Changes at Megiddo

About a month ago our friend Eric Cline, co-director of the Expedition, wrote to me to announce his wish to retire from the Megiddo operation. Eric is busy with many duties as co-director at Kabri, now editor of BASOR, teacher, researcher, author and above all, family man, and all this has become a bit too much for him. I answered my friend Eric with warm words – to thank him for his over 20 years contribution to the success of the Megiddo Expedition and for his friendship.
As a result of Eric’s decision, we had to take decisions regarding the future management of the Expedition. Margaret, Sivan, Matt, Mario and I met today and decided as follows:
1. Starting in the season of 2016 (well, effectively as of today), the Expedition is directed by Israel Finkelstein, Matthew Adams and Mario Martin. 
2. This means that Matt takes over the management of the Megiddo consortium.
For me personally it is with great satisfaction that I see two of my Megiddo students (one of them joined at the age of 18!) become co-directors.
Again, I am sure that I am speaking on behalf of all of us to thank Eric for his many years with us and wish him the best in the coming years; as I told him earlier today, he will remain a prominent member of the House of Lords of Megiddo/Armageddon…
Israel Finkelstein

Migration of Israelites into Judah after 720 BCE: An Answer and an Update

Israel Finkelstein’s latest essay, appearing in ZAW-

The theory of migration of Israelites into Judah after the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 720 BCE emerged from biblical scholarship in an attempt to explain the impact of Israelite ideas on pivotal theological stances in the Hebrew Bible. It was then supported by archaeological work, which indicates dramatic demographic growth in Jerusalem and the various regions of Judah in the later part of the 8th century BCE. In a recent article in the ZAW, Nadav Na’aman dismissed this reconstruction as invalid, based on a different interpretation of the archaeological data.

ZAW 2015; 127(2): 188–206.



Summary. The temporal and spatial distribution of metal production remains from Hazor was used in this study to sketch the development of metalworking (bronze, iron and silver) at this important site. The remains attest to a long sequence of metalworking at Hazor, from the Middle Bronze Age through to the Iron Age, and significantly highlight the transition from bronze to iron production and the mode of bronze production after the transition had been completed.

It has appeared in the OXFORD JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY 33(1) 19–45 2014. Interested persons should lay hands on it.

Chris Rollston on “The Ninth Century ‘Moabite Pedestal Inscription’ from King Mesha’s Ataruz: Preliminary Synopsis of an Excavated Epigraphic Text and its Biblical Connections”

The site of Khirbet Ataruz is located in modern Jordan, on the ridge of Jebel Hamida, with Wadi Zarqa Ma‘in to the north and Wadi Wala to the south. Khirbet Ataruz is located some fourteen kilometers to the northwest of Dhiban. The site has been known for some time (e.g., Glueck 1939; Schottroff 1966; Timm 1980; Niemann 1985), but Chang-Ho Ji is the first to conduct full scale excavations at the site (Ji 2012). During the process of these ongoing excavations, Ji discovered a pedestal (arguably of an incense altar) with an inscription on it (cf. the inscribed incense altar from Mudeyineh, Dion and Daviau 2000). Significantly, the archaeological context for this inscription from Ataruz was an Iron Age II Temple, with a striking assemblage of cultic objects (Ji 2012; cf. also Finkelstein and Lipschits 2010; Finkelstein and Lipschits 2011).

Shortly after the initial discovery, Chang-Ho Ji requested that I analyze and publish the inscription and I accepted this gracious invitation. Moreover, because of the complex nature of this inscribed pedestal, particularly, the presence of several sets of hieratic numerals, I have since brought Stefan Wimmer and P.Kyle McCarter in to assist with the publication. The editio princeps will be completed during 2014, co-authored by the three of us, with formal publication probably appearing during late 2014 or early 2015 (e.g., ADAJ and also something such as Levant, ZDPV, BASOR, or Maarav). This preliminary synopsis, however, is something I have written, based primarily on the document that I previously submitted to the Department of Antiquities of Jordan when I agreed to publish it. I wish to express again my gratitude to the Department of Antiquities of Jordan and to Excavator Chang-Ho Ji for permission to publish it.

And off he goes.  As always, a Rollston read is a worthwhile read.

