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[This article appeared previously in RESTORE! Magazine Winter 1998.
RESTORE! may be contacted at
http://www.restorationfoundation.org

February 1998

Archaeology
(ar-ke-ol o-ge)
by
Rev. Randy Felton

According to Webster's Dictionary of the English Language, archaeology is; "The science of antiquities, especially prehistoric antiquities, which investigates the history of peoples by the remains belonging to the earlier periods of their existence."

I thought I would start this article at the very beginning. It has occurred to me that it might be helpful to explain just what archaeology is and how it is conducted. When we think of archaeology, we usually conjure up pictures of sweating people digging in the dirt. Well, this is a part of it and an important part of it, but there is much more that occurs before this happens.

I will not attempt to give a complete course on archaeology but will try to give some understanding to the process. Initial surveys come in various forms. There have been times when discoveries came to light by clandestine means. The "Dead Sea Scrolls" are one example of plunder that became public, and further investigation revealed more was to be found. At other times there are details in scripture that lead to a search for entire cities, places or items mentioned. Still, there are tell tale signs that indicate that there is something to be found in a certain location.

Today there are many aids in locating a suitable place to "dig". Satellite imaging, aerial photographs, infrared photography, as well as ground surveys help determine where to locate the next investigation. Often there is a more obvious location. Ruins will give a great deal of information as to where there were peoples of the past. Another big hint is a "tell". A tell is a mound or hill that is man-made. Ancient peoples rebuilt cities on top of other cities. One man said it is because the bull dozer had not been invented, and there was no practical way to clear away the buildings. Whatever the reason, building material was reused and simply filled in rather than being carried away. Rebuilt city on top of rebuilt city resulted in a hill of cities. This resulting hill is called a tell.

The two basic methods of excavating a tell have been the trench method and the layer method. Dame Kathleen Kenyon pioneered the trench method in Israel. With the trench you reveal layers of civilization, one on top of the other. This can help give you a chronological reading of the site. This method also reveals layers of burned material indicating the method of destruction at times. When this is read with the records found in the Bible, you can often identify the site and time you are looking at. The other method, which I call the layer method, is accomplished by first laying out a 10 meter grid and then one meter grids and beginning to uncover the tell layer by layer, working from the top down. This gives you a composite picture of what each layer looks like. The problem with this is that each preceding layer is destroyed as you work your way down. With the trench system you can preserve most of what is in each layer but only a small portion is exposed. As you can see both systems have advantages and disadvantages. Often today, a site will use a combination of both methods depending on the location and what is indicated by research.

Relatively recently there have been other methods employed to conduct surveys or research at a site. A few of the newer methods are ground penetrating radar, seismic reflection, molecular frequency response (as developed by NASA)electromagnetic instrumentation, infrared photography and element frequency analysis. Many of these modern methods have been developed by the aerospace industry and are just now coming into use. Another technology that is being employed comes from the oil and gas industry, that of core sample drilling, although it is not recommended for use in a sensitive area. There are applications for inspecting underground voids or caverns by use of remote cameras attached to shafts lowered through the drilled hole.

Still with these sophisticated methods there are many finds that are by accident. Recently there has been a report in several publications of the earliest cross found in Jerusalem. This was uncovered during road construction outside the Jaffa Gate. There have also been exciting finds by people inside the Old City of Jerusalem while doing renovation of their houses. I have also had reports that there are some "antiquities dealers" who make their living by "digging" the floors of their own houses, one room at a time. Some of these excavations are quite deep before being filled back in. There are also those who go about grave robbing and looting tombs. Others seek fame and fortune by looking in caves in the wilderness.

All the methods listed above are archaeology, but not all are legitimate. Unfortunately, many of the clandestine finds are sold into private collections and are never examined by professionals in their context. These activities often make it difficult for legitimate archaeologists and researchers to carry out their work.

The question of finding certain artifacts comes up from time to time. I am often asked about Temple treasures and other things mentioned in the Bible. There are many opinions about such things. The one thing that I do know for sure is this: God's word is true, even if we don't understand it correctly all the time. If there are to be things revealed in these last days, God is certainly able to direct those He has chosen to find them. He is also well able to prevent them from being found by those He doesn't want to find them. God is also well able to provide His own proof as to the authenticity of these articles. Whatever is to be found will be found in His time. We need to remember that as we bump along: God is still in control. The thing that continually strikes me is not so much what God is doing, but the fact that He allows some of us to participate in His plan.

What will be found next? What will be revealed from the ground that ties into God's plan and His Word? Just what is in the next spade full of dirt?


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