The field of biblical archaeology has been rocked, so to speak, by dramatic new finds in the heart of ancient Jerusalem. For the last few years, a number of respected archaeologists have posited that the biblical accounts of Jerusalem as the seat of a powerful, unified monarchy under the rule of David and Solomon are essentially false. The most prominent of these is Israel Finkelstein, the chairman of Tel Aviv University’s archaeology department, whose 2001 book The Bible Unearthed, written together with Neal Asher Silberman, became an international best seller. The lynchpin of his argument was the absence of clear evidence from the archaeological excavations carried out in Jerusalem over the last century. “Not only was any sign of monumental architecture missing,” he wrote, “but so were even simple pottery shards.” If David and Solomon existed at all, he concluded, they were no more than “hill-country chieftains,” and Jerusalem, as he told the New York Times, was “no more than a poor village at the time.”
But now comes word of a most unusual find: The remains of a massive structure, in the heart of biblical Jerusalem, dating to the time of King David. Eilat Mazar, the archaeologist leading the expedition, suggests that it may be none other than the palace built by David and used by the Judaean kings for over four centuries. If she is right, this would mean a reconsideration of the archaeological record with regard to the early First-Temple period. It would also deal a death-blow to the revisionist camp, whose entire theory is predicated on the absence of evidence in Jerusalem from this period. But is she right?