Category Archives: Artifacts

“Cupping” Ancient and Modern

There is quite a “buzz” about the round marks evident on the worlds’ best swimmer, Michael Phelps, as he participates in the Olympics in Rio.

PhelpsCuppingHe is practicing an ancient therapy called “cupping” where by cups are place on the skin to produce a local suction on the skin.  This is believed to assist the flow of blood in order to promote healing.  The “suction” can be created by placing heated cups on the skin—or in modern times by using mechanical suction.

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A rectangular marble statue base in which are carved Physicians’ implements. On each side are cupping glasses, and in the middle is a case of medical instruments of various types.  It was found in the Asclepion in Athens—below the acropolis.

This technology was actually used by the Greeks as far back as the Hellenistic Period as the above statue base gives evidence!  The above object dates to the 3rd or 2nd century B.C. and is located in the National Museum in Athens.

See Here for a good article on modern “Cupping.”

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

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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.).

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“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).

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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!

Bulla of King Hezekiah Found in Jerusalem

Today it was announced that a bulla was discovered in Dr. Eilat Mazar’s excavation on the Ophel that mentions Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz, King of Judah!

Seal impression of King Hezekiah unearthed in the Ophel excavations

Seal impression of King Hezekiah unearthed in the Ophel excavations. Photo: © Eilat Mazar, with Ouria Tadmor

Yes, the same Hezekiah as mentioned in the Bible.  The announcement can be found here and I will not repeat all that you can read in the press but I would like to alert you to two items:

The First is a 10 minute video describing King Hezekiah, the discovery, and a great explanation of the bulla.

At 5 minutes into the video there is a great graphic sequence explaining what is on this precious object—please don’t miss this part.

Second, if you are interested in images of the area where this bulla was found, please see my previous post that I have appended below.

Because of the extensive archaeological excavations in Jerusalem over the last one hundred and fifty years most tour groups to Israel will be introduced to, and ooh and ahh at, archaeological remains from the Second Temple Period—particularly from from the time of Herod the Great (37–4BC).

Some, but not all groups, will visit remains from the First Temple Period at the City of David’s Visitor center—including the water system from that and earlier periods.

Remains of a large “Royal Structure” with Storage Jars that was located right next to the Judean Gate.

However, this past year a new area has been opened up that also displays remains from the First Temple Period (ca. 1000 to 586 B.C.)—including the remains of a Judean Gate, a “Royal Structure,” and reproductions of the large storage jars that were found there.

Royal Structure Plus Artifacts

Royal Structure plus Judean Gate

Royal Structure plus Judean Gate

This area was well excavated by, most recently, Eilat Mazar and its reconstruction and signage are outstanding—including a helpful drawing by Balage Balogh.

The Judean Gate Complex
Click Here to view a larger version of the drawing without my markings.

The excavation is located in the southeastern corner of Jerusalem Archaeological Park that is south of the Temple Mount.  The path to it is now open.

#1 Marks the Location of the Remains of the Gate and Royal Structure

The excavation is also visible from the sidewalk along the road.  The remains are clearly visible from that vantage point and photographs from there are good.  But due to the traffic and limited space it is difficult to discuss the significance of the area with a large group.

For more images of this area Click Here.

As in a “mirror, dimly” 1 Corinthians 13:12

This past summer (2015) on a visit to the Israel Museum we were treated to a wonderful display of antiquities and ancient glass that Renée and Robert Belfer of New York have gifted to the Israel Museum.  Among the objects is “box mirror” decorated with a woman’s head in relief.

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A Bronze Mirror From the Belfer Collection on display in the Israel Museum. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

It is made out of bronze, dates to the 4th-3rd century BCE and measures 8.5 x 6.5 inches. It swings open on the top hinge and the inside surfaces were polished in order to be used as mirrors. It appears that there was a latch—now broken—on the lower edge of the mirror.

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A view of the interior surface of the mirror.

This artifact well illustrates the type of object that the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote to the church at Corinth:

1Cor. 13:8   Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.  9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part;  10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.  11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.  12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.  13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (NRSV)

Although it is not known where the mirror was found, we do know that Corinth was famous for the color and quality of the bronze objects made there.  “It [the bronze] had an unusually high tin content (14%) that gave it an unusual color” (Furnish below).  Indeed Josephus, the first century Jewish Historian, wrote of the gates of the Second Temple that:

Now nine of these gates were on every side covered over with gold and silver, as were the jambs of their doors and their lintels; but there was one gate that was without [the inward court of] the holy house, which was of Corinthian brass, and greatly excelled those that were only covered over with silver and gold.  (Jewish War 5.5.3 [201–205])


Furnish, Victor Paul. “Corinth in Paul’s Time—What Can Archaeology Tell US?” Biblical Archaeology Review 14, no. 3 (May/June 1988): 14–27.

A Stone Seal from Davidic Era from Temple Mount

The Times of Israel has an article entitled “Tiny stone seal from King David era found in Temple Mount fill.”

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A cone-shaped seal found in the rubble excavated from the Temple Mount believed to date to around the 10th century BCE (Zachi Dvira, Temple Mount Sifting Project.”

Much of the information in the article in the Times of Israel comes from a telephone conversation with Gabi Barkay, a founder of the Temple Mount Sifting Project

Barkay said the seal’s discovery attests to ‘the administrative activity which took place upon the Temple Mound during those times.’

It is amazing to think that something such as this was found on The Temple Mount itself. Although there are bound to be disputes about the dating of this object, it was not found in situ, Barkay’s judgments on such matters are typically widely accepted and sound.

Click on the link above for the full article with additional pictures.

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Gabriel Barkay peering into the repository of one of the “Ketef Hinnom” tombs.

 

What Were the Early Christians Like?

One of the earliest sources describing Christians is

Amisus-01that of Pliny the Younger who was the Roman “governor” of Pontus and Bithyna from A.D. 111–113 — very possibly describing the Christian community in Amisus.  He does this writing to the Roman Emperor Trajan (A.D. 98–117) asking him how to deal with the relatively new group.

Pliny writes this fascinating description of Christian (ca. A.D. 112):

that they [called Christians in the preceding paragraph] were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food–but ordinary and innocent food.  —  (Pliny Letters 10.96–97)

This text does not say from where he was writing but in the paragraphs before those asking about Christian he mentions the people of Amisus (see map above) and in a paragraph after (99) he mentions Amastris.  Thus, many have concluded that he penned these words describing Christians in Amisus.

The modern Turkish city of Samsun is partially built over the ruins of Amisus.  At Amisus there is an ancient citadel (acropolis) and several large tumuli that contain burials from the Hellenistic/Roman Periods.

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The modern port of Samsun — Ancient Amisus — where Christians were persecuted by the Roman governor Pliny
Click on Image to Enlarge

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Two Tumuli (burial mounds) at Samsun (ancient Amisus)
They date roughly from 300 B.C. to 30 B.C. and were thus one hundred years old by the time Pliny wrote to the Roman Emperor Trajan

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