Category Archives: Artifacts

Ancient Timber on Temple Mount?

In recent years there have been several articles and news items that argue that some of the timbers that were discarded after the remodeling of the el-Aqsa Mosque on the Haram esh-Sharif in Jerusalem are quite ancient—possibly even from the Temple that Herod built (the Second Temple) around 15 B.C.

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Wooden debris—including timbers—stored just west of the Golden Gate on the Haram esh–Sharif/Temple Mount
Photo June 2009 — Click on image to enlarge and/or download

I thought I would share one of my pictures of such debris from a pile that was located just west of the interior of Golden Gate (to view exterior Click Here).  Note especially the notched  beams on the far side of the pile.

On of the more recent articles is that of Peretz Reuven, “Wooden Beams from Herod’s Temple Mount: Do They Still Exist?”Biblical Archaeological Review 39, no. 3 (May/June 2013): 40–47.

Hercules Farnese of Perge and . . . .

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Hercules Farnese From the Baths at Perge
Second Century A.D. — Antalya Museum

A beautiful second century A.D. statue of Hercules was found in the baths of Perge.  The Boston Museum of Fine Arts returned the top portion of the statue to Turkey in September 2011.  Prime Minister Mr. Recep Tayyip Erogan personally brought the important portion to Turkey himself.  Portions of over 60 such statues are known and are called the “Hercules Farnese” (named after a famous Italian collection now housed in the Naples National Archaeological Museum).  This is a Roman copy of a bronze original.  Note the positioning of the head, arms, and legs, and especially the body muscles.  The skin of conquered Nemean Lion flows down on his left side as it tumbles to the ground.

Antlaya Museum Deities and Emperors

It has now been reunited with its body and is on display in the wonderful Antalya Museum.

Below is THE Hercules Farnese that is displayed in the Naples National Archaeological Museum.

Below is a five (5) in. high image of a “Hercules Farnese” found at Pergamum and displayed in the museum in Bergama.

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A Bronze Five (5!) Inch High “statue” of Hercules
From Pergamum — In the Museum at Bergama

Heracles was the son of the god Zeus and a mortal Alcmene. Although originally a mortal, he eventually attained divine status and was widely worshiped throughout Greece. As punishment for killing six of his children he had to perform 12 “labors” (= very difficult tasks). The first of which was to kill the Nemean Lion. He wrestled with the lion, strangled it, and subsequently used its pelt as a cloak. (Nemea is a site in the Peloponnese region of Greece).

The Winners’ Prizes — Dead Vegetation?

In a previous entry I shared some pictures related to “Running the Race.”  The winners of such competitions were awarded, among other things, victory crowns—the composition of which depended upon the games.

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Modern Recreation of Victory Wreaths — On the left a Pine Wreath for the winner of an event at the Isthmian Games and on the right a Laural Wreath for the winner of an event at the Olympic Games — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The games at Isthmia were held twice during the four year Olympic cycle.  The city of Corinth was in charge of these games and Isthmia was only 6 miles from Corinth.  The games included athletic as well a music contests.  It is very probable that the games were held during Paul’s stay at Corinth.  Indeed, he writes to the church at Corinth:

1Cor. 9:24     Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (NIV)

Continue reading

The Farmer Sarcophagus — How Could a Farmer Afford This?

In the magnificent museum in Antalya Turkey there are many beautiful artifacts from sites such as Perge, Aspendos, Side, and others.  Among them are many beautiful sarcophagi such as the following:

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Sarcophagus from Perga in the Antalya Archaeological Museum — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

Note the husband and wife on the lid of the sarcophagus and especially the erotic figures carefully carved on its side!  Many of the sarcophagi are intricately carved like this one!  While waiting to board our bus, I noticed a very plain sarcophagus near the parking lot.

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Note the farmer plowing with two oxen — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

I have seen a lot of sarcophagi in our travels but never one with this theme on it!  Note the farmer plowing with two oxen and two roundels with (evidently) a husband and wife in each of them.  Note especially the detail of the plow and the “ox goad” (1 Sam 13:21; Eccl 12:11; Acts 26:14) in the hand of the plower!  It is almost refreshing to see such a mundane and common activity represented on a sarcophagus—but it is surprising, for how did a FARMER afford having a stone sarcophagus made??

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Palestinian farmer plowing his vineyard — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

This Palestinian farmer is plowing his vineyard with a plow very similar to the one on the sarcophagus above!  This farmer is plowing in January to prevent weeds from growing.  Also note the vines lying just above the ground.

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A student learning how to plow at Neot Kedummim in Israel — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

Rare Ancient Bronze Statues — Part 2 of 2 — Athena

I previously posted images and commentary on two of the very well–preserved bronze statues of Artemis that are in the Piraeus Museum (port of Athens).    People often wonder “what did the statue of Athena in the Parthenon look like?”  Well, one of the bronzes from Piraeus is a larger than life-size statue of Athena that was made when the one in the Parthenon was less that 100 years old!

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Piraeus Athena in Bronze — This statue was crafted while the original statue of Athena in the Parthenon still stood! — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

This bronze(!) statue of Athena is larger than life size—almost 8 ft. [2.35 m.] tall.  It may have originally been from Delos.  Two owls and two griffins adorn her Corinthian helmet.  The statue dates to ca. 360 B.C. — at that time the Athena statue in the Parthenon was less that 100 years old!   She held a spear in her left hand and a libation bowl—or an owl or a Nike—in her right.  Note the diagonal belt bordered by snakes that contains a Gorgon’s head.

Her weight is resting on her right foot and her left leg is slightly flexed.  This statue, along with three others, was found in 1959 during building excavations in Piraeus.  They were found as a group and although deposited at the same time, they were crafted at different periods.  They were probably deposited in the first century B.C.

Compare the “Varvakeion Athena” (below) that is in the National Museum in Athens.  This statuette is 1/12 the size of the Athena in the Parthenon.  It dates to the third century A.D.!

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The “Varvakeion Athena” from Athens — Third century A.D. — one twelfth the size of the Athena in the Parthenon — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

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

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.