Saturday, June 8, 2013

Chinese and American Dreams Can’t Coexist. By Marco Rubio.

President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2012.

Do Two Dreams Equal a Nightmare? By Marco Rubio. Foreign Policy, June 7, 2013.

U.S. and China Will Never Trust Each Other. By Minxin Pei. Foreign Policy, June 6, 2013.


The vast gap between the two countries’ political systems makes trust impossible. The Chinese Communist Party does not hide its hostility to and fear of the political values – freedom, human rights, political competition, and constitutional rule – that underpin American democracy. In the eyes of the Chinese ruling elites, the United States presents a political threat, even though they understand that a full-fledged military conflict between two nuclear-armed great powers is extremely unlikely. Chinese leaders feel so endangered by U.S. soft power that they are now even orchestrating a propaganda campaign against constitutionalism.

This threat perception has created its own reality. China's ruling elites know very well that China’s economic rise would not have happened as fast or as successfully without U.S. help, which included bestowing Most-Favored Nation trading status on China, supporting its 2001 entry into the World Trade Organization, and awarding scholarships for hundreds and thousands of Chinese students, among other factors. Still, such awareness does not prevent them from insisting, almost daily, that “hostile Western forces” seek China's destruction.

For the U.S. political establishment, a repressive one-party state is simply illegitimate. Its opacity, lack of constraints on its power, and capriciousness make it difficult to understand and even more difficult to trust.

Since the fundamental differences between the two political systems are almost certain to continue in the foreseeable future, the United States and China need to cooperate without the luxury of strategic trust. Most people might argue, understandably, that such cooperation is impossible. But this does not need to be the case.

Was King Saul Impaled on the Wall of Beth Shean? By Amihai Mazar.

Tel Beth Shean rising above the ruins of Hellenistic/Roman Scythopolis. The Philistines hung the lifeless bodies of King Saul and three of his sons from the walls of Beth Shean, according to the Bible (1 Samuel 31; 1 Chronicles 10). When approaching an important and impressive site like Tel Beth Shean, archaeologists seek to understand more about the Biblical stories as well as answer questions about the broader history of the site and the people who lived there.

Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines, and many fell on Mount Gilboa. The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchishua, the sons of Saul. The battle pressed hard upon Saul; the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by them. Then Saul said to his armour-bearer, “Draw your sword and thrust me through with it, so that these uncircumcised may not come and thrust me through, and make sport of me.” But his armour-bearer was unwilling; for he was terrified. So Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. When his armour-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him. So Saul and his three sons and his armour-bearer and all his men died together on the same day. When the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley and those beyond the Jordan saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook their towns and fled; and the Philistines came and occupied them.

The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. They cut off his head, stripped off his armour, and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to carry the good news to the houses of their idols and to the people. They put his armour in the temple of Astarte; and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men set out, travelled all night long, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan. They came to Jabesh and burned them there. Then they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh, and fasted for seven days.

—1 Samuel 31. New Revised Standard Version.

Was King Saul Impaled on the Wall of Beth Shean? By Amihai Mazar. Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 38, No. 2 (March/April 2012).

Ancient Inscription Refers to Birth of Israelite Monarchy. By Gerard Leval. Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 38, No. 3 (May/June 2012).

State Formation in the Hebrew Bible: An Institutional Economic Perspective. By Sigmund Wagner-Tsukamoto. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Vol. 37, No. 4 (June 2013).

State Formation Theory and the Kingdom of Ancient Israel. By Daniel M. Master. Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 60, No. 2 (April 2001).

The Rise of Secondary States in the Iron Age Levant. By Alexander H. Joffe. Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 45, No. 4 (2002).

Political Rights and Power in Monarchic Israel. By Douglas A. Knight. Semeia, No. 66 (1994).

The Emergence of the Monarchy in Israel: The Environmental and Socio-Economic Aspects. By Israel Finkelstein. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, No. 44 (June 1989).

When Pharaohs Ruled Jerusalem. By Peter Van Der Veen. Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 39, No. 2 (March/April 2013). NJBR, February 26, 2013.

Archaeologists Reveal a Desecrated Iron Age Temple and Find Possible Evidence of Samson at Beth Shemesh. NJBR, February 9, 2013.

How We Know When Solomon Ruled. By Kenneth A. Kitchen. Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 27, No. 5 (September/October 2001).

The Israelite Village: Cultural Conservatism and Technological Innovation. By Avraham Faust. Tel Aviv, Vol. 32, No. 2 (September 2005).

How Did Israel Become a People? The Genesis of Israelite Identity. By Avraham Faust. Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 35, No. 6 (November/December 2009).

Early Israel: An Egalitarian Society. By Avraham Faust. Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 39, No. 4 (July/August 2013).

“Mortuary Practices, Society and Ideology”: The Lack of Iron Age I Burials in the Highlands in Context. By Avraham Faust. Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 54, No. 2 (2004).

Ethnic Complexity in Northern Israel During Iron Age II. By Avraham Faust. Palestine Exploration Quarterly, Vol. 132, No. 1 (January 2000).

The Emergence of Iron Age Israel: The Question of “Origins.” By Avraham Faust. UCSD Exodus Conference, May 31-June 1, 2013. Video. Calit2ube, June 7, 2013. YouTube. Also at Exodus: Out of Egypt

Ethnicity, Assimilation and the Israelite Settlement. By Pekka Pitkänen. Tyndale Bulletin, Vol. 55, No. 2 (2004).

Ancient Israel and settler colonialism. By Pekka Pitkänen. Settler Colonial Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1 (2014).

Migrations, Ethnogenesis, and Settlement Dynamics: Israelites in Iron Age Canaan and Shuwa-Arabs in the Chad Basin. By Thomas E. Levy and Augustin F. C. Holl. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, Vol. 21, No. 1, (March 2002).

Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity: An Archaeological Study of Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, and Early Israel, 1300-1100 B.C.E. By Ann E. Killebrew. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005.

A Comparison of Two Contemporaneous Lifestyles of the Late Second Millennium B.C. By Gloria London. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 273 (February 1989).

I Samuel 25 as Literature and as History. By Jon D. Levenson. Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 40, No. 1 (January 1978).

An Anthropologist’s View of Early Israel. By Jill Katz. Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 38, No. 3 (May/June 2012).

Israelite Life Before the Kings. By Robert D. Miller. Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 39, No. 2 (March/April 2013).


The next period, the Late Bronze Age, produced the earliest spectacular finds from Beth Shean. They date from the mid-15th century to the mid-12th century B.C.E. At this time the site became an administrative center and garrison town of Egypt’s New Kingdom empire that then ruled Canaan. The University of Pennsylvania expedition uncovered a wealth of buildings and artifacts from this period (Egyptian dynasties XVIII, XIX and XX), including successive temples, administrative buildings, a governor’s house, and a number of inscribed stelae, door lintels and statues erected by Pharaohs Seti I, Ramesses II and Ramesses III. Our excavations uncovered additional Egyptian administrative and residential buildings. Both expeditions revealed a rich collection of artifacts reflecting the high status of the Egyptian officials stationed here. They were living in what might be called “little Egypt.” Their pottery was manufactured by Egyptian potters who produced vessels similar to those in Egypt. Seals (and seal impressions), cult objects, jewelry and other artifacts were made in Egyptian style. Houses were decorated with Egyptian-style wall paintings.

During the 13th–12th centuries B.C.E., Egyptian garrison members were buried in anthropoid pottery coffins, a practice known in Egypt and at several Egyptian strongholds in southern Canaan, such as Deir el-Balah south of Gaza. Almost 50 of these anthropoid coffins (mostly just small pieces) were recovered at Beth Shean. These finds provide dramatic evidence of the extent of Egyptian domination of Canaan in the period when the earliest Israelites just began to settle in the hill country south of Beth Shean.

The portraits on some of the anthropoid coffin lids from Beth Shean were made in a kind of “grotesque” style foreign to Egypt. At one time it was thought that these might be the coffins of Philistines, especially because of the “feather” headdress on one of the coffin lids and other signs on two other lids that resemble the headdress of the Philistines and other “Sea Peoples” pictured on the wall of the temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu in Egypt. But as suggested already in 1973 by Eliezer Oren, it is now clear that the anthropoid coffins at Beth Shean and elsewhere are related to Egyptian garrisons there during the late New Kingdom. The most that one can say is that the three coffins in the “grotesque” style with those special signs belonged to mercenaries in the Egyptian garrison; we know that the Egyptians hired mercenaries among the population groups known as the Sea Peoples (they included Sherden and Danuna as well as Philistines). Whether there were a few Philistines (mercenaries) among them at Beth Shean we cannot tell. In any case, the use of those anthropoid coffins ended with the end of the Egyptian presence in Canaan, no later than about 1130 B.C.E., at a time when the Philistines had just begun their settlements in Philistia and much earlier than the time of the assumed battle against Saul, which, if historical, must have occurred closer to 1000 B.C.E.

