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The Stratigraphical Chronology of Ancient Israel
I. Ancient Israel Debunked?
The fundamentalistically computed biblical dates for the major events in the
history of ancient Israel cannot be convincingly synchronized with the
stratigraphical sequence of the land's archaeological sites. This want of
harmony between biblical chronology and archaeological stratigraphy is
mainly due to the excavators' attempts to impose biblical dates on the
strata which have actually been dated by other means—such as
pseudo-astronomical (i.e., Sothic) retrocalculations in Egyptology and
arbitrarily designed kinglists in Assyriology. Neither the biblical nor the
"scholarly" dating schemes seem to be very much in touch with the actual
depth, volume and number of strata in the ground. Time and again,
archaeologists have failed to make sense of the biblical events when they
took their pious dates and tried to accommodate them in their stratigraphies.
Hence, it became ever more fashionable to discard the historical
information contained in the biblical legends. Scholars from Israel and the
rest of the world try to convince their bewildered audiences that whatever
passage in the Bible appeared to allude to history, in actual fact turned
out to be fiction or, worse, to have sprung from feverish fantasies.
This scholarly movement began long ago. Any genuine historical content of
the Abraham legends was dismissed as early as 1878 when Julius Wellhausen
published his famous Geschichte Israels (History of Israel).
All he could see in the patriarchs were composite figures designed to serve
as , "models of the good Israelite."
Meanwhile the exposition of biblical events as awkward blunders has focused
on the Exodus, conquest and settlement: "There was no real Exodus, there was
no real wilderness wandering, and there was no sojourn at Kadesh
because "a thorough archaeological research at the oasis of Kadesh Barnea
did not even reveal one sherd from the Late Bronze Age or Iron Age I
The "scholarly" date of 1550 for the termination of the preceding Middle
Bronze Age ruled out an evaluation of the natural upheavals and military
destructions accompanying the shift from Middle to Late Bronze as an
environment for the biblical claims in question.
The period of Judges, of course, could not remain untouched after the
settlement traditions were discredited. Biblically dated to 1450-1012
and described as a pre-Iron culture, it is now searched for in Iron Age
I strata with a "scholarly" date of 1200-1000. The results are
devastating for the biblical narratives:
"Nothing in the archaeological findings from this period points to
foreign traditions or objects brought by the Israelites [of biblical
legends] from outside the country."
The entire period of the United Kingdom and the northern kingdom of
Israel, biblically dated to 1012-721, also lacks archaeological credibility.
The splendid capital of Jerusalem does not deliver the expected voluminous
urban strata. The city suffers from "the lack of any remains"
for David and his successor. "The intensive building activity of Solomon and
his entourage in Jerusalem are illuminated only by indirect sources."
The same archaeological emptiness was confirmed for Jerusalem's western hill
where an Israelite settlement only began in "the eighth century B.C."
On the other hand, Jerusalem has urban structures during a time when,
from the viewpoint of biblical chronology, "nobody needs them." Early
Bronze Age II (3050-2650)--the first urban period in the Land of Israel
with "stone walls 3-4m wide" is "exemplified at Jerusalem (the City of
David)" with solid stone houses. In the Middle Bronze Age
(2000-1550)--so intriguing for the sudden arrival of Mesopotamia's
material culturel--Jerusalem for the first time is surrounded by a wall
which, however, irritates chronographers for what it encloses:
"It is 2.5 meters wide and built of very large boulders. On the
strength of the finds discovered in the foundation trench of the
wall, it is definitely dated to Middle Bronze Age II. However, the
layers on the slope beyond the line of the wall are not earlier than the
seventh century BC." 
What happened between 1650 and 650 or, in Jerusalem's earlier period,
between 2650 and 1650? Two blank millennia in the Holy City without
clear-cut evidence for a cessation of settlement indeed cry for a
chronology built neither on biblical nor on "scholarly" chronology, but
on dates based on hard evidence. To compensate for Jerusalem's
disturbing lack of strata in the biblical period of the monarchies,
10th-8th century strata are claimed at least to exist in Israel's famous
long stratigraphies (e.g., Megiddo, Gezer, Hazor). However, the strata
in question contain remains which elsewhere are dated four to five
centuries later, i.e., around 500--notably the notorious Aeolic columns
and capitals as in Megiddo VA-IVB.
Aeolic capital from
Megiddo VA-IVB. The stratum is biblically dated to 1050-900, but contains
capitals the likes of which are elsewhere stratigraphically dated to the 6th/5th
century. Therefore the capitals were christened "Proto-Aeolic."
The desperate designation of these prominent
architectural features as "proto-Aeolic capitals" in no way could save
the reputation of the excavators. It only exposed them to derision:
After they had used up the strata with the capitals for the 10th
century, they had nothing left to show for the true period of the
capitals in the 6th/5th century. The specimens existed only once and,
therefore, could not be divided into "proto" and genuine pieces.
Moreover, the archaeologists were not only ridiculed, they also invited
anti-Zionist efforts to delegitimize the modem State of Israel, which
State seems to be left with no provable past of its own to build upon.
Israel's rule by the Sargonid kings from Tiglat-Plieser to Ashurbanipal
(biblically dated to the 8th/7th century) did not fare better than the
earlier periods. The famous Sargonid pottery ("Palace Ware"), which was
already dated to the 6th-3rd century by earlier excavators, was
meanwhile also found in Mesopotamia proper and, for
stratigraphical reasons, had to be dated after 610. This fine ceramic
ware was even dug up in Hellenistic burials. Stratigraphically, the
Sargonid remains immediately precede the Hellenistic ones of the 4th/3rd
century without any recognizable hiatus whatsoever (e.g., at Hama and
Nimrud/Calah). The Persian period, therefore, seems to provide a
more convincing environment for these powerful kings.
