The Ceremonial Precinct in the Upper City of Hazor: What Does the Identification As a Temple or Palace Have to Do With Joshua’s Conquest?

 ANE Today Editorial Introduction:*

 Hazor, “the head of all those kingdoms,” has a unique place in Biblical Archaeology. It is the largest tell in the Southern Levant, and a city-state whose importance resonated throughout the Middle and Late Bronze Ages.

Hazor is also specifically named in the Book of Joshua as one of the enemies of the Israelites. Since the pioneering excavations at Hazor during the 1950s and 1960s, the question of ‘who destroyed Hazor’ has tantalized scholars and lay people. The renewed excavations directed by Ben-Tor have added greatly to our understanding of the site and have brought to light an enormous Late Bronze Age “Ceremonial Palace” in the Upper City.

But is it really a palace and does the identification matter for our understanding of the Joshua narrative? Ben-Tor’s student and co-director, Dr. Sharon Zuckerman, disagrees. She believes the Late Bronze Age building is actually a temple, built in an area used over many centuries for religious activities. Either way, the building was destroyed in an immense conflagration at the end of the Late Bronze Age and the area was never reused for temples or palaces. Continue reading

Near Eastern Archaeology in Malta

Frendo_Fig1. Tas-silg aerial

Aerial view of Tas-Silg. 

By: Anthony J. Frendo

The Maltese archipelago lies practically at the centre of the Mediterranean, roughly midway between the eastern and the western Mediterranean Sea, and between the island of Sicily to its north and Libya to its south. Given this unusual location – between the Near East and Classical worlds and at the epicenter of the Punic world – one would expect Near Eastern archaeology to be a long-standing academic discipline. This is not the case, at least not yet.

Frendo_MaltaMap

Malta’s location in the Mediterranean. Image from Wikipedia

Some of the current status of the field in fact stems from my own experiences in high school. When I was in high school on Malta, I remember being enthusiastic about the vibrant power of the Scripture that we had to study for our religious classes. I was completely awed by the literary aspects of the Bible which I saw as indivisible from the message it aimed to communicate. At that time, little did I know the tremendous role which literary analysis would play in contemporary Biblical Studies. I was then told that to study the Bible properly it would be appropriate to first read Near Eastern Studies with an emphasis on Semitic languages (Classical Hebrew holding the pride of place). And I also wanted a grasp of the New Testament. All this meant learning Greek and Biblical Aramaic. Continue reading

Cooking in the Hebrew Bible

By: Cynthia Shafer-Elliott, Ph.D., William Jessup University

It is an understatement to say that within US culture there is a keen interest in food. Turn on any TV and one will see entire channels dedicated to the cooking and eating of food, with chefs becoming minor celebrities. Our interest in food has spilled over into the academic realm where research into diet and the cooking of food in ancient societies has become a “hot” topic. Archaeological excavations of Iron Age Syro-Palestine houses typically find activity areas dedicated for baking and cooking located in the central indoor living space and the outdoor courtyard. These activity areas are recognized through the identification of food preparation technologies (such as ovens and cooking pots) and micro remains (such as carbonized cereals and animal bones with butchering marks). Furthermore, experimental archaeology, ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological studies have become invaluable sources of analogy. As a result of archaeological, textual, and ethnographic studies, more research into the types of meals and how they were prepared is available, consequently allowing us to learn more about the daily lives of the average ancient Israelite man, woman, and child.

Fig 1 Woman cooking bread on a saj. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Shafer-Elliott.

Continue reading

The Renewed Hazor Excavations

By: Amnon Ben-Tor, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Edited and abridged from NEA 76.2 (2013): 66–67 (see editorial note below)

Tel Hazor, “the head of all those kingdoms” (Joshua 11:10), is the largest tell in Israel and encompasses a total of approximately 800 dunams (200 acres). With the exception of two gaps in the settlement, one at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age and the other following the destruction of the Canaanite city during the transition between the Late Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age, Hazor was continuously occupied for approximately two millennia, from the first half of the third millennium BCE to the late eighth century BCE.

Following the Assyrian conquest of Hazor in the year 732 BCE along with several other important sites in the region (as referenced in 2 Kgs 15:29), a period of decline set in until the site was finally deserted. A short-lived Israelite (?) settlement (Stratum IV) was established on top of the ruins of the fortified Israelite city. Poor traces of occupation attributable to the Assyrian, Persian, Hellenistic, and Islamic periods (Strata III–0, respectively) were noted at different locations on Hazor’s acropolis.
Continue reading

Biblical Archaeology in Germany – Does it Have a Future?

By: Martin Peilstöcker

What if Biblical Archaeology went extinct in your native country? More than twenty years ago I left my native Germany to get a Ph.D. at Tel Aviv University and to work for the Antiquities Authority in Israel. But when I returned in 2009, the situation I found in Germany came as a shock. Biblical Archaeology is an endangered species and may never recover.

Ever since the Reformation, Protestant seminaries have held Biblical Studies in the highest regard. The Enlightenment meant that historical-critical investigations of the Bible were central to any theological program in Germany. Biblical Archaeology thus became a central part of theological studies at Protestant seminaries. But even in this supportive environment it only had the status of a “Hilfsdisziplin” (auxiliary discipline). With shrinking numbers of students at the faculties of theology in the 1990s, budgets were cut back and small seminars and institutes like those for Biblical Archaeology were closed, leaving only a handful. How could a discipline that once was so central have become relegated to an afterthought in just two decades? Continue reading

Ecclesia Diaboli: The Demonization of the Gentile Religion in Jewish and Christian Thought

By: Aleksander Michalak, Independent Researcher, Poland, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow

My preliminary examination of several Second Temple texts, 1 Enoch, the Book of Jubilees, Joseph and Aseneth, Testament of Job, the First Epistle to the Corinthians, and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs indicates that there is already at this time a connection between demons and the cult of foreign gods, although they are not always explicitly identified with one another. Sometimes the demonic spirits are said only to lead people astray, that is, to lead people toward Gentile worship and toward idolatry, whereas in other cases it is the demonic spirits who are the objects of worship, or the pagan gods themselves. The inanimate material of the idolatrous objects is frequently juxtaposed with the demonic power that is hidden behind them. The association of the Gentiles with the demonic realm in Jubilees is understood to be the result of the subordination of all foreign nations to the rule of spirits. Continue reading

Thomas Verenna: History’s ‘The Bible’ in Broader Contexts

By: Thomas Verenna

This entry is reblogged from The Musings of Thomas Verenna. You can find the original entry here and his other posts on The Bible series here.


In lieu of writing a much longer piece for an online journal, I have thought it useful to open up some to a conversation concerning the History Channel’s ‘The Bible’. Recently lots has been made about the inaccuracies of the miniseries, as well as Glenn Beck’s (racist?) comments about how similar is their Satan character to “that guy”. But not much has been said in its defense.

This is problematic; while there are inaccuracies, I am not sure that it diminishes from the quality or historical contexts that are present. Before Jim West gets flustered (don’t hate me Jim), let me explain my meaning.

As students of the past, there is one constant fact to all of our ancient literature that I’m sure many of my readers will already know: they contain elements of what some would call ‘truth’ (in a philosophical or theological sense), elements of cultural memory/social memory (historical or otherwise), and lots more mythological constructs–fictions, to be blunt about it. In the Gospels, this is probably the most clear-cut. We have four canonical Gospels and dozens of noncanonical Gospels, some contain similar elements between each other (Matthew and Luke contain something like 90% of Mark’s Gospel with their own additional, unique content). Continue reading

A Lasting Impact on My Head and Heart

Heather excavating a hippo jar

By: Heather Pillette, Asbury Seminary, 2012 Heritage Fellow

It was a huge honor and great blessing to be one of the recipients of the Heritage Fellowship last year.  I journeyed to the beautiful northern Beth-Shean Valley of Israel to participate in the final dig of a beloved tel: Tel Rehov.  It was an incredible journey and experience, one which would not have been possible without the Heritage Fellowship.

Tel Rehov was my first on-site experience in the field of archeology, and as a result I know it will not be my last!  Rehov has yielded great finds in its seasons of excavation: pottery vessels, seals, inscriptions, figurines and cult stands, the famous apiary, and Carbon 14 data from burnt grain.  This site has significantly contributed to many ongoing conversations and debates.  Finds like these, and experiences like mine, would not be possible without scholarships such as the Heritage Fellowship. Continue reading

Wil Gafney: History Channel’s Satan and President Obama

By: Wil Gafney, Associate Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

This entry is reblogged from Dr. Wil Gafney’s blog. You can find the original entry here and Dr. Gafney’s other posts on The Bible series here.


Many viewers of the History Channel’s Bible mini-series saw and see a resemblance between the character of Satan and President Barack Obama. Comparison photos such as the one above are circulating on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. The History Channel denies any resemblance and any attempt to pattern the character after the President.

Whether one sees a resemblance or not, the History Channel has produced a biblical epic with virtually no actors from contemporary corollaries of biblical lands, so the North African (Moroccan) actor Mohamen Mehdi Ouzaani is highly visible as Satan in a production where the Israelites are portrayed by white actors. I have previously addressed the use of race in the series here and here and here. The History Channel is responsible for what it broadcasts just as the producers, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, and their casting agents are responsible for the product they produce. Continue reading

Mark Goodacre: The Bible Series — Drama and Historical Context

By: Mark Goodacre, Associate Professor of Religion at Duke University

This entry is reblogged from NT Blog. You can find the original entry here and Dr. Goodacre’s other posts on The Bible series here.


March 21, 2013

While I realize that the only thing people seem to want to talk about at the moment in connection with The Bible Series is the alleged resemblance between a still of Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni and President Obama, I will risk talking about several other features of the most recent installment of the drama, which was broadcast in Sunday evening on History Channel.  Here is a recap of the episode (courtesy of the History Channel website):

One of the aspects that I appreciate in the New Testament episodes of The Bible series is the attention paid to historical context.  One of the challenges for film-makers on this kind of project is to provide some explanation of the historical context without weighing the narrative down with turgid exposition. I talked about this a little in relation to BBC’s The Passion in 2008 in a piece that also found its way onto the DVD, “The Passion” and Its Historical Context. Continue reading

The Image of Suffering Women in the Book of Lamentations and Nanjing Holocaust Literature: A Cross-Textual Reading

Zhe LiBy: Zhe Li, University of Illinois at Ubana-Champaign, Noble Group Fellow

The aim of my research was to decentralize a male-gendered interpretation tradition of Lamentations 3, and to reinterpret the neglected image of “Daughter Zion” (בת־ציון) in Lamentations 1 and 2 in the sense of human suffering. Meanwhile, reexamining the counterpart image of suffering women through the lens of Nanjing Holocaust literature also helps to demonstrate how these different types of texts transform the unique voices and experiences of women into the memories of human disasters. Continue reading

Fulfilling my Dream

Johnson_KristenBy: Kristen Johnson, 2012 Heritage Fellow

As someone who has spent a large portion of their adult life studying the intricacies of the Hebrew Bible narrative, subscribing to Biblical Archaeology Review, and learning ancient dead languages like Biblical Hebrew, getting the opportunity to experience my studies tangibly in their natural habitat of Israel through an archaeological dig was always a dream. I had considered funding a dig on my own but after an expensive college and in the midst of a master’s program there was no choice but to devote my summers to the hard work of money making. However since I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from ASOR I was able to justify spending my summer fulfilling my dream of learning about archaeology and exploring my studies firsthand in Israel. 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

Archaeologists and Journalists: Please Stop Finding the Garden of Eden!

Contributed by Michael M. Homan, Xavier University of Louisiana.

I just read that they found the Garden of Eden again. It seems to have moved from its previous locations in Bahrain, Yemen, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Jerusalem. The latest location of chez Adam & Eve is at Gobekli Tepe. While it is truly an amazing site with great implications for understanding the Neolithic Revolution, it’s not Paradise.

So why the skepticism? Simply put, the story of the Garden of Eden is a myth.

The Center Panel (Paradise) of the Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch

The Bible offers a couple of clues about the location of Eden. Cain was kicked out of Eden eastward to Nod (Gen 4:16). However, ‘Nod’ is derived from a root that means “to wander,” so it’s not a specific location, but indicates that Cain will be a fugitive. The best evidence for Eden’s location is that a river in Eden broke into four rivers: 1) the Pishon, 2) Gihon, 3) Hiddekel, and 4) Ferat (Gen 2:10-14). The identity of the last two is certain, being the Tigris and Euphrates respectively. Nevertheless, a wide range of possibilities for the other two prohibits a definitive location. The river Pishon is said to be located in the land of Havilah where there is quality gold, bdellium and onyx stone (2:11-12). Havilah is alternatively located in 1) Nubia, with the Pishon being the Nile, 2) India, with river candidates being the Indus or Ganges, or 3) Southwest Arabia, with the Pishon being the Wadi Bisha and the Wadi Baish. All three areas are famous for gold and the other commodities. Similar confusion surrounds the identification of the Gihon River. Gihon comes from a root meaning “to gush forth,” and thus it is a common name for flowing bodies of water throughout the ancient Near East. The Bible qualifies Eden’s Gihon as a river that flows around the land of Cush (2:13). Confusion persists, however, as there are in fact two areas named Cush in the Bible, the first and more famous being Nubia, and thus the Gihon would refer to the Nile River. The second area for biblical Cush is in Midian, with a number of wadis and streams serving as candidates. The great biblical scholar and archaeologist William Albright thought that the Pishon and Gihon were the two branches of the Nile River, known today as the Blue Nile and the White Nile. Alternatively, some have claimed this River Gihon is the famous spring in Jerusalem’s Kidron Valley, thus linking the Garden of Eden to the Temple in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, this remains unlikely, as the argument ignores the correspondence of Eden’s Gihon to the land of Cush, a term never used in conjunction with Jerusalem. The early Jewish Historian Josephus identified the Pishon with the Ganges and the Gihon with the Nile. In doing so, Eden is positioned at the source of the ancient Near East’s four largest rivers. Thus, it’s not a realistic location that you could visit, but instead, it is a mythological place which brings fertility in the form of river water to the entire world known to the biblical authors.

And to close here is Marge Simpson’s dream about Eden, but sadly, it cuts off before the butterscotch pond and the porno bush: