The Image Library is Online!

As promised, our new Image Library is now online!

Ritmeyer Archaeological Design Image Library

The blurb:

The Image Library of Ritmeyer Archaeological Design contains authoritative reconstruction drawings and models which you will not find on any other website. The photos of ancient sites in the lands of the Bible have also been taken through the informed lens of an archaeological architect. A treasure-trove for teachers, pastors, lecturers and picture editors, it is the result of years of experience digging and researching in Israel and traveling in the surrounding countries.

The Image Library is arranged in different categories and is fully searchable. The different categories are designed to help you find the picture you are looking for easily. All preview illustrations are watermarked, but these won’t appear on the downloads.

For ease of use, each image comes with a descriptive note and, where applicable, full Scripture references. With the explosion of information coming from excavations, we hope that this will become an ever-expanding resource vital for all who wish to incorporate both beauty and authenticity into their portrayal of the Bible background.

After talking about doing this for the past 10 years, we’ve finally done it! Let us know of any images you’d like to see added to the library…

The Messiah in the Temple

The Messiah in the Temple is an exciting project with the aim of developing a 3-D visual media of the Temple of Jerusalem. This project was conceived by the project manager Martin Severin. After reading Roger Liebi’s book of that name and my book “The Quest – Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem”, he decided with the help of Christof Frank of digi mice GmbH to make a digital version of the reconstructed Herodian Temple Mount.

Click here to view video

You can read more about the project on the The Messiah in the Temple website, where you can also download a larger video file.
Thanks to Justin Taylor, you can watch the video on YouTube:

Temple Mount Mikveh

Zachi Zweig, an archaeologist who is involved with the Temple Mount Sifting project, kindly send me the paper [in Hebrew], which he gave at the recent conference on the Temple Mount at the Bar-Ilan University. I commented on this find in an earlier post. Here is an abstract:

“Hamilton describes the discovery of a plastered cistern that was excavated below the easternmost door of the present El Aksa mosque, north of Cistern 9 [according to Warren’s numeration – see map]. The descent to [the cistern] was from west to east by means of a flight of steps, with the bottom step some 3 m. [10 feet] below the present floor of the mosque. The remains of some five steps were discerned, which were built against a plastered wall, which was about 90 cm wide [3 feet].

Unfortunately, Hamilton did not publish additional details – not one picture or plan. However, in the Mandatory Archives there was a photograph of the five steps, which descend to the opening of the cistern. The top of the steps is located some 1.50 – 2 m. [6-7.5 feet] below the present surface and to the south of it and adjacent to it, although at a little distance, there is a thick wall. This is most likely the same cistern. The steps appear to have been cut out of the rock and this points to the fact that the level of the top of the rock in this location is at about 1.50 m. [6 feet] below the level of the present pavement.”

The exit of the cistern is located deep below the level of the floor of the mosque. Hamilton dated it to the late Roman period. However, as the remains of a dividing wall can be discerned, Zachi concluded that it could have been a mikveh (Jewish ritual bath), see picture below:

It is located a little to the east of the underground passage which leads up from the Double Gate to the Temple Mount. Ronnie Reich has identified Cistern 6 and 36 as mikva’ot, but these are located in the original Square Temple Mount. These could have been added in the Second Temple period, as they are located close to the surface and no First Temple period mikva’ot are known.

This latest one, however, is located much lower down and in the Hasmonean extension of the Temple Mount and may therefore have been one of the earliest mikva’ot in Jerusalem:
Worshipers in the Hasmonean period, who had not purified themselves before going to the Temple Mount, perhaps had the opportunity to do so in this mikveh, if it was a mikveh indeed.

Announcing our new, combined blog and shop

Some posts are pure pleasure to put up. This is one of them! Our resident computer expert (son Nat, who is also an experienced digger!), has given our website a facelift for the new academic year. Over a memorable few weekends, he has managed to combine all the sections of our website, made it easier to subscribe to RSS and also easier to find our products. To celebrate this event, we are offering massive discounts on many items. Take a few minutes to check these out before the academic year gets underway.

The Gamla Synagogue

The ESV Study Bible has now started a blog and today an interesting post was put up about the Gamla Synagogue. When I first started to work for the ESV Study Bible, I was shown a beautiful reconstruction painting of this synagogue which had a red tiled roof. The artist did not know that roof tiles were only introduced to the Land of Israel in the Roman period and were much used in the Byzantine period. Most of the roofs of churches and synagogues at that time had pitched roofs, covered with tiles.

Not so, however, during the Herodian period, when the Gamla Synagogue was built. Some tiles may have been imported for large public buildings, but most of the roofs were flat, especially in the Golan where wood is scarce. In 1973, just after the Yom Kippur War, I was asked to accompany a group of IDF archaeologists, who were doing a survey in the territory that had been newly captured from Syria. It was here that I was first introduced to buildings made of basalt blocks. Not only the walls, but the door and window frames were all made of basalt stones and the roof was made of long basalt slabs, which rested on corbels which projected from the walls.

I was quite sure that the Gamla Synagogue had a similar flat roof and that is what it shown in the drawing below (used by permission). As an interesting aside and as mentioned in a previous blog, this type of roof construction would explain how the paralytic man could have been let down through the “tiling” (Luke 5.19) in order to be healed by Jesus. It is more than likely that the roof of the house in Capernaum, where the houses were also made of basalt, was made of long basalt slabs laid at a short distance from each other and which were then covered with flat basalt tiles. After removing these tiles and taking away the basalt cross beams, a space would have been created large enough to let a man down through.

A similar flat roof construction would have been used in the Gamla Synagogue. It has been a privilege to have worked with the ESV Study Bible and Maltings Partnership and the painting below is the result of our joint endeavors:gamla-synagogue.jpg

The Temple Mount gates

Tonight, Friday the 1st of August, is also the beginning of the Hebrew month Ab. On the 9th of this month the Jews remember the destruction of the two temples that stood on Mount Moriah, but tonight, they march around the gates of the Temple Mount to express their desire is to build a new Temple.

The ceremony is called “Sivuv She’arim” – going round the gates – and this is the seventh year that they have marched round the gates of the Temple Mount. You can read the Jerusalem Post report here.

The founder of Sivuv She’arim, Rabbi Tzvi Rogin, used to visit our home, when we lived in Yorkshire, and we had many animated discussions about the Temple Mount. Our family once participated in this ceremony and it was an exhilarating experience.

For those of you who don’t know all the Temple Mount gates, here is a drawing showing their location:


The original names of the gates of the Herodian Temple Mount walls are not known. They possibly never had names.

Today we refer to the gates in the Western Wall (from north to south) as Warren’s Gate, Wilson’s Arch (which was part of a bridge and led to a gate which was built into the western portico), Barclay’s Gate and Robinson’s Arch – which supported a stairway leading to a gate, which was also built into the western portico. Warren, Wilson, Barclay and Robinson were explorers, who worked in Jerusalem in the late 1800’s.

There are two Herodian gates in the Southern Wall, the Double Gate and the Triple Gate. These gates are sometimes erroneously called the Huldah Gates, for these were located on the Temple Mount and were not part of the Herodian retaining walls.

There were two gates in the Eastern Wall, a small gate near the south-east corner, which led into what is now called the Solomon’s Stables and the main eastern gate, which was located where the Golden Gate now stands. Inside this gate are two monolithic gate posts which belonged to the earlier Shushan Gate.

There may have been another Herodian gate in the northern wall, but no remains have been found and it is only once mentioned by Josephus.

The earlier square Temple Mount, which was originally constructed by King Hezekiah, had five gates and their names are known. In the west was the Coponius Gate, the two gates in the southern wall were called the Huldah Gates. We have already mentioned the Shushan Gate in the eastern wall and the gate in the northern wall was called the Tadi Gate. This gate may have been buried underground by the Herodian expansion to the north.

Golgotha and the Tomb of Christ

Over the last 9 months, I have been working as archaeological and architectural editor for the new ESV Study Bible, which will be available from 15 October 2008. Most of my contacts have been with Justin Taylor, who was the Project Director and Managing Editor. Recently, he interviewed me concerning two drawings, which I had been asked to prepare for the Study Bible.

The two-part interview concerning Calvary and the Tomb of Christ can be viewed on his blog here and here.

Israel in June

Before our visit recedes into memory, we must put down some of the impressions that readers have asked for. June was a good time to visit the Land from the point of view of not having to compete with other groups for space on site visits – on some sites such as Kursi and Gamla in the Galilee, we had the place totally to ourselves. And, our northern base of Ein Gev was pure rest and rejuvenation (when we returned from our days out!), as the place had not yet been transformed into a hive of family activity for the school holidays. However, the light is harsher for photography than earlier in the year and this is perhaps the downside to going in early summer, which is otherwise so good, being the prime time for digging and, of course, great for swimming in the Dead, the Med and the Red. We did get some great pics however. Here is our group at the Ophir Observation Point, high above the Sea of Galilee:


Below is the Tel Gezer dig we visited and where we met up with archaeologist Daniel Warner (in green shirt) among others:

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Jerusalem was even more chaotic than we remembered, with honking, hooting and sirens 24/7. We were very thankful to have an oasis of calm in the midst of it with a jumbo-sized balcony offering panoramic, golden, views of Mount Zion and the Old City. On the left is the night view from our balcony and on the right the view from the arched entrance to our guesthouse:



From the perspective of an archaeological architect, the thing that made the most impression on me was the much greater prevalence of reconstruction drawings on sites than in times past. Knowing how much these enhance any visit to an archaeological site, this was deeply satisfying.

We saw good reconstructions at the City of David, the Temple Mount Excavations, Masada, Tel Gezer, Bethsaida, etc, but the sparkler in the crown was definitely the new Time Trek at the Caesarea Harbor Experience, which so enthralled the young folk in our party. You have to pay extra on top of the normal site fees in order to visit this, but the NIS17 is definitely worth it. Here, with funds from a trust set up by Baron Edmond de Rothschild in the early twentieth century, a new, whiz-bang, multi-media experience, takes you through episodes of the city’s dramatic history.

timetrek.gif havaiot_1.jpg

Reconstructions showing things like a horse race in Herod’s hippodrome and ships entering his magnificent harbour create an unforgettable evocation of another time. (The site’s website seems to only work in Hebrew <>). Hopefully, other sites in the country will benefit from such an injection of funds and vision.