The impressive achievements of nearly 150 years of modem archaeology in the
ancient Near East seem to have debunked Israel's biblical history from
Abraham to the Babylonian Exile, which likewise is burdened with some big
question marks (see Section II below). The opposing parties
are well entrenched. One side defends the biblical period from ca. 2100
(birth of the patriarch in Ur of the Chaldees) to 586 (deportation of
Judah). The other side insists on its "scholarly" dated stratigraphy
which does not allow for these one and a half millennia in the
archaeological strata of the land. The present author chooses a
different approach. The core events as preserved in the biblical
legends are provisionally accepted. However, the genealogically and
numerologically computed dates assigned to these events by the biblical
compilers are just as provisionally set aside. Thus, the author attaches
little value to the capacity of the
biblical compilers to reliably reconstruct ancient chronology. He
feels, however, much less inclined to blame them as the mere inventors
of an imaginary history. Even if one were to concede an arbitrary
colouring of the biblical traditions, one still has to ask: why
particularly these traditions instead of others?
Hence, stratigraphy has to be chosen as the starting point for the
reconstruction of Israel's history. It is in the uninterrupted
stratigraphy that historians should look for the archaeological
environment that would fit the historical legends of the Hebrew Bible.
Its compilers were not yet aware of stratigraphy. Modern excavators, on
the other hand, read the stratigraphies with preconceived
chronologies-be they biblical or "scholarly." The stratigraphies, so to
speak, were never allowed to speak for themselves. Today's confusion
concerning the history of Israel is mainly due to such an approach. In
an unbiased reconstruction, a chronology should not stand at the
beginning of excavations and the evaluation of the reliability of
ancient texts. At best, a framework of tentative dates will be a
fallout of careful comparisons of texts, strata and undisputed
traditions found in the history books of antiquity. Unfortunately,
within the century and a half of excavations in the Near East,
historians have not been able to bring themselves to adopt such an
approach, even though they might readily concede that it represents the
only one which can be scientifically justified.
II. The Core Events in Israel's Biblical History
The biblical narratives provide the following core events and periods in
the history of Ancient Israel:
(1) According to the Abrahamic legends, the
land he migrated to was populated by Canaanites who had
already reached the stage of urban civilizations Evidence of
the latter should therefore be stratigraphically indicated in the
archaeological sites of the land.
(2) According to the same legends, Abraham's
people came from Mesopotamia. A sudden impact of Mesopotamian
material culture, therefore, should also be indicated in Israel's strata.
(3) Abraham's legendary sojourn in Egypt
should also have left its evidence in Egyptian strata. Do we come across an
infiltration of Israelite material culture in Egypt which simultaneously
reflects Mesopotamian origins?
(4) According to the legends, the Abrahamic
period ends in some natural catastrophe which, inter alia, levels
Sodom and Gomorrah. Signs of this event should be
(5) According to the Joseph legends,
the descendants of Abraham, with their roots in Israel, gain a strong
position in Egypt. Do stratigraphies in the Nile valley reflect such a state
(6) According to the Exodus and Conquest
legends, a large and militarily efficient group of people had to flee from
Egypt. Members of this group claimed descent from the People of Israel. The
flight is renowned for its catastrophic circumstances which, inter alia,
include several plagues, a mysterious pillar of cloud and
fire and the collapse of Jericho's walls.
(7) The powerful enemies the Israelites clashed
with during the conquest and settlement included the Amalekites who struck
as far as the Egyptian border and the Mardu or Amorites.
Iron weapons were common among the Canaanite adversaries. The
Exodus, conquest and settlement should provide enough material to be looked
for in stratigraphy. These powerful enemies should also be mentioned in
written sources other than the Bible.
(8) During Davidic times, the
Philistines were as prominent as in the legends concerning Joshua who must
have reached some agreement with these dangerous opponents.
According to Amos, the Philistines and the Israelites from
Egypt seem to have come to the Levant simultaneously. Stratigraphical
knowledge about the Philistines is excellent. Their iron arms proved
detrimental to the Israelites. Philistine sites should
therefore prove helpful in aligning a chronological scheme for the biblical
legends concerning the conquest, settlement, the period of the judges and
(9) The northern monarchy of Israel was
attacked by King Pul and its people deported by King
Shalmaneser. These kings should also be looked for in
(10) The southern monarchy of Judah was
defeated by King Nebuchadrezzar. Judah's upper ten thousand
were deported to Babylonia.
(11) The Babylonian Exile was lifted by a
Persian king called Cyrus who allowed the Jews back to Jerusalem.
(12) The re-construction of the Temple was
facilitated by a Persian king called Darius.
(13) Another exile of Judeans was brought about
by the Persian King Artaxerxes III (358-338) after he had crushed a revolt
(14) The Book of Daniel was composed in the
late 3rd or early 2nd century BCE. Yet it provides the best biblical record
of the Babylonian Exile which is dated to the 6th century BCE.
(15) According to Talmudic chronology, the
post-exilic Temple was not rebuilt in the late 6th, but in the mid 4th
century BCE. It is not understood why the rabbinical historians should have
made the temple one and a half centuries younger than it really was.
(16) The Jewish Temple at Elephantine in Egypt
flowered in the 4th century BCE and, even then, was not yet monotheistic.
Anath and Yahweh were its main deities. However, this temple
on the Nile was on good terms with Jerusalem which had supposedly been
monotheistic since the 6th century.
(17) Great confusion is caused by the
excellently established stratigraphy of Israel's capital, Samaria. The
sequence of strata is continuous -- that is free of gaps. A reasonable
average duration per stratum does not allow for the sequence to stretch back
to the biblical 9th century when King Omri founded the city. Even with a
maximum duration of some 30 years for each stratum (derived from strata III
and IV), Samaria would have been founded in the 7th to 6th, rather than in
the 9th, century.
