Top Three Reports in Biblical Archaeology – February 2022

Those who follow the Bible Archaeology Report know that we highlight both new discoveries and studies of old discoveries which relate to the biblical world. This past month three significant studies were published relating to ancient Egypt, Mitanni, Cyprus and Israel. They were the top three reports in biblical archaeology in February 2022.

3. New Study Analyzes Lead Ingots from Bronze Age Shipwreck Near Caesarea

Four lead ingots discovered in a shipwreck off the coast of Caesarea in the 1980s. Photo: Hebrew University

According to a new study in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, an isotope analysis of the ore in four lead ingots which were discovered in the 1980’s off the coast near Caesarea indicates they originated in southwestern Sardinia. The ingots, which date to the 12th or 13th century BC, also bear inscriptions in Cypro-Minoan script, suggesting they were processed and “rebranded” at Cyprus, before being sold and shipped to other regions around the Levant. The authors believe the Cypriots were actively involved in trade, procuring lead ore from Sardinia, more than 1550 miles (2500 km) away, in exchange for Cypriot copper, which has been discovered at multiple sites in Sardinia. They suggest this is evidence of the expanse of the trading networks at that point in history.


2.  New Study Suggests King Tut’s Dagger Came from Kingdom of Mitanni

The iron dagger discovered in Tutankhamun’s tomb. Photo: Olaf Tausch / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

A new study published in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science records the results of new tests conducted on Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s meteoritic iron dagger and proposes its method of manufacture and place of origin. The non-destructive chemical analysis of the dagger revealed a Widmanstätten pattern (bands with a cubic symmetry) in the metal and remnant troilite inclusions (dark, vesicular spots), which indicate it was manufactured by low-temperature (<950 °C) heat forging. The researchers also noted the presence of calcium lacking sulfur on the gold hilt, suggesting that lime plaster, rather than gypsum plaster was used as an adhesive material for the decorations of the hilt. The use of lime plaster was unknown in Egypt at the time of King Tut, but was prevalent in Mitanni and Hittite regions at that time. The authors also quote from one of the Amarna tablets (EA22), which records the gift of a “dagger, the blade of which is of iron, its guard, of gold, with designs” which was given to Amenhotep III, the grandfather of Tutankhamen, by Tusratta, the king of Mitanni. All of this leads the authors to propose that King Tut’s famous dagger may have originated in Mitanni.


1. New Study Proposes Alternate Location for the Millo

The fortifications of the Gihon Spring Tower. Photo: Todd Bolen /

A new study published in the Journal of Biblical Literature proposes that the Millo in Jerusalem should be identified with the fortifications that surround the Gihon Spring rather than the Stepped Stone Structure. The authors, Chris McKinny, Nahshon Szanton, Aharon Tavger, and Joe Uziel, point to recent archaeological excavations in the city of David and accompanying radiocarbon analysis which indicates the Spring Tower was either constructed in the 9th century BC or substantially renovated during the Late Bronze IIA period. They further argue that the verb ml’ is often used to describe filling with water, and better fits the location of a spring than the Stepped Stone Structure, which is filled with stones and dirt. The authors go on to suggest that the House of Millo (Beit Millo) was a familiar building near the Gihon Spring in which King Joash was assassinated (2 Kings 12:20). Some believe their theory helps explain the prominence of the Gihon Spring and Millo in the early history of the kingdom of Judah, including the location of Solomon’s inauguration (1 Kings 1:33-34) and its construction during Jeroboam’s rebellion (1 Kings 11:27). This theory is sure to generate academic debate as scholars seek to identify the enigmatic Millo in Jerusalem.


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