Tag Archives: Berlin

Traveling in Europe

For the past week my wife and I have been traveling in Europe, revisiting some of the places we have enjoyed with groups over the years. Berlin is one of those places. We did some of the typical sightseeing, but the main visit was the museums with Ancient Near Eastern collections.

My first visit to the Pergamum Museum was about 1978. I returned several times when the Museum was behind the Berlin Wall, and have been there several times since the fall of the wall.

The Egyptian collection formerly was in the west, but now is housed in the Neues Museum in the building on the left of the photo below. Considerable construction is underway in the area. The former entry to the Pergamum Museum is closed. The red sign in the distance points to the temporary entry. Crowds are so large that people wait in line for four hours or more to buy at ticket and gain admission to the Museum. The only way to avoid this is to purchase a ticket online with a 30 minute time span for admission. I purchased a two day Museum pass after I arrived in Berlin and then made an appointment online for two different days. A single entry costs about 13 Euro (a little under $20 per entry).


Crowds waiting in line to enter the Pergamum Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Pergamum Altar already has some scaffolding in place. At the end of September the exhibition will close for __________ years (you know about government projects).

The visit was somewhat disappointing because of the appointment requirement, but mostly because portions of the Museum are closed. Whole galleries pertaining to the the Greco-Roman world are not open. The great Ishtar Gate from Babylon is open, and the Miletus Marketgate, which was covered with netting the last time I was in Berlin, is now one of the nicest exhibits. The halls dealing with Babylon, Assyria, and the Hittites were open.

Later I hope to share some representative photos with you, but I confess that I am traveling with a Samsung Tab 4 and have had difficulty getting the single photo above loaded into the blog. I refused to pay the $20+ a day to be online at the hotel. I only ate at one place that offered time online, and they could not locate the card with the passport. 😦

We are in Paris now and I have Wi-Fi at the hotel. The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays, so I went to the Tourism office and purchased tickets to the museum in order to avoid the long lines the next two days. The tickets here are under $20 per entry.

If any reader has experience in loading photos from an Android tablet into WordPress I would be glad to hear about it. Who knows, maybe I will be able to load a second photo.


Journalist accuses Turkey of Archaeology Blackmail

Owen Matthews, writing in Newsweek Magazine and The Daily Beast, says, “Turkey’s government is playing hardball to repatriate archaeological treasures.” He begins with the story of the German road engineer who excavated the Altar of Zeus at Pergamum (Pergamom) and arranged for the structure to be moved to Berlin and reconstructed in the museum there.

The Turkish government is now asking various museums around the world to return artifacts that  were taken from Turkey. Matthews mentions the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the British Museum, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, along with others.

The reconstructed Pergamum Altar of Zeus in Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The reconstructed Pergamum Altar of Zeus in Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Today 30 young archeologists from all over the world work at Pergamon, uncovering new parts of the ancient city, meticulously recording, photographing, sketching, and cleaning the uncovered artifacts. The dig is considered the finest of its kind in the world. The state-of-the-art iDAI.field computer system for inputting real-time archeological data was pioneered here, along with many techniques for photographing, conserving, and mapping now considered standard across the world. In 2004 a complex of vulnerable newly discovered mosaics was enclosed in a beautiful wood, stone, and steel building designed by award-winning German architects and paid for entirely by the German government. The practice of hauling finds back to the home country was abandoned, of course, more than a century ago—today, all the finds remain in Turkey.

Despite a century of Germany’s investment in the fabric of Pergamon, the local authorities still view the Germans with suspicion. A recent mayor of Bergama ran on a ticket of returning the Altar of Zeus from Berlin, something the ministry itself hasn’t asked for (the paper trail clearly confirms that the altar was legally exported). And the DAI has come under pressure from tourism authorities to spend more resources rebuilding fallen temples to make them more photogenic to visitors rather than meticulously trowelling [sic] through ancient sewers and tombs.

Matthews says the Turkish authorities have decided “to play hardball” with various countries working in Turkey. Considering the remarkable work done by the Germans at Pergamum and Hattusha, the British at Carchemish, the Austrians at Ephesus, to mention just a few examples, this is an unfortunate situation. Read the article in its entirety here.

Turkish archaeologists have done significant work in numerous places throughout the country. But with more than a thousand archaeological sites, cooperation would be better.

Pergamum is the site of one of the churches addressed in the Book of Revelation (the Apocalypse) toward the end of the first century A.D. (Revelation 1:11; 2:12-17).

HT: Jack Sasson

Evil-merodach (562-560) graciously freed Jehoiachin

Evil-merodach came to power in Babylon upon the death of his father Nebuchadnezzar in 562 B.C. There are only two references to him in the Bible, and these are parallel accounts. Evidence suggests that Jehoiachin (Jeconiah, Coniah), the king of Judah who was taken to Babylon in 597 B.C., was treated like a king in exile during most, or all, of his time in Babylon. The kindness of Evil-merodach receives special attention.

27 And in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, graciously freed Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison. 28 And he spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat above the seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. 29 So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table, 30 and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, according to his daily needs, as long as he lived.  (2 Kings 25:27-30 ESV; cf. Jeremiah 52:31-34)

It is interesting that we have a biblical record mentioning Evil-merodach’s treatment of Jehoiachin (about 560 B.C.), and we have archaeological evidence of similar treatment at an earlier period. Four tablets mentioning Jehoiachin and his sons date to the period 595–570 B.C.

These tablets record rations that were given to the exiled king, his sons, and eight men of Judah. The one shown here is usually displayed in the Museum of the Ancient Near East (Vorderasiatische Museum), also called the Pergamon Museum, in Berlin (VAT 16378).

Babylonian ration tablet naming Jeconiah. Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Babylonian ration tablet naming Jeconiah. Pergamum Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A trip to Berlin is worthwhile for many reasons, but one of the best is to visit the Museum of the Ancient East. Even though it could stand some revisions, you should find my Biblically Related Artifacts in the Museums of Berlin helpful. It is available in PDF here.

Here  is what I wrote about this tablet:

“Jehoiachin (Jeconiah, Coniah) was the young king of Judah who was taken captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 BC. (2 Kings 24:15). The date of the capture of Jerusalem (March 16, 597 BC) was learned in 1955 when Donald J. Wiseman, then of the British Museum,  read a cuneiform tablet from Babylon. About 300 cuneiform tablets, dating between 595 and 570 BC, were found near the Ishtar Gate in Babylon. They contain lists of rations such as barley and oil paid to the captives and craftsmen. Persons from various countries are mentioned: Egypt, Philistia, Phoenicia, Asia Minor, Judah, etc. Some Biblical names are included: Gaddiel, Semachiah, and Shelemiah (a name mentioned prominently in Jeremiah 36-37). The most interesting name is Yaukin, king of the land of Yahud (Judah), along with five royal princes. The name, pronounced Yow-keen, is known to be an abbreviation for Jehoiachin. One document in which his name occurs is dated to 592 BC. These tablets show that the Babylonians continued to regard Jehoiachin as the legitimate king of Judah and gave him special treatment while he was in captivity (2 Kings 25:27-30; Jeremiah 52:31-34). The tablets were read by E. F. Weidner in the basement of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, Berlin, after 1933.

[For those with access to this type of material:] Some Sources: Albright, BA 5 (1942), 49-55; ANET, 308 for translation; DOTT, 84-86; JFLAP, 225-227; IDB, II:811-13; Werner Keller, The Bible as History, 285-287;  Wiseman, Illustrations from Biblical Archaeology, 73 for photo [showing both the reverse and the obverse of the photo above].”

More Recent Source: Fant, Clyde E. and Mitchell G. Reddish, Lost Treasures of the Bible, 217-220.

Colonial archaeologists and the Ishtar Gate

Recently we called attention to an article in The New York Times about Babylon. Writer Steven Lee Myers says,

Colonial archaeologists packed off its treasures to Europe a century ago.

This statement seemed significant enough to be repeated under the photo of the miniaturized Ishtar Gate at the site. My immediate reaction to the statement is, “Well, aren’t we glad!” Anyone who has visited the Pergamum Museum in Berlin has seen the reconstructed Ishtar Gate. It looks like this.

Ishtar Gate in the Pergamum Museum of Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ishtar Gate in the Pergamum Museum of Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Now, it’s not that the German archaeologists, under the direction of Robert Koldewey, “packed off” what you see here. All of these lions, bulls, and dragons were excavated from the mound of ancient Babylon between 1899 and 1912. Eventually they were taken to Berlin in 1926. Even under the Communist government of East Germany this gate was preserved. I saw it a few times before the Berlin Wall came down. Anyone able to travel to Berlin may see the Ishtar Gate as well as the reconstructed Procession Street. Can one say as much for the ruins of Babylon and the museum in Baghdad?

Babylon was once the greatest city of the world when the Neo-Babylonian Empire reigned supreme in the Ancient Near East (626-539 B.C.). The prophet Daniel was active in Babylon from 605 B.C. until after the fall of the city to the Persians (Daniel).  I can not imagine that he failed to see this gate.

Nebuchadnezzar was a megalomaniac. His pride is evident in the statement recorded by the prophet Daniel.

The king uttered these words: “Is this not the great Babylon that I have built for a royal residence by my own mighty strength and for my majestic honor?” (Daniel 4:30 NET Bible)

Nefertiti smuggled from Egypt?

The title tells a lot. “Secret note reveals how Germany smuggled Queen Nefertiti bust from Egypt.” Here are a few excerpts:

Nefertiti bus in Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nefertiti bust in Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

German archaeologists cheated Egyptian customs officers in order to smuggle the 3,400-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti to Berlin, according to a secret document unearthed in archives….

The document is sure to stoke the row between German and Egypt over the removal of antiquities at the beginning of the 20th century.

The document, discovered in the German Oriental Institute, shows that the archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt deliberately hid the true value of the Nefertiti bust when he submitted the inventory of his finds to the Egyptian authorities in 1913….

The agreement was that Germany and Egypt would divide the spoils equally between them. But, says the witness, Borchardt “wanted to save the bust for us”. So it was tightly wrapped up and placed deep in a box in a poorly lit chamber to fool the chief antiquities inspector, Gustave Lefebvre….

It was enough to get Nefertiti out of the country into Germany. Now her long swan-like neck and exquisite features have come to symbolise the join between ancient and modern ideas of feminine beauty. Over half a million visitors a year are drawn to see her at Berlin’s Egyptian Museum.

But Egypt wants Nefertiti back and a document showing that the bust only left the country because of skulduggery could well strengthen Cairo’s case. Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, has already threatened trouble. “We will make the lives of these (German) museums miserable,” he said.

At the very least Cairo wants Nefertiti back on loan to mark the opening of a new Grand Egyptian Museum, near the pyramid at Giza, in 2012.

For the full print story read here.

Nefertiti was the wife (Queen) of Pharaoh Akhenaten in 14th century B.C. Egypt.

HT: J. T. Lauer