It may be impossible to travel through time, but working at an archaeological dig comes pretty close. And you don’t need a lot of fancy degrees to do it. Volunteers do most of the dirty work—and are often the lucky ones who find the artifacts. Volunteers come from all walks of life: some are […]

Everything You Ever Knew About Jerusalem Is Wrong (Well, Almost)

To say that you should throw out all your books on the archaeology of Jerusalem would be going too far, especially since I wrote two of them.1 But it is true that books on the archaeology of Jerusalem, including my own, now contain a lot of misinformation. More bluntly, they are wrong. The lesson: […]

Did a Rolling Stone Close Jesus’ Tomb?

We should have a very good idea what Jesus’ tomb looked like, with the references in the Gospels and our knowledge of contemporaneous tombs found in and around Jerusalem. Yet until now, most of the reconstructions of this most famous of tombs have, I believe, been wrong. The most surprising of my findings is […]

Excavating Hazor, Part One: Solomon’s City Rises from the Ashes

The fiery destruction of Hazor, the Book of Joshua recounts, was the final episode in the Israelite conquest of Canaan. Once Joshua burned down this key city—“the head of all those kingdoms,” as Joshua 11:10 puts it—the land of Canaan was open to Israelite settlement. Over the centuries, a new city rose from […]

Ports of Galilee
Modern drought reveals harbors from Jesus’ time By Mendel Nun

Early 19th-century explorers, searching for places where Jesus had walked, attempted to locate the ancient harbors of the Sea of Galilee but failed. Now, after 25 years of searching and researching, we have found them. We have recovered the piers, promenades and breakwaters of the ports. We have also uncovered the ships’ anchors, […]

Excavating Hazor, Part Two: Did the Israelites Destroy the Canaanite City?

A fierce conflagration marked the end of Canaanite Hazor. Across the site, a thick layer of ashes and charred wood—in places 3 feet deep—attests to the intensity of the blaze in the northern Galilee city. Within the walls of Hazor’s palace, the fire was especially fierce: The unusual amount of timber used in the […]

Guide to Sites

Here’s a brief look at the sites that will be accepting volunteers for the 1999 season, some of the important discoveries made in the past and what the dig directors plan for the upcoming season. Pertinent past BAR articles on the sites are listed at the end of each entry, since familiarity with a […]

I Climbed Warren’s Shaft (But Joab Never Did)

Dangling on a rope ladder in a subterranean shaft, 30 feet below the City of David, the oldest part of Jerusalem, and 45 feet above the bottom of the shaft, I wondered whether I was being foolhardy. At 69, should I really be trying to re-enact the hypothesized entry into Jerusalem of Joab, King […]

God as Divine Kinsman
What covenant meant in ancient Israel By Hershel Shanks

The covenant between God and the people of Israel “must be understood on the basis of political and judicial categories,” declares the highly regarded HarperCollins Bible Dictionary.1 Well, yes and no. In a groundbreaking new essay, Frank Moore Cross, one of the leading Biblical exegetes of our time and Hancock Professor Emeritus at Harvard, […]

A Mickey Mouse Operation
Annual Meeting convenes in Disney World By Hershel Shanks

Query: Why is Disney World like Kansas City? Answer: Both proved hopelessly inept and inadequate in hosting the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) and the American Academy of Religion (AAR).a It will be a long time before the Annual Meeting returns to Orlando. It started early. With hundreds of people […]

King Hezekiah’s Seal Bears Phoenician Imagery

Not long ago, a clay impression of the seal of a Hebrew king came to light for the first time: The seal of ’Ahaz, king of Judah from about 734 to 715 B.C.E., had been pressed into a small bit of clay (called a bulla) that once sealed a papyrus roll.a On the […]

Caught Between the Great Powers
Judah picks a side … and loses By Abraham Malamat

Rarely do Biblical texts and extra-Biblical materials supplement one another so well as those that describe the last two decades before the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, which marked the end of the Judahite state in 586 B.C.E. As a result, we can reconstruct a kind of microanalytical study of this period. We can trace […]

Jerusalem Under Siege
Did Sennacherib attack twice? By William H. Shea

Now that so much attention is being focused on the new excavations around the Gihon Spring and Hezekiah’s Tunnel—which was built as a defense against a siege by the Assyrian leader Sennacherib—it may be time to look at the siege itself. Specifically, was there one attack in 701 B.C., or were there two attacks, […]

Bringing Collectors (and Their Collections) Out of Hiding

At the end of the late Nahman Avigad’s magisterial Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Sealsa appear a number of indices and lists that are not only helpful to scholars but also interesting to thumb through at odd moments. Leafing through the book recently, I came upon one that particularly fascinated me. It is a […]

Biran at Ninety
The excavator of Dan recalls growing up in pre-state Israel, great archaeologists he’s known and why he’s a Biblical archaeologist By Hershel Shanks

On October 23, 1999, Avraham Biran, director of the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, will celebrate his 90th birthday. He will also have completed his 34th season at Tel Dan, the longest-running archaeological excavation in Israel. He has led an extraordinary life—as a student, a government […]

Seal of Ba‘alis Surfaces
Ammonite king plotted murder of Judahite governor By Robert Deutsch

Just as archaeological finds flesh out Israelite history, so they also tell us about Israel’s neighbors and sometime enemies. Such is the case with the Ammonites, a people who lived east of the Jordan and fought in league with the Philistines against the emerging Israelites (Judges 10:7–9). Both Saul and David engaged the Ammonites […]

Sacred Geometry: Unlocking the Secret of the Temple Mount, Part 1

Longtime BAR readers know that two theories vie with each other regarding where the Temple once stood on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. The first was advanced by Asher Kaufman, a Hebrew University physicist with a longstanding interest in the Temple Mount, the second by Leen Ritmeyer, an architectural draughtsman who worked on the Temple […]

Come to the Annual (Additional) Meeting

For several years, we at the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS) have been organizing sessions at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). Our sessions have been exceptionally well attended and exceptionally well received. Criticism has been nil. In this endeavor, I have worked directly with SBL’s able executive secretary, Kent […]

Tripartite Buildings: Divided Structures Divide Scholars

BAR readers, as well as scholars, have long puzzled over the distinctive tripartite pillared buildings that have been discovered in so many excavations in Israel. Their architecture seems simple enough: long rectangular buildings divided into thirds by two rows of pillars that create a central hall and two side halls (hence the name tripartite). […]

Odd Tomb Out
Has Jerusalem’s Essene cemetery been found? By Boaz Zissu

The mystery deepens. As if the perplexing graves at Qumran were not enough, the same unusual type of tomb has now been discovered in southern Jerusalem. None of these tombs looks remotely like the typical Jerusalem tomb from the same period, called the Second Temple period (first century B.C.E. to first century C.E.). More […]

Who Lies Here?
Jordan tombs match those at Qumran By Hershel Shanks

Not whodunit but whoisit? The mystery deepens. I mean the mystery of the cemetery at Qumran with its 1,200 graves. Who was buried there? The conventional wisdom is that it was the Essenes. The reasoning goes like this: Sectarian manuscripts among the Dead Sea Scrolls sound like they were written around the turn of […]

What’s For Dinner? The Answer Is In the Pot

Pottery talks. That’s a little secret archaeologists know but few outsiders are privy to. And pottery can talk—a lot.

Sacred Geometry: Unlocking the Secret of the Temple Mount, Part 2

We have already established the location of the Herodian Temple in Jerusalem and the altar that once stood in front of it (see the previous installment of this article in “Sacred Geometry: Unlocking the Secret of the Temple Mount, Part 1,” BAR 25:04). Echoes of these ancient structures are preserved today in two Islamic […]

Light at the End of the Tunnel
Warren’s Shaft theory of David’s conquest shattered By Ronny Reich, Eli Shukron

We thought we understood the complicated waterworks beneath the area of Jerusalem known as the City of David, the oldest part of the city. But new excavations near the Gihon Spring will require a major reassessment of the Canaanite city, including popular speculation regarding the military tactics that enabled King David to capture […]

Has David Been Found in Egypt?

A leading Egyptologist has recently suggested that the name of the Biblical king David may appear in a tenth-century B.C.E. Egyptian inscription. If correct, this mention of David dates a hundred years earlier than the mention of the “House of David” in the now-famous stele from Tel Dan and fewer than 50 years after […]

Pharaoh’s Workers: How the Israelites Lived in Egypt

Whatever doubts scholars may entertain about the historicity of the Exodus, memories of an Israelite sojourn in Egypt seem too sharply etched to dismiss out of hand. The Biblical account simply contains too many accurate details and bears too many correspondences with Egyptian records to ignore. And although in our current state of […]

First Person: Don’t Buy Forgeries
(In other words, don’t collect) By Hershel Shanks
First Person: The Meaning of Unhistory
Not everyone shows up in the written record By Hershel Shanks
First Person: Biting the Hand That Feeds You
Taking ingratitude to new heights By Hershel Shanks
First Person: When Scholars Call In the Lawyers
Edinburgh conference focuses on intellectual property law By Hershel Shanks
Sassanian Persia
Ziwiye, Iran
Klein-Klein, Austria
Sha’ar ha-Golan, Israel
Nineveh, Ninua (modern Iraq)
Carthage, North Africa (A Suburb of Modern Tunis, Tunisia)