Category Archives: Museums

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.  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.

The Largest Anchor Stock — Paul’s Shipwreck—Part 2

In my earlier post, I wrote of the 11 Anchor Stocks that are currently in storage at the Malta Maritime Museum—and I described how they worked.

Among the 11 is the largest ancient anchor stock ever to be discovered!

This is the largest anchor stock ever found — near Salina Bay where the ship that Paul was on was wrecked.

This anchor stock weighs over 5,500 lbs [2,500 kg.] and is 13 ft. 6 in. long [4.1 m.].  A careful look at the left end of the anchor shows that it was not solid metal, but had a metal shell that encased a wood “soul.” (see below for what is an “anchor stock”)

Compare the size of the woman to that of the anchor stock — 13 ft. 36 in. long!

Gordon Franz (see below) quotes the Museum Archaeological Report that this “enormous Roman anchor stock [was] found lying on the seabed 120 feet below the surface 300 yards off Qawra Point….” [CR=near Salina Bay]. It is dated from “the second half of the second century BC to the middle of the first century AD.” It “… most likely came from an Alexandrian grain ship” [CR: like the one Paul was being transported on? Acts 27:6, 27–29].  It should be remembered that the large “Alexandrian” grain ships could be 180 feet long! — Paul traveled on two Alexandrian grain ships (Acts 27:6; 28:11)

It was discovered near Salina Bay, on the NE coast of Malta.  This is near two of the bays that are “traditional” candidates for the site of the shipwreck of Paul (Acts 27—28:10).


For a good discussion of the shipwreck, ancient anchors, etc.,  and a vigorous interaction with the views of Robert Cornuke, see Gordon Franz “Does the ‘Lost Shipwreck of Paul’ Hold Water?  Or, Have the Anchors from the Apostle Paul’s Shipwreck Been discovered on Malta?”

Paul’s Shipwreck on Malta: Anchor Stocks—Part 1

During a stay on the Island of Malta where Paul was shipwrecked and then spent 3 months on the island before being transported to Rome for trial (Acts 28:1, 11) one of the highlights was a visit to the Malta Maritime Museum.

View looking northeast at the exterior of the Malta Maritime Museum.

The museum is housed in the former Royal Naval Bakery that was built in the 1840. The bakery supplied naval personnel of the British Mediterranean Fleet. The main part of the collection (97%+) includes boats, models of ships, anchors, amphorae, cannons, etc.  But I had come to see the Roman Anchors that figure so prominently in the discussion of where exactly Paul’s ship ran aground and was broken up (see Franz below for a discussion).

Acts 27:29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow.

Acts 27:40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach.

After spending over an hour looking at interesting, but not too relevant displays, I had not found the anchors that I was looking for.  So I asked the attendants at the entrance about these anchors.  Well, it turned out that the display of the ancient anchors was in transition and they were collected in a rather small corridor near the entrance to the museum. The plan being executed will eventually display these precious artifacts in a wonderful display. However, when I was at the museum, they were not on “public” display so please, cut the museum a bit of slack for how the anchor stocks look in these pictures! But I had traveled 5,262 miles and was thrilled just to be able to see these anchors—and they were kind enough to allow me to take pictures (without flash of course).

Temporary “home” for the Roman Anchor Stocks that are in the Malta Maritime Museum.

In this temporary “home” 11 Anchor Stocks were collected.  Ok, so what is an anchor stock?

In the above (from the Museum) all the parts of this “ancient anchor” are modern except the lead “Stock.”

The “Flukes” are the parts of the anchor, usually wooden and sometimes tipped with copper, that dig into the bottom of the sea. At the top of the wooden shank (right) a rope connects the anchor to the ship. The “stock” is made out of lead and often has a wood core,. It helps the anchor to sink and helps to position the anchor so that the “flukes” dig into the sea bottom.

anchorreconstruction

Ok, are any of these Anchor Stocks from Paul’s wrecked ship?  See the following blog posts.


For a good discussion of the shipwreck, ancient anchors, etc.,  and a vigorous interaction with the views of Robert Cornuke, see Gordon Franz “Does the ‘Lost Shipwreck of Paul’ Hold Water?  Or, Have the Anchors from the Apostle Paul’s Shipwreck Been discovered on Malta?”

Istanbul Airport — Museum!

On the way home from a recent trip to Turkey and Greece (October 2022) Mary and I had a transit layover at the Istanbul Airport. During the trip, we noticed that a number of our favorite artifacts were no longer on display in their “normal” museums (grr). The signs in the museums said ‘on display at the Museum in the Istanbul Airport.’

The display of Emperors and their Wives

Well, since we had time in the Istanbul Airport we sought out the new Airport Museum. It is on the second level of the transit area. After paying an entrance fee, we found ourselves touring the rooms with one other person. They have collected famous artifacts from all over Turkey, from the earliest periods up through the Ottoman Period. The displays are very “modern” and the rooms a very dimly lit—modern, but not too good for photography. Many of the magnificent pieces were on display were previously in local museums scattered around Turkey. Not very many non-Turkish travelers would be able to visit all of those museums, and so it is convenient to have them collected here. Samples of the collection follow.

