Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Assyrians at the Source of the Tigris River

The Tigris River (called Dicle in Turkish) begins in the mountains of ancient Ararat and flows to the Persian Gulf. The Tigris is mentioned twice in the Bible. It is said to be the third of the rivers flowing out of the garden of Eden. It flows on the east side of Assyria (Genesis 2:14). The river is also mentioned in Daniel 10:4. The prophet stood beside “the great river, the Tigris.” Ancient Nineveh, near Mosul in northern Iraq, was built on the Tigris.

The Tigris River south of Diyabakir, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Tigris River south of Diyabakir, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ziyaret Tepe is identified with the Assyrian city of Tushhan. The city dates back to the Early Bronze Age (about 3000 B.C.), but there is a concentration of interest in the Late Assyrian period, c. 882–611 B.C. This corresponds to the biblical period of the Divided Kingdom.

Dr. Tim Matney, director of the Ziyaret Tepe Archaeological Expedition in southeastern Turkey, writes today about a visit to the source of the Tigris.

About 90km north of Diyarbakir there is a place in the Taurus Mountains where the Dibni Su, one of the two main sources of the Tigris River, comes flowing out of a large cave. The Dibni Su actually originates much deeper in the mountains, but the ancient Assyrians thought this to be the source of the Tigris and it is a dramatic landscape that had great significance to them. The modern name of the place is Birkleyn Gorge.

Take a look at three nice photos posted by Matney at the Ziyaret Tepe website here.

Matney says there are four small rock inscriptions made by Assyrian kings Tiglath-pileser I (1114–1076 B.C.) and Shalmaneser III (858–824 B.C.). Six Bible references may be found for Tiglath-pileser (2 Kings 15:29; 16:7,10; 1 Chronicles 5:6,26; 2 Chronicles 28:20), and two for Shalmaneser (2 Kings 17:3; 18:9). [See Comments below. The biblical kings are Tiglath-pileser III (745–727 B.C.), and Shalmaneser V (726–722 BC). Perhaps I will say more about these kings in a future post. My oldest son and I have the same name, and sometimes folks get us mixed up unless they know us.]

Ziyaret Tepe is scheduled to be flooded by the Tigris River as part of the project by the Turkish government to provide power and irrigation for the southeastern region of Turkey.

I have not visited Ziyaret Tepe, but have visited the general area (Diyabakir, Batman, et al. The photo below was made at Hasankef, an old town also scheduled to be flooded by the Tigris.

The Tigris River at Hasankef in southeastern Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Tigris River at Hasankef in southeastern Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In addition to the Ziyaret Tepe blog, there is an interesting report on the site, with maps, at Past Horizons.

HT: Jack Sasson

Google Earth helps you see Biblical Sites

About a month ago Wayne Stiles posted an illustrated article about “Google Street View of 7 Biblical Sites.” There is some pretty neat stuff there, especially for those who have stood in these places and looked in all directions. Check all 7 views here.

Look at the photo below, and then see the same area in Google Earth.

The Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, and the Mughrabi Gate are visible in this single photo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, and the Mughrabi Gate Bridge are visible in this single photo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Huge columns said to be 1900-years-old found buried at Laodicea

Hurriyet Daily News reported today the discovery of a large number of “1,900-year-old huge columns” at Laodicea.

Excavations in the Aegean province of Denizli’s ancient city of Laodicea have revealed 1,900-year-old huge columns seven meters underground. The columns were found in the area known as the northern agora, one of the oldest faith centers in Anatolia.

The head of the excavations, Professor Celal Şimşek, said the northern agora had been discovered last year and they were continuing restoration and conservation work there. He said the area was one of the largest agoras in Anatolia. “The columned galleries here are in a rectangular shape on an area of 35,000 square meters. We previously revived the columned galleries that we call the eastern porch. This year we found the extension of these columns seven meters underground. They were in the same condition as when an earthquake ruined them. The columns date back to 1,900 years ago. Dust erosion and residue have filled the earth here and preserved the columns.”

