When BAR’s editors invited me to prepare a list of significant finds for the 20th anniversary issue, I thought the task would be easy. I had already been developing the forthcoming BAS Slide Set on the Hebrew Bible and archaeology, so I figured I could easily cull 10 slides from these. But as I began to work, I realized that reducing the number from 140 to 10 would be difficult, especially when the chronological horzon was extended to include material later than the time of the Hebrew Bible.
Necessarily, this list is arbitrary and subjective. I selected ten discoveries that give a geographical overview of the lands of the Bible—illustrating how exploding knowledge of ancient cultures has enhanced our understanding of the contexts in which Biblical traditions emerged—and that make arresting and informative pictures.
The most significant discoveries are often texts. But texts seldom provide striking photographs, so I have chosen one—Tablet XI of the Gilgamesh epic—to stand for all the fascinating texts from Mari, Ugarit, Amarna, Qumran and Nag Hammadi, and many other tablets, inscriptions and manuscripts that transmit to us the words of ancient peoples. These silent witnesses have transformed our understanding of the Bible over the last century and a half.
I’ve left out important sites such as Jericho, because neither the mound itself nor its stratigraphic sequences are especially photogenic.