Biblical Archaeology Review 16:5, September/October 1990

The Difference Between Scholarly Mistakes and Scholarly Concealment: The Case of MMT

By Hershel Shanks

Mistakes in scholarship are inevitable. When they occur, they can lead other scholars into further error. One error begets another. I recently read a fascinating article, by a young graduate student at Hebrew University named Yosef Garfinkel, about an error made by the great Biblical archaeologist William F. Albright.1 Nearly 60 years ago, Albright identified the personal name Yokan—found on a seal impression on a jar handle that Albright had excavated at Tell Beit Mirsim—with the name of the next-to-last king of Judah, Jehoiachin. Jehoiachin ruled for only three months in 598/597 B.C.E.a On this basis, Albright dated the storage jar, all the other pottery associated with it and the stratum in which it was found to about 600 B.C.E. We now know that this type of jar handle and the pottery associated with it must be dated to the late eighth century B.C.E., about 100 years earlier. Yokan cannot be identified with King Jehoiachin of Judah. Albright’s error as described in Garfinkel’s article “was replicated and misled others.” The error “persisted for half a century.” Only about a decade ago was the error corrected, and, unfortunately, many handbooks still mislead students because they are based on the older scholarship. Garfinkel concludes:

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