Maeir on the Qeiyafa Finds

11 05 2012

Aren Maeir (director of excavations at Tell es-Safi, biblical Gath) has written a post on the cultic finds from Kh. Qeiyafa.  Yossi Garfinkel has written a brief response to Aren on his interpretation of the model shrines as biblical term aron elohim (in this case “ark of the gods“).  I am traveling today so I can’t comment more, but I think Aren’s comments are exactly right.


Update: Qeiyafa Cult Finds

8 05 2012

So it turns out that my guess (see previous post) was pretty much dead on. The press conference this morning (via Jim West’s blog) has unveiled a stone and a ceramic temple model, which Garfinkel is interpreting related to the ark of the covenant and architectural features of the temple in Jerusalem (as described in the Hebrew bible).  This information is more or less third hand, as soon as there is a press release or more formal information I will have an update.  For now it appears that these models shrines are not anything too unique for this time period (Iron IIA), see these images of the Yavneh favissa.  The unique aspect of these finds are their interpretation, which I am withholding judgement on until reading a more complete explanation.

Model Shrines from Qeiyafa (from Jim West’s blog by way of Robert Deutsch)

More to come later in the day…

Update: Here is the official Hebrew University press release.  It contains much more information about the archaeological context of the cultic objects previously mentioned.  There is also a link to some high quality images of the finds and the shrine(s) in which they were found.  These finds are very important but I think the aniconic nature of the cult is overstated.  Maybe no figurines were found, but the one model shrine has examples of lions and birds on it.  Also this shrine (and the stone one as well, although I can’t find an exact parallel right now) has very close parallels.  The three birds on top of the Qeiyafa shrine are broken off, as is one of the lions, but the parallels should be clear.  Another almost exact parallel was first published by William Dever in BAR 34/2 where he compellingly argues that it should be associated with Asherah.

Iron Age Model Shrine from Private Collection

Qeiyafa Iron I/Iron IIA model shrine

































Update 2: Here are links to my previous blog posts on Finkelstein’s opinions on Qeiyafa and the matter of a separate Shephelan polity.

Finkelstein and Qeiyafa Part 1 and Part 2

The Lack of Lachish Part 1 and Part 2 (unfortunately I never finished this series as my daughter was born and then we left for Jordan)

Qeiyafa Reveal

4 05 2012

Some of you have probably already heard, but there will be a major announcement at a press conference on May 8th regarding Kh. Qeiyafa.  The press conference info was sent out by Joseph Lauer and mentioned on several blogs already.  The press release mentions the importance on the news for history, archaeology, and the Bible.  So…no pressure.  I’m trying to find out some hints as to the nature of the finds.  My guess would be some kind of cultic find supporting the Judahite origins of the site in some round about way.

Finkelstein and Qeiyafa: Part 1

4 12 2010

During the David Ussishkin Festschrift session at SBL, Israel Finkelstein read a paper entitled “Khirbet Qeiyafa: A Cool-Headed Interpretation.”  Finkelstein focused on five main points (pottery, radiocarbon dates, fortification system, ethnic affiliation, and identification of the site), which I will discuss below.  Overall I generally agree with what he has to say (with one major exception, toponymics) although I think, like Garfinkel, he is exaggerating differences to support his interpretation.  Also, in general, I prefer Mazar’s Modified High Chronology to Finkelstein’s Low Chronology.

1) The Pottery: Lily Singer-Avitz in her article in Tel Aviv has dated the ceramic assemblage to the late Iron I, instead of the Iron IIA.  Finkelstein picks up on this, seeing similarities to late Iron Age I sites he has excavated such as Izbet Sartah and Kh. ed-Dawwara on the Central Benjamin Plateau.  He also sees a lack of wheel burnishing as evidence for a slightly earlier date than Garfinkel would support.  I have no issue with this, much of the debate at the first Qeiyafa session a few ASOR’s ago, surrounded the dating of the site to the time of David.  Several scholars (including Tom Levy, Jeff Chadwick, and Aren Maeir) stood up and asked why the pottery could not be Solomonic or Saulide.  I think their concerns were valid and that the Qeiyafa assemblage could date from the 11th century BCE through the mid-10th century BCE.  One things is clear concerning the ceramic assemblage; it is hill country oriented.  Both Bill Dever and Aren Maeir have made it very clear that this is their opinion, and I would agree with them.

2) The Radiocarbon Dates: Finkelstein takes issue with the fact that Garfinkel has averaged his dates, which should only be done if all samples taken are from the same clear context.  Unfortunately this isn’t the case with the first Qeiyafa samples, which include a date from the Middle Bronze Age and a date from the Hellenistic Period.  In this case I think Finkelstein is correct, although they have continued to take radiocarbon samples at Qeiyafa and it seems as if the dates can be used to support either perspective.  Like with the pottery we are dealing with a period of 150 years or so, and one can line the radiocarbon dates and the pottery together to fit their personal viewpoint.

3)  Fortification System:  At this point is where I begin to part ways from Finkelstein.  He is correct in noting that casemate wall fortifications appear at many sites in the area during this time period.  The casemate fortification at Qeiyafa is neither the first in Israel (as claimed by Galil later Saturday night at ASOR) nor is it a unique architectural feature in the Levant.  Finkelstein pointed out examples at sites nearby such as Timnah and Izbet Sartah, and in Jordan at Kh. al-Mudanyah on the Wadi ath-Thamad and Ataruz.  However these casemate fortifications do differ greatly in size from Qeiyafa.  Casemate walls at Izbet Sartah, for example, consist of flimsy walls the same type as the houses abutting the outer wall.  At Qeiyafa the outer wall is much larger than the inner dividing walls.  Here is an example of Garfinkel (and others such as Galil who knows little about archaeology) overstating his case, and allowing others to poke holes in his greater interpretation.  He should have stated that casemate walls are found at other sites during this time period but the construction at Qeiyafa is on a greater scale.  Finkelstein also questions the presence of a second gate, but the most recent excavations at Qeiyafa make it clear that this gate did exist and dates generally to this period in the Iron Age (and not the Hellenistic period).

This post is getting far too long already.  I’ll conclude with part 2 tomorrow, focusing on Finkelstein’s fourth and fifth points.

Post ASOR and SBL

23 11 2010

I was planning on posting more regularly over the course of the meetings, but I was too busy/without internet most of the time.  I presented on Thursday and was then able to enjoy the rest of the sessions sans stress.  The meetings are always a great opportunity to see old friends and network.  I saw friends from all over the world, people from: Wheaton, Jerusalem University College, Tell es-Safi, the Madaba Plains Project, and others random folk I’ve come to know over the years.  Since I am ABD networking is always an important part of the meetings and partially thanks to the 3D scanning I was able to make some new acquaintances.  I also attended a young scholars luncheon on post-doc fellowships, which was particularly helpful.

I attended many sessions and heard papers both good, bad, and ugly.  My paper in the Archaeology of Jordan Bronze and Iron Age session went fairly well.  There were technical difficulties at the beginning of the session, but all the papers were interesting, covering the Early Bronze Age through the Iron Age.  I saw many familiar faces in the audience and also the new director general of the department of antiquities (who Barbara Porter has introduced me to the night before).

A particularly interesting/telling series of lectures took place on Saturday afternoon and evening.  I went over to SBL to hear the Ussishkin Festschrift Session and then came back to ASOR to hear the session on the Archaeology of the City of David.  Both sessions were star-studded events with Israel Finkelstein, Naadav Naaman, David Schloen, and Baruch Halpern presenting in the first session and Amihai Mazar, Avraham Faust, and Andy Vaughn in the second (to name a few).  The SBL session was packed with people standing in the back and sitting on the floor, the ASOR session was also quite full but in a much larger room.  The SBL session had been moved from an even smaller room, making one wonder how seriously they take their archaeology.  In any case there was a real dichotomy between the two sessions one where the Low Chronology/Tel Aviv School was in full effect, and the other where the High Chronology was being favored.  It was quite a transition, going from Finkelstein tearing down the standard interpretation of Kh. Qeiyafa (while Garfinkel squirmed in the audience), to Vaughn pointing out all the flaws in Finkelstein’s interpretation of Jerusalem.

Despite the tension in the room (especially at SBL) there were many light moments as well. Finkelstein showed pictures of his great grandparents alongside Ussishkin’s grandparents back in Europe and told a story of Ussishkin’s parents staying at his grandparents hotel in Jerusalem and still owing them for a coffee.  At Faust’s lecture, he focused on redating Eilat Mazar’s monumental stone structure (called by her David’s Palace) to the Iron Age I, prompting Ayelet Gilboa (director of excavations at Tell Dor) to suggest he except the Low Chronology and then once again we could have David’s Palace (instead of a Jebusite stronghold).  I’ve written plenty here, maybe as there is time over Thanksgiving weekend I will write about a few of the more interesting lectures, and write a thorough critique of Finkelstein’s interpretation of Qeiyafa.