Backgrounders on the Bible through Biblical Archaeology


1510-1512 Dale Manor – Tel Beth Shemesh

dalemanorpixNot a lot to see at Tel Beth Shemesh (compared with some other sites), but an important excavation, nonetheless. The current excavation has been going on for a quarter century, and Bet Shemesh has an interesting biblical history, as recorded in I Samuel 4-6.

In recent years, the excavators at Tel Beth Shemesh have uncovered part of a Bronze Age Palace, and nearby a temple from a couple hundred years later.

Dale Manor of Harding University is a field director of the dig and gives us an update on the site. We also discuss his latest book, “Digging Deeper into the Word – The Relevance of Archaeology to Christian Apologetics”

1509 Space Archaeologist Sarah Parcak

4745205c9770c78768ac398ed92412a0a015065a_254x191Technology continues to improve the tools available to archaeologists to investigate the ancient world. When Google Earth meets Indiana Jones you have the kind of work that Sarah Parcak has become known for.

Sarah Parcak is a professor of Anthropology and director of the Laboratory for Global Observation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the winner of the 2016 Ted Prize, which is worth $1 million. In this program, Sarah talks about what exactly she has been working on as a space archaeologist, and what she wants to do with the Ted Prize.

#1507-1508 Todd Bolen – 2016 Excavation Plans

Todd Bolen

Todd Bolen

It’s a long standing tradition throughout the 33 years of The Book & The Spade that we start the year by looking ahead to the planned institutional excavations. It gives us a guideline for discussing what’s happening in biblical archaeology, and what has been happening in the past couple years. In 2016 one long running excavation, at Ashkelon, is coming to a close.

But a number of excavations have started just in the last few years so there will continue to be a lot of work to do. And you never know what’s going to turn up.

I’m joined again for this assessment by Todd Bolen, the editor of Todd has lived and taught in Israel for a number of years and helps us evaluate each site.

2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 28 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

1506 Todd Bolen – Top 10 Biblical Archaeology Stories of 2015

prof. Brent Seales

prof. Brent Seales

It’s always fun to look back at the end of the year and see how Biblical Archaeology has opened up new perspectives on the biblical world. This year it was not just the discoveries of the year, but how discoveries from previous years were finally realized. Many of our Top 10 items were discovered decades ago, but their significance was only now becoming apparent in 2015.

Once again I was joined by Todd Bolen, the editor of, to discuss the news stories of 2015. And our top item on the list highlighted the work of University of Wisconsin alumnus Brent Seales, now a computer science professor at the University of Kentucky. His software developments could open the way for the reading of many more ancient texts, such as the carbonized scroll of Leviticus from the Engedi synagogue that we reported on this year.

1504-1505 Bradley Schaefer – Bethlehem Star Confirmed

Mike Molnar's Antioch Coin

Mike Molnar’s Antioch Coin

For many years, as Christmas approaches, we have turned our attention from archaeology to astronomy, as we focus in on the story of the Star of Bethlehem. It was 20 years ago when we first interviewed Rutgers University astronomer Michael Molnar on his theories about the Bethlehem Star, that it was not a comet or supernova or planetary conjunction but an almost invisible movement of the planet Jupiter in the constellation of Ares the Ram that had meaning mostly just to astrologers.

We interviewed Molnar again when his book came out, and again a year ago when an international conference was held in Groningen, Holland, when the main focus of the conference was Molnar’s theory.

I’ve written several magazine articles about Molnar, most recently in On Wisconsin, the alumni magazine of the University of Wisconsin. It seemed, from all of the evidence, that finally, after 400 years of astronomical speculation, Molnar has finally, and satisfactorily explained the Star of Bethlehem. To confirm that perception, I tracked down another expert in the field, Bradley Schaefer, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Lousiana State University, an astronomer who studies supernovae and similar phenomena.

1422-1423 (Again) Eric Cline – 1177 BC, the Year that Civilization Collapsed

DSCN6275aEric Cline was in town for a standing-room-only lecture on his best selling book, about which I interviewed him early in 2014. So we’re replaying the two-part interview.

I had a chance to meet Eric in person, thank him for all his great interviews, and talk about another interview in the near future.

In and around 1177 BC Eric describes a perfect storm of events that caused the collapse of the Late Bronze Age, a globalized age must like the world we live in today. And therein, perhaps, a warning to us from 3200 years ago. In addition, the collapse of the Late Bronze Age created the world in which the kingdom of Israel took root, and which gave us the narrative that we read about in the Bible.


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