Top Three Reports in Biblical Archaeology – November 2020

This month’s top three news reports in biblical archaeology include a discovery related to the New Testament, and two reports related to the Old Testament.

3. House Church Discovered in Laodicea

A monumental structure from the ancient city of Laodicea. Photo:

A 2000-year-old house was recently unearthed in ancient Laodicea, with evidence that part of the home had been converted into a church.  The house, which was used in the first century A.D. was discovered next to the northern theater.  The massive structure covered an area of 2000 square meters and had a courtyard surrounded with corridors and 20 columns.  While the house itself dates to the first-century AD, the section that was converted to a church comes from a later period.  Professor, Celal Şimşek, stated, “We think that the Laodicea Church was built after Christianity was made free, and the high-ranking clergy there probably lived in this house, but we have not yet made a clear determination regarding this.”  The excavations and restoration have been going on for a year, and scholars are hopeful that this discovery will be help provide information on the spread of Christianity in Laodicea, one of the seven cities to which the Apostle John wrote his letters to the churches (Rev. 3:14-22).


2. New Study of Iron Age Caches Suggests Silver Forgery

Pieces of silver once used as currency before the invention of coins. Photo: Clara Amit/Israel Antiquities Authority

According to a new theory put forward by researchers from Hebrew University and Haifa University, several ancient caches of silver appear to be deliberate attempts to counterfeit silver.  Scholars chemically analyzed Iron-Age caches of silver from different locations in the Levant, including Beit She’an, Megiddo and Ashkelon, and discovered that they have low quantities of actual silver and  contain high quantities of copper, mixed with arsenic to make them look shiny, like silver.  Before coinage was invented, people would weigh out pieces of silver to pay for things.  Thus, Abraham purchased the field and cave of cave of Machpelah in which to bury his wife Sarah for 400 shekels of silver (Gen. 23:16).  Caches of silver pieces (proto-currency) from before 1900 BC were found to have 100% silver content.  However, the caches from the southern Levant that date from 1200-950 BC were found to have up to 80% copper content, mixed with arsenic, and only a small amount of actual silver.  The authors of the study suggest that the attempt to give these metal fragments the appearance of silver was a deliberate attempt at forgery.  They theorize that broken trade routes from places, such as Turkey, Greece, and Spain led to a lack of silver in the area during the Iron Age, and that forgers used copper from the Timna mines to essentially “counterfeit money.”


1. Davidic-Era Fort Discovered in the Golan Heights

A stone inscribed with a horned figure discovered at Hispin in the Golan Heights. Photo: Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 3000-year-old fort in the Golan Heights which they believe may have been part of the ancient kingdom of Geshur.  The fort covers approximately 1 acre and has 1.5 meter-thick walls built of large basalt stones.  It was dated to the 11th-9th centuries B.C. based on the pottery, which is similar to the Iron-Age pottery at Megiddo.  A large stone engraved with two horned figures with outstretched arms was discovered inside the fort next to a stone table, which may have been an alter.  The etchings are similar to the relief of a horned figure discovered at et-Tell, which many believe was the capital of the kingdom of Geshur.  The similarity of the iconography at both sites have led scholars to connect the two – both politically and spiritually, as it appears they both worshiped the moon-god.  Scripture records that the David married Maakah, the daughter of Talmai the king of Geshur (2 Sam. 3:3) and that it was in Geshur that their son Absalom sought refuge after killing his brother Amnon (2 Sam. 13:23-39). 


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