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The Ancient Kingdom of Edom

John on June 13, 2006 at 9:11 am

Back in November of 2005 I wrote about the discovery of an abecedary or Jewish alphabet stone which seemed (at least to its discoverer) to prove that Israel did indeed have a written language as early as the time of David and Solomon.

Today, the New York Times has word of another discovery that sheds light on the world of the 10th century.

Exactly when did the nomadic tribes of Edom become an organized society with the might to threaten Israel? Were David and Solomon really kings of a state with growing power in the 10th century B.C.? Had writers of the Bible magnified the stature of the two societies at such an early time in history?

An international team of archaeologists has recorded radiocarbon dates that they say show the tribes of Edom may have indeed come together in a cohesive society as early as the 12th century B.C., certainly by the 10th. The evidence was found in the ruins of a large copper-processing center and fortress at Khirbat en-Nahas, in the lowlands of what was Edom and is now part of Jordan.

As a result, the skeptic’s view of Israel’s history is taking another hit. It looks more and more likely that something similar to what the Bible describes was not only possible, but likely.

“Only a complex society such as a paramount chiefdom or primitive kingdom would have the organizational know-how to produce copper metal on such an industrial scale,” Dr. Levy concluded.

The first results of the research by Dr. Levy and Mohammad Najjar, director of excavations and surveys at the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, were described two years ago at a conference at the University of Oxford, England, and in a report in the British journal Antiquity. Reverberations of support and criticism have shaken the field of biblical archaeology ever since.

With the addition of new dates and more evidence of the importance of copper in the emergence of Edom, the two archaeologists have amplified their interpretations in an article being published this month in the magazine Biblical Archaeology Review.

“We have discovered a degree of social complexity in the land of Edom,” they wrote, “that demonstrates the weak reed on the basis of which a number of scholars have scoffed at the idea of a state or complex chiefdom in Edom at this early period.”

Not that the skeptics are yielding (do they ever?), but at least they are looking more and more isolated from the facts.

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Category: Archaeology |

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