Queries & Comments
Our Own Charlton Heston
Cancel my subscription? I’ll give up Bible Review and BAR when they pry them out of my cold dead fingers.
Skip the Personalities
I’m sorry to say that your magazine has become less and less of a resource for me. I don’t want to be negative, since you guys have always worked very hard to produce a quality magazine.
I would have more articles on archaeology and fewer articles on archaeologists. We are fascinated by the finds but archaeologists tend not to be as exciting as their work.
James Bone Box
I read with shock and growing disbelief of the damage sustained in shipment to the Royal Ontario Museum of the reputed ossuary of James, the brother of Jesus (“Cracks in James Bone Box Repaired,” BAR 29:01). The pictures on pages 21 and 22 of the packaging that the shipping company provided for this priceless artifact would have been laughable if they weren’t so sad: bubble wrap encasing the fragile stone coffin, enclosed in a cardboard box, to ship it air freight (why not via tramp steamer?) to Toronto. I hope the name of the shipper, Atlas/Peltransport Ltd., is remembered in infamy and is soon found in the bankruptcy proceedings that it so richly deserves.
Palos Verdes Estates, California
Packing Advice from a Ceramacist…
With considerable experience, both disastrous and successful, shipping my ceramic work to exhibitions, I was appalled when I saw the photograph of the cracked bone box! How could any reputable shipping company pack a significant archaeological treasure with layers of bubble wrap with no cushion between the object and the cardboard box?
Standard minimal acceptable packing for fragile objects by American shippers is bubble wrap or blown molded styrofoam around the piece with a minimum 2-inch cushioning material between the wrapped object and the box, plus enclosure of the box in a second box with another minimum 2-inch cushioning material between the boxes.
If I had shipped the ossuary, I would have not only followed the above packing guidelines, but the second box would have been a wood crate built specifically for the shipment.
Thanks for your magazine and its coverage of the ossuary. I particularly like your enthusiasm.
… And from an Antiques Dealer
Holy bejeezers! I couldn’t believe they busted Uncle Jim’s bone box. As an antiques dealer, I ship 10–15 pieces of pottery and glass every day. On average, I have about one breakage a year in shipping—always from something the shipper does. When I look at the photo of how the bone box was packed, I can’t believe it. Layers of bubble wrap wound tightly around a large, heavy, hollow object in a cardboard box not large enough to create a sufficient barrier between the wrapped object and the sidewall of the box—well, duh—what do you think is going to happen? There is no way the bubble wrap and the cardboard up against the wrap is going to protect a heavy object from shock due to a forceful drop or shove. The weight of the object will act against itself—especially if it’s tightly wrapped. The same goes with sharp temperature fluctuations—tight plastic wrapping will only enhance the stress that temperature fluctuation imposes. They needed a bigger box. And they needed to think of the box not as holding the object, but rather as holding a well-thought-out structure of protection in and around the bone box.
Mt. Gilead, Ohio
Bubble Wrap Cracked the Box
I believe that it was the bubble wrap that damaged the ossuary. The photo in the article shows bubble wrap inside the box. When this went up in the plane (to 30,000 feet) the pressure in the bubbles was 14.7 pounds per square inch (psi), which is the sea level pressure where the bubbles were made and the box was packed, while the pressure on the outside was much less (8 or 9 psi even if the box was in the pressurized part of the plane). This difference caused the bubble wrap to expand inside the box and to break it.
Even a few psi difference over a large surface, such as the side of the box, creates a very large force, certainly enough to cause the damage shown. The bubble wrap basically blew up the box as the plane ascended.
Brigham City, Utah
More on the Qumran Graves
I would like to congratulate Magen Broshi and Hanan Eshel for their careful work and their fine article about the mourning enclosure in the Qumran cemetery (“Whose Bones?” BAR 29:01). Additionally, with Richard Freund, their mapping of the cemetery is excellent and very valuable. There is just one small point I would like to query. They note that the “54 tombs in which the burials were east-west all proved to be Bedouin burials from about the last few centuries.” In fact, this is not proven. The proposal that all east-west burials were Bedouin comes from Joe Zias (“The Cemeteries of Qumran and Celibacy: Confusion Laid to Rest?” Dead Sea Discoveries 7 , pp. 220–253), but not all Qumran archaeologists and osteologists are convinced by Zias’s argument, and few of these east-west burials have in fact been excavated.
