Exodus Memories of Southern Sinai
(Linking the Archaeological Data to the Biblical Narratives)
Please click here for this website's most important article: Why the Bible Cannot be the Word of God. Please click here for my latest map (21 Nov. 2009) showing the site of Israel's "crossing of the Red Sea"
in the Exodus as being at Ras el Ballah (my Baal-zephon)
***15 May 2005 UPDATE: Please be advised that I _now_ understand that a "conflation and fusion" exists of events appearing in the Bible's Exodus narratives: first, the Hyksos expulsion of 1540-1530 BCE, secondly, Ramesside Era events in the Sinai and Arabah, and thirdly, of places existing only in Late Iron II, 640-562 BCE. Mainstream scholarship understands Israel's settling of the Hill Country is Iron I, ca. 1200-1000 BCE based on archaeological findings. Why then does the Bible's chronology have an Exodus "hundreds of years" earlier?
The answer is very surprising and has been preserved for almost 2000 years in the writings of an Egyptian priest/historian called Manetho. He wrote a history of Egypt in the 3rd century BCE for his Hellenistic Greek overlord Ptolemy II. He noted that TWO EXPULSIONS occurred in Egypt's history, of Asiatics. The first was of the Hyksos of the mid 16th century and then another in the Ramesside era. He understood that the Hyksos fled to and settled at Jerusalem, but that 500 years later (Josephus' reckoning) "their descendants" reinvaded Egypt, resettling at the town they had been expelled from earlier called Avaris. After 13 years of "lording it" over the eastern delta, the Ramessides expelled the Hyksos' descendants a SECOND TIME, and they eventually again settled at Jerusalem. The Jewish historian Josephus (1st century CE) was adamant that the 16th century expulsion was the Exodus based on _his calculations_ of the Bible's chronology and furious that Manetho had said the Exodus was preserved in a Ramesside expulsion! Modern archaeology has established the Israelite settlement of the Canaanite Hill Country from Galilee to the Negev as portrayed in the Bible, was in Ramesside times. Please click here for my article on Manetho vs. Josephus on the dating of the Exodus. If Manetho is correct, that Avaris was resettled by Canaanites in Ramesside times, and expelled again in that era, perhaps this answers the "great mystery" as to why the pottery of the IRON IA Hill Country settlements from Galilee to the Negev is _Canaanite_ in appearance and _not_ Egyptian? The answer: 13 years was apparently too short a period of time for the "reinvading" Canaanite descendants of the Hyksos to adopt Egyptian potting techniques. They probably cast their Canaanite pots in Egypt and still were casting them in the "Canaanite manner" when they settled AGAIN near Jerusalem in the Hill Country. Not until Egypt abandoned Canaan circa 1130 BCE under Ramesses VI was the land wide-open for conquest, by Philistines and Israelites. The "original" article below, will remain intact, but is _superceded_ by the above observations of Josephus and Manetho.
12 June 2005 Update:
I know of only TWO SITES in the Sinai that possess the "missing" archaeological evidence of Late Bronze Age (1540-1200 BCE) and Iron Age IA(1230-1150 BCE) pottery sherds which scholars _expect to find_ in support of the Exodus scenario. They are the Egyptian mining camps at Serabit el Khadim and the Timna Valley copper mines in the Arabah. The problem ? Timna's "Midianite" tent or Tabernacle (if it be such) cannot be Israel's Tabernacle which was stored in the Temple at Jersualem in the Holy of Holies. The bronze serpent found at Timna cannot be Moses' serpent which was kept at the same temple and later destroyed by Hezekiah. Thus it is probably unlikely that Timna is an Israelite encampment. The best that can be said regarding Timna is that it exhibits certain customs mentioned in the Bible associated with Israel's Exodus and suggests the presence of Midianites in the region for those arguing for a Ramesside exodus in Iron IA (1230-1150 BCE).
As regards Serabit el Khadim, no evidence has yet been found of charcoal from campfires associated with tents as portrayed in the Exodus account of "hundreds of thousands" of Israelites. Additionally there simply does not exist at Serabit el Khadim water sources to sustain such a large group.
The below article will "remain" intact, but it is _superceded_ by the above research on Manetho and Josephus.
Mainstream secular humanist scholarship understands that there was no Exodus on the basis of the analysis of archaeological data. Conservative scholarship has been understandably dismayed by this turn of events. Has the archaeological evidence been misunderstood? Is nothing recoverable, historically speaking -from archaeology- to explain how Israel came to develop its traditions of an Exodus?
Some scholars have noted that even "myths" frequently have a historical basis buried deep within their structure, a remembrance of a real event (if only one can patiently peel away the layers of embellishment that accrued with the passage of time).
It is my understanding that the Hebrew Bible has preserved real historical events in its Exodus narratives. This brief article delves into the muddied waters of Exodus research to identify the events occurring in "real history" as revealed by archaeology, which are being preserved in the Exodus narratives.
Dating the Exodus Narratives-
Secular humanist scholars have determined that contrary to the traditional understanding of Moses having written the Pentateuch, internal clues suggest it is a creation of ca. 562-560 BCE on the basis of 2 Kings 25:27, which mentions the Babylonian king Evil Merodach, who reigned during the aforementioned years (allowing that endings in a composition date the work).
Other clues from archaeology have caused many scholars to realize the composition is quite late, no earlier than LATE IRON II TIMES, as noted by MacDonald.
Burton MacDonald, a professional scholar and archaeologist makes the following observations from his many years of experience in surveys of sites in Transjordan, ancient Edom, Moab and Ammon (emphasis is mine)-
"My experience in the field of Near Eastern archaeology has led me to the general conclusion that the biblical stories about Transjordanian places and events best fit into the Iron II period and later. This conclusion comes from a general knowledge of the results of current archaeological work throughout Jordan and specifically from my archaeological survey work south of Wadi al-Hasa, in the Southern Ghors and Northeast `Arabah, and in the Tafila-Busayra region (beginning 1999). The findings of the above-listed surveys indicate there are few, if any, Late Bronze Age materials and a paucity of Iron I Age materials in the areas being surveyed. On the other hand, the Iron II Age is well represented in all of these areas. I WAS THUS FORCED TO QUESTION THE TRADITIONALLY HELD OPINION THAT THE MOSES-LED GROUP, ON ITS WAY FROM EGYPT TO THE LAND OF CANAAN, PASSED THROUGH/AROUND EDOM (AND MOAB) DURING THE LATE BRONZE-IRON I PERIODS. On the basis of recent archaeological work, I concluded that a Moses-led group would have encountered little, if any, opposition if it had passed through the territories in question during the periods traditionally associated with this event. However, recent archaeological evidence indicates that opposition to such a passage would be understandable during the Iron II period. Thus, the narratives relative to the Exodus best fit the settlement history of the area during the Iron II rather than the previous two archaeological periods. Similarly, the narrative of Israel's defeat of Sihon and the capture of his capital city of Heshbon would fit better the archaeological history of this site during the Iron II rather than the Late Bronze-Iron I period. This does not mean that the present writer denies that there are older traditions behind the biblical narratives. However, THE TEXTS IN QUESTION WERE MOST PROBABLY WRITTEN IN LIGHT OF THE SETTLEMENT CONDITIONS THAT PREVAILED IN THE IRON II PERIOD AND PROBABLY TOWARDS THE END OF THAT PERIOD. Thus, the assumption here is that although the biblical writer may have used material that predates his time, he set that material into a context, namely, the Iron II AND LATER PERIODS, that would be meaningful to his readers." (pp.4-5, "Introduction." Burton MacDonald. "East of the Jordan" Territories and Sites of the Hebrew Scripture. Boston. American Schools of Oriental Research. 2000. ISBN 0-89757-031-6)
Dating the Exodus-
The date of the Exodus is in dispute. There are many different proposals from professional and amateur scholars, running the gamut from the end of the Early Bronze Age to Iron Age I times. One of the problems in dating the Exodus lies in contradictory statements which appear in the texts. We are informed that 480 years elapsed from the Exodus to Solomon's 4th year when he undertook the building of the Temple (1 Kings 6:1). A commonly accepted date for this event is 966 BCE, when 480 years is added, an Exodus date of ca. 1446 BCE is arrived at. Unfortunately, this date is contradicted by the biblical texts. Careful study by several scholars of chronologies preserved in the books of Judges and Samuel suggest that more than 480 years elapsed, the estimates varying.
Hoffmeier in his recent book on the Exodus noted the problems-
"However, as Jack showed, if all the periods are added together, such as the forty years in Sinai, the lengths of the Judges, and the periods of peace between the Judges, plus the length of David's reign, the total is 534 years. On top of this figure, the duration of Joshua's leadership in Canaan and the length of Saul's kingship, which are not preserved, bring the total close to 600 years."
(p.125. James K. Hoffmeier. Israel in Egypt, The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. New York. Oxford University Press. 1997)
If one adds the nearly 600 years to 966 BCE one arrives at an Exodus ca. 1566 BCE. I note that some Egyptologists understand that Pharaoh Ahmose I was reigning at this time and he is credited with expelling thousands of Asiatics from the Eastern Delta, pursuing them to Canaan and making their homeland a part of the Egyptian Empire.
Redford, a prominent Egyptologist has argued that the Hyksos expulsion is what is being remembered in the Hebrew Bible, because it is the only event in the whole of Egyptian history where large numbers of Asiatics are confirmed as being defeated and pursued into Canaan on contemporary monuments found in Egypt. Redford is apparently unaware of the Bible's chronological association of nearly 600 years plus 966 BCE, as falling in Ahmose I's reign.
"...no one can deny that the tradition of Israel's coming out of Egypt was one of long standing...There is only one chain of historical events that can accomodate this late tradition, that is the Hyksos descent and occupation of Egypt...And in fact it is in the Exodus account that we are confronted with the Canaanite version of this event..." (Donald B. Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times. Princeton University Press. 1992)
Assman, an Egyptologist at Heidelberg University (Germany), remarks about Freud's understanding that the Exodus is a Hebrew INVERSION of the Hyksos Expulsion (Emphasis is mine):
"Freud's ingenious observation links up perfectly well with the relationship between the biblical account of the Exodus and what was to be considered the historical evidence for it. The historical evidence for a longer sojourn of Syro-Palestinian Semites in Egypt IS THE HYKSOS OCCUPATION, when the foreign invaders reigned as kings over Egypt, eventually to be expelled by an Egyptian dynasty. These events came by NARRATIVE INVERSION to be shaped into the story of slaves that were able to escape slavery and were elected by God to become a people and even have kings of their own." (p.150. Jan Assmann. Moses the Egyptian, The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard University Press. 1997)
The authorities are not in agreement on the dates for Pharaoh Ahmose I who expelled the Hyksos: Breasted prefers 1580-1557, Gardiner prefers 1575-1550 BCE. There are other dates as well.
The Case Against an Exodus during Dynasty 19 or 20-
In seeking an archaeological sitz im leben for the Exodus narratives mainstream secular humanist scholarship understands that the archaeological picture reveals that Israel is settling the land in the Early Iron I period as described in the book of Judges, and therefore, if there was any kind of an Exodus, it ought to be dated to the 19th or 20 Egyptian Dynasties. However, Weinstein makes a penetrating observation about proposals for an Exodus in this time period :
"The only question that really matters is whether any (non-biblical) textual or archaeological materials indicate a major outflow of Asiatics from Egypt to Canaan at any point in the 19th or even early 20th Dynasty. And so far the answer to that question is no." (p.93, James Weinstein, "Exodus and Archaeological Reality," Ernest S. Friedichs & Leonard H. Lesko, Exodus : The Egyptian Evidence. Winona Lake, Indiana, Eisenbrauns, 1997, ISBN 1-57506-025-6)
Unlocking the Mystery of the Exodus' link up with the Archaeological Data-
It is my understanding that the problem in determining a date for the Exodus is that scholars have failed to realize that the Exodus narratives are a "conflation and fusing" of various events occurring from the Early Bronze II through Iron II periods. The Exodus' "Egyptian data" is a conflation of events which arose in the course of the 18th through 20th Dynasties. The Exodus account is a Mosaic, a multi-stranded rope whose threads are from different archaeological eras. I am positing that events from Iron Age I and II have been transposed chronologically into the Late Bronze Age I and II. This is not to say that there are no events from the Late Bronze Age being remembered and that all we have is a false chronology- there are events from Late Bronze Age times being remembered and joined to Iron Age happenings.
Linking the Archaeological Data with the Exodus Narratives-
It is my understanding that different scholars have correctly identified various "strands" of the Exodus Mosaic. Doctors John Bimson and Bryant Wood are correct in my estimation, in noting that the archaeological evidence at Jericho for the end of the Late Bronze and beginning of the Early Iron as the sitz im leben for the Exodus narratives is seriously flawed. Jericho in this period was not a flourishing city with mighty walls to fall to Joshua, it was practically deserted. They do note, however, that MB IIC Jericho best fits the biblical scenario. This city was torched and its walls were the last ever built at the site (no Late Bronze or Iron Age city wall ever being found).
Dr. Gerald Aardsma has another piece of the puzzle, noting the collapsing walls of Jericho at the end of the Early Bronze Age as best fitting the story of Joshua's falling walls. Kitchen and Hoffmeier have correctly identified still another puzzle piece, the mention of the store city of Ramesses in the Exodus narratives as a marker in the text for establishing a sitz im leben for the Exodus in the Ramesside era. Whilst Redford and Romer have correctly noted that the only event in the whole of Egyptian history remotely similar to the Exodus is the expulsion of the Hyksos under Pharaoh Ahmose I. MacDonald has correctly identified the "end" of the Late Iron II period for the sitz im leben of the Exodus narratives, Edom being a powerful urbanized state in this period, capable of blocking 600,000 Israelite warriors wanting to cross her lands.
All of these scholars have, in my estimation, correctly identified some of the various strands appearing in the Exodus narratives. Their collective confusion, however, was the failure to realize that these strands are evidence of a fusing or conflation of events from a period of time extending from the Early Bronze II to Iron II as behind the Exodus narratives.
IT IS IMPORTANT FOR THE READER OF THIS PAPER TO KEEP IN MIND THAT MY UNDERSTANDING IS THAT THE EXODUS NARRATIVES ARE A CONFLATION OR FUSION OF VARIOUS EVENTS EXTENDING FROM EARLY BRONZE II TO IRON II AS HE READS WHAT FOLLOWS.
Finkelstein and Silberman seem to "echo" my understanding of the Exodus narratives being a fusion of events from differing archaeological time periods-
"So where does this leave us? Can we say that the Exodus, the wandering, and -most important of all- the giving of the Law on Sinai do not possess even a kernel of truth ? So many historical and geographical elements from SO MANY PERIODS may have been embedded in the Exodus story that it is hard to decide on a single unique period in which something like it might have occurred. There is the timeless rhythm of migrations to Egypt in antquity. There is the specific incident of the Hyksos domination of the delta in the Middle Bronze Age. There are the suggestive parallels to elements of the Ramesside era relating to Egypt -together with the first mention of Israel (in Canaan, not Egypt)...The Bible may reflect New Kingdom reality, but it just might as well reflect later conditions in the Iron Age, closer to when the Exodus narrative was put in writing.
And that is precisely what the Egyptologist Donald Redford has suggested. The most evocative and consistent geographical details of the Exodus story come from the seventh century BCE..." (p.65, "Did the Exodus Happen?" Israel Finkelstein & Neil Asher Silberman. The Bible Unearthed, Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of its Sacred Texts. New York. The Free Press. 2001. ISBN 0-684-86912-8)
Israel in Egypt-
Redford has noted that it is only in the Hyksos period that archaeology has attested the presence of a large Asiatic populace dwelling pretty much to itself in the Eastern Delta, as portrayed in the Exodus narratives. He has noted on the basis of Egyptian documents that although Egypt had large numbers of Asiatic slaves in New Kingdom times, these slaves were dispersed the length and breadth of Egypt for service in temple estates and servile work on monuments.
"From the 18th through 20 Dynasty, one notes the total absence in LE 8, 13 or 14 of any evidence of a substantial resident population of Asiatics living in large measure unto itself. The documents of the time, both private and official, are not silent on the subject of the eastern delta, but they depict for us a tract combed by Medjay and desert patrols- designed specifically to keep aliens out- dotted with checkpoints and well-sited forts. The eastern delta is, in fact, a sort of limes to be guarded by god, priest and soldier; it is not a buffer zone, out of Egypt's effective control, inhabited by a foreign community speaking another language. Of the types of sojourn reviewed above, it is clear that whoever wrote the narrative in Exodus is thinking of the last. The Israelites constitute a discrete community, largely serviced by their own people, living apart from the Egyptians in the land of Gsm, on the eastern side of Lower Egypt, even at times enjoying their own climate ! The picture resembles that of a canton contiguous to Egypt rather than a dispersed ethnic labor force within the country." (p.62. Donald B. Redford, "Observations on the Sojourn of the Bene-Israel." Ernest S. Frerichs & Leonard H. Lesko. Editors. Exodus : the Egyptian Evidence. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1997. ISBN 1-57506-025-6)
The "Alleged" absence of "archaeological evidence links" providing a sitz im leben for the Exodus narratives in the Southern Sinai-
A number of scholars have stated categorically that there is no archaeological evidence to be found in the Southern Sinai to support the Exodus narratives. Here are a random selection of such "Allegations"-
Dever on the Exodus and Archaeology:
"The only 2nd millenium BCE Sinai route that is attested archaeologically is the northern route along the coastal dunes -the way of Horus- which archaeological investigation has indeed illuminated, precisely in Egyptian New Kingdom times. But this is the route that was bypassed, according to the biblical tradition, because of Egyptian control. All we can say is that recent, extensive exploration of the entire Sinai by Israeli archaeologists, geologists and others has turned up no Middle or Late Bronze Age presence in the central or southern Sinai whatsoever. Thus our current, detailed knowledge of this remote and hostile area calls into question the biblical tradition of some 2 million people wandering there (Numbers 11:21) for some 40 years (Deuteronomy 2:7). The barren terrain and sparse oases might have supported a few straggling nomads, but no more than that." (p.72. William G. Dever, "Is There Any Archaeological Evidence For The Exodus?" Ernest S. Frerichs & Leonard H. Lesko. Editors. Exodus : The Egyptian Evidence. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1997. ISBN 1-57506-025-6)
Perevolotsky and Finkelstein on the absence of archaeological evidence for an Exodus presence in the Southern Sinai:
"In recent years archaeological research in the Sinai peninsula has burgeoned as never before. Intensive surveys and excavations have been carried out in all regions of the peninsula, and what was once a remote and mysterious region has become, archaeologically speaking, well known and relatively understood.
All this archaeological activity, however, has contributed almost nothing to our understanding of the Exodus. This is true despite the fact that the Bible describes the wanderings of the Israelites at great length and even provides us with a long list of place-names where the children of Israel encamped during their wanderings (Numbers 33). But, so far, no remains from the Late Bronze Age (15th-13th centuries BC- the period in which these events were supposed to have taken place) or even from the subsequent Iron Age I have been found anywhere in the whole Sinai peninsula, except for archaeological evidence of Egyptian activity on Sinai's northern coastal strip. Accordingly, no progress has been made in locating the Israelite encampments, in identifying their route, or in fixing the site of Mt. Sinai." (p.28. Aviram Perevolotsky & Israel Finkelstein, "The Southern Sinai Exodus Route in Ecological Perspective." Biblical Archaeology Review. July-August 1985, Vol. XI, No.4)
"The virtual absence of remains from the Middle Bronze or Late Bronze Ages in this area [the Lower Negeb] and the rest of the Negeb contradict the 38 year Israelite settlement recounted in Exodus. Similar problems attend virtually all attempts to identify specific sites (especially Mt. Sinai) in the Central Negeb with places mentioned in Exodus." (p.1064, Vol. 4. Steven A. Rosen, "Negeb." David Noel Freedman, Editor. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York. Doubleday. 1992. 6 vols. )
"The Sinai Tradition...All we can say is that recent extensive exploration of the entire Sinai by Israeli archaeologists, geologists, and others has turned up virtually no Middle Bronze/Late Bronze presence in the Central or South Sinai. Our current detailed knowledge of this remote and hostile area calls into question the biblical tradition of a million-and-a-half or more people migrating there (Nu 11:21) for some 40 years (De 2:7). The barren terrain and sparse oasies might have supported a few straggling nomads, but no more than that." (Vol. 3, p. 547. Willam G. Dever, "Israel, History of, Archaeology and the Conquest." David Noel Freedman, Editor. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York. Doubleday. 1992. 6 vols. )
Romer, a British Egyptologist, also noted the absence of any evidence in the Sinai for Moses' Israelites (600,000 warriors, or one and a half million souls):
"Hard evidence of the Exodus event in the preserving deserts of the Sinai, where most of the biblical wandering takes place, is similarly elusive. Although its climate has preserved the tiniest traces of ancient bedouin encampments and the sparse 5000-year-old villages of mine workers, there is not a single trace of Moses or the Israelites; and they would have been by far the largest body of ancient people ever to have lived in this great wilderness." (p.58, "Genesis." John Romer. Testament, The Bible and History. New York. Henry Holt & Co. 1988. ISBN 0-8050-0939-6)
Contra the above statements by these scholars, I understand that there is archaeological evidence from the Southern Sinai to link Israel's Exodus traditions to. Because these scholars apparently do not realize that the Exodus traditions are drawing traditions from a wide range of time, Early Bronze II to Iron II, they have, in confusion and bewilderment, overlooked the link-ups.
We are informed by the biblical texts that the Exodus took place during the 18th Dynasty, either ca. 1566 or 1446 BCE. If the bible is correct, that the Exodus occurred in the Late Bronze Age, then how does one account for the "missing archaeological evidence" according to above scholars?
My research suggests that the scholars are wrong, there is indeed evidence from the Late Bronze Age, in the Southern Sinai, providing the "missing links" to the Exodus narratives.
Beno Rothenberg has written extensively on his surveys and numerous excavations by himself and others in the Southern Sinai. He is an Israeli archaeologist who knows the area like the back of his hand, having combed this area since the late 1960's. He has over 30 years of first-hand experience of what exists and doesn't exist -archaeologically speaking- in the Southern Sinai.
