Understanding the Nabateans

028 In 312 B.C. a Greek diplomat and historian named Hieronymus of Cardia visited the Dead Sea and probably the Negev and reported:a “There are many Arabian tribes who use the desert as pasture, [but] the Nabateans far surpass the others in wealth, although they are not much more than 10,000 in number.” […]

The Galilee Boat—2,000-Year-Old Hull Recovered Intact

A severe drought gripped Israel in 1985 and 1986. The winter rains barely came. Water was pumped from the Sea of Galilee to irrigate parched fields throughout the country. Predictably, the Kinneret (the Hebrew name of the freshwater inland lake also known as the Sea of Galilee) shrank. Wide expanses of lakebed, normally covered […]

Name of Ancient Israel’s Last President Discovered on Lead Weight

An extraordinary artifact has recently been discovered in the Judean foothills south of Jerusalem, dating from the time of the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (132–135 A.D.). It is a lead weight bearing the name, in Hebrew letters, of the leader of the revolt and head of state of the then newly declared nation […]

BAR Interview: Yigal Shiloh—Last Thoughts

For eight seasons Yigal Shiloh directed excavations in Jerusalem—the heart of the Biblical world. And not simply any place in Jerusalem. He dug in the oldest inhabited part of the ancient site, the section known as the City of David, the area that comprised the city when King David captured it from the Jebusites […]

Picking a Site

No picture can do justice to the grand view from Mt. Ebal, the highest summit in northern Samaria. No text can set the pulse racing the way the discovery of a new destruction layer can. And no scholarly argument alone can be as convincing as seeing a site for yourself. By volunteering to dig […]

Corinth in Paul’s Time—What Can Archaeology Tell Us?

On his first visit, Paul came to Corinth from Athens. He apparently stayed in Corinth a year and a half, teaching the word of his god and baptizing believers (Acts 18:1, 8, 11). According to Acts, it was in Corinth that Paul, after his preaching was rejected by the Jews, first turned to the […]



Jewish Rebels Dig Strategic Tunnel System

At Herodium, the isolated mountain palace-fortress complex originally created by Herod the Great in the midst of the Judean desert,1 an underground tunnel system dating to the Bar-Kokhba revolt, the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (132–135 A.D.), has recently been discovered. Unlike the low, narrow underground burrows Amos Kloner describes in “Name of Ancient […]

The Route Through Sinai: Why the Israelites Fleeing Egypt Went South

Can modern ecology and ethnology help to establish the route of the Exodus? I believe they can.

BAR Interview: Yigal Shiloh—Last Thoughts, Part II

Yigal Shiloh, director of the City of David Excavations in Jerusalem from 1978 to 1985, died last November at the age of 50. Less than five months before his death, Shiloh was interviewed by BAR editor Hershel Shanks. In Part I of the interview (“BAR Interview: Yigal Shiloh—Last Thoughts,” BAR 14:02), which appeared in […]

Fixing the Site of the Tabernacle at Shiloh

In a recent BAR article (January/February 1986), Israel Finkelstein, the director of the important new excavations at Shiloh, reported to BAR readers the exciting results of his efforts. The title of the article, “Shiloh Yields Some, But Not All, of Its Secrets,” BAR 12:01, accurately describes the contents. The added blurb, “Location of Tabernacle […]

Searching for Israelite Origins

The emergence of Israel in the hill country of Canaan poses some of the most intriguing questions now occupying archaeologists as well as Biblical scholars. The archaeological reflection of the “Israelite settlement”1 is dozens of hill-country sites dated to the period that archaeologists call Iron Age I (c. 1200–1000 B.C.). At the heart of […]

A Reply to Baruch Halpern’s “Radical Exodus Redating Fatally Flawed”

“Radical Exodus Redating Fatally Flawed,” BAR 13:06, Baruch Halpern’s swashbuckling response to our article, “Redating the Exodus,” BAR 13:05, was disappointing in its refusal to consider the issues more open-mindedly. In some instances Halpern’s polemic actually misrepresents our arguments instead of engaging them. We are grateful for space to answer bravado with fact. We […]

New Light on the Edomites

Winter is sometimes the best time to dig in Israel’s Negev desert—and sometimes the worst. In summer the heat can be stifling; while in winter, cold windy days at times prevent any outdoor work. It was the winter of 1979 when I began to excavate Tel Ira, a site in the eastern Negev.a […]

Prize Find: Mosaic Masterpiece Dazzles Sepphoris Volunteers

On the final few days of last season’s dig at Sepphoris in the Galilee, the fortunate volunteers who stayed to the end exposed a 23- by 40-foot area of a huge mosaic floor. The floor dates to the third century A.D., according to the archaeologists. Set in the white ground of the mosaic floor […]

Hands On: No Grid Lock at Ashkelon—The View from the Square

It’s not glamorous being a square supervisor at a dig. It’s rather like being a sergeant on the front line, directing your “privates”—the volunteers, who pick, shovel and carry—while the “officers”—the dig director, the associate director and the grid supervisors—analyze and plan strategy. But you’re right there where the action is, and you know […]

Contra Bimson, Bietak Says Late Bronze Age Cannot Begin as Late as 1400 B.C.

