Any Time, Any Place: A Dig for Every Interest

How far back can we peer into human history? Like astrophysicists gazing at the edge of the universe to detect evidence of the Big Bang, archaeologists and paleontologists search back before “history” to trace out human origins.

Searching for Roman Jerusalem

The Romans destroyed Jerusalem at the end of the summer of 70 C.E. Under the command of the Roman general Titus, they burned the city and dismantled the Temple, thus ending the First Jewish Revolt (66—70 C.E.)—the so-called Great Jewish Revolt. The Romans were not content simply to defeat the Jews. They pursued a […]

Mizpah: Newly Discovered Stratum Reveals Judah’s Other Capital

I believe I have succeeded in identifying substantial archaeological remains from a period that is almost an archaeological blank in the history of ancient Israel—the period of the Babylonian Exile, when according to tradition, the Judeans were deported to Babylonia. All the more remarkable, I have been able to identify these remains without sinking […]

The Siloam Inscription Ain’t Hasmonean

The cover story in a recent issue of Biblical Archaeologist, published by the American Schools of Oriental Research, the leading American scholarly society of Biblical archaeologists, makes the startling suggestion that the famous Siloam Inscription, once thought to mark the completion of King Hezekiah’s eighth-century B.C.E. tunnel in Jerusalem, was in fact carved in […]

Face to Face: Biblical Minimalists Meet Their Challengers

One of the most controversial issues in modern Biblical studies is the increasingly assertive contention that the Bible is essentially useless as a historical source, even for the period of the Israelite united monarchy (tenth century B.C.E.). David and Solomon, it is claimed, are mythological, not historical. The Bible, according to this school of […]

Jerusalem’s Essene Gateway
Where the community lived in Jesus’ time By Bargil Pixner

Mount Zion, the highest spot in ancient Jerusalem, is where I live.a You can’t miss our abbey south of the walled Old City. The squarish, fortress-looking building with the conical roof and four slender corner towers is our church—the Church of the Dormition of Mary. Next to it—the building with the prominent bell tower—is […]

Aelia Capitolina: Jerusalem No More

Unlike the First Jewish Revolt against Rome (66–70 C.E.), which was chronicled in detail by the first-century historian Josephus, the Second Jewish Revolt, the so-called Bar-Kokhba Revolt (132–135 C.E.), is known only from scraps of ancient literature.1 Archaeology alone can fill in the gaps. And it has been doing so in an amazing […]

Spelling Differences and Letter Shapes Are Telltale Signs

The famous Siloam Inscription, originally carved into the wall of Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Jerusalem to commemorate the tunnel’s completion, does not date to the late eighth century B.C.E., as universally accepted until now, but rather to a half millennium later, “strongly suggest” two English scholars in the cover story of the September 1996 issue […]

Tracking the Shapira Case: A Biblical Scandal Revisited

Moses Wilhelm Shapira, a well-known Jerusalem dealer in antiquities and ancient manuscripts, offered to sell fragments of a scroll of Deuteronomy, including the Ten Commandments, to the British Museum, a regular customer.1 Thus, in July of 1883, began one of the most celebrated incidents in the history of Biblical scholarship, a saga that continues […]

Prize Find: An Incense Shovel from Bethsaida

Slowly it emerged from the ground: a beautiful, 8-inch-long bronze incense shovel, the prize find of the 1996 excavations at Bethsaida, near the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Hadrian: A Portrait in Bronze

Vigorous, muscular and armorclad, Emperor Hadrian—in the rare bronze sculpture featured on the cover of this issue—appears as the adept military leader who dominated the Mediterranean world from 117 to 138 C.E. His commanding appearance is recognizable from marble statues, reliefs, coins and even ancient texts. The portrayal of Hadrian in the Historia Augusta, […]

Lawrence of Arabia as Archaeologist

Most people picture T.E. Lawrence as the dashing leader dressed in white and gold Arab robes portrayed by Peter O’Toole in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia. While the real Lawrence was not exactly like the character in the David Lean film—he never deliberately burned his finger with a match or said he enjoyed […]

Because They Can’t See a Difference, They Assert No One Can

To my surprise, they cite the excellent study of Hasmonean and Roman paleo-Hebrew scripts by Mark McLean. McLean traces the typology of this archaizing script and is able to date by centuries and sometimes by half centuries paleo-Hebrew inscriptions, coin legends and manuscripts of the Hellenistic and Roman periods—including the paleo-Hebrew manuscripts from Qumran. […]

Cow Town or Royal Capital?
Evidence for Iron Age Jerusalem By Nadav Naʼaman

BAR readers are already familiar with a recent school of Biblical interpretation that denies any historicity to the ancient Israelite kingdom of David and Solomon.1 I call this the “revisionist” school. Others have described these scholars as “Biblical minimalists”2 or even “Biblical nihilists.” Jerusalem in the tenth century B.C.E., when David and Solomon were […]

Iter Principis: Hadrian’s Imperial Tour

The early Greek rulers did it. And the Roman emperors followed suit: making a royal tour of the provinces, showing the flag, as it were, accepting the plaudits of the crowds at each stop and connecting with the people according to carefully prescribed customs and rituals. The Romans called it the iter principis, […]

BAR Dig Scholarships

Every year BAR offers $1,000 travel scholarships to a few people who couldn’t otherwise afford to volunteer for a dig. If this description fits you, the box at lower right tells you how to apply. But first you may want to read what two of last year’s winners—Carol Lowry, a Minnesota playwright who dug […]

No Trained Epigraphist Would Confuse the Two

The Siloam tunnel inscription is written in a very well known Hebrew script. The script is found on other late-eighth-century B.C.E. inscriptions carved in stone, such as the so-called Royal Steward inscription found in Silwan village in 1870 and now displayed in the British Museum.a It is also found on a very large number […]

Royal Rosettes: Fit for a King

Although we didn’t recognize it at the time, during our recent excavation of the City of David we uncovered a wine decanter that may have graced the table of a high royal official of one of the last kings of Judah. This is not simply idle speculation. We know that the vessel is a […]

Inspiration for Armageddon By Amos Nur, Hagai Ron

Science is full of cases where researchers looking for one thing end up finding something entirely different, often of great importance. That is what happened to us. For more than 20 years, we have been trying to obtain evidence to help predict earthquakes by studying the longest and most continuous historical record of […]

Beth Shemesh
Culture conflict on Judah’s frontier By Shlomo Bunimovitz, Zvi Lederman

042 At 6 a.m. on April 6, 1911, a group of Arab villagers headed by a tall, red-haired, boldly mustachioed Scottish highlander named Duncan Mackenzie began to unearth a desolate hillock in Palestine believed to be Biblical Beth-Shemesh. In the spirit of the times, Mackenzie, who had been Sir Arthur Evans’s chief assistant […]


Archaeologists are losing ground in an increasingly violent struggle with ultra-Orthodox Jews over the excavation of bones in Israel. Willing to use any means at their disposal, the ultra-Orthodox have recently turned to death threats and political pressure to stop digs. Their tactics, archaeologists claim, are already limiting our knowledge of ancient man and […]

They Would Change the Dates of Clearly Stratified Inscriptions—Impossible!

Any script used over a long period of time undergoes changes, some of which may not be perceived by one unfamiliar with the development of the letter forms.

Stop the Charade: It’s Time to Sell Artifacts

I have been a professional archaeologist for almost 40 years, spending the better part of my career in the field or underwater, excavating and studying archaeological remains. I consider myself a devotee of the “New Archaeology”—more fascinated by data that illustrate ancient technology or ancient sea levels than by “treasure” such as gold […]

Fierce Protest Over Bones Threatens to Halt Archaeology in Israel

Archaeologists in Israel are feeling more and more besieged as they face increasingly violent attacks from the ultra-Orthodox community as well as government interference in their work. Many archaeologists say their field is in crisis. Employees of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) are routinely harassed at work and at home. Violence against IAA workers […]

Picturing Imageless Deities
Iconography in the Ancient Near East By Victor Hurowitz

046 No Graven Image? Israelite Aniconism in Its Ancient Near Eastern Context Tryggve N.D. Mettinger Coniectanea Biblica, Old Testament Series 42 (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 1995) 252 pp., $27.60 The Iconography of the Canaanite Gods Reshef and Ba‘al: Late Bronze and Iron Age I Periods (c 1500–1000 BCE) Izak Cornelius Orbis Biblicus […]

Don’t Leave Home Without Them
Pilgrim eulogiai ensure a safe trip By Gary Vikan

A modern airline passenger, concerned about safety, will purchase travel insurance. In ancient times, however, travel was far more dangerous, and there was no insurance. Bandits, wild animals and hostile local populations threatened those traveling by land, the standard route to the Holy Land for Byzantine pilgrims. Whether on foot or donkey, pilgrims […]

Will the Real Josephus Please Stand Up?

What went through the mind of Flavius Josephus as he stepped through his doorway into the brilliant sunshine of the Roman summer in 75 C.E.? Now 38 years old, he was beginning to write The Jewish War—a history of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome (66–74 C.E.). A year earlier, the last rebels had […]

Are We Prepared to Raze the Edifice?

The dating of the Siloam Inscription proposed by Rogerson and Davies would not only change the interpretation of one of the most famous monuments of ancient Jerusalem. It would also change the dating of other Hebrew inscriptions of the First Temple period, since the Siloam Inscription is the cornerstone of Hebrew paleography for this period.

