Tag Archives: BAS

Tomb of Queen Helena of Adiabene — Now Open . . . but

There is a tomb complex north of the Old City of Jerusalem that is variously called the Tomb of the Kings or the Tomb of Queen Helena of Adiabene.  It is owned by the French Government and for many years it has been closed to visitors.  It is now “open,” but visiting times area very restrictive and the interior of the tomb itself is not “open.”  Because of this, I thought I would share a few images of the complex from the 1970’s—when it was more available to the pubic—including the interior.

This is a view looking down into the courtyard of the Tomb of the Kings. Click on image to enlarge and/or download.

Three steps lead up to the monumental entrance of the tomb that is partially preserved. On the top of the tomb entrance, there were originally three pyramids—none of which are preserved.  The courtyard measures 90 x 82 ft. and is carved out of the solid rock. It is about 30 feet deep.

This is the 30-foot wide 23-step staircase that leads down to the courtyard of the Tomb of the Kings. It was carved out of the solid rock.

View inside the Courtyard of the Tomb of the Kings looking southwest.

On the right side of the image, three steps lead up to the monumental entrance of the tomb that is partially preserved. On the top of the tomb entrance, there were originally three pyramids—none of which are preserved.  On the left (south) side note the solid rock wall that separates the Courtyard from the Staircase. The “door” opening on the far left leads to the staircase.

A detail of the small square entrance to the multilevel burial chambers of the Tomb of Queen Helena.

Note especially, the slightly broken rolling stone that was used to cover the entrance to the tomb. Rolling stone tombs are very rare in Israel.  There is a tradition that this tomb would open automatically on a certain day of the year, but this seems very far fetched!  BTW — You have to get down on your hands and knees to enter the tomb at this point—although once in, it is possible to stand erect in some chambers.

A detail of an arched burial bench (arcosolium) found in the chambers of the Tomb of Queen Helena.

This type of burial, plus niches into which bodies were inserted are found in this tomb.  One of the sarcophagi found in the tomb is now in the Louvre in Paris.A detail of the very small interior staircase inside of the Tomb of Queen Helena that leads from one level of the tomb to another.

A detail of the very small interior staircase inside of the Tomb of Queen Helena that leads from one level of the tomb to another.

A detail of the Architrave above the entrance to the Tomb of Helena, Queen of Adiabene.

From top to bottom note: the carved upper portion, the circular wreaths surrounded by Acanthus Leaves and below that, the not-too-well preserved triglyphs and metopes.  Originally, two columns would have supported this Architrave.


For more on the “Opening” of the Tomb, see: “Tomb of Kings Now Open!” in Bible History Daily — Biblical Archaeology Society (June 1, 2020)

The Earliest Synagogue in Israel? Used by the Maccabees?

First of all — Happy Hanukkah!
A SYNAGOGUE USED BY THE MACCABEES?

The folk over at Bible History Daily have drawn attention to  an article “Modi’in: Where the Maccabees Lived Have excavations uncovered the hometown [synagogue?] of the Maccabees, heroes of Hanukkah’s Maccabean revolt?”  Just in time for Hanukkah!

I don’t believe that any tour groups stop at this site so I thought I would share two images of the site (Umm el–’Umdan; Arabic for “Mother of the Columns”).

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View looking west at the synagogue at Umm el–’Umdan (Arabic for “Mother of the Columns”.

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The red “c’s” are column bases. Note the remains of the courtyard, entrance, and benches.

Excavations conducted in the past decade at Umm el-‘Umdan (Arabic for “Mother of Columns”) by authors Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah and Alexander Onn (recently deceased) revealed a previously unknown synagogue—featuring eight imposing columns—likely built during the reign of King Herod. But what about earlier? What was at Umm el-‘Umdan during the time of the Maccabees and the Maccabean revolt?

Directly beneath the Herodian synagogue lies a smaller synagogue constructed during the Hasmonean period, and beneath this was a structure securely dated to the end of the third or beginning of the second century B.C.E. According to the excavators, this structure must have been contemporaneous to the time of the Maccabees and the Maccabean revolt. While this Early Hellenistic building influenced the location and shape of the two synagogues built atop it in subsequent centuries, the excavators believe that there is not enough information at the time to conclude that the Early Hellenistic building was also a synagogue.

If the excavators are correct in their interpretation and dating of the above mentioned three structures, then structures two and three (earliest) might well be the earliest synagogue(s) discovered in Israel!   They seem to suggest that structure 2 is a synagogue.

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A more detailed view of Umm el–’Umdan.

For more evidence confirming Umm el-‘Umdan’s Jewish identity in antiquity as well as a discussion of the linguistic relationship between the Hebrew name Modi’in and the Arabic name Umm el-‘Umdan, see “Modi’in: Hometown of the Maccabees” by Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah and Alexander Onn in the March/April 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Happy Hanukkah!

A Visit to the “real” Bethsaida — el-Araj

On a recent trip to Israel, I decided to try to visit the site of el-Araj that is located on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, just east of the Jordan River.  This site has been much in the news recently because it is a much better candidate for the Bethsaida mentioned in the New Testament, Josephus and other sources than “et-Tell.”

The Jordan River and Lagoon by el-Araj (Bethsaida/Julias).

According to the New Testament the disciples Philip, Andrew, and Peter were from the town (John 1:44; 12:21). In addition, Jesus performed mighty works there (e.g., healed a blind man [Mark 8:22], and fed 5,000 in the vicinity [Matt 14:13; Mark 6:30ff]) yet the town was cursed by him because of unbelief (Matt 11:21; Luke 10:13).

Steven Notley and Mordechai Aviam have conducted four seasons of excavations at the site and have found a bathhouse and a residence from the Roman Period.  In addition, they have found the remains of a large Byzantine Church that they believe was The Church of the Apostles that was mention by Willibald in A.D. 725 as having been built over the house of Peter and Andrew.

My first visit to the site was with a group of adult learners from the Jerusalem University College.  We turned off the main road east of the Arik Bridge at dusk and our bus took us partway in.  We “debussed” quickly and set off at a brisk pace to try to reach the site before we lost all our daylight.  We were surprised to find that there were already THREE tourist busses at the site—those of a large group led by Jonathan Cahn (of “Harbinger” fame).  I have no idea why they were interested in the site, but we did hear them finish their “devotional” with the blowing of the shofar.  Hmm . . . .

My second visit, a few days later, was with a group from the Biblical Archaeological Society that was being led by Ofir Dror and myself.

Our BAS Group hiking into el-Araj.

The tricky part in accessing the site was due to the fact that the Israelis were busy clearing minefields in the area.  It was about a 12 minute walk in from where our bus parked.

Heavy equipment clearing minefields west of el-Araj.

Once we arrived at that excavations, we had a great time looking at the main place of excavation—Area A.

Area A of el-Araj—looking east.

I also had a chance to peek at Area C, about 100 yards to the north of Area A, where they have begun to uncover remains of a residence that dates to the Roman Period.

Area C — the area where a Roman residence has been partially excavated.

Finds from the house date from the first to the third centuries CE and include pottery, coins, fishing net weights, and a cooking oven.

For additional images of el-Araj you are invited to check out HolyLandPhotos.org.

The official website for the el-Araj excavations can be found Here.  And there you will find numerous links to related newspaper articles.  There are also a number of good videos of the site that have been posted on YouTube see Here for example.

 

Paul in Spain! September Tour

My friend, and Pauline scholar, Dr. Mark Wilson will be leading “once in a lifetime” tour “To the End of the Earth: Paul’s Journey to Spain” — to Spain and France: September 15–29, 2019.

Paul in Spain? At the close of his letter to the Romans he mentions twice his plan to visit Spain (15:24, 28). Pauline scholars note that there is a gap in the chronology of his life in the early 60s. At this time he might have visited Spain, for there are strong church traditions indicating he did so. Clement and the Muratorian Canon as well as Chrysostom and Jerome assume that Paul fulfilled his intention. Paul’s journey by land would have taken him through southern Gaul along the Via Domitia. In France we will visit the UNESCO World Heritage sites at Lyon, Orange, Arles, and Pont du Gard. In Spain the Via Augusta followed the Mediterranean coastline to its terminus at the “end of the earth” — Gades. In Spain we will visit the UNESCO sites at Tarraco, Cordoba, and Merida. At Italica we will see the birthplace of the emperors Trajan and Hadrian. Our itinerary includes many of the best-preserved Roman sites in the world, cities that Paul would have seen during his journey to Spain.

Mary and I are looking forward to participating in this unique experience.  See the following for a brochure:   BAS-FRANCE-SPAIN-2019

This trip is offered by Tutku Tours and is endorsed by the Biblical Archaeological Society.

You can contact Tutku Tours HERE for details.