Archaeology on the United Monarchy of David

Stories of giant animals may be younger than 40,000 years if the stories are based on skeletons.

Oral or written tradition is not the only way passing information through generations. A document claimed that aboriginals living close to the Great barrier reef have traditional dances describing the birth of the local barrier reef. The traditional dances tell the story how humans needed to retreat from the coast as water was rising. The document told that happened around 10,000 years ago, if I remember right.

True or not, it is likely that stories about crucial events may be told thousands of years, especially if the society gives the task to a valued group of individuals, such as religious leaders. Younger persons in training may need to recite and learn the stories from word to word before they gain a valued position. If the training is less intensive, parts of the stories may change while the core of the story is preserved.

One of the oldest examples that I’m aware of is the Klamath Indian story of how Crater Lake came to be, orally transmitted for ~7,000 years and some of the scientific details would match the geological event that formed the crater. If we want to use any details of historical events that match modern geology as evidence of the supernatural, then these guys are definitely in the running.

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Saved the link and will look into it at a later point. Now that is something interesting.

That’s a good reason why not to be so quickly dismissive of possible (and likely) historicity in OT narratives as being merely fictional and parabolic.

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The point is also made in David Montgomery’s The Rocks Don’t Lie. Finding that a local tradition (in Tibet) about flooding actually was based on a real event led into the realization that traditions such as the biblical flood account are likely to be based on actual events. After all, big floods do happen. This of course does not tell us what aspects of the account are hyperbole, much less tell us what to think of the theological spin given in the sources, but is a caution against the wholesale dismissal that is rather fashionable but poorly justified.

Given the location of Jericho, it is quite likely that an encounter there would have happened as the Israelites entered the land. Archaeologically, the city was probably nowhere nearly as imposing as popular imagination has portrayed it, but the biblical account gives few details except that it was not hard to march around it multiple times in a day, which suggests it was rather smaller than the one-stoplight town I am in (in circumference and quite possibly also in population). As the account records several centuries of abandonment after the battle, erosion would largely obscure the remains of what was probably not that impressive a town to start with. Of course, erosion prevents proof in either direction; we simply have to be realistic about what archaeological evidence should be expected.

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If I remember correctly, it was about one acre in area, and maybe 500 in population.

It’s very interesting but recent excavations have verified that there was a habitation in Jericho that turned into ruins in the 13th century BC. It was published just last year. Here’s a good video on it:


page 204 is of particular interest

Really? I thought pg. 204 was particularly confused. Consider:

  • Every serious scholar who discusses the historicity of the exodus puts it in the 13th century BC, the time of Ramesses II
  • A very recent school of fundamentalists have sought to put the exodus back in the 15th century BC, and have often mangled the evidence to do so

If the exodus was in the time of Ramesses II per the majority, we’d expect a conquest in the 13th century BC. If the exodus was in the time the fundamentalists put it, the conquest would be in the 15th century BC. Nigro observes that there is no destruction layer in the 15th century BC, and he simply concludes that the event is not directly historical. Honestly, I find the conclusion quite confusing and, as Falk pointed out, it lines up rather simply with the 13th century date.

I think Nigro’s personal opinion on the event is not very useful (he simply interprets the data in light of Mario Liverani’s previous work), but what is useful is the fact that his team has found a Late Bronze layer at the site that got turned into ruins in the 13th century BC.

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