Category Archives: Museums

The Winners’ Prizes — Dead Vegetation?

In a previous entry I shared some pictures related to “Running the Race.”  The winners of such competitions were awarded, among other things, victory crowns—the composition of which depended upon the games.

GSATNMMI02

Modern Recreation of Victory Wreaths — On the left a Pine Wreath for the winner of an event at the Isthmian Games and on the right a Laural Wreath for the winner of an event at the Olympic Games — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The games at Isthmia were held twice during the four year Olympic cycle.  The city of Corinth was in charge of these games and Isthmia was only 6 miles from Corinth.  The games included athletic as well a music contests.  It is very probable that the games were held during Paul’s stay at Corinth.  Indeed, he writes to the church at Corinth:

1Cor. 9:24     Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (NIV)

One of the prizes at the Istmian games was a wreath, sometimes made of pine branches (see picture above) and at other times of wilted(!) celery leaves.  Thus Paul’s “They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” certainly rings true!

GSPLISAR06(1)

The grave stela of an unnamed athlete who won games at at least 8 different venues. Inside of the crowns are the names of the games. In the upper left wreath “Olympia” is noted and in the lower right “Pergamum.” Note the variety of “wreathes.” Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

To view additional images of this and other stelae from Isthmia Click Here.

The terms “prize,” “victor’s wreath,” etc. are common in New Testament imagery.

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

When walking up to visit the gallery containing these precious objects you will usually pass a bronze statue of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.   Because the lighting in the room is typically not too good, and the room really looks “dated,” most groups will bypass this statute.

However, it is worthy to pause for a minute or two to view it.  First of all, it is very rare to have a statue preserved in bronze from ancient times!  Most of the statues that are preserved are marble copies from the Roman Period—but here a real bronze original is on display.  And secondly, it is worthy to notice the dress of the emperor—in a toga that depicts him as the first among Roman Citizens.

On other statues, for example several on display in the Archaeological Museum in Antalya,

Roman Emperor Hadrian in Military Garb
Depicting him as the head of the Roman armies
Antalya Archaeological Museum
From Perge — Second Century AD
For additional information about this image Click Here

Hadrian is depicted in military garb as the head of the Roman army

Roman Emperor Hadrian in the Nude — Reflecting His Divine Status
Antalya Archaeological Museum
From Perge – near Antalya
For additional information about this statue Click Here

and in others he appears in the nude—depicting his divine status!

Thus back at the bronze statue in the Istanbul Museum, this is a great place  to begin to introduce your group to the various roles played by the Roman Emperors—for certainly you will be “bumping into them” again and again in your travels in Turkey.

The Dead Sea Scrolls and COVID-19

An articleThe Dead Sea Scrolls are in self-isolation – but they mean more than ever in Forward, contains quite a bit of unique and interesting information regarding the display and storage of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Shrine of the Book.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, which include some of the earliest biblical texts, are considered the most significant archaeological find of the 20th century. [the curator, Hagit] Maoz is one of the people charged with their safekeeping . . . knows exactly where the museum’s scrolls are: behind five locked doors in a humidity and temperature-controlled vault at the Shrine of the Book.

The Dome covering the central display area of the Shrine of the Book. In the background the Israeli Kenesset (Parlament). To the right, the black wall. Note the contrast, the light vs. the darkness.

Many of you have visited the exhibit inside the Shrine of the Book.  The article states that it takes four days to clean the ceiling inside the “dome” of central display area and they have done it this year (2020)

This [year, 2020] marks the first time since a 2004 renovation that all of the scrolls have moved into the vault.

In the article, the move of the scrolls from under the dome is described in detail—and worth a read in the article.  From under the dome two people

. . . slowly walked the scroll section into the vault, passing through five open doors to place it onto a shelf in the innermost room, so secure that only Maoz and three other museum employees have permission to enter. When they returned, they closed the case, opened the next one, and started the process over again. The vault is just 10 or so yards from the exhibit, but it took around 90 minutes for them to complete the task.


Since they do not allow photography in the Shrine of the Book, here is a sample of a Qumran Scroll from the Archaeological Museum in Amman, Jordan.

This is one of the very important Hebrew texts that was discovered in Cave 1 in 1947 (1QSa/1Q28a).  It is related to the longer “Rule of the Community Text.”  The two preserved columns describe the community in “the Last Days” and include information about a communal meal and a startling (and controversial) passage on how G-d will “father” the Messiah (descendant of David), thus “if the traditional reading is correct, then this Qumran text is describing a messianic figure who is in a special way a ‘son of God'” (Wise, p. 144)!

For a translation and commentary on this text please see Michael Wise, pp. 143–147 in Wise, Michael O., Martin Abegg, Jr., and Edward Cook. The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996.

This text is/was on display in the Jordan Archaeological Museum located on the Citadel in Amman.

 

One of Pilate’s Coins — Emperor Worship in Judean Territory

Besides constructing a Tiberieum at Caesarea Maritima the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate issued a series of bronze coins—perutahs honoring the Emperor Tiberius.  He minted these coins in Jerusalem between 29 and 31 (Taylor, 556; Jesus was tried before this same Pilate in AD 30 or 33).

