Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The recent history of the GJW

MORE IMPROBABILITIES: 'Gospel of Jesus's Wife': Records Hint at Improbable Journey of Controversial Papyrus (Owen Jarus, Live Science). Mr. Jarus has uncovered some sources about the life of the man who reportedly originally bought the Gospel of Jesus' Wife in the 1960s, Hans-Ulrich Laukamp. The current, anonymous owner claims to have bought the fragment from Laukamp. A couple of excerpts:
Laukamp died in 2002, and the claim that he owned the text has been strongly disputed by Rene Ernest, the man whom Laukamp and his wife Helga charged with representing their estate. Ernest told Live Science that Laukamp had no interest in antiquities, did not collect them and was living in West Berlin in 1963 and thus couldn't have traveled to Potsdam from across the Berlin Wall. (West Berliners were not allowed to visit Potsdam at that time.)

Similarly, Axel Herzsprung, Laukamp's friend and business associate, told Live Science that Laukamp never had an interest in antiquities and never owned a papyrus. Laukamp has no children or living relatives who could verify these claims.


If the "Jesus's Wife" papyrus is authentic, it would mean that Laukamp would have had to figure out a way to reach Potsdam in 1963. In that year, West Berliners could only travel to East Berlin at Christmas, and only if they had family on that side of the city, according to historical records from that time period. President John F. Kennedy himself protested these conditions, flying to West Berlin in 1963 to give his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech.

If Laukamp did try to reach Potsdam, he would have risked being caught and would have had to explain to East German, and possibly Soviet, authorities that the papyrus he was carrying, with the Coptic handwriting, was simply an ancient papyrus and not a coded message.
The story doesn't sound very likely. On the one hand, the history that actually happened frequently sounds pretty unlikely. But on the other, the problems with the story of the recent history of the GJW just add to the pile-on of unlikely things we have to believe if we take it to be a genuine ancient artifact. As I have said before, maybe we won the lottery this time, but I remain to be convinced.

The main significance of the material that Mr. Jarus has uncovered is that it provides lines of inquiry that could illuminate the story further, such as copies of Laukamp's signature that could be compared to the unpublished sale document bearing a signature that is supposed to be his.

Read it all. Background here and many links.

Textual criticism articles

ETC: Recent Journal Articles on Textual Criticism (Peter J. Gurry). Including a couple of new (small) Septuagint fragments of the Book of Job.

More on Tut's tomb

HIDDEN CHAMBERS? INTERVIEW: Egypt's antiquities minister speaks on the search for Nefertiti in Tutankhamun’s tomb. Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty tells Ahram Online his expectations and plans regarding Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves' theory on the location of Nefertiti’s crypt (Nevine El-Aref). Excerpt:
Ahram Online (AO): What is your opinion about Reeves' theory, and could it be true?

Minister: It is a respectable scientific theory that could prove right or wrong, and when examining the west and north walls of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber, I realised that all the evidence that Reeves mentioned regarding the existence of hidden chambers is true.

I also noticed an area on a wall where the type of stone used was different than that in other walls. It is covered in painted plaster with the purpose of hiding something.

I am 75 percent certain we will find chambers behind both walls, but not one containing Nefertiti.

If the theory proves true and we locate Nefertiti’s resting place, we would be facing a discovery that would overshadow the uncovering of the golden king himself. This would be the most important discovery of the 21st century.

However, if we find the tomb of another royal member or an extension of Tutankhamun’s tomb, the discovery would be on par with the original discovery of the king's tomb in the 20th century.
Oh. Well is that all?

Seriously, it is not time to get excited yet. Let's wait until they actually find a hidden chamber or two, if they do. But this could turn into a very important discovery and meanwhile I will be watching the situation closely.

For background and reasons why it matters to PaleoJudaica, see here. Cross-file under Technology Watch.

The Jehoash inscription, geology, and politics

THE ASOR BLOG: The Jehoash Affair: A Personal Recollection (Howard R. Feldman). I cannot judge the merits of the article by Prof. Feldman's team, both because I haven't seen it and because I would not be qualified to judge the geological analysis if I did. I certainly hope that politics did not play a role in its rejection by an unnamed geological journal in 2008. But I do know that if one has written an article one believes in, it may take a rejection or two to get it published. I am surprised that there is no mention of the article being submitted again to a different journal. I encourage them to do so.

