Did William Dever just declare Low Chronology dead?

Two sources at this year’s ASOR conference in Chicago report a quote from Dr. Bill Dever at the end of the Qeiyafa sessions on Thursday. Anyone interested in the Bible’s relationship to archaeology and history will find this interesting.

“There was never a shred of empirical evidence for the Low Chronology… It’s the end of the late date chronology, and it’s time to lay this whole nonsense to rest.”

Low Chronology insists the biblical timeline for the Israelite kingdom is inaccurate. The Bible puts kingdom formation in David’s time ca. 1000 B.C. Low Chronologists claim the biblical history is fabricated and put the beginning of a kingdom close to a century later. Prof. Israel Finkelstein, a leading mind behind the Low Chronology, recently adjusted his date for the beginning Israel’s kingdom closer to 950 B.C. (For a summary of this see my third point on this previous post.)

Prof. William Dever with me during his visit to the Khirbet Qeiyafa excavations in 2011. (Photo by Royce Chandler)

The Low Chronology paradigm came about largely from a lack of physical evidence for the biblical timeline of Israel’s kingdom. Fresh evidence from the recent excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa have led many scholars to reevaluate the Low Chronology. Prof. Dever is a significant figure in Levantine archaeology, so his comments above may resonate.

I was not able to attend this year’s meeting. Sure would have been nice to see those sessions in person. No doubt all Low Chronologists will now give up the whole idea…? (Just kidding.)

About LukeChandler

Luke holds an M.A. in Ancient and Classical History and has been an adjunct professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Luke and his wife Melanie have five children. He serves as a minister with the North Terrace Church of Christ and has participated in multiple archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke leads informative, meaningful tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
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6 Responses to Did William Dever just declare Low Chronology dead?

  1. pithom says:

    I am confident Dever is bluffing here; to stage an assault on the LC at this stage, with all the C-14 evidence for it and the sheer number of archaeologists who have converted to it, would require an enormous series of scholarly papers which Dever has (if I am not mistaken) simply not written. People have been declaring the LC dead since its beginning, and yet, it has not lost a single convert to it (to my knowledge).

  2. lukechandler says:

    I wasn’t there to observe the context or any nuances of expression, but both of my sources are archaeologists and had the impression he was speaking sincerely. I heard him speak at the Qeiyafa sessions during the 2009 ASOR meeting, and his impression of the new physical evidence from Qeiyafa was, “This changes everything.” (He said this after acknowledging how the phrase is easily overused, but believed it applied in this case.) Low Chronology insists there is no physical evidence of a centralized state in Judah ca. 1000 B.C. When one finds a city in that place, from that period, with evidence of centralized resources, architecture, and administration, such an argument must be reconsidered.

    From a biblical point of view, Israelite centralization began in the south, not the north. (Most C14 samples are from the north, which lagged the south in the process.) If looking for physical change, Saul and David are probably not the way to go. Saul seems to have limited administration and David was largely a conqueror. Solomon (970 – 930 B.C.) was the builder who would have brought a significant difference in material culture in most places. One should expect a lot of the shift in material culture to appear in his period.

    In any case C14 provides only a range of probability. Averaging them increases the probability of a range, but it’s still a range of dates. For an interesting analysis of C14 at some key Iron I/II transition sites, see Todd Bolen’s post at http://blog.bibleplaces.com/2012/07/date-of-beginning-of-iron-ii.html.

    Thanks for commenting,

    • pithom says:

      Qeiyafa did change a bunch of things, but it poses no real challenge to the LC. Curiously, Finkelstein’s idea that the Gibeonites/Saulides were a powerful entity in Late Iron I Palestine was published in 2006-see http://isfn.skytech.co.il/articles/Saul,%20Naaman%20festschrift%202006.pdf -only a year before Qeiyafa came to prominence. Finkelstein also believes Iron I Qeiyafa was built by those Gibeonites/Saulides-I do not discount that he may be right, but I urge caution-Qeiyafa might be a local phenomenon. It’s true that most relevant C-14 samples that have been dated have been from the N., but the ‘Atar Haroa samples from the far South have also been remarkably consistent with the LC. I commented on Todd Bolen’s post a while ago.

  3. Duncan Lennox says:

    I am just an interested layman in this science but chemistry is my background. Using just common sense vs even critical analysis the fact that the old testament contains many fairy tales which take no digging to disprove, one should challenge all the stories that remain. eg. Do we need to debate the 9000 year old earth, Eve made from Adam`s rib , god`s sons coming down to earth to sire a race of giants , Noah`s flood ,Abraham meeting a Philistine king & using camels 1000 years before that was possible. Even Dever agrees that there was no Exodus or Joshua invasion. So when solid archaeological evidence that differs from the biblical stories of the United Monarchy and they clearly establish a different story one has to wonder why the opponents to the LC hang on. Is it the closet and real biblicists or is it just unacceptable for some like Mazur to believe that the there is no justification for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in the 20th century? And as Shlomo Sand has pointed out even David Ben Gurion wrote in his history of ancient Israel (agreeing with professional historians) that the Palestinians are mostly the descendants of Judaists that converted to Islam in the 7th century CE to avoid paying a head tax.

    Further, as the authors, editors and re-editors of the Deuteronomistic history are the same one that gave us the above fairy tales (Noah`s flood ,etc) anyone who accepts the bible as history is ???

    • lukechandler says:

      Your comment is pretty unfocused, moving from the beginning of Genesis to the Iron Age, to Islam and Byzantine-era “Judaists,” to modern socio-political debates all in the same paragraph. It’s easy to quote a couple of scholars whose opinions match with yours and to try adding unnecessary snark, but these things don’t substitute for reasoned discussion. Since your last sentence is an attempt to ridicule anyone who disagrees with you, it’s reasonable to conclude that your mind is pretty much closed off to anything fresh. I’m sorry to see that.

      I’m happy to have an amicable, respectful discussion over any of the matters you put forth, but this blog is not a good forum for a broad-ranging written rant. In the meantime, please remember that several of your conclusions are based on negative rather than positive evidence. In other words, they were assumed from what has not been found. That can be fragile ground, as has been demonstrated many times in archaeology and in other fields of knowledge. If your interest in archaeology is at all deep, you are no doubt aware of some examples of this.

      Best wishes to you, and may your inquiries lead you to consider other perspectives, and to regard differing opinions with respect.

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