Queries & Comments
The January/February 1999 issue of BAR was outstanding. The three main articles, dealing with David’s conquest of Jerusalem (“Light at the End of the Tunnel,” BAR 25:01), the possible discovery of David’s name on the exterior southern wall of the tenth-century B.C. Temple of Amun in Karnak, Upper Egypt (“Has David Been Found in Egypt?” BAR 25:01), and the life of pharaoh’s workers as revealed by excavations at Deir el-Medina (“Pharaoh’s Workers,” BAR 25:01), were great reminders that beneath all the free-floating hocus-pocus of literary criticism, the Bible rests on a foundation of historical truth.
Jerusalem’s Water System
Congratulations on the article on the Jerusalem water systems (Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron, “Light at the End of the Tunnel,” BAR 25:01).
The enclosed photograph may interest you. Last November I was standing at the top of Warren’s Shaft when I heard voices. I thought at first that they came from people exploring the water tunnels at the bottom of the shaft. Then, to my surprise, a crowd of young people appeared out of the “blocked cave” (see Light At The End Of The Tunnel, BAR 25:01). As shown in the photograph, they are standing on the top of the hard dolomite, just above the shaft. The archaeologists had left the entrance to the “blocked cave” open, thereby providing a new and free way of viewing Warren’s Shaft.
Trevor A. Kletz
Cheshire, United Kingdome
How’d They Move ’Em?
I always enjoy reading your magazine. It is that rare beast—a magazine you can go back and read a couple of years later and still get something out of. In your latest issue you show pictures of gigantic boulders along a waterway into Jerusalem. Has anyone done any research on how these boulders were moved? The size reminds me of those in the Western Wall; the boulders there also appear to be quite large. How were they dressed and placed?
The answers can be found in Leen Ritmeyer’s “Quarrying and Transporting Stones for Herod’s Temple Mount,” BAR 15:06.—Ed.
Mother Nature at Work
“Light at the End of the Tunnel” is imaginative. The discovery of defense towers in the area of the Gihon Spring is of great interest. But Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron’s theory of how these structures were integrated into a working water system is weak. It generates new problems instead of solving them.
The authors believe that the long, high and wide tunnel of the Warren’s Shaft System was cut in two stages. The first (upper) stage was carried out during the Middle Bronze II period. That raises several questions:
(1) Why is its roof so high (10 feet)?
(2) Since the floor of the tunnel was horizontal, the extra length caused by its curved path cannot be justified by the stated need to moderate the slope. And if moderating the slope was important, why is the start of the tunnel so extremely steep?
(1) It should be clear that no matter what the system, access to water using the underground path is neither necessary nor practical for daily use, but is critical during siege.
(2) The shallowness of the water at the base of Warren’s Shaft was overcome by a damming wall, which was recorded by Louis-Hugues Vincent. It is positioned under the relatively modern stairs and is inaccessible today. Its logical function was to raise the water level by about a meter, enough to fill buckets lowered from above.
(3) The possibility of using Warren’s Shaft to lower and raise buckets of water was tested by Vincent. He wrote: “After a few trials the right place was found to give the buckets a direct fall … This proved, at any rate, that it was quite possible to draw water from the top of the shaft, and it must have been easier to do with the water skins of the country than it was with buckets.”
No doubt, the authors are contributing to our understanding of the City of David. But there remains no rational explanation for how the Warren’s Shaft System would have been manually constructed. The only reasonable explanation, in my opinion, is that the system is overwhelmingly natural, improved here and there by the hand of man, but created first and foremost by karstic action in the hillside.
Unlearning Is Fun
Thank you for a great article on the water systems. It is always difficult to unlearn old information and replace it with new discoveries, but that is the fun of lifelong learning.
Reverend Richard K. Gibson
Mountlake Terrace, Washington
Water System in Jesus’ Time
Thanks to Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron for their “enlightening” article.
From their description of the Spring Tower and the Pool Tower, might one conclude that the “tower in/at Siloam” (Luke 13:4) was a similar part of Jerusalem’s defenses, guarding the Pool of Siloam? I wonder if it was built when King Hezekiah dug that reservoir, strengthened the city’s defenses and “raised towers” (2 Chronicles 32:5)?
I also wonder if the studies of the Hezekiah’s Tunnel complex give any indication as to whether or not it would have been possible to walk through Hezekiah’s Tunnel from end to end in Jesus’ day.
David in Egypt
David Is Not There
As with other attempts to prove the historicity of David, Hershel Shanks’s “Has David Been Found in Egypt?” (BAR 25:01), which describes a paper by Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen, raised more questions than it answered. The first was, “Is this a put-on?” Noting, however, that it was not an April 1 issue of BAR, my second question was, “Did the illustrations get mixed up?”
It is hard to relate the hieroglyphs in the illustrated cartouches of Shishak’s list to the text Professor Kenneth Kitchen wishes to find: h(y)dbt dwt, allegedly meaning “the Heights of David.” Further, what makes Kitchen suppose that two cartouches are being used for a single name? Even though the only sign in Cartouche 105 that can be read with certainty is the double 012reed-flower that stands for y, we are told that the cartouche clearly reads h(y)dbt. Then it is hypothesized that the much better preserved Cartouche 106 contains the name dwt, the final t actually being an Egyptian mutation of d so that the three-letter word might read “David.”
