What I've Been Doing Instead of Writing Fiction....  

Posted by The Alchemist in

I've been writing Non-fiction! While it could be ammusing to try and post some of my Organic chemistry laboratry reports (they're basically 5-10 page research papers) I am worried you might suffer a loss of sanity...

So instead I thought I would put up a research paper I wrote for my archaeology class.


Derek Wentz
Biblical Archaeology
Dr. Manor
Digging Deeper:
An Examination of the Historical Evidence for Biblical Ai during the Conquest of Canaan.
What is the truth? In a world of ever-changing facts and opinions its hard to separate the truth from fiction, and it doesn’t matter what field is examined; one thing remains constant. There is always something to disagree upon.
I am without a doubt that religion and the various subjects that are connected to it are among the most volatile and controversial of our day. Walk into any university, restaurant, workplace, or home across America, and a unique take on religion and its meaning to our lives can be found. Some people choose to ignore it, and others to study it, but few choose to agree upon it.
In today’s society religion can hardly be disentangled from the various sciences and disciplines that surround it. Proponents for and against a multitude of beliefs sling back and forth the mud of historical evidence, scientific proof, scholarly study, and philosophical enlightenment, each claiming the facts to be on their side, and with the prevalence of varying ‘truths’ out there, its easy to be swallowed up and lost in the darkness. Trying to find one’s way through all of the talk to the truth can be a daunting task even for the most scholarly minded of individuals.
One of the most elemental discussions on religion is the veracity of the bible and the meaning that might be ascribed to the stories held there within. What meaning does a book written thousands of years ago hold for my ‘modern’ life? Is this story I just read true/false? How did the bible come to be as it is? A question that I have been thinking about recently centers on the subject of the ancient city of Ai.
The city of Ai (which when translated means “the heap” or “the ruins” (Dahlberg, pg. 27 1964) is chiefly involved in chapters seven and eight of the book of Joshua. Joshua and the Israelites have come to Canaan with the intent to conquer the land and make it their own, as God promised their forefathers. After an initial victory at the siege of Jericho, (during which God simply knocks the walls down and the Israelites go into the city and conquer it) Joshua sends scouts further into the land of Canaan. One of the cities the scouted out by these men is Ai. When they return from their mission, the scouts report to Joshua on the city and offer him some advice. “Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few.”(Joshua 7:3 KJVA) So, instead of sending the entire force of Israel’s army, Joshua listens to them and sends only three thousand men. When the small force attacks Ai, however, they are defeated and forced to return to Joshua. The reason for this loss, as reported by the bible, is the disobedience of someone in the Israelite camp. According to the text Achan, a member of the tribe of Judah, took for himself some of the plunder of Jericho although expressly forbidden to by God. After he is found out he is executed along with his family for the crime and God’s favor returns to Israel. God gives Joshua orders for the next battle and instead of only sending three thousand he sends the entire war band. God then orders Joshua to lay an ambush for the men of Ai, and it works. This time the defeat of the king of Ai and his men is absolute.
While the account of the battles at Ai is straightforward, the archaeological and historical information surrounding it is not. The site (whose modern name is et-Tell, meaning “the ruin heap” in Arabic (Oxford Encyclopedia, 1997)) was originally identified by Edward Robinson. By linguistically comparing city names from the bible with modern names for various ancient ruins, Robinson came up with the locations of many biblical cities.(Currid, pg. 23 1999) His work has proven invaluable to the field of archaeology, and most of it has remained intact to this day.
The first excavation of the site was done by John Garstang in 1928. His work, however, was never published and his finding have been lost.(Callaway, pg. 19 1976)
The second Archaeological expedition to Ai occurred in 1933, led by Judith Marquet-Krause. Marquet-Krause excavated for over two years before she passed away in 1936. The report of her findings was published by her husband, Yves Marquet, after her death. B.T. Dahlberg summed it up by saying:
The excavations of Mme. Marquet-Krause in 1933-35 showed that there had been an extensive Early Bronze age city on et-Tell with nothing thereafter until a smaller Iron I (ca. 1200-1000B.C.) Israelite occupation, after which no Iron II(ca. 900-586B.C.) or subsequent occupation was in evidence. (Dahlberg, pg. 28 1964)
The impact of these findings were ground-shaking. Depending upon how one calculates the date during which the Israelites initiated the conquest of Canaan, there was no evidence that there had even been a city for the Israelites to conquer. If et-Tell was indeed the city of Ai, and no evidence was uncovered to contradict Mme. Marquet-Krause’s findings, then historical evidence would be in direct contradiction to the bible.
Mme. Marquet-Krause’s conclusion was that the account of Ai was an etiology, or a story that explains something, created in order to explain the ruins that would have been at et-Tell during the time of the Israelites living there. (Callaway, pg. 134 1968) Several years later, while the biblical and archaeological world was still reeling from these discoveries, L.H. Vincent and W.F. Albright came up with a different theory as described by Joseph Callaway in his article, New Evidence on the Conquest of Ai.
Vincent and Albright worked out a solution that preserved the Late Bronze Age conquest and also the identification of Ai with et-Tell. Vincent’s proposal was that a military outpost of Bethal was hastily constructed on the ruins of et-Tell and that the conquest of Ai was actually the overrunning of the outpost. (Callaway, pg. 134 1968)
However, as Callaway explains: “No evidence of the outpost remains, nor should be expected. The Iron Age I village constructed on the site was Israelite.” (Callaway, pg 134 1968)
Albright’s view eventually came to be that the conquest of Ai is actually the conquest of nearby Bethal, and the two sites were confused during the tide of years. This view was widely held until the archaeological work of Joseph Callaway at et-Tell from 1964 to 1970.
In his Archaeological expeditions to et-Tell, Callaway made many interesting discoveries. In his paper, New Evidence on the Conquest of Ai, Callaway describes what he calls a “sealed-locus” and its effects on et-Tell and the surrounding region. According to Callaway there is a large occupational gap that occurs, meaning that et-Tell and many surrounding cities were not occupied for very long periods of time, specifically during the time of the believed Israelite conquest. He says this to indicate his belief that et-Tell is the only site that could possibly be linked with biblical Ai, and that it was in fact not Bethal or sites proposed by other archaeologists since the work done by Mme. Marquet-Krause in 1933. Callaway goes on to describe pottery findings, both at et-Tell and surrounding locations and his belief that other groups of people were actively moving into Canaan while Israel was busy with its conquest. Callaway’s conclusion is that while it is unlikely that the Joshua account of the conquest of Ai is an etiology or that Albright’s view of a Late Bronze age conquest of Bethal is true, neither are the events depicted in Joshua a clear description of everything that was going on, and that things may be more complicated. As Bruce Dahlberg puts it in his article Archaeological news from Jordan: Ai (Et-Tell), “Thus the Biblical problem of the conquest of Ai by Joshua…. remains.” (Dahlberg, pg. 29 1964)
It wasn’t until the year 2000 that new light was shed on the scene by Bryant Wood. For biblical scholars who wished to take the biblical account of Ai seriously, there remained only two options: Forsake the belief that Ai was conquered as stated in the bible, or find a new site for Ai. Wood chose the latter. Working from the fact that the geographical surroundings for et-Tell are not a very close match to the biblical account, Wood chose a site that better fit the described surroundings. Wood eventually selected the site of Khirbet el-Maqutir. The site was topographically suitable because to the north there were both a hill suitable for a military camp and a shallow valley in clear view, features described by biblical accounts. To the west there was also a site suitable for the Israelites to lay an ambush for the king of Ai. Khirbet el-Maqutir also lies east of Bethal and is close enough to both Bethal and Beth Aven to match biblical accounts.
Wood led numerous expeditions to Khirbet el-Maqutir during the years of 1996, 1997, and 1998 and found some extraordinary evidence. The site had been occupied at a time appropriate to a conquest of Canaan by the Israelites(15th century B.C.) and extensive fortifications were discovered. On top of finding the fortifications there was evidence that parts of the city, including a central fortress, had burnt to the ground when Joshua would have been in Canaan. The data collected from the stratum (layer of earth) associated with the conquest indicated a city appropriate in size as well.
Wood summed up his findings by saying
Khirbet el-Maqutir was a strategically important site in the late bronze I age and the Hasmonaean period, most likely to provide early warning for Jerusalem in the event of incursions from the north. The LB I fortress meets the Biblical requirements to be tentatively identified as the fortress Ai refereed to in Josh. 7-8. (Wood, pg 129 2000)
After stumbling through all of this information I am still left with the question, what is the truth of all of this? I can come to the conclusion that Khirbet el-Maqutir is in fact the site of biblical Ai. I personally am inclined to believe the evidence offered by Wood because of how well it seems to mesh with the Joshua account’s details (depending again upon how one calculates the date of the conquest), but what if I have not read everything there is to read on the subject, or what if the evidence uncovered there should be seen in a new light?
Ultimately, it all comes down to how do I pursue the truth. I believe that trying to separate fact from fiction is much like digging for landmines. It must be done very carefully and you can never stop looking. You might miss something.
Callaway, J.A. “New Evidence on the Conquest of Ai.” Journal of Biblical Literature 1968; p 312-320. ALTA Religion Database, Thursday, October 09, 2008
Callaway, J.A. “Excavating AI(Et-Tell): 1964-1972.” Biblical Archaeologist 1976; p 18-30. ALTA Religion Database, Thursday, October 09, 2008
Currid, J. D. “Doing Archaeology in the Land of the Bible.” 1999; p 23-35. Grand Rapids: Baker
Dahlber, B. T. (editor) “Archaeological news from Jordan: Ai (Et-Tell).” Biblical Archaeologist 1964; p 26-29. ALTA Religion Database, Thursday, October 09, 2008
Meyers, Eric (editor). “Ai.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East 1997; Vol. I. New York: Oxford University Press.
Wood B. G. “News and Notes: Khirbet el-Maqutir.” Israel Exploration Journal, 50 no 1-2 2000, p 123-130