Zias argued that the burials in the so-called southern cemetery of Qumran were Bedouin. Four graves have been excavated in this cemetery. Three of these were east-west burials with head to west and one was a north-south burial with head to south. The graves contained the remains of one woman and four children (grave 3 had two children in the same grave). Zias pointed out that the same kind of rather clumpy beads (which appear to be Bedouin) have been discovered on the adult female skeleton in the southern cemetery and also on the female skeleton of T32, located in the southeastern finger of the Qumran main cemetery. If the beads are Bedouin, then there is a reason to date the southern cemetery and this particular grave in the southeastern part of the Qumran cemetery to the same time, later than the surrounding Hellenistic-Roman graves. Zias added that certain skeletons buried east-west were better preserved than other Qumran skeletons, and that certain adults had significantly worn teeth, indicative of Bedouin.
The southern cemetery (to be distinguished from the southern finger of the main cemetery), however, is located south of the Wadi Qumran, not on the plateau where the other cemeteries lie, and is therefore geographically distinct. The burials here are generally, though not uniformly, east-west. East-west burials are normal for Muslim burials, but these graves are additionally distinctive in being shallow with no loculus (niche), when most burials at Qumran are deep, with a loculus at the bottom. Not all east-west burials at Qumran are identical to the southern cemetery burials. In the case of the east-west burials excavated in the main Qumran cemetery, three graves of the southeastern finger are typical Qumran graves with loculi (T34, T35, T36) and two (T32, T33) have no loculi like those of the southern cemetery, including the grave that contained the beads. In the mid-1960s Solomon Steckoll excavated an east-west grave there (no. 10) with a loculus. Called T4, it was a typical Qumran grave with a loculus sealed with bricks, and it contained fragments of a Period Ib (first-century B.C.E.) jar in the fill. We may be justified in distinguishing two types of east-west burials: (a) deep, with loculus and (b) shallow, without a loculus. The latter may possibly be Bedouin, and the former not. Alternatively, the orientation of the head may be significant. In the case of T32-T36, in the southeastern finger and in the east-west graves of the southern cemetery, the head was in the west; in the case of T4 and the newly-found skeleton the head was in the east.
There are various problems with Zias’s thesis. A detailed typological comparison of the beads has not yet been done. The east-west burials are not uniformly well-preserved, nor do all the adults exhibit worn-down teeth. Good preservation of bones is not necessarily a reason to date the skeletons as late burials, because on the other side of the Dead Sea, at Khirbet Qazaun (also spelled Qazone), the Roman-period skeletons are so well preserved they can even have skin and internal organs. [See also “Who Lies Here?” BAR 25:05—Ed.] None of the supposedly Bedouin bones from Qumran (including teeth) could be radiocarbon dated because they lacked sufficient collagen, a substance that deteriorates over time. Given that Broshi and Eshel were successful in obtaining a radiocarbon date on teeth from the mourning enclosure skeletons, it is striking that there was apparently not enough collagen in the Bedouin teeth for a date to be obtained, nor was there enough in any other skeletal material from Qumran. There may be good reasons for this, but it needs further explanation. There is a modern date obtained from tiny bits of wood, probably from packing materials used to 014transport the skeletons off the site after they were exhumed (old wood being often reused for packing cases), but that is all.
I think it is wise not to overstate the case. It may very well be that the southern cemetery graves thus far excavated, and also some of those from the main Qumran cemetery, are Bedouin. However, not all the 54 east-west graves of Qumran—most of which remain unexcavated—must automatically be assigned to the Bedouin. The case is not proven. Furthermore, the excavation of a 2,000-year-old male skeleton buried east-west in what Eshel and Broshi define as a structure indicative of the great importance of the buried man must surely mean that we cannot immediately conclude that every east-west burial at Qumran is Bedouin.
I would also like to suggest why the burial in the mourning enclosure is shallow and not in a loculus, even though it is ancient. The deep burials with loculi were designed to inhibit the excavation of the graves by wild animals; burials within a structure were already protected.
Joan E. Taylor
Adjunct Senior Lecturer
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies
I had the good fortune of digging with the two lovebirds pictured in the January/February 2003 issue (“Guide to Sites” BAR 29:01). They are Andrea Klotzbach and Dierk Weinhold of Hanover, Germany, and theirs is a true dig romance. They met during the 1997 digging season at Hazor, but they never told each other of their romantic feelings while in Israel. When Andrea returned to Germany, she sent me an e-mail telling me of her feelings for Dierk but accidentally sent the note to him as well! Dierk thought it was hilarious, and they’ve been dating ever since. It gets even better. I just received a 015Christmas card from their latest trip to Egypt announcing their engagement. Congratulations, you two!
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
A Man for All (Dig) Seasons
Thank you for publishing the report of John Raab, a BAS dig scholarship winner for the summer of 2002. As the co-director of the Tall al-’Umayri excavations, where John was working, I can vouch for the truth of what he says. Well, mostly. John has a tendency to be overly modest. He was much more important to our project than his report implies. When our computer person had to leave for home, John stepped in and used his database background to save us on several occasions. His recording notebook was also one of the best I have seen. Keep sending us such excellent volunteers! If you’re thinking of joining a dig, let people know about your skills and talents. Archaeologists are scroungers. We can use help in almost every area!
