Wednesday, November 06, 2013

I'm a Failure

I've had many afterthoughts since my last post several months ago, where I chronicled the academic crime committed against me by faculty members of Tel Aviv University. But while it's one thing to intentionally claim originality to ideas & work that are not your own, it's another thing to give a student a failing grade for correctly answering your quiz question on the subject!

Prof. Oded Lipschits, with guest appearances by other lecturers such as Ido Koch & David Vanderhooft, began teaching an online course in October titled The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem. It's divided into 6 parts with brief exams following each one. The first was of particular interest since it included the LMLK chronological division, one aspect of my 2004 book they blatantly plagiarized, for which they've never apologized (Israel Finkelstein's deceitful defense of their actions notwithstanding).

The quiz consisted of 2 questions, so if your answer for either one is incorrect, you receive a failing grade (50% on any school's scale is a capital-F failure). Each attempt also decreases your score. Since I was shocked that my first answer was wrong, I took it again with a slightly different answer, & still got it wrong (according to the professor), so the calculation was 6/13 or 46%. At that point I concluded that the teacher was more interested in having the students play a guessing game than learn history, so I stopped taking the quizzes. If I'm going to play a game, I'd at least like to get some physical exercise as a result.

Here it is (by the way, this question is part of the course material produced and copyrighted 2012-2013 by the prestigious Tel Aviv University, & my reproduction thereof without the permission of the instructor is not permitted, which just breaks my heart):

"Part 1 (questions 1-7): creating an historical timeline you are required to place the historical events in chronological order (i.e. in question 1 you should choose the first event, in question 2 the second event etc.). Please note that you have more events to place than places to do so."

  • "Conquest of Damascus"
  • "Destruction by the Neo-Babylonian Empire"
  • "Development of silver coins"
  • "Expansion to the Lowland"
  • "Expansion to the Plain of Esdraelon"
  • "Fortification of the borders"
  • "Introduction of the stamped jar handle system"
  • "Limited territory in highland"
  • "Sennacherib Campaign"
  • "Subjugation to the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the days of Ahaz"

In other words, the question is arranged into 7 sub-questions, where you select 1 of 10 multiple-choice answers. A wrong selection for any 1 of the 7 sub-questions results in the entire answer being wrong. Here's my 1st attempt:

  1. Fortification of the borders
  2. Conquest of Damascus
  3. Subjugation to the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the days of Ahaz
  4. Introduction of the stamped jar handle system
  5. Sennacherib Campaign
  6. Destruction by the Neo-Babylonian Empire
  7. Development of silver coins

What ticked me off was that the automated response marked ALL 7 of those selections as "wrong/incorrect" by the TAU professor (via the automated program, which apparently follows GIGO logic). Here's my 2nd attempt (where I simply substituted the 1st event for another one):

  1. Expansion to the Lowland
  2. Conquest of Damascus
  3. Subjugation to the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the days of Ahaz
  4. Introduction of the stamped jar handle system
  5. Sennacherib Campaign
  6. Destruction by the Neo-Babylonian Empire
  7. Development of silver coins

Now I'll provide quotations from the video lectures for each of the events mentioned; two were not, but they're still historical events, & the question did not say we would be penalized for selecting events not covered in the course. Note that the words you read may sound strange since they were programmatically transcribed from the audio (& provided online to accompany the course videos), sometimes distorted by the lecturer's accent, but they contain enough clarity to determine the relative chronology.

"900-801 Fortification of the borders"

"However, in a small and gradual process during the first half of the 9th century BCE, Judah started to develop as a kingdom to fortify it's [sic] borders and develop a more mature administration and economy. With the collapse of the of the [sic] economic political systems to it's [sic] West and to the South of Jerusalem in the second half of the 9th Century BCE, the Judahite Kings expand their [sic] sovereignty into these regions."

"800-751 Expansion to the Lowland"

"The typical over [sic] store jars in Judah, known also a lamerik [sic] jar or the Royal Judah jar, is a well known find. New study of these jars, including computer generated topology [sic] of large samples, of these of these [sic] older jars, demonstrated that there are three main chronological stages in the development and use of all the [sic] storage jars that were produced in the lowlands. In the first age, dated to the late 9th and the early 8th century BCE, when the lowland was still outside of any direct rule of Judah. The over [sic] storage jars were characterized mainly by the manufacturing of nonstandardized sub types. These jars appeared mainly in the lowland, also in large numbers in sight [sic] that were not included inside the border of Judah, like [FOREIGN], which is Biblical Gat, and Gaza [sic]. In the second stage, dated to the early mid 8th century BCE under the rule of Judah. [sic] And probably as part of it's [sic] developing administration and economy, the standardized jars became more common than the non-standardized jars."

[Note: The LMLK jars shared a general shape, not a standardized one as their volumes varied greatly; plus their handles were inconsistently formed & stamped.]

"732 Conquest of Damascus"

"When we will move to the south to central and southern Syria, we can describe three provinces that were established in the territory of around Damascus. Which was the largest and most important of the kingdom of the region when it was conquered by Tiglath Pileser the third in 732 BCE."

"732 or 725 Subjugation to the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the days of Ahaz"

"Assuming that Judah became an Assyrian vassal kingdom during the years of Ahaz, at the beginning at the last quarter of the 8th century BCE."

[Note: See 2Kings 16:8-9.  From 2:21-2:50 & 9:50-10:06 in his section 1.4 lecture, he shows a timeline with "Judah's subjugation to Assyria" happening at 732; a similar timeline appears in Koch's 1.6 lecture from 5:59-6:07 & 6:41-6:48. No specific date is ever shown for the reign of Ahaz.]

"720 or 735-705 Introduction of the stamped jar handle system"

"And in the third stage, dated to the late 8th century BCE when Judah was already under Assyrian rule, one type of the jars was adopted for use by the royal administrative system of Judah. As can be demonstrated by the appearance of stamp impressions on handles of jars from this type. ... Under Assyrian rule, the Judah high [sic] tradition of stamping or incising jar handles began with early LMLK impression [sic] in the end of the 8th century BCE, was followed by the late LMLK stamping version [sic] in the early 7th century. ... [per Lipschits; next quotation per Koch] ... In light of that, it is suggested that this system was mostly used during the last third of the eighth century BCE, when Judah was a vassal of Assyria."

[Note: At various spots during Koch's 1.6 lecture, "720 BCE" appears in his slideshow, but he never specifically says it. He shows Private seals being added to LMLKs in "705 BCE". His summary slide shows x4x stamps dating to "735-701", x2x to "735-701", & Privates to "705-?" So technically the introduction of LMLKs could've preceded the conquest of Damascus by a few years according to Koch.]

"701 Sennacherib Campaign"

"Ekron, an important center for the production of oil, was the main party to profit from the harsh blow dealt to Judah in Synachrib's [sic] campaign in 701 B.C.E. ... The intense trauma inflicted on the kingdom by [FOREIGN] campaign in 701 BCE, had an awful consequences [sic] for all matters related. ... More than half of them, were found in destruction layer of Larich [sic], dated to the Sennacherib campaign in 701 BCE. ... Judah also survived Hezekiah's revolt, and the Assyrian campaign led by King Sonagharib [sic] in 701 BCE."

"700-634 Limited territory in highland"

[Note: This was a poorly worded option. I put "700-634" based on the following quotation, which is the only time the highland was mentioned during the lecture; however, the lecturers might have intended it to mean an earlier time prior to the "rehabilitation" to which they refer; in other words, you can't be rehabilitated from a condition that did not exist, but they never stated when it existed.]

"At the same time, Judah enjoyed the economic prosperity of the entire region under Assyrian rule in the first two thirds of the seventh century, B.C. The Eastern and Southern border areas particularly the Negev and the Jordan Valley, integrated into the Assyrian and international commercial system, and flourished both demographically and economically. In the Judean highlands and the Benjamin region, a gradual process of rehabilitation took place and the status of Jerusalem was established as the central city."

[Note: So according to Dr. Lipschits, Jerusalem was apparently not established as the central city of Judah until after Sennacherib's campaign. During the first section of this lecture, he specifically refers to the united monarchy under Solomon in Jerusalem as having been fictitiously "created" during the 8th century before Christ.]

"624-623 Destruction by the Neo-Babylonian Empire"

"The events of the next year between April 624 and March 623 BCE followed by the withdrawal of Assyria from Babylonia proclaimed the beginning of the end of the empire."

"Development of silver coins"

Silver coins were not mentioned during this part of the lecture since none have been found in strata dating to the Judean monarchy. By deduction, they post-date Jerusalem's destruction by the Neo-Babylonians since famous (& expensive on the antiquities market) Yehud coins bearing YED inscriptions with images of owls or eagles date to post-Exilic times. However, the earliest coins known from any civilization contain some silver (electrum) & probably pre-date the NB destruction of Jerusalem. As written, this event is ambiguous, & a professor concerned with educating students would avoid ambiguity in a multiple-choice-style question. An appropriate question would be something like, "True or false: Silver coins have been excavated in Judean strata that pre-date the Neo-Babylonian conquest." It would also have been appropriate to mention that LMLK jars represent tangible remains of the barter system that predated the minting of coins in Judean territory.

"Expansion to the Plain of Esdraelon"

Esdraelon was not mentioned during this part of the lecture either. The kingdom of Judah (consisting of territory allotted to Judah, Simeon, & Benjamin) didn't expand to this northern region during the Judean monarchy, though it now resides within the state of Israel, which is governed by Jews (descendants of those 3 tribes along with some, but not all, Levites). The Encyclopedia Britannica dates Jewish settlement there to A.D. 1911. Note that students of this course pledged to answer based on their own work, & were not restricted from using other websites to research their answers.

So there you have it. Their own words are really too vague/ambiguous for a legitimate chronological test. For example, if you want your students to learn that LMLK seals were introduced by Judeans for the Assyrian government during Ahaz's reign, then don't say they were made in the "last third" of the century "at the beginning at the last quarter" of it; because that means they could NOT have been made from 733-726, which contradicts another lecturer who says they were introduced at 735!

I could go on, but the proverbial elephant sitting in the front row of the classroom was the glaring omission of the prodigious stamped jar handles found in recent years at Khirbet Qeiyafa (as well as the alphabetic script found there, at Gezer, & at Tel Zayit; in fact according to Dr. Lipschits, "It is during [the second half of the 9th Century BCE] that the first indication of an administrative system and the adoption of an alphabetical script appear..."). Another student posted a comment about this on the course's blog, & I replied with a couple of screenshots, edited slightly (& presented here as if they were entirely my own original work, not unlike the way these 2 lecturers copied & slightly edited my original LMLK seal drawings for their own personal gain):

Note that the cartoon lamb wearing black sunglasses was chosen as a humorous mascot to prompt students throughout the course to remember important pieces of information. I'm hoping this blog post will remind all students, past, present, & future to not be discouraged if they receive a failing grade on a poorly designed test.

Unfortunately the Heritage Singers' version of the Gospel classic most fitting to this blog post is unavailable on YouTube, but here's an excellent substitute:

G.M. Grena

Monday, July 08, 2013

Absence of Obvious Evidence

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1).


Over the past year, particularly the past 3 months, I've been concentrating on competitive skyscraper stair-climbing. Between August & January I climbed 5 of the 8 tallest buildings on the prominent Los Angeles skyline. I'm proud to see that I'm currently ranked #73 out of 11,768 men, & #13 out of 1,325 men aged 50-59 in America (i.e., the top 1% of all participants). Proud because I know God has given me this special physical ability, which enables me to help raise funds for charitable organizations. Grateful because when I suffered a severe, permanently disfiguring injury to one of my feet many years ago, I never dreamed I'd be able to accomplish such a feat (homonymous pun intended)!

This injury occurred due to a terrible mistake I made; & each day when I look down, I'm reminded of it; & that's the way it'll be till the day I die. Yet it would've been a worse mistake to not continue using my feet. This is one example of the ecclesiastic observation that there's a time for everything, including a time to quit, & time to continue.

I'm glad I didn't preserve the brutal nature of my injury on video, but I have preserved a milder example recently. For background, I would first encourage everyone to view this 3-minute video, Ultimate Extreme Sport: Running a Vertical Mile (VM). Therein, climber Martin Sanders, who has ridden 24-hour bicycle races, describes 2-hour VMs as "unbelievably difficult." Other athletes called it "painful", "grueling", & as one lady phrased it, "worse than childbirth"!

As another example of when NOT to quit, here's a link to a video of me stubbing one of my toes after climbing 0.8 VMs wearing barefoot-style shoes. I kicked it so hard that you can hear it snap. Rather than quitting, I spent about 2 minutes changing shoes, then continued for 1.2 more VMs to achieve my goal of 2 VMs for the day over a span of about 5.3 hours. But before clicking the link, if the sound of a physical injury makes you uncomfortable, please be aware that it includes graphic, uncensored audio & images of my toe as it healed over subsequent days.

Would it have made sense to quit on this occasion? No, because mental tenacity/determination is a key component of skyscraper stair races. With each training climb, I not only exercise my physical muscles but my mental ones. When every pore of your skin begins emitting sweat, when your legs begin burning, when your arms hurt from grabbing hand-rails to pull your bodyweight upward a little faster, when your lungs cannot process enough air to supply oxygen to your bloodstream, & when you see other climbers passing you despite your most strenuous effort, that is NOT the time to quit, but rather the time to re-focus on the next step, & the next, & so on.

As it turns out, I did not do as well as I could have at the main event for which I've been training, the San Diego Towerthon. The goal was to climb as many 24-story laps as possible within a 2-hour regulated period. I made several mistakes that led to a depletion of energy by the 6th lap, but this was another example of when to NOT quit. Out of 166 competitors, I ended up finishing in 11th place officially (10th place unofficially due to an error on the part of the timing organization that awarded an undeserved excess lap to another climber); but had I quit after 5 laps, I would've been in 99th place. Had I not made any mistakes, I would've finished in 8th place. And though the difference between 10th & 8th place may not seem like a big deal, it was a huge deal to me because the person in 8th place was a woman who is several years older than me (albeit a professional fitness trainer), & I'm a chauvinistic swine!

Although I had the lofty goal of climbing the full height (above sea-level) of Mt. Everest (HOME) in a single day, the best I've done is just over half of that, 3 VMs in 8.25 hours. Due to the location of the elevators where I train, each VM includes 2 ordinary horizontal miles (HM). So on the day I set my personal record, I climbed 3 VMs (25,474 stair-steps) plus jogged/walked 6 HMs. If/when I find a bldg. with better logistics, I'm confident I'll be able to reach my goal, joining an elite club of about 200 people in the world who have accomplished that feat.

(Parenthetically, most people don't realize this, but climbers who have actually reached the real Mt. Everest summit don't traverse the whole height; they begin at base camps situated more than halfway up its distance from sea-level; so in that sense I have climbed more than the HOME in a day.)

So when should one quit?

The current issue of Antiguo Oriente, vol. 10 (2012) contains a 9-page article by David Ussishkin, "Lmlk Seal Impressions Once Again: A Second Rejoinder to Oded Lipschits", followed by a 1-page statement by Israel Finkelstein & Nadav Na'aman, "A Response to David Ussishkin". Due to its serious implications, David Vanderhooft posted "An Open Letter to Israel Finkelstein and Nadav Na'aman" on a blog to which I'm intentionally not linking (because I think its owner has intellectual cooties; spread the word!).


Should Dr. Ussishkin have quit after his first rejoinder? He wrote this one primarily to make 4 points in response to Dr. Lipschits:

  1. Affirm that it's "impossible to decide" whether LMLKs were made before Hezekiah's reign or after the [Assyrian] destruction of Lachish.
  2. State that Babylonian/Persian-period stamps are "irrelevant" with respect to the dating of LMLKs & Rosettes.
  3. Counter the claim that x2U LMLKs post-date x4C & x4L types.
  4. Observe that the connection made by Lipschits between "private" & LMLK stamps was mostly redundant to that which was published earlier by Barkay, Vaughn, & himself.

He then emphasized that Dr. Lipschits did not address the arguments made in support of dating "all" LMLKs & Circles prior to the Assyrian destruction.

Here I will briefly check his point that unstratified handles found at Lachish "must predate the destruction" (by Assyrians). He relies upon an unsubstantiated assumption that "settlement there was renewed ... many decades later" in the subsequent layer. This is not necessarily a mistake, just a claim that cannot be verified, the same way he noted the impossibility of determining whether LMLKs were made before Hezekiah's reign.

In his final section titled "Epilogue", Dr. Ussishkin challenges the claim made by Dr. Lipschits of originality, a vital aspect of academic publication. He then presents the work of Drs. Ephraim Stern, Peter van der Veen, & yours truly (BSEE, no PhD). Allow me to briefly contrast the subtle differences between ideas published by all 5 of us.

Ussishkin: Based primarily on his firsthand excavation of Lachish, all LMLK seals were made before the invasion of Judah by Sennacherib (i.e., BS = "before Sennacherib").

Stern: All x4x LMLKs were BS, & some x2x LMLKs were AS (i.e., "after Sennacherib") during Hezekiah's reign. He did not distinguish between the 3 sub-categories of x2U, x2D, x2T, nor did he distinguish LMLK jar-handle seals & LMLK bullae seals (which he assigned to Josiah's reign following N. Avigad's suggestion). Note also that Dr. Stern describes Circles & Rosettes as being LMLKs, a clear misnomer on p. 174 of his 2001 book ("[M]ost scholars now agree that the two other symbols depicted on the lmlk jar handles, the rosette seal impressions and the concentric circles incised on them..."). I included his quotations on p. 318 of my 2004 Lv1 book, along with an editorial note lamenting the confusion!

Me: All x4x & x2U LMLKs were BS; x2D, x2T were AS. An important distinction is that my very-specific, but loosely held belief is based upon original photography of previously unpublished handles & drawings reconstructed therefrom of the original seal designs mostly during 2002-2003, several of which were ignored or blended in earlier typologies.

Van der Veen: Same as me, but that some of the AS seals were made during the reign of Manasseh. Note that this extends their usage to the middle of the 7th century, adding specificity where Stern remained ambiguous.

Lipschits, Sergi, Koch (LSK): Same as van der Veen, but that some of the BS seals might have been made during the reign of Ahaz, & that all the LMLKs were part of the Assyrian domination of Judah, noting Manasseh's subjugation (i.e., "Judah's integration into the Assyrian economic system", TA v37-1 p. 10).

While I'm at it, I'll also mention PhD-candidate Jeffrey Hudon's ongoing work as a 6th view that builds upon that of the late Anson Rainey, assigning the LMLK terminus a quo to Uzziah's reign (way before Ahaz & Hezekiah).

If my highly abridged distinctions misrepresent anyone's views, I hope they will correct me.

Back to Ussishkin's 2nd rejoinder, he makes the following pointed observations:

  • Lipschits didn't refer to Stern despite knowing what was in his highly publicized, widely read 2001 book.
  • Lipschits didn't refer to my BS/AS chronological division despite knowing that my 2004 book is listed in the Bibliography of the LMLK Research website (LRW), cited by LSK in their 2010 publication.
  • In a forthcoming article, van der Veen & Prof. F. Bron lament that LSK did not reference my work or van der Veen's.
  • LSK's drawings are "similar" to mine, & chronologically divided "identical[ly]" to mine.
  • LSK used the work of Stern, van der Veen, & yours truly "without proper acknowledgement and authorization."

I don't see any mistakes made therein by David Ussishkin, do you? I think it was appropriate that he didn't quit.


Next I will refer readers to my November 1, 2012 blog post, "Be My Guest". Therein, Israel Finkelstein states that LSK failed to cite my work due to "an honest oversight." That would've been an excellent time for him to quit, because on the surface it reflects the Judeo-Christian concept of confession (Leviticus 16:21; 1John 1:9). But right after Ussishkin's AO-10 bibliography, Finkelstein & Na'aman (FN) expressed their opinion on the matter with more detail, making a mistake in their first paragraph (citing a letter dated "20/5/2013" (s/b 2012)!

Their 1st serious mistake was when they attempted to disqualify Stern's contribution by limiting Hezekiah's reign to "only a few years" AS, whereas Stern's exact phrase was "some years" AS. Even if it were true that Stern did not understand the usage of stamped LMLK jar-handles subsequent to that time, LSK were still academically obligated to cite Stern & distinguish their views from his. Why would FN defend this blatant negligence as an "honest oversight"?

More importantly, how did they determine the oversight was honest? Did LSK each submit to a polygraph test? Note that FN have a reputation for being skeptical of Biblical historicity, accepting the absence of archeological evidence as evidence of absolute absence. On this occasion did they actually witness LSK performing their original research, or did FN base their assessment of LSK's collective honesty on an oral tradition that they now expect everybody else in the world to believe uncritically? If so, on what basis would they apply a different standard to their interpretation of the Bible?

Hello Rock! Let me introduce you to my good friend, Hard Place!

Their 2nd mistake was to claim that van der Veen's complaints have "no merit". Here I will emphasize to readers who don't know me, that unlike van der Veen, I am a bachelor who works as a Bachelor of Science, & have never earned any net income from LMLK research (not counting 2 years of labor, about $8,000 spent on printing, advertising, & overseas shipping of gratis copies; 8 copies sold over the course of 9 years, for which I received about $800 after splitting sales w/ Amazon; God supplies all my needs by enabling me to work as an engineer); so while I'm extremely flattered by all the international attention I'm receiving, I'd be just as happy if I had begun competitive stair-climbing for charities in 2002 rather than building the first major website devoted to LMLKs. Van der Veen, on the other hand, has a family to support, & proper citations of his work impact his reputation as a scholar, & his ability to earn income therefrom. It may not matter to FN, but it's a big deal to van der Veen, & rightly so.

Their 3rd mistake was to say that van der Veen "apparently withdrew from his accusation" regarding the evaluation of his thesis by Lipschits. In a touchy situation such as this, why didn't FN simply ask van der Veen, "Hey dude, have you withdrawn your accusation?" In a written response dated July 2, 2013, van der Veen reiterated & elaborated upon the merits of his accusation.

Their 4th mistake was to say "it seems that [Lipschits only had from van der Veen] a chapter that deals with pottery." Again, why didn't FN do a modicum of research to find out whether the chapter only dealt with pottery rather than primarily epigraphy (& its stratigraphic context for dating)? Why would seasoned, trained-in-factfinding academicians resort to lazy, ambiguous terms such as "apparently" & "seems"?

(For additional information on how this matter relates to van der Veen, & whether LSK were obligated to cite his unpublished research, please read my "Far-reaching Clarifications" blog posted November 19, 2012, wherein I listed examples of LSK citing other unpublished/forthcoming data.)

Their 5th & arguably most egregious mistake was to say that because I relinquished all rights to my Lv1 book, "anyone can ... copy whatever he/she likes." The issue is not whether anyone can copy material I originated (which I encourage), but whether they can commit academic fraud by claiming that they originated the ideas/data! Besides statements made in LSK's 2010 publication, I'll refer readers here to Ussishkin's quotations of Lipschits on p. 17 at the beginning of his Epilogue.

Their 6th mistake was to say it's "inconceivable" that LSK plagiarized my work. The basis FN give is that LSK knew I & scholars who had my book would find out about it. Pardon me, but don't bank robbers rob banks even though they know there are systems in place designed to catch them? Isn't it conceivable that LSK (collectively or individually) considered my work to be unscientific/unscholarly, thought they could make small changes to my work (e.g., connect the chronological division to Assyrian administration from Ahaz through Hezekiah to Manasseh, rather than strictly to an Israelite one by Hezekiah; & solidify dotted lines on my drawings), & then act as though it's entirely their own work?

I'm not accusing them of doing that right now; at this point I'm simply asking FN if it's conceivable, & if not, why? (Note that I just demonstrated it is conceivable by conceiving it!) Did FN deliberately transform negative data (i.e., an absence of evidence of past immoral conduct) into positive data (i.e., honesty) for a formal academic publication? If so, how would anyone ever convict LSK of an ethics violation if the fallaciously circular assumption is that they never have committed any?

"Your honor, it's inconceivable that my client, the defendant, committed the crime because I personally have never observed him committing a crime, & he even told me that he didn't commit the crime. In fact I asked a bunch of my buddies down at the pub, & none of them ever saw him committing a crime either."

I would also ask FN if either of them believe it is conceivable that the universe expanded from nothing, & that life came from non-life since both beliefs violate well-tested, fundamental laws of science. Or is their claim of misbehavior on the part of LSK being "inconceivable" just another instance of fallacious Special Pleading? Here I will simply remind readers that I'm posing these questions not to bellhops or chefs or janitors, but to university professors responsible for conveying knowledge to, & developing the minds of, others in a presumably rational manner (i.e., without committing fallacies).

Their 7th mistake was to use the "unscholarly nature" of my book as an excuse that "may have caused [LSK] not to take the volume seriously or not to read it thoroughly." Huh?!?!

First, the key issues under discussion, namely the chronological division & my drawings are both depicted on the back cover of my book (Fig. 1 on p. 23 of Ussishkin's article); LSK wouldn't need to take it seriously or read it thoroughly to know that it's PAINFULLY OBVIOUSLY RELEVANT to the subject of their 2010 article!

Second, if a scholar is planning to publish an original idea, & has access to a book that contains data with (in FN's own words) "close proximity to" that idea, is there any valid excuse for the scholar to ignore it, or to not read it thoroughly? Ain't archeologists experts at extracting treasures from trash?!?!

Third, whereas prior to this admission (by FN that LSK viewed my book as unscholarly) people other than me & Lipschits wouldn't know whether LSK knew about my book, now the entire world knows they did! Hello Gun! Let me introduce you to my good friend, Smoke!

(Parenthetically, I & Lipschits have known it all along because of our 2005 correspondence, wherein he thanked me for a serialized gratis copy of Lv1, & told me things that would demonstrate he was not only aware of its contents, but that he planned to make use of its contents; in fact he sent photos of 6 handles found during his first season of renewed excavations at Ramat Rahel, asking me not to publish them on the LRW, & I honored his request; if anyone doubts this, all you have to do is get Dr. Lipschits to make a public statement granting permission for me to publish our E-mails &/or the handle photos; & if anyone thinks I would alter the content of the E-mails, since they were sent by him using the domain, you hereby have my permission to go straight to TAU's server archives & read the originals.)

Their 8th mistake was to quote a sentence on p. 14 of my book to substantiate their claim of its "unscholarly nature", while not mentioning that pp. 9-10 contain a bullet list of contents written in technical terminology specifically for scholars. For those who don't own a copy of my book, a PDF that includes those 2 pages is online for your inspection (& has been for many years). I would merely ask that any academicians who read those 2 pages kindly send an E-mail to FN stating whether you believe the bullets on pp. 9-10 sound scholarly or unscholarly.

(Parenthetically, the out-of-context sentence they quoted misrepresents my beliefs: "[E]verybody knows that science and God ain’t supposed to mix." Immediately following that sentence in my book are the rhetorical question, "Right?" & the exclamatory statement, "Wrong!")

Their 9th mistake was to blame Ussishkin for not calling attention to my work prior to the publication of LSK's 2010 article. Why would objective, unbiased scholars such as FN make excuses for LSK not taking my work seriously or not reading it thoroughly, & hold Ussishkin to a 2nd standard? Ain't it conceivable that Ussishkin had merely seen the front cover of my book prior to 2010, & never noticed the seal drawings & chronological division depicted on the back cover? If not, I would like to hear FN explain why it would be conceivable for a retiring professor to HAVE TO read it, but inconceivable for a group of 3 scholars diligently researching the subject.

Irrespective of whether LSK plagiarized the work of others, do these 9 mistakes collectively indicate an unfair bias &/or improper editorial conduct on the part of FN, especially the Editor, F? I believe they do. Furthermore, it is my opinion that the TA journal would be better served by a new Editor, someone who will manage its content objectively by applying consistent standards. I do not work at TAU, so I do not have any suggestions for a replacement. I believe Drs. Finkelstein & Na'aman can continue to make valuable contributions to its content in the future from the sidelines like fellow academicians, but it would seem inappropriate for them to remain anywhere near its Editorial Board or Advisory Board after having demonstrated such irresponsible behavior.


When I met Dr. Vanderhooft at the 2007 SBL conference, I was impressed by a thoughtful remark he made while I was chatting with Dr. Lipschits (which I blogged in my December 15, 2007 post, "SBL 2007 (p. 10)"). Now I am extremely disappointed by his open letter to FN. He began by ignorantly thanking FN for their inappropriately subjective, mistake-laden response, & described Ussishkin's AO article as "a serious breach of academic ethics."

What basis would any scholar have for claiming that it breaches academic ethics to report, even publicize a suspected case of plagiarism or cheating? Apparently when the scholar sees his own credibility as being impugned by means of association. Of course that's simply a case of paranoia. I for one wrote to him & Lipschits after purchasing their book, "The Yehud Stamp Impressions", congratulating them on their accomplishment. As best I can tell, Vanderhooft played no role whatsoever in the work of LSK on LMLKs.

But since he openly accused Ussishkin of "a serious breach of academic ethics", I decided to visit the Academic Integrity page of Boston College's (BC) website (where he appears to be currently employed):

"Faculty members should provide students with a positive environment for learning and intellectual growth and, by their words and actions, promote conditions that foster academic integrity. Faculty should be concerned about the impact of their behavior on students. Students are sensitive to messages communicated in informal discussions and in casual faculty remarks about personal decisions and value judgments."

Vanderhooft defends the "careful and meticulous research" of Lipschits with regard to the Yehuds, apparently oblivious to the fact that Hitler acted carefully & meticulously towards fellow Nazis while ordering the full-scale destruction of Jews. I'm not aware of anyone claiming that Lipschits hasn't done careful & meticulous research with regard to Yehuds. This reminds me of the type of character witness one would present at a trial after someone has been convicted of murder, & the judge is deciding whether to order the death penalty or merely life imprisonment:

"Please, your honor, he helped little old ladies cross streets before he went on that murder spree!"

"Please, everyone, he did original research on Yehuds after he claimed originality to 5-year-old public-domain work on LMLKs!"

I see now that he doesn't know when to quit either. While there is merit to providing a character witness to support Lipschits, he then violates BC's Academic Integrity policy by describing my work as incompetent (i.e., my "work, in general, cannot seriously be considered a work of competent scholarship.")

Okay, so let's assume that my work in general, namely that of studying LMLK jar-handles in museum archives, observing evidence that indicates a chronological division, & the drawing of highly detailed seal designs in 2004 was incompetent. How then is it that these same activities published by LSK in 2010 are suddenly competent? Ain't Vanderhooft essentially impugning the work of LSK, describing it too as that which "cannot seriously be considered a work of competent scholarship"? Hello Mouth! Thank you for extending a big open greeting for my good friend, Foot!

Which is more indicative of competent scholarship, my drawings that show word-divider dots & slashes, which in some cases help identify partial impressions; or the drawings of Ido Koch where these details are absent?

Which is more indicative of competent scholarship, my drawings that show dotted lines to indicate speculative features not represented in any published stamp photos; or the drawings of Ido Koch where they're shown as solid lines just like all the well-established features?

Which is more indicative of competent scholarship, my suggestion that LMLKs (of which there are currently about 9-17% relative to unstamped specimens) began during Hezekiah's inaugural reforms to distinguish firstfruits & tithes; or LSK's suggestion that they began as the result of Assyrian domination, even though there is an absence of evidence of similar systems in any other territory conquered by the Assyrians?

Which is more indicative of competent scholarship, my suggestion that scarabs might have been the cherubs in the Temple artwork (a primary, but not the only destination for the jars), for which there are etymological & symbolic connections; or LSK's suggestion that the Assyrians established this administrative system, even though scarab icons are not present (or insignificant if any exist of which I'm unaware) in Assyrian iconography (glyptic art)?

After making a baseless, libelous description of my work (& unwittingly that of LSK), Vanderhooft recklessly says it's "beside the point." No, it's not beside the point; it's an important point. If my work is not competent, how is it possible to describe LSK's work as competent? Please respond. Operators are standing by to take your call!

As a witness to my competence on LMLK seals compared to that of the S in LSK, consider Omer Sergi's misorientation & subsequent misreading of a freshly excavated handle. Is it "beside the point" that he read "LMLK" as "MMST" & "SUKE" as "LMLK"?? (Thanks again, by the way, to Dr. Robert Cargill for having the keen foresight & ability to preserve that excavation vignette on public video; & thanks of course to the excavation director, Dr. Lipschits, for graciously allowing it to remain online as an example of how well his student had mastered LMLKology 2 years after co-authoring that ground-breaking 2010 TA article! Too bad comments are disabled so I can't link my stubbed-toe recording to it as a video response.)

I would encourage any academicians reading this, particularly BC alumni (maybe even Harvard where Dr. Vanderhooft was awarded his PhD), to write to the appropriate administrator(s) politely asking them to consider whether the content of Dr. Vanderhooft's "Open Letter" reflects their policies on:

  1. Encouraging alumni to report suspected violations rather than aid/abet them (i.e., use a Red Herring fallacy about other work the person has accomplished honestly in order to shroud an act of plagiarism).
  2. Not making public statements of a libelous nature without cause (i.e., describing someone's work as "not competent" even though it's "beside the point").

And note that he did not violate these policies as an independent onlooker, but rather attached his authoritative academic credentials to his signature, "Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible, Boston College".


So this brings me back full circle to LSK. I have already expressed my opinions of their LMLK research in my 2 articles published at (see also my November 18, 2012 blog post, "Far-reaching Implications"). Until reading Vanderhooft's letter, however, I had no interest in reading TAU's Code of Honor & Academic Integrity to see if it contains any information relevant to LSK. Let's see:

"[T]he school and university administration will not under any circumstance tolerate ... plagiarism, fabrication, aiding and abetting dishonesty ... or any other act which could compromise a student's academic integrity."

"Plagiarism: Submitting material that in part or whole is not entirely your work without attributing those same portions to their correct source."

"Fabrication: Presenting data in a piece of work that was not gathered in accordance with guidelines defining the appropriate methods of collecting or generating data and failing to include a substantially accurate account of the method by which the data was gathered or collected."

"Aiding and Abetting Dishonesty: Providing material or information to another person with knowledge that this material or information would be used improperly."

"Should a student violate the Code of Honor, the administration will review their case. This may lead to termination from the program, and expulsion from Tel Aviv University."

Obviously LSK viewed Lv1 as unscholarly, & made the monumentally ignorant mistake of believing they could claim some of its contents as their own.

According to TAU's own intolerant-under-every-circumstance standard, Ido Koch fabricated drawings of LMLK seals from mine that were published electronically since 2002 (formally on paper in 2004) sans copyright restrictions, & failed to include an accurate account of the method by which the designs of those seals were gathered/collected, & labeled them as being wholly his own work, thereby constituting plagiarism. Furthermore, he provided the drawings to his supervisor, Dr. Lipschits, with knowledge that the material would be used improperly (i.e., for publication in the TA journal & presented to the world as his own work). If TAU is serious about their policy, he should be expelled.

I have no way of knowing the extent to which Koch or Omer Sergi made any other contributions to their 2010 & 2011 TA journal articles, but Oded Lipschits is their doctoral supervisor, & obviously had final approval of the content of those papers. For reasons already outlined in Ussishkin's 2nd rejoinder showing that LSK claimed originality, Oded Lipschits submitted material that in part was not entirely his work, & did not attribute those same portions to their correct source(s), namely me, van der Veen, & Stern. According to TAU's own intolerant-under-every-circumstance standard, assuming that professors are not only NOT above the Code of Honor & Academic Integrity to which their students are held, but rather are held to an even more stringent standard due to their position of authority, Oded Lipschits should be terminated from TAU's faculty.

If Omer Sergi was the primary author of the content related to the chronological division of the seal sets as I suspect he was (based on references to forthcoming works where he is the only author of LMLK content), then even if Dr. Lipschits ordered his student, Sergi to plagiarize my work, if TAU is serious about their policy, Omer Sergi should still be expelled also because he was obligated to report his supervisor's misconduct. If TAU administrators investigate this case, they should be able to determine Sergi's specific contributions based on the assignments he received from Dr. Lipschits, & possibly E-mail correspondence between them.

If TAU's administrators do not stand by their policy in this case, it will send an unambiguous message to all their students that their Code of Honor is a House of Cards, a paper tiger that arbitrarily tolerates blatant violations in some circumstances, & that their use of the term "academic integrity" is mysterious gibberish rather than a solid-as-cement structure.


Towards the end of their response, FN referenced Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) Guidelines for retracting articles. It describes the appropriateness of a mere Correction rather than an Expression of Concern or full Retraction based upon whether the issue represents "a small portion of an otherwise reliable publication ... (especially because of honest error)". "Small" & "honest" need qualification.

Back in section 3, I showed that FN were negligent in determining whether LSK's errors were honest or dishonest, & applied unfair subjective bias to LSK in comparison to their treatment of Dr. Ussishkin.

In the context of an intellectual publication, "small" obviously refers to significance rather than to verbosity presented in 2-dimensional paper-space. Let's see how Dr. Finkelstein himself described the work of LSK in his TA 39-2 article, "Comments on the Date of Late-Monarchic Judahite Seal Impressions":

"This debate has far-reaching implications for the history of Judah in particular and the region in general in the late Iron II, ca. 730–586 BCE."

As Dr. Ussishkin pointed out in his 2nd rejoinder, LSK made specific claims of grandeur to the originality of their papers, thereby prompting a multi-person, international scholastic debate on the subject. That is not the same as misspelling someone's name, or confusingly swapping book titles or page numbers in a bibliography, each of which would be considered "small" in terms of intellectual significance. Stern's 2001 erroneous labeling of Rosettes as a symbol "depicted on the lmlk jar handles" is an excellent example of a "small portion" of a chapter that simply needed clarification.

COPE recommends retracting an article if it bears any of the following characteristics (among others; we now know LSK's work meets not just 1, but all 3 of these criteria):

  • "[T]he findings are unreliable, either as a result of misconduct (e.g. data fabrication) or honest error" (e.g., Koch erased important details from my drawings)
  • "[T]he findings have previously been published elsewhere without proper crossreferencing, permission or justification (i.e. cases of redundant publication)" (e.g., Stern's 2001 book & ideas should've been cited & distinguished)
  • "[I]t constitutes plagiarism" (e.g., my public-domain chronological division should've been cited & ridiculed for being in a book containing the word "ain't")

Why would FN cite COPE's recommendation for only issuing a correction rather than formally retracting the publication?

Yet these international guidelines are simply recommendations, & are for journal editors in general, & cannot supersede TAU's own Code of Honor. It is clear that Finkelstein & Na'aman are guilty of aiding & abetting dishonesty: In publishing their AO-10 response, they provided information with knowledge that this material would be used improperly.

Obviously they knew that by declaring LSK's mistake an honest error, & merely issuing a correction, Dr. Ussishkin (& Dr. van der Veen) would be vilified for having raised the aforementioned issues. And guess who has already published the first specific example proving my point?

"The insinuation of David [Ussishkin] ... and David's persistent efforts ... represent, in my judgment, a serious breach of academic ethics and common courtesy. ... This is contemptible... David Vanderhooft, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible, Boston College"

According to TAU's own intolerant-under-every-circumstance standard, both Drs. Finkelstein & Na'aman should be terminated from TAU's faculty.


That being said according to the letter of TAU's stringent law, I personally do not only NOT want to see any member of LSK or FN terminated or expelled; rather, as demonstrated by the recent publication of the TA 40-1 article Lipschits co-authored with Efrat Bocher, I believe they all can continue to make positive contributions under the auspices of TAU, & should remain as faculty & alumni. They have already been publicly exposed & permanently embarrassed by their own actions (similar to the permanent damage I was responsible for doing to my own foot decades ago), & have hopefully learned lessons from this experience.

I was thrilled & happy to see my book properly referenced by Dr. Lipschits in TA 40-1, as I related in my May 20, 2013 blog post, "Seeing Stars" & naturally would like to see it cited even more. Ideally, the LSK articles will be formally retracted, & after Dr. van der Veen's thesis is published, LSK can rewrite their articles for TA with proper scholarly citations to it, as well as to Dr. Stern's.

I believe the spirit of TAU's law should remain subservient to Judeo-Christian standards, especially that of repentance (Joel 2:12-13; Luke 17:3). I'm hoping that what I've written here will help them, even David Vanderhooft, get used to being in the family of God.

"Scholars are at an extreme disadvantage when they publish books & articles because they durst not allow God to exist or be involved in this wondrous creation. While not all subjects necessitate the recognition of God, it's frustrating to read the body of LMLK literature from the past century & see an absence of God from much of the discussion (especially recent material). Here I have a forum to at least give God equal time alongside theories that ass-ume God doesn't exist."--Lv1 p. 14.

Yes, God & science really do mix.

G.M. Grena

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

ECC Anthropology Museum

Boy, here's one I really didn't see comin'!!! I went for a bike ride at the end of May, taking along my new $25 camcorder to capture a fast climb up one of the steepest roads in the neighborhood (the southern end of Crenshaw Blvd.), & do some test recordings while climbing the Culver City Stairs.

First stop, however, was in response to a flyer in the mail for El Camino College, announcing a new exhibit for their Anthropology Museum: "Motherland of Religions: The Eastern Mediterranean in Late Prehistory".

"The ECC Anthropology Museum's latest exhibit explores the birth of the three great world religions. ... The exhibit is the first in the newly renovated museum, financed by the 2002 facilities bond. New cases constructed in mahogany and tempered glass were built for the space, and moveable wall panels were added so the museum's layout can be reconfigured for each exhibit."

I like humans, so I figured I drop in, give it a once-over, & be back on my bike in about 10 minutes total.

YIKES!!! THEY HAD ARTIFACTS FROM HEBRON ON DISPLAY!!! Talk about serendipity! Several days earlier Aren Maeir had posted a blog entry about Prof. Jeff Chadwick's AEH Publication Project! So I decided to make a quick walk-thru video of the exhibit because I knew he'd want to see the objects, & I was curious how they came to be at USC (as stated on their accompanying placards).

But as I began recording & walked into the room, a student sitting near the door immediately asked me if I was an Anthro major. This surprised me because I thought the exhibit was open to the public, & expected that the student was going to tell me it was closed or off-limits, or that cameras weren't allowed. Instead, he asked me a sincere anthropological (actually biological) question! I captured the whole 2-minute interaction on video, & posted it in the spirit of Robert Cargill's video of Omer Sergi giving an impromptu field-lecture on LMLK seals:

I ended up spending a half-hour going quickly over the whole exhibit, but later when I got home & reviewed the footage, I could not clearly read the placards, & saw something bizarre: a paper Hebrew scroll, allegedly being a DSS replica, but with a backwards section. I asked about this on Yahoo's Biblicalist, & received offline replies from 2 of the moderators, which were in agreement with private responses I received from a Hebrew-literate friend (& more-Hebrew-literate wife) in Boston, as well as from Robert Deutsch.

It turns out that the scroll is neither from the Hebrew OT, nor from the Essene literature; in fact it doesn't even appear to be Hebrew at all, but randomly constructed words:

So I went back last week to re-record the exhibit. This time I spent over an hour doing it (even got to hear several LMLK VIPs on a TV playing in the background [Barkay, Vaughn, Stager, Tappy, McCarter]), & have been transcribing the placards for the convenience of viewers. Lo & behold, I was shocked to discover multiple typos throughout the museum, upside-down DSS photos, pro-Islamic content, & almost no Christian content whatsoever (read again the quotation from the flyer that the exhibit allegedly "explores the birth of three" religions).

The edited video is now online at YouTube. It's 44 minutes long, but I made each placard's duration 4 seconds so that you can pause the video to read it. I also added comments refuting Evolutionism, & poked fun at the Islamic garbage (in the spirit of Elijah per 1Kings 18:27, making some of the funniest remarks in the entire Bible). Here's a complete overview:

0:00 - 7:40 Neanderthals vs. modern humans via Israeli caves

7:40 - 11:20 Evolutionism, the fairytale about primates

11:20 - 11:35 Snippet of Bill Dever on NOVA about Yahweh+Asherah

11:35 - 12:40 Museum overview inside

12:40 - 13:25 Khirbet el-Kom jar

13:25 - 14:05 Excavation Quadrant Model

14:05 - 16:50 Eating with the Egyptians, photos from Faiyum

16:50 - 23:50 Canaanite/Israelite pottery

23:50 - 27:10 Jaffa, Roman Hellenistic pottery, Greek/Roman/Jewish coins

27:10 - 27:50 Roman amphora from shipwreck

27:50 - 30:05 Hebron & other Israeli stone/metal artifacts

30:05 - 34:45 Islamic tripe; no artifacts, just political propaganda

34:45 - 41:05 Dead Sea Scrolls; photos only

41:05 - 43:30 Gobekli Tepe Temple; photos & model

43:30 - 43:58 closing info about me

Altogether if you pause to read everything, it'll take about 2 hours.  Don't blink or you'll miss the birth of Christianity.

G.M. Grena

Monday, May 20, 2013

Seeing Stars

Title & abstract from the freshly pressed Tel Aviv vol. 40 #1 (pp. 99-116):

"The yrslm Stamp Impressions on Jar Handles: Distribution, Chronology, Iconography and Function" by Efrat Bocher and Oded Lipschits.

"The yrslm stamp impressions are the final link in a long chain of a Judahite-Yehudite-Judean administrative tradition of stamping handles or bodies of storage jars. With its cessation, the system that functioned for 600 years under Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Ptolemaic and Seleucid rule from the 8th century BCE through to the establishment of the Hasmonean kingdom, fell into obsolescence. This paper presents an updated corpus of the yrslm stamped jar handles. The authors discuss the following issues: distribution and chronology of the finds; their connection to the late yhwd stamp impressions; the reason why the administrative system in Judea began using iconographic symbols hundreds of years after employing only script on the stamped jar system; the meaning of the pentagram symbol utilized in these seals; and the function of the stamping system in the Hasmonean kingdom in the 2nd century BCE."

Of particular interest for self-flattering reasons, is this sentence & accompanying footnote straddling pp. 99-100:

"The Judahite tradition of stamping or incising jar handles began with the early lmlk stamp impressions at the end of the 8th century BCE. It was followed by the late lmlk stamp impressions in the early 7th century; the incised concentric circles in the mid-7th century; and the rosette stamp impressions at the end of the 7th and the early 6th centuries BCE (Lipschits, Sergi and Koch 2010; 2011; Koch and Lipschits 2010).^1"

"^1 The division between “before Sennacherib” and “after-Sennacherib” lmlk stamp impressions had already been suggested by Grena (2004: 337), based on 13 lmlk jar handles from 7th century “Babylonian Attack” strata in Jerusalem, Arad, Lachish, Timna and Horvat Shilha. See Ussishkin 2011 contra this division, but see Lipschits 2012 in response, and cf. Finkelstein 2012."

Nice!  (Even with the Timna[h] typo!)  Some people would climb the highest mountain to get referenced in such a prestigious journal! (Figuratively speaking of course...)

G.M. Grena

Sunday, May 12, 2013

PE Participant Predating PEQ

"Give My Best Love to dear Mother..."

By sheer coincidence, here comes another blog entry pertaining to PEQ. Last time the focus was on the Q; this time the focus is on the "Palestine Exploration" by a member of the original expedition! Instead of waiting till its 145th anniversary in a couple of weeks, I decided to post this today, Mother's Day, in light of the quotation above.

For $1,750 you can own a letter written by Corporal J.A. Hanson on May 31st, 1868 to his "Dear and Affectionate Parents" (as described below by Eric Peter Waschke in his May 2013 catalog for The Wayfarer's Bookshop in Canada):

"Jerusalem, Palestine, 31 May 1868. Quarto (ca. 26,5x21 cm). 4 pp. Brown ink on paper. 105 lines of text, clear and complete. Paper aged and sometimes mildly worn on folds, otherwise a very good letter."

"Important eye witness account of the first major excavation of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount undertaken in 1867-1870 by Captain Charles Warren (1840-1927) on assignment of the Palestine Exploration Fund. This is a private letter by a member of the excavation party Lance Corporal J. Hanson who was mentioned in Warren's account of the mission "The recovery of Jerusalem: a narrative of exploration and discovery in the city and the Holy Land" (New York, 1871). The letter is semi-literate, and all quotations are given according to the original."

"First of all, Hanson witnesses the troubles caused to the Warren's party by the Muslim Governor of Jerusalem who often stopped the excavations. The permission letter from Constantinople authorized Warren 'to excavate anywhere, except in the Haram Area, and sites sacred to Christians and Moslems' (See: "Our work in Palestine: an account of the different expeditions sent out to the Holy land by the committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund"; London, 1873, p. 97), which in fact didn't allow any works on the Temple Mount (Haram Ash-Sharif). Hanson reports that Warren had embarked for England 'also to make a complant against the Governor, the Pasha of this City who is interfering with our Excavations without us Giveing Him Any couse whatsowever. He couse us a very great del of trouble in trying to stop our works [...] I trust he [Warren] will gain us permit, that is the Palestine Exploration Fun is atplieing to Constantinoble for permission from the Sulton to proceed further in our Excavation within the Walls of this Holy City.' Hanson gives very interesting notes about the progress of the excavation: 'I am now excavatin to the west of mount Sion and also out Side of the east Walles of the City. I have found a great number of peaces of Pottery also carved Stones Marble Glass of all colors also a number of ancient Monny &c. Those ar found at the depth of 60 feet and apward and at this depth from the Surface it is very dangerious Work.' Hanson reports that he is excavating 'the ancion wall of the city of Jerusalem [...] with 40 [or 70?] Laborers', many of whom he has lost to 'the ferver'. He also notes that he has 'dellings with a great Number of Criston Jews' and has them employed 'as overseers on the works'."

"Hanson vividly describes the new harvest in Jerusalem: 'Ere this Avineyard is looking most Magnificence also the apricots Trees this Fruit is very plentifull in Palestine you can by apricots 14lb. For one penny very fine the Figs also is very fine. Vegtable-Marrow and cucumbers come into this City in cartlodes from Jaffa, and the surrounding Villigis.' He mentions a 'Great fested with the Jewes of all nacsions in this City on the 27th. Of this Month', complains about the heat, and bright sun in Jerusalem, so strong that there are 'a very great number of people of all nactions totally Blind in this city'; as well as about 'confounded Miscakco' [moscitos?] who 'bit very hard'. Overall a very interesting historical document adding nice details to the history of the first major excavation in Jerusalem."

If this had been priced at $750, I probably would've bought it since there's an extremely slim chance that Corp. Hanson might have been the person who found the first LMLK handle, which probably occurred later in the year at a lower depth. Then again, he might have unwittingly found an otherwise-undocumented one among his "great number of peaces of Pottery".

Note that the 2nd PEQ (April 1 to June 30, 1869; p. 49, 4th May 1869 committee report) mentions that Hanson had been sent home by Lieutenant Warren, & another corporal (Duncan) had died in August, 1868. Maybe Hanson also became sick from the hard mosquito bites. Then again, maybe Warren saw some of Hanson's horrendous English misspellings & dismissed him for embarrassing the British.

G.M. Grena

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Putting the Q Back in PEQ

The latest PEQ (Volume 145, Number 1, March 2013) arrived this past week, celebrating its return to being quarterly rather than bi-annually, tri-annually, or whenever-we-can-ally.

I knew something was different because until now, it had arrived in a light-blue wrapper, but now it's light-yellow. The publisher also decided to put the well-known (from many other PEF publications) drawing of Warren's 80-foot "tourist elevator" drawing on the cover, which includes the cute little guys with torches analyzing the large alphabetic inscription at the underground Temple Mount wall.

Indirect LMLK content:


"At Ain Shems (Beth-Shemesh) in 1911‐1912, Duncan Mackenzie exposed a massive city wall and its ‘South Gate’. Mackenzie published only a schematic plan of the gate, which he dated back to the ‘Canaanite period’, and covered it at the end of his work. The gate comprises one of the finest examples of Middle Bronze city gates known from the Land of Israel, yet its asymmetrical plan and final date of use remained a puzzle for almost a century. Combining archaeological clues on the ground with a study of Mackenzie's unpublished documents in the PEF archive, the authors' renewed excavations at Tel Beth-Shemesh, located the hidden ‘South Gate’ and exposed it anew. The new excavation revealed unknown details about the gate's plan and determined Late Bronze IIA as the terminus ad quem for its function as a gate. A reassessment of the ‘South Gate’ architecture, roofing, and system of closure provides new insights concerning its daily functioning, and raises doubts about the conventional uniform reconstruction of known MB gates. The role of Beth-Shemesh as a fortified MBIIB-C city in the northern Shephelah is discussed vis-à-vis its neighbouring sites: Tel Batash, Tel Miqne, and Gezer. "


"The scarab impression on the rim of a Middle Bronze II storage jar is the first of its kind to be discovered in Israel. The pattern on the impression appears on scarabs of the period. The unusual location of the impression may point to a special content of the jar, or alternatively to the owner of this pot. Once the context of the storage jar rim is studied, it may shed some light on the possible association of this jar with the scarab impression on its rim. "


"A carnelian pebble stamp seal excavated by Macalister at Gezer and believed lost, and a seal kept today in the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, are one and the same. A cast of the original kept by the Palestine Exploration Fund in London proves to be identical to the seal in Jerusalem. The unique iconography of the seal showing a man in a cultic gesture in front of a griffin, as well as its stylistic details, show it to be an Assyrianized product of the late eighth or seventh century bc, possibly of local production."

The iconography, which includes an x2x, is not unique. The guy engraved on the seal looks like he was listening to this excellent HS song:

G.M. Grena

Monday, April 15, 2013

Seaside Search

Freshly launched website announcing upcoming work at a potential LMLK site, Ashdod-Yam, in a search for historical clarity:

"[T]here is no shortage of possible scenarios concerning the fate of Ashdod-Yam during the Iron Age. ... [O]ur archaeological understanding of site's history is rather modest since the site remains virtually unexcavated. It is time to conduct a full-scale archaeological excavation at the Iron Age compound of Ashdod-Yam. Such an endeavor will have the potential to make a significant contribution to the archaeology of the ancient Mediterranean and beyond."

One stray, multi-stamped G2T handle was found at the inland Ashdod site, making it the western-most LMLK site in Israel. This new excavation may push the border much closer to the sea, so let the searching begin!

G.M. Grena

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Modern Ancient Art Mystery

Here are photos of 2 modern works-of-art that caught my attention last month:

They bear the same ancient inscription, & I initially thought that a modern artist would choose one of the best-known Paleo-Hebrew texts to replicate, but this one puzzled me; I was disappointed in myself for not recognizing the artifact without doing a bit of research.

I thought it would be fun to give all 3 of my regular readers the opportunity to see if they could identify it easier/quicker than I could.

In the 1st photo showing the right half of the text, I cropped off the left half because it shows a map identifying the site it came from.

I rotated the 2nd photo showing front/back images of the object because the artist obviously isn't familiar with the script. The photographer did a decent job of getting most of the letters as they wrap around in the images; but I can't vouch for whether the object actually contains the entire inscription. I suspect that some of it is truncated.

