Lecture Summaries, 2019


DAVID JACOBSON  
GEORGE GROVE THE FOUNDER OF PALESTINIAN/ISRAELI ARCHAEOLOGY

14 January 2019, UCL

George Grove in 1863. NPG Ax38162 (© National Portrait Gallery, London)

Trained as a civil engineer, with a speciality in lighthouses, George Grove was appointed secretary of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham from 1852 to 1873, where he cultivated parallel interests in the topography and archaeology of the Holy Land and in musicology. Grove was also instrumental in founding the Palestine Exploration Fund. This lecture explored Grove’s role in developing the archaeology of Palestine and Israel.


JOHN HEALEY  
ARAMAIC AND THE NATIVE VOICE: 300 BC TO 300 CE

18 February 2019, UCL

The lecture gave a brief history of Aramaic in its earliest known phases, emphasizing its role as an international language under the Achaemenid Persians and describing its continued use in the Greek and Roman Near East. The main theme was be the way that Aramaic epigraphy gives us access to the ‘native voice’ and the ordinary lives of pagans, Jews and Christians in places like Judaea, Nabataea and Edessa. Indigenous voices are not usually heard: the Greeks and Romans did all the talking, leaving behind inscriptions and literary works in which they presented their own view of the ‘natives’ — the view of outsiders. Aramaic inscriptions allow us to move beyond that, and to hear about everyday lives, legal transactions and religious sentiments.


MARTIN BIDDLE
THE TOMB OF CHRIST IN THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE

7 March 2019, British Museum

Professor Biddle examined the restoration of The Edicule, the ‘small house’ covering the site believed since the fourth century AD to be that of the Tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. He explained what was revealed over a few days in October 2016 when the Tomb itself was opened for the first time in many centuries, and considered how these discoveries might be interpreted and dated.



AMIHAR MAZAR
THE EXCAVATIONS AT TEL REHOV AND THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF ISRAEL IN THE EARLY MONARCHIC PERIOD

29 April 2019, UCL

The excavation at Tel Reḥov in the Beth She’an Valley, northern Israel, yielded rich finds relating to the archaeology of the 10–9th centuries BCE (Iron IIA): exceptional architecture; an open air sanctuary; a unique apiary where bees of Anatolian sub-species were identified; two inscriptions mentioning the name Nimshi, of the family of Jehu, founder of a new dynasty in Israel; seals, amulets and unique cult objects. The lecture concluded by questioning the status of the city in the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the circumstances of its destruction.



JÜRGEN ZANGENBERG
TABLE, SEAT AND PLATFORM: DISCOVERIES IN THE ROMAN-BYZANTINE SYNAGOGUE AT HORVAT KUR (GALILEE)

12 June 2019, UCL

Since 2007, the Kinneret Regional Project (www.kinneret-excavations.org) has conducted archaeological explorations on the Galilean hill site at Horvat Kur, 2 km northwest of the Lake of Galilee. Searching for a Hellenistic–Roman village, the team discovered a Late Roman–Byzantine synagogue instead, fully excavated between 2010 and 2018. The excavations brought very interesting finds to light: remains of a bimah, an enigmatic stone table with decoration, a stone seat of the community leader, indications for a balcony, fragments of a mosaic with the depiction of a menorah and a few surprises. They also shed light on everyday Jewish village life and liturgy in the Byzantine period.


REVITAL GOLDING-MEIR
THE MATERIAL CULTURE OF THE EARLY IRON AGE — A VIEW FROM THE NORTH WESTERN NEGEV

9 September 2019, UCL

Qubur el-Walaydah
Excavations at Qubur el-Walaydah. Image courtesy of Revital Golding-Meir.

The North Western Negev lies on the hinterland of Urban Philistia, on the edge of the desert. It was home to a number of small agricultural settlements that developed their own, distinctive, regional characteristics. This lecture drew on the speaker’s doctoral research to explore the material culture of three key sites in the region — Tell el-Far’ah South, Qubur el-Walaydah and Tell esh-Sharia, both from the perspective of current and past excavations.


TESSA RAJAK
MASADA: HISTORY, MYTH AND JEWISH IDENTITY

10 September 2019, Hale Synagogue, Manchester

The unforgettable mountain fortress of Masada on the Dead Sea was the last stronghold to fall to the Romans, three years after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE.

The mass suicide of the besieged rebels and their families, as dramatized by the historian Josephus, has entered collective memory a narrative of resistance to the last. It has inspired Jews from medieval martyrs to the founders of the State of Israel and the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Climbing to the top of Masada
Climbing to the top of Masada. Photo courtesy of Nick Slope.

Yigal Yadin’s world famous excavations brought the site to world attention and seemed to confirm Josephus’s account astonishingly well.

And yet …

How far can we believe Josephus? Were those stirring speeches ever made? How much of his story does the archaeology really support? This lecture explored the dramatic backstory and more recent controversies surrounding the remarkable site of Masada.