http://www.birzeit.edu/links/store.html#myth

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at mclink.it
Sat Nov 13 06:03:18 EST 1999


Dear Ken,

>Ian, not having visited the web site, but just reading the quotation,
there are two
>things I'd say.
>1.  (I hope the list management will forgive me for this)  From a
reader-response
>perspective, it is a rather triumphalist set of assertions:  I'm brilliant
and
>everyone who ever thought that anything in the Scriptures of Israel was
historical is
>stupid  That in and of itself communicates to me that I should approach
such a book
>under the "hermeneutics of suspicion".

This is quite a reasonable response, I'd say. Though I don't feel
particularly brilliant I feel the vast majority of scholars who have
attempted to contextualise the DSS are wrong for scholarly reasons, having
decided their conclusions before analysing the evidence. Applying simple
but coherent methodology should bring a different position than the one
arrived at. However, I would expect the scholar to weigh up the evidence,
not to say "I believe."

>2.  Can we get past the naive notion that you can disprove the existence
of a thing
>through archaeology 

This shows the problem! Can you disprove that we are living in a world that
is constantly and uniformly shrinking? Once you come up with a methodology
that allows us to analyse such a proposition we may start to analyse it.
Until then I think one considers other possibilities, applying such known
tools as Ockham's razor.

At the same time, I didn't think one is using *only* archaeology. It is
usually used in tandem with epigraphy as eye-witnesses and with literary
works as expert witnesses -- though the latter category has to be
established and questioned each time it is used (but then so must the
archaeological and epigraphic evidence.

>or expect tiny sampling of any area to tell you all that you could
>know, especially when those sampling are filtered through the archaeologist's
>ideological perspective, which dictates what, and what is not, possible,
regardless of
>what the data might really mean?  I can go to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii right
now and the
>a memorial over the hull of the U.S.S. Arizona.  The plaque there claims
it wa sunk on
>Dec. 7, 1941.  No amount of archaeological research could ever "prove"
that.  No
>amount of archaeological research could prove, beyond question, that it
was sunk by
>torpedoes dropped from Japanese Imperial Navy torpedo planes or bombs from
Japanese
>dive bombers (Vals and Kates, I think, but I'd have to check). You cold
never prove
>what kind of plane dropped them.  You could you prove, solely through
archaeology, the
>nationality of the pilots or even of the bombs.  

Sorry, Ken, I haven't looked into Pearl Harbour to see the historicity of
the event. I do believe however there were testimonies of people who were
present. This constitutes eye-witness status evidence. One would then go
through the normal analysis of the evidence...

>In fact, if I wanted to, I could
>mount a strong case that it wasn't sunk by an enemy at all based on the
archaeological
>remains, as opposed to the written accounts.  Those accounts are all just
like Joshua
>or 2 Kings. 

I don't know about all of them, but the Pearl Harbour example is not like
Joshua and 2 Kings. We have datable contemporary reports regarding Pearl
Harbour. We do not for Joshua or 2 Kings. Joshua and 2 Kings come to us as
texts written at least 500 (in the case of 2 Kings), and a thousand (in the
case of Joshua) years after the reputed events. This is not material with
which to write history.

>They make claims that cannot be substantiated by mere archaeological
>research.  I could argue, instead, that this ship was merely scuttled by
the U.S. Navy
>here after having an accident when some seaman dropped a cigarette into
the forward
>magazine which caused an explosion.  

Yes, you could, Ken. Let us assume for a moment that you are correct: how
will it change the events that in the years which preceded or followed the
Pearl Harbour attack? (Incidentally, we have the then enemy who have not
protested over this possible propaganda creation.)

>You cannot disprove that archaeologically.
>The fact is that my father's eyewitness testimony regarding what happened
to his ship,
>the U.S.S. California, is more important than any other data on the ship,
because all
>the pictures of it on Dec 7 1941 are too covered with smoke to really tell
anything.
>How much less an archaeological analysis of a piece of pottery.

A piece of pottery is never alone in its context, just as the ship isn't a
lone artifact. If one considers facts alone they don't get very far. The
David Rohls of the world prefer that people don't analyse evidence in full
context. The archaeological evidence used in efforts to analyse what
happened in the Judean hills in the early Iron Age is extremely complex. To
see how recent analyses have developed the notion that what emerged in the
area was a local urbanization one obviously doesn't deal with just "a piece
of pottery."

>In my perspective, a minimalist is someone who appeals only to his or her
>interpretation of just archaeological data, 

I would think a scholar -- I object to this specious labelling -- is
someone who says, "Look, I've got nothing up my sleave. Everything I say is
based on what I can put in front of you."

>ignoring the fact that no piece of data is
>ever free of interpretation or that the data itself could tell a
sufficient story.
>Are yo ready to apply your rubric everywhere?  Can you prove
archaeologically that
>Nero existed 

Would you like to see what he looked like or just a few buildings he erected?

>or that Hannibal crossed the Alps 

Is it enough to show that there was a battle between Carthaginians and
Romans at Lake Trasimene or that Carthaginians stayed in a high plain above
Rocca di Papa near Rome to say that he must have got to Italy somehow?

>or that there ever was a Plato?  

Plato is more a bookmark in history. Someone(s) wrote the literature. The
important thing there is the content in its context, not so much the name
of the writer.

>No.
>You cannot validate these events unless you are willing to accept the
testimony of
>written texts, even texts for which there is no and in the event cannot
be, any
>physical evidence.  

Why fight against the importance of physical evidence? I can show you the
physical development of Octavianus from youth to old age through his
statues. I can show a couple of texts of his deeds found in situ in diverse
places in an archaeologically sound context. I can show numerous edifices
he had constructed and coins he released. You cannot seriously doubt his
existence. The physical evidence is relatively plain. What about the royal
mummies in Egypt? Do you doubt the family resemblances between the
Ramessids or the Tuthmosids? Do you doubt the necessarily contemporary
nature of the temple texts found all over Egypt? They may misrepresent
history, but they cannot falsify it without the complicity of an entire
population. Physical evidence can show that there was a seige of Masada,
that the Romans were involved and the development of the seige and assault.
This physical evidence read in conjunction with the report of Josephus
allows us to do history. Josephus's report alone cannot.

>I won't discuss this further, but i do hope we can dispense with this naive 
>concept that archaeology can by itself provide a complete proof or disproof
>of anything beyond the mere existence of what is found.  

Ken, this is in itself a naive and presumptuous sort of dictum. You are
misrepresenting the position you are arguing against. No-one claims that
archaeology BY ITSELF can NECESSARILY provide a complete proof of anything.
It can at times do so.

>You can say, I fond a coin with a certain inscription.  
>You cannot prove that anyone named on it ever existed.

This seems to be merely trivialization. One never talks of a single coin
(unless it is in a context of many others, eg what is that coin doing in
that physical context?).

>You can't do this with a fifty year old ship and you sure can't do it with
a 2000
>year old anything.

Let's say I cannot prove the existence of Alexander. Somehow Greek culture
spread itself around the near east as far as the Oxus at a very precise
time. Numerous cities with the name of Alexandria were built. Numerous
cultures record the arrival of the Greeks led by a person called Alexander.
We have evidence like that from Wadi ed-Daliyeh which contained not only
texts but people killed under certain circumstances at a certain time, the
time that the Greeks first spread that culture (those circumstances
reflected in literary materials). Let's say there was no Alexander.
Someone(s) led the sudden Hellenisation of the ANE. Based on the
archaeological evidence in conjunction with the literary texts, it's very
hard to sustain that there was not a single person called Alexander.
Nevertheless, the result of the spread of Greek culture at the precise time
as established by archaeology is undeniable, isn't it Ken?

You must have a profound problem with the legal system in the country you
live in, which is mainly based on physical evidence and eye-witness reports
assisted by expert witnesses. If you don't, then what is this approach of
yours to history? As I have said many times, historical analysis is the
attempt to say what actually happened in the past, not to say what maybe
well might possibly by chance have happened. Hard science has entered
history. Archaeology is having its effect in the understanding of what
happened in the past and from it we learn that the literary records are
merely artifacts that need to be evaluated beyond what they say.


Cheers,


Ian




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