Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Conquest of Canaan: Did It Happen?, P.7.d

7.d) Other Archaeological Remarks on the Conquest

Although argument for the evident of the Conquest of Jericho and Ai is untenable according to current provisional findings, Abraham Malamat is one who recently suggests that there are indeed some correspondence between the biblical data and the archaeological data, “The biblical thesis…finds weighty support in the archaeological evidence, demonstrating that several Canaanite cities (such as Lachish in the south, Bethel in the central sector, and Hazor in the north), which according to the Bible were conquered by the Israelites, were indeed destroyed in the 13th century BCE, or, more precisely in the second half of that century. (2004:71). Conversely such arguments have been considered and found wanting (except probably Bethel, which was destroyed in late 13th century. See Finkelstein, 1988:72-73). Herewith, I am listing remarks made by archaeologists among others in discussion with such hypothesis:

7.d.1) J. Maxwell Miller & John H. Hayes, ‘A History of Ancient Israel and Judah’ (2nd ed):
“The Late Bronze Age city destructions in Palestine were part of a general pattern that pertained throughout the ancient world, and it is not clear from the artifactual record that these cities were destroyed simultaneously or as the result of a common enemy. Indeed, it cannot be established archaeologically in most cases that they were destroyed by military action.” (p.55)

“The sites where artifactual remains indicate city destructions at the end of the Late Bronze Age, with a few exceptions (Lachish, Hazor), are not the ones that the biblical account associates with the conquest under Joshua.” (p.55)

“Most of the sites that are identified with cities that the biblical account does associate with the conquest, on the other hand, have produced little or no archaeological indication even of having been occupied during the Late Bronze Age, much less of having been destroyed at the end of the period. Prominent among such “conquest cities” are Arad (present-day Tel Arad), Hesbon (Tell Hisban), Jericho (Tell es-Sultan), Ai (et-Tell), and Gibeon (el-Jib).” (p.55)

Miller & Hayes also present a diagram of excavated sites according to the places found in Joshua 1-10. The diagram indicates that Arad, Debir, Hebron, Gibeon, Ai, Jericho, and Heshbon ‘produced minimal evidence of occupation from the fifteenth through the thirteenth centuries BCE, or none at all.’ (p.56)

7.d.2) William G. Dever, ‘Who Were The Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?’:
"We have already noted the absence not only of destruction levels at Dibon and Heshbon in Transjordan, but also any possible occupational context for such.” (p.44)

“The problem, however, is that Gibeon was apparently not occupied in either the late 13th or the early 12th century BC… James Pritchard…found Iron Ages remains, but nothing earlier than the 8th century BC…And Pritchard found 56 broken jar handles inscribed “Gibeon” in Hebrew in a deep water system of the 8th–7th century BC. The fact that this water system is probably the same one that is mentioned in 2 Samuel 2.13 suggests that the book of Joshua belongs to the 8th-7th century BC, when Gibeon known to the biblical writers really did exist.” (p.48-49)

“…large-scale excavations carried out by Israeli archaeologists in 1973-87 have proven that the destruction in question [Lachish] took place perhaps as late as 1170 BC, as shown by an inscribed bronze bearing the cartouche of Ramses III (ca. 1198-1166 BC). That is some fifty years too late for our commander-in-chief Joshua- unless he was leading troops into battle well into his eighties.” (p.50)

“There is little that we can salvage from Joshua’s stories of the rapid, wholesale destruction of Canaanite cities and the annihilation of the local population. It simply did not happen; the archaeological evidence is indisputable.” (p.227-228)

Dever provides a table listing 31 excavated sites and their findings that are unfamiliar with the data recorded in the book of Joshua. (p.56-57). Another similar summary can be found in his concise but substantial essay titled ‘Archaeology and the Emergence of Israel’ in ‘Archaeology & Biblical Interpretation’ edited by John R. Barlett.

7.d.3) John J. Collins, ‘The Bible After Babel’:
“The archaeological evidence for the land west of the Jordan in the Late Bronze and Early Iron ages can be construed so as to support more than one historical reconstruction. But it cannot, on the basis of the evidence now available, be made to support the account of conquest presented in the book of Joshua.” (p.38)

“The point is not whether [one’s] interpretation of the archaeology is objective fact. It surely is not. The point is, rather whether the findings of archaeology, as they exist in their present provisional state, can be reconciled with the biblical master narrative. And…[honestly] they can not.” (p.42)

“There is then a remarkable consensus, to which all but conservative apologists such as Kitchen and Provan would subscribe, that the foundation stories of the exodus and the conquest are best understood as myths. There is considerable disagreement as to when these myths became current and when they attained their present form, but they cannot be taken as history in any positivistic sense.” (p.46)
7.d.4) Israel Finkelstein, ‘The Great Transformation: The ‘Conquest’ of the Highlands Frontiers and the Rise of the Territorial States’ in The Archaeology of Society in the Holy Land, ed., Thomas E. Levy:
“Archaeologically, suffice it to say that some of the most important sites mentioned in the biblical narrative of the conquest of Canaan were not inhabited at all the Late Bronze Age, and the recent finds have clearly demonstrated that the destruction of the Late Bronze culture was a long and gradual process, taking over a century, rather than a catastrophic event.” (p.363)

7.d.5) Keith W. Whitelam, ‘Palestine during the Iron Age’ in The Biblical World, volume 1, ed., John Barton:
"…it has been increasingly clear that the destruction of towns throughout the eastern Mediterranean, including within Palestine, was not synchronous but took place over a century or more…the idea that this was a rapid and dramatic collapse marking a distinct cultural change has tended to obscure the protracted nature of the disruption and dislocation throughout the region…This evidence, along with recent data from surface surveys and excavations illustrating the new rural villages in the highlands and steppes were largely indigenous, rapidly undermined the biblically derived assumption that many of the Palestinian towns were destroyed by invading Israelites.” (p.395)

7.d.6) Finkelstein & Silberman, The Bible Unearthed:
“The kings of each of these four cities – Hazor, Aphek, Lachish, and Megiddo – are reported to have been defeated by the Israelites under Joshua. But the archaeological evidence shows that the destruction of those cities took place over a span of more than a century. The possible causes include invasion, social breakdown, and civil strife. No single military force did it, and certainly not in one military campaign.” (p.90)

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