The European Research Council project Reconstructing Ancient Israel: The Exact and Life Sciences Perspectives (2009-2014)

The study of Ancient Israel’s (hereafter AI) texts (the Hebrew Bible), material culture and history has been a keystone of European scholarship since the Enlightenment. Biblical exegesis and archaeology contributed impressively to our understanding of AI, yet in certain areas conventional research has reached a stalemate. With very few real-time historical records, with the biblical testimony written a long time after the events described (if not mythical) took place, and with the theological agenda of both the original authors and some modern scholars, reconstructing the world of AI is a complex matter.

 The exact and life sciences are not restricted by these preconceptions and are able to reveal data not visible to the naked eye. Advances made in the last decade in archaeological science show that this is the wave of the future. The novelty in this proposal is to deploy an arsenal of 10 research tracks from the exact and life sciences in order to better understand AI:

A. The time of AI:

    1. Radiocarbon: correlating the chronology of AI with neighboring lands.

B. The genesis of AI:

    1. Human genetics and paleodiet.

    2. Geo-archaeology: tracking the subsistence economy of AI.

    3. Palynology: relating paleoclimate to     

          settlement oscillations.

C. The life of AI:

    1. Ceramic petrography: reconstructing trade patterns.

    2. Metallurgy: tracking technological advances.

D. The mind of AI:

    1. Daily mathematics of dimensions: pottery and architecture.

    2. Epigraphy: the use of advanced computational methodologies (e.g., artificial intelligence algorithms) 

           in the study of writing in Israel and Judah.

E. The identity of AI:

    1. Residue analysis of pottery vessels.

    2. Archaeozoology; both aim at elucidating diet, foodways and possibly identity boundaries.

This project has the potential to revolutionize the study of AI. Such a broad research plan in the realm of archaeology and the sciences, focused on a single period/theme, has never been conducted anywhere.

Summary of the ERC project:

For summary of some of the results of this project see: