Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Jerusalem Tomb: First Archaeological Evidence of Christianity

Charlotte, N.C. - Feb. 28, 2012 - The archaeological examination by robotic camera of an intact first century tomb in Jerusalem has revealed a set of limestone Jewish ossuaries or “bone boxes” that are engraved with a rare Greek inscription and a unique iconographic image that the scholars involved identify as distinctly Christian.

The four-line Greek inscription on one ossuary refers to God “raising up” someone and a carved image found on an adjacent ossuary shows what appears to be a large fish with a human stick figure in its mouth, interpreted by the excavation team to be an image evoking the biblical story of Jonah.

In the earliest gospel materials the “sign of Jonah,” as mentioned by Jesus, has been interpreted as a symbol of his resurrection. Jonah images in later “early” Christian art, such as images found in the Roman catacombs, are the most common motif found on tombs as a symbol of Christian resurrection hope. In contrast, the story of Jonah is not depicted in any first century Jewish art and iconographic images on ossuaries are extremely rare, given the prohibition within Judaism of making images of people or animals.

The tomb in question is dated prior to 70 CE, when ossuary use in Jerusalem ceased due to the Roman destruction of the city. Accordingly, if the markings are Christian as the scholars involved believe, the engravings represent – by several centuries - the earliest archaeological record of Christians ever found. The engravings were most likely made by some of Jesus’ earliest followers, within decades of his death. Together, the inscription and the Jonah image testify to early Christian faith in resurrection. The tomb record thus predates the writing of the gospels.

The findings will be detailed in a preliminary report by James D. Tabor, professor and chair of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, to be published online in www.bibleinterp.com on February 28, 2012.

“If anyone had claimed to find either a statement about resurrection or a Jonah image in a Jewish tomb of this period I would have said impossible -- until now,” Tabor said. “Our team was in a kind of ecstatic disbelief, but the evidence was clearly before our eyes, causing us to revise our prior assumptions.”

The publication of the academic article is concurrent with the publication of a book by Simon & Schuster entitled “The Jesus Discovery: The New Archaeological Find That Reveals the Birth of Christianity.” The book is co-authored by Professor James Tabor and filmmaker/professor Simcha Jacobovici. A documentary on the discovery will be aired by the Discovery Channel in spring 2012.

The findings and their interpretation are likely to be controversial, since most scholars are skeptical of any Christian archaeological remains from so early a period. Adding to the controversy is the tomb’s close proximity to a second tomb, discovered in 1980. This tomb, dubbed by some “The Jesus Family Tomb,” contained inscribed ossuaries that some scholars associate with Jesus and his family, including one that reads “Jesus, son of Joseph.”

“Context is everything in archaeology,” Tabor pointed out. “These two tombs, less than 200 feet apart, were part of an ancient estate, likely related to a rich family of the time. We chose to investigate this tomb because of its proximity to the so-called ‘Jesus tomb,’ not knowing if it would yield anything unusual.”

The tomb containing the new discoveries is a modest sized, carefully carved rock cut cave tomb typical of Jerusalem in the period from 20 BCE until 70 CE.

The tomb was exposed in 1981 by builders and is currently several meters under the basement level of a modern condominium building in East Talpiot, a neighborhood of Jerusalem less than two miles south of the Old City. Archaeologists entered the tomb at the time, were able to briefly examine it and its ossuaries, take preliminary photographs, and remove one pot and an ossuary, before they were forced to leave by Orthodox religious groups who oppose excavation of Jewish tombs.

The ossuary taken, that of a child, is now in the Israel State Collection. It is decorated but has no inscriptions. The archaeologists mention “two Greek names” but did not notice either the newly discovered Greek inscription or the Jonah image before they were forced to leave. The tomb was re-sealed and buried beneath the condominium complex on what is now Don Gruner Street in East Talpiot.

The adjacent “Jesus tomb,” was uncovered by the same construction company in 1980, just one year earlier. It was thoroughly excavated and its contents removed by the Israel Antiquities Authority. This tomb’s controversial ossuaries with their unusual cluster of names (that some have associated with Jesus and his family) are now part of the Israel State Collection and have been on display in various venues, including the Israel Museum. These ossuaries will be in an exhibit running from late February through April 15 at Discovery Times Square.

