Sunday, June 25, 2017

June 25, 2017, column:
Kentucky exhibits will stimulate your thinking
By Mike Haynes
            On vacation in the “hollers” of eastern Kentucky, in the heart of Hatfield-McCoy feud country, you wouldn’t expect to see a world-class archeological exhibit from Israel.
            Yet that’s exactly what Kathy and I toured this summer in Pikeville, Kentucky.
Khirbet El-Maqatir Exhibit Director
Tommy Chamberlin displays potsherds
at least 2,000 years old at the York House
in Pikeville, Kentucky, this month.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)
            We were interested in how Kathy’s mom, Peggy, is kin to the McCoys – by marriage, it turns out. And cousin Joey took us on a fun and fascinating survey of Hatfield-McCoy sites, including the location of the “hog trial” that escalated the violence.
            But in the restored 1870s York House, two doors down from the final home of feud participant Randolph McCoy, we saw artifacts that were quite a bit older than the house.
          A brick, about a foot square, from Nebuchadnezzar’s temple in Babylon was one of hundreds of items in a temporary exhibit in this university town of 7,300 people. On the brick, dated about 570 B.C., is a cuneiform inscription of the biblical king’s name.
            We saw a “tear-catcher,” maybe three inches high, from 2,000 years ago. The ancients used the little glass bottles to capture their tears – sometimes to place in tombs to honor the dead.
              We got to hold in our hands a couple of items, including sling stones from the Roman era but similar to those of King David’s time 1,000 years before. These stones were up to tennis ball size and heavy; it’s easy to see how much damage they could have done to Goliath’s forehead at more than 100 mph.
            Most of the artifacts, on display at least until late summer, are from digs at the Khirbet El-Maqatir site north of Jerusalem, which has yielded material from four time periods. The latest artifacts are from a Byzantine monastery (A.D. 375-525), and the oldest date to a Bronze Age fortress (1500-1406 B.C.)
Archeologists with the Associates for Biblical Research
estimate that this sling stone is from the Roman period
in Israel, or about 2,000 years old.It’s on display
at the Khirbet El-Maqatir Exhibit in Pikeville, Kentucky.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)
            Exhibit Director Tommy Chamberlin told us that archeologists with the Associates for Biblical Research believe the site not only may be the location of the Old Testament city of Ai, conquered by Joshua, but also the New Testament village of Ephraim. John 11:54 says Jesus “withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his
disciples” before entering Jerusalem for his trial and crucifixion.
            So Kathy and I may have handled some pottery sherds that Jesus or his followers touched. Probably not, but maybe.
            The enthusiastic Chamberlin was leaving days later for another dig in Israel, but we had more history in store right there in Kentucky. After the family visit near Pikeville, Kathy, Peggy and I made a stop at the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter in northern Kentucky, near Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Ark Encounter near Williamstown, Kentucky
is a complete museum with three decks of exhibits.
The full-size Noah’s Ark between Cincinnati, Ohio,
and Lexington, Kentucky, is 510 feet long,
85 feet wide and 51 feet tall.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)

            Again, we were pleasantly surprised. I’ll admit, I didn’t expect Disney-like quality from the two Christian attractions, but that’s what we got, from first-rate animations depicting the biblical flood to the 510-foot-long ark built to the specs of Genesis.
            Whether you believe the literal interpretation of Genesis as the museum and ark creators do, both sights – at separate locations 45 miles apart – are worth the admission fees. The museum has beautiful, Universal Studios-worthy depictions of the Garden of Eden plus an outdoor petting zoo and much more. The red serpent certainly is creepy.
Noah lets a dove go through a skylight in this
static display inside the Ark Encounter
near Williamstown, Kentucky.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)
            The ark is basically a three-floor walking museum showing what it might have been like for Noah, his family and all those animals living for a year on the immense vessel. Hundreds of pottery jugs, wooden cages and lifelike animals fill in details left out in the biblical account.
            Of course, the modern version is air-conditioned and has plenty of restrooms – and a gift shop, of course.
            Plus, it includes dinosaurs; but even if you’re skeptical that those reptiles and humans lived at the same time, this ark is worth seeing.
            Before guests exit either the Creation Museum or the ark, they have a chance to read wall displays tying in the entire Christian narrative from creation to the story of Jesus and how it applies today.
            Cousin Joey recalled how his aunt never wanted to leave the steep hills of eastern Kentucky. She would place her hands in a V-shape, indicating those hills on each side of her “holler,” and say that in that valley, she felt safe in the hands of God.

            Whatever your specific beliefs about the Creator, Kentucky offers plenty of opportunity to stimulate your thinking.