Queries & Comments
Questions of Budding Archaeologist Overwhelm BAR Editor
To the Editor:
I am a sixth grade student at the Daniel Oxford school and I was wondering if you could help me. I’m doing a research paper on archaeology and I would like to know if you would send me some pictures, booklets or any other information that you think is necessary. And I also have tons of questions to ask you if you don’t mind.
1. What was the oldest object found in the world?
2. How old was the oldest remains of human bones?
3. How many bones of animals have you found and put together?
4. How old do you have to be to he an archaeologist?
5. Is archaeology hard digging?
6. Is it exciting, do you get scared at first when you see a skeleton bone?
7. Where have you found the most things that have been left in the past?
8. Where do you think the bed of mankind is?
9. Was Mr. & Mrs. Leakey the first to find the oldest human remains in Africa?
10. Do you think there could be any chance of me finding something old in my home? The reason why I asked is because I found some fossils of shells and I think there was a lake or a beach or even a pond near my house. My house is well over a 100 years old. And in our basement I found something shaped like a tooth or an arrowhead. I don’t know what it was but that’s when I got interested in fossils and archaeology. Well I appreciate this chance to talk to you. And I hope you would send the information and the questions I asked you.
Thank you for your letter, which was both well-written and intelligent. Believe me, your questions are not easy to answer. To help you get started as an archaeologist and to begin to answer your questions, we’re sending you a year’s membership in the Biblical Archaeology Society, which includes your own subscription to BAR. You’ll be particularly interested in our new feature,
I’m sure you’ll do very well whether you ultimately decide to be an archaeologist or something else when you grow up.—Ed.
Happy Memories of Beer-Sheba
To the Editor:
What a special delight to have opened the Biblical Archaeology Review November/December 1980 issue to read “Beer-sheba of the Patriarchs,” BAR 06:06, by Ze’ev Herzog.
The article took me back to 1974 when I spent a fantastic month digging away at a portion of the water course just above the well. What fun to have the various stratum sorted out. In 1974 our archaeologists were asking many more questions than they were giving answers.
A dimension I seldom see in this or other archaeological articles is a word about the marvelous people who work on these digs, making the discoveries, questions, and answers possible. The dig at Beer-sheba was one great experience, but one equally powerful was to live with and get to know digger and expert alike.
W. Howard Graham
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Readers Suggest Solutions to Lack of Evidence for Patriarchs at Beer-Sheba
To the Editor:
Referring to the article, “Beer-sheba of the Patriarchs,” BAR 06:06, by Ze’ev Herzog, I want to make the following comment:
The problem of the absence of finds from the Patriarchal Age at Beer-sheba does not exist if you read the Bible carefully. At the time of the Patriarchs, Beer-sheba was just a watering hole in a barren region. Abraham and others just camped there occasionally.
It was not on the list of the cities that Joshua conquered, but Horman, its big neighbor, was.
It was first mentioned as a village when the land was distributed to the people of Israel after the conquest by Joshua was completed, and that was after the age of the Patriarchs.
Ernest W. Zentgraf
To the Editor:
Thank you for publishing the interesting account of the recent work at Beer-sheba by Ze’ev Herzog. However, a careful reading of the references in Beer-sheba in Genesis and Joshua do not give the impression that it was “the most important settlement in the Negev.” It appears, rather, as a solitary watering place in the wilderness to which nomadic tribes took their herds. It is not surprising therefore that there are remains to he found by the modern archaeologist. Rather than pose a problem, which requires such a drastic solution of shifting the whole Biblical chronology of this period by three centuries, the evidence provides a remarkable confirmation of the Biblical account which does not require any urban settlement of Beer-sheba until around 1200 B.C. The reference to “city” in Genesis 26:35 is an editorial note relating to ‘this day’, not patriarchal times.
To the Editor:
Ze’ev Herzog tells us that in building his own city at Beer-sheba, King David “destroyed almost all earlier remains of the older Iron Age site.” He then illustrates the complete absence today of a ring of “deeply furrowed stones” surrounding the well which were conspicuous as late as 1800 A.D. Yet despite such rapid disappearance of even later “evidence” Herzog still thinks that his failure to find typical Bronze Age remains there disproves habitation by the patriarchs in the early second millennium B.C. And even granting his Chalcolithic or Iron Age dating for all he has found, just what Bronze Age remains does he expect from the occasional nomadic visitations of the patriarchs? Once again the pedantic application of a stratification chart has replaced both 019common sense and the clear chronology of the Bible.
Keep my subscription coming! I know of no other professional periodical which can so sharpen the critical reading skills of the layman.
To the Editor:
In his recent article Ze’ev Herzog suggests the possibility of rejecting the identification of Tel Beer-sheba with the site of Biblical Beer-sheba.
Has the possibility been considered that Tel Masos is the site of Biblical Beer-sheba? Your article describes Tel Masos as a large and well built city. I assume that a large city must have been fortified and must have had a safe water supply.
Certainly the modern name of Tell es-Saba, while it cannot be ignored, cannot be considered as decisive.
Leslie Regel, Ph.D.
The foregoing letters have been forwarded to Dr Herzog, but we have not yet received his reply. We will publish his reply in the next BAR.—Ed.
Errata on Beer-Sheba Captions
To the Editor:
The story on Beer-sheba includes a photo caption which refers to Yohanan Aharoni’s death in 1972. I visited the excavations in 1974 and 1975 with groups of my students, enjoying a very lively explanation from what would have been a ghost if you are correct.
I think you will find that Dr. Aharoni died in 1976.
Charles H. Miller
Associate Professor of Graduate Theology
St. Mary’s University
San Antonio, Texas
Also, the engraving of the well is not the same well that was excavated at Beer-sheba. The well in the engraving, as Professor Anson Rainey of Tel Aviv University has written us, is located across the wadi from ancient Beer-sheba, in the environs of modern Beer-sheba. Rainey notes that this well across the wadi is often referred to as Abraham’s well and it has been a staple of tourist guides even in modern times. Gullible tourists still take pictures of it. The well uncovered in the Beer-sheba excavations, on the other hand, was not previously visible on the surface. It was covered over sometime during the Roman period, so was never used by Bedouins, as was the well in the engraving.—Ed.
Recalling Harry Thomas Frank
To the Editor:
I received my January/February 1981 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review yesterday with typical anticipation of pleasurable and stimulating reading. And, as is my wont, I began to peruse the magazine slowly, taking care not to hurry, like a child savoring a favorite book. But my joy was abruptly halted as I caught sight of the masthead, my eye fixing on a small, sad, black rectangle enribbing the name of Harry Thomas Frank. I paged on, hoping for the box to be other than what I knew it was. My fear became fact when I saw Dr. Frank’s obituary (“Harry Thomas Frank, 1933–1980,” BAR 07:01).
I met Dr. Frank only once—in Israel while participating in a dig that he co-ordinated. He spent most of the day leading a pack of directionless strangers on a lively and loving tour of the city he felt so close to—Jerusalem. I was very careful to remain near him all the time; his knowledge and enthusiasm were infectious.
I thank your magazine for acknowledging Harry Thomas Frank: And I thank him for that day.
Freedman Replies to Pettinato on Ebla Checking
To the Editor:
Thank you for printing Sam Fohr’s letter (Queries & Comments, BAR 06:06) suggesting that I am not the blackguard that Pettinato paints me (
I had intended to say no more about the Ebla affair, but Fohr’s letter prompts a few comments.
Fohr accepts Pettinato’s statement that he made a mistake about the reading of Birsha, when he told me that such a name appeared in an Ebla tablet as a king of a city with a name corresponding to one of the Biblical cities of the plain. That is what Pettinato says happened, but Pettinato has never confirmed the location of that mistaken reading, or explained the error or how he made it, or why he now reads differently. Pettinato made this 020kind of explanation when he mistakenly thought he found a reference to Sargon of Akkad in the Ebla tablets. Pettinato’s explanation of the error was made at great length and in great detail, because the item had been identified in a particular tablet. But Pettinato has never done this with respect to his mistaken reading of Birsha. Moreover, Pettinato never had the slightest doubt about the reading, which according to competent cuneiformists would be quite simple. While, of course, any reading would have other possible values or readings, that in itself would not require a different reading unless one could prove that only particular values were in use at Ebla and these excluded the reading Bi-ir-sa. This would be very difficult to establish since no one knows the total picture yet, not even Pettinato; the most Pettinato could say in a scholarly way would be that the reading of Birsha was not certain, only possible, because there are other possible readings. But unless he fabricated the whole thing, which he says he did not, then the reading is still open.
