Hey, since this is a biblical archaelology thread, you guys would definitely be interested in this documentary:
James Cameron Presents: The Exodus Decoded, Directed by Simcha Jacobovici. Don't miss this groundbreaking documentary that reveal the true secrets behind the story of the Exodus. The Exodus Decoded suggests new evidence that supports the Biblical tale – including a 3,500-year-old gold image that could be the Lost Ark of the Covenant. The Exodus Decoded Premieres on The History Channel on Sunday, August 20 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT
Hey, I'm coming into this discussion without reading much of the posts beforehand; I hope the information below isn't too redundant.
To make a long story short, what we perceive as the bible includes at least four different literary traditions distinct in time, location, and political situation. Some are Israelite, some are from Judah, and others just kinda show up along the road. There's a great summary of these here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Documentary_Hypothesis.
That's the text. Archaeologically the road gets a lot darker, but not impossible to navigate. Many finds (Dan Stele, Meshe Stele, etc) provide independent textual references to the Davidic and Omride dynasties respectively. They have a different political slant as well, and while some see this as an obstacle, I see it as incredibly instructive. For instance, King Ahab, son of Omri is described as providing some 2,000 chariots and 10,000 men to fight Assyria. This, coupled with finds from Tel Megiddo (near and dear to my heart and sore muscles) demonstrate that there was intensive use of horses at this point in time, in Area L the Megiddo Stables are currently being finished up excavated, this is a huge complex that was most likely used to store horses behind the city gates ~ to train horses in combat is a time-extensive process and as such any horse that can put up with a chariot is a valuable commodity, something you need to protect. As such, a significant portion of the Iron Age Megiddo was used just in holding these animals. The fact that a city can be dedicated as such has further implications as to the extent of the nation it belonged to, suggesting that Ahab and other Omride kings were more powerful than indicated by the Bible. If you get a chance to read the first book of Kings (part of the 7th century Deuteronomist history), you'll find that as much space is allocated to Ahab as was to David and Solomon. If you are looking for real historical figures, it begins with the Omrides. Researches at Tel Aviv have even found similar mason's marks between Samaria and Megiddo, suggesting that even the same architects and workers were being used to build similar buildings around the same time, more indications that the Israelite state under the Omrides is historical. That might be why religiously-minded authors of later centuries spent so much time writing about how horrible these people were ~ almost like evc forums sometimes.
Another aspect of the older stories is Exodus, of which most of you are familiar. While there is sparse... OK absolutely no evidence for a migration of Israelites from Egypt, there is overwhelming documentation and preservation of Egyptians inside Canaan and Israel. It would be very ironic if the Hebrew people went through all that trouble to leave Egypt only to find that Egyptians had colonized the land of milk and honey. This late phase of Egyptian involvement begins with Tuthmosis III raiding Megiddo in the Late Bronze, takes a dip in the chaotic Late Bronze - Early Iron chaos, and has a last wing of occupation in the Iron 1 and associated strata. Conversely, a series of Bedouin-like nomads begin to settle down in the lands around the Sea of the Galilee, these sites are typified by very sparse pig bones; they are either absent or in almost insignificant amounts. This is in contrast to surrounding areas (such as the Philistines) that have almost 20 - 30% of their diet stemming from pork; this is reflected in their sites by the concentration of pig bones. There is a gradual march of architecture that suggests an increased population, and eventually the formation of a functioning kingdom. It is entirely possible that the Exodus story was used as a background myth for these people, explaining their relationship with the waning Egyptian powers, and that part of their mythic and cultural history is preserved in the Tanakh (or "old-testament").
There is a lot of name throwing in archaeology of that land, "minimalist", "maximalist", "biblical", "atheist", etc. While it may be entertaining, it affects the actual course of the archaeology little. The archaeological record is far larger and more complex than the Bible, and deserves its own recognition. Some of the best and most significant finds are being found in the Early Bronze layers, far removed from the later textual traditions that are debated endlessly.
The best thing we can do, both for ourselves and for the people who lived in the periods in question, is to use archaeology to elucidate all textual claims, from the bible to Egyptian hieroglyphs. It is better to use the archaeology to elucidate the bible rather than to see the archaeology through the bible. Incidentally enough some of the worst and most temporary conclusions have resulted from the latter.
אם אנחנו מאמינים דברים מהעבר יחיד אז אנחנו נישאר לנצח בהוה
Hi, Theus. I`m green with envy that you had the chance to dig Megiddo. :D Currently, we are are viewing a TV series on Finkelstein`s excavations at Megiddo and it looks a long-term project. I think archaeology has learnt its lesson with making hasty assumptions about artifacts and now is a bit more circumspect about conclusions. Although a few still fly off the handle in what must be a tedious job. I notice Qumran has now descended to the status of a pottery works. A far cry from the exclusive religious community it was once thought to be. Are you heading back to Megiddo?
Actually, just got back from Megiddo three weeks ago or so. We saw the series up at Megiddo as a group, it was cool to cheer on familiar faces in the video. If you ever get the buzz to join the dig, the website is www.megiddo.tau.ac.il, its a international dig every other summer, so anyone is welcome if there willing to work. It still extends indefinitly into the future.
As far as Qumran, in retrospect it seems a bit hasty to infer that because the Dead Sea Scrolls were found their nesessitates that they were written there, but then again so little of the surrounding area is excavated it is quite possible that there are still remains to be found.
This begs the question though, what would you expect to find there that would tie the scrolls in with a more material archaeological record?
Also - as far as archaeologists making hasty decisions - last year a palace-structure from the Iron Age was found near Jerusalem, and was instantly hailed to be "King David's Palace", this of course cannot be substantiated unless you find a big inscription saying "בת דוד", even then how would one be able to identify the dynastic name with an individual? Presumably a palace would be used by multiple heads of state, and in Egypt often times the previous pharoh was erased to give a power boon to the current monarch.
Edited by Theus, : Spelling, the usual
אם אנחנו מאמינים דברים מהעבר יחיד אז אנחנו נישאר לנצח בהוה
Thanks for the link, but my digging these days relates to native gold. :D
I`m assembling a list of artifacts from the Qumran settlement and (separately)the Caves, and looking for any connection. E.g. any copper scraps from the Treasure Scroll, though what a poor religious community (or a pottery plant) might have in common with the Scroll list is debatable. Whether any of the inkwells from the settlement contained red ink as a number of Scrolls used. Remains of the blue-bordered cloth wraps in both places, etc. etc. Odd that the caves behind the settlement never yielded any scroll scraps, but then those Bedu are thorough. :-)