Alexander’s Gate (5)


Still working on this chapter. I decided to rename it: “In the Sinister Shade of the Iron Gates”. It will be as long as a Unit and will include at least 7 parts. There will be at least one illustration: Aivazovsky’s picture of the Dariel Gorge in moonlight. I will probably add more: the chapter is based on mappaemundi. Six parts are almost ready. I have to decide whether I will add pages about the Khazars or not. And write Conclusion.


Bethany Beyond the Jordan


In the article penned by Rami Khouri, Where John Baptised, published in the book “Exploring Jordan: the Other Biblical Land” (BAR, 2008), the archaeologist journalist cites the data conforming the location of the baptism site on the eastern bank of Jordan. In both cases, when this location is mentioned in the Gospel of John (1:26-28 and 10:40), we encounter visitors from Jerusalem. Facing from the “holy city”, the site is indeed beyond the Jordan. On this spot, along the Wadi el-Khurra, Helena, the mother empress of the Roman Empire set up the church of St. John the Baptist in the early IV century CE. Later, here rose a monastery complex containing several churches, the caravanserai to accomodate pilgrims on their way to Mount Nebo, and a cave of John the Baptist.

The alternative site is depicted on the Madaba map of the VI centiry CE where it is placed on the western side of the Jordan. The legend runs that it is Beth Abara (Hebrew: “House of Crossing”), “the place of the baptism of St. John.” The artist was likely facing the site from Madaba and might misunderstood the meaning of “beyond the Jordan”.

The further research, in my view, should be devoted to the bedrock of the Jordan. The author refers to the fact that the river shifted its course many times and that until the mid-20th century it would expand, when flooded, to nearly a mile in width. The bare statement is not covered by the data necessary for the evaluation of this statement. The counter argument says that both sites could function in different times according to the shift of the river. A new challenge for explorers.

Chalcolithic Settlement


An ancient settlement has been found within the municipal area of Jerusalem. It dates from the Chalcolothic period, about the fifth millennium BCE. The dig is rich in findings of life in the thriving settlement whose dwellers engaged in agriculture. Sickle blades for harvesting cereal crops and grinding tools were discovered as well as the bones of sheep and goats. A carnelian bead hints on foreign exchange. As far as I know, the precious stone can be traced to India. Further research should estimate whether this piece of jewellry was locally produced or imported.

For further details see

Mesha the Dibonite


I have edited another article based on the Biblical narative. The title is “Mesha the Debonite Recovers His Voice”. The paper tells the story of Mesha, the son of Kemoshyat, king of Dibon who embarks on building the kingdom of Moab and the Moabite nation. He takes advantange of favorable political circumstances, i.e. demise of the House of Omri, the Israelite royal dynasty, in the war with Hazael, king of Aram-Damascus.

The article is published at

Besides the two illustrations, (which I was unable to upload in this version; they could be viewed at ) I changed the endnotes, putting an emphasis on book sources, and added several paragraphs.

The paper delves into several topics of the Mesha Stele, the king’s memorandum. The author agrees with A. Lemaire, who restores the battered line as the “House of David”, making it the earliest reference to the Judaite royal house and its founder.

Superpowers of the Ancient World (1)


This week we studied Mitanni and its role as the superpower. We had to write an essay about Bob Brier’s article about the death of Tutankhamun.

Bob Brier is a philosopher who is very keen on the theory of King Tutankhamun’s death. I denounce his version. This is what I wrote:

The Eternal Life of Tutankhamun

Bob Brier adheres to the theory of King Tutankhamun’s murder, linking the evidence to the broken bone at the head of the deceased monarch. His statement is based on the analysis of the 1968 cranial x-ray. Though the writer refers to the reports of the poor condition of the mummy, he does not take into consideration other possibilities: the errors made during the embalming process conducted in haste and/ or the blunders committed by Howard Carter’s team (1) which had to take off the gold mask from the king’s face.

Nevertheless, the 2005 CT scan of the whole body revealed no skull fractures inflicted during King Tut’s lifetime. The thriller about the murder of the adolescent monarch bludgeoned during his sleep by a hired killer should, therefore, be classified as pure fiction.

At first glance, the letter sent by a widow queen to the king of Hatti looks suspicious. (2) It is found only in a single source, King Suppiluliuma’s biography penned by his son King Mursili.   The sender is referred merely as the pharaoh’s widow, but her ex-husband’s throne name gives a close match to Tutankhamun. The bereaved queen describes her desperate situation as King Tut left no heirs to the throne, and the widow loathes the idea of marrying someone who has no royal blood in his veins.

As a daughter of King Akhenaten, she is the legitimate successor but cannot rule alone. She offers not only the marriage deal but the kingship of Egypt. The king of the Hitties could not believe his eyes (or maybe ears). The proposal was too good to be true. The anxious king lingered hoping to buy time and check all the details. When he finally sent his son, it was too late: the Egyptian opposition staged a plot to destroy this marriage.

The situation is psychologically understandable: the queen is desperate, the king of the Hitties is cautious especially after the relations between the empires deteriorated following the unsuccessful attempt of the Egyptians to assault Kadesh. The Egyptian copy of the letter was deliberately destroyed but as a result of this tragic “enterprise”, a full-scale conflict between the two superpowers broke out.

The treatment of the adviser Aye is biased by the writer’s murder theory. Aye, who succeeded King Tut on the throne, becomes the ringleader of the plot because he seems to covet the pharaoh’s power. However, Bob Brier does not consider the fact that in his old age Aye (3) realized that he could not produce an heir and that the years of his reign would be obstructed by the opposition on behalf of his rival, general Horemheb. If the elderly politician set his eyes on seizing the throne, why didn’t he interfere to block the official correspondence between his fiancé and the foreign ruler? Why didn’t he put forth his rights in the discussions with the Hittite ambassador stopping preparations for the unusual royal marriage?

It seems much more plausible that he gave his assent to the exchange of letters, probably introduced this idea. We can assume the rivalry between him and Horemheb. Only when the marriage proposal failed, he decided to pick up the abandoned reins of power.

I think that Bob Brier is trapped by a popular theory and does his best to prove it by all possible means. He ignores alternative explanations and makes no effort to confront his evidence with other facts not necessarily supporting his theory. These “stubborn” facts play a crucial role in the real story. The embalmment process was delayed over mandatory seventy days after the death to give a chance for a weird royal marriage proposal. Aye rose to the throne only after the death of the Hittite prince who was murdered by a rival party. (3)


(1) Howard Carter is a British archaelogists who discovered the intact tomb of King Tut.

(2) Tutankhamun’s widow proposed marriage to a Hittite prince, the most unusual incentive.

(3) Aye was about seventy when he ascended the throne.

(4) For more details of this story see T. Bryce. “Letters of the Great Kings of the Ancient Near East”, unit 11, An Extraordinary Request.

Superpowers of the Ancient World


For the past two weeks I have been attending a free online course which focuses on the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1500-1200 BCE). The coordinator of the course, Glenn Godenho from the University of Liverpool, introduces various materials: artifacts from the museum, graphic aids, article, interviews with leading specialist. Participants who range from professionals to amateurs take part in discussions, do quizzes and tasks. We studied about Egypt which had just liberated from the Hyxos and kicked off its expansion. We learned about the Land of Canaan with its city-states and petty politics. The discussions are friendly and constructive. When we mentioned the emergence of Israel, I cited my paper

When we discussed cuneiform, I referred to another paper,

This is a unit in my book “Dawn and Sunset” (see the site

where I write a blog with a unit-by-unit synopsis). You can also view an excerpt, read the reviews and my Bio.