Queries & Comments
Seal of Disapproval
What a shame that you did not use BAR’s publication of two seals from a private collection (“King Hezekiah’s Seal Bears Phoenician Imagery,” BAR 25:02 and “Seal of Ba‘alis Surfaces,” BAR 25:02) as an opportunity to raise the ethical issues associated with the scholarly use of unprovenanced archaeological material (artifacts whose find contexts are unknown). When archaeological materials are illicitly excavated in an unscientific manner, a tremendous amount of information is lost. For example, it would be important to know whether the seal of Hezekiah was found in a private household, a public building or a tomb. All of these differences in context say different things about the organization of the Judahite government and access to symbols of status and power in that society.
The common argument is that without collectors’ material we would not know that an artifact existed at all; it is better to have some information than none. However, we have no right to expect to know everything now, and the ethical principles of archaeology require us to leave substantial amounts of evidence in the ground for future archaeologists, whose research methods may be technologically more advanced or simply different from our own.
The collector of the seals is named several times in the March/April 1999 issue (see “King Hezekiah’s Seal Bears Phoenician Imagery,” BAR 25:02 and “Seal of Ba‘alis Surfaces,” BAR 25:02); he is thanked for his generosity, and his objects are called “star[s].” This type of homage confers undeserved scholarly legitimacy on both object and owner, adding to the collector’s prestige and the item’s value, thus encouraging further looting and collecting.
I am not arguing that the seals published in BAR belong in a museum rather than a private collection—the purchase and display of unprovenanced artifacts by museums presents just as much of an ethical problem. To discourage further destruction of the archaeological record, scholars and museums should do their utmost to avoid the use of unprovenanced artifacts in publications and exhibitions. We have plenty of interesting material to work on as it is.
Bryan Jack Stone
Archaeology Graduate Program
University of California at Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California
Shuffle Off to Wichita
Sorry, Hershel, that you had such a hassle at Disney World during the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion (“A Mickey Mouse Operation,” BAR 25:02). Two points: The No. l family entertainment park in the entire world would be, predictably, very expensive and crowded. And where was your facilitator, who 010should have ironed out all the snags days before the convention?
I would like to propose Wichita, Kansas, population 400,000, for any future meeting. We have the 316,000-square-foot Coliseum, which seats 12,000 people, plus 55 acres of campgrounds. We also have the 198,500-square-foot Convention Center, which seats 13,304 people. We have 7,000 rooms in 101 hotels, a major airport and three universities. Also, more airplanes are made in Wichita than anywhere on earth.
Prices in Kansas are the lowest in the nation. But best of all, if the news went out that scholars such as you were coming to town, there would be a flood of offers for you to stay in lovely private homes, cost free, with a family member at your disposal to drive you wherever you needed. We have great respect in the Midwest for learned people.
Jewell M. Buoy
Arthur Frommer He’s Not
Instead of reviewing the Annual Meeting (oh, he eventually touches on it), Hershel Shanks reviews the efficiency (or lack thereof) of Disney World’s management. On and on he goes about the architecture of the hotel, the wake-up calls, the lack of people giving directions, the commercialism of Epcot (which, by the way, I have been to many times and where no one ever approached me to “buy, buy, buy”). In fact, Disney World is a friendly, educational and relaxing place, contrary to Shanks’s review. Maybe Shanks should not go to Boston for the next meeting. Who will he blame for the cold weather? And the street signs covered with snow, and no one on the streets to ask for directions?
Shanks has diminished his standing as a “scholar” by his incessant whining. Leave the travel reviews to someone else, Hershel.
James W. Bradley
Shroud of Turin
Faith Beyond Proof
As an ex-academic in the physical sciences, I was distressed to read the numerous partisan and emotionally charged viewpoints regarding the genuineness of the Shroud of Turin (Queries & Comments, BAR 25:02).
Many of the proponents on both sides of this controversy are obviously emotionally attached, for religious or other reasons, to their conclusions, and should remove themselves from the intellectual playing field. Science, whether it be archaeology, physics or chemistry, begins with observation and the collection of data, which then leads to the postulation of theories to explain the data. Further testing and collection of data either substantiates or raises the need to modify those theories. There is no room in this process for emotion, for bigotry or for labeling the work of colleagues as trash. The scientific enterprise should be communal, cooperative and respectful, not isolationist, confrontative and demeaning of others.