Larry G. Herr
Professor of Archaeology
Canadian University College
Co-director, Madaba Plains Project—’Umayri
The Glory That Was Mari
Avraham Malamat’s poignant admission that though an expert on Mari he had never visited it (“The History Behind the Bible,” BAR 29:01) prompts me to write about my visit there in 1998.
As the author of books on the ancient Near East, I had always had a lifelong dream to visit Mari and other famed sites now in Syria (Ras-Shamra, Ebla, Dura-Europos); to find these places unvisited, desolate and disintegrating was heartbreaking. In Mari, the once great palace is “protected” by a corrugated-tin roof and is otherwise open to the elements. The mudbrick walls, bereft of 016the plastering and their magnificent murals, crumble from a mere touch. Half-open pits in the surrounding area reveal remains of structures, of stairs that lead nowhere. Most of Mari remains unexcavated, and what had been unearthed has been reclaimed by the desert dustwinds. It is in the museums (Aleppo, Damascus, Paris)—and in the minds of archaeologists and lovers of archaeology—that the glory of Mari lives.
Pondering Mari’s Biblical connection, such as similarities in customs that your interview points out, I sat early one morning on the terrace of our hotel in Deir-Ezzor (the nearest modern town) and gazed at a breathtaking view of a bend in the Euphrates River; the thought engulfed me that here was where my forefather Abraham and his family crossed the great river from east to west on their way from Ur in southern Sumer to Harran (now in Turkey)—here was where the saga of monotheism began! And the thought made the visit to Mari a worthwhile fulfillment of a dream.
New York, New York
I would like to correct a flaw in my article, “Rare Incense Altar Raises Burning Questions,” (BAR 29:01). Stephen J. Pfann of the University of the Holy Land, Jerusalem, had contributed to the research behind the article but did not receive the credit he is due. The BAR article was based on an article in Dead Sea Discoveries 1 (2002) to which Dr. Pfann contributed. In the process of rewriting it for BAR, I forgot to have Dr. Pfann mentioned as a key co-researcher, for which I owe him my apologies. In particular Steve contributed to the research on the stepped decoration on the altar and its possible links to Nabatean architecture; he suggested the similarity with the second-third century C.E. limestone 017altar from Carmel and found convincing reasons for ascribing this “luxurious” altar to period III at Qumran (74–132 C.E.).
Lutheran Theological Seminary
John Allegro and the Incense Altar
Thank you, on behalf of my mother, Mrs. Joan Allegro, for sending the September/October 2002 edition of BAR. The article by Torleif Elgvin, “Rare Incense Altar Raises Burning Questions,” used a picture showing Kando with my father, John Marco Allegro. The article states that in 1953 John bought a bronze inkwell and incense altar that, according to Kando, had been found at Qumran and that he sold them in 1988 to “an anonymous private collector.”
This is inaccurate, inconsistent and irrelevant. John had nothing to do with these artifacts. He did not buy the altar or inkwell, and could not have brought them home or sold them in 1988. His letters do not mention them, and none of his family has seen anything resembling these items among his possessions.
Note 1 says, “Subsequent proprietors were Fayez Baraket of Los Angeles in 1975, Mathias Komor of New York in 1975, an anonymous collector from 1975 until 1992…” Therefore the altar and inkwell did not belong to John Allegro between 1975 and 1988. But the article claims, “Allegro sold them to an anonymous private collector in 1988, before he died. They later passed through a number of hands—until 1994.”
I can only think that the insinuative story about Allegro, “the most controversial member of the scholarly team,” was put in to add color (red, as in herring) to the article, as it has nothing to do with the discussion of where the incense altar came from or went to.
Torleif Elgvin replies:
Ms. Brown has correctly noted an error in the article, as the main text says John Allegro sold the altar in 1988. This should have been 1963 (see the information she quotes from the footnote on subsequent owners from 1975).
I have discussed Ms. Brown’s letter with the present owner of the altar and inkwell, Martin Schøyen, and would like to report to BAR readers the following: Mr. Schøyen bought the altar and the inkwell in 1994. After Stephen Goranson published the 064inkwell in BAR (“A Hub of Scribal Activity?” BAR 20:05), two previous proprietors of these items called Mr. Schøyen. An American collector called him during September and told him that he had bought this inkwell directly from Allegro in 1963. The next owner, Fayez Baraket of Los Angeles, confirmed by phone that Allegro had owned both the altar and the inkwell, which were then both acquired by Baraket in 1975 and then resold.
