Excavations Continue Despite Political Turmoil

It shows up again and again in the accounts of those who have worked on an excavation: the incomparable thrill of touching the past. Whether they are unearthing the remains of homes and burial sites or examining the tools, pottery and jewelry used by the ancients, sooner or later dig veterans and novices […]

Israel Antiquities Authority’s Report Deeply Flawed

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) recently formed a committee to decide whether the James ossuary inscription and the Yehoash (or Jehoash) inscription are authentic or forgeries. I readily acknowledge the difficulty of the committee’s task. I also acknowledge the quality of the research and publications by my colleagues, some of whom I have […]

The Storm over the Bone Box

On June 18, 2003, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) held a news conference at which it announced its conclusion that two inscriptions that have recently surfaced on the antiquities market are forgeries—the ossuary inscribed “James, the son of Joseph, the brother of Jesus” and the so-called Jehoash (also spelled Yehoash) inscription describing repairs to […]

The Shechem Temple
Where Abimelech Massacred a Thousand By Lawrence E. Stager

In the time of Abimelech, a powerful warrior in early Israel, great events occurred in a fortified temple in Shechem. I believe that temple was found in an excavation at Shechem more than 75 years ago. But neither the original Austro-German excavators nor the later American excavators recognized it as being the temple […]

The Paleographer: Demonstrably a Forgery

Was it too good to be true? In recent months, the world learned of an inscribed tablet apparently written by Jehoash, the ninth-century B.C.E. king of Judah. But almost immediately, questions were raised about its authenticity. After examining the text of The Jehoash Inscription, Frank Moore Cross, professor emeritus at Harvard and America’s leading […]


After the collapse of Mycenaean civilization around 1200 B.C., the Sea Peoples left their home in the Aegean world and proceeded to occupy the best land in Canaan—the coastal plain. Among the Sea Peoples were the feared Philistines, known from the Bible as ancient Israel’s frequent nemesis. The question is: How did they get […]

Guide to Sites

Abila of the Decapolis

Summary Report of the Examining Committees for the James Ossuary and Yehoash Inscription

20 June 2003 [released July 16, 2003] To: Shuka Dorfman, Director-General, Israel Antiquities Authority The Committees’ Establishment and Selection of Members

How Did the Philistines Get to Canaan? One: by Sea
A Hundred Penteconters Could Have Carried 5,000 People Per Trip By Tristan Barako

Armadas of sleek warships carrying Philistine marauders and other Sea Peoples storm the beaches along the entire Levantine coast. At the same time, columns of ox-drawn carts descend from the north, carrying more Philistine warriors along with their wives and children. In the wake of this combined naval and overland assault lay the […]

How Did the Philistines Get to Canaan? Two: by Land
The Trek Through Anatolia Followed a Well-Trod Route By Assaf Yasur-Landau

There is much I agree with in the preceding article by my colleague Tristan Barako, including the belief that the seemingly Philistine levels at sites in modern Israel actually represent the remains of Aegean settlers, rather than of an international trading elite, in an age when international trade was at its lowest point […]

The Linguist: Hebrew Philology Spells Fake

The language of The Jehoash Inscription is fake. It is not idiomatic ancient Hebrew but rather a perversion of it. If authentic, it would be a phenomenal find. But clearly it is not a genuine artifact. To be declared authentic, any inscription that has not been excavated under controlled conditions by professional archaeologists must […]

Observations on the IAA’s Summary Report

On some things we can all agree: 1. If authentic, the James ossuary inscription and the Jehoash inscription are immensely important. 2. If modern forgeries, we all want to know. 3. Every effort should be made to determine whether they are forgeries or authentic.

Literacy in the Time of Jesus
Could His Words Have Been Recorded in His Lifetime? By Alan R. Millard

How likely is it that someone would have written down and collected Jesus’ sayings into a book in Jesus’ lifetime? Several lines of evidence converge to suggest it is quite probable. The first factor to consider is how prevalent literacy was in Jesus’ time. Full literacy means being able to read and write proficiently, […]

The Battleground
Who Destroyed Megiddo? Was It David or Shishak? By Timothy P. Harrison

Did King David conquer and destroy Megiddo? Well, that depends partly on the date of Stratum VI. Let me explain why. Most scholars accept David as a historical figure who was an active military ruler in the period portrayed in the Hebrew Bible (the early tenth century B.C.E.). However, there is considerably less […]

Is It or Isn’t It?
King Jehoash Inscription Captivates Archaeological World By Hershel Shanks

Mystery, politics, Biblical implications, gold—a newly surfaced inscription purporting to be by King Jehoash has it all. And it may be a forgery! If authentic, it would be the first royal inscription ever found of an Israelite king. If authentic, it may provide evidence for Israel’s claim to the Temple Mount. If a forgery, […]

Fool The Experts
Make a convincing fake and win $10,000!

