Monthly Archives: February 2010

1,400 year old wine press discovered in Sorek Valley

The wine press was found during an excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority in an agricultural area in the vicinity of Nahal Soreq [English, Sorek]

One of the largest wine presses ever revealed in an archaeological excavation in the country, which was used to produce wine in the Late Byzantine period (sixth-seventh centuries CE), was recently exposed in excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority. The excavation was carried out in a region that will be the farmland of Ganei Tal, a new settlement slated to be built for the evacuees from Gush Katif.

The impressive wine press is 1,400 years old and measures 6.5 x 16.5 meters [c. 21 x 54 feet]. It was discovered southwest of Kibbutz Hafetz-Haim and was partly damaged during the installation of the infrastructure there.

According to Uzi Ad, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “What we have here seems to be an industrial and crafts area of a settlement from the sixth-seventh century CE, which was situated in the middle of an agricultural region. The size of the wine press attests to the fact that the quantity of wine that was produced in it was exceptionally large, and was not meant for local consumption. Instead it was intended for export, probably to Egypt, which was a major export market at the time, or to Europe.

wine-press from Sorek Valley

Aerial view of wine press from Sorek Valley. Photo: IAA.

The excavation director says,

“This is a complex wine press that reflects a very high level of technology for this period, which was acquired and improved on from generation to generation”.

According to the press release,

Rectangular surfaces were also discovered around the treading floor. These too were originally paved with a mosaic floor and were connected to the treading floor by way of a hole in the wall they shared with it. The grapes were probably placed on these surfaces before being trod on, and sometimes the initial fermentation process of the grapes would begin.

A spokesman for the Nahal Soreq Regional Council says the Council will converse the site and open it to the public.

The full press release may be read here. I am hopeful that later in the day we will have a better photo to share.

Wine presses were in common use throughout biblical times, and we learn that some of them were large. One, during the period of the Judges, is described as large enough to use for a threshing floor for wheat.

The LORD’s angelic messenger came and sat down under the oak tree in Ophrah owned by Joash the Abiezrite. He arrived while Joash’s son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress so he could hide it from the Midianites. (Judges 6:11 NET)

We posted an aerial view of the Sorek Valley here.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Ritmeyer on Solomon’s Temple

Dr. Leen Ritmeyer is well known for his archaeological work and his architectural designs. Ritmeyer Archaeological Design provided illustrations for the ESV Study Bible. A few years ago I was privileged to hear Ritmeyer discuss the evidence that led him to his conclusion about the location of Solomon’s temple. Recently he spoke at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary on the same subject. A well-written account of this lecture is available at the NOBTS here.

Here are a few excepts from the report of that lecture:

Leen Ritmeyer. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Leen Ritmeyer. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Without digging a single shovel of dirt, archaeologist Leen Ritmeyer found the location of Solomon’s Temple using a keen eye, biblical and historical knowledge and a tape measure.

Later, Ritmeyer became one of the leading scholars in Temple Mount research. And it all started with one unique stone….

For many years, Ritmeyer served as surveyor and field-architect of the archaeological expedition at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as well as throughout the Jewish Quarter….

According to Ritmeyer, the original Temple Mount platform measured 500 cubits by 500 cubits. The “royal cubit” used for the Temple was 20.67 inches long. Later, King Herod expanded the platform on the Temple Mount doubling its size. It is the expanded, Herodian platform that tourist in Jerusalem visit today.

The current platform has two levels. Eight staircases lead from the lower level to the higher level where the Muslim Dome of the Rock stands.

Because the Muslims who control the Temple Mount will not allow excavations, Ritmeyer relied on observational skills as he search for the location of the Solomon’s Temple. And on the surface of the platform, he found his breakthrough.

At the bottom of a staircase in the northwest corner of the higher section, Ritmeyer noticed a stone with a unique chiseled edge. The stone resembled the pre-Herodian blocks visible on the eastern wall of the platform. He also noted that the stone was not aligned with the rest of the raised platform.

Ritmeyer believed this stone was not placed there as a step, but was actually part of the original Temple platform wall built by King Hezekiah (8th Century B.C.). Such a find would be helpful in locating the original Temple.

“This step was the archaeological beginning of my research into the pre-Herodian Temple Mount,” Ritmeyer said.

Books, CDs, and digital images by Dr. Ritmeyer are available at his website here. Look under Product Categories. I have appreciated the opportunity to download the drawings of Solomon’s Temple when needed for a class or sermon.

Exposé of top 50 biblical history list

Perhaps you have seen several blogs claiming to be listed in the Top 50 Biblical History Blogs. Todd Bolen, whose ranking needs no such help, thinks he has figured out how this list works. If interested, read here.

Professors often receive notification that they have been named to a certain biographical book. The notice is from an unknown organization, but the intent is to sell a copy of the book and a framed certificate to the pride-filled recipient. Tricky, eh?

Main E-W Byzantine Road uncovered in Jerusalem

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced today the discovery of the main East-West road of Jerusalem from the Byzantine period. Todd Bolen correctly guessed yesterday, after the IAA sent out a teaser, that this discovery would be the Decumanus of the city.

A portion of the broken flagstone pavement is shown below about 4.5 meters below the present street level. That is 14.76 feet — pretty close to the proverbial one-foot-per-century of debris buildup.

Remains of 1500 year old street. Photo: Assaf Peretz, IAA.

Remains of 1500 year old street. Photo: Assaf Peretz, courtesy IAA.

Below is a photo of the Madaba [Medeba], Jordan, mosaic map of Jerusalem from about A.D. 560-565. I have put red lines on each side of the road that has been discovered. The main north-south road, the Cardo, was discovered in the 1970s.

The original Madaba mosaic map with new discovery marked. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The original Madaba mosaic map with new discovery marked. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The IAA explains how the excavation came about.

Various evidence of the important buildings in Jerusalem that appear on the map has been uncovered over the years or has survived to this day – for example the Church of the Holy Sepulcher – but the large bustling street from the period when Jerusalem became a Christian city has not been discovered until now. The reason for this is that no archaeological excavations took place in the region due to the inconvenience it would cause in stopping traffic in such a busy central location.

Now, because of the need for a thorough treatment of the infrastructure in the region, the Jerusalem Development Authority has initiated rehabilitation work and is renewing the infrastructure in this area in general, and next to the entrance to David Street (known to tourists as the stepped-street with the shops) in particular. Thus it is possible for both archaeologists and the public to catch a rare glimpse of what is going on beneath the flagstone pavement that is so familiar to us all.

The full IAA report is here. The Arutz Sheva article includes a short video featuring an interview with Dr. Ofer Sion, the excavation director.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Flash floods in the Sinai peninsula

Travel in Egypt is sometimes hindered by small amounts of rain. In flat areas such as the delta an inch of rain can flood the area and make automobile travel impossible, or at least impractical. In early March, 2005, Elizabeth and I had remained in Egypt for a few days after the tour group returned home. We planned one day to go to Goshen. That morning when we looked from the hotel window in Heliopolis we observed rain. The guide scheduled to go with us on the excursion arrived, but explained that we would not be able to go due to the 1/2 to 1 inch of rain that had fallen during the night. The annual rainfall in the Cairo area is 1 1/2 to 2 inches. In Upper Egypt years may pass with no rainfall.

Rain in Cairo - March 9, 2005. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rain in Cairo - March 9, 2005. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Egypt is less prepared for an inch of rain than many southern USA cities are for an inch of snow.

On another excursion we went to Jebel Musa, the traditional Mount Sinai, in the Sinai Peninsula. As we traveled through the Wadi el-Tor (el-Tur or al-Tur) shortly before arriving at Feiran, I noted that there had been a flash flood in the wadi. Our guide explained that this typically happened at least once each winter. He said that the asphalt paved road could be washed out by less than an inch of rain.

Wadi el Tor in the Sinai Peninsula after a flash flood. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wadi el Tor in the Sinai Peninsula after a flash flood. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rocks polished by the winter flood were strewn across the wadi. These stones show the different rocks found in the Sinai. The red stones indicate iron. The green is copper. The black is basalt, indicating a volcanic area.

Rocks in the Wadi el Tour in the Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rocks in Wadi el Tor of the Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Let us recall that the normally dry wilderness (midbar, desert) once flowed with water for the Israelites.

“He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. (Deuteronomy 8:15 NAU)

He split the rocks in the wilderness And gave them abundant drink like the ocean depths. (Psalm 78:15 NAU)

More on flash floods

Flash floods in the Negev caught the attention of several bloggers in January. We noted them here. Harriett called my attention to an article in Al-Ahram weekly online about the flash floods in Egypt the same day.

As the dawn mists began to lift on 18 January in the small village of Atef Al-Sadat in the governorate of Northern Sinai, newlyweds Himdan Khalil and his wife found their tiny home swamped with water. They left their belongings behind to flee as the water inside their mud-brick house continued to rise, reaching a metre and a half.

“We are used to these floods but the watercourses that drain the floodwater were blocked by newly built chalets and clubs which resulted in the overflow into our homes,” Khalil told Al-Ahram Weekly. “The entire village was swamped and most villagers are now homeless””

Khalil’s devastated house was one of 3,645 homes destroyed in the governorates of North Sinai, South Sinai and Aswan. The floods left 10 people dead, two missing and 40 injured, according to government estimates. Seventy-two roads were destroyed and 13,000 olive trees uprooted. Sewage treatment stations and Arish hospital were badly damaged and part of the ceiling of Hall No. 2 at Sharm El-Sheikh Airport collapsed. In the southern city of Aswan strong winds overturned 80 high- pressure electricity towers, disrupting power supplies. Initial assessments of the cost of the damage are LE400 million.

Read the full report here.

A photo from the northern Sinai town of Arish shows damages caused by the torrential rains. Remember that this wadi was dust-dry a few hours earlier.

Damages caused by torrential rains in Arish. Al-Ahram weekly online.

Damages caused by torrential rains in Arish. Al-Ahram weekly online.

Arish is located one the Wadi el-Arish, generally thought to be the River [nahar] of Egypt, the southern boundary of the land promised to Abraham.

On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates…” (Genesis 15:18 ESV)

The Wadi el-Arish is a few miles south of Gaza in the northern Egyptian Sinai.

Laju Paul posted many photos of the flash flood in the Negev at Through the Land of Israel III January 18. Scroll down to that date.

Those lost books of the Old Testament

Now the rest of the acts of Amaziah, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? They conspired against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish; but they sent after him to Lachish and killed him there. Then they brought him on horses and he was buried at Jerusalem with his fathers in the city of David. (2 Kings 14:18-20 NAU)

A few weeks back Dr. Claude Mariottini posted a list of 33 books mentioned in the Old Testament that have not survived. I suggest you capture this list and save it for use in future studies. The link is here.

Think what we might learn about Amaziah (796-767 BC) and the fortress city of Lachish if we had access to this book. Does this mean that the Bible is not complete for its purpose? I would say, “Absolutely not.” The Bible reveals God’s plan for the salvation of man. An important part of that plan is worked out in the history of His people Israel.

We learn better how to understand the Bible through other historical records, archaeology and the study of the land of the Bible. The aerial photo of Tel Lachish gives an impression of the possibility of the city serving as a place of refuge for King Amaziah.

Aerial view of Tel Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Tel Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Prof. Donald Wiseman – 1918-2010

The passing of Professor Donald Wiseman is reported by Rob Bradshaw here.

Wiseman was well known as an Old Testament scholar. The bibliography of his writings is extensive. His Illustrations from Biblical Archaeology, published in 1958, has been one of the most practical and helpful books in my library. Wiseman read the small Babylonian Chronicle for 605-594 B.C. in the British Museum in 1955. He describes the document in these words:

The events described include the Battle of Carchemish and the accession of Nebuchadnezzar II in 605 BC. The fifth paragraph related the capture of Jerusalem on March 16th, 597 BC, the appointment of Zedekiah as king and the removal of Jehoiachin and other prisoners to exile in Babylonia. (Illustrations from Biblical Archaeology 69)

Babylonian Chronicle for 605-594 B.C.

Babylonian Chronicle for 605-594 B.C. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Biblical account of these events is recorded in 2 Kings 24:10-17.

HT: Bible Places Blog.

Fox News slideshow of recent archaeology

The slide show Digging Up History: The Latest Archaeology News at Fox News includes a several photos of discoveries of interest — including some we have mentioned in previous posts.

  • The Alley of Sphinxes at Luxor, Egypt, from the 12th century B.C. Work had just begun on this street connecting Karnak Temple with Luxor Temple when we visited in January, 2008.
  • Tombs of the Pyramid builders.
  • Ptolemaic temple of Bastet in Alexandria.
  • Restoration of the Monastery of St. Antony near Suez City, Egypt.
  • Stolen artifacts seized by police in Limassol, Cyprus. The report says the deal is estimated to be worth $15.5 million.

See the full show here.

Court of Rameses II in the Luxor Temple. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Court of Rameses II in the Luxor Temple. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Brooks C.

Sitting in the gate

The practice of “sitting in the gate” may not be as understandable to our generation as it was to people of Bible times. During many biblical periods the gates were constructed of multiple chambers or rooms. The “Solomonic” Gate at Gezer has six chambers — three on each side of the entry. The photo below was made from inside the city of Gezer.  We see a nice bench made of individuals stones in the chamber at the bottom of the photo.

Note the seats (benches) in a gate chamber at Gezer. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The practice of sitting in the gate is mentioned in numerous biblical references. Note a few.

  • Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom (Genesis 19:1).
  • Abraham went to the gate to make arrangements to buy a burial place for Sarah (Genesis 23:10).
  • Boaz went to the gate of the city to make arrangements to marry Ruth (Ruth 4). One could easily find witnesses in the gate.
  • David sat at the city gate (2 Samuel 19:8).
  • When David was persecuted he said, “Those who sit in the gate talk about me” (Psalm 69:12). It was a good place to find the latest gossip.

What we see in these references is equivalent to what happens in many of our small towns when men of the city sit on benches around the court house or city center to talk about the weather, politics, religion, and whatever.

Ferrell Jenkins sitting in the gate at Gezer. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Ferrell Jenkins sitting in the gate at Gezer. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Wisdom is pictured as being beside the gate, at the opening of the city.

Beside the gates, at the opening to the city, At the entrance of the doors, she cries out: (Proverbs 8:3 NAU)