Was It an Essene Settlement?

Scholars disagree about the nature of the settlement known as Qumran, which is set in the midst of the area where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Roland de Vaux, who directed the excavations at Qumran between 1951 and 1956, concluded that it had been inhabited by an isolated religious community, whom he identified […]

How They Met: Geology Solves Long-Standing Mystery of Hezekiah’s Tunnelers

Waterworks underlying the City of David, the oldest inhabited part of Jerusalem, have two aspects that have long puzzled Biblical scholars and archaeologists. The first is whether David’s general, Joab, captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites by entering the city through an underground passage, or perhaps a water system, that led from a spring outside […]

Who Was He? Rare DSS Text Mentions King Jonathan

The fragmentary Dead Sea Scroll that is the subject of this article has been much discussed by scholars since our recent publication of it in a scientific journal,1 and it has even received some notice in the popular press, principally because it is one of the very few texts in the Dead Sea Scroll […]

What’s a Bamah? How Sacred Space Functioned in Ancient Israel
Reviled by the Bible and targeted for destruction by King Hezekiah and King Josiah, the religious sanctuaries called bamot played an important role in Israelite religion By Beth Alpert Nakhai

Well, one thing it’s not—or at least not only—is a high place. Jerome’s fourth-century Latin translation of the Bible (called the Vulgate) rendered bamah as excelsus, which led to the popular English translation “high place.” Unfortunately, this translation has for centuries colored our understanding of numerous Biblical passages.1 Bamah appears over 100 times in […]

Potter’s Field or High Priest’s Tomb?

About a half mile south of the Old City of Jerusalem—at the southeast end of the Hinnom Valley, near where it joins the Kidron Valley east of the city—is one of the most impressive, important, yet largely unknown archaeological sites in the Holy Land. Oddly, the site is not even listed in the […]

“David” Found at Dan
Inscription crowns 27 years of exciting discoveries By Avraham Biran

It’s not often that an archaeological find makes the front page of the New York Times (to say nothing of Time magazine). But that is what happened last summer to a discovery at Tel Dan, a beautiful mound in northern Galilee, at the foot of Mt. Hermon beside one of the headwaters of the […]

“House of David” Restored in Moabite Inscription
A new restoration of a famous inscription reveals another mention of the “House of David” in the ninth century B.C.E. By André Lemaire

The recent discovery at Tel Dan of a fragment of a stela containing a reference to the “House of David” (that is, the dynasty of David) is indeed sensational and deserves all the publicity it has received.a The Aramaic inscription, dated to the ninth century B.C.E., was originally part of a victory monument […]

Resting Place of the Rich and Famous

Plunderers, probably in ancient times, looted the Akeldama tombs described in the previous article. Not a single artifact remained when archaeologists entered those tombs: Only the chambers themselves, with their decorative elements, survived. In 1989, however, we discovered three cave tombs in Akeldama that had lain undisturbed for nearly 1,500 years and were […]

A Hub of Scribal Activity?

Inkwells from Qumran are of more than insouciant interest. These inkwells bear intimately on several important questions—whether Dead Sea Scrolls were written at Qumran, the nature of the Qumran settlement (religious community, winter villa, military fortress or commercial entrepôt), the relationship (if any) between the Qumran settlement and the scrolls, and, ultimately, the nature […]

1989 Mogilany Conference Featured Lively Debates

Mogilany 1989, Papers on the Dead Sea Scrolls Offered in Memory of Jean Carmignac

MMT as the Maltese Falcon

049 Qumran Cave 4-V: Miqsat Ma’ase Ha-Torah. Discoveries in the Judaean Desert X

Solving the Mithraic Mysteries

Mithraism, one of the most widespread mystery religions of the Roman empire, arose in the Mediterranean world at exactly the same time as Christianity. Each religion held at its core the belief in a god whose powers and domain lay beyond the boundaries of the cosmos. Because both religions began at about the same […]

Inside the Israel Antiquities Authority

General Amir Drori, who led an army to the gates of Beirut in the Lebanese War, lost the last battle he ever waged in uniform when he was edged out for the post of chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces seven years ago. He was soon, however, laying siege to cities the […]

Bits & Pieces

Dead Sea Scrolls Become Household Words The Dead Sea Scrolls have become household words, no longer the exclusive property of scholars, or even of devotees like BAR readers. Now the scrolls are part of the vernacular.

