Among scholars of biblical archaeology at present rages a polarized debate on the nature of the United Monarchy and how the traces it may have left can be identified and dated in the archaeological record. A summary of Israel Finkelstein’s views on Iron Age chronology (for the "Finkelstein Correction" see Finkelstein 1996 and 1998 Levant; and in reply, Mazar 1997 Levant) follows:

The debate on the 10th century chronology of Ancient Israel rests on the finds at several sites, the most important of which is Megiddo because of its multi-period stratigraphy. The key stratum at Megiddo is Stratum VA-IVB, widely believed to be the Solomonic city. However Finkelstein argues that the tenth century city is represented by Stratum VIA. At the time of Stratum VIA Megiddo was a significant settlement with rather impressive buildings. It was annihilated in a terrible fire which has become a landmark in the stratigraphy of the site.

Sparking the debate is the fact that there is not a single chronological anchor (that is, a find carrying an absolute date with which to date the assemblage uncovered with it), between the end of the Egyptian 20th Dynasty rule in Canaan in the 12th century BCE and the Assyrian campaigns in the late 8th century BCE. This ‘Dark Age’ of over four centuries covers most of Iron Age I, the days of the United Monarchy and the entire history of the northern kingdom of Israel. In the past, archaeologists have dated the strata associated with this long period of time according to relative, circumstantial, theological, quasi-historical and sentimental considerations, rather than by direct evidence leading to absolute chronology. Though some inscriptions from this period have been discovered, such as the Mesha Stele from Dibon, the Shishak Stele from Megiddo, or the Aramaic inscription from Tel Dan (left), they were not found in situ, in clear stratigraphical contexts which would have dated them. This type of direct historical evidence would have provided the other, non-dateable, finds uncovered together with it with an absolute date. Unfortunately, these inscriptions were all found on the surface, or in a contaminated or later context and therefore do not bear any value for absolute chronology of archaeological assemblages.


The Prevailing View
The New ‘Low Chronology’
C-14 Results
Chronology in Science Magazine
Conclusions