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Obsidian From Oregon Found at Early Holocene Site Beneath Lake Huron
A team of archaeologists and anthropologists from the University of Michigan found something highly unusual while exploring the underwater realms of Lake Huron in the Great Lakes region. Supervised...
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The Intersection of Archaeology, Oral Tradition and History in Eritrea’s Past
The study of the past, particularly in the African continent, constitutes a multi-source, comparative approach across a number of frontiers — archaeology, oral history and written accounts.
The intersection of archaeology, oral history and written documents has always been sought, particularly in African societies, in order to draw upon the reconstruction of the past. The complementarity of each of the disciplines mentioned is a concern of this article and is highlighted by presenting the pros and cons of each approach to make sense of how their connection best serves the representation of Eritrea’s past.
The eminence of oral history and oral traditions in our society indicates that much of what is stored in the memory of generations serves as a library of the past. Oral histories and traditions constitute a major part of the cultural heritage of many African countries and the same is true in the case of Eritrea. Oral traditions extend back beyond living memory. Oral histories are defined as “memories and recollections of experiences individuals lived or witnessed in their own lives.” Oral tradition is the oldest source of historical writing in Africa. ‘Oral’ signifies merely the transmission of the system by word of mouth while tradition implies the essence of the system. Their universal nature has not only created multiple junctions of social and cultural interaction but also has become a repository of interconnected material, oral and written records.
Oral tradition is not only a historical source. It is the philosophy of social life which includes within itself the rules and regulations of a society’s order and security. Only through tradition could the numerous communities of Eritrea, or any other country for that matter, survive throughout the centuries. Recorded oral traditions can play a fundamental role in historicising different events in the past and in ascribing a historical identity to countless sites. Oral accounts, through which certain events can be connected with specific archaeological sites, provide historical contexts that can be explored and tested by the methods and discoveries of archaeology. In this respect, these accounts of cultural heritage could serve as a bridge between archaeology and text-based history, thereby enabling written references to be connected to archaeological record. More importantly, where the documentary record of Eritrea’s past becomes sparse, oral traditions offer an alternative and an insider’s perspective on underrepresented or marginalised segments of history.
The historical reliability of oral traditions as a source of information decreases the further back in time one goes. Such inherent weakness needs to be overcome in order to utilize oral tradition as historical source. When viewed from the perspective of space, oral traditions and oral histories often transcend geographical barriers and frontiers. This is particularly true, where geographical interfaces provided corridors of contacts between different cultural groups. It is, therefore, important to cross-check oral traditions within a given society or across societies that have been in contact with one another to enable draw comparative parallels in terms of time and space. The reliability of a particular tradition corresponds to how widely known and accepted it is in a particular society. Oral memories that do not provide such a context are considered as mere oral testimonies and as not carrying the same evidential weight as archaeological evidence and written accounts. Oral accounts, therefore, have to be subjected to rigorous evaluation, both in terms of their production and collection, and with reference to independent verification and falsification. These aspects also need to be compounded by archaeological evidence and/or written documents.
The power of written evidence, on the other hand, lies in the fact that it is direct and immediate, and sheds light on well-defined events in which mostly known personalities were involved. Texts in their various forms often provide access to the thought processes of major figures and enable us to gain unparalleled insight into human agency in the past. Neither archaeology nor oral tradition can produce the same detailed and coherent construction of the recent past as history. Yet, it is clear that documentary evidence should be subjected to thorough source and textual analysis to uncover intended or unintended misrepresentations and misinformation.
The construction of myths and fallacies in the historiography of the Horn of Africa over much of the colonial era represents an ideal instance of how written accounts produced on the basis of biased narratives can create misrepresentation of the past. The nemesis of such an enterprise of the colonial period still resonates and archaeologists interested in the Horn’s past, in particular, have to be prudent against the use of written documents without due regard to context and intent.
The pitfalls of written documents can, however, be tackled by archaeology which provides us with a repository of material culture adequate to reconstruct everyday life. Archaeology’s principal significance lies in the fact that it can shed light on people and places that are often not mentioned in the written record. Viewed from this perspective, archaeology has been widely identified as a useful interdisciplinary framework for integrating the different data sets in order to produce a more coherent and inclusive account of a complex recent past.
In summary, archaeological evidence, written documents and oral traditions provide available records to reconstruct Eritrea’s ancient past. The complexity of the reconstruction of our past calls for the critical insights of existing oral traditions and histories as well as available written sources. Moreover, the accurate and authentic representation of Eritrean historiography requires the complementary use of archaeological methods and data as a methodological virtue. A balanced methodological impetus of available archaeological data, oral traditions and histories as well as written records can, therefore, help tackle existing gaps, myths or fallacies in our historiography.
Archaeology & antiquities
First edition, first impression, described by Yakushi as a "comprehensive summary of the results of the author's first three Central Asian expeditions and of his researches carried out during the years 1900-16".
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First edition, in the original decorated cloth, surely one of the most attractive publisher's bindings of the 19th century.
Layard's important second British Museum expedition "yielded further important trophies and discoveries, including the cuneiform library of Sennacherib's grandson Ashurbanipal, on which most modern knowledge of Assyrian. Learn More
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First posthumous edition of this essay first published in 1796 as an introduction to the study of ancient monuments.
In this work, Aubin Louis Eleuthérophile Millin de Grandmaison (1759-1818) reviews the various applications of archaeology (which he divides into nine categories: monuments, paintings, sculptures, engravings, mosaics, vases. Learn More
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First and only edition of this study of early funerary antiquities and practices in Malta by Dr. Antonio Annetto Caruana (1830-1905), a "pioneer in the field of Heritage Management in the Maltese islands" (Romina Delia).
Caruana was an archaeologist and author, who served as Librarian and Keeper of Antiquities at the Malta Library from 1880. Learn More
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Second edition, improved and enlarged, of this superbly illustrated and important study first published in 1878 and again in 1882. Scarce, one copy only among British and Irish institutional libraries (V&A) WorldCat adds just three more (Strasbourg, Erlangen, Sachsiche Landesbibliothek).
The German archaeologist Emil Presuhn (1844-1881), described. Learn More
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First edition of this glossary on bureaucratic matters by French archaeologist and writer Jacques Bouther de Perthes (1788-1868), who was one of the first to establish the presence of prehistoric man in Europe.
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Troy, Mycenae, Samothrace (present day western Turkey and Greece) : c.1879
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First edition in German, first published in Danish in 1836. Thomsen's manual was immediately translated in recognition of its importance. The tripartite division suggested here was fundamental in winning acceptance for the idea of the antiquity of humanity, opening the way for the development of the discipline of prehistory.
Лучшие курсы по предмету 'История'
What is history, and why is it an important subject to study?
