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.

Why Finkelstein’s 10th Century is More Plausible than Mazar’s

For background, see here. Mazar frequently uses the Shishak list to bolster his “Modified Conventional Chronology” by pointing both Iron IIa Arad and Taanach were mentioned in the Shishak list, and that, therefore, Iron IIa should have begun before Shishak. However, even Mazar’s own model clearly showed that 926 BC, the date of the Shishak campaign against Jerusalem (there were probably multiple campaigns), calculated from the Bible, was the most likely date for the Iron I-II transition. What was going on here? Finkelstein has recently issued an extremely attractive compromise which is perfectly consistent with the Shishak list, totally inconsistent with the Biblical account, and only roughly inconsistent with the radiocarbon models.

His solution?

1. Place the beginning of Iron IIa (Negev sites, Jezreel Valley), maybe in the 930s, just before Shoshenq’s capture of both lands.

2. Place the Iron I-II transition in the Benjamin hill country just before Shishak destroyed or weakened most of its cities. Since there is no evidence Gibeon was inhabited during the Late Iron IIa, and since Gibeon is mentioned by Shishak, Shishak must have campaigned against Gibeon during what was Iron I-Early Iron IIa in Benjamin.

This leads to some interesting historical speculation. Perhaps, as Finkelstein suggested, the Saulide dynasty lasted well into the 10th century, and, perhaps, it was Jeroboam I, king of Tirzah (Shechem was still a village), who made a deal with Shoshenq to peacefully administer the cities Shoshenq conquered and pay annual tribute if Shoshenq captured the cities for him?

The idea the Saulide entity continued into the days of Shoshenq I is suggested by the listing

22. Mahanaim

23. Gibeon

24. Beth-horon

25. Qadtam (Qatane? Kiriath-[Jeraim]?)

26. Aijalon

since only under the Saulides Mahanaim and Gibeon were in any way connected (2 Samuel 2:12).

In any case, the Solomonic Paradigm is just as dead as Minimalism.