3trasting attitudes to the reconstruction of the history of AncientIsrael. Zevit—in the footsteps of the Albright School—repeats thebiblical testimony in modern language; adapts archaeology when itis useful and rejects it when it stands in his way; and fiercely fights-off any attempt to challenge the historicity of the descriptions inthe text. I tend to give archaeology a central, independent role andtreat the text as a stratified literary work whose layers are embedded with the ideological goals of their authors and the realities of theirtime.Zevit’s summary of the history of Jerusalem in the Persian pe-riod best demonstrates his approach:
Some early returnees rebuilt an altar and reinstituted sacrificesto ward off misfortune. Over a year later they got around tosetting the foundation for a new temple. Only some years later,during the reign of Darius I, was the temple completed.... Jeru-salem, however, remained unsettled with her ruined housesand breached walls. It was only during the reign of ArtaxerxesI ... that Cyrus’ original project was completed. Nehemiah, anofficial in the royal court, turned Jerusalem into a religious andpolitical centre in Yehud ... by completing a slapdash wall withsome descendents from the first returnee settlers among thelabourers... (Zevit 2009: 134).
It is my contention that the reconstruction of the history of Ancient Israel should be based on three pillars: archaeology, thebiblical text and ancient Near Eastern records. The latter do notexist for the Persian period (except for a single reference in Ele-phantine), hence Zevit’s description should be read as no morethan an English translation of the ancient text.Moreover, from an archaeological perspective, Zevit’s posi-tion ends up challenging the archaeological finds. In fact, as thefollowing observations demonstrate, his article is lacking in know-ledge and understanding of archaeological method and techniques:1.
Zevit argues against the reliability of archaeological sur- veys: “Surveys are simply surveys. The accidental origin of what surveyors pick up somewhat randomly cannot beused to determine the actual nature of a site...” (Zevit2009: 131).
In a properly conducted survey finds are notpicked up “randomly” and the results are not arbitrary. This has been demonstrated by the best and brightest of American archaeology (none belonging to the biblicalarchaeology branch of the profession), who in fact estab-lished the basics of the art of modern archaeological sur- veys, namely Braidwood (1937) in the plain of Antioch,
Incidentally, in the same breath Zevit (2009: 128) uses the very samesurveys to support his reading of Haggai and Zechariah regarding popula-tion decline in Yehud in the 6