Up the Waterspout: How David’s General Joab Got Inside Jerusalem

If we want to understand how King David captured Jerusalem, at least as the capture is depicted in 2 Samuel 5, we must first understand the meaning of the Hebrew word tsinnor. Geology can tell us what may have happened, as Dan Gill convincingly demonstrates in “How They Met: Geology Solves Long-Standing Mystery of […]

The Tombs of Silwan
Lavish First Temple burial caves of Jerusalem’s elite became, in turn, Roman stone quarries, Byzantine hermit huts, Christian chapels and Muslim cellars By Hershel Shanks

As in Washington, so in Jerusalem: There are some sections you just don’t venture into. In Jerusalem one such section is the village of Silwan, on the eastern slope of the Kidron Valley opposite the City of David (the oldest inhabited part of Jerusalem). Silwan has a long reputation for filth and inhospitality. Since […]

Paul, “Works of the Law” and MMT

The usual translation of Miqsat Ma‘ase Ha-Torah—MMT—obscures its relationship to Paul’s letters. This Dead Sea Scroll and Paul use the very same phrase. On March 15, 1988, as part of my duties as the new graduate research assistant to Professor Ben Zion Wacholder, I climbed the three flights of stairs of the Klau Library […]

For This You Waited 35 Years
MMT as reconstructed by Elisha Qimron and John Strugnell

i [The sixteenth (day) of it (i.e. the second month) is a Sabbath]. The twenty-third of it is a Sabbath. The thirtieth [of it is a Sabbath. The seventh of the third (month) is a Sabbath. The fourteenth of it is a Sabbath. The fifteenth of it is the Festival of Weeks. The […]

Exodus Itinerary Confirmed by Egyptian Evidence

The Exodus from Egypt, followed by the invasion and conquest of Palestine, lies at the heart of the Biblical account of Israel’s origins. A number of modern scholars, however, reject the entire story. It is, in their view, little more than a pious fabrication written hundreds of years after the events described. “The […]

Summer in the Sand

Childhood memories: summers by the sea, splashing in the waves, digging castles in the sand with elaborate moats and tall walls of sand and seaweed. You found countless buried treasures. Every seashell or shiny pebble—a clam shell was good, a scallop better—seemed a tiny miracle.

Capital Archaeology
7,200 Scholars and two precious artifacts come to Washington for the Annual Meeting By Hershel Shanks

For nine years, I have written reviews of the Annual Meetinga as objectively as possible. This year, however, I admit to being prejudiced—prejudiced in favor of this year’s meeting because it was held (for the first time since 1974) in our hometown, Washington, D.C. Not only that, but the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS), […]

The “House of David” and the House of the Deconstructionists
Davies is an amateur who “can safely be ignored” By Anson F. Rainey

In response to Philip R. Davies’s brief article (“‘House of David’ Built on Sand,” BAR 20:04), a few observations are in order. Apart from the details of the Dan (and now the Mesha) inscriptions, there is a wider issue that concerns both Bible students and teachers. Davies represents what he and a circle of […]

Was Yahweh Worshiped as the Sun?
Israel’s God was abstract, but he may also have had a consort By J. Glen Taylor

Did Yahweh,a the Israelite God, have a consort? Like many other scholars, I believe that a substantial number of Israelites thought so. Unlike most others scholars, however, I believe that many of these same Israelites considered the sun a symbol or icon of Israel’s God, Yahweh. Yet early Israel was far more developed than […]

Archaeology’s Dirty Secret

What may turn out to be a historic meeting took place at Lehigh University last May. Eight senior scholars convened to face what one participant called the profession’s “dirty secret”: Archaeologists love to dig, but hate to write publication reports. As a result, final reports are lacking for a substantial number of archaeological digs, […]

Siloam Inscription Memorializes Engineering Achievement

Dan Gill’s new understanding of Jerusalem’s underground water installations, including Hezekiah’s famous tunnel, raises once more the question of the significance of the monumental inscription found in the tunnel recording the meeting of the two teams of tunnelers digging from opposite directions. This inscription is not the only ancient mention of Hezekiah’s tunnel. It […]

Peace, Politics and Archaeology

The Middle East “peace process”—may it be thy will, O Lord—has raised two thorny archaeological issues. Both have recently been in the news.

Revolution in Bible Study
Put a library at your fingertips By Steve Hewitt

Imagine if you will a new super Bible. Once you open it, you can do marvelous in-depth study without opening any other book. Suppose you want to study Genesis 13, where Abram and Lot arrived at the plain of Jordan and Lot chose to possess land toward the city of Sodom. Opening this new […]

Israeli Court Finds Muslim Council Destroyed Ancient Remains on Temple Mount

In a hotly contested case, Israel’s Supreme Court has held that the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust, damaged and destroyed important archaeological remains on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.a The court nevertheless declined to issue any order against the Waqf or the government authorities, apparently because of the extreme religious and political sensitivity of […]

BAR Dig Scholarships

BAR is again offering travel scholarships to dig volunteers! Last year, BAR announced scholarships to help defray travel expenses of individuals who wished to volunteer on a dig. Requests poured in, and two scholarships were awarded.