According to Rothenberg, there is a presence archaeologically speaking of a peoples "come from Egypt" wandering the wilderness wastes of the Southern Sinai in the Late Bronze Age. We are informed by the Exodus narratives that Israel is recently come from Egypt, and that she employs Kenite or Midianite guides through the Southern Sinai to lead her to the Negev and Kadesh-Barnea. The biblical texts are somewhat confused as to whether Moses' father-in-law and guide is a Kenite called Hobab or a Midianite called variously Jethro or Reuel.
Mainstream scholarship understands that the Kenites are "smiths" working in metal, who wander the Sinai. It has been noted that the root qyn in Old South Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic and Palmyrean means "a smith." Is there any evidence in the Southern Sinai of a "peoples come from Egypt" who are accompanied by native "smiths" ? The answer is yes.
Archaeologists have noted that during the Late Bronze Age the Egyptians of the New Kingdom period are present, mining for Turquoise and Copper at several mining camps. Excavations at these camps have revealed that native Asiatics are present working as miners with the Egyptians. These miners, I suspect, have become the Kenites in biblical re-telling of the events. The Egyptian miners have been transformed into Israel, wandering the Wilderness with Kenite "smiths". The native metalurgists would be employed by the Egyptians in helping to identify ore deposits in the Sinai and working them.
I note that in the biblical narratives, Israel is portrayed as employing metalurgical skills, for while in the Southern Sinai, she "casts objects" for the Tabernacle from gold, silver, bronze and copper. I suspect this is an allusion to the Native metalurgists and Egyptians casting copper objects. An Egyptian shrine has been found at Serabit el Khadim in the Southern Sinai. When excavated it revealed that votive objects were donated by not only Egyptians but also by the Asiatics, because they bore Proto-Sinatic inscriptions, which have also been found in Canaan. Here then, for me, is the "link up" of Israel in the Southern Sinai, honoring or worshiping Egyptian gods in a Late Bronze Age context.
We are told that Aaron fashioned a Golden Calf and presented it to Israel as its god. I note that the Egyptian shrine at Serabit el Khadim is dedicated to the Egyptian goddess, Hathor, who was rendered sometimes as a cow, wearing a sun-disc between her horns and a menat necklace on the back of her neck. Such a bas-relief has been found at Serabit el Khadim. According to some Egyptian myths, Hathor was the goddess of the Sky. These myths portray her as giving birth to the Sun-god, Re or Horus, each morning AS A CALF. One of Hathor's epithets was "the golden one", I note a wall mural from an Egyptian tomb showing her as the heavenly cow or sky-goddess in a golden color. Considering that the Sun at sunrise sometimes causes the sky to take on a golden hue, perhaps she is the "Golden One" because she reflects the Sun's golden glow ? Is the sun the "Golden Calf" ?
Vischak on Hathor giving birth to the sun-god :
"Hathor was described as the mother of Re as well...She gave birth to the sungod and carried him between her horns...Hathor's role as Re's mode of successful rebirth each day made her both wife (whom he impregnates with himself) and mother (who gives birth to him on the eastern horizon)." (Vol.2, p.84, Deborah Vischak, "Hathor." Donald B. Redford, Editor. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. 2001. 3 vols.)
"Hathor...is often addressed as Nb(t) "the Golden One," a name whose origins and intent are uncertain." (Vol.2, p.82, Deborah Vischak, "Hathor." Donald B. Redford, Editor. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. 2001. 3 vols.)
Ions on the sun-god as a "Calf"-
"The sun, most important of the Egyptian deities, has many names, and the interpretations given to his functions were extremely varied...He was also called Horus, and when this aspect combined with that of Ra as Ra-Harakhte he was seen as the youthful sun of the horizon, a winged sun-disk. He was said to be born every morning as a Golden Calf from the heavenly cow or to swallowed every night by the celestial woman and reborn daily from her..." (P.24, "The Creation of the World." Veronica Ions. Egyptian Mythology. Paul Hamlyn Ltd. Feltham, Middlesex. 1965, 1968)
James noted that the sky as a goddess could give birth to the sun as a "bull-calf" (noting Nut in this instance as the sky-goddess) -
"It was Heaven that was regarded as a woman deified as the goddess Nut whom, as the goddess of the West, the sun enters in his daily course to be reborn by her each day. He makes his entrance by impregnating her and his coming is greeted by her as that of 'the Bull of Heaven'- the dominating male and embodiment of virile fertility. 'O Re, impregnate the body of Nut with the seed of that spirit that must be in her.' Similarly, Geb, the earth-god, was called the Bull of the sky-goddess Nut, the sky like the queen-mother was described at 'the cow who bore the bull,' the rising sun being the calf born of her each morning." (P.58, "The Goddess in the Nile Valley." E.O. James. The Cult of the Mother-Goddess. New York. Barnes & Noble.  reprint 1994. ISBN 1-56619-600-0)
I suspect that the Israelites are drawing their imagery of Israel in the wilderness worshiping a Golden Calf from the Serabit el Khadim Hathor myths. The Golden One has perhaps become the Golden Calf, the Sun that Hathor gives birth to every morning.
No images of "Golden Calf" have been found in the Sinai. The only iconographical image of a Calf in the Late Bronze Age Sinai that I am aware of, is its appearance as a sacrifical offering to either Egyptian gods and goddesses or deceased Egyptians. Hornless Calf heads appear amongst the offerings found on several stelae erected by the Egyptians at the Hathor Temple at Serabit el-Khadem.
The Decalogue or Ten Commandments on Stone Tablets
(The Archaeological "Historical Kernels" For)
When Moses descends from Mt. Sinai/Horeb he has in his possession a pair of stone tablets, engraved by the finger of God. In anger, he smashes the tablets and they lay strewn upon the ground, he then destroys the Golden Calf. At the beginning of the 20th century archaeologists found several Proto-Sinaitic inscribed stone stelae or tablets strewn upon the ground surface --perhaps these strewn tablets are what constitutes the "historical kernel" to Moses' throwing the two tables of the Law to the ground, breaking them? They were found near several mine entrances, and are believed to have been inscribed by Asiatic miners from South Canaan working for/with the Egyptians. Other Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions appear in the living rock of the mine entrances -- could these inscriptions, found in "living rock" be what is behind the biblical portrayal of Yahweh-Elohim making two tablets of stone FROM THE MOUNTAIN Moses is on, upon which is engraved the Decalogue or Ten Commandments? If these miners were "free" men and not slaves, as argued by some scholars (cf. Beit-Arieh's arguments), then their periodic return to Canaan might be the source of the "historical kernel" of Israel wandering in the Sinai wilderness, casting objects for the tabernacle, worshipping Egyptian gods, carving out of living rock inscriptions honoring El, and leaving some of these stelae/tablets as litter upon the ground?
Beit-Arieh, an Israeli archaeologist, with extensive experience with the Sinai, remarks about Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions found on stones labs "strewn" on the ground outside mine entrances in the vicinity of Serabit el-Khadim, which, he argues, is evidence of miners from South Canaan working for the Egyptians (his article discusses the identity of the Asiatic Miners, and when they were at the mines):
"Obviously, if the metallurgical equipment can be dated to the final period of Egyptian activity at the site (New Kingdom) this is strong evidence to the same period. It should be remembered that several of the inscribed slabs found at the beginning of the century were found strewn on the surface outside the mine shafts, additional evidence that they belong to the final phase of Egyptian presence at the site." (pp.63-5. Itzhaq Beit-Arieh. "Canaanites and Egyptians At Serabit el-Khadim." Anson F. Rainey, editor. Egypt, Israel Sinai; Archaeological and Historical Relationships In The Biblical Period. Tel Aviv, Israel. Tel Aviv University. 1987 [These papers being presented in 1982 at a conference at Tel Aviv] ISBN 965-224-008-7)
Beit-Arieh (1987), notes that the "earliest" Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions are not to be found in the Sinai, but in Canaan, in the 19th century BCE, whereas the Serabit el Khadim inscriptions are of the 16th/15th century BCE.
"The general consensus (Albright 1969) is that the Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions were the work of the same Asiatics that are mentioned in the temple stelae. The fact that identical alphabetic symbols were already used in Canaan in the 19th century BCE not only points to the specific locale of their origin, but completely eliminates the possibility (as suggested in the past) that the alphabet was invented in Southern Sinai (Cross 1967)." (p.65. Itzhaq Beit-Arieh. "Canaanites and Egyptians At Serabit el-Khadim." Anson F. Rainey, editor. Egypt, Israel Sinai; Archaeological and Historical Relationships In The Biblical Period. Tel Aviv, Israel. Tel Aviv University. 1987 )
Albright noted several "burial cairns" in association with Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions, could these cairns be what is behind the notion of the "graves" of Israelites slain in the thousands in the Wilderness by God ? The throwing down of the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments being echos of the Sinaitic inscriptions found on stone slabs in association with the graves?
"In 1948 I had a very easy time proving that the so-called "sleeping shelters" were the remains of burial cairns (bamot), where a number of funerary inscriptions were first discovered...since the miners could not procure sacrifical animals themselves, they had to resort to imploring those who could obtain the animals to show the miners this last kindness. Animals available in the wilds of Sinai were picked for this purpose; wild cows, wild ewes and fatlings (i.e., young male animals which could be fattened). The divinities usually invoked were El and his consort Asherah (apparently identified with a Nubian Serpent-goddess) as well as the 'Lady' Hathor." (p.14. William Foxwell Albright. The Proto-Sinaitic Inscriptions and Their Decipherment. Cambidge. Harvard University Press. 1966)
Albright, in translating one Proto-Sinaitic inscription, suggests the presence of the name Heber, who appears as a Kenite (Judges 4:11):
"O Father E[l], gra[nt] to (my) companion [re]st beside him ! [Perhaps better, "O father E[l] gra[nt] to Heber re[st] beside him !
The evidence of the Egyptian mining camps found at Serabit el-Khadim and Timna suggests that the Asiatic miners had no problem associating Egyptian gods with their own in dedicatory inscriptions. For example a Sphinx found at the Hathor temple at Serabit el-Khadim, and apparently dedicated to Hathor, although an Egyptian creature, bears a Proto-Sinaitic inscription calling Hathor, "Baalat", or "Lady" (just as Baal means "LORD").
I would argue that the memory of Israel worshipping Egyptian gods in the Sinai, is an echo of memories of South Canaanite miners, honoring Egyptian gods at Serabit el-Khadim and Timna. These miner's return to South Canaan, and their stories, were transformed by later generations into the Exodus story.
Rothenberg noted the presence of Asiatic miners at Timna in the Ramesside era. He further noted that the pottery assemblages suggested people from South Canaan, the Negev and Midian were working the mines with Egyptians. 65% of the pottery found was Canaanite, 10 % was Negebite, and 25% was Midianite. The large percentage of Canaanite pottery would suggest that the "historical kernel" of Israel in the Wilderness of the Sinai was drawing upon events from Timna. The biblical narratives description of a "penetration" of Canaan from the south via the Negev and Kadesh-Barnea would then be a garbled echo of the seasonal return from Timna and the Arabah, by returning South Canaanite miners, who, in the re-telling became "Israel."
"New Kingdom expeditions repaired and embellished the Middle Kingdom shrines of Hathor ("Lady of Turquoise") and Sopdu ("Lord of the East") and constructed a western series of chambers (with Hathor-headed columns and pairs of stelae) and an enclosure wall..."
