Israel Antiquities Authority
Popular Archaeology has a good essay on the several destructions of ancient Gezer:
The archaeological excavations being conducted at the site of ancient Gezer in northwestern Israel have recently revealed some tantalizing finds, one of which came as a surprise to excavators who just completed digging there during the summer of 2013.
“In this, the sixth season of excavation,” reports co-directors Steven Ortiz of the Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary and Samuel Wolff of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “one goal was to remove a portion of the city wall built in the Iron IIA period (10th century BCE) in order to investigate a Late Bronze age destruction level (ca. 1400 BCE) that lay below it. To the surprise of the team, in the process of excavating the city wall, an earlier wall system dating to the Iron Age I (1200-1000 BCE) was discovered.”*
The finding is significant in that it could provide possible new additional insight and evidential support for events recorded by the Biblical text relating to the king of Gezer organizing a Canaanite coalition against the Hebrew leader Joshua, and David’s battle with the Philistines where he pursued them “all the way to Gezer”, implying a close relationship between Canaanite Gezer and the Philistines during this period.
… More information about Gezer and the excavation project, and how one can participate, can be obtained at the project website.
And more on the site at the first link.
On Facebook, Keith writes
The most sensational of all recent claims is the press release from the Israel Antiquities Authority that King David’s palace and storerooms have been found at Khirbet Qeiyafa. But within days of the announcement—eagerly picked up by those who see it as proof of the biblical picture of a Davidic kingdom and a decisive blow to the so-called minimalists—more sober assessments raise serious questions about the discoveries.
The claims fit the same pattern as we have seen with other announcements, such as the inscribed jar from Jerusalem, where all evidence is forced to fit into the dominant model of a Davidic kingdom. There is nothing to link the building to David, it is not clear that it is a ‘palace’, and the IAA release notes that “unfortunately, much of this palace was destroyed c. 1,400 years later when a fortified farmhouse was built there in the Byzantine period.”
Even before this announcement, the site was being used to bolster the traditional claims about a centralized kingdom of David: “More recently, the excavation of a small, fortified town at Khirbet Qeiyafa, 20 miles from Jerusalem, has been interpreted as further proof that Jerusalem was the capital of a centralized state ruled by David. It is claimed that the town was inhabited by ‘Judaeans’. Yet there is nothing to link the site specifically to Jerusalem or other local towns. It is a prime example of the attempt to construct exclusive claims to the past, even when it is not clear what the make-up of the population was that inhabited the site or how it was connected to its local environment. Khirbet Qeiyafa looks like many small towns throughout the history of Palestine that have flourished for a short period of time and then disappeared from view.” (Rhythms of Time: Reconnecting Palestine’s Past, chapter 7).
Others have offered more sober reflections on the claims (thanks to Jim West for most of the links). In particular, Israel Finkelstein has raised the methodological problems involved in interpreting the site (http://www.academia.edu/1954502/Khirbet_Qeiyafa_An_Unsensational_Archaeological_and_Historical_Interpretation). Peter van der Veen points out that “we cannot possibly 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.” While David Willner has a much more scathing appraisal of the motivation behind such sensational claims (http://www.foundationstone.org/).
The political importance of the announcement should not be underestimated. Revealingly, the IAA states that “the exposure of the biblical city at Khirbet Qeiyafa and the importance of the finds discovered there have led the Israel Antiquities Authority to act together with the Nature and Parks Authority and the planning agencies to cancel the intended construction of a new neighborhood nearby and to promote declaring the area around the site a national park. This plan stems from the belief that the site will quickly become a place that will attract large numbers of visitors who will be greatly interested in it, and from it one will be able to learn about the culture of the country at the time of King David.” In true Orwellian style: ‘who controls the past
controls the future; who controls the present controls the past’.
“There is a long and continuing history of attempts to use archaeological discoveries—usually in the name of disinterested, academic scholarship—to bolster and shore up the Zionist foundation narrative. Invariably the interpretation of such discoveries ignores the rhythms of time.” (Rhythms of Time: Reconnecting Palestine’s Past, chapter 7).
The Times of Israel tells us
The Louvre museum in Paris opened its first-ever Israeli exhibit Thursday, displaying a 1,700-year-old mosaic floor that was recovered from a garbage dump near Lod in central Israel. The exhibition marks the first time the Israel Antiquities Authority is loaning objects to the renowned French museum. Shuka Dorfman, the director of the authority, said the exhibition was a wonderful opportunity for millions of visitors to see the masterpiece and learn about the history and archaeology of Israel, the Maariv daily reported.
Parisians, take note.
- Israeli 1,700-year-old Mosaic on Display at Louvre Museum (jewishpress.com)
With thanks to Charlotte Hempel for mentioning this story– which is must reading.
Last week, a peer-reviewed journal called the Restaurator published a controversial article about the Dead Sea Scrolls written by two Berlin-based scientists who charge that these sacred documents are not receiving proper care from the Israeli cultural institutions responsible for their well-being.
The article’s abstract does not mince words:
“Examination of the properties of the scrolls proves that frequent travel, exhibitions and the associated handling induce collagen deterioration that is covered up by the absence of a proper monitoring program.”
“I want the scrolls to be protected,” says Ira Rabin, who co-authored the piece entitled “Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibitions Around The World: Reasons For Concern” with her colleague Oliver Hahn at the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing.
The 20-page document specifically criticizes the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, who hold responsibility for a majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Both defend their treatment of the scrolls (detailed below).
But first, the criticisms. Rabin and Hahn argue in the Restaurator that:
1. The Dead Sea Scrolls are being exhibited far too much, and that the consequent travel and handling is seriously accelerating their degradation. The authors show that there’s been a substantial increase in international exhibitions in the past two decades.
Read the whole- their criticisms are totally valid. The Scrolls are treated the same way that Leopold Mozart treated Wolfgang- dragging him all over Europe like a trained monkey.
Aren’s reaction to Burleigh’s aforementioned essay is soundly negative. It seems to me on the basis of her using the term ‘archaeologist’ of Jacobovici and Zias.
He’s entitled to his reaction and I do understand it. Truly. But it raises questions for me which I’ve posed to Aren and which I reiterate here in hopes that actual dirt archaeologists will answer them:
So, to Aren and all:
Don’t you think that to the extent that Jacobovici portrays himself as an archaeologist (albeit naked), in the view of the larger public he is perceived as such? And, consequently, worth refuting on the basis of his claims to such knowledge?
I’m not trying to start a feud, just interested in how arcaheologists think Simcha and other non experts ought to be dealt with- or do they think they should just be ignored? And if so, then isn’t the public just left with a false impression and misinformation? And isn’t it the job of actual archaeologists to say something to disabuse the public of falsehood?
What i’m really interested- genuinely interested in knowing is – what is their view concerning archaeology’s obligations to the public which funds it?
Eric Meyers has already offered his reasoned viewpoint in Nina’s piece. Anyone else?
- A Feud Between Biblical Archaeologists Goes to Court (world.time.com)
The Times of Israel informs us that
A 2,750-year-old temple and a cache of sacred vessels from biblical times were discovered in an archaeological excavation near
Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday.
The finds, unearthed at Tel Motza on the western outskirts of the capital, date from the early monarchic period and include pottery figurines of men and horses, providing rare evidence for the existence of a ritual cult in the Jerusalem region at the beginning of the Judean monarchy. The precise significance of the figurines is still unknown.
Even if the date is correct, ca. 750 BCE can hardly be called ‘Davidic Era’. It appears to be simply an attempt to grab the public’s attention (or worse, the author of the piece doesn’t know when the ‘Davidic Era’ would have been). That said, it’s a pretty nifty find after all and may well show, at the end of the day, that polytheism was practiced in the 8th century (and may support the prophetic denunciations of such idolatry).
“The ritual building at Tel Motza is an unusual and striking find, in light of the fact that there are hardly any remains of ritual buildings of the period in Judea at the time of the First Temple,” said excavation directors Anna Eirikh, Hamoudi Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz. They said the structure’s uniqueness was enhanced by the site’s proximity to Jerusalem, which was the kingdom’s main center and the seat of kings David and Solomon.
An IAA statement described the walls of the structure as massive, and said it includes a wide, east-facing entrance, conforming to the tradition of temple construction in the ancient Near East: the rays of the sun rising in the east would have illuminated the objects placed inside the temple, symbolizing the divine presence within. A square structure which was probably an altar was exposed in the temple courtyard, and the cache of sacred vessels was found near the structure. The assemblage includes ritual pottery vessels, with fragments of chalices (bowls on high bases which were used in sacred rituals), decorated ritual pedestals, and a number of pottery figurines.
There’s more, which do read.
In consultation with experts ‘on the ground’ I have learned that-
1. The area of the Tel Aviv excavation is on the “City of David” ridge (and known as such for the last century): this ridge was excavated by the late Yigal Shiloh on behalf of the Hebrew University in the 1980s (Area E of his dig).
2. Calling this place Silwan, as Haaretz has done without explaining its exact location, is intentionally misleading political spin. The village of Silwan is located to the east of the Kidron ravine.
3. The dig is a cooperative effort of Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority and IS NOT connected with any other organization, will not be financed by any other organization, and will not receive orders or guidance from anyone, including Elad!
5. There is only one purpose for this dig: to better understand the history of Jerusalem through the ages.
6. The dig will, therefore, naturally be carried out in accordance with the highest professional standards which characterizes all of Tel Aviv’s field-research. It will be open to all visitors and will strive to cooperate with the people living in the area.
7. However it is essential to note that the area is not inhabited. The closest Palestinian houses are around 70 meters to the east (that is, all the way over on the other side of the ravine); others are about 200 meters to the north; and still others are far to the south (far enough, in fact, that they cannot even be seen from Area E). And, finally, there are still other homes around 150 meters to the west, on the top of the ridge (see the photo to the right, and click to enlarge).
Still further insight into Tel Aviv’s work at the location can be found in Israel Finkelstein’s essay in Forward Magazine titled In the Eye of Jerusalem’s Archaeological Storm.
All in all, then, not only is the petition floating around contra Tel Aviv University’s work at the City of David inappropriate, it is founded upon numerous egregious errors and misstatements of fact.