April 13, 2002
1. Archaeology: New Finds, Biblical City
2. Phoenician Curiosities
3. Did the Phoenicians Discover the New World?
1. Archaeology: New Finds, Biblical City
A judgment about Solomon
Evidence supports Hebrew kingdoms in biblical times
David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor
Friday, April 11, 2003
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle | Feedback
Deep in the ruins of a Hebrew town sacked nearly 3,000 years ago by an
Egyptian Pharaoh, scientists say they have discovered new evidence for the
real-life existence of the Bible's legendary kingdoms of David and Solomon.
The evidence refutes recent claims by other researchers who insist that the
biblical monarchs were merely mythic characters, created by scholars and
scribes of antiquity who made up the tales long after the events to
buttress their own morality lessons.
The debate, however, is not likely to subside, for archaeology is a field
notable for its lengthy quarrels among partisans, however scientific they
The latest evidence comes from Israeli and Dutch archaeologists and
physicists after seven years of digging at a historic site called Tel
Rehov. The site is in the Jordan valley of Israel, where successive
settlements rose and fell over the centuries.
Using highly sophisticated techniques for establishing dates through the
decay rate of radioactive carbon, the scientists have pinned down the time
of a disputed moment in history, recorded in the Bible, when a Pharaoh now
known as Shoshenq I invaded Jerusalem.
As the book of Chronicles relates in the Old Testament, Shoshenq (the Bible
called him Shishak) came "with twelve hundred chariots and threescore
thousand horsemen" and plundered Israel's capital, as well as such towns
and fortresses as Rehov, Megiddo and Hazor.
The Pharaoh later listed those conquests on a monument in the temple of
Amun at Karnak, where the Egyptian city of Luxor now stands.
The new timetable places Shoshenq's rampage and looting at Rehov in the
10th century rather than the 9th, a highly significant difference. It sets
the date at about 925 B.C., some five years after Solomon was said to have
died, and some 80 years earlier than other archaeologists maintain.
Those scholars, known in the world of archaeology as "minimalists," insist
that both David and Solomon were little more than tribal chieftains, and
certainly not the mighty monarchs of the Bible.
A report on the new evidence appears today in the journal Science by
Hendrik Bruins, a desert researcher at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
in Israel, Johannes van der Plicht of the Center for Isotope Research at
the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, and Amihai Mazar of the
Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the principal archaeologist at Tel Rehov.
In a telephone interview, Mazar said that one specific "layer of
destruction" at the site yielded a harvest of charred grain seeds and olive
pits that enabled his colleagues to date them with an unusually high level
of precision. The dates of both earlier and later layers showed clearly how
the successive layers of occupation could be determined from the 12th
through the 9th centuries B.C., he said.
"They provide a precise archaeological anchor for the united monarchies of
the time of David and Solomon," Mazar said. "The pottery we found there
also tells us that the conquest dates from the same period as Meggido, when
its mighty gates and walls and temples were also destroyed by Shoshenq's
More than 40 years ago the late Yigael Yadin, who won fame as an army
officer during Israel's war for independence, turned to archaeology and
after excavating the imposing ruins at Megiddo maintained that they were in
fact destroyed during the so-called Solomonic period.
Recently, however, a group of archaeologists led by Israel Finkelstein of
Tel Aviv University working at Megiddo has insisted that the so-called
Solomon's gate there dates from a much later time -- perhaps 100 or even
200 years after Solomon.
Finkelstein read a copy of the Mazar report that was sent him by e-mail.
After replying that Mazar "is a fine scholar," he insisted that "there are
many problems with his archaeological data" and that the samples of
material used for the radiocarbon dating are at best questionable.
In the past, Finkelstein has accused Mazar of harboring a "sentimental,
somewhat romantic approach to the archaeology of the Iron Age," according
to an earlier account in Science.
On Thursday, however, one of the leaders in the archaeology of Israel,
Professor Lawrence E. Stager, who is director of Harvard University's
Semitic Museum, dismissed the claims of Finkelstein and the other
archaeologists who share his views.
"Mazar and his colleagues have now put another nail in the coffin of
Finkelstein's theories," Stager said. "There's no question that Rehov and
the other cities that Shoshenq conquered were indeed there at the time of
"We don't need to rely any more only on the Bible or on Shoshenq's
inscriptions at Karnak to establish that Solomon and his kingdom really
existed, because we now have the superb evidence of the radiocarbon dates."
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle
2. Phoenician Curiosities
Did you know?
Western/Latin and other alphabets come from the Phoenician alphabet?
The Pentateuch (Moses' first five books, if not more, of the the Old
Testament Bible, the Torah) was/were written down (transliterated) in
Phoenicians circumnavigated Africa?
Phoenicians were the first to use the Pole Star for navigation?
Phoenicians were able traders throughout the Mediterranean?
Phoenicians colonized the far corners of the Mediterranean from the Island
of Cyprus in the East to Spain and Gibraltar including the outer Atlantic
coast and North Africa in the West?
Britain was the Phoenicians' secret treasure of tin where the name
"Britain" may be coming from Barr (land) of Tannic (Tin)? Hence Britannia
did not come from Prutani, the name applied to the Celts by the Romans, and
some claim that the Celts were Phoenicians.
The Phoenicians reached North America BC and Punic inscriptions in
Massachusetts and Iowa confirm this fact?
In the Iliad and the Odyssey, Homer mentions Phoenicia, Phoenicians and
The Phoenician possessed the science or art of dentistry as evident by the
fine braces on a lower jaw of a scull?
