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Archaeologists usually remember that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." The absence of evidence for Hittites once fueled some 19th-century debates over the Bible—until the vast Hittite empire was discovered in Anatolia. Questions about the Book of Daniel once focused on the absence of the prominently featured Belshazzar from Babylonian king lists—until it was discovered that Belshazzar was actually the son of Nabonidus, and co-regent.

The many media reports which unquestionably accepted the TAU findings is also testimony to the fact that mainstream archaeologists and Bible scholars believe the Bible was written or assembled in the first millennium BC. They are highly skeptical of any historical information that predates that period.

Bolen also observed that archaeologists at TAU support a low chronology for the United Monarchy of Israel, which minimizes the importance of David and Solomon, and typically weights archaeological evidence more strongly than the biblical account.

"They're thinking of this in terms of strengthening their position on the low chronology," he said.

Ironically, one of the most-recent critiques of the low chronology came from another archaeologist working in the same Aravah copper mine area. He determined that the bulk of the industrial-scale mining probably occurred during the 10th century BC, the time of David and Solomon, and not later, as had been thought.

Gordon Govier is the editor of ARTIFAX magazine, and executive producer of The Book & The Spade radio program.

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