Fohr properly puts the responsibility for correcting an error on the person who perpetrated it in the first place, Pettinato. But Fohr assumes, based on Pettinato’s statement, the I never checked back with Pettinato. That, however, is untrue. When I got off the plane in Rome on November 30, 1976, practically the first words out of my mouth to Pettinato were about the reading of Birsha and the city of which he was king. Pettinato had told me at our famous breakfast that he would check the tablet as soon as he got back to Rome, which was a couple of weeks earlier, chiefly to determine the particular city of which Birsha was king.
Pettinato’s answer to my question was that, unlike the Bible where Birsha is the king of Gomorrah (Genesis 14:2), in the Ebla tablet Birsha (not necessarily the same person) is king of Admah. Thus, I did ask Pettinato to check, and Pettinato did check the reading after he got back from the States. And he still read Birsha on November 30, 1976. And we have still not had an explanation of Pettinato’s error.
One other point: In Pettinato’s BAR interview, he castigates me for publishing an article in the Biblical Archeologist (December 1978) relying on his reading of Birsha, without first checking with him. The fact is that long before I published my article, I wrote several letters to Pettinato and Dahood and sent them copies (or one copy for both of them) of the article. This was months before the article was published. Pettinato never answered any of my letters; he never responded directly to my questions or even to the galley proofs of the article (which I also sent him). Not until the article was too far along in the production process to revise or recall did I receive a letter from Dahood stating that Pettinato had revised his readings. By that time, there was nothing to do but carve out a small space in the article to print Dahood’s letter, which I did.
David Noel Freedman
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Readers Question Pettinato and Archi on Ebla
To the Editor:
As a student of Semitic languages, I have greatly appreciated your “update” on Ebla. I have followed with great interest each article that you have printed. Believing that Eblaite will greatly aid in Semitic studies, as Ugaritic has, I was somewhat confused by Giovanni Pettinato’s comment in
But particularly wanting to restudy the Old Testament in light of Ebla would be a methodological error that would only repeat errors previously committed. All the dangers and interpretive distortions of the Bible provoked by pan-Babylonianism of one hundred years ago or more recently by pan-Ugaritism are known. (Quoted from Rivista Biblica Italiana, p. 46)
Is Mr. Pettinato suggesting that Ugaritic and Eblaite, although Semitic languages, are not going to shed light on Biblical Hebrew, aiding the Bible student in a better understanding and interpretation of the Sacred Hebrew Text? What are the “known” dangers and “interpretive distortions of the Bible provoked by pan-Babylonianism” and “pan-Ugaritism?” Again, is he suggesting that great works like the Ugaritic Textbook by H. Cyrus Gordon are irrelevant to Biblical Studies, that Ugaritic and Eblaite can not be used as sister languages to the Biblical Hebrew for the purpose of comparative study, thus shedding interpretive light upon the Hebrew Text, and that this type of comparative study is “unjustified” and “unscientific?”
Please clarify what he was saying; I may have misunderstood him. Thank you.
Rev. Lee Quimby, Pastor
LaGrange Bible Church
We have forwarded your query to Professor Pettinato, but we have received no response. At the risk of putting words in Professor Pettinato’s mouth, we believe he is referring to the excesses of scholars who exaggerate either the dominance of Babylonian or Ugaritic culture and/or the explanatory potential of the literature in these languages to elucidate the Bible. In an article which discusses the importance of Ugaritic materials for Biblical studies (“Using Ancient Near Eastern Parallels in Old Testament Study,” BAR 03:03), Stan Rummel wrote, “Because the Ugaritic materials are so important to the study of the Old Testament, they do create a danger that other non-Israelite contexts will be ignored—the danger of pan-Ugaritism against which [Professor J. C.] DeMoors warned [in a famous article entitled “The Spectre of Pan-Ugaritism”].” Similarly, at the end of the last century, Hugo Winkler, the great German Assyriologist was accused of pan-Babylonianism because of his view that the fundamental outlook of the Israelites as well as other Near Eastern peoples all originated in Babylon and from there spread throughout the world. Pan-Babylonianism was then radicalized by another German scholar in the early 20th century, Franz Delitzsch; for Delitzsch, the Old Testament was merely a minor, somewhat distorted satellite of the great Babylonian culture. It is these well-known scholarly excesses against which Pettinato is warning, not the legitimate use of Eblaite to illuminate the cultural and literary milieu of the Bible, for which, in Pettinato’s view, Eblaite has considerable relevance and importance.—Ed.