The Phoenician language is still spoken today in Malta (or Maltese is a
mixture of Phoenician/Punic and other Mediterranean languages) ?
To beef up their naval powers, conquerors employed the Phoenicians in
The Phoenicians raised elephants on farms?
The first parliament ever to convene in the Middle East met in the
Phoenician confederate city of Tripoli?
Aristotle held up the constitution of Carthage as a model.
The Phoenicians had a rough knowledge about pi (3.1416) at the time of
Hiram and the building of Solomon's Temple?
Mochus, a Sidonian, wrote a work on the atomic theory.
3. Did the Phoenicians Discover the New World?
The Phoenician coin presumed to contain a map of the ancient world
If Mark McMenamin is correct, neither Columbus nor the Vikings were the
first non-natives to set foot on the Americas. McMenamin, the Mount Holyoke
geologist who last year led an expedition that discovered the oldest animal
fossil found to date, may have made another discovery--one that sheds
radical new light on present conceptions of the Classical world and on the
discovery of the New World.
Working with computer-enhanced images of gold coins minted in the
Punic/Phoenician city in North Africa of Carthage between 350 and 320 BC,
(please see sketch of coin right and where the world map is supposed to
have been inscribed) McMenamin has interpreted a series of designs
appearing on these coins, the meaning of which has long puzzled scholars.
McMenamin believes the designs represent a map of the ancient world,
including the area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and the land mass
representing the Americas.
If this is true, these coins not only represent the oldest maps found to
date, but would also indicate that Carthaginian explorers had sailed to the
In fact, it was his interest in the Carthaginians as explorers that led
McMenamin to study the coins. The Carthaginians were closely linked to the
Phoenicians of the Middle East in terms of origin, culture, language, and
naval enterprise. Both peoples are widely credited with significant sailing
exploits through the Mediterranean, to the British Isles, and along the
coast of Africa.
This detail of a gold coin shows what McMenamin believes is a map of the
Mediterranean area, surrounded by Europe, Britain, Africa, and (at left)
the Americas. The image appears on coins minted in Carthage between 350 and
320 BC. The enhanced and colorized version is based on the illustrations
courtesy of Mark McMenamin.
In one of the coins studied by McMenamin, a horse stands atop a number of
symbols at the bottom of the coin. For many years, scholars interpreted
these symbols as letters in Phoenician script. When that theory was
discounted in the 1960s, it left scholars baffled. Working over the past
few months, McMenamin was able to interpret the design as a representation
of the Mediterranean, surrounded by the land masses of Europe and Africa,
with, to the upper left, the British Isles. To the far left of the
representation of the Mediterranean is what the geologist believes is a
depiction of the Americas.
A number of classical texts bolster this theory. For example, in the first
century bc, Diodorus of Sicily wrote "...in the deep off Africa is an
island of considerable size...fruitful, much of it mountainous.... Through
it flow navigable rivers....The Phoenicians had discovered it by accident
after having planted many colonies throughout Africa."
"I was just the lucky person who had the geologic and geographic expertise
to view these coins in a new light," McMenamin notes. "I have been
interested in the Carthaginians as the greatest explorers in the history of
McMenamin's interest in Carthage led him to master the Phoenician language.
He has published two pamphlets on his work regarding the Carthaginian
coins. One is written in ancient Phoenician, representing probably the
first new work in that language in 1500 years.
He has submitted a paper on his theory to The Numismatist, a leading
journal in the study of coins, which has accepted McMenamin's paper on the
theory for publication. At the same time, the scholar is trying to gain
access to a number of coins --or casts of their impressions-- currently
held in European collections. These impressions will further aid him, he
hopes, in proving the world map theory's validity. "If I had the time and
the money," McMenamin observes, only half-kidding, "I'd be in North Africa
with my metal detector trying to find Carthaginian coins to further confirm
Additional study may well reveal that it was Punic explorers not Europeans
who "discovered" the New World. At the very least, McMenamin hopes his
theory will focus new scholarly attention on ancient Carthaginian culture.
Geologist Mark McMenamin, Mount Holyoke College
However, another opinion states:
["Did Atlantis lay in England?" By E.J. de Meester]
The American geologist and fossil hunter Mark McMenamin claims to have
found a world map on Carthagian coins from 350-320 BC. (See a page on the
website Phoenicia.org.) The coin shows a horse; under the feet of the horse
is a design that was first interpreted as writing, but which is a map
according to McMenamin. In the middle is the Mediterranean Sea with Spain.
On the left there is a blob which McMenamin interprets as America, but
which looks more like Britain and Ireland in my opinion. Still a very
interesting discovery! That Britain is depicted too far south is probably
due to the fact that the Phoenicians used maps on rolls of papyrus. There
was no space to draw Britain in the right place (compare the Roman
Peutinger map). Britain is shown just where Plato said that Atlantis was
situated: outside the Pillars of Hercules! The two dots above Spain that
McMenamin interprets as Ireland and Britain may represent Normandy and
Britanny. Tacitus (Agricola 11) writes that Britain is 'opposite Spain';
some of its inhabitants have dark, curly hair and may have come from Spain.
Comment by Brit-Am: There may be something in the above claims. It should
however also be remarked that the picture of the actual coin in question
depicts a relatively huge horse standing over very small markings which
only when examined closely look like they could possibly be a map. They
could also just as likely be decorative incisions or something that only
(to us) like a possible map. BUT maybe it really is a map and perhaps
additional findings will confirm it.