Adam Zertal’s sandal sites

Archeologists Yoram Tsafrir and Adam Zertal both died in 2015.  There is a tribute to them in the new issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (March/April 2016, Vol 42, NO. 2).  An interesting thing about both men is that they had been wounded while serving in the Israeli military.   They both had to hobble around digs on crutches.

Adam Zertal is well-known and controversial because he found a structure on Mount Ebal above ancient Shechem which he claimed was the altar Joshua built there.  Indeed, it was from the late Bronze Age.  There was an abundance of animal bones there.  Other scholars dismissed Zertal’s claim.  Maybe it was just a watchtower.  Maybe it was a house.  William Dever, with some snark, suggested that since there was a great view it was a picnic area.

BAR adds an article by Ralph K. Hawkins which basically says that though Zertal’s identification of the structure with Joshua 8:30-31 remains questionable, it may well have been a religious site.  Hawkins puts the site in the broader context of other finds Zertal made in north-central Israel, the Manasseh district.   Zertal found a number of places enclosed by walls of a certain shape.

Zertal thought these walls had the shape of a sandal.  They were eliptical.  The enclosure wall around the structure on Mount Ebal was one of these.

He proposed that these places were holy sites established during the settlement of the land by Israel.  The sandal shape had the significance of ownership.  You put your foot on something to show that you owned it (e.g. Deuteronomy 11:24).  Perhaps the significance of these sites was that Israel claimed the land in the name of YHWH.

Furthermore, he proposed that the name Gilgal, which applied to at least three locations in the Bible, was not a place name but the name for these sandal sites.  Gilgal means something like a circle of stones.

I did not know about this theory before.  I am always looking for something that gives a new perspective on history, something that causes me to consider whether it could have happened that way.


About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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