Category Archives: Archaeology

Astounding Neolithic Site — Göbekli Tepe

Ferrell Jenkins has an extended blog on the untimely death of the excavator of Göblekli Tepe, Klaus Schmidt, at the age of 61.

For those interested, I have posted 17 images of Göbekli Tepe (“Potbelly Hill”)—a Neolithic site located about 9 mi. north of Sanliurfa in south–central Turkey before the “protective covering” was constructed over the site.  This 22 acre site was functional from roughly 9,600 BC to 8,200 BC was excavated by Klaus Schmidt.

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View of the major excavated area at Göbekli Tepe
Click on image to Enlarge

It was a religious center constructed by and used by foragers (not farmers!).  The excavated portions consist mainly of rings of well-carved standing limestone pillars—the tallest 18 ft. high.

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Detail of one of the rings of standing stones
Click on image to Enlarge

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Note the variety of animals on the carved stone
Click on image to Enlarge

Images of gazelles, snakes, foxes, scorpions, and boars are carved on them in low bas-relief.  In posting my images I was amazed to think about how during the Neolithic Period (ca. 9,000 B.C.) these people, using only flints and stone tools(!!), were able to quarry stones that were 18 ft. high and weighed 16 tons!  How did they transported these stones to the site of Göbekli Tepe?  How did they carve and smooth the surfaces of these stones and leave images in bas-relief(!) on them??

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One of the large (almost 18 ft. tall) standing stones —note the carving on its side and base
Click on image to Enlarge

How these pillars were carved, transported, and erected—in 9,600 BC—is very mysterious!

Schmidt believes that it was a worship center for foragers, for he has not found any walls, houses, hearths, or signs of agriculture.

The finds at the site are beginning to revolutionize the understanding of the transition from Natufian culture to the Neolithic age.

The worship center is actually almost 1,600 earlier than Kathleen Kenyon’s famous Neolithic Tower at Jericho.

Lifting Heavy Stones!

Over the years I have seen various diagrams illustrating how the ancient Greeks and Romans—not to mention Herod the Great—lifted heavy stones into place as they constructed the walls of temples and erected columns.  But the first time that I heard about a Lewis Bolt was watching a fascinating DVD put out by The Great Courses entitled Understanding Greek and Roman Technology: From the Catapult to the Pantheon.

In traveling to Greece and Turkey the use of iron and lead to secure columns and other architectural elements was very evident.

The Three Part "Lewis Bolt" — Note shape of the cavity that is carved into the stone that is to be lifted — The three parts of the bolt are inserted into the cavity and as lifting takes place the bolt becomes more firmly embedded!

The Three Part “Lewis Bolt” — Note that the shape of the cavity that is carved into the stone that is to be lifted is wider at the bottom than at the top — The three parts of the bolt are inserted into the cavity and as lifting takes place the bolt becomes more firmly embedded!

In the diagram above a rope or chain was attached to the loop to lift the stone.

I found that the use of Lewis Bolts was actually very common.  So on a recent trip to Turkey and Greece I began to look more carefully at the carvings into column and architectural pieces that might exhibit where Lewis Bolts may have been used.

The two square indentations were for iron pegs that secured this piece to its mate — note the grooves that lead to the square holes, for lead to cover the iron to avoid rust — The RECTANGULAR opening is for the Lewis Bolt that was used to lift this large piece (see diagram above)

The two square indentations were for iron pegs that secured this piece to its mate — note the grooves that lead to the square holes, for lead to cover the iron to avoid rust — The RECTANGULAR opening is for the Lewis Bolt that was used to lift this large piece (see diagram above)

At Alexandria Troas we were able to examine close up a number of archectural pieces, some of which exhibited the use of a Lewis Bolt to lift them (see above).  The Lewis Bolt indentations are difficult to photograph, but trust me, if you know what to look for you will find them—just stick your finger into the holes and find out how they are shaped!

The diagram above is from “Lewis (lifting appliance)” — Wikipedia

A Visit to the Synagogue at Delos

A highlight on a visit to the sacred Greek island of Delos (it is about a 40 minute boat ride from Mykonos) was a visit to the synagogue on the remote east side of the island (see the end of this post).

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View of the “Moses Seat” located on the west wall of the synagogue
Note the marble benches on both sides of the seat
Click on all images for high resolution versions

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View to the west, southwest at the various rooms of the synagogue
Note the “Moses Seat” in the upper right part of the image
In the lower left portion of the image is one of the entrances into the synagogue

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View to the west of the “Moses Seat” in context
Again, note the marble benches on both side of the seat

This synagogue is said to date to the second half of the second century B.C. which would make it the oldest synagogue yet discovered.

