Backgrounders on the Bible through Biblical Archaeology


1723-1724 Scott Stripling – A New Metric for Dating & Tel Shiloh Update

Scott Stripling
Scott Stripling

Continuing our series of interviews with US archaeologists who were not able to excavate in Israel during 2020, due to COVID 19, we check in with Scott Stripling, Provost of the Bible Seminary in Katy, Texas. He directs the excavation at Tel Shiloh, the site of Israel’s tabernacle for 300 years before the temple was built in Jerusalem.

Before discussing current issues related to the excavation at Tel Shiloh, we also discussed a new archaeological dating scheme that focuses on the human and animal waste and other organic matter found in mud bricks, a key building block of the ancient world. And we discussed the recent series of archaeological discoveries tied to the kings of Judah around the time of Hezekiah, found south of the City of David, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

1721-1722 Dan Warner – The Gezer Water Tunnel & Tel Hadid

Another archaeologist who wasn’t in the field this summer is Dan Warner of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (Orlando campus). He was planning on excavating at Tel Hadid, where work started just a couple of seasons ago.

Gezer Tunnel map
Gezer Tunnel map

Instead he is working on finalizing the report on nine seasons of excavations at the Bronze Age Gate at Tel Gezer. This work included the amazing Gezer water tunnel, from which they mucked out hundreds of tons of mud and dirt.

The tunnel is dated to 2000BC. Warner says there’s nothing like it in the ancient world. It appears much older than similar tunnels at Megiddo, Hazor, and Jerusalem. But those tunnels may be older than previously thought.

Tel Hadid is a huge tel on the opposite side of the Aijalon Valley and has been little excavated. So far they have found a huge industrial wine press but much more work remains to be done there.

UPDATE: My story on how Dan Warner and other US archaeologists have been occupied during this summer of hiatus has now been posted by Christianity Today.

1720 Clyde Billington – Solomon’s Pools and The Church of the Apostles


Solomon’s Pools

Solomon’s Pools, south of Bethlehem, were connected to Jerusalem by aqueduct and helped supply the temple (think of all those bloody sacrifices) with a much needed source of water. A recent study suggests that the pools were built by Roman soldiers, centuries after the time of Solomon.

We discuss the Pools of Solomon and some other news items from the latest issue of our ARTIFAX biblical archaeology news magazine on this program. That includes an update on the search for Bethsaida, along the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.


1719 Clyde Billington – Technology Opens the Dead Sea Scrolls

Wilson's Arch

Wilson’s Arch

Technology is providing new tools to help archaeologists and biblical scholars. In this program, we discuss news reports from the latest issue of ARTIFAX, our biblical archaeology newsmagazine, which highlight new innovations. For example, Dead Sea Scroll fragments that were thought to be without writing were found to have words written on them, when they were scanned with multiple wavelengths of light.

In addition we discus some microarchaeology that was used to help pin down the construction date for Wilson’s Arch, which supported a walkway from Jerusalem’s upper city to the Temple Mount, and is now a feature of the western wall.

1718 Clyde Billington – Jerusalem Admin Building and the Face of Yahweh


Excavation of the Jerusalem Admin Center

Two top stories from current issues of ARTIFAX, our biblical archaeology newsmagazine, and Biblical Archaeology Review.

The ARTIFAX story broke just a few weeks ago, the excavation of a major administrative complex from the time of King Hezekiah, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. This complex is near Ramat Rahel, where archaeologists in recent years have excavated a royal palace from roughly the same period.

The Biblical Archaeology Review story focuses on a theory by professor Yosef Garfinkle that a figurine he excavated at Khirbet Qeiyafa, the only figurine from the entire excavation, represented Yahweh, God of the Israelites and God of the Bible.

279 David Stronach – Excavating Nineveh 40 Years Ago

David Stronach

David Stronach

Another passing was noticed recently, that of David Stronach. He was emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley, when he passed away on June 27, 2020. He was 89 years old.

