Friday, May 29, 2015

Fact-Checking the Torah -- The Digs

Now we turn to archaeology.  No doubt you have heard that archaeology either confirms the Bible or contradicts it.
That’s an urban legend.  Like most of the urban legends you already saw me bust, it’s based on quoting out of context.
The most important context with archaeology is something called provenance. Where was it found; what’s the date of the layer; how do we know?
The rest of the urban legends you know about archaeology can be solved by three more questions:  when was it discovered; when was it understood; who did the work?
Your favorite source for archaeology might be an author who wrote before the archaeologists made the discoveries that refute her.  The archaeologist has probably moved on, knowing that something new is always being discovered.  You believe the urban legend because you’re stuck with the old information.
Your favorite source might have used preliminary results that have been discredited through use of new tools.  This will come up more than once on this page.
Or, your favorite source might be mass media, which suffers from what I call Heinrich Schleimann-Indiana Jones syndrome.  Finds get popularized in the media, which has a terrible track record when it comes to understanding sciences like archaeology and religious texts like the Bible (what the media mostly knows is quotes out of context and urban legends).  The profit motive also plays a huge role.  With costs rising and revenues shrinking, media has to make spectacular claims to grab attention.  Next time you hear about some archaeological find that says something about the Bible, use your search engine to find the original report by the archaeologist.  You’ll find 99% of the time or more that what the report says isn’t what the media said. 
It’s also true that what we know about the Greeks nowadays gives an entirely different perspective on Troy than Schleimann’s claims.  That’s the march of information thing I talked about a little earlier.
So here’s how the archaeology postings will go.  I’ll discuss the find involved in the urban legend and give its provenance as far as I can find out what it is.  That includes not only the time period and political area that the find belongs to, but also when the archaeologists found it and when it was translated, if it was a text.  Most importantly, I will point out the finds that were reinterpreted after the urban legend got started.  Because archaeology, like other sciences, never stands still, and later finds can contradict earlier claims or at best force re-evaluation of them.
The people who preserve and pass along the urban legends either don’t understand the archaeology, or don’t follow up to see if the find has been re-evaluated.
And I will begin at the beginning, for which read Genesis 1-2:3.  IN the beginning….
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment