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Biblical Archaeologist

Perspectives on the Ancient World from Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean
A Publication of the American Schools of Oriental Research

Volume 59 Number 3
September 1996

Jerusalem's Siloam Tunnel: Built by Hezekiah or the Hasmoneans?

138 Was the Siloam Tunnel Built by Hezekiah?
John Rogerson and Philip R. Davies
A walk through Hezekiah's tunnel offers one of the unforgettable highlights of a visit to Jerusalem. The adventure of the scary passage through its narrow limestone confines gives way to marvel over the engineering feat and multifarious associations with a rebellion narrated so fully in Hebrew Scripture. Top it all off with an inscription telling of the final moments of the tunnelers' epic midpoint encounter, and even the most inept guide cannot fail to rouse a tour group to a level of awe. But what if it is not Hezekiah's tunnel after all? Rogerson and Davies review the history of the Gihon water system and of the line of the walls of the city, biblical references to the water system, and the genre and the paleography of the inscription. Their conclusion? Will a walk through the Hasmonean tunnel still be thrilling?

150 Syncretistic and Mnemonic Dimensions of Chalcolithic Art: A New Human Figurine from Shiqmim
Thomas E. Levy and Jonathan Golden
The large Chalcolithic (ca. 4500-3500 BCE) village and mortuary complex of Shiqmem in Israel's Negev has produced a unique diminutive human figurine. Its anthropomorphic features are captivating, but it also shares in the abstract artistic style of "violin-shape" figurines. Uniquely bringing together these two distinct southern Levantine artistic traditions, the Shiqmim figurine permits us to see overlapping cultural, stylistic, spatial, and chronological dimensions of the Chalcolithic culture of Palestine. The intrinsically beautiful bone carving may also have had a more concrete social function: the authors suggest it may have served as a mnemonic device.

160 A Typology of West Semitic Place Name Lists with Special Reference to Joshua 13-21
Richard S. Hess
The heart of the book of Joshua offers place name lists, the origin and purpose of which have long been debated. Surprisingly, little attention has been paid to the existence of many kinds of place name lists in docuemnts from the larger West Semitic world, especially the cuneiform tablets of Mari, Alalakh, and Ugarit. Comparing these lists with the lists of Joshua 13-21 reveals the origins of particular lists and the fashioning of the whole as a land grant document contextualized within a larger covenant document.

171 The Olive Pit and Roman Oil Making
E. Loeta Tyree and Evangelia Stefanoudaki
The importance of olive oil in the ancient Mediterranean world can hardly be exaggerated: from lighting to diet and cosmetics, no other oil came close to the olive's multitudinous usages. The significance of olive oil contrasts with how historians often demonstrate their ignorance about its production. Case in point: the repeated assertion that Roman oil manufacturers pitted their olives before crushing them. The authors debunk this notion in their reconstruction of Roman oil production and its specialized tools, examining modern oil production in the process. Sicne the idea of Roman olive pitting arises in part from Roman writers like Cato, who felt that to crush the pit was to ruin the flavor of the oil, the authors add an experimental dimension to their investigation as well. Variously prepared oils are put to the taste test. Can even the connoisseur tell the difference between oils produced with or without crushing the pit?

On the cover: The Siloam inscription, cut from the rock wall of the Jerusalem tunnel, had been located six meters from the tunnel's current outlet. It records the final moments of tunneling when workers digging with pick-axes from opposite ends adjusted their excavation to the sound of their counterparts. Almost universally judged to be contemporaneous with a late eighth century date for the construction of the tunnel, the text may be paleo-Hebrew from a later century according to the authors of the lead article. Photo by Erich Lessing.