The CSM Article on Qeiyafa

The article first describes excavation life at Qeiyafa. Hat tip to Luke Chandler. For some reason, the article accidentally leads us ask whether a coin “from the era of Alexander the Great” is from the “Mid-1st century BC.”. Not a good sign. The article uncritically reports that “David felled Goliath with a sling”. Again, not a good sign. Relevant excerpts of Israel Finkelstein’s words are artfully placed. The author of the article also bizarrely considers the author of Psalm 119 to be referring to the Bible when he speaks of God’s word. The article plays on names: Israel Finkelstein’s life story is described as paralleling that of the State of Israel, while Finkelstein speaks of David Ben-Gurion as being influenced by King David. The author gets the wild idea that Shiloh was “the ancient capital of Israel for more than 300 years before the Hebrew people built a temple in Jerusalem and enshrined it as the heart of their nation and religion”. Shiloh, of course, was neither “the” capital of Israel (it was a capital of a chiefdom; see Miller’s Chieftains of the Highland Clans, a book I am perpetually reading, but am never getting around to reviewing), nor Israelite for over 300 years before Solomon’s temple was supposedly built. Also, the “Hebrew people” simply did not have a “nation and religion” in the pre-Exilic era. Shiloh was founded in the 12th century BC (search the blog archives using the Google Custom Search feature on the sidebar). The article avoids error in regards to the history of United Monarchy-related 1990s academia. The article, as is to be expected, flops on the exact dating the Merenptah stele (“about 1205 BC” gives them partial credit). I did not know Amihai Mazar is retired before I read this article; I should have known on the day I started this blog. The reason I didn’t know is because Mazar is still writing articles. The article calls Bill Dever a “biblical archaeologist”, even though he famously rejected this title. The article mentions Indiana Jones, thus, automatically degrading its quality. The article further adds evidence to my conclusion that Garfinkel’s main objective in sensationalizing the Qeiyafa finds is achieving publicity. The author of the article neglects the fact the southern gate is a reconstruction. The article also uncritically reports Garfinkel’s claim that “Shaaraim” translates to “two gates” (it is merely the plural of “gates”). The article also uncritically claims that the Qeiyafa inscription is an “inscription containing Hebrew words such as judge and king” (which is possible, but uncertain). The article also claims, without evidence, that one of the Qeiyafa shrines reflects “a new type of architecture”.

The article quotes Amihai Mazar as stating “one cannot avoid asking whether scholars who are trying to deconstruct the traditional ‘conservative bias’ are not biased themselves by their own historical concepts”. However, over the years I have seen Israel Finkelstein to be perhaps the most objective person in all Jordano-Palestinian archaeology, anticipating trends that have or are surely bound to spread throughout the scholarly community well before they do spread throughout the scholarly community. For some reason, the article ends with the words “It’s adding substance to the biblical story.”. It would have been better to have a more objective ending.

Overall, I grade the article three stars for lacking a consistent and engaging theme, conclusion, and thesis. The article fails to extrapolate trends or anticipate new developments. Its persistent focus on Qeiyafa prevents it from being a terrible article and prevents it from being a comprehensive article with a wide scope.

My Qeiyafa video from last year (now with closed captions, which one can get by clicking on CC!).

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 “The CSM Article on Qeiyafa”

  1. I have a late night ahead and can’t mention much right now. Just a few notes that jumped out at me from your post:

    – Shiloh could not have been established ca. 1200 BC because the site has Middle Bronze remains. The early Iron remains include dwellings that utilize the MB fortifications.
    – I almost included comments on the “biblical archaeologist” label for Bill Dever in my post. Ironic. What can we say? Someone who is not trained in archaeology or a related field writes an article about archaeology. Mistakes are often made in such situations.
    – The southern gate was indeed reconstructed, and less than a year after identification. Some believe that was too fast. In any case… The fact is that numerous architectural features around it (all original, not reconstructed) match those of the western gate, from the existence and location of the drainage channel, to the dimensions of the gap in the outer wall, to the casemates changing direction, to the open plaza with the interior checkpoint guarding entry to the city, to the standing stone found between the piers of the original chambers, to the cultic room in the first building across the plaza. These unique, unreconstructed features are the same in both gate areas. Moreover, the entrance to the site’s central fort is essentially a straight line to the southern gate. They were built in alignment with each other. The reconstruction of the four chambers is not a stretch because it simply matches those of the other gate. These details will be available to the scholarly community once the official reports for 2009 and later are published.
    – You state in your video that archaeologists “usually of medium to low repute” are the ones linking excavations to locations/events in the biblical text. If that is the case, then giants such as Albright, Yadin, Wright, Benjamin Mazar, Amihai Mazar, Dever, and many other respected scholars must be demoted from their positions of influence. A. Mazar and Dever, among many others, do not accept the Low Chronology. It has been a controversial viewpoint at best. You should be careful in rating archaeologists by how they view the Bible’s historicity. Finkelstein gives high regard to many scholars who hold opposing views on the Bible’s historicity. Since you by admission are not a trained scholar in these fields, it would be very wise to use a healthy dose of caution when trying to judge those who have been trained and active for many years. It sounds like you are simply judging scholars by whether or not they hold minimalist viewpoints. I’ve met scholars on both sides, and they don’t regard each other that way.
    – I’d suggest the pronunciation of Khirbet Qeiyafa be researched. It is mispronounced throughout the video. It is a Semitic “Q,” not an English one. Notice there is no “u” following the “Q.”
    – You suggest Finkelstein is the most objective scholar in the field. Fine, though when he states that denying Low Chronology is akin to believe in a flat earth, his objectivity should be reconsidered. Such statements tend to reflect ideology rather than objectivity, especially in a field like archaeology that depends on interpretation. His was a remarkable statement to make when 1) many trained scholars disagree with the LC, and 2) so much data remains to be found. Much of the Low Chronology depends on negative evidence – on what has *not* been found. That’s a shaky foundation when so much fresh evidence is just beginning to come in, particularly from new excavations in the Shephelah (Tel Azekah, Socoh, Tel Burna, Lachish, post-2008 publications on Kh. Qeiyafa, et al.).

    Finkelstein is professionally and financially invested in the LC paradigm. (Best-selling books, a documentary series, lecture circuits, etc.) One should not quickly assume objectivity when someone is so personally invested in a viewpoint. Finkelstein is a remarkable scholar and has a gift for collecting and presenting data. He is good at challenging viewpoints, asking unique questions, and making people think, but he is by no means immune to ideological bias. If the LC is refuted, Finkelstein would have a lot to lose at this point.

    I was trained as a historian, though I’ve gained a good bit of firsthand archaeological experience over five seasons in the field. I’ve also enjoyed a lot of conversations with trained archaeologists both in the field and at conferences here in the U.S. One of the first things you learn in either field is how much is subject to personal interpretation. We all bring personal assumptions to the table. An atheist and a Christian will look at the same data and differ in some conclusions on this basis. True objectivity simply doesn’t exist especially in archaeology, because the finds don’t typically give us a context for what happened or why things happened. Was a destruction layer with ash done intentionally (war) or by accident (like the Chicago fire)? Does the pottery always imply ethnicity or did migrant populations assimilate and become archaeologically “invisible” over time? How accurately can populations be determined based on surveys alone? We often don’t have these answers from simple data, so we impose our assumptions and guesses to distinguish a context. We may get it right, but we may not. How many times has a “solid” theory or viewpoint later been refuted? Humility is a valuable thing in archaeology and its related fields. It should be more common than it is. We should be very careful in labeling those with whom we disagree. What if I (or you) end up holding the refuted viewpoint?

    1. I have a late night ahead and can’t mention much right now.

      -A comment longer than the post you’re responding to is ‘not much’?

      Shiloh could not have been established ca. 1200 BC because the site has Middle Bronze remains. The early Iron remains include dwellings that utilize the MB fortifications.

      -Shiloh was abandoned in the LB IIA and re-settled in the 11th century BC. The article was referring to Israelite Shiloh, that is, Shiloh V, that is, the Shiloh existing in the 11th century BC.

      Thanks for your explanation of Garfinkel’s reasoning behind considering the southern reconstructed gate a second gate! I appreciate it.

      You state in your video that archaeologists “usually of medium to low repute” are the ones linking excavations to locations/events in the biblical text.

      -Too broad. I limited my definition of “such ap-chaeologists” to those publishing since the early 2000s and linking sites they are excavating with the United Monarchy. “Albright, Yadin, Wright, Benjamin Mazar” are out for being dead. To my knowledge, Dever wasn’t actually excavating anything in the early 2000s. The only archaeologist you list that could be counted as one of “such ap-chaeologists” by my YouTube series’ definition is Amihai Mazar, a high-repute archaeologist who gets a pass for publishing many radiocarbon dates, emphasizing the supposed U.M. connection of Rehov as only one among the many connections between Rehov and ancient history, and not being overly brash about the significance of his findings.

      It sounds like you are simply judging scholars by whether or not they hold minimalist viewpoints.

      -From what? I’m certainly surprised at this remark of yours. A more important criterion than holding or not holding minimalist viewpoints is being sensationalist; that is, drawing more significant conclusions from one’s findings than are warranted by the evidence. Qeiyafa’s importance is difficult to exaggerate, yet, Garfinkel has managed to exaggerate it.

      I’d suggest the pronunciation of Khirbet Qeiyafa be researched. It is mispronounced throughout the video. It is a Semitic “Q,” not an English one. Notice there is no “u” following the “Q.”

      -I freely admit to not knowing Hebrew and to only rarely hearing the correct pronunciation of the word Qeiyafa. I understand your complaint about my incorrect pronunciation of the word Qeiyafa, though -I am always annoyed by newspeople putting the accent on the wrong syllable of the name Vladimir.

      Fine, though when he states that denying Low Chronology is akin to believe in a flat earth

      -He never said that:

      These are the results of the radiocarbon dating. He or she who decides to ignore these results, I treat them as if arguing that the world is flat, that the Earth is flat. And I cannot argue anymore.

      One should not quickly assume objectivity when someone is so personally invested in a viewpoint.

      -You do realize how much Finkelstein changed his various views between 2001 and today, right?

      Finkelstein is a remarkable scholar and has a gift for collecting and presenting data. He is good at challenging viewpoints, asking unique questions, and making people think, but he is by no means immune to ideological bias.

      -Agreed. Strangely, he’s better at this in print than in English-language interviews.

      We all bring personal assumptions to the table. An atheist and a Christian will look at the same data and differ in some conclusions on this basis.

      -Agreed. Sometimes, challenging the other person’s assumptions is more fruitful than simply presenting one’s interpretation of the data.

      We often don’t have these answers from simple data, so we impose our assumptions and guesses to distinguish a context.

      -In the examples you reference, I think it is best to work from the known to the unknown and to argue by analogy.

      How many times has a “solid” theory or viewpoint later been refuted?

      Plenty of times. But “refuted” is relative. http://chem.tufts.edu/answersinscience/relativityofwrong.htm

      Humility is a valuable thing in archaeology and its related fields.

      -Agreed. As said Yudkowsky,

      There is no guarantee that adequacy is possible given your hardest effort; therefore spare no thought for whether others are doing worse. If you compare yourself to others you will not see the biases that all humans share.

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