Toward 1140/30 B.C.E. the Egyptian presence in Canaan came to an end. Beth Shean was destroyed by heavy fire, perhaps after being captured by local Canaanites who were happy to get rid of their then-weakened foreign rulers.

During the late 12th–11th century B.C.E., the town was resettled and the destroyed residential quarter was rebuilt. The material culture this time, however, is Canaanite. The local Canaanite population simply replaced the Egyptian garrison.

This is the city that existed when the battle of Gilboa between Saul and the Philistines is supposed to have taken place. But there is no evidence of a Philistine presence at Beth Shean at this time. Philistine painted pottery, which is quite distinctive, is absent from Beth Shean, though it was found in small quantities at Tel Rehov to the south, as well as at a few other sites in the Jezreel Valley. Beth Shean, however, was never a Philistine town. If the Biblical story has historical validity, if the Philistines hung Saul’s body on the wall of Beth Shean, the most that we can assume is that the Philistines who arrived from the southern coastal plain took over the local Canaanite town for a short time—but such an event cannot be corroborated by archaeology.

What about the wall of Beth Shean where the Bible says the bodies of Saul and his sons were hung? After all, walls are an archaeological specialty. Alas, no fortification walls have been found at Beth Shean—from any period. Benny Arubas, the architect of the Hebrew University excavations of the Roman city at lower Beth Shean, has suggested an explanation, however. The critical part of the mound with the wall may have been cut off in the Roman period during the construction of Scythopolis at the foot of the mound. The main street of this Roman city was a very wide, straight road flanked by roofed sidewalks and shops. The adjacent tell interfered with this plan. Therefore the entire southern and perhaps also part of the western portions of the mound were simply cut away by huge earth works. This would leave no chance for 20th-century archaeologists to find any fortifications on these sides of the mound. On the other sides of the mound, excavations were not carried out to a sufficient depth due to thick occupation deposits of later periods. For this reason, we have no archaeological confirmation of the Biblical account. It could have been a historical event or it could be a literary construct. Archaeology has not provided a clear answer.

The Canaanite town of the Iron Age I came to an end some time around 1000 B.C.E. We found some evidence for violent destruction, but the exact circumstances of the end of this town remain unknown.

A new city was built during the Iron IIa period, dated to the tenth–ninth centuries B.C.E. We discovered the remains of three substantial buildings from this period on the summit of the mound. Their wide mudbrick walls were laid on large basalt stone foundations with charred wooden beams between the bricks and the stone foundation. These structures had been part of an administrative complex. If indeed this complex was constructed during the tenth century B.C.E., it would agree with the Biblical notice that Beth Shean was one of three important towns in one of Solomon’s administrative districts (the other two being Megiddo and Tanaach; see 1 Kings 4:12).

These buildings were destroyed in a fierce conflagration. When and how this happened is somewhat of a question. The Bible records an attack on Jerusalem by Shishak, king of Egypt, five years after the death of Solomon, during the reign of his son Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:25). Scholars agree that Biblical Shishak is Pharaoh Sheshonq I of Egypt. His campaign into Judah and Israel c. 920 B.C.E. is recorded in detail on a wall of the Egyptian temple at Karnak. Among the cities he claims to have conquered is Beth Shean. Shishak’s campaign surely tends to confirm Beth Shean’s importance in Solomon’s time and may explain the fiery destruction at the site. Yet I must admit that our pottery chronology is not sufficiently developed to enable us to date precisely the final destruction of these buildings. It may have occurred either in the late tenth or in the ninth century B.C.E. If the later date is accepted, the destruction could have been caused by the wars between Israel and the Arameans, rather than by Shishak’s campaign. It is difficult to decide between these two alternatives.

Following this destruction, Beth Shean was rebuilt yet again and continued to be a thriving town in the northern kingdom of Israel. Both the University of Pennsylvania expedition and the Hebrew University expedition found significant structures from this time period. A typical Israelite “four-room house” excavated by our expedition is exceptional in its size and contained massive mudbrick walls that probably carried a second floor. It was destroyed and burnt with the rest of the town in a great fire probably set by the Assyrians when they conquered the northern part of the Kingdom of Israel in 732 B.C.E. The devastation was total, followed by hundreds of years of an occupational gap.


Let me conclude with an example from my own research. Recently I have been exploring ancient Israel through the lens of social and political complexity. While most Biblical archaeologists agree that Iron Age I Israel (c. 1200–1000 B.C.E.; the period of the Judges) was a tribal society, there has not been much discussion on what that really means, that is, what kind of tribal society was ancient Israel?

To find out, I began by culling the anthropological literature on tribal societies, from “Big Man” to “acephalous” (literally, “without a head”) to chiefdoms. I then used these paradigms to construct a model of how they might be identified in the archaeological record. Finally, I compared the actual archaeological record with my model. This has led me to conclude that Iron Age I Israel best fits the paradigm of a “Big Man” society.

In brief, “Big Man” societies generally correspond with small, autonomous, village-based agricultural communities. Good examples of “Big Man” societies are found in Melanesia and New Guinea where the typical village size is about 100 people. Leadership is informal and emerges out of achievement based on charisma, personality, etc.; it is not inherited. No one is considered inherently superior to anyone else, and this egalitarianism is manifest in uniform material wealth. The giving of gifts is important for establishing relationships and reciprocal obligations.

By using this ethnographic material, we give ourselves a new avenue for interpreting early Israel. That leadership was conceived of as informal during the period of the Judges is expressed most clearly in an episode concerning Gideon. After a successful campaign against Midian, the “men of Israel” specifically request that Gideon and his children become permanent leaders: “Rule over us, you, your son, and your grandson as well” (Judges 8:22). Gideon rejects the offer on behalf of himself and his children in the spirit that the “Lord alone shall rule over you” (Judges 8:23).

While this passage makes explicit that the Judges (shoftim) did not pass on their leadership from generation to generation, only the anthropological literature can inform us just how hard it is to be a leader when you have no formal authority. You have to beg, nag, harass and persuade people to do what you want. You have to be a good talker and patient and persistent. Your reward is the reward of leadership and no more. Yet these leaders emerge, and the rest of the people tolerate them, egg them on and benefit from their hard work.

This type of political organization can continue unimpeded for centuries, even millennia. But in certain circumstances, a threshold is crossed and a new type of leadership emerges, that of a chief who is given (or seizes) significant power and authority. How does this happen? We’ll just have to ask an anthropologist.

The Hellenistic/Roman city of Scythopolis from Tel Beth Shean

Cultic Practices at Tel Dan – Was the Northern Kingdom of Israel Deviant?

The bamah (high place) of King Jeroboam I of Israel at Dan, c. 920 BC. Ashley Lauwereins.

Then Jeroboam said to himself, “Now the kingdom may well revert to the house of David. If this people continues to go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, the heart of this people will turn again to their master, King Rehoboam of Judah; they will kill me and return to King Rehoboam of Judah.” So the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold. He said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. And this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one at Bethel and before the other as far as Dan. He also made houses on high places, and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not Levites. Jeroboam appointed a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the festival that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar; so he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he alone had prescribed; he appointed a festival for the people of Israel, and he went up to the altar to offer incense.

—1 Kings 12: 26-33. New Revised Standard Version.

Cultic Practices at Tel Dan – Was the Northern Kingdom Deviant? By Jonathan Greer. Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 38, No. 2 (March/April 2012).

Did the Northern Kingdom of Israel Practice Customary Ancient Israelite Religion? Bible History Daily, February 17, 2012.


There is very little archaeological evidence of royal ancient Israelite religion. While excavations throughout Israel have revealed evidence of Israelite “folk religion,” the center of elite ancient Israelite religion—the Temple Mount in Jerusalem—has remained archaeologically inaccessible. In his Archaeological Views column “Cultic Practices at Tel Dan—Was the Northern Kingdom Deviant?” archaeologist Jonathan Greer looks to Tel Dan in the northern kingdom of Israel for evidence of the official ancient Israelite religion.