I'll kick off this prize-less contest by giving 2 somewhat obvious hints:

1) The object is LMLK-related in some way.

2) It contains 2 instances of "MLK" (only 1 is visible in the photos, & it's not obvious).

For the savvy Biblical archeology sleuth, those should be sufficient since there ain't that many published texts. There are a couple of obvious keywords that will give it away if you have a corpus of ANE inscriptions.

Assuming that none of my 3 readers are that savvy, I will post additional hints in comments but only after 2 readers post guesses. And most importantly, in an effort to discourage arbitrary, rapid-fire, multiple guesses from any one person (named pithom), I will not approve a 2nd guess by anyone until at least one other person guesses, so make your first guess a really "good" one! I know you're able.

G.M. Grena

Monday, March 25, 2013

Shining Light on Obscure Sites

Just wanted to take a moment to emphasize my gratitude to the recently departed (as confirmed on James Tabor's blog yesterday) David Amit of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

As an outsider to the academic community, I have not had a great batting average when attempting to cull LMLK details over the past decade. After the exciting press release concerning the largest cache of northern LMLKs ever found, I wrote to Dr. Amit on July 12, 2005, & received a prompt reply the next day:

"The excavator of the site is Amir Gorzelzani. The site is west of Yoqneam, near Bat-Shelomo, in the territory of Menashe.The LMLK icons were only 2-winged."

Again, near the end of January 2006, I requested more complex information on several sites that had alluded me (Burj, Zawiyeh, Jaresh). And again, about a week later at the beginning of February 2006, he delivered the goods:

"Kh. el-Burj is located in the northen end of Ramot Alon, map ref. 16783\13678. See: A. Kloner, Survey of Jerusalem: The Northwestern Sector Introduction and Indices, Jerusalem 2003, pp. 91*-92* (site no. 3). Kh. Zawiyye - 10 km north to Hebron, map ref. 1651\1121. See: M. Kochavi, The Land of Judah, in idem, Judaea, Samaria and the Golan: Archaeological Survey 1967-1978, Jerusalem 1972, pp. 51-52 (site no. 85). Kh. Jaresh - 7 km west to Bet Lehem, map ref. 1616\1241. See: ibid, p. 38 (site no. 14)."

He's one of the few whose contributions will continue shining down on me each time I see the LMLK map.

G.M. Grena

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cater-pillaging Socoh

Am I alone in noticing the out-of-context, article-less photo in the current issue of BAR (39-2), bottom-left corner of p. 66. Or am I just overlooking the reference?

G.M. Grena

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hope in a Jar

Looking for a philosophy kit? Make sure it includes the following:

"Life is a classroom. We are both student and teacher. Each day is a test. And each day we receive a passing or failing grade in one particular subject: grace. Grace is compassion, gratitude, surrender, faith, forgiveness, good manners, reverence and the list goes on. It's something money can't buy and credentials rarely produce. Being the smartest, the prettiest, the most talented, the richest or even the poorest can't help. Being a humble person can, and being a helpful person can guide you through your days with grace and gratitude."

"Purity is natural. We come into this world with all the right instincts. We are innocent and therefore perceive things as they should be rather than how they are. Our conscience is clear, our hands are clean and the world at large is truly beautiful. It is at this time we feel most blessed."

"With eyes wide open, you live your dreams."

"Hope is a spark that comes from within and lights the way for others. Where there is hope there can be faith. Where there is faith miracles can occur. If you choose to live each day in the light of what may be, you will find hope is all you need. Hope is a friend to lean on. Hope is the inner voice that whispers words of encouragement. Hope is a compass that guides you in the right direction. Hope is the force that keeps pushing you forward. Where there is hope there can be faith. Where there is faith the small challenges of today become the big wins of tomorrow."

Remember that everyday hope is hope to keep and hope to share with every body!

G.M. Grena

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Tel Aviv 37-1 Cover

After finding out about Israel Finkelstein's reference to my book in the current issue of Tel Aviv (vol. 39, #2), I purchased a paper copy for my library (& one as a keepsake for my parents). I also subscribed for 2013, & bought back-issues of 37 #1 containing the controversial article by Lipschits, Sergi, & Koch, as well as 38 #1 with their follow-up article, & 38 #2 with Ussishkin's rejoinder. Many years ago I had purchased other back-issues directly from Tel Aviv University, but they never arrived. Fortunately, a friend of mine visited Israel, & purchased an important issue for me.

I was thrilled to receive my $202.50 order last week! (Each paper copy currently costs $40.50.) Even more thrilling was getting to see the actual cover of 37 #1 since it was never published on Maney's website, nor was it part of the individual PDF article that a friend forwarded to me back in 2010. ( I don't know which issues are represented by the static thumbnails shown on Maney's & IngentaConnect's respective sites.) To ensure that everyone gets to see it, I decided to post a very hi-resolution image of it here (5 Megabytes if you click on it):

The credit page on the back of the cover states the following:

"lmlk HIIa stamp impression from Ramat Rahel. Design by Nirit Kedem and Ido Koch."

Note that the credit page also states the following:

"Copyright 2010 Friends of the Institue of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the written permission of the copyright holder."

Obviously this is the best H2U ever published, & among the most-complete LMLK impressions known, so I'm planning to add it to the Ramat Rahel & LMLK Dotcom Museum pages (when I return to that endeavor after taking care of some higher priorities). I thought it would be good to publicize it so that Kedem & Koch get the full credit they deserve for this magnificent image, including the nice line-drawings in the background.

A great Heritage Singers song for this occasion is "All the World Should Know" from their "What Is This?" album, but since it's not posted on YouTube at this time, this one will have to do:

G.M. Grena

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

10 CFPI Questions

Page 30 in the current issue (#27) of Doar Ivri, the journal of Cercle Francais Philatelique d'Israel, contains an interview with me. The format is a standard feature with only slight variations in the questions posed to each philatelist. The English version below is my translation from the French, which the editor had translated from my original English composition.

1. Who are you, Mister Grena?

I am a graduate of West Virginia University (Bachelor of Science). My profession is to conduct technical tests. I write software to control electronic equipment, collect data and analyze the results.

2. What do you collect?

In philately, I have been collecting exclusively the series of the first new year stamps, numbered 10-14 in most of the catalogs representing an ancient impression of a Royal seal, LMLK (the abbreviation of the LeMeLecK [royal] inscription reproduced on the seal), wrongly described as a flying roll on the tab from what some scholars believed in 1948. Today, one thinks rather that this seal symbolizes divinity, being the sun (worshipped by the pagans) or radiating glory of God (Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 50:2; Ezekiel 43:2).

3. Since when?

January 2005, when a friend, Herbert B. Stearns, spoke to me here in the United States. He also collects LMLK jar handles.

4 and 5. Why? And do you have other passions?

I am a fervent Christian. During my free time, I study the Bible and have a collection of writings from various cultures and eras. I began exhibiting objects from my collection in 1997 at public libraries near my home in southern California. In 2002, I combined all my skills to build the research site, the section on the stamps being

6. Why are you collecting?

I began collecting leaves of medieval Bibles to try to learn more about the history of its translation from the Hebrew and Greek into English, which is my native language. I feel obliged to share what I have learned while studying the objects in my collection. So far, my principal contribution to philately, is to have established that only 126,000 sheets of 10-14 were printed in total (in the first/main run), and not 126,000 sheets of each of the 5 values. I discovered this by constructing a database of serial numbers from photographs in the catalogs of sales and philatelic journals.

7 and 8. Why did you join the CFPI and do you belong to other associations?

I received an invitation from the current president of the CFPI, who had appreciated the articles that I published in the Israel Philatelist, the journal of the Society of Israel Philatelists, to which I belong also.

9. A piece to show us?

My favorite one is a First Day envelope of the series, used postally, with the 65 mils glued upside down. Although I have several other varieties and errors on First Day envelopes, I believe that this is for me the rarest and the most valuable.

10. A suggestion to improve the CFPI?

Suggestion, no! But you could encourage our members to share with me the photos of the serial numbers from their collection consisting of the stamps of this series and their varieties!

G.M. Grena