Thursday, December 16, 2010
[David - will the archaeologists get off his back?]
This month National Geographic magazine has published an interesting article about the heated disputes going on in Israeli archeology today.
In the beginning, there was William Albright and his pupil Yigael Yadin. Through the 1950s, 60s and 70s they defended the Bible as being basically historically accurate.
Next came Israel Finkelstein in the 1990's and 2000's. He regards the Bible as basically fictional.
Now a new generation of archaeologists are attacking him. People like Eilat Mazar, Thomas Levy and Yosef Garfinkel are claiming that significant parts of the Bible, regarding David and Solomon, are indeed historically accurate.
These discussions can be quite emotional. Finkelstein is described as "having a highly visceral manner—leaning his tall, bearded frame into a visitor's face, waving his large hands, modulating his baritone with Shakespearean agility." Likewise, when a passing tour guide contradicts her opinions, Mazar "jumps up from her bench and marches over to the tour guide. She chews him out in a staccato of Hebrew, while he stares passively at her. The gaping tourists watch her stalk off". Garfinkel says of Finkelstein's recent receipt of a four-million-dollar research grant, "He doesn't even use science—that's the irony. It's like giving Saddam Hussein the Nobel Peace Prize." Whatever.
Keep in mind as well that all archaeologists interpret their evidence with an atheistic bias, since that is the preferred religion of scientists.
The take home message for Orthodox Jews should be - ancient Palestinian archeology can prove anything or nothing. Very, very little has been preserved intact in Palestine over the past 3,000 years. Carbon 14 dating can be tricky, as this article mentions. Imaginary worlds are, in the minds of archaeologists, built and destroyed based on a few olive pits or a pottery fragment.
The fact is that because archaeology employs a wide range of different procedures, it can be considered to be both a science and a humanity. I would describe it as a "soft science" to the max.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 5:12 AM