9 Mar 2017

We had a long article in the March issue of Current Archaeology on dolmens in Pembrokeshire. There are a lot of dolmens along the western sea lanes from Britain and Ireland to France and Spain/ Portugal. These are generally dated from as early as the 4th millennium BC (although they may have continued to have been built into the next millennium). There was an odd coincidence as dolmens in Upper Galilee were the subject of a post at ... and there are 400 of them in this region and many more on the Golan Heights. One theory is that dolmens originated in the Levant and spread through the Mediterranean as far as Iberia and then the idea was transferred along the Atlantic sea ways. They are found from Turkey to the Yemen, even in darkest Arabia. However, this theory would demand an early dispersal of dolmens in order to reach Britain and Ireland by 4000BC. It seems the dolmens explored in the Galilee date no older than around 4000 years ago - around the 2000BC mark. They belong to the Intermediate Bronze Age we are told (contemporary with the First Intermediate Period in Egypt). It is thought that people reverted to living outside the cities in the Levant which had been destroyed at the end of the Early Bronze Age (by an earthquake storm according to Claude Schaeffer) and adopted a more mobile life style. This in one way fits into the Neolithic situation in Britain which involved transhumance to a degree. Is there any archaeological evidence for a connection between the First Intermediate people and the dolmens?

In the Bible the dolmens and the dolmen erecting people are much older than the Israelites as they had become legendary objects in the landscape. The bedstead of Og is thought to have been a dolmen or megalithic ruin on the Golan Heights. How does this sit with revisionist chronology. People have dated the Exodus to the end of the Early Bronze Age (on the basis the ruins have a connection with the Conquest by Joshua). Others see the mobile period of the Intermediate Bronze Age as having a parallel with the 40 year episode in the Wilderness (the 40 years being symbolical rather than factual I suppose) as there is plenty of evidence of people living in the Negev at this time (as well as the Transjordan). Perhaps this is why the connection with the dolmens is made as in mainstream chronology the Intermediate Bronze Age long predates the arrival of the Israelites in Cisjordan. All very convenient - but where does this leave the Biblical narrative. Og is more or less a legendary character who is thought to have been around in the time of Noah. In all likelihood he represents a god, or a giant, associated with the pre-Israel period, and like giants in Britain became associated with various prehistoric features in the landscape, such as megalithic constructs. That implies the Exodus must post date the Intermediate Bronze Age and is somewhat nearer to the mainstream position than some revisionists allow.