The Prevailing View

Though lacking dateable anchors, archaeologists endeavored to identify 10th century BCE strata throughout the country. For instance, 'Solomonic Megiddo' with its elaborate ashlar (built of dressed-stones) palaces, and the ‘Solomonic’ four-entry gates at Megiddo, Hazor and Gezer long ago became celebrated case-studies in biblical archaeology. However, this widely accepted chronological construct is a classic case of circular reasoning. Two theoretical pillars support the prevailing system – one direct and one circumstantial. The former rests on the results of past excavations at Megiddo and the latter on the dating of the Bichrome Philistine pottery (picture below).

Regarding the latter, the prevailing dating of the 11–10th century BCE strata has been based on the paradigm suggested by the scholars Alt and Albright. This theory states that the Philistines were settled in the southern coastal plain of Canaan right after the clash between Egypt and the Sea Peoples in the eighth year of Ramses III (1175 BCE). Since excavations at multi-strata sites, such as Tel Qasile and Ashdod, made it clear that Philistine pottery had a long lifespan, it was dated to the 12th–11th centuries BCE. Strata just above levels with Bichrome Philistine pottery were accordingly dated to the 10th century BCE.

But the archaeology of the 10th–9th centuries BCE was born at Megiddo and has remained focused on that site ever since the 1920s. The first step was the attribution of Stratum IV to the days of Solomon, mainly on the basis of the connection that the Megiddo team established between the biblical references to the building activity of Solomon at Megiddo (I Kings 9:15), the mention of Solomonic cities for chariots and horsemen (I Kings 9:19) and the set of pillared buildings uncovered at the site and identified as stables (picture above).

Soundings undertaken by Yadin in the 1960s brought about changes in the stratigraphy and chronology of Iron Age Megiddo. The pillared buildings were linked to Stratum IVA, which was dated to the period of the Omrides (the Israelite Dynasty founded by Omri and lasting approximately 33 years). The Solomonic city was identified with the preceding stratum – VA-IVB, characterized by ashlar palaces. Yadin’s new order was based on the similarity of the four-entry gates at Megiddo, Hazor and Gezer, and the mention of building activities of Solomon in these places in I Kings 9:15. Yadin argued that the gates represent a master plan designed by Solomon’s architects. But the foundations of Yadin’s dating (the prevailing scheme), which seemed solid in the 1960s, have since proven to be built on shaky ground.

First and foremost, Ussishkin has shown that the four-entry gate at Megiddo (right)should be affiliated with Stratum IVA, later than Solomon’s days even according to the prevailing chronology. Second, similar gates were found in late Iron Age II contexts (at Lachish and Tel ‘Ira), and outside the borders of the supposed Solomonic state (at Philistine Ashdod). Third, historians and biblical scholars have become more and more skeptical about the authenticity and historical reliability of the biblical materials which describe the days of the United Monarchy. Many moderate scholars (not only minimalist, those who lean toward the rejection of the historiocity of the Bible) argue that the stories of David and Solomon draw a picture of an idyllic ‘Golden Age’, that the description of Solomon’s time is filled with later theological and ideological goals, and that the Deuteronomist account of Solomon’s reign is based on very little original material.

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Chronology in Science Magazine