Category Archives: Archaeology

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

On our trips to Turkey we like to visit 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.

The Lighthouse at Patara

At the end of Paul’s third journey, as he was heading for Jerusalem, he and Luke changed ships at Patara—a port located on the Mediterranean coast of present day Turkey (see map below).

… we put out to sea [from Miletus] and sailed straight to Cos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara.  We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail.  After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo.  (Acts 21:1-3; NIV)

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View looking southwest at the square foundation and the cylindrical Lighthouse built upon it at Patara
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

A mysterious structure is located on the northern edge of the beach and on the western edge of the now silted harbor of Patara.  It is claimed that this is the ‘oldest preserved’ lighthouse in the world!

According to Dr. Mark Wilson (personal communication updating his book) writes that “the inscription should be dated to Nero’s eleventh tribunician power, thus between October 64 and October 65.”  And . . . “a second lighthouse (antipharos) still lies buried in the sand on the opposite side beneath Kurshunlutepe.”

The Greek inscription names “Marcus Sextius Priscus . . .  who served as governor until the reign of Vespasian in 71-72.”

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Entrance to the Circular Tower of the Lighthouse
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

View looking east at the doorway that is on the west side of the cylindrical tower.  Behind the student the solid interior cylinder is visible behind the modern supporting column.  There actually is an outer “cylinder” (the student is standing in it) that is constructed around a round central column and stairs are wedged in between the two parts.  The round central column is visible behind and to the right of the woman in the picture.  She is about 5 ft. 7 in. [1.5 m.] tall.

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Internal Staircase (woman is standing on it), the Outer Cylindrical Wall (just right of center) and the inner solid column with the staircase wedged in between them
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

A view of the interior staircase of the cylindrical tower.  In the center of the image the cylindrical exterior wall is visible and on the left side of the image the massive solid interior column.  Note how the staircase is bonded to both the exterior wall and the interior column. The woman in the image is about 5 ft. 2 in. [1.3 m.] tall.

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Note the location of Patara along with Cos and Rhodes
All mentioned in Acts 21:1-13

To view 14 images and commentary on the Lighthouse at Patara Click Here.
(Free of charge, without obligation and/or registration)

Dr. Mark Wilson’s comments on Patara and the lighthouse can be found in:  Mark Wilson, Biblical Turkey — A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor.  Istanbul: Yayinlari, 2010, pp. 90–99.

Ancient Picture of the Trojan Horse!

In light of the 2005 movie Troy many people are interested in the events surrounding the Trojan War—especially the “Trojan Horse” that was used by the Greeks to gain access to Troy and eventually to capture and destroy the city—ca. 1200 B.C.

As surprising as it may seem, we actually have a graphic representation of the Trojan Horse from around 670 B.C.!

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The “neck” of a burial jar on which there is a clear depiction of what the potter/artist thought the Trojan Horse looked like—670 B.C.
Click on Image to see Details—And the Commentary Below

This representation is from a huge burial jar (pithos) that was found on Mykonos in 1961.  It dates to around 670 B.C. and is about 5 ft. [1.5 m.] tall!  In this close up of the Trojan Horse on the pithos  note the detail of  the head, ears, eye, nose, mane, body, tail, and four legs of the horse are clearly visible.  In the seven windows are the heads of Greek soldiers hiding in the horse and there are weapons in the arms of several of them.  Note also the four wheels by the four hoofs of the horse.  In addition there are four standing warriors with spears and shields (I assume from Troy).

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One of the panels of a battle scene from the Trojan War
Warrior on the left, woman on the right, and a child being killed by a large sword!
Click on Image to Enlarge

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The 5 ft. tall burial jar on which there are representations of the battle for Troy
Including a depiction of the Trojan Horse used by the Greeks
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

To view more images of Mykonos Click Here.

Excavations at Church of Nativity in Bethlehem

Although I have visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem many times I came across an interesting article on the excavation and preservation of the Armenian “Hall of Saint Jerome”—something I had not seen before.

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Excavation of the “Hall of Saint Jerome” that is part of the Armenian complex of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  Photo from article linked below.

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Excavation of the “Hall of Saint Jerome” that is part of the Armenian complex of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Photo from article linked below.

For details please see the article “CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY | WISCONSIN CONNECTION: UW-Madison professor helps preserve historic church in Bethlehem” that describes Professor Dante Fratta of the UW-Madison’s work in the church (a 3 min read with photos).

A Monumental Herodian (Hasmonean?) Hall in Jerusalem — Behind the Scenes of the Western Wall

We recently took the 80 minute guided tour called “Behind the Scenes of The Western Wall.”  The main reason I signed up for this tour was to revisit a Monumental Hall  from the late Second Temple Period  (New Testament era).

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View looking northwest at the northern and western walls of the hall. Click on Images to Enlarge and/or Download.

Note the finely finished stones in both walls as well as the chest high decorative horizontal ridge/railing that separates the lower and upper portion of the walls.  Near the corner of the west (left) wall note the delicately carved protruding pilaster.

I visited this all in the 1970’s with Gabi Barkai and I thought he said it might be Hasmonean.  But our guide said it was Herodian (37–4 B.C.) with possibly some Hasmonean elements.

