Lecture Summaries 2021

GIDEON AVNI — Jerusalem between Late Antiquity and Early Islam: The Creation of a Multicultural City

6 January 2021 (online, via Zoom)

The AIAS opened their 2021 lecture series with a fascinating talk by Professor Gideon Avni of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Hebrew University in Jerusalem. This explored the religious diversity of Jerusalem, and its journey towards multiculturalism in the period from the 6th to 11th centuries CE.

View of the cardo at Jerusalem
The Cardo at Jerusalem (image by משתמש:כיכר השבת ויקיפדיה, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Professor Avni drew on the evidence from excavations in and around Jerusalem to challenge traditional views of urban development in Jerusalem — particularly the idea that we can use military events to mark moments of abrupt change for the city.

Rather, he showed how Jerusalem’s transformation can be seen as a more gradual phenomenon. This ultimately lead to the development of urban zoning and the emergence of distinct physical precincts related to the city’s Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities.

A video of the lecture may be found at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iyoY39AQJ9ztzltiAQLHHdQXqBzOI7Sh/view; the presentation starts at 3:06 minutes.

SANDRA JACOBS — Why Cuneiform in Canaan Matters

3 February 2021 (online, via Zoom)

Cover of 'Cuneiform in Canaan' book (Eisenbrauns 2018)
Second edition of ‘Cuneiform in Canaan’ by W. Horowitz, T. Oshima and S.L. Sanders (Eisenbrauns 2018); image courtesy of Sandra Jacobs.

Cuneiform script in Israel and the Palestinian territories is one of the earliest explicit indicators of the impact of ancient Mesopotamian cultural transmission from the Middle Bronze Age.

Recently, the Cuneiform in Canaan project drew together this disparate material, making it this material widely accessible for the first time.

Drawing on this work, Dr Jacobs showed the importance of this material to our understanding of early Judaism. In particular, she explored their connection to the historical development of written law in ancient Babylonian and Hebrew sources.

A video of the lecture may be found at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xuREUPUgWPitUfh7NXqZDYnjHAEOwQgs/view; the presentation starts at 2:12 minutes.

JOAN TAYLOR — Babatha’s Sisters: Judaean Women Refugees in the Wilderness Caves

10 March 2021 (online, via Zoom)

Hand holding coins and Spindle whorls from a Judean desert cave
Coins and Spindle whorls of the Bar Kokhba period, found in a Judean desert cave in 1961. Photo courtesy of Judith Brown.

After the Bar Kokhba Revolt of 135 CE, refugee Judaeans hid from the Romans — and perished — in desert caves. From the clothing, cosmetics, jewellery boxes and wooden bowls preserved in the dry conditions, it would seem that many of these refugees were women. Even some texts survived, providing a rare glimpse into the life of Babatha.

But what about the others?

One of their hideouts, the ‘Christmas Cave’, was excavated by a British team in 1961-63. Yet their discoveries were caught in the aftermath of the Six-Day War and international disagreements, and have remained unknown — until now.

Professor Taylor’s lecture discussed her work to rediscover this excavation, and what it has taught us about women’s lives during those troubled times.

A video of the lecture will be posted online shortly. AIAS members get ‘early-bird’ access to lecture recordings, via the ‘members-only’ part of this website. See the membership page for details on how to join the society.