Geographical Factors in the Defense of Judah and Israel

Keimer_KyleBy: Kyle Keimer, University of California, Los Angeles, Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellow

My research focused on describing the varying strategies for defense of Israel and Judah in light of each kingdom’s topographical realities and the changing political situation over the course of the Iron II. I began with two basic questions: 1) how, in military terms, did fortifications work? and 2) where were they placed and in response to which circumstances? My goal was to reach an understanding of the function of fortified sites both on a regional and inter-regional level. Assessing defensive networks and answering the preceding questions, however, required broader considerations, such as where people want to go and where they can not go. Also, what kind of enemy is being defended against? When all of these questions were considered in conjunction with the topography and the type and distribution of fortified sites, it was possible to address their defensive function and strategy. Continue reading

The Emergence of Social Complexity: Changes in Animal Management Strategies between the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age in the Near East

Hill_AustinBy: Austin C. Hill, University of Connecticut, Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellow

The Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age transition in the southern Levant has long been considered a threshold event in the development of social complexity in the Near East.  Societies are argued to have shifted from small scale, village-based chiefdoms to true “urban” or city-state level societies. Nevertheless, much recent criticism has focused on the accuracy of this long held characterization and the degree of social change that occurred between these periods. Studies of animal economies, however, can offer direct insight into political and social systems, but have rarely been used to look at social change in this key period. The types of species raised, how and when animals are slaughtered, and the parts of animals that are consumed are all directly affected by the degree of hierarchically organized production and distribution. Rigorous faunal studies, therefore, are a vital line of evidence in studying the emergence of social complexity. My research at the Albright focused on extending our understanding of faunal economies in these critical periods by analyzing new material, and synthesizing published material. Continue reading

From Code to Discourse: The Semantics of Ancient Near Eastern Ritual

Feder_YitzhaqBy: Yitzhaq Feder, University of Haifa, Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellow

My fellowship at the Albright Institute provided me with the opportunity to make significant progress in my large-scale inquiry into the origins of ritual symbols and their sociological and political functions in cultural discourse. This project builds upon the recognition of the foundational role of concrete imagery in processes of human conceptualization and expression (as elucidated in ‘embodiment’ theory), particularly as reflected in the languages and rituals of the ancient Near East. In implementing this project, I distinguish between codes (the repertoire of symbols) and discourse (the systems of thought regulating the use of these codes). The case studies which I examined during my residency at Albright aimed to shed light on different aspects of the relationship between ritual codes and cultural discourse. Continue reading

Metal Implements and Tool Marks from the Levantine Second Millennium BC

Blackwell-NicholasBy: Nicholas Blackwell, Bryn Mawr College, American School of Classical Studies at Athens, AIAR Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellow

The primary purpose of my Spring 2012 fellowship at the Albright Institute was to compile an extensive dataset of metal tools from the Levantine second millennium BC. This research began to round out the previously-incomplete Levantine category of a tool database assembled for my dissertation on Middle and Late Bronze Age metal tools from the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean, and Anatolia (Bryn Mawr College, 2011). Furthering this study through reading excavation reports from Syro-Palestinian sites and visiting museums in Israel, I was able to add a considerable number of tools to my database. The updated data has proven useful by 1) revealing patterns of tool distributions and regional preferences within the Levant, and 2) providing some context and comparison for implement types and trends in the broader Mediterranean and Anatolian worlds. The result is a more informed investigation of cross-regional interaction as indicated by tool choices and depositional practices. Continue reading

The Tel Burna Archaeological Project

Uziel_JoeBy: Joe Uziel, Israel Antiquities Authority, Ernest S. Frerichs Fellow

 In 2009, Dr. Itzhaq Shai and I initiated a long-term archaeological project at Tel Burna.  The site is located in the Judean Shephelah on the northern banks of Wadi Guvrin.  While described by a number of scholars over the years as a prominent ancient site, it is one of the last tells in the Shephelah to be excavated.  Since 2009, an ongoing survey, including several different methods has been conducted alongside excavations.  Thus far, 21 squares have been excavated in three different areas, uncovering a sequence of five strata spanning the Late Bronze Age IIB through to the Persian period. Continue reading