I do not doubt that a final d in a foreign word might mutate to some type of t in Egyptian. Such a mutation (although with a different symbol for t) can be seen even internally, as in arksntrs—“Alexandros.” But I marvel at how it can be a three-letter word that is illustrated in Cartouche 106, which contains seven symbols! To be sure, the final (reconstructed) character is a determinative, a nonphonetic symbol signifying “foreign land.” That still leaves six phonetic characters that would appear to read dywathy or dywaty. Is this the wrong illustration, or is this really supposed to be dwt? Apart from the peculiar fact that the first ys (in the form of two oblique strokes instead of two reed-flowers) appears in a nonfinal syllable, there is the surprising fact that a final y (correctly represented as two oblique strokes) has been restored for a name that has no final y!
This raises a third question: Was Hershel Shanks just trying to lure back subscribers who have canceled subscriptions due to the frequent appearance of genuine science in BAR?
Frank R. Zindler, Editor
American Atheist Press
Kenneth Kitchen responds:
(1) The Shoshenq list is a very original list. The use of two ovals to express one place-name is common in this list. Several times we get “Field of NAME” (nos. 68/69, 71/72, 77/78, 87/88, 94/95/96/97, etc.). We find our word haydaba compounded with another name (nos. 103/104) besides [ha]y[da]ba D-W-T in nos. 105–106. And there are other compounds. For all these, and the words “fields” and “heights,” I refer readers to James Hoch’s comprehensive work, Semitic Words in Egyptian Texts of the New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period ([Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1994], p. 224, no. 307, and pp. 235–237, no. 326).
(2) In oval 105, there was a tall sign (which suits ha), then y, then a close horizontal space (enough for d) over the back of the ba-bird (so, by its shape), then the “hills” determinative sign, now lost. There is no other plausible restoration. In oval 106, the consonantal reading D-W-T is certain; the “tongs” sign was used as a variant for t long before this period and is commonplace (not th). The “seven symbols” that worry Mr. Zindler are what is known as “group writing,”or “syllabic orthography”—when the Egyptians denoted foreign words and names by employing sign groups, not just single signs, a feature known now for over a century (see Hoch’s book for details). The basic consonantal reading of oval 106 is simply D-W-T. The twin-stroke I and the bird aleph are not to be read separately in this form of hieroglyphic usage.
(3) The name of David, the Hebrew king, is without any doubt written as D-W-T in the sixth-century A.D. Ethiopic inscriptions of Kaleb Ella Asbeha, King of Axum; that ruler is explicitly citing the Psalms of David (for example, Psalm 65). And if “David” can appear with final d as a voiceless t in one Afro-based Semitic language, there is no inherent reason why it cannot do so in another Afro-Semitic language (Egyptian).
(4) The geographical horizon of this part of the list is undoubtedly the Negev of southern Canaan, where Biblical tradition locates some of David’s exploits, which would agree with the possible identification. My discovery was made entirely by accident, when carrying out two quite separate study projects, one in Old South Arabian and one in Egyptology (on foreign terms).
What’s on the Shorts?
Can anyone explain the squarish outlines on the seats of the garments three workers on the right are wearing in the first picture in “Pharaoh’s Workers,” BAR 25:01? Seat patches maybe, or possibly even pockets?
Edgar R. Hon
Slap in the Face
I think that you deserve to know why I have not renewed my subscription.
First, the endless letters to the editor discussing every fine point of every 054disputed issue raised in your magazine take up as much space as the articles.
Second, your use of B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era) is a slap at Christians. I do not care to subscribe to such a prejudiced magazine.
Dr. La Monte Crape
Coins of the Realm
I can lay no claim to being an archaeologist—I’m just an interested layman. But I do have an extensive background in numismatics.
There must be a factual error in “Not at the End of the Rainbow” (Strata, BAR 25:01).
First you state that archaeologists at Beth-Shean “unearthed a large ceramic jug holding two to four hundred gold coins.” Then you say that “altogether, the coins weigh about one kilogram.” Finally, you peg the value—based on gold content alone—at $10,180.
There are problems.
One kilogram=1000 grams=33.15 troy ounces. As a point of reference, 33 ounces of gold can fit comfortably in the palm of a man’s hand. Could such a small mass truly fill a large jug?
Laying aside the fact that I’m curious as to why a precise count was unavailable, if we assume that the number is 300 coins, the average weight of the individual coins would be 3.33 grams or approximately 1/10th of an ounce. A coin of this weight would be about the size of a dime. Coins of this size did commonly circulate in the ancient world, but 300 of them would hardly fill up a large jug (unless someone is using a Clintonian definition of the word “large”).
On the other hand, if the same 300 coins each contained an ounce of gold (coins of this size were also known to circulate in the ancient world), the gold value would be $86,580, assuming a gold price of $288.60 per ounce. Three hundred coins of this size could very conceivably fill a large jug.
Mark A. Naimy
Ofer Sion responds:
As director of the Beth-Shean excavation, I am very sorry that I did not see the BAR news story before it appeared, because several of the details were wrong. In fact, we unearthed the largest hoard ever found in Israel: 751 gold coins dating to the Byzantine period (seventh century). The coins, which had been placed in a small jug, weighed nearly 3.3 kilograms.
The codirector of the excavation at Tiberias, where the largest collection of Islamic period objects ever discovered in Israel was recently found (“Heavy Metal,” Strata, BAR 25:01), is Oren Gutfeld, lecturer in the Institute of Archaeology at Hebrew University. His name was inadvertently omitted from our write-up. We regret the error.
On the same page, the photo in the What Is It? column should have been credited to Sheldan Collins, courtesy of the Shelby White/Leon Levy Collection.—Ed.
A Note on Style
B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era), used by some of our authors, are the alternative designations for B.C. and A.D. often used in scholarly literature.