Miss Woodhouse's Musings

…about life, the universe, and everything. Don't panic!

Digging Up the Past

on 15 January 2010

*Disclaimer: My use of the word “Archaeology” in this post pertains solely to the methods used in the Middle-East and parts of Africa. I have no experience with more “modern” or “American” archaeology locations and techniques, so I will not pretend that I do. Enjoy the post! Miss Woodhouse*

I have an active interesting in archaeology. If you don’t believe me, then just looking at the archaeology books on my shelf, the National Geographic and Archaeology Today magazines scattered around my room, and the dirt on my hands. Okay, I’m kidding about the last one, but the other two are true. There’s just something about digging into the past that fascinates me.

Last spring I took a Biblical Archaeology class at university, and tonight I pulled out my books to reference them for another class. Specifically, I’ve been studying whether archaeology disproves the Bible, or if it confirms the Bible’s veracity. One of the most interesting books I’ve read on this subject is titled “What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It? What archaeology can tell us the reality of ancient Israel”. Snappy title, I know.

The author is a long-time archaeologist named William Dever. After devoting his whole life to digging up the past, Dever uses this book to present his arguments against deconstructionists who say that the study of history is irrelevant in today’s postmodern world. They even go so far as to say that the field of archaeology is pointless and should have been abandoned decades ago.

Put yourself for a moment in Dever’s place. Here he is, getting on in years, spending most of his life digging up the past and now some upstart, pseudo-erudite scholars want to tell him that his work is meaningless, pointless, and obsolete. For most of you, dear readers, your contact with archaeology stems mainly from Indiana Jones and Amelia Peabody. Modern archaeology is nothing like the action-packed adventures of these characters. Basically, you spend months findings sponsors to pay for your expenses and crew. Then, you spend a few months in the relentless sun, systematically digging through an endless sandbox with little more than a toothbrush and tweezers, hoping to find something worthwhile. Maybe you will find an old mosaic, or the corner of a house. Mostly though, you will find little but garbage and potsherds, so you will try to pick up any contextual clues you can from these objects in order to gain more support for your next season.

I can’t fully wrap my mind around how frustrating it must be.

So, at this point you may be wondering what importance archaeology can have in our lives. Good question! Well, first there’s the old saying that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. By conducting archaeological excavations, we can learn and understand the history of an area. Sometimes the lessons are cultural- for example finding out that a city turned into a ghost town because the government was overthrown. Other times, archaeologists find clues to the history of the land that will make a difference in how we develop it in modern times. For example, if an excavation finds a civilization buried suddenly in mud, then we can surmise that the area was prone to sudden mudslides, and still may be unstable.

Biblically, archaeology provides some of the most compelling outside evidence that the Bible is real. We read about how the wall of Jericho fell inward by the power of God. Then, we find archaeological evidence of a city called Jericho whose walls fell inward. Given this information, archaeologists can make a correlation between the evidence and the accounts and conclude that the Biblical account is accurate. When we find seals, cartouches, and engravings that speak of people and events we read about in the historical books of the Bible, we can conclude that the events written there are true and accurate. In fact, Dever ultimately claims that archaeology can and does prove the veracity of the Bible. He believes that the details contained in the ancient scrolls and confirmed by archaeological discoveries are much too precise to be made up. Therefore, archaeology confirms the Bible and by doing so confirms the validity of our faith.

Just think- all of that meaning from a clump of dirt and sand!

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