Ralph K. Hawkins (Ph.D., Andrews University) is Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Averett University, in Danville, Virginia. He has been on staff at Tall Jalul and Khirbet ‘Ataruz, both in Jordan, and is currently the co-director, with David Ben-Shlomo, of the Jordan Valley Excavation Project. In addition to numerous articles and reviews in Hebrew Bible and Near Eastern archaeology, he is the author of The Iron Age I Structure on Mt. Ebal: Excavation and Interpretation (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2012), How Israel became a People (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2013), and a forthcoming commentary on Joshua (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press).
Bible & Archaeology Fest XX, November 17 – 19, 2017
The Mystery of el-Mastarah: A “Hidden” Site in the Jordan Valley and the Early Israelite Settlement
According to the book of Joshua, the Israelites entered the land of Canaan from the east, across the Jordan River. This biblical tradition has largely been replaced by various models of indigenous origins, which understand the early Israelites to have emerged from the native population of Canaan. One of the reasons that models of indigenous origins have burgeoned over the last several decades is that there has been no archaeological evidence of an early Israelite presence in the east. However, a recent survey of the Jordan Valley, conducted over a period of fourteen years (1980-1994), has discovered fifty-four previously unknown sites in the region that date to the Early Iron Age (ca. 1200 B.C.E.). One of them is Khirbet el-Mastarah, whose name is derived from a root that means “to hide.” It appears to have been intentionally established in a hidden location, on a knoll in the fork of a wadi, surrounded by hills on three sides. Despite its seemingly illogical location, it was clearly established as a permanent village and persisted into Iron Age II (1000-586 B.C.E.). This presentation will provide an overview of the newly discovered sites in the Jordan Valley, as well as the findings from our initial field season at Khirbet el-Mastarah, including our efforts to identify the inhabitants of the site, understand their relationship to other peoples in the region during the Early Iron Age, and why they established their village in a hidden location.