In 1 Kings 12, King Jeroboam establishes a royal sanctuary for the northern kingdom of Israel in the city of Dan to compete with the Jerusalem Temple. Four decades of excavations at Tel Dan have uncovered myriad evidence of cultic activity at the site’s so-called “sacred precinct,” including temple architecture, the remains of a massive altar, cult stands and metal implements, all of which are associated with rites involving animal sacrifice.

Greer uses these finds to question just how “Israelite” the northern kingdom of Israel really was. Biblical writers often condemn the northern kingdom of Israel for heretical worship of foreign gods, and Greer examined the evidence from Tel Dan to assess these charges. Analyzing textual traditions and archaeological finds, especially faunal remains from animal sacrifice in the sacred precinct, Greer suggests that the northern cultic practices reflect ancient Israelite religion as described in the Bible.

Excavations at Tel Dan have yielded thousands of animal bones in the priestly and common worship areas of the sacred precinct. Greer concludes that the bone fragments indicate the practice of animal sacrifice as described in the Book of Leviticus. The priestly area of the sacred precinct at Tel Dan had a higher proportion of right-sided meaty long bones, while the common worship area featured more left-sided bones. This is consistent with descriptions of animal sacrifice in Exodus 29:27–28 and Leviticus 7:32–33.

Similarly, a high percentage of phalanges (toe bones) were recorded in the priestly area at Tel Dan, furthering the idea that the northern kingdom of Israel practiced ancient Israelite religion as detailed in the Bible. Leviticus 7:8 describes how a priest would keep the skin of a burnt offering, which would include the phalanges and hooves left intact during the skinning following the animal sacrifice. Beyond faunal evidence, Greer reveals further similarities between Tel Dan and the Biblical cult, citing artifacts such as an altar kit reminiscent of those used in Temple and Tabernacle rituals.

Greer’s studies of animal sacrifice and the archaeological evidence from Tel Dan suggest that ancient Israelite religion as practiced in the northern kingdom of Israel was not as deviant as is often thought.

Israelite Temple. Tel Dan Excavations.

Tel Dan Excavations website.

Tel Dan Stela: New Light on Aramaic and Jehu’s Revolt. By William M. Schniedewind. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 302 (May 1996).

Reconsidering the Iron Age II Strata at Tel Dan: Archaeological and Historical Implications. By Eran Arie. Tel Aviv, Vol. 35, No. 1 (March 2008).

Large Horned Altar, 10th-8th century BCE. By Elizabeth Bloch-Smith. The Center for Online Judaic Studies.

Sectionalism and the Schism. By Baruch Halpern. Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 93, No. 4 (December 1974).

Did Pharaoh Sheshonq Attack Jerusalem? By Yigal Levin. Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 38, No. 4 (July/August 2012).

Tel Dan. By Ashley Lauwereins. This Week in History, July 11, 2011.

Tel Dan. The 80% Blog, April 10, 2010.

Spurned Samaria. By Noah Wiener. Bible History Daily, June 4, 2013.

Site of the capital of the Kingdom of Israel blighted by neglect.

Holy Land archaeological treasure hurt by politics. By Daniela Berretta. AP. Yahoo! News, June 3, 2013.

Iron Age gate and plaza at Tel Dan

Bill Maher: Ronald Reagan Was “The Original Teabagger.”

Bill Maher Savages Reagan: “The Original Teabagger,” “Pitchman For Batsh*t” Would Do Well In Modern GOP. By Josh Feldman. Mediaite, June 7, 2013.

Bill Maher: Ronald Reagan No Different Than Today’s Tea Party. By Progressive Liberal. Daily Kos, June 7, 2013.

MSNBC’s Bill Maher Trashes Ronald Reagan: He Was “The Original Pitchman For Batshit.” By Kristin Tate. Mr.Conservative, June 7, 2013. Also here.

Bill Maher: Reagan Is “The Man Most Responsible For Our Decline.” By Noel Sheppard. NewsBusters, June 8, 2013.

Bill Maher Slaughters Republican Sacred Cow Ronald Reagan. By Jason Easley. PoliticusUSA, June 8, 2013.

Similar articles at The Huffington Post, Politico, Red Alert Politics, and Breitbart.

Bill Maher: Ronald Reagan was “the Original Teabagger.” Video. TheBMView, June 8, 2013. YouTube. Also here and here.