Israel Finkelstein

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Israel Finkelstein
ישראל פינקלשטיין
Israel Finkelstein ca. 2010
Born (1949-03-29) March 29, 1949 (age 75)
Alma materTel Aviv University
Known forThe Bible Unearthed
SpouseJoelle Cohen
ChildrenAdar and Sarai
AwardsDan David Prize
Scientific career
InstitutionsTel Aviv University
University of Haifa

Israel Finkelstein (Hebrew: ישראל פינקלשטיין; born March 29, 1949) is an Israeli archaeologist, professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University and the head of the School of Archaeology and Maritime Cultures at the University of Haifa. Finkelstein is active in the archaeology of the Levant and is an applicant of archaeological data in reconstructing biblical history.[1] Finkelstein is the current excavator of Megiddo, a key site for the study of the Bronze and Iron Ages in the Levant.

Finkelstein is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities an associé étranger of the French Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres,[2] and International Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Finkelstein has received several noteworthy academic and writing awards. In 2005, he won the Dan David Prize for his revision of the history of Israel in the 10th and 9th centuries BCE.[3] In 2009 he was named chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture, and in 2010, received a doctorate honoris causa from the University of Lausanne.[4] He is a member of the selection committee of the Shanghai Archaeology Forum, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Among Finkelstein's books are The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of its Sacred Texts (2001) and David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition (2006), both written with Neil Asher Silberman. Also he wrote the textbooks on the emergence of Ancient Israel, titled The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement (1988); on the archaeology and history of the arid zones of the Levant, titled Living on the Fringe (1995); and on the Northern Kingdom of Israel, titled The Forgotten Kingdom (2013). Other books deal with biblical historiography: Hasmonean Realities Behind Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles (2018), Essays on Biblical Historiography: From Jeroboam II to John Hyrcanus (2022), and Jerusalem Center of the Universe (in press, to appear in 2024).



Israel Finkelstein was born to an Ashkenazi Jewish family in Tel Aviv, Israel, on March 29, 1949.[5][6] His parents were Zvi (Grisha) Finkelstein (born 1908) and Miriam Finkelstein (maiden name Ellenhorn, born 1910). His great-grandfather on his mother's side, Shlomo Ellenhorn, came to Palestine from Grodno (today in Belarus) in the 1850s and settled in Hebron. He was one of the first physicians in the Bikur Cholim Hospital in Jerusalem, and is listed among the group of people who purchased the land in 1878 in order to establish Petah Tikva – the first modern Jewish settlement in Palestine outside the four holy cities. Finkelstein's father was born in Melitopol (Ukraine). He came to Palestine with his family in 1920.

Finkelstein is married to Joelle (maiden name Cohen). They are the parents of two daughters.


Israel Finkelstein attended the PICA elementary school (1956–1963) and Ahad Ha'am High School (1963–1967), both in Petah Tikva. He then served in the Israel Defense Forces (1967–1970). He studied archaeology and Near Eastern civilizations, and geography at Tel Aviv University, receiving his BA in 1974. While there, Finkelstein was a student of Prof. Yohanan Aharoni. He continued as a research student under the supervision of Prof. Moshe Kochavi, receiving his MA in 1978 (thesis on Rural Settlement in the Yarkon Basin in the Iron Age and Persian-Hellenistic Periods). He graduated as a PhD in 1983 with a thesis titled "The Izbet Sartah Excavations and the Israelite Settlement in the Hill Country".

Academic career[edit]

From 1976 to 1990, Finkelstein taught at the Department of Land of Israel Studies, Bar-Ilan University, beginning as a teaching assistant. He spent the academic year of 1983–84 in a research group led by Prof. Yigael Yadin in the Institute of Advanced Studies in the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. In 1986/1987, Finkelstein taught at the Department for Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago. In 1987 he was appointed an associate professor with tenure at Bar-Ilan University and in 1990 moved to the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations at Tel Aviv University. In 1992/93 Finkelstein spent a sabbatical year as a visiting scholar at the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University. Since 1992, he has been a Full Professor at Tel Aviv University. He served as the chairperson of the Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Studies (1994–98) and as Director of The Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology (1996–2003). In 1998–99 Finkelstein was a visiting scholar in the Centre de Recherche d'Archéologie Orientale and the École Pratique des Hautes Études in the Sorbonne, Paris.

Finkelstein was the editor of Tel Aviv, the journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University (2008-2021), and the executive editor of the Monograph Series by the Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University (2005-2021). He is a member of editorial boards, including the Palestine Exploration Quarterly and the Archaeology and Biblical Studies series of the Society of Biblical Literature.


Directing excavations at Tel Meggido

Finkelstein was trained as a field archaeologist in the excavations of Tel Beer Sheva (1971, Director: Yohanan Aharoni) and Tel Aphek (1973–1978, Directors: Moshe Kochavi and Pirhiya Beck). Starting in 1976, he carried out his own fieldwork in a variety of sites and regions:

Past excavations and surveys[edit]

Finkelstein carried out field work in a variety of sites, representing different periods. In 1976-1978 he field-directed (under Prof. Moshe Kochavi) the excavations at 'Izbet Sartah, an Iron I-Iron IIA village-site east of Tel Aviv (for the results see I. Finkelstein, Izbet Sartah: An Early Iron Age Site near Rosh Ha'ayin, Israel, Oxford 1986). In the same years he conducted surveys of Byzantine monastic remains in southern Sinai (for the results see I. Finkelstein, Byzantine Monastic Remains in Southern Sinai, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 39, 1985, pp. 39–75), and directed salvage excavations at the mound of ancient Bene Beraq near Tel Aviv (for the results see I. Finkelstein, Soundings at Ancient Bene-Beraq, 'Atiqot 10, 1990, pp. 29–40). In 1980, Finkelstein co-directed (together with I. Beit-Arieh and B. Cresson) the excavation of Tel Ira, an Iron II site in the Beer-sheba Valley (for the results see I. Finkelstein and I. Beit-Arieh, Area E, in I. Beit-Arieh, editor, Tel Ira: A Stronghold in the Biblical Negev, Tel Aviv 1999, pp. 67–96).

In the 1980s Finkelstein moved to projects in the highlands. He directed the excavation at biblical Shiloh, a site which features Middle Bronze, Late Bronze and Iron I remains (for the results see I. Finkelstein, editor, Shiloh: The Archaeology of a Biblical Site, Tel Aviv 1993). Another comprehensive project was the Southern Samaria Survey, which covered an area of ca. 1000 km2 in the highlands north of Jerusalem (for the results see I. Finkelstein, Z. Lederman and S. Bunimovitz, Highlands of Many Cultures, The Southern Samaria Survey, The Sites, Tel Aviv 1997). In parallel, he carried out soundings at sites northeast of Jerusalem: Khirbet ed-Dawwara, an Iron I-early Iron IIA site in the desert fringe near Jerusalem (for the results see I. Finkelstein, Excavations at Kh. ed-Dawwara: An Iron Age Site Northeast of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv 17, 1990, pp. 163–208); and the Intermediate Bronze site of Dhahr Mirzbaneh (for the results see I. Finkelstein, The Central Hill Country in the Intermediate Bronze Age, Israel Exploration Journal 41, 1991, pp. 19–45).

Recent excavations[edit]

Finkelstein's most extensive field work is the excavation at Megiddo (1994–present: co-directors David Ussishkin until 2012, and Matthew J. Adams and Mario A.S. Martin since 2014). Megiddo is considered as one of the most important Bronze and Iron Age sites in the Levant[7].

In 2006-2020 Finkelstein co-director excavations and geo-archaeology work in the Iron Age sites of Atar Haroa and Nahal Boqer, and the Intermediate Bronze Age sites of Mashabe Sade and En Ziq (with Ruth Shahack-Gross). For the results see R. Shahack-Gross and I. Finkelstein, Settlement Oscillations in the Negev Highlands Revisited: The Impact of Microarchaeological Methods, Radiocarbon 57/2, 2015, pp. 253–264.

More recently (2017-2019), Finkelstein co-directed the Shmunis Family Excavations at Kiriath-Jearim, a biblical site in the highlands west of Jerusalem associated with the Ark Narrative in the Book of Samue[8]l (with Christophe Nicolle and Thomas Römer, the College de France).

Other projects[edit]

During the years Finkelstein carried out other archaeology-related projects. The most extensive of them took place in 2009–2014; Finkelstein was principal investigator of a European Research Council-funded project titled Reconstructing Ancient Israel: The Exact and Life Sciences Perspectives (with Steve Weiner of the Weizmann Institute of Science as co-Principal Investigator). The project was organized into 10 tracks dealing with radiocarbon dating, ancient DNA, geoarchaeology, paleoclimate, petrography, metallurgy, daily mathematics, advanced imaging of ostraca, residue analysis and archaeozoology. Samples were taken from a large number of sites in Israel and Greece.

Another project focused on the petrography of the Amarna clay tablets (1997-2022 with Yuval Goren and Nadav Na'aman; the results were published in: Y. Goren, I. Finkelstein and N. Na'aman; Inscribed in Clay: Provenance Study of the Amarna Letters and other Ancient Near Eastern Texts, Tel Aviv 2004.

Other studies dealt with the paleoclimate of the Levant (2009–2019, with Dafna Langgut of Tel Aviv University and Thomas Litt of the University of Bonn); The Archaeological and Historical Realities behind the Pentateuch (2016–2019, with Konrad Schmid of the University of Zurich, Thomas Römer and Christophe Nihan of the University of Lausanne and Oded Lipschits of Tel Aviv University); ancient DNA of animals and Humans (2009–present, with Meirav Meiri of Tel Aviv University, in cooperation with Joseph Maran and Philipp Stockhammer of the Universities of Heidelberg and Munich, Liran Carmel of the Hebrew University, and David Reich of Harvard University).

Another project is the study of 'Digital Epigraphy', in which algorithmic methods were introduced to the study of Iron Age Hebrew inscriptions, 2008—present, with Eli Piasetzky of Tel Aviv University. This study was later expanded, introducing computer science methods to the investigation of biblical texts (with Barak Sober of the Hebrew University and Eli Piasetzky of Tel Aviv University).

Scholarly contributions[edit]

Finkelstein has written on a variety of topics, including the archaeology of the Bronze Age and the exact and life sciences contribution to archaeology. Much of his work has been devoted to the Iron Age and, more specifically, to questions related to the history of Ancient Israel.

The emergence of Ancient Israel[edit]

The classical theories on the emergence of Israel viewed the process as a unique event in the history of the region. Finkelstein suggested that we are dealing with a long-term process of a cyclical nature. He demonstrated that the wave of settlement in the highlands in the Iron Age I (c. 1150-950 BCE) was the last in a series of such demographic developments – the first had taken place in the Early Bronze and the second in the Middle Bronze. The periods between these peaks were characterized by low settlement activity. Finkelstein explained these oscillations as representing changes along the sedentary/ pastoral-nomadic continuum, which were caused by socioeconomic and political dynamics. Hence, a big portion of the people who settled in the highlands in the early Iron Age were locals of a pastoral-nomadic background. Others, who originated from local sedentary background, moved to the highlands as a result of the Bronze Age collapse – which in turn was related to a long period of dry climate in c. 1250-1100 BCE. Since eventually these groups formed the Northern Kingdom of Israel, they can be labeled "Israelites" as early as their initial settlement process. The same holds true for the contemporary settlement process in Transjordan and western Syria, which brought about the rise of Moab, Ammon and the Aramean kingdoms of the later phases of the Iron Age.[9]

Finkelstein regards the biblical account on the Conquest of Canaan in the Book of Joshua as an ideological manifesto of the Deuteronomistic author/s of the late 7th century BCE, describing a "conquest to be" under King Josiah of Judah rather than a historical event at the end of the Bronze Age. He proposed that the original Conquest Account may have originated in the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the early 8th century BCE; it could have been influenced by memories of the turmoil that had taken place in the lowlands in the late Iron I (10th century BCE), rather than the end of the Late Bronze Age (late 12th century BCE).[10]

The Low Chronology[edit]

Until the 1990s, the chronology of the Iron Age in the Levant had been anchored in the biblical account of the great United Monarchy of David and Solomon. Accordingly, the Iron I ended ca. 1000 BCE and the Iron IIA was dated from 1000 BCE until the campaign of Pharaoh Sheshonq I (biblical Shishak) ca. 925 BCE. The two Iron IIA palaces at Megiddo were conceived as the material manifestation for the Solomonic Empire.[11] While preparing for the excavations at Megiddo in the early 1990s, Finkelstein noticed difficulties in this scheme. Noteworthy among them is the appearance of similar traits of material culture at Megiddo in a layer that was dated to the time of King Solomon in the middle of the 10th century, and at Samaria and Jezreel in contexts dated to the time of the Omride Dynasty (of the Northern Kingdom of Israel) in the early 9th century BCE. To resolve these difficulties, Finkelstein proposed to "lower" the dates of the Iron Age strata in the Levant by several decades.[12]

According to Finkelstein's Low Chronology, the Iron Age I lasted until the middle of the 10th century BCE, while the Iron IIA is dated between the middle of the 10th century and ca. 800 BCE, if not slightly later. This means that the Megiddo palaces and other features which had traditionally been attributed to the time of King Solomon – features which date to the late Iron IIA – should indeed be associated with the endeavors of the Omride Dynasty in the first half of the 9th century BCE. A big debate ensued.[13] Starting in the late 1990s, the focus of the discussion shifted to the interpretation of radiocarbon determinations for organic samples from key sites, such as Tel Rehov and Megiddo. All in all, the radiocarbon results put the Iron I/IIA transition ca. the middle of the 10th century (rather than 1000 BCE as had traditionally been proposed), and the Iron IIA/B transition in the early days of the 8th century (rather than ca. 925 BCE).[14] These data have far-reaching implications far beyond the Levant, first and foremost for the chronology of the Aegean basin.

In parallel, and not directly connected, Finkelstein dealt with the chronology of Philistine pottery of the Iron Age I. The traditional theory fixed the appearance of Philistine pottery – and hence the settlement of the Philistines in the southern coastal plain of the Levant – in accordance with the confrontation between Ramses III and the Sea Peoples in the early 12th century BCE. In other words, Philistine pottery appears during the last phase of Egyptian rule in Canaan.[15] Finkelstein proposed that the locally-made Monochrome pottery known from several sites in Philistia, which is widely understood as representing the earliest phase of Philistine settlement, should be dated after the withdrawal of Egypt from Canaan in the 1130s.[16]

Finkelstein sees the biblical description of the time of David and Solomon as multilayered. He acknowledges the historicity of the founders of the Davidic Dynasty, places them in the 10th century BCE, and considers the possibility that the description of the rise of David to power conceals old memories of his activity as a leader of an Apiru-band that was active in the southern fringe of Judah. Yet, he sees the description of a great United Monarchy as an ideological construct that represents the ideology of late-monarchic author/s in the late 7th century BCE, first and foremost the pan-Israelite ideology of the days of King Josiah of Judah. According to him, the historical David and Solomon ruled over a small territory in the southern highlands – a territory not very different from that of Jerusalem of the Late Bronze Age. Finkelstein sees much of the description of King Solomon as representing realities from late monarchic times: First, from the later days of the Northern Kingdom (for instance, the reference to Megiddo, Hazor and Gezer in 1 Kings 9:15 and to the stables, horses and chariots of Solomon). Second, from the time of King Manasseh of Judah in the early 7th century BCE, under Assyrian domination (for instance, the visit of the Queen of Sheba in Jerusalem).[17] He understands the description of the Philistines in the Bible as portraying realities in Philistia in late-monarchic times.[18]

"New Canaan"[edit]

Following the results of the excavations at Megiddo, Finkelstein argued that the material culture of the Iron I in the northern valleys continues that of the Late Bronze Age. In other words, the collapse of the Late Bronze city-states under Egyptian domination in the late 12th century BCE was followed by revival of some of the same centers and rise of others in the Iron I. He termed this phenomenon "New Canaan".[19] Accordingly, the major break in the material culture of Canaan took place at the end of the Iron I in the 10th century BCE rather than the end of the Late Bronze Age. Finkelstein associated the violent destruction of the revived city-states with the expansion of the highlanders (early Israelites). He suggested that memories of the turmoil in the lowlands in the late Iron I can be found in northern traditions regarding skirmishes with Canaanite cities which appear in the heroic stories in the Book of Judges.[20]

The Northern Kingdom[edit]

Finkelstein dealt with a variety of themes related to the archeology and history of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. He proposed that the first North Israelite territorial polity emerged in the Gibeon-Bethel plateau in the late Iron I and early Iron IIA. He found archaeological evidence for this in the system of fortified sites, such as Tell en-Nasbeh, Khirbet ed-Dawwara, et-Tell ("Ai") and Gibeon. Historical evidence for the existence of this polity can be found in the campaign of Pharaoh Sheshonq I in this region in the middle-to-second half of the 10th century BCE. According to Finkelstein, positive memories in the Bible of the House of Saul, which originated from the North, represent this early Israelite entity. He suggested that this north Israelite polity ruled over much of the territory of the highlands, that it presented a threat to the interests of Egypt of the 22nd Dynasty in Canaan, and that it was taken over during the campaign of Sheshonq I.[21]

Finkelstein proposed that in its early days, the Northern Kingdom (Jeroboam I and his successors) ruled over the Samaria Highlands, the western slopes of the Gilead and the area of the Jezreel Valley. The expansion of Israel further to the north came during the days of the Omride Dynasty in the first half of the 9th century BCE, and even more so in the time of Jeroboam II in the first half of the 8th century BCE. Finkelstein described the special features of Omride architecture and, with his Megiddo team, dealt with different subjects related to the material culture of the Northern Kingdom, such as metallurgy and cult practices.

Finkelstein also reflected on biblical traditions related to the Northern Kingdom, such as the Jacob cycle in Genesis (a study carried out with Thomas Römer), the Exodus tradition, the heroic stories in the Book of Judges and remnants of royal traditions in the Books of Samuel and Kings.[22] He suggested that these North Israelite traditions were first committed to writing in the days of Jeroboam II (first half of the 8th century BCE), that they were brought to Judah with Israelite refugees after the takeover of Israel by Assyria, and that they were later incorporated into the Judahite-dominated Bible. Finkelstein sees the biblical genre of deploying "history" in the service of royal ideology as emerging from Israel (the North) of the 8th century BCE.

Archaeology and history of Jerusalem[edit]

Finkelstein has recently dealt with the location of the ancient mound of Jerusalem (with Ido Koch and Oded Lipschits). The conventional wisdom sees that "City of David" ridge as the location of the original settlement of Jerusalem. Finkelstein and his colleagues argued that the "City of David" ridge does not have the silhouette of a mound; that it is located in topographical inferiority relative to the surrounding area; and that the archaeological record of the ridge does not include periods of habitation attested in reliable textual records. According to them, the most suitable location for the core of ancient Jerusalem is the Temple Mount. The large area of the Herodian platform (today's Harem esh-Sharif) may conceal a mound of five hectares and more, which – similar to other capital cities in the Levant – included both the royal compound and habitation quarters. Locating the mound of Ancient Jerusalem on the Temple Mount resolves many of the difficulties pertaining to the "City of David" ridge.[23]

According to Finkelstein, the history of Jerusalem in biblical times should be viewed in terms of three main phases:

Firstly, until the 9th century BCE, Jerusalem was restricted to the mound on the Temple Mount and ruled over a modest area in the southern highlands. Accordingly, Jerusalem of the time of David and Solomon can be compared to Jerusalem of the Amarna period in the 14th century BCE: it had the size of a typical highlands mound (for instance, Shechem), ruled over a restricted area, but still had impact beyond the highlands.

Secondly, the first expansion of Jerusalem came in the 9th century BCE, perhaps in its second half, when the town grew significantly in a southerly direction. Remains of the Iron IIA were unearthed south of al-Aqsa Mosque, above the Gihon Spring and to the south of the Dung Gate of the Old City. In parallel to this development, Judah expanded to the Shephelah in the west and Beer-sheba Valley in the south, and for the first time became a territorial kingdom rather than a city-state restricted to the highlands.

Thirdly, the most impressive phase in the settlement history of Jerusalem commenced in the late 8th century BCE and lasted until its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. At that time Jerusalem expanded dramatically, to include the entire "City of David" ridge, as well as the "Western Hill" (the Armenian and Jewish Quarter of today's Old City). This expansion was the result of the arrival of Israelite refugees after the demise of the Northern Kingdom in 722–720 BCE. These groups brought with them traits of Northern material culture, and more important – their foundation myths, royal traditions and heroic stories. These Northern traditions were later incorporated into the Judahite Bible.

Jerusalem and Yehud/Judea of the Persian and Hellenistic periods[edit]

Finkelstein noted that in the Persian Period, Jerusalem was limited to the mound on the Temple Mount – and even there was sparsely settled – and that Yehud of that time was also thinly settled. As the description of the construction of the wall of Jerusalem in Nehemiah 3 must relate to the big city (extending beyond the old mound on the Temple Mount), it probably portrays the construction of the fortifications by the Hasmoneans.

Finkelstein further noted that many of the sites mentioned in the lists of returnees in Ezra and Nehemiah were not inhabited in the Persian Period and hence sees these lists as reflecting the demographic situation in days of the Hasmoneans. The same holds true, in his opinion, for the genealogies in 1 Chronicles.[24] Finkelstein then looked into the accounts of Judahite monarchs in 2 Chronicles, which do not appear in Kings. He called attention to similarities between these texts and 1 Maccabees, and proposed to understand Chronicles as representing legitimacy needs of the Hasmoneans. This means that at least 2 Chronicles dates to the late 2nd century BCE, probably to the days of John Hyrcanus.[25]

Scribal activity in Israel and Judah[edit]

Dating the appearance of in inscriptions and the dissemination of writing in Israel and Judah has far-reaching implications in the study of the material culture of the Hebrew Kingdom and in biblical historiography. Finkelstein dealt with three aspects of this theme. (a) With Benjamin Sass, he suggested a new dating method for the alphabetic inscriptions which predate ca. 800 BCE[26]. In the past, dating these inscriptions was based on assumptions which stemmed from interpretation of biblical texts, for instance the mention of scribes in the court of King David in the 10th century BCE. Yet, this is a circular argument, as biblical texts may portray realities of the time of their authors more than the situation in the past. Therefore, Finkelstein and Sass focused on the archaeological contexts of the inscriptions: the layer in which a given inscription was found, its relative chronology according to the ceramic assemblage, and absolute chronology according to 14c dating. They showed that Proto-Canaanite writing continued until the 9 th century BCE and that Hebrew writing did not appear before the very late 9 th century. (b) Following the same method – of scrutinizing the archaeological contexts of ancient inscriptions – Finkelstein dated the beginning of scribal activity in Judah to the late 8 th century BCE (about a century later than in Israel) and showed that writing disseminated there only in the 7 th century[27]. (c) A research group which was headed by Finkelstein (with Eli Piasetzky and others)introduced computer science methods to the study of First Temple period Hebrew ostraca. The group concentrated on two avenues: multi-spectral imaging of inscriptions, and the number of "hands" in the Samaria and Arad ostraca[28]; the latter enables better understanding of literacy and ability to compose biblical texts in Israel and Judah.

Archaeology of Jordan[edit]

Finkelstein dealt with a variety of subject related to the archaeology of Jordan – specific sites and broader historical questions. He suggested (with Oded Lipschits) a reconstruction of the Genesis of Moab and pointed to architecture characteristics of the Omride dynasty (Israel) in two sites in Moab which are mentioned in the late 9 th century BCE Mesha Inscription[29]. In addition, he discussed the settlement history of the Transjordanian highlands[30], the copper industry in the eastern Arabah Valley, and sites in the Gilead, Ammon and Edom.

The archaeology and history of the arid zones[edit]

A central theme in Finkelsteins work (with Ruth Shahak-Gross and others) is the archaeology and history of the arid zones, especially the Negev Highlands. Finkelstein concentrated on two waves of activity in this area. (a) The Early Bronze and the Intermediate Bronze[31]. He showed that this wave of activity took place in the Early Bronze III and the first half of the Intermediate Bronze (ca. 2900-2200 BCE). The inhabitants of the sites engaged in animal husbandry but did not practice seasonal agriculture. The main impetus for this settlement wave was demand of copper in Old Kingdom of Egypt, which accelerated copper production in the Arabah Valley. Activity in the Negev Highlands sites ceased with the decline of the Old Kingdom. (b) An early phase of the Iron Age (ca. 950-850 BCE). The focus is on sites which were previously described as fortresses constructed by the United Monarchy of Ancient Israel. Finkelstein and his associates showed that they were built by the local inhabitants, who, in this case too, engaged in animal husbandry but not in seasonal agriculture. And yet again, the prosperity in the region was linked to copper production in the Arabah Vally[32]. Another project focused on water cisterns and reservoirs in the region. It showed that the "open" (not rock-cut) water reservoirs,which had been dated solely to the Iron Age, were in fact the most common method of water-supply from the Early Bronze to medieval times[33].

Archaeological Science[edit]

Finkelstein (in corporation with a large number of researchers) pioneered in introducing exact and life sciences methods and techniques to archaeology[34]. He put special emphasis on advanced dating methods, first and foremost radiocarbon, but also archaeo-magnetism and OSL (Optically Stimulated Luminescence). He also engaged in studies of geo-archaeology (looking at sediments from ancient sites to identify subsistence patterns of their inhabitants), molecular residues in ceramic vessels (which points to early trade link with the Far East) and archaeo-metallurgy.

Three fields are of special interest: (a) Paleoclimate of the Levant according to pollen in sediments extracted from the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea[35] (with DafnaLanggut). The study revealed patterns of climate change in the Bronze and Iron Ages; especially important is evidence for a dry period in the later part of the Late Bronze Age, that was a prime mover in the collapse of ancient civilizations during the "Crisis Years"; at the end of the Bronze Age. (b) A study of Ancient DNA of Bronze and Iron Age individuals (with researchers from the Hebrew University and Harvard)[36], which pointed to migration of groups from the northeast of the ancient Near East to the Levant in the third and second millennia BCE. (c) Introduction of computer science methods to the study of ancient inscriptions and texts. One track – regarding Hebrew ostraca -- was described above; another track (with Eli Piasetzky, Nahum Dershovitz and Thomas Romer) deals with attempts to distinguish between genres in the biblical text[37].

Published works[edit]


In addition to the reports of excavations cited above:


About 450 scholarly articles; for many of them see:


Bene Israel: Studies in the Archaeology of Israel and the Levant during the Bronze and Iron Ages in Honour of Israel Finkelstein, Leiden and London 2008 (eds. Alexander Fantalkin and Assaf Yasur-Landau).

Rethinking Israel: Studies in the History and Archaeology of Ancient Israel in Honor of Israel Finkelstein, Winona Lake 2017 (eds. Oded Lipschits, Yuval Gadot and Matthew J. Adams).

YouTube series[edit]

The Shmunis Family Conversations in the Archaeology and History of Ancient Israel with Israel Finkelstein series is a YouTube series hosted by the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research's Albright Live YouTube Channel. As of September 2021, 26 episodes have been released.[38][39] The series is set as an interview-style conversation between Albright Institute Director Matthew J. Adams and archaeologist Israel Finkelstein. Episodes cover the rise of Ancient Israel as evidenced by archaeology, ancient Near Eastern textual sources, the Bible, and archaeology from the Late Bronze Age through the Hellenistic Period. The episodes are written and directed by Israel Finkelstein and Matthew J. Adams with cinematography and editing by Yuval Pan. The series is Produced by Djehuti Productions and the Albright Institute with a grant from the Shmunis Family Foundation.

Awards and recognition[edit]

Finkelstein is the Laureate of the Dan David Prize in 2005. The select committee noted that he is "widely regarded as a leading scholar in the archaeology of the Levant and as a foremost applicant of archaeological knowledge to reconstructing biblical Israelite history. He excels at creatively forging links between archaeology and the exact sciences and he has revolutionized many of these fields. … Finkelstein has had an impact on radically revising the history of Israel in the 10th and 9th centuries BCE. He has transformed the study of history and archaeology in Israeli universities, moving from a 'monumental' to a 'systemic' study of the archaeological evidence."[3]

In 2014, Finkelstein was awarded the Prix Delalande Guérineau: Institut de France, l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, for his book Le Royaume biblique oublié (The Forgotten Kingdom).[40]

He is the recipient of the MacAllister Field Archaeology Award 2017 (The American Schools of Oriental Research).

His other awards include the French decoration of Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres, (2009) and the Doctorat honoris causa of the University of Lausanne (2010).


Finkelstein's theories about Saul, David and Solomon have been criticized by fellow archaeologists.[41] Amihai Mazar described Finkelstein's Low Chronology proposal as "premature and unacceptable". Amnon Ben-Tor accused him of employing a "double standard", citing the biblical text where it suited him and deploring its use where it did not.[42] Other criticisms came from William G. Dever (who dismissed the Low Chronology as "idiosyncratic"), Lawrence Stager, Doron Ben-Ami, Raz Kletter and Anabel Zarzeki-Peleg.[41] David Ussishkin, despite agreeing with many of Finkelstein's theories about the United Monarchy, has also shown doubts and reservations about Finkelstein's Low Chronology.[43]

Writing in the Biblical Archaeology Review and subsequently in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, William G. Dever described The Bible Unearthed as a "convoluted story", writing that "This clever, trendy work may deceive lay readers".[44] Ancient Near Eastern historian Kenneth Kitchen was also critical of the book, writing that "[A] careful critical perusal of this work—which certainly has much to say about both archaeology and the biblical writings—reveals that we are dealing very largely with a work of imaginative fiction, not a serious or reliable account of the subject", and "Their treatment of the exodus is among the most factually ignorant and misleading that this writer has ever read."[45] Another evangelical, Richard Hess, also being critical, wrote that "The authors always present their interpretation of the archaeological data but do not mention or interact with contemporary alternative approaches. Thus the book is ideologically driven and controlled."[46]

A 2004 debate between Finkelstein and William G. Dever, mediated by Hershel Shanks (editor of the Biblical Archaeology Review), quickly degenerated into insults, with Dever calling Finkelstein "idiosyncratic and doctrinaire" and Finkelstein dismissing Dever as a "jealous academic parasite". Dever later accused Finkelstein of supporting post-Zionism, to which Finkelstein replied by accusing Dever of being "a biblical literalist disguised as a liberal". Shanks described the exchange between the two as "embarrassing".[47][42]

Following the publication of The Forgotten Kingdom, Dever once again harshly criticized Finkelstein: writing in the Biblical Archaeology Review, he described Finkelstein as "a magician and a showman". He stated that the book was full of "numerous errors, misrepresentations, over-simplifications and contradictions".[41] Another, more moderate, review was written on the same magazine by Aaron Burke: while Burke described Finkelstein's book as "ambitious" and praised its literary style, he did not accept Finkelstein's conclusions. He stated that the book engages in several speculations that cannot be proved by archeology, biblical and extra-biblical sources. He also criticized Finkelstein for persistently trying to downgrade the role of David in the development of ancient Israel.[48]


