A PROPOSAL FOR EXPLAINING THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL RECORD
IN THE LAND OF ISRAEL INDEPENDENTLY OF EGYPTIAN CHRONOLOGY
[1984, revised 2000]
Translated from Hebrew by
The Authenticity of Egyptian Chronology
The Construction of an Alternative
Dating Model Independent of Egyptian Chronology
Artifacts That are not in their Stratigraphic Context
The Problem of the Little Correspondence Between
the Archaeological Record and the Biblical Historical Account
The Chalcolithic Period
The Early Bronze Age
The End of the Early Bronze Age and the Intermediate
The Middle Bronze Age (M.B. IIa,b)
The Late Bronze Age
Iron Age I
Iron Age II
The Persian Age
The interpretation of the Archaeological
Record in the Land of Israel According to the Alternative Model
Summary and Conclusions
The Foundations of the
Stratigraphy and Typology in the Land of Israel
The foundations of the stratigraphy and typology in the
Land of Israel were laid in the early twentieth century by the scholars
Petrie, Bliss, Macalister, Reisner and Fisher. In 1932 and 1938 W.F. Albright
published the results of his excavations at Tell Beit Mirsim. The pattern
of strata that Albright built as a result of these excavations rapidly
became a model that served archaeologists in determining the relative alignment
of strata in the Land of Israel. This alignment was absolutely dated with
the aid of Egyptian artifacts that were found at various excavation sites.
The model proposed by Albright has been accepted by archaeologists down
to the present day, save for a few changes. Current archaeological methods
developed by Israeli scholars as well as the Weiler - Kenyon method use
this absolute dating almost exclusively as their basis in analyzing excavations.
Doubts that have been cast on the authenticity of the accepted Egyptian
chronology have brought me to re-examine and reinterpret the archaeological
record in the Land of Israel without depending on this chronology. I shall
present in this article an alternative dating model arrived at as a result
of this inquiry. I shall explain its principles and demonstrate the way
it was formulated. I will compare the currently accepted Albright model
and the Alternative model, and I will make a preliminary attempt to reinterpret
the archaeological record in the Land of Israel in the light of the chronological
implications of the Alternative model.
The Authenticity of
Relative Egyptian chronology chiefly rests on a comparison
of Egyptian monumental inscriptions and ancient documents with Manetho’s
dynasty list. An absolute chronology was determined by astronomical calculations
based on the Sothic dating theory. There are a number of weak points in
1. Manetho’s historical reliability has been doubted by such well-known
experts as Breasted1
2. The validity of the Sothic dating theory depends on the correctness
of several determinations:
(A) The precise dating of one of the Sothic cycles.
(B) The identification of the star Sothis (SPDT) with Sirius.
(C) The determination of the Egyptian calendar for the duration
of each Sothic cycle, with regard to the length of the year and the placement
of the months.
(D) The correctness of the calculations determining the
(E) The unambiguous interpretation of the ancient sources
on which the Sothic theory relies.
Doubts exist on the accuracy of each of these points. For
example, historians claim that astronomical calculations contradict the
date of 140 AC as the start of a Sothic cycle; that there is an error in
the calculation of the length of the Sothic cycle; that there are ancient
documents (in particular, the Ebers papyrus) testifying to an Egyptian
year 360 days long; that there are disputes over the identity of Menophres
- the Egyptian king mentioned in the writings of Theon and through whom
the Sothic theory and the comparative chronology were linked, and so on4
The doubts as to reliability of Egyptian chronology raise the need to reexamine,
independent of it, the archaeological record in the Land of Israel.
Because sherds found in the Land of Israel have been dated according
to Egyptian artifacts found with them in the same stratum, separating the
archaeological record from Egyptian chronology means that pottery finds
lose their value as providers of absolute dates. They can only serve as
means of relative dating. Consequently all alignments of material culture
dated by ceramic remains are “left in the air”. Types of buildings, writing
and seal impressions, the bases for characterizing periods, lose the chronological
significance attributed to them.
In my opinion we can devise, with the aid of an Alternative model and
independently of Egyptian chronology, a new dating scheme for pottery finds
and a new alignment of material culture in accordance with it. The model
will be constructed by a new interpretation of all the information and
archaeological finds that have accrued throughout the years. This interpretation
is supported by the fundamental tenets of archaeology.
The Construction of
an Alternative Dating Model Independent of Egyptian Chronology
The construction of the alternative dating model will proceed
on the basis of the following assumptions:
1. The ancient history of the Land of Israel is divided into the following
periods: The Pre-historic (and the Proto-historic), the Canaanite, the
Israelite, the conquest and foreign rule by Assyria, Babylon and Persia,
and the Hellenistic period.
2. The order of strata matches the course of history, as a rule.
The historical and the archaeological frameworks will be synchronized
by comparing and linking prominent archaeological phenomena with the main
historical events that have left their impression on the archaeological
record, mostly in the form of destruction and burning layers, and sometimes
in monumental building.
The Hellenistic stratum in the Land of Israel can be absolutely dated
with the help of coins. Among the layers of destruction prior to that period,
two particular layers, each accompanied by a significant change in the
material culture and demography, stand out in some sites. These layers
have caught the attention of excavators almost from the very beginning
of excavations in the Land of Israel. Archaeologists see them as the sign
of a boundary between different ages. The first of two destruction layers
lies between the Early Bronze and Middle Bronze ages, and the second separates
the Late Bronze and the Iron ages. Between these layers there is unbroken
sequence of material culture. Y. Aharoni stated that it lasted “for about
800 years... amounting from the historical and cultural point of view to
a single historical sequence... this is Canaan in its rise, its flowering
and its decline”5
In the Land of Israel two instances of general conquest
accompanied by severe destruction and cultural and demographic change are
known to history. The first is the conquest of Canaan by the Israelite
tribes, and the second is the taking of most of the region by Assyrian
forces followed by the Babylonian army’s conquest of the kingdom of Judah.
The historical sources say that between the Israelite settlement and the
Assyro-Babylonian conquests there was an unbroken continuity of Israelite
life and culture.
Drawing a parallel between the archaeological record and the historical
events mentioned above leads to the conclusion that the destruction layer
that closes the Early Bronze age represents the Settlement of the Israelite
tribes in the Land of Israel, and the destruction layer at the end of the
Late Bronze age represents the annihilation of the kingdoms of Israel and
Judah. Accordingly the Middle Bronze and the Late Bronze ages correspond
to the Israelite period, from the Settlement and the time of the Judges
to the fall of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The stratum (often called
the Iron Age) between the destruction layer at the end of the Late Bronze
and between the Hellenistic stratum represents the Babylonian conquest,
the Persian period (Return to Zion) and the beginning of the Hellenistic
The reader who is rooted in the currently accepted theories of the
archaeology and the history of ancient times will find it hard to accept
these conclusions. The synchronization proposed here goes against the orthodox
archaeological interpretation of artifacts such as Mycenean ceramics, Philistine
sherds, casemate walls, Lamelech jars etc., and the view of the Settlement
as having been a prolonged and gradual occurrence. I would like to repeat
and stress the fact that the accepted archaeological and historical conceptual
framework is founded mostly on Egyptian chronology. Casting ourselves free
from this chronology leads to a revolution in our comprehension of these
records. I will further endeavor to show that the new interpretatand meaning
given to the above mentioned records in the light of their dating in accordance
with the Alternative model make possible their complete integration in
this model. The Alternative model will affirm the rule that the date of
a stratum is determined according to the archaeological remains embedded
As I have stated, it follows from the proposed synchronization that
the Middle Bronze and the Late Bronze ages represent the Israelite period
from the Settlement to the destruction of the First Temple. Relying on
stratigraphic considerations, we may perhaps assign the Middle Bronze IIb
stratum to the early Israelite monarchy of Saul, David and Solomon, and
the Middle Bronze IIa to the time of the Judges. In line with similar considerations
the Early Bronze II-III is the Canaanite period, and the Early Bronze I
or the late Chalcolithic period represents the time of the Patriarchs.
Table no. 1 represents the Alternative model resulting from my proposal.
Alternative Dating of Strata in the Land of Israel
Between the Babylonian conquest and the Hasmonean period
Upper destruction layer
Destruction of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah
Period of the Divided Monarchy
Period of the Judges and United Monarchy
Lower destruction layer
Exodus and conquest of Canaan
Comparison of the Alternative
Model with Albright’s Model
The Alternative model matches the archaeological record
with the accepted view of the historical sequence of events in the Land
of Israel. Albright’s model relies basically on Egyptian chronology for
Theoretical models are compared and preferred, as a rule, on their
ability to provide a simple and parsimonious solution to existing problems,
and on the possibility of deriving from them predictions which are capable
of being verified or disproved. In accordance with these criteria, especially
the first of them, I will try to compare the models.
I shall analyze three phenomena that have occupied archaeologists in
their research into ancient periods in the Land of Israel since the adoption
of the Albright Model:
1. Nowhere in the Land of Israel was a complete representation of the
Albright Model from the Middle Bronze to the start of the Hellenistic period
represented in one single cross section. In order to obtain the sequence
of the model, archaeologists are dependent on finding chronological parallels
for artifacts which are often discovered in different areas of the excavations.
In many instances no explanation can be found for the lack of continuity
in the stratigraphic sequence in spite of the horizontal interpretation
of the findings. In such cases scholars assume the existence of a settlement
gap. Particularly prominent is the almost total absence of the Persian
and the Early Hellenistic strata at the majority of important archaeological
sites in the Land of Israel, despite the presence of artifacts from these
periods at the same sites.
2. Objects belonging to a certain period turn up in layers that do
not match the time assigned to them (“migration of artifacts”).
3. There is little correlation between the archaeological record in
the Land of Israel and the historical course of events as found in the
The Alternative model provides a simple and parsimonious explanation
for this problems, and as we shall see later, its use does away with them.
The Late Bronze stratum is among the richest in terms of Egyptian artifacts.
Many of these finds bear the names of rulers identified with the Pharaohs
of the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties in Egypt. Likewise Mycenean
ceramics are found in this stratum. The dating of this stratum according
to the Albright Model mainly relies on these artifacts and consequently
the Late Bronze destruction was placed at the end of the thirteenth century
B.C. It is accepted today that Exodus occurred at about the same time,
and most researchers are inclined to assume that the Late Bronze destruction
is evidence of the penetration of the Israelite tribes into the Land of
Canaan, or that it is linked to the invasion of the “Peoples of the Sea”
and other military campaigns that took place at this period. The Iron age
stratum was dated as a result of its stratigraphic placement above the
Late Bronze stratum. Accordingly the Iron age represents the whole Israelite
period from the Settlement to the destruction of the First Temple.
According to the Alternative model, the Iron age stratum represents
the period of the conquests of Babylon and Persia, and the Early Hellenistic
period. Previous periods are therefore represented by strata completely
different from those ascribed to them by the Albright Model.
Table 2 presents a comparison which stresses the great difference in
historical implications of the different strata in the two models.
A Comparative Table between Traditional and Alternative Dating
Alternative Dating of Strata
Traditional Dating of Strata
Parallel historical period
Parallel historical period
Return to Zion
Persian period (Return to Zion)
Destruction of Judah
Destruction of Israel
Destruction of Judah
Destruction of Israel
Israelite conquest of Canaan
Middle Bronze II
Age of the Patriarchs
Israelite conquest of Canaan
Middle Bronze I
Conquest by Amorites\Egyptians\
Age of the Patriarchs
The attempt to assign the entire period from the Exodus to the Hasmonean
revolt to the intermediary stratum between the Late Bronze and the Hellenistic
period is the cause of the problems mentioned above.
The Problem of Gaps
and Lack of Stratigraphic Continuity
As has been stated, according to the Alternative model part
of the Iron age stratum represents the Persian period. If this stratum
is assigned, as is usual, to the Israelite kingdom, the Persian stratum
loses its place in the stratigraphic alignment. To the researchers relying
on the Albright Model, it is as if the Persian stratum is “missing”. In
fact, the meager representation of one of the most important periods of
the Land of Israel in the stratigraphic record has not left researchers
indifferent to the problem. In their efforts to explain why there is stratigraphic
gap in the Persian period at many sites in the Land of Israel they have
come with various suggestions. Severe erosion and the building activities
of the later periods that destroyed the remains of the period are put forward
. Persian artifacts that
turn up in the Iron Age level are looked on as sherds found in “pits” of
an obscure type7
, and there are even theories
that rubbish in the Persian period was collected in “refuse pits”8
Another explanation for the discovery of Persian artifacts out of place
is that there was indeed a Persian stratum between the Iron and Hellenistic
strata, but it was “overlooked” by the excavators9
According to the Alternative model there is no need for such explanations.
Persian (and Hellenistic) artifacts discovered in the Iron Age stratum
are in their rightful stratigraphic place, and the strata in which they
are found may be dated accordingly.
Hellenistic strata, in number of places, lie directly above the Iron
, and they are often found
at the same level side by side11
. In endeavoring
to explain this, researchers assume that in such cases there was a settlement
gap of 300 years or more. But the need to assume the existence of such
a gap is the direct consequence of assigning the stratum above the Late
Bronze to the First Temple period, as the Albright Model obliges them to
do. The Alternative model, as has already been noted, maintains that the
Iron Age stratum mainly reprthe Persian period, and the rest represents
the Early Hellenistic period. Therefore in this case also there is no need
to postulate a “settlement gap”.
The result of assigning artifacts above the Late Bronze to the Philistine
period is that the Israelite period is greatly under-represented12
Researchers find it difficult to assign 800 years of Israelite history
to the layer sandwiched between the Philistine and the Hellenistic strata.
The source of the difficulty is that this layer actually represents the
Early Hellenistic period which lasted for about 200 years. Under present
state of affairs, Persian finds have been assigned to the Philistine period13
Under the Alternative model the so-called Philistine finds, like most Iron
Age artifacts, belong to the Persian and Early Hellenistic period. As in
previous examples, the stratigraphic gap problem disappears.
Even the success of Israeli scholars in identifying Persian ceramics
and consequently locating the Persian stratum at number of sites has not
solved the problem of gaps in the stratigraphic record. At places with
a Persian stratum, it has been difficult to find adequate representation
for the hundreds of years of Israelite history that preceded this stratum14
Even the Hellenistic period, up to the time of the Hasmonean revolt, is
under-represented, and Persian artifacts are left to appear in “pits”15
The Alternative model assign the various sub-strata of the Iron Age to
the Babylonian, Persian, and Greek conquests, and therefore most sites
in the Land of Israel display a complete and continuous record of settlement
for the period between the destruction of the First Temple and the foundation
of the Hasmonean state.
If I am correct in my hypothesis that the stratum above the Late Bronze
does indeed represent the Babylonian, Persian and Early Hellenistic periods,
its assignment, according to the Albright Model, to the Israelite period
will cause the “disappearance” of strata from the period after the destruction
of the First Temple, while its assignment to the period after the destruction
of the First Temple will lead to a “settlement gap” during the Israelite
period. In no case will there be a complete sequence of strata between
the Late Bronze and Hellenistic periods, since the assignment of a stratum
to a given period will always cause the “disappearance of the parallel
strata according to the Alternative model.
The Alternative model, therefore, explains why stratigraphic gaps are
so common in the archaeology of the Land of Israel. Moreover, the new chronological
interpretation given to the strata enables us to find a full and continuous
representation of Israelite history from the Settlement to the emergence
of the Hasmonaens in most of the stratigraphic cross-sections that have
been carried out in the Land of Israel.
Artifacts that are not in their
Artifacts that have turned up out of their proper stratigraphic
place have placed excavators in a dilemma. Do they date the stratum in
which they are found according to the artifacts, as is customary at most
archaeological sites, or do they date the stratum according to the Albright
Model and try to explain as best as possible the anomalous appearance of
the finds? Because of the almost complete reliance of archaeological research
in the Land of Israel on the Albright Model, most archaeologists tend to
take the second option. In attempts to solve this problem researchers have
put forward various proposals. Some have surmised that in ancient times
it was usual to make extensive use of earth fills16
. Excavators have often
assumed that the anomalous appearance of sherds and coins was caused by
later building works18
ploughing. In cases where these solutions have been of no avail, researchers
have been compelled to assign the finds to the stratum in which they are
found, and in consequence push back the dating ofthe artifacts, noting
the word “proto” before the artifact usual name (such as Proto-Aeolic capitals
or Proto-Canaanite script).
The Alternative model holds that the various strata have to be dated
according to the artifacts buried in them. The strata in which Persian
artifacts are found are Persian. The Proto-Aeolic capitals are Aeolic capitals
appearing in the Land of Israel for the first time after the destruction
of the First Temple and the Proto-Canaanite script is Hebrew writing from
the Israelite period. So there is practically no need to make use of such
explanations as “migration of artifacts”. In the archaeological record
of the Land of Israel, according to my view, artifacts appear in their
proper place and, save for a few exceptional cases, the strata can be dated
in reliance on them. The Alternative model obeys the archaeological rule
that strata should be dated in accordance with the artifacts found in them.
The Problem of the Little
Correspondence Between the Archaeological Record and the Biblical Historical
The lack of correspondence between biblical history and
the archaeological record is a problem well-known in the archaeology of
the Land of Israel. Its appearance coincides in time with the adoption
of the Albright Model by archaeologists. Excavators interpreting their
findings according to the Albright Model have met with difficulties in
trying to find agreement between the results of their excavation and the
biblical record. Such instances of agreement that had been found prior
to Albright were rejected as erroneous by the new generation of archaeologists
in the light of findings from new excavations. As time passed, and practically
no correspondence was found between the Old Testament and archaeology,
doubts grew among scientists as to the historical authenticity of the Bible.
These doubts were already aroused in the nineteenth century with the emergence
of the High Criticism of the Bible and they were strengthened in the twentieth
century by the works of the biblical scholars Alt and Noth. These works
received momentum and encouragement from the conclusions of archaeologists
in the Land of Israel. It seems that most scholars today have reconciled
themselves to the diminished historical authenticity of the Old Testament.
The problem of the divergence between the Bible and archaeology has practically
ceased to trouble them.
The interpretation of the archaeological record in according to the
Alternative model indicates a great congruence between it and the biblical
history. In examining this statement I shall cite below descriptions of
the basic characteristics of the various archaeological periods as they
appear in the works of researchers of these periods. I have endeavored
to follow the original words used and to include those characteristics
on which most scholars agree. Because the term “congruence” is not susceptible
of objective measurement, I will let the reader judge how well the Alternative
model matches the biblical picture.
The Chalcolithic Period19
- According to the Alternative model, the end of this period coincides
with the time of the Patriarchs.
The Chalcolithic period is characterized by a material culture of a
developed agricultural society where the raising of sheep was the cornerstone
of its economy. In this period a substantial wave of farmers and shepherds
settled in the valleys of the Land of Israel and its borders. It appears
that these settlers did not come across a rival population, and they were
able to base themselves at scattered sites in the areas suitable for dwelling
and pasture. Apparently even at this time the ass was serving as a beast
of burden. The bones of deer found at several settlement sites showed that
the inhabitants also engaged in hunting. Wheat, barley, and pulses are
among the crops cultivated during this period. R. Ghophna writes about
the close of this time: “A crisis that occurred in the land... lead to
the abandonment of the villages...”20
and elsewhere he writes: “Apparently the destruction of the Ghassulian
culture was caused by years of continuous famine that ravaged the land”21
The Chalcolithic period is dated by Carbon 14 tests to the middle of
the fourth millennium B.C.
The Early Bronze Age22
According to the alternative model, it is the period of Israelite captivity
in Egypt. The end of this period depicts the Land of Canaan on the eve
of The Settlement.
In this period most of the large and important cities of the Land of
Israel were built. These fortified cities left their mark on the landscape
of the land and even today their ruins are scattered around in various
regions. In the Early Bronze the might of these fortified cities reached
its peak. Y. Aharoni writes: “The density of great walled cities has no
parallel in any other period”23
. Some scholars
are of the opinion that the patterns of settlement at this time are evidence
for the existence of small city-kingdoms. Settlements from this period
are found in the Jordan valley, the Jezreel valley, the coastal plain,
the Shephelah and the central hills. The economy of this period is characterized
by the development of agriculture with its base in the Mediterranean cultivation
of the olive and the vine.
Carbon 14 tests date the period to the beginning of the third millennium
The End of the Early Bronze Age and the Intermediate
Bronze Age(M.B.I)24 - According to
the Alternative Model: The period of the Conquest of Canaan by the Israelite
tribes and the period of the Settlement.
The urban culture that flourished in the Land of Israel, was destroyed
for reasons that are still not thoroughly clear. Most scholars take the
view that this destruction was caused by a wave of invaders coming from
the north. Y. Aharoni describes the destruction thus: “The destruction
of the cities of Canaan was general and absolute, and not one city which
has been examined up until now escaped its fate... The culture of the Early
Canaanite period was wiped out and never rose again”25
A new period, the Middle Bronze age, began. This period is entirely different
in every component from its predecessor. This change is expressed in every
physical manifestation of its material culture: ceramics, arms and method
of burial. The new settlements are found in all parts of the Land of Israel:
In the valleys, the hills, the other side of the Jordan and also in the
Galilee and the Negev. The new settlers penetrated into interior and border
regions most of which had never been settled before. In the Negev mountains
scores of settlements were found. Most of them being small sites composed
of stone circles. K. Kenyon assumes from the burial customs of the new
inhabitants that they were organized on tribal lines26
Carbon 14 tests date this period to the end of the third millennium
and the start of the second millennium B.C.
The Middle Bronze Age (M.B. IIa,b)27
- According to the Alternative Model: The period of the Judges and the
United Kingdom (until the campaign of Shishak, king of Egypt).
B. Mazar describes the beginning of this period as follows: “This period
is characterized by the complex, adventurous and unstable process of settling
down on the part of the population of Canaan. An attractive picture of
energetic development unfolds, exemplified in the building of cities and
fortified towns throughout the land”28
An important component of these new fortifications is the strongly fortified
gate. This type of new gate perhaps indicates that the military mobility
made use of cavalry and chariots. Y. Aharoni writes about the social structure
thus: “Large houses wefound which surely served the authorities or the
local nobility... The composition of the population did not change significantly,
and it seems that in the main the noble families were displaced with the
help of troops of warriors attached”29
“Bamoth” or high places were used for worship. They were set up in scared
areas. There was a widespread custom of erecting stelae in their vicinity
and performing votive offerings on them. At the end of this period there
was a wave of fortress construction in the hills and in the Shephelah,
and these activities appear to suggest a feudal-type authority in the land30
Y. Aharoni describes the end of this period as follows: “The Canaanite
period (M.B. IIb) is one of a flourishing population and economy all over
the land that has only few parallels”31
According to the Albright Model, this period is that of the biblical
The Late Bronze Age32
- According to the Alternative Model: The period of the Divided Kingdom
ending in the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel and the overthrow of
the Kingdom of Judah.
More than any other period, this period is measured by reference to
Egyptian history. It encompasses the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties,
the days of the Egyptian empire, when Egypt ruled the Land of Israel. The
Late Bronze age began with military conquest. At various Tells that have
been excavated there is substantial destruction layer sometimes assigned
to the military campaign of Thutmosis III. The destruction of various cities
was accompanied by a considerable population and economic decline. Despite
the continuation of settlement in most cities, no evidence has been found
of public building enterprises during the first stage of this period. Various
indications point to a reduction in the foreign trade that had enriched
the cities. It appears that the decline and abandonment of various cities
led to a fundamental change in the relative standing of the Canaanite cities.
It cannot be assumed that a basic change took place in the status of the
different kings of Canaan, but apparently the power of the central cities
now grew. Their kings imposed their authority over wider area, and in addition
to the capital city they also exercised control over provincial towns in
its neighborhood. According to Albright33
was a period of frequent revolts which did not last long.
Y. Aharoni writes as follows on the religion of the Late Bronze: “Although
everything indicates that the Egyptians built the holy places, they were
not dedicated to the Egyptian gods but to local Canaanite gods”34
Wright describes the pantheon in existence at that time: “The general Canaanite
word for ‘God’ or ‘Divinity’ was ‘El’... The chief of all gods, or head
of the divine family, was called ‘El’... El’s wife seems to have been Ashera,
as her name is spelled in the Old Testament... While she was originally
the mother-goddess, in practical worship her functions in the world are
frequently mixed with those of the goddess of fertility... Chief among
the offspring of El and Ashera, either as a son or grandson, was Baal,
the most colorful and important of all gods... Baal was thought to be a
great god who controlled the rain, and therefore the vegetation... Baal’s
wife was Anath, a goddess of love and war...”35
The end of the period is characterized by universal destruction in
every city in the Land of Israel. Y. Aharoni writes: “In fact the cities
of Canaan were destined for declined annihilation, after their brief final
flowering in the El-Amarna period. This decline lasted for over 200 years.
Not one city escaped its fate, and after the end of the 12th century, practically
no city of refuge was left”36
According to the Albright Model, this period covers the Exodus and
the conquest of Canaan by the Israelite tribes.
Iron Age I37
- According to the Alternative Model, this is the period of the Babylonian
and Persian conquests and the Return to Zion.
Intensive investigations into this period are presently being conducted
by the new generation of archaeologists in Israel. Y. Finkelstein describes
the process of settlement that took place at this time as follows38
The Settlement began on the backbone of the central hills between Jerusalem
and the Jezreel valley. The new population that reached the land was mostly
concentrated in territories of Ephraim and Manasseh. A few sites were also
founded in Benjamin, Judah, the upper Shephelah, the Sharon and lower Galilee.
settlement in the western hills, the Beer-Sheba valley, the northern Galille
and the eastern lower Galilee only got under way at later stages of the
period. There are various indications that in Manasseh, in the Iron I age,
there was a strong authochthonous (local) population. Not all of the Iron
age sites in Manasseh can be considered “Is”. It seems that additional
non-Israelite settlement occurred in many areas of such as certain regions
of the Galilee. There is doubt over the ethnic identity of these settlers,
save for one element which may readily be identified from cultural point
of view as Philistine. The poverty of the Settlement in Judah, as opposed
to its great density in the hilly areas to the north, suggests that the
new population entered the land on a narrow front from the east, not the
south, and that most of the groups settling in Judah came from the north.
This is not a military conquest, but the clear picture of an occupation
of unpopulated areas39
. With the strengthening
of the Settlement on the backbone of the central hills, the Settlement
process was extended. However, under pressure from the Philistines and
other elements dwelling to their north, the Israelite population in the
upper Shephelah and to the west of the Sharon withdrew. The number of settlers
at Israelite sites is estimated at around 38,500, and the total population
of the land of Israel at around 55,000.
According to the Albright Model, Iron age I represents the Settlement,
the period of the Judges, and the start of the Monarchy.
Iron Age II40
According to the Alternative Model: The Persian and the Early Hellenistic
At this stage the last Canaanite enclaves in the valleys were mopped
up, and the Philistines were forced out of certain parts of the Shephela
and the southern coast. The Jewish population extended to areas closed
to them in the first part of the period. Judah became a lively center.
Towards the end of the period there are signs of a great expansion of Jewish
settlement in the Land of Israel. A chain of military fortresses spread
over the land, apparently to safeguard the settlements and the roads. Some
of the larger settlements and bases were without any proper fortification,
and Y. Aharoni believes that this points out to a period of around 200
years during which no real force threatened security. At many places around
half of the urban areas were devoted to public building, in particular
blocks of store houses. Apparently, state administrative cites served as
food depots. Various letters of the period detail the contents of the storehouses
and instructions for their management. They mention the storage of wheat,
wine and oil, issued to army troops and travelers in order of the central
authorities. Another administrative innovation belongs to this period:
jar handles were found at a number of Tells in Judah, bearing seal impressions
which have a symbol at their center. Above it, there is the word “Lamelech”
and below it, one of four names - Hebron, Ziph, Socho and Mamsheth. Clear
indications of town planning appear in the Land of Israel. Y. Aharoni writes:
“We are surprised by the conspicuous attainment of town planning... rapidity
and consistency of town planning in the young kingdom is remarkable”41
City structures were erected in accordance with the principles of the “Four
Room House” with two rows of pillars at the center. Prominent architectural
features of this period are building with shaped stones and Proto-Aeolic
According to the Albright Model, Iron II represents the later Israelite
monarchy culminating in the destruction of the First Temple.
The Persian Age42
- According to the Alternative Model : The Iron II stratum.
This period is one of the most unclear in the history of the Land of
Israel. For all that, I believe it to be of great importance in testing
the validity of the Alternative Model. Therefore, I will go also into matters
that do not directly touch on the problem of a lack of connection between
the archaeological record and the Old Testament. The studies of E. Stern
have led to much development in the inquiry of this period, and what follows
below is based on his works and publications.
Our knowledge of the material culture of the Persian period
is not orderly, and is remarkably inferior to our knowledge of previous
periods. This situation was caused by several reasons, connected both with
the period itself and with the history of the actual research. The first
researchers contributed to this position by mistakenly assigning artifacts
from the Israelite period to the Persian period, and finds from the Persian
period were assigned to the Hellenistic and other periods (such as assignment
of a group of Persian graves at Gezer to the Philistine period). A certain
degree of progress in researching the period started only at the second
stage of archaeological investigation in the Land of Israel, namely, the
period between the two world wars. At the excavations at Megido, the excavators
failed to separate successfully the Persian settlement layer from its predecessors,
although there was a Persian settlement at the site. Likewise, excavators
at Beit-Shean also missed completely the Persian stratum. But at Athlit
and Tell Abu Hawwam rich finds from the Persian period were found for the
first time. Dating these finds was simple, since most were found in pits
or tombs that included imported Attic ware and coins. Further progress
was made thanks to excavations at several sites where no artifacts from
this period were turned up. With the help of finds from this places Albright
and Wright were able to distinguish between material from the end of the
Israelite period and later material discovered at other sites. Despite
this, scholars at that time did not have the means of distinguishing between
artifacts from the Persian and Hellenistic periods. For all that, as this
period of exploration wore on, the first attempts at coming to conclusions
were made by Watzinger (1935) and Albright (1949). Albright concluded that
there was a considerable continuity between the Israelite and Persian periods.
The discoveries at level I of Megido, where Persian artifacts were mixed
with a fair number of vessels from the Israelite period, prominently contributed
to this conclusion.
The main progress in the study of this period has occurred in the most
recent period of excavations in the Land of Israel, since the founding
of the state of Israel. Settlement strata from the Persian period were
discovered at a number of places, and the great quantity of material recovered
from them enabled for the first time the making of proper typological comparison
and the investigation of well-defined strata. Of special importance were
the excavations at Hazor, Shikmona, Tell Megadim and Ein-Gedi. Important
collections of statues and figurines were uncovered at Tell Michal, Tell
Airani, and Tell Zippor. Excavations at Ramat-Rachel enriched our knowledge
of seal impressions. Settlements of the Persian period were uncovered in
the Shephelah and on the coast, and almost unbroken line of Persian ports
was discovered in the south of the country. Relying upon the present state
of research we can already conclude that there is clear evidence from the
archaeological finds from the Persian period of an attempt to create continuity
and links with preceding Judean kingdom. For example, there are seal impressions
in which the name of the state Yehud appears together with the symbol of
the Ayin which is found on Shekel weights of the kingdom of Judah. On other
seal impressions of the Persian period there is the symbol for the lily,
the last and the latest symbol of the kingdom of Judah. A weight turned
up that had inscribed on it, in Aramic letters characteristic of the Persian
period, the word Pim, an accepted name for a weight in the First Temple
period. Some of the Persian pottery utensils clearly continue the tradition
of utensils in the Israelite period. There is also a certain similarity
between the style current in the Iron age period and between the Persian
period in terms of the structure of city walls, town planning, some graves
and the form of figurines. But we can say that the most striking excerption
of the attempt to bridge the gap between the kingdom of Judah and the state
of Yehud is the revival of the ancient Hebrew writing.
Many important questions about this period still remain open and pending.
One conspicuous question is how, apparently, there is no proper archaeorepresentation
at most of the prominent sites in the Land of Israel, especially Jerusalem,
of one of the most important periods in this land, a period in which one
of the greatest empires of the ancient world ruled the land, in which some
of the toughest battles in its history were fought, in which major cities
were captured and their inhabitants deported, in which the foundations
of the Second Temple were laid and from which the Hasmonean state would
grow. These are still unanswered questions for archaeologists and researchers
of the period.
According to the Alternative Model, the Late Bronze age destruction
stratum represents the destruction of the First Temple period. The reason
why the archaeological record and the Old Testament’s historical account
hardly match at all, has its roots in the attempt to assign to the stratum
between the Late Bronze and Hellenistic layers the whole of Israelite history,
from the settlement to the foundation of the Hasmonean state. Such points
of congruence as have been found are in doubt and in dispute. The archaeologist
who looks for the Settlement at the time of the Return to Zion will find
it very difficult to find in signs of a widespread military conquest. The
archaeological record will suggest a drawn-out settlement that consisted
of a number of waves. By the same token, archaeologists will be hard pressed
to find indications of flourishing economy and monumental building in those
strata which belong to the renewal of Jewish settlement in the land after
the destruction of the First Temple and assigned by them to the time of
David and Solomon. They will also find it difficult to fit the Philistine
artifacts, which belongs according to the Alternative Model to the start
of Hellenistic settlement in the Land of Israel, into any kind of historical
framework. Archaeologists searching at Tell Lachish in the Persian stratum
for the destruction wrought by Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar will almost
certainly run into serious chronological problems.
The correspondence between the archaeological record in the Land of
Israel and the Old Testament account obtained by the adoption of the Alternative
Model supports my hypothesis of the different dating of the strata.
of the Archaeological Record in the Land of Israel According to the Alternative
The Albright Model is a comprehensive system which functions
well but which is not totally devoid of problems. In this article an alternative
model has been put forward which proposes a solution to these problems,
but the test of the new model is its ato explain the archaeological record
in the Land of Israel in such a way that a comprehensive system is set
up parallel to the existing system and able to function like it. To this
end, a renewed and extensive examination of finds in the Land of Israel
in the light of the Alternative Model has to be undertaken. An attempt
to carry out such an examination was made in relation to the recent excavations
at Tell Lachish43
. The different dating
of various strata at the Tell solved a host of problems that had occupied
archaeologists since the time of Starkey’s expedition to the present day.
The finds took entirely different meaning from that presently assigned
to them, and several predictions derived from the new interpretation were
proposed. This small-scale example reveals that adopting the Alternative
Model indeed undermines the existing framework, but at the same time opens
up new horizons for archaeological research in the Land of Israel. For
all that, without extensive scientific research, all these matters will
remain in the realm of hypothesis alone. Below are several examples which
are likely to suggest possibilities inherent in a different interpretation
of archaeological finds in the Land of Israel.
As a result of assigning the artifacts of the Iron age to the Persian
period, we can reconstruct one of the most important periods in the history
of the Land of Israel - the period of the Return to Zion and the beginning
of the Second Temple period. At this time forts that served the Persian
army spread over the land. Apparently the Jewish settlement in the land
was responsible for some of the army’s supplies: Jews even attained commanding
posts in it. After Alexander of Macedon won a number of decisive victories
in the coastal strip, it seems that the withdrawing Persian army abandoned
a substantial part of their chain of forts without a struggle44
The so-called Philistine ceramics and the Proto-Aeolian capitals are among
the first signs of Greek settlement in the Land of Israel. “Lamelech” jars
testify to the administrative division of the land in the Early Hellenistic
period. The “calm” settlement set up inconspicuously in several waves and
the poverty of the Israelite settlement in its early stages reveal the
many difficulties in the path of the returnees in their endeavor to reassert
their hold on the land. Around the end of the Iron age there was an expansion
of the Jewish settlement, and against this background we are able to understand
the Hasmonean revolt and their success in their military campaign.
An additional example relates to the strata preceding the Iron age.
According to the Alternative Model we might have expected many more artifacts
bearing on them Jewish indications, and especially Hebrew writing from
the Late Bronze period. The paucity of such finds shows that perhaps we
will have to change our views on the distribution of Hebrew writing during
the First Temple period. However, this could be archaeological ill-fortune.
On this subject Y. Aharoni writes: “It seems that it is only by chance
that we have not discovered hitherto an archive in one of the Tells in
the Land of Israel”45
. On the same subject
Albright wrote: “There can be no doubt that there is much historically
significant material buried in the mounds of Palestine”46
Further excavations in the Late Bronze stratum are capable of throwing
new light on this question. In my opinion, this stratum conceals monumental
Hebrew stelae and the royal archives of the kings of Judah and Israel.
This problem aside, the Alternative Model has helped us to restore the
historical authenticity of the Old Testament, the most comprehensive ancient
document, the most accessible and best preserved of all other ancient records.
In consequence, a mutual support system between the archaeological record
and the Bible is created, whereby archaeological finds shed new light on
many biblical records and the Old Testament helps to solve complex archaeological
problems. One can put forward, relying on the Alternative Model, a number
of hypotheses likely to appear as utter fantasies to the researchers anchored
to the accepted framework of concepts. For example, the Chalcolithic hoard
found at Nahal Mishmar could well be connected to the religious ceremonies
of the people of Sodom and Gomorra, and its hiders perished in the disaster
that befell these cities47
. The ancient
Canaanite artifacts discovered in Sinai and the finds from the Middle Bronze
I in the Negev mountains are possible archaeological evidence for the wanderings
of the Israelites in the wilderness after the Exodus. The walls of Jericho
from the Early Bronze period are indeed, as Garstang thought, the walls
that fell before the Israelites entering the land at the start of the Settlement
period. The underground tunnel complex at Hazor is a hideaway from the
period of the Judges. Likewise, we may understand and interpret the Biblical
description of Jerusalem at the time of the first temple in a new way.
Concepts such as Ha’mishneh, Ha’milo, Ha’saviv, Mezudat David, and the
course of the city walls take on a meaning different from that assigned
to them today. These examples suggest many possibilities hidden in the
wider excavation of Bronze age strata. Such excavations will enable the
confirmation or the refutation of the Alternative Model proposed here.
The Alternative Model which has been presented here is independent
of Egyptian chronology, and relies essentially on matching archaeological
finds from the Land of Israel with the outline of the thistorical process
accepted by most scholars. I have tried to show that the use of this model
solves a number of problems with which the science of archaeology has grappled
for the past fifty years. But this model does not fit in with the accepted
history of the Near East in the second millennium B.C. The historical concepts
connected with ancient Greece, the Hittite kingdom, the Ugaritic writings,
the El-Amarna letters and indeed the entire history of Egypt in the second
millennium B.C. do not match the historical conclusions that must follow
from the Alternative Model. However, we have to remember that much of the
historical framework of the Near East in the second millennium B.C. was
reconstructed with the aid of Egyptian artifacts discovered in different
lands, and in reliance on Egyptian chronology. The casting doubt on the
authenticity of the accepted Egyptian chronology undermines the fundamental
basis on which it is built. The rule is that archaeological works are determining
factor in any historical reconstruction, and historical conclusions derive
from the record of the excavations, not the other way round. If so, the
archaeological record in the Land of Israel must serve as fixed point for
the construction of comprehensive historical framework. We must redate
Egyptian artifacts in the Land of Israel according to their stratigraphical
placement. As a result of the chronological and historical implications
that will be given to Egyptian artifacts in the Land of Israel we may try
to reconstruct Egyptian chronology and afterwards build according to it
a historical framework encompassing the Near East. This road obliges a
change in concepts and attitudes accepted by historians for the last 150
years. But the readiness to change attitudes and shatter accepted concepts
was always and always be the inheritance of scientists persevering in uncompromising
search for truth.
1. Breasted, A., History of Egypt (2nd editon.
1961) p. 23.
2. Gardiner, A., Egypt of the Pharaohs, Oxford
University Press, London (1961), pp. 46-47.
3. Hall, H.R., “Egyptian chronology”,
Ancient History I, p.167.
4. For a detailed discussion of this subject see:
Courville, D.A., The Exodus Problem, Challenge Books,
California (1971), volume II, pp. 48-89.
Velikovsky, I., Astronomy and Chronology, in Peoples othe Sea, Doubleday
(1977), pp. 215-245.
Aharoni, Y., The Archaeology of The Land of Israel,
Shikmona (1978), p. 84 [Hebrew].
Stern, E., The Material Culture of Eretz Israel
in the Persian Period, Mossad Bialik (1973), preface. [Hebrew].
“...None of these pits can positively be defined as
an installation of any sort, and their purpose therefore remains unclear.”
Ben-Tor, A., Portugaly, Y., Avissar, M., Excavations at
Tell Yoqneam, IEJ vol. 33, (1983), p. 33.
Mazar, A., Tell Qasile, Haarez Museum, Tel-Aviv (1983).
Stern, E., The Material Culture of Eretz
Israel in the Persian Period (note 6), p.9.
Avigad, N,. The Upper City of Jerusalem, Shikmona
(1980), p. 49. [Hebrew].
See for example the stratigraphic alignment
at Tel Qasile, Beit-Shemesh, Beit-Shean, Tell Mor, etc.
For a discussion of the subject see: Stern,
E., The Material Culture of Eretz Israel in the Persian Period (note
6), p. 77.
Herzog, Z,. Tell Michal, Trading Post for the Shore,
Qadmoniot 14, parts 3-4, p. 99. [Hebrew].
See note 9.
Ben-Dov, M,. Excavations at the Temple Mount,
Keter (1982), p. 52. [Hebrew].
See for example: Encyclopedia of Archaeological
Excavations in Eretz Israel (1970), Ashdod, p. 20. [Hebrew].
Aharoni, Y,. Beth-Haccherem, in: Archaeology
and Old Testament Study, D. Winton Thomas (Ed.), Oxford (1967), p.
1. Aharoni, Y., The Chalcolithic period , in: The Archaeology
of Erez Israel (note 5), pp. 38-48.
2. Gophna, R., The Chalcolithic period, in: The History
of Erez Israel, Keter (1982), volume I, pp. 76-94. [Hebrew].
Gophna, R., The Chalcolithic period, in: The History
of Erez Israel (note 19), p. 76.
Ibid. p. 98.
1. Aharoni, Y,. The Early Canaanite Period, in: The Archaeology
of Erez Israel (note 5), pp. 50-76.
2. Gophna R., Erez Israel at the Dawn of History, in: The
History of Erez Israel, Keter (1982), volume I, pp. 97-120.
Aharoni, Y., The Archaeology of Erez Israel (note
5), p. 59.
1. Aharoni, Y., The Middle Canaanite Period I, in: The
Archaeology of Erez Israel (note 5), pp. 76-83.
2. Gophna, R., The Middle Bronze I Age, in: The History
of Erez Israel, Keter (1982), volume I, pp. 119-127.
3. Kenyon, K., Archaeology in the Holy Land, Norton
N.Y. (1979), The Arrival of the Amorites, pp. 119-147.
Aharoni, Y., The Archaeology of Erez Israel (note
5), p. 76.
Kenyon, K., Archaeology in the Holy Land (note
24), p. 121.
1. Aharoni, Y., The Middle Canaanite Period, in: The
Archaeology of Erez Israel (note 5), pp. 84-102.
2. Mazar, B,. Canaan and Israel, Mossad Bialik (1980),
The Middle Bronze age in Erez Israel, pp. 48-83. [Hebrew].
Mazar, B., Canaan and Israel (note 27),
Aharoni, Y., The Archaeology of Erez Israel
5), pp. 99-101.
Mazar, B., Canaan and Israel (note 27), p.
Aharoni, Y., The Archaeology of Erez Israel (note
5), p. 97.
1. Aharoni, Y., The Late Canaanite Period, in: The Archaeology
of Erez Israel (note 5), pp. 103-136.
2. Albright, W.F., The Archaeology of Palestine,
Penguin (1949), pp. 96-109.
3. Wright, G.E., Biblical Archaeology, The Westminister
Press (1957), The Gods of Canaan, pp. 106-111.
Albright, W.F., The Archaeology of Palestine
(note 32), p. 99.
Aharoni, Y., The Archaeology of Erez Israel (note
5), p. 110.
Wright, E.G., Biblical Archaeology (note 32),
Aharoni, Y., The Archaeology of Erez Israel (note
5), p. 135.
According to: Finkelstein, Y,. The Extent of
the Israelite Population in the Period of the Settlement, Cathedra 32 (July
1984), pp. 3-22. [Hebrew].
See: Finkelstein, Y,. Ibid.
Aharoni, Y., The Archaeology of Erez Israel (note
5), p. 149.
1. Aharoni, Y., The United Monarchy, The Kingdoms of Israel
and Judah, The Archaeology of Erez Israel (note 5), pp. 169-241.
2. Finkelstein, Y,. The Extent of the Israelite Population
in the Period of the Settlement (note 37), pp. 3-22.
Aharoni, Y., The Archaeology of Erez Israel (note 5), p. 135.
According to Stern, E,.:
1. The Material Culture of Erez Israel in the Persian
Period (note 6).
2. The State of ‘Yehud’ in Prophecy and Reality, Cathedra
4 (July 1976). [Hebrew].
Back to the home page
Etzion, Y., Tell Lachish,
Facts and Interpretations, working paper (July, 1984).
Meshel, Z,. Who Built the “Israelite Forts” in the
Negev Mountains, Cathedra 11, p. 27.
Aharoni, Y., The Archaeology of Erez Israel (note 5), p. 109.
Albright, W.F., The Archaeology of Palestine
(note 32), p. 103.
I heard this idea from J. T. Hantke in a personal