Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Proof for David’s Kingdom from Khirbet Summeily?

Is this the the sort of press release you would expect out of Mississippi State University?

Six official clay seals found by a Mississippi State University archaeological team at a small site in Israel offer evidence that supports the existence of biblical kings David and Solomon.

Many modern scholars dismiss David and Solomon as mythological figures and believe no kingdom could have existed in the region at the time the Bible recounted their activities. The new finds provide evidence that some type of government activity was conducted there in that period.

Jimmy Hardin, associate professor in the MSU Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, said these clay bullae were used to seal official correspondence in much the same way wax seals were used on official documents in later periods.

Hardin, co-director of the Hesi Regional Project, has been excavating each summer at Khirbet Summeily, a site east of Gaza in southern Israel, since 2011. Hardin's findings were published in the December 2014 issue of Near Eastern Archaeology, a leading, peer-reviewed journal for this field.

"Our preliminary results indicated that this site is integrated into a political entity that is typified by elite activities, suggesting that a state was already being formed in the 10th century B.C.," Hardin said. "We are very positive that these bullae are associated with the Iron Age IIA, which we date to the 10th century B.C., and which lends general support to the historical veracity of David and Solomon as recorded in the Hebrew biblical texts.

Read on for more details, including the fact that none of the bullae has writing. Dating these to the Iron IIA doesn’t necessarily make them contemporaneous with the United Kingdom (Iron IIA = 1000-840 BC), but the co-director asserts that “our dates for the bullae are based on multiple types of evidence we combined to determine a general 10th century B.C. date.” I’m also curious to know if they’ve identified the site as Israelite and not Philistine during this period, since that alone would be a significant discovery, located in the heart of Philistine territory as is it.

Khirbet Summeily is located 3 miles (4 km) west of Tell el-Hesi and about 5 miles (8 km) southwest of Qiryat Gat.

The official excavation website does not appear to be updated regularly. We mentioned some discoveries at the site back in 2011.

HT: David Coppedge

Photos by Megan Bean (top) and the University of Wisconsin/Nathaniel Greene (bottom)

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  • They have written on this pretty extensively in several articles recently published in Near Eastern archaeology.

    and especially here

    which was just published this month. I think that they have made a pretty compelling case to see Muheila (Tel Milh), Kaneiterah (Tel Qeshet), Tell el-Hesi (Tel Hesi), Tell Abu Shukf (Tel Sheqf), Tel Erani (Arak el Manshiya or whatever its original name was), Tel Zayit, and Tel Burna as a group of Judahite border fortresses/fortified towns that were built (at least) in the 9th century. In fact, there is very little biblical evidence that describes this region's border between Judah and Philistine Ashkelon/Gaza. One should also consider that Ziklag (Tell esh-Sharia?) shows up in the Judahite administrative division (Josh. 15:31) and Gerar (Abu Hurreira?) is associated with Judah (2 Chron. 15). That said, their suggested identification for Sumeily (Zenan/Zanaan - Josh. 15:37; Micah 1:11) is very difficult - since Sumeili is tiny(!) Nearby Hesi and Shukf are tells in the classical sense and were probably fortified - Sumeily is not fortified. Yet, their bullae are really interesting - we know of no other parallel to these in Judah if they are 10th century, but also - even if they are 9th century, since the administrative bullae/seal impressions (LMLK, Rosette, other fiscal bullae) are almost exclusively related to the 8th-7th century BCE. That said, one could argue that they are related to Philistine activity as well - see here

    In any event, the discover of these bullae is quite interesting! The activity at Summeily and the several small tells that surround it has to be related to its location on the inland Trunk Route/International Coastal Highway.

    By Blogger Chris McKinny, at Thu Dec 18, 01:16:00 AM  

  • I'm not necessarily sure that the discovery of the bullae has something to do with the nature of the site, but rather with excavation methodology. At Khirbet Summeily absolutely everything is dry-sieved, from the first scrapings of top soil to "sterile soil". A few of the bullae (I think, two) were found when mud bricks were broken up.
    If other archaeological excavations in the area also used similar methodology, maybe more bullae would be found.

    By OpenID timfrankarchaeology, at Fri Dec 19, 03:50:00 AM  

  • There are some additional comments by Finkelstein & Rollston in an AP story circulated today. Here's one version.

    By Blogger G.M. Grena, at Mon Dec 22, 09:20:00 PM  

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