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Megiddo: Archeological Excavations

Introduction

The field of archeology has come a long way and it still plays a major role in the discovery of historical insights, with new discoveries being made by the day, especially at present as it is aided by the development of different forms of technology necessary for the job. Archeological discoveries are not only helping to discover general history, but also findings that aid in the understanding of the Bible and its scriptures, thereby re affirming the usefulness of the Bible as a source of history and historical information. For example, the discovery of the Beit Safafa tombs believed to have been occupied by the Essenes who are linked to the Dead Sea Scrolls 1(Randall 1997, p. 23). As such, archeological discoveries continue to aid in linking present events to past happenings and probably the resultant future.

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This paper gives a historical background of the Megiddo site, archeological excavations that have taken place there in the past, as well as excavations that are currently underway at the site, and the significance that they hold to biblical studies.

Historical Background of the Megiddo

Megiddo is regarded highly in Biblical archeology due to the links it holds in connection with major religious events that took place at the grounds. It is located at what was considered a very important route by ancient traders and armies as it links three continents, namely Africa, Europe and Asia. Among the historical treasures linked with Megiddo are the monumental palaces, fortresses, complex water systems and temples that were built successively over each other with the passage of time. Megiddo is also known to have been a ground for many historic battles such as the battle between Egyptians and Canaanites under the leadership of Pharaoh Thutmose the Third, which resulted in the conquering of Canaan. Due to its strategic location, Assyrians used Megiddo as the location from which they deported people from Israel’s Northern Kingdom. Biblically it is termed as the grounds on which fights between good and evil forces will take place towards the end of days and as such referred to as Armageddon. Not only were Biblical battles fought here, but Megiddo also played host to the First World War where Edmund Allenby led his troops in the war against Turkish armies by using routes and tactics similar to those employed by Thutmose the Third to conquer Canaan thousands of years earlier. From the rich historical background of Megiddo, it is clear why it holds such significance to both Jews and Christians.

In order for archeologists to link the site with past events, both biblical and otherwise, they had to carry out various excavations on the site. The first reported excavation on the site was carried out in 1903 and it continues up to date. In 1903 and 1905, Gottlieb Schumer carried out an excavation sponsored by the German society. This excavation was driven by Gottlieb’s interest in theological issues and he was able to unearth religious findings such as Iron Age stone columns referred to as massebot or religious monuments. His Middle Bronze Age infant jar burials were interpreted as the remains of child sacrifices that took place during the time 2(Levy 1998, p. 22). Another large-scale excavation was conducted at the site in 1925 by University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute under the direction of Clarence Fisher, Gordon Loud and guy P. L. O and ran up to 1939. It is here that the Solomonic Stables were discovered, together with the site’s complex water systems, fortresses, monumental gates and palaces.

In 1960s and 1980s, Yigael Yadin carried out shorter excavations. His main discovery was that of the 6000 monumental palace which is associated with King Solomon as described in Kings 9:15 in the Bible 3(The Megiddo Expedition 2010, para. 3). Other documented excavations carried out at the site were carried out between 1994 and 1998, in the year 200, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008, while another is lined up for this year. Findings of these expeditions will be discussed at a later stage in the paper.

Excavation Progress at the Megiddo Site

Since excavation began at the Megiddo site, continued progress has been made with new discoveries being made over the years as other discoveries build up on the findings of previous discoveries. Some of the pioneering excavations at the site were discredited as they did not follow the technical requirements and as such this has led to follow up excavations to try and enhance their credibility. They took place in the years between 1998 and 2008 as outlined in the Megiddo Expedition.

Six areas in the Megiddo were excavated between 1994 and 1998, and they were termed as area F, H, J, K, L and M. Area F revealed remains of the fortress build in the Middle and Late Bronze Age, after which works of the Iron Age were built over it.