Of those who perceive a negative verdict on the shroud as an attack on the Christian faith, I would ask, Did it ever occur to you that perhaps God has allowed the equivocal nature of the scientific tests? Why would he do such a thing? Perhaps to redirect our thinking to the nature of faith itself, to gently chide us that faith based on historical relics or on physical evidence is not faith at all, but superstition. Jesus more than once in the New Testament refused to perform signs and miracles. Why? He realized that to do so would only spawn cheap imitations.
Real faith, heart faith, goes beyond intellectual belief, and can have no basis apart from a living, personal, life-changing, subjective encounter with the object of one’s faith. It is a gift, it is heavenly stuff, and it thrives in the absence of physical proof. Its very nature precludes its manufacture by any human stratagems.
Jesus never said, “Come to my shroud.” He said, “Come to me.”
Raymond J. Chesin
Victoria, British Columbia
Out of Focus
After reading the letters about the Shroud of Turin, I think everyone has missed the point.
One reader wrote, “God left a photograph of himself taken at his resurrection.”
Show me that in any translation of the Bible!
The point is that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ alone. That piece of cloth has no power of salvation, and believing that it is or is not genuine will not get us to Heaven.
Howard M. Cooley
Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas
The Medieval Setting Is Clear
Your collection of letters provides some of the most entertaining banter about the Shroud of Turin that I have ever read.
The argument over the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin never ceases to amaze me. 012I am a student of the Middle Ages, and it seems obvious to me that the shroud is a total fraud. I don’t need scientific evidence to prove its fakery. There is plenty of proof soaked in the history, art and literature of the Middle Ages.
Let’s begin with history. No one will question the importance that relics and pilgrimages played throughout the Middle Ages. To the people, relics were a direct link to God—His presence on earth. For the churches, orders and towns where they were kept, the relics were a vital source of income. And so everything was a relic: splinters from the True Cross, the Chalice, the Virgin Mary’s veil and any number of St. Veronica’s veils. In England various churches fought pitched battles over who owned the “real” bones of King Arthur.
During the Crusades, trade networks grew up between the cities of northern Italy and points east. Such associations could easily account for the shroud’s Middle Eastern provenance. It could also account for an earlier date than carbon dating allows for. A crusader, picking up the scent of gratitude and glory, could have easily taken an “ancient” holy relic from an eastern church and brought it west. They brought everything else back with them, so why not the shroud?
The art of the Middle Ages is woven into the shroud. When I first stared at its image with an educated eye, the connection was clear. The length of the hands and legs are clearly medieval in their form. The Jesus on the shroud vividly recalls for me the Jesus carved by the sculptor Gislebertus on the tympanum of the Cathedral of St. Lazarus, in Autun, France, or the Jesus depicted in any number of Romanesque manuscripts. Could an artist with Western, Romanesque sensibilities have dwelt in eastern lands? Yes. Could such an artist also have been exposed to relics of Greek and Roman sculpture? Yes. Could such an artist have seen a real live crucifixion? Yes. And could he have used that knowledge to make the shroud look more authentic to its intended audience? Yes.
We tend to condescend to the past, as if people back then must not have been as smart as we are because they didn’t have TVs and computers. Many people call ancient achievements mysteries because they do not recognize the complexity of the cultures that produced them. They think the pyramids must have been built by space aliens because the ancient Egyptians weren’t smart enough to build them themselves. Or the shroud must be authentic because people back then didn’t have the technology to create the image. Yes, they did. We just haven’t figured out their technique yet.
Medieval literature is filled with references to relics; I’ll mention one well-known example from the 14th century: Chaucer’s tale of the Pardoner. And it’s with Chaucer’s wit and wisdom that I will conclude this letter:
“There was not another such pardoner / For in his bag he had a pillowcase / Which he said was Our Lady’s veil / He said he had a small piece of the sail / That Saint Peter had, when he walked / Upon the sea, until Jesus Christ rescued him / He had a cross of brass, full of gems, / And in a glass he had pig’s bones. / But with these relics, whenever he found / A poor parson living in the country, / Within a day he took in more money / Than the parson got in two months. / And thus, with feigned sincerity and tricks / He made monkeys out of the parson and the people.”
Silver Spring, Maryland
We Could Learn from the Muslims
There will never be agreement over the authenticity of the shroud. Perhaps it is just as well that no absolute proof will be found that it is the Shroud of Jesus rather than just the Shroud of Turin. There is a thin line of separation between iconography and iconolatry. The Muslims, I think, have the proper attitude toward icons: It is better not to have them than to risk worshiping them.
H. Hughs Farmer
Did Hazor Become a Ghost Town?
In reading Amnon Ben-Tor’s description of Hazor’s destruction under Tiglath-pileser III (“Excavating Hazor, Part I,” BAR 25:02), I noticed that his description was somewhat different from that of the late professor Yigael Yadin in 060his various writings. Ben-Tor does not mention that Hazor was destroyed by fire in 732 B.C. According to Yadin, stratum V in Hazor contained a thick layer of ashes, indicating that Tiglath-pileser III had burned the city. In Area B of the tell, he said, the ash layer was 1 meter thick! He thought that the city was unoccupied for some time following the fire, and that the evidence of human occupation in the following substratum was created by people returning to the site.
I am puzzled by Ben-Tor’s assertion that some of the inhabitants of Hazor managed to continue living there following the enormous conflagration and the Assyrian deportation. How could anyone remain there under such conditions?
E. Ann Limoges
Highland Park, Illinois
Amnon Ben-Tor responds:
The last fortified Israelite city at Hazor was indeed destroyed in a huge fire! Did I write that it was not? By the way, evidence for the fire was found beyond Area B as well.
Yadin claimed that after the destruction the site was occupied by (Israelite) “squatters.” We agree. We, too, found evidence for continued occupation. For the fact that this was observed not only at Hazor, see pages 37 and 60 of our article.
Battle Scene May Depict Tel Rehov
For the past two seasons, I have had the opportunity to serve as a volunteer with the Tel Rehov excavations under the direction of Amihai Mazar. Shortly after my return from last summer’s dig, I found the time to catch up on my back issues of BAR. Reading Zvi Gal’s fine article “Israel in Exile,” BAR 24:03, I was excited by the picture on page 53.
As stated, this picture (above) is of an eighth-century B.C.E. relief from the palace of Tiglath-pileser III at Nimrud, which is now on exhibit in the British Museum. As I am sure many of your readers are aware, a plate of this same relief appears in The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands, by Yigael Yadin (vol. 2, pp. 406–407). Yadin suggested that the depicted city was located in Medea, that the assault troops (mercenaries?) climbing the ladders are possibly Anatolian and that the battering ram is being “pushed up a specially built ramp.”
With great respect for Yadin’s expertise, I offer the following for your consideration:
Does the relief depict a city on a tell with a battering ram being pushed up a “specially built ramp,” or does it show a battering ram on the lower tier of a two-tiered tell?
Would it be more likely to find Anatolians assisting the Assyrians in northern Israel or over a thousand kilometers to the east, in Medea?
Do the defenders, based on their hairstyles, appear to be Semites?
Tel Rehov is two-tiered; furthermore, as per excavations during the 1997 and 1998 seasons, it is almost certain that only the upper tier was walled.
As for the two walls (a low outer wall and a battlemented main wall with bastions, as noted by Yadin), there is a real possibility that this season’s excavations will substantiate the existence of an older (inset/offset) wall and a later (hastily constructed and lower), outer wall that was more or less “thrown up”—probably a type of emergency barricade, like sandbags—as an additional obstacle to the Assyrian battering rams.
Although there is no evidence to date of a moat at the base of the tell, there is a rather formidable natural ravine at the base of the south side of Tel Rehov, which would match the scene depicted.
Could it be that the city in the relief is Tel Rehov?
Amihai Mazar responds:
The identity of the city shown in the relief of Tiglath-pileser III is unclear. Though Yadin cites Richard D. Barnett (then the keeper of Western Asiatic antiquities in the British Museum, where the relief is now exhibited) as placing the city in Medea, Barnett writes that the city is “probably in Babylonia” (Assyrian Palace Reliefs [London: British Museum]). Of the city’s name, only two signs out of three were preserved; they are “U-Pa.” A city of this name is unknown in Israel. Hayim Tadmor, who published the most comprehensive study of Tiglath-pileser III’s inscriptions, suggested that the city could be U-Pa-a, in Urartu (eastern Turkey), where Tiglath-pileser III conducted campaigns (The Inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser III [Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1994]). This identification is not secure, but there is no other city in our region with a similar name.
Lever is correct in his observation that the topography of the city recalls very much that of Tel Rehov, where we found a lower city that was already abandoned by the eighth century B.C.E. and an upper city that was well fortified in the eighth century B.C.E. and conquered by Tiglath-pileser III. However, the combination of a lower city and an upper city is known from many sites in the ancient Near East. The relief mentioned by Lever may illustrate a fortification system, topography and siege similar to that of Tel Rehov, yet this should by taken as an important typological parallel rather than a description of Tel Rehov.
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.
Seal of Disapproval