why i blog (and why other archaeologists and biblical scholars should too)

And now we have a quarter of a million readers. It has become an icon – a main channel through which the public gets its news and information and understanding of biblical archaeology.

– hershel shanks on the role of biblical archaeology review (2:24-2:37)

this is why archaeologists and biblical scholars must – must! – blog, publish, and work together to inform the public about legitimate archaeology, its proper, scholarly interpretations, and why we must debunk or at least respond to all sensational and unverifiable claims made in the public arena regarding biblical archaeology. if we don’t tell them, others will.

the academy has a role to play in the public realm. our credibility should not be limited to professional conferences and refereed journals. the public is looking to us for answers – for confirmation or refutation of claims made daily by those claiming to be archaeological and biblical authorities. we must respond in public. for if scholars fail to answer the public’s call for authoritative verdicts regarding archaeological and biblical claims, we only have ourselves to blame for our diminished authority in the public’s eye.

the 2010 megiddo excavation enters its second summer season

The northeastern sector of the mound, Area J with Early Bronze temples in the center at Megiddo.

I must admit: I am jealous. My friend and colleague, George Washington University’s own Dr. Eric Cline, has just completed the first of two summer excavation seasons at Megiddo. And they appear to be having a great time.

The Megiddo team is maintaining a great daily blog of the 2010 season. They are publishing tons of pictures on Facebook. They are even singing songs about archaeology on YouTube. I admit, I wish I were there participating in the excavations, debating Solomon vs. Omri and Ahab, 10th century vs. 9th century, watching Finkelstein and Cline arm wrestle… let’s just say I am jealous.

Check out the blog. And maybe next season, you can see if you too can survive Armageddon!

update: jim barfield and the copper scroll project appear on travel channel

Jim Barfield and Michael Arbuthnot on the Travel Channel

Jim Barfield appears on the Travel Channel with Michael Arbuthnot

Jimmy D. Barfield and the Copper Scroll Project are back. After disappearing for nearly a year, Jimmy D. (and yes, he now refers to himself in the third-person now as ‘Jimmy D.’ – see the video) has made an appearance on a Travel Channel show hosted by marine archaeologist Michael Arbuthnot entitled: Secret Worlds with Michael Arbuthnot: The Mystery of the Copper Scroll. While little to no information appears on the Travel Channel’s Website about the show, Barfield’s ideological cohorts over at The JerUSAlem Connection are promoting Barfield’s appearance. (Be sure to read their related article on the same page entitled ‘Islam and the Left: two sides of the same coin.”)

The opening scene is an interview with Indy-branded tour guide Danny “the Digger” Herman, and it closes with an entire segment devoted to Jimmy Barfield and his theories about the Copper Scroll. In between, we learn how to smoke a hookah, go scuba diving in Caesarea Maritima, go mud bathing in the Dead Sea, and ride camels. The show did have a couple of scholars, namely Alison Schofield of the University of Denver and Shimon Gibson of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, both of whom provided background information about the Dead Sea Scrolls and archaeology.

An organization called Biblical Productions commented extensively on the making of the project:

Morningstar Entertainment, a production company from Los Angeles, sent another crew in July this year to investigate the mysterious Copper Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls for their highly anticipated new show “Secret Worlds”. After having previously shot in Israel and Jordan for the “Knights Templar” and “Dead Sea Scrolls” episodes, their archaeologist and host Michael Arbuthnot now concentrated on solving the riddle of this fascinating inscription.

Biblical Productions was the local production manager for the entire shoot and took the crew to fascinating desert locations and fabulous experts. Why was the scroll written on copper? Is it a real treasure map? Who can help us understand the mysterious inscriptions and who wrote it? These were just a few questions the crew set out to answer in this quest, in which Biblical Productions took them from the impressive Hyrcania Tunnel in a desert military zone, to the Qumran Caves where the scrolls were found; to Acre and finally to Jerusalem. Along the way they interviewed and discussed ideas with several experts such as Shimon Gibson, Danny Herman, Steven Pfann and Jim Barfield; the latter an inspirational fire fighter from Texas who has made it his mission to solve the riddle of the scroll. The crew furthermore filmed one of Dr. Stephen Pfann’s researchers who traced the methods of the inscribing process by inscribing a copper scroll all on her own – with astonishing results.

Copper Scroll Project of Facebook

Copper Scroll Project uses Facebook to try and get people to call or write the Travel Channel and ask them to do more with Jimmy Barfield.

One comment: As I have stated in the past (see this post for a summary of the scholarly critiques against Barfield’s nonsense) listing Jimmy D. Barfield as an ‘expert’ in this show makes a mockery of archaeology, of the show, its producers (Morningstar Entertainment), and of the Travel Channel. I am all for the production of documentaries that discuss archaeology and the Bible (full disclosure: I have appeared in a number of them), but a production company creating documentaries about the Bible and archaeology has an obligation not to pass on nonsensical theories as credible, nor the theories’ peddlers as ‘experts.’ In this regard, Morningstar and the Travel Channel have failed miserably. They gave air time to Barfield, which he will now turn around and use to raise funds and promote his religious agenda. (Barfield is already taking ‘pre-orders’ on a self-published e-book on his Copper Scroll Project website. Likewise, Copper Scroll Project folks are encouraging people to contact the Travel Channel and tell them how much they liked the show on Facebook.) They have done a disservice to the public by equating Barfield’s admittedly amateur musings with real scholarship. And they have done a disservice to scholarship, setting back yet again many concerned scholars’ desire to provide quality, verifiable information to the public.

If you want to see and hear the archaeological ‘expert’ yourself, watch his video.

I do have one final question about the brief reconstruction of Qumran shown during the episode. Specifically, where did the producers get it? It appears to be a mutilated modified version of some otherwise pretty good research, although I can’t quite place where I’ve seen those film clips before. I recognize those camera angles from somewhere… that color palette… the interpretation and building layout… that background… I can’t quite place it.

on the misuse of archaeology for evangelistic purposes

i have written an article at bible and interpretation entitled “on the misuse of archeology for evangelistic purposes.” the article provides an update on the ridiculous claims earlier this year from a hong kong group called noah’s ark ministries international (nami) claiming they had found noah’s ark. in the article, i demonstrate how their intentionally misleading claims were designed purely to attract people to jesus. the article is essentially a sandwich of introducing the problem of pseudoscience and recommendations for proper ‘biblical’ archaeology, with some debunking of the noah’s ark folks in between.

i conclude the article with a list of more appropriate tips for doing archaeology in areas mentioned in the bible.

please check it out and feel free to leave comments there or here.

from aol news: scholarly squad debunks biblical ‘discoveries’

Dr. Robert R. Cargill in Bet Shean, Israel

Dr. Robert R. Cargill in Bet Shean, Israel

chanan tigay at aol news has written an article entitled, ‘scholarly squad debunks biblical ‘discoveries’.’ the article features some of the work that members of asor’s media relations committee has done to counter the recent sensational claims that have come out of an evangelical ministry that calls itself noah’s ark ministries international. they claim to have discovered noah’s ark. i have responded to these ridiculous claims on my blog (here and here and here and here).

the article highlights the work done by scholars, real archaeologists, and bloggers in combating sensationalism in biblical archaeology.

does this look like styrofoam to you?

Styrofoam Ark

The 'snow' on the 'ark' appears to be decorative styrofoam packing beads.

the noah’s ark ministries international folks have released a video and are standing by their claim of their so-called ‘discovery’ of noah’s ark. [ht: jim west]. i have documented the problems with their dubious claim here and here and here.

let me ask you, and be honest: does this ‘snow’ in the ‘ark’ look like styrofoam to you?

bigcitylib thinks so, and has a post to explain why.

see for yourself. watch the video about the 1:40 mark and tell me.

and what’s with all the knocking on wood?? are you wishing for luck that no one finds out that while you’re video taping your ‘exploration,’ that no one notices you can’t see your breath in the snowy altitude at the 0:50 mark or that the ‘snow’ you sweep away at the 1:50 mark is perfectly round and not wet? and where is the water dripping on the floor? it was wet at the beginning when you filmed the ‘entrance.’ and what’s with the hazmat suits? i didn’t see those guys come in…

busted! turkey’s culture ministry is now ‘investigating’ noah’s ark ministries international

Noah's Ark Sinkingyou read about it here earlier. and now, they’re getting busted.

Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has launched an investigation into claims by a research team named Noah’s Ark Ministries International that they have found Noah’s Ark.

The ministry has also initiated an investigation into state officials of the province of Ağrı, including Deputy Governor Murat Güven, Provincial Tourism Director Muhsin Bulut and an official from the district governor’s office in Doğubeyazıt, who were present at the press conference in Hong Kong where the explorers made their finding public.

“A statement was made from abroad, claiming that Noah’s Ark has been found. There were Turkish state officials present when the statement was made. We are investigating the technical and legal aspects of the issue. How did these objects get there [to Hong Kong] and under whose authority were the officials present there? We are investigating this,” Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay said.

Günay also stated that they were happy for the Hong Kong explorers to carry out research on Mount Ağrı but noted that the ministry doubted they asked for permission before doing their research. He also sent a strong message to Turkish scientists who claim that Noah’s Ark is not in Turkey.

is it too early to say it???

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