Category Archives: Museums

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.”

IJOTIT05

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.

RoyalSteward02

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.

The Thrill of Discovery—in a Museum!

The Museum of the Ancient Orient in Istanbul contains a number of “world class” objects that were gathered by the rulers of the late Ottoman Empire from all over the Middle East—including glazed tiles from the Ishtar Gate in ancient Babylon and a copy of the Treaty of Kadesh (between the Egyptians and the Hittite—late 13th century B.C.).

BoyAndLion02

“I am happy to meet you Mr. Lion!”
See below for the ferocious lion that this child is making friends with!
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

Often times people tire quickly when visiting museums, but this January we observed one young visitor who was in the process of making friends with a ferocious looking lion that once guarded the approach to an 8th century Hittite Palace at Zincirli (ancient Samal).

TCMZIL20

One of the pair of basalt lions that guarded the entrance
to the 8th century Hittite Palace at Zincirli
Note the detail of the mane and whiskers
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

Oh to see the world through a child’s eyes.  The joy of discovery/encounter!

A “go to” web site for visiting Istanbul

A very interesting web site called “magiccityistanbul,” that focuses on Istanbul, has just came to my attention.  It treats historical, cultural, religious, and practical matters (riding in a taxi, useful telephone numbers for example—but some [one?] like the “Museum Pass” have special stipulations [be careful]).  The pictures and the commentary are very informative.

Most (all?) of the entries that I have checked are dated “December”—so it looks to me that this site is relatively new.  Just click on the Thumb Nails and enjoy.

Hercules Farnese of Perge and . . . .

Hercules01

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.

TWNAPM13

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).

Flooding at Miletus in Turkey (Acts 20:38)

Mark Wilson of the Asia Minor Research Center in Antalya Turkey comments that due to heavy rains the site of Miletus, including the grounds of the new museum and the 600 year old Ilyasbey Islamic Complex.  This is due to the flooding of the Büyük Menderes River (the ancient Meander River).

TWCSML28

The flooding of the South Agora
On the right (south) is the Ionic Stoa

The apostle Paul visited Miletus, modern Balat, at the end of his third missionary journey – about A.D. 57 (Acts 20:38).  From there he summoned the elders from the church at Ephesus, 28 mi. [45 km.] distant (as the crow flies), and after speaking to them – this is the major speech recorded on his third journey – they had a tearful parting as Paul headed for Jerusalem where he would be taken prisoner.  Miletus is also mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:20.

TWCSML32

Ilyas Bey Islamic Complex = Mosque
At Miletus — Constructed 1404

TWCSML31

Lion from the Bath of Faustina displayed on the grounds of the Museum at Miletus

To view, and/or download, 31 high resolution images of Miletus Click Here.
These images are for personal use and there is no cost
and no registration is necessary.

Jerusalem — Church of the Redeemer Excavations

Today I visited the excavations at the Church of the Redeemer that is inside the Old City of Jerusalem.  This exhibit has been open since December and the entrance fee is 15 NIS.  The price includes a visit to the excavations, the “museum,” and the bell tower (178 steps to the top).

Redeemer-1

General View of the Excavated Area — Looking East

The excavated area is well laid out and the major architectural finds are highlighted.  There is a digitally produced audio-visual display (on a 10 x 8 inch screen) that is available in German and English.  It lasts about 5 minutes and is very well produced—highlighting the quarry from the Old Testament period, the garden from Second Temple times above the quarry, the forum of Hadrian, and the forum after the Constantinian building program (it would be great to be able to purchase a DVD of this!).  The excavations confirmed that the area of the Church of the Redeemer and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher were both outside of the city wall—up until the time that the third wall was built.  By pushing the buttons the various architectural finds are displayed.

Redeemer-2

Looking Down At the Probe
In the bottom — rock carvings from the OT Period quarry are visible
Along the sides — fill from the Second Temple Garden along the sides

Redeemer-3

View looking east along the foundations of the south retaining wall of the Constantinian forum (to the south of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher)

FWIW – I used my “cyclops headlamp” when I visited the site, and it was very useful.  The “museum” is beautifully laid out and the descriptions of photos and diagrams are very thorough—to read and absorb them all would take a good hour or more.

I see that Tom Powers has recently reported on this site and has additional details.

A Geographer’s Paradise — PEF and 1:50,000 Maps of Israel/Palestine On Line!

The best set of maps representing Palestine in the second half of the nineteenth century are those drawn by Britain’s Palestine Exploration Fund.  For years I have coveted a complete set, and reproductions just don’t do it!  Now the maps are available, free on the web!

Click On Image to Enlarge
PEF 1880 Map of the Bethlehem Area
Can you locate Bethlehem, Beit Sahur (= Shepherds’ Field, the Herodium, Artas, Solomon’s Pools?

My geographer’s prayer has been answered and the maps are available on-line for FREE!  And, they have been “stitched” together and are as clear as the originals—which in a few cases are difficult to read.  So Click, don’t run, to view and use them.

In addition this site has posted, again stitched together, the 1:50,000 maps of Israel!!

Click On Image to Enlarge
1:50,000 Map of the Bethlehem Area — Identical in Coverage to the PEF Map Above

Back in the 1970′s we needed special clearance to get a hold of these maps—and now they are on-line!  These maps are in Hebrew, but are usable for those with a little knowledge of the script.

To top it off, there are numerous(!) notations on each of the above maps.  Now we can use these maps from the comfort of our studies—instead of spending hours running off to far away libraries and/or museums to view them!

The site even offers Apps for your iPad or iPhone so you can use the maps in the field.  Oh my!!

One of Pilate’s Coins — Emperor Worship in Judean Territory

Besides constructing a Tiberieum at Caesarea Maritima the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate issued a series of bronze coins—perutahs honoring the Emperor Tiberius.  He minted these coins in Jerusalem between 29 and 31 (Taylor, 556; Jesus was tried before this same Pilate in AD 30 or 33).

Obverse of a bronze perutah, minted in Jerusalem, by Pontius Pilate
Note the “augur’s staff” called a lituus — the coin is inscribed
Click Image to Enlarge

The above is a sample of one of the two types of coins.

Bronze perutah minted in Jerusalem by Pontius Pilate

The inscription on this coin reads “of Tiberius Caesar.”  This type of coin features a lituus on the obverse side of the coin.

The lituus was a wooden staff (or wand) with a curled end, made of a branch of either ash or hazel … The lituus was held in the right hand of the augures and was the augures’ identifying emblem.  (Taylor 559-59)

The lituus was used by augurs who were priests that interpreted the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds (size of flock, noises made, direction of flight, etc.).

[The lituus] was also raised to the sky when they invoked the god and made predictions.   It was used to mark out regions of the heavens when assessing the placement of sacred space on earth (Taylor 559).

Taylor continues, that these two types of coins (only one is covered in this post) honor priests

who were representatives of Roman religion in the two imperial cult temples of Caesarea Maritime and in Sebaste, located in the province he [Pilate] governed (565).

And she concludes:

In using exclusively Roman cultic items in his coinage designed for a province largely composed of Jews and Samaritans, Pilate was promoting Roman religion, manifested largely in the imperial cult, in an environment in which there were strong sensitivities (565).

Thus it is evident that the person who condemned Jesus to death was active in promoting the Imperial Cult via the coins that he issued and the Tiberieum that he built at Caesarea!

In light of the above, imagine what was going through Pilate’s mind when he heard the words:

“If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” (John 19:12)

For a detailed development of this topic please see Joan E. Taylor “Pontius Pilate and the Imperial Cult in Roman Judaea.” New Testament Studies 52 (2006): 555–82—especially pages 555–563.

________________________________________________

It should be noted that coins from cities/areas outside of Judea — with images of deities or emperors on them — circulated in Judah.  See Mark 12:13-17 and parallels.

Tuesday’s Travel Tip #10 — The Roles of the Roman Emperors

Groups traveling to Turkey will often fly into Istanbul and spend a day or two there before continuing on to other parts of the country.   One of the stops in Istanbul is typically the world-class Archaeological Museum located near the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace.  For students of the Bible it houses some extremely important artifacts.  The main ones are located on the top floor of the museum including the Siloam Tunnel Inscription, The Second Temple Warning Inscription, and the Gezer Calendar (the first two from Jerusalem).

Bronze Statue of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (r. AD 117-138)
In Toga depicting him as “the first citizen” of Rome
Archaeological Museum in Istanbul
For additional information about this statue Click Here

When walking up to visit the gallery containing these precious objects you will usually pass a bronze statue of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.   Because the lighting in the room is typically not too good, and the room really looks “dated,” most groups will bypass this statute.

However, it is worthy to pause for a minute or two to view it.  First of all, it is very rare to have a statue preserved in bronze from ancient times!  Most of the statues that are preserved are marble copies from the Roman Period—but here a real bronze original is on display.  And secondly, it is worthy to notice the dress of the emperor—in a toga that depicts him as the first among Roman Citizens.

On other statues, for example several on display in the Archaeological Museum in Antalya,

Roman Emperor Hadrian in Military Garb
Depicting him as the head of the Roman armies
Antalya Archaeological Museum
From Perge — Second Century AD
For additional information about this image Click Here

Hadrian is depicted in military garb as the head of the Roman army

Roman Emperor Hadrian in the Nude — Reflecting His Divine Status
Antalya Archaeological Museum
From Perge – near Antalya
For additional information about this statue Click Here

and in others he appears in the nude—depicting his divine status!

Thus back at the bronze statue in the Istanbul Museum, this is a great place  to begin to introduce your group to the various roles played by the Roman Emperors—for certainly you will be “bumping into them” again and again in your travels in Turkey.