In a world accelerated by technology, where the future seems to become the present faster than ever, the study of history can sometimes seem quaint, or even irrelevant. What can analysis of the past tell us when the story of human civilization seems more unpredictable and chaotic than ever?
In fact, the rapid pace of change in today's society is exactly why the study of history is more important than ever. Despite all of the ways that technology has transformed our daily lives, our fundamental nature and motivations as human beings have changed surprisingly little. History is the only lens that allows us to understand how the present is rooted in our past, and the ways that many questions surrounding contemporary culture and politics have been asked (and answered) in previous eras.
History is also essential to understanding how to build a better future. That's because history isn't just a static description of how things were in the past - it's also a framework for examining the processes and drivers underlying periods of change in previous eras, which can provide a roadmap for catalyzing transformations in our society today.
What kind of jobs are in the field of history?
The study of history can be a pathway to a surprisingly diverse range of future-focused careers. While those with a love for diving deep into past events may wish to become a historian or professor, there are plenty of opportunities to leverage this expertise to pursue other types of jobs as well.
For example, many lawyers have bachelor's degrees in history, or took history courses as undergraduates. That's because law is an inherently historical subject, based as it is on legal precedents, and an understanding of how law has changed over time can be a critical advantage in the courtroom.
A knowledge of history can also be essential for professionals in the arts and humanities who are responsible for making cultural works of the past (or present) relevant to today's audiences. Museum curators, literary critics, ethnomusicologists, and other experts in the arts rely on backgrounds in cultural as well as political history to add depth and context to their analyses.
Regardless of your goals, the study of the past can be a springboard for your career as well as a guide for creating the change you want to see in the world.
What online courses does Coursera offer in the area of history?
Online courses aren't only for learning computer programming anymore. Today, online education platforms can leverage video lectures, live office hours, and other tools for collaboration and engagement that can bring the study of history to life.
With Coursera, you can take courses taught by high-quality instructors at top-ranked universities, allowing online learners to get the same education as their on-campus counterparts on a more flexible schedule and at a lower cost. You can take courses in art history, world history, US history, ancient history, or even internet history from institutions like the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of London.
What kind of people are best suited for roles in history?
People who are best suited for roles in the history field are curious about how past events have influenced the present. They are passionate about uncovering mysteries and using critical thinking skills to theorize and fill in the gaps in our recorded history. People in this field enjoy thorough research and are imaginative enough to try to understand how our ancestors viewed their developing society and interacted with one another.
What are common career paths for someone who studies history?
Some common career paths for someone who studies history include museum curator, archivist, archeologist, college professor, and journalist. Some of these paths involve combining knowledge of history with another subject. For example, to follow the archeologist career path, you'll need to spend time training for laboratory and fieldwork, while a college professor career path will require you to obtain a doctoral degree and gain experience leading a classroom.
What topics can I study that are related to history?
Topics that are related to history include archeology, anthropology, and historical linguistics. Archeology involves examining ancient artifacts and sites to piece together a clearer view of human history. Archeology also involves the study of humanity's history, including the ways in which ancient people behaved, formed cultures, and physically evolved. Historical linguistics involves studying the origins of languages and uncovering how those languages changed over time. Studying an artistic topic such as painting, sculpting, songwriting, or fiction writing may also introduce you to elements of history, as you'll learn about notable artists of the past and examine how their works were shaped by world events.
What types of places hire people with a background in history?
People who study history may find employment in museums, schools, and universities. People who follow the archeologist career path may even find themselves working in laboratories as well as excavation sites on various continents.
7 Greek Bureaucracy
The ancient city of Teos in modern-day Turkey has been an archaeological boon as hundreds of steles were recovered from the site. One remarkably intact stele features 58 legible lines that represent a 2,200-year-old rental agreement. It shows us that bureaucracy was just as much a part of ancient Greek society as it is today.
The document describes a group of gymnasium students who inherited a piece of land (complete with buildings, altar, and slaves) and then rented it at auction. The official document also mentions a guarantor (in this case, the renter&rsquos father) and witnesses from the city&rsquos administration.
The owners retained the privilege of using the land three days a year as well as annual inspections to ensure that the renters didn&rsquot damage the property. In fact, half the agreement deals with various punishments for damages or not paying rent on time.
The odd little dinosaur dubbed Shuvuuia had incredible hearing and vision.
A little dinosaur called Shuvuuia may have hunted in the dark using night vision and super hearing. This chicken-s.
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A History of the Land and Archaeology of Gezer
Tis the season for Biblical archaeology. The summer months mark the time when archaeologists and scholars from all over the world come to Israel to further explore and discover more information about the Biblical land. This article will focus on the Biblical city of Gezer. Gezer is a city small in size, but big in archaeological history.
Gezer Boundary Stone. Source.
The Land and Biblical Background of Gezer
The Israeli city of Gezer (also identified as Tell Jezer, or Tell Jazari) is a place which holds significant importance to Old Testament studies. Located close to the Plain of Philistia which is to its west, Gezer sits approximately 15 miles east of the Mediterranean Sea. From Jerusalem, Gezer is located approximately 19 miles west-northwest. Gezer sits on top of a 30-acre mound, and is close to 225 meters above sea level. It is conveniently and strategically located near the junction where the Via Maris (way of the sea) meets the trunk road leading to Jerusalem. i