I knew the general location of the synagogue, but thought I would ask in the Delos museum how to get there (bad mistake).  The answer was, “that side of the island is closed.”  Well . . . I hadn’t traveled 6,000 miles by land, air, and sea, just to see this synagogue and be “turned away,” so we set off on the dirt road just to the north of the museum.

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Dirt road/path leading to the synagogue
Take the right branch (path along the wall) heading east toward the sea
It is about a 15 minute walk to the synagogue from the museum

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Approaching the synagogue from the west — looking east
The synagogue is in fact right on the shore to the Aegean Sea
The remains of the synagogue are in the center of the image

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Map of the synagogue (#75) and surrounding structures
Gymnasium/Palestra (#72) and Stadium (#73)

God Fearers in the Synagogue and Early Church — Evidence from Miletus

MiletusMap3In the New Testament the book of Acts 13-28 describes the spread of Christianity primarily through the efforts of Paul and his companions.  As they traveled throughout Asia Minor and Greece some Jews and many Gentiles adopted the new faith.  Some of these Gentiles where already interested in the God of the Jews and involved in synagogue worship.  This group is mentioned several times in the book of Acts (Acts 13:16, 26, 43; 17:4, 17).

Clear evidence for the presence of a Jewish population living at Miletus, which Paul stopped at on the return leg of his Third Journey (Acts 20:15ff), is evidenced by an inscription that is located on the fifth row of seats on the southeast side of the large theater at Miletus (see below).

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Greek Theater Inscription
τόπoς Ειουδέων τῶν καὶ Θεοσεβίον”the place for the Jews and the God–worshipers” or
“the place of the Jews who are also God–worshipers”
Click on image to enlarge/download

τόπoς Ειουδέων τῶν καὶ Θεοσεβίον

This inscription seems to mark “reserved seating” for Jews and possibly related “God–worshipers.” There are other “reserved seat” markings in this, and other, theaters.  As it stands the inscription reads “the place of the Jews who are also God–worshipers.”

But some have suggested that whom ever wrote the inscription may have inverted the “τῶν καὶ.” If this is the case, then the inscription could refer to two groups of people, Jews and Gentile God–worshipers (= “the place for the Jews and the God–worshipers”). Compare the same categories found in the book of Acts, although not quite the same terminology (Acts 13:16, 26, 43; 17:4, 17).

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The Theater at Miletus
The “God-Fearer” inscription is located where the two people are sitting near the center of the image
Click on image to enlarge and/or download

To View More Images of Miletus Click Here.

Laodicea — Menorah and Cross

Laodicea is the last of the seven churches addressed in the book of Revelation (1:11; 3:14–22). In the letter there may be a number of allusions to the local setting of Laodicea: the lukewarm water, riches, gold, white garments, and eye salve! (see The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in their Local Setting by Colin J. Hemer; click here to view for purchase from amazon.com).

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Menorah with Flames Flanked by a Lulav and Shofar — Above it a cross was inscribed — Click (actually two clicks) on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The above column was discovered while “cleaning out the nymphaeum” at Laodicea (Wilson, p. 251; see below).  The search for the Late Roman/Byzantine Jewish presence in Asia Minor is ongoing.  The above column attests to a Jewish presence at Laodicea but its relationship to the Christians there is ambiguous.  To this untrained eye it looks like the cross was added to the menorah.  Did this mean that Christians and Jews were peacefully coexisting at Laodicea?  Or was this an indication of Jewish Christians there?  Or that Christianity had “superseded” Judaism?

(Addition.   In the scholarly article mentioned in Mark Wilson’s comment below, Steven Fine comments on this artifact in light of the anti-Jewish Council of Laodicea that was held soon after the death of Julian the Apostate in A.D. 363. After a long discussion Fine draws attention not only to the “Christianization” of pagan shrines but also of Jewish synagogues and he concludes, “my own instinct, however, is to suspect the worst and to suggest that the kind of social distancing given expression by the Council of Laodicea adversely affected the local [Laodicean] late-antique Jewish community, of which our column is the only archaeological evidence.)

To view additional Menoroth with a lulav see  Hierapolis Tomb 148B, the steps of the Library of Celsus at Ephesus, the plaque from the synagogue at Andriace (Turkey), a square post at Umm el-Qanatir (Israel, Golan Heights), and the mosaic synagogue floor at Sepphoris (Israel).  Menoroth with shofars are rather common.

LaodiceaMap4Laodicea is a very large mound located to the north of Denizli. It was founded by Seleucid kings during the third century B.C. By the New Testament era it was a very large and very important city. It had evidently replaced both nearby Hierapolis and Colossae as the most important city in the area.

