Friday, November 30, 2007

ASOR 2007 (p. 15)

David Carr read his paper stoically from 4:55 to 5:18:

"The Tel Zayit Abecedary in (Social) Context"

"This presentation will survey some prominent possibilities for determining the social function of the Tel Zayit abecedary: educational, mantic, etc. Particular attention will be given to possible criteria that might be used to determine whether or not a given text, particularly an abecedary, was used in some kind of educational context. This paper will also consider other epigraphic finds that are chronologically and/or geographically close to the Tel Zayit abecedary and present a preliminary proposal about how this find fits into a broader picture of developing textuality in the Levant."

I made a note that he liked to quote others, but he didn't deliver any memorable nuggets of his own, with one possible exception: "[The Zayit Stone] does not prove the existence of a golden age."

His biggest problem was his failure to make a point, present evidence, make another point, etc., then tie them together. Instead, he just tossed out these quotes & failed to hold my attention. In my notebook, I jotted this down in parentheses: "I'd rather be looking at more of the stone's inscription photos right now!"

There wasn't much I could do about missing Hebron-excavation VIP, Jeffrey R. Chadwick who had delivered a paper in another room at the same time as Ron Tappy & Christopher Rollston, but I regret not having exited after Rollston was finished to catch the conclusion of Steven Collins' lecture. It was the biggest mistake I made the whole day. (I hear Cher's voice in my head singing, "If I could turn back time..."

Seth Sanders spoke from 5:18 to 5:45, & in great contrast to David Carr, he spoke in lively, animated tones:

"Nonstate Writing and Early Iron Age Israel: Old Problems and New Connections"

"With the theory of Cultural Evolution -- and its assumptions about literacy and state formation -- subjected to sustained, often devastating critique (see Yoffee, Myths of the Archaic State) are there new ways to meaningfully connect writing and politics in early Iron Age Israel? This paper will first set the Tel Zayit abecedary in the complex history of Syro-Palestinian alphabets and states, then compare it with its typologically closest relative, the paleographically slightly later Gezer calendar. While both texts show features of an emerging inland script well known from Iron IIb Israel and Judah, neither fit crucial features of standardized Classical Hebrew, lacking a bureaucratically regimented alphabetical order and month names. The two inscriptions thus seem to represent a craft tradition not strictly tied to a state bureaucracy. Seen in a larger material context, these texts suggest different ways people may have exercised power over communication and coercion in early Iron Age Syria-Palestine. If neither the Tel Zayit abecedary nor the Gezer calendar are most plausibly products of a state, both shed light on what Israel may have been."

Christopher Rollston passed out a 2-sided handout, one side listing 5 abecedaries with the heading, "Language and (vs?) Writing in Iron Age Hebrew":


Izbet Sartah:

T Zayit:

Majority IA IIb:

Minority IA IIb:

The purpose of this section was to highlight the swapped pairs (wh, hz, lk, & p`).

The other side of the handout contained "The Main Ideas":

I) What do Zayit & Gezer represent? Issues of evidence
__A) Alphabetic order
____i) T Zayit: more features in common with pre-Israelite than Known IAIIb orders.
____ii) Ayin-peh order is not found in standard Ugaritic abecedaries; may originate through influence from another order altogether.
____iii) Zayit not a well-standardized order.
__B) Calendrical order
____i) Gezer calendar is not that of a bureaucracy or a state
______a) Writers employed by states organize time into countable units
________1) Discrete, even units for taxation & logistics
________2) Named, either ordinally or through proper nouns (Early Mesopotamia examples; Solomon's 12-month cycle for tribute)
__C) Early linear alphabetic is nonstate writing
____i) Much early alph writing is indecipherable, either gibberish or non-Semitic
____ii) No evidence of anything "curricular" beyond abecedaries before late IAIIb
____iii) Ugarit too shows little alphabetic curriculum (contra Hawley RAI 51)
II) Links between writing & the state: Questions from history & theory
__A) Do you need a state to mass produce writing?
__B) Do you need a state to organize large-scale economic & military activity?
____i) Mari military organization
____ii) EBA nomadic copper-smelting 'factories' in Faynan of Jordan (R Adams)
____iii) Judean mercantile system of weights (Raz Kletter)
III) New ways of connecting writing & political order in IA Israel
__A) How did linear alphabetic writing & scribalism survive LB/IA transition?
__B) scattered elite patronage (Byrne (BASOR 2007))
____i) survival of hieratic
____ii) a small-scale, adaptable craft tradition not allied to language or regime
__C) emergence of curriculum in the Levant
____i) Kuntillet Ajrud: practice texts at emergence of written Hebrew
____ii) hieratic & alphabetic scribalism are what survived LBA/IA transition, not what are being created by state now
__D) emergence of history in the Levant (Nadav Na'aman, Mark S. Smith)
____i) idea of royal first-person inscriptions taken from Assyria?
______a) early to mid c9 Assyrian inscriptions in Syria
______b) mid to late c9 alphabetic inscriptions local kingdoms first using own scripts
____ii) How did the state start to speak through the linear alphabet?
______a) adaptation of alphabetic writing is recruitment by state, but also way to help create the state by making it visible (Byrne's "cosmetics of statecraft")

[Note that I took the liberty of correcting his unusual bulleting from 1.a.i.1.a.i. to I.A.i.a.1.]

He spoke at length about the Moabite Stone, which he said "ventriloquizes" Mesha. I thought that was quite clever.

When discussing the Gezer Calendar, he noted 1Kings 4:7--"victuals, each man his month", & noted that the GC "doesn't break time", & groups agricultural activities by 8 months as a "calendar of seasons". He also noted 1Kings 6:38's "month of Bul" as the "2nd month" (though I notice now that the actual Scripture references it from the other annual starting point as the 8th month). And he also pointed out that the Arad ostraca name days, "not numbers of months".

Towards the end of his time limit, Ron Tappy held up a sign indicating that he had 5 minutes remaining, which Dr. Sanders humorously interpreted as an Olympics-competition scorecard & said, "Oh, oh--I'm only getting a 5 out of 10..." Then he read faster, & the only other point I captured was, "You don't need a state for writing."

I did drift a bit mentally, & noted to myself how cool it was to just sit there & soak in the fact that I was there experiencing this day, & in this particular session surrounded by prominent names such as Hershel Shanks, Robert Deutsch, Aren Maier, Oded Borowski, Jane Cahill, Ron Tappy, & P. Kyle McCarter (& probably others--I would very much have liked to just stand up in between the Carr & Sanders switchover, & eyeball everyone's name tag to see if any other VIPs were there).

G.M. Grena

Thursday, November 29, 2007

ASOR 2007 (p. 14)

"The Tel Zayit Abecedary in the Context of Ancient Literacy and Education" session began promptly at 4:15. It was the most highly anticipated lecture of the day for me because of the work I had done to produce a detailed drawing of the stone's inscriptions during the 2 preceding weeks. In hindsight, the day had been so full of wonderful moments & interesting encounters, that it was nigh impossible for the session to exceed the high expectations I had conceived for it.

Dr. Ron Tappy, professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary & director of Zeitah/Zayit excavations, presided over the session, & delivered a 15-minute paper, "The Archaeological Context of the Tel Zayit Abecedary and Why That Context is Important".

This was the first time I had seen him since my only other (very brief) meeting with him at PTS over 4 years ago, 2 years before this monumental discovery had been made. Naturally, it was far more interesting to see/hear him now that he had become a celebrity due to the international publicity over the abecedary. I thought of how exciting it must have been to hear archeological celebrities of the past lecture on their important discoveries like Clermont-Ganneau translating the Siloam Inscription, or Marston lecturing on the Lachish Letters, or Biran lecturing on the Dan/David Stela. I had heard reports of the standing-room-only crowd at his 2005 ASOR lecture announcing the discovery, & somewhat surprisingly, the room this year was only about half full (or half empty depending on your disposition).

His abstract represents his lecture well, despite the fact I don't have the plethora of color photos (beginning with this one of the site as it was found in 1996 covered with grass) & maps to show you here as he did during the lecture:

"The borderland site of Tel Zayit lies in the Nahal Guvrin in the lowlands district of Judah. Near the conclusion of the 2005 excavation season at the site, The Zeitah Excavations recovered a large stone bearing an incised, two-line inscription. The special importance of the stone derives not only from its archaic alphabetic text (a twenty-two-letter abecedary), but also from its well-defined archaeological context in a structure dating securely to the tenth century B.C.E. Much of the epigraphic evidence available today has come from compromised archaeological contexts (e.g., the unstratified Gezer Calendar) or has no known provenance data at all (e.g., almost all the inscribed arrowheads from Lebanon). That the Tel Zayit stone, by contrast, comes from a well-preserved destruction level helps to anchor in a specific time period the conclusions drawn from an independent palaeographic analysis of the inscription itself. Together, the archaeological and palaeographical data enhance our general understanding of the material culture and history of southern Canaan in the tenth century B.C.E. The Tel Zayit Abecedary represents the linear alphabetic script of central and southern Canaan at the beginning of the first millennium B.C.E., a transitional script that developed from the Phoenician tradition of the early Iron Age and anticipated the distinctive features of the mature Hebrew national script." [Sorry, I couldn't resist doing the yummy kosher link again!]

You could tell he'd given this same essential lecture numerous times over the past couple of years, because he delivered it fluidly; it was filled with facts, & I was not able to keep pace in my notebook. One important quote I did get, though not completely in context, was "If it had been found in Beirut, it would be considered Phoenician." He was quoting someone else who had analyzed the inscription, & his point was emphasizing the importance of having found it in a known location, & in a stratigraphically sealed context. It's a very important quote that I'll refer to again when I get around to P. Kyle McCarter's rebuttal/response at the end of this session.

Another tidbit I found interesting was his map showing the 3 major valleys in this region. The abstract mentioned Guvrin, but there is also the Elah & Lachish, & Prof. Tappy noted this region "fits in nice with Joshua 15". For details, see this section of his overview on, where he elaborates:

"This convergence of geological and archaeological history appears to correlate well with the outline given in Joshua 15:33-44 of districts and cities belonging to the biblical tribe of Judah. Here, the settlements of the Shephelah, or 'lowland', area are organized into three geographical groups that follow roughly the Elah (vv. 33-36), Lachish (vv. 37-41), and Guvrin (vv. 42-44) systems."

(For students abroad wishing for excellent photos of this region, you need look no further than Prof. Todd Bolen's Pictorial Library of Bible Lands CD vol. 4.)

He briefly mentioned strata at the site dated as follows:
  • late 9th

  • early 9th

  • mid-to-late 10th (the one containing the abecedary)

  • (at last a 200-year occupation gap)

  • 13th

  • 14th

  • 16th-15th

  • 17th-16th

In closing, he mentioned that Aaron Demsky would be presenting a lecture the following morning on the abecedary, but Aren Maeir, who was seated directly across the aisle to my right, interjected that Prof. Demsky cancelled his appearance; & Prof. Tappy stated that he was aware of that, & that someone else would be reading his paper on his behalf.

Christopher Rollston was next, & if Prof. Tappy was "fluid", Prof. Rollston could best be described as "oil on a Teflon-coated surface"! During the first half of his presentation, he read his paper with a slide of the Lachish-Step Abecedary ("ABGDE"), & during the second half, he improvised while showing numerous slides of inscriptions. In both formats, my ballpoint pen was smokin' trying to keep up! Here's the title & terse abstract:

"Literacy, the Phoenician and Hebrew Script Series, and the Tel Zayit Abecedary"

"With the Tel Zayit Abecedary as its Ausgangspunkt, this presentation will focus on definitions of literacy, the Sitz im Leben of literacy in ancient Israel, and the process of the development of Old Hebrew "script isographs" (vis a vis the Phoenician Mutterschrift)."

Here are my notes verbatim (still smoldering a little) so you can get some of the flavor of his extremely cautionary presentation:

"Zayit is a very important ... hear me loudly & clearly ... Zayit cannot be used as an epigraphic basis ... we can't make affirmations of the number of people ... we can't say they were literate in the region ... [maybe a] student studied in Jerusalem & returned home to Zayit ... we can't say anything about phonological practices ... [it was found] in a secondary or tertiary context ... we can't talk about the aegis that produced it ... we can't talk about the non-aegis ... [its] sitz im leben is not known ... [nonetheless, it's a] very important piece of the literary puzzle ... just because we have a date[d artifact], we do not have a literate society ... 'writing system' & 'literacy' are not related..."

Dropping his script, he turned to his slideshow & finally addressed the Lachish Step, pointing out that Alefs were not normally smaller than Bets & Dalets; in other words, if this were the only abecedary we had, it would be wrong to believe that this was their normal size relationship. An excellent point.

He showed the late-11th to early-10th century Azarba'al Spatula & highlighted its "very vertical" Mem constructed with 5 strokes, its Kaf trident lacking a downstroke, & its "boxy" Bet & Het.

He showed the Ahiram Sarcophagus, noting that the final stroke of the Mem "is lengthening", the Het is "still boxy", & the Kaf is a full trident.

He showed the Yehimilik & Eliba'al Byblian inscriptions, Shipitba'al (10th/9th centuries) with additional lengthening of the letters, the Nora Stone (late 9th century) described as "colonial Phoenician" with the Mem "a little more horizontal", & a Kaf showing "elongation".

At this point he emphasized that the Zayit abecedary "reflects" the Phoenician script, & he wanted to make it clear that he differs with P. Kyle McCarter on this.

He also showed the Kefar Vradim inscription (on a bowl), an archaic script of the 10th century, & the one from el Kerak, but as he was running out of time, he skipped right over his photos of the Gezer Calendar & the famous Tell Fakhariyeh Statue.

His final commentary was on the City of David Stone (which I was not familiar with; IAA # 1986-394, Reg G 4809), & this slide bore the caption, "Rollston's Drawing". It remained on the screen after he finished speaking, so I was able to draw all 14 letters; I was not able to find any reference to it using Google, so if anyone knows of a drawing of it online or a web page describing/discussing it, please let me know; otherwise, I might be persuaded to publish my drawing of his drawing.

Steve Feldman had passed out a photocopy of "Fig. 45 The stele of Kilamu king of Yadi" (p. 55 from an uncredited book) at the beginning of Prof. Rollston's segment, but I don't recall him ever addressing it specifically. I've studied this one before, & am frustrated that I can't remember off the top of my head how the 4 icons at the top of inscription are translated--the helmet, the yoke, the winged light (a.k.a. "sun disk"), & the crescent moon.

Next up, David Carr & Seth Sanders. Nice, knowledgeable guys, but be sure to tank up on caffeine beforehand...

G.M. Grena

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

ASOR 2007 (p. 13)

Shawn Bubel began the next lecture I attended, "The Late Bronze-Iron Age Transition at Tel Beth-Shemesh: New Finds from the Northern Slope".

Working backwards in time, downwards through strata, he showed evidence for 3 olive-oil installations & animal pens situated inside the city in strata 4 (1050-950) & 5 (1100-1050), a pillar-base patrician house with gold jewelry in stratum 6 (1150-1100), a bronze ball weight & painted chalice in stratum 7 (1200?-1150; sorry, I wasn't writing quick enough to get the other dates; that's the reason for the question marks), a donkey burial in stratum 8 (1250?-1200?), & a kitchen in the northeast square of stratum 9 (1300?-1250?). (He focused on the Late Bronze & Early Iron ages, but gave the following dates for the 3 earlier strata: 3) 950-800, 2) 800-701, 1) 650-635. The published abstract began by mentioning the earlier strata:

"An undisturbed stratigraphic sequence of five successive strata, spanning the transition from the Late Bronze to the Iron Age has been exposed during the 2004-2006 seasons of the renewed excavations at Tel Beth-Shemesh. This sequence complements earlier work (1990-1996) at the northern slope of the site that concentrated on the Iron Age I levels, and provides a vivid picture of Canaanite cultural continuity in the northern Shephelah from late 13th to early 10th centuries BCE. The main feature of the excavated area is a series of well-preserved spacious buildings. In the earliest building exposed thus far (dating from the end of 13th century) a donkey burial, presumably a foundation deposit or a testimony for another Canaanite sacrificial ritual, was found under the floor. Nearby, a typical lamp-and-bowl deposit was exposed under a door's threshold. Later building phases indicate normal development leading peacefully from the Late Bronze settlement to the Iron Age one. These finds contradict the paradigmatic picture of destruction and change painted by the Haverford expedition in its 1928-1933 excavations at Tel Beth-Shemesh. The search for the northern confines of the Late Bronze/Iron I settlement lead to another important discovery - the massive Middle Bronze Age city-wall, first exposed by D. Mackenzie in 1911-12. Sections of the wall and its gate were revealed in a southern area of the mound in 2001-2005, but the northern section was hidden from modern scholarship for almost a century."

[Note: In the middle of this lecture, my black-ink pen expired, & I switched to blue. This, in combination with the stressful decisions between the lectures, the stress over what to say & do in the midst of these eminent scholars, & the mad rush between lectures mentioned in my previous blog, caused me to start sweating to the point where I wrote a note that my underarm deodorant had also expired, & I wanted to remind myself to apologize to everyone I encountered thereafter or who had the misfortune of sitting near me that evening!]

After Bubel had spoken for 10 minutes, he turned the podium over to Dale Manor, who focused strictly on the curious donkey burial. It had lived about 4 years, & its spine had been broken in 2 places. He showed photos of it & other similar burials from elsewhere.

He ended up listing 4 possible explanations for it:

1) Maybe it just died that way. He rejected this possibility since a regular death would not have been cause for burying it inside the city.

2) Maybe it was offered as a ritualistic sacrifice. Again, the context of its location gave no evidence to substantiate this, so he rejected it.

3) He noted that Level 8 followed a destruction level, & this donkey could've been related to a covenant or treaty such as one found at Shechem. He considered this a valid option.

4) Another valid possibility might have been related to Exodus 13:13:

"And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck; & all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem."

Being an ASOR conference filled with scholars who believe Exodus was composed during or after the late Iron Age as a piece of fiction, he did not emphasize the possibility that its source material could've been written in the Late Bronze or Early Iron ages (i.e., the time of this burial).

He concluded his very interesting, & well-organized 15-minute presentation with the question: "Who were these people?"

This turned out to be a fun session! When I noticed my long-time LMLK penpal, Dr. Robin J. DeWitt Knauth, I totally forgot about my earlier plan to race back upstairs & catch Chang-Ho Ji! She's one of the few professors in the world who knows the importance of LMLK handles, & emphasizes them in one of the classes she teaches. The last time we had spoken, she had just returned from excavations in Cyprus. She introduced me to David Price, who had participated in the excavation of the famous Gezer city-gate in the 1970s. I also chatted with her after the next lecture, & when we parted, I told her I hoped to cross paths with her again the following week at the SBL conference. She doubted that would happen since her area of interest was limited/specialized, but we actually did meet on the final day I was there, & it turned out to be extremely fortunate too! More about that later...

I followed Aren Maeir outside the lecture hall, grabbed one of his arms, twisted it up behind his back, slammed him against a wall, & demanded at the top of my voice that he autograph his premier article on Safi in an old BAR magazine for me! ... The crowd gasped... OK, so maybe I just asked him politely, & he acquiesced without a struggle! I try to make this blog a little interesting...

He had been chatting with another LMLK penpal whom I had looked forward to meeting--Oded Borowski, co-excavator of Tell Halif (Biblical Rimmon). It was nice to greet him; he had already autographed a magazine for me via mail a few years ago.

I meandered over to the room for the Zayit Stone session & met Steven Feldman, web editor for the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS). I find it a highly suspicious coincidence, but when I introduced myself, his reaction was nearly identical to that of Hershel Shanks (BAS founder, BAR magazine editor) earlier in the day: "Not to offend, but I thought you were older!"

I got a big kick out of this! But is it really such a crime to be immature? Anyway, I surprised him by asking for his autograph (everyone who publishes LMLK material is a celebrity to me); he authored a nice article about LMLK VIP, Avraham Biran--excavator of Aroer, in the Jan/Feb 2002 issue of BAR (vol. 28 #1). This is a very special issue because it appeared right at the time I decided to construct the LMLK Research website. If I recall correctly, this was the first entire LMLK handle in color that I had seen up to that point (a spectacular Z2U--see p. 53).

I had just finished explaining to him my quest for Mr. Shanks' signature, & my encounter with him earlier in the day (& another where he walked so briskly, I could hardly keep pace), when in he walked. Earlier in the day, he had tripped over me while passing through an aisle, so this time when he approached me to speak to Steve, I stood up, even though he wasn't actually going to sit there--he just wanted to instruct a lady regarding photos. I showed him my copy of the first issue of BAR (March 1975), & as he was signing it for me, Steve was surprised to see one, & asked if it was just a copy. I quickly said, "No, it's an original," & Mr. Shanks said, "We never made any copies of it."

G.M. Grena

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

ASOR 2007 (p. 12)

I patiently waited for Douglas Clark to finish, & at 3:10 Randall Younker was introduced.

My reason for attending was simply that he's published 2 LMLK-related articles (BA vol. 48 #3, September 1985; Ministry vol. 64 #7, July 1991). His 1985 article made a small LMLK connection with the Clark's topic, "Israel, Judah, and Ammon and the Motifs on the Baalis Seal from Tell el-'Umeiri". The scheduled subject of Younker's lecture was "Fifteen Years at Tall Jalul":

"This presentation will review the results of the half dozen seasons of excavations at Tall Jalul, Jordan conducted between 1992 and 2007. It will begin with a description of the history of research at the site in the context of the broader research goals of the original Tall Hisban Excavation Project and its successor, the Madaba Plains Project. It will then describe the specific finds at Jalul proper, including remains from the Bronze Ages, the Iron Age I, Iron Age II and the Persian periods. It will also attempt to set these discoveries within the broader historical and cultural contexts of both Trans- and Cisjordan."

But as it turns out, he announced that he was going to switch topics, & instead present a 5-line (actually 6) ostracon discovered this past summer at Jalul. ... At least that's what he said at the opening.

Of all the speakers I heard throughout the ASOR & SBL conferences, Dr. Younker was hands-down the clearest speaker, a deep voice that flowed at just the right pace. Were he not a scholar/professor/archeologist, he'd easily be able to make a living as a salesman or motivational speaker! The only problem was that, having baited us on the discovery, we had to endure a 15-minute speech thanking everybody associated with the excavation. It was a textbook example of how to overstay your welcome during your acceptance speech at an awards ceremony. The session itself was titled, "The Madaba Plains Project After 40 Years [part] I", & it truly felt like we were reliving a good majority of that time!

He was very enthusiastic about sincerely wanting to express his appreciation to all the people (& I do mean all in every sense of the word) who helped with the excavation project, so I don't fault him for that; I just think it would've been more appropriate to plan it out a little better, & reserve that many details for an occasion where he's lecturing for a couple of hours on the "big picture" rather than 15 minutes on a single aspect of it. I think the problem was that because of the exciting ostracon discovery causing him to deviate from his planned lecture, he ended up going down a side road & simply lost track of time.

Sorry, but I didn't find much worth noting, aside from one anecdote regarding the daughter of the owner of Tall Jalul. The first day he was setting up the excavation equipment at the site, a chauffer-driven luxury automobile came racing right up the side side of the mound, & out stepped the owner demanding to know what was going on. To save 15 minutes of your life, Dr. Younker ended up convincing him that the excavation had scientific merit, & the man--who was quite elderly & has since died--brought his daughter on the next visit, & put her in Younker's care as part of the excavation team.

At 3:25 he introduced Dr. Roy Gane, who gave an excellent technical presentation of the ostracon. First he showed an undoctored photo of it, then using Photoshop, he demonstrated how he could increase its contrast to emphasize the letters, then he completely erased its background color leaving only the black-ink letters against a plain white background. Amazingly, it looked like a professional drawing of the object, but whereas a drawing could be subject to minor misrepresentations of the data, this was still the actual photo we were looking at.

It was written in "Ammonite cursive script", & because of my position in the far back of the room, & because some of the words were foreign names, the following transcription is definitely not 100% accurate, but until the formal publication comes out, it will at least give interested individuals a general idea of the content:
  1. 20 Son of Aba 4

  2. 20 Hallas son of Abtu ab?

  3. 20 Haila 3

  4. Nama son of Amaya 1 seah

  5. 20 Beqal son of Edu 2 seahs

  6. 'Awal

The quantity of "20" is a single Egyptian Hieratic symbol, & the obvious context is a rations list, as "seah" is an ancient volume measure for dry food. Unfortunately, it was 3:31, & I had to exit in the middle of Dr. Gane's discussion of the text to go back downstairs for what I thought would be a more important topic. It's a double-bummer because as I proceeded to the door, I walked in front of Chang-Ho Ji, & that was the last time I saw him, so in hindsight, I regret not having stayed to introduce myself & get him to autograph his landmark NEASB publication.

On my way downstairs, I walked past Steven Collins, excavator of Tall el-Hammam (who believes it to be Biblical Sodom; & a very good candidate, I might add, for those who believe the Dead Sea is tens of thousands of years old, even though Genesis 14:3 seems to indicate that it used to be a valley dry enough to stage a battle in) talking to LMLK VIP Jeff Zorn, who is the leading authority on the site of Tell en-Nasbeh, Biblical Mizpah--#5 on the LMLK corpus.

So there I stood. I had just made 1 tough decision to leave the interesting presentation of the ostracon, made a 2nd tough decision to continue leaving even though I saw a LMLK VIP sitting there, & now had to decide whether to proceed to the next lecture, or stay & wait to greet my LMLK friend, Dr. Collins (who's also curator of the Museum of Archaeology & Biblical History), & possibly get Dr. Zorn to autograph my foundational issue of BAR magazine that Jane Cahill had already inscribed for me last month.

As it turns out, these 2 gentlemen were talking & in a rush. I stood there staring for a minute waiting to see what would happen, & then they finished speaking & went separate ways. Dr. Zorn disappeared toward the hotel lobby, & Dr. Collins happened to be coming my way. It was great to see him again--it's been about 3 & a half years since I photographed the handles under his care there. I recall having to make a similarly difficult decision to finish my photography while he was lecturing in a nearby museum hall. Here's the title & abstract of the presentation he'd be giving about an hour later (notice that it does not refer directly to the Bible or Sodom):

"Tall el-Hammam: A Key Witness to the Archaeology and History of the Southern Jordan Valley, Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations from the '06/'07 Excavation Season

This paper overviews the activities and discoveries of the Tell el- Hammam Excavation Project in Jordan, Season Two, from December 22, 2006 through February 5, 2007 (Collins 2007). The author is the Project Director. Although much speculation has surrounded Tall el-Hammam's stature and occupational history, until recently very little work had been accomplished at the site other than surface sherding (Ibrahim, Sauer, Yassine 1988) and extremely limited probing on the lower tall (Prag 1991). As a result, theories abounded as to the nature and relative importance of the site, but the upper tall, which contained the bulk of the stratigraphy beyond the Early Bronze Age, remained untouched. Excavation through Season Two has now revealed several phases from Iron Age II, replete with both residential and monumental architecture, and significant indications of a Middle Bronze Age city fortified by a massive mudbrick/earthen rampart system, a segment of which has been exposed to a height of six meters, revealing about nine meters of its outer 30, a glacis. Artifacts suggest that grain and textile production were among the city's principle economic activities. With its footprint spreading as much as a square kilometer, the collective occupations of Tall el-Hammam--from at least the EBA through the MBA, then during the late Iron Age attest to its position as the dominant urban center in the southern Jordan Valley, except for an extended occupational hiatus between the MBA and Iron II (cf. Flanagan, McCreery, Yassine 1994).

We exchanged pleasantries in under a minute--both in a hurry to go somewhere--& I told him I would not be able to attend his lecture (again) later that evening since I absolutely had to be in a parallel session for the Zayit Stone. Or so I thought...

G.M. Grena

Monday, November 26, 2007

ASOR 2007 (p. 11)

After Dr. Faust's fabulous lecture, I went back upstairs to catch part of an equally interesting session with Lawrence T. Geraty presiding. Unfortunately, I had missed his 10-minute intro, & Larry G. Herr's 25-minute presentation of "The Early Bronze, Middle Bronze, and Iron II at Tall al-`Umayri".

I had hoped to meet Dr. Herr at some point during the conferences so I could show him a copy of his 1978 dissertation book I own, "The Scripts of Ancient Northwest Semitic Seals", which is the complimentary copy he originally gave to his professor, Frank Moore Cross, Jr. The dedicatory inscription in red ink reads, "Frank, Thanks for your help and support. It's your book as well as mine. Larry". Since now it's my book, I had hoped to get him to autograph p. 80, which contains the following entry in a list of "Formal & Semi-Formal Hebrew Seals":

11. lmlk Stamped Jar Handles--Last half of 7th c.
Inscriptions Reveal, nos. 80-90.

While he was signing it, I would've asked him if he still believed that date, & would've asked him to cross it out & correct it. But alas! Such an encounter was not to be.

And it wouldn't have been the first handwritten correction. While he owned it, Dr. Cross made several notes in black ink.

On the front end papers: "J. Naveh, BASOR 239 (1980)"

[As an interesting sidenote, P. Kyle McCarter, Jr. autographed my copy of BASOR 239 several years ago the first time I met him; it contains his analysis of "The Balaam Texts from Deir `Alla". It also contains "Paleography & the Identification of Seal Owners" by Larry G Herr. It's less than 3 pages long, but along with drawings & a paleography table describes 5 very important items: "The bulla of Berechiah the Son of Neriah the Scribe", "The Bulla of Jerahmeel the Son of the King", "The Seal of Seriah (the Son of) Neriah", "The Seal of Manasseh the Son of the King", & "The Seal of Jehoahaz the Son of the King". He treats them as authentic, & writes, "these inscriptions offer a convenient test of the paleographic dating procedures refined primarily by Frank M. Cross & supplemented by my paleographic treatment of the Northwest Semitic Iron Age seals (Herr 1978)." Cool!]

Seal #62 on p. 34: Herr's reading is "sm'b", but for some strange reason, Prof. Cross slashed out the "m" & wrote another "m" in the margin. Herr's description mentions it being a "double-L mem", & maybe Cross thought it was a single Lamed rather than a Mem.

In the description of Seal #28 on p. 68, he underlined "third quarter of the 7th c.", & in Seal #29 on p. 69, he underlined "a date more in the M 7th c."

Next to Seal #131 on p. 137, which is listed as "L 8th c.", he wrote in pencil in the margin: "poor drawing, mid eight, see Diringer"

Also in pencil, he circled 4 Yods in the Hebrew Script table (Fig. 49; #15, 16, & two 17s).

In seal drawing #4 in Fig. 54, he wrote in pencil, "Uzziah"; he drew a plus-mark above #52 (a Personal seal from Beth Shemesh) in Fig. 57.

Fig. 66 contains a table of Dalets & Heys, & he commented on 5 of these Heys:

He circled #108 & wrote "yrmyw", which differs from Herr's "yrmyhw"; in other words, I guess he felt this was a phantom Hey.

He wrote a question mark next to the #45 Hey.

He circled #85 & wrote "-dlh".

He circled #65.

On the top intersection of both #88 & #6 Heys, he drew a squiggly line through it, & wrote "no."

In Fig. 69, he circled #67 Yod.

In my very own anal-retentive spirit, he drew a black-ink slash through the redundant "E" in the heading of Fig. 75: "MOABITEE SEALS"

In #5 Phoenician Seal on p. 175, he circled the last 2 letters of "lb`lytn 's'l m's lmlqrthy", & wrote "bsm ! Bordreuil, Religio Phoenicia". Then under the drawing for this seal in Fig. 94, he drew his own version of the Phoenician letters for the bottom line of the seal, & again modern Latin "bsm" next to them. This is WSS #719, described by Avigad/Sass as "LBOL YTN AS AL M AS LMLQ RTR$P" or "Belonging to Ba`al-yaton, the man of God, who belongs to Melqartrsp". Here they are side-by-side for research purposes only:

Herr clearly drew the middle letter in the bottom line as a 3-bar Het, followed by a single letter he interpreted as a Yod. Cross drew the middle letter as a Bet, followed by a Tsade & apparently a Mem. This ancient letter looks more like a Pay/Fay to me than a Mem (which would agree with Avigad/Sass), but it sure looks like he wrote bsM or possibly bsR in Latin.

Finally, in Appendix C--Names Occurring on the Seals, he made red dash marks beside "gbrd, hd`dr, & hdtkl"; underlined Hebrew seal #s 41, 70, 82, 150 for "hgy"; underlined Hebrew seal #s 101 for "yw`mn" & 30 for "ywbnh"; & added "yw'b" in black ink in the margin, & inserted in pencil an entry for "yhwqm".

Back to the ASOR conference, I entered Geraty's session in the middle of Douglas R Clark's lecture on "The Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages at Tall al-`Umayri", catching about 13 minutes of it. The only noteworthy part for me was his presentation of 75 large pithoi (135 litres) found in 2 rooms. He showed photos of the meticulous restoration being done on these, & estimated it may take "another decade" to reconstruct them all.

I'm hoping it won't take me a decade to post this entire report, but I'm having fun recording all the details related to my autograph-pursuit adventures...

G.M. Grena

Sunday, November 25, 2007

ASOR 2007 (p. 10)

Next, Avraham Faust gave a presentation entitled simply, "The Tel 'Eton Excavations":

"Tel 'Eton is a large site in the eastern Shephelah, just below the Hebron hill-country. Small-scale salvage excavations were carried out at the site during the 1970's by the Lachish expedition (under David Ussishkin and Eitan Ayalon), and a number of nearby tombs were also excavated in salvage excavations in the past. In the summer of 2006, the new expedition to Tel 'Eton conducted the first season of excavations at the site, and the second season is planned for the summer of 2007. The excavations were preceded by a detailed survey of the tel, which was divided into 39 units; each unit was surveyed separately, and this was followed by shovel-testing. The 2006 excavations were carried out in three areas, and exposed a well-preserved 8th century destruction layer on the higher parts of the site (in two excavation areas), as well as an Iron I level in the western slope, and pits from the Persian-Hellenistic period on the northern slope. The project also includes a survey of the region, in which hundreds of tombs were already identified. The lecture will present the results of the first two seasons of excavations."

Though it's not mentioned in the abstract, Dr. Faust began the lecture by mentioning that the site is generally identified with Biblical Eglon (Joshua 10, 12:12, & 15:39; Judges 3). A few tombs were excavated in the 1900s, & in the 1970s David Ussishkin dug near the upper part of the tel (I was unaware of this).

Again, though the abstract doesn't mention it, a major point emphasized in his discussion was that this region was "extensively robbed during the 70s & 80s". It contains "several thousand caves", of which the thieves have already "uncovered hundreds". He showed photos of holes dug by the robbers, & explained how they clear the caves of their artifacts when they find one.

He mentioned that this site borders on the Highlands region, which compared to the Shephelah itself is a place that contains sites "relatively untouched", so by scientifically excavating Tel Eton, he's "trying to correct this bias."

Thus far his team has surveyed 39 sub-units of what he described as "probably the largest necropolis in Israel". He used a term I had not heard of previously--a "shovel test"--which is apparently the same as an "examination survey", & his presentation included very well-done 3-dimensional illustrations (isometric drawings) & maps.

"90%" of the artifacts recovered are dated to the Iron Age II period, but he stated there were none belonging to the 7th century due to a destruction layer dated to the "late 8th". Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, & Mamluk items comprised the remaining 10%.

The most interesting one for me was a completely intact jar of the "LMLK family", but without any seal impressions on its handles. The tops of 2 more were found below it, but as it was late in the excavation season, & because they wanted to pay particular attention to the meticulous recovery of them, he decided to cover them back up & do a careful job of removing them next year.

Of particular importance were the traces of jar-contents found--lentils, olives, wheat, grapes, & garlic--though none were actually in the vessels.

Overall it was an excellent lecture. Unlike most, he spoke from his extensive knowledge rather than reading a paper, but had to speed up near the end of his time limit, & he went rapidly past a slide showing a magnificent jar handle stamped with an iconic impression of a person.

I had wanted to speak to Dr. Faust afterwards to ask about any LMLK handles found at the site during earlier surveys reported in Andy Vaughn's corpus; but alas, I left, & our paths never crossed during the subsequent days at the conferences.

G.M. Grena

Saturday, November 24, 2007

ASOR 2007 (p. 9)

At 2:00, Aren Maeir began his lecture with several VIPs in attendance I recognized: Hershel Shanks (chowin' down on a Kit Kat), William Dever, Oded Lipschits, Zvi Lederman, & Lawrence Stager. David Ilan presided over the session, & introduced Dr. Maier with some complimentary remarks about his contributions to the establishment of Biblical Archeology as a respectable science department at Bar-Ilan University, thereby making it a "premier" institution in this regard.

I don't know who said it--possibly Lederman or Lipschits--but one of them quickly interjected, "Tel Aviv University protests [this statement]!" which was greeted with much laughter, but David Ilan just as quickly overruled them by saying, "Tel Aviv University can protest all it likes, [but since I'm presiding over this session, we're going to move right along...]"

Very funny stuff, which is why it's a shame they don't record these sessions. Interludes like this make the discussion all the more interesting, but it's completely absent from textbooks & journals. Pity.

Here's the lecture title & abstract:

"The MB, LB and Iron Age levels at Tell es-Safi/Gath: Update for the 2006 and 2007 seasons"

"During the 2006 and 2007 seasons at Tell es-Safi/Gath, strata dating to the Middle Bronze, Late Bronze and Iron Ages were uncovered. In this presentation I will present a preliminary description of these finds, including: first evidence of the MB II fortifications at the site; an additional Egyptian heiratic [sic] inscription dating to the end of the Late Bronze Age; early Iron Age (Philistine) remains, including hearths, an apparent Philistine cemetery; Iron Age II remains, including a unique bone tool workshop. The finds will be described and their cultural and historical significance will be discussed."

Until I started writing this blog, I had totally forgotten about his discovery of an exceptional cylinder seal with a lion portrayed like the one on the famous stamp-seal of "Shema, servant of Jeroboam" (WSS #2) from Megiddo. We were privileged to see it because I'm not aware of it even appearing on his own blog yet; he said it had been found the previous week. It's strictly iconic--no inscription--& dates to the Early Bronze III period (if my notes are correct). When he first looked at it, he didn't recognize any design on it, but after rolling an impression in Silly Putty, it was obvious (& quite impressive).

[Speaking of Silly Putty (i.e., something malleable that's easy to poke holes in), I'm going to insert a gratuitous editorial paragraph in here. For those not familiar with the Bible or with Minimalists or liberal theologians in general, the books of Judges & 2Chronicles were allegedly the works of liars with vivid imaginations who used the names of real people & real places to promote a fictitious history for a fictitious deity Who never really created anything & never really communicated with anyone. Amazingly, these writers were able to get an entire community to believe it was genuine, treat it as a sacred writing, build their lives around it, & promulgate it faithfully for over 2,000 years. End of editorial.]

Prof. Maeir gave us a great example of an artifact with a name similar to one mentioned in the Bible--an ostracon with Hieratic writing in ink, possibly reading "...El, Prince of Saf...". Though the actual inscription is fragmented, the name may be Saphita or Sephata like those in Judges 1:17 & 2Chronicles 14:10 (or 14:9 if you have a Hebrew Bible) with similar spellings, & it predates the supposed composition of the Bible by centuries (i.e., Bronze Age). For details & formal references, visit his blog entry, "Article on Hieratic Sherd from Safi in new ZDPV".

His lecture proceeded at a swift pace, showing a wide array of photos from the site including an Iron-I-era tabun (i.e., an oven) in Area A. Area T contained a Philistine burial cave, & he noted that very few have ever been found & documented. About 150 people were buried there, & he noted that this should satisfy the skeptical historians who ask, "Where are the dead Philistines?"

He showed several ornaments described as a hanging apparatus--apparent from its perforations--& humorously suggested it may have been "baby Goliath's mobile."

In the Iron-IIA era, the inhabitants expanded the site to the north, & he showed a "bone-tool workshop" featuring bone artifacts in various stages of construction, thereby illustrating what he called a "chaine operatoire" in Iron Age technology.

He closed his 25-minute presentation with his coincidental find of an S4L handle:

This 3rd photo contains the S4L seal template overlaid on the partial impression to show the entire design. Notice the excellent alignment of the scarab icon (especially the faint outlines of the thorax & elytra) relative to the bottom of the Mem, & the top of the Vau; just a little skewing makes the Shin & right wings appear wider than the template.

[Another editorial: I constructed this seal template primarily from several S4L handles containing ancient Israelite inscriptions purchased from IAA-licensed antiquities dealers, & exported with IAA-permits to me in beautiful downtown America. Every time I place these templates over specimens excavated from IAA-controlled scientific excavations like this, they always end up matching relatively well (allowing for a small amount of skewing due to the curvature of the jar handle &/or deformation of the clay &/or the plane of the impression not necessarily being perfectly parallel to that of the camera lens). Imagine that--a scientifically precise/accurate drawing that can be used freely by scholars around the world, made by an antiquities collector in a foreign country who likes to ride a bicycle & whistle at attractive ladies--who would've guessed?!]

You cannot imagine what a thrill it was for me to be able to attend a lecture by a principal archeologist announcing the discovery of one of these handles to his peers! And especially at such an important site so near to one with the very name of Biblical Sokoh! Truly a Wow-Day for me!

The 5-minute Q&A session began with Dr. Larry Stager, seated directly behind me, doing his best to rain on Maier's informative parade by asking, "When will we see Mycenaean 3 that will prove it's Gath? When [will you find Mycenaean 3 artifacts] in-situ with strata & occupation [evidence]?", thereby implying that all of the great P.R. work Prof. Maier has done may be premature. He began to reply with a pacifying reassurance, "It's there, it's just a matter of...", & Stager humorously interjected "...finding it?" After some laughter, Prof. Maeir listed several examples of Mycenean material already found at the site.

