Features

Probable Head of Priestly Scepter from Solomon’s Temple Surfaces in Jerusalem
Inscription containing name of God incised on ivory pomegranate By André Lemaire

BAR recently published a fascinating article by Gabriel Barkay reporting on his excavation of a small rolled silver amulet, dating from the seventh or sixth century B.C. When the amulet was unrolled, it was found to contain the tetragrammaton—the four Hebrew letters yod, he, waw, he that form the unpronounceable name of God, sometimes […]

BAR Becomes Ten!

BAR is entering its tenth year. For us—and we hope for our readers—this is indeed cause for celebration. We have, we believe, now demonstrated several things: 1. A widespread public is seriously interested in high-level scholarship in Biblical archaeology. BAR’s circulation is now over 100,000—making us the largest archaeology magazine in the world. 2. […]

Introduction

No one knows where they came from. They produced the world’s first great civilization, yet they vanished from the annals of history for more than 3,000 years. Although they were conquered by foreign invaders, their language and literature survived for centuries. We call them Sumerians, and the land where they lived, a region between […]

Jerusalem Rolls Out Red Carpet for Biblical Archaeology Congress
Serious issues raised concerning nature of Biblical archaeology as well as publication of Dead Sea Scrolls By Hershel Shanks

For a week in April, all Jerusalem was aglitter with archaeology. The occasion was the International Congress on Biblical Archaeology marking the 70th anniversary of the Israel Exploration Society. At the opening session, the Acting President of Israel, Menachem Savidor, greeted the audience of more than 800 scholars and nonscholars from 22 countries around […]

Loaves and Fishes Mosaic Near Sea of Galilee Restored

The magnificent mosaic of the Byzantine church at Tabgha,a commemorating the miracle of the multiplying of the loaves and fishes (Matthew 14:19, Mark 6:41, Luke 9:16, John 6:11),b has been beautifully restored. The mosaic was originally the floor of a late fourth- or early fifth-century A.D. Byzantine basilica church on the northwestern shore of […]

Who or What Was Yahweh’s Asherah?
Startling new inscriptions from two different sites reopen the debate about the meaning of asherah By André Lemaire

New inscriptions from two different sites have reopened the debate about the meaning of asherah, a term often used in the Bible. Is it—or she—a goddess? Is it a holy place? Or perhaps a sacred tree? Or a pole? Or possibly a grove of trees? All these suggestions have been proposed at one time […]

Woolley’s Ur Revisited

Sir Leonard Woolley was, perhaps, the most famous archaeologist of his day. He was a man of enormous energy and a prodigious worker. Between 1907 and 1949 Woolley not only directed five major excavations in Egypt and Nubia, Syria and Iraq, but published the results quickly and in a highly professional manner. Between 1922 […]

Fifteen Years in Sinai
Israeli archeologists discover a new world By Itzhaq Beit-Arieh

We were driving south, along the Gulf of Suez, heading for our excavation site when our jeep broke down. Fortunately, it happened on a paved road, before we turned onto the desert track that would take us to a desolate site in the interior of the Sinai Peninsula, still 65 miles away. We […]

Child Sacrifice at Carthage—Religious Rite or Population Control?
Archaeological evidence provides basis for a new analysis By Lawrence E. Stager, Samuel Wolff

“Tophet” is a Biblical word. It is the name of a place that was on the south side of ancient Jerusalem in the Valley of Ben-Hinnom, where the Israelites sacrificed their children by fire. It may even refer to the altar on which the sacrifices took place. The book of the prophet Jeremiah […]

Is the Cultic Installation at Dan Really an Olive Press?
A discussion that started in BAR escalates in the scholarly world By Suzanne F. Singer

In an article in the September/October 1981 issue of BAR (“The Remarkable Discoveries at Tel Dan,” BAR 07:05), John Laughlin identified an unusual installation at Tel Dan, in northern Israel, as an Israelite cult installation associated with a water libation ceremony. In explaining the installation as having been used in a religious water libation […]

Is the Cultic Installation at Dan Really an Olive Press?
A discussion that started in BAR escalates in the scholarly world By Suzanne F. Singer

In an article in the September/October 1981 issue of BAR (“The Remarkable Discoveries at Tel Dan,” BAR 07:05), John Laughlin identified an unusual installation at Tel Dan, in northern Israel, as an Israelite cult installation associated with a water libation ceremony. In explaining the installation as having been used in a religious water libation […]

The New Sumerian Dictionary

One of the more eye-catching quotations from The New York Times reads like this:

Winner of BAR Essay Contest Awarded Jerusalem Fellowship

Rebecca S. Knudeson of Carlton, Oregon, is the winner of BAR’s Biblical Archaeology Essay Contest. Her prize is a $1,500 traveling fellowship to Jerusalem. Knudeson, a former elementary school teacher, was chosen from among more than 80 entrants by judges Menahem Mansoor of the University of Wisconsin and Kenneth Holum of the University of […]

What a Concordance Can Do for You
The Bible word by word By Lloyd R. Bailey

Did you ever find yourself wondering (perhaps during a late-night movie rerun on TV) where Ben Hur is mentioned in the Bible, or where King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria appears? Maybe you want to know how closely Martin Luther’s famous assertion that humans are acceptable in God’s sight “by faith alone” echoes the words of […]

Synagogue Excavation Reveals Stunning Mosaic of Zodiac and Torah Ark

For two seasons in 1961 and 1962 (the second season lasted eight days into 1963) Moshe Dothan, then Deputy Director of the Israeli Department of Antiquities and Museums, directed the excavation of an ancient synagogue at a site known as Hammath Tiberias. Located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, just 100 yards […]

Inanna—The Quintessential Femme Fatale

Diane Wolkstein’s Inanna–Queen of Heaven and Eartha is a retelling, with commentary, of one of the major texts about the Sumerian goddess Inanna. This is a difficult book for me to review. I could not possibly be more in sympathy with its aims. As a historian of religion, I find ancient mythology a fascinating […]

BAS and Smithsonian to Cosponsor Lectures by Freedman and Cross Honoring Mitchell Dahood

The Biblical Archaeology Society and the Smithsonian Institution will honor the memory of the well-known Biblical scholar Mitchell Dahood by jointly sponsoring lectures by two of the world’s leading scholars in the field of Biblical archaeology, Frank Moore Cross and David Noel Freedman.

Red Sea or Reed Sea?
How the mistake was made and what yam sûp really means By Bernard F. Batto

If there is anything that sophisticated students of the Bible know, it is that yam sûp, although traditionally translated Red Sea, really means Reed Sea, and that it was in fact the Reed Sea that the Israelites crossed on their way out of Egypt. Well, it doesn’t and it wasn’t and they’re wrong! Yam […]

The Mystery of the Unexplained Chain
A chain reaction at Lachish By Yigael Yadin

In the March/April BAR, David Ussishkin reported on the Assyrian siege ramp and the Judean counter ramp that he excavated at Lachish (see “Defensive Judean Counter-Ramp Found at Lachish in 1983 Season,” BAR 10:02). His report, together with the review of his book on the Assyrian siege of Lachish, extensively illustrated with reliefs from […]

Sumerian “Firsts”

For thousands of years, the Sumerians were a forgotten people. No book recorded their achievements; no spade unearthed their treasures. The Sumerians had passed out of history, until, in the mid-19th century, linguists studying Assyrian cuneiform writing discovered cuneiform tablets written in another language. Linguists and archaeologists alike soon began to realize that in […]

BAR’s 100,000th Subscriber

Dr. Ralph Napolitano of Bloomfield, New Jersey, is the 100,000th member of the Biblical Archaeology Society and subscriber to BAR.

Nag Hammadi Codices Shed New Light on Early Christian History
The Gnostic Gospel according to Pagels By James Brashler

It is a long way from the Nile Valley of Egypt to the front page of The New York Review of Books but the fascinating story of The Gnostic Gospels (Random House, 1979) by Elaine Pagels has traveled that far.

Exploring Philistine Origins on the Island of Cyprus
Recent excavations provide background to the Bible By Vassos Karageorghis

If you really want to know about Philistine origins, come to Cyprus. Not that the Philistines originated here, but here the evidence seems clearest. The Philistines were one of a group of related peoples called the Sea Peoples, who emerged seemingly out of nowhere at the end of the 13th century B.C. As we […]

Restoring the Reputation of Lady Hester Lucy Stanhope
A little-known episode in the beginnings of archaeology in the Holy Land By Neil Asher Silberman

Lady Hester Lucy Stanhope, granddaughter of William Pitt and daughter of the third Earl of Stanhope, was the first person who ever intentionally excavated an ancient artifact in the Holy Land. In this sense, she might be considered the first Biblical archaeologist. But when Lady Hester unearthed a huge marble statue at Tell […]

The Book Albright Never Finished
All efforts at publication now ended By Siegfried H. Horn

One of the greatest Biblical archaeologists of the 20th century, William Foxwell Albright, left an unfinished book manuscript when he died in 1971. But this is no secret to his friends, students and admirers. BAR readers were told of the manuscript’s existence nine years ago (see “Major Unpublished Book on the Religion of Israel,” […]

Yigael Yadin 1917–1984

Israel’s most celebrated Biblical archaeologist, Yigael Yadin, died of a heart attack on June 28 at the age of 67. The world of Biblical archaeology has been impoverished.

The Shroud of Turin—Probably the Work of a 14th-Century Artist or Forger

As both an historian of New Testament times and a Christian believer, I can easily accept the possibility that Jesus’ burial cloth might have survived for two millennia. On the other hand, my Christian faith in no way depends on the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. So I thought I could approach the […]

Benjamin Mazar Reminisces
Excavating 50 years ago took courage but little money By Bill Clark

“It was different then,” the archaeologist said. “Today there are institutes and technicians, engineers, directors and subdirectors!” “Back then, we had nothing,” he said. “But it was a wonderful period. A time of life. A time of courage; no, more than courage. There was a greatness to it all. Beth She’arim was an example […]

The Temple Scroll—The Longest and Most Recently Discovered Dead Sea Scroll
How it affects our understanding of the New Testament and early Christianity By Yigael Yadin

On August 1, 1960, I received a letter from a man who identified himself as a Virginia clergyman. The letter stated that the writer was in a position to negotiate the sale of “important, authentic discoveries of Dead Sea Scrolls.” Obviously, he contacted me because of my intimate involvement in Israel’s acquisition of the […]

Excavation Opportunities 1984

You can dig at Tell el-‘Umeiri in Jordan, a tell that has never been dug. You can explore David’s Jerusalem, where several bullae or letter seals bearing names of First Temple period Jerusalem residents have been discovered. You can don scuba gear and descend to the first Roman shipwreck discovered off the coast of […]

The Verdict on Advertisements for Near Eastern Antiquities—Dubitante

Supreme Court Justices are paid to decide difficult cases. In 1951, however, Justice Felix Frankfurter heard a case he couldn’t decide.a His brethren voted to affirm the decision of the court below. But Justice Frankfurter couldn’t make up his mind. So he took the unusual—perhaps unique—step of filing an opinion neither affirming nor reversing, […]

Clumsy Forger Fools the Scholars—But Only for a Time
Fake inscriptions seriously debated in scholarly journals.

The forger has struck again—this time he managed to fool some of the world’s foremost scholars. Although at least some of his forgeries have now been discovered, the forger himself remains at large. And the problem of archaeological forgeries persists. The following may be just the tip of the iceberg. This chapter in the […]

Destruction of Judean Fortress Portrayed in Dramatic Eighth-Century B.C. Pictures
Stunning new book assembles evidence of the conquest of Lachish By Hershel Shanks

In the late eighth century B.C., Lachish was the second most important city in the kingdom of Judah. Only Jerusalem surpassed it. At that time, Assyria had risen to unprecedented power, dominating the known world. On the eve of Sennacherib’s accession to the Assyrian throne in 705 B.C., the Assyrian empire extended from Elam […]

The Case of the Gilded Staircase
Did the Dead Sea Scroll sect worship the sun? By Morton Smith

Yigael Yadin’s magnificent edition of the Temple Scroll1—the latest-to-be-published and the longest of all the Dead Sea Scrolls—has been available to scholars in Hebrew for over four years and last year became available in a three-volume English edition. (See “The Temple Scroll—The Longest and Most Recently Discovered Dead Sea Scroll,” in this issue, by […]

News from the Field: Defensive Judean Counter-Ramp Found at Lachish in 1983 Season

Our expedition to Lachish is described in detail in the review/article “Destruction of Judean Fortress Portrayed in Dramatic Eighth-Century B.C. Pictures.” In this brief note I would like to describe for BAR readers the exciting results of our 1983 season, in which, for the first time, we extensively excavated the Assyrian siege ramp outside […]

The Biblical Oryx—A New Name for an Ancient Animal
Soon it will again roam the wilderness of the Holy Land as it roams the pages of the Bible By Bill Clark

In the King James Version of the Bible, it’s translated unicorn. But that’s not what re’em means. Re’em is the Hebrew name for Oryx leucoryx or oryx for short. This animal is also called the Arabian oryx, the White oryx and the Beatrix oryx because it used to be found in the Arabian desert […]

1984 BAS Publication Awards

Biblical Archaeology Society is please to announce the winners of the 1984 Publication Awards in Seven Categories: 1. Best Popular Book on Archaeology Discovering Jerusalem: Recent Archaeological Excavations in the Upper City

Scholars’ Corner: Yadin Presents New Interpretation of the Famous Lachish Letters

On January 29, 1935, during the third season of excavations at Tell ed-Duweir, a site thought to be Biblical Lachish, archaeologists discovered a collection of 18 ostraca, or inscribed potsherds. The ostraca had been covered by a thick layer of destruction debris on the floor of a guardroom in the upper gate. The archaeologists […]