Background on the Jehoash Inscription (Joash Inscription), which is still widely regarded to be a forgery, is here and here and many links

Palmyra, ISIS, and history

PALMYRA WATCH: IS ‘terrified by history,’ says UNESCO after Palmyra Arch blown up. UN’s cultural body says it will make every effort to ensure those behind the destruction are brought to justice (AFP). Well yes, I hope that happens. But I'm not holding my breath.

Meanwhile, we can at least keep the real history of the region in the forefront, whatever ISIS does to try to eliminate it.

Background here with many links.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Shemeni Atzeret and Simchat Torah 2015

SHEMINI ATZERET began last night at sundown. In Israel, this is also the holiday of Simchat Torah (Simhat Torah). Outside of Israel, the latter holiday begins tonight at sundown. Best wishes to all those celebrating!

The biblical and other background is noted here.

Blaming "the Jews" for Middle East antiquities looting

OH DEAR: Jewish conspiracy looting Mideast antiquities, say Arab archaeologists. Prominent Iraqi, Syrian historians claim Jews seek to destroy region’s Arab heritage to avenge 2,500-year-old Babylonian exile (Tamar Pileggi, Times of Israel/AFP).
According to a prominent Iraqi historian and archaeologist and a Syrian director of the country’s famed Palmyra museum, an “international Jewish mafia” is plotting to loot Iraq and Syria of its most valued antiquities in an effort to prove the veracity of the Jewish Bible and eradicate evidence of Arab heritage in the Middle East.

“The Jews are always looking for antiquities – especially Middle Eastern ones, and particularly Iraqi ones – in order to prove that the Torah is true,” Ali al-Nashmi, the Iraqi archaeologist, said on the pan-Arab Mayadeen television channel earlier this month.

MEMRI has posted both interviews here with English subtitles. My spoken Arabic is not good enough to make out more than a word or two here and there. But MEMRI is good at providing reliable translations in the videos they post, so, along with the AFP, I am taking them at their word in what follows — with all the usual caveats about things I have not fully verified firsthand myself. The content reported in the video and the article is almost the same (see below).

Given Palestinian Jewish-Temple denial, widely repeated in the Arab world etc., and the depredations of the Waqf on the Temple Mount, it's hard not to see a certain amount of projection in the reported comments.

After some more comments on the same lines as those already quoted, we come to this:
Walid Al-As’ad, the director of the Palmyra Museum, spoke to the Mayadeen network in a similar vein, explaining that Jews are driven to “erase the Arab origins of these antiquities” – this time a reference to Syrian artifacts – and “destroy the city [of Palmyra] and wipe it off the face of the Earth, in order to erase the memory of their Babylonian exile,” an exile he said was abetted by archers from Palmyra who served in the army of Chaldean King Nebuchadnezzar II when he destroyed the First Temple and exiled the Jewish elite to Babylon.
Neither interviewee seems to have a very clear idea of what the "Torah" is. Palmyra (Tadmor) is not mentioned in the Pentateuch. The only biblical mentions of the site are in 1 Kings 9:18 and 2 Chronicles 8:4, with reference to the reign of Solomon. The story about the archers does not appear in the Bible at all. I don't know whether the Talmud mentions Tadmor. (The video does not show either speaker saying the phrase "in order to erase the memory of their Babylonian exile," although it appears — not as a quotation — in the caption below the video.)

Then we come to this:
In August, Islamic State jihadists beheaded Walid’s father, Khaled Al-As’ad, and hanged his mutilated body in public. The elder As’ad had served as director of the Palmyra Museum for 40 years until his retirement in 2003, when Walid took over the position.
Now I know the junior Mr. Asaad (As'ad) lives in a Baathist state and his government may have put him up to this, or he may be speaking out of fear of reprisal from ISIS. Or both. So I'm trying to cut him some slack. But this is just sad, and it brings shame to the memory of his father.

For reports on the destruction of Palmyra (by ISIS, not the Jews) and the murder of the senior Asaad (also by ISIS), see here, here, here, here, and many links. Some other relevant recent posts are here and here, and don't forget to follow those links.

Was Jesus a Phoenician?

SHORT ANSWER: NO. LAU lecture explores question: Was Jesus a Phoenician? (Lebanese Examiner).
(NEW YORK) — The Lebanese American University held a lecture Wednesday exploring evidence compiled by author Karim El Koussa, which suggests Jesus may be a Phoenician, according to his private studies.

