Uncover the Ancient World

Biblical Archaeology Society of Northern Virginia (BASONOVA)

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Upcoming Lectures

BASONOVA and BAF are delighted to announce a joint resumption of their lecture series on the ancient Near East and Eastern Mediterranean. Their presentations will be given by scholars in the fields of archaeology, history, art, religion, science, and texts. This series will be broadcast "live" via Zoom, and "attendees" will be able to ask questions of the presenters.

David and Solomon

Wednesday, December 15, 2021 at 8 pm Eastern via Zoom

The Political Expansion of the United Monarchy

Steven Ortiz

The rather recent discovery of a fortress at Khirbet Qeiyafa and the possibility that it was built by King David has reignited the debate on the United Monarchy and state development in Judah

This presentation will coalesce recent archaeological research in the south of ancient Israel, with emphasis placed on the results of recent excavations at Tel Gezer. Archaeological findings and a re-reading of the biblical text demonstrate that the northern Shephelah was a key region in the expansion of Judah toward the coastal plain during the Iron Age IIA (circa 1000-800 BCE).

In addition, archaeological research in the Shephelah is now expanding our knowledge of the contested border between Philistia and Judah and the various boundary shifts throughout the Iron Age. The emerging archaeological record, along with several biblical accounts such as David and Goliath, King David’s defeat of the Philistines at the Battle at Baal-Perazim, and Solomon’s many border fortifications, show evidence of a planned westward expansion

Steven Ortiz, Director of the Lanier Center for Archaeology at Lipscomb University and Co-Director of the Tel Gezer Excavation Project

Colossus of Rhodes

Wednesday, January 12, 2022 at 8 pm Eastern via Zoom

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: Monumental Power, Politics, and Pride

Jennifer Tobin

Although most people today are aware of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, few can name all seven. Perhaps fewer still realize that throughout much of its history, the list was never static. From the time of its creation in the 3rd century BCE until the Renaissance, when the list finally became canonized, “wonders” were added and removed from the list according to such factors as political expediency, religious affiliation, and personal taste.

This lecture will examine the various monuments that earned “wonder” status, exploring the reasons for each one’s construction and why each was deemed marvelous. In the process, we will note how each of these monuments served to enhance the status of the person or community that created it.

In a similar way, by reviewing the cultural climate in which the list was initially created together with the historical circumstances that motivated changes to the list, this lecture will investigate how the list of the Seven Wonders has promoted notions of cultural, political, and religious supremacy from antiquity to the present.

Jennifer Tobin, Associate Professor Emerita, Department of Classics and Mediterranean Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago

Roman Army in the Negev

Wednesday, January 26, 2022 at 8 pm Eastern via Zoom

The Roman Army in the Negev

Alexandra Ratzlaff

The landscape of the Roman Eastern Empire included extreme conditions in barren, marginal zones such as the region of the Negev located in modern-day southern Israel. One of the strengths of the Roman mechanisms of imperialism was the extent to which the Roman army, while in many ways considered a very standardized and homogenous institution, excelled at optimizing indigenous strategies of occupation in such trying regions and making them their own.

Roman internal security in the Negev developed out of modification of the established Nabataean system of trade routes. Roman army units monitored road systems, secured supply lines, and performed local policing duties. Here the Roman army functioned as agents of imperial administration in a region without large urban centers or embedded officials.

This presentation will explore how the Roman army facilitated imperial interests throughout the Negev from the 1st century BCE – 6th century CE for economic reasons, rather than for military or security concerns.

Alexandra Ratzlaff, Assistant Professor of Classical Studies at Brandeis University


Sunday, February 6, 2022 at 7:30 pm Eastern - Hybrid Presentation

What Were the Words of God?

Donald Kane

Co-sponsored by B'nai Israel Congregation and the Haberman Institute for Jewish Studies

Moses wrote down everything the Lord had said (Exodus 24:4) 

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth” (Jeremiah 1:9)

Does the Hebrew Bible contain the immutable words of God? Did the prophets speak the words of God? Might there be older versions of our sacred writings that we can point to that add or subtract from the text or, in some cases, demonstrate different theological meanings?

This illustrated lecture will highlight differences between what is called the “Masoretic” Bible Jews use today, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible known as the Septuagint, sacred texts recovered from among the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Pentateuch used by Israel’s Samaritans.

The presentation will also put into context how the ancestors of today’s Jews apprehended the sacred writings that were pluriform in their time, and; examine the role scribes played in reproducing, harmonizing and changing these texts, and indeed, in preserving Revelation.

Donald Kane, President of BASONOVA and Chair of BAF


Wednesday, April 13, 2022 at 8 pm Eastern via Zoom

Digging Homer: The Mycenaean Palace at Iklaina & Birth of Greek Epic Poetry

Michael Cosmopoulos

For thousands of years Homer’s Iliad has remained the classic tale of love, honor, and war. Exciting archaeological discoveries in the past 150 years have unearthed the great palaces of the Homeric heroes and revived the fascinating society of the Mycenaeans. In antiquity itself, and in our memory of antiquity, the great palaces at Mycenae, Tiryns, Pylos, and Troy stand at the crossroads between myths and historical reality.

The world of the Mycenaeans still holds many surprises. Recent excavations at the site of Iklaina have brought to light one of the capitals of the Mycenaean state of Pylos. Massive Cyclopean structures, monumental buildings decorated with beautiful wall paintings, advanced urban infrastructure, and the earliest known records of state bureaucracy challenge current knowledge about the origins and operation of Mycenaean states.

These findings allow us a glimpse into previously unknown aspects of the Homeric epics. In this illustrated lecture Professor Cosmopoulos will present the exciting archaeological discoveries at Iklaina and discuss their significance for the historical foundation of Homer’s epics.

Michael Cosmopoulos, Professor in Greek Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Egyptian Festival

Wednesday, April 27, 2022 at 8 pm Eastern via Zoom

Famine and Festival in Ancient Egypt

Ellen Morris

Two events in pharaonic and Greco-Roman Egypt radically transformed the status quo: revolution and mass mortality. When these two distinct events co-occurred, they often destabilized a rigid social hierarchy.

Such moments – at which underlings threatened to gain the upper hand or at least exhibited a marked reluctance to return to their former subservience – caused an immense degree of anxiety among Egypt’s elites. Extremely severe famines and the plagues that often engendered this destabilization occurred infrequently, but such were the upheavals and social transformations that happened in their wake that their memory had to be passed down through generations as a caution.

For people who knew only strong kings and times of plenty, it was necessary to “remember” hunger, suffering, and terror in order that they take warning signs seriously. Although written testimony and prophesy helped keep such memories alive, echoes of social upheavals that were invested into performance rites and animal fables recited during the New Year’s festival may have been among the most effective methods of transmitting intergenerational memories of collective trauma.

Ellen Morris, Associate Professor of Ancient Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University.



Discoveries At Nefertiti's Sun Temple

Jacquelyn Williamson

This event is sponsored by the DC chapter of ARCE (American Research Center in Egypt)

Stone relief fragments were recently excavated from Kom el-Nana at Tell el-Amarna in Egypt, the site of Nefertiti’s Sun Temple. They date to approximately 1350 B.C.E., the period when Pharaoh Akhenaten closed Egyptian temples and dismissed the priesthood, declared the sun deity Aten as the true God, and with his wife Nefertiti established a new capital of Egypt at Amarna.

In an illustrated presentation, Jacquelyn Williamson reconstructs the architecture, art, and inscriptions from the site to demonstrate Kom el-Nana is the location of Queen Nefertiti’s ‘Sunshade of Re’ Temple as well as another more enigmatic structure there that served the funerary needs of the non-royal courtiers at the ancient city.

The art and inscriptions provide new information about Queen Nefertiti and challenge assumptions about her role in Pharaoh Akhenaten’s religious movement dedicated to the sun god Aten.

Jacquelyn Williamson is Assistant Professor of Art and Archaeology of the Ancient Mediterranean World at George Mason University

This event will be held at Bamian Afghan Cuisine: 5634 Leesburg Pike / Falls Church / Virginia / 22041.

The luncheon begins at 2:00 PM; the lecture begins at 3:00 PM.

Aegean-Style Wall Painting


The Brilliance of Aegean Bronze Age Wall Paintings

Emily Egan

This event is sponsored by the Hellenic Society Prometheus.

The arc of magnificent Aegean-style wall painting began in Minoan Crete during the Middle Bronze Age. This style of pictorial art then spread to other Aegean islands and to the Mycenaean mainland.

By the collapse of the Bronze Age at the end of the thirteenth century B.C.E., this Greek art form had reached its apex, especially demonstrated in the extraordinary development and novel uses of color. Notable in this development was the use of "abstract" or "artificial" color, in which artists decorated subjects with seemingly nonsensical hues that veered away from naturalism. Among the subjects of this bold coloration were flora and fauna, particularly sea life.

This presentation explores this use of colors with prominent examples of wall paintings from Knossos, Mycenae, Tiryns, and Pylos.

Emily Egan is Assistant Professor of Eastern Mediterranean Art and Archaeology at the University of Maryland

This event will be held at Raaga Indian Restaurant: 5872 Leesburg Pike / Falls Church / Virginia / 22041

The luncheon begins at 2:00 PM; the lecture begins at 3:00 PM

Prior Lectures


Sunday, September 8, 2019

Recent Excavations Reveal the Real History of the Trojan War

C. Brian Rose

In 1988 archaeologists renewed their excavations of the Bronze Age, Greek, and Roman times at the site of Troy in modern-day Turkey. Work was concentrated primarily on the theater, Temple of Athena, Council House, and the Sanctuary of the Samothracian Gods. The Bronze Age fortifications and Roman houses in the Lower City were also extensively investigated.

Excavations thus far have clarified the nature of habitation at the site during the late Bronze Age (15th - 12th centuries B.C.E.), which includes the time of the famous Trojan War. Significant findings were also made in the period of the rise in the city's fortunes during the reign of Augustus (27 B.C.E. – 14 C.E.) and his Julio-Claudian successors.

These recent discoveries uncovered at Troy will be contrasted with the Homeric tradition: How have the excavations confirmed or altered our understanding of the Trojan War?

C. Brian Rose is Professor of Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania; Curator-in-Charge, Mediterranean Section, University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology; Head of Post-Bronze Age Excavations at Troy, and; Co-Director of the Gordion Excavations

Ancient Excavation

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Archaeology at Tel Akko: New Approaches to Excavating and Preserving Akko’s Cultural Heritage

Ann Killebrew

As one of the few safe anchorages along the southern Levantine coast, Akko has served as a major maritime center and crossroads between east and west over five millennia. Located on the outskirts of the modern Israeli city of Akko, the tel was inhabited from the Early Bronze Age into the Hellenistic period.

The renewed excavations at Tel Akko under the direction of Penn State’s Ann Killebrew incorporate a novel, integrated, “total archaeology” approach to exploring and preserving the site’s past, present, and future.

This lecture will present the results of ten years of excavations at Canaanite and Phoenician Akko, including the discovery of a Phoenician iron smithing industrial center; the development of cutting-edge technologies to document and reconstruct the site’s past, and; the role of the city’s diverse local communities in the protection of Akko’s shared cultural heritage.

Ann Killebrew is an Associate Professor at Pennsylvania State University and Co-Director of Excavations at Tel Akko.

Location: Duangrat's Thai Restaurant / 5878 Leesburg Pike | Falls Church, VA 22041   Time:  2:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Philistine Cemetery

Sunday, November 3, 2019

DNA Evidence for the Origins of the Philistines

Daniel Master

Groundbreaking testing of Philistine DNA reveals they migrated across the Mediterranean and settled in Ashkelon by the twelfth century B.C.E. These recent genetic results may help resolve the long-disputed origins of the Philistines.

