Erecting an Obelisk

TWMRISHP11Have you ever wondered how the ancients actually set up an obelisk?  In the Late Roman/Byzantine hippodrome in Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul there is still standing the top third of an obelisk of the Egyptian ruler Thutmose III (r. 16th century B.C.).  This obelisk was brought from Egypt to Constantinople and erected by the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius around A.D. 390.

One of the reliefs on its marble base depicts the erection of the obelisk with the emperor and his family watching.

TWMRISHP06For additional images of the obelisk and the hippodrome area Click Here.

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Ancient Coins — A Great 10 Minute Video

The folk over at the Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority have placed on their Facebook page an informative, entertaining 10 minute video on Ancient Coins. IMHO it is well–worth viewing.  Especially interesting is how the coins were produced and some hard to get behind the scenes at museums, libraries, and the Israel Antiquities Authorithy.

Addition 15 October.  Please see the helpful insights of Dr. Art Friedman in the “Comments” to this post.

The following is an image of a coin of Herod Philip (4 BC- AD 34) minted at Paneas showing the temple built by his father Herod the Great (37–4 BC) at/near Paneas in honor of the Roman Emperor Augustus (27 BC – AD 14 ).

Note the four columns on the front of the temple.  According to the excavators of Omrit, the temple built by Herod the Great is what they call the “First Temple” (actually the second religious shrine) at Omrit.

HT: Todd Bolen

Defending the City at the City Gate

Often times the gate of an ancient city was located at a low point that was easily approached—via an incline ramp—from outside the city.

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View of the model of the six–chamber gate that was discovered at Megiddo. The initial excavators dated it to the days of King Solomon but today its dating is disputed—and some still prefer a Solomonic date.

Note how there are outer and inner gate houses—with a courtyard between them.  Also note how towers abound in the gate houses and associated structures.  As a city was being defended, the courtyard between the two gate houses could be viewed as a killing field whereby defenders could shoot down from their towers and wound and/or kill the attackers with arrows and/or spears.  Even if attackers were merely incapacitated, they would lie there bleeding and moaning and other attackers—in the deafening bloody chaos—would have to climb over their bodies in order to try to gain entrance to the city.  Of course they themselves were vulnerable to same the fate as their “colleagues.”  This must have had a detrimental effect on the second wave’s enthusiasm to attack the city!

In addition, as the attackers attempted to make their way through the inner gate, they would have to break down its outer door.  They would then be confronted with another killing field between the six chambers (three on each side) of the inner gate.  In this area, defenders could be positioned directly above the attackers—shooting arrows down on them.

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Model of the six–chamber gate (Solomonic) at Hazor. The dark green gate is located in the lower left portion of the image.  (Outside the citadel is to the upper left of the gate)  This particular gate has two projecting towers—one on each side.  A double (casemate) wall is attached to the gate (also dark green).

As for “doors”—there does not seem to be too much physical evidence for how the gates were “sealed/closed.”  However, we do know that in other structures that a pair of doors each swung on columns that could pivot in a socket.  More on this, next post.

For some brief comments on the dating to the six–chamber gate at Megiddo Click Here.  More on gates to follow.

Worship (illicit) at the City Gate

One of the not–to–frequently mentioned actions that the ancients practiced at city gates was  worship ([always?] illicit).

2 Kings 23:8     Josiah brought all the priests from the towns of Judah and desecrated the high places, from Geba to Beersheba, where the priests had burned incense. He broke down the shrines at the gates—at the entrance to the Gate of Joshua, the city governor, which is on the left of the city gate. (NIV)

One of the best places to envision an example of one of these shrines is at a not–too–frequently visited place in Israel called et–Tell—probably to be identified as biblical Geshur (home of Absalom; see below for location).  One of the spectacular finds is a massive four–chamber Iron Age Gate.

Iron Age II City Gate at et-Tell/Geshur

Iron Age II City Gate at et-Tell/Geshur

View looking west into the entrance of the east gate of et–Tell.  Note the basalt paving stones and the two upright standing stones on each side of the gate.  On the right (north) side are three steps that led up to a “high place” (= worship center?).

GeshurStelaThe carved basalt stela found at the Iron Age Gate at et–Tell (probably biblical Geshur).  Note the bull headed figure that is place upon a tripod and wearing a sword.  It may be a representation of the storm god Hadad.  The stela dates to the 9th or 8th centuries BC.

high-place-detailView looking north at the High Place and stela located on the north side of the Iron Age gate that leads into the city.  On the left is one of the seven(!) stelae that were found in the gate area—this one is not inscribed.  Slightly to the right of center note the three steps that lead up to a high place that has a basin—carved black basalt—on the top platform.  Note the replica of a stela with the deity Hadad engraved on it.

GeshurEt-Tell is located about 2 miles north of the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee on the east side of the Upper Jordan River.  It is often identified with the New Testament city of Bethsaida but in fact the remains from the Old Testament period are much more significant and it is probably to be identified as biblical Geshur (home of Absalom).

 

Murder of a Jewish High Priest at NT Jericho

For the few tour/academic groups that visit New Testament Jericho usually, because of time constraints, the main (northern) site is viewed from the south of the Wadi Qilt, but an exploratory walk on the north side of the wadi does pay dividends.

One of the distinctive structures north of the wadi is a double pool that was built in conjunction with the Hasmonean Palace during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus (103–76 BCE).  It was refurbished by Herod the Great.

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View of the double swimming pool where the handsome, eighteen year old, Hasmonean High Priest, Aristobulus III was murdered by Herod’s colleagues. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Each pool measures 42 x 60 ft. and each is 10 ft. deep.  Note the staircases that lead down into the north (near) and south (far) basins.  A wide wall separates the two basins.

It was probably here, in 35 BC, that the brother-in-law of Herod, the young High Priest Aristobulus III, “accidently” drowned while “playing” with some of Herod’s youth.  His death marked the end of potential Hasmonean take over of Herod’s throne.

(53) Upon all this Herod resolved to complete what he had intended against the young man [Aristobulus III]. When therefore the festival was over, and he was feasting at Jericho with Alexandra, who entertained him there, he was then very pleasant with the young man, and drew him into a lonely place, and at the same time played with him in a juvenile and ludicrous manner.

(54) Now the nature of that place was hotter than ordinary; so they went out in a body, and of a sudden, and in a vein of madness; and as they stood by the fish ponds, of which there were large ones about the house, they went to cool themselves [by bathing], because it was in the midst of a hot day.

(55) At first they were only spectators of Herod’s servants and acquaintances as they were swimming; but after a while, the young man, at the instigation of Herod, went into the water among them, while such of Herod’s acquaintances as he had appointed to do it, dipped him as he was swimming, and plunged him under water, in the dark of the evening, as if it had been done in sport only; nor did they desist till he was entirely suffocated.

(56) And thus was Aristobulus murdered, having lived no more in all than eighteen years, and kept the high priesthood one year only; which high priesthood Ananelus now recovered again. (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 15:53–56).

This is the same Herod (r. 37–4 B.C.) who murdered his beloved wife Mariamne, a mother-in-law, an uncle, and three of his sons.  The Herod who was alive when Jesus was born (ca. 5 B.C.) and before whom the “Magi” asked “where is he who is born king of the Jews?” and who subsequently slaughtered the infants of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1–3, 16–18).

To view 18 high–resolution images of Herodian Jericho Click Here.

First Century Synagogues and Corinth Books

The folk over at The Ancient Near East Today, ASOR, newsletter have published a link to a new FREE SBL book Invention of the First–Century Synagogue by Lidia D. Matassa, SBL, 2018. It is a 289 page book in pdf format and is a fee Download HERE.  I have not yet had time to read it but the Table of Contents indicates a treatment of the synagogues at Delos, Jericho, Masada, Herodium, and Gamla.  Please see the comment below as to why other first century synagogues, such as those at  Magdala and Umm el–’Umdan were not included.  (Thank you to Gene Dahmes [below] for drawing this to my attention).

Ancient Corinth: Site Guide (7th edition), 2018, multiple authors.  This is the first official guidebook to the site of ancient Corinth published by the ASCSA in over 50 years, and it comes fully updated with the most current information, color photos, maps, and plans. It is an indispensable resource for the casual tourist or professional archaeologist new to the site.

 

New Testament/Herodian Jericho

Most tour groups to Israel will visit the site of Old Testament Jericho.  However, there is a site about 2 miles south of there where first the Hasmoneans and then King Herod built a series of palaces along the Wadi Qelt.

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View looking north at Herod the Great’s Third Palace at Jericho—on the north side of the Wadi Qelt.  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

From left to right is a large reception room, a large courtyard, a Roman bath (including cool, dressing, warm, and hot rooms), another courtyard and service area (sloping down and to the right).

HerodThirdPalaceDuring the winter, when there is rain, sleet, and snow in Jerusalem, generally the climate in Jericho is warm and pleasant!

Jericho was famous for the agricultural products that were grown here—especially Balsam shrubs/trees.

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This is a view of a pool that, according to the excavator, was used for the soaking of Balsam branches. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The balsam plantations at Jericho were world famous and this precious commodity was shipped all over the Roman World.  To harvest it I believe that usually not-too-deep slits were cut into the branches of the bush with either a sharp bone or piece of glass—never with a metal knife.  The sap that came out was processed for its scent.

Evidently, another method included the cutting and soaking of crushed branches, in a pool such as this, but I am not certain how that process actually worked.  I am guessing that the finished product, although valuable, was not as good quality as that produced by the method described above.

For 18 high resolution images of Herodian/New Testament Jericho Click Here.

The road leading to and from Jerusalem passed by theses palaces.

  1. Jewish Pilgrims going up to and returning from Jerusalem.
  2. Jesus’s family visiting Jerusalem? (Luke 2:41–52)
  3. The setting for the Parable of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:25–37)
  4. Healing blind Bartimaeus (and friend). (Matt 20:29–34; Mark 10:46–52; Luke 18:35–43)
  5. Visiting Zacchaeus the [balsam?] tax collector. (Luke 19:1–10)

The following 11 minute video traces the route of this road from Jericho to Jerusalem.

See Netzer, Ehud, and Rachel Laureys–Chachy. The Architecture of Herod, the Great Builder. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008, pp. 42–80.