Israel Finkelstein Paper on Late Bronze Collapse Four Times as Good as I Thought

Paper here.

Firstly, Finkelstein, Litt, and Langgut’s findings from the Sea of Galilee show that there was an intense dry period in Canaan between c. 1250 BC (when Hazor fell) and c. 1100 BC or just before (when Canaan experienced a baby boom). Secondly, the authors show that these findings can also be connected with the peak of the so-called “Minoan Warming” in this graph. Thirdly, the authors show that all the textual evidence supports their hypothesis that the 14th century BC was a wet period with no known major droughts while the 13th-12th centuries BC were a dry period with many known major droughts. The authors, however, show no real evidence of “economic and demographic decline” in Canaan in the Late Bronze IIB-III, which they claim occurred. Though Hazor, Bethel, and Shechem did lose their city-state status in the 13th century BC (Bethel later than the other two), I find the claim that either the population or economy of Canaan declined during the 13th century BC to be dubious.

Paradoxically, Finkelstein flip-flops again on the date of the beginning of Israelite settlement, placing it in the midst of the drought instead of, as he did in 2006, after the end of it. If cities like Megiddo, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Lachish, and Azekah could prosper in the Late Bronze IIB, so they could trade imported Egyptian grain with the nomads Finkelstein claims settled down during this era. It is doubtful that Israelite settlements in the Late Bronze IIB-III could survive the coercive power of Egyptian soldiers and taxmen. Like Todd Bolen and Israel Finkelstein in 2006, I see no evidence Israelite settlement predates the collapse of Egyptian rule in Canaan. In any case, it is impossible that “demographic decline” (which probably didn’t happen) could somehow spur a settlement boom in the highlands of Canaan.

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!).

Ooh, Looky Here-A Useful and Usable Map of Every Site Surveyed By Israel in the West Bank

The actual map is available on its own here. The sourcebook is not fully reliable.

Right here. Of course, Price is much, much less a ‘pseudo-archaeologist’ than those who are typically called as such. As the good Israel Finkelstein states,

Let the truth be known: Most of the looting in the West Bank (as well as in Israel!) has been carried out by Palestinians. In addition, the viewer should remember that since the 1993 Oslo agreement about 50% of the West Bank has been administered by the Palestinian Authority. If looting there continues, it is being done under Palestinian rule.

Nobody claims the James Ossuary itself is “fraudulent” except the truly ignorant. The misconceptions that “Actual discoveries in the region rarely make headlines. [utterly untrue]” and “Cultural strata in Israel and Palestine lack the lavish treasures and mystique associated with the power centers of the ancient world [also utterly untrue], such as Egypt or Mesopotamia.” is also stated in the article. The wise Alex Joffe and Ron Hendel have added their correct opinions to the Disqus comments. I responded to he-who-must-not-be-named in the comments by sheer accident-I did not read his name!

Now Here’s How You Deconstruct and Construct Paradigms

For those of you who haven’t noticed, the good Israel Finkelstein, scourge of fuzzy thinking (except on the subject of the good of religion and when speaking in public) has written a powerful piece squarely declaring his belief that the Book of Chronicles is a late 2nd century BC work (a view he has expressed for several years now, and of which I was convinced by this article of his this article of his [the above deals with Nehemiah, not Chronicles]). Notice how he commits a bit of self-plagiarism in this most recent of his articles. You’re not going to be a paradigm-shifter without solid evidence! A toast to the coming paradigm shift in studies of Chronicles! This will affect the date of Sirach!

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.

Jim West Gets Mentioned by the BBC, Israel Finkelstein Publishes Some Articles Online

I’m telling you, folks, if you wish to be kept up to speed in the world of archaeology as it relates to the Bible, create a Google alert for yourself on Israel Finkelstein. Today (word coming from Jim West), Israel Finkelstein has published some papers of his online.

The first, on Amarna Shechem, is from 2005, and thus, fairly recent, utilizing the petrographic examination of the Amarna letters done by Goren. It analyzes the rise of the Omrides as interpreted by the rise of an earlier Shechem-area based polity, that of Shechem under Labayu. It was superseded by Finkelstein’s paper on Saul being the “Last Labayu”. The only disagreeable remark I can find in there is the mention of Dor being definitely Israelite in the 8th C BC (on page 183), ignoring the possibility it might have been Phoenician.

The second, on the campaign of Shoshenq I, is outdated (my video is up-to date), describing Shoshenq I as attempting to destroy, rather than encourage, the Masos-Nahas copper network. It is also a useful example of Finkelstein In Transition on his opinions on which stratum at Megiddo corresponds to Shoshenq I’s Megiddo. In this paper, he views “Early IrIIa” Masos II as partially contemporary with “Late Iron I” Megiddo VIA. Finkelstein also presents his “Shoshenq destroyed Saulide Gibeon” hypothesis he more clearly presents in “Last Labayu”.

The third, on “The Archaeology of the Days of Manasseh“, is a Finkelstein classic. He points out the decline of the Judahite population from over 120,000 in c. 705 BC to under 70,000 in c. 605 BC, the utter lack of full recovery in the Shephelah, and the rise in population in the Negev, Hill Country, Benjamin, and Wilderness. He also points out the Arabian trade and Ekron IC as factors in the recovery of Judah under Manasseh. He does not accept there is any good evidence for a Manassite revival of the Shephelah.

In other news, Jim West, biblioblogger extraordinaire, has been mentioned by the BBC.

Finkelstein Publishes His Analysis of Tirzah

The word comes from Jim West. Finkelstein’s analysis of the archeological evidence is just as you’d expect [note as of April 27, 2014: Use the DownThemAll browser extension to download each image from Scribd until I can come up with something better. Sheffield has been cracking down on Google Books lately.]-Late Iron I-Early Iron IIa Tell el-Farah N., often identified with the Biblically mentioned Israelite capital city of Tirzah, was a poor, small, unfortified settlement. My solution to the problem is to re-locate Tirzah to Tayasir or somewhere else. Also, while searching around West’s posts on Finkelstein, I found this revealing statement from West (in regards to Eilat Mazar’s Palace of David claims):

She’s – of course – done no such thing as there isn’t a shred of evidence to support such a claim.  Not an iota’s worth.  But such claims bolster the tragically weak ‘faith’ of those who are utterly dependent, not on God, but on ‘proof’ and ‘evidence’- worshiping as their true god an idol they have constructed in their own minds aided by the ‘evidence’ that fundamentalist archaeologists and biblical ‘scholars’ offer them.  Such people replace God with reason- and that their own.

-This is from a person who finds the as-generally viewed Creationist-Evolutionist dispute unimportant, believes there is little to no evidence for a Kingdom of David, and has only the most vile words for so-called “Angry Atheists”!

Finkelstein Has A New Paper on Qeiyafa

This one is largely a continuation of his older ideas, but does propose some new ones, including that the excavators’ Hellenistic Wall is Ottoman (though Finkelstein agrees the Late Iron I wall is Late Iron I) and that the site’s Period/Stratum III was primarily settled in the Late Persian period (the excavators now accept the stratum’s foundation in the Persian period). He also associates the Qeiyafa Late Iron I wall architectural tradition and some other material features of the site with highland ones, and makes a reasonable case that Qeiyafa might have been built by the Benjaminite Saulide Polity (an interpretation I considered and rejected, even beginning to write a post on why this idea is unlikely), suggesting the battle in 1 Sam 17 preserves genuine memory of Saulide expansion as far as the Elah valley. He then suggests the (very unlikely, considering the lack of RSHB ware) mention of Qeiyafa in Shoshenq I’s list, toponym 11 or 12.

UPDATE (April 10, 2013): I now support Finkelstein’s interpretation of Qeiyafa as Gibeonite-built.

Script For Upcoming YouTube Video


Since 1994, Israel Finkelstein, a professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University, has made three sizable downdatings to the ‘conventional’ (or ‘high’) chronology of Iron Age Palestine, that is, Palestine from the days of the Philistine invasion to the Babylonian conquest. These downdatings are:


•Firstly, the downdating of the arrival of the Philistines in Canaan from c. 1180 to c. 1130 BC.


Secondly, the downdating of the beginning of Iron Age IIa from c. 1000 BC to c. 920 BC (since the mid-2000s, c. 940 BC, largely due to the evidence from Shoshenq I’s topographic list)

And, thirdly, the downdating of the destructions in Israel at the end of the Iron Age IIa from 926 BC (with Shishak of Egypt being the culprit) to 826 BC (with Hazael of Damascus being the culprit).


So, what does this have to do with the Bible?


The archaeological Late Iron IIa period was the first age in which there is evidence of a united state in at least the northern half of Palestine. In Biblical terms, this would correspond to the reign of Solomon. Finkelstein argues that Late Iron IIa is equivalent to the Omride-Jehuite period, leaving Solomon in the Late Iron I/Early Iron IIa period-a period of thriving, but gradually collapsing, Canaanite city-states and no evidence of a centralized monarchy anywhere in Palestine.


Finkelstein’s third downdating is backed by good evidence: there is excellent similarity between both the pottery and architecture of Samaria Building Period I and the Jezreel Enclosure, which were known from the Bible to have been Omride, with the pottery and architecture of such classic ‘Solomonic’ sites as Megiddo Stratum VA, Gezer Stratum VIII, and Hazor Stratum X.


There was also good reason to identify the destroyer of Hazor Stratum IX, Megiddo Stratum VA, and Gezer Stratum VIII with Hazael rather than Shoshenq I. All radiocarbon data, from Rehov to Megiddo to Gath to Hazor, pointed to the conclusion that the destruction wave toward the end of the Iron IIa was done in the late 9th, not late 10th, century BC. Hazael, who was described in 2 Kings 10:32 as taking portions of Israelite territory and defeating Israel in its borders, was, before Israel Finkelstein’s revisions, considered to be a king without attestation in the Jezreel valley’s record of destructions.


The evidence that the Iron Age IIa lasted well into the 9th century BC became, by the early 2000s, unanimously agreed upon by all relevant scholars. However, the question of whether the Late Iron IIa included Solomon’s mid-10th century BC reign became a hotly contested issue. In the late 1990s, samples collected from Dor seemed to support the lowering of the beginning of the Iron IIa, although over a third of the results were clearly too late.


Archaeologist Amihay Mazar and others argued that radiocarbon results from Tel Rehov in 2001 bolstered Solomon’s claim to be partially contemporary with the Late Iron IIa. Thus, Mazar became the leading voice of the proponents of this “Modified High Chronology”. The debate around the results from Tel Rehov was largely centered around the use of Bayesian analysis, which attempts to analyze radiocarbon dates by incorporating them into other chronological information about the site, such as sequences of layers. Since the ratio of Carbon-14 to Carbon-12 in the atmosphere is not a constant rate throughout time, radiocarbon dates require calibration to make them correspond with historical dates. In the case of Tel Rehov, the average RADIOCARBON dates for Stratum VI and the SUCCEEDING Stratum V were nearly the same. There were two solutions to this problem, one shown in the graphs and one stated in the text.


In 2007, however, a large radiocarbon study headed by the excavators of Tel Dor, using 37 good short-lived samples, unambiguously supported the Low Chronology, although the transitions were clearly too low, since, as we know from Shoshenq I’s list, the Early Iron IIa had already begun by the time Shoshenq I campaigned in Canaan. In 2010, a remarkably consistent set of dates came from the Early Iron IIa site of ‘Atar Haroa, in the Wilderness of Zin. The numerous Early Iron IIa sites in the Wilderness of Zin were almost certainly spurred by the growth of the copper industry in the Feinan area. The growth of Palestine’s trade with copper-rich Cyprus in the Late Iron IIa helped spur the demise of this industry, which continued in a diminished state until the late 9th century BC. By the Modified High Chronology, the Early Iron IIa sites in the Wilderness of Zin should have had their main phase in the early 10th century BC. The results for ‘Atar Haroa showed that the site, and very likely all those contemporary with it, with great certainty had their main phase c. 900, not c. 980 or even c. 960 BC.


Thus, the Solomonic Paradigm, one of the foundational pillars of the High Chronology of Iron Age Palestine, is close to dead. Can it be resuscitated? Or is it to be replaced by the Omride paradigm, as advocated by Norma Franklin and Israel Finkelstein? If it is, the accounts of 1 Kings are to be called into serious historical question, and would be unambiguously explained as Assyrian-era fictions recalling the glory of the past under Jeroboam II and of the present under Assyrian rule. Even though Biblical fundamentalism is already disproven, throwing 1 Kings into question would be one of the most serious obstacles to its continued acceptance by the plurality of the American population.

Slide 12:

Thank you for watching.