A Myth of Archaeology

A Myth of Archaeology

Note: David McMillin is a student at the Koinonia Institute working on his Silver Medallion. This paper was part of his coursework in his I620 class.

Pottery Shards on Mt. Sinai

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

Joseph Goebbels

This concept calls loudly from the halls of archaeological research, especially when corroborating dates between published research and the Bible before the time of Saul, David, and Solomon, where the subjective dating methods often used by archaeologists results in assigning incorrect dates to Biblically related events which in turn discredits the historical accuracy of the exodus from Egypt and the conquest of Canaan.

Archaeological research of the Middle East bases most of its time-lines on the flawed methods of dendrochronology, radio-carbon dating, stratigraphic layers with pottery, and incorrectly dated chronologies of Egyptian pharaohs to set biblical events instead of using the established timeline set forth in the Bible. In fact all of these dating methods allow archaeologists to present dates and chronologies based on their own personal assumptions about reality, specifically their belief or non-belief in a God who knows all and is interactive with His creation.

These assumptions allow archaeologists to present their own biased version of the past to both peers and the public. Whether intentional or not, the public accepts this view as the truth believing that, because they are experts, they know the truth. These experts can then present their view that rejects the Biblical facts. As the Bible says:

For the time will come when people will not tolerate healthy doctrine, but with itching ears will surround themselves with teachers who cater to their people’s own desires. They will refuse to listen to the truth and will turn to myths.

— 2 Timothy 4:3–4, ISV

The teachers are the archaeologists but what are these myths? They are the flawed dating methods currently used to put historical events into their historical context.

Dendrochronology forms the foundation of various dating methods used in archaeology. It is also a flawed method. The underlying assumption in dendrochronology states that a tree will grow one and only one ring per calendar year. However, according to William Doolittle, “Trees also add one ring for each rainy season within a year,” in direct contradiction to the base assumption. In fact, W.E. Lammerts demonstrated that a Bristle-cone Pine tree, the tree used to date finds in and around California, could grow multiple rings simply by simulating a two week drought between each rain season.

The Bristle-cone Pine tree grows in the southwestern United States and is considered old at 5000 years, assuming one tree ring per annum. They are found mostly in high arid zones where water is something of a luxury. This Lack of Luxury would cause a tree to develop a ring each time a rain-drought cycle occurred. Doolittle concurred with that conclusion when he said, “If the climate of an area has two distinct rainy seasons separated by periods of no rain, trees will add two rings per year.”

In his article, C.W. Ferguson found that Bristle-cone Pine trees growing in areas of increased soil produced younger ages. Either the results from his study suggest the trees in the deeper soil were seeded later or fewer rain-drought cycles occurred. As a tree does not choose the location of its seeding it is more likely a difference in rain-drought cycles that yield an incongruity in the ring accumulation and a disparity between the ages of two distinct trees.

In regions outside the American Southwest, experts commonly take large samplings of trees then radio-carbon date the rings. Once the results are returned, the rings that most fit the perceived tree growth timeline by the experts are then incorporated into the tree ring chronology. Whenever an individual is allowed to choose which answer best fits their idea of the facts they are allowed the input of their own bias’s to filter their decisions and interpretations through.

Several problems arise when using radio-carbons to date tree rings. The first is that radio-carbon dates are younger than calendar years. Per Ewen Callaway, “As a rule, carbon dates are younger than calendar dates, a bone carbon-dated to 10,000 years is around 11,000 years old…” The method used to determine the adjusted calendar date is to calibrate the radio-carbon dates to the tree ring chronology which was dated using the radio-carbons. This, simply put, is circular logic and proves nothing. (See Fig 1)

Dating based on Dendrochronology and Radio-Carbon

To establish a date in radio-carbon years, the ratio between C14 and C12 is measured and then calculated based on the half-life of C14, which begins to degrade upon the death or separation from the source of life, e.g. a leaf fallen from a tree. The assumption here is that all environmental conditions remained the same from the date of death to the time of dating. This is the second problem. As Callaway put it, “Various geologic, atmospheric, and solar processes can influence atmospheric carbon 14 levels.” These various conditions make the level of C14 unknowable at the time of death or separation without knowing each and every event.

Trevor Major makes a more poignant argument against radio-carbon dating. He says, “Cross-checking with other archaeological information will confirm whether a radio-carbon date is ‘reasonable’. This brings an element of subjectivity and circular reasoning.” So who gets to decide the “reasonable” date? That would be the archaeologists with their personal biases.

Another manner in which archaeologists date sites requires a foundation in the history of the development of pottery. Archaeologists digging into the layers of a site will find pottery. Based on a known history of pottery a layer of occupation can be dated. Determining how old a layer of occupation based on pottery is more problematic than it appears. For pottery to be dated it must be found within a layer that can be dated by other means, e.g. a dated coin or a piece of organic material that can be radio-carbon dated.

As discussed before the radio-carbon dating proved untrustworthy. According to Kathleen Kenyon, who excavated a portion of Jericho, “The dating of structures is almost entirely dependent on the identification of pottery in associated deposits.” Again with this circular reasoning, pottery is dated by the layer it is found, the layer is dated by the pottery found in it. At the site of Jericho, where Kenyon excavated, the pottery could not be used for absolute dating because there was little resemblance between it and other sites and she had to rely more on radio-carbon.

In the case of Near East, North Africa, the Mediterranean, and large tracts of Europe the chronologies of Egypt are used to place events into a historical timeline. In addition to the other methods this too creates difficulties. According to Kenneth Kitchen the Pharaoh Shishak mentioned in the Bible is Shenshonq I. This identification places events like the destruction of Jericho out of alignment with the Bible. However, according to Peter James, Rameses III whose nickname was ‘Sesi’ is a more likely match with Shishek and would bring the Biblical accounts into alignment with the historical record. But this identification has not been widely accepted and archaeologists still choose to use unsustainable arguments.

Dendrochronology, radio-carbon dating, pottery dating, and chronological dating are not accurate dating methods. Dendrochronology is used to calibrate radio-carbon years and radio-carbon dating sets the date of tree rings. At archaeological sites the organic material, including tree rings, is used to date an occupation layer which in turn establishes the radio-carbon date of each layer. (See Fig 2)

Dendrochronology, Pottery Shard, and Radio-Carbon

This is one very large mess of circular reasoning and allows an archaeologist to choose whichever date best fits their view of world events. This is best stated by Matthew Beaudoin in his lecture at Binghamton University, “Interpretation of archaeological findings is often shaped by assumptions that the researchers already believe to be true.” He also said, “Archaeologists sometimes look for information that confirms their own beliefs.”

If this is true, then the methods of dating are subjective and allow the archaeologist to avoid, neglect, ignore, or outright lie about the actual course of events and teach a mythological past for others to place their faith in. This also allows for a direct assault Israel’s ownership of all the land between the Euphrates and the Nile and allows for the future establishment of a multi-national agreement making Israel a place for all people rather than one people.

Bibliography

  • Ferguson, C.W., “A 7104-year annual tree-ring chronology for Bristlecone Pine, Pinus aristata, from the White Mountains, California” Tree-Ring Bulletin 29(3–4):6, 1969
  • Lammerts, W.E., “Are the Bristle-cone Pine trees really so old?” Creation Research Society Quarterly 20(2):108–115, 1983
  • Aardsma, Gerald A. PhD, “Myths Regarding Radiocarbon Dating.” Institute for Creation Research. Icr.org, 1989
  • Major, Trevor, “Dating in Archaeology-Radiocarbon and Tree-Ring dating, ‘Reason & Revelation’” 13:74–77 October, 1993
  • Kenyon, Kathleen M. “Digging up Jericho: The results of the Jericho Excavations 1952–1956”, Frederick A. Praeger Publisher, NY 1957, pg 33
  • James, Peter, et al, “Centuries of Darkness: A Challenge to the Conventional Chronology of Old World Archaeology”, Jonathan Cape, London, 1991, pg 220
  • Beaudoin, Matthew. “Bridging Gaps: Confronting Assumptions in Archaeological Interpretation” Lecture at Binghamton University Feb 2, 2015
  • K.A. Kitchen, The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100 – 650 BC), (Warminster, UK: Aris and Phillips, 1973, 1986, 1996)

– From KHouse.Org

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