Peter van der Veen on the Methodological Problems of Calling the Qeiyafa Discovery ‘David’s Palace’

Peter writes

Even though I would be thrilled to have a palace of king David at Khirbet Qeijafa, how can we jump so quickly to our conclusions as Yossi Garfinkel does? For me there is no doubt that David existed and that he was a powerful founder of a new dynasty in the 10th century BC (who surely cannot be compared to a deity called “Osiris”, me too I didn’t understand the logic of that one).

This however is a totally different thing than to say that:

a large building used apparently for storage belonged to David.

This could only work

a) if indeed the Iron Age I-IIA transition is firmly dated to first decades of the 10th century BC, which it might but there are a number of important considerations involved, which at present at least do imply that the transition may have come later (between 950-900 according to Finkelstein et al; c. 920-875 BC according to Ayyelet Gilboa based on radiometric dating at Tel Dor, very similar to the views expressed by the British school of archaeology and very much liked the still lower chronology of P. J. James et al who date its transition to c. 875/50 B.C.),

b) if Khirbet Qeijafa was indeed Israelite,

Both assumptions may be justified but due to existing doubts, we cannot simply assume things and jump to our wishful conclusions. Naturally such conclusions sound exciting and will help donators to be happier to finance our projects on the field or “prove” that David’s empire really existed.

As I said we cannot possible speak of proof as nowhere on any of the stones found in the “palace” (if this is what it was?) scribes engraved the sentence “made by King David”. If such inscriptions had been found, surely we would all know about it. It would be the 21st century sensation. But mute Syro-Palestine-Israelite archaeology hardly ever allows us to be that precise, even if I too would be very happy if indeed we could be more precise.

Without such straightforward inscriptions found within the same level of occupation, which precisely tell us who was the builder king etc., we cannot possibly prove anything.

This much can be said.

Best wishes

Peter van der Veen
University of Mainz

Sensible, isn’t he.