The university hosted the Lebanese author at the LAU New York Academic Center, where university officials frequently host public forums and hold Arabic language courses, among others.

El Koussa said 40 people attended the lecture, which included a book signing for his publication “Jesus the Phoenician.” He admits the results of his studies often spark controversy because they contradict conventional beliefs that Jesus was a Jew.

“Some people are used to the traditional way of thinking that was imposed on them throughout their life and are definitely afraid to open their minds to controversial ideas in matter of religion and history,” El Koussa said, referring to points discussed in his book. “They usually react in a very fierce way as if they are threatened, although many of the reference I am using are coming from the New Testament itself.”

No actual arguments are included in the article, so there are none to reply to. But Jesus was a Galilean who self-identified as a Jew. The lecturer's credentials for his remarkable assertion are "a degree in communications from NDU." This notion is not one even noticed, let alone taken seriously or treated as a theory in the scholarly literature on the historical Jesus.

This is perhaps related to the notion that Jesus was a "Palestinian," on which I commented some years ago here and here.

More destruction at Palmyra

PALMYRA WATCH: Islamic State destroys Palmyra’s triumphal arch. Activists say jihadist group has destroyed the Arch of Triumph at Syrian archaeological site because of ‘idolatrous’ columns (AFP).

Background here and links.

Bar Kokhba-era site vandalized

ISRAEL HAYOM: Bar Kokhba-era antiquities site razed by Palestinian vandals (Efrat Forsher). Ancient city in Gush Etzion was site of first discovery of one of the caves Bar Kokhba used for concealment during his second century revolt against Roman rule • Students at the Kfar Etzion Field School come across irreparable damage during field trip.
An antiquities site that served as an encampment for Jewish leader Shimon Bar Kokhba during his revolt against the Romans from 132 to 136 C.E. has been destroyed by Palestinian vandals.

Discoveries made at the Kiryat Arabia site, located near the village al-Arub in Gush Etzion, have been a vital source of information about the period of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, and its destruction is a blow to research efforts.

In 1968, a winding, branching cave was discovered at the site, the first of the system of caves where Bar Kokhba hid to be discovered. A few years later, the Kfar Etzion Field School began conducting excavations at the site under the guidance of Professor Yoram Tsafrir, which turned up exciting finds and shed light on the final days of the revolt.

The cave was originally dug beneath the ancient community of Kiryat Arabia, which is mentioned in scrolls found at Nahal Hever in the Judean Desert. The Nahal Hever scrolls also include military correspondence between Bar Kokhba and his fighters.

In one that apparently dates back to 134 C.E., Bar Kokhba orders a man named Yehuda Bar Menashe, who was in Kiryat Arabia, to supply him and his soldiers with the Four Species mandated by Jewish law (citron, palm, myrtle and willow) for the observance of the approaching Sukkot holiday. This demonstrates how strictly Bar Kokhba and his army followed the commandments of Jewish law, even under difficult circumstances.

The letter mentioned is P.Yadin 57. The location, vocalization, and meaning of the site named "Kiryat Arabia" is uncertain. It may or may not have to do with "Arabia" or "Arabs." It is also uncertain whether it is to be identified with the vandalized site. Also, the article does not make clear how the writer knows who did the vandalizing.

It is an ironic synchronicity that the vandalizing of a site that may be mentioned in P.Yadin 57, which letter also refers to preparations for the Festival of Sukkot, was discovered and announced during the Festival of Sukkot some nineteen centuries later.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Review of Quinn and Vella (eds.), The Punic Mediterranean

Josephine Crawley Quinn, Nicholas Vella, The Punic Mediterranean: Identities and Identification from Phoenician Settlement to Roman Rule. British School at Rome studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. xxvi, 376. ISBN 9781107055278. $125.00.

