Due to so many overlapping sessions, it was impossible to attend every presentation I wanted to hear at ASOR. Some not-yet-published information is presented for the first time at the ASOR meeting, so there are no manuscript books or official audio/video recordings of the sessions.
Here are my own summations of a few of the non-Qeiyafa presentations I attended at the ASOR Annual Meeting:
- “Exploring the Theory and Evidence for ‘Tribalism’ and ‘Segmentary Society’ in Iron Age Transjordan” (Piotr Bienkowski, University of Manchester) – Suggests that available evidence indicates Transjordan peoples such as the Ammonites, Moabites and Edomites in the Iron Age (biblically, the Israelite kingdom years) were not politically centralized under true monarchies. Instead, they may have existed as a confederation of independent tribal groups that only coalesced under a single leader during times of need. The Moabite Stone was cited as one piece of evidence of this arrangement. In its text, Mesha describes himself and his people by possible regional/tribal identifiers in place of ‘Moabites’.
- “The 2009 Season of Excavation at Tell Es-Safi/Gath” (Aren Maeir, Bar-Ilan University) – Prof. Maeir has been the chief archaeologist at ‘Gath’ since the mid-1990’s. He reported on discoveries from this past summer, including evidence of a massive Iron Age destruction by Hazael that Prof. Maeir dates to 835 B.C. (This destruction has previously been conjectured to have occurred in 800 or 820 B.C.) The destruction was so severe, the city appears to have been abandoned for a number of years afterward. Skeletons were discovered in non-burial positions, with evidence of prolonged exposure to the elements. A layer of wind-blown debris/dirt was found on top of the destruction layer. (consider 2 Kings 12:18) He also reported on a possible Iron II temple that reveals two column bases about a meter apart. (Perfect width for a human to stand between and push against?) This last conjecture was made with slight understatement.
- “Reconsidering Goliath: An Iron I Philistine Maryannu” (Jeffrey R. Zorn, Cornell University) – This paper offered an explanation for possible discrepancies between the known Philistine infantry kit and the description of Goliath’s armor in 1 Samuel 17. Previous scholars have suggested Bible writers gave Goliath a composite of different armors and weaponry from various civilizations. In fact, several depictions and descriptions from the 11th – 9th centuries B.C. suggest Goliath was equipped with standard charioteer armor and weaponry. Early Iron Age charioteers could have shield bearers for protection during battle, in addition to a chariot driver. Hebrew terminology in 1 Sam. 17:4, 23 could translate as “a man between two”, suggesting his position between these two members of the chariot crew. [After the lecture, Prof. Yusef Garfinkel of Khirbet Qeiyafa remarked to me, “The only problem with this is the chariot. Where is the chariot in the Bible account?” Fair question, though it doesn’t at this point decisively affect the possibility that Goliath was a “special forces” charioteer.]
- “The Earthquake of Amos and the Establishment of Judean Gath in the Eighth Century B.C.E.” (Jeff Chadwick, Brigham Young University, Jerusalem Center) – Prof. Chadwick presented stratigraphic evidence of what may have been the great earthquake referenced in Amos 1:1. The archaeological remains suggest that Gath was later rebuilt as a Judean (‘Judahite’) city, possibly included in the latter part of 2 Chronicles 26:6.
- “Looking for Ziklag” (Anson F. Rainey, Tel Aviv University) – A survey of possible sites for the biblical Ziklag. The city was given to Judah in Joshua 15, but was in Philistine possession in the late-11th century B.C. The Philistines allowed David to live in the city before its destruction by the Amalekites. At this point in time no one is certain of its exact location, though there are a few possible candidates.
- “The Role of Tel Burna in the Settlement Pattern and Hierarchy of the Southwestern Shepehelah” (Joe Uziel and Itzhaq Shai, Bar-Ilan University) – A presentation of 2009 survey results from Tel Burna. This site is a possible candidate for the biblical city of Libnah. Joe and Itzhaq will be directing excavations there beginning in 2010.
- “Teaching Archaeology to Undergraduates: Success Stories and Cautionary Tales” – This was the theme of an enjoyable two-hour session on Saturday morning. I list it as one subject, though there were four separate presentations. My two favorite speakers were Jodi Magness (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) and Eric Cline (George Washington University). Eric Cline’s presentation title came from an under-informed undergrad essayer – “The Israelites Wondered in the Dessert for 40 years.” The presentations offered tips for archaeologist without formal training as classroom educators that find themselves teaching students with little or no background in Archaeology or Ancient History. Most of the presentations were interesting and, at times, hilarious. I wish I had Eric Cline’s extensive list of undergraduate writing flubs (‘Wondered in the Dessert…’, “Before the printing press, it took 300 sheep to write the Bible,” et al.).
There is more to tell, but these were (to me) the more interesting presentations I attended. I know of other excellent presentations I was not able to attend. All in all, an excellent experience for a first-time ASOR attendee.