Archaeology News: 2023.02.02

Biblical Archaeological Society News

  • Posted on Thursday December 29, 2022

    Dating to the ninth century B.C.E., the Mesha Stele describes how King Mesha rescued the Moabites from Israelite rule. Photo: “Stèle de Mésha” by Mbzt 2012 is licensed under CC-by-3.0 One of the most exceptional biblical archaeology artifacts ever found, the three-foot-tall Mesha Stele contains a 34-line inscription celebrating the Moabite vassal king Mesha’s rebellion against the Israelites. Renowned epigrapher André Lemaire identified in line 31 of the ninth-century B.C.E. stele the phrase בת[ד]וד (bt[d]wd), or “House of David”—a tantalizing reference to King David on an artifact discovered before the famed Tel Dan inscription that also references David. Scholars Israel Finkelstein, Nadav Na’aman, and Thomas Römer have recently re-examined the inscription, however, and propose a new reading: Line 31 references not the “House of David,” but the Moab king Balak from the story of Balaam in the Bible (Numbers 22–24). History written in stone How the Mesha Stele—also called the Moabite Stone—became public is an incredible tale itself. As described in Bible History Daily: [The] black basalt Moabite Stone was first brought to the attention of scholars in 1868 by Bedouin living east of the Jordan River and just north of the Arnon River. After several failed negotiations to purchase it, the Mesha Stele was broken into dozens of pieces and scattered among the Bedouin. In the 1870s several of the fragments were recovered by scholars and reconstructed—comprising only two-thirds of the original Moabite Stone. A paper imprint (called a squeeze) that had been taken of the intact inscription allowed scholars to fill in the missing text. In the May/June 1994 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, André Lemaire describes how his reading of the “House of David” on the Mesha Stele helps to contextualize the inscription: The Tel Dan inscription. Photo: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem/Israel Antiquities Authority (photograph by Meidad Suchowolski). Enough has been preserved at the end of line 31 […] to identify the new enemy of Moab against whom Mesha fought in the last half of the inscription: bt[d]wd, the House of David. Having described how he was victorious against Israel in the area controlled by it north of the Arnon, Mesha now turns to part of the area south of the Arnon which had been occupied by Judah, the House of David. In the tenth and first half of the ninth centuries B.C.E., the kingdom of Edom did not yet exist. The area southeast of the Dead Sea was apparently controlled by Judah. Thus, during Mesha’s rebellion against the king of Israel (2 Kings 3:5), the king of Israel asks for assistance from the king of Judah, who agrees to provide the aid. The king of Israel instructs the king of Judah to attack the king of Moab by going through the “wilderness of Edom” (2 Kings 3:8) because apparently it was an area controlled by the kingdom of Judah. No doubt the missing part of the inscription described how Mesha also threw off the yoke of Judah and conquered the territory southeast of the Dead Sea controlled by the House of David.In its ... Continue Reading...


  • Posted on Tuesday November 29, 2022

    Was the Hebrew Bible written earlier than previously thought? That’s what a 2016 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests. The study was led by Tel Aviv University (TAU) doctoral students Shira Faigenbaum-Golovina, Arie Shausa and Barak Sober. The TAU researchers analyzed multi-spectral images of 16 Hebrew inscriptions, which were written in ink on ostraca (broken pottery pieces), using a computer software program they developed. The ostraca, which date to 600 B.C.E., according to the researchers, were excavated from the Judahite fortress at Arad in southern Israel. When was the Hebrew Bible written? Ostraca with Hebrew inscriptions excavated from the Iron Age fortress at Arad in Israel may provide clues, say researchers from Tel Aviv University. Photo: Michael Cordonsky, courtesy Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority. The researchers say they were able to identify at least six different handwriting styles on the inscriptions, which contained instructions for the movement of troops and lists of food expenses. A TAU press release notes that “the tone and nature of the commands precluded the role of professional scribes.” “The results indicate that in this remote fort, literacy had spread throughout the military hierarchy, down to the quartermaster and probably even below that rank,” state Faigenbaum-Golovina, Shausa and Sober in their paper. “Now our job is to extrapolate from Arad to a broader area,” explained TAU Professor of Archaeology Israel Finkelstein, who heads the research project, in the TAU press release. “Adding what we know about Arad to other forts and administrative localities across ancient Judah, we can estimate that many people could read and write during the last phase of the First Temple period. We assume that in a kingdom of some 100,000 people, at least several hundred were literate.” Israel Museum curators have called “Gabriel’s Revelation” the most important document found in the area since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Read the original English publication of “Gabriel’s Revelation” along with Israel Knohl’s BAR article that made scholars around the world reconsider links between ancient Jewish and Christian messianism in the free eBook Gabriel’s Revelation. So when was the Hebrew Bible written? What does literacy in the Iron Age have to do with it? Scholars have debated whether the texts of the Hebrew Bible were written before 586 B.C.E.—when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, razed the First Temple and exiled the Jews—or later on, in the Persian or Hellenistic period. If literacy in Iron Age Judah was more widespread than previously thought, does this suggest that Hebrew Bible texts could have been written before the Babylonian conquest? The Tel Aviv University researchers think so, based on their study of the ostraca from Arad. Not quite, says epigrapher Christopher Rollston, Associate Professor of Northwest Semitic languages and literatures at the George Washington University. In a lengthy blog post analyzing the TAU study, Rollston contends that there is not enough information from these ostraca to make estimates about the literacy of Iron Age Judah. Rollston points out that, according to a publication by Yohanan Aharoni, the original excavator ... Continue Reading...


  • Posted on Thursday November 17, 2022

    Where is Biblical Bethsaida? One contender is the site of et-Tell, a mile and a half north of the Sea of Galilee. Photo: Duby Tal and Moni Haramati, Albatross/Courtesy of Bethsaida Excavations. The ancient village of Bethsaida is believed to be located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, but where precisely the abandoned city lies remains a fiercely-debated question among scholars. Recent discoveries at the site of el-Araj have called into question the decades-old claim that et-Tell on the eastern shore of the Jordan River is this lost Biblical city. Along with Jerusalem and Capernaum, Bethsaida is frequently mentioned in the Gospels. When Jesus was first calling his disciples, he traveled to Galilee and found there Philip, who is described as being of Bethsaida along with Peter and Andrew (John 1:43-44). The town—including its nearby shore—is identified as the location where Jesus performed some of his most indelible miracles. Here he led a blind man away from the village, restored his sight, and instructed the man not to reenter the town nor to tell anyone of the miracle he had performed (Mark 8:22–26). Bethsaida is also said to be the fishing village where Jesus fed the masses with just five loaves and two fish (Luke 9:10–17; Mark 6:30–44). Discovering Biblical Bethsaida. Could a mosaic inscription at the site of El-Araj be the smoking gun archaeologists are looking for to determine the true location of biblical Bethsaida? Read More in this BHD article. A consortium of schools headed by the University of Nebraska, Omaha, claim to be excavating Biblical Bethsaida at the site of et-Tell on the east bank of the Jordan River and have published their findings as the Bethsaida Excavations Project since 1991. For years, director Rami Arav has asserted that et-Tell’s archaeological remains sync up with historical accounts of the ancient village, including ancient Jewish historian Josephus’s report that under Philip the Tetrarch (one of Herod the Great’s sons), the town was improved, “… both by the number of inhabitants it contained, and its other grandeur” (Antiquities 18:2). In 30 C.E., Philip had renamed the city Julias after Livia-Julia, Roman emperor Augustus’s wife and mother of Tiberius, the reigning emperor at the time. Arav cites occupation and substantial growth of the town throughout the Roman period as evidence corroborating Josephus’s account.1 FREE ebook: The Galilee Jesus Knew First Name:* Last Name:* Email Address: * * Indicates a required field. SUBMIT If you don’t want to receive the Bible History Daily newsletter, uncheck this box. This claim, however, has not gone without criticism from other scholars. Most notably, Dr. Steven Notley, Professor of Biblical Studies at Nyack College, New York, has charged that et-Tell, a mile and a half from the Sea of Galilee, is too far from the ... Continue Reading...


  • Posted on Wednesday November 02, 2022

    Jonathan Laden The Biblical Archaeology Society is pleased to announce that Jonathan Laden has taken the position of Publisher. Jonathan graduated from Stanford University and earned his MBA from the University of Washington. Before coming to the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS), he gained experience with multiple small, entrepreneurial businesses, served on the board of a local nonprofit, and has published multiple magazines. He joined the society 15 years ago to serve as Circulation Director, helping Biblical Archaeology Review reach as many readers as possible. For the past five years, Jonathan has been the Chief Financial Officer for BAS. “The Biblical Archaeology Society doesn’t just have me, but also a long-term staff of a dozen, dedicated employees,” said Jonathan. “The experience that our staff bring to their roles helps assure the strength and stability of the society, and Biblical Archaeology Review magazine, even in the face of an ongoing challenging publishing and travel environment.” Jonathan takes over as Publisher from Sue Laden, who served BAS and Biblical Archaeology Review for nearly five decades. Sue will continue in her role as BAS President and act as a special advisor on BAS projects and initiatives.   The post BAS Names New Publisher appeared first on Biblical Archaeology Society. Continue Reading...


  • Posted on Wednesday November 02, 2022

    Susan Laden at Rabbi Obadiah Bertinoro’s tomb in Israel. Photo by Hershel Shanks Susan (Sue) Laden has stepped back from her role as Publisher of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR). She will continue to direct special projects as a senior advisor and serve as President of the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS). Sue was the society’s first employee, hired in 1976 by BAR’s late founding editor, Hershel Shanks, to take a part-time job opening envelopes on her kitchen table. She jokes that her biggest contribution to BAS in the early years followed that fateful moment when BAR’s entire mailing list (then about 4,000 subscribers) fell off a truck and was lost. Sue not only had retained outdated papers that everyone else would have long since discarded, but she had the presence of mind to make sense of them and so was able to reconstruct most of the list. As the society’s needs grew, Sue grew alongside. When the organization needed more than kitchen-table flexibility, Sue researched how to grow a small publishing company and connected with executives at National Geographic, Smithsonian, Christianity Today, and elsewhere. Synthesizing those varied sources and more, she built a professional organization that handles operations, marketing, sales, and service on a level that has always exceeded its size. At various times in its nearly 50-year history, BAS has supported four magazines (BAR, but also Bible Review, Archaeology Odyssey, and Moment, all of which were published simultaneously for several years), a merchandise program, study tours and seminars, book publishing, fundraising, and more. Sue’s management of all of these moving parts has been a big part of the magic that has allowed BAS to thrive. Sue has managed a staff of dozens, worked with consultants, and negotiated terms with some of the country’s largest fulfillment houses and printers. She initiated, maintained, and grew sophisticated marketing, fulfillment, and renewal efforts for BAR, while also spearheading all of the society’s other initiatives. In 1994, Sue left BAS, returning in late 2003 to reprise her role as Publisher. Within a year, she became the organization’s President, the only other person besides Hershel to have that role. Hershel and Sue maintained a contentious but warm relationship for almost five decades, friends who always challenged each other, each enabling the other to accomplish more than they would otherwise. In the nearly two decades since, Sue has continued to oversee BAS, finding a steady path through many challenges. Following Hershel’s retirement in 2017, she also hired the only other two editors BAR has ever had. Sue Laden, and the organization she built, has supported BAR and the other activities of the society for nearly 50 years through rapid growth and occasional bumps in the road. Thanks to her tireless dedication, BAS is well positioned to continue its mission to share the fascination of the archaeology and peoples of the lands of the Bible for 50 years to come. Thank you, Sue, for a job well done! The post Celebrating BAR Publisher Susan Laden appeared first on Biblical Archaeology Society. Continue Reading...

News from the American Journal of Archaeology

Roman Archaeology Blog

  • Posted on Monday January 23, 2023

    The Odyssey YouTube channel is a trove of documentaries about the ancient world, “from the dawn of Mesopotamia to the fall of Rome”. Several of their videos about Rome are presented by classicist Mary Beard, perhaps the best-known Roman scholar in the world and the author of SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, which you couldn’t enter a bookstore in the late 2010s without seeing. I’ve embedded her videos on The Ancient Origins Of The Roman Empire and Why Did The Roman Empire Collapse above and you can head to YouTube to watch several more hours of Beard explaining Rome: Who Were The Citizens Of Ancient Rome?, How Did The Ancient Roman World Work?, The Meteoric Rise And Fall Of Julius Caesar, What Was Normal Life Like In Pompeii Before Its Destruction?, and Caligula And Corruption In Imperial Rome. (via 3 quarks daily)Read the rest of this article... Continue Reading...


  • Posted on Monday January 23, 2023

    (Credit: astudio/Shutterstock)Gladiator fights, exotic animals, rowdy, toga-wearing spectators. These are some of the images Rome’s Colosseum may conjure in your mind.But last year, archaeologists took to the sewer networks beneath the infamous amphitheater to learn more about what a day there really looked like.Colosseum BackgroundConstruction work on the Colosseum began between A.D. 70 and 72, under the rule of Emperor Vespasian, and the Flavians completed it around A.D. 80. (This is where the world wonder gets its alternative name: the Flavian Amphitheatre.) It is said to have opened with 100 days of games.Read the rest of this article... Continue Reading...


  • Posted on Wednesday January 18, 2023

    Photo: Alexis Pantos/KHM, UiO.During the first few centuries of the Common Era, during the period that archaeologists call the Roman Iron Age, Scandinavians came into contact with Roman society by trading goods and through their encounters with the Roman army. Archaeological material testifies to the fact that this is how they acquired knowledge about new customs and forms of organisation, and not least a written culture. Inspired by the classical alphabets, such as the Roman alphabet, the Germanic peoples created their own characters – runes. But exactly how old is the runic alphabet, and when were the first rune stones made? These are questions that researchers have been seeking to answer for many years. A new archaeological find is attracting international attention among runic scholars and archaeologists: the world's oldest dated rune stone was discovered during the autumn of 2021 when archaeologists at the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, investigated a grave field in Hole near Tyrifjorden, Eastern Norway. Radiocarbon dates show that the age of the grave and thus the inscriptions on the stone probably date back to 1-250 CE. This rune stone is thus one of the very earliest examples of words recorded in writing in Scandinavia, and the inscriptions provide new insights into the development and use of runic writing during the early Iron Age. Read the rest of this article... Continue Reading...


  • Posted on Wednesday January 18, 2023

    The ancient rune stone found by Norwegian researchers is believed to be between 1,800 and 2,000 years old. It was found buried beneath a later grave.Photo courtesy of Museum of Cultural HistoryJan. 17 (UPI) -- Norway is set to unveil an ancient rune stone found in the east of the country dating back as much as 2,000 years that is providing the missing pieces to the puzzle of the origins of writing in northern Europe.Researchers from the University of Oslo's Museum of Cultural History found the block of sandstone on an Iron Age grave site dig near Tyrifjorden, northwest of Oslo, in late 2021. They now believe it is the world's oldest rune stone and that the characters on the stone are one of the earliest examples of writing in Scandinavia because radiocarbon dating shows the grave dates back to 1-250 CE.The stone, which is creating a stir internationally among runologists and archaeologists, is going on display to the public as the centerpiece of a new exhibition opening on Saturday at the Historical Museum in Oslo.Read the rest of this article... Continue Reading...


  • Posted on Tuesday January 17, 2023

    The ancient Romans were masters of engineering, constructing vast networks of roads, aqueducts, ports, and massive buildings, whose remains have survived for two millennia. Many of these structures were built with concrete: Rome’s famed Pantheon, which has the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome and was dedicated in A.D. 128, is still intact, and some ancient Roman aqueducts still deliver water to Rome today. Meanwhile, many modern concrete structures have crumbled after a few decades.Researchers have spent decades trying to figure out the secret of this ultradurable ancient construction material, particularly in structures that endured especially harsh conditions, such as docks, sewers, and seawalls, or those constructed in seismically active locations.Read the rest of this article... Continue Reading...

Archaeology and Egyptology in the 21st century

  • Posted on Wednesday January 25, 2023

    Head of Min-Amun (UC34503) with features attributed to Tutankhamun. (Author photograph) It is November 2022, 100 years after the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. The centenary of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun and the bicentenary of Champollion’s decipherment of Hieroglyphs has produced many exhibitions, books, blogs, podcasts, and programmes. It has also provoked considerable reflection about the colonial origins of Egyptology and what its future should be. Amongst the many new and old ‘takes’ on Tutankhamun, Hieroglyphs, and Egypt, I was interested to see the Petrie Museum‘s new exhibition Tutankhamun, the Boy, which accompanies their project of the same name and runs from September 2022- December 2023 at the Petrie Museum (free to enter, Tuesday-Saturday 1-5pm). Small museum, big impact! The Petrie Museum is a small museum in terms of its physical space, but its collection is large, with a high proportion of its holdings on display in an almost ‘Wunderkammer-style‘. It also includes many excavated items, which can be contextualised with archival and published excavation records. Many of these artefacts come from settlement sites and include objects from the daily life of ordinary ancient Egyptians, as well as more stereotypical elite products (like the head of Min-Amun right). The curators of the exhibition have used these ordinary objects, together with material from Amarna and Gurob – two probable childhood homes of Tutankhamun – to answer children’s questions about growing up in ancient Egypt. The first, Tutankhamun The Boy, display-case dealing with Tutankhamun’s royal childhood. Background information is provided in the panel behind, while the children’s questions, answers, and object details are provided in front, at the bottom of the case (Author photograph). Child’s eye view Rather than the curators’ ‘take’ on childhood in ancient Egypt, Tutankhamun the Boy is designed around the questions a Year 3 class from the local George Mitchell primary school would like to ask Tutankhamun and other ancient Egyptian children. The questions were derived from various workshops undertaken at the school using 3d replicas of Petrie Museum artefacts. In subsequent phases of the project, similar workshops will take place in Egypt with schoolchildren living near the site of Amarna. Their ideas and questions will be shared with the children from the George Mitchell school and will feed into subsequent phases and longer-term displays in the museum. If this proves successful, future displays will incorporate the ideas and questions of both local children and descendant Egyptian communities. Due to the small size of the museum space, the Tutankhamun: the Boy exhibition occupies a board and two display cases next to the shabtis, in what regular visitors will recognise as the ‘pottery room’. The display board provides the background for the display in English and Arabic and explains how the objects have been chosen based on the children’s questions. The first display case discusses Tutankhamun’s royal childhood, while the second considers the experience of ancient Egyptian children more generally. The reed sandal (UC769) from the display with the relevant question, response, and object details (Author photograph). The display is ... Continue Reading...


  • Posted on Wednesday December 21, 2022

    British Museum EA 24, the Rosetta Stone (Hagar Rashid) as displayed in the Hieroglyphs exhibition. (Author Photograph at the British Museum in 2022) For anyone who’s been hiding under a rock, 2022 was a big year for Egyptology: the anniversary of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, and the bicentenary of the first publication announcing the decipherment of Hieroglyphs in 1822. Institutions have chosen which anniversary to celebrate, resulting in a plethora of exhibitions and other events related to Tutankhamun, Hieroglyphs, and Egypt. Many British institutions have chosen to focus on Tutankhamun, approached in a variety of different ways from the Griffith Institute’s Tutankhamun: Excavating the Archive to the Sainsbury Centre’s Visions of Ancient Egypt, and the Petrie Museum’s Tutankhamun: the Boy, which I review in next month’s post. In contrast, the British Museum’s current exhibition Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt (13 October 2022 to 19 February 2023) covers the bicentenary of the decipherment of Hieroglyphs. The exhibition is accompanied by a glossy catalogue including many excellent images of the artefacts and insightful essays about everything from How Hieroglyphs Work to Egyptian Identity. Rosetta Stone It is hardly surprising that the British Museum should choose to focus on the bicentenary of the decipherment of Hieroglyphs given that it is the home of the Rosetta Stone (Hagar Rashid in Arabic), discovered in 1799 during construction work at Rosetta/Rashid fort and ceded to the British following the defeat of Napoleon’s forces. With its trilingual inscription, in Hieroglyphs, Demotic, and Greek, the Rosetta Stone provided the key to understanding both the ancient Egyptian language and its unique scripts. As such the Rosetta Stone is a key touchstone (quite literally) for Egyptology and the subject of controversy with many calls for its repatriation to Egypt, and a proposal that it should be displayed in the new Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza. ‘Family tree’ of the Rosetta Stone, including ‘cousins’ inscribed with the same Memphite Decree, and other similar decree stones (Author Photograph at the British Museum exhibition 2022) The Rosetta Stone is a centrepiece of the Hieroglyphs exhibition and it was a pleasure to see it clearly, out of the glass case in the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery where it normally resides. As the source of the inscription that made decipherment possible, the Rosetta Stone has its own section covering the political and geographical context for its discovery, its origins, and its content. The exhibition even manages to arouse interest in the text on the Rosetta Stone, the Memphite Decree. The Memphite Decree is a relatively ordinary valediction of Pharaoh Ptolemy V from 196 BC which was sent out across Egypt and incised on various stones set up in multiple locations. The exhibition covers this fairly mundane text in a fascinating section on the Rosetta Stone’s ‘family tree’, including other versions of the Memphite Decree and its antecedents dating right back to 243 BC. History of decipherment The exhibition is divided into three parts: early attempts to understand hieroglyphs, including the Arabic authors who ... Continue Reading...


  • Posted on Wednesday November 30, 2022

    As I write this in late November 2022, academic and museum Twitter has just seen an almighty row about the Wellcome Collection‘s decision to close and replace its ‘Medicine Man’ gallery. (In fact, ‘row’ probably isn’t even the right word for it – we need a new word for these Twitter events, something that encompasses row, mass trolling event, and collective whinge.) Responses ranged from positive enthusiasm, to deeply unpleasant and unacceptable trolling, threats and abuse. Articles were written in newspapers, and various media interviews were undertaken. Storm in a Twitter thread Much of this reaction was driven by a specific Twitter thread, put out by the Wellcome Collection to publicise the closure of the Medicine Man gallery. The Wellcome Collection thread began ‘What’s the point of museums? . . . Truthfully we’re asking ourselves the same question.’ It continued with a discussion of the issues of colonialism, racism, ableism, and sexism with the Wellcome Collection generally and the Medicine Man gallery specifically. It then announced that the Medicine Man gallery would be closed and a new exhibit developed to replace it. In the final tweet readers were asked what they thought a museum was for and, by implication, what they thought should replace the Medicine Man exhibit. The responses include a vast number of angry, abusive, and derisive comments, many describing the thread and closure of the gallery as ‘woke’, ‘postmodernist’, ‘poststructuralist’, ‘communist’, and ‘leftie’. The responses also included a fair few references to ‘book burning’, ‘statue toppling’, and even ‘ethnic cleansing’. So far so typical of a certain section of 2020s society that is obsessed with ‘culture wars’ and views any change in the status quo as a personal attack on their identity. I have huge respect and sympathy for the Wellcome Collection’s social media person who received all these responses. So great was the vitriol and abuse that the Wellcome Collection felt it necessary to put out a statement on the closure, clarifying their position. They reiterated that galleries are regularly refreshed, the collection remains fully accessible online, and objects continue to be visible via request to the library, in other exhibitions at Wellcome, and on loan elsewhere. Personally, I’m quite glad they’re closing ‘Medicine Man’. Although the Wellcome statement claimed that ‘the world is very different now to when [Medicine Man] opened’ 15 years ago, I remember feeling uncomfortable about the name when the gallery opened. I thought it was rather inappropriate given that ‘medicine man’ conventionally refers to an Indigenous practitioner of traditional medicine. In a process analogous to the orientalism of the Eastern cultures, the term also evokes a variety of negative and racist colonialist assumptions, prejudices, and stereotypes that derided Indigenous medicine and ‘medicine men’. I’m sure the original creators thought it would be ‘cute’ to call the Wellcome gallery ‘Medicine man’ in reference to Henry Wellcome. But to me, it feels inappropriate to call an exhibit about a European collector of Indigenous medical objects by a term for an Indigenous medical ... Continue Reading...