Reviewed by Carolina López-Ruiz, The Ohio State University (lopez-ruiz.1@osu.edu)


This important collection of essays explores current debates about Phoenician culture in its western Mediterranean aspects, a field of growing interest.1 Its authors examine what we call “Punic” culture, that is, the western Phoenician colonial world after the sixth century (all dates BCE), marked by the rise of Carthage. The contributors agree that the name Punic (from the Latin for “Phoenician,” or “Carthaginian,” poenus, punicus) does not correspond with a clearly defined and distinct identity, but should be treated as a subset of the broader “Phoenician world,” slippery, vague, and complex as that term might be in turn. The ultimate (and frustrating) difficulty for historians and archaeologists is how to discuss those cultures (Phoenicians, Sardinians, Iberians, Numidians, and others) who left little or no literary evidence and no surviving self-defining narratives, without creating artificial modern categories shaped by material evidence, institutional projects, and intellectual trends. How do we bridge the gaps and correct for the biases in the Greek and Roman sources in order to form a more authentic view of the “Phoenicians” that is not Hellenocentric or Romanocentric? Do the cultural differences reflected in material practices reflect a separate identity between western and eastern Phoenicians? In general, the chapters all build on current views of the construction of identities and postcolonial theory, offering a fresh perspective on old and recent archaeological materials and (in fewer cases) written materials.

Cross-file under Punic Watch.

More on the carbonized Leviticus scroll

THE SMITHSONIAN: 1,500-Year-Old Text Has Been Digitally Resurrected From a Hebrew Scroll. Special software helped reveal the words on a burned scroll found inside a holy ark near the Dead Sea (Devin Powell). HT Jim West, who notes that James Aitkin is quoted in the article. Nice video too.

Background here and links.

New chambers in Tut's tomb?

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Search for Nefertiti's burial chamber in Tutankhamun tomb (BBC).
While assessing the scans last February, Dr [Nicholas] Reeves spotted what he believed were marks indicating where two doorways used to be. The archaeologist from the University of Arizona says he believes Nefertiti may lie inside.

Egypt's Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty hopes that non-invasive radar equipment can be used in the tomb within the next three months.

"If it is true, we are facing a discovery that would overshadow the discovery of Tutankhamun himself," said Mr Damaty.

Radar equipment "will confirm whether there's something" there, he added.
No, this isn't about ancient Judaism. But since I am forever going on about the imminent promise of non-invasive and non-destructive scanning technologies, it seemed worthwhile to note a case where primitive forms of such technologies are already being used to solve an archaeological question. I hope they do find more chambers in Tut's tomb — preferably well stocked ones! But the real point is that the technology now exists either to find them or to rule them out.

CFP for digital editions conference

ETC: Call for Papers: Digital Editions: Academia, Society, Cultural Heritage (Peter J. Gurry). Note that the date of this conference is 16-18 March 2016, not the 2015 typo at the link. The deadline for submission of proposals is 16 October 2015.

Krasnowolska and Rusek-Kowalska (eds.), Studies on the Iranian World I. Before Islam

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Studies on the Pre-Islamic Iranian World. Notice of a new book: Krasnowolska, Anna & Renata Rusek-Kowalska (eds.). 2015. Studies on the Iranian World I. Before Islam. Krakow: Jagiellonian University Press. Nothing specific on ancient Judaism in the TOC, but the Manicheans (Manichaeans) come up a couple of times.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Review of Bradley, Smell and the Ancient Senses

Mark Bradley (ed.), Smell and the Ancient Senses. The senses in antiquity. London; New York: Routledge, 2015. Pp. xii, 210. ISBN 9781844656424. $39.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Stuart Eve, University College London/L – P : Archaeology (s.eve@ucl.ac.uk)


Mark Bradley opens this collected volume of 13 essays by stating: “one of the most interesting things about smell is its very transitoriness and elision from the record, as well as its ambiguities and complexities” (p. 2-3). This sentence sums up the book as a whole and sets the stage well for what can be considered an excellent collection of work on smell in the ancient world.


The breadth of the different contributions means there is not room to discuss each one individually, but each certainly contributes something useful to the volume and as a whole they give a good overview of the current (and varied) thinking on the subject. The early chapters present excellent discussions of smell for both medical diagnosis and prognosis, along with a discussion of which herbs and trees may have been experienced and exploited for their smelly qualities. In some cases it seems as if the authors are perhaps 'tacking on' a discussion of smell to some of their previous research – this is particularly true of Koloski-Ostrow (with her focus on sewerage systems) and Potter (on Roman dining) – but the contributions don't necessarily suffer for this and indeed it can be taken as evidence of how pervasive the study of smell should be.

