Cultural Crossroads
Deir el-Balah and the cosmopolitan culture of the Late Bronze Age By Trude Dothan

After the Six-Day War in 1967, the Old City of Jerusalem became accessible to Israelis for the first time in nearly 20 years. For many who, like me, had grown up in Jerusalem during the British Mandate, when one could travel freely between the Old City and the new, an intense curiosity mixed with […]


Jerusalem is probably the most excavated city in the world. And few cities hold such fascination for the public as well as for the scholar. What was the city like when the Israelites entered Canaan? (Apparently it was strong enough to resist Israelite pressure for 200 years.) What was the city like when David […]


Maybe you’ve always dreamed of being an archaeologist. Ever since your first Indiana Jones movie you’ve longed for an archaeological adventure, imagined making a big find. Maybe you’re eager to uncover the history of places you know from the Bible. Perhaps you’re a student trying to make a career choice or to obtain some […]


Masada—the very name resonates with images of bravery and freedom. In this imposing desert fortress, a greatly outnumbered band of fighters, unwilling to concede defeat during the First Jewish Revolt against Rome, held out for more than three years against a large imperial army after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. And when […]

Babatha’s Story
Personal archive offers a glimpse of ancient Jewish life By Anthony J. Saldarini

The column of Roman soldiers marched slowly south along the western shore of the Dead Sea toward En-Gedi, one of the region’s major governmental and commercial centers and a stronghold of Simon Bar Kosiba,a leader of the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome. Two years earlier, in 132 C.E., Bar Kosiba had expelled from […]

Where Masada’s Defenders Fell
A garbled passage in Josephus has obscured the location of the mass suicide By Nachman Ben-Yehuda

Prior to Yigael Yadin’s excavations in the 1960s, most of what we knew about Herod the Great’s mountain fortress of Masada came from the first-century C.E. Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. The story is well known: After the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and burned the Temple in 70 C.E., the First Jewish Revolt against Rome was, […]

Sacred Spaces
Of standing stones, high places and cult objects at Tel Dan By Avraham Biran

Upon King Solomon’s death, his kingdom split in two—the kingdom of Judah in the south and that of Israel in the north. A scion of David continued to sit on the Judahite throne in Jerusalem for more than 300 years—until the Babylonian conquest in 586 B.C.E. The north, however, witnessed a succession of rulers from […]

It’s Not There: Archaeology Proves a Negative

The history of Jerusalem is going to have to be rewritten. As we gradually assimilate the archaeological record, we are finding more and more evidence that calls into question long-held assumptions about the city’s past. This is especially true of the three periods I will discuss here, which are already the subject of heated […]

The Egyptianizing of Canaan
How iron-fisted was pharaonic rule in the city-states of Syria-Palestine? By Carolyn R. Higginbotham

In the centuries before Israel emerged in the highlands of Canaan, first as a people and then as a nation, the region was essentially ruled by Egypt. But how are we to understand this hegemony? Until a little more than a century ago, about the only source of information we had regarding Egyptian-Canaanite relations […]

Site Gazette


How Women Differed

Babatha’s archive, described in the foregoing article by Anthony J. Saldarini, is not the only Jewish woman’s archive found in the Judean desert. Another, much smaller archive, belonging to Salome Komaise, was discovered in nearby Wadi Seelim (according to the Bedouin from whom it was purchased).1 These two archives provide a glimpse into […]

Illuminating Byzantine Jerusalem
Oil lamps shed light on early Christian worship By Jodi Magness

This is the story of how the puzzling inscriptions on some ancient oil lamps illuminate an entire era. These modest artifacts offer us a vivid picture of the spiritual life of the earliest Christian pilgrims. The inscriptions appear on a particular sub-sub-subtype of ceramic oil lamp from a particular locale and a particular […]

Whose Bones?
Were they really Jewish defenders? Did Yadin deliberately obfuscate? By Joseph Zias

On July 7, 1969, with due solemnity, the earthly remains of the last defenders of Masada were buried near the foot of the Roman ramp leading up to the site. The chief chaplain of the Israeli army, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, officiated. The dead were buried with full military honors, as befitted those who […]

Breaking the Missing Link
Cross and Eshel misread the Qumran ostracon relating the settlement to the Dead Sea Scrolls By Ada Yardeni

With all due respect to my distinguished colleagues Frank Moore Cross of Harvard University and Esther Eshel of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, their reading of the recently excavated and already famous ostracon from Qumran is, in a word, impossible.