Philistine DNA input was found in bone samples taken from infants buried under the floors of their homes as well as from remains in a newly discovered cemetery in Ashkelon. Researchers determined Philistines from across all time periods derived most of their ancestry from the local Levantine gene pool. Individuals who lived in early Iron Age Ashkelon, in contrast, had a European-derived ancestral component that was not present in their Bronze Age predecessors.

The study further demonstrated this European-related genetic component was subsequently diluted over the next centuries by the local Levantine gene pool, suggesting intensive admixture between local and foreign populations. While the study revealed a change in the Philistines’ genetic profile over time, archaeological discoveries there show continuity in their ethnicity.

Daniel Master is Professor of Archaeology at Wheaton College and Director of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon.

Illustration of the City Hazor

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Trowel v Text: Which Tells the Real Stories of the Fate of Hazor?

Elizabeth Bloch-Smith

Hazor was once the largest and most important city in biblical-era Israel. The Bible gave it the title: "the head of all those kingdoms." Today, Tel Hazor presents a unique opportunity to study physical remains in conjunction with biblical texts. Detailed publication of the well-excavated site allows reconstruction from its Late Bronze Age settlement that ended in a 13th century B.C.E. conflagration through its Iron Age II destruction in 732 B.C.E. and abandonment.

In this illustrated presentation, variant biblical texts in Joshua, Judges, and Kings will be examined anew in light of the actual events documented by archaeological evidence at the site. Together, the physical remains and the various texts suggest a necessary reconstruction of Israelite traditions, both oral and written, of the conquest and settlement of the site.

Elizabeth Bloch-Smith is an archaeologist and scholar who teaches at the Princeton Theological Seminary.


Sunday, February 23, 2020

From Sectarianism to Consensus: The Rise of Rabbinic Judaism

Lawrence Schiffman

This event is Sponsored by the Haberman Institute for Jewish Studies and co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

The late Second Temple period (second century B.C.E. onward) was an era of spiritual and religious ferment that manifested itself in a variety of Jewish groups such as the Sadducees, Essenes, Pharisees, Zealots, Nazarenes, and Boethusians. Each sect had its own approach to Jewish Law, religious and national identity, and social constructs.

The competition between these groups eventually helped to bring about the Great Revolt against Rome (66-73 CE) and the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. In the aftermath of the destruction, a consensus eventually emerged around rabbinic Judaism that would sustain the Jewish people for two millennia.

Based on both textual sources and archaeological discoveries, this presentation reconstructs the nature and trajectory of this process and its testimony to the vitality of the Jewish tradition.

Lawrence Schiffman is the Judge Abraham Lieberman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University, and Director of the Global Institute for Advanced Research in Jewish Studies.

This event will be held at 7:30 pm at B'nai Israel Congregation: 6301 Montrose Road / Rockville / MD / 20852

This event does not require a reservation. Cash or check at the door.


Wednesday, May 20, 2020, at 8 PM via Zoom

Digging Up Armageddon: The Search for the Lost City of Solomon

Eric Cline

In 1925 archaeologists from the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute began a fourteen-year excavation of the ancient site of Megiddo (biblical Armageddon), one of the most important cities in biblical times. A consequential 15th century B.C.E. battle was fought there by Pharaoh Thutmose III against a Canaanite coalition. Another famous battle was waged there in 609 B.C.E. between Egypt and the Kingdom of Judah, in which King Josiah fell.

Unfortunately, official publications from the Oriental Institute provide scant details behind their amazing discoveries, which include "Solomon's Stables" uncovered among twenty-six layers of ruins.

Some of the more compelling episodes in Chicago's search for Solomon's city at Megiddo will be presented in this illustrated lecture, drawn from a treasure trove of more than three decades worth of letters, cablegrams, cards, notes, and diaries. These materials shed substantial, often surprising, light on the internal workings of the excavations and its discoveries, situated against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the growing troubles of the British Mandate between the two world wars.

Eric Cline is a Professor of Ancient History and Archaeology at George Washington University.

Cuneiform Tablet

Wednesday, June 3, 2020, at 8 PM via Zoom

The First Diasporas: Egypt and Babylonia

Gary Rendsburg

With the destruction of the First Temple in 586 B.C.E., the ancestors of the Jews left the land of Israel in large numbers. Over the course of the next two centuries, we find a considerable amount of archaeological evidence for Jewish life both in Egypt and Babylonia.

This evidence includes - most remarkably - the outpost of Jewish soldiers and their families at Elephantine, opposite Aswan in the far south of Egypt.

The evidence in Babylonia includes hundreds of cuneiform tablets attesting to Jewish businesses and mercantile interests. These people clearly took Jeremiah's charge (Chapter 29) to heart and successfully reconstructed their lives in exile: Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.”

Gary Rendsburg is the Blanche and Irving Laurie Professor of Jewish History at Rutgers University

Ancient Alexandria Map

Wednesday, June 10, 2020, at 8 PM via Zoom

Septuagint, Synagogue, and Symbiosis: The Jews of Hellenistic Egypt

Gary Rendsburg

The conquests of Alexander the Great brought Hellenism to the entire Near East in the late 4th century B.C.E. No Jewish community reflects the symbiosis of Hellenism and Judaism better than the large and thriving community of Egypt, especially in Alexandria.

Members of this Alexandria community produced a Greek translation of the Bible, built synagogues (called proseuche in Greek) dedicated to the Ptolemy kings and queens, wrote Jewish literature in Greek, and were fully integrated into the society and the economy. In one case, they even constructed a temple in Egypt (to rival the one in Jerusalem).

Gary Rendsburg is the Blanche and Irving Laurie Professor of Jewish History at Rutgers University


Wednesday, June 24, 2020, at 8 PM via Zoom

Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Aftermath of Vesuvius

Steven Tuck

Pompeii and Herculaneum are best known for their utter destruction by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE and for remains preserved by volcanic ash. Less known is that there were survivors of this calamity and about what happened to them.

Do we know which city or region hosted the most survivors? Did they all migrate to other coastal regions, or were they more widely dispersed? What critical social and economic factors guided the decisions of the survivors about where to resettle?

Can we actually trace the fate of surviving families and specific individuals in the aftermath of the eruption? Did any regain prominence within the Roman Empire?

This lecture also investigates the Roman government's intervention and response to natural disasters. What was the government’s role, if any, in handling resettlement?

Steven Tuck is a Professor of Classics at Miami University

Battle of Chaeronea

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Chaeronea: The Battle That Led to the Triumph of the West

Peter Krentz

This event is co-sponsored by the Hellenic Society Prometheus

A century and a half after they repelled the forces of the vast Persian Empire, the southern Greeks lost to Philip II’s Macedonians at Chaironeia in 338 B.C.E. Philip’s victory was recognized at the time as the end of Greek freedom.

Philip organized the Greeks into an alliance, had himself named its leader, declared war against the Persians, and sent an advance force into Asia. After his assassination, his son Alexander carried out the conquest of the Persians that Philip had planned.

Incorporating archaeological discoveries, this lecture will explore how Philip succeeded where the Great Persian Kings Darius and Xerxes had failed. The battle shares a particular puzzle with the Persian War battle of Marathon in 490: In both cases, the invaders had cavalry, but no cavalry is mentioned in descriptions of the fighting. Did Philip owe his victory to a dramatic cavalry charge led by his son Alexander?

Peter Krentz, W. R. Grey Professor of Classics and History | Chair of Classics at Davidson College

Sunken City

Wednesday, July 22, 2020, at 8 PM via Zoom

Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities

Peter Schertz

This event is co-sponsored by the DC chapter of ARCE (American Research Center in Egypt)

The cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus sank into Egypt’s Aboukir Bay some twelve hundred years ago. Once centers of international trade and home to major religious cults and celebrations, these cities were virtually forgotten until the underwater archaeologist, Franck Goddio rediscovered them in 1996.

What Goddio found were not only the remains of major religious complexes closely tied to maintaining the legitimacy of the reigning pharaoh and dynastic continuity during the Late Period and Ptolemaic Period, but also a wealth of artifacts associated with the annual celebration of the Mysteries of Osiris that ensured the fertile of the land and Egypt’s well-being.

Peter Schertz will introduce the exhibition Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities, currently at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, focusing especially on the topic of continuity and change in the art and religion of Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt.

Peter Schertz is the Curator of Ancient Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Tower of Babel

Wednesday, August 5, 2020, via Zoom

Israelite and Persian Perspectives on Babylon's Great Monuments: The Tower of Babel and the Ishtar Gate

David Vanderhooft

The Hebrew Bible is very familiar with the city of Babylon and refers to it more often than any other city beyond Israel. Babylon was understood as the quintessential foreign city. Its massive architecture, particular topography, and learned traditions inspired both respect and condemnation. The story of the “city and tower” in Genesis 11:1–9 even concedes, contrary to the arguments of most interpreters, that the tower was actually completed. It stood, in a literary sense, as the pole around which Israel’s historical narratives revolve.

Meanwhile, for the earliest Achaemenid kings of the Persian empire, Babylon offered architectural examples for use in their new imperial style. One structure, in particular, the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, made a dramatic impression and prompted the construction of an exact replica at Tol-e Ajori, a site west of Persepolis excavated in recent years by a joint Italian-Iranian team. The structure at Tol-e Ajori represents a kind of celebration in the brick of Babylon’s cosmic monumentality.

David Vanderhooft is Associate Professor in the Theology Department at Boston College

Cooking in Israel

Wednesday, August 19, 2020, at 8 PM via Zoom

Food, Glorious Food! Home Cooking in Ancient Israel

Cynthia Shafer-Elliott

The subject of food has taken a central role in the cultural stage. There are numerous podcasts, television and radio shows, celebrity chefs, and even entire television channels dedicated to the cooking of food. This trend in food has even spread to the academic arena and has been the topic of much research in various fields, including Biblical Studies and Biblical Archaeology.

In this presentation, Dr. Cynthia Shafer-Elliott will talk about the food prepared by the average ancient Israelite household. By utilizing the methods of household archaeology, ethnoarchaeology, and texts from the Hebrew Bible, we will attempt to better understand what and how the Israelites prepared their food on a daily basis.

Cynthia Shafer-Elliott is the Associate Dean, Faculty of Theology and Associate Professor, Hebrew Bible & Archaeology at William Jessup University


Wednesday, September 2, 2020, at 8 PM EST via Zoom

The Blood-Drenched Sea

Alfred S. Bradford

This presentation will begin with highlighting the only physical representation of an ancient sea battle, memorialized in an Egyptian temple relief. This battle featured an array of Sea Peoples contesting with the naval forces of Pharaoh Ramses III early in the twelfth-century B.C.E.

The next phase of the lecture will focus on naval clashes for which there were eye-witness accounts, such as the  Battle of Salamis, fought between an alliance of Greek city-states  and the Persian Empire in 480 B.C.E.  Later that century, Thucydides’ wrote an account of the Peloponnesian War that featured ships such as triremes, sea battles, and naval policy. Little physical evidence survives of triremes, yet we know Thucydides commanded a squadron of this feared ship of war.

The final element of the presentation will feature accounts derived from secondary sources, such as the sea battles of the First Punic War. The Roman Republic lost countless ships and crews during the First Punic War due to storms and engagements with the Carthaginians. In terms of ships and casualties, this was the costliest naval war ever fought. In particular, the disaster off the coast of Camarina, Sicily, in 255 B.C.E., destroyed two hundred seventy Roman ships with over one hundred thousand dead.

Alfred S. Bradford holds the John Saxon Chair in Ancient History at the University of Oklahoma

The Aegean from Bronze Age to Iron Age

Wednesday, September 16, 2020, at 8 PM EST via Zoom

So You Survived the Mycenaean Collapse – Now What?
Evolving Ways of Life and Death in the Post-palatial Aegean

Sarah Murray, University of Toronto

One of the great mysteries of prehistory concerns the circumstances surrounding the famous collapse of complex states in the Eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Late Bronze Age. In this lecture, the question of what caused the collapse is set aside and instead considers what life was like for those who survived to dwell in its aftermath. As catastrophic as were the disruptions that swept the region around 1200 B.C.E., it is clear that life did go on in their wake.

This lecture focuses on developments in the archaeological record of Greece, where the twelfth and eleventh centuries are known as the Post-palatial period. The presentation reviews a range of material evidence, from settlement patterns to mortuary behavior, and reconstructs some of the realities, strategies, and coping mechanisms that characterized life for the survivors of collapse in this dramatic, tumultuous period of the Mediterranean past.

Sarah Murray is Assistant Professor in the Department of Classics, University of Toronto and Co-Director, Bays of East Attica Regional Survey

Lost Gospels

Wednesday, October 7, 2020, at 7:30 PM EST via Zoom

"Lost Gospels" and Other Christian Apocrypha: New Discoveries and New Perspectives

Tony Burke, York University

It is a common misconception (encouraged by intentional sensationalism) that apocryphal Christian texts—such as the Gospel of Thomas or the Acts of Peter—were “lost” before their rediscovery by scholars, sometimes revealed in dramatic announcements and high profile publications.

In truth, most apocryphal texts enjoyed a friendly co-existence with canonical Scripture throughout Christian history, and their “discovery” often amounts to nothing more than their transition from manuscript to print. Some texts have indeed been lost to history, and others recovered in fragmentary form thanks to archaeological excavations and happenstance discoveries, but likely their loss is due more to accidents of history than efforts at ecclesiastical censorship.

This presentation will introduce viewers to the broad range of apocryphal texts now known to scholars and illustrate the ways these texts have been used over time in Christian liturgy, literature, art, drama, and music. Far from “lost,” apocryphal texts have been and continue to be vital components of Christian culture.

Tony Burke is a Professor in the Department of the Humanities at York University in Toronto


Sunday, October 25, 2020, at 7:30 PM EST via Zoom

Destination: Holy Of Holies
An Archaeological Walk Through The Jerusalem Temple

Joan Branham

Co-Hosted by B'nai Israel Congregation & Haberman Institute for Jewish Studies

Co-Sponsored by Temple Rodef Shalom

King Herod designed and built the Jerusalem Temple in the late first century B.C.E. Herod wanted a grander complex than the one hastily constructed after the return from the Babylonian exile. His temple lasted less than a century, as it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. In its time, it was, and continues to be, a powerful symbol of sacred space; it continues to influence Judaism and Christianity to this day. It has been emulated, co-opted, exploited, and reinterpreted by religious traditions, from early churches and synagogues to Orlando's evangelical theme park with its mock Temple recreation.

This illustrated talk will serve as a guide through the Jerusalem Temple by following in the footsteps of the High Priest and worshippers (including Jesus) and navigating the barriers of sanctity and systems of blood, purity, sacrifice, and gender.

Joan Branham is Professor of Art History and Associate Dean, School of Arts and Sciences at Providence College. She is also Chair of the W.F. Albright Institute for Archaeological Research.

Sea Peoples

Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 8 pm via Zoom

Sea Peoples in the Promised Land

Robert Stieglitz

Recent archaeological evidence unearthed in Israel and on Cyprus has shed new light on the Philistines, a leading tribe in the confederation the Egyptians termed ‘Peoples of the Sea’. These Sea Peoples settled along the coasts of Canaan at the very end of the Bronze Age (circa 1200 B.C.E.). 

Their material culture reveals that these newcomers to the Promised Land, together with allies such as the Sikala, brought from their Aegeo-Anatolian homeland a sophisticated heritage including ashlar architecture and innovations in naval technology. 

Some Sea People were literate, using a syllabic script called Cypro-Minoan. Biblical narratives and Egyptian records both portray the Sea Peoples as highly organized warriors. The Philistines gave their name to their new homeland as Philistia (Pelešet/Plšt/Pilišti) whence the Greek transliteration as Palaistin gave us the term Palestine. 

Robert Stieglitz, Professor Emeritus at  Rutgers University

The Wandering Arameans

Wednesday, December 2, 2020 at 8 PM EST via Zoom

The Wandering Arameans in Egypt: New Light on the Samarian and Judean Diaspora

Tawny Holm, Penn State University

The Hebrew Bible views Egypt as the location of both slavery and refuge. The “wandering Aramean” ancestor mentioned in Deuteronomy 26:5 was a slave in Egypt, whereas the prophet Jeremiah and others went there after the fall of Samaria/Israel and Judah. This presentation offers a look at the evidence for diaspora life in Egypt found in Papyrus Amherst 63, a long and difficult text written in Aramaic but using the Demotic Egyptian script.

The many compositions in the papyrus reflect the religious traditions and collective cultural memory of a group of Aramaic speakers in Egypt, including Samarians and Judeans. It contains hymns that praise Yaho/Yahweh over other deities, and even an idealized description of their arrival in a new land: “I come from Judah; my brother has been brought from Samaria; and now, a man is bringing up my sister from Jerusalem.”

Tawny Holm is Associate Professor at Penn State University in the Dept. of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies & Jewish Studies Program


Wednesday, December 23, 2020 at 8 pm EST via Zoom

Writing on the Wall: Graffiti and the Forgotten Jews of Antiquity

Karen Stern

Co-Sponsored by the Pozez JCC of Northern Virginia 

Just like their neighbors throughout the eastern and southern Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Arabia, and Egypt, ancient Jews scribbled and drew graffiti everyplace — in and around markets, hippodromes, theaters, pagan temples, open cliffs, sanctuaries, and even inside burial caves and synagogues. This presentation reveals what these markings tell us about the men and women who made them: people whose lives, beliefs, and behaviors eluded commemoration in grand literary and architectural works.

Making compelling analogies with modern graffiti practices, this presentation will demonstrate the overlooked connections between Jews and their neighbors, showing how popular Jewish practices of prayer, mortuary commemoration, commerce, and civic engagement regularly crossed ethnic and religious boundaries.

Illustrated throughout with examples of ancient graffiti, this lecture provides a tantalizingly intimate glimpse into the cultural worlds of forgotten populations living at the crossroads of Judaism, Christianity, paganism, and earliest Islam.

Karen Stern, Professor in the History Department at Brooklyn College

Canaanite Army

Wednesday, January 6, 2021, at 8 PM EST via Zoom

Egyptian Rule and Canaanite Resistance as Seen from Jaffa

Aaron Burke, UCLA

Co-Sponsored by the Washington, DC Chapter of ARCE (American Research Center in Egypt)

Excavations of the Egyptian New Kingdom fortress in Jaffa, on the southern side of Tel Aviv, were undertaken from 1956 to 2014. As the only Egyptian fortress that has been excavated in Canaan, its archaeological record, particularly the evidence from several dramatic destructions, provides a unique perspective on Egyptian rule and local resistance to it from ca. 1460 to 1125 B.C.E.

The archaeological evidence, taken together with textual sources, yields a picture of Canaanite resistance to the Egyptian military presence in Jaffa that originated in centers located throughout the coastal plain and persisted for several centuries until the Egyptians withdrew their garrisons. This presentation is drawn from excavations directed by the speaker and undertaken by the Jaffa Cultural Heritage Project between 2011 and 2014.

Aaron Burke is Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology, the Levant and Ancient Israel at UCLA

Sepphoris Mosaic

Wednesday, January 27, 2021, at 8 PM EST via Zoom

Archaeology in Israel: Where the Past Meets the Present

Eric Meyers and Carol Meyers

Archaeology is commonly understood as the study of past human life undertaken by analyzing material remains. What is not usually recognized is that the archaeological quest for the past is inevitably shaped by the excavators’ present environment. Moreover, archaeology can serve a variety of purposes, in addition to the recovery of ancient cultures.

This presentation will analyze findings at several ancient key sites in Israel to illustrate the intersection between the discoveries there and the pressures of the modern world. Highlighted excavation sites include Masada, Hazor, Beth Alpha (on the northern slopes of the Gilboa mountains near Beit She'an), Jerusalem, and Sepphoris (located in the Galilee). The excavation of these well-known sites - all national parks in Israel - exemplify the ways excavators respond to contemporary issues and problems.

Eric Meyers is Professor Emeritus in Judaic Studies at Duke University

Carol Meyers is Professor Emerita of Religious Studies at Duke University

Egypt Gates

Wednesday, February 10, 2021, at 8 PM EST via Zoom

The Desert Fortresses of Ptolemaic Egypt

Jennifer Gates-Foster

Co-Sponsored by the DC Chapter of ARCE (American Research Center in Egypt)

Recent archaeological work in Egypt’s Eastern Desert has revealed a network of fortresses and way stations constructed in the mid-third century B.C.E. by the pharaohs of Ptolemaic Egypt. These military installations were constructed to supply and protect caravans transporting battle elephants from the coast of the Red Sea to the Nile Valley, as well as to provide support to mining expeditions dispatched to this mineral-rich region.

The remains of these remote outposts demonstrate a significant investment by the Egyptian monarchs and a remarkable period of intensive occupation that lasted some seventy years, ending in the early second century B.C.E. in the years after the Great Revolt in Upper Egypt in 206 B.C.E.

The occupants of these desert forts—a community that included members of the Ptolemaic army, civilians, and even members of the royal household—left behind a remarkable material and textual record that gives us detailed new information about their daily life, food preferences, and religious practices as well as their contact with nomadic peoples of the region.

Jennifer Gates-Foster - Associate Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The Fugitive Hero Stories the Bible and the Ancient Near East

Wednesday, February 24, 2021, at 8 PM EST via Zoom

The Fugitive Hero Stories the Bible and the Ancient Near East

Edward Greenstein

Were there precursors in the ancient world to the biographical stories of Joseph, Jacob, Moses and David as related in the Hebrew Bible?

Indeed, the early story of the people of Israel reflects a narrative pattern evident in many other ancient societies such as the Egyptian story of Sinuhe, the north Syrian “autobiography” of Idrimi King of Alalakh, the so-called Apology of Hattushili III of the Hittite Empire, the royal narrative of Esarhaddon of Assyria, and the narrative of Nabonidus King of Babylonia.

These foundational stories all tell of a person who is compelled to flee their native land. Desiring to return from exile, the person practices divination or receives a message from God that they can return home with divine support. En route, the protagonist fights off attacks and finally attains power or prestige at home. What else these tales have in common is that they all conclude with a cultic ritual or, more often, with the renewal or invention of a cult.

Edward Greenstein is a Professor of Bible at Bar-Ilan University


Wednesday, March 10, 2021, at 8 PM EST via Zoom

Inventing the Sumerians: Language, Literature & Politics in Early Mesopotamia

Gonzalo Rubio, Pennsylvania State University

Scholars and the public alike often use the label “Sumerians” when they refer to those responsible for the development of the earliest city-states in southern Mesopotamia.  There was, however, no such thing as a Sumerian ethnic identity in the third millennium B.C.E.

The Sumerian language was spoken in the southernmost region of Mesopotamia (Sumer).  Nevertheless, it was only after this language ceased to be anyone’s mother tongue, by the end of the third millennium, that the concerted process of the cultural production of Sumerian literature began.  This articulation of a cultural tradition in Sumerian, from legendary kings to mythology, coincides with the displacement of the centers of power towards the north, outside Sumer, especially during the Babylonian dynasty of Hammurabi. 

This illustrated lecture will explore the political and theological mechanisms that lay and somehow still lie behind the invention of a Sumerian identity.

Gonzalo Rubio is Associate Professor of Classics & Ancient Mediterranean Studies at Penn State University

Israelite Women

Wednesday, April 14, 2021, at 8 pm EST via Zoom

The Real Lives of Women in Biblical Times

Beth Alpert Nakhai, University of Arizona

The Hebrew Bible (Tanakh/Old Testament) is filled with stories about women, but no single story provides a complete picture of women’s lives – nor is any biblical woman meant to be typical of all Israelite women. So, how can we more fully understand the lives of Israelite women – and in that way, develop a fuller understanding of the lives of all ancient Israelites, those mentioned in the Bible and those the Bible never discussed?

Archaeology offers an alternate resource, one that allows us to go beyond the Bible in order to examine everyday life in Iron Age Israel. It brings us into villages and homes and shows us dishes and tools, shrines and figurines, workplaces, and tombs. This illustrated presentation uses archaeological resources to explore the lives of Israelite women, helping us place the biblical narratives into their ancient real-life setting.

Beth Alpert Nakhai is an Associate Professor at the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Arizona.

Sparta vs Athens

Wednesday, April 28, 2021, at 8 pm EST via Zoom

History of Sparta & How It Triumphed Over Athens

Alfred S. Bradford, University of Oklahoma

The Spartans were once the supreme infantry power in the Greek world. Their enemies usually did not dare to face them in the field and pretty much came into battle expecting to lose. The Athenians were the supreme naval power, so far superior that after the first few engagements of the Peloponnesian War, their enemies fled if they saw them on the seas.

These two powers fought each other and for years tried to figure out how best to deploy their military strengths and defend their weaknesses. This talk, after a brief introduction to Spartan society and history, analyzes how the Spartans found a winning strategy and were able to defeat the Athenians. Perhaps, more than any other factor, the key to victory was the ability of the Spartans to produce leaders who could find the weak spots in the Athenian system.

Alfred S. Bradford holds the John Saxon Chair in Ancient History at the University of Oklahoma

Text Destruction

Wednesday, May 12, 2021, at 8 pm EST via Zoom

The Destruction of Sacred Texts in Biblical Antiquity

Nathaniel Levtow, University of Montana

The intentional destruction of texts dates back to the beginnings of writing in Mesopotamia and has for millennia been associated with violence against human beings. From the burning of the Talmud in Medieval Europe to the burning of the Qur’an in contemporary America, the public violation of sacred texts has remained a powerful expression of symbolic violence and cross-cultural conflict.

In the ancient world, however, writing was a ritual activity that could physically embody divine will and human relationships through words inscribed upon stones, tablets, and scrolls. This was especially true in the ancient Near East, where the destruction of texts was explicitly linked to the destruction of cities, gods, people, and the world itself..

This illustrated presentation will explore the variety of ways in which law codes, written spells and oracles, royal monuments, inscribed statues, and treaty tablets were burned, smashed, cut, buried, submerged, eaten, hidden, abducted, erased, and rewritten.

Nathaniel Levtow is an Associate Professor of History at the University of

Noah's Ark

Wednesday, May 26, 2021, at 8 pm EST via Zoom

The Hebrew Bible and Myth

Peter Machinist

There is a widespread suspicion about the word "myth": that it is a word that describes something or a facet of someone that is untrue. In part because of this suspicion, "myth" has often been kept away from any discussion of the Bible. The two words, “Myth” and “Bible”, say those who share this view, are opposed at all levels. To associate them, they say, is not only wrong but dangerous because it would distort and debase what the Bible is and what it seeks to teach. 

This presentation will demonstrate the counterargument, namely, that "myth" can be associated with the Bible; that, indeed, it is a helpful term and concept in understanding the Bible; and that in doing so, "myth" turns out not always to be something that is untrue.

Peter Machinist is Professor Emeritus at Harvard University and Harvard Divinity School


Wednesday, June 9, 2021, at 8 pm EST via Zoom

Warfare and Mercenary Forces in the Age of Amorites

Aaron Burke, University of California, Los Angeles

Warfare on a vast scale across much of the ancient Near East throughout the Middle Bronze Age (2000–1550 B.C.E.) was a major element of the so-called Age of Amorites. Military engagements usually took the form of siege warfare. This battlefield tactic evolved into a highly formalized and very consistent style, propelled by the intense competition and emulation that undergirded interstate relations during this period.

New inventions such as the composite bow, chariot, and siege equipment became common, and as a result, were even adopted in Egypt by the end of the period. In addition, the Middle Bronze Age saw increasing employment of mercenary units whose emergence during the late third millennium can be directly tied to the relative insecurity that pervaded the ancient Near East in the wake of the collapse of the Old Kingdom in Egypt and the fall of Akkad in Mesopotamia.

By the start of the Middle Bronze Age, military positions such as the “chief of the Amorites” and “scribe of the Amorites” suggest an increasingly formal dependence on organized mercenary units embedded within the militaries of states from Mesopotamia to Egypt. Indeed, reliance on such units has even been recently suggested as the reason behind the actual decline of Babylonian power, rather than a Hittite invasion of southern Mesopotamia.

Philstia and Judah Map

Wednesday, June 23, 2021 at 8 pm EST via Zoom

What Recent Excavations Reveal About the Formation of Ancient Israel

James W. Hardin

Recent archaeological finds attending the formation of ancient Israel and Judah, especially during the putative times of David and Solomon, has ignited a debate about the history of the ancient Near East.

New excavations along the Philistine and Judahite frontier such as Khirbet Summeily, and a better understanding of old ones such as Tel el-Hesi, are providing a better understanding of the formative stages of ancient Israel during the Iron Age I/Iron Age II transition (the proposed time of David and Solomon).

When this information is combined with that from other sites in the larger region, it seems that a process had begun of integrating settlements into larger socio-political and economic networks. Some possible explanations as to the complex settlement processes and causes in the southern Levant are suggested in the presentation, with a particular focus on trade.

James W. Hardin is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures at Mississippi State University


Wednesday, July 14, 2021 at 8 pm Eastern via Zoom

Unholy Texts: Biblical Rape Narratives

Carl Ehrlich, York University

The topic of rape appears a number of times in the Hebrew Bible. It is broached both explicitly and implicitly, reflected in a number of literary genres, including legal, narrative, poetic, and prophetic texts.