Şimşek said their goal was to finish the excavations by the end of the year and to revive the columns in the beginning of the next year. He said the ancient city of Laodicea had served as a religious center.

“When the columned galleries are completely unearthed, there will be a very nice touring area. Tourists will have the chance to see traces from the past up close.”

A nice gallery of photos illustrate the article. One is a drawing showing how the area may have looked before being destroyed by earthquake. We are given no hint how the age of the columns was determined and whether the earthquake that felled them was also about 1,900 years old. Mark Wilson says,

Because of earthquakes the city was rebuilt numerous times during its history. A devastating earthquake during the reign of Focas (AD 602-10) finally caused the site to be abandoned. The residents founded a new city called Ladik, now the Kaleiçi district of Denizli. — Biblical Turkey, 247.

Laodicea is mentioned only in Paul’s epistle to the Colossians (2:1; 4:13-16) and in the Book of Revelation (1:11; 3:14). Paul says that Epaphras worked diligently for the saints in Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. These were cities of the Lycus River valley.

We have visited Laodicea several times over the years and been delighted with the archaeological reconstruction underway. The city should be on everyone’s list of “must see” sites of Turkey. Turkey has approximately 1100 historical sites, and the country has made considerable progress in preparing some of them for visitors. Use the search box on this blog to locate previous entries about Laodicea.

Tourists on the Syrian Street at Laodicea. Colossae is located at the foot of Mount Cadmus, seen in the distance to the east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tourists on the Syrian Street at Laodicea. Colossae is located at the foot of Mount Cadmus, seen in the distance to the east. Hierapolis is to the north (our left as we view the photo). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Walking up the Roman siege ramp at Masada

Masada has caught my attention in the past few days. Those who have visited the site are aware of the Byzantine ruins, including a church, on the top of the plateau. A brochure published by the The Israel Nature and Parks Authority points out that Masada “sank into oblivion until the nineteenth century.”

The first scholars to identify Masada with the plateau known in Arabic as es-Sebbeh were Smith and Robinson in 1838, and the first to climb it were Wolcott and Tipping in 1842. Warren climbed Masada in 1867, Conder described and mapped it in 1875, Sandel discovered the water system in 1905, and Schulten studied mainly the Roman siege system in 1932.

Perhaps most visitors today associate the excavation of Masada with the late Yigael Yadin from 1963 to 1965. Masada National Park opened in 1966, and the first cable car to take visitors to the top was in 1971. The larger cable cars, holding about 40 passengers each, were added several years later.

My first visit to Masada was in 1969. At that time it was necessary to walk up the path on the siege ramp made by the Romans. In A.D. 73 or 74, “the Roman Tenth Legion Fretensis, led by Flavius Silva, laid siege to the mountain.” The ramp was built so the Romans could move their battering ram up to the western gate of Masada. The photo below was made from the plateau. The ramp is visible just below the bottom half of the photo, and the path is on the ridge. The path leading to our right (view from the top) goes to the large water cisterns.

The Roman siege ramp at Masada. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman siege ramp at Masada. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Is Masada mentioned in the Bible?

N.B. This is post number 1500 since our beginning in 2007.

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The Hebrew word masada is generally translated stronghold or fortress in the English Bible. Gordon Franz (lifeandland.org) says King David visited the site of Masada at least three times.

  1. After sending his parents to Moab (1 Samuel 22:1-5). Take a look at the previous post with the photos and map showing the lisan (tongue) of the Dead Sea. I envision this as the place where David could most easily cross to Moab and then return to the stronghold.
  2. After he spared Saul’s life at Engedi (En Gedi) (1 Samuel 24:22).
  3. When the Philistines were searching for him (2 Samuel 5:17).

This photo gives some idea of the fortress-like quality under consideration. Note the Dead Sea, the Lisan, and the mountains of Moab in the distance.

After a cable-car ride, or by walking the snake path for about an hour one reaches the entrance to the rock fortress of Masada. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

After a cable-car ride, or by walking the snake path for about an hour one reaches the entrance to the rock fortress of Masada. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

At least four of David’s psalms mention masada.

  1. Psalm 18:2 (fortress). — “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (ESV)
  2. Psalm 31:2-3 — “Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;”  (ESV)
  3. Psalm 71:1, 3 (fortress). — “In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame!  2 In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me!  3 Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.” (ESV)
  4. Psalm 144:1-2 (fortress). — “Of David. Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;  2 he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.”  (ESV)

We are uncertain about authorship of Psalm 91:1-2 (fortress). Beitzel, in The New Moody Atlas of the Bible, places David at Masada (p. 151; map 58).

Psalm 66:11 uses the word masada (translated net, trap or prison).

This photo was made from the top of Masada toward the Dead Sea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This photo was made from the top of Masada with a view toward the Dead Sea. The walk below leads to the site of Herod’s palace. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Understand that we are not referring to the Masada built by Herod the Great and later used by Jewish zealots during the period of A.D. 70-72. The stronghold had already been there for millennia.

The article by Gordon Franz is brief, but well documented. Read it here.

Crusader period hospital building in Jerusalem

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced yesterday that a building from the Crusader period (1099–1291 A.D.) has been excavated. The building is in an area of the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem known as the Muristan (“a corruption of the Persian word for hospital”). Our first photo shows part of the Muristan near the old structure. You can see the tower of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. This is near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

The Muristan in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. The tower of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer is visible. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Muristan in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. The tower of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer is visible. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Between the Lutheran Church and the Armenian Quarter on Muristan Street stands a monument identifying the area where the hospital of St. John of Jerusalem was established. Click on the image if you wish to read the inscription.

Marker identifying the location of the hospital built by the "Order of St. John of the Hospital in Jerusalem." Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Marker identifying the location of the hospital built by the “Order of St. John of the Hospital in Jerusalem.” Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Press Release contains several bits of historical information that may be of interest to readers. Here is the full Press Release.

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The Israel Antiquities Authority conducted an excavation in the impressive Crusader building, which is similar in appearance to the Knights Halls in Akko and stands 6 meters high, prior to the construction of a restaurant by the Grand Bazaar Company

Part of an enormous structure dating to the Crusader period (1099–1291 CE), which was a busy hospital,  has currently been revealed to the public following excavations and research by the Israel Antiquities Authority there in cooperation with the Grand Bazaar Company of East Jerusalem. The building, owned by the Waqf, is situated in the heart of the Christian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, in a region known as “Muristan” (a corruption of the Persian word for hospital), near David Street, the main road in the Old City.

Until a decade or so ago the building served as a bustling and crowded fruit and vegetable market. Since then it stood there desolate. In the wake of the Grand Bazaar Company’s intention to renovate the market as a restaurant, the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted archaeological soundings there.

The structure, only a small part of which was exposed in the excavation, seems to extend across an area of fifteen dunams! Its construction is characterized by massive pillars and ribbed vaults and it stands more than six meters high. The image we have is that of a great hall composed of pillars, rooms and smaller halls.

Ruins of the Crusader hospital built by the Order of St. John of the Hospital in Jerusalem. Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Ruins of the Crusader hospital built by the Order of St. John of the Hospital in Jerusalem. Photo by Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

According to Renee Forestany and Amit Re’em, the excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “We’ve learned about the hospital from contemporary historical documents, most of which are written in Latin.  These mention a sophisticated hospital that is as large and as organized as a modern hospital. The hospital was established and constructed by a Christian military order named the “Order of St. John of the Hospital in Jerusalem” and known by its Latin name the Hospitallers (from the word hospital). These righteous warriors took an oath to care for and watch over pilgrims, and when necessary they joined the ranks of the fighters as an elite unit.

