Lecture Summaries 2012


One of the important contributions of the Dead Sea Scrolls is to provide a large corpus of liturgical texts, a millennium earlier than the earliest known Jewish Prayerbook. They are thus among the most important evidence for the early history and development of Jewish prayer. Such liturgical manuscripts constitute artifacts of prayer, and the material aspects are primary evidence for the social function of prayer. This presentation will survey the physical features of liturgical scrolls from Qumran and reflect on their status and the social context of their production and use. For example, prayer texts were significantly more prone to be written on papyrus and/or as an opisthograph than any other genre at Qumran. Many such ‘budget’ scrolls of prayers almost exclusively reflect the practices of the ‘Qumran scribal school’, and many are in a smaller format with more rustic quality, suggesting that these are personal copies produced by members at Qumran, even of texts that likely did not originate there. This is in marked contrast to ‘biblical’ scrolls, which tend to be in larger format and luxury editions, and are extremely rare on papyrus. The evidence also includes about 30 Tefillin found at Qumran which show some continuity with rabbinic regulations for their construction. The survey will also include comparison with evidence for the nature and use of written prayers in the Greco-Roman world.

Daniel Falk is Professor of Ancient Judaism and Biblical Studies at the University of Oregon where he has been a member of the Religious Studies Department since 1998, and Department Head from 2008-2011. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 1996, and from 2005-2008 was Kennicott Fellow in Hebrew at the Oriental Institute in Oxford and Jr. Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. Professor Falk’s interests lie in the history and literature of ancient Judaism and the beginnings of Christianity, especially the development of prayer and liturgy, interpretation of scripture, and the formation of religious communities. His research focuses particularly on the Dead Sea Scrolls, which he is involved in translating and reconstructing. He is the author of Daily, Sabbath, and Festival Prayers in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Brill, 1998) and Parabiblical Texts: Strategies for Extending the Scriptures in the Dead Sea Scrolls (T&T Clark/Continuum, 2007). He is co-editor of five other books, including a 3-volume series on the history of penitential prayer entitled Seeking the Favor of God (SBL/Brill, 2006, 2007, 2008). Among numerous articles on the Dead Sea Scrolls, he published the official editions of two manuscripts from Qumran, “4QWorks of God” and “4QCommunal Confession,” (in Discoveries in the Judaean Desert 29; Oxford University Press, 1999).


Such is the density of the archaeological investigation of Old Testament Jerusalem that almost every stone turned leads to controversy. The subjects of recent debates have included the Davidic palace and the city walls built by Nehemiah. The Kenyon archive of the first scientific excavations in Jerusalem in the 1960s still has contributions to offer.

Dr Kay Prag is a one-time Kenyon student and Senior Scholar of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, who took part in Kenyon’s Jerusalem excavations in the 1960s. She was for some years editor of the journal Levant, published by the Council for British Research in the Levant. She currently works on the final publication of the reports on the Kenyon excavations, mainly involving the Roman and later periods. The archive is kept in the Manchester Museum.


The use of archaeology in nation building is common across the world, and early Zionists were no less keen than others to exploit its potential.  This lecture will focus on the use, by a Palestinian Zionist leader and a prominent Hebrew University archaeologist, of a Jewish Second Temple tomb-cave overlooking the old city of Jerusalem and originally discovered by the Palestine Exploration Fund.

In October 1902 a massive Jewish Second Temple tomb-cave was uncovered on the Gray-Hill estate in the area of the Mount of Olives, later known as Mt. Scopus.  Based on an inscription found on one of the ossuaries retrieved from the cave, Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister and Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau claimed that the tomb-cave complex belonged to Nicanor of Alexandria, an individual mentioned in early rabbinic texts as having financed part of the Second Temple. Not all agreed with this interpretation: some argued that the inscription was a forgery, and others questioned the reality of Nicanor of Alexandria’s contribution to the Second Temple. But this did not prevent Menachem Ussishkin, one of the Zionist leaders in Russia and thereafter the President of the Jewish National Fund, from attempting to turn the Nicanor tomb-cave into the National Zionist Pantheon in Palestine.  Ussishkin’s aspiration was to strengthen the connection between the golden Second Temple period and the Zionist endeavour.  Thus, in 1934 Ussishkin interred in the tomb-cave the remains of Yehudah Leib Pinsker, one of the leaders of practical Zionism and Hovevei Zion.  He himself was laid to rest next to his mentor in 1941.  Ussishkin’s attempt to turn the Nicanor tomb-cave into a modern cemetery received the backing of the Hebrew University archaeologist Eleazar Sukenik, despite the damage caused to some of the artefacts when adapting the tomb-cave to its new function.  Ussishkin was a dominant figure in the Jewish community in Palestine, but on his death his vision of the tomb-cave as the cemetery of Zionist leaders was buried with him.


This illustrated lecture presents the literary and archaeological evidence from both Egypt and Israel relevant to earliest Israel. Biblical accounts concerning the slavery, the exodus, the wandering, and the settlement in Canaan are treated against the backdrop of ancient Near Eastern evidence, with an attempt to dovetail Israel’s own narrative with the data emerging from two centuries of archaeological exploration in the Near East.  While not every element recorded in the biblical accounts may be substantiated, the overall picture demonstrates a remarkable degree of coherence between the biblical narrative and the archaeological evidence.

Professor Gary Rendsburg serves as the Blanche and Irving Laurie Professor of Jewish History in the Department of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University, teaching and researching on ‘all things ancient Israel’. The author of six books, including The Bible and the Ancient Near East, which he co-authored with his teacher, the late Cyrus H. Gordon, and about 130 articles. Prof. Rendsburg has visited all the major archaeological sites in Israel, Egypt, and Jordan and has excavated at Tel Dor and Caesarea.


How provincial was Palestine in the century before the Crusader conquests? In this period it is usually depicted as a patchwork of rural holdings, bedouin territories, and economically insignificant towns, with more or less tenuous connections to the network of ports along the Syrian littoral and the great Mediterranean cities beyond. Traders’ letters found in the Cairo Geniza suggest that it played next to no role in the high-volume, high-profit commerce for which the letters have become justly famous.

But does a lack of high commerce mean a lack of connectedness to far-off places? Archaeological evidence supports the idea that trade took place in small coastwise movements, and also that it reached well beyond the lands of Islam. Documentary and literary sources alike demonstrate that Palestine attracted pilgrims, visitors and permanent settlers from the east and from all shores of the Mediterranean, even before the influx of Latin Christians in 1097. The lecture will present some of the evidence for the connectedness of Fatimid Palestine to the wider world, considering its surprisingly robust local economy and its long-term viability as an arena for the exchange and transmission of ideas.

Professor Marina Rustow holds the Charlotte Bloomberg Professorship in the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where she is an associate professor in the Department of History. Her research focuses on the social history of the medieval Near East and documentary sources from the Cairo Geniza. She is author of Heresy and the Politics of Community: The Jews of the Fatimid Caliphate (2008) and co-editor of Jewish Studies at the Crossroads of Anthropology and History: Authority, Diaspora, Tradition (2011) and The Cambridge History of Judaism, vols. 5 and 6: The Middle Ages (forthcoming).


The analysis of the distribution pattern of bronze coins at 186 sites in Galilee and the Golan yields interesting insights on the relative influence of the various political and ethnic entities in ancient Galilee. When plotted on a map, the coins of the Seleucids, the cities of Sidon, Tyre and ‘Akko-Ptolemais, as well as the coins of the Jews show a dynamic interaction over time, at a far greater resolution than could be observed or inferred from the analysis of coins from single sites. Coin distribution patterns show not only trade patterns, as often assumed, but can also suggest political boundaries, administrative changes, and surprisingly, even preferences on ethnic grounds. Coins from a specific site can even be, in certain cases, an independent archaeological criterion in evaluating historical processes at that site.