It was located near good water sources although an aqueduct brought water to the city from the south. Most importantly it was located at a key road junction. The major road coming from the east (Syria, Mesopotamia, Arabia, India, China) came to Laodicea and from there one could continue west, 112 mi. [180 km.], to the port city of Ephesus, or head northwest towards Philadelphia from where roads headed either west to Smyrna, or continued northwest to Pergamum. From Laodicea, one could also travel southeast to Attalia, a port on the Mediterranean Sea.

It is probable that Epaphras was instrumental in establishing the church at Laodicea, and Paul writes that his letter to the church at Colossae (only 8 mi. [13 km.] distant) should be read by the believers at Laodicea (Col 2:1). Paul also wrote a letter to the church at Laodicea (Col 4:16). This letter has not been discovered, although many scholars speculate that the book called “Ephesians” was originally addressed to the church at Laodicea.

Mark Wilson’s Biblical Turkey — A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor is the best up-to-date resource available on biblical sites in Turkey (amazon $35.35).

Jerusalem: Recent Developments Near the Gihon Spring — With Pictures

2-3 minute read with unique, never-seen-before, pictures.

The Gihon Spring is the natural water source for ancient Jerusalem.  David’s general Joab is said to have gained access to conquer the city via part of this water system (2 Samuel 5:8 and 1 Chronicles 11:6) and Hezekiah built the well-known 1,750 ft. tunnel (2 Chronicles 32:30).

On a recent trip sponsored by the Biblical Archaeological Society and Tutku Tours, led by the expert guide Ofer Drori, we descended into the water system complex.  For years the area excavated by Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron has been barely visible due to all the scaffolding in the area.

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View looking down into the “Rock-cut Pool” that dates to the 18th century B.C.
The opening just above center, where the upper blue light is located, is where Tunnel III brings water from Tunnel II to this large chamber
See the diagram in Shank’s article for details
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

I was delighted to find that the area is now available to the public via sturdy walkways, stairs and lights (with blue lights; hmm).  Completely visible are the Rock-cut Pool, Tunnel III (that brought water from Tunnel II to the Rock-cut Pool) and Tunnel IV that leads to “Hezekiah’s Tunnel.”

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The large 18th century B.C. Rock-cut Pool
Tunnel III enters from the large cut in the center of the image bringing water to the Rock-cut Pool
Tunnel IV exits to the left bring water to “Hezekiah’s Tunnel”–note the door-like exit left of center
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

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Artist’s reconstruction of the Gihon Spring, Rock-cut Pool, and associated defensive structures on the east side of the “Old Ancient Core” of Jerusalem — dated to the 18th century B.C.
On display above the Gihon Spring
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

In the above artists reconstruction the tower on the right (north) was built over and guards the Gihon Spring.  The tower on the left (south) contains and guards the “Rock-cut Pool.”  Note the city wall and the defended pathways that lead to and from the towers.  All of this was evidently built in the 18th century B.C.!

For a complete description of this system see the article by Hershel Shanks, “Will King Hezekiah Be Dislodged from His Tunnel?”  Biblical Archaeology Review, (September/October 2013), pp. 52–61, 73.  In it he notes that Reich and Shukron now believe that what has been called “Hezekiah’s Tunnel” (Hezekiah r. 715–686 B.C.) now should be dated earlier—to the late 9th or early 8th century B.C.!

Jerusalem — The Neighborhood of Silwan — The Royal Steward’s Tomb

One of the least visited places in Jerusalem is the portion of the village of Silwan that is located on the lower western slope of the Mount of Olives—opposite the “City of David.”

The village itself is built over 50 tombs from the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. This necropolis – “city of the dead”  – was investigated by David Ussishkin and Gabriel Barkay between 1968 and 1971. Travel to this area is very difficult (= impossible) for the inhabitants of Silwan are normally very hostile to outsiders.

The two most famous tombs from this necropolis are “the Tomb of Pharaoh’s Daughter” and the “Tomb of the Royal Steward.”

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Tomb of the “Royal Steward” located in the Village of Silwan
The two inscriptions have been carved out and taken to the British Museum
Note the door on the left — this important tomb was used as a storage room at the time that this picture was taken

Unfortunately the second most important tomb from the First Temple Period is located in this village.  This tomb was discovered by Clermont-Ganneau in 1870. It had two Hebrew inscriptions – one above the door and the other to the right of it. Both were carved out and sent to the British Museum where they are still housed.  The largest inscription was over the door (note the large “gash” there).

IJOTIT07 Nahman Avigad translated the larger inscription as “This is [the sepulcher of . . . ] yahu who is over the house. There is no silver and no gold here but [his bones] and the bones of his amah with him. Cursed be the man who will open this!”

