National Geographic : 2010 Dec
great armies of chariots described in the text. "Of course we're not looking at the palace of David!" Finkelstein roars at the very mention of Mazar's discovery. "I mean, come on. I respect her e orts. I like her---very nice lady. But this interpretation is---how to say it?---a bit naive." Now it is Finkelstein's theory that is under siege. On the heels of Mazar's claim to have discovered King David's palace, two other ar- chaeologists have unveiled remarkable finds. Twenty miles southwest of Jerusalem in the Elah Valley---the very spot where the Bible says the young shepherd David slew Goliath---Hebrew University professor Yosef Gar nkel claims to have unearthed the first corner of a Judaean city dating to the exact time that David reigned. Meanwhile, 30 miles south of the Dead Sea in Jor- dan, a University of California, San Diego profes- sor named omas Levy has spent the past eight years excavating a vast copper-smelting opera- tion at Khirbat en Nahas. Levy dates one of the biggest periods of copper production at the site to the tenth century . .---which, according to the biblical narrative, is when David's antagonists the Edomites dwelled in this region. (However, scholars like Finkelstein maintain that Edom did not emerge until two centuries later.) e very existence of a large mining and smelting opera- tion fully two centuries before Finkelstein's camp maintains the Edomites emerged would imply complex economic activity at the exact time that David and Solomon reigned. "It's possible that this belonged to David and Solomon," Levy says of his discovery. "I mean, the scale of metal production here is that of an ancient state or kingdom." Levy and Gar nkel---both of whom have been awarded grants by the National Geographic Society---support their contentions with a host of scienti c data, including pottery remnants and radiocarbon dating of olive and date pits found at the sites. If the evidence from their on- going excavations holds up, yesteryear's scholars who touted the Bible as a factually accurate account of the David and Solomon story may be vindicated. As Eilat Mazar says with palpable satisfaction, " is is the end of Finkelstein's school." , Route 38, crosses the ancient road that follows the Elah Valley en route to the Mediterranean Sea. Beneath the hills on either side of the road lie the ruins of Socoh and Aze- kah. According to the Bible, the Philistines en- camped in this valley, between the two towns, just before their fateful encounter with David. The battlefield of legend is now quiet and abounds with wheat, barley, almond trees, and grapevines, not to mention a few of the indig- enous terebinth (elah in Hebrew) trees from which the valley derives its name. A small bridge extends from Route 38 over the Brook of Elah. During high season, tourist buses park here so that their passengers can climb down into the valley and retrieve a rock to take back home and impress friends with a stone from the same place as the one that killed Goliath. "Maybe Goliath never existed," says Gar nkel as he drives across the bridge and up to his site, Khirbet Qeiyafa. " e story is that Goliath came from a giant city, and in the telling of it over the centuries, he became a giant himself. It's a metaphor. Modern scholars want the Bible to be like the Oxford Encyclopedia. People didn't write history 3,000 years ago like this. In the evening by the re, this is where stories like David and Goliath started." Beneath Gar nkel's bald, scholarly exterior and gentle sense of humor---which reveals a jag- ged edge when the subject is Israel Finkelstein--- lurks a man of unmistakable ambition. He rst DESPITE DECADES OF SEARCHING, ARCHAEOLOGISTS HAD FOUND NO SOLID EVIDENCE THAT DAVID OR SOLOMON EVER BUILT ANYTHING.