Monthly Archives: June 2010

3,500 year old discovery at Tell Kassis (Qassis)

The Israel Antiquities Authority reports here today on the discovery of more than 100 ancient cultic vessels in a natural hollow in the bedrock next to the Tishbi (Yokneam) junction

In an excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting along the route of the northern gas pipeline planned by the Israel Natural Gas Lines Company

A natural hollow in the bedrock that was exposed in archaeological excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority prior to the installation of the northern gas pipeline by the Israel Natural Gas Lines Company, at the foot of Tel Qashish (Tell el Qassis [or Tell Kassis]), did not cease to provide ancient surprises. For two weeks archaeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority excavated the contents of the rock-hollow and removed from it more than 100 intact cultic vessels and other extraordinary items that are c. 3,500 years old. Again and again, every time the excavators thought they reached the bottom of the cavity a new and fascinating layer of complete vessels was discovered beneath the one that was previously dismantled.

In the past the ancients would descend into the rock-hollow by way of two broad, hewn steps. Inside the cavity whole vessels were found piled one atop the other and other vessels were broken by those that had been placed upon them. Among the finds that were recovered: a cultic vessel that was used for burning incense, a sculpted face of a woman that was part of a cultic cup used in dedicating a libation to a god, goblets and bowls with high bases and tableware that was intended for eating and drinking. Other vessels that were found had been brought from Mycenae in Greece, including a storage vessel for precious oils – evidence of the ancient trade relations that existed with Greece.

According to archaeologists Uzi Ad and Dr. Edwin van den Brink, the excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, this is an extremely rare discovery. Until now no such pits as these have been found from 3,500 years ago. It is also extraordinary to find scores of vessels that are in such a good state of preservation. In most excavations fragments of pottery vessels are found, whereas here the vessels were removed from the rock-hollow intact. Each object was removed with the greatest of care, was drawn and documented and revealed beneath it a wealth of other finds. The vessels are numbered and their precise location in the heap is recorded for future research. According to the archaeologists, it is obvious that considerable time and thought were invested in the placement of the vessels in the rock-hollow, as evidence by the different kinds of vessels that were buried separately.

Archaeologists van den Brink and Ad have various theories regarding the purpose of the rock-hollow. “In this period, before the Bible, the children of Israel were still in Egypt or the desert, and it would appear that the vessels were used in a pagan cult that worshiped idols. During this period it was customary that each city had a temple of its own where special cultic vessels were used”.

At the end of the Late Bronze Age (the Canaanite period) the region was vanquished, including Tel Qashish, which was destroyed by a fierce conflagration, along with nearby Tel Yoqneʽam.  Therefore, one of the theories is that the vessels were buried in order to protect them from the impending destruction.

Another possibility is that the cultic vessels that were employed in the rituals practiced in the temple were buried after they were no longer used. Since these artifacts were part of the ritual ceremonies a special place was allocated for them and unlike other vessels they were not discarded in the garbage.

Cultic Verssels at Tell Kassis. Photo: Assaf Peretz, IAA.

Cultic Verssels at Tell Kassis. Photo: Assaf Peretz, IAA.

The next photo shows a cultic cup with the face of a woman.

Cultic Cup discovered at Tell Kishbi. Photo: Assaf Peretz, IAA.

Cultic Cup discovered at Tell Kassis. Photo: Assaf Peretz, IAA.

Those who have visited the site of Murakah on Mount Carmel have seen this tell and the Kishon River in the Jezreel Valley. The photo below shows the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley. The tell is in the center of the photo at the bottom. You can make out the line of the Kishon River below the tell. The dark areas in the photo are shadows of passing clouds. Click for a larger image.

Tell Kassis and the Kishon in the Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tell Kassis and the Kishon in the Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This photo is a cropped portion of the previous photo. The tell is clearly visible.

Tell Kassis and the Kishon River from Mount Carmel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tell Kassis and the Kishon River from Mount Carmel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tell Kassis (or Tell el-Qasis) is thought by some scholars to be the Biblical Helkath. Helkath was a town belonging to the tribe of Asher (Joshua 19:25), and one of the Levitical cities (Joshua 21:31). This area is also associated with the battle of Deborah and Barak against the Canaanites (Judges 4-5). After the contest on Mount Carmel, Elijah had the prophets of Baal killed at the Brook Kishon.

And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there. (1 Kings 18:40 ESV)

Rotem, the young lady who is webmaster for Bible Walks, lives only a few kilometers from the site. She has included many great photos of the mound and of the recent emergency excavations here.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

The first cataract of the Nile

Aswan is the location of the first cataract of the Nile River. This made it an ideal location for the Aswan Dam which was built between 1898 and 1902. This created a small lake south of the dam, but it was nothing to compare with Lake Nasser which has been formed as a result of the building of the new high dam at Aswan between 1960 and 1971.

The new high dam was constructed at a time when the Soviet Union was providing technical, economic and military support to Egypt. I remember staying in a hotel in Egypt in 1973 filled with Soviet tourists. In the years following we saw none of them. Lake Nasser stretches south for more than 300 miles. Many of the Nubians who lived in this area were resettled by the Egyptian government.

Our photo was made below the new high dam from a Nubian settlement. Click on the photo for a larger image.

The first cataract of the Nile at Aswan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The first cataract of the Nile at Aswan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some scholars identify the Arabic name Aswan with the Syene of Ezekiel 29:10 and 30:6. It may be identified with the Sinim of Isaiah 49:12.

I am against you and your waterways. I will turn the land of Egypt into an utter desolate ruin from Migdol to Syene, as far as the border with Ethiopia. (Ezekiel 29:10 NET)

The Hebrew word translated Ethiopia (or Cush) in some English versions is Kush (Cush).

Look, they come from far away! Look, some come from the north and west, and others from the land of Sinim! (Isaiah 49:12 NET)

The Text Critical note in the NET Bible explains,

The MT reads “Sinim” here; the Dead Sea Scrolls read “Syene,” a location in Egypt associated with modern Aswan. A number of recent translations adopt this reading: “Syene” (NAB, NRSV); “Aswan” (NIV); “Egypt” (NLT).

Goshen and the Great Bitter Lake

The land of Goshen is fascinating because it is much different from the Egypt that so many of us studied in elementary school. Instead of sand, river, and pyramids, Goshen is a flat agricultural region in the eastern Nile Delta.

Perhaps Goshen is most fascinating as the long-time home of the sons of Israel. Joseph told his brothers,

You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. (Genesis 45:10 ESV)

The photo below  shows reeds (bulrushes) growing on the banks of the Great Bitter Lake. This is the largest of a chain of lakes through which the Suez Canal runs. I have used a Photoshop plug-in called Topaz Adjust to turn this photo into a sketch that more resembles a photo made at night. If you think it might be useful in a lesson, you may click on the photo for a larger image.

Reeds (bulrushes) growing in the Great Bitter Lake. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Sketch of Reeds (bulrushes) growing in the Great Bitter Lake. Photo by F. Jenkins.

There are several good suggestions for the place of the exodus recorded in Exodus 14. This vicinity may be the sea described in Exodus 14:9.

Then the Egyptians chased after them with all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and they overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

Other scholars suggest a location associated with Lake Timsa which is a few miles to the north.

Sadat of Egypt died in the pursuit of peace

My schedule is full, but I ran across this photo that I thought I would share. Anwar El Sadat was the third president of Egypt in modern times. He served from 1970 until his assassination October 6, 1981. Sadat made peace with Israel on March 26, 1979.

This photo shows the beautiful monument to Sadat that stands across the street from the viewing stands where he was assassinated.

Sadat Monument in Cairo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sadat Monument in Cairo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dead Sea Scrolls: the French connection

Bloomberg reports on the exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the National Library (Bibliothèque nationale de France) in Paris with a discussion of the French connection and the problems posed by the scrolls. Jorg von Uthmann says,

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 was, along with the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, the greatest archaeological sensation of the 20th century. An exhibition at Paris’s National Library puts the scrolls in their historical and theological context and questions the mainstream hypothesis about their origin.

It’s the first show of this kind in France. That’s all the more amazing as French scholars were deeply involved in the deciphering of the scrolls and the tens of thousands of fragments on papyrus or parchment.

Most of the work was done at the Ecole Biblique et Archeologique in Jerusalem under the direction of the Dominican archaeologist Father Roland de Vaux.

To fund excavations at Khirbet Qumran on the western shore of the Dead Sea, De Vaux sold, in 1953, 377 fragments to the French government. Presented in airtight cases, they occupy the center of the theatrically staged show.

The complete article may be read here. The link to the National Library in Paris is here. The Bloomberg article includes three nice photos, including this one of a facsimile of the Isaiah scroll.

Facsimile of the Dead Sea Isaiah. National Libary via Bloomberg.com.

Facsimile of the Dead Sea Isaiah. National Library via Bloomberg.com.

About two weeks ago I was at Qumran and tried my eye and hand at making a panorama of the area immediately to the west of Qumran. In this photo, made of three images, you can see the Dead Sea on the left. The Qumran settlement is on the plateau to the right of the sea. As you enter, or leave, the Qumran parking lot you will see a sign pointing to Kalya.  These photo were made from that road. Click the image for a slightly larger photo.

Qumran Panorama by Ferrell Jenkins.

Qumran Panorama. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

About two months ago Todd Bolen identified the caves associated with the Scrolls. For high resolution photos of this same area see here.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer