Top Three Reports in Biblical Archaeology – February 2023

Each month multiple stories from the world of biblical archaeology hit the news. This month’s top three reports in biblical archaeology include discoveries from Egypt, Israel and Iraq.

3. Egyptian Embalming Workshop Discovered at Saqqara

Vessels from the embalming workshop discovered at Saqqara. Photo: M. Abdelghaffar / Saqqara Saite Tombs Project, University of Tübingen

According to a new article in the journal Nature, a group of researchers has analyzed the residue of embalming ingredients from vessels found in an embalming workshop discovered at Saqqara. The workshop was found underground near the pyramid of Unas and was initially excavated in 2016. Dating to the 26th Dynasty (ca. 664–525 BC), the workshop was in excellent condition, with approximately 100 vessels surviving, many of which were labeled with their contents and information regarding their uses, delineating which substances were for washing the body, reducing odor, softening the skin, etc. The researchers performed chemical analysis on the residues in the vessels and discovered that some of the substances came from as far away as the eastern Mediterranean and Asian or African rainforests. This discovery will help scholars understand the process of embalming in the seventh century BC and how it is different from embalming practices in earlier periods of Egyptian history. The Bible records that both Jacob (Gn 50:2) and Joseph (Gn 50:26) were embalmed when they died.


2. Sumerian Temple and Palace Unearthed in Iraq

An aerial photo of the excavations at ancient Girsu. Photo: The British Museum

A group of archaeologists from the Girsu Project have unearthed an ancient Sumerian palace and temple in southeastern Iraq. The structures were discovered using aerial remote sensing and are over 4,500 years old. More than 200 cuneiform tablets, determined to be administrative documents, were found within the mud-brick palace. The Sumerians are generally credited with inventing cuneiform as a writing script. It appears that the temple complex was dedicated to the Sumerian god Ningirsu, after whom the city of Girsu was named. These discoveries will help scholars understand the early Sumerian culture in greater detail. To learn more about the Sumerians and their biblical connection, read Dr. Charles Aling’s article “Cultural Change and the Confusion of Language in Ancient Sumer” from the Winter 2004 issue of Bible and Spade (see link below).



1. Gold Bead from the Roman Era Discovered in Jerusalem

A gold bead unearthed through sifting at the Emek Tzurim National Park. Photo: Koby Harati / City of David

A volunteer working at the Emek Tzurim National Park sifting site recently found a 1,600-year-old gold bead in material from the nearby Pilgrimage Road excavations. The earth in which the bead was found came from an impressive Roman building that was 25 meters long, had mosaic floors, and clearly belonged to the elite of Jerusalem. The bead itself is made of ten tiny balls of gold that were attached to each other in the shape of a ring. This method of construction is known from ancient Mesopotamia. The bead was likely once part of a necklace or bracelet and may have been accidentally lost when the jewelry broke. Gold artifacts are rare finds, making this an important discovery.


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One comment

  1. Each month I greatly look forward to receiving the biblical archaeology report. Each report is very exciting. Thank you for all you do to make this available to rocking chair archaeologists like me.

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