Digs 2018: Migration and Immigration in Ancient Israel

Migration and immigration are not just modern occurrences—both the Bible and archaeology show that ancient Israel was a land of immigrants. Come along and explore several excavations investigating the movement of peoples throughout the Holy Land and learn about the 2018 dig opportunities!

Saving the Aramaic of Jesus and the Jews

Once spoken across most of the ancient Near East, Aramaic was most likely the mother tongue of Jesus. A considerable volume of Jewish literature is written in Aramaic, including parts of the Bible, Talmud, and Dead Sea Scrolls. Yona Sabar, a scholar and one of the last living native speakers of Aramaic, gives an account of the language and one of its peoples, the bygone Jews of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Raising the BAR: The history of the Biblical Archaeology Society

From humble beginnings, Biblical Archaeology Review has become the world’s most widely read Biblical archaeology magazine. See how it all began—with Hershel Shanks at the helm—and some highlights from the past 43 years.

Pharaoh’s Man, ‘Abdiel: The Vizier with a Semitic Name

Several decades ago, Egyptologist Alain Zivie excavated a tomb in Saqqara, Egypt. Discovering secret passageways and hidden staircases while reinforcing collapsing chambers, he and his team carefully uncovered the tomb level by level—until they came face to face with the tomb’s owner himself: ‘Abdiel. The high-ranking ‘Abdiel, who has a Semitic name, served as a vizier to two pharaohs: Amenhotep III and his son, Akhenaten. Join Dr. Zivie as he explores ‘Abdiel’s tomb and identity.

Masada Shall Never Fail (to Surprise) Again

Masada—the remote mountain-plateau in the Judean Desert, where Herod built a palace-fortress and where Jewish Zealots made their last stand against the Romans—is being excavated once again. Get an inside look at some of the expedition’s preliminary findings, as excavations shed new light on the dramatic site.

Hershel’s Crusade, No. 1: He Who Freed the Dead Sea Scrolls

In , with the support of Hershel Shanks and BAS, Martin Abegg, Jr., contemplated committing “academic suicide”—publishing reconstructions of the Dead Sea Scrolls without the permission of the sluggish and secretive publication team. Abegg details how, in fact, Hershel’s impact resonates far beyond that remarkable moment.

The Lost World of the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls

Next to the Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls are the most valuable literary source for the study of ancient Judaism. Some readers are surprised to discover that many of the scrolls are written in Aramaic. What is the particular significance of the Aramaic texts among the scrolls for elucidating the literary, societal, political, and religious contexts of ancient Judaism and nascent Christianity?

Egyptian Papyrus Sheds New Light on Jewish History

The enigmatic Papyrus Amherst 63 was likely created by the descendants of the Aramean and Judean soldiers who in the fifth century B.C.E. had been stationed at the southern Egyptian border. Recorded in a cursive script derived from Egyptian hieroglyphs, the Aramaic texts of the Amherst papyrus keep challenging what we know about Aramean religion and the history of the Hebrew Bible.

Biblical Archaeology 101: Dating in the Archaeological World

Dating is one of the most important aspects of the archaeological world. In the first article of a new series called Biblical Archaeology 101, discover the difference between relative and absolute dating, and learn about the many techniques archaeologists use to date sites, people, objects, and historical events.

Hershel’s Crusade, No. 2: For King and Country: Chronology and Minimalism

Is the Hebrew Bible a reliable source of information about ancient Israel? Does it contain true histories or just constructs? Archaeologist William Dever presents an overview of the controversy between the extreme skeptics (minimalists) and the more optimistic Biblical maximalists, highlighting the vital role of Hershel Shanks and BAR in that debate.

Jerusalem and the Holy Land(fill)

Excavations on Jerusalem’s Southeastern Hill—just outside the “City of David”—have exposed a landfill from the Early Roman period (first century B.C.E. to first century C.E.). This garbage provides insight into residents’ daily lives and habits during a politically, socially, and religiously tumultuous chapter of Jerusalem’s history—when Rome ruled, the Temple stood, and Jesus preached.

Nicea’s Underwater Basilica

Off the shores of Nicea, archaeologists have uncovered a basilica, which stands over what appears to be an earlier church. Could this church be where the famous Council of Nicea first met in 325 C.E.?

Launching Excavations at Tel Shimron

For the first time ever, excavations have begun at Tel Shimron, the largest archaeological site in Israel’s Jezreel Valley. Inhabited from the Stone Age (c. 5500 B.C.E.) through modern times, Tel Shimron appears in the Hebrew Bible, Josephus’s writings, the Mishnah, and other sources. Now archaeologists are uncovering objects from the people themselves who called this site their home.

Khirbet el-Mastarah: An Early Israelite Settlement?

Hidden in the Jordan Valley, Khirbet el-Mastarah may shed light on early Israelite origins. The site contains numerous enclosures and structures, which appear to have been used by a nomadic or semi-nomadic group at the beginning of the Iron Age (c. 1200 B.C.E.). Archaeologists Ralph K. Hawkins and David Ben-Shlomo examine the evidence.

Hershel’s Crusade, No. 3: Forgeries and Unprovenanced Artifacts

Scholars have debated what to do with forgeries and unprovenanced artifacts. Many believe they should not be published or considered reliable historical evidence. However, some, Hershel Shanks included, believe they should be treated as valuable pieces of the archaeological puzzle. Paleographer Ada Yardeni highlights a few significant cases.

“The Nobles of the People Dug It”: Remembering Three Archaeological Giants

Three significant scholars—who shaped and influenced the field of Biblical archaeology—recently passed away, but their legacies live on. The impact of Lawrence E. Stager, Ephraim Stern, and James F. Strange will be felt for generations to come.

Celebrating Hershel Shanks
An archaeological legacy

Hershel Shanks, BAR’s founder and Editor Emeritus, has changed the face of Biblical archaeology. Read contributions from Hershel’s colleagues and friends, who reflect on their interactions with Hershel over the years and on how he has influenced the field of Biblical archaeology—for better or worse!

Children in the Ancient Near East

What was it like to be a child in the ancient Near East? What role did they play in the household? How were they treated? Through texts and archaeological remains, we can reconstruct a picture of ancient children’s lives.

Is This the Prophet Isaiah’s Signature?

The Ophel excavations at the foot of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount have yielded numerous exciting discoveries, including a new Biblical signature. Archaeologist Eilat Mazar reveals what may be a seal impression of the prophet Isaiah—unveiled here for the first time ever—in honor of Hershel Shanks’s retirement as Editor of BAR.

The Hasmonean Kings: Jewish or Hellenistic?

The Jewish dynasty of Hasmoneans ruled Judea for more than a century in the Late Hellenistic period. Their palaces, excavated in Jericho, reveal a great deal about how they lived. But what do the palace architecture and pottery tell us about the delicate balance the Hasmonean rulers tried to strike when projecting the power, wealth, and authority—both secular and religious—of their independent Jewish state to their Jewish subjects and foreign dignitaries?

Romancing the Stones
The Canaanite Artistic Tradition at Israelite Hazor By Danny Rosenberg, Jennie Ebeling

The most important city-state in the southern Levant during the second millennium B.C.E., Hazor was known for its magnificent architecture and artifacts that attest to the craftsmanship of its Canaanite population. Following a hiatus of 200 years, Hazor was resettled by the Israelites, who, it seems, inherited one particularly Canaanite craft tradition. Explore the surprising continuity in the production of basalt vessels at Hazor.

Words Unseen
The power of hidden writing By Jeremy D. Smoak

In , archaeologist Gabriel Barkay discovered two miniature silver scrolls from a late Iron Age (seventh century B.C.E.) tomb in Ketef Hinnom outside of Jerusalem. When unrolled, the scrolls had tiny texts written on them—similar to the priestly blessing in Numbers 6:24–26. Curiously, though, these texts were hidden from human eyes, which begs the question: Who was their intended audience?

Hazor, Israel
Çatalhöyük, Turkey
Bath Spa, United Kingdom
Nootka Sound, British Columbia, Canada