A Diorama illustrating the construction of the 9,600 B.C. site of Gobleki Tepe.
Head of Alexander the Great from Pergamum — Second Century B.C.
Previously in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum
Roman Emperor Hadrian — From Sagalassos
Formerly in the Museum in Burdur Turkey
The only complete statue of Emperor Caracalla — from Perga
Formerly in the Museum in Antalya Turkey

Cenchreae — a very unusual find

In a previous post I shared some images of the harbor at Cenchreae and related the site to the Apostle Paul and Phoebe.

Although the site has not been excavated, FIFTY (yes, 50) wooden crates containing glass panels that portray the harbor of Cenchreae were discovered in the harbor.

The panels were never put into place – but they apparently depict the harbor. They evidently were being stored in the Temple of Isis when the earthquake destroyed the harbor in A.D. 375. These panels probably depict the harbor as of A.D. 370. They are labeled as opus sectile panels that are composed of colored glass! I am not sure where they were intended to be placed. On floors? On walls? Or?

The following are a few of the panels that are on display in the nearby museum at Isthmia. I think they will be best viewed if you click on, and enlarge, the image.

Harbor, buildings, fisherman, boat, etc. Please Click on Image to Enlarge for Viewing.

Note the standing fisherman on the right side of the image. of center.  Just to the left and below him the white “lighthouse” that stood on the southern mole is depicted.  To the left of the lighthouse are three windows (filled with yellow light) and to the left of them, a building with six columns is depicted. Also on the left side of the image, from top to bottom note a sailboat and on the extreme left a squid.

The Harbor or Cenchreae—ca. A.D. 370. Please Click on Image to Enlarge for Viewing.

Note the standing fisherman just left of center. Just to the left and below him the white “lighthouse” that stood on the southern mole is depicted. Above him and to the right the “lighthouse” of the northern mole is visible. Note the semi-circular columned wharf that connects the two lighthouses.

Carl Rasmussen Copyright and Contact

Crucified Man from Jerusalem

It is well–known from the 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).


HaFor 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.

Athens: The Acropolis Museum Online

In my opinion, the most beautiful museum in Athens is The New Acropolis Museum” which is “world-class” not only in its design and presentation but also in its contents.  It contains over 4,250 objects that were found on or near the acropolis.  A good number of these are so famous that they appear in almost all western Art History books.

Looking down, from the top of the Acropolis, on to the New Acropolis Museum in Athens

Visitors to Athens have a limited time to spend in its museums.  How much of can you absorb in a museum such as this one in say a 2-hour visit?

Well, the Greeks have come to the rescue!  The New Acropolis Museum in Athens has launched a new sophisticated online platform featuring artifacts from its permanent collection as well as information about its temporary exhibitions, educational programs, and more.  This digital collection includes over 2,156 artifacts with extensive descriptions, photographs, bibliographies, etc.

On its home page, it features 60 “highlights!” — some of the most famous objects in the collection.  Included under each there are several clear photographs and authoritative descriptions of the object.

The “Calf-Bearer”—or Moscophors found on the acropolis. 5 ft. 5 in high.

Among them, for example, is the famous “Calf-Bearer” (image above while in the old museum).  It is a statue depicting someone (Rhombos?) bringing a lamb as a sacrifice to the goddess Athena—dated to 570 BC!  [maybe we should not think of many, somewhat similar statues from the Christian era as “Good Shepherd” statues?]  Click here to view and read the museum commentary on this object.

IMHO — there is much to learn from this website.  Enjoy!

Personal “New Year’s Resolution” — to avoid “indigestion,” I have bookmarked the museum website and plan on reading about one object each day until I get through the 60!


How did they move the precious objects from the top of the acropolis down to the new museum?  Using three Tower-Cranes, of course!

Two of the three Tower-Cranes used to move the precious artifacts from the top of the acropolis down to the New Acropolis Museum.  January 2009.

This is a view looking west-northwest at two of the three tower-cranes that were used to move objects from the Old Acropolis Museum to the New Acropolis Museum. The old museum was located on the summit of the acropolis in the area just behind where the white crane is located. The new museum is located off the lower left side of the image but is not visible in the photograph (see image above).

The white tower-crane fetched objects from the top of the acropolis, pivoted, and then they were transferred to the second, orange, tower-crane. The orange tower-crane, in the middle of the image, pivoted and transferred the objects to the third crane, not visible, which was off the left side of the image. The third tower-crane pivoted and the objects were deposited into the new museum. The distance covered was approximately 310 yards—using the three tower-cranes.

This picture was taken in January 2009. The whole process of transferring the objects took four months.

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.