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.

My Reconstruction of the Qeiyafa ‘Palace-Fort’

Based on Luke Chandler’s photo. We’ll see how the architectural plans compare to my reconstruction.
I am, of course, reminded by the Lachish Lateral Access Podium palace-fort, which had three stages of construction. The Qeiyafa palace-fort probably will, when further uncovered, be revealed as a Lateral Access Podium structure. The suggestion in the comments at the Chandler post that the Qeiyafa palace-fort is a Bit-Hilani is probably incorrect; these are characterized by their prominent entrances. The plan of the building reminds me of the Omride Megiddo Palace 6000 and the Hazor and Bethsaida LAP structures. In LAP structures, the first floor tended to be filled with storerooms while the residence was located on the second floor. I expect the rooms in the Qeiyafa palace-fort to be interpreted by the excavators as storage facilities, as they sure look like they are from over here.

A Paper Clearing Up Where and In What Stratum Shoshenq I’s Megiddo Stele Was Set Up

By Jove! After the good Todd Bolen alerted us of the availability of PEQ articles available freely for the readership of the masses (for a limited time only), I jumped on the opportunity. The most important article available there is from the March 2009 issue, called simply “Putting Sheshonq I in his Place“. Rupert Chapman III (a man whom I had never heard of before) has used the notes of Clarence Fischer and PLO Guy (men whose names I have heard before) to determine that, as Schumacher’s trench which yielded the Shoshenq I Megiddo stele fragment did not extend into modern Stratum VI, the stele fragment must have been deposited in either (modern) Stratum IV or (again, modern) Stratum V for over two and a half thousand years. Chapman also notes (contrary to the opinions of the Velikovskyans) that not a trace of Shoshenq’s stele has been found in the fully-excavated Strata I-III and the fact the stele fragment discovered at Megiddo was found at the surface of the dump holding the debris from Schumacher’s trench, indicating the stele fragment originates from modern Stratum V, not IV. The fact the stele must have been very large (at least twenty times the size of the fragment found) further strengthens the case that the other stele fragments must not be looked for above, in modern Strata I-IV, but below, in modern Strata V-VI. Thus, Finkelstein’s Low Chronology is further strengthened.

However, Chapman’s unconventional (James-ian) chronological revisions are not warranted. Shoshenq I does mention a place in Judah (Gibeon), and interest in the Negev and Jezreel Valley does not indicate interest in the Omride Kingdom. Shoshenq I does not mention Samaria on his list, nor Jezreel, but only possibly mentions Tirzah. The fact Gibeon is mentioned right before Mahanaim in the Shoshenq I list indicates that Finkelstein’s hypothesis of Shoshenq campaigning against something like the Biblical Saulide kingdom is more plausible than Chapman’s hypothesis of Shoshenq I campaigning against the Omrides. The stratum the stele fragment was found in is only a terminus ante quem for the date Shoshenq I erected the stele at Megiddo-there is no need to chunk Shoshenq I into a time where he does not belong! Shoshenq I’s list could have reasonably been composed c. 940-c. 870 BC, as we can tell by archaeological (radiocarbon, stratigraphic, ceramic) methods alone (click the “interest in the Negev” link above for more). Shoshenq I almost certainly erected his stele in either Stratum V or Stratum VI, and most likely in Stratum VB of Megiddo. James’s late date for Shoshenq I is, frankly, superfluous and ridiculous, especially in the light of the archaeological data mentioned above, Hazael’s near-certain incursions into Israel, and the Early Byblian Inscriptions, especially in light of the script of the Tel Zayit inscription. In short, while Chapman’s paper is a major contribution to the study of tenth century BC Palestine, it is marred by useless and futile chronological speculations.

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.

Omride Palestine

This blog post is based on Israel Finkelstein’s discussion about Omride architecture in The Bible Unearthed and this article.

Omride Palestine had two capitals: Jezreel and Samaria.

Samaria was the capital for the descendants of the Iron I Israelite oil-and-wine communities. It was necessarily the primary capital of Israel-located on top of a strategic hill on the Shechem-Tul Karm road, defended well by the terrain, which made it near inaccessible for armies and good for control of the hill country while being close to the agricultural wonderland of the Jezreel. However, Samaria’s terrain is bad for keeping any large amount both foreign and domestic military forces. The royal enclosure of the Hill of Shemer had to be walled up with a casemate wall and filled with dirt to a depth of up to 20 ft. in order for there to be any kind of flat surface on top. A second capital would have to be constructed for military purposes: Jezreel.

Jezreel was a mighty walled rectangular enclosure surrounded by a moat and a casemate wall (not the best sort of fortification, but, then, the Omrides had no real enemies and a state to control), enclosing a total 11 acres. It had a six-chambered gate on its south side. There were several settlements before it (including one from the Early Iron IIA, probably founded by the pre-Omride Israelite monarchy), however, none were as well fortified as that of the Omrides. It was, being located on top of a commanding ridge, and was, therefore, used as a watchtower for traffic in and out of the Beth Shean Valley. A road connected it to Jenin, Ibleam, Dothan, and, through an arduous trek up and down a steep hill, Samaria. It was destroyed by Hazael, but, not too long after that, the site was reinhabited.

Hazor was also rebuilt under the Omrides (for chronology, see here and the two 2004 papers by Herzog and Singer Avitz). The city was extraordinarily small, located entirely on the west side of the old Upper City, but fortified with a casemate wall, with a citadel to the W. A moat was dug to the NE. and E. of the city (F&S, pg. 188). The six-chambered gate was built on top of a large fill to keep it more defensible.

Megiddo-Megiddo was not built by the Omrides, but, as Knauf concluded, was built in by the Omrides. While the city, a descendant of the early Iron IIA Megiddo VB (Shishak’s Megiddo) was unfortified, some kind of gate (whether the six-chambered one or not) was established there. A large Omride palace dominated the southern part of the city, and a mix of houses and palaces were built around the city’s perimeter.

Gezer, too, was rebuilt under the Omrides (it had a tinge of “Ephraimite” influence in the 8th C BC-I would expect it to be in Omride hands). Like in the case of Hazor, the new city was far smaller than the old, and, unlike Hazor, probably not even a city, but a well-stocked military fortress. It had a six-chambered gate on its south end.

As for lesser-excavated sites mentioned by Finkelstein:

En Gev, on the E. shore of the Lake of Kinneret, is not yet well-excavated enough to show any but one sign of Omride architecture, but there is a clear possibility it could have been Omride.

Khirbet ‘Atarus, Mesha’s Ataroth, also provides clear indications of Omride architecture, having a moat on at least two of its sides. According to Finkelstein, an Iron IIa cult place was found there by a dig in 2002.

And, now, we come to the most impressive display of probably Omride fortress-making in Moab: Khirbet al-Mudayna on the Wadi et-Thamad! The most likely site for Mesha’s Jahaz (and, consequently, the Biblical Jahaz), the fortress was built on a high, oval hill (not well flattened by fills) and surrounded by a moat. A six-chambered gate (shown by the square) is visible in the NE. corner. It was peacefully captured by Mesha and the fortress continued in use into the early 8th C BC. It was re-founded in the reign of Josiah and was destroyed by the Babylonians.

This architectural pattern, devised by the first centrally organized state paying tribute to no one in all of Palestine’s history, was one which served as a foundation for the State of Israel. It made a separation between regular civilian cities (Shechem, Megiddo, Tell el Fara’ N.) and cities and citadels used by the government (which included moats, fills, casemates, large amounts of space not permanently occupied, and a very small amount of city gates (usually, as at Hazor and probably Gezer, one). The Omride state clearly had an interest in placing fortresses in rebellious areas and on strategic roads.

In the next installment, I shall analyze the Square Temple Mount and compare and contrast it with these Omride architectural parallels.

How Was Megiddo Identified?

Megiddo (or at least its citadel) is today universally identified as Tell el-Mutesellim (“mound of the governor”). But, how did this idea originate? It originated from Robinson’s 1831 idea that, since Roman-Byzantine Legio, clearly identified by the name and the itineraries as el-Lejjun (modern Kibbutz Megiddo), is near Taanach (modern Ti’anik, West Bank) and gives its name to the surrounding plain, just like Megiddo (out of the 6 times Megiddo is paired with a town, the only exception to Taanach is a single pairing with Ibleam). Except for the quite decisive citation of Judges 5:19, the evidence was here only a little stronger than Conder’s original evidence for Kadesh as Tell Nebi Mend. Almost certain evidence was added by Thumose III’s battle account (saying the enemy’s southern wing was in Taanach, proving Megiddo was to the north of it, and the fact there was a north, middle, and south route to get to Megiddo, also, the toponyms Aruna (‘Ara) and the Brook Qina (Wadi Qina, 32°34’40″N, 35°11’31″E)) and the fact Necho killed Josiah at Megiddo when going up to the Euphrates to fight at Haran on the Balikh (Lejjun was the only unknown place besides Qeimun that would allow an army easy access northwards and better fit with Judges 5:19). The six chambered Solomonic (possibly-the fact the gate is not connected to the wall is not a problem, Thutmoside Megiddo had the same situation) made sure that, to say the least, any site for Megiddo besides Tell el-Mutesellim would be unlikely to the extreme.

Where did Megiddo go?

Megiddo entered biblical history in the Book of Joshua. It, being a strategic fortress at the mouth of the Aruna (‘Ara) pass, the easiest way around the Carmel ridge, was the site of the first well-recorded battle ever, in 1458 BC. Taanach (modern Ti’anik, W. Bank) was said to have been by its waters in Judges 5:19. It was one of the cities built by Solomon in the 930s BC (1 Kings 9:15). Ahaziah of Judah died there in 841 BC. Josiah died there in a confrontation with Pharaoh Necho. It was destroyed and abandoned forever in 587/6 BC.

So, what happened to it?

It was replaced by the Hasmonean or earlier Jewish village of
Khefar Otnai, or Caparcotnei, at the site of the modern high-security prison of Megiddo, which was considered to be at the edge of Galilee. Sometime before 120 AD, Hadrian settled the 6th Roman Legion to guard the entrance to the Aruna pass at what would be named Legio, at 32°34’40″N, 35°11’15″E. Under Constantine the Great, a new city, Maximianopolis, said to be above the Hadad Rimmon of Zechariah 12:11 (interpreted to be where Josiah died), which was in fact, not a place-name, but a Canaanite god. was built on the southern hill of modern Kibbutz Megido. In time, the Arabs destroyed the city and settled a new village, al-Lejjun, keeping the old name Legio, which lasted until 1948, when the the Arab inhabitants left to make way for the modern Kibbutz Megido.

The Battle of Taanach and Deborah and Barak

The Battle of Taanach (or, as some call, it the Battle of Kedesh) took place near Taanach sometime between the Philistine invasion (1177 BC) and the Philistine capture of Joppa (Judges 5:17), c. 1160 BC.

It appears that the causes of the battle were complaints about the oppression of the Israelite tribes north of the Jezreel by the kingdom of Hazor. Deborah, an Ephraimite female “judge”, holding court between Ramah (Ramallah) and Bethel (el-Bireh), allied with Barak, a man from Kadesh-Naphtali (Tel Qedesh), 33° 6’48″N, 35°32’1″E, possibly to avoid Hazorite taxation of roads (Judges 5:6). YHWH commanded Barak to lead ten armies of Zebulun and Naphtali (not Issachar!) to Mount Tabor. Deborah came with Barak to Kedesh (Tell abu Kadeis/Qudeis in the Jezreel, near 32°33’34″N, 35°12’58″E, Kedesh-Naphtali is far too near to Hazor and is north, not south, of Mount Tabor, Kedesh near Poriya would have made Barak bring men of Issachar, too), to which Barak summoned his 9 armies of men of Zebelun and Naphtali (tribes north of the Kishon not subject to any kingdom other than Hazor). This is archeologically represented by Tell Abu Qudeis, Stratum VIII (Iron IA village, destroyed c. 1140), making it likely this Kedesh Barak then went up to Mount Tabor. The fact Sisera came to the Kishon instead of Tabor before fighting Barak strongly suggests Harosheth-Haggoyim is located south of the Kishon, in the territory of the Megiddo. This would suggest that the kingdom of Hazor had either conquered, occupied, or made a treaty with Megiddo before the battle of Taanach. This would also explain why Deborah, from distant Ephraim, joined Barak on his liberation campaign. A placing of Harosheth-Haggoyim south of the Kishon would be consistent with Adam Zertal’s identification of it with Ahwat in the Aruna pass (Wadi ‘Ara or ‘Nahal Iron), which is possible, but far from certain. The clash between Barak and Sisera took place just north of “Taanach near the waters of Megiddo” (Judges 5:19), about two and a half miles from Kedesh. It ended with Barak chasing the army all the way to Harosheth-Haggoyim.  Sisera escaped to the Oak of Zaanannim, near Kedesh in the Jezreel, where he died. In short, the battle was a first step to the final Israelite destruction of Hazor.