Black Spirituality Religion : David's Jerusalem: Fiction or Reality?

Discussion in 'Black Spirituality / Religion - General Discussion' started by LuvSupreme66, Feb 28, 2004.

  1. LuvSupreme66

    LuvSupreme66 New Member MEMBER

    Feb 27, 2004
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    It's Not There: Archaeology Proves a Negative.

    The history of Jerusalem is going to have to be rewritten. As we gradually assimilate the archaeological record, we are finding more and more evidence that calls into question long-held assumptions about the city's past. This is especially true of the three periods I will discuss here, which are already the subject of heated debate: the Late Bronze Age, Iron Age I and the beginning of Iron Age II. The history of these periods is particularly sensitive in that it ultimately involves the historicity of the glorious reigns of David and Solomon—at least, according to the Bible—and the existence of the United Monarchy of Israel.

    The Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 B.C.E.) is the period just before Israel, whatever its actual nature, began to emerge in the hill country of Palestine. Iron Age I (1200-1000 B.C.E.), the period of the Judges in Biblical terms, is the era just before the 12 Israelite tribes supposedly united. The beginning of Iron Age II encompasses the United Monarchy. David's "conquest" of Jerusalem is usually dated to about 1000 B.C.E. According to the Bible, David and Solomon each reigned 40 years.

    What was Jerusalem like in the period before the emergence of Israel? What was it like during the 200-year period of the Judges, when, according to the Bible, Israel was unable to possess Jerusalem? (Though the Israelites conquered the city, they apparently could not hold it [Judges 1:8].) How much of the stirring account of David's conquest is historically accurate? Did a city of any note exist there during the time of David and Solomon?

    Failure to publish the evidence from the large excavations conducted in Jerusalem since 1960 has created severe problems for scholars who wish to evaluate the Jerusalem of these periods. The directors of all four major excavations died without writing final reports. Between 1961 and 1967 Kathleen Kenyon excavated on the southeastern hill known as the City of David, the oldest inhabited part of Jerusalem. From 1968 to 1978, following the Six-Day War, Benjamin Mazar excavated south of the Temple Mount in the area known as the Ophel. Nahman Avigad excavated in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City from 1969 to 1983. And Yigal Shiloh excavated the City of David from 1978 to 1985. Not one final report from these excavations has been completed, although teams of archaeologists are now working on them in Jerusalem; Manchester, England; and Leiden, the Netherlands.

    I am preparing the material from Kenyon's excavation. When Kenyon died in 1978, the post-excavation work on the dig had not yet begun, although she had written several popular books on her Jerusalem excavations. A committee on behalf of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem assigned part of the excavation material to Professor H.J. Franken of the University of Leiden, who asked me to join him as a Ph.D. research assistant.

    The material sent to Leiden included the field documentation and the pottery sherds from the large trench that Kenyon cut into the eastern slope of the City of David, known as Trench A (consisting of Squares A I-XXIX), and at a later stage, Squares H and P. In addition, we received the material from Kenyon's Site C in the Old City. Although we continued to work closely together, Franken and I decided to divide the project into two separate parts: Franken is making an extensive analysis of all the pottery dating from the Early Bronze Age to the Byzantine period.(1) I am preparing a stratigraphical analysis,* dating the pottery and writing a historical interpretation of the results.(2) This has of course required an intensive study not only of Kenyon's material, but of whatever else is available from other excavations.

    The history of Jerusalem in the Late Bronze and Iron Ages is usually based on an analysis of written sources—the Bible and some archaeological texts and documents, such as the 14th-century B.C.E. Amarna letters from Egypt. Archaeological materials from Jerusalem itself are then used to clarify and confirm this picture. However, I shall proceed here from the opposite direction, starting with the archaeological evidence from the site.

    Most of the Late Bronze Age material recovered from Jerusalem has come from tombs, especially one on the Mount of Olives that contained hundreds of pots, mainly of local ware, and from a pit south of the city, which held some pottery and a scarab.(3) North of the Old City, the remains of what may have been an Egyptian temple were also excavated.(4)

    But no remains of a town, let alone a city, have ever been found: not a trace of an encircling wall, no gate, no houses. Not a single piece of architecture. Simply nothing!(5)

    What about the Amarna letters? This archive of nearly 400 cuneiform tablets contains diplomatic correspondence found at Tell el-Amarna in Egypt, the ancient capital of Akhenaten (also called Amenophis and Amenhotep IV), the so-called heretic pharaoh, who ruled in the 14th century B.C.E. The letters consist of official correspondence from the files of both Akhenaten and his father, Amenhotep III. Several letters come from rulers of Palestinian city-states, such as Shechem, Gaza, Megiddo and Beth-Shean. Six letters were written by the scribe of 'Abdi-Heba, prince (or mayor(6) or ruler) of "Urusalim"—Jerusalem. Based on the contents of these letters from 'Abdi-Heba, Jerusalem at this time is often described as a large town, protected by a sturdy wall. Some scholars assume it was the capital of a city-state or at least the central town of a large region.(7)

    In a recent article in BAR,** Nadav Na'aman relied on the 14th-century B.C.E. Amarna letters to prove by analogy that Jerusalem must also have been a thriving city in the tenth century B.C.E., during the period of David and Solomon. Almost nothing has been found from the 14th century (the Late Bronze Age), yet, says Na'aman, we know that there must have been a thriving city there because of the references to Jerusalem in the Amarna letters. He concludes that a similar situation must hold for the tenth century B.C.E. Although more than a century of intensive archaeological excavations has uncovered very little from this period, Na'aman argues, this does not necessarily mean there was no city at that time.

    In short, although Na'aman acknowledges the paucity of archaeological finds from the 14th century to the 10th century B.C.E., he maintains that this was caused by building and rebuilding. In support of his conclusion, Na'aman also draws a comparison with the Persian period in Jerusalem (fifth-fourth centuries B.C.E.), when the Jews returned from the Babylonian Exile. The Jerusalem of that period is vividly described in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, yet only fills and building fragments have survived later building activities. According to Na'aman, this should caution us against drawing negative conclusions from negative archaeological evidence, especially when textual evidence suggests otherwise.

    If only the problem were that simple! Unfortunately, texts such as the Bible and the Amarna letters are often as difficult to interpret as are archaeological remains. And negative evidence is sometimes just that: evidence that there was no settlement.

    What can we say about the fact that we have Amarna letters sent by a ruler living in Urusalim in the 14th century B.C.E. but no trace of any settlement in Jerusalem?

    There are only three possible explanations as to why no Late Bronze Age remains have been discovered in Jerusalem: (1) Not enough has been excavated. (2) All remains have eroded or were dug away in antiquity. (3) There were no remains to begin with.

    The first possibility may easily be eliminated. Four large trenches have been excavated in four major excavations in the slopes of the City of David, where all agree the ancient settlement must have been located because of the proximity to the Gihon Spring, the only available water source at the time. These four excavations, in chronological order, include the large trench dug by Raymond Weill before the First World War;(8) J.W. Crowfoot's trench on the western slope (the other trenches were on the eastern slope nearer the Gihon Spring), dug between the wars;(9) Kathleen Kenyon's Trench A, dug in the 1960s;(10) and Yigal Shiloh's trench in his Area E, dug in the 1970s and 1980s.(11) These trenches were all exposed down to bedrock. Yet no Late Bronze architecture was found in any of them. And the pottery sherds from this period were minuscule to nonexistent.

    In addition, several deep trenches were dug in and around the Old City, all of which yielded similarly negative results.(12)

    In my opinion, this is more than enough exposure to decide whether or not there was a Late Bronze Age town in Jerusalem.

    Has it all simply eroded away (the second possibility), as Na'aman suggests? The problem with this suggestion is that if a town of any size existed somewhere near the Gihon Spring, plenty of pottery sherds from that settlement would have survived. Even if the architectural remains had for some reason been dug away, Late Bronze Age sherds would have been recovered from the many large fills that were excavated. But they are not there—though, in contrast, potsherds from the earlier Middle Bronze Age and from the later Iron Age II are abundant.

    I find it hard to imagine that not only architecture, but also pottery and other small finds have all disappeared, especially since earlier architecture and pottery, from the Middle Bronze Age (2200-1550 B.C.E.), have survived. Further, Na'aman's comparison with the Persian period actually undermines his position. For we do have Persian period architecture and potsherds: Kenyon uncovered part of a city wall and a tower as well as thick wash layers outside this city wall.(13) And both Kenyon and Shiloh recorded large amounts of Persian period sherds in fills. So although we may not be able to reconstruct the complete plan of the Persian period city, enough material has been found to state with certainty that there was a city at this time. The situation for the Late Bronze Age, however, is completely different.

    This leads us to the third possibility: Perhaps these extensive excavations have not revealed any trace of the Late Bronze Age city because there was no city there in the Late Bronze Age.

    So what about the Amarna letters? Six letters were written by the ruler of Urusalim, and even though no remains have been found of this settlement, the letters do exist and have to be interpreted and explained.

    I formerly explored the possibility that "Urusalim" referred not to the city we know as Jerusalem but to a city located elsewhere in Palestine. Geographical references in the letters, however, make this a very slight possibility indeed.

    Then I began to consider another possibility. There is no reference in any of the letters to the city itself, nor to its walls or its strong gates. Maybe Urusalim was not a large city at all. Perhaps the "lands of Urusalim" simply referred to a royal domain of the pharaoh, over which 'Abdi-Heba was steward. Perhaps 'Abdi-Heba lived in a fortified house somewhere near the Gihon Spring.

    Jerusalem would not be the only Late Bronze Age "city" that has disappeared in the course of continuing research. Barry Gittlen of Baltimore Hebrew University recently argued that the supposedly "important and flourishing" city at Tel Miqne (Philistine Ekron) was, rather, a small "baronial estate," similar examples of which he detected at Aphek, Tel Batash, Jericho and Lachish.(14) Urusalim might have been just such a small estate, protecting the route to Beth-Shean and supplying the pharaoh with slaves (slaves were the only sort of tribute mentioned in 'Abdi-Heba's letters). The Late Bronze Age tomb on the Mount of Olives may have been connected to 'Abdi-Heba's family. Maybe we should search for 'Abdi-Heba's house there too!

    Historical sources for Iron Age I (1200-1000 B.C.E.), the so-called period of the Judges, are almost nonexistent except for the Biblical references, most of which were written at a much later time. Based on the Biblical accounts, the traditional view of Jerusalem in this period is that it was a small, well-fortified town inhabited by the Jebusites, the center of an independent city-state. According to the stories in Samuel, Kings and Chronicles, this small town was then captured by King David, who transformed it into the capital of the United Monarchy of Israel. David's successor, King Solomon, enlarged the town and built several palaces and a grandiose temple. The Bible describes Jerusalem as a beautiful city, the capital of a large and wealthy empire.

    Recent scholarship, however, has begun to undermine this picture.(15)

    First, the archaeological situation that we saw with respect to the Late Bronze Age persists in Iron Age I: There is very little archaeological evidence that a city existed here in Iron Age I—or in 1000 B.C.E., when David was supposed to have conquered it. For Iron Age I, all that was found was a building with a complete collared-rim jar on its plastered floor, which allowed the building to be dated to Iron Age I. A series of terraces about it were excavated by both Shiloh and Kenyon. The terrace system consisted of seven "steps" descending down the slope of the hill and bounded on the south by a solid stone wall about 65 feet high. Several hundred Iron Age I potsherds were found in the terrace fills.(16)

    The paucity of archaeological evidence continues into the early tenth century B.C.E., the period of the United Monarchy, although not to the same extent as in the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age I. There is some evidence from the tenth century B.C.E., but not much. And what does it tell us?

    From the tenth century B.C.E., we have some architecture, most notably the famous Stepped-Stone Structure. In addition, we have pottery and some other artifacts.

    The Stepped-Stone Structure consists of a mantle of stones and some adjoining stone towers, laid out over the Iron Age I terrace system on the eastern slope of the hill. Originally the structure must have stood nearly 90 feet tall and 130 feet wide at the top, which makes it by far the largest and most impressive structure of its kind.(17) Jane Cahill and David Tarler are publishing the material from Shiloh's Area G, where the Stepped-Stone Structure is located. They maintain that beneath the stone mantle it is structurally connected to the terrace system. They date both the stepped mantle and the terrace system to Iron Age I.(18) They are right about the date for the terrace system, but plainly wrong about the stepped mantle. South of Area G, in Kenyon's Area A XXIII, there is clear evidence that the terrace system and the stepped mantle are two different architectural units. In Shiloh's Area G, the Stepped-Stone Structure is a mantle of stones only, built over the earlier terrace system. In Kenyon's A XXIII, no earlier terraces were found. Here the Stepped-Stone Structure was not a mantle only (it could not be), but an impressive buildup of large stones. Kenyon excavated more than 13 (!) layers of large boulders on top of each other without reaching bedrock.(19)

    The same situation was found in Kenyon's Trench I, where the Stepped-Stone Structure consisted of a large stone tower, as it extended further to the east than the Iron Age I terraces below it.(20)

    Both the terrace system and the Stepped-Stone Structure can be dated by the pottery in their fills. On this basis the terrace system should be dated to the 12th century B.C.E., squarely in Iron Age I, but the Stepped-Stone Structure must be dated to the 10th century B.C.E., the beginning of Iron Age II. Whether this makes it part of the kingdom of David and Solomon is something we will later consider.

    Connected to the Stepped-Stone Structure is a casemate wall,* a small part of which was excavated by Kenyon on top of the hill.(21)

    In addition to the Stepped-Stone Structure and the casemate wall from the tenth century B.C.E., we also have a number of fine ashlars** and a large proto-aeolic capital, structural elements normally used for public buildings. All this was found by Kenyon in destruction debris near the Stepped-Stone Structure.(22)

    A fragment of a wall made of similarly fine ashlars was also uncovered further north and was published by Eilat Mazar (Site SII).(23)

    A few luxury items from this period come from Shiloh's dig: a bronze fist that may have belonged to the statue of a god (perhaps the Canaanite deity Baal) and part of a large pottery stand portraying a bearded man. Eilat Mazar has recently tried to connect these finds with King David's palace.(24)

    At the foot of the Stepped-Stone Structure, several traces of habitation were found: plastered floors, a bread oven and some ash layers. Kenyon recovered 122 fragmentary rims of pottery jars and bowls from the fill of the Stepped-Stone Structure and from these plastered floors. Many of these sherds have a well-known type of criss-cross burnishing* on the inside, which is thought to date them firmly to the beginning of Iron Age II (the tenth century B.C.E.). Only one, however, has the dark red slip** that is traditionally considered the hallmark of tenth-century B.C.E. pottery.

    These finds indicate the existence of defensive walls, fortifications, public buildings and maybe even a temple (for Baal?) in the tenth-century B.C.E. settlement. What is lacking in the archaeological record are houses. Compared to the finds from the Middle Bronze Age and the seventh century B.C.E., the difference is striking. In those periods a city wall was built lower down the slope of the hill to protect a residential quarter located there.(25) In the Middle Bronze Age, about the 18th century B.C.E., and in the 7th century B.C.E., there was apparently not enough room on the top of the hill for people to live, so houses were built down on the slope, protected by the city wall that enclosed them. Not so in the tenth century B.C.E., however. At that time the slope was partly covered by the Stepped-Stone Structure, but there were no houses at all. The built-up area was apparently restricted to the top of the hill. The settlement was fortified, if at all, by the casemate wall that was connected to the Stepped-Stone Structure along the top of the hill. This wall may have connected this built-up area with another area further north, although no trace of it has been discovered.

    Thus, from the tenth century B.C.E. there is no archaeological evidence that many people actually lived in Jerusalem, only that it was some kind of public administrative center. But that is not the end of the problems. The dating of pottery from the beginning of Iron Age II has recently become the subject of considerable controversy. Pottery that has long been attributed to the tenth century B.C.E., based on a number of criteria, has recently been down-dated by several prominent scholars to the ninth century B.C.E.(26) According to the traditional view, hand-burnished pottery is a criterion of the early tenth century B.C.E. However, if it is dated to the late tenth or even the early ninth century B.C.E. (the new position), what we have said about the archaeological evidence of the tenth century B.C.E. no longer applies to the reigns of David and Solomon. We are left with nothing that indicates a city was here during their supposed reigns.

    An important factor suggesting that this newer dating of the urbanization of Jerusalem may well be correct relates to the red slip that is considered so characteristic of early-tenth-century B.C.E. pottery in the traditional view. This red-slipped pottery is hardly found at all in Jerusalem. This may mean that even if we follow the traditional dating criteria, the Stepped-Stone Structure must be dated, based on the pottery, later than the early tenth century B.C.E.—after the time of David and Solomon.

    In one respect, the difference between the early and late tenth century B.C.E. is not very important. We are really talking about the urbanization of Jerusalem: Were houses built here in the early or late tenth century B.C.E.? Does it really matter whether Jerusalem started to become a city where people lived in the early tenth century B.C.E. or 50 or 100 years later? But it is of crucial importance in terms of Biblical history. If we move down the date of this urbanization of Jerusalem, the reigns of King David and King Solomon, featured so prominently in the Biblical stories connected with Jerusalem, are severely threatened. If the new town of Jerusalem was founded only in the late tenth or early ninth century B.C.E., then it was not done by these Biblical kings. There is simply no saving them.

    What we can say, archaeologically, is that at some time in the tenth or early ninth century B.C.E., Jerusalem became a small town, occupied mainly by public buildings. It covered no more than 30 acres, including the Temple Mount area. No more than 2,000 people lived there. Because no trace of a town in the immediately preceding period has been discovered, we must assume that a new town was founded in Iron Age II, a town with impressive public buildings but only a small residential quarter. This indicates that the town functioned as a regional administrative center or as the capital of a small, newly established state. The large public works constructed in the tenth or early ninth century B.C.E. imply a concentration of power in the hands of an emerging elite with a growing supremacy over the surrounding region.

    It seems unlikely, however, that this Jerusalem was the capital of a large state, the United Monarchy, as described in the Biblical texts.

    Jerusalem was not very different from other towns in Palestine at this time—such as Megiddo, Hazor, Gezer and Lachish—all of which were small towns with the same characteristics: large fortifications, ashlar masonry, public buildings and hardly any residential areas. Based on the archaeological record alone, one would assume that these settlements were the seats of governments of several small regional states that only later fused into the historically attested states of Israel and Judah. The states of the Divided Monarchy—Israel and Judah—are mentioned in Assyrian and Babylonian documents and in the Mesha Stele. Here there is evidence for their existence outside the Bible. The United Monarchy, however, is not a historical fact.

    Archaeological surveys in the hill country of Judah have confirmed this picture of Jerusalem as a regional center in the early part of Iron Age II. Israeli of Jerusalem as a regional center in the early part of Iron Age II. Israeli archaeologist Avi Ofer, who combined a survey with a reanalysis of the pottery from earlier surveys in the region and from a small excavation at Hebron, concluded that at the beginning of Iron Age II the region east of Jerusalem underwent a process of intensive settlement for the first time. Using modern techniques (such as the Rank Size Index), he determined that this was an integrated settlement system, the center of which was located outside the surveyed area. Jerusalem was the only large settlement nearby and was thus the administrative center of the region.(27)

    To put all this in context, it might be helpful to trace Jerusalem's history from the very beginning, as revealed by archaeology. The only evidence from the Early Bronze Age (3000-2300 B.C.E.) are some rock-cut tombs and a small building, possibly a shrine, excavated by Shiloh.(28) From the Intermediate Bronze Age (2300-2000 B.C.E.), several agricultural villages have been found near Jerusalem, along the wadis, although the site itself was still not settled.(29) However, a cemetery with eleven shaft tombs has been found on the Mount of Olives.(30)

    Only at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age, about 1800 B.C.E. (called MB IIB), was a town built on the southeastern hill, what is now known as the City of David. Several stretches of a sturdy city wall from this period have been found by Kenyon and Shiloh as well as by early-20th-century excavators such as R.A.S. Macalister and the members of the so-called Parker expedition.(31) Middle Bronze Age Jerusalem may be considered a regional center of economic power and therefore of political, military and religious power as well. Too small to have existed on its own, it must have been the provincial outpost of a more powerful city-state. Although the name Jerusalem (Rushalimmu) is found on roughly contemporaneous inscribed pottery sherds discovered in Egypt (known as the Execration texts), this does not necessarily mean that it was an important city. Indeed, the name itself does not necessarily identify a town; it could as easily indicate a region or a tribe.

    From the second half of the Middle Bronze Age (1700-1550 B.C.E.), we have neither architectural remains nor pottery. For unknown reasons, the town simply ceased to exist after a mere 100 years.

    From the Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 B.C.E.), only tombs testify to the presence of human beings in the region. According to the 14th-century B.C.E. Amarna letters, a settlement of some sort may have been the center of a royal estate, but no remains have been traced anywhere near the Gihon Spring.

    In Iron Age I (1200-1000 B.C.E.), a terrace system (excavated by both Kenyon and Shiloh) was constructed, which consisted of at least seven "steps" descending down the slope of the hill and bounded on the south side by a solid stone wall. It must have been the substructure for some kind of fortification, perhaps a small stronghold, which was built only with great effort. It could not have housed many people, but it dominated its surroundings. If this interpretation is correct, it would be the only fortified building known from Iron Age I in the hill country. No remains of a town from this period have been discovered.

    This necessarily changes our perspective on the situation in the following period, the beginning of Iron Age II—quite aside from the fact that there was no city here for King David to conquer.

    The major monument from the beginning of Iron Age II is the Stepped-Stone Structure. Other remains from this period have been described above.

    If no town or city existed at Jerusalem in Iron Age I, this means that the tenth-or ninth-century town described above was a new establishment, perhaps a regional administrative center or even the capital of a newly established state, however small that may have been.

    By the seventh century B.C.E. the situation had completely changed. In the intervening period Jerusalem slowly grew. In the late eighth century B.C.E. the Assyrians destroyed much of the country. The Assyrian invasion actually brought an end to the northern kingdom of Israel in 721 B.C.E. and destroyed much of Judah in 701 B.C.E. Only then did Jerusalem come to occupy a central position. In 587 B.C.E. the city was destroyed by the Babylonians. Debris from the Babylonian destruction has been found in massive layers, yielding an enormous amount of architecture and objects. This makes it possible to reconstruct life in the city in the second half of the seventh century, just before its tragic end. But that is another story.
  2. Destee

    Destee STAFF

    United States
    Jan 22, 2001
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    betwixt and between
    LuvSupreme66 ... Hello and Welcome ... :wave:

    Thanks for joining us and sharing. I'm wondering, are these your own words or those of another? I followed the link but didn't find this text there.

    Please take note of our forum rules, they are few but include our attempt at respecting property that belongs to others. If these are not your words, it's best to leave a few of the words and a link to the site where they can be found. We are much more interested in your thoughts, your words, your opinions, than someone else's. :)

    Again ... thanks for joining us and sharing. Looking forward to reading more of you.

    Much Love and Peace.


  3. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

    Feb 28, 2009
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  4. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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