  1. ^ "Tel Aviv University Institute of Archaeology". Retrieved 2021-01-04.
  2. ^ "Associés étrangers". 13 March 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Israel Finkelstein | The Dan David Prize". Archived from the original on 2014-08-29.
  4. ^ Kleiman, Assaf (2013-07-28). "Named Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture, 2009". Israel Finkelstein. Retrieved 2021-01-04.
  5. ^ "Rewriting Tel Megiddo's Violent History". Discover Magazine. Retrieved 2020-12-05.
  6. ^ "Curriculum Vitae". Israel Finkelstein. 27 July 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  7. ^ For the results see: I. Finkelstein, D. Ussishkin and B. Halpern, editors, Megiddo III: The 1992–1996 Seasons, Tel Aviv 2000; idem. Megiddo IV: The 1998–2002 Seasons, Tel Aviv 2006; I. Finkelstein, D. Ussishkin and E.H. Cline, editors, Megiddo V: The 2004–2008 Seasons, Winona Lake 2013; I. Finkelstein and M.A.S. Martin, editors, Megiddo VI: The 2010–2014 Seasons, University Park Pennsylvania 2022; M.J. Adams, M. Cradic and I. Finkelstein, Megiddo VII: The Shmunis Family Foundation Excavation of Tomb 16/H/50 and Burial 16/H/45, University Park Pennsylvania, in press.
  8. ^ For the results see: I. Finkelstein and Thomas Römer, The Shmunis Family Foundation Excavations at Kiriath-jearim, University Park Pennsylvania, in press.
  9. ^ For the rise of Ancient Israel: I. Finkelstein, The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement, Jerusalem 1988; idem, The Great Transformation: The 'Conquest' of the Highlands Frontiers and the Rise of the Territorial States, in T.E. Levy (ed.), The Archaeology of Society in the Holy Land, Leicester 1995, pp. 349-365.
  10. ^ For the biblical account on the Conquest of Canaan: I. Finkelstein and N.A. Silberman, The Bible Unearthed, Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of its Sacred Texts, New York 2001, pp. 72-96; I. Finkelstein, A Corpus of North Israelite Texts in the Days of Jeroboam II? Forthcoming in Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel.
  11. ^ For instance, Y. Yadin, Megiddo of the Kings of Israel, Biblical Archaeologist 33 (1970), pp. 65-96.
  12. ^ I. Finkelstein, The Archaeology of the United Monarchy: An Alternative View, Levant 28 (1996), pp. 177-187.
  13. ^ For instance, A. Mazar, Iron Age Chronology: A Reply to I. Finkelstein, Levant 29 (1997), pp. 157-167.
  14. ^ For instance, I. Finkelstein and E. Piasetzky, Radiocarbon Dating the Iron Age in the Levant: A Bayesian Model for Six Ceramic Phases and Six Transitions, Antiquity 84 (2010), pp. 374–385. Iron Age Chronology Debate: Is the Gap Narrowing? Another Viewpoint, Near Eastern Archaeology 74 (2011), pp. 105-111.
  15. ^ A. Mazar, The Emergence of the Philistine Culture. Israel Exploration Journal 35 (1985), pp. 95–107; L.E. Stager, The Impact of the Sea Peoples in Canaan (1185-1050 BCE), in T.E. Levy (ed.), Archaeology of Society in the Holy Land. London 1995, pp. 332–348.
  16. ^ I. Finkelstein, The Date of the Philistine Settlement in Canaan, Tel Aviv 22 (1995), pp. 213-239; for radiocarbon results see I. Finkelstein and E. Piasetzky, Radiocarbon Dating Khirbet Qeiyafa and the Iron I-IIA Phases in the Shephelah: Methodological Comments and a Bayesian Model, Radiocarbon 57 (2015), pp. 891–907.
  17. ^ I. Finkelstein and N.A. Silberman, David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition, New York 2006, pp. 151-178.
  18. ^ I. Finkelstein, The Philistines in the Bible: A Late-Monarchic Perspective, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 27 (2002), pp. 131-167.
  19. ^ I. Finkelstein, City States and States: Polity Dynamics in the 10th-9th Centuries B.C.E, in W.G. Dever and S. Gitin (eds.), Symbiosis, Symbolism and the Power of the Past: Canaan, Ancient Israel, and their Neighbors, Winona Lake 2003, pp. 75-83.
  20. ^ For instance, I. Finkelstein, Historical-Geographical Observations on the Ehud-Eglon Tale in Judges, in I. Finkelstein, T. Römer and C. Robin (eds.), Alphabets, Texts and Artefacts in the Ancient Near East, Studies Presented to Benjamin Sass, Paris 2016, pp. 100-108.
  21. ^ I. Finkelstein, The Forgotten Kingdom: The Archaeology and History of Northern Israel, Atlanta 2013, pp. 37-61.
  22. ^ I. Finkelstein, Jeroboam, above n. 2.
  23. ^ I. Finkelstein, I. Koch and O. Lipschits, "The Mound on the Mount: A Solution to the 'Problem with Jerusalem'?" Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 11 (2011, Article 12).
  24. ^ I. Finkelstein, Jerusalem in the Persian (and Early Hellenistic) Period and the Wall of Nehemiah, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 32 (2008), pp. 501-520; idem, The Archaeology of the List of Returnees in Ezra and Nehemiah, Palestine Exploration Quarterly 140 (2008), pp. 7-16.
