Archaeological Notes

Hershel Shanks, of the Biblical Archaeological Review, sketches the issue of speculation by archaeologists.

From her careful reading of the Biblical text, the Hebrew University’s Eilat Mazar thought she knew just where King David’s palace lay buried in the small, 12-acre site known as the City of David, so she decided to dig there. There is no doubt that when she did so, she uncovered walls of a very imposing structure—and the place seemed right for David’s palace.

The principal wall of the structure, which she calls the Large Stone Structure, was more than 8 feet wide and more than 90 feet long with a corner that extended for an additional 12 feet. But this wall and the wall stubs extending from it were archaeologically quite complex. The walls came from different time periods, they had been used and reused—and they were very difficult to date. There was some indication of date in the usual way, however—the date of the pottery within the walls.

According to the traditional dating, King David ruled in the tenth century B.C.E. And Mazar did find some pottery sherds from this period (Iron Age IIa), especially a small black-on-red juglet from Cyprus that dated to this period. This suggested that the major wall could be from King David’s time. The problem was that the surface on which this pottery was found could not be associated with or directly connected to the wall that Mazar wanted to date. It would be nice if it were, but it wasn’t. So the dating of the wall is not as airtight as it might be. Nevertheless, she thought this structure could be David’s palace.

Read the rest at the link above.

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  • Robert

    I think there’s an essential difference between the royal house of Adiabene and King David. We know the former existed more or less as described by early historians. We know there was a royal house which claims a ‘David’ as its ancestor, but it’s far from certain that the stories about him are historical. We can be reasonably sure that there was an Adiabene palace pretty much where we’re told it was; it’s far from certain that ‘David’, whoever he was, ever had anything like a palace. Shanks fails to mention the possibility that the large stone structure could be Omride work from the 9th Century BCE.

  • Ian Kirk

    After a trip to Rome, it becomes even more obvious that archeologists are also fighting the reality that people reused pieces of old structures, and repurposed the structures that remained. As one wanders Rome, you can see where people built apartments into temples. I suspect that is was no different in Jerusalem.

  • Patrick

    Friend of mine went to Rome a few years back and they had found a Church built right on top of a mithra temple. They had just found the temple.

    We don’t know what we don’t know.