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!).

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 Short Non-Biblical History of Palestine from the 13th C BC to the 11th C BC

Or, the Chronology page of this blog in narrative form, Part 1.

As I have recently stumbled upon the idea (which I think false, for archaeological reasons), that the Pentateuch was composed almost entirely around 270 BC and the pre-Exilic material found in it was preserved at Mizpah (partially due to the seamless blending of Babylonian and Late Iron Age Judahite tradition in the Primary History), I have discovered the need to write a truly extrabiblical history of Iron Age Cisjordan (Israel, Judah, and Philistia). While I do think that it is impossible to write a good and comprehensive history of Iron Age Cisjordan without use of the Bible, a wholly extrabiblical history would certainly be useful to compare with the Biblical one.

Part 1: The Collapse of the Imperial Order and the Return of the Sovereign City-State

I shall start a little earlier, in the Bronze Age, specifically the LB IIB. The context was one of what seemed to be next-to guaranteed perpetual peace. The treaty ending further military conflict between the Egyptian and Hittite empires had been accepted by both parties only a few decades before. Needs for defense were next-to nonexistent. A few hundred Egyptian troops could crush any existent foe of the Empire. Maritime trade in what would later be the Eastern Roman Empire was experiencing its greatest period of prosperity ever seen in the Bronze Age. Ivory carving in Cisjordan was witnessing its greatest use in the whole Late Bronze Age. Canaanite scribes were beginning to use the Alphabet, an invention whose advantages had been unnoticed by Eastern Semitic and Egyptian scribes alike.

Yet, all was not well with this imperial order. The Late Bronze IIB was a golden age, indeed, but only for two major classes: those dependent on taxes and those transporting goods between those dependent on taxes. The Forgotten Man was benefited only by the security of this state of affairs, which, more often than not, was only security for his expropriators and those dependent on them. The Forgotten Man could accept this state of affairs, as he did in Egypt, or, as he did in Palestine, Syria, and the Balkans, become to the established authorities a nameless, faceless enemy of civilization and imperial progress. Thus, the Amarna letters reveal the hills of the West Bank (as well as any hilly area in the Egyptian empire as far as northwest Lebanon) were endemically plagued by wandering bands of ‘apiru. Indeed, these bands might have been responsible for the destruction of some Late Bronze Canaanite cities (such as Megiddo VIII) known to not have been destroyed by Egyptians or by Sea Peoples.** Though some (such as Anson Rainey) have taken pains to distinguish the ‘apiru and the shasu, the former subsisting on stolen property, the latter on herded sheep, it seems to me that both are two faces of the same coin. Much like in the modern West Bank, where unemployment is over 20% and looting is endemic, the ancient West Bank was a place where much surplus labor remained untranslated into surplus productivity.

Thus, when the name ‘Isrr’, very likely to be connected with the later-mentioned land of “Sir. ‘i. la. aa“/”Israel” by historians, Continue reading “A Short Non-Biblical History of Palestine from the 13th C BC to the 11th C BC”

Speculations on the fingerprint and lmlk potteries

Over 500 fingerprint-impressed jar handles have been found at Qeiyafa. The second most fingerprint impression-bearing site is Jokneam, with about 15 impressions (overtones of the northern lmlk handles, esp. at Nahal Tut). Overall, fingerprint-impressed jars appear to be found in the Coastal Plain and North (and Tel Beersheba and Beth-Zur). This provides some rather interesting parallels with the much later (~300 years later) lmlk impressions. Like in the case of the fingerprint impressions, most early lmlk impressions were concentrated at a single location in the Shephelah, and were made out of Shephelah clay. The Iron I fingerprint pottery and the Iron IIb lmlk pottery may have been at the same location. However, unlike in the case of the lmlk impressions, very few fingerprint impressions were found in the highlands (none seem to have been found at Gibeon and Jerusalem). So, who controlled the Qeiyafa polity? I suggest the likely candidates are:

1. The Kingdom of Beth-Zur

Beth-Zur was fortified in the Iron I and yielded one or more fingerprint-impressed jar handles. The kingdom ruled from it may be an illusion (i.e., an establishment of the Gibeonites or Jerusalemites) or an actual kingdom ruling over most of the Hebron hills destroyed by Judah or Gibeon (the Philistines are right out).

2. The Kingdom of Socoh or Adullam

-My gut reaction is to look to local explanations for Qeiyafa’s rise. They may be incorrect, but they haven’t been disproven.

3. The Kingdom of Gibeon

This is Finkelstein (and some maximalists)’s choice. He appears to believe believe Gibeon was a large, powerful kingdom ruled by the Saulide dynasty. I buy this. However, unless someone finds a fingerprint impression at Gibeon, I ain’t buying that Gibeon built Qeiyafa. It’s still a possibility.

4. The Kingdom of Jerusalem

-Almost every maximalist’s choice. As Jerusalem isn’t mentioned in Shoshenq I’s list, I ain’t buying it. I have not done thorough research on the Stepped Stone structure (evidence of the succession of the Late Bronze Kingdom of Jerusalem into Saulide times?), but Gibeon and Mahanaim appear far more prominent in Shoshenq’s list than Jerusalem.

In short, someone really needs to analyze the settlement system between the Hebron hills and southern Shephelah in Late Iron I.