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Jerusalem Tower

23 June 2017

At www.timesofisrael.com/carbon-dating-undermines-biblical-narrative-for-an… …  (June 19th 2017) we have a story, 'carbon dating undermines biblical narrative for ancient Jerusalem tower …' … which concerns a defensive tower that was previously dated around 1700BC but has now been re-dated to the 9th century BC. This will concern revisionist chronologists – and SIS has many members interested in that subject.

The Gihon spring guard tower was discovered back in 2004 by Israeli archaeologists and was dated by the pottery and its architecture to the MB age – and more closely at around 1700BC (on the conventional chronology). It was regarded as Canaanite in origin, long prior to the reign of King David. The massive fortification was designed to protect the Gihon spring – vital during a siege situation. It allowed access only from one side. It is said the new findings contradict the well established story of a Canaanite origin, the one that David seized during a ruze. Carbon 14 was used and it came up with a date in the 9th century, during Iron II, much later than previously theorised, and well within the Kingdom era. It has been thought these might have been the same fortifications taken by David from a Jebusite king as described in II Samuel 5. The C14 dates completely undermine this synchronism – as the tower was not in existence in the early Monarchy. It cannot be the biblical fortress of Zion according to the authors of the new study. Obviously, traditional archaeologists are not too happy with the findings but what can they do – C14 is science and they have to accept the findings.

The tower, it was found, does not sit on bedrock, as assumed, but rather on layers of soil, we are told by the study authors (published by Cambridge University Press). It was the discovery of these layers of sediment that opened up the possibility of deriving a C14 date for when the tower was erected – and was naturally assumed they lay under the one and only tower that existed on the site. The C14 data is thought to be more conclusive than pottery sherds found during the initial excavation. If the new date is true it means the pottery sequence relied on by archaeologists is askew – but is that possible? MB age pottery is distinct from LB and Iron Age pottery I assume, so what do we make of it all. We may note the new date is roughly the era of Jehoshaphat when a flurry of building and repairs took place. In a revised situation it may even be later than Jehoshaphat – possibly in the time of Ahaz or Hezekiah. However, older heads are often wiser and when asked, the archaeologist, I Finkelstein, was sceptical of the C14 date, pointing out  the tower could still have been built in the MB age as the pottery and architecture demands. He suggested the tower had been rebuilt up from the foundations in the 9th century (or later). Finkelstein believes ancient Jerusalem was much smaller prior to the 8th century, which is counter to what other archaeologists say. Finkelstein also points out the MB date for the original construction of the tower is suggested by similarities it possesses with MB Shechem and Shiloh. If an old tower was restored in the Iron Age this would account for the C14 date derived from the sediments – and in reality the biblical narrative is not contradicted. The C14 dates only show that the tower, as it was found, was not built before the 9th century – but this does not mean that an earlier tower had not existed there and had been demolished and rebuilt, at some point in the 9th century – or later. In any case, he adds, there is plenty of evidence of growth at Jerusalem in the 9th and 8th centuries, which would fit in with a restoration or rebuild. In other words, the pottery and architecture, he feels, overrides the C14 data – which cannot tell us anything apart from the building date of the last tower built on the site.

From a revisionist point of view this is just the kind of thing they can take advantage of, causing mischief if you like. If late MB Jerusalem was really 9th century why not MB Shechem and Shiloh? It seems to me a bit more digging around the base of the tower is required. Mainstream archaeologists need to find evidence of an earlier tower (rather than sherds of pottery) and revisionists may have to re-examine their own schemes as it might well take a brick out of the wall they have constructed. It might also be productive to concentrate, for the moment, on the date of its destruction. One to ruminate on.

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