(Vol.3, p. 290, Gregory D. Mumford, "Sinai." Donald B. Redford, Editor. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. 2001. 3 vols.)
As I have noted earlier, it is my understanding that the Exodus narratives are a fusion and conflation of events from different eras, and have combined elements from Dynasties 18-20.
Rothenberg found another shrine to Hathor at Timna (formerly called Wadi Mene`iyeh) and was able to determine that it had been created at a somewhat later period of time than the Serabit el Khadim shrine (Serabit being a Middle Kingdom foundation, repaired and in use from the days of Ahmose I, founder of the 18th Dynasty; Serabit el Khadim in Arabic means "Columns of the Slaves"). The Timna shrine upon excavation revealed votive objects, some of which bore cartouches of Pharaohs Seti I through Ramesses V (ca. 1318-1156 BCE ). What was most interesting though was evidence that after the Egyptians had left, the shrine was purged of its Egyptian elements and re-dedicated as a Tent-shrine, honoring a bronze serpent, found within the Naos or sacred precinct. The squared Hathor columns bearing the face of the goddess, had been reused, Hathor's face being erased along with its Egyptian inscriptions. The column was found upside down (the head being buried). The pottery found at Timna was a mix of Egyptian wares from Dyansties 19-20 alongside Negebite handmade ware and a beautiful painted pottery identified as coming from the northern Hedjaz and the land of Midian.
Here then, for me is the Late Bronze/Early Iron I transition period witnessing the origins of the Exodus narratives. The settling of the Land in Early Iron I by a "proto-Israel," is hand in glove with the Timna data.
"The Midianites, in using Egyptian architectural elements, effaced the Hathor representations and any visible hieroglyphic inscription. The central niches in the Naos was left empty, but in the Naos itself a Midianite copper snake with a gilded head was found in situ. This was the only votive object found in the Naos."
(Vol.4, p. 1196, Beno Rothenberg, "Timna." Michael Avi-Yonah and Ephraim Stern, editors. Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1978, 4 vols.)
It is my understanding that Ahmose I, who expelled the Hyksos has become Moses, leading the Israelites to the Promised Land. The Egyptian conquest of Canaan under Ahmoses and his successors has become Moses' Israelites conquering Canaan. Is there any evidence from the Late Bronze Age of Ahmose I's Egyptians in the Southern Sinai at the time of the Bible's Exodus chronology (recalling that nearly 600 years have elapsed between the Exodus and Solomon's 4th year, ca. 966 BCE giving an Exodus date of ca. 1566 BCE in the days of Ahmoses I)? Yes, there is. According to Mumford, Ahmose I was responsible for the re-founding of the Hathor shrine at Serabit el Khadim. What of the presence of Hyksos in the Southern Sinai- is there any evidence ? Again, yes, there is. According to archaeologists Hyksos Tell el-Yehudiyeh ware and scarabs have been found at Serabit el Khadim. If the Exodus narratives are recalling the Hyksos expulsion of Ahmose I, and claiming they were in Southern Sinai- here's the archaeological proof everyone is seeking.
"Ahmose then initiated the New Kingdom 'empire,' in the northern Sinai and in Syria-Palestine, and renewed Egyptian turquoise mining and copper smelting in the southern Sinai."
(Vol.3, p.289, Gregory D. Mumford, "Sinai." Donald B. Redford. Editor. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. 3 vols. 2001)
"During the Second Intermediate Period and early 18th dynasty, West Asian (Hyksos ?) Activity in the southern Sinai may be attested through the presence of some sherds of Tell el-Yehudiyya ware and some Hyksos-style scarab seals at Serabit el-Khadim. In addition, Mughara, Wadi Nasb and Serabit el-Khadim have perhaps 35 undeciphered Proto-Sinatic inscriptions, including one stela that depicts an Egyptian mummiform deity (Ptah)." (Vol.3, p.289, Mumford. "Sinai.")
"New Kingdom activity concentrated at Wadi Nasb and Serabit el-Khadim, in contrast to Mughara, which yielded one inscription dated to Queen Hatshepsut and Thuthmose III...Wadi Nasb contained a copper mine...and an inscription of Ramesses II....The plateau at Serabit el-Khadim yielded twenty turquoise mines with two inscriptions of Thuthmose IV...The plateau also yielded a small shrine of Ptah (with three stelae dedicated to Hathor)...New Kingdom expeditions repaired and embellished the Middle Kingdom shrines of Hathor ("Lady of Turquoise") and Sopdu ("Lord of the East")...Many votives bore the cartouches of most New Kingdom rulers from Ahmose through Ramesses VI...From the 19th dynasty to the 20th, expeditions initiated copper mining and smelting at Wadi Reqeita (in southeastern Sinai) and in the southern Arabah. The Arabah contained a rock inscription at Timna, from the time of Ramesses II and one from Ramesses III at site 582, as well as a Hathor shrine at site 200, which provided votives with the cartouches of Sety I, Ramesses II, Merneptah, Sety II, Queen Tawosret and Ramesses III, IV and V. Late in the 20th dynasty (in the time of Ramesses VII to XI) and in the 21st to 25th dynasty, evidence of Egyptian activity disappeared from the southern Sinai, and declined in the northern Sinai, which retained settlement at Retabeh, at some sites in northwestern Sinai, and at 30 Iron Age sites between Wadi el-Arish and Wadi Ghazzeh." (Vol.3, p.289-290, Gregory D. Mumford, "Sinai.")
CORRECTION of 26 Oct. 2004: Wadi Reqeita's copper deposits were NEVER exploited by the Egyptians. The evidence suggests they were used ONLY during the period of the Early Bronze I-II by peoples from the Negev near Early Bronze II Arad. Cf. the research by Beit-Arieh:
"The results of our survey show clearly that the production of copper in Sinai in the Protodynastic period was solely in the hands of an autochthonic and/or a Canaanite-orientated population, and was unaffected by an Egyptian presence during any phase of this period. In fact, the findings indicate that even during the later periods the Egyptians displayed no interest in south-Sinai generally, or in the copper deposits, specifically. As for the Late Bronze Age copper-production site in western Sinai around Wadi Baba and Bir Nasb (Petrie 1906:27), to my knowledge there is as yet no ceramic evidence to date it before the New Kingdom.
It appears that the earliest datable copper smelting which was found and studied by the Ophir Expedition in Southern Sinai was based on the mine at Wadi Riqita [Reqeita] in south-central Sinai. The associated population beside the local population was Canaanite-orientated, not Egyptian. No archaeological evidence of earlier copper production has yet been discovered in this area, although the suggestion that copper was already produced here at the end of the Chalcolithic-beginning of the Early Bronze I period (Ilan and Sebbane 1989: 148-153) cannot be discounted entirely." (p. 204. Itzhaq Beit-Arieh. Archaeology of Sinai, the Ophir Expedition. Tel Aviv, Israel. Tel Aviv University. ISBN 965-266-018-3. END OF 26 October 2004 UPDATE)
Rothenberg on Timna:
"Eleven camps are located in the center of the valley, west of the Timna massif, several containing substantial slag heaps, testimony to the existence of intensive mining activities. These remains belong mainly to the 19th and 20th Dynasties of the Egyptian New Kingdom...the Timna mines of the Late Bronze Age/Iron I were run by Egyptian pharaonic mining expeditions in collaboration with the Midianites from across the Red Sea and local inhabitants of the Arabah and the Negeb. Contrary to the hitherto accepted identification of the Arabah copper mines with "King Solomon's mines' (Iron Age II), these New Kingdom mines had no connections with Palestine. In fact, throughout the period of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, with only a short-lived revival in the time of Shishak I of Egypt (22d Dynasty), the Arabah mines lay deserted. There is no biblical reference to any "King Solomon's mines' and no archaeological evidence by people from Israel or Judah in the mines of the southern Arabah has ever been found."
(Vol.4, p.1475, 1485, Beno Rothenberg, "Timna." Ephraim Stern, Editor. The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. New York. Simon & Schuster. 1993. 4 vols)
I suspect that the Exodus narratives of Moses destroying an Egyptian bovine god is rooted in events at Serabit el Khadim as well as Timna and the Hathor shrines' Hathor's face being erased at Timna on a re-used column by the Midianites. The Negebite pottery alongside the Midianite wares lies behind the Exodus narratives confusion about Moses' father-in-law being either a Kenite of the Negeb or a Midianite. The remains of a tent from the Timna Midianite shrine is what lies behind the Tabernacle of the Exodus narratives. Canaanite pottery was also found at Timna, providing a link to Israel and the Hill Country of Iron I.
So, contra the claim there is no evidence of Israel in the Southern Sinai and Arabah during Late Bronze and Iron I times, it is my contention that there is- it is to be found in the Egyptian mining camps of Serabit el Khadim and Timna. Thus I understand that the Egyptians AND the Asiatic miners from South Canaan have been FUSED TOGETHER and have been recast as Israel wandering in the wilderness with Kenite/Midianite "smiths."
Moses erected massebah pillars at Mt. Sinai, symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel. Rothenberg has noted a row of Massebah along one of the sides of the Midianite shrine, which overlies the Hathor sanctuary at Timna. I suspect these massebah are what lies behind the Exodus narrative. The bronze snake found in the naos at Timna lies behind the bronze serpent made by Moses in the wilderness.
Yahweh-Elohim as a "Phallic-god" of Syria, Canaan and Sinai
It is my understanding that Yahweh is to some degree absorbing events from the Serabit el Khadim and Timna Hathor shrines. He is thus to some degree a miner's God. Excavations of a bamah or high place near the Timna shrine reveal votive offerings consisting of pottery, beads, rings and copper figurines. One of these figurines was of a phallic-god. Perhaps the phallic-Yahweh found at Kuntillet Ajrud (an early 8th century BCE Caravanseri in the Negev) harkens back to the phallic-god figurine found at Timna? An inscription mentions a Yahweh of Teman at Ajrud, perhaps this is an allusion to the phallic-god of the Timna area? The Ajrud phallic-Yahweh is portrayed somewhat similar to Egyptian Bes iconography, with hands akimbo on hips. Bes was invoked as a god who had control over serpents. Moses made a serpent to save Israel from poisionous snakes and a bronze snake was found at the Midianite tent-shrine at Timna. Perhaps there is a relationship here of snakes and phallic-gods ?I note that the Canaanite goddess Athirat, consort of El in the Ugaritic myths is called "She who treads upon the Sea" and that the sea is associated with a serpent, is she treading upon a serpent? A goddess called Qadesh/Qudshu is shown naked holding serpents in her hands, and with a headdress like Hathor's. Is there a fusion here of Athirat (Asherah) with Hathor and Serpent goddesses?
Cross noted that in the Ugartic myths El is the supreme god, and he called the "Creator of the gods and of mankind." He has a wife called Athirat (rendered alternately Asherah by scholars) and evidently other wives. One poem erotically alludes to his sexual prowess in seducing two women washing at the seashore. His phallus is noted for its great size, likened to a "bowstave," which is admired by the two ladies. He succeeds in seducing hem and they bear him children.
(cf. pp.22-24, Frank Moore Cross. Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard University Press.  1994. ISBN 0-674-09175-2).
The "phallic Yahweh" of Samaria found at Kuntillet Ajrud in the Negev (8th century) and the "Phallic god" in copper found at Timna (13-12th century BCE) are probably relics of the Canaanite "Phallic EL" alluded to in the Ugaritic myths. Later generations, by the time the Bible was written (ca. 562 BCE), have "cleaned-up" the Lusty Progenitor of the Gods and Mankind via sexual promiscuity, into a sober, celibate God who has no wives, and whose "only marriage" is to his people Israel, who are likened to unworthy lustful harlots.
Cross, in summing up the Ugaritic texts' portraying El's sexual prowess:
"El in this text lives up to the reputation found in Sakkunyaton's lore that he was a vigorous lusty old man as is fitting for the primordial procreator and patriarch." (p. 24, Cross)
Rothenberg notes a Phallic idol found at Timna:
"The votive offerings found in strata III-II of the shrine can be divided into two main groups:
1. Egyptian-made votive offerings, including pottery, stone and alabaster vessels, faience beads, wands, ring stands, menats, faience bowls, glass, gold ornaments, faience animal figurines, scarabs and seals and several Hathor figurines and plaques. There was also a small sphinx, perhaps representing Ramesses II.
2. Non-Egyptian, probably Midianite votive offerings: a cast copper figure of a phallic idol, a copper sheep figurine, numerous rings, amulets, earrings, armlets, and many copper tools. There were also large numbers of shell beads from the Red Sea and much beautifully decorated Midianite pottery.
The Pottery found in the shrine was of the same three types as were found previously at site
1. Ordinary, wheelmade pottery dating mainly to the Iron Age I with some Late Bronze Age sherds.
2. Handmade, primitive cooking pots and bowls of the Negev type, found previously in the Central Negev and the Arabah.
3. Bichrome pottery which did not appear in the first phase of the Hathor sanctuary. Its decorations included large birds, possibly ostriches, and many sophisticated geometric designs. This pottery, found in Timna for the first time in a stratified context and dated absolutely by inscriptions, is identical with pottery found by Parr-Dayton in Hedjaz (northwest Arabia) and is therefore called Midianite."
(Vol.4, pp.1196-7, Beno Rothenberg, "Timna." Michael Avi-Yonah & Ephraim Stern, Editors. Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Prentice-Hall, Inc.1978)
Rothenberg has pointed out that in order to process the copper charcoal was necessary. Acaia trees from nearby Sabkhat et-Taba may have been used by the Timna miners. I note that in order to obtain charcoal one must "bank the fire" to prevent the wood from uncontrolled burning and turning into useless ash. I suspect that the imagery of Moses wandering the "West side of the wilderness and encountering a burning bush," is an echo of the trees and scrub being burned in the southern Arabah to be employed by the miners as charcoal. The remark that the tree was not consumed by the fire, is, I understand, an allusion to the fire being banked, so the wood is not consumed and being rendered as useless ash.
The Timna area possessed evidence of Chalcolithic workings in the copper deposits. In fact the Egyptian Hathor shrine had been built against the side of a cliff face or outcropping of Har Timna, and over an earlier Chalcolithic site, suggesting perhaps this was a "holy area" since Late Stone Age times. If my suspicions are correct, it is Har Timna that lies behind the Mount Horeb episodes. It is close enough to the "western" border of Midian (in the northern Hedjaz) to qualify as the "Mount of God."
The Kenites settled in the Arad area of the Negeb under Joshua. I note that in Early Bronze II times the inhabitants of the Negeb near Arad penetrated the Southern Sinai and built seasonal camps there to work the copper deposits. Several such temporary sites with herd pens and associated grave tumuli have been found in the vicinity of the traditional Mt. Sinai (Gebel Musa). I suspect that a "garbling" of traditions exists here, the Kenites being associated with the Negeb of Arad is alluding to the Aradites who settled in the Southern Sinai in Early Bronze II. Perhaps their descendants in Late Bronze Age times came to work alongside the Egyptian miners of the New Kingdom era, forming the backdrop to the Exodus narratives ?
Israel's Encampments, The Archaeological Evidence Of , in the Sinai, Negev and Arabah:
Israel is portrayed as having 600,000 warriors and scholars have extrapolated a population of nearly 2 million souls from these figures. They had in their possession herds of cattle and flocks of sheep and goats when they left Egypt. Archaeologists have found numerous seasonal and "overnight" campsites and settlements from the Neolithic to the Middle Bronze I period in various parts of the Northern and Southern Sinai, as well as the Negeb and Arabah. I suspect that a story arose to account for this observed phenomena- these became the encampments of Israel, lately come from Egypt, guided by native metalurgists from the Negeb and Midian. The herd pens became "evidence" they left Egypt with animals. The associated grave tumuli "became" the graves of the thousands who perished in the wilderness wanderings for angering their wrathful God.
Archaeologists have noted the absence of Late Bronze Age evidence in the Negeb (The Exodus being portrayed as occuring in the Late Bronze Age by the Bible, which gives two conflicting dates, 1540 BCE or 1446 BCE, the 18th Egyptian Dynasty), but have "marveled" at the "intense" settlement of this area in the Middle Bronze I by nomadic invaders. These Middle Bronze I campsites also exist in the Northern Sinai, almost to the border of Egypt. I suspect that it is these campsites, Chalcolthic, Early Bronze and Middle Bronze I which came to be identified by Israel in the Iron II era as the encampments of Israel in the wilderness. I have argued elsewhere that the Primary History, Genesis-2 Kings was written ca. 562 BCE in the Exile by one author. I suspect that it was in the Iron II era (1000- 587 BCE) that these campsites were identified with Moses' Israelites. The Iron II Israelites naievely assumed that the hundreds of campsites dotting the Sinai, Negev and Arabah from the Chalcolthic to Middle Bronze I were those of Moses' Israelites. They did not possess the "sophisticated" technologies (pottery typologies and synchronisms developed by Sir William Flinders Petrie and his successors) available to present day biblical archaeologists to distinguish Late Bronze Age from Middle Bronze I or Early Bronze II.
The account of the Christian Pilgrimess, Egeria or Etheria (4th/5th century CE) reveals that in her day the "circular stone" houses found near Gebel Musa were understood by her guides to be Moses' Israelite encampments. Just as the Iron II Israelites could not distinguish an Early Bronze from a Middle Bronze encampment (the circular stone houses), so too, the Early Christians were no better, in identifying these as proof of Israel's presence in the Sinai. These "circular stone houses" dot the landscape of the Sinai, Negev and Arabah, and they mostly date from the Early Bronze II and Middle Bronze I.
A European Pilgrimess called Egeria (4th/5th century A.D.?), left an account of her visit to Mount Sinai (from her remarks it appears that it is todays Jebel Musa near the monastery of St. Catherines, she noting that Mt. Sinai is 35 Roman miles from Paran/Pharan, identified with Wadi Feiran, which is approximately, the same distance). She portrays her guides telling her that Israel while encamped in the valley before Mount Sinai, had built houses for themselves, and that she was shown by her guides the remains of their walls, made of stones arranged in circles. Archaeologists have documented Egeria's words, for they have excavated such circular stone houses and dated them to the Early Bronze II period. It is anybody's guess as to how early on, these Early Bronze II seasonal encampments, created by Asiatic miners from South Canaan and the Negev (Arad and vicinity) were transformed into the many camps of Israel wandering in the wilderness. Because these encampments litter the landscape of the Sinai, thus the reason why Israel was portrayed as existing as 600,000 armed warriors in the biblical narratives. Probably ALL THE ENCAMPMENTS, Neolitic, Chalcolithic, Early Bronze and Middle Bronze, became in the retelling the "thousands" of Israel (the Iron Age II Israelites not being aware that these encampments "predated" the Late Bronze setting of Israel in the Sinai).
Egeria on the valley the Children of Israel settled in at the base of Mt. Sinai and their "circular stone houses" (some scholars have suggested "the Valley" Egeria mentions is Wadi ed-Deir (Gingas, p. 176, note 65 to p. 56) :
"We took a route by which we would go down the length of the center of the valley, which as I mentioned before, is the valley where the Children of Israel camped while Moses was ascending and descending the mountain of God. As we proceeded through the valley, the holy men continually pointed out to us each place. At the very head of the valley, where we had camped and had seen the bush out of whose fire God spoke to the holy man Moses, we saw the place where he stood before the bush as God said to him: "Loose the strap of your shoe, for the place on which you stand is holy ground." And as we set out from the bush, the guides began to show us all the other places. They pointed out first the place where the camp of the Children of Israel stood in the days when Moses went up the mountain...Then they showed how each and every one of them had had dwellings, the foundations of which were still visible today throughout the valley, and how they had been built in a circular shape, out of stone. They showed us the place where the holy man Moses, on his return from the mountain, ordered the Children of Israel to run from door to door."
(p.57. George E. Gingas [Translator]. Egeria: Diary of a Pilgrimage. Paramus, New Jersey. Newman Press. 1970)
Elisha took refuge in a cave at Mt. Sinai. Perhaps this is an allusion to the caves made by the miners as they bore into the rock face looking for copper? These caves would also be sacred to the God of Miners. Two caves at Serabit el Khadim were the origins of the Hathor shrine, with additional rooms being added on in later times by the Pharaohs. So, perhaps Egyptian and Native miners had a concept of a sacred cave to honor their god in? Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions honoring El have been found in association with caves created by the South Canaanite miners.
While at Mt. Sinai Moses has a cherubim throne made for the Ark of the Covenant. Secular scholars have determined from archaeological discoveries in Canaan and Phoenicia that the cherubim throne is actually a winged sphinx throne. The origin of the sphinx is Egypt and it was considered a Solar animal. I note that a sphinx was found at both of the Hathor temples in Serabit el Khadim and at Timna. Perhaps there is a rememberence here of the sphinx or cherub being associated with the Egyptian prince, Moses, and a peoples lately come out of Egypt? The sphinx at Serabit el Khadim bore a Proto-Sinatic inscription, l'blt, meaning "the Lady," an epithet of Hathor in Byblos. So the Semitic miners at the Egyptian mining camp worshiped a cherub/sphinx.
Budge notes that one of the forms that Hathor could take was that of a sphinx:
"Finally, she is represented as a sphinx...the titles which accompany this last form call her 'Lady of Hetep,' the Eye of Ra, dweller in his disk, Lady of Heaven, Mistress of all the gods."
(Vol.1, p.430. "Hathor." E.A. Wallis Budge. The Gods of the Egyptians. New York. Dover Publications.  reprint 1969. 2 vols.)
Budge further noted the sphinx was a solar animal:
"The men who made the sphinx believed that they were providing a colossal abode for the spirit of the sun-god which they expected to dwell therein and to protect their dead; it faced the rising sun, of which it was a mighty symbol."
(Vol.2, p.361. E.A. Wallis Budge. The Gods of the Egyptians. New York. Dover Publications.  reprint 1969. 2 vols.)
Some of the stone stelae at Serabit el Khadim have scenes of Pharaoh, "the living god", presenting offerings to Hathor as a woman with cow horns and sun disc on her head. Above them is frequently encountered the winged sun disc, symbol of Ra, who each morning was born of Hathor, as a "bull-calf."