An Interview with John Strugnell
Ousted chief scroll editor makes his case By Hershel Shanks

Harvard professor John Strugnell was chief editor of the official Dead Sea Scroll editorial team from 1987 until he was dismissed in late 1990, after giving an anti-Semitic interview to Israeli journalist Avi Katzman, in Ha’aretz, November 9, 1990, and “Chief Dead Sea Scroll Editor Denounces Judaism, Israel; Claims He’s Seen Four More Scrolls […]

King David’s Head from Gaza Synagogue Restored

Archaeologists uncover the past; museums make it accessible to the public. The restorer’s job lies in between, turning fragmentary remains into pieces that modern viewers can appreciate and understand. In the case of a sixth-century A.D. synagogue mosaic from Gaza, restoration work was aided by advanced computer technology to reproduce an image of King […]

Eight Not-So-Obvious Questions to Ask Before Joining Your First Dig

“Find a private place and watch out for scorpions.”

Yigael Yadin: “Hoarder and Monopolist”

Yigael Yadin distinguished himself in many roles—as a general, as an archaeologist, as a historian, as a scrollster and as a politician. On his performance of these roles, save that of scrollster, I have little information to add or ability to judge. For instance, I cannot assess his skills and faults as an archaeologist; […]

Power to the Powerless—A Long-Lost Song of Miriam

According to the Book of Exodus, after the miracle at the Red Sea—the Israelites have passed through dry-shod and the Egyptians have drowned—Moses and the Israelites sing a victory hymn (Exodus 15:1–19). Immediately following the Song of the Sea, as it is called,a is the Song of Miriam: “Then Miriam the prophet, the sister […]

Turmoil at the Harvard Semitic Museum
Did Martin Peretz accuse director Stager of anti-Semitism? Is Peretz guilty of libel? By Steven Feldman

The entire staff of the Harvard Semitic Museum—home of one of this country’s most important archaeological collections—has been dismissed, leading to a rancorous contretemps concerning the institution’s leadership and its future direction. The ten employees of Harvard’s primary archaeological museum are to be replaced by two new staffers and a part-time secretary. Travelling exhibits […]

Diggers—From Paid Peasants to Eager Volunteers

“The best age for diggers is about 15 to 20 years. After that many turn stupid, and only a small proportion are worth having between 20 and 40. After 40 very few are of any use,” advised Sir William Flinders Petrie in 1904.1 Fifteen years earlier, Petriea had ushered in the era of scientific […]

“House of David” Built on Sand: The Sins of the Biblical Maximizers

A recent BAR article trumpets the discovery of a new inscription found at Tel Dan that allegedly mentions the name “David” and refers to the kingdom of Judah as the “House of David.”a On this basis it is suggested that Biblical scholars ignore the theories of the “Biblical minimizers,”b—that is, those of us who […]

Back to Megiddo
A new expedition will explore the jewel in the crown of Canaan/Israel By Israel Finkelstein, David Ussishkin

Tel Megiddo is widely regarded as the most important archaeological site in Israel from Biblical times, and as one of the most significant sites for the study of the ancient Near East generally. It was inhabited continuously for more than five millennia, from about 6000 to around 500 B.C.E. Megiddo’s military importance and […]

Memorandum Re: Restoring Gezer
This is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Israel, yet it is rarely visited even by aficionados because it is so difficult to get to—unmarked and neglected. By Hershel Shanks

To: Israel Gilad, Director General, Israel National Parks Authority From: Hershel Shanks, Editor, BAR You are really missing a good bet! You are supporting and financing the excavation and restoration of two important Roman-period sites in Israel because they have great tourist potential and because the influx of new immigrants, mostly from the former […]

King Solomon’s Stables—Still at Megiddo?

When Israel Finkelstein and David Ussishkin return to excavate Megiddo [see “Back to Megiddo,” in this issue], I hope they will look for King Solomon’s Stables. In the last few years, although I haven’t actually dug at Megiddo, I think I may have glimpsed them. Maybe Finkelstein and Ussishkin will be able to tell […]

The Cyclades
Kanesh (Kültepe, Turkey)
Knossos, Crete
Mari (Tell Hariri, Syria)