In your September/October 1987 issue, John Bimson and David Livingston in their article “Redating the Exodus,” BAR 13:05, referred to evidence coming from our investigation at Tell el-Dab‘a in the Eastern Nile Delta. I would like to correct some of their statements in this respect. Using the low Egyptian chronology of the New Kingdom […]

Rediscovering the Ancient Golan—The Golan Archaeological Museum

There are no gold mines or oil wells on the Golan. But, archaeologically speaking, the Golan settlers are mining gold and striking oil. This remote, sparsely inhabited and sometimes desolate area might seem the last place in the world for a modern archaeological museum. But not to the 600 families who live in Qatzrin. […]

Recovering Roman Jerusalem—The Entryway Beneath Damascus Gate

In 70 A.D. the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and burnt the Temple. The conflagration would be etched in the collective memory of the Jewish people forever.

The Marzeah Amos Denounces—Using Archaeology to Interpret a Biblical Text

Archaeologists often accuse Biblical scholars of ignoring archaeological materials that could significantly illuminate the Biblical texts that scholars are studying. As one archaeologist recently put it: “Most [Biblical] commentators do not even make use of archaeology where it can contribute best, namely in illustrating the material culture of a given period, either in general […]

Finding Evidence of Ancient Nomads

Holmes knelt quickly, pinching a bit of ash between his thumb and long forefinger. His eyes darted left, settling upon a small flat pebble. He extracted his magnifying lens and examined the slightly pocked stone. “Yes, Watson, as I suspected. Early Bronze Age cooking ware. I would hatard a guess that this hearth […]

Hi-Tech Archaeology: Ground-Penetrating Radar—New Technology Won’t Make the Pick and Trowel Obsolete

“This is marvelous! You won’t have to dig anymore. You can just sit back in the shade and look at the pictures that machine will take for you.” The visitor to our excavations at Lahav, Israel, last summer was looking at a ground-penetrating radar unit that was being pulled across the terrain near our […]

On Cult Places and Early Israelites: A Response to Michael Coogan

In the January/February 1988 BAR an article entitled “Two Early Israelite Cult Sites Now Questioned,” BAR 14:01, presents the views of Professor Michael Coogan to the effect that the so-called “Bull Site” that I excavated in the Samaria mountains is not a cultic installation and is of questionable Israelite ethnicity.a Of course, every silent […]

Was BAR an Accessory to Highway Robbery?

Five years ago, BAR published an extraordinary artifact—an ivory pomegranate less than 2 inches high (1.68 inches, to be exact) that was probably used in the Temple of Solomon, the only artifact from Solomon’s Temple ever discovered (“Probable Head of Priestly Scepter From Solomon’s Temple Surfaces in Jerusalem,” BAR 10:01, by André Lemaire). The […]

Why Did the Early Israelites Dig All Those Pits?

At almost every Iron Age I (1200–1000 B.C.) site where the early Israelites settled, archaeologists have found an extraordinary number of pits. In Biblical terms, Iron Age I is the period of the Judges, when, as the Bible tells us, “every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). King David […]

Jacob in History

042 This is a story about Jacob, but it must be told the long way around. The reader must trust me to get there eventually. And I think the reader will find the route itself interesting. In the third century B.C. there lived a famous Egyptian historian named Manetho. Unfortunately, none of Manetho’s […]

Raider of the Lost Mountain—An Israeli Archaeologist Looks at the Most Recent Attempt to Locate Mt. Sinai

In an article entitled “Has Mt. Sinai Been Found?” BAR 11:04, Italian archaeologist and author of the popular, though now out-dated Palestine Before the Hebrews (New York: Knopf, 1963), Emmanuel Anati argues that he has found Mt. Sinai, the Mountain of God, on a ridge in the western edge of the Negev Highlands, four […]

Restoring the Great Gate at Lachish
BAR’s Archaeological Preservation Fund makes substantial contribution By David Ussishkin

The largest and most impressive city gateway in ancient Israel is being restored. It stands at the entrance to the ruins of the great Judean city of Lachish—a mighty reminder of past glory. In fact, it is really several gateways, one piled on top of the other. To untangle them, we must first […]

Burial Headrest as a Return to the Womb—A Reevaluation

In “The Peculiar Headrests for the Dead in First Temple Times,” BAR 13:04, Professor Othmar Keel takes issue with an earlier BAR article in which Amos Kloner and I discussed these stone headrests carved on top of burial benches (“Jerusalem Tombs from the Days of the First Temple,” BAR 12:02). Professor Keel, relying on […]

1987 Annual Meeting in Boston: A Wild, Wonderful Academic Circus

There is nothing quite like it—the joint once-a-year sessions of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) and the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), known to all as the Annual Meeting. For four days—in Boston from December 5 through 8, 1987—it was total immersion. More than 5,000 scholars, […]

Two Early Israelite Cult Sites Now Questioned

In recent years, two early Israelite cult sites have been discovered. The first is referred to as the “Bull Site” because archaeologists were led to it by the accidental discovery there of a cultic bronze statuette of a bull.a The second early Israelite cult site encloses the massive altar discovered in the course of […]

Archaeology and the Biblical Text

Archaeological evidence is, unfortunately, fragmentary, and therefore limited. This has always been true, but in recent decades this simple truth has impressed itself more forcefully on archaeologists working in the field and, consequently, on historians. Typical archaeological finds such as pottery sherds, modest mud houses and simple crafts appear inadequate to the task of […]

Why Is a Bilbil Called a Bilbil?

Why is a certain kind of pot that is frequently found in excavations in Israel called a “bilbil”?