King Herod’s Tomb at the Israel Museum

Besides the naval and nature paintings (secco—on dry plaster) at the Israel Museum that I mentioned in my previous post, fragments from the roof of Herod’s Tomb at the Herodium are also on display in the Israel Museum.

HerodiumTombFragmentsOn the left notice the concave roof and on the right one of the acroteria (urn).  For both of these, compare the style of “Absalom’s Tomb” in the Kidron Valley that is slightly earlier in date than Herod’s Tomb.

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“Absalom’s Pillar” (2 Samuel 18:18) in the Kidron Valley. Note especially the “hat” that is similar to the fragments found at the Herodium.  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Note, this tomb is NOT from the days of David’s son Absalom (2 Sam 18:18), but was probably constructed in the first century B.C.  It is of mixed styles. The conical-shaped roof is Syrian style, while the columns on the lower portion are of the Greek Ionic style.  Behind, and to the left of, the “Pillar of Absalom,” is the so-called “Tomb of Jehoshaphat.” The grave markers scattered in the green grass are from the “modern” Jewish cemetery on the lower slope of the Mount of Olives.

model-of-herod-s-tombThis is the model of the reconstructed Tomb of Herod that is on location at the Herodium.  Note the “pilasters” (rectangular column–like protrusions) on the base portion and the five “acroteria” (urns) on the roof of it—see one of the originals above.  It is evident that those who made this reconstruction based it not only on the archaeological finds, but also on parallels like “Absalom’s Pillar” above and tombs found at Petra.

For permission to use any images please Check Here.

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The Treasury (Khasneh) at Petra. Note on the center top the “urn” (like that found at the Herodium) on the top of the tholos (circular structure at the top of the “temple/tomb”).  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The “Treasury” was probably constructed during the reign of the Nabatean ruler Aretas III Philhellene (82-62 B.C.).  Since Herod married a Nabatean woman it is probable that he was familiar with this structure—probably a temple and not actually a tomb.

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The “Monastery” (Deir; Arabic) at Petra—from slightly after the time of Herod the Great. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The Deir, or monastery, was probably built by the Nabatean ruler Malichus (40–70 A.D.)—thus slightly after the time of Herod.  In the upper center of the monument note the rounded tholos and the “urn” (like the one found at the Herodium) on the top of it.

It is also suggested that it dates to the time of King Rebal II in the early 2nd century A.D.  And because of its two side benches in the interior (and altar), that it was used for the meetings of religious associations.

In summary, the near parallel to the “tomb of Herod at the Herodium” is the “Pillar of Absalom” in the Kidron Valley, but its probable predecessor—known to Herod—was the “Treasury” at Petra, and its successor was the “Deir” at Petra.

Did Ehud Netzer discover the “real tomb” of King Herod?  There are significant researchers who think not.  Although Netzer found a significant mausoleum and fragments of sarcophagi, neither the size of the mausoleum and nor the sarcophagi are overwhelming impressive—that is fitting for a king of Herod’s ego/stature (see conveniently the summary of Shanks below—and more on the sarcophagus in the next post).

Shanks, Hershel. “Was Herod’s Tomb Really Found?” Biblical Archaeology Review 40 (2014): 40–48.

Herodium Display in Israel Museum

When visiting the Israel Museum this past summer I was pleasantly surprised to find that a number of wonderful finds from the Herodium were prominently displayed in the Second Temple Section.

These included two wall paintings from the Royal Box that was associated with the theater.

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Naval Battle A wall fragment/painting from the Royal Box of the theater at the Herodium.  Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

It depicts a naval battle with two ships with sails billowing the wind. On the deck are soldiers armed with shield and spears.

“The painting may represent the victory at Actium and possibly the beginning of Augustus’s rule following the conquest of Egypt. The choice of theme supports the possibility that the royal Room was decorated in anticipation of the visit of Marcus Agrippa, Augustus’s second–­in–­command, in 15 BCE, since he was the general responsible for the victory.” — From the description of the painting in the Israel Museum.

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Nature A wall fragment/painting from the Royal Box of the theater at the Herodium. Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

“In this painting the artist depicts a sea view along with a bull, trees, a temple, a palm tree, and a boat, recalling sacred scenes from the time of Augustus while also alluding to the conquest of Egypt.

“The walls of the Royal Room were decorated with wall paintings in the secco technique [painting on dry plaster] and stuccowork. They were divided vertically by stuccowork pilasters and decorated with painted ‘hanging pictures’ that were suspended by imaginary ‘strings’ and ‘nails.’ [See the picture above] The pictures imitate windows with open shutters affording views of imaginary landscapes.” — From the description of the painting in the Israel Museum.

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The Royal Box in the spring of 2014.

