National Geographic : 2010 Dec
• learned from an Israeli Antiquities Authority ranger about a nine-foot-high megalithic wall looming over the Brook of Elah. He began dig- ging in earnest in 2008. e wall, Gar nkel discovered, was of the same variety seen in the northern cities of Hazor and Gezer---a casemate of two walls with a chamber in between---and it encir- cled a forti ed city of about six acres. Private houses abutted the city wall, an arrangement not seen in Philistine society. A er shoveling out the topsoil, Gar nkel uncovered coins and other artifacts from the time of Alexander the Great. Beneath that Hellenistic layer he found buildings scattered with four olive pits, which carbon-14 analysis dated to around 1000 . . He also found an ancient tray for baking pita bread, along with hundreds of bones from cat- tle, goats, sheep, and sh---but no pig bones. In other words, Judaeans, rather than Philistines, must have lived (or at least dined) here. Be- cause Gar nkel's excavation team also uncov- ered a very rare nd---a clay pottery sherd with writing that appears to be a proto-Canaanite script with verbs characteristic of Hebrew---the conclusion to him seemed obvious: Here was a tenth-century . . complex Judaean society of the sort that low chronologists like Finkelstein claimed did not exist. And what was its name? Gar nkel found his answer upon discovering that the forti ed city had not one but two gates---the only such site found thus far in the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. "Two gates" translates into Hebrew as shaarayim, a city mentioned three times in the Bible. One of those references (I Samuel 17:52) describes the Philistines eeing David back to Gath via the "road from Shaaraim." "You have David and Goliath, and you have our site, and it ts," says Gar nkel simply. "It's typical Judaea, from the animal bones to the city wall. Give us two arguments why this is Phi- listine. One argument is because Finkelstein doesn't want us to destroy low chronology. OK, so give us a second reason." Here would be a second reason to be skeptical of Yossi Gar nkel's conclusions: He announced them, swi ly and dramatically, despite the fact that he had only four olive pits on which to base his dating, a single inscription of a highly ambiguous nature, and a mere 5 percent of his site excavated. In other words, says archaeolo- gist David Ilan, "Yossi has an agenda---partly ideological, but also personal. He's a very smart and ambitious guy. Finkelstein's the big gorilla, and the young bucks think he's got a monopoly over biblical archaeology. So they want to de- throne him." Better still, from the perspective of other in- terested parties: Once Finkelstein retreats from the throne, King David returns to it. ---an omnipresence in art, folklore, churches, and cen- sus rolls. To Muslims, he is Daoud, the venerated emperor and servant of Allah. To Christians, he is the natural and spiritual ancestor of Jesus, who thereby inherits David's messianic mantle. To the Jews, he is the father of Israel---the shepherd king anointed by God---and they in turn are his descendants and God's Chosen People. at he might be something lesser, or a myth altogether, is to many unthinkable. "Our claim to being one of the senior nations in the world, to being a real player in civiliza- tion's realm of ideas, is that we wrote this book of books, the Bible," says Daniel Polisar, president of the Shalem Center, the Israeli research insti- tute that helped fund Eilat Mazar's excavation work. "You take David and his kingdom out of MANY EXCAVATIONS TAKE PLACE IN EASTERN JERUSALEM, WHERE PALESTINIANS STAND TO BE DISPLACED IF SUCH PROJECTS MORPH INTO ISRAELI SETTLEMENT CLAIMS.