Even though the land is known to have been occupied from the Late Chalcolithic period to the Roman-Byzantine period, ii there is no known archaeological evidence of the city being occupied between the Early Bronze IV and the Middle Bronze I period. iii During the Middle Bronze IIA period archaeological evidence reveals a vibrant urban life, and Canaanite culture seems to be dominant at Gezer and its surrounding cities. About 65 percent of the Canaanite population was occupied in these areas. iv The ten monolithic upright stones at Gezer, known as the Gezer “High Place,” which comes from the Middle Bronze Age points to some type of religious or ceremonial activity in the city. v The finds of pig bones and the alabaster statue of the naked man holding a pig to his chest also point to some type of religious ceremonial activity probably through sacrifice. vi Manetho, the Egyptian historian, listed Pharaoh Thutmosis III as the sixth king of the Eighteenth Dynasty vii his rule was one of the longest and most powerful. During approximately 1468 B.C., Thutmosis III captured and gained control of Gezer. viii Thutmosis III listed Gezer, and his 104 captures under his dominion in some inscriptions at the Temple of Amon in Karnak. ix The land for an extended period continued under Egyptian domination. About a century later, Abdi-Heba, the ruler of Jerusalem in the Late Bronze IIB period sent a series of letters to the Pharaoh, who was most likely Amenophis IV (1350-1334 B.C.), and explained that Ili-Milku (also spelled Milk-ilu), who was the ruler of Gezer, conquered much of the land. The rebellion of Ili-Milku was so devasting that Abdi-Heba lamented to Pharaoh:
I fall at the feet of my lord, the king, seven times and seven times…. Lost are the lands of the King, my lord…. Ili-Milku has caused the loss of all the land of the king, and so may the king, my lord, provide for this land. I say, “I would go in to the king, my lord, and visit the king my lord.” But the war against me is severe, and so I am not able to go in to the king, my lord…. (That) Apiru [Ili-Milku] has plundered all the lands of the king…[l]ost are the lands of the king, my lord. x
Ili-Milku was part of a coalition with Lab ᵓ ayu, ruler of Šakmu (Biblical Shechem), and a people identified as the “sons of Arsawa.” He took a town between Gezer and Jerusalem, known as Rub(b)utu, and sent a letter to Tagai and the sons of Šakmu, to isolate (or desert) Jerusalem. Abid-Hebdi explained to the Pharoah:
Milk-ilu does not break away from the sons of Labᵓayu and from the sons of Arwawa, as they desire the land of the king for themselves…. Such was the deed that Milk-ilu and Tagi did: they took Rub(b)utu. And now as for Urusalim [Jerusalem], if this land belongs to the king, why is it <not> of concern (?)… Milk-ilu has written to Tagi and the son <of Labᵓayu>…“[b]e both of you…a protection…[g]rant all their demands to the men of Qiltu [probably Keilah of the Bible], and let us isolate Urusalim…. May the king, my lord know (that) no garrison of the king is with me…. And so may the king send 50 men as a garrison to protect the land. The entire land of the king has deserted. xi
Later, on what is known as the “Israel Stele,” the Egyptian King Merneptah (1236-1223 B.C.), son of Rameses II (1304-1237 B.C.) recorded that Gezer was seized upon. The mention of Israel and Gezer in this “Stele” sheds more light as to state of these places, and also challenged the view of some scholars who contested that Merenptah was the Pharaoh of the exodus. xii During the Iron IA period Gezer seems to have been taken over by the Philistines. Numerous amounts of Philistine pottery have been recovered which shed evidence for this conclusion. xiii
Although Gezer gets more numerous mentions in ancient Egyptian accounts, recorded history of the ancient city in the Hebrew Bible goes back to the Late Bronze Age during the New Kingdom in Egypt, and the Israelite conquest. In the books of Joshua and Judges, it is mentioned that the tribe of Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so that they lived among them (Joshua 16:10 Judges 1:29). Even though Gezer was most likely in a weakened state after being defeated by Joshua’s army, the Ephraimites were either unable to drive them out, or just chose not to. Most likely the writer is noting the direct violation of the older commands to drive them out. xiv Gezer was supposed to be given by the tribe of Ephraim to the Kohathites, of the tribe of Levi (Joshua 21:21). The mention in 1 Kings 9:15-16, of Gezer being given as a dowry to King Solomon’s wife by Pharaoh, and being rebuilt by Solomon is supported by remarkable archaeological evidence that will be discussed later. The next mention of Gezer is not until in post-biblical literature during the Maccabean wars, during which the city plays a significant role. xv During the Hasmonean rule, Simon who ruled from 142 to 134 B.C., conquered Gezer, and “purified” the town by expelling the gentile inhabitants and resettling it with Jewish inhabitants. xvi
Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister. Source.
Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister’s Excavations at Gezer
In 1872, Professor Clermont-Ganneau, a French archaeologist and consul of Jerusalem, discovered the ancient site of Gezer, being led by a reference from the Arabic history of Mujir-ed-Din. At the site he found inscriptions cut in the outcrops of rocks which read “boundary of Gezer.” xvii This is significant in the fact that ancient direct identification of a site has only happened one other time, at Marissa, in the tomb of Apollophanes. xviii In 1902 the Palestine Exploration Fund began excavations at the Tel in Gezer which ran during the years of (1902-5, 1906-8), and almost the amount of three-fifths of the total area were excavated. Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister, an Irish archaeologist, was the director of the site. Macalister would later be joined with Dr. Schumacher of Germany, who was an architect and resident in Palestine and worked on the site of Tell Mutasellim, which was funded by the Deutsche Palästina-Verein, partnered with the Orient-Gesellschaft direct support was also given by the German emperor. xix
The work done by Macalister has been strongly and negatively critiqued by archaeologist that came after him. W. F. Albright noted that Macalister erroneously tried to arrange his chronology to cover the centuries of the 9 th -6 th centuries B.C., which ultimately reduced most of his dates between 1200 and 300 B.C. Most of the chronology of other surrounding sites went back to the second millennium B.C. As with the Germans who had dug at Jericho, Albright saw some of the work being done during Macalister’s time as mixing Bronze Age material with Iron Age, and wrongly identifying Canaanite objects as Israelite. xx In the winter of 1908-9, Macalister found a fragmentary tablet which scholars have debated in which time it should have been placed in. Edouard Paul Dhorme, the late French Assyriologist and Semitologist, thought it was a Neo-Babylonian tablet, but Albright strongly criticized that claim. For Albright, the tablet belonged in the Amarna period. The evidence, Albright pointed out, showed that it was a letter by an Egyptian official to the prince of Gezer. xxi
Two cuneiform tablets from Gezer, which are contracts for the sale of property date to the Assyrian period. In the first tablet someone named Luakhe, makes a sale to two Assyrians named Marduk-eriba and Abi-eriba, of a house, a slave named Turiaa, his two wives, and his son. The names mentioned give support of the mixed population of the city of Gezer during its integration into the Assyrian empire after the conquest of Tiglath-pileser III. xxii In the other tablet, a Hebrew man named Nethaniah (or Natan-Yau) sells his land. The tablet is broken, but the names of three witnesses are preserved on it, with the date of the transaction. The tablet is specifically dated in the reign of Assurbanipal. The names in this tablet also demonstrate the mixed population of Gezer, as well as the role and influence that some Hebrews had in the economics of the area. xxiii
Also located at Gezer was a squared stone with a large hieroglyphic character. Macalister believed it probably belonged to an inscription that covered the façade of its belonging structure. He suggested that it could have been a temple for the Egyptian community of that time. xxiv
City Gates at Meggido [Courtesy of Taman Turbinton]
The Gezer Calendar
The most important of Macalister’s finds is what is known as the “Gezer Calendar,” which contains what are, most likely, some of the oldest known Hebrew Inscriptions. Some scholars, such as P. Kyle McCarter, suggest that it is safer to describe the language as a South Canaanite dialect rather than specifically Hebrew. xxv Macalister made the discovery in September of 1908, and it consisted of soft limestone at about 4 ¼ inches long (probably originally it was about 5 ½ inches long), and 5/8 of an inch thick. xxvi Macalister notes that although it may be convenient to label the find as a calendar it may not be accurate to do so. A peasant boy called Abi (his full name is not known)—wrote on the plaque of limestone a list of the appropriate agricultural duties for certain times of the year. xxvii Albright felt very confident that the dating of the “Calendar” should be placed from about 950 to 918 B.C. in the Iron IC period. xxviii The plaque contains markings on both sides of scraping for reuse, which in possibility, may have been used as a palimpsest. xxix
Yigael Yadin and the Solomonic Gate at Gezer
In 1957, the former Israeli Chief of Staff for the Israel Defense Forces, and archaeologist, Yigael Yadin discovered a city gate at Hazor dating from the time of King Solomon. Yadin initially saw that it was identical in plan and measurements with the gate at Megiddo. Yadin was so confident to suggest that the gates were planned by the same architect. xxx Neither Macalister, nor those shortly after him were successful at finding a gate at Gezer that could be ascribed as being Solomonic. Because of Yadin’s success at Hazor and Megiddo, and his confidence in the accuracy of the Biblical information in 1 Kings 9:15-16 of Solomon building the cities at the locations mentioned, Yadin decided to do a fresh examination of Macalister’s report, hoping that he would have success in locating the city gate. His visit at Gezer lead him to the conclusion that was called the “Maccabean Castle” was actually a Solomonic city wall and gate. xxxi Yadin’s comparative measurements of the three sites concerning its main features of the casemate walls (only at Hazor and Gezer) and the gates drew a striking similarity. For the lengths of the gates: Megiddo measured at 20.3 meters, Hazor at 20.3 meters, and Gezer at 19.0 meters. The width of the gates measured at 17.5 meters for Megiddo, 18.0 meters at Hazor, and 16.2 meters at Gezer. The width of all the walls came to 1.6 meters. With this and much more evidence, it led Yadin and his team to conclude that gates and walls were indeed built by “Solomon’s architects from identical blue-prints, with minor changes in each case made necessary by the terrain.” xxxii
An up close view of some of the stones at the “Gezer High Place.” [Courtesy of Taman Turbinton]
Yadin’s conclusions were confirmed by the renewed excavations from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion headed by Dr. William G. Dever, who dated the six chambered gates to the time of Solomon. The task for Dever and his team was to examine and to see if Yadin’s work was verifiable. At first his team was cautious of describing anything to Solomon, but the sealed pottery from the floors and the striking characteristic of the red-burnished ware confirmed to Dever and his team that “Solomon did indeed re-build Gezer.” xxxiii John S. Holliday, Jr. also saw it reasonable to attribute the prior destruction of Gezer during the reign of King Solomon. In support of Yadin, Holliday saw lacking evidence of undisturbed destruction deposits that would produce restorable pottery. There was a succession of archaeological finds from unburnished red-slipper wares to burnish red-slipper wares. xxxiv
Solomon’s City Gate at Gezer. [Courtesy of Taman Turbinton]
Yet, Yadin was not without his skeptics. Later, Israel Finkelstein and others would cast serious doubts about the dates given. Finkelstein claimed in order to have a firm confidence in the dating there would need to be an archaeological find that would anchor the archaeology of Israel to the securely dated monarchs of Egypt and Assyria. Finkelstein argues vehemently that there are no finds that would anchor the dating’s to the time of Solomon, but that the reconstruction of the evidence is based on one Bible verse. xxxv The statement from Finklestein contains an important truth, for which Yadin was not ashamed of. Yadin, one of the most capable archaeologists, himself declared, “…the truth is that our great guide was the Bible: and as an archaeologist I cannot imagine a greater thrill than working with the Bible in one hand and the spade in the other.” xxxvi Nevertheless, for Finkelstein, the Solomonic monuments needed to be lowered into the ninth century B.C., seventy-five to one hundred years later. xxxvii It seems that these issues will continue to be contested by revisionists, but scholars such as André Lemaire accept the evidence presented by Yadin as convincing. xxxviii Even earlier, W. F. Albright was convinced that the palace structure at Megiddo discovered by the Chicago excavators was Solomonic. xxxix
Layout of the land and fields at Gezer
Later Excavations at Gezer
In 1934 the Palestine Exploration Fund began to sponsor a second series of excavations at Gezer under the direction of A. Rowe, but the project never came to fruition. In 1964 G. E. Wright began a ten year excavation project at Gezer, which was sponsored by the Hebrew Union College Biblical and Archaeological School (which is now the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology) in Jerusalem, and was also financed through grants from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The work here began in two major phases. Wright directed Phase I of the project from 1964-65 and 1966-1971. Phase II from 1972-74 was directed by Joe D. Seger, and again by William G. Dever in 1984 and 1990. Steve Ortiz of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Samuel Wolff of the Israel Antiquities Authority initiated Phase III of excavations at Gezer in 2005. xl
Gezer is a place that has been inhabited during various times by various different people groups such as the Egyptians, Philistines, Canaanites, and Israelites. There are archaeological finds that gives significant insight as to the culture of each of these people groups. The Israelite level is stratum VIII, which is located in Field III, east of the Canaanite water tunnel. The Solomonic Gate also is located in Field III. The Casemate Wall connected with the gate in field II is also Solomonic. xli Two Astarte plaques have been discovered in Field II, Area 4, pit 4022, along with numerous amounts of pottery. Both of the plaques and the pottery seem to be Late Bronze I-II. xlii The Astarte plaques also share some similarities of idols found at Troy. xliii Located in Field I, is the large structure of a Canaanite tower (the locus for the tower is noted by Dever’s group as 5017). The tower connects to the “Inner Wall,” mainly construed of large stones at about 1.00 meters long, 75-90 centimeters wide, and 50 centimeters in thickness. xliv In the Middle Bronze IIC period, Field IV provides much evidence of growth and redevelopment, starting with defense structures around the perimeter of the mound. xlv The Canaanite “High Place” is located in Field V, close to the northern “Inner Wall.” As mentioned above it consists of ten monoliths, with some of them over 3 meters high (the stones were discovered laying down and had to be placed up). The stones seemed to be made by the Canaanites, and it is possible that there could have been an association with child sacrifice, or with a covenant renewal ceremony involving the inhabitants of the location. xlvi In Field VII there are numerous finds of pottery almost completely intact. xlvii Area 24, Fill 2433, which was covered by Phase 9 Fill 2430 in Field VII, contains a dog burial. xlviii This most naturally would have one assume this find was not from the Israelite period.