To Unify and Distinguish: The Making of “Crusader” Art

Mahoney_LisaBy: Lisa Mahoney, DePaul University, National Endowment of the Humanities Fellow

The crusades to the Holy Land defined all of western Christendom during the 12th and  13th centuries, even if this was not continuous and did not affect all of Christendom at the same time. In the Holy Land, however, once cities had been conquered and loca sancta “freed,” the military component of this enterprise was superseded by other matters—the creation and maintenance of a new, identifiable community despite the cultural dissimilarity of its members and the remove of their origins.  Although an endeavor never articulated in available journals, guides, or historical accounts, that is, in tidy passages that can be excerpted and pointed to, I contend that it was the central factor determining artistic production in the Latin occupied territories.  Continue reading

The Philistine Remains at Tell es-Safi/Gath: Their Regional and Transcultural Connections with the Aegean and Cyprus

Hitchcock_LBy: Louise Hitchcock, University of Melbourne, National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow

My sabbatical semester at the Albright resulted in a preliminary analysis of the stratigraphy, finds, and architecture from Area A2, in the early Philistine sector of Tell es-Safi/Gath, in collaboration with Prof. Aren Maeir and specialist members of the excavation team. The Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project is a long-term collaborative project begun in 1996 under the direction of Prof. Maeir of Bar-Ilan University, Israel as a consortium involving foreign research partners.  It is aimed at studying the archaeology of one of the largest and most important multi-period sites in Israel, which was the location of Gath, one of the five capitals of the Philistine Pentapolis. For the last four years, I have been directing excavations in the early Philistine part of the site, Area A2, where I lead the largest Australian project in Israel with support from the Australian Research Council. This collaboration emerged as a direct result of time spent at the Albright as Annual Professor in 2007. Working at the Albright provided me with easy access to the library and my collaborators. Continue reading

The Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age (EB) Transition – Investigation of a Weak Link

By: Eliot Braun, National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow

 My tenure as an NEH Fellow at the Albright was exceptionally productive as it freed me to direct virtually all my energies into research and writing related to the above project.

I was able to complete an article in which I challenge some scholars’ interpretations suggesting there was no Late Chalcolithic occupation at Ashqelon. In it, I demonstrate that Chalcolithic and EB I settlements occupied hilly ridges and troughs between them. Since the area was bulldozed flat prior to excavation, only low-lying occupation debris was left to be excavated.  Thus, remains of both the Chalcolithic and EB I periods were often encountered at virtually the same absolute elevations, leading to published accounts suggesting all sequential deposits were actually contemporary, when in fact Stratum 1 at one location might be Chalcolithic, while nearby Stratum 1 might be dated to the Early Bronze Age.  Continue reading

The Source of Sin and its Nature as Portrayed in Second Temple Literature

Brand-AIARBy: Miryam T. Brand, New York University, National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow

My fellowship at the Albright this year has enabled me to further develop the topic of my dissertation with the aim of producing a book for academic readers: Evil Within and Without: The Source of Sin and its Nature as Portrayed in Second Temple Literature, to be published in the Journal of Ancient Judaism Supplement series. The aim of my study has been to examine how sin, specifically, the source of sin, is presented in Second Temple literature, including Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Philo and the Dead Sea Scrolls. These texts are examined according to their genre: prayer texts, narratives, wisdom literature, and covenantal texts (introductions to legal rules). Continue reading

