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 It was superseded by Finkelstein’s paper on Saul being the “Last Labayu”.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The second, on the campaign of Shoshenq I, is outdated (my video is up-to date), describing Shoshenq I as attempting to destroy, rather than encourage, the Masos-Nahas copper network.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.

Late Iron II Small Farm Discovered 700 m NNE. of Rogem Ganim

See here. The area around Rogem Ganim (31°45’19″N 35° 9’57″E) was apparently quite densely inhabited in the 7th-6th Cs BC (Khirbet er-Ras, Manahat, Qiryat Ha-Yovel, and Rogem Ganim were all less than a mile away from each other). Perhaps someone should make a “Survey of Western Palestine”-style map for Late Iron II Judah?

Judah and Arabia

It is clear Arabia had some form of connection with the Levant since at least the Late Bronze Age. However, a curious, but infrequently mentioned inscription has emerged on the antiquities market. According to Andrew Lemaire, the inscription tells of a courier of Saba named Sabahhumu, from Nashq, who records his expeditions to “Dedan, [Gaz]a, and the towns of Judah”. His expeditions, therefore, must have taken place before 586 BC. The inscription also, according to Lemaire, mentions a war in Chaldaea and Ionia, suggesting it dates after Nebuchadnezzar’s Levantine conquest in 604 BC. It is, therefore, quite apparent that the Arabian trade was thriving during the Late Iron IIc. As evidenced by the existence of Qurayyah ware, the Arabian trade already existed in the thirteenth century BC, though its existence was solidified by the Judahite and Assyrian fortress networks. Lemaire also points out Assyrian era-Late IrIIc South Arabian inscriptions at Tel Beersheba, Tel Aroer, and the City of David. According to TBU (page 268) the City of David South Arabian inscriptions were carved on locally-made vessels. This may or may not mean there was a resident South Arabian population in Judah. In any case, it is very unlikely that Solomon would be the man in the Levant any tenth century BC queen of Sheba would go to.

“Most Favored Vassal Status” and the Reconstruction of Lachish

While reading TBU for what must be a fourth or fifth time, I found that, curiously enough, apparently sometime after 701 BC (either in the reigns of Esarhaddon or Ashurbanipal), Judah only paid ten minas of silver, while Ammon had to pay two gold minas and Moab had to pay one gold mina. This suggested to Finkelstein and Silberman, that the Assyrians gave Judah “most favored vassal status” for helping the Assyrians out in their war against Egypt. Due to this and my analysis of the rosette impressions, I am fairly confident that the Shephelah was restored to Judah at least by the time that Psamtik I re-conquered Egypt (656 BC).

Thoughts on the Judahiteness of Tell el-Hesi

According to Sennacherib’s prism, a part of Hezekiah’s kingdom was given to Gaza. Before today, I had no idea what specific ruins were given to Gaza. However, I now have a good candidate for one of those ruins:  Tell el-Hesi. Though before today I thought 8th C BC Tell el-Hesi should be considered Gazite due to the lack of characteristic Judahite artifacts found there, Rollston, Hardin, and Blakely’s analysis of the Hesi material has demonstrated to me that Hesi was a Judahite, rather than Gazite, border post built to prevent Ashdodite expansion. Hardin and Blakely pointed out that Hesi (and, indeed, every fortified site nearer to Judah than Kh. Summeily) lacks 8th C BC Philistine pottery, has some architectural parallels with Lachish (including measurement units), and contains a nearly identical ceramic repertoire to Lachish III. Perhaps, the most convincing pieces of evidence for Hesi’s Judahiteness were the Judahite bulla and paleo-Hebrew ostracon found at the site. Before today, I had strong doubts about Hesi’s Judahiteness, or even whether its City VI survived into the late 8th C BC, due to the surprising lack of lmlk impressions, pillar figurines, or horse and rider figurines found at the site. The situation with the lmlk impressions is paralleled at Tel Burna-the only lmlk handle found there had an H2D impression, the most common of the late types. Indeed, considering the amount of area exposed, it is a surprise to me that not a single early lmlk impression has been discovered at Burna, which is, like Hesi, effectively a fort/watchtower. This suggests to me that the lmlk impressed jars were used for civil government purposes, although we must remember that Tel ‘Erani, also a part of the Judah-Ashdod fortress line, yielded thirteen lmlk impressions (including some early ones), and that Tel Shokef, only a mile NW of Hesi, yielded, like Burna, a single late (S2DW) lmlk impression (note that, unlike Burna, Shokef was Gazite in the 7th C BC). However, while at least one pillar figurine has been discovered at Burna, such pillar figurines are found in not just Judahite, but Israelite and Philistine sites as well.

The surprising lack of early lmlk impressions at Hesi and Burna also makes me suggest Tel Sera VI (see this book, although its stratum numbers and site history description are incorrect, as shown by this book) was also an 8th C BC Judahite fortress. Judahite presence W. of Tel Sera in the reign of Hezekiah is suggested by 1 Chronicles 4 (Gedor=Gerar/Tel Haror; this is confirmed by Tiglath Pileser III’s mention of Meunites at the Brook of Egypt). However, as the Tel Sera VI material has not yet been evaluated by competent scholars and demonstrated Judahite by them, I cannot comment on this matter.

If Hesi City VI was Judahite, it destroys my presupposition that all Assyrian Palace Ware-using sites must have been founded by Sargon II. Perhaps, if not Sargon II, it was Esarhaddon who built up the Assyrian Palace Ware-bearing strata at Hesi and Tel Sera.