Before Schøyen bought these two items in 1994, he brought a picture of the inkwell to Kando in Jerusalem and asked him if he remembered it. Kando replied in the affirmative: This inkwell was found by Bedouin at Qumran just before the archaeologists started working at the site, and he had obtained it from the Bedouin and then sold it to John Allegro around 1953. In 1994 Kando certainly had no commercial interest in “faking” a Qumran provenance or ownership to Allegro.
The Copper Scroll exhibition in Manchester in 1997 featured both Schøyen’s inkwell and one of John Allegro’s scroll jars from Qumran. During the festive opening of the exhibition, Schøyen asked a close relative of John Allegro (he does not remember if it was Allegro’s widow or daughter) about the inkwell. She answered that Allegro over time had in his possession so many pots and different items from Qumran and elsewhere that it was impossible for her to remember such particulars.
Thus, Mr. Schøyen and I tend to cling to our version of the hands through which the altar and the inkwell may have passed through the decades.
My article discusses whether one should trust Kando’s information on the site where the altar and inkwell were found. Parallel findings and the cultural context suggest that his information may be trusted. As I conclude in a more scholarly article on the subject (Dead Sea Discoveries 1 ), “The altar and the inkwell could very well derive from Qumran, so that Kando’s information on this point could be correct.” At the same time, the altar and its “cousins” demonstrate how similar habits of divine service were used by Jews, Christians and heathen of the early centuries.
GIGO Goes Biblical
A computer-generated portrait of Jesus (Strata, BAR 29:01)??? It could just as well have been a high-tech portrait of John the Baptist, or maybe Judas, or the Pharisee Nicodemus, or the Samaritan woman. As with all computer programs, Garbage In = Garbage Out.
It Was a Brick After All
In “Did Kenyon Find the Earliest Mankala Game?” (
Zanger gave some tenuous arguments, including the lack of any need for indentations on bricks to hold the mortar (this is not true, as even many modern bricks today have indentations). But the question is easily solved if Zanger reads Kenyon’s book more carefully and flips to page 135, plate 33, which clearly shows “a wall of thumb-impressed bricks” made from the same type of brick.
Furthermore, Zanger’s reference to the textual discussion of the bricks on page 55 is incomplete, as he omits to state that the bricks were found in a wall. It would be quite odd for Neolithic Jerichoites to build a wall from Mankala board games instead of bricks.
Notwithstanding that Jerichoites may possibly have played Mankala on the bricks, we should call a brick a brick and leave it at that.
Not an Insult, But Kindness
I have read, with disbelief and shock, the letter of Tim Philabaum on the “final insult” [suggesting that the sponge offered to Jesus on the cross had been used in a toilet—Ed.] (Queries & Comments, BAR 29:01).
The Romans crucified thousands of Jews, including Jesus, during the first century C.E. If evidence of Roman bestiality were ever needed, crucifixion would be it. It was a charitable act by some Jewish ladies to give these poor souls hanging on a Roman cross some sour vinegar to dull their pain. It was not a depraved act by some mean people to inflict further pain.
Naim S. Mahlab
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
It’s Not Greek to Him
Contrary to Hershel Shanks’s claim, it wasn’t difficult to infer the meaning of the word epagomenal, from the Greek epagein, “to lead” or “to bring in” (ReViews, BAR 28:06).
Epagomenal was not in the somewhat dated edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) that I consulted. The dictionary did have, however, the word epagomenic, meaning, of course, “intercalated,” and this obviously must have been what the authors of the book under review meant by their word.
It only remains now for Shanks to check the most recent edition of the OED for the word epagomenal, and if it is still lacking, to report it to the OED as a new word, citing its first use, for inclusion in the next edition.
Edgewood, New Mexico
Hershel Shanks’s column “The Mystery of the Bullae,” (First Person, BAR 29:01) mentions that almost none of the known bullae come from legal archaeological excavations, except for 51 bullae from the City of David found by Yigal Shiloh. In a lecture I attended, Andrea Berlin stated that in her first season at Tel Kedesh her team found 1,648 bullae (I don’t know why I remember that exact number). They later found close to another thousand bullae in a different area of the site. You can revise the number of bullae with known provenance from 51 to more than 2,500.
Los Angeles, California
The extraordinary discovery of a cache of 2,500 bullae, uncovered by Sharon Herbert and Andrea Berlin at Tel Kedesh, in northern Israel, will be the subject of an upcoming article in BAR.—Ed.
The article “Will Marty Abegg Ever Find a Job?” BAR 29:01 discussed at length a symposium on the Dead Sea Scrolls held in October 2001 but did not name the sponsor of the event. It was the Crisler Biblical Institute, of Carmel, California.
The photo in our WorldWide section of BAR 29:02 should have been credited to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
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.
Our Own Charlton Heston
Cancel my subscription? I’ll give up Bible Review and BAR when they pry them out of my cold dead fingers.