Most of M&D’s LMLK Handles Were Found In Shiloh’s Area G

Looking at the list of lmlk handles found in the excavations of Macalister and Duncan, I noticed the letters “NB” in four of the designations of five lmlk handles. As I found in this article, “NB” was Macalister and Duncan’s acronym for North Bastion, that is, the Stepped Stone Structure. Thus, M&D’s “NBS” are the steps of the SSS, the lmlk handles found there originating either from the area of the House of Ahiel and Burnt Room or from a collapse from the area of E. Mazar’s excavation area. “NBF”, meanwhile, likely means the front (even more likely, face) of the Stepped Stone Structure, precisely the area of the House of Ahiel and Burnt Room probably in the excavation area mentioned on pages 50-51, which cut into the debris made by the cutting of the trench for the construction of the North Hasmonean tower, which was dumped on the northern face of the SSS. If I remember correctly (I am sure GM Grena can refute or support the products my memory), lmlk handles have also been found in Shiloh’s excavations in his Area G (the whole SSS-House of Ahiel area). The find spots of M&D’s lmlk handles explain the fact that M&D found lmlk handles even though E. Mazar found no Iron IIb remains in her excavation area upslope of Area G except in two loci (and, of course, the fill underneath the Northern Hasmonean tower).

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Avi Faust’s Misguided Responses to Finkelstein in His BAR Article On Large Stone Structure

Avi Faust has more or less recently published a BAR article restating his 2010 views on the Large Stone Structure with some responses to some of the points raised by Israel Finkelstein in 2011. Needless to say, I strongly recommend you watch my video on the Large and Stepped Stone structures before attempting to figure the issues out for yourselves. Also, read my post combining Macalister and Duncan’s plans with the modern ones. You could also look in the YouTube comments to see how I deal with criticism.

Now that you’ve watched the video, you may readily anticipate mine (and Israel Finkelstein’s) responses to Faust’s responses. While I am no archaeologist, I think I can anticipate the next volley in the debate from half a mile away.

Firstly, the stratified Iron I layers provide us only a terminus post quem for the dating of the construction of the Large Stone Thing, as no floors were found in those layers. They are certainly not a terminus ante quem, as Faust seems to think, as Late Bronze sherds were also recovered in the Brown Earth Accumulation, and we know Jerusalem did not have a substantial population in the Late Bronze, and Middle Bronze sherds were recovered in the Brown Earth Accumulation in Mazar’s excavation area in the first season of excavations. This is, for some reason, not recognized by Faust. There are also, as Finkelstein pointed out, Early Iron IIa sherds in the Brown Earth Accumulation below (Finkelstein 2011 pg. 7) the Large Stone Thing, demonstrating the LSS was constructed in the mid-tenth C BC or later.

Secondly, contra Faust, Finkelstein does not claim all the Iron Age materials are limited to half a room; he merely described it as being the only architecture that could be associated with the Iron Age remains. Also contra Faust, Finkelstein does note that Iron I metallurgical waste abuts the structure and accepts this as evidence of Iron I architecture below the Hasmonean city wall (Finkelstein 2011 pg. 6).

Thirdly, the connection between the Large and Stepped Stone structures is not as certain as Faust thinks; the upper two or three courses of the SSS were added by Jordanian authorities, as Finkelstein demonstrates. Besides, while the lower part of the SSS certainly dates to between the 11th and 8th centuries BC, the upper part may have been constructed by the Hasmoneans to help prevent slope erosion. The Iron IIa remains found in the so-called ‘floors’ of the buildings above the lower part of the SSS may or may not have been parts of fills. Lastly, the Iron IIa remains found in Locus 47 (in Room C) were very likely parts of a fill, as Iron IIb remains were found below them and Iron IIb-c remains are only found in one other locus of E. Mazar’s excavation (and, of course, in the fill beneath the northern Hasmonean tower).

Faust also seems not to recognize that, as I pointed out when discussing Macalister and Duncan’s book, Duncan and Macalister point out that, compared to the Perso-Hellenistic period, little Iron Age material was found in their excavation areas. While M&D’s excavations may explain the lack of Perso-Hellenistic material in Mazar’s excavation area, they do not explain the lack of Iron II material, which Macalister and Duncan believed was due to Maccabean removal of earlier material “by violence”. If, as Faust speculates, the absence of Iron IIb-c material was due to the abandonment of the Fortress of Zion (as Faust considers the LSS to be part of that fortress), what was an empty field doing in the middle of Josiah’s East Jerusalem? My explanation for the absence of Iron IIb-c remains was that they were removed by the Hasmonean builders of the Large Stone Structure and the Hasmonean pottery was thoroughly cleared out by the domestic Herodian-era occupants of Mazar’s excavation area.

The Lachish Incense Burners

Two large incense burners can be seen in the Sennacherib Lachish relief. The question is, what were these incense burners used for? Several answers have been proposed by scholars. The first of these, the option that the burners were used in a temple, is rather unlikely, given that Hezekiah very likely instituted cultic reforms throughout Judah, and would not have allowed a temple to exist even at such an important place as Lachish. The second of these; that the burners were used for a shrine not used for sacrifice, is possible, though there is as of yet no archaeological evidence for this shrine. The third, and, to me, most likely possibility regarding the Lachish incense burners were that they served a wholly secular role in the governor’s residence (the “palace-fort”), being used as simple fumigation stands to mask the constant smell of dung of the ancient world.

Here‘s another incense burner displayed in an entirely different context  on a relief of Merenptah attacking Ashkelon, being portrayed as a sign of Canaanite desperation, the incense apparently being given to a god of the heavens as an offering. This demonstrates incense burners had a cultic role even in pre-Israelite Canaan.

Ezekiel’s Gog

My original formulation was that the Gog of Genesis 10 and Ezekiel 38-9 was representative of Gyges, that is, Lydia. After (incorrectly) thinking that Tabal was to the East of the Halys, the border between Media and Lydia, and that Meshech was to the East of the Halys as well, and correctly thinking Cilicia/Tabal/Tubal was independent in the early 6th Century BC, I temporarily discarded my Lydian hypothesis, making Gog out to be some border chieftain or king, most likely of Kerkenes/Pteria. I have now, after consulting a map of the area, reverted to my former position, as Tabal is on the south side of the Halys and the term Meshech was used by the Assyrians to refer to Midas’s Kingdom of Gordion, which was surely controlled by the Lydians in the early 6th century BC. Thus, I view Ezekiel as prophesying a thriving, large, Lydian Empire attacking a restored people of Israel living in the hill country of their inheritance (former Judah and Babylonian-period Samaria). “Gog” is just a placeholder name for a Lydian king. Needless to say, Ezekiel’s prophecy was not fulfilled; both Pteria and Lydia were annexed by Cyrus sometime between Cyrus’s probable conquest of Urartu in 547 BC and the conquest of Babylon in 539 BC.

Map of The Area:

A Very Wrong-Headed Review of TBU

I have recently come across this review of the ever-famous book by Finkelstein and Silberman, that is The Bible Unearthed (TBU). It is written by Richard Hess, a moderately famous maximalist and Christian.

The review starts immediately off the wrong foot by claiming

Of all periods of biblical history, that of the patriarchs is the most controversial.

-If he means “most contradictory to the fundamentalist position”, I would agree. If he means “controversial” in the scholarly sense, I strongly disagree with his claim, as it is unanimously accepted in the secular academic world that the Patriarchal stories did not literally happen.

The rest of Hess’s paragraph on the Patriarchs is fully correct, except for

As for the Philistines, it may be that this name (like the Aramaeans) was applied to people living in the regions where the Philistines would later settle. Thus it is an updating of the account to make it understandable to readers of a later period.

-There is no evidence the Genesis account was written (or, at least, developed) long ago enough to render the mentions of the Philistines and Arameans as later updatings. Gerar was an over-30 acre city-state in the Middle Bronze; it was also a fairly notable Middle Iron IIc town.

On the Exodus, Hess makes some legitimate points, but messes up again, stating

No one has ever proven the renowned Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen wrong when he affirmed that the sale price for a slave such as Joseph was twenty shekels of silver according to Gen. 37:28. This amount for a slave was customary in the first half of the second millennium B.C. but unknown at later periods, including the era of the seventh century.

-Needless to say, all of Kitchen’s data for slave prices comes from rich cuneiform-using lands such as Ugarit and Mesopotamia. Judah was a poor land with far less silver per person than in Assyria, Mari, or Ugarit. Perhaps slave prices in 8th-7th C BC Egypt and Judah were lower than in Mesopotamia.

Again, only in the thirteenth century B.C. was it known for the pharaoh of Egypt to have his capital in the eastern Delta region, the only region in Egypt that would allow for Moses and Aaron to visit pharaoh and return on the same day to the oppressed Israelites working on the cities of Pithom and Ramesses.

-A falsehood. How does one spell צֹ֫עַן?*

These are just two illustrations of customs that are unique to the traditional periods assigned to these narratives. The absence of any attempt to identify and address contrary evidence is a symptom problemmatic (sic) to the type of scholarship that pervades this book (sic)

-The lack of critical thinking, correct punctuation, and correct spelling, are symptoms which are problematic of the type of scholarship that pervades this review.

Even if the number of Israelites was considerably smaller than 600, 000 warriors, it would be impossible for the Israelites to pass through the desert without a trace (pp. 62-63). However, that is exactly what many tribes have done for millennia.

-The moment an archaeologist finds archaeological evidence of modern armies passing through the central Sinai, this statement is quickly rendered irrelevant and misleading. If only a thousand people somehow managed to more than double the population of Sinai in under a few weeks, all while traveling in an organized group, evidence of this should be readily apparent in the form of mass graveyards. While it is not deniable that nomads are archaeologically invisible, to expect hundreds not to die due to dehydration a few weeks after moving from Egypt to western Sinai with hardly any preparation for such a journey as described in Exodus is to believe something very bizarre, indeed.

In fact, contrary to the implications of the authors, Late Bronze Age, 13th century B.C. sites do remain in the Negev. These include, above all, the “Hathor Temple” in the Timna Valley of the southern Negev. The Egyptianization of this site, that has been identified as “Midianite” included inscriptions that allow for the possible identification of it with the copper mining site of Atiqa mentioned in an Egyptian papyrus. And the evidence for the “tent” nature of the shrine, covered in cloth, parallels what would have been the contemporary tent shrine of ancient Israel, the Tabernacle.

Timna was not identified with Papyrus Harris’s “Atika” by any inscriptions found at Timna. F&S are certainly wrong that “not a single campsite or sign of occupation from the time of Ramesses II predecessors and successors has been identified in Sinai”, they do correctly mention that “Turquoise and copper mines in Sinai and the Negev were exploited by Egyptian expeditions” on page 83.

The fact that neither Tell Hisban nor Tell Dhiban have revealed evidence of occupation at this time, does not mean that the sites did not exist. The names could have moved to other sites in the region, a phenomenon known elsewhere.

It is plausible that Dibon existed on the hill just to the West of the modern tell. It is not plausible that Heshbon magically moved from Tell Jalul or Tell ‘Umayri, which are not near Heshbon at all. Indeed, Heshbon is not even confused with Elealeh (el-Al), less than two miles from Heshbon, in the Biblical text.

The chapter on Joshua and the issues surrounding the conquest of Canaan continues a one-sided presentation of the evidence in which the authors attempt to pit the archaeological evidence against the biblical account.

-Translation from the Christianese: “The chapter on Joshua and the issues surrounding the conquest of Canaan continues an evidence-based presentation of the relevant archaeology in which the discrepancies between the archaeological evidence and the biblical account are recognized.”

However, the reuse of Middle Bronze and Late Bronze fortifications at both sites as (perhaps temporary) fortified outposts at the time of Israel’s entrance into Canaan is never considered.

