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Stratigraphy and Chronology of Ancient Jerusalem

Pertaining to his uninterrupted research in early history of the Near East and especially of ancient Mesopotamia laid out in his book „Die Sumerer gab es nicht“ (The Sumerians never existed, first edition: Frankfurt on Main 1988 (see Spanish review here); improved edition  with actualized preface and English summary: Gräfelfing near Munich 2007) Gunnar Heinsohn projects a stratigraphical scheme of Jerusalem based on solid evidence and information found in antique Greek authors which is presented here  together with one of his letters to the North American researcher Milton Zysman. As regards the vehemently shortening chronology Heinsohn uses many commonly known architectural and ceramic discoveries which surprisingly match the biblical and cuneiform texts regarding king David as Peter Winzeler (see his article in German on this site) has presented for Egyptian Amarna, Israel, and the Hitite empire. Though both authors are exchanging their views on this subject by thesis and antithesis since long time, essential viewpoints and basic conceptions had been developed independently from each other in their own specific fields of learning. Regarding some details and the absolute chronology of ancient Near East there is still more to be discussed. Nevertheless Winzeler regards Heinsohns draft „the actually best working model in order to rewrite real history for Israel on the ground of stratigraphical evidence.“ [Introduction by new chronology, as suggested by Peter Winzeler, Oct 12th, 2009]

Dear Milton (Zysman, e-mail of May 2009),

Israel Finkelstein is a firm believer if it comes to mainstream chronology. Yet, he is one of the finest scholars when it comes to archaeology. He believes (i) in a -14th century Sothic-Mitanni date for the Habiru under Jishua and Dadua. He believes (ii) in a -1000 Bible-fundamentalist date for the Hebrews under Yishay and David. Yet, he knows that (iii) Biblical David texts use some terms derived from Greek civilization that do not appear in Greek writing before the -7th century of the Medes (dated according to Greek chronology).

Moreover, Finkelstein knows that the Amarna texts about the Habiru under Jishua and Dadua strikingly resemble Biblical texts about the Hebrews under Yishay and David. Finkelstein can even take to task Eilat Mazar who believes to have found David’s palace in the City of David by pointing out that the structure excavated there rather looks like the -7th/-6th century period of the Medes than David’s Bible-Fundamentalist date of  -1000. Here I agree with Finkelstein because Eilat Mazar has found Aeolian capitals from her “Palace of David” that crowned Greek columns not before the -7th/-6th century. She is forced to call those capitals proto-Aeolian – as it was done much earlier at Megiddo to accomodate a -9th century date for Salomon – to make them fit back into David’s Biblical date of the -10th century.

Finkelstein had to throw out King David because there is no urban stratum in Jerusalem for a period he – as well all other Bible-Fundamentalists – date to -1000. Since this date is as holy to Finkelstein as it is to his Israeli opponents he cannot  keep David of the Hebrews in the history books by simply dating him back to the -14th century of the Mitanni when we have Dadua of the Habiru. Though that -14th century date is not Biblical but derives from pseudo-astronomical Sothic retro calculation it is holy to all modern archaeologists.

Our post-Velikovskyan friend David Rohl has tried to do what Finkelstein does not want to do. He has shortened – stratigraphically the right thing to do – the Habiru date of the -14th century to bring them into David’s time of -1000. This, however, is not the right thing to do but once again sheer Bible-Fundamentalism as seen early by Peter Winzeler (a Swiss theologian and author of ZEITENSPRÜNGE). Velikovsky did not fare any better than Rohl by having placed the Habiru of Mitanni period in the -9th century instead of Rohl’s -11th/-10th century. These are just nuances of Bible-Fundamentalist chronology.

What I did in 1987 was identifying the -14th century Mitanni of Amarna with the late -7th century Medes of ancient Greek historiography. Shaushatra, the Mitanni King who conquered Assur and brought the spoils to his capital Washukanni, I identified with Cyaxares who conquered Assur and brought the spoils to his capital Ekbatana. The Shaushatra story is preserved in cuneiform, the Cyaxares story in Greek. Through this identification I could identify Aziru the Mardian, who brings down the Empire of the Mitanni, with Cyrus the Mardian (later: Cyrus the Great) who brings down the Empire of the Medes (see in much larger detail

In consequence I have placed the Habiru, the Hebrews, and the Aolian columns from Eilat Mazar’s “David’s Palace” in the late -7th century of the Medes. The Habiru under Jishua and Dadua of the Mitanni period thus are none other than the Hebrews under Yishay and David. They neither belong to a pseudo-astronomical -14th Sothic date of the Mitanni nor to a Bible fundamentalist date of -1000 (Rohl) or -900 (Velikovsky) but to the imperial period of the Medes of the -7th/-6th century as dated by ancient Greek scholars.

To sum this up: The most valuable chronological cross references for the entire Near East are now tied to the Medes of the -7th century as in today’s dogma they are tied to the Mitanni of the Amarna period. This brings, examples given, Pharaohs Akhnaton and Tutankhamun (the one with the stainless steel blade dagger) from the -14th to -7th-/-6th century. As a general overview see

Now, to your question regarding one “century lower” in Biblical chronology. Jerusalem lacks strata from -1200 (Sothic date) to -720 (Bible-Fundamentalist date). Give or take one century would not solve the Finkelstein controversy. Of course, it would neither be solved by my reconstruction because I bring David from -1000 to the late -7th century. And these Greek dates for the Medes are not to be made holy either. They just appear to fit the stratigraphical record better than Bible- Fundamentalist or Sothic pseudo-astronomical dates of modern Egyptology.

In my corrected chronology for Jerusalem (see page above) you will see a pink period of nearly two centuries (Early Hellenism) that smells quite fictitious to me not only in Jerusalem but everywhere I take a closer look – including Athens and Rome. I assume that the Persian period (with internal duplications of close to 70 years) and the Hellenist period combined are more than 200 years too long. You understand that such a cut has to be implemented all the way from Portugal to Japan. At Frank Wallace’s meeting in Toronto (2005) I presented a first draft of that task that will appear in the SIS Review in autumn 2009.

Cordially, Gunnar

In a letter 2017, this time to Heribert Illig, Heinsohn explains his way of finding out the new correlation of estratigraphy and chronology.

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