This month’s news reports included a discovery in Egypt, a discovery in Israel, and a new study of an artifact from an important biblical event. Here are the top three reports in biblical archaeology in November 2021.
3. Tomb of the Treasurer of Pharaoh Rameses II Discovered in Egypt
A team of archaeologists from Cairo University unearthed the tomb of an important official who served in the courts of Pharaoh Rameses II (ca. 1279 to 1212 BC). The tomb was discovered at the Saqqara necropolis, which served as the burial ground for the Egyptian capital city of Memphis. The tomb is located in an area where the tombs of other New Kingdom officials were previously found. Carved scenes and wall paintings depict the life of Ptah-M-Wia, who is described as the head of the treasury, royal scribe, supervisor of cattle, and one who oversaw sacrifices at the temple of Rameses II in Thebes. Archaeologists also discovered columns with reliefs of Osiris, the god of death and resurrection within the tomb. According to a straightforward reading of the Bible’s chronology, Rameses II was the Pharaoh of Egypt during the period of the Judges.
2. Seleucid Fortress Destroyed by Hasmonean Army Discovered in Israel
The burnt-out remains of a fortress outpost that once protected the Hellenistic city of Maresha has been excavated in central Israel. The 50 ft by 50 ft (15m by 15m) structure had walls that were over 13 ft (3m) thick and were constructed with large stones arranged with a slope on the outside to prevent them from being scaled. A significant destruction layer over 1.5 ft (0.5m) thick was discovered throughout the ruins. Archaeologists discovered the remains of weapons, burnt wooden beams, pottery, and coins within the destruction layer which allowed them to it to the 2nd century BC. Scholars believe the fortress was destroyed by the Hasmonean army of John Hyrcanus in ca. 112 BC. John Hyrcanus’ battles are described in the non-canonical book of Maccabees and by Josephus. The announcement of the discovery comes ahead of Hanukkah, also called the Feast of Dedication, which commemorates the Hasmonean victory the Greek Seleucid rulers and the purification and rededication of the Temple. Jesus himself celebrated the Feast of Dedication in John 10:22-39
1. New Study Analyzes the Siege Ramp at Lachish
A new study in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology reconstructs how the Assyrians may have built the famous siege ramp at Lachish during Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah. Evidence at Lachish shows the ramp was made of small boulders, each about 14 lbs (6.5 kg). Using the biblical text, the Lachish Reliefs, and on-site archaeological data, the study’s authors believe close to 3 million boulders were required to build the siege ramp. They propose that the stones were quarried from an exposed cliff of local bedrock at the far end of the ramp. According to their reconstruction, the ramp was begun about 80 meters away from the walls of the city, close to the cliff where the stones were quarried. Each day close to 160,000 stones were then passed along human chains, hand-to-hand, using local prisoners of war from the local population as forced labor. They would have been protected by large shields that are depicted in Assyrian reliefs, and advanced a few meters towards the city each day. Under this scenario the siege ramp would have reached the city walls in 25 days. The Assyrian invasion of Judah during King Hezekiah’s reign is described in 2 Kings 18:9–19:37; 2 Chronicles 32; Isaiah 36–37.
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