A Statement By the Faculty of Tel Aviv University Concerning an Advert in Biblical Archaeology Review

Oded Lipschits has sent along this public statement:

Statement by faculty members of the Marco and Sonia Nadler Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University, regarding the alleged use of mechanical excavator at Tel Socoh

A defamatory, anonymous paid advertisement, alleging that Prof. Yuval Goren of the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University has used a mechanical excavator to “pillage stratigraphy” in the excavation of Tel Socoh in the Shephelah, has again been published in the Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR). Those who read BAR should note that:

1. There was no use of a mechanical excavator on Tel Socoh.

2. The slide shown in the ad illustrates work carried out in a wadi near the mound, as a sequel to a systematic manual excavation from surface to natural soil nearby. The sounding was aimed at detecting pottery and slag in the vicinity of the site. This method is authorized (and endorsed) by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

3. This is a common method in archaeology. Most seasoned archaeologists – regardless of period of research, location on the globe, and institutional affiliation – use mechanical excavators in certain, closely controlled circumstances.

Signed: Oded Lipschits, Erez Ben Yosef, Shlomo Bunimovitz, Yoram Cohen, Alexander Fantalkin, Israel Finkelstein, Moshe Fischer, Yuval Gadot, Amir Gilan, Raphael Greenberg, Zeev Herzog, Dafna Langgut, Nadav Na’aman, Benjamin Sass, Deborah Sweeney, Oren Tal

Frankly, and personally, I think BAR has crossed the line with this egregious and defamatory advert.  They may not be responsible for its content, but they stand morally indicted for publishing it.

For the backstory of this public statement- see here.

In Which Finkelstein and Na’aman Respond to Ussishkin

They write, in ANTIGUO ORIENTE 10 (2012)

We are writing regarding the insinuated allegations against Oded Lipschits which appear in the Epilogue of David Ussishkin’s article in this volume. About a year ago (16/4/2012), Ussishkin sent a letter to one of us (Finkelstein), in his capacity as the Editor of Tel Aviv, with the same allegations.

From thence they dismantle Ussishkin’s argument. With many thanks to the witty and gifted Ido Koch for the tip and text.

Pig Husbandry in Iron Age Israel

Newly published-

Lidar Sapir-Hen, Guy Bar-Oz, Yuval Gadot and Israel Finkelstein, Pig Husbandry in Iron Age Israel and Judah: New Insights Regarding the Origin of the “Taboo”, ZDPV 129.

Here’s the opening:

The biblical prohibition against the consumption of pork (Lev 11:7; Deut 14:8), observed in Judaism for over two millennia, is the reason for the special attention paid to the appearance of pig bones in Iron Age strata in the southern Levant. Scholars have assumed that archaeology can shed light on the date of the emergence of this taboo, its role in the shaping of Israelite identity and its function in forming cultural boundaries with neighboring cultures. HESSE reviewed the zooarchaeological data and demonstrated that pig frequencies at sites from the Iron Age are very low, except for Philistine sites, which showed a dramatic increase in pig bones in the Iron Age I. Yet HESSE and WAPNISH concluded that, due to the diverse factors influencing pig frequencies, the absence / presence of this species is insufficient to distinguish between groups of different ethnic origins.

The absence of pig bones at Iron Age I sites in the highlands and their exceptional abundance at contemporaneous Philistian sites had an enormous impact and scholars assumed that all early Israelites did not consume pork throughout the Iron Age 4. FINKELSTEIN argued that the absence / presence of pigs may be the only way to shed light on ethnic boundaries in the Iron Age I 5. However, the accumulation of new data in the 20 years following these influential articles has revealed new and intriguing patterns regarding pig husbandry in the Iron Age, placing the older assumptions regarding pig consumption in the Iron Age in question.

By reviewing the new data, we wish to question the notion that pork consumption is a way to distinguish Israelites / Canaanites from Philistines.

With thanks to Israel for pointing it out.

Israel Finkelstein’s New Book- Le Royaume Biblique Oublié

finkel_frenchHe writes

Le Royaume Biblique Oublié was published in Paris by Odile Jacob for the College de France. The book is an outcome of a series of lectures on the Northern Kingdom given by me in the College last February at the initiative of Thomas Romer.

He also suggests that it will be out in English in a year or so.

A Very Happy Birthday to Israel Finkelstein, Israel’s Premier Archaeologist

yosefgarfinkel-finkelsteinToday is, in case you didn’t know it, Israel Finkelstein‘s birthday.  Born March 29, 1949, he today celebrates his 64th.  So to him, a very happy birthday wish from those of us who have learned so much from him and benefited by his insightful reconstructions of Israel’s history.  If you haven’t familiarized yourself with his work, I recommend The Quest for the Historical IsraelThe Bible Unearthed DVD (that’s one fantastic work my friends!), and of course The Bible Unearthed in printed form.  Moreover, he’s on (where all the coolest kids are) and has uploaded a number of his very fine, very informative papers for your perusal.  You can find them here.

Happy birthday, Israel!

Israel Finkelstein et al on ‘Torpedo Amphoras’

PHOENICIAN “TORPEDO” AMPHORAS AND EGYPT: STANDARDIZATION OF VOLUME BASED ON LINEAR DIMENSIONS- in Ägypten und Levante/Egypt and the Levant 21, 2011, 249–259, By Israel Finkelstein, Elena Zapassky, Yuval Gadot, Daniel M. Master, Lawrence E. Stager, and Itzhak Benenson

amphThe emergence of global trading networks during the Iron Age demanded the development of sophisticated measuring techniques. Standardization of containers (usually storage jars) was especially important for controlling quantities of commodities and for efficient storage inside ships. The “torpedo” storage jars, manufactured in Phoenicia in the 8th century BCE, are a case in point. This paper deals with a large number of torpedo storage jars found in two shipwrecks off the coast of Ashkelon. The linear dimensions and volume of 20 jars that were retrieved from the two shipwrecks were analyzed in Egyptian units. These vessels were compared to torpedo storage jars found in contemporary land sites excavations. It was determined that a torpedo jar whose cylindrical part is ~1 cubit in height and ~1 cubit and 2 palms in circumference “guarantees” a volume of 4 hekats, meaning that their volume could have easily been estimated and that the level of standardization was high. The choice by Phoenician manufactures to use Egyptian units was probably shaped by the Egyptian consumers.

I appreciate Israel sending a copy.

NOVA is Re-Airing ‘Quest for Solomon’s Mines’

quest-solomons-mines-viThis special is airing tomorrow evening, December 26, at 10 PM on PBS, though it first aired in November of 2010.  It’s really quite good- and far and away miles superior to the bible themed specials which air on Discovery or History Channel.  I live blogged it when it first aired and Israel Finkelstein also had a few observations to make concerning it.  If you are looking for something to watch tomorrow- give this a look.  Again, it’s quite well done.

Elad and The Manipulation of Facts in Silwan

An interesting essay today over on Art Info which contains this usefully instructive paragraph which so nicely encapsulates what Elad is all about:

A 2006 report by Ir Amim, a left-wing advocacy group focused on Jerusalem, described one instance in which Dr. Eilat Mazar, an archaeologist working at a dig funded by Elad, claimed to have found the pipe that David’s warriors traveled through when they conquered the city. This was despite the fact that many scholars — including Ronny Reich, an archaeologist at Haifa University who worked at the same site — were skeptical that David or Solomon had ever been there. On another occasion, Reich uncovered a Byzantine water pit and was instructed by Elad to present it as the cistern of Malkijah, the pit Jeremiah was thrown into by the son of Zedekiah, the king of Judah, according to the Old Testament. For weeks, the attribution was listed on the website and echoed by tour guides, even though Reich himself said that it was “nonsense.”

More scathing:

A Google search of the group’s founder, David Be’eri, leads to multiple stories about the day he passed through Silwan in a silver four-door sedan and was confronted by Palestinian youths throwing stones. He struck two of them with his car and drove off, later claiming he had felt he was in danger and was trying to flee. Though both boys avoided serious injury, the incident was broadcast on Al Jazeera as well as Israeli television, and in numerous clips on YouTube.

It’s hard to imagine how an organization whose leader is best known for running over Palestinian children with his car could invite itself into archaeology, a field in which professionals pride themselve in being almost tediously objective. In recent years, however, Elad has managed to do just that, funding public education projects in Silwan that would make viewers believe that politics was not Elad’s concern.

And then this:

Because of the drama of archaeology in Jerusalem, in addition to the sizable funds it provides for research areas like Silwan, researchers like Reich have frequently found themselves forced to answer difficult questions about cooperating with Elad. Israel Finkelstein, a professor of archaeology at TAU who is involved in the work at Silwan and is described among colleagues as “center-left,” gave a notably guarded answer when I asked him if he had qualms about doing archaeological work in which Elad was involved. “I have always kept distance from politics, so I am not going to answer this question,” he wrote in an email. “My only interest is to better understand archaeology and history. In order to make things clear, let me add that: 1) the Tel Aviv University dig will be carried out as a joint venture with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA); no other body will be involved in the dig; 2) Tel Aviv University and its Institute of Archaeology work according to law.”

I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that if Israel Finkelstein is involved everything done will be on the level.  Even if Elad attempts to exert influence.  Finkelstein is not the sort of person who can be pushed around.  This, I know.

And then this:

Rafael Greenberg, another professor of archaeology at TAU who has stood out for his opposition to the university’s involvement in Silwan, regularly expressed concerns about Elad’s involvement to his colleague Ronny Reich, who, recently, has become the head of the IAA’s archaeological council. “Whenever I told them he was being used by the settlers,” he told ARTINFO, “He’d say, ‘No, I’m using them.’”

Speaking over the phone last week, Greenberg repeated his feelings about Elad’s presence in the area, as well as the public relations concerns of TAU’s involvement. Part of what made him want to speak reporters, as it turned out, was how unconvincing he thought TAU’s message will be to Palestinian Silwanis, whose anxieties about losing their home might overlap with anxieties about being evicted from history. “No amount of spin or declarative sentences saying ‘we’re not being part of it,’ is going to change that, unless they actively dissociate themselves from that project,” he said. “It has to be a completely new concept, in order to carry out an excavation that is not associated with the settlers, with the Israeli view of history.”

Plus loads more which those interested in the subject will surely wish to read. I’ll only suggest, in conclusion, that Elad is agenda driven and that’s as plain as the nose on my face.

Khirbet Qeiyafa: An Unsensational Archaeological and Historical Interpretation

Israel Finkelstein’s essay from Tel Aviv is available for one and all here.

The article deals with the finds at the late Iron I settlement of Khirbet Qeiyafa, a site overlooking the Valley of Elah in the Shephelah. It points out the methodological shortcomings in both field work and interpretation of the finds. It then turns to several issues related to the finds: the identity of the inhabitants, their territorial affiliation and the possibility of identifying Khirbet Qeiyafa with sites mentioned in the Bible and in the Shoshenq I list.


Recent Essays Published by Israel Finkelstein


The article deals with Stratum VIIa at Tell el-Farah (North), location of biblical Tirzah. This layer should be dated to the very late Iron I and the early phase of the Iron IIA, meaning that it covers the early days of the Northern Kingdom in the late 10th and early 9th centuries BCE. Stratum VIIa features a sparsely built, comparatively poor, unfortified settlement that seems to have expanded over a relatively small part of the mound – an area of ca. one hectare of the acropolis. This settlement served as the seat of the early kings of Israel, and thus much can be learned from it about the nature of the territorial kingdoms of the Levant in their formative stage. What we know about Tirzah reflects on other capitals in the region at that time—first and foremost Jerusalem.

And the second, from the Journal of Archaeological Science- Human impact around settlement sites: a phytolith and mineralogical study for assessing site boundaries, phytolith preservation, and implications for spatial reconstructions using plant remains, with Dan Cabanes, Yuval Gadot, Maite Cabanes, Steve Weiner, and Ruth Shahack-Gross.

Defining the extent of human activity around settlement sites is of particular significance in archaeology as it may define peripheral activity areas and thus the site’s boundary. In Near Eastern archaeology, site boundaries are usually defined by the presence of architectural and other macroscopic archaeological remains. Here we use the phytolith concentrations and morphotype assemblages, as well as changes in the mineralogical composition of the sediments in and around the small Iron Age site of Izbet Sartah in central Israel to determine the site boundaries. The site has a shallow stratigraphy and highly bioturbated sediments. Coincidental changes in the clay/quartz ratio and phytolith concentrations define the boundary between high and low impact anthropogenic activities. This boundary is generally some 20 m away from the architectural remains. In addition, we note that the phytoliths in the site’s core show clear evidence of having been affected by chemical dissolution (i.e., diagenesis), while those in the vicinity of the site’s boundary have undergone severe diagenesis. These observations indicate that phytolith diagenesis will affect site boundaries determination, as well as phytolith-based reconstructions of activity areas. We propose that phytolith preservation depends on the initial amount of available silica, the depth of burial with respect to the active root area of modern vegetation, and the presence of fresh phytoliths in the soil.

With thanks to the good Professor for sending along a copy of both.