History

Religious history: Archaeologists study life during Biblical times

Through bits of bone, ancient vessels, fragments of parchment and more, archaeologists are piecing together the Bible, one find at a time.

Ancient Bible

As they explore religious sites across the Middle East and around the world, Biblical archaeologists work to piece together the historical facts and ascertain the accuracy of the Bible. 

Wonderlane / Wikipedia

Second_Temple.jpg

May 9, 2013: A model of King Herod's Second Temple from the Israel Museum, an important historical site for Judaism. A huge quarry, along with tools and a key, used by workers some 2,000 years ago have been discovered during an excavation in Jerusalem prior to the paving of a highway, the Israel Antiquities Authorities announced. The first-century quarry, which fits into the Second Temple Period (538 B.C. to A.D. 70), would've held the huge stones used in the construction of the city's ancient buildings, researchers noted. Read more

Wikipedia / Ariely

second-temple-quarry

Archaeologists also uncovered pick axes and wedges among other artifacts at the site in the modern-day Ramat Shlomo Quarter, a neighborhood in northern East Jerusalem. Some of the huge stones would've reached about 6.5 feet in length and weighed tens if not hundreds of tons, the researchers said. Read more

Skyview Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

tower of babel.jpg

May 7, 2013: The idea of a universal human language goes back at least to the Bible, in which humanity spoke a common tongue, but were punished with mutual unintelligibility after trying to build the Tower of Babel all the way to heaven. Now scientists have reconstructed words from such a language. Read more

public domain

Israel Gabriel Stone.jpg

April 30, 2013: A museum worker walks next to the 'Gabriel Stone' as it is displayed at an exhibition at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The stone, a 3-foot-tall tablet said to have been found 13 years ago on the banks of the Dead Sea, features 87 lines of an unknown prophetic text dated as early as the first century BC, at the time of the Second Jewish Temple. Scholars still debate its meaning. Read more

AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner

Israel Gabriel Stone 1.jpg

Scholars see it as a portal into the religious ideas circulating in the Holy Land in the era when was Jesus was born. Its form is also unique -- it is ink written on stone, not carved -- and no other such religious text has been found in the region.

AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner

galilee-2

April 10, 2013: A giant "monumental" stone structure discovered beneath the waters of the Sea of Galilee in Israel has archaeologists puzzled as to its purpose and even how long ago it was built. The mysterious structure is cone shaped, made of "unhewn basalt cobbles and boulders," and weighs an estimated 60,000 tons the researchers said. That makes it heavier than most modern-day warships. Read more:

Shmuel Marco

gospel-judas-1.jpg

April 8, 2013: The Gospel of Judas, a text dated to about A.D. 280, tells the story of Judas as a collaborator with Jesus instead of a betrayer. It was ruled most likely authentic in 2006. Now, scientists reveal they couldn't have made the call without a series of far more mundane documents, including Ancient Egyptian marriage licenses and property contracts. Read more

Joseph Barabe, McCrone Associates, Inc

Israeli archaeologists have discovered a rare 1,500 year old Christian artifact

April 4, 2013: A recently discovered Christian lantern is seen in Ashkelon, Israel. Israeli archaeologists have discovered a rare 1,500 year old Christian artifact and wine press in the south of the country that shed light on life in the Byzantine period. Read more

AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov

Biblical home of Abraham dig 2.jpg

March 31, 2013: Excavation in progress at Tell Khaiber, Iraq, where a British archaeologist says he and his colleagues have unearthed a huge, rare complex near the ancient city of Ur that was the Biblical home of Abraham. Read more

AP Photo/Stuart Campbell

Biblical home of Abraham dig.jpg

April 1, 2013: A clay plaque, which shows a worshipper approaching a sacred place. He is wearing a long robe with fringe down the front opening, found during an excavation Tell Khaiber, Iraq. It was found near a 4,000 year old strucuture that probably served as an administrative center for Ur -- around the time Abraham would have lived there before leaving for Canaan, according to the Bible. Read more

AP Photo/Stuart Campbell

01-resevoir.JPG

Sept. 10, 2012: Archaeologists have found an ancient water reservoir in Jerusalem that may have been used by pilgrims coming to the Temple Mount, the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced.The IAA said the cistern could have held 66,000 gallons (250 cubic meters) of water; it likely dates back to the era of the First Temple, which, according to the Hebrew Bible, was constructed by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C. and then destroyed 400 years later.
VLADIMIR NAYKHIN. IAA

02-john-baptist.JPG

June 15, 2012: A small handful of bones found in an ancient church in Bulgaria may belong to John the Baptist, the biblical figure said to have baptized Jesus.
Wikipedia

03-john-baptist.JPG

There's no way to be sure, of course, as there are no confirmed pieces of John the Baptist to compare to the fragments of bone. But the sarcophagus holding the bones was found near a second box bearing the name of St. John and his feast date (also called a holy day) of June 24. Now, new radiocarbon dating of the collagen in one of the bones pegs its age to the early first century, consistent with the New Testament and Jewish histories of John the Baptist's life.
Oxford University

04-jewelry.JPG

May 25, 2012: Israeli archaeologists have unearthed a stash of rare ancient jewelry near the site of the biblical Armageddon in the north of the country.
AP PHOTO/DAN BALILTY

05-jewelry.JPG

Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University, who co-directed the dig, said this week that the find offers a rare glimpse into ancient Canaanite high society. The 3,000-year-old jewelry was found inside a ceramic vessel, suggesting the owner hid them before fleeing, he said.The university said in a statement that "The trove is among the most valuable ever found from the Biblical period." It said that one piece in particular, a gold earring decorated with molded ibexes, or wild goats, is "without parallel."
AP PHOTO/DAN BALILTY

06-biblical-cult.JPG

May 10, 2012: For the first time, archaeologists have uncovered shrines from the time of the early Biblical kings in the Holy Land, providing the earliest evidence of a cult, they say.Excavation within the remains of the roughly 3,000-year-old fortified city of Khirbet Qeiyafa, located about 19 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Jerusalem, have revealed three large rooms used as shrines, along with artifacts, including tools, pottery and objects, such as alters associated with worship.
HEBREW UNIVERSITY OF JERUSALEM

07-hebrew-seal.JPG

May 2, 2012: A 2,000-year-old seal bearing a name similar to that of Israels prime minister was discovered during excavations near the Western Wall, the Israel Antiquities Authority said.The find was made near the remains of a building dating to the end of the First Temple period, discovered below the base of an ancient drainage channel that is currently being exposed in excavations in the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden, adjacent to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount.
ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY

08-lost-tomb.JPG

Feb. 28, 2012: The researchers behind a 2007 documentary detailing The Lost Tomb of Jesus have uncovered evidence in a first-century Israeli tomb of the Biblical figure of Jonah, who was famously swallowed whole by a whale in the Book of Jonah.
UNC CHARLOTTE

09-lost-tomb.JPG

The prime evidence: an ossuary, a box or chest built to contain human remains. It was examined by a robotic arm and a "snake camera" in the modestly sized, carefully carved rock tomb typical of Jerusalem in the period from 20 BCE until 70 CE.It has a four-line Greek inscription that refers to God raising up someone. A carved image found on an adjacent ossuary shows what appears to be a large fish with a human stick figure in its mouth -- interpreted by the excavation team to be an image evoking the biblical story of Jonah.
UNC CHARLOTTE

10-queen-sheba.JPG

Feb. 15, 2012: A British archaeologist working in northern Ethiopia believes she may have discovered an ancient goldmine that holds clues about where the Queen of Sheba obtained her storied wealth.Louise Schofield, a former curator at the British Museum, told The Observer she was alerted to the mine by a gold prospector while working on an environmental development project in Ethiopia's Tigray region.The shaft, buried some four feet (1.2 meters) underground with an ancient human skull embedded in its entrance, apparently had not attracted much attention, even though locals panned for gold in a nearby river.Pictured: Gina Lollobrigida plays the Queen of Sheba in the 1959 film "Solomon and Sheba," beside Tyrone Power as King Solomon.
AP

Religious history: Archaeologists study life during Biblical times

Through bits of bone, ancient vessels, fragments of parchment and more, archaeologists are piecing together the Bible, one find at a time.

More From Our Sponsors