Cases in point are a reorganization of the Seleucid mint of ‘Akko-Ptolemais that is not known from other sources, the formation of the Hasmonean state after the takeover of Galilee, the agricultural hinterland the Phoenician cities depended on and also the location of  the boundary of the provincia Iudaea in the first century CE. It will be also suggested that the Jewish areas can be traced through the coin distribution patterns even after the cessation of Jewish minting following the Great Revolt (70 CE).  The study of Galilee has been dominated in the past decades by Bible and New Testament scholars, who tried to reconstruct the economical realities of the Galilee of Jesus based on, among other criteria, coin finds. As a cautionary tale, it will be shown that it is hazardous to project processes happening in one period onto another, as this might lead to incorrect conclusions.

Danny Sion’s career in archaeology started as a volunteer at the Gamla excavations, under Shmarya Gutmann where he worked for 14 seasons. He has also worked at the Haifa University underwater excavations at Caesarea under Avner Raban for 13 seasons. Since 1991 he has been working for the Israel Antiquities Authority, where he has conducted approximately 45 excavations, some of them large-scale. Since 2007 he has been head of the Scientific Assessment branch of the IAA.


In 1918, the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem (BSAJ) was founded.   This lecture examined the contributions of the School’s staff and students to archaeology in the early Mandate period.   From the beginning of the Mandate, the BSAJ as an institution played a major role in shaping archaeology and tourism, through initial conservation and presentation of ancient buildings in Palestine and Transjordan.  As a training institution, it welcomed men and women, from a variety of backgrounds, who wished to gain experience in archaeological practice, learning techniques, languages and making connections that would prove useful to them in their future careers.  Although the School suffered continually from a lack of proper financial backing, by working alongside other international teams and institutions it was able to build up a significant reputation amongst the scholarly and governmental communities.  The lecture used archives and memoirs from students of the BSAJ to illuminate the social history of this institution, which continues to operate in Jerusalem today.

Amara Thornton is currently an Honorary Research Associate at the UCL Institute of Archaeology.  Her doctoral thesis, completed in July 2011, explored the lives and social networks of five British archaeologists – George and Agnes Horsfield, John and Molly Crowfoot, and John Garstang – to illustrate key themes in the history of archaeology.  She has published short articles on the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem and on an early BSAJ student, George Horsfield, and she has recently published a database of students at the BSAJ between 1920 and 1936. She is currently researching the role of heritage tourism in Mandate Palestine and Transjordan:  this topic was the subject of a collaborative workshop with Professor Michael Berkowitz and Dr Debbie Challis, on ‘Tourism as Colonial Policy? The History of Heritage Tourism in British Mandate Palestine and Transjordan’, which took place in November 2011. Dr. Thornton teaches at the Institute of Archaeology, University College, London.


Dr. Crawford’s lecture will discuss the relationship of Khirbet Qumran, an ancient ruin on the northwest shores of the Dead Sea which was inhabited during the first century B.C.E. and the first century C.E., with the eleven caves in Qumran’s vicinity in which the majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. She will show that the scrolls were deposited in the caves by the same community of Jews as lived at Qumran, by demonstrating the many ways in which the scrolls and the site of Qumran are tied together archaeologically.  The caves and Qumran share the same geographic/archaeological space, the same pottery repertoire, and the same range of archaeological dates, thus proving they are intrinsically linked together.

Sidnie White Crawford is Willa Cather Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and this term she is a Visiting Scholar at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.  A recognized expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Dr. Crawford was a member of the international team responsible for publishing critical editions of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Her work concerns the textual criticism of the Old Testament and the way in which the biblical text was copied and handed on in the ancient world, as well as the process by which certain books attained canonical status.  Her latest book, Rewriting Scripture in Second Temple Times, investigates how the Torah or Pentateuch was rewritten or changed into new works by Jews in the Graeco-Roman period.