Breaking the Missing Link
Cross and Eshel misread the Qumran ostracon relating the settlement to the Dead Sea Scrolls By Ada Yardeni

With all due respect to my distinguished colleagues Frank Moore Cross of Harvard University and Esther Eshel of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, their reading of the recently excavated and already famous ostracon from Qumran is, in a word, impossible.

Ancient Israel’s Stone Age
Purity in Second Temple times By Yitzhak Magen

In the decades before the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in 70 C.E., Jews gave a new and heightened emphasis to ritual purity. In fact, purity laws may have been interpreted more strictly at this time than at any point before—or since. A very early rabbinic text says simply, “Purity broke out […]

It Is There: The Archaeological Evidence Proves It

Margreet Steiner makes three startling historical conclusions based on her analysis of the archaeological evidence from Jerusalem: (1) that during the Late Bronze Age (the period just before ancient Israel began to emerge in the central hill country) there was no town of Jerusalem but only a small pharaonic estate governed by a royal […]

Volunteers’ Views

Exploring Biblical Roots

The Judean wilderness as the last bastion of Jewish revolts By Zeʼev Meshel

That the Judean wilderness was long a place of refuge for Jewish rebels has been well established. I believe it was more than that, however. As history and archaeology will show, these barren cliffs overlooking the Dead Sea have also served as a redoubt for forces attacking the central highlands. At times, they […]

Prize Finds

The Bull from the Sea: Geshur’s Chief Deity?

The Missing Link
Does a new inscription establish a connection between Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls? By Frank Moore Cross, Esther Eshel

Not a single fragment of a Dead Sea Scroll has been discovered among the ruins of Qumran, the ancient settlement adjacent to the caves where the scrolls were found. Although many scholars have long assumed that the people who lived in this desert outpost deposited the scrolls in the caves, they had no […]

Discovering a Goddess
A new look at the Ekron inscription identifies a mysterious deity By Aaron Demsky

In 996, in the final season of the 13-year excavation of Tel Miqne, excavators discovered a monumental inscription that is surely one of the most sensational finds of the 1990s. It is a royal dedicatory inscription that mentions Ekron, thus pinning down the ancient name of Tel Miqne and confirming what had long been […]

Dig Scholarships

BAR offers travel scholarships of $1,000 every year to a few people who would otherwise not be able to volunteer. In 1997 the three women shown below—Melody Knowles, then finishing her dissertation on the Hebrew Bible at Princeton Theological Seminary, Jessica Redford, a philosophy student who would soon graduate from the University of Southern […]

Debunking the Shroud: Made by Human Hands

When the Shroud of Turin went on display this spring for the first time in 20 years, it made the cover of Time magazine with the blurb “Is this Jesus?” In BAR, we summarized the controversy that has enshrouded this relic, venerated for centuries as the burial cloth of Jesus (“Remains to Be Seen,” […]

It Is There: Ancient Texts Prove It

With unqualified certainty, Margreet Steiner asserts that in the Late Bronze Age (1550–1150 B.C.E.), the period just before the Israelite settlement, there was “no … town, let alone a city” of Jerusalem. As far as the archaeological record is concerned, there is, for that period, “simply nothing.”

