May 8, 2012

Cult Objects From Khirbet Qeiyafa

This from the first two paragraphs of the English news release,

Prof. Yosef Garfinkel, the Yigal Yadin Professor of Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, announced today the discovery of objects that for the first time shed light on how a cult was organized in Judah at the time of King David. During recent archaeological excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, a fortified city in Judah adjacent to the Valley of Elah, Garfinkel and colleagues uncovered rich assemblages of pottery, stone and metal tools, and many art and cult objects. These include three large rooms that served as cultic shrines, which in their architecture and finds correspond to the biblical description of a cult at the time of King David.

This discovery is extraordinary as it is the first time that shrines from the time of early biblical kings were uncovered. Because these shrines pre-date the construction of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem by 30 to 40 years, they provide the first physical evidence of a cult in the time of King David, with significant implications for the fields of archaeology, history, biblical and religion studies.

I'm not sure why I got this news release but I did.

And here’s a picture of Professor Garfinkel with one of the box thingys.

Professor Garfinkel with box thingy

Now I’m perhaps more open than some to there having been a King David. But the first two paragraphs of this news release says “King David” three too many times for my taste. And it doesn't get any better as one reads on. If one feels a need to speculate it should be done after the objects and their archaeological context are described or, at a minimum, one should use the word "speculation" as often as one speculates. Then, news releases tend to go for the sensational and depend on Mark Twain’s theorem for further amplification.

But language is a treacherous thing, a most unsure vehicle, and it can seldom arrange descriptive words in such a way that they will not inflate the facts--by help of the reader's imagination, which is always ready to take a hand and work for nothing, and do the bulk of it at that. [Following the Equator].

This doesn’t mean that I think the finds aren’t abnormally interesting nor does it mean that I think they don’t have anything to do with early Israelite religious practices. It means that I think a sensationalized presentation of potentially important evidence for anything is inappropriate prior to scholarly publication in a peer review environment. It tends to poison the well of honest inquiry.

A lot more will be said about these finds and about Finkelstein and Fantalkin’s recent article on Khirbet Qeiyafa in Tel Aviv. I may even have more to say. But not today. This is a rather full day for me and I haven’t read Finkelstein and Fantalkin’s article. Even as I write the blogosphere is filling with responses. More to come.

Reference:

Finkelstein, I. and Fantalkin, A., “Khirbet Qeiyafa: An Unsensational Archaeological and Historical Interpretation,” Tel Aviv, 39/1, 38–63.

Posted by Duane Smith at May 8, 2012 7:41 AM | Read more on Archaeology |

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