Friday, November 11, 2005

Goliath woz not 'ere

Here's a little lesson in how rumors get spread and distorted, and of how even dry news reporting can yield rather different results. I was, for understandable reasons, pretty excited this morning to read the following bulletin on JTA, which is already making its way throught the Jewish, and wider, blogosphere:
An Israeli archeological find could support the biblical story of David slaying Goliath.
Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University’s archaeology department said this week that a shard of pottery found at the Tell es-Shafi, believed to be the site of Goliath’s hometown Gath, carries inscriptions referring to the giant Philistine warrior. Though the shard dates to around 900 BCE, around a century after Goliath was said to have been killed by a slingshot-wielding David, Maeir said it could be the first independent evidence that the battle recounted in the Book of Samuel was true.
A shard that referred to the biblical Goliath? Sounds like discovery of the century. Intrigued, I googled it. The first piece I clicked on, from MSNBC, came up with this added / different information:
While the discovery is not definitive evidence of Goliath’s existence, it does support the Bible’s depiction of life at the time the battle was supposed to have occurred, said Dr. Aren Maeir, a professor at Bar-Ilan University and director of the excavation.
What this means is that at the time there were people there named Goliath,” he said. “It shows us that David and Goliath’s story reflects the cultural reality of the time.”
A shard which directly refers to the great Philistine warrior, and one that simply happens to use the word 'Goliath,' are two rather different things (although I am interested to hear that until now, they apparently had no idea that the name 'Goliath' was a real one). I clicked on another piece, which added the following:
the shard, which contains the earliest known Philistine inscription ever to be discovered, mentions two names that are remarkably similar to the name "Goliath".
Remarkably similar???? What does that mean?? Reminds me of the joke about the lower class Brit who was asked his sirname. "Armstrong-Jones." "And how, sir, do you spell that?" "S-m-i-t-h."
Professor Aren Maeir, Chairman of Bar-Ilan University's Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, told the paper that the odds of this being the actual Goliath referred to in the Bible are "small if non-existent."
So, sorry folks, no Goliath-sized breakthrough quite yet; that's it until next week, when they find David's sling (a piece of wood with a 'dalet' shape -- 'or something remarkably similar' -- on it).

UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post adds: "Written in archaic "Proto-Canaanite" letters, the inscription found on the shard, dating to the 10th or early 9th century BCE, contains two non-Semitic names: Alwt and Wlt... Following intense examination of the inscription, Prof. Meir (along with his colleagues Prof. Aaron Demsky, an expert in epigraphy at Bar-Ilan University, and Dr. Stefan Wimmer, of Munich University) has concluded that the two names which appear in the inscription are remarkably similar to the etymological parallels of Goliath." In other words, they don't even sound like Goliath.

No comments: