Accessing the Ancient World:
The Bible, Antiquity,
and the World Wide Web

K. C. Hanson
Wipf and Stock
Eugene, Oregon 97401

kchanson [at] wipfandstock [dot] com

© 1997


What Is the World Wide Web and Why Should I Care?

The Internet is the linking together of computers around the world through highspeed telephone lines. The World Wide Web (a.k.a. WWW, W3, or the Web) is the Internet's way of linking together the data on Websites (what an individual or a group gathers at one address) located all over the world loaded on local computers. But because Websites share a common (relatively simple) way of marking a document (called HTML ), one can move between these Websites with the click of the mouse or the typing of an address (known as a URL ); this is what makes it a "web" rather than simply a number of isolated computers. The contents of these multitudinous Websites are as varied as the individuals, organizations, and institutions who create them. But because of the ease and commonsense approach of the Web (originally begun in Switzerland in 1992 to facilitate communication between scientists), by 1996 more than 3,000 schools had loaded their own Websites (Williams 1996:39). For all that follows, note that I have included a brief glossary of technical terms at the conclusion of this article.

Numerous Websites have appeared with information to benefit both scholars and students in the form of text, graphics (photographs, line-drawings, art work, etc.), audio and video. Almost all sites provide links to other related sites, creating a boundless web of connections. Many Websites even include long menus of related sites, called "hotlists" which allow the viewer to simply click on a word or icon to move to another site. This interconnectivity means that you can move quickly between materials loaded on computers all over the world: an exhibit of art and artifacts in the Louvre Museum (Paris), to a bibliography on women in the ancient world (Oriental Institute, Chicago), to a chronology of Roman mints and mint marks (University of Wyoming), to a virtual tour of the archaeological site at Puteoli/Rione Terra (Italy), to a Hebrew keyword search in the Talmud Yerushalmi (Israel), to a full-text book review in Ioudaios-Review (Lehigh University), to a search for a colleague's telephone number (Emory University).

While much of this material is also available in "hardcopy" (books and journals), some of it is not. There are no concordances available, for example, for the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, the Nag Hammadi codices, or the New Testament Apocrypha; but these are all searchable by keywords (in English) on the WWW. The Babylonian Talmud is available on CD-ROM and it is searchable; but many libraries (let alone individual scholars) do not own copies. Archaeological discoveries have been posted on Websites far in advance of their availability in journals. Museum collections which are not available in print are on the Web. And journals are beginning to appear which are only accessible electronically (e.g., Ioudaios-Review, TC: A Journal of Biblical Text Criticism , and Bryn Mawr Classical Review). The rapidity of growth in the Web is astounding. In June 1993 there were 130 Websites; by December 1995 there were over 40,000 (Williams 1996:39); today their are millions!

On a personal note, for years I saved in file folders the columns (mostly written by Robert A. Kraft) called "Offline" from the Religious Studies News. Some of them were torn and faded, and I could never seem to go back and find the one I wanted. But now I can throw the entire file away since all fifty-three of them are loaded on a Website. But more than that, I can electronically search them for topics in which I am interested.

Besides accessing what is already out there on the Web, both teachers and students may want to create their own Websites to accompany courses, to make works in progress available to a class or colleagues, or to create a unique set of links relating to a particular interest or topic. Below I will discuss several ways that having one's own Website(s) can facilitate integrating students into the Internet process.

Douglas Oakman and I are currently constructing a Website to accompany a textbook we have written; the book is titled Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Institutions and Social Conflicts (Fortress Press, 1998). The Website will have links to numerous documents and graphics not included in the book, for reasons of space, price, and availability. And since textbooks normally include only black and white photos, the Website can include color photos and audio. It can also be updated as new Websites appear for additional links. Furthermore, new bibliographic items can be added at any time.

Getting Connected

So how does one make this vital connection to the Internet and the Web? The most basic way to connect is by modem : that is, an electronic hardware device which acts as an intermediary between the personal computer and the telephone line. A modem allows the personal computer to communi- cate with other computers via these telephone lines. Modems come in two basic forms: as a separate box connecting the computer and phone-jack with telephone cables (an "external modem"), or a "card" mounted inside the computer (an "internal modem"). The speed at which a modem transfers data is calculated in "baud rate" ; and the maximum speed is determined when it is manufactured. Fifteen years ago they were operating at 300, 900, and 1200 baud; today the typical modems available operate at 9600; 14,400; or 28,800 baud (but note that 9600 baud has become obsolete for effective Internet communication). Those who work at home or who otherwise do not have direct access to a main-frame computer linked to the Internet (e.g., at a university or corporation) will need to use this form of access.