The Excavations of Steve Ortiz and Samuel Wolff
The excavations that began in 2005 at Tel Gezer were sponsored by the Charles D. Tandy Institute of Archaeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), along with other consortium schools. The directors of the excavations are Dr. Steven Ortiz, professor of Archaeology and Biblical Backgrounds of the Tandy Institute and SWBTS, and Dr. Samuel Wolff, senior archaeologist and archivist of the Israel Antiquities Authority. In 2013 their work primarily consisted of removing portions of the city wall from the Iron IIA period, to have access for investigation of a Late Bronze age destruction level. During their excavations of the city wall, an earlier wall system was discovered from the Iron Age I period. Some items discovered were Philistine pottery and a Philistine figurine. Other discoveries at this site seem to correspond with information from Amarna letters concerning this area around the time of the Egyptians 18 th Dynasty. Discovered was an earlier city that had been destroyed, with debris finds of pottery vessels, cylinder seals and a large Egyptian scarab with the cartouche of Amenhotep III. Additional work is being done to remove public and domestic structures of the 8 th and 9 th centuries B.C., to reveal the 10 th century B. C. city plan adjacent to the “City Gate.” Although controversial, the exposure of the 10 th century walls gives hopes for some of the excavators to find the rest of the “Solomonic city.” xlix
Entrance to the “Water Tunnel” at Gezer. [Courtesy of Taman Turbinton]
The Gezer Water System
Located north of the six chambered Iron Aged gate, is the extraordinary “water system.” It was hewed as an oval shaped reservoir at about 14 to 17 meters in diameter. l A stairway consisting of 78 steps was hewn into the walls and descends to the floor which leads to a source of water. li From the entrance of the water system tunnel, the distance into the earth is approximately 40 meters. In 1905 Macalister discovered the water system, but he left many unanswered questions. In the summer of 2010 the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS), took on the task of reopening the ancient water system. Primary sponsorship is from the Moskau Institue of Archaeology of NOBTS, and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Leading the excavations from NOBTS are Dr. Dan Waner, Dr. R. Dennis Cole, and Dr. James Parker, in collaboration with Dr. Tsvika Tsuk, Chief Archaeologist of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Israel Antiquities Authority. This team accompanied by student volunteers from NOBTS and other Universities seeks to address the issues of identifying the source of the water, the overall purpose of the location, and it’s dating. A likely dating for the system seems to belong in the Bronze Age. It is believed that system’s cavern had an exterior opening accessible from outside of the city. It is thought that the inhabitants would have built the tunnel to access the water in case of a siege. lii
Macalister noted in his find of the system of a pool of water at the end of the tunnel of unknown depth. He explained that water stood wherever the mud was dug away, and the level of water remained constant no matter how much water was taken away. Similar issues were again discovered by the NOBTS excavators. On June 5, 2015 the team digging at the bottom of the tunnel removed close to 140 gallons of water. In the process of removal they were able to notice a lowering of the water level. liii It is very damp above the pool and deep into the cavern, and the main way to enter the area is by crawling. A large stone covers oneself the further one crawls back. It is hoped that an exit will be found deep in this cavern this possible exit would be to the east side of Gezer. In previous excavations there were no finds of pottery at the end of the tunnel or in the cavern. Now into the fifth season numerous amounts of pottery shards have been found, but none with significant or extraordinary markings. liv Some of the pottery found looks similar in material to the finds from the believed to be “house” inside the inner wall in between the Canaanite gate and the water system opening. Dr. Eli Yannai, archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority, serves at the pottery expert for this area. Parts of the area in the “house” received material from Macalister dump. Yannai has identified pottery that is very thin, covered with red on each side as material from Cyprus dating to the Late Bronze Age. The information is significant because towards the south of the “house” finds are from the Middle Bronze Age. This gave Dr. Yannai the indication that the location of a possible wall in the “house” facing north is filled with Macalister’s dump. lv The pottery finds are not substantially enough to posit a clear connection between the two sites of the water tunnel and the house it will take further work to draw upon more firm conclusions.
Even though many great finds have been found at Gezer, the excavators at the water tunnel believe and expect this particular area to be one of the premier sites in Israel. The structure of the tunnel is unique, with nothing like in the rest of Israel, Egypt, or Mesopotamia. This site will continue to be an attraction to archaeologist, and certainly later, a major tourist attraction for Bible believers, and even Biblical minimalist s .
Because of the groundbreaking work taking place at Gezer, it will for a short time be a site of numerous mysteries. The excavators on the Tel and in the “Water S ystem” have come up with interesting suggestions and questions about the site. Was the “Water System” used for times of siege? Did cultic activity take place in the Tunnel? Did King Solomon make use of the “Water System”? It is up to the excavators to try and understand the information behind the large amounts of archaeological evidence. But as we have learned from previous finds, Gezer is full of information that points to the accuracy of the Biblical record. Yigael Yadin was right to lean on his impulse and trust the inspired Word of God for finding Solomon’s Gate. Families can use Gezer as an example to have confidence in teaching their children that the Bible and archaeological finds do not contradict each other. Far from insignificant, Gezer will be remembered as one of the most important places in the Bible for Biblical Archaeology.
i Steven Ortiz and Samuel Wolff, “Gaurding the Boarder to Jerusalem: The Iron Age City of Gezer,” Near Eastern Archaeology 75, no. 1 (2012): p. 4. Henceforth: Ortiz and Wolff, “Iron Age City of Gezer.”
ii W. G. Dever, “Gezer” in Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land , vol. 2, ed. Michael Avi-Yonah (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1976), p. 428. Henceforth: Dever, “Gezer”.
iii See John D. Currid, and David P. Barrett ed., Crossway ESV Bible Atlas (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), pp. 60-61. Henceforth: ESV Atlas .
iv Thomas C. Brisco, ed., Holman Bible Atlas: A Complete Guide to the Expansive Geography of Biblical History (Nashville, Tenn.: Holman Reference, 1998), pp. 43-44. Henceforth: Holman Atlas .
vi See Roland deVaux, The Bible and the Ancient Near East , trans. Damian McHugh (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967), p. 253.
vii According to Eusebius, from Syncellus see Manetho, The History of Egypt , trans. W. G. Waddel, in Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956), p. 115.
viii G. G. Garner, and J. Woodhead, “Gezer” in New Bible Dictionary , 3 rd ed., (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1996), p. 409 Also see Dever, “Gezer”, p. 428.
ix James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts: Relating to the Old Testament , 3 rd ed (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), p. 242.
x “Letter of Abdi-Heba of Jerusalem (EA 286) (3.92A)” in The Context of Scripture, vol. 3, Archival Documents from the Biblical World , eds. William W. Hallo, and K. Lawson Younger, Jr. (Leiden: Brill, 2002), p. 237.
xi “Letter of Abdi-Heba of Jerusalem (Urusalim) (EA 289) (3.92B)” in ibid., p. 238.
xii Holman Atlas , p. 57 Sir Alan Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs: An Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961), p. 273.
xiii William G. Dever, H. Darrel Lance, and G. Ernest Wright, Gezer I , vol. 1, Preliminary Report of the 1964-66 Seasons (Jerusalem: Hebrew Union College Biblical and Archaeological School in Jerusalem, 1970), pp. 4-5. Henceforth: Dever, Lance, and Wright, Gezer I .
