Wednesday, August 24, 2005

King David's Palace

Israeli archaeologist Eilat Mazar has uncovered the foundation walls of an ancient and significant public building just outside the walls of the Old City in Jerusalem. She believes that she has found King David's palace, the palace that the Bible describes as being built by King Hiram of Tyre about 1,000 years Before the Christian Era (BCE). This remarkable find was announced earlier this month.

If you haven't heard about this story, don't feel guilty: Lots of people haven't heard about it. It has hardly made a blip on the mainstream press in the United States. A search of a LexisNexis news database covering hundreds of newspapers gets only 6 results for the search "King David w/10 palace" since the beginning of August. Searches for the archaeologist by various spellings of her name return the same results. I would not have known about it myself if I had not read an editorial about the discovery in the Jewish Exponent last week.

And no wonder the media doesn't want to touch this story: If this structure is what Mazar believes it to be, the potential political, historical and social ramifications of this discovery are enormous. Anti-Israel hard-liners have claimed for many years now that Jews have no historical connection to Jerusalem, that King David ruled from some other hill somewhere else; if this discovery is proved to be King David's palace, it places King David directly outside modern Jerusalem's walls. The fashionable scholarly opinion in recent years has been that King David was nothing more than an insignificant hill chieftain, that the Bible is nothing more than fiction and the stories it tells should be given no credence whatsoever; if Mazar is correct, this find shows that King David was more significant than fashionable scholars want to believe, and the Bible at the very least contains some accurate historical details.

Of course, I doubt we will never know whether Mazar is correct. There are too many people who are too emotionally committed to either believing or disbelieving it. The Palestinian Authority has already declared the find to be "worthless and groundless" without examining any of the evidence, implying without explicitly saying so that these "clandestine excavations" were fraudulent.

It is interesting, though, to compare the media's treatment of this story to their treatment of the so-called "James Ossuary" in 2002. For those who don't recall, a media frenzy ensued after it was announced that someone had found an ossuary (a box for holding bones of the deceased) inscribed with the words Ya'akov bar Yosef akhui di Yeshua, widely translated as James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus, although "Ya'akov" would perhaps be more accurately translated as "Jacob." It was widely believed that this was the first physical evidence ever found of the existence of Jesus, though some expressed skepticism because of the commonness of the names. The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto examined the ossuary and declared it to be genuine, although some bells and whistles should have gone off because this is not the first remarkable archaelogical find the same collector had owned. The owner of the box was later arrested for antiquities forgery. Police arresting him found implements for conducting antiquities forgery as well as articles in various stages of the forging process. The Royal Ontario Museum and others continue to maintain that the box was real.

Perhaps the James ossuary fiasco has made the media a bit more gun-shy, although one has to wonder how someone could fake a massive 3000-year-old building.

NY Times article about the discovery

Jewish Exponent article which was my first exposure to this story (Note: this article is likely to disappear very soon; they only keep stories for a couple of weeks)

A Palestinian News Agency article dismissing the significance of the find


nvowpfhsoh said...

Wow how interesting. If indeed that turns out to be King David's Palace then that's an extaordinary find!

Bri said...

Just about anything academic or even political is ignored when more selling "acts of G-d" are current happenings. (People became glued to their TVs to hear about the storm... perfect for commercials.)

Maybe in a couple of years there will be some interesting documentary on the topic.

dlgrapeda said...

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I thought you might want to check it out:

If you’d like to become a member, just go to the above link to join and click on "Join this Group" in the upper right corner.

HaDrew said...

The calendar is wrong

JewFAQ said...

(scratching head)

What calendar is wrong?