  25. ^ I. Finkelstein, The Expansion of Judah in II Chronicles: Territorial Legitimation for the Hasmoneans? Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 127 (2015), pp. 669–695.
  26. ^ I. Finkelstein and B. Sass, The West Semitic Alphabetic Inscriptions, Late Bronze II to Iron IIA: Archeological Context, Distribution and Chronology. Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel 2 (2013), pp. 149-220.
  27. ^ I. Finkelstein, The Emergence and Dissemination of Writing in Judah, Semitica and Classica 13 (2020), pp. 269-282.
  28. ^ S. Faigenbaum-Golovin, A. Shaus, B. Sober, Y. Gerber, E. Turkel, E. Piasetzky and I. Finkelstein, Literacy in Judah and Israel: Algorithmic and Forensic Examination of the Arad and Samaria Ostraca, Near Eastern Archaeology 84 (2021), pp. 148-158.
  29. ^ I. Finkelstein and O. Lipschits, Omride Architecture in Moab: Jahaz and Ataroth, Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palastina-Vereins 126 (2010), pp. 29-42; I. Finkelstein and O. Lipschits, The Genesis of Moab, Levant 43 (2011), pp. 139-152.
  30. ^ I. Finkelstein, From Sherds to History: Review Article. Israel Exploration Journal 48 (1998), pp. 120-131.
  31. ^ I. Finkelstein, M.J. Adams, Z.C. Dunseth and R. Shahack-Gross, The Archaeology and History of the Negev and Neighboring Areas in the Third Millennium BCE: A New Paradigm, Tel Aviv 45 (2018), pp. 63-88.
  32. ^ I. Finkelstein, The Southern Steppe of the Levant ca. 1050-750 BCE: A Framework for Territorial History, Palestine Exploration Quarterly 146 (2014),pp. 89-104.
  33. ^ A. Junge, Z.C. Dunseth, R. Shahack-Gross, I. Finkelstein and M. Fuchs, The Archaeology and History of Rock-Cut Cisterns and Open Water Reservoirs in the Negev Highlands, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 389 (2023), pp. 191-216.
  34. ^ For instance, I. Finkelstein, S. Weiner and E. Boaretto (eds.), Reconstructing Ancient Israel: The Exact and Life Sciences Perspectives, special issue of Radiocarbon (57/2), 2015.
  35. ^ D. Langgut, I. Finkelstein, T. Litt, F.H. Neumann and M. Stein, Vegetation and Climate Changes during the Bronze and Iron Ages (~3600–600 BCE) in the Southern Levant Based on Palynological Records, Radiocarbon 57/2 (2015), pp. 217-236.
  36. ^ L., Agrant-Tamir, ... I. Finkelstein, L. Carmel and D. Reich, The Genomic History of the Bronze Age Southern Levant, Cell 181 (2020), pp. 1146–1157 (corresponding authors: Novak, Pinhasi, Carmi, Finkelstein, Carmel and Reich).
  37. ^ G. Yoffe, A. Buhler, N. Dershowitz, I. Finkelstein, E. Piasetzky, T. Romer and B. Sober, A Statistical Exploration of Text Partition Into Constituents: The Case of the Priestly Source in the Books of Genesis and Exodus, ACL Anthology 2023: 1918-1940.
  38. ^ "AWOL - the Ancient World Online: The Shmunis Family Conversations in the Archaeology and History of Ancient Israel with Israel Finkelstein". 10 February 2021.
  39. ^ "The Shmunis Family Conversations in the Archaeology and History of Ancient Israel with Israel Finkelstein - YouTube". YouTube.
  40. ^ "TAU professor receives prestigious Prix Delalande-Guérineau". 2 March 2014.
  41. ^ a b c "Divided Kingdom, United Critics". Biblical Archaeology Society. 2014-07-02. Retrieved 2021-07-22.
  42. ^ a b "In Search of King David's Lost Empire". The New Yorker. 2020-06-18. Retrieved 2021-07-22.
  43. ^ Finkelstein, Israel (2000). Megiddo III: The 1992-1996 Seasons. Emery and Claire Yass Publications in Archaeology, Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University. ISBN 978-965-266-013-8.
  44. ^ Dever, William G. (2001). "Excavating the Hebrew Bible, or Burying It Again?". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (322): 67–77. doi:10.2307/1357517. ISSN 0003-097X. JSTOR 1357517. S2CID 222454879.
  45. ^ Kitchen, Kenneth (2006-06-09). On the Reliability of the Old Testament. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. pp. 464–465. ISBN 978-0-8028-0396-2.
  46. ^ Hess, Richard S. (2001). "Dr. Richard Hess' review of, "The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts," by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman". Denver Journal.
  47. ^ "Debate: In This Corner: William Dever and Israel Finkelstein Debate the Early History of Israel". The BAS Library. 2015-08-24. Retrieved 2021-07-22.
  48. ^ Dever, William G.; Burke, Aaron (2014-07-02). "Divided Kingdom, United Critics". Biblical Archaeology Society. Retrieved 2021-04-25.

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