Weekly Summary: 10th - 16th January, 2023

Each week, Studies of Biblical Interest brings you a brief summary of the discoveries, news items, and advances across the fields on which we focus. If you have a story you'd like us to share, please email the details to editors@biblicaljournal.org.

Around 60,000 years ago, humans were hunting large animals on the banks of the Jordan River. The bones of an extinct cattle species called aurochs have been found in excavation of a site at the outlet of the Nahal Mahanayim stream. This site was not an early human occupation, but rather a place where the humans ambushed, killed and butchered animals, mainly aurochs. The findings have been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science and Nature Scientific Reports, and provide insights into the behavior and technology of humans at that time. Additionally, the assemblage at Nahal Mahanayim challenges some of the current beliefs about human hunting methods and technology.

Archaeologists have announced the discovery of eight ostrich eggs estimated to be at least 4,000 years old in Israel. These eggs were found in fragments in the Negev desert's Nitzana sand dunes near the Egyptian border, close to a fire pit that was part of a camp site used by nomads "since prehistoric times," according to Lauren Davis, the Israel Antiquities Authority excavation director. The proximity of the eggs to the fire pit, along with stones, flint, tools and pottery sherds, suggests that the eggs were to be cooked. Wild ostriches roamed the area until they became extinct in the 19th century. The eggs could provide insight into the enigmatic lives of ancient nomads, whose lifestyle did not leave much physical evidence behind. The eggs are in exceptional preservation and will be taken for examination to provide a more exact timeline for the site and its function. The Bible does mention ostriches in a few passages, such as in Job 39:13-18, where the ostrich is described as a bird that does not take care of its eggs.

A Byzantine church with elaborate mosaic floors was uncovered in the area of Jericho, in the West Bank. The Civil Administration, the government body that oversees activity in the West Bank, dated the church to the 6th century CE and noted it was still being used during the Early Muslim Period a hundred years later. The mosaics showed no indications of damage from destructive iconoclasm, despite Islam's ban on the display of icons and images in public places. The church covers 250 square meters, big enough to have served as one of the larger Christian houses of worship in the area at the time. The use of materials not found locally, such as marble columns and black bitumen stone, in the construction of the church suggests that the church builders were wealthy.

Researchers have been able to verify with a high degree of certainty that the Mesha Stele, also known as the Moabite Stone, contains explicit references to King David. The Mesha Stele is a basalt stone slab that was discovered in fragments in 1868 roughly 15 miles east of the Dead Sea and currently resides in the Louvre museum in Paris. The stele contains a lengthy account of King Mesha of Moab going to war with Israel and it corresponds, albeit imprecisely, with a similar account in 2 Kings chapter 3. The text contains allusions to the Israelite god as well as the "House of David" and the "Altar of David" , but until recently, scholars could not be entirely sure that these references to King David were being correctly deciphered. The researchers used Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), in which numerous digital images were taken of the artifact from different angles to create a precise, three-dimensional digital rendering of the piece, which revealed hidden, faint, or worn incisions becoming visible.

This study examines the use of silver as a form of currency in the Levant, a historical region in the Eastern Mediterranean, during the Bronze Age. Researchers have found evidence that silver was used as a means of exchange and as a way to store value as early as 1700-1600 BCE, which is earlier than previously thought. The study also looks at the discovery of silver hoards from different sites in the Southern Levant and analyzes the silver to determine where it originated from. The researchers found that the silver likely came from Anatolia in the early Bronze Age, but later came from a different source in the Anatolian-Aegean-Carpathian sphere. Additionally, they suggest that the silver from Tell el-‘Ajjul and the Royal Shaft Graves in Mycenae likely came from the same ore source, and that it may have been mediated through Cyprus.