xiv See Barry G. Webb, The Book of Judges , NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), pp. 123-24 K. Lawson Younger, Jr., Judges and Ruth , NIVAC (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), p. 72.
xvi Lee I. A. Levine, “The Age of Hellenism: Alexander the Great and the Rise and Fall of the Hasmonean Kingdom,” in Ancient Israel: A Short History from Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple , ed. Hershel Shanks (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1988), p. 187.
xvii R. A. S. Macalister, A Century of Excavations in Palestine (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1925), p. 64. Henceforth: Macalister, Excavations Yigael Yadin, Hazor: The Rediscovery of a Great Citadel of the Bible (New York: Random House, 1975), pp. 200-1. Henceforth: Yadin, Hazor .
xviii Macalister, Excavations , p. 82.
xx William Foxwell Albright, From Stone Age to Christianity: Monotheism and the Historical Process , 2 nd ed., (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1957), pp. 55-56.
xxi For more information on Albright’s view of this tablet at Gezer see W. F. Albright, “A Tablet of the Amarna Age from Gezer,” Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research 92, (December 1943): pp. 28-30.
xxii Macalister, Excavations , p. 188 Hallo, and Younger, The Context of Scripture, vol. 3, pp. 263-64.
xxiii Macalister, Excavations , p. 189 Hallo, and Younger, The Context of Scripture, vol. 3, pp. 264-65.
xxiv Macalister, Excavations , p. 223.
xxv P. Kyle McCarter, “The Gezer Calendar,” in The Context of Scripture, vol. 2, Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World , eds. William W. Hallo, and K. Lawson Younger, Jr. (Leiden: Brill, 2000), p. 222.
xxvi William F. Albright, “The Gezer Calendar,” Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research 92, (December 1943): p. 16. Henceforth: Albright, “Gezer Calendar”.
xxvii Macalister, Excavations , p. 249.
xxviii Albright, “Gezer Calendar”, p. 19.
xxx Yigael Yadin, “Solomon’s City Wall and Gate at Gezer,” Israel Exploration Journal 8, no. 2 (1958): p. 80.
xxxi Ibid Yadin, Hazor , pp. 201-2.
xxxii Yadin, “Solomon’s City Wall and Gate at Gezer,” pp. 85-86.
xxxiv John S. Holladay, Jr., “Red Slip, Burnish, and the Solomonic Gateway at Gezer,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 277-278 (February/May 1990): p. 24.
xxxv Israel Finkelstein, “King Solomon’s Golden Age: History or Myth?” in The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel , no. 17, by Israel Finkelstein and Amihai Mazar, ed. Brian Schmidt (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007), pp. 110-12.
xxxvii Finkelstein, “King Solomon’s Golden Age,” p. 114.
xxxviii André Lemaire, “The United Monarchy: Saul, David and Solomon,” in Ancient Israel: A Short History from Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple , ed. Hershel Shanks (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1988), p. 107.
xxxix Albright, “Gezer Calendar,” pp. 18-19.
xl William G. Dever, “Gezer” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary , vol. 2, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), p. 998 Joe D. Seger, and James W. Hardin, ed., Gezer VII: The Middle Bronze and Later Fortifications in Fields II, IV, and VII (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013), p. 1. For the information of the location of the fields refer to the maps herein.
xlii See Dever, Lance, and Wright, Gezer I , p. 57. For images see Plate 25, herein.
xliii See C. Schuchhardt, Schliemann’s Excavations: An Archaeological and Historical Study , trans., Eugénie Sellers (New York: Macmillan & Co., 1891), pp. 66-67.
xliv Dever, Lance, and Wright, Gezer I , pp. 18-19.
xlv Joe D. Seger, Gezer VII: The Middle Bronze and Later Fortifications in Fields II, IV, and VII , ed. Joe D. Seger and James W. Hardin (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013), p. 13.
xlvii See pictures of plates 65 in Field VII East, Area 37 plate 61 in Field VII Central, Area 35, all in Seymour Gitin, Gezer III: A Ceramic Typology of the Late Iron II, Persian and Hellenistic Periods at Tell Gezer, Data Base and Plates (Jerusalem: Hebrew Union College, 1990).
xlix Steven Ortiz and Samuel Wolff, “ARCHAEOLOGY: The history beneath Solomon’s City,” accessed July 26, 2015, http://www.swbts.edu/campus-news/news-releases/archaeology-the-history-beneath-solomone28099s-city/.
l See Steve Ortiz, “Gezer” in the Oxford Encyclopedia of The Bible and Archaeology , ed., Daniel Master (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 471. Henceforth: Ortiz, “Gezer.”
li The layout by Mcalister listed 78 steps and has been examined and confirmed as the accurate number of steps by the author and Tsvika Tsuk. Some of the steps are losing shape, but are still distinct enough to be identified as steps.
lii Ortiz, “Gezer,” p. 469. Also see the CAR page, at the NOBTS website.
liii See the blog post from Gary D. Meyers on June 7, 2015, who is the publication relations representative of the Seminary, “Gezer 2015: The things you find at the bottom of the water system,” accessed July 21, 2015, http://nobtsarchaeology.blogspot.com/?m=0.
liv Information unpublished, but available from the author. On June 2, 2015, over one hour was spent in the tight area of the cavern collecting pottery. I found approximately over 50 pieces of pottery, along with the numerous amounts collected by Gary D. Meyers.
lv Information unpublished, available from the author. Along the possible wall, no matter how far low the wall was dug, Late Bronze Age material was continuously found lower than in other areas where Middle Bronze Age material were found.
Albright, William Foxwell. “The Gezer Calendar” Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research 92, (December 1943): pp. 16-27.
——— . “A Tablet of the Amarna Age from Gezer” Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research 92, (December 1943): pp. 28-30.
——— . From Stone Age to Christianity: Monotheism and the Historical Process . 2 nd ed. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1957.
Brisco, Thomas C., ed. Holman Bible Atlas: A Complete Guide to the Expansive Geography of Biblical History . Nashville: Holman Reference, 1998.
Currid, John D., and David P. Barrett eds. Crossway ESV Bible Atlas . Wheaton: Crossway, 2010.
Dever, William G. “Gezer.” In Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land , vol. 2, ed. Michael Avi-Yonah, pp. 428-443. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1976.
——— . “Gezer.” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary , vol. 2, ed. David Noel Freedman, 998-1003. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
Dever, William G., H. Darrel Lance, and G. Ernest Wright. Gezer I , Vol. 1, Preliminary Report of the 1964-66 Seasons . Jerusalem: Hebrew Union College Biblical and Archaeological School in Jerusalem, 1970.
Finkelstein, Israel. “King Solomon’s Golden Age?: History or Myth?” In The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel , No. 17. By Israel Finkelstein and Amihai Mazar. Edited by Brian Schmidt, 107-116. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007.
