Free lectures featuring some of today's most prominent archaeologists are held throughout the year. The Museum is open before and after the lectures.

Upcoming Lecture

The Jewish Diaspora in Persian Egypt
Thurs., May 9, 2019
7:30 p.m.
Knox Room, Long Hall
Professor Karel van der Toorn
University of Amsterdam

Join us to hear Prof. Karel van der Toorn tell the story of the Jews who lived on southern Egypt’s Elephantine Island in the fifth century BCE. A recently translated papyrus throws new light on their history.

Jews, Persians, and Arameans

A small Jewish diaspora community lived in the deep south of Egypt in the fifth century BCE. These Jews lived on Elephantine Island and served as soldiers in the army of the Persians—the rulers of Egypt at that time. Together with two colonies of Arameans living in Aswan (ancient Syene) on the east bank of the Nile, the Jews received houses and fields in return for their readiness to defend Persian interests militarily. A rich collection of papyri and inscribed potsherds documents Jewish life on Elephantine.

New Insights Through a Unique Discovery

Until recently, the origin of the Jewish colony on the island was obscure. But a recently translated papyrus from the fourth century BCE has proven to represent a variety of religious and historical texts that allow us to trace the history of the Jews of Elephantine. A true brain-twister, the papyrus is written in Egyptian signs (Demotic), but the words are Aramaic—a Semitic language akin to Hebrew. Due to this most unusual combination of Demotic script and Aramaic language, it took more than a century to solve the riddle of the papyrus. Its newly revealed secrets shine unexpected light on the Elephantine Jews and their Aramean neighbors across the river.

About the Speaker

Karel van der Toorn is a leading scholar in the fields of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern religion. He currently holds the chair of Religion and Society at the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands. His publications include Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (1995/1999), Family Religion in Babylonia, Syria, and Israel (1996/2017), and Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible (2007).

The Kelso Museum of Near Eastern Archaeology 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.

Interested in learning more about future lectures and events? Send your name and address to museum@pts.edu to be added to the mailing list.

Past Lecture

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.

Continuing Education

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.