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6467Re: [ANE-2] Tel Zayit in the news

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  • Brian Roberts
    Nov 1, 2007
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      Brilliantly-framed points. I literally could not have said it better myself.


      R. Brian Roberts
      Amateur Researcher in Biblical Archaeology

      Yitzhak Sapir <yitzhaksapir@...> wrote:
      On 10/31/07, Peter T. Daniels wrote:
      > The Tell Zayit abecedary certainly doesn't look like something
      > written by someone who had a fine grasp on what he was doing!

      Well, this assessment means that we know what he meant to be
      doing or should have been doing. Do we?

      Regarding the comments by Kevin and especially Victor, I wish I
      learned enough to be as ignorant of these matters as Victor. In any
      case, I do not think the inscription proves the Davidic/Solomonic
      empire. However, I do think it (together with other inscriptions from
      the 10th - early 9th century BCE) show that in this period, before
      the rise of regional states like Omri and Moab, there were likely
      petty states whose king employed a scribe. That we today can
      learn to write and teach others does not mean that literacy was so
      accessible. The scribes had an important social function and
      would not have taught it to just about anyone who wanted. What
      to us may seem like a scribe who barely manages to scratch the
      alphabet may have been a scribe who had little experience
      working with engraving on stone, as opposed to writing on
      papyrus. A different order of the letters probably indicates a
      separate scribal tradition than the ones we know about (and
      therefore, in my opinion, definitely not part of a united empire).
      I think it is most reasonable to suppose that scribal institutions
      (along with the basic petty state borders and other institutions)
      survived through Iron I than not. They may have less visibility
      in the archaeological record, and the people might have found
      themselves in frameworks much more nomadic and less urban
      than during the LBA, but there is no reason to believe that the
      institutions did not survive. Institutions, even today, are very
      resilient (how often does a beauracracy disband of its own will?)
      A more pertinent example is Middle Assyria. Kuhrt notes (The
      ANE, p. 349) that Old Assyrian institutions such as the limmu-
      ship were retained through the 'dark period' into the Middle
      Assyrian period. Rather, I think the belief that after the LBA
      there were no political institutions into which the peoples of the
      early Iron Age aligned themselves is somewhat far-fetched. It
      is probably partly based on the biblical description of the
      Judges, when there was "no king." Thus, it was common to
      see the settlers in the highlands as representing the Israelites,
      who had begun settlement, and even if that is now considered
      maybe only half-historical or unrelated at all to the later
      kingdoms of Judea and Samaria, the idea that these people
      were tribes who settled and had no political framework is still
      maintained. For example, twin settlements are analyzed in this
      period as to their ability to exist by dependence on one
      another. As I said, to me it seems more likely that political
      and basic beaurocratic institutions survived, including an
      office of a scribe. This scribe probably kept accounts of
      inventory more than anything else and literature is highly
      unlikely to have existed in this period in written form. But
      annals may have existed, and these annals could provide
      the data for later writers. This is now getting into the "may
      have" and "could have," which means that other evidence
      is needed. That is, if we want to argue that the Davidic/
      Solomonic history is based on any contemporary records
      we need to show several things:
      1) there existed a scribal office at this time
      a) a scribal office may have survived from an earlier
      political framework
      b) there is physical evidence for the existence of a
      scribal office at this time
      2) this scribal office very reasonably wrote annals

      Naaman's discussion of the issues here reconstructs
      annals only for the 9th century. The inscriptions, even
      as they are meagre, form the basis for 1(b). But there
      is still a need to show 1(a), using a reasonably good
      example for survival of political institutions, and also
      2, using a good example of annals that date this early.

      Yitzhak Sapir

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