Friday, October 14, 2005

Revisiting David's Palace

Azure is carrying an article on the finding of the building that may be David's palace, Facts Underground. [Or you can read an excerpted account in Ynet (a site that doesn't require free registration): Part I, Part II]

You know one of the best things about finding the palace in Jerusalem? Besides the amazing fact that David's Palace may have been found!

Shows up the archaeological revisionists in plain sight for the fools they are.

The field of biblical archaeology has been rocked, so to speak, by dramatic new finds in the heart of ancient Jerusalem. For the last few years, a number of respected archaeologists have posited that the biblical accounts of Jerusalem as the seat of a powerful, unified monarchy under the rule of David and Solomon are essentially false. The most prominent of these is Israel Finkelstein, the chairman of Tel Aviv University’s archaeology department, whose 2001 book The Bible Unearthed, written together with Neal Asher Silberman, became an international best seller. The lynchpin of his argument was the absence of clear evidence from the archaeological excavations carried out in Jerusalem over the last century. “Not only was any sign of monumental architecture missing,” he wrote, “but so were even simple pottery shards.” If David and Solomon existed at all, he concluded, they were no more than “hill-country chieftains,” and Jerusalem, as he told the New York Times, was “no more than a poor village at the time.”

But now comes word of a most unusual find: The remains of a massive structure, in the heart of biblical Jerusalem, dating to the time of King David. Eilat Mazar, the archaeologist leading the expedition, suggests that it may be none other than the palace built by David and used by the Judaean kings for over four centuries. If she is right, this would mean a reconsideration of the archaeological record with regard to the early First-Temple period. It would also deal a death-blow to the revisionist camp, whose entire theory is predicated on the absence of evidence in Jerusalem from this period. But is she right?
Hillfolk, indeed! Or maybe, just maybe, if only they could stretched their imagination and schooled their patience, they might have imagined the finds yet unfound.

I doubt I'll ever understand the automatic impulse to want to deconstruct history - to belittle it more or less, to batter it down, to reduce it to nothingness - rather than to understand its sweep. There's a whole minimalist aesthetic going on in that mental framework, the post-modern thrust, which wants to reveal historical roots as scanty, overblown and inauthentic in order to cry out, Oh what a fraud has hereto been perpetrated on man. With this absence of proof, we reveal that to you for the first time.

There's surely no absence of ego in that approach. Intellectually speaking, it's a bit like Ham uncovering the nakedness of his father, Noah. Harold Bloom, I imagine would speak of it in terms of the Oedipal complex.

By the way, I'm certainly not decrying the precision which the academization of history brings to the field of biblical studies. Far from it. Just this particular intellectual thrust, with its will to negate, let loose and foisted on the rest of us by a post-modernist mafiosa. And their allies, who are happy to misappropriate such theories of nothingness for their own nefarious political ends.
So, is it David’s palace? It is extremely difficult to say with certainty; indeed, no plaque has been found that says on it, “David’s Palace”; nor is it likely that such definitive evidence will ever be found. And yet, the evidence seems to fit surprisingly well with the claim, and there are no finds that suggest the contrary, such as the idolatrous statuettes or ritual crematoria found in contemporary Phoenician settlements. The location, size, style, and dating are all right, and it appears in a part of the ancient world where such constructions were extremely rare and represented the greatest sort of public works. Could it be something else? Of course. Has a better explanation been offered to match the data–data which includes not only archaeological finds, but the text itself? No.

There will be no shortage of well-meaning skeptics, including serious archaeologists, who, having been trained in a scholarly world weary of exuberant romantics and religious enthusiasts prone to making sensational, irresponsible claims about having found Noah’s Ark, will be extremely reluctant to identify any new archaeological find with particulars found in the Bible. Others, driven by a concatenation of interests, ideologies, or political agendas, will seize on any shred of uncertainty in the building’s identification to distract attention from the momentousness of the find. Both groups will invoke professionalism and objectivity to pooh-pooh the proposition that this is David’s palace. They will raise the bar of what kind of proofs are required to say what it was to a standard that no archaeological find could ever meet. Or they will simply dismiss it all as wishful thinking in the service of religious or Zionist motives...

“You can never be sure about this sort of thing,” Mazar says. “But it seems that the theory that suggests this to be the very palace described in the book of Samuel as having been built by David is thus far the best explanation for the data. Anyone who wants to say otherwise ought to come up with a better theory.” This is neither wishful thinking nor an imagined past, but good science.
Note, too, that a similar, text-based approach in Greece is likely to have located Ithaca, home of Penelope and Odysseus.

Previous posts on this subject:

Unlayering History
David's Kingdom


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