No calves have been found in the Hathor shrines. The only bovine form is that of Hathor (a bas-relief at Serabit el Khadim shows her as a cow). I suspect that the Golden Calves set up at Bethel and Dan by the Northern Israelite kingdom are really drawing from the imagery of Baal worship found in Syria and Phoenicia. I suspect that Pentateuchal narrator has conflated Baalism's calf worship with the calf worship of the Egyptians ( a ray of light coming down from the sun impregnates a cow who gives birth to a bull-calf known as the Apis in some Egyptian myths).
It is interesting to note Malachi's metaphorical allusion to Yahweh as the Egyptian winged sun-disc that has healing in its wings, suggesting Egyptian iconography may be linked to Yahweh (Malachi 3:20).
Rothenberg understands that upon Egypt's vacating her Asiatic Empire that a vacuum developed, in the Sinai, permitting an Early Iron penetration:
"When, about the middle of the 12th centruy BC the Egyptians withdrew to the Egyptian heartland and also evacuated Sinai, numerous early Iron Age newcomers appeared in the region and made their temporary homes along that route in earlier settlements that had been abandoned. Again, it was a settlement vacuum -the withdrawal of the Egyptians- that attracted new immigrants. Traces of these Early Iron Age arrivals have also been found in the copper ore region of the wadi Riqeita and in the turquoise region of the west- but we have no direct evidence so far that these people practiced mining or smelted copper. The historical, and above all the ethnic, background to the emergence of Early Iron Age pottery in Sinai has so far remained unsolved- though biblical traditions here encourage bold speculation."
(pp.169-170, Beno Rothenberg, "Turquoise, Copper and Pilgrims, Archaeology of Southern Sinai." Beno Rothenberg. Sinai, Pharaohs, Miners, Pilgrims and Soldiers. Washington & New York. Joseph J. Binns, Publisher. 1979. ISBN 089674-002-1)
"Ancient mines have been discovered in the neighborhood of Jebel Musa and also to the east of it."
(p.166. Yohanan Aharoni, "Kadesh-Barnea and Mount Sinai." Beno Rothenberg. God's Wilderness, Discoveries in Sinai. New York & Toronto. Thomas Nelson & Sons. 1962)
The Worship of El at Serabit el Khadem
Mention has been made of Proto-Sinatic inscruptions found at the temple of Hathor inscribed on objects dedicated by the Semitic miners to the Egyptian Cow-goddess. Similar inscriptions have been found near mines in outlying areas. According to Cross, these miners, believed to have come from South Canaan, also worshipped the god El Olam, and applied Canaanite religious imagery to Egyptian gods. Cross understands Olam (meaning "the Ancient One or Eternal One") to be an epithet of the Canaanite god El in the Ugaritic myths dated to the 14-12th centuries BCE, but whose origins are probably several centuries earlier.
"Perhaps the most striking evidence portraying El as the Ancient (or Eternal) One has come from the Proto-Canaanite inscriptions of the 15th century BCE. In 1947, W.F. Albright, during his campaign at Serabit el Khadem, recognized that the miners of Sinai in their proto-Canaanite texts used appellations of the Canaanite deities identified with the Egyptian gods, notably with Ptah, creator god of Memphis and with Hathor whose temple was in Serabit el Khadem. The late Sir Alan Gardiner had made the first step by reading correctly lb`lt "(dedicated) to the Lady," the title of the goddess of Byblos who was identified both in Egypt and Canaan with Hathor. Albright read also dt btn "the Serpent Lady," an epithet of Qudshu-Asherah. There was also the epithet d tb "the Merciful One," much like the Ugaritic appellation of El : du pa `idi, "the Compassionate One."
In 1958 I recognized that a mine inscription, owing to a poor facsimile, had been misread and hence remained undeciphered. It reads `ld `lm. `il du olami. "El, the Ancient One," or "El, Lord of Eternity." It is evidently the epithet which stands behind the biblical El Olam, "the God of Eternity," and may be compared with Ptah's epithets nb dt or nb nhh, both meaning "the Lord (or One) of Eternity."
A similar epithet in form if not in content appears in a prism from Lachish. It bears on one face the name of Pharaoh Amenhotep II (ca. 1435-1420 BC), on another face a representation of Ptah and an inscription beside Ptah in Proto-Canaanite letters identical in date with the Sinai script. Albright recognized here the epithet du gitti, "Lord of Gath," an appellation he already had found in Serabit Text 353. I should take both to be litrugical names from an El cult at Gath in south-western Palestine.
Aside from the confirmation of the dating of the Sinatic inscriptions and identification of Ptah with Canaanite El, the little inscription adds to the evidence that in south Canaan and in the Sinai the cult of El was widespread and that liturgical epithets of the type du olai, du pa`idi, du tabi, and du Gitti were characteristic of the period. The consort of El, Canaanite and Egyptian Qudshu, whose other names included Atirat yammi, "she who treads on Sea," and Elat, also is well documented in the south."
(pp.18-20, "El and the God of the Fathers." Frank Moore Cross. Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard University Press.  1994. ISBN 0-674-09175-2)
I draw the conclusion that the god El of South Canaan (and of Ugarit in Syria), became over the passage of time, El of the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible also mentions Olam as an epithet of El's, and this title exists at the Egyptian mines at Serabit el Khadem. I suspect that the worship of El by Moses in the Southern Sinai, and the casting of metal objects for the Tabernacle are vestigages of Canaanite El worship and mining activities attested at Serabit el Khadem in the 15th century BCE, the Proto-Sinatic inscriptions being dated to this period of time by the find of similar inscriptions on the prism dedicated to Ptah at Lachish is the days of Amenhotep II (ca. 1453-1419 BCE, according to Clayton. Cf. p. 98. Peter A. Clayton. Chronicle of the Pharaohs, the Reign by Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. New York & London. Thames & Hudson. 1994. ISBN 0-500-05074-0).
It is interesting to note here, that the Proto-Sinatic inscriptions at Serabit el Khadem being dated to Amenhotep II's reign "co-incidentally" matches the ca. 1447 BCE Exodus date preserved in the Hebrew Bible (cf. 1 Kings 6:1, 480 ys elapsing since the Exodus to Solomon's 4th year, ca. 966 BCE).
Another of God's titles was Shadday, which Cross understands to mean "the mountain One," (p.55, Cross) which might allude to the Canaanite El who dwells on a mountain at whose base emerges the double deep, the source of the ocean and rivers in Ugaritic myths. For the miners, this title would be appropriate for El as the turquoise and copper they mine comes from mountains. In the Bible, El shines forth from Mounts Sinai, Paran and Seir, was he "shining forth" because he was a "miner's God"?
Rothenberg noted that the Hathor shrine at Timna had been desecrated after the Egyptians had left the area ca. 1140 BCE, and that "Midianites" had rededicated it. He noted among other things, that the Midianites had left a large stone basin or bowl with a large granite boulder sitting in its midst. I wonder if this great rock is what lies behind Yahweh-Elohim's being called "a Rock" in some biblical texts?
"Along the west wall a row of massebahs was erected, consisting of monoliths and various Egyptian installations in secondary use, such as a Hathor pillar, standing on its head, incense altars, square pillars as well as a large basin, filled with a large granite boulder."
(Vol.4, p.1193, Beno Rothenberg, "Timna." Micheal Avi-Yonah & Ephraim Stern, Editors. Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. 4 vols. 1978)
Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31 (RSV)
"Ascribe greatness to our God ! The Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are justice...You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth...How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had given them up ? For their Rock is not as our Rock..."
Nomads leave no evidence of their encampments?
A common misperception amongst some who would argue that the Exodus really did place as portrayed by Holy Writ, is that Nomads do not leave any evidence behind of their presence and that as Israel is portrayed as wandering Nomads in the Wilderness we should not expect to find any evidence of their encampments. This is a false perception. The following observations made by archaeologists note "encampments" or "campites" that have been documented for the Sinai and the Negev:
"Encampments" have been documented by archaeologists throughout the area of the Northern and Soutrhern Sina and the Negev extending from Stone Age times down to the modern Beduin era of the 21st century. There are no Middle Bronze II or Late Bronze encampments in the Southern Sinai or Kadesh-Barnea, its an "archaeological void," and has
been repeatedly noted in the professional archaeological literature. No "encampments" means the story of the Exodus is fiction.
THE ONLY LATE BRONZE ENCAMPMENTS IN THE SOUTHERN SINAI, at the time the Bible places the story of the Exodus, are the Egyptian mining encampments (Serabit el Khadim and Timna), which also possess evidence of miners from Southern Canaan (where the Kenites and Israelites are portrayed as settling).
Here's what archaeologists have to say about the many "encampments" that they have documented in the Sinai from Stone Age times through the Early Bronze Age (if campsites are documented for these early periods, why have no
MBII or LB campsites have been found in the Southern Sinai and Negev ?):
"Historical Overview. The Sinai contains many seasonal CAMPSITES that have
been dated to the Paleolithic (7,000-5,500 BCE), the Neolithic (5500-4000
BCE)l Egypt's Badarian and Faiyum A cultures), the Chalcolithic (4000-3300
BCE) Egypt's Naqada I and II), the Early Bronze I (3300-3050 BCE); Egypt's
Naqada II and III), and the early Bronze II (3050-2687 BCE; Egypt's First
dynasty and Second). Nevertheless, Egyptian artifacts (e.g. flint knives,
ceramic vessels, stone vessels, and items with royal names in serekh frames)
appeared in Palestine an at many of the 30 Chalcolithic and 250 Early Bronze
I and II CAMPSITES in the northern Sinai."
(Vol.3, p.288. Gregory D. Mumford, "Sinai." Donald B. Redford, Editor. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. 2001)
Gophna, speaking of Early Bronze Age Egyptian OVERNIGHT ENCAMPMENTS found in the northern Sinai and Negev:
"It therefore seems that both outposts were stations in a diversified trade network operating between Egypt and canaan at this time. They differed from the temporary "overnight" camp sites of the same period that were discovered along the international highway running along the coast of northern Sinai (Oren 1973). This network included stations providing supplies and services..."
(p.18. Ram Gophna, "Egyptian Trading Posts in Southern Canaan at the Dawn of the Archaic Period." Anson F. Rainey, Editor. Egypt, Israel, Sinai, Archaeological and Historical Relationships in the Biblical Period. Tel Aviv, Israel. Tel Aviv University. 1987. ISBN 965-224-008-7. pbk. [From a series of papers presented at a public symposium in Tel Aviv in 1982])
Romer, a British Egyptologist also observed that "the tiniest traces of Beduin encampents" can be documented by arcaheologists, yet not a sherd exists to attest to Israel's encampments in the Sinai , which he finds surprising in light of the traditional understanding that 600,000 Israelite warriors passed through this area according to the Bible (but not even one encampment left by 6 Israelites has been found).
"Hard evidence of the Exodus event in the preserving deserts of the Sinai,
where most of the biblical wandering takes place, is similarly elusive.
Although its climate has preserved the tiniest traces of ancient bedouin
encampments and the sparse 5000year-old villages of mine workers, there IS
NOT A SINGLE TRACE OF MOSES OR THE ISRAELITES; and they would have been by
far the largest body of ancient people ever to have lived in this great
(p. 58, "Genesis." John Romer. Testament, the Bible and History. New York. Henry Holt & Co. 1988)
"Most of the Negeb and the southern deserts were apparently uninhabited in
the Middle Bronze II and Late Bronze Ages. Surveys and excavations south of
Beersheba have not revealed a single find of the period between Middle Bronze
I and the Iron Age, that is, during most of the second millenium BC. Remains
of this period have come to light only in excavations in the westernmost
fringes of the Negeb at Tell el-Farah and at Tell Jemmeh, south-east of
Gaza. These impressive mounds belong actually to the coastal region than to
the Negeb, and for this reason they are well known from Egyptian sources of
the New Kingdom."