In 2009 and 2010, Tabor and Rami Arav, professor of archaeology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, working together with Jacobovici, obtained a license to excavate the current tomb from the Israel Antiquities Authority under the academic sponsorship of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Because of its physical location under a modern building (making direct access nearly impossible), along with the threat of Orthodox Jewish groups that would protest any such excavation, Tabor’s team determined to employ a minimally invasive procedure in examining the tomb.

Funding for the excavation was provided by the Discovery Channel/Vision Television/Associated Producers. Jacobovici’s team at the Toronto based Associated Producers developed a sophisticated robotic arm to carry high definition cameras, donated by General Electric. The robotic arm and a second “snake camera” were inserted through two drill holes in the basement floor of the building above the tomb. The probe was successful and the team was able to reach all the ossuaries and photograph them on all sides, thus revealing the new inscriptions.

Beyond the possible Christian connection, Tabor noted that the tomb’s assemblage of ossuaries stands out as clearly extraordinary in the context of other previously explored tombs in Jerusalem.

“Everything in this tomb seems unusual when contrasted with what one normally finds inscribed on ossuaries in Jewish tombs of this period,” Tabor said. “Of the seven ossuaries remaining in the tomb, four of them have unusual features.”

There are engravings on five of the seven ossuaries: an enigmatic symbol on ossuary 2 (possibly reading Yod Heh Vav Heh or “Yahweh” in stylized letters that can be read as Greek or Hebrew, though the team is uncertain); an inscription reading “MARA” in Greek letters (which Tabor translates as the feminine form of “lord” or “master” in Aramaic) on ossuary 3; an indecipherable word in Greek letters on ossuary 4 (possibly a name beginning with “JO…”); the remarkable four-line Greek inscription on ossuary 5; and finally, and most importantly, a series of images on ossuary 6, including the large image of a fish with a figure seeming to come out of its mouth.

Among the approximately 2000 ossuaries that have been recovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority, only 650 have any inscriptions on them, and none have inscriptions comparable to those on ossuaries 5 and 6.

Less than a dozen ossuaries from the period have epitaphs but, according to Tabor, these inscribed messages usually have to do with warnings not to disturb the bones of the dead. In contrast, the four-line Greek inscription contains some kind of statement of resurrection faith.

Tabor noted that the epitaph’s complete and final translation is uncertain. The first three lines are clear, but the last line, consisting of three Greek letters, is less sure, yielding several possible translations: “O Divine Jehovah, raise up, raise up,” or “The Divine Jehovah raises up to the Holy Place,” or “The Divine Jehovah raises up from [the dead].”

“This inscription has something to do with resurrection of the dead, either of the deceased in the ossuary, or perhaps, given the Jonah image nearby, an expression of faith in Jesus’ resurrection,” Tabor said.

The ossuary with the image that Tabor and his team understand to be representing Jonah also has other interesting engravings. These also may be connected to resurrection, Tabor notes. On one side is the tail of a fish disappearing off the edge of the box, as if it is diving into the water. There are small fish images around its border on the front facing, and on the other side is the image of a cross-like gate or entrance—which Tabor interprets as the notion of entering the “bars” of death, which are mentioned in the Jonah story in the Bible.

“This Jonah ossuary is most fascinating,” Tabor remarked. “It seems to represent a pictorial story with the fish diving under the water on one end, the bars or gates of death, the bones inside, and the image of the great fish spitting out a man representing, based on the words of Jesus, the ‘sign of Jonah’ – the ‘sign’ that he would escape the bonds of death.”


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cleveland County Welcomes University at Business, Alumni Meetings

By Buffie Stephens

Chancellor Philip Dubois and 49er Football Coach Brad Lambert visited Shelby, N.C. located in Cleveland County, Friday, Feb. 17, to participate in UNC Charlotte’s Building Regional Support initiative. The Chancellor has begun a series of focused visits to the 12 counties that comprise the Greater Charlotte region to strengthen the university’s outreach and build relationships within the communities the University serves. Cleveland County is home to 2,200 UNC Charlotte alumni who live and work in the region and 998 of them are donors.

