Old Testament Backgrounds

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4c. If not the flood at Ur, what about other features such as artificial evidences, stratigraphical, and Radio-Carbon dating?

In particular, the RC dating is a matter of controversy because:

1d. The rate of decay of C-14 has fluctuated over the centuries, and is subject to such influences as earth’s magnetic field, solar winds, climate changes, etc.
2d. The divergence between C-14 and tree-ring dates is not serious after 1500 BC but before that time the difference becomes progressively larger and amounts to as much as 700 years by 2500 BC.

3d. Recent studies have indicated that C-14 dates for the earlier periods are all to young.


Renfrow, Colin. “Carbon 14 and the Prehistory of Europe,” Scientific American, October, 1971, 63-72. Brown, R.H. “The Interpretation of C-14 Dates,” Origins, 6:1 (1979), 30-44. Banning, E.B. and L.A. Pavlish, “A Revolution in RC Dating,” Antiquity (Nov. 1979), 226-227.

For reading on early Mesopotamia see:
Jawed, A.J. The Advent of the Era of Townships in Northern Mesopotamia. Singh, Purshottam. Neolithic Cultures of Western Asia. Goff Beatrice. Symbols of Prehistoric Mesopotamia. (This volume entails some of the best photos of the artifactual materials of this early period). See also M.E.L. Mallowan. Early Mesopotamia and Iran, London: Thames & Hudson, 1965; Hans J. Nissen, The Early History of the Ancient Near East 9000-20000 B.C. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1988; Harvey Weiss, ed. The Origins of Cities in Dry-Farming Syria and Mesopotamia in the Third Millennium B.C. Guilford, CT: Four Quarters, 1986; The Cambridge Ancient History (3rd edition), Volume 1, Part 2. eds. I.E.S. Edwards, et al. Cambridge: University Press, 1971; Christopher J. Eyre, “The Agriculture Cycle, Farming and Water Management in the Ancient Near East,” CANE, 175-190 You may not agree with the early dates assigned to this period.

5c. Town settlements in the Pre-literate period. The scenario of many is that sometime after 9000 BC, the climate in Mesopotamia began to change. This resulted in the early development of villages throughout the fertile crescent.

1d. Among the earliest of these has been Jarmo in the foothills of the Zagros. RC dates place its earliest levels at 6750. Probably the most important work for consultation is that of C.L. Redman, The Rise of Civilization.

2d. Another important early site was that Jericho which has been dated at 7000. It appeared to have the first wall which was approximately 12ft. high and 5ft. thick. It also had a round battlement tower of some 27 ft. in height. The dead were buried under the house floors but the heads were kept in the house itself. It must be remembered, that the dating for these sites is the result of RC-14. For reading, both pro and con, see:

Adam Falkenstein, “The Prehistory and Protohistory of Western Asia, “The Near East: the Early Civilizations, ed. Jean Bottero, et al. 1-51.

CAH, 1:1

Claude J. Peifer, “Ancient Jericho: a Modern Puzzle, “TBT 104 (1979), 2174-79.

P. Dorrell, “The Uniqueness of Jericho,” Archaeology in the Levant, 11-18

H. J. Franken, “Tell es-Sultan and Old Testament Jericho, “OudSt 14 (1965), 189-200.

J. Finegan, Archaeological History of the Middle East

K. M Kenyon, “Jericho,” AOTS, 264-276

3d. Following such early sites as these, archaeologists have identified successive periods by the nomenclature, ‘Type sites.’ The usual order is: Hassuna (6th millennium); Halaf in the north and the Eridu phase of Ubaid in the south (beginning about 5000); Ubaid 2 or Hajji Muhammad phase (beginning about 4900); Ubaid 3 (beginning about 4300); Ubaid 4 (beginning about 3900); Uruk (beginning about 3500); Jemdet Nasr (beginning about 3100). Actually, the proto-literate period ends during Uruk and Jemdet Nasr when the earliest writing techniques begin to develop. Observing the development of civilization here is fascinating but must be avoided since it, technically, is not background to the Old Testament. See, Elizabeth Stone, “The Rise of Cities in Ancient Mesopotamia,” CANE, 235-48.

6c. The Proto-literate Period (Pre-dynastic) ca 3400-2900

1d. The chief difficulty in dealing with this period is relating it to the former periods. Many new features are characteristic of this period including new types of pottery, a fast potter’s wheel, the cylinder seal, monumental architecture, stone sculpture, and above all writing. How is this to be explained?
1e. The suggestion of some is that this necessitates a migration of new peoples with new skills into Mesopotamia. But that only transfers the problem. Where did they get their technology?

2e. Others have pointed to the evidences for continuity of civilizational maturation from earlier periods.

2d. By any account, the impetus for this development comes from those we call Sumerian, whether indigenous or itinerant. The issue is further complicated by nothing that geographical names as well as other words in the Sumerian language on occasion are neither Sumerian, nor Semitic. Whatever the explanations, it is the Sumerian people to whom Mesopotamian civilization owes its greatest debt. Their contributions, even when not original, brought technical skills to a level not heretofore reached. The standard work is by S. N. Kramer, The Sumerians. Chicago: University of Chicago: 1963. See Susan Pollock, “The Royal Cemetery of Ur,” Representations of Political Power, ed. Heinz and Feldman, 89-110.
1e. Perhaps the most obvious emphasis of their society was that initial, impressive effort devoted to monumental architecture – the temple.

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