(pp.398-389. Yohanan Aharoni, "The Negeb." D. Winton Thomas, Editor. Archaeology and Old Testament Study. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1967)
Speaking of Middle Bronze I "camps":
"Settlements in this period...look rather like TEMPORARY CAMPS -TENTS, huts,
and enclosures for small cattle. It is doubtful they were used the year
round, and they possibly served only as winter ENCAMPMENTS...From the
paucity of the finds it seems that the inhabitants left peacefully and this
is probably true of most of the MBI settlements in the Negeb."
(pp.387-8,Yohanan Aharoni, "The Negeb." D. Winton Thomas, Editor. Archaeology and Old Testament Study. Oxford. 1967)
So, it is a misperception to argue that no archaeological evidence exists tosupport Israel's 40+ encampments (Numbers 33) "because Nomads leave no trace of their presence archaeologically," and Israel is portrayed as "Nomadic" in her wanderings.
She had flocks of sheep, goats and cattle and these animals would have required herd pens, especially at Kadesh-Barnea where they are alleged to have stayed for a considerable period of time. While Nomads may have used animal skins to carry water in, they would most assuredly have used pottery to cook their meals in, accidents happen, the crockery is disposed of, left on the ground's surface, where it is found thousands of years later by archaeologists.
We see from the archaeological reports, that "OVERNIGHT" NOMADIC CAMPSITES ARE DOCUMENTABLE, and exist from Stone Age times, much earlier than the alleged Late Bronze Age Exodus ( or the MBIIc New Chronologists' alleged Exodus as championed by David Rohl et al).
I have attempted to show that, contra the assertions of some scholars that there is no archaeological evidence which might provide "background links" or "historical kernels" to the Exodus traditions in the Southern Sinai during the Late Bronze and Iron I periods --that they err and there is.
The evidence lies in the Egyptian mining camps at Serabit el Khadim and Timna (as well as other mining camps). It is my understanding that events from Early Bronze II to Iron II have been fused together into a multi-stranded Mosaic which we know as the Exodus narratives. I have argued that the date of the Exodus -from the chronological data found in the books of Judges and Samuel- appears to be in the 16th century BCE and it is to be associated with the Hyksos expulsion under Ahmose I who --via narrative inversion-- became Moses in the Hebrew story. The wandering Israelites with their metal-smith guides are the result of a fusion of the Egyptian miners and their Asiatic South Canaanite metalurgists of Dynasties 18-20. The seasonal return of these Asiatic miners from the Sinai via the Negev and other parts of Southern Canaan, probably are the "historical kernel" behind Israel being presented as penetrating Canaan from the Negev and Kadesh-Barnea.
If one wishes to identify Israel in a Late Bronze Age context using Holy Writ's Exodus date of ca. 1566/1540/1530 (various dates given for the yksos Expulsion) or 1446 BCE (cf. 1 Kings 6:1), it looks like the Egyptian and Asiatic miners in the Southern Sinai and Arabah have been fused together and transformed into Israel. There is no other peoples "from Egypt with metal-smiths" in association with them in the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age. So, events from the Early Iron I-II have been fused with events from earlier eras, EBII, MB I, MB IIC, LB I and LB II
Secular scholars are correct in noting that an Exodus as portrayed in the Bible never happened. But like all myths, there are "kernels of historicity" and real events that can be teased out of the layers of embellishment. The "kernels of historicity" lying behind the Exodus narratives are in the Late Bronze/Iron Age I Age mining camps of the Egyptian miners.
The biblical narratives claimed that Israel wandered the wilderness for 40 years (I note that some scholars have suggested that 40 years may be an euphemism for saying "a long period of time." If this analysis is correct, then "the long period of time" of Israel in the Sinai may be an echo of the "long period of time" that South Canaanite metalurgists existed in the Sinai from Early Bronze II through Early Iron I ?), and settled for a period at Kadesh-Barnea in the Negev. Aharoni, a noted Israeli archaeologist has pointed out the presence of Early Bronze through Middle Bronze I settlements but notes an absence of any Late Bronze Debris in the Negeb to substantiate Holy Writ's claim-
"Middle Bronze I. Settlements in this period are much more widesread than in the earlier one, and penetrate the southern regions of the Negeb as far as the Sinai peninsula...Most of their settlements look rather like temporary camps- tents, huts, and enclosures for small cattle...well-made pottery which is to be found on the surface and burial grounds, mainly on the peaks, with elaborate stone tumuli...Most of the Negeb and the southern deserts were apparently uninhabited in the Middle Bronze II and Late Bronze Ages. Surveys and excavations south of Beersheba have not revealed a single find of the period between Middle Bronze I and the Iron Age, that is, during most of the second millenium BC."
(pp.388-389, Yohanan Aharoni, "The Negeb." D. Winton Thomas. Editor. Archaeology and Old Testament Study. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1967)
I know of only one way to get around this archaeological impasse of "no evidence" of Israel's encampments in the Negev and Kadesh Barnea in the Late Bronze Age, and that is a proposal by Beno Rothenberg, who was in charge of the excavations at the Egyptian Hathor shrine at Timna in the Arabah. Rothenberg noted that the Egyptian shrine had cartouches bearing the names of Pharaohs extending in time from Seti I to Ramesses V (ca. 1291 -1141 BCE), and that the pottery associated with the shrine was a mix of forms from Late Bronze Age-Early Iron I Canaan, Egyptian dynasties 19 and 20, Midianite forms from the Hedjaz, and crude hand formed Negebite ware. He noted that mainstream archaeologists understood that NO Late Bronze Age or Early Iron I pottery existed in the Negev and Kadesh (Ain el Qadeis or Ain el Qudeirat), but that Iron II pottery did, from Judah. He further noted that these archaeologists dated the Negebite pottery to the 10th century BCE because it was found in association at SOME Negeb sites with the Judaean pottery. Not all sites possessing Negebite pottery, however, have the Judaean pottery ! Having noted that Negebite pottery exists at Timna in a context of the 19th and 20th Egyptian dynasties, and that these forms are contemporary with Late Bronze/Early Iron I Canaanite forms, that the Negebite pottery evidently was in existence for a long period of time from the end of the Late Bronze Age to the Iron II and the Judaean pottery found in the Negev. Ergo, he concluded, that it was just possible that not all sites --that is, many sites do not possess Judaean Iron II pottery, ONLY Negebite pottery exists-- are Iron II. Some of these Negebite sites could be the "missing" Late Bronze-Early Iron I that everyone is looking for in establishing the authenticity of the Exodus narratives (mainstream archaeologists and bible scholars understanding that the Iron I settlement of the Hill Country ca. 1200 BCE is Israel settling the land under Joshua).
The only encampments in the Sinai for the Late Bronze Age period are those of the Egyptians and their Semitic metal-smiths, apparently from southern Canaan. I have posited that the hundreds of encampments with their herd pens and grave tumuli from Chalcolithic, Early Bronze to Middle Bronze I "became" the encampments of Israel in the re-telling of the Exodus story, and the "wandering Egyptians" with their Asiatic South Canaan metalurgist guides, "became" a "wandering Israel" with Kenite/Midianite metal-smith guides.
Scholars who have studied the Serabit el Khadim Proto-Sinatic/Proto-Canaanite inscriptions of the 15th century BCE have noted such inscriptions appear in Canaan on votive objects to Egyptian gods ( Ptah at Lachish). It appears to me that Yahweh's ultimate origins are in Canaan and Syria (as preserved in Ugaritic Myths). What the Bible is recalling in the Southern Sinai, is the presence of El worshipping South Canaanites. So, although El was worshipped in the Sinai, I suspect his ultimate origins are Phoenicia, Canaan and Syria. He was not "originally" a god of Sinai as portrayed in the Exodus narratives. His association in the bible as bruising the head of Leviathan, the serpent of the sea, better matches the Ugaritic myths of Anat and Baal who subdue Lotan the serpent of the sea. Ugarit is a seaport, the conquest of the nearby sea is understandable; the midst of the Sinai desert has nothing to do with a God claiming power over the sea in my reckoning. So Yahweh-Elohim is ultimately not of Sinai, he is of Ugarit, a sea port. Probably as the Amorites from Syria (Amurru was a state of western Syria in Amarna times according to Mumford) penetrated southward into Canaan, the Negev and Sinai they brought with them their Aramean/Amorite/Syrian God; El came to pick up "secondarily" a Sinai association via the Egyptian miners and their South Canaanite metal smiths ( reformatted in the bible as Negev Kenites and Midianites of Midian).
Israel did, however, preserve the memory of her origins "in Aram/Syria" as Arameans/Syrians:
Deuteronomy 26 :5 (RSV)
"And you shall make response before the LORD your God, 'A wandering Aramean was my father; and he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous."
Peoples from north Arabia (Midian ?) and South Canaan penetrate the Sinai, seeking copper and turqouise, leaving temporary/seasonal encampments which "become" later, "Israel's Encampments.
Early Bronze II
Aradite metal smiths from the Negeb penetrate the Southern Sinai and leave encampments with herd pens and grave tumuli, which are later reformatted into Kenites settling in the Negeb of Arad. The seasonal encampments with pens and graves from Early Bronze II later "become" Israel's encampments, herds and graves.
Jericho's walls collapse and the city is destroyed and abandoned, this event becomes the falling walls of Jericho under Joshua.
Arad is destroyed and abandoned until Iron I.
Early Bronze III
Ai (modern et-Tell) is destroyed and abandoned until Iron I.
Middle Bronze I
Nomadic peoples settle the Lower Negev and into the Sinai, leaving behind seasonal encampments, herd pens and grave tumuli which "become" Moses' Israelites' encampments.
Middle Bronze IIC
The Hyksos expulsion, ca. 1566/1540/1530 BCE lies behind the Exodus. Pharaoh Ahmose I "becomes" Moses by process of narrative INVERSION, as noted by Jan Assmann, a prominent Egyptologist at Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Baden-Wurttemurg, Germany.
Hyksos pottery (Tell el-Yehudiyeh wares) and scarabs at Serabit el Khadim reveal they are in the Southern Sinai as miners.
The fall of Jericho at the end of MBIIC and its burning by Egyptian forces is remembered in the Joshua story.
The conquest of Canaan by Ahmose I "becomes" Joshua's conquest of the Promised Land and the Asiatic Empire, "from the River of Egypt (the Nile) to the Euphrates," "becomes" Moses' Promised Land.
Late Bronze Age
The worship of a bovine goddess, Hathor, mother of the sun god Ra who is the Calf born of the heavenly cow each day "may" lie behind aspects of the Golden Calf story.
Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions on stelae, found on the sufaces near mines worked by the South Canaanites near Searbit el-Khadim, and the Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions found on tablets STREWN ABOUT THE SUFACE OF THE GROUND near the mines, becomes reformatted as the "finger" of God cutting the two tablets of stone from the living rock of the mountain and presenting them to Moses, who later, smashes them, and leaves them STREWN UPON upon the ground.
The Apiru/Habiru of the Akhenaten's days are what lies behind the "Hebrews" who under Joshua, capture the Promised land.
The Semites from South Canaan who work the Southern Sinai mines along with the Egyptians have "become" Israel and or the Kenites/Qenites.
Late Bronze/Early Iron transition period
The destruction of the Ramesside Hathor shrine and effacing Hathor's image at Timna by Midianites becomes the Golden Calf being destroyed. The copper snake at Timna is behind Moses' bronze serpent. The mention of the store-city of Ramesses in Egypt recalls the Ramesside setting of the Timna events.
Negebite, Midianite, Egyptian and locally produced wares resembling Canaanite Iron I wares at Timna are behind the Exodus narratives of Israelites, Kenites and Midianites with a peoples lately come from Egypt (Israel), wandering the Sinai and Arabah and their seasonal returning to South Canaan via the Negev becomes Israel's "penetration" of South Canaan via the Negev and Kadesh-Barnea. The 65% South Canaanite pottery typologies found at Timna reveal these people are Southern Canaanites, whose descendants in later generations have transformed them into Israel, penetrating Canaan from the Negev.
Iron I (ca. 1200-1000 BCE)
Egypt withdraws from Canaan and Sinai after 1140 BCE. The political vacuum is filled by the rise of new states, Philista, Israel, Moab, Edom, Ammon.
I understand that Arameans from Trans-Euphrates (between Damascus and Haran), driven from their marginal steppe lands by famine and wars, invade and settle in Transjordan and the Hill Country of Canaan. After some initial warfare and destruction of some sites, they settle down and intermarry with the indigenous peoples of Canaan and Transjordan, acculturating to Canaanite ways (cf. my article on Israel's Iron IA Aramean Origins). Under this paradigm, Iron I "Proto-Israel" evolved into Iron II Ammon, Moab and Edom. This would explain why all share a similar language and culture and the biblical claim they were of one Aramean family orignally (Abraham and Lot). Beersheba's well is created in Iron I and the earliest pottery is a mix of Proto-Israelite and Philistine shards (Philistines arrived in Canaan ca. 1175 BCE) reflecting the sitz im leben of Abraham's contending with Philistines over wells.
The agrarian Hill Country settlements of Iron I are abandoned and Iron II witnesses the rise of an urban state with cities and fortresses which becomes the kingdoms of Israel and Judah of the Old Testament.
The Israelite Iron II great-great-great-grandchildren of the Iron I INTERMARRIAGES between invading Arameans and indigenous Canaanites (cf. Judges 3:5-7) , desiring to preserve the "origins traditions" of BOTH of their forefathers, Canaanite and Aramean, fuse these traditions into ONE origins tradition. Thus the Hyksos expulsion, the Apiru/Habiru Coventental wars of freedom, the One God, the Aten and incipient Monotheism, as well as Ramesside wanderings of Asiatic miners in the Sinai and Arabah, come to be fused with Aramean notions of an invasion of Canaan from Transjordan.
Judaean Iron II pottery sherds (9th-8th century BCE) found at a Roman-Byzantine tell in wadi Feiran reveal the presence of Judaeans traversing the Southern Sinai wastes. They are probably responsible for identifying the hundreds of seasonal encampments made of circular stone foundation arrangements of the Chalcolthic, Early Bronze and Middle Bronze Ages, as "Israel's encampments."
Kadesh-Barnea being described as in the Negev and "in" Edom's border reflects the 7th-6th century BCE when Edom penetrates and captures the Negeb, as noted by MacDonald.
Narratives about Edom preventing the advancement of Israel through its territory reflects a Late Iron II (7th-6th centuries BCE) urban setting as noted by Burton MacDonald, who suspects the Mosaic account was written AT THE END OF IRON II.
The ending of the National History, Genesis to 2 Kings (2 Kings 25:27), dates the Exodus composition to the reign of Evil Merodach of Babylon who reigned ca. 562-560 BCE.
20 June 2003 Update:
In the above article I mentioned that Rothenberg had found a quantity of cloth colored RED and Yellow with beads sewn on to it at the Hathor Shrine at Har Timna ( He also found copious quantitities of beads dedicated to Hathor, some, probably from sacred Menant necklaces). He thought it might be the remains of a Midianite tent, set up after the Egyptians withdrew from Timnah in the reign of Ramesses V. I have recently learned that Hathor possessed an epithet, "Mistress of the Red Cloth," or "She of the Red Cloth." I contacted Dr. Geraldine Pinch who wrote a book on votive offerings to Hathor (Geraldine Pinch. Votive Offerings to Hathor. Oxford University Press. 1993), to ask her if she could explain why Hathor would have this strange epithet and if possibly the Red-Yellow cloth with beads found by Rothenberg might be in fact a votive offering to Hathor, and NOT a Midianite Tent.
Perhaps, just perhaps, the cloth found by Rothenberg is NOT a Midianite tent, but a votive to Hathor ? I find it strange that if Israel so honored Yahweh's Tabernacle in the Wilderness that she had it with her at Shiloh, that the Midianites would abandon such a holy relic at Timna. If Israel is, in part drawing some of her notions from Midianite religious beliefs and practices as alleged by some scholars, I find it unusual that the Midianite Tabernacle was abandoned.
Now, if the cloth is a votive to Hathor, and the beads sewn on it being sacred to her (as Menant sacred bead necklaces are) it would be understandable that the Midianites would have no interest in it and not take it with them back to Midian.
Also of interest is that Rothenberg in 1972 wrote that the bronze serpent was found within the sacred Naos of the Midianite shrine at Timna. He has corrected this statement in his 1988 work, advising that a review of field notes indicates that the serpent was NOT found within the Naos, but outside of it ( cf. p. 89. Note 84. Beno Rothenberg. The Egyptian Mining Temple at Timna. London. Institute for Archaeo-Metallic Studies, Institute of Archaeology, University College London. 1988). In 1972 he wrote that the bronze serpent was the ONLY item found in the Naos. It would appear that NOTHING was worshipped by the Midianites in the Naos from this new development. Could this be Yahweh, of whom no image is to be made ? In his 1988 (p. 89. Note 91) work he also reports two shallow cup marks on the boulder's surface (perhaps to receive libations ?).
13 August 2003 Update
Scholars have studied the textiles unearthed at the Timna Hathor shrine in the Arabah and have concluded that they appear to have been made by Asiatics, NOT Egyptians. The textiles were identified as being either Linen (from Flax) or Woolen. The manner of the weave appears to be Asiatic. The Egyptians are believed to have preferred linen textiles, the few woolen examples found in Egypt are suggested to have been by Asiatic weavers who either resided there or were imports into the country. The Timna linens are of a weave not found found in Egypt, leading Sheffer and Tidhar to suggest they were made by Asiatics (cf. p. 230. Avigail Sheffer and Amalia Tidhar. "Textiles- Conclusions." Beno Rothenberg. The Egyptian Mining Temple at Timna. 1988. London [cf. p. 224 for pinkish-blue-green, red, red & yellow, and blue colored fabrics; p. 225 tasseled fabric or fringes; p. 226 yellow threads for fringe, for priests]).
Two differing textile weights were found, heavy cloths and lighter, finer cloths. It is suggested that the heavier cloths were for awnings, curtains and perhaps a Tent cloth, whilst the lighter, finer weaves were of clothing for the priests officiating at the shrine. The textiles exhibited different dyes, yellow, red, blue and pink. Tassles or fringe were also found as well as cordage. The cordage was suggested to be either for the tent shrine or perhaps belts for tunics (cf. pp. 224-230, Sheffer & Tidhar).
The excavators were impressed by the quantity of textiles and their numerous locations. Some of the textiles may have been dedicated to Hathor, but others appear to have been dedicated during the so-called "Midianite phase," when a Tent shrine was erected, after the Egyptians abandoned Timna, ca. 1140 BCE.
Avigail Sheffer & Amalia Tidhar:
"(1) On a large number of the Timna textiles the thread is z-spun. Since z-spinning is entirely absent in Egyptian fabrics of the early periods, the z-spun fabrics of the later periods may have been either imports or made by foreign weavers in Egypt.
Almost no woolens from the 14th to 12th centuries BC are known from excavations in Egypt, and, moreover, it is unlikely that any woolen fabrics would be found inside an Egyptian temple, since the use of wool in connection with ritual was taboo in ancient Egypt. Yet, in Timna a large number of woolen textiles were found inside the temple. The linen fragments demonstrate the use of the tabby weave, with approximately the same number of warps and wefts to the square centimeter (equal count). However, in Egyptian linen of all periods the warps greatly exceed the wefts in number, and sometimes the weft threads were nearly obscured by them. We therefore conclude that most of the Timna textiles did not originate in Egypt, but were possibly brought to the site, or locally produced, by the mine workers recruited, according to the archaeological evidence, from the Negev tribes or North West Arabia (Midian).
(2) Although the above data can tell us little about function, the coarser and heavier textiles may have been tent cloth (for awnings, partions, etc.) or perhaps curtains' the fine textiles are probably remnants of clothes or priests' sacred vestments which were kept permanently in the temple. There are also pieces of cord which could have served many purposes; they might have been tent ropes or even belts." (p.230. Avigail Sheffer & Amalia Tidhar. "Textiles- Conclusions." Beno Rothenberg. The Egyptian Mining Temple at Timna. London. 1988)
It is of note that the cordage and textiles finds, heavy cloths for curtains, awning and tent cloths as well as lighter, finer clothing textiles, with fringing, tassles and cords, ALL APPEAR in the description of the furnishings of the Tabernacle as noted by the Exodus traditions (cf. Exodus 35:19-26), which portrays Asiatic women (Israelite wives) weaving linen and woolen items such as curtains and veils as donations to the Tabernacle, dyed in blue, purple and red, as well as clothing for the priests and tassles and cords for the tent.
Also of interest, found within the sanctuary were four mineral votives, semi-precious stones, 1) Whitish Selenite Crystal 4x2x3 cm.; 2) Micritic Limestone Calcite, stained pink, 4.5x1x2 cm.; 3) Red-brown Haematite, 2.5x2x0.75 cm.; and 4) a Chert concretion, buff to gray, 2 cm. (cf. p. 266 Rothenberg. 1988. Timna Temple). It MY UNDERSTANDING that these small stones are what is behind the notion of 12 precious stones as votives for Aaron's Ephod (Ex 39:1-15).
It is my conlusion that events, as attested the archaeological findings at the Hathor shrine at Har Timna in Ramesside times (Seti I - Ramesses V, ca. 1291-1141 BCE), are what lurks behind -in part- the Exodus traditions of donations to the Tabernacle at Mount Horeb on the border of Midian in the Wilderness of Sinai and the Arabah, the Midianites perhaps laying claim to Har Timna (Gebel Mene'ieyeh) after Egypt departed the area, thus I understand that "Mount Horeb near Midian" is Har Timna/Gebel Mene-ieyeh. Could it possibly be that " 'ieyeh" of Gebel Mene'ieyeh preserves the statement found in Exodus ?
Exodus 3:13-14 (RSV)
"Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name ?' what shall I say to them ?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO IAM" [ehyeh asher ehyeh]." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM [EHYEH] has sent me to you.' "
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