Finkelstein and Qeiyafa: Part 2

5 12 2010

This post is the second part of a response to Israel Finkelstein’s lecture on Khirbet Qeiyafa at the SBL meetings in Atlanta.

4) Ethnic Affiliation:  Everyone agrees that Qeiyafa wasn’t associated in any way with the Philistines, there are no similarities in the material culture.  The other main option is a Judahite/Hill Country association, Finkelstein and others from Tel Aviv have had the hardest time coming up with an alternative solution.  They have come up with two other possibilities; the first is that the site was some kind of fortified farmstead belonging to local Canaanites (I think it was Ido Koch who suggested this), the second is that there was some kind of Shephelah polity in this time period.  This concept seemed to be what Finkelstein was suggesting. It is supported in part by the presence of Ashdod Ware I pottery at the site (which Garfinkel has used to date the site to Iron IIA), which appears more frequently in the Shephelah than in the Hill Country.  He pointed out that all 11th-10th century proto-canaanite or early hebrew inscriptions have come from the Shephelah (Izbet Sartah, Gezer, Tell Zayit, and now Khirbet Qeiyafa) and not from the hill country. This point was probably Finkelstein’s strongest, it is an idea that I have never thought of before and has not been published elsewhere.  This is not to say that there is not a good answer, but I can’t think of one currently. 

Most conservative biblical scholars would rely on the OT at this point and suggest that this (the fact there are multiple inscriptions found at the border of the kingdom) shows the development of some kind of state formation under David or Solomon.  This theory might hold true, but currently it lacks archaeological evidence to support it (especially with the redating of Eilat Mazar’s monumental structure in the City of David from the Iron IIA to the Iron I by Ami Mazar and Avi Faust, although there is a possibility that Mazar has found 10th century remains on the Ophel, just south of the Temple Mount).  In any case, both of these possibilities (Canaanite or Shephelah polity) are lacking simply because of the known strength of the Philistines at this time period.  It seems impossible that a small polity or local fortified farmstead would be allowed by the Philistines to exist so close to their border.  As can be seen by the length of this section, the ethnic identity of Qeiyafa is by far the most complicated aspect of this debate.

5)  Identification of the Site:  This was the weakest part of Finkelstein’s paper.  He rejects the identification of the site as Sha’arayim because there is no second gate (which is now confirmed) and because the texts (in the city lists of Josh 15:36 and 1 Chr 4:31, and in the Goliath story in 1 Sam 17:52) mentioning the site are all late.  It is clear that Finkelstein is not a historical geographer.  At what point did the final date of a text have bearing on site identification?  Even if the final dates of these texts weren’t disputed, that is still no indicator of when the original sources (written or oral) were formed. I have heard texts being dated based on when certain sites were occupied (the Joshua city lists are a good example of that), but not the other way around.  Most scholars would date the Joshua and 1 Samuel texts to the 8th or 7th centuries BCE (although some would date it later or earlier) which would only be a gap of 200 or 300 years.  Not nearly enough time for the memory of a site like Qeiyafa to fade.  The remains of this site are still visible on the surface today, and would have been plainly visible to anyone traveling through the area in the late Iron Age.

Now for a few conclusions.  In his paper Finkelstein seemed to exaggerate the differences between his interpretation of Qeiyafa and that of its excavators Garfinkel and Gaanor.  This is likely because in his first ASOR presentation on Qeiyafa, Garfinkel proclaimed the Low Chronology dead.  The pottery and radiocarbon dates fit well within the late Iron Age I through Iron Age IIA.  These dates allow proponents of both the Modified High Chronology and the Low Chronology to stake claim to the site of Qeiyafa.  So it is not the Low Chronology which is dead but rather assumptions about centralized government held by supporters of the Low Chronology.  It is clear that Qeiyafa was founded by a centralized government; due to its location, its large, fortified nature, the inscription found at the site, and the impressions on storage jar handles (Hoo-Goo Kang presented on these “finger” impressions at ASOR this year stating that they were applied using a tool, indicating some kind of control above that of an individual potter).  It is when talking about ethnic identity of the site where I part ways with Finkelstein.  Although he makes some compelling arguments for a polity in the Shephelah, I still believe that the material evidence still lends support for association with the hill country.  Finally I do believe that Qeiyafa is Sha’ariyim, and find Finkelstein’s toponymic suggestions entirely incorrect.



4 responses

6 12 2010
Barnea levi selavan

Zvi Lederman and Shlomo B of TAU point out (Haifa ANE conference in May) that the pottery form Elah FOtress- K. Qeiyafa – matches bet Shemesh pottery from early tenth century, matching a strata (3 or 4, forgot) in Bet Shemesh to the point of being interchangeable, which Zvi demonstrated in dramatic fashion visually. It is not the same as Judean hill country pottery. David ben Shlomo’s petrographic analysis indeed shows it is local ware. Therefore saying it has to do with David and Solomon is problematic.

The fortifications and pottery do indicate a polity in the Shephela, and they want to associate this site as an outpost of Bet Shemesh.

The cultic finds of 2010 must be reviewed.

6 12 2010

Thanks for your comments Barnea and for sharing some insights from the Haifa conference. I do think the similarities between the pottery of Qeiyafa and that of Bet Shemesh IIA and Gezer VIII bears some consideration. This concept of a Shephelah polity is quite interesting and something to be given more thought.

1 01 2011
The Biblical Studies Carnival LVIII « כל־האדם

[…] Owen Chesnut (Roses and Razorwire) responds to Israel Finkelstein’s SBL paper, “Khirbet Qeiyafa: A Cool-Headed Interpretation.” (See here and here.) […]

8 05 2012
Update: Qeiyafa Cult Finds « Roses and Razorwire

[…] Finkelstein and Qeiyafa Part 1 and Part 2 […]

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