It’s a game everyone can play. You don’t have to be a scholar to decide which arguments are the most convincing. And it’s one of the more tantalizing questions concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls: What was the nature of Qumran, the settlement adjacent to the caves where the scrolls were found? And a related […]

Hidden in private collections are some extraordinary, often unique, artifacts that reveal new aspects of ancient life.

BAR readers are accustomed to departures from custom in the pages of this unusual magazine. But two book reviews of the same book? Surely an explanation is called for, especially because neither review attacks the book nor questions its importance. The reason for two reviews is simply this: When I showed Kyle McCarter (the William F. Albright Professor at Johns Hopkins University) my review so he could cleanse it of error, he naturally wanted to see the book as well. He found it as fascinating as I did and then suggested he write an additional review. We then worked together to avoid repetition.

Is the Bible Right After All? BAR Interviews William Dever—Part Two

Continuing their wide-ranging conversation, excavator Bill Dever and Hershel Shanks turn to a crucial issue: How the Bible and archaeology can be used—and misused—to illuminate each other. HS: What does it mean to be an Israelite in the 12th century B.C.E.? You call them proto-Israelites. What’s the difference between a proto-Israelite and an Israelite? […]

Is This Man a Biblical Archaeologist? BAR Interviews William Dever—Part One

I’ve known Bill Dever for a quarter century. I first met him when I knocked—unannounced—on the door of the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem in 1972. Bill, who directed the institute, answered and graciously invited me in for coffee. Later that year, when my family and I were spending a self-created sabbatical […]

Magnificent Obsession: The Private World of an Antiquities Collector

The first time I telephoned Shlomo Moussaieff I naturally began by introducing myself. “I’m Hershel Shanks, editor of—”

Focus on Digs

For some, opportunities for adventure come once in a lifetime; for BAR readers, they come every year in the annual list of digs. Thousands of volunteers, of all ages and backgrounds, from all around the world, boldly set off for excavation sites known to them, perhaps, only as names from the Bible. These volunteers […]

Prize Find: Golden Cobra from Ekron’s Last Days

Excavating the Philistine capital city of Ekron (Tel Miqne) last summer, archaeologists discovered this solid-gold cobra on the floor of a monumental palace. Buried beneath a yard of debris from the Babylonian destruction of the city in 603 B.C.E., the serpent provides evidence of Ekron’s resplendent last days. Measuring 8 inches (20.7 centimeters) from […]

Not a Country Villa

Everyone wants to know who lived at Qumran, the settlement adjacent to the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. And sometimes it seems that everyone has a different opinion. With hopes of helping to solve the riddle, I’d like to address the other side of this question: Who didn’t live there? Our […]

Fingerprint of Jeremiah’s Scribe

Why do we seek to retrace the footsteps of Moses and Jesus? Why do we look for the places they lived?

Multiculturalism at Sardis
Jews and Christians live, work and worship side by side By John S. Crawford

Christian anti-Semitism in the Byzantine period (312–1453 C.E.) is well documented—in legal codes, in religious and secular literature, and in iconographic depictions.1 The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium describes the situation: [Jews] lived among a triumphant, arrogant, and multi-ethnic Christian population whose literature, religion, liturgy, and art derived in part from Jewish sources. [Jews] […]

Two Dogs, a Goat and a Partridge: An Archaeologist’s Best Friends

Modern archaeology has a long history of colorful characters and serendipitous discoveries. Occasionally, the two go hand in hand. Or should I say, paw in paw, for some of the greatest and luckiest finds have resulted from chance discoveries made by the most unexpected participants—animals. In this article I will discuss significant archaeological discoveries […]

Pieces of the Puzzle

I sometimes think of Biblical studies as a vast jigsaw puzzle with most of the pieces missing. The book just published by Robert Deutsch and Michael Heltzer gives us 40 new pieces of that puzzle. In comparison with the slow pace at which inscriptions like these ordinarily turn up, this is an extraordinary number […]

Smashing the Idols: Piecing Together an Edomite Shrine in Judah

Now that we have uncovered some of the most unusual finds ever unearthed in Israel, we are faced with the problem of interpreting them and the site where they were discovered.a Clearly, ‘En Hatzeva, about 20 miles southwest of the Dead Sea, was an ancient religious center dating to the seventh-sixth centuries B.C.E. But […]

Jerusalem as Textbook
Large excavations give way to smaller, more focused digs as archaeological parks and displays sprout up all over the city. By Gideon Avni

The magnitude and extent of archaeological activity in Jerusalem since the city was reunited in 1967 are unparalleled in the city’s long history of research. Since then, we have seen two major waves of excavations. The first, during the late 1960s and 1970s, involved three large-scale excavations—at the southern wall of the Temple […]

Behold the Temple
Is it depicted on a priestly ossuary? By Asher Grossberg

Of the thousands of limestone ossuaries, or bone boxes, found in and around Jerusalem, at least one depicts the facade of the Temple—this from a time when that magnificent structure still stood on the Temple Mount in all its splendor. For about 100 to 150 years before the Roman destruction of the Temple […]