In the text the phrase “who is over the house” refers to a very important personage in the Judean government (about second to the king). His name, according to the inscription, was “. . . yahu.” Unfortunately the first part of his name is missing but many believe that the person who was buried here was none other than Shebna [yahu], the Royal Steward, whom Isaiah condemned for ‘hewing a tomb for himself on high’ – SEE Isaiah 22:15-17!

The amah (a female) mentioned in the inscription may also have been a very high functionary in the Judean government.

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Tomb of the “Royal Steward” located in the Village of Silwan
The main inscription was above the “modern” door
The two inscriptions have been carved out and taken to the British Museum
This important tomb was used as a storage room at the time that this picture was taken 

For a popular description of this necropolis see: Shanks, Hershel. “The Tombs of Silwan.” Biblical Archaeology Review, vol. 20, no. 3 (May/June, 1994):38-51

You also may be interested in viewing the First Temple Tombs found on the grounds of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem – Click Here.

Jewish Presence at Hierapolis (Menorahs)

The important city of Hierapolis is mentioned only once in the New Testament.

Epaphras, who is one of you . . . is working had for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.
(Colossians 4:12-13; NIV)

Epaphras evidently founded the churches at Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis that are located in the Lycus Valley—possibly during the long stay of Paul at Ephesus.  For a variety of reasons we would expect some type of Jewish presence in these cities.

Although actual synagogues have not been found (Colossae had not been excavated) a variety of menoroth (menorahs; seven branch candlesticks) have been found engraved on tombs, a sarcophagus, and a column indicating a Jewish presence in the area.

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Tomb 163d Dating to the First Century A.D.
Note the menorah (seven branch candelabra) located
to the left and above the green plant
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

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The family tomb on which the menorah is engraved
The remains of 31 individuals were found in the tomb
Click on the Image to Enlarge/Download

To view Tomb 148b with its very faint menorah and lulav Click Here.

Carl Rasmussen Copyright and Contact

Marble lid of a Jewish sarcophagus with a menorah
and a faint Greek inscription
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

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Construction at Andriace Turkey — a port Paul visited

On January 12 our group of Bethel University students, led by our Turkish guide Özcan Kaçar, attempted to visit Andriace, a port where Paul stopped on his way to Rome as a prisoner (Acts 27:5–6; see previous posts here).

Unfortunately for us, major construction work is going on there as they prepare to make this important site more “tourist friendly” and we were not allowed to approach the site.  In the “old days” we use to have to walk through underbrush and swamp to get there.

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Granary of Hadrian being turned into a museum
Note the modern superstructure and the roof
In the foreground the (now) marshy harbor is visible
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

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View south at the reconstruction and excavations of the
Granary of Hadrian at Andriace — January 2014

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View of the same area prior to modern reconstruction

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Detailed view of the Granary of Hadrian and the
“newly” excavated area along the south bank of the harbor
(= a quay?)
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

Andriace12It looks like there will be a major visitors’ center at the entrance to the site and that the granary will be a museum.  Since the ship that Paul landed at this port, it will be interesting to follow the results of the ongoing excavations at the edge of the harbor.

Ancient Quarry at Alexandria Troas

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Ancient Columns in a Quarry about 10 Miles from Alexandria Troas
These ancient columns are about 30-40 feet long and 4-5 feet in diameter
Note the two students in the upper left of the photo
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

Two days ago I visited an ancient quarry that is located about 10 mi. east southeast of Alexandria Troas (scroll down for some brief comments on AT).  In this quarry there were at least 12 huge, mainly completed, columns.  Some of them were about 30-40 feet in length and about 4-5 feet thick.  It was amazing to contemplate how they were quarried and rounded as they were being prepared for shipment.

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Perspective: note the two students on two of the columns

AlexandriaTroasMap3In the New Testament it is mentioned five times as Troas. It was here, on Paul’s second missionary journey, that in a vision he received a call to proceed to Europe (Acts 16:8–11).

As Paul was traveling from Corinth to Jerusalem at the end of his third journey he stopped in Troas for seven days (Acts 20:6–12). Acts records that during Paul’s teaching, in an upper room on the third floor of a building, that Eutychus (“Good Luck”) fell to his death – but was revived by Paul! From Troas Paul walked (31.2 mi. [50 km.]) to Assos where he met up with his traveling companions who had traveled by ship.

Later, when Paul was in prison in Rome, he requested Timothy to bring the cloak, books, and parchments which he had left with Carpus in Troas — among the last recorded requests of Paul (2 Timothy 4:13).

Alexandria Troas is huge — about 1,000(!) acres [405 ha.] in size. It is largely unexcavated although in recent years some work has begun at the site; and more is planned for the near future.