Friday, May 30, 2014

How to Assess Chronologies

A comment by Lisa Liel responding to a challenge to her belief in the historical veracity of the Mabul:

See, this is an example of where you don't understand how things are done in the relevant fields and I do. Let me show you how that is.

When you read an article that talks about a jug from the period of David being found at Megiddo (for example), that doesn't actually mean that it was from the period of David. After all, jugs didn't have dates stamped on them. Rather, it's a shortcut for saying, "We found a jug in a layer corresponding to an early phase of the Iron Age, which we currently date to the 11th century BCE." Then again Israel Finkelstein's Low Chronology dates that same level to the time of Omri and Jehoshaphat, a generation later, so he wouldn't regard it as dating to the period of David at all. Even if he thought David existed.

When you read about an archaeological find dating to the 8th century BCE in Israel, what they really mean is, "it dates to the late Iron Age".

It would be a lot easier on everyone if they would simply say what layer they found it in, rather than add in an assumption about when that layer dates to. But then, it wouldn't be very readable to the average person, would it?

The same thing applies going further back. Currently, 2000 BCE is considered according to consensus to be the Old Kingdom in Egypt. There was a time, not so long ago (a century and a bit) when the Old Kingdom was dated 4000 years earlier than that. At that time, you wouldn't have looked for evidence of the flood in Old Kingdom remains, but today you do. These things change, because they are not fact It's a fact that there's no evidence of the flood in Egyptian Old Kingdom remains. No one argues with that. It isn't a fact that 4000 years ago it was the time of the Old Kingdom in Egypt. That's consensus; not fact. You understand the difference, right? History isn't physics. It relies on some conclusions of science at times, but it is not itself science. The same applies to paleontology.


  1. Very wise paragraph. I have always wondered how people can be so adamant that they found a piece of clay, and therefore XYZ event did or did not occur. From a piece of clay???

  2. Well, that's a little bit of an oversimplication. If you find a layer where all of the piece of clay present in that layer have Egyptian designs on them, you can fairly well determine that there was a lot of Egyptian influence in the area at the time that layer was left. If the pieces of clay are all scorched, you can fairly well say that layer was destroyed by fire. And so on. There's a lot you can tell from the clay.