Royal Box A view of the interior of the “Royal Box” above the theater at the Herodium. Note the well–preserved paintings on the wall.

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Attempt to Burn Down the el-Aqsa Mosque

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View looking southwest at the el–Aqsa Mosque. The seven exterior arches mark the seven interior aisles. The focus of the mosque—towards Mecca—is under the black dome on the left (south) side of the image.

I have visited the Haram esh-Sharif (= Temple Mount) many times and know the rough outline of the attempt by the Australian Christian, Denis Michael Rohan, to burn down the el–Aqsa Mosque—21 August 1969.

For those who might be interested, Ynet Magazine has an interesting article that describes this event in more detail—The ‘king of Jerusalemwho almost burnt down Al Aqsa [mosque].  It is about a 4 minute read.

The article is very informative, at least to me, but  I did recognize several oddities in it—there may be more:

  • “set fire to the mosque’s stage (stage is an odd translation of the Arabic minbar or raised platform from which the mosque’s leader delivers messages).  Since only one person at a time occupies it, a better translation (if that is possible) might be “pulpit”—as in a Christian church.
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The minbar of the Mosque of the Patriarchs in Hebron from the days of Salah edh-Dhin—the same person who defeated the Crusaders at the Horns of Hattin on 4 July 1187 and who dedicated the minbar that Michael Denis Rohan destroyed by fire.

View in the interior of the present “Tomb of the Patriarchs” looking east at the Minbar, or pulpit. On the right side are wooden doors that open to a staircase that leads up to an elevated platform from which the Imam addresses the assembled faithful. This wooden minbar was constructed in Ashqelon in A.D. 1091 and moved by Saladin to Hebron ca. 1191.

  • “a plume of black smoke billowed above the golden dome.” (the dome of the el-Aqsa has never been “golden,” as the Dome of the Rock.  It has been “black/grey” = lead or “silver-colored”).
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View looking south southwest at the Dome of the Rock (right, west) and the smaller Dome of the Chain (left, east).

“Neither hot nor cold” — New Water Inscription Discovered at Laodicea — Revelation 3:15 and 16

The Turkish Hürryet Daily News has announced that an “Ancient ‘water law’ [has been] unearthed in Laodicea.”  The article states that:

The [marble] block, which is 90 centimeters in length and 116 centimeters in width, has revealed the use of water in the city had been managed by law, which involved a penalty ranging from 5,000 to 12,500 denarius.

The “water law” marble block dating back to 114 A.D. [the time of the Roman Emperor Trajan] included strict measures regarding the use of water coming from the Karcı Mountain through channels to the city, as well as the use of a fountain dedicated to Roman Emperor Traianus. The rules were prepared by Anatolian State Governor Aulus Vicirius Matrialis.

. . . the Excavations head Professor Celal Şimşek of Pamukkale University, said, “The Laodicea Assembly made this law in 114 A.D. and presented it to a pro council in Ephesus for approval.

The pro council approved the law on behalf of the empire. Water was vital for the city. This is why there were heavy penalties against those who polluted the water, damaged the water channels or reopening the sealed water pipes. Breaking the law was subject to a penalty of about 12,500 denarius – 125,000 Turkish Liras.” [= $42,500 USD!]

The water system of Laodicea has been much discussed in the interpretation of Revelation 3:

Rev. 3:15-16 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! (16) So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  (NIV)

Even without the translation of the new inscription, it certainly emphasizes the importance of Laodicea’s water system that is referred to in Revelation 15-16.

Some commentators thought that water was piped from the hot springs at Hierapolis  6 mi. to the north and that by the time the water arrived at Laodicea it was lukewarm.  But no such water system has ever been found and modern scholarship, including the excavator of Laodicea Prof. Celal Şimşek, have rejected this theory.

Laodicea received its water from springs to the south of it via an aqueduct and an inverted siphon system.

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The interior of one of the two pipes of the “inverted siphon” that was part of the system that brought fresh water to Laodicea from the south.

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The “water tower” is the massive clump of rock just left of the center of the image. View looking west.

This water tower is located on the south side of Laodicea very close to the stadium and to the bath/gymnasium.

Evidently water entered the city from the aqueduct coming from the south, was “pumped” up to this area, and into this structure This is actually a constructed structure – made out of individual blocks of stones and clay pipes. It seems that water was “pumped” up through the clay pipes and that it spilled out over the top, cascading down the sides of this structure — like a “bubbler.” The constant flow of water left behind calcium deposits and thus the amorphous – almost solid – appearance of the structure.

For a view of the “interior” of the “water tower” Click Here.