Obverse of a bronze perutah, minted in Jerusalem, by Pontius Pilate
Note the “augur’s staff” called a lituus — the coin is inscribed
Click Image to Enlarge

The above is a sample of one of the two types of coins.

Bronze perutah minted in Jerusalem by Pontius Pilate

The inscription on this coin reads “of Tiberius Caesar.”  This type of coin features a lituus on the obverse side of the coin.

The lituus was a wooden staff (or wand) with a curled end, made of a branch of either ash or hazel … The lituus was held in the right hand of the augures and was the augures’ identifying emblem.  (Taylor 559-59)

The lituus was used by augurs who were priests that interpreted the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds (size of flock, noises made, direction of flight, etc.).

[The lituus] was also raised to the sky when they invoked the god and made predictions.   It was used to mark out regions of the heavens when assessing the placement of sacred space on earth (Taylor 559).

Taylor continues, that these two types of coins (only one is covered in this post) honor priests

who were representatives of Roman religion in the two imperial cult temples of Caesarea Maritime and in Sebaste, located in the province he [Pilate] governed (565).

And she concludes:

In using exclusively Roman cultic items in his coinage designed for a province largely composed of Jews and Samaritans, Pilate was promoting Roman religion, manifested largely in the imperial cult, in an environment in which there were strong sensitivities (565).

Thus it is evident that the person who condemned Jesus to death was active in promoting the Imperial Cult via the coins that he issued and the Tiberieum that he built at Caesarea!

In light of the above, imagine what was going through Pilate’s mind when he heard the words:

“If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” (John 19:12)

For a detailed development of this topic please see Joan E. Taylor “Pontius Pilate and the Imperial Cult in Roman Judaea.” New Testament Studies 52 (2006): 555–82—especially pages 555–563.

________________________________________________

It should be noted that coins from cities/areas outside of Judea — with images of deities or emperors on them — circulated in Judah.  See Mark 12:13-17 and parallels.

Crucified Man from Jerusalem

It is well–known from literature that the Romans crucified rebels and criminals.  In 1968, an ossuary (bone box; see below) was found, among others, in a tomb in north Jerusalem in which were the bones of a 28 year old man and those of a child.

This is a replica of a right heel bone of a 28 year old man who was crucified in Jerusalem prior to its in AD 70. This replica is presented in the Israel Museum.

A 4.3 inch nail penetrated the right heel bone of the man.  A piece of wood was placed on each side of the heel prior to the pounding of the nail to affix the person to a cross.

The skeletal remains of the man with the nail in his heel bone were found in this ossuary that was discovered north of Jerusalem.

Clearly visible is the Hebrew writing of the name “Yehohanan son of Hagkol.”  Note the two clear lines.  Above and to the right of the name “Yehohanan,” in the first line, is another faint inscription (click on image to enlarge to view inscription).

A diagram in the Israel Museum.

The above picture represents a scholarly reconstruction of how Yehohanan son of Hagkal was crucified.  Note how his arms are tied to the cross—no nails were found in his hands or wrists.  In contrast, Jesus of Nazareth’s hands were nailed to the cross—Thomas wanted to see the “mark of the nails in his hands” (John 20:25).


Revision — In a PBS program on Jesus, (aired 4 April 2017) the heel bone with nail were taken out of a small storage box located in a huge warehouse.  Thus, it does not appear that the original comment (deleted) regarding its “location” was correct.

For a convenient description of this find see pp 318–22 in Clyde E. Fant and Mitchell G. Reddish, Lost Treasures of the Bible — Understanding the Bible Through Archaeological Artifacts in World Museums. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.

Have you ever seen a Human Sacrifice?

On our trips Following in the Footsteps of Paul on one of the days, we visit Alexandrian Troas—its agora, harbor, and one of the quarries.  After lunch, we visit Troy, which is our last antiquity site we visit in Turkey, before crossing into Greece on the next day.

This year at Troy, the new museum was finally open.

The entrance to the New Museum near Troy.

The museum was opened in October 2018.  In the museum displays include sculpture, sarcophagus, inscription, altar, milestone, ax and cutting tools, terracotta ceramics, metal pots, golds, guns, coins, bone objects and tools, glass bracelets, ornaments, figurines, glass and terracotta scent bottles, etc.

Some of the precious objects from Troy that were previously on display in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum and in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara have been returned to Troy.

The interior of the Museum at Troy. Bookstore and coffee shop.

Objects from Assos, Alexandria Troas, the Smintheion, etc. are also on display.  Below is a sample of what the displays look like.

The Polyxena Sarcophagus.

This sarcophagus was discovered in 1994.  It is dated to 500-490 B.C.  On one of the long sides the sacrifice of Polyxena, the younger daughter of the Trojan King Priam and Queen Hecuba is depicted.

The sacrifice of Polyxena, the younger daughter of the Trojan King Priam and Queen Hecuba. Click on image to enlarge and/or download.

Note the detail on how the human is being carried and the positioning of the knife as it is inserted into the throat.  This is not the “mere” execution of a prisoner, but a purposeful sacrifice of a beloved child in order to propitiate a deity!

Compare, on the Greek side of the Trojan war the fresco from Pompeii.


Compare from the Bible:

1Kings 16:34  In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken by Joshua son of Nun.

2Kings 3:27 Then he [King of Moab] took his firstborn son, who was to succeed him as king, and offered him as a sacrifice on the city wall. The fury against Israel was great; they withdrew and returned to their own land.

New Museum at Caesarea Maritima

On a recent visit to Caesarea Maritima I had a chance to visit the recently opened museum.

This photo is of the exterior of the new museum at Caesarea Maritima

The museum is built into four of the fourteen vaults that Herod the Great built to support the platform of the temple of Augustus and Roma.  To the left (north) of the museum, reconstruction work continues—note the reconstructed staircase that leads up to where the Temple stood.

This is what the area looked like back in the 1970s.  And also Here 2000s.

Inside of the second vault is a theater where a short, 12-minute, movie on the life of Herod the Great and the construction of Caesarea Maritima is shown.

This photo is of the interior of the theater of the new museum at Caesarea Maritima.

The other three vaults contain artifacts, or replicas of artifacts from the excavations at Caesarea Maritima.

One of the displays, in the first vault, is composed of sequencing images of the layout of Caesarea Maritima at various stages in its history.

This image is of one of the rotating displays of the city of Caesarea Maritima at various periods. This image seems to depict the city in the early Byzantine Period.

To view additional images of Caesarea Click Here.

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.

What Happened in a Hippodrome/Circus — Part 1

On a recent trip to France, we visited the archaeological museum in Lyon, France (ancient Lugdunum).  Among the many wonderful archaeological objects on display in that modern, wonderful, museum was a mosaic from the second century A.D.

The Large Chariot Race mosaic from the second century A.D.  The central porton of the mosaic depicts nine chariots, each being pulled by four horses, running a race in a counterclockwise direction around the “spina.” Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The second-century Roman Mosaic 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.

The mosaic 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.

On the left side of the image the starting stalls are represented. The central porton of the mosaic depicts nine chariots, each being pulled by four horses, running a race in a counterclockwise direction around the “spina.” The spina is composed of two rectangular pools in which there was water.  In the lower left and upper right of the mosaic two chariot crashes are represented!

View of the eight (maybe nine?) starting stalls that are on the left side of the mosaic.  Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Above the center “stall” are thee sponsors of the games. The chief sponsor, in the middle, can be seen dropping a cloth to start the race.  To the left of the three officials—from our perspective—is a man dressed in blue manipulating a lever that will open (at the same time) the gates to the eight stalls from which the chariots, pulled by their four horses, emerged.

Below the three sponsors is a man, standing erect and again in blue, who seems to be supervising the contest.  Above the three sponsors is a large vase from which the plants that surround the mosaic spring forth.

More on the mosaic in the next post.

Ship Names — Paul’s Shipwreck—Part 3

In two previous posts I shared some images and thoughts on anchor stocks that are in the Malta Maritime Museum—here and here.  The final anchor stock that I want to mention is one that actually has Isis—the name of an Egyptian Deity—inscribed on it.

The name “Isis” is clearly visible on the left side of this anchor stock.

This is a detail of the name Isis, that appears in high relief, on this anchor stock.

Isis, an Egyptian deity, was a name (among others) commonly used for ships during the Roman Era.  There was a very famous ship called Isis that is mentioned by the ancient author Lucian that was about 180 feet long, 45 feet wide (beam), and 45 feet deep—I am not saying that this is an anchor stock from that ship, but it is interesting that the name appears here.

In his book Πλοἶον ἢ Εὐχαί (“The Ship, or The Wishes”) the sophist Lucian described the Isis when he saw it in Athens’ seaport Piraeus:

I say, though, what a size that ship was! 180 feet long, the man said, and something over a quarter of that in width; and from deck to keel, the maximum depth, through the hold, 44 feet. And then the height of the mast, with its huge yard; and what a forestay it takes to hold it! And the lofty stern with its gradual curve, and its gilded beak, balanced at the other end by the long rising sweep of the prow, and the figures of her name-goddess, Isis, on either side. As to the other ornamental details, the paintings and the scarlet topsail, I was more struck by the anchors, and the capstans and windlasses, and the stern cabins. The crew was like a small army. And they were saying she carried as much corn as would feed every soul in Attica for a year. And all depends for its safety on one little old atomy of a man, who controls that great rudder with a mere broomstick of a tiller!

(Wikipedia Isis (ship)

Please note that from Malta Paul sailed to Rome on:

Acts 28:11    After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux.
[Two Greek Deities]

In addition, I found another inscribed anchor stock in the Museo Nazionale in Reggio, this time with the name Hera on it.

An anchor stock in the Museo Nazionale in Reggio (Italy) with the name Hera on it.

Hera was believed to be the wife of the chief deity ZeusReggio is located in southern Italy, on the coast facing Sicily.  Reggio is considered to be ancient Rhegium.

Acts 28:11    After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island [=Malta]. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli.

Detail of the name “Hera”—in reverse order—on the anchor stock.

To view images of items on display in the Malta Maritime Museum check here.