The second (and much easier) way to connect to the Web is through a more direct connection at an Internet "node," such as those available at most colleges, universities, and large corporations (many seminaries have been able to take advantage of nodes at universities in their locales). This type of connection means avoiding slow telephone lines by having a direct hook-up to the school's mainframe computer and its highspeed lines. But it also requires an "interface" between the two computers, an "ethernet card" mounted internally in the computer. The software required to make an ethernet connection operational is called an "ethernet driver," and is usually provided by the school; but they can also be purchased at computer stores.

Once the connection is made, a Web "browser" is used to move around on the Web. A Web browser has numerous functions (e.g., a place to type in the URLs of Websites, searching a Website by keywords, retracing your path, and printing). Several browsers are available, perhaps the best known being Netscape Navigator (just "Netscape" for short); but Mosaic, HotJava, and Arena are also popular browsers. Williams charts twenty browsers by: name; manufacturer; Website address (to find out more); and whether it works with MacIntosh, Windows, UNIX, or all three (Williams 1996:82). Netscape has maintained its leadership because it works with all three of these computer platforms and has kept up with improvements. The minimum configuration for using Netscape on a personal computer is: 1) a 486SX computer; 2) 4 MB of memory; 3) MacIntosh or Windows; and 4) a mouse.

But what about those who do not have the basic hardware? This is not the end of the line. Computer access (and Web access) is now available at numerous other venues: public libraries; college, university, seminary libraries and computer centers; and lately even coffeehouses! Retail locations (like coffeehouses) generally charge fees by time, while libraries generally provide free access, but may charge for printing files.

Levels of Access

Once connected, one discovers that there are still multiple levels of access. The most basic form of access provides text only. This means that what one sees on the computer screen is only the text portions of a Web page, not the photographs, line-drawings, art work, backgrounds, or other graphics. Where photographs and graphics should appear, one sees only a notation. This level will be available no matter what sort of computer, software, or connection is used. The next level is graphical: not only the text, but also all the graphics loaded at a Website are accessible. But the highest levels of access include audio and video. Video access requires that one download video software to access the video portions of a Website. Currently, very few Websites incorporate video elements; but this will likely increase rapidly in the near future.

Typical Problems

Despite the wonders of Web access, one often finds glitches in the operation. Here are a few of the problems I have encountered; I suspect that there are more that can occur.
  1. The slowness of viewing, downloading, and printing can be very irritating. There are several variables in the speed of these processes:

    Viewing and Downloading


  2. The quality of the photographs and other graphics also has several variables:

  3. Some Websites include small photographs or maps which are "clickable" (linked): clicking the mouse on them activates a "link" to an enlargement of the photograph. But note that the enlargement usually does not include the identification or explanatory text. If you plan to print the graphic, then you will need to print both pages. Many photos, however, are quite small and do not have larger versions available.
  4. Multi-paged documents, extra-large graphics, or series of photographs often break at irregular points when printed. This sometimes results in separating a photo from its label, or even breaking the photo in two.
  5. Sometimes a Website is moved to a new URL or closed down altogether. When they move from one location to another, an error message will often appear with the new address. The most considerate owners provide a "link" to the new address from that error message. But the viewer needs to keep in mind that in this sense Websites are not like books or journals which may go out of print: if Websites are not maintained, they may be shutdown, analogous to burning all the copies of a book!
  6. Printing graphics (e.g., photos, charts, graphs, drawings) may be accomplished with laser, bubblejet, or inkjet printers. Dot-matrix and daisywheel type printers are not likely to produce satisfying results.

What Is Available?

An excellent place to start on the Web when interested in the ancient world is at ABZU, the Website for ancient materials at the Oriental Institute (University of Chicago) maintained by Charles E. Jones, the OI's bibliographer (reference librarian). ABZU is located at the following URL (the address of a Website); note that all Websites begin with http:// and are often "case sensitive" (viz. you need to distinguish between lower case and upper case spellings):

Jones has organized a fine site with links to numerous other sites relating to the ancient world, primarily focused on Mesopotamia and Egypt. Many of the sites listed below I discovered first on ABZU. But keep in mind that Websites routinely expand or change their holdings, and new sites are loaded daily; so this is an rapidly evolving medium.