-If Hess wishes to demonstrate Jericho was occupied as a city in the 15th-13th centuries BC, let him show the as-of-yet-missing 15-13th Cs BC radiocarbon dates.

Nor is the fact noted that sites such as Megiddo, whose Late Bronze Age wall has yet to be identified, are described by the pharaoh of Egypt as having such fortifications in the Late Bronze Age.

-The Egyptian texts claim a months-long siege at Megiddo, not a city wall at Megiddo.

Could it be that the work of archaeology is fragmentary and not a compelling argument that can overturn all textual evidence?

-The smoke of this man of straw is like that of tobacco-addictive from close up, vile from a distance.

Not only is the occupation that follows this destruction different (Canaanite urbant(sic) to Israelite village?), but the defacement of the cultic images suggests a people intolerant of the gods of the Canaanites.

-I still consider allied invasion or urban revolution to be more plausible hypotheses. Also, the Israelite village is mid-11th C.

Third, the movement of the Sea Peoples could be seen as paralleling that of the Israelites. The thirteenth and twelfth centuries B.C. were times of upheaval and geopolitical alteration throughout the ancient Near East and the Mediterranean worlds. It would be a good time of Israel to be on the move.

-Two things ended the Egyptian Empire-Libyan invasions and a rising high priesthood of Amun in Thebes. Neither of these were especially hurtful to Egypt before the time of Ramesses IV. The Merenptah stele is over a half century before Ramesses IV.

Further, the destruction of Ugarit is not necessarily related to an invasion by the Sea Peoples. This reconstruction, on the basis of the existing textual evidence, has been called into question and is by no means certain. Indeed, there is no certain contemporary evidence for the presence of the Sea Peoples conquering nations except in Egypt.

-Much like the destruction of Beersheba II was not necessarily related to the 701 BC campaign of Sennacherib. The Sea Peoples are by far the most plausible candidates for the destruction of Ugarit-see, for example, the monochrome pottery found at Ras Ibn Hani. Also, Hess curiously does not discuss the settlement of the Philistines in Philistia at this point-does he seem to believe Philistia is a part of Egypt? If Hess is merely referring to textual “evidence”, he would be correct in his last sentence of the above quote. If he meant to include archaeological evidence in his last sentence of the above quote, he knows practically nothing of the 12th C BC Levant.

Finally, the power of Egypt was on the wane in the 12th century. The pharaoh Merneptah mentions Israel in Palestine on a stele describing his conquests, c. 1207 B.C. Events such as those in Johsua could have occurred in the 13th century when there is little certain evidence of Egyptian hold, either in the hill country between the Jezreel Valley and Jerusalem or in the region later identified as southern Judah. Further, it is not clear that sites such as Gezer and perhaps Jerusalem, as mentioned in the southern campaign of Joshua 10, were not Egyptian bases or strongholds. Particularly places such as Gaza, Bethshan, Megiddo, and Gezer do seem to have been influenced or controlled by Egypt at the time.

The 12th C BC and the 13th C BC are two different centuries. Also, was the seeming contradiction between the third and fourth sentences of the above quote intentional and meant to give indications of uncertainty regarding the extent of Egyptian control over Canaan? I suspect so. If so, the contrast between the third and fourth sentences of the above quote should have been expressed more clearly.

First, the date of 1200 B.C. is not as certain as the authors would like it to be. In fact, they date the appearance of signficant(sic) village life to the decline in Egyptian control of the region in the mid-twelfth century. However, the field archaeologist for the northern region of the hill country, Adam Zertal, has dated some of his early settlements into the twelfth century B.C. This would be when Israel might have first begun to settle in the region and well before the collapse of Egyptian control throughout Palestine.

-The date of the first Israelite settlement is one of the Great Mysteries of modern Israeli archaeology, with the discrepancy Hess points out being discussed by Todd Bolen in 2010 and John Bimson in 1991. To hedge my bets, I view Merenptah’s Israel as a nomadic tribe something like the tribes of Arabia. Hess also correctly points out that fortified villages do appear in Israel, though only late in the Iron I.

This concurs both with Israel entering Palestine from east of the Jordan and with the settlement of the two and a half tribes east of the Jordan. Third, as has been argued by other archaeologists who specialized in this period, there are too many people represented in the village settlements to explain as all originating as highland nomads.

-The first statement of the above quote is banal; the settlement in the East may have occurred first because the East was good grazing land. Palestine was very suited for a large Bedouin population, as clearly shown by the travel books of the English and Americans visiting Palestine in the Late Ottoman period. Certainly not “all” the Israelites originated as highland nomads, but many of them did originate as such.

Some, at least, must have come from outside and settled in the region.

-A statement made without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. There is no good evidence that even part of the early Israelite population came from outside Canaan.

First, Jerusalem has been continuously inhabited since the time of David. There has been much building and rebuilding. On the site where David and Solomon would have had their palace and government buildings, there was extensive mining and destruction during the Roman period to allow for the building of luxury homes. Furthermore, the presence of Middle Bronze and Iron Age II walls, but not any from the tenth century, proves little.

-First, Jerusalem has not been continuously inhabited since the time of David. 586 BC and 70 AD, anyone? Secondly, the presence of MB and Late Iron walls but not from the tenth century proves Jerusalem was more sparsely inhabited in the tenth century than in the MB or Late Iron periods. That should be obvious.

The question of the dating of the gates and other architecture at Gezer, Megiddo, and Hazor continues to be debated. Finkelstein’s carbon dating on some wooden beams from Megiddo cannot be considered conclusive until the evidence is published and adequate evaluation is made. Furthermore, the most recent excavators of Gezer (William Dever) and Hazor (Amnon Ben-Tor) continue to confirm a tenth century Solomonic dating for these gate structures.

-The weight of the evidence is quite conclusive.

However, no amount of environmental determinism can change the fact that at times before (e.g., Egypt’s New Kingdom) and after (e.g., the Hellenistic period) the tenth century, this land was united under a single sovereignty.

-Egyptian domination of Canaan was a result of environmental determinism-the cities of Egypt were far richer, more populous, and more necessarily unified than those of the Canaanites, which contributed to the easy subjugation of Canaan by Egypt. The Hasmonean period was a result of religious factors which were not present in the tenth century (i.e., militant Judaism).

Thus they never explain the widespread presence of alphabetic writing that is attested in every major area of Palestine in every century from the 13th through to the time of Josiah.

“Widespread”? “Every major”? It’s fairly obvious Hess is making stuff up here: widespread writing is not present in Benjamin until the late 8th century BC, in the Shephelah until the 10th-9th century BC, in Galilee and Samaria in the early to mid-8th century BC, in Philistia until the 10th century BC, in the Negev and Judah’s highlands until the late 8th century BC, and in the Wilderness until the 7th century BC.

They also ignore the presence of an abecedary discovered in the 12th or 11th century Israelite village of Izbet Sartah, which demonstrates how even in small towns writing and reading were being studied and learned.

-It could be as late as the late tenth.

However, Assyria preserved important literary compositions from earlier centuries, as did Egypt, and the same may be true of Palestine located between these two superpowers.

-Here’s the major difference: Assyria and Egypt were sedentary powers with obvious evidence of literacy throughout their existence. Not so for Moses’s and Phinehas’s Israel.

However, they overlook one of the most important facts. During Hezekiah’s reign, his main city (Jerusalem) did not fall. This was true despite its endurance of the full force of the Assyrian army under Sennacherib. No other city is known to have resisted and not fallen from Samaria to Babylon.

-Samaria did not fall when Tiglath-Pileser campaigned in Galilee in 732 BC. Its king, Pekah, did exactly as Hezekiah did: pay tribute to appease the Assyrian emperor. Assyrian policy was not always “take the capital first”. Sometimes, as in 732 and 701 BC, Assyrian policy was to leave a kingdom a shadow of its former self by destroying its productive border regions. If Sennacherib or Tiglath-Pileser III wanted to concentrate on Samaria or Jerusalem, they would have.

This book must be used with caution because it pretends to describe what we now really know about archaeology and how it contradicts various biblical claims; however, it does so in a biased and non-objective manner. Contrary opinions in interpreting the new evidence are not discussed, much less given a fair hearing. The book is ideologically driven and should be treated that way by any one who reads it.

-So should anyone who reads Hess’s review of The Bible Unearthed.
*For the ignorant, Zoan is San el-Hagar, a city at 30°58’35″N, 31°52’60″E. It was also the capital city of the 22nd Dynasty of Egypt. An analysis of the Exodus narrative demonstrates Zoan/Tanis must have been the capital city of the Pharaoh of the Exodus, a problem for the fundamentalists as Tanis only became a capital city after the fall of Pi-Ramesse.

“‘Ancient Aliens’ Debunked” is a Work of Brilliance Unitil One Gets to Genesis 1-11

As I have mentioned in a previous post, the three-hour long video “Ancient Aliens Debunked” is, while being (mostly) brilliant, was made by a Christian fundamentalist who believes in a global satanic conspiracy.

I have, at 2:48:20, finally gotten to the part where that fundamentalist shows his fundamentalism-and it’s just as ugly as you think it is. First, the fundamentalist makes one of those references to “the critics”, (a shadowy cabal of Old Testament scholars drinking gallons of wine while making half-baked remarks on the origins of the Old Testament???) one often sees in Christian fundamentalist writings. Contra Chris White and the crypto-Albrightians (A. R. Millard being among them), the flood story recorded in Genesis did originate with the Mesopotamians (it certainly existed by Sumerian times, though it may be earlier) and, as Walter Mattfeld suggests, the most likely hypothesis for the origin of the Biblical flood story is that the Biblical writer(s) was/were deliberately trying to invert and subvert the themes of the Neo-Babylonian flood story they inherited. If, as suggested by some scholars, the Biblical flood story actually was written in Palestine, it would also be dependent on Akkadian flood stories, as a copy of the Epic of Gilgamesh was found at Late Bronze Megiddo, copied in Gezer.

Also, there are numerous differences between the countless flood stories found in the world’s cultures, the existence of which is influenced by multiple factors, the most notable being the human need for water, and, thus, commonplace human exposure to floods. This would not have been difficult for Chris White to figure out. He just needed to take a simple look at the TalkOrigins pages on flood stories. Also, the Bible does not claim the Nephilim “almost eliminated the original human population”. The saddest portion of the video is where White reproduces the flood legends chart from Answers in Genesis, an organization well known for its niggardliness with the truth. Egypt, Libya, and Hittite-dominated Anatolia do not appear to have any native stories of a great flood of water destroying humanity-the details of the Egyptian story of the flood of beer bear almost no resemblance to the Sumerian and Akkadian flood stories. The claim that “a significant percentage” of flood stories have eight people surviving is doubtful, however, the number of survivors of any major catastrophe would very likely be portrayed in a myth as an even number (due to the near-necessary presence of wives), and that number would likely be somewhere between two (too much like a creation story) and twenty (in which case the story would get too complicated). A father and three sons and their wives is a very easy-to-remember arrangement for any myth of survivors of a catastrophe. In any case, a population bottleneck of only three couples (Noah doesn’t count, the three sons do) is just not genetically possible. There is also no geologic evidence for a global flood while humans existed.

Also, contra White, Noah’s Ark was not structurally sound. The fact more inconsistencies between texts are revealed in the Sumerian/Akkadian flood stories is simply due to the fact clay is better-preserved than parchment. The elaborate rules governing copying of Hebrew texts date, as far as I know, to the later Persian period and/or later. Why use the Isaiah scroll, instead of, say, the Jeremiah or Samuel scrolls, as examples of the accuracy of Hebrew copying throughout the ages? I can see no reason but to confirm a pre-established belief.