The choice of the contributions means interesting juxtapositions are sometimes presented, with Butler's exploration of the poetical creation of the sweet-smelling 'scent of a woman' being set against Bradley's discussion of the foul smells of the body. The chapters on the role of scent and smell in religious contexts, (Clements [on Greek ritual], Green [on smell in Rabbinic Jewish ritual], and Toner [on smell in Christianity]) work together very well to present three different ways in which smell can be used to appease or attract the gods. The exploration of the role of incense throughout these three chapters aptly demonstrates both the ethereal nature of smell, but also its politicisation to achieve one's own aims.3 As Clements says, “odour emerges as an experience of divinity, and divinity, in turn, as an experience of odour” (p. 59).


RevQ 105/27 (2015)

A NEW VOLUME IS OUT: Revue de Qumrân 105, tome 27 (2015). Follow the link for the TOC.

Thompson on "Biblical Archaeology"

Biblical Archaeology: The Hydra of Palestine’s History

Both Israel Finkelstein and William Dever have allegedly distanced themselves from the kind of “biblical archaeology” of William F. Albright. Their own efforts, however, to relate Palestinian archaeology and biblical narrative not only reflect Albright’s earlier methods, they create a politically oriented incoherence. In three recent works, since the turn of the millennia, Finkelstein uses archaeologically based arguments primarily to resolve problems of biblical interpretation. Dever, who also has published three biblical-archaeological studies since 2001, concentrates, rather, on archaeological issues, while using biblical narrative for his underlying historical context. A discussion of the figures of Solomon and Josiah on the one hand and a discussion of “landscape archaeology” and site classification, on the other hand, illustrate the shortcomings of their methodology.

This article has been published as part of the Festschrift for Niels Peter Lemche, Teologi, historie og erindring, in the Dansk teologisk tidsskrift 78 (2015), 243-260.

By Thomas L. Thompson
Professor emeritus
University of Copenhagen
October 2015


AWOL: Open Access Journal: ARTA: Achaemenid Research on Texts and Archaeology. Lots of good articles on Achaemenid Persia. I noted a recent one here.

The Mt Zion excavation

JAMES TABOR: Fabulous Coverage of our Mt Zion Dig! Professor Tabor links to a popular report on the Mt Zion excavation, headed by him and Shimon Gibson under the auspices of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. It will be running again in 2016.

Background on the excavation and its most famous discovery, the "Mt Zion cup," is here and links.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Dead Sea Scrolls workshop report

THE EUROPEAN QUMRAN NETWORK MEETING IN HELSINKI took place in September. Katri Antin and Jutta Jokiranta have a brief report at the Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions (CSTT) Blog: FROM TINY DOTS TO GLOBALIZATION.

Satlow on Ben Sira

MICHAEL L. SATLOW: The Wisdom of Ben Sira: How Jewish? (TheTorah.com).
Ben Sira will never replace Kohelet within the Tanak or as a synagogue reading on Sukkot. But although it is “outside the Bible,” it may still contain teachings and wisdom that remain relevant for us today. King Solomon, the reputed author of Kohelet, was said to have a capacious sense of wisdom. We might want to ask whether our tent, like those of the Talmudic and Geonic Sages, is large enough to include Ben Sira, even if the book is only just allowed to lurk at the entrance.
Cross-file under Old Testament Apocrypha Watch.

Research fellowship at the John Rylands Library

H-JUDAIC: Fellowships: Visiting Research fellowships at the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester.

For more on the John Rylands Research Institute, see here and links.

Fulton, Reconsidering Nehemiah's Judah

Reconsidering Nehemiah's Judah
The Case of MT and LXX Nehemia 11–12

[Neuauswertung des Juda bei Nehemia. Der Fall MT und LXX Nehemia 11–12.]
2015. XV, 258 Seiten.
Forschungen zum Alten Testament 2. Reihe 80

Deirdre N. Fulton investigates the history of Judah during the late-Persian and Hellenistic Periods by analysing Nehemiah 11-12. These chapters exhibit changes in the lists and the procession narrative, preserved in two different traditions, within the MT (Masoretic Text) and the LXX (Greek Septuagint).


YONA SABAR: Hebrew word of the week: Gerim — “alien residents; converts to Judaism.”

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Virtual tour of biblical sites

POPULAR ARCHAEOLOGY: Website walks visitors on virtual tour of biblical archaeological sites.
Petra. Masada. Herodium. Jericho. Qumran.

These are “holy land” archaeological sites of which most of us have heard but comparatively few of us have actually visited in person. There are obvious reasons for that—cost, time, cost, other commitments, cost, other priorities, cost. For those of us who have a passion for things archaeological, especially as they apply to the biblical account and the Middle East in general, such places remain mostly uncrossed on the travel wish list.

