Lecture Summaries 2011



The Temple Mount, which has never been excavated by archaeologists, has been like a black hole in the archaeological map of Jerusalem, but when in 1999 the Islamic authorities of the Mount (the Waqf) dug a large pit in the south-east sector, extracting more than four hundred truck loads of earth saturated with the Temple Mount’s history and dumping it in the Kidron valley, they gave an opportunity for the first time to look into the archaeological record of the Mount. Work has taken place for the last six years to sift this soil, and tens of thousands of finds have been recovered, producing an original and important corpus of data which contributes much new evidence to the history of the Temple Mount throughout all of its periods of occupation.

The lecture will deal with the methodology of this project, and the problems which have arisen in its implementation, as well as with its results. The finds cover a span of fifteen thousand years, from prehistoric flint implements to modern artefacts. Included among the finds are a few seals and bullae with ancient Hebrew inscriptions of the First Temple period, probably connected to figures involved in the administration and cult of the Temple of Solomon, and approximately six thousand coins, from the earliest, minted in Jerusalem in the post-exilic period, through the Hellenistic, Hasmonean, late-Roman and Byzantine periods, to Arabic, Crusader and Islamic coins, up to modern times.

Gabriel Barkay is Professor of Biblical Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University and Jerusalem University College, where his major subjects of study are the archaeology of Jerusalem and the art and epigraphy of the Iron Age. He is the author of 150 scholarly articles and a recipient of the prestigious Jerusalem Prize for Archaeology. He has directed excavations in Jerusalem, Ramat Rahel and Kiryat Yearim, and he was responsible for the discovery of the earliest biblical verses ever found, the two silver plaques with the priestly benediction from the 7th century BCE tombs of Ketef Hinnom in Jerusalem. Over the past forty years he has excavated at Megiddo, Mamshit, Lachish and many other sites, and he is a member of the Supreme Archaeological Council of Israel.  Dr Barkay currently heads (with Z. Devira) the project to sift the soil from the Temple Mount.

DR ESTI ESHEL (Bar Ilan University)


Herodium is located 12 km. south of Jerusalem. The main literary source for the history of Herodium is the writing of Josephus. The position and appearance of the site accords with the evidence provided by Josephus. Herodium was conquered and destroyed by the Romans in 71 CE. At the beginning of the Bar Kokhba revolt sixty years later, Simon bar Kokhba declared Herodium as his secondary headquarters.

Remains of the palace-fortress on the hilltop have been excavated by several expeditions since the early 1960s. Since 1972, excavations at the palace-fortress and at Lower Herodium were conducted on behalf of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem under the direction of the late Professor Ehud Netzer. After his untimely death, Roi Porat was appointed as his successor.  Recent excavations in the north-east slope of the hill at Herodium have changed the conception of “Greater Herodium” in remarkable ways. In 2007 Professor Netzer discovered the tomb of Herod, at the precise location given by Josephus in his writings. Later, near the tomb base, he found a small 450-seat capacity theatre with an elaborately decorated royal theatre box. Those excavations uncovered more than sixty Greek and Latin inscriptions, as well as twenty Hebrew and Aramaic inscriptions, most of which are very fragmentary. The Greek and Latin inscriptions will be published by Avner Ecker, and the Hebrew and Aramaic by Esti Eshel. In this lecture, Esti Eshel will introduce the finds from recent excavations, focusing on the new Hebrew and Aramaic inscriptions, as well as having a fresh look on some old inscriptions found at the site before 1972.

Dr. Esti Eshel is a senior lecturer in the Bible Department and in the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar Ilan University, and an acting head of the Jeselsohn Epigraphic Center of Jewish History at Bar-Ilan University. Her fields of research are the late books of the Hebrew Bible, as part of an interest in Jewish literature of the Second Temple period, including early Jewish exegesis, and epigraphy. A member of the international team publishing the Dead Sea Scrolls; Co-Author (with J.C. Greenfild and M.E. Stone), The  Aramaic Levi Document (Studia in Veteris Testamenti Pseudepigrapha, 19). Leiden 2004; and (with A. Kloner, H. Korzakova and G. Finkielsztejn), Maresha III: Epigraphic Finds from the 1989-2000 Seasons (IAA Reports, No. 45). Jerusalem 2010.