The violent act of rape is nowhere condoned, and was a tragic fact of life in the biblical world (as it is in ours), yet it still found a place in our sacred texts. Why was this? What was the context? This lecture surveys biblical texts relating to rape in a number of these literary genres and attempts to classify the allusions to rape according to various literary, social, theological, and legal criteria.

Carl Ehrlich is Professor of Hebrew Bible at York University (Toronto)


Wednesday, July 28, 2021, at 8 pm EST via Zoom

The House of the Sun-Disc

Susan Redford, Penn State University

Co-sponsored by the DC Chapter of ARCE

For reasons only dimly perceived, the Pharaoh Akhenaten of Egypt in the 14th century B.C. carried Egypt unexpectedly into a stage of religious thought we can only call “monotheism”.

The lecture will present some of the most important evidence (hitherto only partly accessible) related to the Amarna revolution in Ancient Egypt. This involves new discoveries from Theban Tomb188, the only tomb in the Theban necropolis dated wholly and securely to the reign of the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten. The tomb belonged to Parennefer, the tutor and erstwhile butler of the king.

The rapid evolution in the realms of ideology, iconography and permissible artistic themes and motifs is well represented in Parennefer’s tomb, whose decoration kept pace with the momentous changes in the king’s thinking. When dovetailed with the pictorial evidence gleaned from the excavations of the great Gem-pa-aten temple at Karnak, it becomes possible to chronicle these rapid changes.

Susan Redford is Assistant Teaching Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies at Penn State University

From Sanctuary to Synagogue

Wednesday, August 11, 2021 at 8 pm via Zoom

From Sanctuary to Synagogue

Robert Stieglitz, Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University

This illustrated lecture details the origins of the synagogue and its decorative arts. This religious institution and its practice has roots that can be traced back to the Biblical traditions of the "sanctuary"(miškan), also known as the Tabernacle, and the subsequent permanent "house" (bayit), or temple (miqdaš) built for the God of Israel. 

Special attention will be given to the artistic motifs unearthed in the ancient synagogues in Israel, structures primarily dateable to the Byzantine period (4th - 7th centuries C.E.). The synagogues and their art can be seen as the culmination of a long process of development, whose roots are traceable to Hellenistic era (3rd - 1st centuries B.C.E.).

Robert Stieglitz is Professor Emertius at Rutgers University.

Alexander The Great

Wednesday, October 6, 2021 at 8 pm Eastern via Zoom

Alexander the Great: His Career, Character, and What Made Him “Great”

Jennifer Tobin

Co-sponsored by the Hellenic Society Prometheas

The meteoric career of Alexander the Great is the stuff of legends. As a precocious child he tamed the mighty horse Bucephalus, in his teens he led the Macedonian cavalry and before the age of 20 he was proclaimed King of Greece. Through ingenious military tactics and crafty diplomacy, he forged the largest empire the ancient world had ever known, but by the age of 32 he lay dead in Babylon.

While the outlines of his life are well known, the motivations that drove Alexander’s extraordinary trajectory are less clear. This presentation explores the forces that propelled Alexander to greatness as well as the demons that drove him to his early death.

Jennifer Tobin, Associate Professor Emerita, Department of Classics and Mediterranean Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago

Hattusa Lion Gate

Wednesday, October 20, 2021, at 8 pm Eastern via Zoom

Just What Was Destroyed at the End of the Late Bronze Age?

Jesse Millek

Throughout the Ancient Near East / Eastern Mediterranean, the end of the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1200 BC) is often defined in the literature as a time of violence and upheavals. Great destruction events ravaged this area, including the destruction of the palaces in Greece, the burning of Ras Shamra in Syria, the sacking of Hattusa in Anatolia, and the destruction of many great Canaanite cities.

How much of this supposed destruction holds true under the scrutiny of archaeological evidence? For those sites with evident obliteration, what might have been the cause of the destruction based on the physical archaeological evidence?

The goal of this talk is to demonstrate just how much was destroyed (and where) at the end of the Late Bronze Age in the Ancient Near East / Eastern Mediterranean and what this indicates for the multiple theories that utilize destruction as a prime mover in the collapse of Bronze Age civilizations.

Jesse Millek is a research fellow in the Department of Middle East Studies at the University of Michigan

The Politics of Genealogies in Second Temple Times

Wednesday, November 3, 2021 at 8 pm Eastern via Zoom

The Politics of Genealogies in Second Temple Times

Deirdre N. Fulton, Baylor University

Genealogies are a prominent feature in biblical literature, particularly in the Torah as well as sacred literature from the postexilic period, namely the books of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. This interest in including genealogies within the biblical texts serves many different purposes, including creating identity, making explicit family connections, enhancing one’s own pedigree, and asserting specific claims to a territory, position or a group of people.

This lecture surveys biblical genealogies, specifically royal and non-royal genealogies in Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. The presenter will discuss the setting and structure of specific genealogies and place them within the broader Ancient Near Eastern cultural framework.

Deirdre Fulton is Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament at Baylor University

Mendes, City of the Ram-Man

Wednesday, November 17, 2021 at 8 pm EST via Zoom

Mendes, City of the Ram-Man

Donald Redford

Co-sponsored by the DC Chapter of ARCE

Approximately 50 km. due east  of the center line of the Egyptian Nile Delta, the rich arable land turns into a wilderness of rock and gigantic sand dunes. Proceeding towards the sunrise, the traveler has begun to cross the only land bridge linking the two largest continents on earth, Africa and Asia, viz. the Sinai Peninsula.

Two thresholds, Israel on the Asian side, and Lower Egypt on the African, constrain his route and throw the traveler together with other caravans, settlers, traders and armies carrying goods, slaves, even ideas!

Mendes, a large city occupied from remote pre-historic times to the Middle Ages, stands on this African threshold. We have subjected the site to excavation (now interrupted because of the pandemic) from 1990, and it has yielded a wealth of information, some of it turning our conventional wisdom on its head. Welcome to the “City-of-the-Ram-man!”

Donald Redford, Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies and History at Pennsylvania State University and Director of the Mendes Excavations.