But what if you were told that you could ‘visit’ these places without incurring the fortune of airfare, hotel expenses and food, without ever having to hassle with security check lines, step onto an airplane or ride a bus or take a taxi?

One website, called the Virtual World Project, can do that for us. Featuring archaeological sites from Abu Ghosh to Zohar, the website offers virtual grand tours of no less than 106 sites.

Nice website. It's not quite up to this level of virtual reality yet, but the images are high quality and the panorama effects are very good.

PSCO 53 (2015-16)

THE PHILADELPHIA SEMINAR ON CHRISTIAN ORIGINS: 2015–2016 Topic: Beyond “Greco-Roman Context”: Persian & Other Perspectives on Judaism & Christianity. Sounds like an excellent area to explore. Follow the link for details.

Canepa, "Text, image, memory, and performance"

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Epigraphic practices in Persia and the ancient Iranian world. Notice of a new article in a new book: Canepa, Matthew P. 2015. "Text, image, memory, and performance: epigraphic practices in Persia and the ancient Iranian world." In Antony Eastmond, Viewing Inscriptions in the Late Antique and Medieval World, 10-35. Cambridge University Press

Dennert, John the Baptist and the Jewish Setting of Matthew

John the Baptist and the Jewish Setting of Matthew

How does the Jewish figure of John the Baptist function within the Jewish setting of Matthew? Brian C. Dennert analyzes the Baptist's role in Matthew and draws upon his portrait in other texts, noting how Matthew's portrait and use of John strengthens the claims of Matthew's Jewish group over against other Jewish groups.

Aramaic and the Cellist

ARAMAIC WATCH: Cellist Maya Beiser takes cutting-edge approach to music (Colin Eatock, Chron).
For this kind of unorthodox programming, the Washington Post dubbed her "the reigning queen of the avant-garde cello."

Beiser was raised on a kibbutz and came to the U.S. in 1987. She soon made a name for herself as the cellist in the New York ensemble Bang on a Can All-Stars, which is known for cutting-edge repertoire.

Her newest production, brought to the Wortham Theater Center by the Society for the Performing Arts, is called "All Vows." She says the title is inspired by the "Kol Nidre," a Jewish prayer written more than 1,000 years ago in the Aramaic language.

"I'm starting the second part of the show with 'Kol Nidre,' " she says. "I'll be playing the cello and singing in Aramaic. I'll perform a setting that was written for me by Mohammed Fairouz. It's a beautiful gift that he has created."

Fairouz is an American composer of Palestinian origin who is much feted in the classical music world.
Aramaic and music seem to go well together.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sukkot priestly blessing at Western Wall

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: IN PICTURES: Thousands flock to Western Wall for traditional priestly blessing. The traditional priestly blessing is held anually in honor of Succot, Passover and Shavuot (Jerusalem Post).

Background on the Festival of Sukkot is here (cf. here) and links.

AJR interviews CBR editor

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Currents in Biblical Research: Interview with Editor Jordan Rosenblum.
“The Ancient Jew Review sat down with Jordan Rosenblum, editor of Ancient Judaism at Currents in Biblical Research. We discuss the scope of the journal, the peer review process, as well as Rosenblum’s advice for journal submissions.”

Egyptian street-map mosaic excavated in Israel

A Rare 1,500 Year Old Mosaic was Discovered that Depicts Ancient Streets and Buildings in Egypt

A 1,500 year old mosaic, depicting a map with streets and buildings, was exposed about two years ago in archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted together with school children and employees from the Qiryat Gat Industrial Park. The excavation of the mosaic was generously underwritten by the Y.S. Gat Company–Qiryat Gat Industrial Park Management Company. This extraordinary mosaic served as the floor of a church dating to the Byzantine period. It was removed from the site for the purpose of conservation and was recently returned to its permanent location in the industrial park. The mosaic will be revealed to the public for the first time at the “Factories from Within” festival to be held October 1, during the Sukkot holiday.

According to archaeologists Sa‘ar Ganor and Dr. Rina Avner of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The appearance of buildings on mosaic floors is a rare phenomenon in Israel. The buildings are arranged along a main colonnaded street of a city, in a sort of ancient map. A Greek inscription preserved alongside one of the buildings exposed in the mosaic indicates that the place which is depicted is the settlement חורטסו, in Egypt. According to Christian tradition, the prophet Habakkuk was buried in חורטסו. The appearance of this Egyptian city on the floor of the public building in Qiryat Gat might allude to the origin of the church’s congregation”.

The mosaic pavement was part of the floor of a church that did not survive. Two sections of the mosaic were preserved; animals such as a rooster, deer and birds and a special goblet with red fruits are portrayed on one part of the pavement. According to Ganor, “The artist utilized tesserae of seventeen different colors in preparing the mosaic. The investment in the raw materials and their quality are the best ever discovered in Israel”. A Nile River landscape in Egypt consisting of a boat with a rolled-up sail, streets and buildings is depicted on the second carpet. The buildings are portrayed in detail and in three dimensions, and they have two–three stories, balconies and galleries, roofs, roof tiles and windows.

The “Factories from Within” festival will be held this year for the first time in the Qiryat Gat Industrial Park during the Sukkot holiday, in what will become an annual tradition. On October 1 the Qiryat Gat Industrial Park will be turned into an event-filled arena of one-time performances in unconventional locations, with rare visits inside some of the best known factories in Israel. The children will enjoy performances of Adon Shoko with songs by Arik Einstein, “Shukhnat Hop” and a variety of creative activities. A unique offering of events awaits adults with appearances by Shalom Hanoch and Moshe Levi in a performance of “Exit” that will be held in a printer factory, the singer Dikla will appear in the park, and Hemi Rudner will hold a fascinating master’s class in the Negev Beer brewery.

The project will give the general public a rare opportunity to peek into the hidden world of the factories in one of the country’s most modern industrial areas. The “Factories from Within” festival is the inaugural event slated to launch the 60th anniversary of Qiryat Gat, and the public is invited to enjoy the unique musical and visual experience.
The announcement has already received considerable media attention, for example, these LiveScience articles by Stephanie Pappas: 1,500-Year-Old Mosaic Shows Map of Ancient Egyptian Settlement and In Photos: Elaborate Mosaic Adorned Floor of Ancient Church.

Scanning the bodies from Pompeii

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Revealed - what's inside the Pompeii mummies: Incredible CT scans show bodies in unprecedented detail laying bare their bones, delicate facial features and even dental cavities (Victoria Woollaston, Daily Mail)
  • Restorers are working on 86 preserved plaster casts of Romans who died when Mt Vesuvius erupted in 79AD
  • Each of the victims have been entombed in ash and now plaster for more than 1,900 years
  • Experts have spent the summer scanning these bodies using CT scanners at the Pompeii Archaeological Site
  • They have now released the first results of these scans to show what lies beneath the plaster of the victims
Remarkable, if macabre, technological progress. Pompeii has featured from time to time on PaleoJudaica, notably here, here, here, and here and links. It has even occasionally come up in connection with ancient Judaism, such as here, here and here and links.

Cairo Geniza scholar receives MacArthur Fellowship

CONGRATULATIONS! Rustow receives MacArthur Fellowship (Daily Princetonian).
Marina Rustow, the Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East at the University, is among the 24 scientists, artists, scholars and activists who received this year’s MacArthur Fellowship.

The distinction, sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, comes with $625,000 grants distributed in quarterly installments over a five-year period. ...

Rustow joined the University faculty this past July and specializes in Jewish studies of the medieval Middle East. Rustow has analyzed Cairo Geniza, a collection of more than 300,000 folio pages of legal documents, letters and literary materials once preserved in an Egyptian synagogue. These documents now reside in about 200 libraries and private collections.

Rustow explained that because of the complexity of their language, the Cairo Geniza texts are often difficult to understand and only a limited number of scholars have received sufficient training. The texts mostly include legal transactions and other day-to-day records preserved in a range of languages, particularly Judeo-Arabic ones.

Studying those texts, she said, provides a more insightful understanding of the Medieval Islamic state, especially the lifestyle of Jews, a minority in the empire that stretched from Egypt to Palestine.

“I am interested in the internal history of Jewish communities between the 11th and 13th centuries, a period that they documented so well,” she said. “Reading these accounts allow me to get a sense about the lives of Jews living under Islamic rule on every level from breakfast to poetry to marriage choices.”

This is later than PaleoJudaica's normal range of interest, but I always like to keep track of what is happening in Cairo Geniza studies. On which, more here with many, many links.

Christ Among the Messiahs in paperback


A review of the book was noted here.