The Chancellor began the day meeting with the region’s largest newspaper, The Shelby Star and with representatives from Cleveland Community College. Meeting with administrators from the college, he discussed educational partnerships and strategies to enable community college students to successfully transfer to the University. Currently, 281 students from the community college are now enrolled at UNC Charlotte.

Dubois was the keynote speaker at the Cleveland County Rotary Club where more than 80business and community leaders attended a luncheon. Shelby Mayor Stan Anthony presented the Chancellor with a key to the city (see phot at right). It was the first key Anthony had presented as mayor. Dubois also met with former Shelby mayor Ted Alexander. Both mayors are alumni of UNC Charlotte. Afternoon sessions included economic development discussions with Hoyt Bailey, president of DTI Yarns; Adelaide Craver, chairperson of First National Bank; and Kristen Fletcher, executive vice president of Cleveland County Economic Development Partnership.

49ers Football Coach Brad Lambert joined Dubois for afternoon interviews with local Shelby media and both attended the alumni reception held at First National Bank and hosted by UNC Charlotte Alumni Affairs. More than 45 alumni attended including the family of Ashley Lutz, a UNC Charlotte nursing school graduate from Shelby who passed away in May just after receiving her degree. Ashley's family has created a scholarship in her memory. College of Health and Human Services Development Director Heather Shaughnessy and Director of the School of Nursing Dee Baldwin also attended the reception along with other notable Cleveland County alumni.

UNC Charlotte leverages it location in the state's largest city to offer community engagement initiatives and is committed to addressing the cultural, economic, educational, environmental, health and socials needs throughout the greater Charlotte region. The Building Regional Support initiative supports that mission.

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Buffie Stephens is media relations manager at UNC Charlotte.

While the "City" Sleeps: Campus Crime Dropped 30% in '11

UNC Charlotte, with 25,300 students and approximately 3,000 staff and faculty is a small city; it runs 24/7 and faces the same needs as a small city in enforcing laws, protecting residents from crime, and responding to disturbances. Based on the latest statictics, UNC Charlotte the city is an increasingly safe place.

From 2010 to 2011, the crime rate on campus declined 30 percent, according to records from the Police and Public Safety Department (PPS).

Of the critical offenses tracked by the department, larceny from vehicle showed one of the most dramatic drops from 58 instances in 2010 to 26 in 2011. For 2009, the number of larceny from vehicles was 151. Building larcenies also decreased between 2010 and 2011 by 16 percent.

“We have employed multiple strategies to protect the campus and its stakeholders,” said Jeff Baker, chief of police and public safety. “With regard to vehicular larcenies, the two sky towers, funded by the chancellor, have proven to be important tools. Also, we have specific, directed patrol plans for surface and parking lots and decks during high concentration periods, and solid investigative work resulted in multiple arrests of local suspects known to break into vehicles.”

Baker also noted the department’s strategic patrols and community policing efforts, with an emphasis on student groups, such as the Student Government Association, were contributing factors in the decrease in the number of crimes.

“We are up 200 percent with our outreach programs to the campus over last year,” said Baker. “We conduct crime prevention and engraving programs across campus as well as talk about crime awareness, especially with the various student groups – such as the residence halls, fraternities, sororities and other organizations. We also work collaboratively with the University City Division of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) and the University City business community.”

Each quarter, Baker or a member of the PPS Department meets with the CMPD University City Division to discuss strategies on how to build a stronger, crime-free community.
“My goal is that PPS officers will have a high level of involvement and interaction with all the University stakeholders, especially students, as a way to better serve and protect the campus,” stated Baker.

It is reassuring to know that while the "city" sleeps, it sleeps more safely and more securely than ever.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Chiquita CEO visits UNC Charlotte campus

Chiquita CEO Fernando Aguirre and members of the company’s executive team visited UNC Charlotte for a tour and meeting with University officials on Feb. 16.