Kinyras: The Divine Lyre

By: John C. Franklin, University of Vermont, AIAR Annual Professor

Kinyras is the legendary king of Cyprus, generally known only for his incestuous seduction by his daughter Myrrha (Ov. Met. 10.298–502). Yet a large body of scattered references—never completely assembled—ranges from Homer to Byzantine poets and scholars, and even the sixteenth-century Franco-Cypriot historian Étienne de Lusignan. Homer knew Kinyras as a Great King who treated with Agamemnon (Il. 11.19–23). The lost epic Cypria dealt with Kinyras’ faithless promise to join against Troy. Alcman’s ‘moist charm of Kinyras’ (3.71 PMGF) connects him with a Cypriot perfumed-oil industry going back to the Late Bronze Age. Pindar, invoking Kinyras as an exemplum for Hieron, has ‘Cypriot voices much resound around Kinyras’, makes him ‘cherished priest of Aphrodite’, and ‘golden-haired Apollo’s gladly-loved’ (Pyth. 2.15–17), and recalls an ancient Cypriot thalassocracy when he refers to the ‘blessed fortune . . . which once upon a time freighted Kinyras with riches in Cyprus on the sea’ (Nem. 8.17–18). All of these sources accord with Kinyras’ great proverbial wealth (Tyrtaeus 12.6 etc.). Continue reading

Secrets of The Bible’s Buried Secrets

Contributed by Tristan Barako, Ph.D., Senior Researcher, Providence Pictures

When The Bible’s Buried Secrets premiered on PBS this past November, it was NOVA’s most watched show in the past five years, attesting to the enduring interest that biblical archaeology holds for the general public. The two-hour special was produced by Providence Pictures, where I now work as senior researcher and writer. The president/producer/director of Providence Pictures, Gary Glassman, took the unusual step of hiring me—someone with absolutely no prior experience in film production—on the strength of my background in archaeology and biblical studies. He and NOVA wanted to make sure that the film was as accurate as possible. To that end we enlisted the support of more than 30 ASOR members, who generously gave of their knowledge and granted us complete film access to their excavations and artifacts. Through their participation and the collective effort of all our staff and crew, we’ve shown that a documentary about biblical archaeology can be both a popular and scholarly success.

To give the readers of this blog some sense of the filmmaking process, here are a few behind-the-scenes peeks of the challenges we faced while making The Bible’s Buried Secrets. Most of what follows relates to my uncredited cameo appearances. In the interest of full disclosure, it must be said that Michael Homan, the moderator of the ASOR blog, also appears in the film. It was originally a more substantial role—his big line went something like “Ron, you better come down here; we just found something that’s going to make your day!” —but that part of the scene, unfortunately, ended up on the cutting room floor.




A reenactment of the discovery of the Tel Zayit abecedary.

Idol smasher: The climax of the destruction of Hazor was a close-up, slow motion shot of a statue of a seated male being decapitated. We had originally planned to shoot this scene in Israel, so we had our Art Director there, Gal Oren, make three replicas of the statue, but we ran out of time so we had to do it in the U.S. instead. The location we ended up using was Gary’s garage in Providence, where we clamped the statue (made of plaster, not the original basalt) to a low table and positioned a Duraflame stick in front of the camera. Then we smoked up the garage and I put on a robe, dirtied up my arm and hand, and grabbed the mallet. I was a bit nervous because I wanted to make sure that the head came off cleanly, similar to how the original was found at Hazor. To stay in the frame I had to approach the statue at an odd angle, but this did not get in the way of a near perfect strike: the head flew off and crashed against the back wall. Good thing, because I shattered the next two replicas.




Smashing idols in Gary’s garage.

German scholar: This was my most challenging role given the amount of time on camera and the task at hand—channeling Julius Wellhausen. To prepare for it we bought a nineteenth-century German Bible and rented a three-piece suit from a costume company in California (surprisingly we couldn’t find anything on the east coast). I also let my beard grow out a little. Finally, I found a section in my Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia that contained clear J and E passages. Despite all these preparations we overlooked something, as pointed out to me by a friend who is a German historian: the wedding band was on my left hand, whereas Germans typically wear it on the right. There goes the Emmy for best research.




Playing Julius Wellhausen

Gila’s assistant: In this scene, a recreation of the discovery of the Tel Dan Stela, I played only a supporting role: the guy holding the stadia rod for Gila Cook who found this famous inscription in 1993. We followed her recollection of events throughout, which included loading her up like a pack mule, while I ambled off the tell empty-handed. I felt especially insensitive because she was battling laryngitis that day and we made her go up and down the hill with all that equipment a few times on multiple takes, but she was a real trooper and the scene turned out beautifully.




Loading up Gila

Dead Israelite: We used Nazareth Village for many recreations including the scene where one of the Jerusalem priests rescues scrolls from a building set aflame by the Babylonians. Again I donned a robe and got smudged up, but this time all I had to do was lay sprawled out in the background. I’m really not visible because of all the smoke. Our Director of Photography, Nick Gardner, inhaled so much of it that he woke up that night with a splitting headache.




Tristan as a dead Israelite

YHWH: In one of the many scribal scenes, we wanted an extreme close-up of someone writing the personal name of the Israelite god, YHWH. Most of our recreation actors were modern-day sopherim, whom we casted for their ability to write Torah scrolls. The problem was, though, they refused to write the divine name. I volunteered to do it, but I write left-handed and all our scribes were righties. So we pressed into service our thoroughly secular, dread-locked soundman, Amir Liani, who did a great job considering that it was his first time writing in paleo-Hebrew.




YWHW in Paleo-Hebrew

For more information about Providence Pictures and The Bible’s Buried Secrets, including additional behind-the-scenes features, visit:

www.providencepictures.com and www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/bible.

Hisham M’Farreh, Chef at the Albright Institute (1994-Present)

Contributed by Hisham M’Farreh

Food is considered an essential element of human life. As in the old Arabic saying, “the shortest route to someone’s heart is through his stomach.”

I have been working as a cook at the Albright Institute (AIAR) in Jerusalem for about fifteen years, a job which I took after my uncle Omar Jibrin retired, having served as the Institute’s chef for a little over half a century. Uncle Omar had very friendly and good relationships with the Albright Directors, Trustees and Fellows.

Hisham M’farreh with his renowned za’atar rolls in the foreground.


I have also had the privilege of forming good friendships with many archaeologists and other students and scholars who come to do research and stay at the Institute. These friendships usually start in the kitchen especially during breaks and at tea time, when people come to talk to me. And these relationships have become stronger over the years.

The long period of experience in my current position has taught me so much about the people who come to do research at the Albright, including Americans, Europeans, Israelis and Palestinians. I have come to learn that the vast majority of them are friendly and modest. They seem to have acquired these characteristics from their special outlook on life. I believe that the search for historical truths, which is the aim of their research and especially their excavations, and which they document in their books, has significantly affected our understanding of human values. Thus, their tasks have shaped their characters; making them decent people with pleasant personalities.

Having said all of this, I should point out something that has influenced my perception of Albright researchers. These people whom I cook for on a daily basis are unlike tourists in hotels who come to this country for a different purpose. Besides, most researchers and archeologists whom I have come to know at the Albright, often return many times to the Institute. This helps to maintain a sense of continuity, and continues to strengthen the friendship between us.

I would like to add that my father was a chef for about 45 years at an archaeological institute in Jerusalem, now known as the Kenyon Institute (previously the British School of Archaeology). I gained a lot of experience in cooking and in my understanding of researchers who come from abroad from my father and also from my uncle, Omar.

Albright Fellows, when about to leave the Institute, have the opportunity to choose their “last supper” and the following recipe is one of their favorites.

“Fresh za’atar rolls stuffed with white cheese”

Ingredients:
4 cups flour
1 cup fresh za’atar leaves
2 teaspoons yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
11/2 cup lukewarm water
Filling:
2 cup grated white cheese (baladi or Bulgarian salted cheese)
Directions:
• In a medium bowl sift flour and then add dry ingredients
• Add oil, and za’atar leaves
• Add water
• Mix until a dough is formed
• Cover with towel for about one hour at room temperature until the dough is doubled in size
• Cut into small balls about the size of an egg
• Fill each ball with the grated cheese and form into a roll
• Put the rolls on baking sheet and let raise for about half an hour at room temperature
• Bake in preheated oven (400F) for about 20 minutes or until light brown
• Serve hot with fresh salad