Saturday, February 23, 2008
Wood Archaeological Museum at Southern Adventist University adds clay
By: Clint Cooper
A clay figurine of an ancient Canaanite fertility goddess mentioned more
than 40 times in the Bible has joined the largest teaching collection of
ancient Near Eastern ceramics in North America.
The figure, thought to be the goddess Asherah, is on loan to the Lynn H.
Wood Archaeological Museum in Hackman Hall at Southern Adventist
University from a research foundation. It is thought to date to the 7th
or 8th century B.C.
“She will be a neat addition,” said Dr. Michael G. Hasel, professor of
Near Eastern studies and archaeology and director of the Institute of
Southern Adventist University is one of only two schools in the country
where students can receive an undergraduate degree in biblical archaeology.
The pinkish mold-made cast is about 6 inches tall and has a pillar-like
Of the 800 to 1,000 such figurines known to exist, 96 percent were found
in what was the kingdom of Judah, which is in today’s Israel, according
to Dr. Hasel. Of the 96 percent, more than half of those were found
around Jerusalem, he said.
Their location is significant, he said, because the area was thought to
be largely monotheistic.
The museum has around 200 objects in its display, called “Vessels in
Time: A Journey Into the Biblical World.” Presented chronologically and
in themes, it also includes videos, maps, photographs, drawings and a
In total, the collection has close to 600 artifacts, from Egypt,
Babylonia, Persia, Syria-Palestine, Greece, Cyprus and Anatolia, Dr.
Most of the items came from the collection of Dr. William G. Dever, a
retired archaeologist and professor at the University of Arizona. He
unearthed many of them during digs in Israel between 1967 and 1975.
Following his retirement, when the Arizona school’s program closed and
the building that housed it was torn down, he gave the items to Dr.
Hasel, who had been a doctoral student under him.
Today, the Wood museum’s curator said a collection such as Dr. Dever had
could not be removed from Israel because of 1978 laws set by the Israel
Dr. Hasel said the museum will take possession this spring of the
retired professor’s entire library and around 15,000 slides.
The Wood museum’s collection, which is valued at around $250,000 but
which its director considers “invaluable” because it couldn’t be
replaced, dates from around 3200 B.C. to 450 A.D.
“What makes the collection strong,” Dr. Hasel said, “is that we have a
fairly complete typology of the many strains of pottery over that time.”
Justo E. Morales, a Southern Adventist University graduate who is
coordinator of the museum, said the sherds — rims, bases and handles of
ancient pottery — are perfect for student study.
“Once you’re in the field, sherds are everywhere,” he said. With the
collection, “students learn how to identify time periods and how to
differentiate among them.”
The museum, free of charge and open since 2004, has seen up to 4,000
visitors a year. Officials hope to increase that number with changing
exhibits such as one on biblical coins expected to open in the fall.
The university’s Institute of Archaeology also offers regular lectures
and use of its noncirculating library for research.
“This is not for ourselves,” Dr. Hasel said. “This is for outreach to
IF YOU GO
What: Lynn H. Wood Archaeological Museum.
When: 2-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; 9-11 a.m. and 1-5 p.m. Tuesdays,
Wednesdays and Thursdays; 9-11 a.m. Fridays.
Where: Hackman Hall, Southern Adventist University, Collegedale, Tenn.
Admission: Free. Phone: 236-2030.