Biblical Archaeology Review 36:4, July/August 2010

Strata: Verbal Fisticuffs over Early Israelite Origins

Where did the earliest Israelites who settled in the central hill country of Canaan in about 1200 B.C.E. (at the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age) come from? In a major article in the November/December 2008 issue of BAR, the prominent Israeli scholar Anson Rainey answered the question: Based on the linguistic, pottery and other archaeological evidence, the answer—for Rainey—is clear: “The ancient Israelites migrated as pastoralists from east of the Jordan.”a

A principal target of Rainey’s article was the work of a leading American archaeologist, William Dever. Dever, who, according to Rainey, “simply ignored the Transjordanian evidence that thoroughly undermined his contention” that the earliest Israelites came from within Canaanite society west of the Jordan.

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