Category: Archaeology

For the first time in centuries, the Edicule housing the cave believed to have been the tomb of Jesus, located inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, is being excavated. In the midst of a larger project to shore up the structure, a conservation team from the National Technical University of Athens was given 60 hours to get into the interior of the tomb. They found the original limestone walls of the burial cave. They also got a look at the burial slab itself.

…as researchers continued their nonstop work over the course of 60 hours, another marble slab with a cross carved into its surface was exposed. By the night of October 28, just hours before the tomb was to be resealed, the original limestone burial bed was revealed intact.

For more, including photos, check out the article at National Geographic

I was reading about the Hittites, when I ran across something interesting, to which I’ll return in a moment.

The Hittites are a people mentioned numerous times in Genesis and other books of the Old Testament.  In 1906 the ruins of the Hittite empire were discovered by German cuneiform expert Hugo Winckler. He uncovered temples, a fortified citadel, and numerous sculptures. He also found a library:

“In ruined storage chambers, very likely royal archives, that appeared to have been destroyed by a great fire, he found thousands of hardened clay tablets. Most were in an unknown language, which was later shown to be Hittite. A few, in Akkadian, included a cuneiform version of a peace treaty concluded between the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II and the Hittite king Hattusilis, which Winckler translated.” (See Encyclopedia Britannica).

Prior to this discovery, as Christians are fond of pointing out, numerous higher critics viewed the Canaanite Hittites as mythical at best, and the Bible as untrustworthy on this point.  The spade silenced these critics.  As an early example, we have an article written by the Egyptologist Melvin Kyle in 1920.

The Hittites:
Then grave doubts in the past have been raised concerning the Hittites. Occasionally it has been boldly said that “no such people ever existed” (compare Newman, Hebrew Monarchy, 184-85; Budge, Hist of Egypt, IV , 136). But in addition to the treaty of Rameses II with the “Kheta,” long generally believed to have been the Hittites (RP, 2nd series, IV, 25-32), and the references to the “Hatti” in the Tell el-Amarna Letters, also thought to be the same people, we now have Winckler’s great discovery of the Hittite capital at Boghaz-Koi, and the Hittite copy of the treaty with Rameses II in the cuneiform script. The Hittites are seen to be a great nation, a third with Egypt and Babylonia (OLZ, December 15, 1906).

However, in recent years apparently there was some some blowback in the blogosphere, against the idea that skeptical scholars ever denied the existence of the biblical Hittites.  An essay on the website called “Christian origins” states, Thus, there is a legend here. It is the legend about “the liberal critics,”  A blogger with the title “DagoodS” stated rather provocatively in 2009 that Christian apologists are liars.  Why? Well, apparently because, among other complaints, “I heard the statement how skeptics once claimed Hittites didn’t exist, but it turns out they did. Not true—no skeptic said this.” (The inflammatory blogpost is here.)

A Roman Catholic apologist named Dave Armstrong decided to call the bluff on that particular point, with several examples.  For an interesting read:

A burned scroll so fragile that it could not be unrolled has finally yielded up its secrets, thanks to medical technology and the ingenuity of a computer programmer.

This week a computer scientist announced that his team found a way to unroll the scroll virtually. Working off x-ray scans of the artifact, specialized software detected the layers of parchment and digitally unwound them, revealing for the first time Hebrew characters written on the scroll about 1,500 years ago.

“I’ve actually never seen the actual scroll,” says Brent Seales, a professor at the University of Kentucky. “For me, that’s a testament to the power of the digital age.”

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