Gardiner, Sir Alan. Egypt of the Pharaohs: An Introduction . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961.
Garner, G. G., and J. Woodhead. “Gezer.” In New Bible Dictionary . 3 rd ed., 407-409. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1996.
Gitin, Seymour. Gezer III: A Ceramic Typology of the Late Iron II, Persian and Hellenistic Periods at Tell Gezer, Data Base and Plates . Jerusalem: Hebrew Union College, 1990.
Holladay, John S., Jr. “Red Slip, Burnish, and the Solomonic Gateway at Gezer.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 277-278 (February/May 1990): pp. 23-70.
Hallo, William H., and K. Lawson Younger, Jr., ed. The Context of Scripture . Vol. 2, Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World . Leiden: Brill, 2000.
——— . The Context of Scripture . Vol. 3, Archival Documents from the Biblical World . Leiden: Brill, 2002.
Lemaire, André. “The United Monarchy: Saul, David and Solomon.” In Ancient Israel: A Short History from Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple , ed. Hershel Shanks, pp. 85-108. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1988.
Levine, Lee I. A. “The Age of Hellensim: Alexander the Great and the Rise and Fall of the Hasmonean Kingdom.” In Ancient Israel: A Short History from Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple , ed. Hershel Shanks, pp. 177-204. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1988.
Macalister, R. A. S. A Century of Excavations in Palestine . London: The Religious Tract Society, 1925.
Manetho. The History of Egypt . Translated by W. G. Waddel. In Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956.
McCarter, P. Kyle. “The Gezer Calendar.” In Hallo, and Younger. The Context of Scripture . Vol. 2, p. 222.
Meyer, Gary D. “Gezer 2015: The things you find at the bottom of the water system.” Accessed July 21, 2015. http://www.nobtsarchaeology.blogspot.com/?m=0
Ortiz, Steven. “Gezer.” In Oxford Encyclopedia of Bible and Archaeology , vol. 1, ed. Daniel Master, 468-474. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
Ortiz, Steven and Samuel Wolff. “Guarding the Boarder to Jerusalem: The Iron Age City of Gezer.” Near Eastern Archaeology 75, no. 1 (2012): pp. 4-19.
——— . “ARCHAEOLOGY: The history beneath Solomon’s City.” Accessed July 26, 2015. http://www.swbts.edu/campus-news/news-releases/archaeology-the-history-beneath-solomone28099s-city/.
Pritchard, James B. ed. Ancient Near Eastern Texts: Relating to the Old Testament , 3 rd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969.
Schuchhardt, C. Schliemann’s Excavations: An Archaeological and Historical Study . Translated by Eugénie Sellers. New York: Macmillan & Co., 1891.
Seger, Joe D. Gezer VII: The Middle Bronze and Later Fortifications in Fields II, IV, and VII , ed. Joe D. Seger and James W. Hardin. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013.
Vaux, Roland de. The Bible and the Ancient Near East . Translated by Damian McHugh. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967.
Webb, Barry G. The Book of Judges . NICOT. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012.
Yadin, Yigael. “Solomon’s City Wall and Gate at Gezer.” Israel Exploration Journal 8, no. 2 (1958): pp. 80-86.
——— . Hazor: The Rediscovery of a Great Citadel of the Bible . New York: Random House, 1975.
Younger, K. Lawson, Jr. Judges and Ruth . NIVAC. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.
5 Easter Island&rsquos Mata&rsquoa
A curious weapon hails from Easter Island, which is famous for its moai statues.  Called mata&rsquoa, it is a three-sided stabbing tool made from obsidian.
Just over 100 Rapanui natives remained by 1877 when they started sharing their past with Europeans. The tale told is of a devastated environment, scarce resources, and continuous fighting that destroyed their society. The story became fact, including that the mata&rsquoa was the weapon that brought bloodshed to the isolated population.
However, recent skeletal studies proved that scarcely any deaths resulted from mata&rsquoa assaults. More died after being pummeled with rocks. There is no evidence to support the stories of massacres either. There is a chance they never occurred, and that the mata&rsquoa was deliberately designed not to be too dangerous. For people who engineered the moai, the Islanders were capable of inventing worse weapons if they truly wanted war. This new look at the obsidian tools could reveal the true story of how the Rapanui instead decided to curb their volatile relationships before it killed everyone on the tiny island.
Difference Between History and Archaeology
Man has always been interested in past events as they help him in understanding the evolution of civilization. Study of the past is also considered important as the information and facts about our ancestors provides us with perspectives to myriad problems that we are facing today as also the causes of rise and downfall of civilizations. There are two deeply interrelated fields of study called history and archeology that confuse many. Both a historian as well as an archeologist tries to understand and reveal the past to us in different ways. But there are differences in approach and style which will be discussed in this article.
History is interpretation of the past in the words of a historian. It is a scholarly study of what happened in the past without being judgmental or subjective. The main job of a historian is to record the information and facts based upon narratives of the past and recollect the entire sequence of events without getting biased. History starts from the time when writing was invented and people started to keep records of events occurring at that time. Events belonging to a period before history are termed as prehistory and include events and people that are beyond the scope of history as it cannot be verified. History includes authentic information about the past as and when it happened (and also why).
Archeology is a field of study that tries to unearth (literally) information about the past by digging up artifacts and analyzing them to recollect sequence of events of that time. In this sense it is close to history though archeological findings can never be as authentic as fact contained in history as they are based upon narratives written by the people from the past whereas there is no such evidence in support of archeological artifacts and archeologists often try to string together loose ends on the basis of their experience.
What is the difference between History and Archaeology?
Ancient civilizations that do not even find a mention in history are recollected with the help of artifacts and fossils that are dug up in any archeological survey. Archeology is a search whereas history is a recollection of the past on the basis of narratives written by people of the past. This is one big difference that separates history from archeology though both attempt to unravel the past for us. Archeology is also history in the sense that archeologists try to surmise about what must have happened in the past basing their conclusions upon artifacts they dig up. This is intelligent guesswork but history is all facts and information that is already there and just needs to be written in a new perspective and style.
History vs Archaeology
• Archeology ends where history begins
• Archeology is the study of events, people, their behavior and their lifestyles from a period when writing had not been invented and all information is deducted on the basis of artifacts that are dug up.
• History is merely rewriting events of the past with the help of narratives written by people of the past.
China’s ,000 Years of History”: Fact or Fiction?By Michael Storozum July 15, 2019
Testing the Past (a literal translation of the Chinese word for archaeology, 考古 kaogu), is a new RADII column by archaeologist Michael Storozum exploring the ways in which this academic field is used to shape today’s China.
Anyone with a cursory experience of China has likely heard of its much vaunted ,000 years of history.” Even President Donald Trump knows: when he came to China to meet with President Xi Jinping last in November 2017, Xi touted China’s long, continuous history as being exceptional compared to other world cultures. Last week, the inclusion of the 5,300-year-old Liangzhu onto UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites has revived the conversation in Chinese State-backed media. But how does this claim hold up under scientific and historical scrutiny?
The answer largely depends on how you define the question — namely, how you define “history.”
History is usually defined as the beginning of a textual record, or written documents. In China, the first decipherable written documents date to the Shang dynasty, around 3,000 to 3,500 years ago. This language, the Jiaguwen, or Oracle Bone Script, is the antecessor of all subsequent written Chinese script, and there are remarkable similarities between Oracle Bone texts and subsequent written language in China, suggesting that this writing system is the origin of modern Chinese script. Although it is undisputed that the Oracle Bones are the progenitor of Chinese script, they’re still nearly 2,000 years short of China’s hypothetical 5,000 years of history.
So, a strictly historical explanation is clearly not viable — there’s no science to support the claim.
Before the Shang dynasty and the development of the first historical records, there was a long prehistoric period in China. Archaeology, although often thought of as a field in the humanities or social sciences, heavily relies on methods in the physical sciences to understand cultural changes over time in ancient societies around the world. Since the discovery of China’s Neolithic cultures in the early 1900s, archaeology in China has primarily focused on defining China’s cultural history: the succession of different archaeological cultures (read: pottery styles) from the early Neolithic (around 10,000 years ago) to the start of the Han dynasty (around 2,200 years ago).
This chronology has been hugely contentious among archaeologists in China and around the world, in part because of a general lack of radiocarbon dates. Ancient carbon found at archaeological sites, when radiocarbon-dated, provides an absolute age for these sites, anchoring specific cultural developments in time. Only within the past several decades have there been enough radiocarbon dates to attempt to pinpoint the beginning of “Chinese civilization.”
In 1996, the Chinese government launched a project to determine the chronology of the origins of Chinese history. The Three Dynasties Chronology Project, as it’s officially known, drew its inspiration from the incredibly robust chronology of ancient Egypt, where events and dynasties are often nailed down to the nearest year because of a long textual record (see Y.K. Lee’s 2002 article “Building the Chronology of Early Chinese History”, pp. 15-42, for more). The Chinese project attempted to provide a similarly robust chronology for China’s first Three Dynasties: the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties in Central China, where archaeologists recovered the first evidence of the Oracle Bones. However, there were a number of problems with the general approach to the project.
First and foremost, the Xia dynasty is a mythical period of time. The only evidence of the Xia comes from historical texts that post-date this period by thousands of years (see “The Myth of the Xia Dynasty” by Sarah Allan for more). While archaeologists have recovered primary documents from the excavation of Shang and Zhou dynasty sites, no primary textual records have ever been recovered from Xia dynasty sites.
Second, the development of Chinese “civilization” did not happen in just one place. Just as in the recent past, people have migrated across the area known as modern China for thousands of years, bringing with them new ideas and cultural mores, making the focus on Central China detrimental to the project. Unsurprisingly, this project proved much more complex than originally conceived.
More recently, the government launched a successor to the “Three Dynasties” project — the “Origins of Chinese Civilization” project — which uses a wide range of scientific methods to develop a more complete body of knowledge concerning the developmental trajectory of ancient societies in both north and south China (see Yuan Jing and Rod Campbell’s paper “Recent archaeometric research on ‘the origins of Chinese civilisation’” for more on this).
Chinese “civilization” did not happen in just one place… people have migrated across the area known as modern China for thousands of years, bringing with them new ideas and cultural mores
A perfect example of the complexity in determining China’s historical record is the Liangzhu site, an ongoing archaeological project in southern China that lends support to China’s claim of 5,000 years of history.
Last Saturday, Liangzhu was designated a UNESCO world heritage site, recognizing its status as an exceptional case of an early “state” in southern China. The Liangzhu site, located outside of Hangzhou, dates back over 5,000 years, and is one of the earliest and most complex Neolithic archaeological sites in China.
Many art forms associated with ancient China, such as the engraved jade tubes (cong) and discs (bi) found at the Liangzhu site, are also found throughout Shang and Zhou dynasty sites in Central China, indicating Liangzhu’s deep connection to “Chinese” cultural values. While archaeologists have known about this site for many decades, only recently have radiocarbon dates been published, earning the site and the Liangzhu culture widespread acceptance as one of the most complex Neolithic cultures in China. Investigations into Liangzhu are just now ramping up, and we should expect to see more work that reveals Liangzhu’s deep connections to China’s “5,000 years of history,” work motivated in some part by a mandate to put Chinese civilization on the same “level” as ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.
In other words: if we really push the boundaries of the historical and archaeological records, Chinese “civilization” can be said to have a 5,000-year history, but this interpretation bends the facts in important ways. From a historical perspective, the first drips of a continuous historical record begin around 3,500 years ago, and a fully realized and still extant historical record really starts only with the Han dynasty, around 2,000 years ago. From the scientific perspective offered by archaeology, the absolute chronology goes back thousands and thousands of years, but does not necessarily reveal a continuous Chinese identity.
While sites like Liangzhu are found within China’s modern political borders, and have some similarities to material culture found elsewhere within the country, archaeologists have no way of directly knowing how the ancient Liangzhu people or other peoples in prehistory conceived their own identity. China in the deep past was a diverse place, full of many different types of people who likely thought of themselves in a wide variety of ways. Complex societies like Liangzhu lived within the modern political boundaries of China, but 5,000 years ago, the people who lived in China were not bound by our modern political boundaries or our deeply changed ecologies. They lived in a world largely alien to us.
Complex societies like Liangzhu lived within the modern political boundaries of China, but 5,000 years ago, the people who lived in China were not bound by our modern political boundaries or our deeply changed ecologies. They lived in a world largely alien to us.
The cultural achievements of ancient peoples living within the modern-day political boundaries of China are certainly impressive, and stretch back in time thousands and thousands of years. From a scientific perspective, however, the entire premise of ,000 years of continuous history” leaves much to be desired. Rather than reveal a continuous culture from 5,000 years ago to the present, new scientifically-oriented archaeological research into China’s deep past will likely reveal a long history of migrations, intermixing populations, and diverse interactions that have helped create modern-day China.
Allan, S., 1984. The myth of the Xia Dynasty. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 116(2), pp.242-256.
Lee, Y.K., 2002. Building the chronology of early Chinese history. Asian Perspectives, pp.15-42.
Jing, Y. and Campbell, R., 2009. Recent archaeometric research on ‘the origins of Chinese civilisation’. Antiquity, 83(319), pp.96-109.
Liu, B., Wang, N., Chen, M., Wu, X., Mo, D., Liu, J., Xu, S. and Zhuang, Y., 2017. Earliest hydraulic enterprise in China, 5,100 years ago. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(52), pp.13637-13642.