DR ELIZABETH FROOD (Oxford University)


Travel within Egypt and abroad had been a core element in elite status and self-presentation since the earliest periods of the country’s history. Dr Frood will explore themes relating to mobility and place in biographical inscriptions of officials of the New Kingdom (ca. 1539-1075 BC), a period when Egyptian views of the outside world and definitions of its borders underwent significant reformulation. Egyptian individuals deployed a wide range of forms to articulate their experiences of travel in Western Asia, ranging from detailed narratives and scenes to long lists of localities. These personal geographies offer insights into broader Egyptian conceptions of the world, especially when compared with literary texts and other genres which codify knowledge in list form and which may have influenced the biographies. Material relating to the Sinai is of particular comparative value as the region was considered both part of and separate from Egypt, raising questions for the definition of the foreign. In some examples, the sense of place acts as a central catalyst in the construction and transformation of personal status and identity.

Dr Frood began her study of Egyptology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. She completed her doctorate at the University of Oxford in 2004. From 2003-2006 she held the position of Lecturer in Egyptology at the University of Liverpool. Since 2006 she has been based at the University of Oxford as University Lecturer in Egyptology in the Faculty of Oriental Studies and as a fellow of St Cross College. Dr Frood’s research centres on the representation and self-presentation of Egyptian elites in the Old Kingdom through to the Third Intermediate Period, with an emphasis on the late New Kingdom. Her work seeks to integrate textual and visual components of elite representation with architectural structures and landscape. She is co-author of Woodcutters, Potters and Doorkeepers: Service Personnel of the Deir el-Medina Workmen (2003) and author of Biographical Texts from Ramessid Egypt (2007).



Fragments of many different types of textile have been discovered at Masada. Rather than the tumultuous events for which Masada is most famous, most of these objects reflect the daily life of the people who lived there. The majority of the textiles probably belonged to the people who occupied Masada during the First Revolt against the Romans (66 to 73 or 74 CE), the “sicarii” and their families and other groups who seem to have eventually joined them.

Textile fragments have been discovered at many different contexts on the site. Taken as a whole this corpus represents almost the complete range of textile types made and used at the time. Within three overarching categories – clothing, domestic textiles and utilitarian textiles – the precise function of many of the original fabrics can be recognised from their fragmentary remains. Items discussed in the talk include mantles (tallitot), tunics, cloaks, loincloths, footwrappers, hairnets, textile amour, banners cushion and mattress covers, sacks and animal equipment.

A catalogue of the Masada textiles will be published as Volume IX in the Masada Final Reports series.

Hero Granger-Taylor is an independent scholar based in London. She is currently working on groups of textiles found in Egypt, Jordan and Israel.



The talk will briefly address questions raised by the BBC2 television series ‘The Bible’s Buried Secrets’, and examine its effectiveness and reliability as a popular introduction to current scholarship on the history of ancient Israel and Judah and its possible theological implications.

Dr Walter Houston is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Centre for Biblical Studies, and an Emeritus Fellow of Mansfield College Oxford. He spent most of his career teaching Old Testament studies to students for the Christian ministry in various places, including Luther King House in Manchester. His major publications include Purity and Monotheism: Clean and Unclean Animals in Biblical Law (1993) and Contending for Justice: Ideologies and Theologies of Social Justice in the Old Testament (revised edition 2008). Dr Houston’s latest publication is Justice – the Biblical Challenge (2010).





Ehud Netzer

The extraordinary rise to power of Herod the Great, and his long rule over Judaea at the end of the first century BC, have left an indelible mark on world history and on the landscape of the land of Israel. In recent years the remarkable archaeological discoveries of Professor Ehud Netzer have attracted a great deal of public attention to the career of this controversial ruler, and, a year after Ehud Netzer’s untimely death, a panel of experts in different aspects of Herodian studies will discuss the impact of his excavations on continuing debates about Herod and his accomplishments.

David Jacobson is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at UCL and also Professor of Manufacturing Technologies at Buckinghamshire New University, with doctorates in both Materials Science (Sussex University) and Classical Archaeology (London University). He currently edits thePalestine Exploration Quarterly (PEQ). He co-organised with Nikos Kokkinos two landmark international conferences on Herodian studies: Herod and Augustus(sponsored by the IJS in 2005) and Judaea and Rome in Coins, 65 BCE-135 CE (co-sponsored by the IJS and Spink in 2010), and has numerous publications on these subjects.

Nikos Kokkinos has a D.Phil. from Oxford University, and is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at UCL.  He has written numerous articles on literary, documentary and archaeological material, and his books include The Enigma of Jesus the Galilean (in Greek 1980/2007), Centuries of Darkness(co-author 1991), Antonia Augusta (1992/2002), The Herodian Dynasty (1998/2010),The World of the Herods (editor 2007), and Herod and Augustus (co-editor 2009).