I am not sure of its function but it certainly is “monumental.”  In my Zondervan Atlas of the Bible I labeled it as a “Public Building” (p. 250).

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View of the northeastern corner of the Monumental Hall.

In the above image note the delicate protruding pilaster to the right of the center of the image and to the left of center note the well–defined horizontal “railing” that is about chest high that separates the lower and upper portions of the wall.

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View looking at the southeastern corner of the Monumental Hall.

On the left (east) wall there are two huge doorways.  Note the large carved doorposts and the huge lintels.  Currently these doorways lead to the ritual bath that I described in my previous post, but originally they may have led to something else.

I believe that that far wall, with a doorway and other openings is secondary, and that the original hall extended farther south.

Could this have been the hall where the Sanhedrin met?  If so, possibly Jesus, some apostles, Stephen, and/or Paul appeared here. (Unconfirmed speculation)

I am away from my library and am on the road, and could not verify all of my musings above.  The early explorer Charles Warren called this structure the “Hall of the Freemasons (see below).  Additional comments/suggestions/correction are appreciated.

Not my “cup of tea” below.


From the Gallery of Masonic Sights from Israel
Hall of the Freemasons, Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel.
Discovered and named by the Freemason, Bro. Lieutenant Charles Warren [!] during the excavations of the late 1860’s near Wilson’s Arch.  Second Temple construction by Zerubbabel (536-516 BCE).

 

Jerusalem: Behind the Scenes of The Western Wall — A Monumental Ritual Bath

We recently took the 80 minute guided tour called “Behind the Scenes of The Western Wall.”  This tour is run by the same group that operates the much more familiar “The Western Wall Tunnels” tour.

One of the interesting finds that we visited was a large ritual bath  from the late Second Temple Period  (New Testament era) that is located on the lower eastern  slope of the Western Hill—west of the Temple Mount proper.

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View of the large stepped ritual bath from the Late Second Temple Period. Click on Images to Enlarge and/or Download.

Note the steps that lead down into the ritual bath (miqvah).  Our guide suggested that this ritual bath may have been used by the priests that served in the Temple itself.  But, since it looks like it would have been difficult to immerse oneself in this bath/pool/basin, our guide said that an alternative view is that it was a place where ritual vessels were washed (purified?).  It seems to me that this bath/pool is very similar in design to the larger one that was found by Benjamin Mazar south of the Temple Mount.

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The very large Ritual Bath discovered by Benjamin Mazar south of the Temple Mount. Click on image to enlarge — and download if you wish

For a earlier discussion of Mazar’s bath/pool/basin see here.  For a view of a more typical ritual bath Click Here.

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Another view of the ritual bath/pool/basin at the Western Wall Excavations.

Next time, a monumental room from the Late Second Temple Period (New Testament era).


A personal musing follows:

These baths look a lot like the so-called “Balsam Soaking Pools” at New Testament (Herodian) Jericho.

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This is a view of a pool at Herodian (NT) Jericho that, according to the excavator, was used for the soaking of Balsam branches.

The balsam plantations at Jericho were world famous and this precious commodity was shipped all over the Roman World.  See here for a more complete discussion of this pool/bath.

 

The Earliest Synagogue in Israel? Used by the Maccabees?

First of all — Happy Hanukkah!

The folk over at Bible History Daily have drawn attention to  an article “Modi’in: Where the Maccabees Lived Have excavations uncovered the hometown [synagogue?] of the Maccabees, heroes of Hanukkah’s Maccabean revolt?”  Just in time for Hanukkah!

I don’t believe that any tour groups stop at this site so I thought I would share two images of the site (Umm el–’Umdan; Arabic for “Mother of the Columns”).

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View looking west at the synagogue at Umm el–’Umdan (Arabic for “Mother of the Columns”.

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The red “c’s” are column bases. Note the remains of the courtyard, entrance, and benches.

Excavations conducted in the past decade at Umm el-‘Umdan (Arabic for “Mother of Columns”) by authors Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah and Alexander Onn (recently deceased) revealed a previously unknown synagogue—featuring eight imposing columns—likely built during the reign of King Herod. But what about earlier? What was at Umm el-‘Umdan during the time of the Maccabees and the Maccabean revolt?

Directly beneath the Herodian synagogue lies a smaller synagogue constructed during the Hasmonean period, and beneath this was a structure securely dated to the end of the third or beginning of the second century B.C.E. According to the excavators, this structure must have been contemporaneous to the time of the Maccabees and the Maccabean revolt. While this Early Hellenistic building influenced the location and shape of the two synagogues built atop it in subsequent centuries, the excavators believe that there is not enough information at the time to conclude that the Early Hellenistic building was also a synagogue.

If the excavators are correct in their interpretation and dating of the above mentioned three structures, then structures two and three (earliest) might well be the earliest synagogue(s) discovered in Israel!   They seem to suggest that structure 2 is a synagogue.

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A more detailed view of Umm el–’Umdan.

For more evidence confirming Umm el-‘Umdan’s Jewish identity in antiquity as well as a discussion of the linguistic relationship between the Hebrew name Modi’in and the Arabic name Umm el-‘Umdan, see “Modi’in: Hometown of the Maccabees” by Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah and Alexander Onn in the March/April 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Happy Hanukkah!