Excavating the City of David: Has Eilat Mazar found David’s Palace?
by James Tabor
There is a fascinating article, not to be missed, by Prof. Eilat Mazar on her excavations in the “City of David” area of Jerusalem on-line at the Biblical Archaeology Society web site, “Did I Find David’s Palace?”
Prof. Mazar recounts in a most objective way how her efforts developed over the years, the obstacles she has faced, and her interpretation of the results. I knew her grandfather from the 1968 digging south of the Temple Mount and I particularly enjoyed her story about talking with him before he died about this area. There are lots photos of the “City of David” area taken from 1900-1920 and there is not a building in that whole area, Jewish, Christian or Arab, other than the pump house for the Gihon built by the British. The dense construction we see there today is mostly post 1948 with some initial building in the 1930s. Too bad we can’t go back in time and skip the local turf wars of who owns what. David belongs to the ages, to humankind, and is the common spiritual ancestor of Jews, Christians, and Muslim–as is the case for all the amazing history of Jersualem, from Jebusite to today!
One the political side of things, one of the best sources for 19th and early 20th century photos of Jerusalem, not to mention just about any other photos related to Biblical studies (with some offered free), is the amazing collection of Todd Bolen at Bibleplaces.com. In this case, that is, the City of David, a picture is truly worth a thousand words–or more!
In terms of biblical and archaeological studies, especially what has been called “Biblical Archaeology,” I find the arguments Prof. Mazar offers in her article about how the texts of the Hebrew Bible can be properly used as a source for ancient Jerusalem and its potential correlation with material evidence both balanced and compelling. Our task is always to “find what is there” and to explore and examine the material evidence of the past as objectively as possible, regardless of religious traditions. However, the methods Prof. Mazar pursues in this regard are in my view are sound and historically responsible. After all, to ignore these ancient texts entirely is as misguided as to use them as a road map to predict and interpret what one finds, regardless of the evidence.