Category Archives: Daily Life

Astounding Neolithic Site — Göbekli Tepe

For those interested, I have posted 17 images of Göbekli Tepe (“Potbelly Hill”)—a Neolithic site located about 9 mi. north of Sanliurfa in south–central Turkey before the “protective covering” was constructed over the site.  This 22 acre site was functional from roughly 9,600 BC to 8,200 BC was excavated by Klaus Schmidt.

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View of the major excavated area at Göbekli Tepe
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It was a religious center constructed by and used by foragers (not farmers!).  The excavated portions consist mainly of rings of well-carved standing limestone pillars—the tallest 18 ft. high.

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Detail of one of the rings of standing stones
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Note the variety of animals on the carved stone
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Images of gazelles, snakes, foxes, scorpions, and boars are carved on them in low bas-relief.  In posting my images I was amazed to think about how during the Neolithic Period (ca. 9,000 B.C.) these people, using only flints and stone tools(!!), were able to quarry stones that were 18 ft. high and weighed 16 tons!  How did they transported these stones to the site of Göbekli Tepe?  How did they carve and smooth the surfaces of these stones and leave images in bas-relief(!) on them??

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One of the large (almost 18 ft. tall) standing stones —note the carving on its side and base
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How these pillars were carved, transported, and erected—in 9,600 BC—is very mysterious!

Schmidt believes that it was a worship center for foragers, for he has not found any walls, houses, hearths, or signs of agriculture.

The finds at the site are beginning to revolutionize the understanding of the transition from Natufian culture to the Neolithic age.

The worship center is actually almost 1,600 earlier than Kathleen Kenyon’s famous Neolithic Tower at Jericho.

What Happened in a Hippodrome/Circus — Part 2

In our previous blog, we had a look at the general picture of the chariot race depicted in the central portion of the large mosaic discovered in Lyon (ancient Lugdunum).  Here are some additional observations!

The central portion of the mosaic. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

In this view, there are many interesting details of a chariot race that may not be visually represented anywhere else.

We know that in general there were four major “teams” that were in play in the Roman world: the reds, whites, blues, and the greens.  In the lower-left, note that charioteers are clad in red and white.  The two charioteers above the spina are clad in blue and green!

There are two rectangular pools that form the basis of the spina.  They were filled with water which seems to be a unique arrangement.  Note also, the pyramid in the left portion of the spina—many Hippodromes/Circuses had pyramids or obelisks).

In the lower right, there is a figure with two jugs—evidently, he wet down the track and may have cooled down the axles of the chariots.  In the upper left, the standing person may have a whip to urge the teams on—or it may be some type of cutting instrument that could be used to free horses and charioteers from chariots that had crashed.

 

Detail of the “spina.” Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

In this image note the two figures (children?) dressed in blue between the two portions of the spina.  They are ready to present the winner of the race with the prizes of a palm branch and a laurel wreath.

In the left rectangle note the obelisk and then the rack that holds seven “balls” and the blue man attending it.  In the typical seven-lap race the balls were lowered to keep count of the laps.  In the right rectangle of the spina there is a similar counting contraption.  Also, in the right portion there are seven dolphins—I am not certain of their function.  In the left rectangle there are also seven dolphins, but those are spewing water out of their mouths (click here to view).


The whole mosaic. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This large second century Roman Mosaic that was discovered in Lugdunum (modern Lyon) in 1806.  On it, the details of a chariot race in the circus, or hippodrome, of Lugdunum is depicted.  It is 16 feet long and 9 feet wide.

It is surrounded by a floral design, inside of which is a guilloche pattern, and inside of that the arena of the circus where 9 chariots are racing.  No seating of the circus is represented and indeed the circus of Lugdunum originally had wooden seats that were destroyed by fire.

Anastylosis — Or, why is part of this photo colored blue?

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Coffers, Roof & Capitals of the Nymphaeum in the
Upper Agora at Sagalassos
ALL BUT the blue pieces (I have shaded them blue) are original pieces that were found at the foot of the Nymphaeum and were used in the reconstruction (anastylosis)

The Turkish site of Sagalassos is situated on a remote mountain slope and because of this, building stones from the site have not been carted off by locals nor were very much reused in antiquity.

