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Biblical Archaeology Society of Northern Virginia (BASONOVA)

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Upcoming 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

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 BCE. 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


Sunday, March 15, 2020

Discoveries At Nefertiti's Sun Temple

Jacquelyn Williamson

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 BCE, 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

Prior Lectures

Pank Ration

Sunday - September 16, 2018 

Combat Sports in the Ancient World

Michael Poliakoff

Combat sports – boxing, wrestling, stick fighting, and pankration - were highly popular and widely practiced in the ancient civilizations of Greece, Rome, Egypt, and the Near East. This illustrated presentation will provide vivid descriptions and analyses of these sports and will also focus on the sociological insights they provide about ancient societies and their value systems.

Combat sport was often a rite of passage in the ancient Near East, particularly evident in the Epic of Gilgamesh, and, indeed, in the biblical story of Jacob. By necessity, there was a high tolerance for serious injury and fatality in ancient sport and widely different attitudes toward competition and individual achievement among the ancient societies that practiced them.

The lecture will include an analysis of the social background of the participants, showing, in particular, the uniquely inclusive nature of Greek athletic competition. Finally, the lecture will examine combat sport in cult, myth, and literature and what this evidence reveals about ancient values. The presentation will bring a rich evidence base of ancient monuments, vase paintings, sculpture, and coins, some of which have been 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


Sunday - November 11, 2018 

Eunuchs and the Slave Trade in Imperial Rome 

Molly Jones-Lewis

For there are eunuchs who were born so from their mother's womb: and there are eunuchs who were made so by men: and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:12

Eunuchs were found in all levels of ancient societies, and the way in which one became a eunuch influenced the sort of eunuch one became. Men aspiring to the priesthood of Cybele used a procedure different from the one meant to produce impotent men, and still another procedure was used to make a man infertile without loss of sexual function.

What the castrati shared was a social and, by the Imperial Roman period, legal stigma, especially among those who were meant to be used by female owners for sex work.

Understanding the medical procedures available and the circumstances in which they were performed provides insight into what the word "eunuch" meant in ancient times. This lecture will delve into what it was like to live as a eunuch in the Roman world, and include a discussion and illustrations of reproductive anatomy and ancient medical procedures.

Molly Jones-Lewis teaches at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County

The Origin of Papyrus, Paper, Books and the Bible

Sunday – January 13, 2019

The Origin of Papyrus, Paper, Books and the Bible

John Gaudet

This illustrated presentation traces the invention, production and utilization of papyrus in ancient Egypt to the development of papermaking in medieval Europe. Many notable, early texts will be surveyed that utilized papyrus and paper.

These developments represent one of the most astonishing and exciting stories in the history of the world; a tale of human endeavor that spans a period from the Neolithic almost to the time of Gutenberg; an interval that includes more than three-fourths of recorded history.

Attendees will have the opportunity to see and feel modern examples of ancient Egyptian paper used to make the first Christian Bibles as well as samples of ancient parchment and handmade pulp paper.

John Gaudet, Ph.D. is the author of Papyrus, the Plant that Changed the World and The Pharaoh's Treasure, the Origin of Paper and the Rise of Western Civilization.


Sunday - February 10, 2019, at B’nai Israel

Cities That Built the Bible

Robert Cargill

The cities of Jerusalem, Babylon, and Bethlehem are more than just settings for epic stories from the Bible: they were instrumental to the creation of the Bible. This presentation blends archaeology and biblical history to explore these cities and their role in the building of the Bible.

These cities also influenced numerous non-biblical books written in antiquity; far more books were left out of the Bible than were let in during the messy canonization process. The lecture will reveal surprising facts, such as what the Bible says about the birth of Jesus and how Mary’s Virgin Birth caused problems for the early church.

The presentation will offer an exciting adventure through time that brings the Bible to life through the cities of Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, Ugarit, Nineveh, Babylon, Megiddo, Athens, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Qumran, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Rome. Illustrations will include artifacts, dig sites, and ruins taken from a far-reaching journey from the battlegrounds of Megiddo to the Grotto of the Nativity, from the towering Acropolis of Athens to the caves in Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.

