Happy Accident: David Inscription

Sidebar to: Mycenaeans Were There Before the Israelites

The most recent issue of Buried History, the journal of the Australian Institute of Archaeology, features an article by Alan Millard of the University of Liverpool, England, on important archaeological finds that were found by accident.1 Millard cautions against drawing conclusions “from what has not been discovered.”

One of Millard’s examples is the famous Tel Dan inscription, a stele that mentions the “House (Dynasty) of David”; it was commissioned by a non-Israelite king barely a century after King David lived. Before the “House of David” inscription was discovered, even the bare name David, let alone a reference to him as king, was unattested in any ancient inscription. Based on the fact that no one named David had ever been discovered from anywhere within centuries of David’s time, some Biblical minimalists argued that the Biblical David was a fictional character with about the same claim to being historical as King Arthur.

The first and major piece of the Tel Dan inscription, Millard notes, was found in re-use as a stone in a wall. It was recovered only “because a member of the expedition saw the incised stroke of the letters on a broken stone lit up momentarily by the setting sun ... Had it been laid facing the other way, it would have escaped notice.”

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