The preconceived chronology of the excavators of Samaria, of course, was
biblically based. They "did not need" Egyptian chronology because they
believed in the validity of the history of the Northern Kingdom as
derived from Scripture. That's why Samaria's strata I and II were not
dated to the 15th century even though a scarab of Thutinose III
(conventionally dated 1479-1425) was found on the floor of the palace
assigned to Omri and Ahab. In Beth Shean--and other sites with much
less information available from the Bible--a scarab of Thutmose III
should have transformed the corresponding stratum into a Late Bronze I
level. In Samaria the stratum was turned instead into an Iron Age IIB
level. Beth Shean, therefore, inter alia, later suffers a
pseudo-hiatus between levels IV and II, whereas Samaria's stratigraphy
remains continuous even though overextended.
The location of material related to Thutmose III in the 2nd last
pre-Hellenistic strata group, of course, illuminates in an instant how
much Egyptological chronology (15th century for the pharaoh in question)
is out of tune with Egyptian stratigraphy (ca. 7th/6th century for the
layer under discussion). 
(18) The Hebrew "People of the Book" fell silent around 400
BCE. Not a single scripture is known for the two centuries between ca.
400 and ca. 200 BCE. It is strange, however, that when writing was re
sumed, the Hebraic style of 400 BCE was continued more or less
unaltered. Thus philology does not support the 200 year gap required by
biblical chronology. According to Bible scholarship, Ezra and Job were
written around 450. Nehemiah followed in 430. Proverbs and The Song of
Solomon were completed around 400. Then ensued a gap until, shortly
before or after 200, Daniel and Ecclesiastes were published. Jesus
Sirakh, Esther, Tobias and Judith are dated to 180. 1 and 2 Maccabees
saw the light of day in 135 and 60 respectively. The writing of the
Dead Sea Scrolls might have commenced as early as the 2nd century BCE.
The greatest confusion is related to I and 2 Chronicles. Some
specialists consider them completed around 450 while others do not allow
for a date before 200 BCE.
III. Stratigraphies in the Land of Israel
The first truly stratigraphically minded excavation in the Land of
Israel was carried through by R.A. Stewart Macalister between 1902 and
1909. Even though Macalister--since his collaboration with F.J.
Bliss--adhered to biblical chronology insofar as he roughly related the Chalcolithic beginnings of Gezer ("Pre-Semitic" period) to Abraham's
biblical birth date in the late 3rd millennium, this Englishman was not
yet haunted by more recent ideas on chronologies and sequences of
empires which are so well entrenched in today's Egyptology and
Assyriology. This relative sobriety enabled him to record the
stratigraphy as he found it in the ground. He was not bound by a
chronology which forced him to insert hiatuses into his stratigraphy
since his archaeological expertise did not require them. Thus, although
his dates should not be adhered to, his stratigraphical sequence can
more or less be trusted.
What Macalister saw stratigraphically in situ was what he put on
paper. He did not allow others to blot his results which, of
themselves, confirmed the continuity of Gezer's strata. He wanted the
hard facts-whatever the dates he felt obliged to assign to them-to stand
on their own. For that reason he caused something of an uproar by
registering Egyptian scarabs of the Old, Middle and New Kingdom,
conventionally stretched over more than a millennium, in one and the
same period.  Gezer, of course, is important for anyone working on a
stratigraphical chronology because its settlement did not only continue
uninterrupted, but did so from the Chalcolithic to Hellenistic times.
It therefore allows for an exact count of the distinct strata
groups (four altogether) between these two periods. Nevertheless,
Macalister's language--"Pre-Semitic", "Semitic" etc.--still reflected a
biblical stamping. Even so, he was careful not to identify these
peoples more specifically. It is also to be kept in mind that he failed
to identify a separate stratum for the 220 years assigned to the
Persian period; he lumped these centuries together with the Hellenistic ones.
The best stratigraphics in the Land of Israel more or less confirmed the
sequence established by Macalister. This is exemplarily shown for Beth
[Its] central mound was excavated from 1921 to 1933 by the University of
Pennsylvania Museum. In scope and in conception this was [after Gezerl
the pioneer excavation in the archaeology of Palestine.
One of this excavation's pioneering aspects was to allow the
pseudo-astronomical chronology of modern Egyptology to serve as a
guide for archaeology. The excavators ceased to use their own results
to check the reasonability of the chronologies they had learned in high
school and university. In Beth Shem, for example, they inserted a gap
of more than seven hundred years between strata IV and III without any
archaeological justification whatsoever.
Macalister's four urban archaeological -- i.e., high culture -- periods
between the Chalcolithic and Hel lenism were not only confirmed in Beth
Shean, but also in the other long stratigraphics in the Land of Is
rael. However, his simple and sober counting of pre-Hellenistic strata
was replaced by a much more ideological terminology based on
developments in metallurgy which are out of tune with the real
appearance of metals in the ground.
IV. Are Biblical Events and Archaeological Strata Really Incompatible?
The deepest stratum in
the Land of Israel, which exhibited a strong and sudden Mesopotamian
material impact, is called "Second Semitic" by Macalister, Middle
Bronze IIA in conventional terminology, and 3rd pre-Hellenistic by the author. Nearly
sixty years ago it was for the first time recognized that the pottery in
Israel's Middle Bronze IIA period looked very similar to the pottery of
the Early Dynastic III penod in Mesopotamia.  Yet, the conclusion of
an immigration of Mesopotamians was not drawn, because both periods are
more than seven centuries apart in conventional chronologies-with Israel
dated Egyptologically, and Mesopotamia dated Assyyriologically.
Nevertheless, two decades ago, the striking ceramic similarities were
rediscovered. They could not only be shown between Mesopotam'a's Early
Dynastic III and Israel's Middle Bronze IIA, but also
between Mesopotarm'a's Old-Akkadians and Israel's Hyksos of Ntddle Bronze IIB.
Stratigraphy of Israel From the Chalcolithic to Hellenism
|Macalister's dates and terminology
||Conventional dates and terminology (Mazar
||Author's tentative dates and terminology
|Hellenism + Persians
|Iron Age (to 586) though Iron much
earlier + Persians
|1st pre-Hellenistic urban strata-group
|Late Bronze Age (Mitanni) though Iron
|2nd pre-Hellenistic urban strata-group
|Middle Bronze II B-C
(Hyksos with 2400 BCE old-Akkadian material culture) and
MB II A (with 2500 BCE Early Dynastic III B Mesopotamian pottery).
Bronze only appears now.
|3rd pre-Hellenistic urban strata-group
|Early Bronze to Middle Bronze (though no
bronze yet). No significant Mesopotamian impact
|4th pre-Hellenistic urban strata-group
The Abrahamic legends concerning the
immigration from Mesopotamia to the Land of Canaan are, at the '
earliest, reflected archaeologically in the 3rd pre-Hellenistic strata
group of the Middle Bronze IIA period. Logically, the urban dwellers
already active in the Land in the 4th pre-Hellenistic strata group of'
the Early Bronze Age must have been the Canaanites with whom the Abrahamic
newcomers began to in termingle. It is interesting to note
that in several sites within Mesopotamia proper, the Early
Dynastic III period was immediately preceded by flood layers-for example
at Ur, Kish and under the "Kalksteintempel" of Uruk. Could it be that
this disaster was what incited the Mesopotamians to emigrate to Canaan
and further west? Within Israel, the shift from Early Bronze to Middle
Bronze (with the latter being the stratigraphical equivalent of
Mesopotamia's EBIII) was also marked by a virtual "final annihilation."
One should therefore look for the causes of these cataclysms.
The Joseph legends, which reflect a strong influence of Abrahamic
descendants in Egypt, also tind their earliest archaeological equivalent
in the Middle Bronze Age. The most carefully established stratigraphy
in Egypt, Tell ed-Daba, exhibited a strong material influence from the
Land of Israel in strata G and F. According to the excavator, they lasted some 70 years and were
particularly rich in Middle Bronze IIA pottery.
A virtual dominance of Abrahamites in Egypt may be located during the
period of the Hyksos (Tell ed-Daba/E-D). The Hyksos should then be
identified as the Old-Akkadians with whom they not only share the
pre-Mitanni stratigraphical location, but also cuneiform writing,
pottery, scimitars. fortifications, composite bows, vertical looms,
vaulted burials, etc. 
The Exodus and conquest legends find their best fitting archaeological
accommodation in the period of the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt.
It is therefore at the termination of the Middle Bronze Age (3rd
pre-Hellenistic strata group) that one has to look for the natural
upheavals experienced during the flight from Egypt and the subsequent
military destructions brought about by Joshua's forces. It is exactly
here that archaeology seems to quite convincingly deliver what the narratives require:
The most significant event concerning Palestine was the expulsion of the
Hyksos from Egypt in the mid-sixteenth century BCE. The Hyksos princes
fled from the Eastern Delta of Egypt to Southern Palestine; the
Egyptians followed them there and put them under siege in the city of
Sharuhen. This event was probably followed by turmoil and military
conflicts throughout the country, as a number of Middle Bronze cities
were destroyed during the mid-sixteenth century BCE... However, unlike
the great collapse of the urban culture at the end of the EBIII period,
the turmoils of the mid-sixteenth century BCE did not cause a total break of
the Canaanite urban culture. Important cities in the northern part of
the country, such as Hazor and Megiddo, suffered some disturbance at this period but soon
were rebuilt on the same outline. Major temples at these cities were
rehabilitated and continued to be in use in the late Bronze period. The
cultural continuity can be seen also in terms of pottery production,
crafts, and art. Thus, the wide-scale destructions in the
mid-sixteenth century BCE, which mark the end of the Middle Bronze Age,
did not bring an end to the Canaanite civilization. 
The terminal fate of the Old-Akkadians in
Mesopotamia proper was also accompanied by some natural upheaval as
indicated by the destruction of the ziggurat of Kish.
The marauding Amalekites, who threatened the Egyptian border and did
battle with the Israelites on their Exodus from Egypt, should be
stratigraphically equated with the Scythians whom Herodotus has on
record for such a campaign. As Qutheans, these Asian warriors also
play a major role in the defeat of the Old-Akkadians whose Egyptian arm
(i.e., the Hyksos) is cut off simultaneously with their loss of power in
Mesopotamia. Archaeologically, Scythian iconography (panthers and
stags) became prominent in the 2nd pre-Hellenistic strata group of the
Late Bronze Age or Mitanni period.
The Scythian motifs are closely associated with material remains of the Mitanni who,
consequently, must be identified as the Mardu or Amorites of the Joshua
legends. The Medish-Persian tribe of the "Mardians" (Mardoi in Greek
but also read as Amardians) has, according to Ctesias, its
greatest son in Cyrus the Great.  Thus, the biblical Amorites were the
Mitanni. This Indo-Aryan nation had to be identified as the Medes in
the outfit of the Mesopotamian part of their post-Assyrian empire.
The stratigraphical location of the Philistines, who are found--with no
intervening hiatus-- immediately beneath the Hellenes, shows that the
Joshua and David legends share one and the same archaeological horizon with
the beginning of the use of iron. This period commenced in what is
called the Late Bronze Age or, by the present author, the 2nd pre-Hellenistic
strata group. The legends, therefore, are divided geographically rather
than chronologically- with the David material focusing on Judah and the
Joshua material centered around the northern area of Israel.
The Persian period, which Macalister could not identify in Gezer, must
be looked for in the Ist pre-Hellenistic stratum if the Greek historians
are to be trusted-that is if Alexander the Great indeed conquered the
Persian Empire. According to conventional chronology, this last
pre-Greek period, called the Iron Age, has to accommodate the
Monarchies, the Sargonids, the Neo-Babylonians and the Persians - al
together a biblical time span of nearly 700 years (1012-330). It was
seen long ago that Israel's imperial borders-as given in the Solomonic
legends- were more or less identical with the borders of the Persian
Satrapy known as "Trans-Euphrates." Thus, whereas the Joshua, Saul
and David legends are archaeologically reflected in the 2nd
pre-Hellenistic stratum (Late Bronze or Mitanni = Medish period), the
leg ends concerning the later monarchical development can only find
their place in the "Iron Age." This penod, stratigraphically speaking,
is contemporary with the "Middle Assyrians" in Northern
Mesopotamia and the Amorites or Old-Babylonians in Southern
Mesopotamia. These two "empires" had to be identified as the up-to-now
archaeologically missing Persian Satrapies of "Assyria" ( i.e., Strabo's
Aturia) and Babylonia.
Absolute Dates and Stratigraphy
Neither Macalister's nor the mainstream absolute date of ca. 1600 for
the Hyksos, who left strata in Egypt as well as in Israel, can be
reasonably reconciled with the stratigraphical evidence, which puts this
powerful nation merely three strata groups beneath the Hellenes. In
Mesopotamia. the Old-Akkadians are found in the same archaeological
Exemplary Stratigraphical Locations of the Old
Akkadians in Mesopotamia
|1st Pre-Hellenistic Strata-Group
|2nd Pre-Hellenistic Strata-group
|3rd Pre-Hellenistic Strata-Group
A closer look at four scrupulously excavated north Mesopotamian tells,
known since the 20s and 30s of this century, also shows that,
stratigraphically, the Old-Akkadians precede the Late Bronze
Mitanni/Hurrians in exactly the same way as the Middle Bronze Hyksos
precede the Late Bronze Mitanni
period in Syro-Palestine and Egypt.
Also, an impressive series of excavations in Northern Mesopotamia wefe
undertaken in the 1980s. The Swiss work at Tcll Hamadlyah and the
German dig at Tell Munbaqa are considered examples of careful research
focusing on the Mitanni/Hurrian period and the strata preceding them.
Hamadlyah was settled well beyond the Hellenistic period. It is
compared below with Der, a site in Southern Mesopotamia, to allow for
an understanding of total stratigraphic depth from Old Akkadians up to
the Greeks. If the dates for the Old Akkadians had been determined by
archaeological means alone, the scholarly world would have been told
that they were located in the third strata group beneath the
Hellenistic ones. The two intervening strata groups contain somewhat
different material remains in the north and in the south of Mesopotamia,
but both areas have only two strata groups between Old Akkadians and the
Exemplary Mesopotamian Stratigraphies According to the
Evidence in the Ground
|A. Hellenistic Stratum
||A. Hellenistic Stratum
|B. 1st Pre-Hellenistic Stratum
|B. 1st Pre-Hellenistic Stratum
|C. 2nd Pre-Hellenistic Stratum
|C. 2nd Pre-Hellenistic Stratum
Ur III: Neo Sumerians
|D. 3rd Pre-Hellenistic Stratum
|D. 3rd Pre-Hellenistic Stratum
Usually the scholarly world is not only confronted with the
stratigraphic evidence in the ground but is also offered excavation
reports that add periods to the strata actually found. This stretching
of the sites' historical duration is done to meet the chronology leamt
in high school and university that the excavators have in mind before
their work begins. Instead of testing this chronology through their own
archaeological discoveries, they usually try to adjust their finds to
fit these preconceived dates. Thus the two exemplary tells presented
above are turned into the following picture:
|Tell I: Hamadiyah
||Tell II: Der
|A. Hellenistic Stratum
|A. Hellenistic Stratum
|B. Middle Assyrians
|B. Old Babylonians
|C. Ur III: Sumerians
|D. Old Akkadians
|D. Old Akkadians
None of the hiatuses in the preceding overview was ever shown to exist by
archaeological means (aeolic layers, discontinuity of architecture, pottery
decorations, tool shapes etc.). The only scholarly study ever made on the
2200-1475 BCE Old Akkadian-Mitanni-hiatus positively showed it to be absent.
The continuity of terracottas, pottery, and
other small finds over the supposed hiatus from 1700 to 300 BCE between
Old-Babylonians and the Hellenes is also well known. The
Middle-Assyrian-Hellenistic-hiatus from 1100 to 300 BCE was indirectly shown
to be absent by Manfred Bietak at Tell ed-Daba. In his first major
excavation report, in 1981, he still showed a hiatus between stratum B and
stratum A, but today Bietak is convinced of the continuity
between these two strata.
A chronology based on stratigraphy, of course, will not forego historical
traditions which appear to be reliable. This author has always been
intrigued by the historical information provided by Herodotus
who only knew of two major powers in North Mesopotamia after the
Chalcolithic: "When the Assyrians held sway over upper Asia for five hundred
and twenty years, the first to begin to revolt against them were the Medes."
The imperial sequence Assyrians>Medes>Persians, to the best of this author's
knowledge, was never seriously placed in doubt. Could it be that the first
three pre-Hellenistic strata groups found in Mesopotamia, Israel and Egypt (Daba)
provide the material background for Herodotus' historical information? The
Greek "father of history", after all, had no knowledge of this
stratigraphical sequence. Yet their contents seem to fit his line of empires
-- Assyrians>Medes>Persians -- quite well.
Herodotus' own dates, of course, are highly dubious, but nobody would
doubt that his empires and the following Hellenistic period can entirely be
accommodated in the 1st millennium bce. The author, therefore, identified
the Hyksos = Old Akkadians (3rd pre-Hellenistic strata group) with the
Assyrians. The Mitanni of the 2nd pre-Hellenistic strata group turned out to
be the alter egos of the Medes. The Old Babylonians and the Middle Assyrians
of the 1st pre-Hellenistic strata group were identified with the Persian
Satrapies of "Babylonia" and "Assyria" (Aturia) respectively. Consequently,
the dates of our three pre-Hellenistic strata groups have to be reduced
drastically. Old-Akkadians (conventionally placed at 2350 onwards) and their
Hyksos alter egos (conventionally placed at 1650 onwards) have to come down
to something like 750 or 700 onwards. Their Early Dynastic IIIB predecessors
would have commenced on their urbanization around 850 or 800. High culture
(urban civilization) began in Early Dynastic I somewhere in the 10th
century. The Mitanni = Medish successors of the Old-Akkadians = Hyksos =
Assyrians made their debut as the leading power of upper Asia in the late
7th century until they were replaced by the Persians some three quarters of
a century later. (In conventional chronology, of course, Assyria's cities --
such as Nineveh and Ashur -- did not begin to thrive at Herodotus' rough
date of 1000, but already by ca. 2600 BCE.)
The chronologies of Israel, Egypt and the entire Near East as far as the
Indus Valley have to follow the chronology of Mesopotamia
with which they are so tightly synchronized through numerous relations. By
discarding non-scholarly chronologies through the resorting to stratigraphy,
the major events of Ancient Israel will reemerge from the dustbin where
mainstream researchers want to store them for good.
VI . The Rehabilitation of Israel's History Through the Vanquishing
Israel's Bible-Fundamentalist Chronology
Starting from our archaeological-Herodotian sequence, Israel can now be
reinstalled with her core of historical events. Yet, before ca. 200 BCE,
none of the dates biblically assigned to these happenings stands the test of
stratigraphy. Freed from these pious figures, however, the best
stratigraphies in the Land of Israel deliver an archaeology rich enough to
illustrate the written history of the "People of the Book" as well as their
Canaanite predecessors and neighbors.
If, however, these holy dates were to be kept, one would merely be left
with a long list of enigmas. Thus, for example, in the conventional
chronology, we are brought face to face with an unknown Early Bronze Age
people in the 4th pre-Hellenistic stratum--normally dated between 3300 and
2000--who are known for their mysterious anticipation of "Canaanite and
later Israelite cultic practice."
These "proto-Canaanites" are followed--in the 3rd pre-Hellenistic stratum
(Middle Bronze IIA)--by equally unintelligible immigrants who bring the
material culture of Mesopotamia to the Land of Israel and, therefore, could
well be labeled "proto-Abrahamites."
Then arrive--still in the 3rd pre-Hellenistic stratum--the even more
puzzling Hyksos (Middle Bronze IIB-C). This Asian world power has already
left a graveyard--expanding for nearly 2000 years--of eleven major theories.
These "Rulers of Foreign Lands" have been identified as (1) pre-Exodus
Israelites, (2) marauding Arab Bedouins, (3) a narrator's invention, (4)
Indo-Aryans, (5) Hittites, (6) biblical Amalekites, (7) the United Kingdom
of Israel from Saul to Solomon, (8) Old-Babylonian Amorites, (9) Hurrites,
(10) Syro-Canaanite Princes and (11) Mycenaeans. None of these eleven
theories could satisfactorily encompass what is known about the Hyksos from
texts and archaeology. For chronological reasons, the Old-Akkadians, who
match the Hyksos like twins and, therefore, could easily be called "proto-Hyksos",
were never considered.
As disturbingly unknown as the Hyksos are, so, basically, are the Mitanni
who follow them in the 2nd pre-Hellenistic stratum (Late Bronze Age): "The
kingdom of Mitanni was completely forgotten for millennia until discoveries
in the nineteenth century revealed its name and existence."
The biblically dated Exodus is supposed to follow after the conventional
date of the Mitanni (1500 onwards). Therefore, this decisive event is--to no
avail--looked for in the last pre-Hellenistic stratum (Iron
Age). The "proto-Exodus" events at the end of the Middle Bronze Age are not
considered. Conquest and settlement, for the same chronological reason, are
no longer looked for in the--conventionally--too early Late Bronze Age and,
therefore, are also notorious for their archaeological absenteeism in the
Iron Age. Where the end of the Middle Bronze Age is considered for the
Exodus events--as is occasionally done--this most promising
approach is again muddled by forcing Joshua's Bible-fundamentalist date of
"ca. 1430" on the beginning of the Late Bronze Age.
If, however, the stratigraphy in the ground--tested against the most
reliable independent (non-biblical) historical information from antiquity
(as Herodotus' sequence of Assyrians>Medes>Persians)--is rigorously adhered
to, many a biblical event can throw off its phantasmagoric label. After all,
the scholars, who insist that these events are nothing but a fancy, still
cannot explain why the visionaries dreamed them up in the first place.
 J. Wellhausen, Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels
(Berlin, 1878/1906), p. 318; cf. similarly, H. Weidman, Die Patriarchen
und ihre Religion im Licht der Forschung seit Julius Wellhausen (Göttingen,
1968); T. L. Thompson, The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives
(N.Y., 1974); J. Van Seters, Abraham in History and Tradition (New
Haven, 1975); and numerous others.
 W.G. Dever, as quoted by Herschel Shanks, Editorial,
Biblical Archaeology Review (March-April 1987); cf. also, idem,
Recent Archaeological Discoveries and Biblical Research (Seattle, 1989).
 B. Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible
10,000-585 B.C.E. (N.Y., 1990), pp. 329 ff. (emphasis added).
 Ibid., p. 354; cf. in detail, I. Finkelstein,
The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement (Jerusalem, 1988).
 B. Mazar, op. cit., p. 375.
 M. Avi-Yonah, "Jerusalem," Encyclopedia of
Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Vol. II (Jerusalem, 1976), p. 597.
 B. Mazar, op. cit., p. 119.
 Ibid., p. 124.
 J. Kaplan, "Mesopotamian Elements in the Middle
Bronze II Culture of Palestine," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 30
(1971); idem, "Further Aspects on the Middle Bronze II Culture of
Palestine," Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palstinavereins, Vol. 91 (1975).
 K. Kenyon, "Jerusalem," in M. Avi-Yonah,
Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Vol. II
(Jerusalem, 1976), p. 594.
 K. Salibi, Die Bibel kam aus dem Lande Asir:
Eine neue These über die Ursprnge Israels (Reinbek, 1985).
 W.F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine
(Baltimore, 1954), p. 142; H. Weippert, Palstina in vorhellenistischer
Zeit (Mnchen, 1988), p. 646.
 J. S. Holladay, "Of Sherds and Strata: Contributions
Towards an Understanding of the Archaeology of the Divided Monarchy," in F. M.
Cross, et al., Magnalia Dei: The Mighty Acts of God (N.Y., 1976), p. 282.
 D. & J. Oates, "Nimrud 1957: The Hellenistic
Settlement," Iraq, Vol. 20 (1958), pp. 130, 152; cf. also M. Lebeau,
La céramique de l'âge du fer II-III à Tell Abou Danné et ses rapports
avec la céramique contemporaine en Syrie (Paris, 1983), p. 96.
 J. N. Coldstream, Greek Geometric Pottery
(London, 1968), p. 385.
 J.E. Curtis, et al, "Neo-Assyrian
Ironworking Technology," Proceedings of the American Philosophical
Society, 123 (1979), pp. 369 ff.
 G. Heinsohn, "Persische Hyksos und Ägypten oder
waren Herodots Assyrer aus dem -7. Jh. identisch mit den Sargoniden?"
Vorzeit-Fürhzeit-Gegenwart I:4 (October 1989).
 Genesis 11:31.
 Ibid., 13:12.
 Ibid., 10:11.
 Ibid., 12:10 ff.
 Ibid., 19.
 Ibid., 37 ff.
 Exodus 7-11.
 Ibid., 13:21 ff.
 Joshua 6.
 Exodus 18:8 ff.; Numbers 14:43 ff.; Judges 3:13, 6:3, 7:12.
 Joshua 10:5 and various other sources.
 Ibid., 17:16; Judges 1:19.
 1 and 2 Samuel.
 Judges 3:3.
 Amos 9:7.
 1 Samuel 13:9 ff., 17:7.
 2 Kings 15:19 ff.
 Ibid., 18:9.
 Ibid., 24:12 ff.
 Ibid., 24:14.
 Ezra 1:1 ff.
 Indirectly referred to in Zechariah 1:7.
 E. Stern, Material Culture of the Land of the
Bible in the Persian Period 538-332 B.C. (Jerusalem, 1982), p. 282.
 B. Porten, "The Jews in Egypt," in W. D. Davies & L.
Finkelstein, The Cambridge History of Judaism--Vol. I: The Persian
Period (Cambridge, 1984), pp. 391, 393.
 1 Kings 16, 20, 22; 2 Kings 6-7,
10, 14, 17-18, 23; Amos 3:9 ff., 4:4; Jeremiah 41:4.
 G. A. Reisner, et al, Harvard Excavations at
Samaria (Cambridge, 1924), p. 131.
 Cf. in detail, G. Heinsohn & H. Illig, Wann
lebten die Pharaonen? (Frankfurt, 1990), passim.
 Cf. in detail, J. Botterweck, "Zur Eigenart der
chronistischen Davidgeschichte," in K. Schubert, et al, Festschrift fr
Prof. Dr. Viktor Christian (Vienna, 1956).
 R. A. S. Macalister & F.J. Bliss, Excavations in
Palestine (London, 1902).
 J. Dayton, Minerals, Metals, Glazing and Man (London, 1978). pp. 318 ff.
 F. James & A. Kempinsky, "Beth Shean," in M.
Avi-Yonah, Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land,
Vol. I (Jerusalem, 1975), p. 209.
 Cf. O. Neugebauer, "Die Bedeutungslosiggkeit der 'Sothisperiode'
für die älteste ägyptische Chronologie," Acta Orientalia, Vol. XVII
(1939); I. Velikovsky, "Astronomy and Chronology," in Peoples of the Sea
(New York, 1977), pp. 205-244; R. R. Newton, The Crime of Claudius
Ptolemy (Baltimore, 1977); W. Helck, "Zur Lage der gyptischen
Geschichtsschreibung," in S. Schoske, 4. Internationaler
Ägyptologenkongres (1985); G. Heinsohn, Die Sumerer gab es nicht
(Frankfurt, 1988), pp. 13-45; G. Heinsohn & H. Illig, op. cit., pp. 11-31.
 C. Watzinger, Denkmäler Palästinas: Eine
Einführung in die Archäologie des Heligen Landes - I: Von den Anfängen bis
zum Ende der Königszeit (Leipzig, 1933), p. 48; cf. also R. M. Engberg,
The Hyksos Reconsidered (Chicago, 1939); J. Kaplan, "Mesopotamian
Elements in the Middle Bronze II Culture of Palestine," Journal of Near
Eastern Studies 30 (1971); E. C. M. van den Brink, Tombs and Burial
Customs at Tell Dab'a (Vienna, 1982); M. Bietak, "Canaanites in the
Eastern Nile Delta," in A. F. Rainey, Egypt, Israel, Sinai:
Archaeological and Historical Relationships in the Biblical Period (Tel
 J. Kaplan, op. cit.; G. Heinsohn, "Who Were
the Hyksos? Can Archaeology and Stratigraphy Provide an Answer?" read at the
Sixth International Congress of Egyptology, Turin, Sept. 4, 1991.
 M. E. L. Mallowan, "Noah's Flood Reconsidered,"
Iraq 26 (1964); G. Heinsohn, "Destruction Layers in Archaeological
Sites: The Stratigraphy of Armageddon," in M. B. Zysman & C. Whelton,
Catastrophism 2000 (Toronto, 1990).
 B. Mazar, op. cit., p. 141.
 M. Bietak, Avaris and Piramesse: Archaeological
Exploration in the Eastern Nile Delta (London, 1981); idem,
"Problems of the Middle Bronze Age Chronology: New Evidence From Egypt,"
American Journal of Archaeology 88 (1984); idem, "Tell el
Dab'a," Archiv für Orientforschung 32 (1985); idem, Übersicht
über die Strtatigraphie in Tell el-Dab'a (Vienna, 1988); G. Heinsohn, "Stratigraphische
Chronologie Ägyptens oder warum fehlen zwei Jahrtausende in den
Musterousgrabungen von Tell el-Daba und Tell el-Fara'in?"
Vorzeit-Frühzeit-Gegenwart III:3-4 (1991).
 G. Heinsohn, "Who Were the Hyksos? Can Archaeology
and Stratigraphy Provide an Answer?" read at the Sixth International
Congress of Egyptology, Sept. 4, 1991; G. Heinsohn & H. Illig, Wann
lebten die Pharaonen? (Frankfurt, 1990), pp. 302 ff.
 B. Mazar, op. cit., pp. 226 ff.
 M. E. L. Mallowan, "Noah's Flood Reconsidered,"
Iraq 26 (1964), p. 79; M. Gibson, "Kis. B. Archäologisch,"
Reallexikon der Archäologie, Vol. 5 (Wiesbaden, 1976-80), p. 618; G.
Heinsohn, "Destruction Layers in Archaeological Sites: The Stratigraphy of
Armageddon," in M. B. Zysman & C. Whelton, Catastrophism 2000
(Toronto, 1990), pp. 238 ff.
 Herodotus, Histories I:105.
 Cf. in detail, G. Heinsohn, "Hirsche aus Beth Shean
oder gibt es wirklich keine Skythenschichten in Scythopolis?"
Vorzeit-Frhzeit-Gegenwart III:1 (1991).
 Herodotus, op. cit., I:84, 125
 J. M. Cook, The Persian Empire (N.Y., 1983),
 Cf. G. Heinsohn, Die Sumerer gab es nicht: Von
den Phantom-Imperien der Lehrbücher zur wirklichen Epochenabfolge in der "Zivilisationswiege"
Südmesoptomaien (Frankfurt, 1988), pp. 140 ff.
 Idem, "The Israelite Conquest of Canaan,"
AEON I:4 (1988), pp. 113, 117 ff.
 A. Malamat, "Das davidische und salomonische
Königreich und seine Beziehungen zu Ägypten und Syrien," sterreichische
Akadamie der Wissenschaften (Sitzunggsbericht, 1983)
 G. Heinsohn, op. cit.
 Cf. G. Heinsohn & H. Illig, op. cit., passim.
 S. Eichler, et al, Tall Al-Hamadiya 2 (Göttingen, 1990).
 R. Opificius, Das altbabylonische
Terrakottarelief (Berlin, 1961).
 U. Rsner, "Zu den Fragen eines
mittelbronzezeitlichen Besiedlungshiatus und einer spätbronzezeitlichen
Kulturschift auf Tell Munbaqa/Nordsyrien--Sedimentologische Erklärungsantze
zu archäologischen Problemen," Institut für Geographie der Universität
Erlangen-N&u uml;rnberg (preliminary report, 1990); G. Heinsohn, "Who
Were the Hyksos? Can Archaeology and Stratigraphy Provide an Answer?" read
at the Sixth International Congress of Egyptology, Sept. 4, 1991.
 E. J. Ciuk, "Continuity of Tradition in the Pottery
from Parthian Nippur," (page proofs, April, 1990).
 M. Bietak, op. cit.
 Herodotus, op. cit., especially I:95.
 H. Lewy, "Assyria c.2600-1816 B.C." The
Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. I, Part 2 (Cambridge, 1971 third edition).
 G. Heinsohn, "Zentralasiens chronologische Rätsel
und die Rehabilitierung der Altchinesischen Zivilisation,"
Vorzeit-Frühzeit-Gegenwart II:4 (1990); G. Heinsohn & H. Illig, op. cit.
 S. Richard, "The Early Bronze Age: Archaeological
Sources for the History of Palestine," Biblical Archaeologist (March 1987), p. 32.
 A. K. Grayson, "Mitanni," in A. Cotterell, The
Penguin Encyclopedia of Ancient Civilizations (London, 1988), p. 109.
 I. Finkelstein, The Archaeology of the Israelite
Settlement (Jerusalem, 1988).
 J. J. Bimson, Redating the Exodus and Conquest
 Ibid., p. 222.