The field of archaeology is about to experience a revolution. In the past few years new discoveries have included royal seals mentioning King Hezekiah of Judah, messages written by low level Israelite soldiers, and a new Egyptian pharaoh, who may have been part of a dynasty of rulers that was previously unknown to archaeologists. The exciting thing is that the discoveries are only going to get better. The amount and variety of undiscovered artifacts is simply staggering.
This new era of discovery may also impact the general attitude of mainstream academia which in recent decades has been widely skeptical about the early history found in the Bible. However, as more information pours in, it will be interesting to see how these new finds impact our understanding of the ancient world and its relation to the Bible. In fact, the rate of discovery is increasing rapidly as new technologies open up new possibilities never before dreamed of.
Egyptologist Charles Aling commented on the history of excavations at this important ancient city of Avaris in one of the bonus features on the Collector’s Edition Box Set of Patterns of Evidence. When asked about how much of ancient Avaris had been uncovered, Aling said, “Avaris itself, this is one of the most massive sites in all of the ancient Near Eastern world. And they have excavated there 60 seasons now. (A season lasts about two or three months, they do two seasons a year usually). And Professor Bietak, the excavator, said that that accounts for about 3% of the total site.”
It seems amazing that after digging for more than 30 years, the Austrians have only uncovered about 3% of the city. What other clues will be found as the excavation continues? Dr. Aling also said, “With Egypt, there are huge gaps… We have large gaps in our information.” He stated that most of the surviving material from ancient Egypt remains to be found and guessed that we know about 10-15 % of what there is to be known.
When speaking about Avaris, Professor John Bimson from Trinity University in Bristol, England mentioned that many other Semitic sites from the Middle Bronze Age also exist in the area nearby. Bimson noted that, “If we go back to the 18th-19th centuries BC, we’ve got settlements of Semitic groups, or what the Egyptians called Asiatics. We don’t know exactly when they started arriving or exactly when these settlements stopped, because many of these sites have not been fully excavated yet. You’ve got a good many settlements, twenty or more, which would fit the land of Goshen where the Bible says the Israelites were settled.
There are more than 20 Semitic settlements in Egypt’s Nile Delta waiting to be explored.
“If those other cities all turn out to be as big as Tell el-Dab’a, then it would take hundreds of years to fully investigate. So there could be a lot of stuff in the ground waiting to be discovered and to throw a lot more light on this period of Asiatic settlement.”
Hundreds of years of excavating just to unearth the Semitic sites in the Nile Delta, and those are just the ones we are currently aware of. Will these sites and what is revealed help establish the presence of the early Israelites in Egypt?
Now consider the impact of another new technology. Over the last several years, Egyptologist Sarah Parcak of University of Alabama in Birmingham has used infrared satellite imaging to discover 17 lost pyramids in Egypt. She also claims to have found more than 1,000 tombs and 3,100 ancient settlements with this system. Her fascinating work is profiled in the BBC documentary, Egypt – What Lies Beneath.
An image of the ancient city of Tanis buried beneath sediment in the Nile Delta as seen in a typical satellite image (left) compared to the same area enhanced in an infrared image (right) showing a pattern of streets and houses
The buried city of Tanis revealed by satellite and using infrared technology
“I couldn’t believe we could locate so many sites all over Egypt,” Dr. Parcak says in the film. “This hints at the possibilities of discoveries to come. I am excited for my generation and the generations to come. There is enough to be excavated for 50 generations.”
One of America’s top Egyptologists, Kent Weeks, spoke with filmmaker Timothy Mahoney at Karnak about the wealth of material still undiscovered: He said “there is enough material, new material in Egypt that archaeologists will be kept busy digging for centuries.”
The film Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus has been part of an effort that counters the claim that there is no physical evidence for the the Bible’s Exodus account. A flood of new discoveries may add to that process. What else is waiting to be pulled up from under the sands of time, and what mysteries and misunderstandings about the Bible might be solved in the years ahead. Imagine how exciting it would be to dig up something that no one has seen for thousands of years. Perhaps you or someone you know will be caught up in this quest for knowledge and will be part of making discoveries that will define how the world views history and the Bible for centuries to come.