GEORGE GROVE THE FOUNDER OF PALESTINIAN/ISRAELI ARCHAEOLOGY
14 January 2019, University College 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.
ARAMAIC AND THE NATIVE VOICE: 300 BC TO 300 CE
18 February 2019, University College London
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.
THE TOMB OF CHRIST IN THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE
7 March 2019, British Museum, London
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.
THE EXCAVATIONS AT TEL REHOV AND THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF ISRAEL IN THE EARLY MONARCHIC PERIOD
29 April 2019, University College London
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.
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.
THE MATERIAL CULTURE OF THE EARLY IRON AGE — A VIEW FROM THE NORTH WESTERN NEGEV
9 September 2019, University College London
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.
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.
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.
HOW AND WHY WERE CITIES BURNED? A NEW LOOK ON THE DESTRUCTIONS OF BRONZE AGE LACHISH
10 October 2019, University College London
Archaeologists frequently encounter destruction layers in the cities they excavate — a physical marker of the tragic events that can disrupt and destroy a community. Ironically, the fires that destroy also preserve, leaving physical evidence that helps us better understand past societies.
Several Bronze Age destruction layers of this kind were found during recent excavations at the site of Lachish. But what were the agents and reasons behind these events? And can we use these destructions to learn more about the Late Bronze Age collapse in the Levant?
This lecture examined these questions through a multi-disciplinary approach incorporating macro- and micro-archaeological methods, as well as experimental burning of mudbrick structures. We learned how to recognize whether fires started inside, or outside a structure, and how to detect signs of crisis and abandonment. Dr Kreimerman then made an intriguing proposal: could the destruction of Level VI be part of a wider Philistine policy of creating a buffer zone between Philistia and its neighbours?
DAVID GUREVICH – BOOK LAUNCH
Exploring the Holy Land. 100 Years of the Palestine Exploration Fund
10 October 2019, University College London
The AIAS held a wine reception to mark publication of this special volume, presenting the results of a two-day conference held at the University of Haifa in 2015 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Palestine Exploration Fund. During the evening, co-editor David Gurevich presented a short lecture examining the work of a number of pioneering PEF archaeologists. The event was sponsored by Equinox Publishing.
Insights into the Jewish Homeland a Thousand Years Ago
29 October 2019, University College London
Professor Reif presented an engaging exploration of the political and historical background of Jewish communities in the homeland before, during and after the Crusader period, looking at the Cairo Genizah and a number of remarkable manuscripts, and discussing what these communities achieved, and how they interacted with those in Babylonia.