Archaeological Correlates for Israelite Conquest of Palestine


What can really be put to the test, archaeologically, is that very distinctive biblical situation of the Conquest of Palestine by the Israelites, with so many towns and cities affected, but in different ways (e.g. complete destruction and burning, in some cases, or peaceful settlement). For me the unequivocal meeting place of archaeology and the Old Testament is the activity of the nomadic (some dispute this) Middle Bronze I (MBI) people upon the previous Early Bronze III (EBIII) civilisation. I refer to both their destructive work and places of settlement. Dr. John Osgood provides maps in his article showing how well MBI correlates with Israel:

And no less an authority than Dr Rudolph Cohen (former Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority), a conventionalist, has come around to the conclusion that MBI = Israelites, subsequent to his writing in the July1983 edition of Biblical Archaeology Review an article headed “The Mysterious MBI People”.

But not only Dr. Cohen.

Dr. David Down tells ( “While we were working on the dig at Ein Hatzeva, I was visited by Yigal Israel who was site supervisor of the Israeli team. I asked him if he accepted Dr Cohen’s views about the MBI people. He replied, ‘Yes, of course. We all do down here.’ I remarked that the archaeologists in the north do not accept that view. He replied, ‘They do not know what they are talking about. They have not excavated in the south’.”

However, that neat and cosy equation (MBI = Israelites), whilst being a wonderful starting point for a biblico-historical correlation, still requires an added dimension. I came to realise that only after reading Professor W. Stiebing’s penetrating criticism of the MBI Conquest model, which, he argued, whilst it nicely accommodated much of the biblical data, failed to account for all of it. {Actually this is only to be expected from what I have argued in “Bible Bending Pharaonic Egypt”, about the need to tuck up Middle kingdom into Early kingdom, with a corresponding archaeological tuck}. Stiebing’s comments led me to write in 2004 “Comparing One Dimensional Biblical Stratigraphic Models with Multi-Dimensional Models” ( see section: Stiebing’s Criticism of the MBI), which today may need a fair degree of tweaking.

Damien Mackey.