Robert Cargill is Assistant Professor, Judaism, and Christianity, at the University of Iowa and Editor, Biblical Archaeology Review

Phoenician Sacrifice

Sunday - March 3, 2019

Inside the Great Infanticide Debate: Did the Phoenicians Sacrifice Their Infants?

Brien Garnand

Although votive dedications are among the most studied components of Canaanite/Phoenician society, they remain poorly understood. The inhabitants of the Levantine coast - biblical Canaanites, classical Phoenicians - allegedly consecrated infants to Baal/Cronus as holocaust offerings.

Israelites were said to have copied such practices at Tophet (“Place of Burning”) in the Valley of Ben-Hinnom next to Jerusalem, which lent its name to Tophet precincts across the central Mediterranean. The largest of these precincts was found at the Phoenician colony of Carthage, where archaeologists have uncovered the cremated remains of thousands of infants set beneath stone markers with votive inscriptions.

Since the Canaanites/Phoenicians competed with the Israelites, Greeks and Romans, some modern scholars have challenged the veracity of these tendentious ancient sources. Instead of sacrifice, they posit an infant cemetery for children who did not survive infancy combined with related thank offerings for children who did survive. Which view does evidence better support? BASONOA members will get an insider’s review of the facts in anticipation of the final report of the ASOR Punic Project Excavations at the Tophet of Carthage.

Brien Garnard is Assistant Professor at Howard University

Wadi Rum

Sunday - April 7, 2019

The Nabataeans Beyond Petra: New Insights into Ancient Arabia from Jordan’s Desert Inscriptions and Rock Carvings

Glenn Corbett

In the centuries around the turn of the common era, the Nabataeans—a wealthy Arabian people who established the spectacular rock-cut city of Petra as their capital—maintained a strong strategic and commercial presence in southern Jordan’s Hisma desert. That area is known today as Wadi Rum and now increasingly popular as a backdrop for Hollywood films like The Martian and Rogue One.

Archaeological work in the region has uncovered Nabataean settlements, shrines, and water systems, but far less attention has been given to the thousands of desert inscriptions and rock drawings left by the peoples of local tribes who fell under Nabataean rule. This lecture will highlight the varied historical and archaeological evidence for the Nabataeans in the Hisma, before turning to a closer inspection of how and in what ways the lesser-known desert carvings inform our understanding of Nabataean influence in the region and the cultural similarities that were shared between the Nabataeans of Petra and their “country cousins” to the south.

Glenn Corbett is the Grants Officer for ACOR, the American Center of Oriental Research of Jordan.


Sunday - May 5, 2019

The Rise & Fall of Tell Tayinat, Provincial Capital of the Neo-Hittites and Assyrians

J.P. Dessel

Tell Tayinat is located in the ‘Amuq Plain of Turkey, near to the ancient city of Antioch and close to today's Syrian border. Conquest and state formation changed the face of this Iron Age settlement many times during the 9th through 6th centuries BCE.

Tell Tayinat reemerged after a long period of abandonment in late 13th century BCE as a Sea Peoples settlement. Sometime during the 10th century BCE, Tell Tayinat was transformed into a regional capital of the Neo-Hittites (Luwians) known as Patina in the Land of Palestine. Excavations have uncovered superb examples of Neo-Hittite monumental statuary, which will be prominently featured in this illustrated presentation.

Tayinat was then destroyed in the ninth century BCE by the Assyrians and rebuilt as an Assyrian provincial capital. This thriving city was then destroyed for good by a still unknown enemy.

J.P. Dessel is the Steinfeld Associate Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology and History at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and President of the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research

Location: Bamian Afghan Cuisine | 5634 Leesburg Pike | Falls Church, VA 22041   Lunch: 2:00 PM  Lecture: 3:00 PM

The Rise & Fall of Tell Tayinat
Additional Attendee(s)

Members of the Turkish American National Steering Committee should select BASONOVA Member to place their reservation