Uncover the Ancient World

Biblical Archaeology Society of Northern Virginia (BASONOVA)

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Upcoming Lectures

Pank Ration

Sunday - September 16, 2018 

Combat Sports in the Ancient World

Michael Poliakoff

Combat sports were highly popular and widely practiced in the ancient civilizations of Greece, Rome, and the Near East. The lecture will feature vivid descriptions and analyses of the sports of boxing, wrestling, stick-fighting, and Pankration.

Dr. Poliakoff will discuss the function of competition and violent games in ancient society; on the social background of the participants, showing the broad spectrum of Greek athletic personnel; on the significance of the appearance of combat sport in myth and literature; and on the alleged cultic functions of the ancient combat sports. The presentation will be highly illustrated with photographs of numerous objects rarely or never before published.

Michael Poliakoff is author of Combat Sports in the Ancient World: Competition, Violence, and Culture


Sunday - October 14, 2018 

Beer and Women of Ill Repute in Mesopotamia

Lance Allred

Beer was a ubiquitous staple in ancient Mesopotamia, and its production, distribution, and consumption are attested throughout the cuneiform record. Indeed, the famous Code of Hammurabi highlights the tavern as an important feature of the Mesopotamian urban landscape.

In Mesopotamia there seems to have been a strong association between beer and women, often woman of ill repute. Thus, the Code of Hammurabi regulates the production and sale of beer referring exclusively to female brewers, or brewsters. Terracotta reliefs often depict women drinking beer through a straw while engaged in sexual intercourse. Perhaps most famously, when Gilgamesh travels to the end of the world in, he encounters a brewster named Siduri.

This presentation explores more closely the association between women and beer in ancient Mesopotamia, as well as the role of taverns there.

Lance Allred is Curator of Near Eastern Cultures, Museum of the Bible

Prior Lectures

New Technologies for Studies of Ancient Texts

Sunday – September 24, 2017

New Technologies for Studies of Ancient Texts

Michael Toth

Advanced imaging systems can now empower scholars, scientists and researchers to glean important, new information from ancient texts.

This illustrated presentation will demonstrate how these imaging systems offer new insights into ancient manuscripts on parchment and papyrus. Advanced technologies developed during Mr. Toth’s projects – applied to papyri-mâché funeral masks and to ancient manuscripts guarded by monks at St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai, for example – have already revealed a trove of obscured text and drawings.

Multispectral imaging offers new insights into layers of text in historic palimpsests: older writings that have been “washed away” and overwritten with newer text (as featured in the Washington Post:

A carbonized, third century copy of Leviticus recovered at En-Gedi was recently subjected to multispectral imaging, and represents the first severely damaged, ink-based scroll to be unrolled and identified non-invasively. Thanks to these advancing technologies, scholars may now utilize an array of new imaging tools for non-destructive analysis and interdisciplinary research.

Mr. Toth is President of R.B. Toth Associates and Honorary Research Associate at University College London.

In Search of David and Solomon

Sunday - October 29, 2017

In Search of David and Solomon

Dr. Gary Rendsburg

The two great kings of ancient Israel are well known to readers of the Bible, but are they to be found in the archaeological record? Neither name appears in any contemporary document from the 10th century B.C.E., so how can one determine whether or not the descriptions of their reigns in the Bible have any historical value?

Fortunately we have ample archaeological evidence from Jerusalem and elsewhere which addresses these questions. The evidence stems from the ongoing excavations in the City of David area of ancient Jerusalem, from recently discovered inscriptions from Jerusalem and other sites in the Judean hills, and from temples excavated in northern Syria and southern Turkey with a striking resemblance to Solomon’s temple as described in the book of Kings.

Gary Rendsburg serves as the Blanche and Irving Laurie Professor of Jewish History at Rutgers University.

Navigating Pompeii and the Development of Roman Cities

Sunday - December 3, 2017

Navigating Pompeii and the Development of Roman Cities

Dr. Christopher Gregg

The development of Roman cities in the Republic and Empire followed a number of strategies, ranging from architectural displays that demonstrated prosperity to an emphasis on structures that reflected the city’s status or ties to Rome.

Using standard types of structures such as baths, basilicas, triumphal arches and colonnaded plazas, these Roman cities assembled inexhaustibly varied combinations of these elements to express both their wealth and their Romanitas.

A secondary strategy may well have been the desire to make the urban space more navigable for both locals and visitors. Lacking formal street names and numbers, an ancient visitor would be obliged to read the cityscape using all of their senses to make the best possible choices when moving through the civic space.

This illustrated lecture will examine the dynamic interaction between the viewer-visitor and the built environment of Roman cities with a special emphasis on Pompeii and other cities of the Western Provinces.

Christopher Gregg is Associate Professor of History and Art History at George Mason University.


Sunday - January 21, 2018

Curator-led Tour of the Museum of the Bible

The 430,000 square foot Museum of the Bible hosts one of the largest assemblages of biblical artifacts and texts in the world, including thirteen Dead Sea Scroll fragments, a Gilgamesh tablet, an extensive collection of papyri, early printed Bibles, and a 3rd century CE edition of the Gospel of John. Its 40 foot tall, 2.5 ton bronze front doors with stained glass art contain a relief depicting the creation account in Genesis.

The Israel Antiquities Authority is contributing rotating artifacts from its own collection, which is being housed in separate exhibition space at the MOB.

This tour will focus on the Museum’s more ancient artifacts, although the collection has extensive Medieval materials, early printed Bibles, and even relatively recent Torah scrolls. The Museum also features a model of a first century CE Jerusalem kitchen. Tour attendees will have the opportunity to sample marketplace cuisine.

The Museum of the Bible is located at 409 3rd St SW, Washington, DC: two blocks from the National Mall and three blocks south of the US Capitol near the Federal Center stop on the Orange Line.


Sunday - February 11, 2018

Mycenae Revealed: The Material Culture of a Bronze Age Citadel

Dr. Renee Gondek

Known from the Iliad and Odyssey as a city “rich in gold,” archaeological discoveries at Mycenae have revealed much that testifies to the prominence given it by Homer. Heinrich Schleimann, the nineteenth century archaeologist who also famously excavated Troy, discovered shaft graves containing sumptuous artifacts and golden masks: one was famously addressed as “Agamemnon.”

There is much more to this Greek citadel that flourished in the Bronze Age than its extravagant funerary assemblages.

Along with discussing these well-known grave finds and the monumental burial structures known as tholoi, this illustrated lecture will provide an in-depth look into the various architectural, artistic, and defensive features of this extraordinary civilization.

Renee Gondek teaches at the University of Mary Washington


Sunday - March 4, 2018

The Necropolis at Anubis-Mountain: a Photographic Tour of Recent Excavations in the Tombs of Pharaohs Senwosret III, Sobekhotep IV and Senebkay

Dr. Josef Wegner
This lecture is co-hosted by ARCE-DC

In southern Egypt, beneath the sacred peak of the Anubis-Mountain at Abydos, ongoing excavations have discovered the necropolis of Pharaohs who ruled centuries before the founding of the Valley of the Kings. Established in 1850 BC by King Senwosret III, the Anubis-Mountain site includes tombs of at least 11 Pharaohs along with the remains of an entire lost Egyptian dynasty dating from 1650 to 1550 BCE.

Included in the visual exposition of this royal necropolis is the tomb of Pharaoh Senebkay, discovered in January 2014 by Josef Wegner. Studies on Senebkay’s skeleton reveal he was most likely killed in battle. The discovery of his tomb supports the existence of an independent Abydos Dynasty, contemporary with the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Dynasties during the Second Intermediate Period.

Josef Wegner is associate professor of Egyptian Archaeology in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania, and Associate Curator of the Egyptian Section of the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.


Sunday - March 25, 2018 at B’nai Israel 

The Ancient Synagogue at Huqoq in Israel's Galilee

Dr. Jodi Magness

In Israel’s Galilee lies the ancient village of Huqoq, mentioned in Joshua and 1 Chronicles as land allotted to the tribe of Asher and notable as the location of the Tomb of the Prophet Habakkuk.

Since 2011, Huqoq has gained fame for the excavations directed by Professor Jodi Magness. These excavations have brought to light the remains of a monumental Late Roman period (400s CE) synagogue building that is replete with stunning and unique mosaics, including depictions of the biblical hero Samson, Noah's Ark, the parting of the Red Sea, and the first non-biblical story ever discovered decorating an ancient synagogue.

In this richly illustrated lecture, Professor Magness will describe these exciting finds, plus the discoveries made during the summer of 2017, which include mosaics of the building of the Tower of Babel, Jonah and the whale, and the Roman sun god Helios on a four-horse chariot. For more information visit:

Jodi Magness is Professor of Early Judaism in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Jealousy Ordeal

Sunday - April 29, 2018 

Ancient Magic and Medicine - Determining Guilt or Innocence in the Bible

Erin Guinn-Villareal

Many ancient Near Eastern cultures invoked magical powers and medical arts to conjure the guilt or innocence of accused parties. Surviving texts and illustrations bear witness that the Hittites, Mari, Mesopotamians and Babylonians all relied on these occult practices to find the truth.

Israelites may also have practiced these magical rites, as revealed in the Jealousy Ordeal in Numbers 5:11-31

In these passages, a husband who suspects his wife of adultery is instructed to bring her to a priest who will preside over a series of ritual acts in order to determine her guilt or innocence.

The significance of the Jealousy Ordeal is still being debated, despite decades of scholarship. This talk will use this ritual to explore the influence of broader ancient Near Eastern magical and medical topics on biblical interpretation, and then propose an alternative analysis of the ritual that emphasizes its social and justice components.

Erin Guinn-Villareal teaches at the University of Maryland - Baltimore County