Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Pottery Reading (2015) discussing the provenance of the vessel.


I am a Canadian archaeologist with my Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland
Doctor of Philosophy in Theology  (interdisciplinary** with OT & NT Biblical history and archaeology) that required three readers. The late I. Howard Marshall [supervisor NT and Revelation], Edwin M. Yamauchi [Greco-Roman archaeology and history], Alan Millard [ANE Hittite law codes]). My dissertation was entitled “The Influence of Ancient Near Eastern Vassal Treaties on the Seven Prophetic Messages in Revelation with Special Reference to the Message to Smyrna.”  It is published by Gorgias Press under the title The Seven Messages of Revelation and Vassal Treaties: Literary Genre, Structure, and Function. Gorgias Dissertations Biblical Studies 41. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2009). Dr. Marshall commented on the publication:
“Dr. Graves seeks to shed light on the problem of the structure of thought in Revelation by placing the work as a whole and the messages to the seven churches in particular firmly in the context of the ancient near eastern vassal treaties that have also influenced the shape of covenantal theology in the Old Testament. This carefully researched thesis brings a new contribution to the interpretation of the apocalypse and deserves close examination.” — I. Howard Marshall, Emeritus Professor of New Testament Exegesis, University of Aberdeen.
My undergraduate degree is a 5 year BTh. (Bachelor of Theology) from Tyndale University College and Seminary, Toronto Canada (1980) where I began studying Archaeology/biblical history/theology, Hebrew and Greek, etc. at both the undergraduate and graduate level. I first came into contact with Dr. Bryant Wood, a specialist in Canaanite pottery, while I was researching a paper on the location of Sodom and Gomorrah for my archaeology course.

I began my Masters (2 years) at the University of the Highland and Islands, Scotland (2002) but was promoted to the PhD program at the University of Aberdeen, School of Divinity, History and Philosophy under the supervision of the late I. Howard Marshall on the basis of my writing and research skills (4 years).

I have formal Archaeological Square Supervisor Training through Trinity Southwest University,  
Albuquerque, New Mexico and certified training in SIR-3000 Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) for archaeological application through Geophysical Survey Systems Inc.


I was a guest lecturer in "RS2613: Archaeological Artefacts that Illustrate the Historical Accuracy of the Bible". (2005). I taught "RS3463: Introduction to Biblical Archaeology" (2006-2010); "RS3323 Biblical Eschatology" (2009); RS1003 Themes of the Bible (1998-2000) Crandall University, Canada.

I taught several courses titled "RS3883: Intellectual History of Science and Religion (1600-1980)–Part B-Deus Artefacta: 19th Century Drive for Proof by Artefact from Major Developments in the History of British Biblical Archaeology" (2003, 2005);  RS3893: The History of British Biblical Archaeology" (2007) to Canadian students in the ABU-Oxford programme at Regent Park College, Oxford University. During this time I led museum tours of the Ashmolean and British Museum.

I was invited to teach for  Liberty University Online, Rawlings School of Divinity (2009-2018) and did so until my retirement in 2019. Apart from Theology, Biblical History, I taught Archaeology
as an Assistant Professor and Subject Matter Expert (SME) in Archaeology. Two of my books were used as textbooks during that time:  Biblical Archaeology vol. 1 and Key Facts for The Location of Sodom.

Archaeological Experience

I have traveled extensively in the UK, Egypt, Turkey, Israel and Jordan visiting museums and archaeological sites doing archaeological research for my PhD and writings.

In 2005-06, I worked with the ArcImaging team, as the Director of Operations for the Mount Ararat Archaeological Research Expedition  conducted exploration and surface survey of the Ahora Gorge at 10,000 feet on Mt Ararat.

Since 2005-present, I have been a square/field supervisor with the Tall el-Hammam (Sodom?) Excavation Project in Jordan where I supervised the Roman/Byzantine remains that I uncovered. We published our finding in “Re-Examination of the Location for the Ancient City of Livias.” co-authored with Scott Stripling. Levant: The Journal of the Council for British Research in the Levant 43.2 (2011): 178-200.  I have also supervised squares at Tall el-Hammam in the Iron age and Middle Bronze age levels.

In 2009 I worked at the Temple Mount Antiquities Salvage Operation, Jerusalem, Israel under the direction of Dr. Gabriel Barkay, Bar Ilan University.

In 2017, I was the "registrar of artifacts" for the Excavations of Qumran Cave 53, Israel. A cooperative archaeological effort of Liberty University (Dr. Randall Price) and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) under the auspices of the KAMAT (Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria) under the direction of Dr. Oren Guitfeld of Hebrew University. January 2–13, 2017. Our work made the front cover of National Geographic magazine and was featured in their article "Inside the cloak-and-dagger search for sacred texts" Dec. 2018. See my blog for more details of our finds.

In 2017, I briefly worked with Dr. Bryant Wood at the Archaeological excavation of  Khirbet el-Maqatir, Israel by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) under the auspices of the KAMAT (Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria) under the direction of Dr. Scott Stripling.

Also, in 2017, I was the Director of administration and square supervisor for the Shiloh excavations, Israel, and Director of Publications (2018-2019).

Since 2005, I have been a member of the Near East Archaeological Society (NEAS) and served on the board of Directors (2009-2019) and served as treasurer (2009-2011). I have written several articles for their peer reviewed Journal Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin (NEASB). Since 2009, I have been a member of the Associates for Biblical Research and often written articles for their Bible and Spade journal.


In 2017, I was a consultant for the producers of National Geographic TV program on locating Sodom and Gomorrah that features Tall el-Hammam, Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira titled  Buried Secrets of the Bible.As hard as I tried over several months they still didn't get all the facts straight!! :-)


I have contributed eight breakout articles and over 25 photographs to the Harvest Handbook of Bible Lands: A Panoramic Survey of the History, Geography, and Culture of the Scriptures. Holden, Joseph M., and Steven Collins, eds. Eugene, OR: Harvest House, February 2020.

I have contributed many articles to several peer reviewed theological and archaeology Journals. I have also written many books on archaeology available through Amazon.com and published through my publishing company Electronic Christian Media.

For list of publications see Academia.edu.

**Definition of Interdisciplinary research
"Interdisciplinary research is a mode of research by teams or individuals that integrates information, data, techniques, tools, perspectives, concepts, and/or theories from two or more disciplines or bodies of specialized knowledge to advance fundamental understanding or to solve problems whose solutions are beyond the scope of a single discipline or area of research practice." Committee on Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research, Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (2004). Facilitating interdisciplinary research. National Academies (Washington: National Academy Press, 2004), p. 2

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Map 18

Bab edh-Dhra and Kirbet Qazone Cemetery
© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, ECM
Map close-up of the area around Bâb Edh-Dhrâʿ and Khirbet Qazone cemetery.

© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, Electronic Christian Media

Map 17

Tall el-Hammam and Vicinity
© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, ECM
Map close-up of the area around Tall el-Ḥammâm. Multi-period site plan showing the excavation fields of the upper and lower tall. The survey plot of Tall el-Ḥammâm was used with permission from Leen Ritmeyer, architect and Qutaiba Dasouqi, Surveyor.

© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, Electronic Christian Media

Map 16

Region of the Kikkār (Roman Road from Esbus to Livias)
© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, ECM
The region of the Kikkār (valley) of the Jordan indicating the Roman road from Esbus to Livias. This is the region around Tall el-Hammam that is the proposed site of Sodom (Middle Bronze Age) for the Northern theory. It also triangulates the Roman road measurements from literary sources that identifies Tall el-Hammam as Roman and Byzantine Livias. Tall el-Hammam can be both Sodom, and Livias in different periods of history.

© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, Electronic Christian Media

Map 15

Sinkhole locations around the Dead Sea.
© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, ECM
The location of sinkholes from recent surveys overlayed on the map of the Dead Sea as it would have appeared during the time of Chedorlaomer, in the Middle Bronze Age (2000-1550 BC). The slime pits or bitumen pits were probably these sinkholes.

First, we must identify what is meant by bitumen (Gen 14:10; Heb. ḥēmār. See Chapter One: “Biblical References to Sodom: Genesis 14:1-12”).[1]  Nissenbaum and Goldberg defined it as ozocerite (Gr. oze stench + kero wax; an odorous paraffin earthwax) “a natural mixture of predominantly high molecular weight paraffinic hydrocarbons.”[2]  However, it is often identified as asphalt, common in the Dead Sea. Josephus called it Lake Asphaltites (Ant. 1.9) and the Romans called it Asphalt Lake (Lat. Palus Asphaltites). Bitumen was also a major export from the Dead Sea region (Pliny the Elder Nat. Hist. 2.226; 5.72; 7.65; 28.80; 35.178).

Frumkin and Elitzur point out that:
Although most ancient and modern versions and commentaries translate h\eµmar as bitumen or asphalt,[3]  we believe, based on field evidence as well as etymological considerations, that the preferable translation might be “slime,” which is more commonly found in the Dead Sea pits.[4] 
The etymology of the term justifies using the term “slime pits,” and is likely identified with the sink holes that form around the shores of the Dead Sea in dry periods. For this discussion, the term bitumen will be broadened to include all forms of petroleum products, including asphalt, oil, tar, and natural gas.[5]

There is no question that the Dead Sea is full of bitumen that floats to the surface (Josephus J.W. 4.479-80; Strabo Geogr. 16.2.42; Diodorus Siculus Hist. Lib. 19:98.84-88;[6]  Tacitus Hist. 5.7),[7]  being pushed up through the fault lines to the surface by earthquakes or movements of the plates.[8] 
Bitumen and asphalt are also found in the region around the Dead Sea.[9]  Geikie testified that:
the whole region is full of the materials for such a catastrophe as overtook them [Cities of the Plain]. Wells of liquid bitumen, or, as we may call it, petroleum, abounded in the neighbourhood, and vast quantities of it ooze through the chalky rocks, while the bottom of the lake is bedded with it, vast masses rising to the surface after any convulsion, as in the case of the great earthquake of 1837. Indeed, huge cakes float up, at times, even when there is no seismal disturbance, and are seized by the Bedouins, who carry what they can gather to Jerusalem for sale. Sulfur abounds, in layers and fragments, over the plains and along the shores of the lake.[10]
 See See FACT 57: "Bitumen is Found all Around the Dead Sea" for the various locations of Bitumen around the Dead Sea as illustrated in the map. David E. Graves, The Location of Sodom: Key Facts for Navigating the Maze of Arguments for the Location of the Cities of the Plain (Toronto, Ont.: Electronic Christian Media, 2016), 147-51.

[1] BDB states that bitumen was “used for cement in building Babel (Gen 11:3)”... and “used in coating Moses’ ‘ark’ of bulrushes (Exod 2:3).”  Charles A. Briggs, Samuel R. Driver, and Francis Brown, eds., A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament with an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic. Based on the Lexicon of William Gessenius as Translated by Edward Robinson (Boston, Mass.: Houghton Milfflin, 1907), 330.
[2] Arie Nissenbaum and M. Goldberg, “Asphalts, Heavy Oils, Ozocerite and Gases in the Dead Sea Basin,” Organic Geochemistry 2, no. 3 (1975): 172
[3] In their research, Nissenbaum and Goldberg, decided that “The Dead Sea material has been so often referred to as asphalts, that for historical reasons it was decided to retain this term.” Ibid., 167.
[4] Amos Frumkin and Yoel Elitzur, “The Rise and Fall of the Dead Sea,” BAR 27, no. 6 (2001): 42 n.1.
[5] Michael Gardosh et al., “Hydrocarbon Exploration in the Southern Dead Sea Area,” in The Dead Sea: The Lake and Its Setting, ed. Zvi Ben-Avraham, Tina M. Niemi, and Joel R. Gat, Oxford Monographs on Geology and Geophysics 36 (New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, USA, 1997), 69; Nissenbaum and Goldberg, “Asphalts, Heavy Oils, Ozocerite and Gases in the Dead Sea Basin,” 175.
[6] Diodorus Siculus, Library of History: Books 19.66-20, trans. Russel M. Geer, vol. 10, 12 vols., LCL 390 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1954).
[7] Arie Nissenbaum, “Dead Sea asphalts—Historical Aspects,” Bulletin of the Association of Petrolum Geologists 62, no. 5 (1978): 840–45; Nissenbaum and Goldberg, “Asphalts, Heavy Oils, Ozocerite and Gases in the Dead Sea Basin,” 167.
[8] Frederick G. Clapp, “Geology and Bitumens of the Dead Sea Area, Palestine and TransJordan,” Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists 20, no. 7 (1936): 901–3; Nissenbaum, “Dead Sea asphalts—Historical Aspects,” 843.
[9] Nissenbaum, “Dead Sea asphalts—Historical Aspects,” 837–44.
[10] J. Cunningham Geikie, The Holy Land and the Bible: A Book of Scripture Illustrations Gathered in Palestine (London, U.K.: Cassell & Company, 1887), 119; Hours with the Bible or The Scriptures in the Light of Modern Discovery and Knowledge: From Creation to the Patriarchs with Illustrations, vol. 1 (New York, N.Y.: Pott, 1882), 1:392.

© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, Electronic Christian Media

Map 14

Boundaries of Palestine and Arabia (mid 4th cent. AD)
© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, ECM
Historical boundaries of Roman / Byzantine / Islamic Palestine (sourced from Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, 683, Bernard Lewis, Islam in History: Ideas, People, and Events in the Middle East, 155 and the borders of Mandate Palestine from multiple sources).

See Eusebius (ca. AD 260/265-339/340) and Severus, Bishop of Sodom ( AD 325) in  David E. Graves, The Location of Sodom: Key Facts for Navigating the Maze of Arguments for the Location of the Cities of the Plain (Toronto, Ont.: Electronic Christian Media, 2016), 41-42.

© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, Electronic Christian Media

Map 13

Map of the borders of the Promised Land that God
showed to Moses on Mt. Nebo, described in Deut. 34:1-3
© 2017 Dr. David E. Graves, ECM
Map representing the outside borders of the Promised Land that God showed to Moses on Mount Nebo, described in Deuteronomy 34:1-3. It is unlikely that es-Safi (Byzantine Zoar) is the location of the eastern boundary of the Promised Land, as it would lay in Moabite territory, south of the Arnon River. It is more likely that Serâbît el-Mushaqqar, located on the ascent to Mount Nebo, or another site nearby, was the OT Zoar and represents the eastern boundary of the Promised Land.

Moses’ panorama of the wasteland of the kikkār (Num 21:20, 22:1) and the Promised Land begins at Mt. Pisgah, near Mt. Nebo in Moab, east of Jericho.[1]  Then, facing the Mediterranean Sea, Moses begins on his right with (1) Gilead (east of the Jordan. See the numbers on the Map above) traveling north as far as (2) the city of Dan (N boundary, not to be confused with the tribe of Dan), where the Transjordan ends, then traveling from north to south along the Mediterranean Sea (W boundary)  ((3) Naphtali, (4) Manasseh,  (5) Ephraim, and  (6) Judah). Then in the south, the border is mentioned at  (7) the Negev (S boundary), followed by  (8) the kikkār, which he identified as the Valley of Jericho. This places the kikkār in the disk, north of the Dead Sea, connected with Jericho. Then having mentioned the northern ( (2) Dan), western ( (3) (4) (5) (6) Mediterranean), and southern ((7) Negev) borders, he identifies (9) Zoar as the Eastern boundary. Moses would have passed by the site of Serâbît el-Mushaqqar (OT Zoar?) on his climb up Mt. Nebo to view the Promised Land.

Power concludes that:
It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Ṣo’ar is at the foot of Mount Nebo, where the vision began, and at the eastern limit of the Round of the valley of Jericho, where it ended.[2]
Howard argues the same:
Since this scene begins with the most remote part of the kikkār it must end at the nearest, which places Zoar near the foot of Mount Nebo.[3]  Furthermore, the point is often made that the Byzantine-Arabic site of Zoar and the southern end of the Dead Sea are not visible from the Mount Nebo vicinity, the view being obstructed by the mountains of Moab.[4]
Driver point out that “v. 3 implies naturally that Zoar was at some distance off, not a place at the foot of Nebo.”[5]  Although if Zoar is at es-Safi, as the SST advocates propose,[6]  then the eastern border of the Promised Land is located in Moabite territory, south of the Arnon River, which never happened, as Reuben was north of the Arnon River. The Negev has already been identified as the southern boundary, so Zoar is not likely the southern boundary, but the eastern boundary. This passage would seem to favour the NST and place Zoar someplace near Mt. Nebo (See Fact 33).[7]

[1] Joel F. Drinkard Jr., “ʿAL PÉNÊ as ‘East of,’” Journal of Biblical Literature 98 (1978): 285–86
[2] E. Power, “The Site of the Pentapolis: Part 1,” Biblica 11 (1930): 42..
[3] Jan Jozef Simons, The Geographical and Topographical Texts of the Old Testament: A Concise Commentary in Xxxii Chapters (Leiden: Brill, 1959), 406.
[4] David M. Howard, Jr., “Sodom and Gomorrah Revisited,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 27, no. 4 (1984), 390. Driver observes that there are many other locations mentioned here that were not visible from Mt. Nebo, including: Northern Gilead, Dan and, the Mediterranean Sea. Samuel R. Driver, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Deuteronomy, ICC 5 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1978), 419–21; Samuel R. Driver, “Zoar,” in A Dictionary of the Bible: Dealing with Its Language, Literature and Contents Including the Biblical Theology. 5 vols. ed. James Hastings and John A. Selbie, vol. 4 (New York, N.Y.: Scribner’s Sons, 1909), 4:986.
[5] Ibid, 4:986.
[6] Konstantinos D. Politis, “Death at the Dead Sea,” Biblical Archaeology Review 38, no. 2 (2013): 42
[7] Howard argues for a southern location from this passage, based on a chiastic reading of the text but this chiastic layout seems unnatural and forced on the text which is otherwise a natural reading of a geographic map. Howard, Jr., “Sodom and Gomorrah Revisited,” 391-92.

© 2017 Dr. David E. Graves, Electronic Christian Media