Baram — The Synagogue

BaramAlmost all travelers to Israel will visit the justly famous synagogue at Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee—and some will even visit the one at nearby Chorazin.  However, the best preserved of the “Galilean Type” synagogues is the one located at the not-too-frequently visited site of Baram.  It is located in Upper Galilee, about 1.2 mi. [2 km.] south of the Israeli Lebanese border.

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View looking northeast at the southern façade of the synagogue at Baram
This southern wall is still intact—in contrast to the rebuilt walls of the synagogues at Capernaum and Chroazin
Click on Image to Enlarge

Note the light color of the building.  The darker grey upper portion was exposed to the elements over the years while the lighter lower portion was buried—until excavated.

There were eight columns that supported the roof of the porch—the one on the right (east) side is still standing!  The three main doors faced south—towards Jerusalem.  Stylistically, this synagogue is very similar to the more well–known ones at Capernaum and Chorazin.

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View looking southeast at the interior of the synagogue
Click on Image to Enlarge

Like the synagogues at Capernaum and Chorazin, the one at Baram has a central nave, two side aisles, and a back aisle.  The three main doors faced south—towards Jerusalem.   The floor of this synagogue was paved with limestone slabs (not mosaics).  There are indications that there were benches along the two side walls.

The dating of these “Galilean” synagogues is much debated with dates ranging from the third century A.D. (unlikely) to the six century (more probable).

To view additional images of the Baram Synagogue Click Here.

On Friday I will comment on the “modern” history of Baram—Kfar Bir’im.

Patmos — A Temple to Aphrodite?

Although many think that Patmos was a barren Alcatraz-like island where John was exiled, this is not true.

As Franz has stated (p. 115)

First-century Patmos, with its natural protective harbor . . . [was] a large administrative center, [with] outlying villages, a hippodrome (for horse racing), and at least three pagan temples made Patmos hardly an isolated and desolate place!

It has been suggested that one of the those temples, the one dedicated to Aphrodite, was located on the Kalikatous Rock that is located in the Grikos Bay.

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View looking east at the area of Grikos Bay. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

View looking east at the area of Grikos Bay—the boat is entering the bay.  On the right (south) side of the bay is the Kalikatous Rock (see below).  In the distance are the islands east of Patmos.  This bay has been officially included in the 2011 catalogue of “the most beautiful bays in the world” by the UNESCO Foundation.

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View looking south at the Kalikatsou Rock.

Historical sources indicate that a Temple of Aphrodite was located on the Island of Patmos and many believe that the Temple to Aphrodite was located here but no excavations have taken place.  Note the carvings on the rock.

kalikatsou-stairs

View looking south at carvings and stains in the Kalikatsou Rock that may have been part of the Temple of Aphrodite that was located here.

Note the rock-cut stairs and the carvings to the right of the stairs.

Thus it is very possible that the island where John was exiled (Revelation 1:9) was “populated” with not only a citadel and a temple dedicated to Aphrodite, but also with temples dedicated to Artemis (possibly where the Monastery of Saint John is located) and Apollo (possibly near the modern harbor).  For these suggestions and references please see Gordon Franz’s article cited below.


To view additional images of the Kalikatsou Roack and the Bay of Grikos on Patmos Click Here.

For a helpful article describing the Patmos that John was exiled to, see Gordon Franz, “The King and I (Part 2).” Bible and Spade 12 (2000): 115–23.  It is also available on Gordon Franz’s website Life and Land but without graphics.

A Fortress on Patmos

Although many think that Patmos was a barren Alcatraz-like island where John was exiled, this is not true (see Franz below).

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View looking west into the modern harbor of Patmos. The “mountain/hill” in the background is the Citadel of Patmos that is called the Kastelli. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

On the central portion of Patmos, the “Kastelli” (acropolis) towers over the main harbor at an altitude of 1,550 ft. [472 m.].

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View looking south at the west gate on the summit of Kastelli (the acropolis) of Patmos. Note the well-preserved exterior staircase.

The woman in the image is actually standing in the entrance–way.  The original line of fortifications is from the Hellenistic Period (third century B.C.), although this gate may have been rebuilt in more recent times.

fortification-towerView looking southeast at six courses of stone of one of the towers on the north slope of the acropolis of Patmos that is called the “Kastelli” (acropolis).  These fortifications date to the Hellenistic Period—that is about the third century B.C.  Compare the style of the well–preserved Hellenistic fortifications found at Priene and Assos—both in Turkey.

To view additional images of the Acropolis/Kastelli on Patmos Click Here.

For a helpful article describing the Patmos that John was exiled to, see Gordon Franz, “The King and I (Part 2).” Bible and Spade 12 (2000): 115–23.  It is also available on Gordon Franz’s web site Life and Land but without graphics.