Top Three Reports in Biblical Archaeology – June 2022

During the past month the news from the world of biblical archaeology included stories related to the ancient empire of Mitanni, a Roman emperor, and a Jewish proselyte. Here were the top three reports in biblical archaeology in June 2022.

3. Ancient Mittanian City Exposed After Period of Drought in Iraq

The site in Kemune in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, believed to be the ancient Mittanian city of Zakhiku. Photo: Universities of Freiburg and Tübingen, KAO.

A 3,400-year-old city was recently exposed after an extended period of drought resulted in the water levels falling in a major reservoir in Iraq. Archaeologists first excavated the site in 2018 when it was previously exposed, but had to suspend their dig when the water levels rose again. The drought this year provided them with another opportunity to excavate the site in Kemune in the Kurdistan Region. The Bronze Age city is believed to be the remains of ancient Zakhiku, a city in the Empire of Mittani (ca. 1550-1350 BC) which controlled parts of northern Mesopotamia and Syria. Massive fortifications, storage buildings, and an industrial complex were all investigated. In addition, over 100 cuneiform tablets dating back to the Middle Assyrian period were discovered in five ceramic jars. Some of these were found still in their clay envelopes. While the nation of Mitanni is not mentioned directly in the Bible, a Mittanian king may be named. During the period of the Judges, Othniel delivered Israel from the hand of Cushan-Rishathaim, king of Aram Naharaim (Jdg 3:8-9). Dr. Clyde Billington has argued that Cushan was part of the Rishathaim people of Aram Naharaim, who once ruled the ancient Kingdom of Mitanni.


2. Columns and Capitals Originally from Church of the Holy Sepulchre Moved to Museum

A crew prepares to move one of the ancient pillars that may have originally been part of the Roman temple Hadrian built over the burial place of Jesus. Photo: Judith Sudilovsky

Several pieces of ancient pillars, as well as two Corinthian capitals, are being moved from the garden of the Church of Gethsemane to the Franciscan Terra Sancta Museum in Old City of Jerusalem. The museum is located at the Church of the Flagellation near the Lion’s Gate. The pillars and capitals originally came from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where they were discovered in1969 inside a wall in the northern side of the church belonging to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. The columns are believed to have come from a Roman temple which the emperor Hadrian (AD 117-139) had constructed over the place of Jesus’ burial, although they may have even been reused from the time of King Herod. Samples of the marble have been taken for dating analysis.


1.  “Proselyte” Inscription Unearthed in Cemetery at Beit Shearim

The grave marker of “Jacob the Proselyte.” Photo: Yevgeny Ostrovsky / Israel Antiquities Authority

An 1800 year-old grave marker from “Jacob the Proselyte” was recently discovered in the prestigious cemetery at Beit Shearim. The inscription, written in red ink, reads, “Jacob (Iokobos) the convert [proselyte] swears upon himself that any who open this grave will be cursed.” This is followed by a thick red line and a second inscription. written by another, which reads, “Aged 60.” Scholars believe Jacob composed his own grave marker prior to death, with the secondary “Aged 60” inscription being added after he died. Over 300 inscriptions in four languages have been discovered at the Beit Shearim necropolis; this is the first that unequivocally states that a convert is buried there. In the New Testament era and subsequent centuries there appear to have been two groups of converts to Judaism: proselytes, gentiles who became full-converts by adopting all of the commandments, and God-fearers, who followed some Jewish rites but were likely not circumcised. Both proselytes (Mt. 23:15) and God-fearers (Acts 13:16) are mentioned in the New Testament.


Stay Up-To-Date

Get the latest BREAKING NEWS in biblical archaeology each week here

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s