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.

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

2 thoughts on “Avi Faust’s Misguided Responses to Finkelstein in His BAR Article On Large Stone Structure”

  1. In the context of identifying & dating the building, it could also be important to mention that in part of it’s complex two Bullas (seals) were found within a distance of ~5 meters from each other. One belongs to Gedaliah ben Pashhur (Gedaliah son of Pashhur) and the other to Yehukual ben Shelemyahu (Jucal the son of Shelemiah) – both of which are mentioned in Jeremiah 38:1-4 as men who served as ministers to Zedekiah King of Judah, just before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE…

    Perhaps these findings had also some contribution to the identification of the building as a palace/royal structure from the First Temple period – in addition to Mazar’s political views and family heritage, of course… :)

    1. The bulla found in the southern wall of Room C of the LSS (the Yehukal bulla) probably came from a fill, and possibly from the same source as the Iron IIa-b pottery in Locus 47 (also in Room C). The Gedaliah bulla was found in a fill beneath the northern Hasmonean tower, which is irrelevant to the dating of the LSS, as everyone agrees the tower is post-exilic (Macalister, Finkelstein, and Steiner think it’s Hasmonean, E. Mazar thinks it’s Persian). I do not deny there could have been a Late Iron II palace in the area of the LSS, I simply see no evidence to think the LSS is that palace.

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