Israel in Exile
Deserted Galilee testifies to Assyrian conquest of the Northern Kingdom By Zvi Gal

Between 734 and 732 B.C.E., the Assyrian monarch Tiglath-pileser III campaigned to the west, from the Assyrian capital at Nineveh, cutting a swath into the northern kingdom of Israel as well as the southern kingdom of Judah. We know this from the Bible and from Assyrian records. These texts tell us that Galilee, in […]

Bad Timing
What time is it when the Qumran sundial reads 15 o’clock? Time to get a new theory. By Abraham Levy

A recent issue of BAR contained a picture of a supposed sundial found more than 40 years ago in the excavations of Père Roland de Vaux at Qumran, the famous site near where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered (July/August 1997). The identification of the object as a sundial was based on a […]

First Impression: What We Learn from King Ahaz’s Seal

It is time to give BAR readers a look at the first seal impression of a Hebrew king ever found. BAR editor Hershel Shanks knew of its existence before I showed it at the Annual Meeting in New Orleans in November 1996, so before the meeting he announced a contest to guess the name […]

The Enigma of Qumran
Four archaeologists assess the site By Hershel Shanks

If you want to understand how archaeologists think, how they reason, how they work, how they interpret finds—and why they sometimes disagree—you will enjoy this discussion among four prominent archaeologists who know as much about Qumran and its excavation as can be known today. Long associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls found in nearby […]

San Francisco Tremors
Not earthquakes, just academic rumbles By Hershel Shanks

The Bible is the fault line that divides a significant segment of the scholarly world. It is the attitude toward the Bible that underlies the disparate battles, both institutional and substantive, that are being fought as I write. The fissures are deep.

Buried Treasure: The Silver Hoard from Dor

At first, our discovery—an unadorned clay jar—seemed deceptively modest. For months we had been excavating an area overlooking the southern harbor of ancient Dor, south of Haifa on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. Digging conditions had been particularly arduous. To shield ourselves from the intense daytime heat—temperatures often reached triple digits, especially in the absence […]

Where Is the Tenth Century?

Every archaeologist thinks his or her site holds the key to any issue that arises. Perhaps that is one reason why the focus was on Megiddo at the sessions titled “Where Is the Tenth Century?” at the Annual Meeting. Archaeologists David Ussishkin and Israel Finkelstein, the first two speakers, are codirectors of the […]

Backward Glance: Painting the Past: The Lithographs of David Roberts

David Roberts was no archaeologist. But, thanks to his scores of lithographs of the Holy Land, he may have done more to popularize ancient sites in the Near East than anyone else in the 19th century. Roberts was an artist who lived before archaeology became a scholarly endeavor. He was born on October 24, […]

Banias Dig Reveals King’s Palace
[But which king?] By John F. Wilson, Vassilios Tzaferis

“Trim the balk!” we cried to the volunteers, encouraging them to clean the sides of their excavation square. As volunteers dig down, they leave the balks standing to preserve the layers of debris deposits. The balks are critical for dating purposes, for they reveal the stratigraphy of the site. But to be useful, they […]

Let My People Go and Go and Go and Go
Egyptian records support a centuries-long exodus By Abraham Malamat

Nothing in the archaeological record of Egypt directly substantiates the Biblical story of the Exodus. Yet a considerable body of Egyptian material provides such close analogies to the Biblical account that it may, in part, serve as indirect proof for the Israelite episode.

First Person: Israel’s Archaeological Crisis
Cynical politics takes its toll on the field By Hershel Shanks
First Person: Even-Handed to a Fault
Not every scholarly position is as good as another By Hershel Shanks
First Person: General Drori in Command
Does Israeli archaeology need military discipline? By Hershel Shanks
First Person: Rx for ASOR
The archaeologists’ organization can be nursed back to health By Hershel Shanks
First Person: We’re on the Web!
Happiness is just a click away By Steven Feldman
First Person: A Name in Search of a Story
An Egyptian papyrus reveals an Asiatic slave with a Biblical name—a midwife mentioned in Exodus By Hershel Shanks
Myrina (Western Turkey)
Ur, Mesopotamia
Roquepertuse, France
Oxus River Valley