San Francisco Chronicle, 4/11/03: Deep in the ruins of a Hebrew town sacked nearly 3,000 years ago by an Egyptian Pharaoh, scientists say they have discovered new evidence for the real-life existence of the Bible's legendary kingdoms of David and Solomon.
The evidence refutes recent claims by other researchers who insist that the biblical monarchs were merely mythic characters, created by scholars and scribes of antiquity who made up the tales long after the events to buttress their own morality lessons.
The debate, however, is not likely to subside, for archaeology is a field notable for its lengthy quarrels among partisans, however scientific they may be.
The latest evidence comes from Israeli and Dutch archaeologists and physicists after seven years of digging at a historic site called Tel Rehov. The site is in the Jordanvalley of Israel, where successive settlements rose and fell over the centuries.
Using highly sophisticated techniques for establishing dates through the decay rate of radioactive carbon, the scientists have pinned down the time of a disputed moment in history, recorded in the Bible, when a Pharaoh now known as Shoshenq I invaded Jerusalem.
As the book of Chronicles relates in the Old Testament, Shoshenq (the Bible called him Shishak) came "with twelve hundred chariots and threescore thousand horsemen" and plundered Israel's capital, as well as such towns and fortresses as Rehov, Megiddo and Hazor.
The Pharaoh later listed those conquests on a monument in the temple of Amun at Karnak, where the Egyptian city of Luxor now stands.
The new timetable places Shoshenq's rampage and looting at Rehov in the 10th century rather than the 9th, a highly significant difference. It sets the date at about 925 B.C., some five years after Solomon was said to have died, and some 80 years earlier than other archaeologists maintain.
Those scholars, known in the world of archaeology as "minimalists," insist that both David and Solomon were little more than tribal chieftains, and certainly not the mighty monarchs of the Bible.
A report on the new evidence appears today in the journal Science by Hendrik Bruins, a desert researcher at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, Johannes van der Plicht of the Center for Isotope Research at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, and Amihai Mazar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the principal archaeologist at Tel Rehov....