Digging Stopped in Ancient Biblical Cities

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Major archaeological discoveries will have to wait until next year, at least.

Dale Manor had a plan for 2020: Unearth an ancient Canaanite shrine in the lowlands of Judah, about 20 miles west of Jerusalem. Like so many plans for 2020, it was interrupted by a global pandemic.

So now the professor emeritus of archaeology and Bible at Harding University in Arkansas has a plan for 2021: Unearth that Canaanite shrine in Beth Shemesh, the city where the Philistines returned the captured Ark of the Covenant to Israel in 1 Samuel 6.

There are some drawbacks to putting an excavation on hold, Manor told Christianity Today. “There is an increased risk of site deterioration, both from the elements and plundering,” he said.

A highway also runs through the ancient Beth Shemesh site, and it is in the process of being widened. There have been some conflicts in Israel between the people who want the road and the people trying to preserve the biblical history buried underneath it.

The pause couldn’t be avoided, however. For biblical archaeologists, 2020 will be remembered as the summer without digs. Most projects were stopped as the coronavirus spread and international travel was suspended.

There were a few exceptions. An Israeli team did about a month of work at Tel Azekah, the site of the confrontation between David and Goliath (1 Sam. 17:1) and a Babylonian siege (Jer. 34:7).

Manor and other archaeologists said they used this summer to catch up on their analysis of artifacts and writing, while remaining hopeful that excavation work can resume again next year. Archaeology didn’t stop, they said, even if excavation did.

For now, biblical cities and sites wait across the Holy Land, their treasures yet to be revealed.

On the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, excavation …

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