[Another editorial: I'd like to suggest that if you ever do find this Mycenean-3 stratum that you dump your conventional classification system & name it The Stager Stratum!]

And the final one was a you-had-to-be-there-to-see-and-hear-it-for-yourself-to-believe-it question, "Does that Goliath shard actually contain the name of Goliath?" This was a sincere person, but it shows how some people, even though they are savvy enough to attend an in-crowd event like this ASOR conference, simply don't do any of their own research, & get swayed by hearsay & misinformed media reports (like those who believe it's illegal to export any inscribed artifact from Israel). Prof. Maeir calmly (much more calmly than I would've been) reassured them that the artifact is "not Goliath for sure."

After reading his fun blog for so many months, & eating my heart out every time he describes one of his lectures, it was totally fulfilling to be able to see/hear one in person! Thank you so much for visiting California, Prof. Maeir! I'll admire you just the same even if you never find that undisturbed Mycenean-3 layer, or Goliath's skeleton!

G.M. Grena

Friday, November 23, 2007

ASOR 2007 (p. 8)

Following the Q&A when the Kiafa argument transpired, it was about 1pm & there was finally an opportunity to take a break (I had not slowed down since I had awakened around 4am) until the next lecture that was scheduled to begin at 2pm.

On the way out to my car for a snack, I crossed paths with Ms. Cahill again for a few minutes. I told her about the "lame Bet" issue relating to the "Madonna" seal (p. 4 in this series), & also about the terrific/surprising lecture by Carolina Aznar (p. 7).

After the snack, I went back in, & as I passed by the booksellers' room, I noticed Robert Deutsch browsing one of the tables. I managed to corral him into a private area outside where he could autograph some of his publications for me. I told him, too, about Dr. Aznar's amazing discoveries, & showed him some of the drawings I made a few years ago of King Hezekiah's seal designs, that made me inclined to believe there was only 1 "upward-wings" scarab seal. I had tucked these printouts in one of the BAR magazines he signed for me, & had totally forgotten to study my notes in preparation for a discussion such as this. The best I could do was tell him what I believed, & show him the drawings, but I was not prepared to argue the fine points. For those who don't know, he (& everyone else I know) believes there were 2 similar seals, & that you can distinguish them primarily by whether an internal wing/feather-line is dual or single. On another occasion some years ago, Gil Chaya told me that he could easily distinguish the 2 designs by counting these lines.

I began this project in May of 2004 shortly after publishing my first book, & stopped working on it in December of that year. Though I don't want to publish it here (my intention was, & still is, to publish it in a booklet), I don't mind mentioning a few key elements here (blogs are an excellent means by which you can timestamp original ideas for copyright purposes).

Altogether I had photos of 13 different bullae subdivided into 3 groups: HBD-1 thru -4, HBS-1 thru -5, & HC-1 thru -4. "H" stands for "Hezekiah", "B/C" for "beetle" or "circle", & "D/S" for "dual" or "single".

In the booklet, I ask my readers: "Why would an expert lapidary carefully reproduce such tiny details as the inscription letters on these seals without the slightest improvisation, & then completely change a seemingly irrelevant detail such as the feathers? Furthermore, how did he or she manage to do this? The entire width of the seal design is less than a half-inch (about 1 centimeter)!"

After re-reading the rough draft of my booklet just now, I smacked myself in the head for not having remembered for Robert the major reason why there was only 1 seal instead of 2--the seal's icon was cleaned at some point--probably to remove hardened clay & add a little detail to the icon! The inscription & overall outline of the icon are identical on HBD & HBS (that's what I show on my drawings), but the details within the icon are slightly different (the # of lines that Mr. Chaya told me he could count, & the long dual/single middle line as pointed out by Mr. Deutsch in his BAR article).

The color photos I showed Robert Deutsch last week had my drawings of the 2 versions of the 1 seal overlaid on the same bullae proving my theory. It's unfortunate that I was not prepared to give him a convincing presentation--I had packed this magazine (where I've kept the drawings) in my duffel bag along with other publications for VIPs to sign, & never knew they were there till I opened it & said, "Here, sign this! Oh, by the way, here are my drawings of King Hezekiah's seal I worked on a few years ago..."

It's extremely doubtful that anyone attempting to forge a seal for King Hezekiah in the 20th century could have conceived of this rework on the design--they would never have risked such an obvious change. One of the points I was planning to make was that this lends credence to the authenticity of the bullae, but now I'll be able to publish my booklet with even stronger evidence vis-a-vis petrographic analyses.

I regret not having been able to attend Eran Arie & Yuval Goren's lecture on the authenticity of these bullae at the SBL conference (see ANE-2 Message #6379 where he affirmed they were authentic), but I simply couldn't justify spending the whole day for it when I needed to take care of personal matters at home (I only attended 1 day--Thursday--of the ASOR conference, & this one was on Friday). If anyone reading this blog attended, please forward a link to your review of it, or feel free to post your observations in the Comments section. Here's the title & abstract:

"Indelible Impression: The Judahite Correspondence According to Petrographic Analysis of Clay Bullae"

"Judahite papyri were not preserved in the archaeological record and the information contained in them was lost. The bullae, which once sealed these documents, form the only existing evidence of a rich writing tradition that existed during the Iron Age. This paper will present the results of a petrographic study of Judahite bullae from controlled excavations, which can be divided into two main groups. The first comprises some fifty items from Jerusalem, found scattered in a room, which had been destroyed by fire during the Babylonian conquest. The second group is composed of seventeen bullae which were stored in a juglet that was deposited in Stratum II at Tel Lachish. Only few additional bullae were found in recorded excavations in other sites across Judah. Our research focuses on the patterns of the Judahite correspondence during the 7th and early 6th centuries B.C.E. It was aimed at addressing the following questions: a) Can the areas under direct rule from Jerusalem be distinguished by the provenance of the bullae? b) Are certain regions in Judah better represented than others? c) Were all the documents actually sent from the confines of Judah? d) Is there any correlation between private names and the provenance of the bullae? e) Were the bullae stamped with the same name sent from the same place? The identification of the provenance of the bullae shes [sic] light on the administration system of Judah and the political and economic structure of the kingdom of Judah during its final days."

One thing that I was a little more prepared to discuss with Robert Deutsch was my "LADRPA" seal. A near-identical specimen is in his book, "Biblical Period Personal Seals in the Shlomo Moussaieff Collection" (#108 on p. 115; co-authored with Andre Lemaire, whom Deutsch respectfully referred to as "the best").

Here's the interesting part. Their book was published in 2000. I had purchased my version of the seal from Colosseum Coin Exchange, Inc. (a New Jersey mail-bid auction back then) that closed on August 27, 1997 (at 3:00 PM EST if you want to be exact; Auction #96). They're still in business, & have been "since the early sixties" according to their website's Profile page. The proprietors were (are?) Lisa & Ira Teitelbaum, though their names ain't published anywhere on their site, & only their first names are in their catalogs; this always seemed a little suspicious to me.

My seal was lot #469, described as "Tan hardstone seal depicting man standing r.; below pomegranite; [sic] to r. small figure and uncertain objects; to l. script, ca. 1st mil. BC, 23mm--RARE & CHOICE" with a $75 minimum bid, & $250 estimate:

I was the high bidder & purchased it for $133.38 (including the postage, divided among 2 other items I bought from them). Though it's obviously not worth that anymore (their catalog's Terms of Sale allowed only a 90-day window for a dispute, & it would've had to come "from an expert outside of the commercial realm", thereby disqualifying Robert Deutsch, who is an expert inside of said realm), it's still an interesting piece demonstrating that there are people forging seals out there, an operation that's much easier to do than the faking of a LMLK jar handle, which would require building a jar from clay nearly identical with the kind used for the real ones, fashioning it with wheel-turning rings, faking a seal, then stamping & firing the jar, then faking some patina, & finally smashing it & discarding everything but the handles. And one would have to be extremely cautious in carving the seal so that its design matched genuine specimens kept in multiple museums on multiple continents. A rather expensive (& risky) operation when they're apparently available on the surface throughout Israel (according to published excavation surveys). I can say unequivocally that I've never seen any evidence for a fake LMLK handle (though I've heard reports of genuine ones that have been tampered with by the addition of a fake Personal seal).

Upon closer inspection, I can see several telltale signs that someone copied mine from the one in the Moussaieff collection:

  1. The original one is a positive inscription; mine is a complete negative/mirror image of it (in the side-by-side photo above, I mirrored the image of mine--you can easily see that compared to the earlier photo of the entire catalog page); the forger apparently worked from an impression.

  2. The inscription on mine was carved by someone who had no idea what he/she was writing, & it looks more like "HRRE" (I suppose they were in a "hurry"!)

  3. The left & right branches of the pomegranate tree sprout from the base of the vertical branch in the original; on mine, they sprout from the middle.

  4. The main figure's robe in the original contains many detail lines; mine has only a few vertical strokes in the bottom portion (not visible in the photo due to lighting; again, they apparently didn't spend much time working on it).

  5. Whereas the original was probably found in the field broken like this in ancient times, the break intersected what was probably a crescent moon spanning a large portion of the missing region; in mine, the forger faithfully copied the visible portion of the crescent, but improvised 3 strange-looking figures in the missing region.

I had not noticed any of these clues until this meeting with Robert Deutsch, & then scrutinizing it further tonight. We originally corresponded by E-mail about it in March of 2000 coincidentally while his book was still at the printer. I had hoped that maybe by showing it to him in person (I had only provided a photo in 2000) that he might see something that would cause him to change his mind in favor of its authenticity; instead, I saw something new that changed my mind in favor of its fakeness.

I thanked him. He went back to the booksellers, & I moved on to the next lecture...

G.M. Grena

Thursday, November 22, 2007

ASOR 2007 (p. 7)

Before beginning the next entry, I want to advertise a P.S. I attached to the previous entry with a photo of Qeiyafa.

After the upbeat lecture on Kiafa concluded, Carolina Aznar--a complete stranger to me--began her lecture entitled, "Storage Jar Transportation and Exchange Types in the Iron Age II Southern Levant".

I must inform you that, unlike the rest of my posts in this series, I'm deliberately censoring some material in this one at the request of Dr. Aznar. Most of my other reports are on seasoned scholars & archeologists with long track records who've published extensively on their respective subjects. Though most of them are friendly towards me (which is quite an honor), it doesn't really matter to them whether I write about what they do because very few people read my material, & they have no problem getting published in the journal(s) of their choice. On the other hand, Dr. Aznar is not that well established, & wants the opportunity to publish her findings first in a formal manner before I openly discuss & critique them before she's had an opportunity to finalize them. I don't mind complying with her request, because based on the original material she gave us a sneak preview of in this lecture, she's in a great position to lead a new era of LMLK research--& I'm all for that!

