Settlers take on West Bank archaeology as ancient ‘Joshua’ wall tumbles down

Lovin Jesus

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The site known by locals as “Al-Burnat,” or “top hat” in Arabic, is regarded as an exceedingly rare and significant illustration of early Israelite settlement, the only one of its type in the area.

“This is an important site, belonging to the wave of settlement in the highlands in the early phase of the Iron Age,” said Prof. Israel Finkelstein, one of the world’s leading researchers on Iron Age settlement in the region.

“As far as I can judge, it dates to the 11th century BCE. As such, it can be understood as representing the groups which established the kingdom of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) in the 10th century BCE. In other words, it is an early Israelite site,” he told The Times of Israel.

Bar Ilan University’s Prof. Aren Maeir told The Times of Israel that the site was likely significant “on a global scale — an important cultural heritage site for anyone interested in the history and culture of this region.”

The site is also revered by some Christians and Jews as the place where the biblical Joshua built an altar as commanded in Deuteronomy 29:11, which is described in Joshua 8:31 as “an altar of unhewn stones, upon which no man had lifted up any iron.” In the 1980s, Prof. Adam Zertal proposed the altar explanation after undertaking several seasons of excavations there.

The scientific archaeological community has largely rejected this biblical identification, but researchers are unanimous over its significance, regardless of whether it is the site of Joshua’s altar.

“Even without accepting Zertal’s interpretation, this an extremely important site, representing not only the very early phase of the ‘Israelite settlement’ in the early Iron Age, but also one of the few cultic sites related to this phenomenon,” emphasized Bar Ilan’s Maeir.

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