I reached professor Stronach at Berkeley almost 40 years ago, as we were attempting to assess the impact of the first Persian Gulf War on the archaeology of the region. We discussed the excavations at Nineveh, that famous capital city of the Assyrian Empire that is mentioned in the Old Testament, in particular the story of Jonah.

Stronach was director of the British Institute of Persian Studies in Iran in the 1960s and 1970s. News reports said that he is most famous for conducting archaeological excavations at Pasargadae, the 6th century capital city of Cyrus the Great when Cyrus reigned over the Persian Empire. The Archaeological Institute of America recognized him in 2004 with a Gold Medal for “Distinguished Archaeological Achievement.”

In our interview he discussed the excavating of ancient Nineveh just before the first Gulf War broke out. The damage from that war was minor compared to what happened in recent years when ISIS took over Mosul and destroyed the traditional tomb of Jonah, among other archaeological crimes. But that, on the other hand, led to the discovery of the remains of the palace of Esarhaddon, underneath that tomb, within the mound of Nebi Yunis.

As mentioned in our interview, Stronach learned archaeology at the side of Max Mallowan. His account of his association with Mallowan, and Mrs. Mallowan (Dame Agatha Christie) is printed in this issue of Backdirt, published by the Cotsen Institute of UCLA in 2014. (It’s a PDF, scroll down to page 68.)

1717 Magen Broshi – The Story of Jerusalem

MagenBroshiWe learned that Magen Broshi passed away on July 14, 2020 and recalled an interview from a quarter century ago. Magen Broshi was an archaeologist, author, and longtime curator of the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The Shrine of the Book is where Dead Sea Scrolls are stored, researched, and a few are on display.  I met Broshi in his office, behind an unmarked door near the entrance to the Shrine of the Book. We talked about some of the latest Dead Sea Scrolls developments, and then had a conversation about the history of Jerusalem, which is presented in this program from our archives.


1716 Steve Ortiz – Lipscomb University’s New Archaeology Program

Steve Ortiz

Steve Ortiz

Following up on last week’s program, another first hand account of the launching of a new #biblicalarchaeology program at Lipscomb University in Nashville. Steve Ortiz and colleague Tom Davis faced the dismantling of the Tandy School of Archaeology at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth last March. But then a remarkable thing happened.

As we reported last week, Mark Lanier went to work on creating a new place for them at his alma mater, Lipscomb. Steve relates the story from his perspective on the creation of the Lanier School of Archaeology.

He also gives an update on his latest field work. After closing out the excavation at Gezer three years ago, he has joined the excavation at Tel Burna.

1715 Mark Lanier – The Lanier Theological Library and Lipscomb University


Lanier Theological Library, Houston

Even though biblical archaeology fieldwork is mostly nonexistent this summer, there is news in the world of biblical archaeology. The news concerns an archeology program that was killed at one school, and resurrected at another.

One of the key characters in this drama is Mark Lanier, a Houston attorney and founder of the Lanier Theological Library. The library has over 100,000 volumes, as well as a number of ancient artifacts.

When Mark found out that Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary was pulling the plug on the Tandy School of Archaeology, he started maneuvering to get the two top archaeologists, Steve Ortiz and Tom Davis, hired at his alma mater, Lipscomb University in Nashville. Accreditation is now being sought for the new Lanier Center for Archaeology at Lipscomb. Here’s the story I wrote for Christianity Today.

1713-1714 Lawrence Schiffman – The History of Dead Sea Scrolls Scholarship


Lawrence Schiffman

The Dead Sea Scrolls have been a major story in Biblical Archaeology and Biblical scholarship for over 70 years. New York University and the Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority recently held a public conference online with some of the top Dead Sea Scroll scholars and we have received permission to share a portion of the conference.

Lawrence Schiffman, professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University, offered a history and status report on Dead Sea Scroll studies with a chronological walk through the decades that chronicled how perspectives have changed over the years.

UPDATE: Most of the presentations from this recent conference are now online, thanks to the two sponsoring organizations. The closing remarks by professor Schiffman are wonderfully creative and a pleasure to listen to.