Dig This Summer in Israel at Tel Azekah with the University of Iowa

The Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition

I’d like to invite all who are interested to join us this summer for the second season of exploration at Tel Azekah, Israel. The University of Iowa is proud to be joining with Tel Aviv University and the University of Heidelberg as part of an international consortium of universities participating in the Lautenschläger Archaeological Expedition at Tel Azekah.

Tour the Holy Land and spend a summer doing archaeological research for university course credit.

For more information, visit the Azekah Facebook page, or visit the Iowa Azekah Information page. Biblical Archaeology Review also has information on Azekah. You can also read through last year’s Azekah blog.

2013 season details are also available here.

Excavation dates: July 13 – August 23, 2013.

Excavation Directors: Dr. Oded LipschitsDr. Manfred Oeming, Dr. Yuval Gadot

Iowa Team Director: Dr. Robert Cargill

Consortium members: You will meet students from around the world, including those from Collège de France, Duke University, Georg-August-Universität-Göttingen, Heidelberg University, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Macquarie University, Moravian College, Moravian Theological Seminary, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Tel Aviv University, Universität des Saarlandes, Université de Lausanne, University of Iowa, Univerzita Karlova v Praze, and the University of Zurich.

Accommodations: Students stay in the Nes-Harim guest-house, a mountaintop village of fully air-conditioned wooden cabins, located on in the midst of a green and lush forest. Students enjoy accommodations and full board, with three delicious meals a day, their own private bar, as well as full complementary Wi-Fi internet services in classes and the surrounding area.

Schedule:

Saturday Evening: The excavation week begins on Saturday evening, with buses that bring students from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or weekend trips to the Nes-Harim guest-house. After a quick dinner, students attend opening lectures and introductions to the week ahead.

Saturday to Thursday: Students wake up very early to work and begin digging as the sun rises over the Judean hills and the Elah Valley. At 9:00 we gather for wonderful Israeli breakfast served on-site at beautiful Tell Azekah, eating and enjoying the breathtaking view of Judean Lowlands. Afterwards, we continue digging until noon, at which point students take the short bus drive back to the Nes-Harim guest-house. Students eat lunch, shower, nap, read, and enjoy time until the time for pottery washing. In the afternoon, students gather for pottery washing where they clean pottery collected that morning in the field, and look for seal impressions and ancient inscriptions. Later, and in the evening, students enjoy dinner a rich academic program, complete with lectures from the world’s leading archaeologists, and enjoy guided tours of the lovely landscape where the ancient history of various nearby excavations is recounted by leading scholars.

Thursday afternoon: Students depart for weekend trips on Thursday afternoon. Two options are available during the excavation weekends (Thursday afternoon – Saturday afternoon):

  1. Students may take part in organized tours to other parts of Israel (for an additional fee).
  2. Students may take advantage of the complimentary bus service to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem (leaving the guest-house on Thursday afternoon and returning on Saturday afternoon). Studetns are responsible for their own accommodations on the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv weekends.

Friday and Saturday: Free time to enjoy weekend tours or free time in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

Saturday afternoon: Buses bring students from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or weekend trips to the Nes-Harim guest-house.

Weekend Tours: Each weekend, students will take tours of various sites in the Holy Land including, the Sea of Galilee, Tel Aviv, Caesarea, the Mediterranean coast, Jerusalem, Qumran, En Gedi, Masada, Dead Sea, Bethlehem, the Herodium, and the Jordan River. And this year, I am planning a special trip weekend for Iowa students to Petra, Jordan – the city carved from stone.

University course credit: Students interested in earning university credit for the excavation can join one or two of the academic courses. (Cost per course: $300 total)

  • Archaeology and History of the Judean Lowland: one session (July 13th – August 10th) 3 credits
  • Archaeological Fieldwork – Theory and Methods: one session (July 13th – August 10th) 3 credits
  • An additional course, Theological Aspects of Archaeological Work, is also available through the University of Heidelberg:  one session (August 3rd – August 23rd)

Click here for further information about the academic program.

Program Cost: The cost of the summer excavation program depends on how long you participate. I encourage all Iowa students to come for 3 or 6 weeks.

Registration fee: $50 USD

Weekly cost (Saturday night to Thursday evening): $585 USD. This price includes: participation in the excavation, weekly room accommodations (up to 4 people in a room), full board (morning coffee, breakfast at the field, fruit break at the field, lunch, afternoon coffee and dinner), 24-hours internet service, transportation from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to the camp on Saturday night and from the camp to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Thursday afternoon, transportation to the site and back on working days and transportation to midweek tours, security and first aid in the Nes Harim accommodations, all academic lectures and workshops, afternoon archaeological programs and social activities, educational mid-week tours to archaeological and historical sites in the region.

Breakdown by week:

  • Two weeks: $1170 USD ($1150 USD for return team members)
  • Three weeks: $1755 USD ($1725 USD for return team members)
  • Four weeks: $2340 USD ($2300 USD for return team members)
  • Five Weeks: $2925 USD ($2875 USD for return team members)
  • Six Weeks: $3510 USD ($3450 USD for return team members)

Price does not include: Flights to and from Israel; personal health insurance; weekend tours and board; free time room and board from Thursday evening to Saturday evening.

Iowa students and staff participate in the 2012 excavations at Azekah.

Iowa students and staff participate in the 2012 excavations at Azekah.

If you are interested in participating in the excavation, or as traveling/participating with the University of Iowa team, please contact Dr. Robert Cargill at robert-cargill@uiowa.edu.

To download the registration form, click here and email it to: azekah.excavations@gmail.com.

 I’m looking forward to seeing you all this year at Azekah!

RESERVE YOUR SPOT TODAY!

Letter from Dr. Athalya Brenner in Support of Chris Rollston

I received the following letter from Dr. Athalya Brenner, which I am posting below.


Dr. Athalya Brenner

Dr. Athalya Brenner

Dear Dean Holland, dear President Sweeney:

Like many of my colleagues, I’ve been following for a couple of weeks the unfolding story of Dr. Rollston’s troubles at ECS. This is your institution; as an outsider, I thought I had no right of interference in your institution’s internal matters. My mind changed, however, when I read tonight an article by Dr. Paul Blowers, Professor of Church History at ECS, as published online in Bible and Interpretation.

Dr. Blowers made it known, publicly, that his objection to Rollston’s article in Huffington Post about attitudes to women in the Bible was wrong on the following points: it was imbalanced; it shouldn’t have been published to lay readers; and it ran counter to confessional responsibilities, such as are practiced in Emmanuel.

I’d like to relate to this claims, first by introducing my credentials, then by assessing the claims. I am a Hebrew Bible scholar. My main fields of interest are feminist criticism of the Bible and Semitic Philology. I have published over 25 books, edited and authored, on feminist and gender issues in the Bible, including the New Testament. I have taught in Israel, The Netherlands, The States and Hong Kong. In the latter two places, although I am Jewish, I taught in confessional frameworks (Anglican in Hong Kong, Disciples of Christ in Texas). Details of my extensive teaching experience and publications on matters pertaining to women in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and to a lesser extent in the New Testament are to be found in my webpages, URL’s below.

Writing from my experience, as delineated here, I would like to completely refute Dr. Blowers’ contentions. Rollston’s article, against my background of undisputed  expertise in the field, is balanced and mild. In the Bible, regrettably, women are second-class, and much more so than Rollston sketched. There are positive female roles in it, as he himself indicated, but those are too few to offset the general picture. This is regrettable since the Bible is for many of us and including Rollston and me, regardless of creed, a source of fascination and a Book of Life; exposing less savoury elements in it is painful to say the least, albeit necessary in order to continue the ages-honored process of its interpretation, reinterpretation, updating and usage for current believing and cultural communities. I believe this is what Rollston did: he exposed a biblical bias, in a balanced and responsible fashion, as to say: This is our heritage. We do NOT discard this foundational heritage; but, looking at it critically, in the footsteps of Jewish Sages, Church Fathers and readers and believers over millennia, it is up to us to update, reinterpret, and continue to use the Bible as our life companion. In doing that Rollston in effect displayed the same concerns for the public of both genders as Dr. Blowers displays for Emmanuel students and future pastors, extending the good work and bringing it to the surface.

In short: if the Huffington Post article is at the root of this upheaval, it seems to me wrong on scholarly as well as pedagogical grounds to fault Dr. Rollston in any way. He is a rarity: a first-rate scholar who is well-respected and respectful and humanistic in his approach, a person who cares deeply about people and their beliefs, always cautious to nurture—even when he critiques—and to find positive angles. To claim otherwise is simply not borne out by the facts of the matter.

Please excuse me if my words constitute an interference in Emmanuel internal matters. Rollston is a colleague, not a friend of mine. My education and interests simply prevent me from keeping silent on this matter.

Respectfully and Shalom,

Dr. Athalya Brenner
Professor Emerita of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Chair, Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Professor in Biblical Studies, Department of Hebrew Culture, Tel Aviv University, Israel

Impromptu, on-site history of LMLK seals by Tel Aviv University’s Omer Sergi

Today (August 2, 2012) at Tel Azekah, Chaim Tzemach unearthed a jar handle with a LMLK seal impression on it. Area S-2 Supervisor Omer Sergi (a Ph.D candidate in archaeology at Tel Aviv University waiting for his beloved advisor, Dr. Oded Lipschits, to finish reading and sign his dissertation ;-) identified the object and immediately broke into a quick lecture on LMLK seals for the student volunteers who had never heard of them.

What is most impressive is that it is a completely impromptu, yet highly informative lecture about LMLK seals given from the balk of a Tel Azekah Area S-2 square to students who had just pulled one out of the earth!

What follows is video I took of that lecture from the balk, which is the best 3-minute summation I’ve ever heard of LMLK seal impressions. In fact, I’ll incorporate this video into my “Jerusalem from the Bronze to the Digital Age” course at the University of Iowa.

Watch and learn.

“Miriam, Daughter of Yeshua, Son of Caiaphas” Inscription Announced

This morning, archaeologists from Bar Ilan University and Tel Aviv University announced the discovery of an ossuary (burial bone box) in Israel, which was recovered from thieves who had robbed a tomb.

The ossuary is unprovenanced – that is, because it was not discovered in a controlled archaeological excavation, its origin and context are unknown. However, further investigation (which I understand to be interrogation of the thieves) has led researchers to the conclusion “that the ossuary came from a burial cave in the area of the Valley of ‘Elah, in the Judean Shephelah.”

The authenticity of the ossuary and inscription were verified by Dr. Boaz Zissu of the Department of the Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology of Bar Ilan University, and Professor Yuval Goren of the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations of the Tel Aviv University using ESEM/EDS (Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope / Energy-Dispersive Spectrometer) technology. The results of the study are published in Vol. 61 of Israel Exploration Journal (published this week by the Israel Exploration Society).

The ossuary includes the Aramaic inscription, which appears to read:

מרים ברת ישוע בר קיפא כהני מעזיה דבית עמרי

which translates:

“Miriam, Daughter of Yeshua, Son of Caiaphas,
Priests of Ma’aziah from Beth ‘Imri”

or

מרים ברת ישוע בר קיפא כהן דמעזיה דבית עמרי

which translates:

“Miriam, Daughter of Yeshua, Son of Caiaphas,
Priest of Ma’aziah from Beth ‘Imri”

or, as Jack Kilmon suggests

“Miriam, Daughter of Yeshua Bar Qayafa,
Priest of (the course of) Ma’aziah of the House of ‘Omri”

(There is a question about whether the letter following the נ (nun) in כהן (cohen, or priest) is a ד (dalet), or a י (yod) with an unrelated scratch beneath it, or a מ (mem, apparently not in final form) similar to the letter that follows it. This is partially due to the fact that it is not certain whether the נ (nun) is in final form. It is longer, which would argue for a final ן (nun), but it is also curved, which would support the letter being a regular נ (nun). If it is a ד (dalet), then it would serve as a genitive construct indicator for the phrase “priest of Ma’aziah.” If it is a י (yod), then the word כהן (priest) would become the plural construct כהני מעזיה (priests of Ma’aziah), and the נ (nun) before would have to be interpreted as a standard נ (nun) not in final form. If it is a מ (mem), the result would be a pluralized כהנמ מעזיה with the construct implied (“priests [of] (the course of) Ma’aziah”), and the preceding נ (nun) before would have to be interpreted as a standard נ (nun) not in final form. All three options translate roughly the same. There will be other questions about the ש (shin) in the name Yeshua, as well as the diagonal mark to the right of the initial י (yod) in the same name, as well as a few others. I shall leave the formal epigraphical work to my Aramaic colleagues, who to be sure are already working up all possible interpretations and alternatives for this inscription.)

The ossuary is not unprecedented as ossuaries bearing the family name “Qayafa” (which many pronounce as “Caiaphas”) were among a total of twelve previously discovered in Jerusalem in 1990. I stated in an article at Bible and Interpretation:

“Twelve ossuaries were discovered in the so-called “Caiaphas” tomb, including a highly ornate ossuary discovered in situ (Ossuary 6) with two inscribed Aramaic inscriptions reading, יהוסף בר קיפא and יהוסף בר קפא (variant spellings of “Joseph, son of Caiaphas”), and another (Ossuary 3) with just the name קפא (“Caiaphas”) etched in an almost graffito fashion on the ossuary.”

The peripheral significance of this discovery to Christianity is that the High Priest Caiaphas, son-in-law of Annas, is mentioned in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus:

“First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year.” (John 18:13 NRSV)

Dr. Boaz Zissu of Bar-Ilan University made the following photo available:

The "Miriam Ossuary." Photo copyright Dr. Boaz Zissu, Bar-Ilan University.

The "Miriam Ossuary." Photo copyright Dr. Boaz Zissu, Bar-Ilan University.

The official press release is here. DO read this release for the best information about the ossuary and inscription.

News reports can be found on AP, Arutz Sheva, Jerusalem Post, Yahoo News, and more photos can be found at TimesUnion. Jerusalem Post video is here.

One can see the Aramaic inscription running from right to left along the top of the ossuary.

Regarding the end of the inscription, Arutz Sheva explains:

Ma’azyah was the name of the 24th priestly service shift at the temple. Members of this family signed the convention mentioned in the book of Nehemiah (10,9). The House of Imri refers to the priestly family of Miriam, or to the location she came from.

Steve Caruso at Aramaic Designs has offered up a mashup of the inscription with the letters filled in with black.

Caruso suggests the following:

Inscription of Miriam Ossuary, mashed up by Steve Caruso.

I have done the same below. The top image is an animated GIF (made with the help of MakeAGif) of my Photoshop fill-in of the inscription. I flash the inscription because it allows the viewer to verify precisely how I filled in the inscription (transparency, transparency, transparency!)

Animated GIF of Miriam Ossuary inscription highlighting the Aramaic Inscription

Animated GIF of Miriam Ossuary inscription highlighting the Aramaic Inscription. (Click to view.)

Below is a still photo of the inscription released by Dr. Zissu (top), and my highlight with the letters in black (and uncertain areas in gray, bottom).

Inscription of the "Miriam Ossuary" (without editing).

Inscription of the "Miriam Ossuary" (without editing).

Inscription of the "Miriam Ossuary" (with letters traced in black and gray)

Inscription of the "Miriam Ossuary" (with letters traced in black and gray)

Finally, before everyone gets carried away with what this ossuary and inscription mean, let me give the reader a quick review of what it does NOT mean:

  1. Since the ossuary was recovered from a thief, it is unprovenanced, meaning we cannot be certain of its place of origin or context. As an unprovenanced archaeological object, many academic publications that have agreed not to publish unprovenanced objects (to deter against looting and forgery) will not be publishing this ossuary. That is why you may not read about it in some of the more credible archaeological journals.
  2. The “investigation” (which I’m assuming was, in part, the interrogation of the thieves) concludes that the ossuary came from the Valley of ‘Elah, in the Shephelah, and NOT from the so-called “Caiaphas family tomb” in the Jerusalem Peace Park. There are some who understand the tomb in Jerusalem to have been the family tomb of Caiaphas, the High Priest mentioned in the Bible (Matt 26:57-68), who is said to have been involved with the trial of Jesus. If the ossuary came from elsewhere, there is a question why this ossuary would not have been found in the Caiaphas family tomb in Jerusalem. One answer may be that the Valley of ‘Elah tomb may be that of ישוע (Yeshua/Joshua/Jesus) Bar Qayafa (whose daughter, Miriam’s, ossuary was recovered), while the Jerusalem tomb may belong to יהוסף (Yehosef/Joseph), his brother.
  3. That said, the discovery of this ossuary is NOT evidence of the existence of Jesus. The ישוע (Yeshua/Jesus) mentioned in the inscription was NOT the same Jesus who is the central figure of the New Testament. Likewise, the presence of an inscription mentioning a peripheral character mentioned in the Bible does not mean that the entire story is true or historical.
  4. The inscription is NOT evidence that Jesus was tried by Caiaphas. This inscription only lends support to the understanding that there was, in fact, a priestly family named Qayafa/Caiaphas.
  5. The inscription is NOT evidence that there was a trial of Jesus. (See above.)
  6. The inscription is NOT evidence that Jesus died and was raised form the dead. That has nothing to do with this ossuary. Again, this discovery only lends support to the understanding that there was, in fact, a priestly family named Qayafa/Caiaphas.
  7. The inscription in and of itself is NOT evidence that the Bible is historically reliable, inerrant, infallible, or any other “See, I told you so” statement. The Bible is full of true facts and historical verities. No one questions this. However, the authentication of one claim does NOT mean that all claims are verifiable.

What this discovery DOES tell us is this:

  1. Someone named Miriam existed. She was apparently the daughter of  ישוע (Yeshua/Joshua/Jesus) Bar Qayafa (or the son of Qayafa/Caiaphas).
  2. If this Miriam is the daughter of Yeshua, and if that Yeshua is the son of Caiaphas, then the discovery gives us new information that the Qayafa/Caiaphas family was from the Ma’aziah order of priests from Beyt ‘Imri.
  3. Thus, the discovery of this unprovenanced ossuary provides support to the understanding that there was, in fact, a priestly family named Qayafa (Caiaphas) around the time of Jesus.

I look forward to following this story as it develops. I do NOT look forward to what will inevitably be the sensationalization of this story by some whose false or ignorant claims will be used to make money or promote a particular ideology, religious or otherwise.

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