Some Paleographic Success Stories

Readers of Rogerson and Davies’s Biblical Archaeologist article on the Siloam Inscription might well conclude that paleography has no scientific basic. But that is not the case at all. Not only is paleography a useful and accurate tool, but its results are supported by external evidence. Consider the following three success stories:

Politics—Not Religious Law—Rules Ultra-Orthodox Demonstrators

Political power, not religious law, motivates the ultra-Orthodox in Israel who violently protest archaeological excavations, claiming that ancient Jewish graves are being desecrated. Jewish religious law (halakhah) does not prohibit moving tombs, if it is done with dignity and respect. The sages were well aware of the necessity to relocate graves and their contents, […]

Excavate King David’s Palace!

A careful examination of the Biblical text combined with sometimes unnoticed results of modern archaeological excavations in Jerusalem enable us, I believe, to locate the site of King David’s palace. Even more exciting, it is in an area that is now available for excavation. If some regard as too speculative the hypothesis I […]

Philology Recapitulates Paleography

I am not surprised that some of the leading paleographical authorities in our field have so severely criticized the effort of Rogerson and Davies to place the Siloam Inscription in the Hasmonean period. Their philological handling of the Biblical and extra-Biblical data is equally unsatisfactory.

Three Shekels for the Lord
Ancient inscription records gift to Solomon’s Temple By Hershel Shanks

Two extremely important Hebrew inscriptions have recently surfaced on the antiquities market. One appears to be a receipt for a donation of three silver shekels to the Temple of Yahweh, pursuant to an order of the Israelite king. This is the oldest extra-Biblical mention of King Solomon’s Temple ever discovered. The other inscription […]

Masada—The Final Reports

059 Masada: The Yigael Yadin Excavations 1963–1965, Final Reports

Underground Metropolis: The Subterranean World of Maresha

Much of our work at the site of Maresha takes place underground—in tombs and in caves.1 BAR readers will not be surprised by the number of tombs, two of them with their walls covered with spectacular paintings. Much less common, however, are Maresha’s hundreds of caves. The subterranean labyrinth of spacious halls, small […]

The Petra Scrolls
Publication of papyri a legal obligation By Hershel Shanks

In December 1993, when Pierre Bikai, director of the the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) in Amman, Jordan, and his team discovered a cache of burnt papyrus scrolls in a Byzantine church in Petra, he wanted to avoid the kind of publication scandals that surrounded the Dead Sea Scrolls. He decided the best […]

Fake! The Many Facets of the Forger’s Art

In a recent issue of BAR,a London antiquities collector Shlomo Moussaieff bemoans the fact that collectors, among their other difficulties, are the constant prey of fakers. Moussaieff knows whereof he speaks. No serious collection of archaeological artifacts, public or private, has failed to “swallow” its share of fakes and forgeries.1 For an exhibit […]

Leading Archaeologist Chastised for Publishing Artifacts in Private Collections
Debate over antiquities market continues By Hershel Shanks

Cyprus’s most distinguished archaeologist, retired Antiquities Department director Vassos Karageorghis, has been harshly criticized for publishing privately owned artifacts obtained on the antiquities market and lacking known provenances in a catalogue of Cypriot terra-cotta figurines. Karageorghis’s “inclusion of a large amount of material from private collections raises several difficult issues,” declares Ellen Herscher, chair […]

Gaza Report
Nascent Palestinian Authority tackles a new dig By Hershel Shanks

The port of ancient Gaza has been found. A joint Palestinian-French expedition is conducting the first scientific archaeological excavation since the Palestinian Authority took charge of the city. They have found remains of the port in at least two sites along the shoreline. Today Gaza evokes images of poverty. But in ancient times it […]

New Orleans Gumbo
Plenty of spice at Annual Meeting By Hershel Shanks

I suppose I should have known it would happen someday. Perhaps the next thing will be a Ph.D. dissertation analyzing the “BAR phenomenon.” The scholarly community sometimes can’t quite understand us—so it tries to explain us. Absent a full-fledged doctoral dissertation, a scholarly paper was devoted to the phenomenon at the Annual Meeting of […]

Backward Glance: The Ur-Archaeologist
Leonard Woolley and the treasures of Mesopotamia By Edward M. Luby

Sir Leonard Woolley, renowned as the excavator of “Ur of the Chaldees,” was no stranger to publicity. Through best-selling books, popular magazine articles and extensive newspaper interviews, Woolley painstakingly translated the results of his Near Eastern archaeological investigations into a language accessible to the public, winning himself legions of friends and followers—among them, Agatha […]

Golden Anniversary of the Scrolls

There, on a moonlit night beside the ruins of Qumran, was the voice of Yigael Yadin, Israel’s most illustrious archaeologist, dead these 13 years, reading in the original language from a letter by Shimon bar Kosiba, better known as Bar-Kokhba, leader of the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (132–135 A.D.). Yadin’s voice, recorded in […]

Oxus River Valley, Persia
Etruria, Central Italy
Pompeii, Italy
Persian Susa
Tlatilco, Mexico
Herakleion, Crete