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24 September 2013

Biblical Gezer shows evidence of two fiery conflagrations in the early biblical period. One is at the end of the LB age and the other at the end of Iron 1. It is unclear if this is end of Iron 1A or 1B. If the former is correct it conforms with Egyptian evidence – a contraction of Egyptian interest in Palestine in mid dynasty 20. The story is in the current issue of Popular Archaeology – but the link is not good (see http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/09012013/article/archaeologists-rev…

Gezer was located on a major trade route out of Egypt and through the Levant, and was settled in other periods and not just in the two periods leading up to the above destruction levels. In the Bible it was conquered by pharaoh and later given to Solomon as a wedding gift, an exchange connected with a dynastic marraige between two royal families. Solomon is recorded as building a wall around Gezer, as well as Jerusalem, Hazor, and Megiddo, and all those cities are presently under investigation.

Naturally, the discovery of a wall dating from Iron I has stimulated the excavators. There appears to be a typing error in the online article as it places Gezer in NW Israel rather than in the SW. Gradually, the Iron II layers are being stripped away to reveal more of Iron I – as it is this period they have focussed on. Earlier archaeologists were more interested in Iron II as it was assumed this was the Solomonic level – and some still harbour that view. It is worth bearing in mind that if pharaoh had conquered Gezer he would not have destroyed it – and Solomon would have done nothing but make building alterations. It is best, in this part of the world, to think in terms of earthquake as the most likely cause of destruction levels – the collapse of buildings and the burial of various features. Armies, in general do not cause major destruction levels. That is possible in the modern world with bombs and howitzers but not in the ancient world. They could set fire to buildings and fittings but this would have caused limited damage. In many archaeological reports site destructions have invariably been seen in the context of invading armies. Take for example Ebla, where the excavators were at pains to connect destruction levels with Sargon the Great and Naram Sin, whereas it is much more likely that a link with a general destruction pattern right across Syria and Palestine at the end of the Early Bronze (at end of EBIII and again, end of EBIV) is to be preferred. The Akkadian conquerers are wedged between those two destruction layers – an attempt to control their old homeland (in the Habur valley) as well as their new homeland (forged out of what was northern Sumeria).

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