Priests and Priesthood in the Near East

From March 19-21, 2018, the Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University hosted the “Priests and Priesthood in the Near East: Social, Intellectual and Economic Aspects” conference. The papers from March 19 are available on TAU’s YouTube channel:

  • Dominique Charpin (Collège de France), Opening Address: Recent Discoveries from Ur / Tell Muqayyar, Priests of Ur in the Old Babylonian Period: A Reappraisal in the Light of the Discoveries at Ur / Tell Muqayyar in 2017
  • Walther Sallaberger (LMU, Munich), Keynote Session I: Origins of Near Eastern Priesthood, Close to the Ruler and to the Gods: The Cultic Duties of the Cupbearer and the Role of Priestesses and Priests in Early Dynastic Mesopotamia
  • Piotr Steinkeller (Harvard University), Babylonian Priesthood during the Third Millennium BCE: Between Sacred
    and Profane
  • Louise Quillien (EPHE, Paris), Identity Through Appearance: Babylonian Priestly Clothing
  • Aren Maeir (Bar Ilan University), “The priests, the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel” (Deut 18:1): Is There Archaeological Evidence of Priests and Priesthood in Iron Age Israel and Judah?
  • Yonatan Adler (Ariel University), “Is there a Priest in the House?”: Identifying Jewish Priests (Kohanim) in the Archaeology of Roman Judaea/Palaestina
  • Julietta Steinhauer (University College London), Near Eastern Priests: A Graeco-Roman perspective



Aren Maeir on Media Fantasy and Biblical Archeology

Professor Aren Maeir (Bar Ilan University) delivered a talk entitled “Media Fantasy & Biblical Archeology: Must Everything Be Interpreted As A “Da Vinci Code?” as part of the Orange County Community Scholars Program (OCCSP), podcasted November 14,  2007. The talk examines media exaggerations and archaeological forgeries in biblical archaeology. The talk is available in m4a audio format:


A very interesting character by the name of Simcha Jacobovici claims that a bunch of ossuaries were found in the tomb…. They had names such as Jacob, and Joseph, and Jesus, and Miriam, and from this, this group of scholars which included Jacobovici and James Cameron from The Titanic carried out this enormous hullaballoo, as they say, claiming that since you have these names, this is the tomb of the family of Jesus. Now, all of this is very nice, except that those names, which we know from the New Testament as being the names of Jesus’ family, were extremely common in Jerusalem during that period. So if we were to find a tomb nowadays in the Jewish cemetery and there was a David, a Solomon, a Bathsheba, and Ruth, we would hardly say that that’s David’s family. It’s just that those are common names…. [Jacobovici] connects the dots in places the dots should not be connected…. If you take a story and either you don’t know it or you hide from the viewers all the little details which make the connecting of the lines difficult, then you can do it. And that’s exactly what [Jacobovici] does a lot.

The Twelfth International Conference on Jewish Names

The Twelfth International Conference on Jewish Names was held on March 18, 2015, at Feldman Hall, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel. A number of the presentations relate to biblical studies, and are available on the Bar-Ilan channel on YouTube:

David Shneor (Shaanan College), Criteria for the Identification of Biblical Toponyms in the Writings of Ishtori Happarhi (Hebrew)

Asher Ovadiah (Tel Aviv University), Hebrew Inscriptions with Jewish Names in Elijah’s Cave at the Foot of Mount Carmel (Hebrew)

Yigal Bloch (Hebrew University in Jerusalem), A Jewish Name in a Babylonian Toponym of 425 B.C.E. (English)

Aren M. Maeir (Bar-Ilan University); Brent Davis and Louise A. Hitchcock (University of Melbourne), Philistine Names and Terms Once Again: A Recent Perspective (English)

Elody di Vito (EPHE Paris), Hebrew Names in Phoenician Inscriptions (English)

“Searching for Goliath”: Aren Maeir’s Skype Lecture on the Philistines and Tell es-Safi/ “Gath”

Professor Aren Maeir (Bar Ilan University and director of the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project) delivered a lecture on the Philistines called “Searching for Goliath” on January 18, 2015. He lectured from a lab at Tell es-Safi, via Skype, to students from Grand Valley State University (Allendale, Michigan).

H/t: Aren Maeir

Aren Maeir: New Light on the Biblical Philistines

On April 23, 2014, at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, Professor Aren Maeir gave the 2014 David Kipper Ancient Israel Lecture: “New Light on the Biblical Philistines: Recent Study on the Frenemies of Ancient Israel”. Professor Maeir discusses the evidence which challenges the theory that the Philistines arrived in a single invasion in Iron Age I. The video is now available on YouTube.

Aren Maeir is a Professor at The Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, Bar-Ilan University and Director of The Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project, The Institute of Archaeology.

The Philistines are well-known from biblical texts as one of the main adversaries of the ancient Israelites. At the same time, the biblical narrative indicates that other types of interactions also were the norm. Recent excavations in Philistia, and in particular those at Tell es-Safi, biblical Gath of the Philistines, hometown of Goliath, have provided exciting evidence of the very complex interaction between these two cultures, revealing the multi-layered facets of what could be termed a Frenemy relationship between the Philistines and Israelites. In addition, recent finds have very much changed our understanding of who the Philistines were, where they came from, and how their culture formed, transformed, and eventually disappeared. These topics will be addressed in this lecture.

h/t: Aren Maeir, The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog