Lecture Summaries 2013



Lares figurine
Roman Lares figurine from the site
©Sasson Tiram Photography

The remains of an early Christian place of worship were discovered in 2005 in the grounds of the Megiddo Prison in northern Israel. The excavator has dated the ‘prayer hall’ to the early third century, which would make it the oldest surviving church building, but the dating has been challenged  by other authorities.  The lecture gave an overview of the discovery, discussing the date of the building and assessing  its significance for our knowledge of early Christian architecture, early Christian belief  and early Church life.

Dr Edward Adams is Senior Lecturer in New Testament Studies at King’s College London, where he has taught since 1996.  He is the author of numerous articles and several books, including Parallel Lives of Jesus: Four Gospels, One Story (2011), and The Earliest Christian Meeting Place: Almost Exclusively Houses? (forthcoming, in 2013, from Continuum/Bloomsbury).



Plaque from AroerIn numerous Iron Age archaeological sites in Judah known as centres for administrative activity, excavators have found small bone plaques, (c. 2×4cm). These plaques were perforated with up to 30 holes arranged in rows, typically with 5-10 holes in each. Over one hundred years ago, Flinders Petrie was the first to unearth such a plaque at Tel el-Farah South (near Gaza), while the most recent one was found by Ronny Reich in the City of David excavations, in the context of an 8th century BCE Jerusalem administration office. Petrie surmised that these objects served as calendars, with pegs inserted into consecutive holes to follow the march of days of a particular month. This lecture surveys these finds in their archaeological contexts, and explores their meaning to help understand the type of time-measuring and the calendrical system used by Iron Age Judean clerks. These finds also shed light on date formulas and other calendrical markers in priestly writings in the Torah.

Jonathan Ben-Dov (Ph.D. Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2005) is senior lecturer at the Dept. of Bible, University of Haifa. He studies ancient Israelite religion with strong emphasis on grounding it in its ancient context, either in cuneiform writings, Canaanite and Syrian literature, or Hellenistic literature for later periods. He has a special interest in time-reckoning and ancient astronomy. He published the book Head of All Years: Astronomy and Calendars at Qumran in their Ancient Context (Brill, 2008), co-authored the publication of Calendrical Texts Qumran Cave 4 XVI  (Clarendon Press, 2001), and has written extensively on Hebrew Bible, Apocalyptic Literature, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.




Southern Iraq is generally recognised as one of the most important regions for archaeology in the world. In the fourth and third millennia BC, a network of city states developed; probably the first urban civilisation in the world. This Mesopotamian society developed a culture to which many later traditions trace their roots, which gives it a unique relevance to a wide range of people today. However, war, sanctions and civil unrest in Iraq has also made normal archaeological research impossible since the 1980s, which has left our understanding of early Mesopotamia civilisation increasingly stagnant and cut off from advances in archaeological techniques. In 2013, Tell Khaiber became the first British archaeological project to take place in southern Mesopotamia for twenty five years. This lecture presented the initial investigations at the site and outlined its potential to shed new light on our understanding of Mesopotamia c.2,000 BC and earlier. It also considered the different ways in which this period can be understood and the way in which archaeology can address different constituencies.

Stuart Campbell is Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Manchester. He has excavated extensively in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Between 1995 and 2011, he excavated at the site of Domuztepe in southeast Turkey, the largest known pre-urban site in the Middle East, dating from c.7,000-4,500 BC. Together with Jan Moon and Robert Killick, he directs the Ur Region Archaeological Project, which started excavating the site of Tell Khaiber in southern Iraq in spring 2013.



This talk will revisit one of the more interesting, but unresolved, puzzles of the Ancient Near East, namely the question of the identity of Kandalanu, the last king of Babylon under Assyrian hegemony. The few sources from his reign have been studied for almost a century since it was first suggested that Kandalanu and Assurbanipal were the same person, but no conclusive answer to his identity has yet emerged. Dr Dahl will suggest that it is not the sources that are faulty or incomplete, but rather the questions we ask of them. He will propose a new paradigm for understanding Assyrian-Babylonian relations in the dying days of the Assyrian Empire, and a surprising solution to the puzzle.

Dr Dahl is a specialist in the pre-Classical cultures and languages of the Near East. He has written on early Babylonian socio-economic history, early Near Eastern writing systems, and Sumerian literature. He is currently working on the decipherment of proto-Elamite, the last undeciphered writing system from the Ancient Near East with a substantial number of sources.



The lecture discussed the results of the first archaeological research project using modern methods to investigate the archaeology of Roman-period and Byzantine Nazareth and its hinterland as a whole: the Nazareth Archaeological Project.  Moving beyond research agendas driven by ‘Biblical Archaeology’, the project works within the frameworks of mainstream Roman provincial archaeology and contemporary archaeological theory to investigate both period-specific themes and long-term dynamics.

Fieldwork from 2004 to 2010 included a survey of the broad valley (Nahal Zippori) between Nazareth and Sepphoris and a detailed re-investigation of the Sisters of Nazareth site in the present centre of Nazareth. The survey revealed a hitherto-unknown pattern of small settlements established in, or immediately prior to, the Early Roman period and apparently abandoned at the end of the Byzantine period, while the work in the centre of Nazareth has wide-ranging implications for the size and character of Nazareth in both the Roman and Byzantine periods, especially when seen in the context of other new information provided by recent Israel Antiquities Authority rescue excavations in and around the city.

Dr Ken Dark is director of the Research Centre for Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at the University of Reading and chair of the Late Antiquity Research Group. He has published widely and holds honorary professorships from several European and American universities. He has directed and co-directed many excavations and archaeological survey projects in both Britain and the Middle East.



In the Hebrew Bible, sight is an integral part of human and divine justice. A cluster of idioms expresses this understanding and a number of passages refer to God’s eyes and assume that the deity sees what transpires on earth in the light of day and is able to dispense justice accordingly. This same understanding is found of other ancient Near Eastern gods who dispensed justice.

Eye-shaped stones were a regular part of Mesopotamian culture for almost 2000 years. They could symbolize the seeing capacity of a deity when used on divine clothing or appurtenances, they could be ritually activated to serve as good luck charms, and they could be offered as votive gifts to thank a deity for watching over a giver and saving his or her life, or to remind one to watch over the giver and hear his or her requests. A few biblical texts seem to refer to such eye-stones.

Dr Edelman holds a PhD from the University of Chicago. Her work focuses on the history, archaeology and literature of the ancient Southern Levant, especially in the Iron Age and Persian periods. She has authored or co-authored three books, she has edited or co-edited ten volumes, and she has contributed a number of articles to dictionaries, encyclopaedias, refereed journals, and volumes of collected essays. Her latest project, co-edited with Ehud Ben Zvi and due out in early 2013 from Oxford University Press, is entitled Remembering Biblical Figures in the Late Persian and Early Hellenistic Periods: Social Memory and Imagination. 




Writing an historical study of the Bar Kokhba war has highlighted for Professor Horbury a variety of relevant archaeological and topographical work, from the early surveys of Palestine onwards. Focussing on this one historical topic provides a kind of cross-section of the archaeological investigations of various kinds carried on since 1840, including discoveries of coins and inscriptions. This lecture was a non-archaeologist’s view of a long and rich archaeological story, with reference to many different archaeological sites, including Herodium.

wh*****@ca*.uk" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Willliam Horbury is a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and a past President of the British Association for Jewish Studies. His numerous and varied publications include Herodian Judaism and New Testament Study (2006). His book on the Jewish War under Trajan and Hadrian is due to be published by Cambridge University Press in 2014.



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 possible location of the Davidic palace and the existence of the city walls built by Nehemiah. The archive from Kathleen Kenyon’s work in the 1960s (the first scientific excavations in Jerusalem, under the auspices of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem) still has contributions to offer on these and other questions. The archive is kept in the Manchester Museum. Most of the major results of the excavations were published with commendable speed by Kenyon in preliminary reports and informative monographs. The main focus of Kenyon’s excavation of Iron Age remains was in her Site A, the great trench on the slopes of the south-east ridge, on which the final reports have since been published by H. Franken and M. Steiner. Iron Age remains in other areas excavated were on a much smaller scale. Current findings, now in process of publication, which reflect the more detailed analysis of the finds in two of these trenches, relate to major walls in Kenyon’s Sites S.II and R, on the fringes of the Ophel area. These trenches were small, but of considerable depth and revealed long stratified sequences. A much larger area around Site S.II was later excavated by B. Mazar on behalf of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and more recently by E. Mazar.

Kay Prag is a former Kenyon student and Senior Scholar of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, who participated in Kathleen Kenyon’s Jerusalem excavations in the 1960s. She was for some years editor of the journal Levant, now published by the Council for British Research in the Levant. She currently works on the final publication of her excavations at Tell Iktanu in Jordan and final reports on the Kenyon excavations, mainly concerning the Roman and later periods in Jerusalem.




