Abila Lectures & Resources

The Abila Lecture Series

The Abila Lecture in Biblical Archaeology is a bi-annual lecture series that promotes understanding of the archaeology and history of the Biblical world to audiences at John Brown University and in Northwest Arkansas. Each year, the Abila Lecture brings in two scholars to speak on the history and archaeology of the Biblical world. Abila Lectures held in the Fall will typically focus on the Old Testament and lectures in the Spring on the New Testament. Funding for the lecture series has been provided by generous donors to John Brown University’s Abila Archaeological Project which excavates at Abila of the Decapolis in Northern Jordan. All lectures are free and open to the public. 

Upcoming lectures

Check back soon for information about our Fall 2024 Abila Lecture! For more information, please contact David Vila at dvila@jbu.edu.

Past lectures

Spring 2024 - Dr. Jordan Ryan, Wheaton University

"Ancient Synagogues and Jesus of Nazareth: Archaeology, History, and Situating Jesus within Judaism" Video

Fall 2023 - Dr. Catherine Mcdowell, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

“Created in God’s Image and Likeness:  What it Means and Why it Matters” Video

Spring 2023 - Tom Davis, Lipscomb University

"The Fiscus Judaicus and the New Testament: how a Roman tax challenged Christian identity" Video

Fall 2022 - Dr. Mark Janzen, Lipscomb University

"In the Court of Pharaoh: What Egyptology Can Tell about the Exodus" Video

Spring 2022 - Dr. James Strange, Samford University

"Archaeology and the Synagogues of Jesus' Ministry" Video  

Fall 2021 - Dr. Robert Mullins, Azusa Pacific University

"Abel Beth Maacah: Uncovering the Secrets of a Biblical City"  Video

Spring 2020 - Dr. Ben Witherington, Asbury Theological Seminary

"A Singular Jesus in a Pluralistic World"  Video

Fall 2019 - Dr. David Vila - John Brown University

"John Brown University in the Holy Land: The First 100 Years" Video

Spring 2019 - Dr. Tom Davis - Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

''Saint Paul on Cyprus: Archaeology and the Transformation of an Apostle"  Video

Fall 2018 - Dr. John H. Walton – Wheaton College, 

"Lost World of the Israelite Conquest"  Video

Fall 2017 - Dr. Daniel Master, Wheaton College

"Ashkelon and the Philistines" Video unavailable

Spring 2017 - Dr. David Vila, John Brown University

"Excavating Abila of the Decapolis:  The First Thirty-Six Years"  Video 

Fall 2016 - Dr. Tremper Longman III,  Westmont College

"If Jericho Was Not Razed, Is Our Faith in Vain?:  Why History Matters" Video

Spring 2016 - Dr. Robert Smith, Mid-Atlantic Christian University

"Looking for Joseph of Arimathea's Tomb:  Archaeology and the Burial of Jesus" Video

Spring 2015 - Dr. David Chapman, Covenant Theological Seminary

"Crucifixion in the Roman World:  a Historical and Archaeological Survey" Video

Spring 2009  Dr. Anson Rainey (JBU ‘39) Tel Aviv University, Israel  

“Whence Came the Israelites and their Language?” Video


Helpful links

More details

Abila & the Decapolis

Decapolis: (Provides general information about the Decapolis)

Rome and the Decapolis: (Brief historical background on the Decapolis)

Abila of the Decapolis, Jordan: (Short description of Abila's history and pictures by Michael Fuller)

Hippos: (Hippos (Susita) - Excavation Project)

Pella: Pictures of the excavation at Pella)

Jerash: (Artifacts and pictures of Jerash)

Damascus: (Pictures of Damascus)

Gadara: (Artifacts and landmarks in Gadara)

Canatha: (Artifacts and sites in Canatha)

Philadelphia: (Pictures of its remnants in modern day Amman)

Capitolias: (Pictures of its remnants in modern day Beit Ras)


American Center of Oriental Research: (ACOR is a world renown research institute in Amman, Jordan)

Yarmouk University: (Provides information about the institution and more)

University of Jordan: (Information about the university and more)

Tribute to King Hussein: (Provides interesting information about Jordan)

Societies & organizations

Near East Archaeological Society: (Site promotes Biblical Archaeological-Ancient Historical subjects and information on the organization)

American Center of Oriental Research: (The largest archaeological research institution in Amman, Jordan)

American Schools of Oriental Research: (Promotes education on the ancient Near Eastern world)

Biblical Archaeology Society
       (Provides information on their exciting periodicles, travel, marketplace, digs, and more)

Associates for Biblical Research: (Shows list index for area dealing primarily with Biblical Archaeological investigation)

CenturyOne Books: (This a wonderful place for finding ancient resources for your personal library)

BibArch: (An online guide to the world of Biblical Archaeology)

Society of Biblical Literature: (Promotes critical investigation of Biblical and Near Eastern literature) 

Horn Archaeological Museum/Institute of Archaeology: (Coordinates archaeological field research and facilitates archaeological curriculum) 

Oriental Institute: (Provides list index for ancient Near Eastern resources at the University of Chicago)

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem: (Discover collections and exhibitions of ancient Near Eastern history)


Journal of Near Eastern Studies: (Devoted exclusively to ancient and Medieval civilizations of the Near Eastern world)

KMT: (Deals exclusively with culture, history, personalities, arts and monuments of ancient Egypt)

Bulletin of the Asia Institute: (Art, archaeology, numismatics, history, and languages of ancient Near East and Central Asia)

Archaeology: (This is a popular magazine that provides a wide variety of topics in the world of archaeology)


Oriental Institute Research Archives: (ABZU) (Guide to resources for the study of the Ancient Near East available on the Internet)

Resource Pages for Biblical Studies: (Focuses on the early Christian writings and their social world)

Shalom: (Provides dozens of links and resources on ancient Near Eastern history)

Near and Middle East Archaeology: (Large index of links covering a wide range of archaeological fields)

The Perseus Project: (A digital library of resources for the study of the ancient world)

Project readings

More details

Archaeological field finds

W.C. Dever and H.D. Lance, eds. A Manual of Field Excavation (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College, 1978) 

Martha Joukowski. A Complete Manual of Field Archaeology. (Englewood Cliffs, N.Y.: Prentice Hall, 1980) 

Larry G. Herr and Randall W. Yonker, eds. Excavation Manual: Madaba Plains Project (Andrews University Institute of Archaeology, 1994)

Abila of the Decapolis

1980 Abila Survey: Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin (NEASB), New Series, Nos. 1, 18, and in The Biblical Archaeologist, summer, 1981, pp. 179, 180. 
(NEASB has carried Preliminary Reports on all excavation seasons up to 1997). 

The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1 (New York: Doubleday, 1992). 

The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993). 

Fuller, Michael. Abila of the Decapolis: A Roman-Byzantine City in Transjordan. (Dissertation, Washington University, 1987). 

Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordan, Vols. 4 and 5 (Amman: The Department of Antiquities, 1992, 1994). 

American Journal of Archaeology. (April, 1992, July, 1992, July, 1993). 

ARAM, Vols. 4 and 5 (Oxford: ARAM Society for Syro-Mesopotamian Studies, University of Oxford, 1993, 1995). 

Mare, Harold W. The Christian Church of Abila of the Decapolis of the Yarmouk Valley System in the Umayyad Period. ARAM 6 (1994): 359-79. 

Schumacher, Gottlieb. Abila of the Decapolis. (London: Palestine Exploration Fund, 1889). 

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East, Vol. 1 (1997). 

Wineland, John. Tell Abil, Northern Jordan: An Archaeological and Historical Examination of the Evidence (Dissertation, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, 1996). 

Wineland, John. The Region of the Decapolis. (Masters Thesis, Miami University, 1988). 

Wineland, John. Ancient Abila: An Archaeological History (Archaeopress, 2001).

Arabic language

Paul W. Lapp. Arabic for the Beginner in Archaeology. (Pittsburgh:Zimmer Printing, 1990). 

Samy Abu-Taleb. Conversational Arabic in 7 Days (1995). Audio Cassette. 

James R. Smart. Arabic(1992).

General archaeology

Amihai Mazar. Archaeology of the Land of the Bible: 10,000-586 B.C. (New York: Doubleday, 1990) 

Keith Schoville. Biblical Archaeology in Focus. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978) 

Nelson Glueck. The Other Side of the Jordan (Cambridge, Mass.: ASOR, 1970) 

---., The River Jordan. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1946) 

G. Lankester Harding. The Antiquities of Jordan. (New York: Crowell, 1959) 

Thomas F. Levy, ed. The Archaeology of Society in the Holy Land. (1997) 

O. S. LaBianca. Hesban 1: Sedentarization and Nomadization (1990) 

John D. Currid. Doing Archaeology in the Land of the Bible

Background of Decapolis and hellenism in Middle East

Victor Tcherikover. Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews (1999) 

Robert L. Cate. A History of the Bible Lands in the Interbiblical Period. (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1989). 

G.W. Bowersock. Roman Arabia (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1983). 

Lester L. Grabbe. Judaism From Cyrus to Hadrian, Volume 2: The Roman Period. (Fortress Press, 1992)

Cultural orientation to Jordan and the rest of the Middle East

Matthew Teller. The Rough Guide: Jordan (1999). 

Joe E. Pierce. Understanding the Middle East. (Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1971). 

Dorothy Standard, ed. Insight Guides: Jordan (Singapore: Hofer Press, 1994--APA Publications). 

Damien Simonis & Hugh Finlay, 3rd ed. Lonely Planet: Jordan and Syria (1997). 

Sue Rollin & Jane Streetly. Blue Guide: Jordan (1998). 

VIDEO--Video Visits: Jordan (IVN Communications--51 minutes).

Learning pottery

D. Homes-Fredericq & H. J. Franken. Pottery and Potters-Past and Present: 7000 years of Ceramic Art in Jordan. (1986). 

Ralph H. Hendrix, Philip R. Drey, J. Bjornar Storfjell. Ancient Pottery of Transjordan.

Time periods

These dates are approximate. Scholars disagree about such dates, which are constantly being refined with continuing discoveries of new archaeological evidence.

More details


700,000--14,000 BC


14,000--8000 BC


8000--4200 BC


4200--3300 BC

Early Bronze(EB) Age

3300--2100 BC 
   EB I: 3300--2850 BC 
   EB II: 2850--2650 BC 
   EB III: 2650--2350 BC 
   EB IV: 2350--2100 BC 

Middle Bronze(MB) Age

2100--1550 BC 
   MB I: 2100--1950 BC 
   MB IIA: 1950--1750 BC 
   MB IIB: 1750--1650 BC 
   MB IIC: 1650--1550 BC 

Late Bronze(LB) Age

1550--1200 BC 
   LB I: 1550--1400 BC 
   LB II: 1400--1300 BC 
   LB III: 1300--1200 BC 

Iron Age

1200--539 BC 
   Iron I: 1200--900 BC 
   Iron II: 900--721 BC 
   Iron IIB: 721--606 BC 
   Iron IIC: 606--539 BC 

Persian Period

539--332 BC

Hellenistic Period

332--63 BC 
   Early Hellenistic: 332--198 BC 
   Late Hellenistic: 198--63 BC

Roman Period

63 BC--AD 324 
   Early Roman: 63 BC--AD 135 
   Late Roman: AD 135--324

Byzantine Period

AD 324--640 
   Early Byzantine: AD 324--491 
   Late Byzantine: AD 491--640

Early Islamic Period

640--1174 CE 
   Umayyad: 661--750 CE 
   Abbasid: 750--878 CE 
   Fatimid: 969--1174 CE


1099--1291 CE

Late Islamic Period

1174--1918 CE 
   Ayyubid: 1174--1250 CE 
   Mamluk: 1250--1516 CE 
   Ottoman: 1516--1918 CE

Abila project glossary

The square slab at the top of a capital.

The "high place" in a Greek city.  Often the setting for the city's most prominent buildings, temples and other public structures.

This was the Greek word for "marketplace," known by the Romans as the forum.

A semicircular section projecting from the side or front of a basilica or monumental building, often vaulted.

Pertaining to an apse (semicircular in shape).

The horizontal beam which rests on columns or piers and which spans the space between them. It is the lowest foundation level for the entablature and often decorated with sculpture.

A Hellenistic-to-Byzantine era burial niche, designed to hold a sarcophagus. It was cut into the stone wall of a cave, with the ledge below and an arch above.

Square or rectangular cut stones, uniform in size and shape and laid horizontally.

The traditional central open area to a typical Roman private house. It was usually entered through a vestibulum (vestibule).

The hot room(s) of a Roman bathhouse.

The uppermost section or member of a classical column or pilaster.

The auditorium of a theater, or the seating area of an amphitheater.

A row of skylight windows which provided light for the nave of the basilica.

A sepulchral chamber with rows of small recesses to hold ash urns.

Column Drum 
One of the cylindrical sections of a column shaft.

Cardo Maximus 
The central and most important street in a typical Greco-Roman city, running north to south. This street was connected to the very heart of the city--the agora or marketplace.

Cross-shaped. A building designed in the shape of a cross.

An underground vaulted corridor.

This was a secondary street(s), which ran east to west, perpendicularly to the primary cardo.

House. Dwelling of a well-to-do family as distinct from the taberna of the artisan and tradesman, as well as the apartment houses (insulae) of the middle-class and poor.

The Latin form of the Greek word "ekklesia," which meant "assembly. It was later translated to refer specifically to the gathering of Christians.

Flat, evenly shaped paving stone.

The vertical grooves cut into the shaft of a column.

The art/procedure of painting on plaster while it is still wet.

The cold room of a Roman bathhouse.

A central heating system characterized by an airspace beneath the floor for circulation of hot air.

Iconostasis Screen 
The screen that separated the bema or altar area from the nave. This screen (chancel) was decorated with religious icons and symbols, often relating to the Bible (cross, fish).

In Situ 
This is an archaeological term, which means literally "at the site." It is used to designate the precise position of an artifact as it was first discovered by the archaeologist.

The dry hot-air room of a Roman bath complex.

The Levant (Latin="easterners") is a term designated for the entire Syro-Palestinian coastline, including modern day Israel, Lebanon, and the western coast of Syria.

A rectangular burial niche or recess (sometimes 6 ft. deep), carved into the walls of a tomb chamber for individual corpses, sometimes several. The plural form is pronounced "loculi" (in Hebrew="kochim").

Any three-dimensional feature in a square, such as a layer of earth, as wall, pit, bin, and the like.

The grave of a martyr or saint, who died for their faith. It was not uncommon for early Christians to construct their ecclesiastical edifices over top of such a burial. This was especially prominent for the location of the apse.

A picture of description made by piecing small cut stones (tesserae) of different shapes and colors.

A vestibule leading to the nave of the church. The portico of an ancient church building.

The cemetery.  From the Greek word "nekros," which referred to a dead body.

Nomen Sacrum 
A sacred name; specifically, an abbreviation for a sacred name found in ancient manuscripts.

A monumental public fountain, usually containing flowers and plants.

Odeum (Gk. odeion) 
Small roofed theater, for concerts and lectures.

A Greek house or dwelling.

Opus Sectile 
Paving or wall decoration made of shaped tiles of colored stone of marble.

Originally the circular dancing floor of a Greek theater, later becoming a semicircular area in front of the stage in a Roman theater.

An upright slab of stone; particularly those used in Greek construction to form the lower part of a wall.

Porticoed enclosure for sport and exercise; the exercise yard of a Roman bathhouse.

An open square.

Vertical pier or support beam, usually rectangular in shape, which protrudes from a wall. Architecturally it is treated as a column.

Wide street or avenue.

Portico (Stoa) 
Colonnaded porch, particularly one at the front entrance to a building.

An ornament resembling a rose.

A stone coffin.

Shaft Tombs 
A round shaft usually three feet in diameter, cut vertically to a depth of about seven feet from the surface. The lower part of the shaft contained a series of small, underground chambers that were carved back into the rock. Burials sometimes consisted of two to eight people.

The Arabic term for artificial earthen mound; a characteristic attributed to ancient cities in the Middle East, due to centuries of building and rebuilding on previous ruins.

The warm room of a Roman bathhouse.

Large public bathing facility.

Vestibule, especially at the street entrance to a private house.

A country house or estate, usually the home of a wealthy citizen.

Entrance (or Exit) of a Roman theater or amphitheater.

The Arabic term for a watercourse, which carries water only during the rainy season.