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Friday, 21 February 2014
Camel Gate
Topic: Archaeology


O.K., I likely should have blogged about this when the article first came out, but as I understand it, Camel Gate continues.  Well, that may not be what the scholarly community calls it but it's fitting considering the topic.  In the article below (to which I have provided a link), the archaeologists contend tha the Bible is in error about Abraham and other earlier patriarchs owning camels, and that according to their research, camels were not domesticated until the 10th (maybe the 11th) century B.C.  I would advise reading the brief article, but here is my rebuttal.


Alright, let's say camels weren't domesticated in he Levant until the 1oth century B.C.  My response is......SO WHAT, actually a BIG FAT SO WHAT.  How does that prove that the Biblical narrative about Abraham is in error?  The only caveat/counter I would offer my colleagues is that just because there may not have been domesticated camels before the 11th c. BC, doesn't mean that desert peoples didn't use tame ones.  Domestication implies captive breeding, where taming relies on existing wild populations.  Consider the use of elephants in India as pack animals.  They are tame but decidedly not domesticated.  Handbal's war elephants likewise.  Ancient Egyptians tamed cheetahs and hiyenas for assistance in hunting (we know this from iconography). The onager was wild ass used by ancient Sumerians and Levantines, and modern Asians as draft animals, but is by no means domesticated.  They are temperamental and like to bite.....kind of like some camels.  Jared Diamond has the best explanation of the difference between domesticated and time I've ever read.  See GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL.  The work in question is valuable, but doesn't really disprove the use of camels by Levantines in the Old Testament before c. 900 BC.

Here is another link that sheds light on Camel Gate, an interview sound cip and transcript with one of the ascholars working on the data from the sites in question.  OH, THE HUMANITY.  This is what happens when scholars become too myopic in their focus on a particular--in this case archaeological and chronological--problem.


Posted by Professorburton at 8:29 PM CST
Updated: Friday, 21 February 2014 8:45 PM CST
Friday, 19 April 2013
The Joseph Coin Cache
Topic: Archaeology

Inevitably, when we reach the period in question (Egyptian antiquity), my students want to know if the Hebrews were really in Egypt.  I routinely reference this story first.  Although the find of these "coins" in Egypt bearing a supposed name of Joseph is several years old, it is is still a very fascinating topic.  I still have some problems with the interpretation of the finds (such as when coins were actually used in Egypt), but it is still strangely compelling.  Not a smoking gun, but compelling.  Were they in Egypt?  Well, the Bible says so, and hence I'm inclined to think yes.  Is this the complete proof?  Not quite.


Posted by Professorburton at 3:18 AM CDT
Wednesday, 17 April 2013
Mikveh Discovery
Topic: Archaeology

Click below to read story.


Mikveh is ritual bathing, by the way.

Posted by Professorburton at 8:07 PM CDT
Tuesday, 16 April 2013
Mysterious Sea of Galilee stone structure part of ancient ‘well-organized society’ - Israeli scientists
Topic: Archaeology

Read story here.


Posted by Professorburton at 10:30 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 16 April 2013 10:40 PM CDT
Saturday, 11 February 2012
Paraders of the Lost Arks:: Let's Look for Them......But not Like That
Topic: Archaeology

I read articles with some frequency about the "archaeological" pursuit of Biblical mysteries.  By mysteries I mean the most elusive of artifacts mentioned in the Biblical narrative--the "biggies": Noah's Ark, the Ark of the Covenant, the Ephod, etc.  While they remain elusive (depending on who you read or talk to) to this day, the pursuit of such artifacts is no less valid than other legitimate scholarly pursuits. We may never find them, but the search for them can yield valuable discoveries in their own right.  However, the search for these items has been plagued by sensationalism and no small amount of over-romanticizing.  Worse yet, many of the "expeditions" sent out into the field are comprised of very few Biblical scholars or archaeologists, and more often than not, a train of novices who have signed up for nothing more than a trip to these exotic locales.

Avocational scholars of all kinds have historically been involved in some of the great discoveries of the last 200 years. Einstein was a patent clerk, Frank Calvert was a diplomat, and many archaeologists were surveyors and soldiers.  Most early archaeologists, for instance, were avocational because there was no "archaeology" as we know unitl the mid-19th century.  Even today many avocational scholars make significant contributions. 

So, I am not demeaning avocationals--I work with them regularly.  What I question, in may of the searches for the arks, is "what is your audience?"  "Is it a readership you can exploit, or is it for the sake of knowledge?"  What we need is a revamping of the search for these artifacts.  New blood, a new set of eyes, and an interdisciplinary approach.  And by all means, we need enunciation of a clear research design.  It seems to me that many of the "expeditions" are conducted willy-nilly with the discovery of pieces of petrified wood qualifying as "proof" of Noah's ark. Anyone who has plied their training and talents to Biblical problems of even considerably more recent provenience will tell you it is a SLOW process .Historians spend hours in libraries, readining--archaeologists devote weeks, months, years in the field excavating.  In the big picture, we often contribute partial solutions to a large over-arching question.

The problem with expeditions for Biblical mysteries like the arks is that searches should include professional scholars in addition to avocationals.  No, they must include professionals.  They need the people who understand the lanugage of science, not to downplay the wonder of a potential discovery, but to make finds digestible to a wider audience and demonstrate that respectful and professional approaches to these very interesting questions about humanity are employed.

By all means, let's keep looking.  But we need a complete overhaul of the approach.  We need people who have no need for sensationalism.  For goodness' sake, don't let sensational claims overshadow the very tanigble(and no less interesting) gains made in the field by archaeologists working in the Holy Land today.  Who would have thought we would ever find a potsherd with Goliath's name inscribed on it (from Tel es-Safi)?  The scientist in me offers this commentary on such finds.......WOW!!!!!!!

Your Friendly Neighborhood PhD

Posted by Professorburton at 5:40 PM CST

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