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Finkelstein and pollen grains

24 October 2013

We covered this subject at the recent Study Group Meeting at the house of David Roth (in London) as one of the attendees had a piece he had torn out of a newspaper. This is the version as it appears at www.jewishpress.com/news/dramatic-kinneret-discovery-climate-crisis-ruin…

Fossil pollen in sediments from the bottom of the Sea of Galilee is proving to be useful in finding out what might have happened at the end of the Bronze Age (the 13th and 12th centuries BC). This is when major empires such as New Kingdom Egypt, the Hittites, Mycenaean Greece, Middle Assyria/Babylonia, and various kingdoms in the Levant and Syria came to a sticky end of some kind, with widespread evidence of destruction of sites. Eventually, they were replaced by Iron Age societies – and in the full course of time empires rose once again.

The researchers retrieved a sediment core 20m long at 300m below the surface of the sea. The pollen is able to show what plants grew in the vicinity of the lake – so this is primarily a record of climate. Organic materials found in the sediment were used to produce C14 dates, and the whole, C14 and pollen grains, revealed that between 1250 and 1100BC there was a severe drought – low precipitation. This agrees remarkably with dynasty 20 history and Assyro-Babylonian records of the same time.

The research dovetails nicely into research by Ronny Ellenblom of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He described conditions in northern Iran and Anatolia that involved not just low rainfall levels but devastating cold spells and frosts that destroyed crops. Finkelstein, Litt, and Lauggot now propose a similar thing in the Levant – severe cold weather that destroyed crops across the Near East coinciding with low precipitation and drought (as of course indicated by the low growth tree rings dated between 1159-41BC). It is suggested it was this, as much as anything else, that drove people to migrate southwards – in the direction of Egypt. In search of food. That is the theory being proposed, as it stands at the moment. The fire and destruction of towns and cities is mentioned in passing – but no link is made to the climate change. This is a case of providing an explanation by ignoring the elephant in the room.

Finally, we are told, sticking to the orthodox chronological record, the dry period of climate came to an end around 1100BC – which appears to open a gulf between the C14 dates and what is revealed in contemporary written records. After 1100, in this new climate model, it became wet again and this coincided with the uprooted people establishing settlements (including in the hill country of Palestine). So, we have a distinct anomaly here between C14 and recorded history. In Assyrian annals the wet weather does not return until the late 10th/early 9th centuries, between 150 and 200 years in difference. Does this suggest the LB site destructions really took place somewhat later than assumed in this article (and supported by dendrochronology). The two dating systems are closely entwined, one supporting the other somewhat like a crutch. This is what was suggested by Nick Thom in his recent book (and ignored by SIS and other revisionist circles) and somewhat similar in scope to that of Bernard Newgrosh in his book Chronology at the Crossroads. Significantly, such a revision does not contradict the general Biblical narrative, and neither does it require reinterpretations of names and places (and the various other revisionist tricks of the game). It is interesting as Douglas Keenan has suggested a 150 year discrepancy in C14 dates in the Aegean, Anatolia, and the Near East (see www.informath.org) – and we have that glaring anomaly where C14 dates the end of Nineveh 150 years too early (explained away as a diet high in fish). We also have to bear in mind that the C14 dates are acceptable to Finkelstein's revised chronology – which is only of the order of 50 years. If he had been more adventurous he might have produced a much better fit – as it is nobody's gloves fit too snugly across the hand of events. In projecting a partial movement of chronology Finkelstein appears to be between a rock and a hard place – an easy target for critics who favour the orthodox date. He has staked his reputation on a 50 year revision of chronology – which is more than most have allowed. Aidan Dodson, the Egyptologist, also suggested revising downwards by around 50 years – but it is unclear if he still favours this. It would hove in with Finkelstein.

A 150 to 200 year revision of C14 dates (which would by necessity involve dendrochronological dates as well) would pan out at 1100 to 950BC (possibly closer to 900BC). It would invoke at the same time a reappraisal of Biblical synchronisms with Egypt and the LB world at large. At the moment the orthodox dates are used to shoehorn the Judges period between 1250 and 1050BC when it is clearly of much longer duration. It also opens the possibility of some kind of a link between the Exodus out of Egypt and the Expulsion of the Hyksos (as suggested by Manetho 2300 years ago). The Hebrews, if associated with the Habiru, unsettled elements of the MB and LB population, would of course have nothing to do with the Hyksos themselves, and appear to be quite separate in identity. The Hyksos appear to have an origin in Canaan – but may have included other groups.

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