An interesting dig that does not yet prove anything

In the last few weeks I have seen a proliferation of articles in the popular Christian press suggesting that new evidence of the exodus may have been found. See here, here and here. So I looked for the sources of the stories.

There is, indeed, something behind this. Archeologists Ralph K. Hawkins and David Ben-Shlomo have been digging at a place called Khirbet el Mastarah in the waterless hills over the Jordan valley about 4 miles north of Jericho. Hawkins explains how the late Adam Zertal told him that this would be an important place to dig in connection with the Hebrew origins (see here). Zertal spent 30 years doing a surface survey of a huge swath of the west bank in Israel.

Hawkins presents the finds at the site as possibly contradicting the widespread view today that the Israelites were Canaanites who moved into the hills. His team has apparently uncovered at Khirbet el Mastarah, a temporary early Iron Age settlement of nomadic sheep or cattle herders.

There are stone enclosures.

But all the pottery pieces have been found outside these enclosures. This suggests that the stone structures were corrals for animals and that the people lived in tents in the vicinity. That is similar to the way Bedouins have often lived.

Hawkins speculates that this corresponds to the picture in the Bible of early nomadic Israelites camping in eastern Manasseh near Jericho and then moving into the highlands where they settled and built villages.

All of this is preliminary. The dating of the site is not settled yet. The connection with the exodus in the popular press goes beyond what Hawkins and Ben-Shlomo are claiming. There is nothing in their finds to connect the nomads with Egypt.

See here for a summary of the Khirbet el Mastarah project without the speculation.

So, although, this may prove to be an important find, the apologists should cool it.

One of the things to note that, for me at least, gives weight to this project is that it may connect with the boom in villages in the central highlands in the early Iron Age. This is the period of the decline of Egyptian power in Canaan—the power vacuum that probably made the rise of Israel possible.

However, apologists for an inerrant Bible often argue that the exodus and conquest took place centuries earlier than this. If that is the case, then Khirbet el Mastarah is irrelevant.

About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
This entry was posted in Ancient Israel and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to An interesting dig that does not yet prove anything

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

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