David's Palace "Discovered"
December 7, 2006 11:08 AM   Subscribe

Archaeology in Israel has long been politicized. Perhaps never more than in recent years, when minimalist critiques of the Biblical Kingdom of David have found a ready audience in Muslims eager to deny a historical connection between modern Jews and the land of Israel. Even sober, scholarly discussions of chronology inevitably resonate with political implications.

So it should come as no surprise that the Israeli archaeologist Eilat Mazar's recent announcement that she may have discovered the foundation of King David's palacepdf in an area south of the Haram al-Sharif was funded, in large part, by the Ir David Foundationflash/sound and the neo-conservative Shalem Center.
posted by felix betachat (17 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Your second paragraph is saying the Foundation and the Center funded the announcement. I think you meant to say they funded the dig itself, don't you?
posted by nkyad at 11:16 AM on December 7, 2006

Yes. I was using "announcement" as a metonym for the whole excavation. Sorry if that's unclear to anybody.
posted by felix betachat at 11:21 AM on December 7, 2006

Speaking of religious archeology, the Vatican dug up the Apostle Paul.
posted by bob sarabia at 11:26 AM on December 7, 2006

thanks felix
posted by matteo at 11:34 AM on December 7, 2006

I remember reading a piece in Harper's several years ago, about an expedition/dig that was essentially trying to prove or disprove the same things -- the historical claim to a Greater Israel via archeology.

As I remember it was funded by an Israeli university, and from the tone of the article, didn't seem to have an axe to grind one way or the other, just in it for the science aspect.

I remember being rather surprised to hear the archeologists remarking that they had not found a shred of evidence that aligned with the biblical view.

They claimed they just couldn't find anything -- not a bone, not a shard of pottery or any evidence whatsoever to support the biblical story, and that if that many people were moving through those areas as described, there would have had to been something there.

Maybe they were just looking in the wrong place, or weren't looking quite deep enough -- who knows?

Wish I still had the copy of the article to compare this to.

Interesting stuff.....thanks for posting it felix.
posted by timsteil at 11:50 AM on December 7, 2006

timstell: As far as positive evidence goes, we do have two important inscriptions which mention the "House of David": the 8th century Tel Dan inscription and the 9th century Mesha Stele. Taken together, these are pretty strong evidence that there was a dynasty in the territory of modern-day Israel which identified itself as a Davidic patrimony. But whether or not there is evidence for a 10th century monarchy of the sort we find described in the Bible remains an open question.

Personally, I find the sort of cautious approach that Baruch Halpern puts forth in his book David's Secret Demons to be pretty convincing. Halpern argues that the "Kingdom of David" was really not much more than a bandit state centered in the Judean highlands.
posted by felix betachat at 12:04 PM on December 7, 2006

King David's palace? That's like the Holy Grail of Biblical archaeology!
posted by Iridic at 12:06 PM on December 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Truthseeker.co.uk is a neo-Nazi site. This is hardly a credible information source. Go to the front page and see the lead article on Eisenhower "the terrible Swedish Jew." It's typical of the tendency these days to mix truths, half-truths, and lies to fit specific political agendas.
posted by worbid411 at 12:25 PM on December 7, 2006

Evidence is beside the point. You got the muscle, you get the land. That's how it always has been, everywhere, and how it will always be.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:34 PM on December 7, 2006

worbid: can you agree that the link demonstrates how Finkelstein's scholarship gets recontextualized and put to a political end? Because that's pretty much all I was trying to demonstrate there.
posted by felix betachat at 12:40 PM on December 7, 2006


after a total cranium from anus extraction, I should mention that the situation they were talking about (not being able to find remains etc), was looking for sites where people roamed the desert for years, not the palace

also...re zenmaster

>Evidence is beside the point. You got the muscle, you get >the land. That's how it always has been, everywhere, >and how it will always be.

I think one of the analyses of the piece was that, historically, that is exactly right for the time period. People got land by taking it through war or whatnot.

The only evidence these scientists really came up with is that Jews lived in that region, along with other ethinic groups, presumabaly as peaceful farmers and tradesmen or whatever.

I think the big bone of contention around the issue is that if they can find archeological evidence, then the concept of a greater Israel is valid, if not, then that's another can of worms.

Of course, this was in an article I read years ago (odds are if someone digs it up it will have turned out to be about the Israeli water polo team).

still, an interesting thread, if for nothing more than, if they DO prove the existence of such sites, how the interpretation will affect the current situation(s)
posted by timsteil at 1:18 PM on December 7, 2006

>Eisenhower "the terrible Swedish Jew"

that is hilarious....I am either going to name a band....or a cat that
posted by timsteil at 1:23 PM on December 7, 2006

The whole premise of trying to define 'greater Israel', and by extension modern borders, with archeological finds is horrible. Imagine the kinds of border reshuffling that would go on worldwide if other countries began to utilize this technique. We'd have Greece and Italy laying claim to most of Europe, and a good chunk of africa and europe. The Germans could go ahead and claim France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, etc because there is definite historical and archaeological evidence that they occupied such areas in the past. But France would also have claim to some of these areas.

What utter retardation.
posted by Sukiari at 6:37 PM on December 7, 2006

At first glance I thought this was going to be a post about the recent anouncement that the probable oldest Christian church, and longtime home of the ark of the covenant was discovered at Tel Shiloh in the West Bank. I saw this this morning and sought to make a post of it, but it really needed some background which was not easy to find and I jsut have been too busy recently for that kind of stuff. Maybe next month after all our deals our complete and etc. and after the holiday rush is complete. In any event it is pretty interesting that they may have found the Shiloh Tabernacle. Apparently this was news in Israel a month ago, but is just now getting air in the West.
posted by caddis at 9:20 PM on December 7, 2006

Timsteil, are you remembering the article by Daniel Lazare, "False Testament"?
posted by Houstonian at 4:49 AM on December 8, 2006

there's a really interesting article about the disputes over nadia abu el-haj's new book on importance of politics of archeology (and its vitality, even) to the existence of ideological rationale behind much of israel's political power.
posted by yonation at 7:16 AM on December 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

thanks yonation for the article links. fascinating.
posted by bhouston at 11:02 AM on December 9, 2006

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