Furthermore, since I know she's gonna read this, I want to publicly congratulate her on all her years of hard, studious work on this subject, & I'm thrilled by her ability to forge a new path in this field by thinking so many truly original thoughts, & going where the evidence leads her despite assumptions by the consensus of her academic predecessors. She's a trailblazer in every sense of the word.

So I'll refrain from describing her original-research gems, & everything you read in this blog is going to be based strictly on material already available to the general public on the World Wide Web.

From 2001-2, she was a Research Fellow at the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research (AIAR), then a Samuel H. Kress Fellow from 2002-3, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow from 2005-2006, & received her Ph.D. from Harvard University on "Exchange Networks in the Iron Age II Southern Levant: A Study of Pottery Origin and Distribution". Thereafter she was appointed Professor of Archaeology and Hebrew Bible/Old Testament at St. Louis University's Madrid campus.

All of that is a fancy way of saying that when she speaks on a subject, she knows what she's talkin' about!

The 2003 Annual Report by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation announced her as a Kress Pre-Doctoral Research Fellow for "Phoenician Exports to Ancient Israel: New Light on Biblical History". According to Harvard's Fall 2003 newsletter (vol. 2 #1) for its Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations:

"Her Thesis is a research on the making and distribution of two kinds of pottery vessels found in Iron Age II strata (ca. 1000-586 B.C.E.) from thirteen archaeological sites in the Southern Levant - Hazor, Beth Shean, Rehov, Megiddo, Horvat Rosh Zayit, Tell Keisan, Tell Abu Hawam, Gezer, Tel Batash, Ashdod, Lachish, Beer Sheva and Tel ‘Ira - with a few samples also taken from Akhziv, Tel Michal, Tel Miqne and Ashkelon. The goal of her study is to obtain new knowledge on the economic organization and exchange system of those sites at that time and hence of the Israelite, Phoenician and Philistine societies during the same period. The two types of vessels selected are storage jars and Red Slip Ware thinwalled bowls. The first will provide information on common vessel making and distribution; the latter on luxury vessel making and distribution. During these two years abroad, Carolina studied the typologies of the two types of vessels, analyzed their archaeological context and selected a total of ca. 20-40 samples of vessels from each site for physical examination and petrographic analysis, which permits identification of the origin of manufacture of the clay and inclusions of a vessel by studying a thin section of it under a polarizing microscope. The physical examination was carried out in large part at the storerooms of the Israel Antiquities Authority; the Hazor, Beth Shean, and Rehov expeditions at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and the Megiddo and Lachish expeditions at Tel Aviv University. The petrographic analysis was started at Tel Aviv University under the supervision of Dr. Y. Goren, the leading researcher in Ceramic Petrology in Israel. During her coming academic year, Carolina will continue the petrographic analysis in Cambridge as she completes writing her Thesis."

She's consistently presented on this general topic at each annual ASOR conference:
  • 2003: Storage Jars and Exchanges in the Iron Age II Southern Levant

  • 2004: Storage Jars, Red Slip Ware bowls and Exchanges in the Iron Age II Southern Levant

  • 2005: 8th - 7th Century B.C.E. Wine Storage Jars Exchanged in the Southern Shephelah and Northern Negev

Here's the 2003 abstract:

"The study of storage jars, vessels used as foodstuff containers and carriers, can provide abundant information on the exchanges within and between ancient societies. This paper will present the preliminary results of a typological, contextual and petrographic analysis conducted on a group of Iron Age II storage jars coming from several sites in the Southern Levant, including Tel Keisan, Megiddo, Gezer, Ashdod and others. Through it, a picture of the pottery and foodstuff exchanges within and among the Israelite, Phoenician and Philistine ethnic groups during that period will be proposed."

Here's the 2004 abstract:

"The contrast between the find location and manufacture origin of pottery vessels coming from archaeological excavations provides significant information on the exchanges within and between ancient societies. This paper will present part of the results of a typological, contextual and petrographic analysis conducted on a group of Iron Age II storage jars and Red Slip Ware bowls coming from several sites in the Southern Levant, including Tell Abu Hawam, Meggido, Lachish and Ashdod, among others. The results of this analysis will be used by Ms. Aznar to draw conclusions on the pottery, foodstuff and aesthetic item exchange networks used by the Israelites, the Philistines and the Phoenicians in the Southern Levant during the Iron Age II."

(The 2005 book of abstracts does not contain hers.)

At the 5th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, held 3-8 April 2006, she delivered a paper entitled, "The Phoenician 'Red Slip Ware Thin-Walled Bowls'":

"The 'Red slip ware thin-walled bowls' are delicate, beautiful vessels with walls as thin as 2-3 mm that are mainly found in the Mediterranean Levant and Cyprus dating to ca. 9th - 7th centuries BCE. In the southern Levant, they are one of the finest pottery types of the Iron Age II. Although these vessels were originally called 'Samaria ware bowls' because they were first identified in the Israelite capital city of Samaria, they had long been suspected to be a Phoenician manufacture on stylistic grounds (by scholars such as Bikai, Culican, and Mazar). A petrographic analysis of a group of these bowls from the southern Levant conducted by Aznar has proven most of the bowls were Phoenician indeed. It is probable they imitated metal bowls. In this poster, Aznar presents the refined 'Red slip ware thin-walled bowls' and their appearance, typology, and chronology; the main techniques used to make and decorate them; as well as the likely origin of manufacture of the type on the basis of the petrographic analysis of a group of these bowls from the southern Levant the author has conducted.

The AIAR Fellowship Reports 2005–2006 section of the Spring/Summer 2006 ASOR Newsletter highlighted her work on "Ethnicity and Exchange during the Israelite Monarchic Period":

"During my NEH Fellowship at the Albright Institute this year, I expanded my doctoral research on ethnicity and exchanges during the Israelite Monarchic Period (ca. 1000–586 BCE) and began to prepare my dissertation for publication. As an extension of my doctoral research, I conducted petrographic analyses of storage jars from several sites, including jars from Tel Jemmeh and Tel Miqne. I spent a good part of my time using the library resources of the Albright Institute, the École Biblique, and the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University. In addition to preparing my dissertation for publication, one of the most beneficial aspects of my residence in Jerusalem was the opportunity to present my research results at three research institutes: the W. F. Albright Institute in Jerusalem, the Department of Maritime Civilizations and Archaeology at Haifa University, and the Kimmel Center for Archaeological Science at the Weizmann Institute. In my workshop at the Albright, I gave a general overview of my research results on ethnicity and exchanges during the time of the Israelite Monarchy. In my seminars at Haifa University and the Weizmann Institute, I presented two parts of this research in greater detail: the Phoenician-Philistine exchanges at the former and the centric transfers at the latter. Thanks to these presentations, I was able to get extremely valuable feedback on my research from scholars from all over the region: from archaeologists Sy Gitin, Eilat Mazar, Ayelet Gilboa, Amihai Mazar, Trude Dothan, Sam Wolff, Michal Artzy, and Ezra Marcus to historian Nadav Kashtan, and scientists specializing in laboratory analysis of archaeological data Uzi Smilansky and Steve Weiner. This feedback has widened the scope of my approach in several ways. First, my book has a new chapter on land ownership and trade in the Ancient Near East. Although there is only minimal information available about these aspects of life in ancient Israel, archival material from Mesopotamia provides the requisite background for interpreting the results of my petrographic analyses. Based on this information, I suggest that the Phoenician exports to ancient Israel consisted mostly of wine and that this commercial activity was carried out as a private enterprise. Second, in order to understand the relevance of the analyses of the storage jars in the study of these ancient exchanges, I have also included in my book a discussion on ancient maritime trade and shipwrecks in the eastern Mediterranean. Although the original manuscript of my dissertation included some evidence from several shipwrecks, it became clear that a more detailed discussion on this topic would be necessary in order to fully understand the implications of the shipwreck data. Third, my book also includes an examination of storage rooms excavated in the thirteen major sites studied (Horvat Rosh Zayit, Tell Keisan, Tell Abu Hawam, Rehov, Beth Shean, Megiddo, Gezer, Tel Batash, Lachish, Beersheba, Tel ‘Ira, and Ashdod) in which groups of storage jars have been found. This information provides insights into the scale of commercial exchanges. As a follow-up to my research this year, I plan to expand the scope of my petrographic analysis to include a study of store jars from Philistia and the Iberian Peninsula in order to broaden my analysis of commercial contacts between the eastern and western parts of the Mediterranean Basin."

Albright News #11 (October 2006) announced "A new collaborative project between the Albright and the Complutense University of Madrid has been initiated. This is an extension of the Director’s Neo-Assyrian 7th Century Project which will focus on possible commercial contacts between the eastern and western parts of the Mediterranean Basin in the 7th century. The project will involve petrographic analysis of Philistine and Western Phoenician pottery types which will be carried out by a recent Albright NEH Fellow, Carolina Aznar of the St. Louis University campus in Madrid.

Here again are the sites mentioned above (sorted alphabetically) that were utilized for petrographic analysis:
  • Akhziv

  • Ashdod

  • Ashkelon

  • Beer Sheva

  • Beth Shean

  • Gezer

  • Hazor

  • Horvat Rosh Zayit

  • Lachish

  • Megiddo

  • Rehov

  • Tell Abu Hawam

  • Tel Batash

  • Tel ‘Ira

  • Tel Jemmeh

  • Tell Keisan

  • Tel Michal

  • Tel Miqne

Here's her abstract for this year's ASOR Conference I attended:

"Storage jars are good containers to hold liquid foodstuffs such as olive oil and wine. In the Iron Age II some of these jars were exchanged for the trade of their contents, some were for other purposes. Typological, contextual, and petrographic study of Iron Age II storage jars in the Southern Levant suggests that those which were exchanged for commercial purposes usually had a total weight (i.e., empty jar weight plus capacity weight) lighter than 37 kg. In Aznar's view this relates to the fact that 37 kgs. is the maximum weight which donkeys, the main mountain transportation means, can carry on each side. These jars typically had a cylindrical shape when related to Phoenician sea trade in the 8th-6th centuries BCE, since this shape is well suited for ship transportation. Some of the storage jars exchanged for noncommercial purposes could also have a total weight lighter than 37 kgs., as seems to be the case of the small, two-handled ovoid jars from Beersheba. But frequently they had a total weight heavier than 37 kg., as is the case of the 'Hippo' and the lmlk jars. These must have required the use of carts and good roads to be transported. Either they were transported empty and filled in the place where they were found, as perhaps is the case of the 'Hippo' jars, or they were used in relation to centric transfers rather than to commercial exchanges, as is the case of the lmlk jars."

Throughout her lecture, she utilized a captivating array of illustrations & photos including this one of an H2D handle I purchased from Robert Deutsch:

Imagine that--an unprovenanced artifact sold by an IAA-licensed dealer & exported with an IAA-permit to a private collector in America being used for scientific research--who would've guessed?

(The following discussion regarding this handle has NOTHING to do with Dr. Aznar's paper; I'm only elaborating on it because it was so exciting to see a handle from my collection being used in an important conference presentation by a genuine scholar, for genuine scholars [myself excepted]!)

What makes this one interesting is that due to a fractured section of the clay on the left side of the seal impression, it reveals that the ancient potter added a lump of fresh, wet clay to the already-dry/hardened handle so that the authority could make the seal impression. You can even see the fingerprint-channels on the handle made by the potter as he/she pulled the handle & formed it for attachment to the jar.

Andrew G. Vaughn mentions this phenomenon in his book, "Theology, History, and Archaeology in the Chronicler's Account of Hezekiah" (p. 113):

"One of the most suggestive pieces of data surrounding the importance of the legibility of the stamps to those stamping the vessels is the practice of stamping soft clay that has been added to a leather-hard jar handle. There are multiple examples of jar handles that obviously could not receive an adequate seal impression because the handle had already dried & become leather hard. In those cases, some soft clay added on top of the dried jar handle was stamped. This practice is common on stamped jar handles from controlled excavations, so there is no fear of the stamp's being a forgery. To my knowledge, this phenomenon has not been noted previously."

He then describes a handle found at Beth Shemesh (p. 114):

"The impression is at the top of the handle in between the dual ridges, but it does not make an indentation into the handle. This fact is important, because it is the first indication that the stamping occurred after the handle had already become leather hard. The next indication is that the lower left portion of the impression has broken off, leaving a clean fracture mark where soft clay was placed on top of a leather-hard handle and then stamped. There is also a difference in the fabric of the clay containing the stamp and the clay of the handle. If the added clay from the impression had not broken off, the impression would have been complete and legible. All of these factors indicate that--at least for this one particular jar--the ability to read the impression was important enough that added soft clay was placed on top of the jar handle to insure [sic] a clear stamping."

Returning to Dr. Aznar, she presented photos/drawings of the so-called Hippo jars mentioned in her abstract, which date to the Iron IIA period (10th-9th centuries). You can read a description of one found in Stratum C-1a (general Stratum IV) at Tel Rehov & see a terrific enlarged photo of it as well. Until this lecture, I had never heard of, or never paid attention to, these unique & fascinating artifacts!

She also showed & discussed the famous "BT LMLK" jar from Lachish, & noted the "Helbon wine" (YYN HLBUN) passage from Ezekiel 27:18 mentioned by Nili Fox on p. 225 of her book, "In the Service of the King: Officialdom in Ancient Israel and Judah". In reviewing LMLKv1 this evening, I was surprised to find that I did not quote this, & was also surprised that Anson Rainey didn't mention it in his landmark work, BASOR 245. Benjamin Mazar/Maisler came close, though, in JNES vol. 10 #4 (Oct. 1951) by mentioning 27:17 (see LMLKv1 p. 170).

We had a pleasant conversation afterwards (as I patiently awaited the Kiafa/Azekah storm to subside), & was nearly floored to learn that she had not only made use of my LMLKv1 book during the course of her research, but had also been instrumental in getting Harvard's library to acquire it.


Imagine that--a book containing information gleaned from unprovenanced artifacts sold by IAA-licensed dealers & exported with IAA-permits to private collectors in America being used for scientific research--who would've guessed?

G.M. Grena

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

ASOR 2007 (p. 6)

Saar Ganor, Archaeologist/Inspector for the Israel Antiquities Authority (it says so on the business card he gave me during our private discussion after his lecture), began the next lecture entitled simply "Khirbet Kiafa: Biblical Azekah?" (the spelling in their promotional literature is "Qeiyafa"). I found this title intriguing, & was curious to see what evidence they'd present, especially since Tell Zakariya--where Bliss & Macalister found 17 LMLK handles (including the first positively identifiable HBRN specimen)--has long been accepted as the location for Azekah.

So here's the abstract:

"The site of Khirbet Kiafa is located on the northern hills that border the Elah Valley, the vicinity of David and Goliath’s encounter. This is a strategic location in the biblical kingdom of Judah since this was the main road from Philistia and the Coastal Plain to the hill country, to Jerusalem and Hebron. Even without any excavations one can see on the site a lower city of ca. 10 hectares and an upper city of ca. 3 hectares surrounded by a massive wall. At the center of the upper city is a large rectangular enclosure, with massive rooms on the south. Such large rectangular enclosures are known from royal cities of the Bible such as Samaria, Lachish and Ramat Rachel. The site is partly covered by occupation debris from the Roman-Byzantine era, but this latter activity is rather limited. On the southern slope, outside the city, there are Iron Age rock-cut tombs. To date no historical identification has been suggested for this site, and it has been neglected by archaeologists and biblical scholars. It is possible that it should be identified with biblical Azekah instead of the site traditionally identified as such since ca. 1900. The site of Khirbet Kiafa has never been excavated, but in the summer of 2007 the first season of excavations will be [sic] take place. This expedition will be headed by Yosef Garfinkel and Saar Ganor. The results of the first season will be presented in the lecture."

Architecture "known from royal cities"? " Neglect[ful] scholars?" I'm all ears!

After Mr. Ganor gave a 7-minute overview of the project featuring a survey map by Yehuda Dagan, LMLK VIP-professor Yosef Garfinkel (who published a landmark corpus of 1,198 in 1988, simultaneously placing a lid on Nadav Na'aman's notion regarding Rehoboam's cities in 2Chronicles 11) provided 15 minutes' worth of details.

This past summer, in only 2 weeks (8/12 - 8/26) with 10 people, they excavated 2 areas dubbed A & B.

Area A extended 5x5 meters & consisted of 2 major layers: Hellenistic (on top as expected) & Iron II. Area B contained 4 squares, which were about 2.5 meters deep from top-soil to bedrock, with the same 2 obvious layers. Aside from these 2 strata, he also noted that they found some "small Bronze Age sherds".

He emphasized the obviously distinct appearance of the strata by showing some interesting photos of the site's walls, which today stand about 2-4 meters tall. Earlier he had explained that a "tel" typically consists of a large heap of dirt covering ruins, but this site's name began with "khirbet" because it was a visibly "ruined place" as you could see these walls before their excavation season began.

The Hellenistic/upper portion of the wall was built with "small rocks", & the Iron-II/lower portion consisted of "big boulders". Furthermore, the Iron-II wall was of the casemate type--resembling a sort of zigzag pattern making it easier to defend:

Amazingly, in this first brief season, his team found 3 restorable vessels from a street locus. Due to the ongoing study of the finds, he openly admitted that it was too early to tell how much of the Iron-II period this site spans--the 9th, 8th, &/or 7th centuries.

Then he showed photos of a spot he described as a "plastered floor of a gate", & baited the attendees with an enticing promo: "Anyone who would like to excavate an Iron Age gate, join us next season!"

Some of the rocks where the wall meets this city-gate are estimated at 5 tons! He unabashedly described Kiafa/Qeiyafa as "one of the largest Iron Age sites in Judah" based on its massive fortification system containing these megalithic stones. To put it in perspective, Lachish is 7 hectares, Beth Shemesh is 4 hectares, but Kiafa is 14 hectares. How a site this immense with walls above ground could have gone without this kind of publicity for a century is amazing! Reports out-of-the-blue like this provide a firm foundation for me to ignore anti-Bible atheists who insist that there's no (or not enough) evidence to support people & events mentioned therein.

For those unfamiliar with his other corpus of work, Garfinkel's expertise for 20 years has been with the so-called Neolithic & Chalcolithic sites (considered by the general public to be of little historical significance since they can't be associated with anything obvious in the Bible, with the possible exception of cave dwellers banished from society mentioned in Job 30:3-8). He told a humorous anecdote about Joseph Aviram (long-time leader of the Israel Exploration Society, who graciously granted permission for me to publish many of their photos on the LMLK Research site some years ago). Like a prodigal son regaining his sanity & coming home, when Aviram heard that Prof. Garfinkel had finally decided to excavate a site that may have an important connection to the Biblical kingdom of Judah, he had "tears in his eyes"!

He concluded his portion of the lecture by emphasizing that he had only spent 2 weeks excavating the site, & had still not had time to analyze & categorize all the artifacts, so the identification of the site was tentative/hypothetical. And he mentioned that 2 other people at the conference had suggested 2 other possibilities to him. One was Ephes Dammim, but he stated that it would have been a mere settlement--not an established/fortified city such as Kiafa. The other was MMST (pronounced by him as "Mam-shawt"; I did not remember to ask him afterwards who made this wild stab-in-the-dark guess--too many fireworks in my brain by then). His final remark was that it may take many years before any positive ID could be made for the site with an inscription, noting that one was found at Tell Dan only "after 20 years" of work.

Personally, I found his lecture intriguing & persuasive. However, another VIP I discussed it with described the possibility as "nonsense" (they declined to be quoted for my blog, so that's why I'm keeping it anonymous, but couldn't resist mentioning it to illustrate the contrast). The same anonymous person said that Kiafa might not actually be as big as Zakariya, which I found absolutely shocking. I hope one of these scholars will publish side-by-side same-scale aerial photos of the 2 sites, so we can settle this relatively simple issue before tackling the bigger one of deciding which (if either) is the real Azekah!

For this reason, I'm going to break my chronological sequence in this blog & skip to the Q&A session for it, which came after the subsequent lecture (this entire session was arranged in 2 pairs, each followed by its own Q&A as described in my previous blog entry).

25 minutes later, Shlomo Bunimovitz & Zvi Lederman, who had been seated next to Garfinkel & Ganor, expressed what can only be described as academic outrage over the mere suggestion that Kiafa could be Azekah. After having only been exposed to this sort of forum for 4 hours, it left me dazzled! You had to be there to feel the aggression, & though the entire argument lasted about 8 minutes, I was only able to jot down about 5 lines of notes.

Dr. Bunimovitz stated that if you they were to draw 3 columns listing Finds, Biblical Texts, & External Sources, & compare the evidence in support of this site being Azekah, it would obviously be "groundless". He rattled off a list of rhetorical questions including "[If it were an important Iron Age city,] where are the LMLK jars?" He passionately compared their 17 seasons at Beth Shemesh & [I'm paraphrasing in this instance], "You have the nerve to make this suggestion after only 2 weeks with only a small part of a LMLK jar in only 1 casemate!?!"

