Digs 2008

For the Young and the Young at Heart

The Life of the Dead Sea

Millions of years ago, seismic forces where two tectonic plates come together formed the Great Rift Valley. Millions of years later, the Dead Sea was created in that valley—the lowest point on earth. Thus begins the story of the life of the Dead Sea. That life is now imperiled. Can the Dead Sea be […]

October Quake Strikes Great Rift

On the night of October 13, 2007, a mild earthquake, measuring 3.0 on the Richter scale, roiled the Great Rift Valley between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. A similar quake occurred two months earlier.

Decapitated Bulls in “Asphalt Lake”

Bovine-size blocks of bitumen sometimes float to the surface of the Dead Sea during periods of increased seismic activity. Although this has happened rarely in recent years (see photo of one such example), it was a common occurrence in the first century C.E., when Flavius Josephus wrote this descriptive passage about the Dead Sea […]

Jordan’s New Dead Sea Museum

Visitors to Jordan should not miss driving the winding road from Amman down to the stunning new Dead Sea museum. The view from the Zara cliff, overlooking the sea toward Israel’s Judean desert, is itself reason enough for the trip. But there is much more to see.

Lot’s Dead Sea Museum: Coming Autumn 2008

A new museum in Jordan will highlight the long cultural heritage of the Dead Sea region. Located near the southeastern shore of the sea, an area traditionally associated with Lot and his family, the Museum at the Lowest Place on Earth is expected to open in autumn 2008 and will feature indoor and outdoor […]

Rescue Squad Organizer Falls 30 Feet into Sinkhole

It was near dawn on the day before Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, in 2003, when I decided to measure one of the recent sinkholes on the shore of the Dead Sea. Before taking the rescue jeep, however, I had to clear it with Noam, who was in charge that day of the Ein […]

Saving the Dead Sea—Red, Med or the Jordan River?

The Dead Sea is falling about 3 feet per year. Wide swaths of beach and plant growth occupy what used to be filled with Dead Sea brine. Hotels and spas have seemingly retreated from the shores that once provided nearby access to guests wanting to float in the sea or smear themselves with its therapeutic mud.

The Nea Church
Were the Temple Treasures Hidden Here?

At first, it may seem like the fertile imagination of a novelist—that the Temple treasures were hidden in a church. And I can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they were. But the suggestion has plausibility, buttressed by some fascinating history and impressive archaeological remains. I start with Procopius, the court historian of the […]

A Piecemeal Discovery

Although the huge barrel-vaulted halls supporting the Nea had been discovered by Charles Warren in the late 19th century, the long-buried remains of the church itself were first revealed to modern eyes by excavations of Israeli archaeologists in the 1970s. While excavating in the Jewish Quarter, the late Nahman Avigad found the northern apse […]

A New Dead Sea Scroll in Stone?
Bible-like Prophecy Was Mounted in a Wall 2,000 Years Ago By Ada Yardeni

IF it were written on leather (and smaller) I would say it was another Dead Sea Scroll fragment—but it isn’t. It is written on gray-colored stone! And it is 3 feet high and 1 foot wide! Otherwise, it strongly resembles in many respects what we have come to expect from fragmentary Dead Sea Scrolls. […]

English Translation

(Semitic sounds in caps andor italics) Column A

Hebrew Text

(Doubtful readings appear in thin letters)

Ancient Biblical Interpreters vs. Archaeology & Modern Scholars

Around 25 years ago, Jim Kugel and I confided to each other that we each wanted to write a book for the general public. We both believed it important to make scholarship accessible to all. As it turned out, we each wrote several such books. His newest is How to Read the Bible. It […]

Past Perfect
Two Camels for a Life

John Lewis Burckhardt (1784–1817), born in Switzerland and raised in Germany, was an extraordinary traveler and Orientalist. In the summer of 1806, he traveled to England, where, for two years, he wandered the streets of London in search of employment. He was ultimately hired by the African Association, which was seeking explorers to investigate […]


First Person: Bible and Archaeology
Whether or not archaeology can help us understand the Bible depends on the question.