PLAYING DETECTIVE: HOW ARCHEOLOGY WORKS TO VERIFY WHAT WE READ IN SCRIPTURE.
On a hot June afternoon in central Israel, a team of archeologists meticulously digs on a hillside. Thanks to pop culture and Hollywood, our mental image of archeology often times conjures up images of fedora hats and bullwhips.
In some cases, the fedora hat may be accurate (Dr. Scott Stripling, Director of Excavations for the Associates for Biblical Research sports one almost every day) but I’ve personally never seen a bull-whip at an excavation site.
The Associates for Biblical Research or ABR just wrapped up their second season digging at the ancient site of Shiloh. The Bible references Shiloh on a number of occasions, including in Joshua 18, as the place where the tribes of Israel met after entering the promised land and Joshua divided up each tribe’s portion.
“Then the whole congregation of the people of Israel assembled at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there. The land lay subdued before them.” Joshua 18:1 ESV
It’s also the likely location of the tabernacle and where the ark of the covenant was for a time before being taken by the Philistines during battle according to 1 Samuel 4.
“The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. And when the people came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” 1 Samuel 4:2-3
Discoveries being made at Shiloh are confirming the importance of that site and the evidence of Israelite presence. When Appian Media filmed at the dig site in May, we worked with Stripling as he showed Jeremy and Barry the process used to find and study artifacts.
“It’s a very detail oriented process,” said Stripling. “We want to ensure the artifacts being uncovered are properly identified and dated. When it comes to archeology, it’s all about context.”
Context is everything because an item out of context becomes a lot less valuable from a scientific perspective. That’s why everything from the location of the square (the “hole” where an archeologist digs), to the layers of sediment, and other materials surrounding the object have to be observed and taken into consideration.
“The deeper down in the earth you go, the further back in history you’re traveling,” says Stripling.
What gets really exciting for a Biblical archeologist is when they find clues that point to scripture. Whether it’s a piece of pottery that identifies a specific nationality or cultural group or other evidence. (Hint hint: see what Jeremy and Barry discover when they were with Stripling by watching episode one of “Searching for a King” when it’s released in early 2019!
“Sometimes it can be the smallest objects that make the biggest difference and help us add another piece to the puzzle,” Stripling said. “It’s part of the reason I love what I do; I’m bringing the faith and the evidence together.”
Learn more about the excavation, at Shiloh, by visiting DigShiloh.org.