For the most part, the Websites in the following classified list have numerous pages of text and graphics. Because of their special value, I have listed a few individual images from larger Websites; those listings which locate a single image are identified as such (e.g., photo, sketch, map). The Geopolitical sub-headings (e.g., Ancient Near East) are organized from general to specific; the others (e.g., Museums, Ancient Documents, and Professional Societies) are organized alphabetically. The Websites are organized in the following sequence:
Go to "World Wide Web Sites Relating to the Ancient Mediterranean"
(250 classified Weblinks)

Getting More Help
I have only provided the barest necessities in this article for how to connect to the Web, how to browse, and where to find key Websites. But you may be ready for more specific definitions and fuller explanations, or you may want to go on and create your own Website. This entails much more than I can deliver here. For more information, refer to one of the basic handbooks listed here (full references in the bibliography). I do not list multiple resources to overwhelm you, but to identify multiple possibilities, given the limitations of any library or bookstore.

Teaching and the WWW

So you want to get beyond browsing on the Web and actually use this material in the classroom. What might be done with it? That is partially a function of each teacher's imagination, creativity, and teaching abilities. But I can offer a few suggestions. To begin with, one might take a look at the Website constructed by James J. O'Donnell (University of Pennsylvania) which introduces the use of Internet resources in the classroom: "New Tools for Teaching" located at the URL:

Note also the articles by Blurton (1994) and Bruce (1995) on the use of the Internet in teaching and research, and Backer & Yabu (1994) on the use of hypermedia for instructional purposes. The article by one of my Theology Department colleagues, John O'Keefe (1996), on using electronic discussion groups in teaching theological courses you will also find helpful. For the use of the Web in other Humanities disciplines, see the paper by Bob Whipple (1996), as well as articles by Manrique (1993), and Pask and Snow (1995) and McIlhone (1996).

Williams identifies eight reasons he thinks that the Web (and the "Information Superhighway" in general) is ultimately an asset for education rather than a liablity (1996:33-38). I list his main points; but he discusses each of these in more detail and provides interesting anecdotes:
Before swallowing Williams' (or my) advocacy for the Internet and the Web, it may be appropriate for you to reflect on caveats to each of these points. For example, number 4 glosses over things the Internet may also entail: economics (e.g., the Web as a sales medium), politics (who has access; government regulation; censorship), and gender division (Williams notes that only 15% of Web-users are female, 1996:39). For a more extensive critique of the Internet's social and educational implications, see Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway (Stoll 1995).

Consider the following as some basic ideas for integrating the Web into instructional and departmental development.

  1. Create a Website of your own for each course (note that this saves much paper), which could include:

    For an example of such a course-Website, see the one prepared by James J. O'Donnell (for "Cultures of the Book") at the University of Pennsylvania:

    His colleague at the Univerisity of Pennsylvania, Robert A. Kraft, has been one of the real pioneers in employing electronic media in scholarly pursuits of all kinds. For years he wrote the column "Offline" in the Religious Studies News, and he was one of the founders of the computerized discussion group IOUDIAOS-L. Kraft uses his homepage in a somewhat different way than O'Donnell; he links his homepage to "gopher sites" (locations with long text files, which are not "hypertext" ) where he keeps articles he has written, papers by colleagues, lists of assignments, etc. His homepage is located at:

    Web courses were the subject of "Offline 49" (Adair and Durusau 1995), and several sites are listed in that article:

  2. Invite someone skilled in the use of the Internet and the Web (an instructor from the school's academic computing center, a reference librarian, a colleague, or a talented student) to spend a session with the class to teach the basics of searching on the Web using "search engines" (e.g., Yahoo!, Magellan, Excite, Lycos, and WebCrawler).

  3. Provide the students with a starting point on one the "meta-sites" (Websites with large master menus leading the browser to numerous other locations; e.g., ABZU or the Vatican Museums) and ask them to track down different sets of resources relevant to the course (e.g., documentary data, art work, archaeological sites, photographs) and have them integrate these resources into a class presentation.

  4. Encourage (require?) students to use Web materials as a resource for their research papers.

  5. Have students search the documents from the Ancient Near East (on ANET), classical Greece (on Perseus), or early Christianity (on Noncanonical Homepage, or Christian Classics Ethereal Library) for material relating to one of your upcoming lectures (e.g., ANE laws on homicide; healing in Greek writings; the archaeology of Caesarea; the sacred sites of Corinth).
  6. If you do not already know the basics of HTML or Web-design, coordinate with a Web instructor to teach them to the class in order to encourage their own Website construction.

  7. Break the class into small groups and have each group (or individual?) construct a Webpage which might include:

  8. Williams suggests having students evaluate some of the best Websites they discovered while browsing. This entails both data-gathering as well as critical thinking (even if it is not deeply philosophical). Keep in mind that he is addressing teachers from elementary through university-level. Issues he suggests the students address are:

  9. Create an on-line (e-mail) discussion group for the class (see O'Keefe, 1996).

  10. If you teach at a college or university with an Internet node, ask the academic computing center for the names of professors who are currently utilizing the Web in their teaching. If you teach in a school that uses a local university's Internet system, call that university's academic computing center for local contacts. Ask these other professors for suggestions on what has worked for them in the classroom. Reference librarians are also good resources for contacts and are often knowledgable about what is happening on campus.

  11. Get your department to work together in various ways:

    For an example of a departmental Website, see the one John O'Keefe constructed for the Theology Department at Creighton University:

    The WWW is another tool for the reseacher and teacher. It is not a substitute for anything, but an additional mode of communication, data-gathering, and creative presentation. It is simply to our advantage as scholars to broaden our access, present our material more imaginatively, and provide alternative media for learning.

    Glossary of Terms*

    [* My thanks to Jim Boyce for help on technical matters throughout this article]

    baud rate: the speed of transmitting computer data from one computer to another over telephone lines (see modem below)

    bookmark: a file with a URL name; browsers can create a whole list of files with URLs to which you want to return repeatedly; clicking your mouse on a bookmark means not having to type the URL each time

    browser: software (e.g., Netscape Navigator, HotJava, Mosaic, Arena, MacWeb) that facilitates moving around the Web with numerous functions (e.g., a place to type in the URLs of Websites, searching a Website by keywords, creating and deleting bookmarks, retracing your path, printing, stopping data transfers)

    case sensitive: the need to distinguish between lower case and upper case spellings; many URLs are case sensitive

    download: to transfer data from of one computer onto another

    FAQ: "Frequently Asked Questions"; a heading on many Website menus

    gif: "Graphics Interchange Format"; a type of file for graphic images which may be used on a Website; photos and other graphics have to be scanned and converted into a gif-file or a jpg-file in order to be loaded on a Webpage

    gopher: an Internet program that locates document sites (gopher sites) displayed as "tree-style" menu; gopher sites are accessible through the Web, but they are not hypertexts

    homepage: the initial page at a Website, often with a menu to other parts of the Website

    hotlist: a menu of links to other Websites

    html: "HyperText Mark-up Language"; the coding language used for creating Websites

    http: "HyperText Transfer Protocol"; the way Web pages are transferred over the Internet; every Web URL begins with http://

    hypertext: a document with links to other Websites, or activations of audio, video, or photo-enlargement features within the Website

    jpg or jpeg: a form of compressed graphic image file which may be loaded on a Website

    link: a place on a Website (identified by underlining, highlighting, coloring, or a button) to click the mouse to go to: 1) an enlargement of a graphic; 2) another part of the Webpage (including footnotes); or 3) to another Website; it is this series of links which make a Website a hypertext document

    modem: a piece of electronic hardware which allows two computers to communicate through phone lines; they are either "external modems" (a box plugged into the computer) or "internal modems" (a card plugged into the central board inside the computer); they are rated by how fast they communicate data, calculated as "baud rate" (e.g., 14,400 baud)

    node: a local mainframe computer at a school or company which acts as a connecting point for personal computers to the Internet

    scan: to electronically convert text or graphics into a computer file; this is accomplished with either a "hand scanner" which is rolled over the material, or with a "flatbed scanner" on which the material is placed like a photocopier; scanning requires a combination of hardware and software

    search engine: a software program which allows searches of the entire Web (e.g., Yahoo!, Magellan, Excite, Lycos, and WebCrawler)

    upload: to move data from your computer onto another computer, including a Website (see download)

    URL: "Universal Resource Locator"; the address of a Website; every Website's URL begins with http://

    Webpage: an entire Website or any particular section or division of a Website

    Website: a location of data files (text, graphics, video, or a combination of these) on a computer node accessible through the Web

    World Wide Web (WWW, W3, or the Web): a media system of interconnected Websites on the Internet; the Web allows the user to move from site to site (or section to section within a site) with the click of the mouse on a series of links


    Adair, James R. and Patrick Durusau
    1995 "Offline 49." Religious Studies News (May).


Backer, Patricia and Joseph K. Yabu
1994 "Hypermedia as an Instructional Resource." In Changing College Classrooms: New
Teaching and Learning Strategies for an Increasingly Complex World, 230-53. D. F.
Halpern, ed. Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series. San Francisco, CA:

Blurton, Craig
1994 "Using the Internet for Teaching, Learning, and Research." In Changing College
Classrooms: New Teaching and Learning Strategies for an Increasingly Complex
World, 191-212. D. F. Halpern, ed. Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series.
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bruce, Harry
1995 "Internet and Academic Teaching in Australia." Education for Information

Burke, John
1996 Learning the Internet: A Workbook for Beginners. New York: Neal-Schuman.

Campbell, Dave and Mary Campbell (e-mail:
1995 The Student's Guide to Doing Research on the Internet. Reading, MA: Addison-

Graham, Ian S.
1995 The HTML Sourcebook. New York: Wiley.

Karpinski, Richard
1996 Beyond HTML. Berkeley: Osborne McGraw-Hill.

Kent, Peter
1995 The Complete Idiot's Guide to the World Wide Web. Indianapolis, IN: Alpha.

Krol, Ed and Bruce C. Klopfenstein
1996 The Whole Internet User's Guide and Catalog. Academic ed. Nutshell Handbook.
Belmont, CA: Integra Media Group; Sebastapol, CA: O'Reilly.

Lemay, Laura
1995 Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML in a Week. Indianapolis, IN: Sams.

Levine, John R. and Carol Baroudi
1996 The Internet for Dummies. 2nd ed. Foster City, CA: IDG.

Levine, John R. and Margaret Levine Young
1996 More Internet for Dummies. Foster City, CA: IDG.

Manrique, Cecilia G.
1993 "Using Internetworking Rsources in the Political Science Classroom." Paper delivered
at the 1993 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (Washington,
D. C.).

McIlhone, James P. (e-mail:
1996 "Biblical Research Through the Internet." Paper delivered at 59th General Meeting of
the Catholic Biblical Association of America (University of St. Thomas).

Minatel, Jim
1995 Easy World Wide Web with Netscape. Indianapolis, IN: Que.

O'Keefe, John J. (e-mail:
1996 "The Virtual Classroom: Using an Electronic Discussion Group to Teach Theology."
Horizons: The Journal of the College Theology Society 23:296-305.

Page, Mary and Martin Kesselman
1993 "Teaching the Internet: Challenges and Opportunities." Research Strategies

Pask, Judith and Carl E Snow
1995 "Undergraduate Instruction and the Internet." Library Trends 44:306-17.

Pfaffenburger, Bryan
1996a Netscape Navigator 2.0: Surfing the Web and Exploring the Internet . Boston, MA:
AP Professional.

1996b World Wide Web Bible. 2nd ed. New York: MIS.

Rathbone, Tina
1996 Modems for Dummies. 2nd ed. Foster City, CA: IDG.

Reddick, Randy and Elliott King
1996 The Online Student: Making the Grade on the Internet. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich.

Rimmer, Steve
1996 The Internet Graphics Toolkit. New York: Mc-Graw Hill.

Seiter, Charles
1996 The Internet for Macs for Dummies Quick Reference. Foster City, CA: IDG.

Stoll, Clifford
1996 Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway . New York:

Taylor, Dave
1995 Creating Cool Web Pages with HTML. Foster City, CA: IDG.

Whipple, Bob (e-mail:
1996 "The World-Wide Web in Composition Instruction." Paper delivered at the Lilly
Seminar on Technology and Christian Education (Baylor University).

Williams, Bard (e-mail:
1995 The Internet for Teachers. Foster City, CA: IDG.

1996 The World Wide Web for Teachers. Includes CD-ROM. Foster City, CA: IDG.

Wilson, Stephen
1995 World Wide Web Design Guide. Indianapolis, IN: Hayden.

Resources Located on the Web

"Composing Good HTML"

"The HTML Quick Reference Guide"

"Introduction to HTML"

Copyright ©1996 K. C. Hanson
Last modified: 15 May 1997

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