Bible Review 19:1, February 2003

What Difference Does a Century Make?

Maybe Solomon didn’t build the gate at Megiddo. So what?

By Ronald S. Hendel

Bible Review

Recently some archaeologists have been saying that the tenth century B.C.E. is really the ninth century B.C.E. I asked a visiting archaeologist what this means: How could archaeologists have misplaced an entire century? He told me that it had to do with the relative dating of pottery assemblages, the imprecision of radiocarbon tests, and the lack of absolute dates or synchronisms. He also confessed that archaeologists do a lot of guessing. This confirmed my suspicion that sometimes scholarly consensus is buttressed by wishful thinking. Since qualified archaeologists disagree among themselves on whether we should move the archaeological chronology downward, I will leave them to their potsherds and carbonized olive pits. (On a hopeful note, I am told that more precise radiocarbon testing will someday resolve this debate.)

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