To the Editor:
I found the point-counterpoint articles on the continuing dispute over the significance of the Ebla tablets re: the historicity of certain Biblical materials very interesting. As a layman unacquainted with the ancient languages, I am not qualified to judge between Pettinato and Archi concerning disputes over the specifics of translation and interpretation. However, one aspect of Pettinato’s overall argument, the ad hominem portion, presents a challenge which requires comment. Pettinato has made some very pointed and specific attacks against Archi’s professional competence in fields which are obviously crucial to the endeavor to unravel the meanings of the tablets, derisively referring to him as “our Hittitologist” in a number of places. These are not vague deprecations, but rather point out major alleged areas wherein Archi lacks necessary competence. How has the latter responded to these allegations? He has expressed outrage at Pettinato’s “insulting evaluation,” but has declined to respond to the actual allegations, indicating that he would rather “confine himself to scientific evidence.” The problem with this response is that it is Archi’s very ability to properly interpret the scientific evidence which Pettinato has called into question. Archi’s silence on this point is devastating to his position. In the absence of any attempt on his part to deny the charges of his lack of professional competence in the key areas cited by Pettinato, the reader must be inclined to conclude that he is unable to refute them. Barring such future refutation, the decision goes to Pettinato on the basis of the effective and highly relevant ad hominem argument.
Paul A. Sauer
We sent your letter to Professor Archi who replied in English. Unfortunately, Professor Archi is not completely fluent in English, so we shall paraphrase his reply:
As a scholar, I do not like to answer ad hominem arguments. I will consider only scholarly arguments relating to the merits of the dispute.
Pettinato gave no argumentation to support his identification of the Cities of the Plain. In a future article which you may publish I will show that these identifications are unreliable.
I am astounded that Mr. Sauer would accept these personal attacks on me as sound. A Hittitologist is, after all, a scholar. Perhaps Mr. Sauer failed to understand that BAR gave orally a summary of my argument. The original, which went on for over 30 pages, must stand on its own merits, apart from any personal attacks.
Professor Alfonso Archi
Criticisms of “Was Cain Angry or Depressed?” and Some Comments on Cancelling BAR Subscriptions
To the Editor:
Some place there is a place for the article “Was Cain Angry or Depressed?” BAR 06:06, by Mayer I. Gruber. His preference to translate ha
I would agree that the story as myth corresponds to the timeless psychology of murder. In the ancient author’s view, Cain, the elder and supposedly wiser, strikes out against 064Yahweh (“love-object”) by killing Abel; he takes life, a divine gift. He foolishly ignores the opportunity of verse 7 to desist before the murder. He subsequently denies his guilt before the testimony of the blood crying from the ground. He understands his punishment to be a life-threat and begs a stay. At last, he is banished from the land and presence of Yahweh to “settle” in the land of Nod (nowhere). This is not a modern psychoanalytic drama couched in ancient story-form. It is the tragedy of a foolish man—anyone who allows his passions to overrule his reason—that severs himself from his brother, his roots in the land, and his God by this act of violence. It is a story by an ancient Israelite sage of the school of wisdom—not Freud.
John M. Halligan
St. John Fisher College
Rochester, New York
To the Editor:
I would like to respond to some of the people who cancel their subscriptions to BAR. Judy Tetu seems to be afraid that reading BAR would undermine her faith. It seems to me that a person whose faith can be undermined by confronting objective facts is in a sad state. I think that she not only misunderstands BAR, but the nature of faith itself. True faith, in my opinion, can be neither built nor destroyed by heavy dependence upon outer evidence—even the Bible itself. Faith is an inner knowing which is not based on knowledge of the “facts” but on intuition and trust. The Bible is a road to inner truth; a finger pointing to the moon. If you look closely at the finger, you are sure to notice a bit of dirt under the fingernail; then comes the danger that you may become obsessed with that small flaw and forget the moon altogether. “Childlike faith” doesn’t demand proof from facts; children intuitively grasp the inner meaning of a story. They don’t even care whether a story is “real” or not. That it be “factual” is a very unchildlike demand of the rational adult mind. I don’t mean to imply that the Bible is not based on facts, but that the inner meaning is independent of the outer facts.
But Judy’s cancellation is more understandable than those of the scholarly community who cancel because they are upset about this or that article published in BAR. I suspect that such people aren’t aware of the anti-intellectual, unscholarly implications of their reactions. A healthy, vital, growing science depends totally upon a free flow of ideas, including (perhaps especially) controversial ideas, and even “misguided” ones. They are all a part of the unsure process of groping toward greater knowledge and understanding. Readers who indulge in knee-jerk cancellation reactions to individual articles tend to cause nervous publishers, timid editors, insipid journals, and a restricted flow of ideas. I am gratified that the editors of BAR resist such anti-scholarly pressures. Keep it up!
Re: Mayer Gruber’s article “Was Cain Angry or Depressed?” BAR 06:06. I would like to make a comment as a clinical psychologist. I feel that Dr. Gruber is straining at gnats in his analysis. It doesn’t take a psychologist to know that it is possible to be both sad and angry at the same time, and that Cain’s murder of Abel was an act of jealousy involving not only sadness, but also anger, loss of self-esteem, and projection of blame. For that matter, anger is a necessary aspect of such an act. When a person is primarily depressed, he won’t have the energy for violence. The energy for action in such a situation springs from the conscious experience of anger. A person who is mainly depressed will just sit and mope; he won’t lash out. I fear that Dr. Gruber became so involved in scholarly analysis (or, perhaps, in an attempt to gain reputation by taking a “unique” approach to a problem) that he lost sight of the obvious.
Grant C. Rawlins, Ph.D..
Gold Hill, Oregon
Why Hazor Water System Is Better Than Megiddo’s
To the Editor:
In a Letter to the Editor in the January/February issue (Queries & Comments, BAR 07:01), Walter Zanger expressed surprise that in my recent article on “How Water Tunnels Worked,” BAR 06:02, I was so enthusiastic about the Hazor water system in comparison with that at Megiddo. He is, of course, quite right that the Megiddo system is more monumental in size (the Hazor shaft is 95 feet deep and leads to an 80 foot long tunnel while the Megiddo shaft descended 115 feet and was connected to a 200 foot tunnel). My enthusiasm for the Hazor water system, however, was not because it was bigger but because it was better—better at achieving its purpose. The Israelite engineers were trying to reach fresh water from inside their city walls. The Hazor engineers did this in a more secure and efficient manner than the Megiddo masons by digging down to the water table. Had the Megiddo engineers known that they could reach water by digging down from their shaft another 25–50 feet instead of digging out 200 feet, I’m sure they would have done so, and would have gladly spared themselves approximately one-half of the time and effort they expended.
Mr. Zanger also expressed awe at the engineering skill reflected in the Megiddo tunnel since it was cut on so straight a line between the bottom of the shaft and the spring. He writes “I have literally no idea how on earth Ahab managed it.” This raises an interesting question I did not take time to deal with in my article. The engineering feat at Megiddo might, indeed, appear even more impressive than Mr. Zanger has remarked when we note that the tunnel was cut by two teams who started at either end and dug towards each other, seemingly straight as an arrow. James Michener suggested fifteen years ago, however, exactly how such a tunnel project might have been engineered. The water system at his fictional Tell Makor (on “Level XII” of The Source) was modelled after the shaft and tunnel at Megiddo, and he reconstructed the process in the following way. After the vertical shaft was dug, flag poles were set up on the hill across the valley from the city mound beyond the spring to mark the line between the shaft head and the spring. Other flag poles were then set up on rooftops in the city to extend that line beyond the shaft in the other direction. Sighting along the line of these poles, the engineers were then able to lay a pole across the head of the shaft which was aimed straight for the spring. Strings weighted with stones were lowered from this pole at the opposite corners of the shaft down to the shaft floor to provide a guide to the team cutting toward the spring from that end, while a similar arrangement at the spring end guided the team starting from there. The diggers cut their tunnels as small as possible at first until they came near enough to each other to be further guided by the sounds of each other’s picks, adjusting as necessary in the last few feet to connect their tunnels. They knew they eventually would need a tunnel high enough for the townswomen to walk through with water jugs on their heads and wide enough to allow the women to pass each other going in opposite directions. After the initial tunnels were joined, any irregularities in the alignment of the two segments could be removed as the tunnel was enlarged.
Michener’s reconstruction is conjectural, but quite plausible.
Lake Forest College
Questions of Budding Archaeologist Overwhelm BAR Editor
To the Editor: