Free lectures featuring some of today's most prominent archaeologists are held throughout the year. The Museum is open before and after the lectures.
“In Each Other’s Steps”: Visualizing Biblical Mount Sinai
Ahmed Shams, Durham University, University of Oxford, Royal Geographical Society
Thurs., Nov. 14, 2019, 7:30 p.m.
Pilgrims, travelers, scholars, map-makers, and monks have traversed Sinai’s deserts and mountains in the footsteps of what―since the earliest mention of Mount Sinai in the fourth century CE―they believed to be the traditional Exodus route of the Israelites. Though they, in fact, traveled only “in each other’s steps,” these visitors visualized the landscape in similar patterns of historic and scholarly account-writing, painting, and photography, as well as through topographic/paper icons and map-making. While no solid archaeological evidence has come to light for the biblical Exodus across the Sinai Peninsula, a 2,000-year-old tradition has nevertheless formed itself around the Exodus route. Sinai’s landscape is lined with historic desert routes and tribal territories. It is dotted with the ruins of way stations and rock inscriptions created by pilgrims and travelers to Mount Sinai, Byzantine monastic settlements, and historic water points. Through close study of these features as well as nomadic oral tradition, ethnographic archaeology reveals parallels between pre-historic and modern nomadic settlements and identifies clear patterns and guidelines for recognizing sacred mountain summits.
Whether individual scholars or pilgrims sought to resolve the biblical puzzle here in the southern Levant or simply crossed Sinai “in each other’s steps,” they all ended up visualizing the same sacred landscape. For example, six major black-and-white landscape photographic collections for the presumed Exodus route across the peninsula and Mount Sinai were captured between 1857 and 1933 CE. In addition, the Isthmus Suez postcard collection dates to this same period. These photographic collections were produced for scholarly, commercial, and survey purposes. But the late 19th and early 20th centuries CE also marked a transition in mapping and map-making patterns, thus reflecting a shift from individual scholars focusing on biblical Mount Sinai to institutional attempts (by British, U.S., Soviet, Egyptian, and Israeli survey authorities) to cover the entire peninsula. Drawing on 19 years of field survey conducted through his own Sinai Peninsula Research (SPR) project, Dr. Shams will discuss how these various accounts, maps, and photographs defined the patterns and boundaries of popular and scholarly knowledge of Mount Sinai and the southern Levant, or “biblical south,” heading into 21st century CE.
The Museum will be open from 6:30-7:15 p.m. and after the lecture. The lecture and reception to follow are free and open to the public.
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In March 2019, Curator Emerta Nancy Lapp recounted stories from her life and career to illustrate the changes in Near Eastern archaeology during the course of her work and study from the late 1950s to the present day. Her personal story provides valuable insights into the emerging history of a modern-day discipline.
From 1955, when Nancy became the first female student of William F. Albright (the “father of American Near Eastern archaeology”) to her overnight stay in a sandy wadi of the Iraqi desert in 1958 . . . from her unexpected journey on a Russian ship to Beirut in 1960 to local revolutions and a regional war . . . from her becoming curator of the Kelso Bible Lands Museum in 1970 to her travels and numerous publications of today, Nancy’s archaeological journey has spanned more than half a century and included a treasure trove of adventures and discoveries—sometimes unexpected ones, as explorations of ancient remains inevitably mixed with contemporary events.
When space is available, archaeology courses at PTS may be audited through the Registrar's Office. Because PTS courses are graduate level, a bachelor's degree is normally a prerequisite. Check the list of upcoming available courses.