Oct 21, 2015

Fraudulent Claims of the Noah's Ark Discovery

The Chinese organization Noah’s Ark Ministries International
(NAMI) at a conference in Turkey (2008) claiming
the discovery of Noah's Ark on Mt Ararat. Some involved
in the expedition claim that the photos and video footage
were staged at another location based on a built model.
A recent article by Rick Lancer of the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR), an evangelical archaeological society questions the validity of a recent conference to promote the discovery of Noah's Ark. I have been involved in Ark research for many years and have been on Mt. Ararat and can also concur with Rick Lancer and Randal Price's evaluation of the proposed discovery of Noah's Ark, as a fraudulent hoax, even though it is being supported by Dr. Norman Geisler, the noted apologist. This story has been around for awhile, but this new conference, promoting it, is another attempt at misleading the public. Why are Christians so gullible!!!

See the posted article with many links to other sites and the details of the debate:
Rick Lancer, "Does New 'Eyewitness' Evidence Point to Noah’s Ark?" Associates for Biblical Research October 21, 2015.

The earlier discovery of 2008 is addressed in more detail in my books. "Quest for Noah's Ark," Pp. 187-89 in Key Themes of the Old Testament and "The Flood and Noah" Pp. 111-14 in Biblical Archaeology Vol. 1: An Introduction with Recent Discoveries that Support the Reliability of the Bible.

Oct 19, 2015

Top 12 Reasons Sodom is Tall el-Hammam PLUS one

I'm sitting on Tall Habassa with Tall el-Hammam visible over
my right shoulder. The site is gigantic at over 62 acres
(Jerusalem is only 12 acres in the MB period).
I came across a good summary of the arguments put forth for Tall el-Hammam being Sodom at a site called Geeky Christian. I have no idea who they are but they have done a nice job summarizing many of the arguments. The Blog is titled "Top 12 Reasons Sodom is Tall el-Hammam" As they point out many of the popular news articles fail to present any evidence for why Tall el-Hammam should be Sodom, leaving the reader to believe that there is none and that Dr. Collins and others are merely making a silly claim.

  1. There’s evidence the men at the site practiced the kidnapping and raping of young boys.  [There is no concrete evidence of this but there is a possible Minoan connection which could connect the site with this practice.]
  2. A meteor air burst explosion completely decimated the city that’s buried there. [This is one of the theories of what happened.]
  3. This air burst could have created a vortex similar to what’s described in the Bible. [Again a theory which could explain the type of destruction]
  4. It could also explain the strange “pillar of salt” verse. [For a detailed explanation see David E. Graves, “Sodom And Salt in Their Ancient Near Eastern Cultural Context.” Near Eastern Archaeological Society Bulletin 61 (2016): 1–27 Forthcoming ]
  5. Sodom must have been the largest city in the area and Dr. Collins’ site is by far the largest. [see photo above]
  6. Genesis implies that Sodom had a wall for protection and this site has an impressive one. [most ancient sites were walled so this is not a strong argument]
  7. The city is located in what looks like the “disc” [kikkar] of the Jordan. [in the right place]
  8. Sodom and Gomorrah needs to be found in good agricultural land. [the Jordan valley certainly meets this criteria]
  9. Sodom and Gomorrah need to be east of Bethel; Ai and Tall el-Hammam is. 
  10. Sodom and Gomorrah cannot be on the south end of the Dead Sea. 
  11. Other surrounding cities can be located. [Tall Kefrein, Tall Nimrin, Tall Bleibel and Tall Mustah]
  12. People seemed to be very spooked by what happened. [not sure how this matters.]
 However, one important argument is not mentioned.

#13. The destruction took place at the time of Abraham and Lot. Most evangelical Christian scholars place the Patriarchs in the Middle Bronze Age II (1950-1650 BC). The catastrophic destruction of Tall el-Hammam is dated to 1750-1650 BC. 1. Steven Collins, “Tall El-Hammam Is Still Sodom: Critical Data-Sets Cast Serious Doubt on E. H. Merrill’s Chronological Analysis,” BRB 13, no. 1 (2013): 9; 1. John Moore, “Dr. John Moore and Dr. Steven Collins Reflect on TeHEP’s First Nine Years,” Update: Tall El-Hammam Excavation Project, The Official Newsletter of TeHEP, April 11, 2014, 1.

 For more evidence see Graves, David E. Key Facts for the Location of Sodom Student Edition: Navigating the Maze of Arguments. Moncton, N.B.: Electronic Christian Media, 2014.

Oct 16, 2015

Introduction to Biblical Archaeology Video

A short video on an Introduction to Biblical Archaeology created by Logos Media Ed introducing their course. It hosts James Strange, Jodi Magness, and my good friend Scott Stripling, director of Khirbet el-Maqatir.