Tessa Rajak is Professor of Ancient History Emeritus in the University of Reading, Senior Research Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford and a Member of the Hebrew and Jewish Studies Unit at the Oriental Institute, Oxford. She has held distinguished visiting posts at universities in Europe, Israel and the US. Among her books are Translation and Survival: The Greek Bible of the Ancient Jewish Diaspora (2009), The Jewish Dialogue with Greece and Rome (2002), and Josephus: The Historian and His Society (2nd edn, 2002). She has also edited the Journal of Jewish Studies.

PROF AMI MAZAR (Hebrew University Jerusalem)


The lecture will survey developments in Israeli archaeological research over the past fifty years. From its modest beginnings during the 1920s, when research subjects were mainly related to Jewish antiquities from the Roman and Byzantine periods, Israeli archaeology has developed immensely in recent decades. Five university departments of archaeology, and the dynamic Israel Antiquities Authority, annually carry out hundreds of surveys, excavations and other archaeological studies. New approaches to studying the past incorporate major developments in archaeological science and the expertise of colleagues with a variety of specialist skills. The integration into archaeology of the social and exact sciences, and new approaches to understanding the relationship between texts and material culture, have opened up new avenues for understanding and interpreting aspects of past cultures in the land of Israel.

The lecture will present examples of achievements over the past fifty years, indicating those debates which remain open and those for which a solution can now be suggested.

Professor Mazar, who has been Vice-Chairman of the Society since 1997, has been a lecturer and professor at the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University since 1980; in 2010 he became Professor Emeritus. His main fields of research are the archaeology of the Levant in the Bronze and Iron Ages, and the relationship between archaeology and Old Testament history. He has directed archaeological excavations at Tell Qasile, Tel Batash (Biblical Timnah), Tel Beth Shean, Tel Rehov and various smaller scale sites. Author of Archaeology of the Land of the Bible (New York 1990), he has written or edited eight volumes of archaeological reports and numerous research papers in biblical archaeology. He was Chairman of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (1995-1998) and editor of Qadmoniot (1994-1995), and he has been co-editor of the Israel Exploration Journal since 2010. In 2009 he was awarded the Israel Prize for archaeological research.



The lecture will explore the relations between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, investigating the contribution made by Assyrian records such as royal inscriptions to understanding their history and chronology, and demonstrating the value of these texts in shedding light on the pronunciation of Hebrew names in the 7th century B.C. The lecture will also show how biblical references to Assyria complement the Assyrian records and can be shown to reflect accurately the times they describe.

Alan Millard studied ancient Semitic languages in the universities of Oxford and London. He was employed in the Department of Western Asiatic Antiquities at the British Museum, served as Librarian at Tyndale Library for Biblical Research in Cambridge for seven years, and taught at the University of Liverpool from 1970, where he was awarded a personal chair as Rankin Professor of Hebrew and Ancient Semitic Languages in 1992 and became Emeritus Professor in 2003. He has worked on archaeological excavations in Syria, Jordan and Iraq, and in 1984 held a Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he worked with the late Yigael Yadin. Professor Millard’s interests centre on the ancient languages and history of the Near East and the study of the Bible as a product of the ancient world, and he has published editions of Babylonian and Assyrian cuneiform tablets and Aramaic inscriptions.



The lecture discussed aspects of temple architecture and diagnostic ritual practices in Middle Bronze Age Canaan against the background of northwest Semitic “Amorite” religious ideology in Syria. The nucleus of this presentation is the Middle Bronze Age sacred precinct that a Ben-Gurion University expedition has been exploring since 1981 at Tel Haror in the western Negev. This site provides an excellent example of Syrian-type temple architecture as well as unique testimony on ritual practices such as dog sacrifices and ceremonial donkey burials. The temple site of Tel Haror exhibits the diffusion of “Amorite” religious ideology and sacred intuition from the Euphrates to the border of Egypt.

Professor Oren was born in Israel in 1938. He studied archaeology and ancient history at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem (1959-1963), University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (1963-1966) and University of London (1966-1969) where he obtained a Ph.D. Since 1970 he has been lecturer of Near Eastern Archaeology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Israel, and founder of its Archaeological Division (1972), Chair of its Deparment of Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies (1983-1987) and first incumbent of the Canada Chair in Near Eastern Archaeology (1990).  In 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1995 Professor Oren directed at the University of Pennsylvania a series of international seminars on cultural interconnections in the Ancient Near East. Since 1988 he has been a co-ordinator of the Irene Levi-Sala Annual Research Seminar in Archaeology as well as the Irene Levi-Sala Book Prize in the Archaeology of Israel.

Professor Oren participated in and directed archaeological excavations at Casarea, Beit Govrin Caves, Jerusalem, Acre, Tiberias, Tel Arad and Motya (Sicily). In 1972-78 he directed a Ben-Gurion University Expedition to Tel Sera (biblical Ziklag ?), and between 1972-1982 he headed the North Sinai Expedition, between the Suez Canal and the Gaza Strip (Egyptian “Ways-of-Horus”, biblical “Way of the Land of the Philistines”). Between 1982-1990 he directed the survey and excavations in the Gaza Strip. Since 1981 Professor Oren has been director of the “Land of Gerar “ archaeological project in the western Negev, focusing on the key Bronze and Iron age site of Tel Haror (biblical Gerar ?) as well as a survey along the drainage basin of Nahal Gerar and Besor. Professor Oren has written several books and many articles.

DR JUHA PAKKALA (University of Helsinki)


The ancient city of Kinneret (Tel Kinrot/Tell el-‘Orēme) – located on the north-western shore of the Sea of Galilee – is emerging as one of the major sites for the study of urban life in the Southern Levant in the Early Iron Age. Recent excavations have shown that the site developed into a major city during the 11th century bce. Because of the weakness of traditional power centres in the area (especially Hazor) and on changed trade routes, Kinneret was able to establish itself as a regional centre that controlled the area around the lake. The material culture represents a late survival of Bronze Age Canaanite urban tradition. The heyday of Kinneret was short, because the city was destroyed by a major earthquake in the early 10th century bce. This paper presents the results of the excavations and reflects them with the historical and political setting of the region in the Early Iron Age. The excavations have been undertaken by the Dutch-Finnish-German-Swiss “Kinneret Regional Project” under the auspices of the Universities of Bern, Helsinki, Leiden and Mainz.

Dr Pakkala is a member of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Helsinki. He is currently the director of a major project, The Birth and Transmission of Holy Tradition, funded by the European Science Foundation (2007-2012) and has been a co-director of excavations for the Kinneret Regional Project. He is in Oxford this semester on a research visit.



The troops of Sennacherib of Assyria famously laid siege on Jerusalem in 701 BC but withdrew without taking the city (2 Kings 18:13-19:37; Isaiah 36-37) – a pivotal moment in Jewish history and theology. This lecture will analyse the dealings of the Assyrian empire with the kingdom of Judah from an Assyrian point of view, using this relationship as a case study for the interactions of the empire and its vassal states in the period of consolidation that followed the conquests of the 8th century.

Dr Karen Radner is Reader in Ancient Near Eastern History at University College London and specialises in the cuneiform cultures of the Middle East. Her main research interests belong to Assyria, especially the period from the 9th to the 7th century BC, on whose political, social, economic, legal and religious history she has published extensively.

PROFESSOR SACHA STERN (Department of Hebrew & Jewish Studies, UCL)


Pagan and Greek mythological images have been found in large numbers in the mosaic floors and friezes of late antique Palestinian synagogues. These images have long been perceived as a contradiction to the Jewish identity of these structures, and hence as a ‘problem’ that historians have sought to deal with in various ways. In this lecture, the phenomenon of pagan images in Palestinian synagogues will be assessed in relation to the broader context of images and their use in ancient and late antique society. An attempt will also be made to explain why and how images of this kind began to appear in the third century, and then ceased being used in synagogues after the end of Antiquity.

Professor Sacha Stern studied Ancient History at the University of Oxford and at UCL, and completed his doctorate in Jewish Studies at the University of Oxford. He also studied in Yeshivot in Israel. He was Lecturer and Reader in Jewish Studies at Jews’ College, London and at SOAS, and is now Professor of Rabbinic Judaism at the UCL Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies. His is the author of Jewish Identity in Early Rabbinic Writings (Leiden 1994), Calendar and Community: a History of the Jewish Calendar, 2nd cent. BCE – 10th cent. CE. (Oxford 2001), and Time and Process in Ancient Judaism (Oxford 2003).




Rock-cut tombs in Petra and Jerusalem of the late Hellenistic and early Roman periods share several similarities in their architectural design, decorative elements and forms of burial structures. Since we know much less about burial practices in the tombs at Petra than those in the tombs at Jerusalem, the architectural similarities have led scholars to suggest that the Nabataeans shared certain customs with their Jewish neighbours, such as the practice of secondary burial, also known as ossilegium or bone collection. However, a new study of the interiors of the tombs at Petra allows a novel comparison between the funerary architecture of Petra and Jerusalem, revealing that the apparent similarities result from regional trends in architecture, especially those emanating from Alexandria. Upon closer examination, it becomes evident that Alexandrian architectural elements have been given a local interpretation in Petra and Jerusalem, resulting in the distinctive appearance of the tombs in both places.

This lecture will discuss the ways in which the architecture of the tombs was adapted to different local funerary traditions, and demonstrate how the differences between the tombs in Petra and Jerusalem in fact shed light on Nabataean burial practices and concepts of funerary space. It will be argued that secondary burial was not practised by the Nabataeans, and that unlike at Jerusalem, the tombs at Petra were much more a part of everyday life. New data from the excavation of two monumental tombs at the base of el-Khubtha at Petra will also be presented, and its significance for our understanding of the unique aspects of the Nabataean funerary tradition will be discussed.

Lucy Wadeson recently completed her PhD thesis on the façade tombs at Petra, in which she made the first detailed study of the tomb interiors. As the G.A. Wainwright Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oxford, she is working on publishing her thesis as a monograph. This also incorporates the results from the two projects she directs at Petra: the ‘Funerary Topography of Petra Project’ and the ‘International el-Khubtha Tombs Project’. Lucy’s specific expertise is in Nabataean burial customs and rock-cut architecture, but her wider research interests lie in the general field of the archaeology of the Graeco-Roman Near East. Her most recent publications have dealt with the chronology of Nabataean façade tombs and tomb complexes at Petra. In 2010-11, Lucy was a visiting research fellow at the British Institute (CBRL) in Amman. She also serves as the editor of the Bulletin of the Society for Arabian Studies.




Day in day out, in temples throughout Babylonia, a great variety of priests performed the worship of the gods: cultic singers, exorcists, bakers, butchers, gatekeepers and dozens of other specialists maintained the divine households and provisioned the altars with offerings, the central act of Babylonian religious practice. Authorized by hereditary right and subject to purity rules, the priesthood constituted a distinct group within society. One of the requirements demanded upon admission to priestly office was the possession of a prebend, a legal title that lent its owner the right to receive income from the temple in return for performing a cultic service. However, conventions of present-day scholarly discourse have literally written the priesthood out of our appraisal of this ancient society. By focusing on the economic aspects of the prebend as a type of income rather than a right to serve in the cult, priestly activity has been delegated to the realm of property management on a par with the ownership of houses, fields, slaves or any other kind of sale commodity known in this society. This lecture will make a contribution to restore attention to the cultic function of ‘prebend owners’, and redress the current neglect of practice in Babylonian religion. This will be attempted by studying the priesthood of a particularly well-documented temple – the Ezida of Borsippa.

The British Museum houses several thousand cuneiform texts that once belonged to the archives of priests who worked in the Ezida temple of Borsippa in the period between c. 750 and 484 BC. Discovered in the 19th century, these texts have largely remained unstudied. Upon closer scrutiny, the corpus proves to be a veritable treasure trove of data about the cult and its attendant priesthood in one of Babylonia’s prime locations of worship. The lecture will follow the priests during one day of worship, discussing along the way their ritual activities, professional organization and social background.

Dr. Caroline Waerzeggers is lecturer in the Ancient Near East at UCL’s History Department. She specializes in the history of first millennium BC Babylonia and currently directs the ERC Starting Grant project “By the Rivers of Babylon: New Perspectives on Second Temple Judaism from Cuneiform Texts”.

PROF NICOLAS WYATT (Edinburgh University)


The tell at Ras Shamra, ancient Ugarit, lies on the Syrian littoral, and constituted an important national capital and commercial hub in the Middle and Late Bronze (second millennium BCE). Perhaps its most important distinctive feature is its literary archive written in the local language, Ugaritic, a close relative of archaic Hebrew. The discovery of these texts has had a considerable impact on biblical studies, and has contributed important insights to recent biblical scholarship and its understanding of the early religious history of Israel and Judah, and of the literary tropes of the Bible. This lecture will discuss four Ugaritic texts and their significance for our understanding of the Bible tradition.

Professor Wyatt taught in the universities of Glasgow, Stirling, Ibadan and Edinburgh, where he is now emeritus professor of Ancient Near Eastern Religions in the University of Edinburgh. His main research interest has been the religion of Ugarit, its relationship to early Israelite religion, and royal ideology in both traditions. In addition to numerous articles and book chapters, he is the author of a number of books: Myths of Power (1996),Space and Time in the Religious Life of the Ancient Near East (2001), Religious Texts from Ugarit (1998, 2002 2nd edn), ‘There’s Such Divinity Doth Hedge a King’ (2005), The Mythic Mind (2005), Word of Tree and Whisper of Stone (2007), The Archaeology of Myth (2010) and the co-editor of three others.