  • Posted on Wednesday October 26, 2022

    In a previous post I discussed the mobile-GIS survey during the 2017 season at the Hatnub travertine quarries. During the same period, I also undertook reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) of specific inscriptions. Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) Along the descending passage into Quarry P are a number of flat panels carved into the rock and originally containing inscriptions left by the expeditions to the quarry. Most of these inscriptions were copied by Georg Moeller and published after his death by Anthes (1927). The current Hatnub Project has been able to locate most of the inscriptions, refine our understanding of the originals and add several new examples to the total. During the September 2017 field season, I spent a week recording three of these inscriptions in situ in the quarry using Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) to reveal elements of these inscriptions that are not normally visible. Plan of the end of the descending passage and Quarry P showing the locations of inscriptions subject to RTI capture in 2017. (Made by the author in QGIS using Hatnub Project data) Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) is a digital photographic technique originally invented by  Tom Malzbender and Dan Gelb of Hewlett-Packard Labs, that reveals the surface texture of an object or inscription in great detail, making it possible to identify surface features, inscribed imagery and incised inscriptions that are not visible under normal conditions. RTI software uses a series of photographs taken from the same position and artificially lit by a flashlight situated the same distance from the artefact but at different directions and angles to it. By synthesising the changing interplay of light and shadow from these photographs, the software is able to determine the angles of the surface of the object and RTI viewing software is then able to recreate the image as lit interactively from any angle.  More information about the origin and nature of RTI, and instructions on how to view or create RTI imagery are available from the CHI website. RTI kit set up to record inscription DS14 on the southern wall of the descending passage into Quarry P. Author Photograph The results of the RTI were useful and demonstrated the potential of this technique at the site. The RTI revealed that a curious inscription (Anthes VII) included a figure of a seated king to the left of the serekh, despite considerable damage in this area. Further down the descending passage, into Quarry P, RTI of a carved hieratic inscription (not been published by Anthes and designated DS14 by the Hatnub Project) revealed the seated figure carved to left was sitting on a low chair and clarified the hieratic text to the right of him. Inscription Anthes XI z on Little Man Boulder, is in very finely incised hieratic and was almost impossible to read up to now. I recorded this in three parts and we have now been able to read a number of the sign groups using RTI to alter the direction of the light and bring out the precise form of the hieratic signs. Inscription DS14 viewed using RTI ... Continue Reading...


  • Posted on Wednesday September 28, 2022

    Location of Hatnub and the study area in the desert east of Amarna. ((Underlying Landsat 8 data from the United States Geological Survey) When this post goes out it will have been five years since I last worked in Egypt and almost one year since I published the results of that last season at Hatnub in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. In the course of writing that paper, I had the opportunity to review the results of the work. The accepted version of the paper can be found here for those who would like to read the full version. In 2016 I remotely surveyed 1 km2 of the industrial landscape along the ancient quarry road between the Hatnub quarries and the low desert. I used high (0.4 m) resolution Worldview-3 satellite imagery projected in a geographic information system to record all the archaeological features within the study area. The results of this remote survey and comparisons with the archaeological survey undertaken by Shaw in the late 1980s were subsequently published in a peer-reviewed conference proceedings (available here). In September 2017 I returned to the site as part of the  Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale and the University of Liverpool Hatnub Project, to undertake ground-check of the remote survey and determine its accuracy and suitability for future research projects. Undertaking mobile-GIS survey at Hatnub in 2017. (Author photograph) Mobile-GIS Mobile GIS applications allow you to take your GIS project, or selected components thereof, out into the field on a tablet or similar handheld device. A mobile-GIS survey was perfect for my 2017 ground check. I uploaded the Worldview-3 satellite imagery and the remote survey data onto ArcGIS Collector (now deprecated) on my tablet. Using the tablet’s GPS software I was able to locate myself within the satellite imagery, identify survey squares, correct remote-survey data, and add additional features missed during the remote survey. I subsequently determined the percentages of false positives (i.e. features identified during the remote-survey as archaeological but found to be otherwise during the mobile-GIS survey) and false negatives (i.e. real archaeological features that were missed during the remote-survey) by comparing the original remote survey data to the mobile-GIS survey data. Careful examination of the data also revealed some likely causes for the false positives and negatives and suggested possible reasons why the results differed from the survey undertaken by Shaw in the late 1980s. Results Over 7 days I covered 81 grid squares, or 810,000 m2, 49 of which had been previously remotely surveyed. I recorded 573 features, including 62 linears (roads, trails, paths etc.). Habitations (huts, shelters and windbreaks), remain the largest group of features, but there are also ‘blank areas’, cairns, roads, tracks and paths, work areas, shrines, and quarries. During the course of the mobile-GIS survey, the ‘blank areas’ were reinterpreted as small quarry pits, which had filled up with wind-blown sand after the stone was removed. The mobile-GIS survey also revealed several additional types of features, which had not been recorded on the remote survey often because they were too small to ... Continue Reading...