In November 2011, the company announced its intentions to move its world headquarters to the Queen City from Cincinnati. Chancellor Philip L. Dubois noted that Chiquita is “a socially and environmentally responsible company, one that has embraced improving world nutrition as central to its mission. That emphasis is certainly consistent with UNC Charlotte’s strengths in health and human services, and our move toward the creation of a School of Public Health here in Charlotte.”

A Fortune 1,000 company, Chiquita expects to create more than 400 jobs in Charlotte with an average wage of more than $106,000. It has leased space in the NASCAR tower adjacent to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Widely known for bananas, Chiquita produces a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, snacks, juices, smoothies and pre-packaged salads. Its relocation also includes Salinas, Calif.-based Fresh Express, purchased by the company in 2005.

Chancellor Philip L. Dubois and his wife Lisa Lewis Dubois welcomed Charlotte-area business, civic and governmental leaders who came to campus to greet Charlotte’s new corporate citizens.

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49ers coach anxious to get out on the field and get started | 49ers, coach, lambert - The Star Online : The Newspaper of Cleveland County

On Feb. 17 UNC Charlotte officials spent the day in Shelby, N.C. meeting with community leaders and alumni about deepening and broadening engagement between the University and Cleveland County. In addition to meetings by Chancellor Dubois with Cleveland Community College, the Rotary Club, Mayor Stan Anthony (a UNC Charlotte alum)and others, Alumni Affairs held an alumni reception for dozens of Cleveland County 49ers. Before that reception, Head Football Coach Brad Lambert talked with Shelby Star Sports Editor Alan Ford. More than 2,200 UNC Charlotte alums live in Cleveland County. When 49ers football kicks off Aug. 31 2013, we hope to see a cheering retinue from Cleveland County 49ers at McColl-Richardson Field.

49ers coach anxious to get out on the field and get started | 49ers, coach, lambert - The Star Online : The Newspaper of Cleveland County

Friday, February 17, 2012

Crisis Training is New Norm for Public Info Officers

By Paul Nowell

It really hasn’t been that long since there was no Facebook or Twitter to keep public information officers on our toes.

Much in this same vein, another new practice has become a necessary regiment for those in charge of managing the flow of vital information: crisis communications training. And much like social media, one of the biggest challenges in this arena is to stay on top of the latest technologies and strategies.

This is one big reason why a recent two-day training course, held on the UNC Charlotte campus, was so invaluable. Offered by the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management, the training was rigorous and spot-on in terms of relevancy.

I had the opportunity to attend this training session at the Harris Alumni Center with some of my colleagues on the University communications staff and the Police and Public Safety Department (PPS).

Obviously, this was not our first foray into crisis communications training. Over the last several years, we have conducted several tabletop exercises at the University and even one “live-shooter” exercise involving real police officers, fire trucks and sirens. Only the bullets and injuries were simulated.

In the wake of tragedies at Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois and others, crisis communications training is now incorporated into our professional persona.

It would be inaccurate to suggest I enjoy these training courses and exercises. No one chooses to think about the day when this work morphs from a purely academic exercise into stark reality.

Then again, none of us are naïve enough to think bad things can never happen on our watch.

With this in mind, I am grateful to have the opportunity to prepare for these scenarios. The instructors were well-versed in the latest communications methods and practices and they shared their lessons without patronizing any of us who were there to learn.

The UNC Charlotte participants were joined by more than 35 PIOs and other representatives of the city of Charlotte, the region and the state – ranging from the FBI, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, county governments and the Charlotte Area Transit System – at a rigorous FEMA crisis communications course at the Harris Alumni Center.

The sessions were lively and demanding. The instructors talked about the importance of establishing and operating a Joint Information System (JIS) and a Joint Information Center (JIC). While these terms might read like more bureaucratic slang, their value cannot be overestimated.

The only way for an institution such as UNC Charlotte to manage a large-scale crisis is to learn how to manage the flow and demand for information. University PIOs cannot be expected to handle the size and scope of the situation without help from counterparts with area police, fire, MEDIC, hospitals, utilities, the county, the state – perhaps even the federal government.

Another takeaway from the latest course was that in the end it is our crisis and our stakeholders who must be our top priority. When the police and fire trucks leave the scene, we will still be here after the storm.
So we must remember to stay in control during – and after – the smoke clears.


Paul Nowell is media relations manager at UNC Charlotte.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Violins of Hope Signal Wondrous Transformation

By Meg Freeman Whalen

“Wondrous, my child, is the transformation of anguish.” Yiddish poet Abraham Sutzkever presents this testament to redemption more than once in a book of poetry called The Fiddle Rose. In Sutzkever’s poems, words of suffering are transformed into words of healing. “Wondrous transformation” is likewise the story of the “Violins of Hope,” a collection of violins recovered from the Holocaust and painstakingly restored by the master Israeli violinmaker, Amnon Weinstein.

The son of a violinist/violinmaker who fled Vilna, Lithuania for Palestine in the years before the Holocaust, Amnon Weinstein never met his Lithuanian relatives. Knowing that, like his family, many Jewish musicians and their instruments had been silenced by Nazi brutality, he began a quest two decades ago to find and repair violins from the Holocaust.

In 1996, he discovered the first violin; now nearly 30 instruments have found their way into Weinstein’s shop in Tel Aviv Israel. Some he discovered at flea markets; some were brought to him by family members of the musicians who had owned them. Many of the violins were so damaged from being played outside in rain and sun and snow, that it often took him more than a year to bring each to playing condition. One was filled with ashes.

In April, UNC Charlotte will bring 18 of the Violins of Hope to Charlotte. First played in Jerusalem in 2008 and never before exhibited and played together in North or South America, the violins have extraordinary histories of suffering and survival. Some were played in concentration camps, while others belonged to the Klezmer musical tradition that was nearly destroyed in the Holocaust.

Presented by the College of Arts + Architecture, in partnership with nearly 20 academic and cultural institutions, the Violins of Hope will be exhibited in the new UNC Charlotte Center City Gallery April 9-24. An international array of professional musicians will give voice to these extraordinary instruments in a series of five performances, culminating on April 21 in a concert with the Charlotte Symphony featuring renowned soloist Shlomo Mintz. Related programs, from film screenings to lectures, will explore the history of music in the face of oppression.

Details of the many Violins of Hope events are available at www.violinsofhopecharlotte.com.

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Meg Freeman Whalen is director of communication and external relations for the College of Arts + Architecture

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Inside UNC Charlotte’ to debut on WTVI-TV

A new television magazine program about the University debuts at 5:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb 5, on WTVI-TV.

“Inside UNC Charlotte” will offer a lively look at the University's impact on greater Charlotte, said Stephen Ward, executive director of University communications.

Produced by the Office of University Communications, the TV program showcases the breadth of 49er community engagement, including segments on the ways the University addresses critical national issues in the Charlotte metro region; UNC Charlotte’s impact on the cultural scene; faculty research; and the many ways 49er students, faculty, staff and alumni give back to the community, Ward stated.

Segments in this first program include how UNC Charlotte and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are working together to meet the challenges of urban K-12 education; a feature on the partnerships that are enhancing the Governor’s Village schools; a profile of the University's renowned Cyber Security Program; and a preview of this spring's top cultural event, “Violins of Hope.”

“Plan to make this first show your Super Bowl pre-game show and share in the 49er pride,” said Ward.

WTVI-TV will air rebroadcasts of the program at 10 p.m., Friday, Feb. 10, and 3 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 11. UNC Charlotte’s Channel 22 will air the show at 1 and 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays throughout February after its WTVI debut.

49ers sign at least 15 for inaugural football class

Charlotte 49ers football took another step -- actually 15 staffs -- toward fruition this morning when UNC Charlotte signed its first 15 players on national signing day. The gridiron 49ers take the field Aug. 31 2013 against the Campbell University Camels at McColl-Richardson Field.

UPDATE 6 -- SIGNING DAY -- Niners at 15 Signees