Courtesy William G. Dever

Going to pot(tery). “As an archaeologist, I deal with material-culture remains,” says the eminent excavator William G. Dever. While we have no texts that are contemporary with the arrival of the Israelites on the stage of world history during the 12th and 11th centuries B.C.E., we do have a rich variety of artifacts from the period. The Canaanite pottery assemblage shown here—bowls, pitchers, juglets and an oil lamp (middle row, far right)—dates to the Late Bronze Age (1550–1200 B.C.E.), the period just preceding the emergence of the Israelites in Canaan. The telling point, Dever notes, is that much of the pottery produced by the Israelites in the subsequent centuries is indistinguishable from that shown here.

In the second part of a two-part interview, Dever explains that in the absence of written texts, one must tread very carefully in trying to reconstruct the beliefs of ancient peoples. For his part, Dever does not believe we can know the ideology of the Israelites before the tenth century B.C.E., when the Israelite monarchy emerged. For the period before the monarchy, Dever prefers to use the term “proto-Israelites,” adding that the people themselves would have been confused by the label “Israelites.”