Category Archives: Places in Israel

Unique Tombs from 2200–2000 BC

Dhahr Mirzbaneh is a site located about 16 mi. northeast of Jerusalem. The hillsides in the area are covered with tombs from the Middle Bronze I Age (2200-2000 B.C.).

Cut Away of MB I Tombs During Construction of the “Alon Road”

View looking northwest. When the “Alon Road” was being constructed in the 1970’s, the construction workers cut through the hillside of Dhahr Mirzbaneh exposing a side, “cut-away,” view of a number of Middle Bronze I (2200-2000 B.C.) tombs.  Some scholars place the migration of Abram from Ur to the Land of Canaan during this period.

A perfect “cut-away” view of such a tomb is visible on the left side of the image. The shaded semi-circular area is a tomb chamber, and to its left the “cut-away” outline of a vertical shaft (partially filled with rubble) is visible.

On the right side of the image more exposed tomb chambers are visible.

Detail of MB I (2200–2000 BC) Tomb

View of a MB I (2200-2000 B.C.) tomb which was sliced in half by road building activity.

A typical MB I tomb consisted of a vertical shaft, 4 to 9 ft. [1.2 to 3 m.] deep, cut into the rock. At the bottom of the shaft one or more chambers radiated from it. Usually only one person was placed in each chamber.

To the left of the leg of the man, the shaded arched outline of a burial chamber is clearly visible – it had an arched top and a flat horizontal floor. To the left of the chamber, partly shaded, is the outline of the vertical shaft, which led down from the surface to the burial chamber. This shaft is partly filled with rubble.

To view more images of Dhahr Mirzbaneh, and a map, Click Here.

Sea of Galilee lowest in 97 years

Ynetnews has an article “How low can you go: Sea of Galilee lowest in 97 years.”

Visually, compare the water–levels at the Church of the Primacy, that is located on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, during non–drought and drought years.

Staircase on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee during non–drought year.  Note the water of the Sea of Galilee lapping at the foot of the Staircase.

Compare the same area in recent years:

The same area during a time of drought. Note the same Staircase and the distance to the shore of the Sea of Galilee (on the right side of the image)

A statement put out by the authority said that last May’s recording showed the lowest water level since May 1920, when official measurements of the Sea of Galilee were first recorded.

The Sea of Galilee’s dire condition was made worse in recent years, due to a rare, four-year sequence of droughts in the north, which have caused water pumping from the Sea of Galilee to almost completely stop.

According to the article, the water level of the Sea of Galilee now stands at -214 meters!  FWIW — in the day’s of Jesus (aka Second Temple Times) the level, based upon the level of harbors from this period, was two meters higher—at -212 meters.

“Assured Results” of Archaeology

I love archaeology, and love having the chance to share my passion with others.  But as my teacher and later colleague Professor Anson Rainey use to say: “archaeology is the science of digging a hole and spinning a tale about it.”  One example of a change in the interpretation of finds follows.

Temple to Augustus or ???

Years ago the above structure was interpreted as possibly the Temple to the Roman Emperor August that Josephus mentions as being by the harbor at Caesarea Maritima.

But now, a Nymphaeum (monumental fountain), not a Temple.

Today, the structure is interpreted as being a monumental fountain that is located at the northwestern corner of the podium on which the Temple to Augustus stood.

Thus, as research continues, the interpretation, and dating of finds can change: think at Timna—Solomon’s Mines, Not Solomon’s Mines, and now, Solomon’s Mines.  Hmm.

For an article on the projected “visitor upgrades” at Caesarea Maritima see Here.

2,800 year old Wall Collapsed — Tel Dan

Dan is the name of a town mentioned 27 times in the Old Testament. It was located on the northern boundary of Israel and appears in the well–known phrase “from Dan to Beersheba.” It is located near one of the powerful springs that feed the Jordan River.

The collapse of the Iron Age Wall (think divided monarchy/Northern Kingdom) is visible on the right. See below for prior to the collapse.

In December of 2016 it was reported that an ancient wall had collapsed at Dan due to heavy rains in the area.  We visited Tel Dan in January 2017 and I took the above picture of the damage—sigh!  See the following picture for the wall prior to its collapse.

Iron Age Gate and Wall — prior to collapse (right side of image).

There were confused reports as to where this wall was.  In fact, it was east of the famous Iron Age (1000–586 B.C.) gate in the center of the image above—not the early Middle Bronze II gate that is located on the east side of the tel, not on the south side of the mound (MB II Gate dates to ca. 1750 B.C.—see below).

View looking west at the outside of the Middle Bronze II city gate (ca. 1750 B.C.). It dates to the time of — or shortly after — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. — No collapse here!

For 23 images of Dan Check This Out.


The Arabic name of this large 50 acre [20 ha.] site is Tell el-Qadi. Avraham Biran excavated here since 1966.

Another Son of God? Pilate’s Tiberieum at Caesarea Maritima

Pontius Pilate was the Prefect of Judea that condemned Jesus to death (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18 and 19). He is mentioned 61 times in the New Testament.  He governed Judea from A.D. 26 to 36.

The Pontius Pilate Inscription from Caesarea Maritima—now in the Israel Museum.

Pilate was facing at least two major problems when Jesus appeared before him to be tried.  The first was that he needed to deal with any potential rebellion against Rome—what else would a “king of the Jews” do?

A second problem was how seriously should Pilate take the accusation that

John 19:7-8  . . .  he [Jesus] must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”  When Pilate heard this, he [Pilate] was even more afraid,

Why was Pilate “more afraid” when he heard this charge?  Well, the dead “ascended” Augustus was worshiped throughout the Roman Empire as a deity.  By the time that Jesus began his public ministry there were Imperial Cult Temples (namely those at Caesarea Maritima, Sebastia, and the one near Caesarea Philippi [= Omrit])  that had been in existence for over 40 years!

And in addition, Augustus’ son, and now Emperor(!), Tiberius, was worshiped as the “son of god” (that is, the son of the deified Augustus)!  In this regard it is not often remembered that it was Pilate who built a temple for the worship of Tiberius as the “son of god” at Caesarea Maritima!  How could there be a “son of God” to compete with the Imperial “son of god?”  In addition Pilate was confronted with the potential accusation of the local leadership: “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar” (John 19:12).  Pilate had a “lot on his plate!”

In light of this, I invite you to check out the following description and discussion of the “Pilate Inscription” from Caesarea Maritima.


In 1961 by an Italian expedition that was excavating the theater at Caesarea Maritima discovered a Latin inscription that actually mentions him.

The “Pilate” Inscription from Caesarea Maritima

When people comment on this inscription they usually emphasize that now there is actual archaeological evidence for Pilate’s activity in Judea and that his title was “Prefect.”  This is fine,  BUT what about the word “Tiberieum” in the first line?  To what does “Tiberieum” refer?

This stone was used at least three ways.  First, it was probably a dedicatory inscription in a temple called a “Tiberieum.”  Pilate built this temple to honor the Roman Emperor Tiberius (A.D. 14–37)—the current “son of god”!  This was then the second imperial cult temple in Caesarea—the first was the (probably much larger) Imperial Cult Temple that had been built by Herod the Great (37– 4 BC) for the worship of Augustus and deified Roma!

Thus it should be noted that at Caesarea Maritima the imperial cult founded by Herod the Great was still being practiced AND that Pilate as a good governor was also promoting the Imperial Cult—adding a structure for the worship of the ruling Roman emperor, Tiberius (14–37).  All of this going on during the time of Jesus’ public ministry (ca. 26–30)!

Secondly, the stone was taken from the temple and used as part of a well–head—note the half-circle on the right hand side.  Finally, it was used as a step in the fourth century Byzantine theater (where it was discovered).

Four lines of the Latin inscription are visible.

[_ _ _]S TIBERIÉUM
[_ _ PO]NTIUS PILATUS
[PRAEF]ECTUS IUDA[EA]E
[_ _ _ _ _ ] É [_ _ _ _ _ _ _] (Taylor, p. 564)

[. . .] Tiberieum
[. Po]ntius Pilate
[Pref]ect of Judaea
[. . .]e[. . .] (p. 565)

Joan E. Taylor translates the inscription as:   “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judaea, [made and d]e[dicated] the Tiberieum for the (Augustan) gods” (p. 570).

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 564–65.

The Best Rolling Stone Tomb in Israel — Khirbet Midras

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View Looking East at the Entrance to the First Century A.D. Tomb

View looking east at the entrance to the tomb. The rolling stone was 6 ft. [1.8 m.] in diameter and 1.3 ft [0.4 m.] thick. It was placed between two walls, each built of hewn stone. When discovered, it still rolled in its trough!

The tomb itself was in use during the Roman Period — up until A.D. 135.

In my estimation, it was the best example of a rolling stone tomb in the country of Israel. It seems to illustrate well passages from the Gospels which speak of Jesus’ tomb as being closed by a rolling stone. See especially Matthew 27:57-66; 28:1-2; Mark 15:42–47; 16:1–8; Luke 24:1–2, 10–11; and John 20:1, 11–18.

MidrasMap3Horvat Midras (Hebrew) or Khirbet Durusiya (Arabic) is located 19 mi. [30 km.] southwest of Jerusalem in the Shephelah. The ancient remains are spread over hundreds of dunams in the area. The site dates to the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

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View of the Courtyard of the “Rolling Stone Tomb” at Khirbet Midras—prior to its destruction

In 1976 part of the cemetery was excavated. Several tombs were uncovered, including, in my estimation, THE BEST ROLLING STONE TOMB in the country. Unfortunately in the late 1990’s the tomb site was totally destroyed by vandals!#%$@!!

BUT it has been reconstructed and is now visible in the Adullam Park!

To view 3 additional image of the tomb Click Here.

For images of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher see: Calvary and Tomb.

Click to see images of Gordon’s Calvary and the Garden Tomb.

Domus Galilaeae — Near Korazin

Visitors to Israel will often stop at the Second Temple/Talmudic site of Korazin (Chorazin: Matt 11:21; Luke 10:13) where an impressive basalt synagogue has been partially reconstructed.  To the west of Korazin, on the south side of route 8277 is beautiful is a Roman Catholic retreat center known as Domus Galilaeae.  It opened in 2000 and was blessed by Pope John Paul II.  It is generally not open to visitors so I thought I would share a few of my images of the place.

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View from the patio of Domus Galilaeae of Jesus teaching his disciples
In the background is the Sea of Galilee — 3 mi. distant

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The main chapel of Domus Galilaeae

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Library Reading Area
Inside of the beautiful deep blue plexiglass reading area
Note the desk and in the center is a scroll of scripture

To view additional images of the retreat center Click Here.