National Geographic : 2010 Dec
palace or the perch overlooking the battle of David and Goliath. But Levy's excavation work spans more time and area than those of Eilat Mazar and Yosef Gar nkel, with far more exten- sive use of radiocarbon analysis to determine the age of his site's stratigraphic layers. "All scholars dealing with Edom in the last two generations claimed that Edom didn't exist as a state before the eighth century . .," says Amihai Mazar. "But Levy's radiocarbon dates have their own story, and that story is related to the tenth to ninth century . ., and no one can claim that they're incorrect." In fact, that is precisely what Levy's critics are doing. Some deemed his rst 46 datings insuf- cient to justify reordering an entire chronology for Edom. For his second round of C-14 analysis, Levy doubled the number of samples and me- ticulously selected charcoal from shrubs with veri able outer growth rings. Despite the high cost of C-14 analysis---more than $500 for a single olive pit---the technique isn't a silver bullet. "Carbon-14 doesn't help you solve all this controversy," says Eilat Ma- zar. "You have the plus or minus"---a margin of error of about 40 years. "You have di erent laboratories bringing di erent interpretations. You have debates about the whole C-14 issue." Indeed, Finkelstein and Amihai Mazar have been locked in an ongoing tussle over the dat- ing of a single stratum at Tel Rehov, a Bronze and Iron Age city just west of the Jordan River. Mazar contends that the stratum could be Solo- monic. Finkelstein says it's from the later Om- ride dynasty, named for Omri, Ahab's father. e gap between the two eras is about 40 years. "Many of the radiocarbon dates for this pe- riod cover exactly the range that's under debate," Amihai Mazar says, chuckling wearily. "Not be- fore and not a er. It's been this way for 15 years." " in radiocarbon for David being a villager in Norway in the sixth century . .!" declares Israel Finkelstein--- exaggerating to make a point, as he is prone to doing. "But look, I enjoy reading every- thing Tom writes about Khirbat en Nahas. It has brought all sorts of ideas to me. I myself would never dig in such a place---too hot! For me, archaeology is about having a good time. You should come to Megiddo---we live in an air- conditioned B&B next to a nice swimming pool." is is how Finkelstein begins his rebuttals, with amiable preambles that cannot conceal the Mephisto-like gleam in his eyes. For a scholar, the Tel Aviv archaeologist has a highly visceral manner---leaning his tall, bearded frame into a visitor's face, waving his large hands, modulating his baritone with Shakespearean agility. Yet his charm wears thin for those who have felt the sting of his attacks. "If you want to attract attention, you behave like Finkelstein," says Eilat Mazar. Similarly unamused is Yosef Gar nkel, who 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 Sad- dam Hussein the Nobel Peace Prize." Still, Finkelstein's theories strike an intellec- tually appealing middle ground between bib- lical literalists and minimalists. " ink of the Bible the way you would a strati ed archaeo- logical site," he says. "Some of it was written in the eighth century . . , some the seventh, and then going all the way to the second . . So 600 years of compilation. is doesn't mean that the story doesn't come from antiquity. But the reality presented in the story is a later reality. David, for example, is a historical gure. He did live in the tenth century . . I accept the descriptions of David as some sort of leader of an upheaval group, troublemakers who lived on the margins of society. But not the golden city of Jerusalem, not the description of a great empire in the time of Solomon. When the authors of the text describe that, they have in their eyes the reality of their own time, the Assyrian Empire. "Now, Solomon," he continues with a sigh. "I think I destroyed Solomon, so to speak. Sorry for that! But take Solomon, dissect it. Take the great visit of the Queen of Sheba---an Arabian n Society Grant The archaeological work of Yosef Garfinkel and Thomas Levy is funded in part by your National Geographic Society membership.