of their villages. But when incipient pastoralism began in the late seventh millennium B.C.E., territorialism may have first raised its political head, and the resolution of problems associated with the dual nature of the farmers-herders of Ain Ghazal and the hunter-gatherer residents of the steppe/desert may be reflected in the twin-headed statues.
Or none of the above. For our statues, we also have one six-toed foot and a seven-fingered hand. As economists might express it, “Go figure.”
Co-Director, Ain Ghazal Project
Ober Ramstadt, Germany
They’re Twins of the Zodiac
The two-headed Ain Ghazal statues can be understood as part of proto-historic predictive astrology. Its central feature was the apparent cyclical movement of a fixed number (usually 12) of constellations, the zodiac, punctuating auspicious points in the calendar. Generated by a slow wobble in the earth’s rotation (called the precession of the axis), the complete cycle of the zodiac takes 26,000 years—each zodiac “sign” lasts about 2,000 years.1 For the last two millennia we have been living under the sign of the constellation Pisces (and as this millennium ends we encounter, as the song says, the “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius!”), whose dominant god was represented by an appropriate emblem—the fish painted in early Christian catacombs (which are not a pun on ICHTHUS). Two thousand years previously, the constellation Aries ruled. That is, the sign of the Ram was dominant when Jesus decided to sound the ram’s horn (shofar) and when God provided an appropriate sacrifice for Abraham: a ram (Genesis 22:8–13).
One of the reasons that Moses was so cross with the newly liberated Hebrews is that, when faced with adversity, they immediately built a golden calf and returned to the god of the previous era (Taurus), not the new god of the age of Aries (Exodus 32:24).
Two thousand years before the age of Taurus, that is, c. 6000–6500 B.C.E., the age of Gemini was presided over by twins and twin gods. The Ain Ghazal figures date to c. 6500 B.C.E., right in the middle of the age of Gemini, when nothing would have seemed so fitting for religious expression as twins.
Contract Archaeology Won’t Work
Brian Fitzgerald suggests that governments license for-profit diggers, require them to employ archaeologists and permit them to sell artifacts not wanted by the government (Queries & Comments, BAR 22:06). At first, this proposal sounds good.
Worldwide, there appears to be little experience with such arrangements, and the experience we have, mainly in the field of nautical archaeology, is decidedly unpromising, for very practical reasons:
1. Archaeology is expensive. The relatively few artifacts found in really good condition, when sold, generally do not pay anywhere near the expenses. Even the very few shipwrecks found with treasure aboard usually do not return a profit; the non-treasure wrecks never do. Land archaeology, while less expensive then nautical archaeology, has even less possibility of producing treasure of any form and is still very expensive. Profit is almost certainly impossible.
2. Private excavators with a profit motive tend to use “grab-and-run” techniques. They don’t excavate carefully, record properly or produce meaningful reports. They can’t afford to. Contracts, instructions and supervision are unlikely to solve the basic conflict between good archaeology and the cost-cutting needs of for-profit diggers. They’ll dig with metal detectors, backhoes, bulldozers and dynamite, and shovel the leftovers aside with no attempt at reconstruction or interpretation.
3. Most collections should stay together for future research, at least for some years. For-profit diggers will want to sell the best artifacts quickly to recoup at least part of their expenses. The artifacts you suggest should be sold by museums are generally from old collections and old digs that probably have exhausted their research potential—although sometimes even these collections have research value as new techniques and new research problems surface.
For-profit archaeology sounds good, but generally it won’t work.
Edward Von der Porten
San Francisco, California
Jewish And Christian?
I enjoyed “Multiculturalism at Sardis,” BAR 22:05 very much, but I would like to challenge an assumption made by author John Crawford concerning the ownership of two of the shops—E12 and E13. He found both Jewish and Christian symbols in those shops and ponders whether the operators were Jewish or Christian. He is assuming they must be one or the other. May I gently suggest the 023possibility that they were both Jewish and Christian and would therefore use symbols from both cultures.
Pitman, New Jersey
John S. Crawford responds:
While I still believe my interpretation of the menorah plaque and weighing device with the cross on it from Byzantine Shops E12 and E13 is more likely, the possibility that the occupants were both Christians and Jews cannot be ruled out.
Other Burned Cities
Thanks for another good issue. A small correction regarding “Archaeological Hot Spots,” BAR 22:06, which states, “Hazor is the only city that was burned by Joshua.” Jericho was burned (see Joshua 6:24), as was Ai (see Joshua 8:28).
The confusion was ours—not the excavator’s.—Ed.
In Veritas—Oops—Veritate Erratum
The article “In Veritas, Vino” tells of a potsherd with wine stains at least 7,000 years old (Strata, BAR 22:06). For their sake back then, and for ours, I hope it’s true.
But the clever title of the article, grammatically speaking, is wrong. The old Latin saw, In vino veritas (In wine, truth), can only be turned around to mean “In truth, wine” by putting the Latin nouns into the cases that will make the phrase say that. It would thus come out In veritate vinum.
Charles B. Beard
Don’t Call Them Ultra-Orthodox
I agree with BAR regarding the excavation of graves in Israel and do not support the groups trying to stop the archaeological digs (“Death Knell for Israel Archaeology?” BAR 22:05). My complaint, however, involves the demonization of these groups through the constant use of the term “ultra-Orthodox.” If the groups involved describe themselves with this term, then it is acceptable. If they do not, it is unfair, biased and poor journalism.
Rick S. Conason
Neo-Paganism Rejects the Sky-Daddy
Alexander Wallace objects to the derogatory use of “pagan,” but he does not define true paganism (Queries & Comments, BAR 22:06). True paganism is a belief in the immanent nature of God and its expression in all things, both seen and unseen. This guise of God’s aspects, as inherent in all things, often manifests itself as “polytheism,” since these aspects were commonly deified.
The belief in the divinity of all creatures and things fosters tolerance, gratitude, humility, vegetarianism, conservation and ecology.
Neopaganism is alive, well and ascending. Intrinsic in neopaganism, with its all-pervading gods/goddesses, is monotheism. It is just not the brooding, omnipotent, judgmental sky-daddy that we in the West bow to.
Fort Dix, New Jersey
Of the Judahite sites marked in red on the map on page 31 of our November/December 1996 issue, only Qitmit and Hazeva are Edomite sites proper (see “Edomites Advance into Judah,” BAR 22:06). The other sites in Judah marked in red are Israelite sites where Edomite material has been found.
In “The Wired Bible,” BAR 22:06 by Steve Deyo, a sentence quoting, out of context, Gramcord’s Paul Miller about the Greek and Hebrew morphological databases should not have appeared. The author and editors regret the error.
A Note on Style
B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era), used by some of our authors, are the alternative designations for B.C. and A.D. often used in scholarly literature.
BAR Is His Baedeker