Jerusalem Temple
Model of Jerusalem Temple

The Temple Scroll, recovered by Yigael Yadin during the Six Day War, rewrites much of the Pentateuch, setting out a utopian Temple plan for a gargantuan Temple extending over virtually all of what was then the city of Jerusalem. In addition, this scroll provided detailed prescriptions for the offering of sacrifices and other Temple rituals. This illustrated lecture will examine the architecture of the Temple complex, giving careful attention to the various structures, their purposes, and the manner in which they can be traced in biblical literature.

Lawrence H. Schiffman, currently Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Professor of Judaic Studies at Yeshiva University, taught for thirty nine years at New York University, where he was Edelman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies and Chair of the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies. A specialist in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Judaism in Late Antiquity, the history of Jewish law, and Talmudic literature, and the director of New York University’s program at the archaeological excavations at Dor, Israel, from 1980-1982, he is the author of many articles and books, including, most recently, The Courtyards of the House of the Lord: Studies on the Temple Scroll (2008) and Qumran and Jerusalem: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the History of Judaism (2010). He has featured in many TV documentaries on PBS and on the BBC and has lectured widely in universities, academic conferences, and for community organizations.




One of Richard Barnett’s many passions was the Phoenicians, both in their homeland and abroad, and his work on the Nimrud ivories remains essential for anyone dealing with this aspect of Phoenician material culture.  The last 30 years have seen intensive research on many aspects of Phoenician and Punic culture, yet the religious beliefs of the Phoenicians and their cult practices are still poorly understood and, on the basis of classical writers, have often been misrepresented.  This lecture examined the goddess Tanit, known extensively from funerary stelae and other artefacts from Carthage, but only sparsely from the homeland, where her symbol, a triangle surmounted by a horizontal bar and a disc, appears on only a handful of objects, none of which can be dated earlier than the 4th century BC.  Was she a Phoenician goddess at all or a creation of Carthage? Should the few instances of her appearance in the homeland be attributed to returning colonists? By separating the name from the symbol it is hoped that these questions can be answered and that an assessment can be made of her crucial role in religion and society.

Jonathan Tubb is Keeper of the Middle East at the British Museum.  A specialist in the archaeology and history of the Levant, he trained at the Institute of Archaeology in London, and for ten years he served as Assistant Director of the Institute’s excavations in Syria at Qadesh (Tell Nebi Mend) on the Orontes.  In 1984 he excavated the Early Bronze Age site of Tiwal esh-Sharqi in the Jordan Valley on behalf of the British Museum, and in 1985 began excavations at the nearby major site of Tell es-Sa’idiyeh, a project which is continuing to this day.  An expert on Canaanite civilization, Jonathan is the author of many articles and several books on Levantine archaeology, including Excavations in the Early Bronze Age Cemetery of Tiwal esh-Sharqi (British Museum Press 1990, Archaeology and the Bible (British Museum Press 1990) and Canaanites (British Museum Press 1998/2006).



Excavations over the past twenty years on Mt Gerizim near Shechem (Nablus) have revealed traces of what is said to be the Samaritan Temple as being built considerably earlier than was previously thought, that is to say during the period of Persian rule rather than the Greek or Hellenistic rule which came later.  The lecture looked at the evidence for this claim as well as introduced some important later inscriptions from the same site.

Interestingly, this means that the temple would have come into use shortly before the time when the biblical books of Chronicles were written.  In one passage in those books there is a most unusual reference to a group known as the Sons of Joseph.  The lecture will seek to show that in Samaritan tradition Joseph played a much more important role than has previously been realized, and that this was even recognized by the Jews of Jerusalem, as one of the lesser-known Dead Sea Scrolls as well as some other evidence shows.  Perhaps, therefore, the author of Chronicles, by introducing a very positive reference to the Sons of Joseph in a way that was completely unnecessary for the purpose of what he was writing in the passage concerned, was seeking to build bridges with this alternative community—an unexpectedly early form of ecumenism!

Professor Hugh Williamson was Chairman of The Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society for 19 years before stepping down in 2010, and he has been the Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford University since 1992.  Before that, he studied and taught in Cambridge.  While his main expertise is in the history of the literature of the Hebrew Bible he has always taken an active interest in the archaeology of Israel and its value for historical research.  He excavated for four seasons at Lachish and for five at Jezreel, while administratively he has been much involved over the years with the Palestine Exploration Fund and the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem (now the Kenyon Institute under the wider auspices of the Council for British Research in the Levant). His principal publications have been on the books of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Isaiah.