A Ritual Purification Center

Qumran has remained a mystery long enough. Forty-five years after excavations first began, all the evidence from the site has still not been satisfactorily reconciled by any single theory. Jodi Magness, in the accompanying article, makes a persuasive case for what Qumran was not. I believe I can make an equally persuasive case for […]

“God Knows Their Names”
Mass Christian grave revealed in Jerusalem By Ronny Reich

How many thousands of Christians were massacred when the Persians conquered Jerusalem in 614 C.E. is unknown, but if surviving historical records are at all reliable, the number was huge. We now have the first archaeological evidence that may be related to this tragic chapter in Jerusalem’s history—a mass grave of Christians at the […]

Dig Scholarship Winners

BAR is again offering travel scholarships to those who wish to volunteer on a dig. Last year’s winners—Tina Buker, an elementary school art teacher in Washington, D.C., Heidi Cron, a master’s student in theological studies at Harvard Divinity School, and Yisrael Dubitsky, a Bible and library student—share their experiences with us.

Death Knell for Israel Archaeology?

For years, ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel have used any means at their disposal, including violence, to stop archaeological excavations on the alleged ground that ancient Jewish graves are being desecrated. Recent elections have significantly strengthened the religious bloc in the Israeli knesset, or parliament. With 23 seats out of 120, the religious parties are […]

The Ark of the Covenant: Where It Stood in Solomon’s Temple

Four years ago, I wrote an article for BAR in which I identified the original 500-cubit-square Temple Mount.1 By now, this location is well established in the archaeological world, having been adopted, for example, in the latest edition of the archaeological encyclopedia of the Holy Land published by the Israel Exploration Society.2 My […]

Edomites Advance into Judah
Israelite defensive fortresses inadequate By Itzhaq Beit-Arieh

Like many peoples mentioned in the Bible but otherwise almost unknown, the Edomites are coming to life through the wonders of archaeology. Ironically, however, some of the most dramatic finds are being excavated in Israel rather than in the Edomite homeland east of the Arava, the valley that extends from the southern end of […]

In Search of the Jewish Diaspora
A first-century synagogue in Crimea? By Robert S. MacLennan

We have been looking for an ancient Roman Period synagogue, dating from the first to third century C.E., in the former Soviet Union. Sound crazy? If your answer is “yes,” you won’t be the first to be surprised that a thriving, diverse Jewish community lived in the Crimea when this area was part of […]

The Fury of Babylon: Ashkelon and the Archaeology of Destruction

In 86 B.C.E. Nebuchadrezzar (also known as Nebuchadnezzar II), king of Babylon, attacked Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and burned the city. This of course is the focal point of the Biblical story. For Nebuchadrezzar, however, Jerusalem was only one of many prizes, part of a major military operation in the West extending over many […]

The River Runs Dry: Creation Story Preserves Historical Memory

Evidence of climatic change has the potential, already partially realized, of dating the patriarchal age, the sojourn in Egypt (the Joseph story) and the origins of the Biblical Flood story. It may even enable us to locate at least one of the four rivers associated with the Garden of Eden. I speak as a […]

Archaeological Hot Spots
A roundup of digs in Israel By Hershel Shanks

In an oft-repeated story that the Patent Office denies, a 19th-century Commissioner of Patents announced that he would retire because everything that could be invented would soon be invented. I was reminded of this story as I traveled from dig to dig in Israel recently. Hasn’t everything been dug up already? You would think […]

The Twins and the Scholar
How two Victorian sisters and a rabbi discovered the Hebrew text of Ben Sira By Molly Dewsnap Meinhardt

This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most famous letters in the history of Biblical scholarship: University Library, Cambridge May 13, 1896 Dear Mrs. Lewis,

The Wired Bible
Software programs and Internet resources for Bible study By Steve Deyo

“Open 24 Hours!”—an apt slogan for computerized Bible study in 1996, thanks to the explosive expansion of the Internet this year. The hugely successful World Wide Web, by far the most widely used portion of the Net, allows you to trace the apostle Paul’s route to Rome, skim Cardinal Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita […]

“Annual Miracle” Visits Philadelphia
Historical Jesus and Jewish roots of Christianity draw overflow audiences By Hershel Shanks

If it were up to me, I would change the name of the Annual Meeting (the joint annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, the American Academy of Religion and the American Schools of Oriental Research [ASOR]) to the Annual Miracle. It simply blows my mind to see 8,000 Bible scholars and archaeologists […]

Magic Carpets

The Mosaics of Jordan

Backward Glance: An Archaeologist Before His Time
George Reisner and the first American dig in the Holy Land By Kenneth Atkinson

In the spring of 1942, knowing he was about to die, archaeologist George A. Reisner asked to be taken from a Cairo hospital back to the pyramids he had excavated at Gizeh. In his will, he bequeathed his extensive excavation notes to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and left a collection of 1,300 […]

First Person: Resurrecting the Dead
And other daily problems in magazine publishing By Steven Feldman
Susa (modern Shush, Iran)
Sakkara, Egypt
Ugarit (Ras Shamra, Syria)
Hochdorf, Germany
Susa, Elam
Greece (Corinth?)