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The Megiddo Expedition has to date (1998) initiated excavation in six areas. Area H covered the palaces build by Assyrian Kings, whose examination shed light into the role Megiddo played as a central province for Assyria during its conquest and subsequent destruction. Area J is home to the temples that were in existence between the Early and Late Bronze Ages. Further archeological excavations in area K as found between these periods would be used in future to determine the Solomonic City within Megiddo thereby showing the relationship between the Biblical era and the Iron Age. Similar findings were revealed in areas L and M. Come 2000, excavations continued in the areas mentioned above. Those conducted in area F were aimed at determining the occupation of those who lived in the area in relation to the Iron and Bronze ages. It is in area H that discoveries of the remains of the Israelite city after its destruction by the Assyrians were made. Pillar bases and a partial wall were discovered in area J, being remains of the temple of King Solomon. It is believed to be so because structures such as stables found in the area were said to have been built in a style that is associated with the King 4(Cline 2009, pp. 37-38). Level K revealed more ceramic findings, while area L and M shed more light into previous findings such as the discovery of the tomb that was first exposed by Gottlieb’s excavation expedition.

Excavations carried out in the rest of the excavation seasons in the years 2002, 2004 and 2006 were done in parts of the areas owing to different reasons and in 2008, a new area Q, was introduced. It is believed to hold the remains of the Assyrian city belonging to the 7th and late 8th centuries BCE. A continuation of this excavation is due to take place between the 12th of this month, which is June 2010, and the 29th of July after which more information regarding the expedition will be released.

Significance of Megiddo Findings to Biblical Studies

Megiddo has over time proven its significance as far as biblical archeology and studies are concerned. Its appearance as Armageddon in the old and New Testament goes towards reinforcing its position in the Bible as it is connected to a number of great men from the Bible such as King Josiah, Egypt’s Pharaohs like Necho, Thutmose the Third and Shishak, Assyria’s King Esarhaddon, Israel’s King Solomon and King Tiglath-pileser, also from Assyria. The site is also home to the remains of thirty cities from the Bible built on top of each other. Apart from its mention in the Bible, it was also found in the historical writings of Assyrians, Hittites and Egyptians, among others 5(The Megiddo Expedition 2010, para. 1, 2, 6, 10). Megiddo is said to have started asserting its dominance over other cities in the region in the fourth millennium BCE. Before this, Egyptians had forced Canaanites to flee inside the site’s walls when they waged war against them. This was at the time when Pharaoh Thutmose was in control of Egypt. In addition, the site was said to have been the ground where Hebrews under Joshua’s leadership killed the king of Megiddo. This happened later under David’s rule. King Solomon used Megiddo as a capital and contributed to the enlarging of the region’s settlement. Later, the city was conquered and destroyed by Shishak, the Egyptian Pharaoh also associated with the stealing of the Ark of the Covenant. After the city was rebuilt, it was again conquered by the Assyrians who used it as a capital city due to its strategic location. The second biggest battle to take place at Megiddo was fought by Judah’s Kling Josiah and Necho, an Egyptian Pharaoh, where Josiah lost 6(The Megiddo Expedition 2010, para. 6). Even though it was a major city and located in a strategic place, Megiddo was later abandoned, but this did not deter it from earning continued recognition all through history. Pottery, ceramic vessels and other artifacts recovered from the site bear evidence to the existence of these people in at the site during the Iron and Bronze ages thereby enhancing the sites significant relation to the Bible.

Conclusion

Excavations carried out at Megiddo have continued to reinforce its link to the Bible and this has supported some of the Bible’s scriptures thereby ensuring its place as a historical source. The Battles that have taken place in the sight may also be a reflection of the fighting that takes place between good and evil and thus Armageddon.

Bibliography

  1. Cline, Eric. Biblical Archeology: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  2. Levy, Thomas. The Archeology of Society in the Holy Land. New York: Continuum International Publishing Inc, 1998.
  3. Randall, Price. The Stones Cry Out. Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1997.
  4. The Megiddo Expedition, “Excavations: Past Excavations,” Megiddo, 2010. Web.
  5. The Megiddo Expedition, “Why dig Megiddo,” Megiddo,  2010. Web.
  6. The Megiddo Expedition, “History of Megiddo|,” Megiddo, 2010.

Footnotes

  1. Price Randall, The Stone Cry Out (Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1997), 23.
  2. Thomas Levy, The Archeology of Society in the Holy Land (New York: Continuum International Publishing Inc, 1998), 22.
  3. The Megiddo Expedition, “Excavations: Past Excavations,” Megiddo.
  4. Eric Cline, Biblical Archeology: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford university Press, 2009), 37-38.
  5. The Megiddo Expedition, “Why dig Megiddo,” Megiddo, 2010.
  6. The Megiddo Expedition, “History of Megiddo|,” Megiddo, 2010.

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