Object: To make a facsimile of The Jehoash Inscription that will fool the experts.

Israelites in Exile
Their Names Appear at All Levels of Assyrian Society By K. Lawson Younger Jr.

The popularly told story of the Israelites’ exile under Assyrian rule is a simple one: The Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E. and deported the population. These Israelites—the “Ten Lost Tribes”—were never heard from again. Actually, the situation was more complicated—and more interesting. The demise of the northern kingdom […]

Discovering Herod’s Shrine to Augustus
Mystery Temple Found at Omrit By J. Andrew Overman, Jack Olive, Michael Nelson

There is something here I think you ought to see,” our good friend Moti Aviam told us over the phone. It was the summer of 1998 and Aviam, then in charge of western Galilee for the Israel Antiquities Authority, was touring the devastation from a wildfire in drought-ridden northeastern Galilee, not far from the […]

Is Oded Golan a Forger?

Israeli antiquities collector Oden Golan is the target of an intensive investigation by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) regarding a series of high-end artifacts that are suspected of being forgeries. Golan has been intimately connected with at least five or six extremely important, but now questionable, antiquities. Golan is best known as the owner […]

Mounds of Mystery
Where the Kings of Judah Were Lamented By Gabriel Barkay

At the beginning of the 20th century, when Jerusalem, still centered around its ancient core, was surrounded by agricultural land and orchards, 20 mysterious earth-and-stone mounds rose above the city’s western horizon, clearly visible from afar. Today several of them have disappeared, flattened by excavation or by the development of new neighborhoods. But these […]

Treasures in the Storeroom
Family Tomb of Simon of Cyrene By Tom Powers

The ossuary (bone box) inscribed, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” has become famous all over the world.a There is another group of now nearly forgotten bone boxes, however, that are also very likely connected to Jesus. They very probably belonged to the family of Simon of Cyrene, the man who carried the […]

Horsing Around in Toronto

“Come to our session on Megiddo,” a grinning Israel Finkelstein, director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute of Archaeology and co-director of the renewed excavations at Megiddo, urged me as we chatted at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) in Toronto last November. “Lord Allenby will be there.” A magical […]

Cracks in James Bone Box Repaired
Crowds Flock to Toronto Exhibit By Hershel Shanks

News of our exclusive cover story in the last issue about the bone box inscribed “James, the son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” has reverberated around the globe. The day after we released the issue of BAR, the bone box, or ossuary, was featured in color on the front page of the New […]

Brother of Jesus Ossuary
New Tests Bolster Case For Authenticity By Edward J. Keall

“By accident most strange,” Shakespeare reminds us in The Tempest, can come “bountiful Fortune.” So, it might be argued, was the case with the tragic accident in which the now-famous ossuary (bone box) inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” broke last fall on its way from Israel to Toronto for exhibit at […]

Paleography—An Uncertain Tool in Forgery Detection

Until recently, paleography—the study of the form and slant of the letters of an ancient inscription—was the chief means of determining whether an inscription was authentic or a modern forgery. The shape of each ancient letter has developed throughout history. Every 25 or 50 years, the way a letter is written changes slightly. To […]

What About the Jehoash Inscription?

The stone tablet that purports to have been commissioned by Jehoash, the ninth-century B.C.E. king of Judah, raised questions from the start. The first line of the inscription is missing, including the name Jehoash; the top of the plaque is broken off. The first letter of Ahaziah (Ahazyahu in Hebrew) with which the inscription […]

Philistine Fashion
Ear Plugs from Ekron By Trude Dothan

The Philistines settled on the coastal plain of what is now Israel around 1200 B.C.E. and established the famous five cities of their pentapolis—Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath and Gaza. Ashdod, Ashkelon and Gaza all retained their names into modern times, so there is no question as to their ancient location. Current excavations at a […]

Whose Bones
New Qumran Excavations, New Debates By Magen Broshi, Hanan Eshel

027 Under the headline, “Digging for the Baptist,” the August 12, 2002 issue of Time magazine asked its readers: “Have archaeologists discovered the skeleton of John the Baptist?” Time’s answer: “It’s possible.” A related story in the Associated Press asked in its headline, “Could they be remains of sect’s leader, or John the […]

Why It’s So Hard to Name Our Field By William G. Dever

Cynical observers claim that when a discipline falls to questioning its name, it is already moribund. I would argue, however, that periodic (and even painful) reassessment is a sign of robust health. And nothing is a better clue to our identity than the name we choose to give ourselves. I shall therefore air […]

The “Three Shekels” and “Widow’s Plea” Ostraca: Real or Fake?

One of the most astounding inscriptions to surface in recent years records a donation of three shekels to the Temple of the Lord (Beyt Yhwh) in Jerusalem. It is written on a broken piece of pottery (called an ostracon) and dates somewhere between the ninth and seventh centuries B.C.E. Another ostracon, apparently from the […]

Israelites Found in Egypt
Four-Room House Identified in Medinet Habu By Manfred Bietak

The history behind the biblical tradition of Israel in Egypt has always excited scholars and laymen alike. The subject may seem somewhat worn out, however, especially in view of the current “minimalist” tendencies in scholarship. I do not claim to be a Bible scholar myself—I am an Egyptologist. But sometimes an outsider can shed […]

Israeli Scholar Bares His Fangs—Again!
Qimron Threatens to Sue García Martínez for Character Defamation

As part of its campaign in the 1980s and early 1990s to obtain release of the unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls, the Biblical Archaeology Society (publisher of BAR) reprinted from a Polish journal an unauthorized copy of the then-secret Dead Sea Scroll text known as MMT as reconstructed by Harvard’s John Strugnell and Elisha Qimron […]

Eyewitness Testimony
Parts of Exodus Written Within Living Memory of the Event By Baruch Halpern

How old are the Bible’s narratives of the Exodus from Egypt? Can we really date the texts that preserve those narratives? And if so, what is the oldest Biblical text that discusses the Exodus?

“Will Marty Abegg Ever Find a Job?”
Scroll Scholar Thrives Despite Unauthorized Publication By Martin Abegg, Jr., Michael Phelps, Hershel Shanks

The monopoly over access to the Dead Sea Scrolls was broken in 1991. One of the key events in that breakup was the publication of Dead Sea Scroll texts that had been reconstructed by computer from a concordance. We will here detail this important, but little known, incident—but first, a little history. By 1960, […]

Charles Warren vs. James Fergusson
Where Was the Israelite Temple Located? By David Jacobson

In case you think that only modern archaeologists are prone to controversy and disagreement, you should revisit the bitter dispute between James Fergusson and Charles Warren, two giants of their day, involving nothing less than the location of Solomon’s Temple and Christ’s Tomb. Today Fergusson is the less well-known of the two, but in […]

The History Behind the Bible
BAR Interviews Avraham Malamat By Hershel Shanks

A deep fissure runs through Biblical studies today. On one side are those who maintain that the Bible contains much reliable history; on the other side are those who say the Biblical texts were written much later than the events they describe and have little or no historical value. Some, like Israel Finkelstein, the […]

Warren’s Shaft
Yes, It Really Was Used to Draw Water By Avraham Faust

So many articles have been written about Warren’s Shaft, the ink would probably fill it to overflowing. Yet the puzzle remains unsolved. By far the most intriguing suggestion that has been made about this 40-foot-deep1 vertical rock chimney is that King David’s general Joab climbed it to get inside Jerusalem and surprise the Jebusites […]

Spending Your Way through Jewish History
Ancient Judean Coins Tell Their Story By Sandy Brenner

Coins, ancient and modern, facilitate the flow of commerce. But their usefulness does not end there. Coins are also effective tools of mass communication—to disseminate propaganda. This was especially important in the ancient world, before television or even the printing press. Thanks to this second role, coins also provide considerable historical information. And they […]


Philistines Upon the Seas
Author Tristan Barako defends his claim that the Philistines did indeed migrate to Canaan over water. By Tristan Barako
The Bones of Qumran
An Apology—and a Charge of Libel By Richard A. Freund
A Complex Migration
Did the Philistines get to Canaan by land or by sea? The debate continues. By Shelley Wachsmann, Assaf Yasur-Landau, Tristan Barako
Reassessment: Just Another Israelite Village
Zertal Badly Misinterprets His Site, Finkelstein Claims By Hershel Shanks
Critique: Review Damns BAS’s Ancient Israel
What do you think? If the great Albright still “lives,” is that a compliment or a criticism? By Alexander H. Joffe
First Person: Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is ASOR
The organization should change its name to HASOR—the Hypocrite American Schools of Oriental Research By Hershel Shanks
First Person: Off the Map
Will the archaeology of Israel be represented at ASOR’s next meeting? By Hershel Shanks
First Person: The Mystery of the Bullae
Who is finding all the seal impressions for sale on the antiquities market? By Hershel Shanks
First Person: Create a Fake and Win $10,000
Biblical Archaeology Society announces new competition By Hershel Shanks
Festschrift for Moussaieff
With new insights, scholars honor a unique collector By Hershel Shanks
The Mistress of Stratigraphy Had Clay Feet
Kathleen Kenyon’s Flawed Jerusalem Excavation By Hershel Shanks
Boeotia, Greece
Jamalgarhi, Pakistan
Oxus River area, Tajikistan
France, exact provenance unknown
Cuicul, Algeria
Nimrud, Iraq