The only quote I captured from Zvi Lederman was also rhetorical, asking "Isn't it a little bit early [to be making such a speculation]?"

Dale Manor was extremely cautious & handled the closing as delicate as possible. At times while the VIPs were arguing, he attempted to gingerly ask if anyone else in attendance had questions, but then the VIPs would flare up again among themselves. Whenever the Kiafa team had an opportunity to defend their position, they reiterated that it was only a suggestion & that maybe 5 years or 20 years hence at a future ASOR conference, the accumulated evidence would lead them to make an alternate suggestion.

And please don't get me wrong, it was not a violent or hostile sort of argument; the Beth Shemesh VIPs simply disagreed 100% with what they heard, & expressed their opinions in no uncertain terms. In hindsight, it's amazing that they were able to hold their peace as long as they did throughout the Kiafa & subsequent lecture.

After Manor formally concluded the session, they still continued arguing as I waited patiently to get my copy of BAR v23 #1 autographed, though now they switched from English to Hebrew so that I remained completely innocent to what they were saying. After the dust had settled for the most part, Mr. Ganor confided in me that they really did have more evidence to support their claim, but they simply did not have time to prepare it all for this brief lecture.

The bottom line on this memorable confrontation is that it's a clear case of 2 scholars looking at the exact same evidence & forming totally different opinions of it. Just like geology. Just like biology. As with the confrontation during Chang-Ho Ji's Q&A, we'll see this scene played out again later in the conferences on 3 more occasions (2 involving me personally), albeit with less drama. Besides, you don't want no drama; no, no drama; no, no, no, no drama.

G.M. Grena

P.S. This morning I created a Wikipedia entry for this site. Also, the excavators passed out some brochures, & encouraged me to distribute them, so here's a lo-res thumbnail of 1 side of it--an excellent aerial view--to help you get a better idea of the overall shape of the exposed remains, particularly of the wall(s):

The back side of the brochure shows the same promo-photo of the person standing in one of the casemates that I included above, along with a shot of 2 team members excavating one of the restorable jars. If anyone would like hi-res versions of these to help learn about the site & promote its awareness, feel free to request copies offline (each of my photos for the front & back of the brochure are about 2.5Mb, so be sure your E-mail can handle it).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

ASOR 2007 (p. 5)

Following Eric Cline's narrow-minded viewpoint that archeology proves the Biblical record to be a figment of some ancient Jews' imaginations, Zvi Lederman opened his lecture with the clever quip, "I hope the following will not be considered junk science."

Though this opening remark sparked some laughter, if Eric Cline is correct, then it was top-of-the-heap "junk science". And I absolutely loved every minute of it! Prof. Lederman speaks with a very heavy accent, & is not as slick as some of his peers who are more fluent in English, but like Oded Lipschits earlier in the morning, he had me on the edge of my seat with a well-prepared slideshow chock full of fascinating information!

"'Come, Let Us Meet Face to Face:' The Archaeological Implications of Amaziah's and Jehoash's Clash at Beth-Shemesh" was billed as being presented by both Lederman & co-excavator, Shlomo Bunimovitz, who was in attendance, but only the former spoke. They've directed excavations at Beth Shemesh since 1990, & though this lecture focused on only one facet of the excavation, it has broad implications.

He began by reviewing the 6 major strata (with 3 sub-strata) excavated by his predecessors--Duncan Mackenzie (1911-2) & Elihu Grant (1928-33), & focused on the division between IIb ("950 - 8th century") & IIc (8th - 586). Like Lipschits, who earlier in the day had criticized Aharoni's interpretation of Ramat Rahel, Lederman described Grant's field notes as "chaotic".

His revised labeling renames these 2 particular sub-strata to Levels 4 & 3, & he discussed several areas. Area B has a residence, silo, & granary; Area C has a reservoir, & Area E is a "commercial" area. He listed several categories of artifacts, sorted according to quantities recovered, & at the top were scoops representing a whopping 51.4%. Listed in 2nd place were kraters at only 7%, & from there the numbers dwindled further including "LMLK-type jars" equivalent to those from Level 4 in Lachish (sorry, the slide changed before I could note all the categories listed). It's this majority of scoops, though, that helped identify the activity & purpose of the ancient constructions.

At this point he mentioned the earthquake recorded in Amos 1:1 & Zechariah 14:5, which other excavators have suggested as the cause for destruction layers at Lachish (level 4), Arad (level 11), Gezer (level 6), Goded/Judeideh (11b, lower phase; Biblical Moresheth-Gath?), Beersheba, & Ein Haseva (Biblical Tamar?). However, he's seen no evidence for earthquake damage, & stated unambiguously that the destruction layer was caused by a "human disaster".

In the Commercial Area, he observed that it had been evacuated or looted before being set to fire--something that wouldn't happen during an unexpected earthquake; & he humorously described the uncracked floor as being "flat as a dancing floor!" In sum, "Level 3 can't be tied to a mid-8th-century earthquake."

Instead, he suggested that this destruction was caused by Israelite King Jehoash when he defeated & captured Judahite King Amaziah per 2Kings 14:8, 11-4:

"Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash, the son of Jehoahaz son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying, Come, let us look one another in the face. ... Therefore Jehoash king of Israel went up; and he and Amaziah king of Judah looked one another in the face at Bethshemesh, which belongeth to Judah. And Judah was put to the worse before Israel; and they fled every man to their tents. And Jehoash king of Israel took Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Jehoash the son of Ahaziah, at Bethshemesh, and came to Jerusalem, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem from the gate of Ephraim unto the corner gate..."

He concluded with a brief mention of Avigad's Broad Wall & Barkay's "phantom wall", & another unambiguous declaration that seemed shocking for an employee of Tel Aviv University to make:

This "breaching of the Jerusalem wall should be considered reality."

Compare this to the traditional, fundamentalist Christian's words (not mine, nor Prof. Lederman's words): "The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!"

So that's my version of his magnificent lecture! Here's the formal, published abstract:

"A major destruction that ended the flourishing Iron Age IIA administrative town (Level 3) was exposed during the current excavations at Tel Beth-Shemesh. The identification of this destruction as the outcome of the encounter between Jehoash king of Israel and Amaziah king of Judah (2 Kings 14) in the beginning of the 8th century BCE, must lead to a revision of the current understanding of Iron Age II in Judah with implications concerning the status of Jerusalem at the early stage of the Monarchy. The heavy destruction was traced everywhere at the site by all three expeditions. E. Grant and G. E. Wright used it to separate Stratum IIb and IIc, but they were confused regarding the possible agent of this destruction. Their suggested long list of possible agents included the Assyrian kings Tiglath-pileser III, Sargon II, Sennacherib and even the Philistines in the days of Ahaz (2 Chron 28). Another possible agent for the destruction attributes it to the earthquake during the days of Uzziah and Amos. A critical review of the causes for the destruction of the Iron IIA city of Beth-Shemesh (our Level 3 = Stratum IIb) coupled with current pottery chronology enables us to link this violent event with the biblical narrative of Jehoash’s and Amaziah’s clash. Moreover, since Beth-Shemesh was destroyed by Jehoash, then his breaching of the city-wall of Jerusalem (2 Kings 14:13) may also be considered a reality reflecting Jerusalem as a walled city already at the end of the 9th century BCE."

Earlier in this blog series, I mentioned that I didn't like the format of some sessions where attendee questions were withheld until the end of the session. After hearing this fascinating 21-minute lecture that ended with such a forceful statement, it seemed really strange that the Q&A session began with Prof. William Dever offering a commentary on Cline's previous lecture regarding a documentary movie he had reluctantly appeared in, namely that its "edited version makes us both look foolish". In classic Dever-elitist tone (which I enjoy hearing when he uses it to support the Biblical record, but which sounds immature in other contexts such as this one), he also mentioned the "dreadful ignorance of the American public".

His comments lasted about 4 minutes (1/5th that of Prof. Lederman's entire lecture), & included laments over an appearance he made on a show hosted by news-reporter/icon, Ted Koppel; & someone else chimed in on what could be done to educate the general populace about information scholars consider to be true science. As another person began to ask a question, I could see some commotion, & heard chuckles coming from the front row where Lederman & Bunimovitz were seated next to BAR editor, Hershel Shanks. When Dale Manor (who presided over the session) interrupted to ask what happened, Mr. Shanks said, "Zvi just threw his paper in my lap!" This prompted the most uproarious laughter I heard during the entire ASOR/SBL conference!

Oded Borowski observed that "We should stop being so hard on ourselves", & addressing Cline said, "You're spending too much time on popularizing..."; but Cline retorted that "for every popular thing" he publishes, he also publishes "2 scholarly things."

It was extremely apparent (especially now that the entire ASOR & SBL conference is over) that this was a very popular subject for these scholars to discuss. You could hear it in their voices, & discern their desire from their promptness in comparison to other sessions.

I didn't recognize half of the speakers, & didn't know Carolyn Rivers, but saw her name tag (it's too bad the people presiding over these sessions didn't announce each speaker, or ask them to state their name prior to commenting for the benefit of newcomers like myself); she asked, "Could ASOR do better P.R.?"

In a rare occasion when I agree with Eric Cline, he noted that "universities have P.R. departments", & suggested that the blame shouldn't be placed entirely on publishers such as ASOR. Personally, I don't understand why so many years have elapsed, & still so many colleges & universities seem to have a problem getting their I.T. departments into gear to facilitate their Sciences & Humanities departments in this regard. I haven't searched for any statistics, but I'm sure there's a great number of students with MySpace pages & other personal sites simply because they're not directed or guided to an opportunity to publish in a manner that contributes useful/lasting info for the education of others (instead of on fan sites, for example; I'm guilty of the equivalent of this back in my days where instead of typing it on a computer, & uploading it to the Web, I'd type it on a typewriter & send it to friends via paper mail). Chances are good that the time I spent doing that could've been diverted if I had been motivated by the university system in subjects that interested me (such as Egyptology). But again, I digress...

Naturally, Hershel Shanks had a few things to say on this subject: "If something important comes out, it's hard not to write about it...", & there's a "tendency to be critical of Biblical insight ... scholars are afraid to make Biblical connections ... It's OK to be a little unsure ... We need more respect on both sides..."

Anson Rainey concluded the 12-minute session with a humorous comment: "I thoroughly endorse [this work at] Beth Shemesh--[it's the] one excavation from my university--Tel Aviv--of which I can be proud!" This, too, generated laughter, but also resounding applause from people like me.

This single, 33-minute slice of the day was well worth the price of the conference. You could spend much less buying a book on this subject, but to be in the room where the principals are in attendance is priceless.

But the day's not even half over yet...

G.M. Grena