Thus, when Professor Marc Waelkens and his team were excavating the Nymphaeum in the Upper Agora at Sagalassos they found over 3,500 pieces of the structure and by carefully matching them together they were able to form 400 blocks and columns.

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The Upper Agora Nymphaeum after excavation as the process of reconstruction begins. Over 3,500 pieces of the superstructure were found at its base and were carefully reassembled into 400 blocks and columns.

By using these reconstructed blocks and columns, and supplementing these originals with carefully crafted modern pieces, Waelkens and his team have been able to recreate the stunning Nymphaeum, the Heroon, and other structures at Sagalassos.

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The Nymphaeum (from the same angle as the above photo)
AFTER reconstruction (anastylosis)
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To view the reconstructed Nymphaeum, with water in it(!!), Click Here.

The famous “Library” at Ephesus was similarly reconstructed.

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The “Library” at Ephesus after reconstruction (anastylosis)
Click on Image to Enlarge

Jason’s Tomb (2nd Temple Period)

Jason’s tomb is a beautiful funeral monument from the late Hellenistic – early Roman period. It was the tomb of a high priestly family that was forced out of Jerusalem in 172 B.C. (2 Maccabees 5:5-10) by their rival, Menelaus. It was constructed in the second century B.C. and was in use until A.D. 30 (about the time of the crucifixion of Jesus).  This tomb was discovered in 1956 and is located in west Jerusalem—in Rehavia. It consists of several courtyards and a “pyramid-shaped” roof.

Entrance to Jason’s Tomb

View looking north into the tomb complex.  On this side of the arch is the first of the two courtyards. Beyond the arch is the second court. Note the (reconstructed) pyramid shaped roof.

Entrance to Inner Court

View looking onto the inner porch of Jason’s Tomb.  Clearly visible is the single Doric (a simple Greek architectural style) column built of stone drums. Beyond the column is the inner porch.  Note the pyramid shaped roof. The reconstruction is based upon fragments found in the excavations.

Jason’s Tomb Interior

View of the northwest corner of the inner (third) courtyard of Jason’s Tomb. The entrance on the left is to the area of 8 shaft graves. On the right of center is the entrance to the chamber in which secondary burials were made.  Note the two blocking stones that were used to close these chambers.

For additional information and images of Jason’s Tomb Click Here.

What did the “chains” (= “handcuffs”) that bound Peter and Paul look like?

An interesting tour that I was on, traced the route of the Egnatian Road that eventually led from Constantinople to Dyrrachium (Now Durrës in Albania on the coast of the Adriatic Sea).  The trip was led by Dr. Mark Wilson.  The Egnatian Way is the same road that Paul traveled on various occasions.

While visiting the modern Archaeological Museum of Durrës I saw on display something I had never seen before—a set of iron “handcuffs” from the Roman Period.

Iron “handcuffs” (= “chains”) from the Roman Period. Archaeological Museum in Durrës Albania. “Chains” are mentioned over 20 times in the New Testament! — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download. Improved image courtesy of Todd Bolen—www.bibleplaces.com. Thank you!

It is amazing how many times “chains” in the sense of wrist bands are mentioned in the New Testament—over 20 times.  For example, Peter was in put in “chains” and Paul mentions his chains many times!   I have listed some of the many references below.

Peter was held in “chains”:

Acts 12:6        The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.  7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.

Acts 16:26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.

Paul in Jerusalem was held in chain in the “protective custody” of the Roman soldiers in the Antonia Fortress:

Acts 21:33        The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done.

Acts 22:29        Those who were about to question him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.

Paul before Festus and Agrippa II mentions his “chains”:

Acts 26:29        Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

Acts 28:20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”

And Paul referred to his “chains” in connection with his various Roman imprisonments:

Eph. 6:20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Phil. 1:7        It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.

Phil. 1:13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.  14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

Phil. 1:17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.

Col. 4:3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.

Col. 4:18        I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

2Tim. 1:16        May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.

2Tim. 2:9 for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.

Philem. 10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains.

Philem. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel.

Heb. 11:36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison.

Jude 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

Paul in the Cities — Where Did They Eat?

The Apostle Paul resided in many cities of the Roman Empire including Tarsus, Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, and Rome.  As I lead tours to these ancient cities, we often wonder what life was like in them in the first century A.D.  One of the interesting “institutions” are the thermopolia—”fast food establishments” that were found in every large city.  For example, eighty–three thermopolia have been discovered at Pompeii, and more have been discovered at nearby Herculaneum and at Ostia—the port of Rome.  (be sure and see the final two paragraphs of this blog)

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View of a Fast Food establishment (thermopolium, popina, taberna) at Pompeii. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This is the Thermopolium of Vetutius Placidus (aka T. of Asellina) that is located on the lower floor of his house in Pompeii (Italy).  It is situated on the main street of Pompeii, the via dell’ Abbondanza.  Food and drink were sold and consumed here.  Note the large storage jars that are built into the masonry and marble counters.

On the back wall is a well–preserved lararium—a shrine dedicated to the household gods.   Among others Mercury, the god of trade, and Dionysus, the god of wine are depicted (maybe assisted sales?!).  A hoard of 6.6 lbs. of worthless coins were found in one of the jars.  It was evidently left behind when the owner fled Pompeii as ash rained down from the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius (picture below).  In the back of the shop, not visible, was a slightly more private eating area.  A staircase led to guest rooms on the second floor—a brothel?  These thermopolia were situated street side on the ground floor of apartment buildings and even elite houses.

The thermopolia were visited primarily by the lower classes as the upper classes would dine in the luxurious surroundings of their own homes.  The houses of lower classes of people rarely had kitchens, thus they would eat at an establishment such as this, or they would “carry out” the food to take back home.

Since many (most?) of the early Christians were from the lower classes, they probably frequented places like the local thermopolium.  And, it is very probable that Paul and other leaders of the Early Church did so as well in the cities that they resided in!  Is it not possible that in establishments like this that the Early Christians shared their belief in “Jesus is Lord”—rather than “Caesar is Lord?”

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A Thermopolium from nearby Herculaneum—also destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius.

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Mount Vesuvius that erupted in August of A.D. 79 covering Pompeii with ash and Herculaneum with a pyroclastic flow.

For use or publication of any of these images please see this link.

Paul in the Cities: Where did They Meet? 2 (Ask Eutychus! Acts 20:9)

Alexandria Troas — Paul on His Return to Jerusalem
on His Third Journey

Acts 20:7     On the first day of the week . . . Paul spoke to the people . . . and kept on talking until midnight.  8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting.  9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead.

What kind of building was this group of believers meeting in?  Probably an “apartment building” (insula).  After 2,000 years do any still exist?  Yes!

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High Density Roman Housing at Ostia — the Port of Rome  View of a street on which the Casa di Diana is located. On the left side of the image note the high–density housing (insulae). There were at least three floors, with rooms arranged around a central courtyard where there was a communal fountain.  The upper stories were probably made of perishable materials such as wood.

The term insula refers to a multi–story housing block, that was subdivided into apartments for rent with shops on the ground floor.  Windows and balconies were the principal light sources for the tenants.  The insulae were probably first built of wood and thus susceptible to destruction by fire—a big problem!  (I am not aware of the preservation of any wooden insula)  Often times they were constructed of baked Roman bricks—like this example at Ostia.

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View of a street lined with apartment buildings (insulae) near the via Della Fontana at Ostia. The staircase on the left led up to the upper floors of the building—at least 3 stories high.  This large structure was probably owned by one person who rented apartments, shops, and workplaces to tenants.

The ground floor of insulae were usually shops and stores.  The best apartments were on the lower floors and sometimes were decorated with simple paintings and mosaics.  The upper apartments (on floors 2 and 3) were smaller, more difficult to reach, and dangerous (fire!)—because they were built out of wood!  The upper storeys were typically without heat, running water, and toilets.  The poor, who lived there, would sometimes dump trash and human excrement out of the windows into the street below!  Most of the people, poor and “middle class,” would live in these structures.

New Testament Importance:
Since Acts 20:9 mentions Eutychus falling from a third floor, the group of Christians that Paul was speaking to must have been meeting in a cramped, lower class apartment such as the above.  But to date, no such insulae have been found at Alexandrian Troas, but they were probably built of wood and have perished over the last 2,000 years!