Join expert archaeologists in Israel as they shed light on life in the time of Jesus.
Posted by Logos Mobile Ed on Wednesday, 14 October 2015


Sep 15, 2015

Qumran not far from Sodom

The ruins of Qumran in 2011. The Dead Sea is visible in the
distance. Tall el-Hammam is located in the center of the photo
just northeast of the Dead Sea. The Essene city is not far from
Sodom if Tall el-Hammam is Sodom.
Today I located another clue to the location of Sodom. According to Dio Chrysostom's (ca. 100 AD) biographer, Synesius, he states:
"praises the Essenes, who form an entire and prosperous city near the Dead Sea [Qumran], in the center of Palestine, not far from Sodom." ([Cohoon] Disc. 3.2). 
Tall el-Hammam (Sodom?) is not far from Qumran (23 km). Bab edh-Dhra, the southern candidate for Sodom, would be far away from Qumran (70 Km). Tall el-Hammam fits Dio Chrysostom's description best for the location of Sodom as it is closest to Qumran.


Chrysostom, Dio. Discourses 1-11. Translated by J. W. Cohoon. Vol. 1. 5 vols. LCL 257. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1939.

Graves, David E. Key Facts for the Location of Sodom Student Edition: Navigating the Maze of Arguments. Moncton, N.B.: Electronic Christian Media, 2014.

Sep 14, 2015

New Journal Article on Sodom and Salt

One of many naturally formed salt pillars around the Dead Sea
which have become known as Lot's wife. This pillar is on the
Jordanian side of the Dead Sea north of the Lisan.
Photo by Dan Galissini.

In 1993 Flanagan, McCreery, and Yassine coined the phrase “a Late Bronze gap” (1994: 207) speculating that “the 500 year gap of occupation from ca. 1500 to 1000 B.C. [Late Bronze/Iron Age I in the Jordan valley and Tall Nimrin] must be due to significant sociopolitical and/or environmental phenomena that remain to be explained” (1994: 219; 1996: 286).

A clue to the phenomena of the “Late Bronze gap” can be found in the reference to Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt in Genesis 19:26. In a forthcoming article (Graves 2016), I argue that one possible explanation for the Late Bronze gap in the Jordan valley north of the Dead Sea is the catastrophic destruction of the Cities of the Plain which affected the entire Jordan valley and prevented settlers from repopulating the area. Recent soil analysis of the region indicated abnormally high levels of saline and sulfate compounds in the destruction level above the Middle Bronze layer that made the soil toxic and incapable of supporting life (Silvia 2015: 111–13, 141-42, 155). The fact that the narrative of Genesis 19:26 describes Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt, and not some other substance, is also consistent with the use of salt in the violation of a covenant and its associated curse (ban, Heb. ḥêrem) in the ancient Near East (Judg 9:45, see also 1:17; Destruction and curse of Taidu by Adad-nārārī I (1307-1275 B.C.), Arinu by Shalmaneser I (1265-1235 B.C.), Troy by Agamemnon (ca. 1194–1184 B.C.), Hunuša by Tiglath-pileser I (ca. 1114-1076 B.C.), Arpad by Bar-ga’yah (ca. 782-773 B.C.), etc.), and with the well documented practice of throwing salt on property that symbolized infertility and barrenness (Fensham 1962: 50; Gevirtz 1963: 60). Lots’ wife, in being turned into a pillar of salt, was seen through ancient Near Eastern eyes as now being infertile and barren and under the covenant curse. 

The text now makes sense, with theology and archaeology converging to help explain the cryptic comment of the “pillar of salt” in the Hebrew text and help explain why there is a “late Bronze Gap.”

Fensham, F. C.
    1962      “Salt as a Curse in the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East.” The Biblical Archaeologist 25(1): 48–50.
Flanagan, J. W.; McCreery, D. W.; and Yassine, K. N.
    1994      Tell Nimrin: Preliminary Report on the 1993 Season. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 38: 205–244.
    1996      Tall Nimrin: Preliminary Report on the 1995 Excavation and Geological Survey. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 40: 271–292.
Gevirtz, S.
    1963      “Jericho and Shechem: A Religio-Literary Aspect of City Destruction.” Vetus Testamentum 13 Fasc. 1: 52–62.
Graves, D. E.
    2016      “Sodom And Salt in Their Ancient Near Eastern Cultural Context.” Near Eastern Archaeology Society Bulletin, 61, 1–27 Forthcoming.
Silvia, P. J.
    2015      The Middle Bronze Age Civilization-Ending Destruction of the Middle Ghor. Ph. D. diss., Trinity Southwest University.

Feb 18, 2015

Two hard working volunteers and their reward.

Alex and Mark with their reward.
Two of our volunteers relaxing after a long day of digging and rewarded with a whole jar. They took 3 entire jars from this same location, a juglet, bowl and this beautiful jar. They only had to dig down 1.5 meters to reach it. To date 12 whole vessels have been excavated out of my squares in 9 seasons at Tall el-Hammam - 3 Iron age, 6 Roman / Byzantine and 3 Middle Bronze Age. Of course thousands of sherds and many diagnostic sherds have been excavated from the squares but whole vessels are rare and extremely important for dating our locus in our squares. Great job Alex and Mark. Alex has been working with us for 9 seasons and Mark just joined us but plans to be back.

Feb 15, 2015

Start of week 4

Daniel our photographer and videographer taking the photos of our disassembled tabun (ancient oven). We will make a 3D image of the installation to preserve it for future analysis.
Our team this week.