The hospital was comprised of different wings and departments according to the nature of the illness and the condition of the patient – similar to a modern hospital. In an emergency situation the hospital could accept as many as 2,000 patients. The Hospitallers treated sick men and women of different religions. There is information about Crusaders who ensured their Jewish patients received kosher food. All that notwithstanding, they were completely ignorant in all aspects of medicine and sanitation: an eyewitness of the period reports that a Crusader doctor amputated the leg of a warrior just because he had a small infected wound – needless to say the patient died. The Muslim Arab population was instrumental in assisting the Crusaders in establishing the hospital and teaching them medicine. Arab culture has always held the medical profession in high regard and Arab physicians were famous far and wide.

In addition to the medical departments, the hospital also functioned as an orphanage where abandoned newborns were brought. Mothers who did not want their offspring would come there with covered heads and hand over their infants. In many instances when twins were born, one of them was given to the orphanage. The orphans were treated with great devotion and when they reached adulthood they served in the military order.

We can learn about the size of the hospital from contemporary documents. One of the documents recounts an incident about a staff member who was irresponsible in the performance of his work in the hospital. That person was marched alongside the building awhile, and the rest of the staff, with whips in hand, formed a line behind him and beat him. This spectacle was witnessed by all of the patients.

The Ayyubid ruler Saladin lived near the hospital following the defeat of the Crusaders, and he also renovated and maintained the structure. He permitted ten Crusader monks to continue to reside there and serve the population of Jerusalem.

The building collapsed in an earthquake that struck in 1457 CE and was buried beneath its ruins, which is how it remained until the Ottoman period. In the Middle Ages parts of the structure were used as a stable and the bones of horses and camels were found in excavations, alongside an enormous amount of metal that was used in shoeing the animals.

According to Monser Shwieki, the project manager, “The magnificent building will be integrated in a restaurant slated to be constructed there, and its patrons will be impressed by the enchanting atmosphere of the Middle Ages that prevails there”. According to Shwieki, “The place will be open to the public later this year”.

Click here to download high resolution pictures . Photograph credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

A sunrise few have seen

Trent and Rebekah are “vagabonding” for forty days in Israel between the close of the Ashkelon excavation and the opening of their fall semester at Jerusalem University College (also known as the American Institute of Holy Land Studies). Last Thursday morning they were at Masada for the sunrise. I didn’t ask if they spent the night there.

This view from Masada to the east at sunrise is one I have not seen. They graciously allowed me to post it here.

Sunrise from Masada. Photo by Trent and Rebekah, Aug. 01, 2013.

Sunrise from Masada. Photo by Trent and Rebekah, Aug. 01, 2013.

There is more to this photo than just the beauty of it. In their photo you see the Lisan (or Tongue) that extends from the east into the Dead Sea. You may also see the canal through which water is pumped to the southern end of the Sea.

The photo below was made near mid-day from Masada.

View east from Masada near mid-day. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View east from Masada near mid-day. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The same photo below has been enhanced further in Photoshop to reveal the details a little better.

View from Masada (enhanced to show features). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View east from Masada (enhanced to show features). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Last month I wrote about “The topography of Kir-hareseth” here. This map shows the valley that goes down from the Transjordan Plateau in a northwesterly direction to the Lisan Peninsula (tongue) of the Dead Sea. Masada is located directly across from that valley. The Lisan now extends completely across the Dead Sea, as the photos above show. Water is pumped to the southern end of the Sea to allow for the chemicals and minerals to be mined.

Map of the southern end of Dead Sea.

Map of the southern end of Dead Sea. Today the Lisan extends completely across the Dead Sea.

Dr. Rasmussen (HolyLandPhotos’Blog) says,

The Dead/Salt Sea can be divided into two unequal sections by a tongue-shaped peninsula that protrudes into it from the eastern shore (= Lisan in Arabic, Lashon in Hebrew). – Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, 49.

Trent and Rebekah continue to post about the places they are visiting in Israel. Take a look at TrentandRebekah.wordpress.com.