Exodus-Conquest and the Archaeology of Transjordan: Mattingly

                        Grace Theological Journal 4.2 (1983) 245-262

          Copyright © 1983 by Grace Theological Seminary.  Cited with permission.








                                    GERALD L. MATTINGLY


            One of the major arguments used to support a 13th-century date

for the exodus-conquest is the alleged Late Bronze Age occupational

gap in central and southern Transjordan. Recent archaeological

investigations indicate that this gap hypothesis, which was originally

advocated by Nelson Glueck, needs to be modified. Although the

historical/archaeological picture is still coming into focus, it now

appears that Ammon, Moab, and Edom were settled during the Late

Bronze Age. The density of this occupation remains an open question.

Nevertheless, it appears that the archaeological data from Late Bronze

Age Transjordan have become neutral in the debate on the date of

the exodus-conquest.

                                                *          *          *


            In the opening pages of Redating the Exodus and Conquest,1

John J. Bimson identifies two major assumptions of his study.

First, he maintains that "the biblical traditions of the bondage in

Egypt and of the Exodus have a firm historical basis." Second,

Bimson insists that these historical events must be and can be con-

nected to an absolute chronology.2 This emphasis demonstrates that

Redating is important reading for anyone who takes the biblical

narratives and their historical/archaeological context seriously. Al-

though many readers will have some reservations, Bimson's study is

now the most comprehensive and up-to-date examination of the

historical and archaeological data pertaining to the OT accounts of

the exodus-conquest.

            Since its publication in 1978, Redating has received mixed

reviews.3 For example, Miller suggests that Bimson's theory of a mid-

15th century exodus-conquest, which calls for the lowering of the end


            1 John J. Bimson, Redating the Exodus and Conquest (Sheffield: Almond, 1978).

            2 Bimson, Redating, 10-13.

            3 See, e.g., A. G. Auld, ExpTim 90 (1979) 152; A. H. W. Curtis, EvQ 52 (1980)

54-55; H. Engel, Bib 61 (1980) 437-40; J. D. Martin, SJT 33 (1980) 183-85; E. H.

Merrill, BSac 136 (1980) 184; J. M. Miller, JBL 99 (1980) 133-35; P. R. S. Moorey,




of MB IIC, is plausible, but the number of secondary explanations

needed to support this daring theory neutralize its advantage over the

Albrightian hypothesis for a 13th-century date. Miller says that the

most significant contribution of Bimson's book is its demonstration

"that those who hold to a thirteenth century exodus-conquest have no

monopoly on the archaeological evidence.”4 In other words, Redating

re-examines an old problem from a fresh perspective and shows that

the questions concerning the date of the exodus-conquest have not

been resolved. Not only are there new ways of looking at old data, as

Bimson proves, but there is also new evidence that must be considered.

The main purpose of this article is to review the ways in which the

archaeological evidence from Transjordan relates to the exodus-

conquest and to present some new data that bear upon this issue.



There are four major arguments used to support the late date for

the exodus-conquest: (1) the identification of Pithom and Raamses,

(2) the 13th-century destruction of Palestinian towns mentioned in

the conquest narratives, (3) the archaeological evidence from Middle

Bronze and Late Bronze Age Transjordan, and (4) the military cam-

paigns of Seti I and Ramses II.5 While Bimson refers to the first two

arguments as the "main pillars" of the late date, he also regards the

third and fourth points as key elements. However, all four of these

arguments are still open to further deliberation. The Egyptian evi-

dence, which forms the basis of arguments (1) and (4), is still being

reworked and interpreted in different ways.6 And, although it is a

favorite of many OT scholars, Miller recently delivered a critical blow

to the second argument by showing that the "destruction layers" at

certain Palestinian tells represent, at best, an ambiguous form of

evidence.7 I focus here on the third argument, the lack of Middle


JTS 31 (1980) 111-13; W. H. Shea, CBQ 42 (1980) 88-90; P. Wernberg-Meller, JJS 31

(1980) 135; A. F. Rainey, IEJ 30 (1980) 249-51; J. A. Soggin, VT 31 (1981) 98-99; and

D. M. Beegle, TSF Bulletin 5.5 (1982) 16-17.

            4 Miller, 133, 135.

5 Bimson, Redating, 330-73; cf. K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament

(London: Tyndale, 1966) 57-69; C. F. Aling, Egypt and Bible History from Earliest

Times to 1000 B.C. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981) 77-96.

6 See, for example, Aling, Egypt and Bible History, 77-110; idem, "The Biblical

City of Ramses," JETS 25 (1982) 129-37; H. Shanks, "The Exodus and the Crossing of

the Red Sea, According to Hans Goedicke," BAR 7 (1981) 42-50, and other articles

related to Goedicke's theory; B. MacDonald, "Excavations at Tell el-Maskhuta," BA

43 (1980) 49-58.

7 J. M. Miller, "Archaeology and the Israelite Conquest of Canaan: Some Methodo-

logical Observations," PEQ 109 (1977) 87-93.



Bronze and late Bronze settlements in central and southern Trans-



Assumptions Behind the Third Argument

The archaeological evidence from Transjordan is important in

this debate because Numbers 20ff. and Judges 11 indicate that the

Hebrews, while en route to the land of Canaan, were opposed by the

kings of Edom and Moab and the Amorite kings to the east of the

Jordan River. Therefore, archaeological evidence of occupation in

their territories at the time of the conquest should be found, regardless

of the date assigned to this event. Because Glueck's surface survey

indicated that there was a gap in the sedentary occupation of Edom

and Moab) from ca. 1900 B.C. until ca. 1300 B.C. (although Glueck's

dates fluctuated), the archaeological material from Transjordan

seemed to support the late date. Recognizing that the reconstruction

of occupational history in this region is crucial to this whole discus-

sion, Bimson observes:

   This argument for the 13th century date only holds if the following

three assumptions are correct: (a) that the accounts in Num 20ff are

historical, (b) that those accounts, if historical, require the existence of

a sedentary population settled in permanent towns at the time of the

Israelite migration, and (c) that Glueck's interpretation of the archaeo-

logical material is correct.8

Before proceeding to a more detailed treatment of the third assump-

tion, including a report on some archaeological data recently recovered

in Jordan, I comment on the first two suppositions mentioned by


With regard to the first point, Bimson says that he does not

doubt the "basic historicity" of Numbers 20ff. He does, however, in

agreement with Bartlett, accept the possibility that certain features of

these accounts could be late accretions to the earlier traditions. Many

conservative scholars will not approve of such concessions, but there

is nothing to fear in admitting that such a possibility exists. Indeed,

when compared with the negative conclusions reached by Van Seters

in his ongoing debate with Bartlett,9 Bimson's openness is not extreme.

            Following a thorough discussion of the second assumption listed

above, Bimson concludes that the OT does not demand that the


8 Bimson, Redating, 61, 62.

9 J. R. Bartlett, "Sihon and Og, Kings of the Amorites," VT 20 (1970) 257-77;

J. Van Seters, "The Conquest of Sihon's Kingdom: A Literary Examination," JBL 91

(1972) 182-.97; J. R. Bartlett, "The Conquest of Sihon's Kingdom: A Literary Re-

examination," JBL 97 (1978) 347-51; J. Van Seters, "Once Again-The Conquest of

Sihon's Kingdom," JBL 99 (1980) 117-19.



Transjordanian opponents encountered by the Hebrews were part of

an urbanized sedentary population. In agreement with the earlier

studies of de Vaux and Rea, Bimson suggests that "it is therefore

possible that the kings we read of in Num 20ff were chieftains of

semi-nomadic groups who refused to let another nomadic group, the

Israelites, pass through their areas of pasturage.”10 This conclusion is

plausible, especially if we follow Wenham's theory which calls for a

significant reduction in the Hebrew population and its fighting force.11

Otherwise, it would have taken sizeable armies, perhaps from orga-

nized kingdoms, to restrict the movement of such a large number of





In the Glueck festschrift, Wright provides a valuable assessment

of Glueck's exploration of Transjordan:

    Glueck was not the first man by any means who had searched

these lands, but he was the first to do as complete a survey as possible

with a small budget and few helpers, and he was the first to use the

pottery-dating tool as a basic scientific aid. Between 1932 and 1947,

he spent nearly all his exploration time in Transjordan and in the

Jordan-Dead Sea rift as far south as the Gulf of Aqabah.... Most of

Glueck's work in Transjordan had to be on foot or on horseback.

Refusing elaborate equipment, the explorer lived for days at a time as a

Bedu, drinking what water was available from any source, living as a

guest of the bedouin, and so well known and trusted that he was

always protected, needed no foreign guards, and was never harmed.12


Having worked for two summers on an archaeological survey in the

region of ancient Moab, I have great respect for Glueck, and it seems

wise (indeed, necessary!) to preface a critique of Glueck with an

acknowledgment of his remarkable accomplishments.

As several scholars have already suggested and as the recent

Moab Survey clearly demonstrates, Glueck's surface exploration of

Transjordan is seriously in need of updating.13 This does not mean,


10 Bimson, Redating, 63; cf. R. de Vaux, "La Palestine et la Transjordanie au IIe

millenaire et les origines israelites," ZAW 56 (1938) 225-38; J. Rea, "New Light on the

Wilderness Journey and Conquest," GJ 2 (1961) 5-13.

11 J. W. Wenham, "Large Numbers in the Old Testament," TynBul 18 (1967)


12 G. E. Wright, "Thc Phenomenon of American Archaeology in the Near East,"

Near Eastern Archaeology in the Twentieth Century, ed. J. A. Sanders (Garden City:

Doubleday, 1970) 29, 30.

13 For further discussion of the weaknesses in Glueck's archaeological survey, see

G. L. Mattingly, "A Reconstruction of Early Bronze Age Cultural Patterns in Central



however, that Glueck's work should be jettisoned in toto. Glueck's

four-volume Explorations in Eastern Palestine (1934, 1935, 1939,

1951) and The Other Side of the Jordan (1940; 2nd ed., 1970) serve

as benchmarks in the history of research on ancient Transjordan.

Glueck's publications also provide valuable information on the con-

dition of Moab's archaeological sites in the 1930s, and his reports

illuminate the nature and rate of the present-day resettlement of the

plateau. These factors alone justify the continued use of Glueck's

works as the starting point for all future archaeological investigations

in Transjordan. Thus, although Glueck's volumes cannot be regarded

as conclusive, any attempt to disparage Glueck's intentions or abilities

must be accompanied by words of praise for his herculean achieve-



Glueck's "Gap Hypothesis"

In his first major report on the survey of Transjordan (which

focused primarily on Moab), Glueck set forth five conclusions. The

first three read, in part, as follows:

1. There was a strong Bronze Age civilization in ancient Moab between

     the twenty-third and the eighteenth centuries B.C., when it completely


2. Between the eighteenth and the thirteenth centuries B.C. there is an

     almost complete gap in the history of settled communities in the

     region visited.

3. There was a highly developed Moabite civilization, which seems to

     have flourished especially between the middle of the thirteenth and

     end of the ninth centuries B.C.15


Similar conclusions were reiterated in Glueck's subsequent reports on

this region, although several modifications are apparent in the later

publications. Glueck's second statement has probably attracted more

attention than all the others. Although the second conclusion is

directly related to the first and third statements, the Middle and Late

Bronze occupational gap is at the heart of the argument over the date

of the exodus-conquest. Since this is the focal point of this article,

Glueck's 1934 statement, which constitutes his original gap hypothesis,

is quoted in entirety:


Moab" (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1980)

74, 75.

14 For discussion of Glueck's contribution to archaeology, see Mattingly, "Recon-

struction," 242, 243.

15 N. Glueck, "Explorations in Eastern Palestine 1," AASOR 14 (1934) 81-83.



Between the eighteenth and the thirteenth centuries B.C. there is an

almost complete gap in the history of settled communities in the region

visited. With the exception of Jalul and of el-Misnac and el-Medeiyineh

above Lejjun, at both of which last two mentioned places a few scraps

of Middle Bronze II pottery were found, not a single site was found

with pottery remains between the end of Middle Bronze I and the

beginning of Early Iron I. The Egyptian lists of towns and the Tell el-

Amarna tablets are silent with regard to this period in Eastern Palestine.

Moab is first mentioned in the inscriptions of Ramses II.16


In spite of the exceptional sites that yielded "a few scraps of Middle

Bronze II pottery," Glueck restated his hypothesis in the first edition

of The Other Side of the Jordan:

   There was at about ± 1900 B.C. such a thoroughgoing destruction

visited upon all the great fortresses and settlements of the land, within

the limits we have examined, that the particular civilization they

represented never again recovered. The blow it received was so crushing

as to be utterly destructive. Its cities were never rebuilt, and much of

Transjordan became the camping ground of tent dwellers, who used for

containers perishable skins and not enduring pottery. Permanent vil-

lages and fortresses were no longer to rise upon the face of the earth in

this region till the beginning of the Iron Age.17


In this same volume Glueck used the term "Bedouins" to explain his

gap: "The Semites who took possession of Transjordan at the very

end of the 14th or the beginning of the 13th century B.C., probably

partly absorbed and partly drove out the Bedouins who since about

1900 B.C. had been the masters of the land.”18

Glueck held firmly to his original gap hypothesis right up to a

well-known 1967 essay on Transjordan,19 even though evidence was

accumulating that seemed to challenge his position. There were two

reasons for Glueck's tenacity. First, he viewed the few sites that had

Middle Bronze or Late Bronze sherds as "exceptions" to the rule.

Glueck even allowed for the possibility that additional sites might be

found in Moab, especially since he recognized that there were gaps in

his survey. On the other hand, Glueck's discussion of such omissions

concludes with this comment: "On the whole, however, the writer is

confident that not very many ancient sites in Edom and Moab, whose


16 Glueck, "Explorations, 1," 82. The literary evidence that relates to this issue will

be examined in a separate article.

17 N. Glueck, The Other Side of the Jordan (New Haven: American Schools of

Oriental Research, 1940) 114.

18 Glueck, Other Side, 127.

19 N. Glueck, "Transjordan," Archaeology and Old Testament Study, ed. D. W.

Thomas (Oxford: Clarendon, 1967) 443-45.



ruins have not been completely obliterated, remain undiscovered.”20

In light of the hundreds of new sites that have been discovered in

Moab alone, this was an amazing claim.

Second, Glueck was convinced that the literary tradition of

Genesis 14 (the invasion of Transjordan by the eastern kings) would

be reflected in "archaeological facts.”21 Thus, Glueck's certainty about

an occupational gap in Transjordan was intimately linked to his

convictions about the historical trustworthiness of the Bible.22

Along with his other famous hypotheses (i.e., the "King's High-

way" and Solomon's "smelting and refining plant" at Ezion-geber),

Glueck's theory of a Middle and Late Bronze Age occupational gap

in central and southern Transjordan was accepted by historians and

archaeologists until recently. Without attempting to provide an ex-

haustive list of the countless scholars who were influenced by Glueck

on this point, perhaps McGovern's observation is sufficient: "In one

form or another, Glueck's theory found its way into most of the

standard biblical and archaeological handbooks.”23


General Criticisms of Glueck's Survey Methodology

Although the general reliability of much of Glueck's work has

stood the test of time, various kinds of errors are now known to have

entered into his analyses of the ceramic evidence from Transjordan.

As a result, his interpretation of the history of this region, which was

based largely on the pottery data, has also become suspect. Specifi-

cally, the gap hypothesis has been challenged at four levels.

First, it is now known that surface survey, by its very nature,

does not recover all the data at any site. Although the value of

archaeological reconnaissance has been adequately demonstrated,24

any historical reconstruction that is heavily dependent on survey data

must be viewed as partial and tentative. The pottery collected from

the surface of a site may be representative of the site's accumulated

debris, but the surface of an archaeological site is not always a


20 N. Glueck, Explorations in Eastern Palestine III (New Haven: American Schools

of Oriental Research, 1939) xxiii.

21 Glueck, Other Side, 114.

22 See G. E. Wright, "Is Glueck's Aim to Prove that the Bible Is True?" BA 22

(1959) 101-8.

23 P. E. McGovern, "Exploring the Burial Caves of the Baqcah Valley in Jordan,"

Archaeology 35 (1982) 47.

24 See, for example, R. J. Ruppe, "The Archaeological Survey: A Defense,"

American Antiquity, 31 (1966) 313-33; R. McC. Adams, "The Study of Ancient

Mesopotamian Settlement Patterns and the Problem of Urban Origins," Sumer 25

(1969) 1111-24; Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible: A Historical Geography (Phila-

delphia: Westminster, 1967) 91-93.



microcosm of its subsurface contents. The distribution of sherds over

the surface of a site is dependent upon too many natural and cultural

variables to provide anything but a rough estimate of the site's actual


Second, it is now recognized that Glueck's survey was superficial.

Quite simply, Glueck overlooked hundreds of archaeological sites in

his survey of Transjordan. Again, this is not intended to minimize

Glueck's accomplishment, but it is clear that his superficial treatment

of the regions involved skewed some of his conclusions. If failure to

recover sherds from a particular period at any one site is detrimental

to the interpretive process, the omission of a number of important

sites in a region can be disastrous.

Third, Glueck's results have been challenged because some

scholars believe that his knowledge of ceramics was wholly inadequate.

for the task to which he applied himself. After a word of praise for

Glueck's Explorations in Eastern Palestine, Franken and Power make

these criticisms:

    It is now, however, becoming increasingly clear that the other part

of Glueck's work, that is to say the pottery study, and the conclusions

drawn from that study are in many ways both defective and misleading.

There are two reasons for making these judgments. In the first instance

his work is defective because Glueck assumed that the culture of Iron

Age Transjordan was so similar to that of Palestine that the pottery of

Transjordan could be compared with and chronologically tied into the

known Palestinian repertoire. And in the second instance the work is

misleading because Glueck published only those shapes that were

familiar to him even in cases where he picked up unknown shapes in

the areas immediately adjacent to Palestine, i.e. in the eastern Ghor

and in Ammon. Those shapes that he did not recognize he omitted

from publication, which is a curious procedure, for a survey of a

largely unknown area ought to reveal and indeed to stress the new and

the unknown rather than to emphasize the known. But apparently

Glueck did not anticipate a differing Transjordanian cultural develop-



In order to show that these criticisms are related to Glueck's gap

hypothesis, Franken and Power continue by saying that

it is clear that Glueck assumed that he would have recognized Trans-

jordanian Middle Bronze IIB, IIC, and Late Bronze shapes had he

found them. From what has already been said it is no longer clear that

this assumption can be accepted without question.... Theoretically it


25 H. J. Franken and W. J. A. Power, "Glueck's Explorations in Eastern Palestine

in the light of recent evidence," VT 21 (1971) 119.



is now quite possible that what Glueck called early Iron Age is in part

fourteenth century B.C. Transjordanian pottery.26


Furthermore, the pottery typology of Albright, upon whose work

Glueck's pottery analyses were based, has been refined in recent

years, and the future will bring a better understanding of the develop-

ment of ancient Transjordan's ceramic tradition. Indeed, many of the

changes that Glueck made in the second edition of The Other Side of

the Jordan were based upon his more up-to-date knowledge of

Transjordanian pottery.

Fourth, Glueck's work has been criticized because some scholars

believe that his survey of Transjordan was influenced by his religious

convictions. In other words, Glueck is accused of attempting to "fit"

his survey results into his preconceived assumptions about a histori-

cally trustworthy Bible. For example, Franken wonders whether "a

biblical date for Chedorlaomer or an archaeological date for the end

of M.B. I civilization" came first.27  Franken makes many other

caustic remarks in his attempt to discredit Glueck's reconstruction of

Transjordan's history because it "is based on biblical data.”28 Although

these criticisms of Glueck's methodology and motives deserve further

consideration, I move on to a summary of the archaeological evidence

that relates to the gap theory.





Ever since Glueck's gap hypothesis became popular, archaeol-

ogists and historians have eagerly reported any discovery that held

promise of disproving Glueck's theory. Occasionally, this enthusiasm

caused scholars to force the evidence to say more than is warranted.

In an attempt to provide a sober evaluation of Glueck's position, I list

the places where Middle and Late Bronze data have been recovered in

central and southern Transjordan and comment on the nature of this

material. I do not claim that the list of sites or the accompanying

bibliographical references are exhaustive, but the major reported

finds from the period and region in question are mentioned.

General discussions of the archaeological data that are thought

to fill in Glueck's hypothetical gap can be found in Harding,29


26 Franken and Power, "Glueck's Explorations," 122, 123.

27 H. J. Franken, "The Other Side of the Jordan," ADAJ 15 (1970) 8.

28 Franken, "Other Side," 7.

29 G. L. Harding, "Recent Discoveries in Jordan," PEQ 90 (1958) 10-12; idem, The

Antiquities of Jordan (rev. ed.; New York: Praeger, 1967) 32-34, 63.



Dornemann,30 Ward,31 Sapin,32 and Bimson.33 Today, most of the

objections to Glueck's historical reconstruction are based upon the

Middle and Late Bronze finds from ‘Amman,34 Tell Safut,35 Sahab,36

Nacur,37 Madeba,38 Khirbet el-Mekhayyat,39 and Qlac et-Twal.40 More

recently recovered artifacts from the Hesban region41 and the Baq’ah


30 R. H. Dornemann, "The Cultural and Archaeological History of the Transjordan

in the Bronze and Iron Age" (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago,

1970); see especially pp. 39-63. A revised edition of Dornemann's study will be

published in the near future.

31 W. A. Ward, "The Shasu ‘Bedouin’: Notes on a Recent Publication," JESHO 15

(1972) 54, 55.

32 J. Sapin, "25 ans d'Archeologie en Syrie-Palestine (1946-1971): Recherches et

Perspectives (seconde partie)," ETR 49 (1974) 558-65.

33 Bimson, Redating, 61-68.

34 On the Amman citadel, see F. Zayadine, "Recent Excavations on the Citadel of

Amman, ADAJ 18 (1973) 19, 20; C.-M. Bennett, "Excavations at the Citadel (Al

Qal`a) Amman 1967," ADAJ 23 (1979) 159. On tombs in the Amman area, see G. L.

Harding and B. S. J. Isserlin, "A Middle Bronze Age Tomb at Amman," PEFA 6

(1953) 14-22; R. W. Dajani, "Jabal Nuzha Tomb at Amman," ADAJ 11 (1966) 48-52;

W. A. Ward, "Scarabs, Seals and Cylinders from Two Tombs in Amman," ADAJ 11

(1966) 5-18. On the so-called Amman Airport Temple, see W. A. Ward, "Cylinders &

Scarabs from a Late Bronze Temple at Amman," ADAJ 8-9 (1964) 47-55; G. R. H.

Wright, "The Bronze Age Temple at Amman," ZAW 78 (1966) 350-57; J. B. Hennessy,

"Excavation of a Bronze Age Temple at Amman," PEQ 98 (1966) 152-62; idem,

"Supplementary Note," ZAW 78 (1966) 357-59; V. Hankey, "A Late Bronze Age

Temple at Amman," Levant 6 (1974) 131-78; L. G. Herr, "The Amman Airport

Excavations," ADAJ 21 (1976) 109-12; see Herr's "The Amman Airport Excavations,

1976," forthcoming in AASOR.

35 Most attention is given to an alleged Middle Bronze Age glacis at Tell Safut; see

F. S. Ma'ayeh, "Recent Archaeological Discoveries in Jordan," ADAJ 4-5 (1960) 115.

Recent salvage excavations should lead to additional reports on this site and clarifica-

tion of the function and date of this installation.

36 See R. W. Dajani, "A Late Bronze-Iron Age Tomb Excavated at Sahab, 1968,"

ADAJ 15 (1970) 29-34; S. H. Horn, "Three Seals from Sahab Tomb ‘C’," ADAJ 16

(1971) 103-6; M. M. Ibrahim, "Archaeological Excavations at Sahab, 1972," ADAJ 17

(1972) 23-36; idem, "Second Season of Excavation at Sahab, 1973," ADAJ 19 (1974)


37 Reference is made to the Middle Bronze Age tomb objects from Na’ur, but I

have not located the primary source on this material; cf. Harding, Antiquities, 32, 33.

38 See G. L. Harding, "An Early Iron Age Tomb at Madeba," PEFA 6 (1953) 27-

33; M. Avi-Yonah, "Medeba," Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the

Holy Land, III, ed. M. Avi-Yonah and E. Stern (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society

and Massada Press, 1977) 820.

39 See S. J. Saller and B. Bagatti, The Town of Nebo (Khirbet el-Mekhayyat)

(Jerusalem: Franciscan, 1949) 24-29.

40 See W. A. Ward, "A Possible New Link between Egypt and Jordan during the

Reign of Amenhotep III," ADAJ 18 (1973) 45, 46.

41 See especially S. D. Waterhouse and R. Ibach, Jr., "The Topographical Survey,"

AUSS 13 (1975) 217-33; R. Ibach, Jr., "Archaeological Survey of the Hesban Region,"

AUSS 14 (1976) 119-26; idem, "Expanded Archaeological Survey of the Hesban



Valley42 will undoubtedly enter into future discussions of central

Transjordan's Bronze Age remains. The archaeological data from the

sites mentioned above are primarily surface sherds and tomb deposits

(some of the latter are quite rich), but there is some stratified material

and a small amount of architectural evidence. The outstanding

example of the latter is the so-called "Amman Airport Temple," a

substantial LB II structure that contained a wealth of imported

Mycenaean, Cypriot, and Egyptian pottery and other objects.43

In addition to the sites already mentioned, significant results

were obtained from two archaeological surveys that were completed

in 1982. The 1979, 1981, and 1982 seasons of the "Wadi el-Hasa

Survey," which investigated a small portion of biblical Edom, wit-

nessed the recovery of surface remains from over 1,000 sites, only a

handful of which yielded any sherds from the Middle and Late

Bronze Ages.44 Much work still needs to be done in the territory to

the south of Wadi Hesa, the boundary between ancient Moab and


The 1978, 1979, and 1982 seasons of Emory University's "Archaeo-

logical Survey of Central and Southern Moab" resulted in the exami-

nation of 585 sites between Wadi Mujib and Wadi Hesa (the biblical

rivers Arnon and Zered). Although the Middle and Late Bronze Ages


Region," AUSS 16 (1978) 201-13; idem, "An Intensive Surface Survey at Jalul," AUSS

16 (1978) 215-22. For a full bibliography on the Hesban excavations, see R. S. Boraas

and L. T. Geraty, Heshbon 1976: The Fifth Campaign at Tell Hesban (Berrien Springs,

MI: Andrews University, 1978) 1, 2. For discussion on the presence of Late Bronze

Age material at Tell Hesban, see. D. M. Beegle, Review of Nelson Glueck, The Other

Side of the Jordan, CBQ 33 (1971) 579-81 and L. T. Geraty, "The 1976 Season of

Excavations at Tell Hesban," ADAJ 21 (1976) 42.

42 For the unusually thorough reports on the recent work in the Baq`ah Valley (just

northwest of Amman), see P. McGovern, "The Baq’ah Valley, Jordan: A Cesium

Magnetometer Survey," MASCA Journal 1 (1979) 39-41; idem, "Baq’ah Valley

Project 1980," BA 44 (1981) 126-28; idem, "The Baq’ah Valley, Jordan: Test Soundings

of Cesium Magnetometer Anomalies," MASCA Journal 1 (1981) 214-17; idem,

"Baqah Valley Project 1981," BA 45 (1982) 122-24; idem, "Exploring the Burial Caves

of the Baq’ah Valley in Jordan." Archaeology 35 (1982) 46-53; P. E. McGovern,

G. Harbottle, and C. Wnuk, "Late Bronze Age Pottery Fabrics from the Baq’ah

Valley, Jordan: Composition and Origins," MASCA Journal 2 (1982) 8-12. The

Baq’ah Valley is as far north as this article covers. Middle and Late Bronze materials

from such sites as Irbid, Pella, Tell DeirAlla, and Tell es-Sa’adiyeh can be mentioned,

but these sites fall outside of the geographical scope of this article and beyond the

limits of Glueck's gap hypothesis.

43 The debate over this structure concerns its function and its apparent isolation

from any settlement. For more on this discovery, see below and an interesting footnote

in Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible: A Historical Geography (rev. ed., Philadelphia:

Westminster, 1979) 277, 278, n. 54.

44 See B. MacDonald, "The Wadi El Hasa Survey 1979: A Preliminary Report,"

ADAJ 24 (1980) 166-83; idem, "The Wadi el-Hasa Survey 1981," BA 45 (1982) 58, 59.



were well represented at these sites, the number of sherds from these

periods was not as large as that from other historical eras. Since the

overall results of this project have not yet been officially reported,"

this brief summary of the ceramic data that relate to this period is


    Middle Bronze Age Pottery from Central and Southern Moab

9 sites yielded sherds that are either Middle or Late Bronze (MB/ LB),

each site having between 1 and 42 sherds with this designation.

26 sites yielded sherds that are possibly Middle Bronze (MB?), each site

having between 1 and 8 sherds with this designation.

31 sites yielded sherds that are definitely Middle Bronze (MB), each

site having between 1 and 46 sherds with this designation.

1 site yielded 1 sherd that is possibly Middle Bronze I (MB I?).

2 sites yielded sherds that are definitely Middle Bronze I (MB I), one

site having 3 sherds and the other site 4 sherds with this designation.

1 site yielded 6 sherds that are possibly Middle Bronze II (MB II?).

     Late Bronze Age Pottery from Central and Southern Moab

6 sites yielded sherds that are either Late Bronze or Iron Age I

(LB/Iron I), each site having between 1 and 63 sherds with this


47 sites yielded sherds that are possibly Late Bronze (LB?), each site

having between 1 and 37 sherds with this designation.

75 sites yielded sherds that are definitely Late Bronze (LB), each site

having between 1 and 30 sherds with this designation.

1 site yielded 2 sherds that are possibly Late Bronze I (LB I?).

1 site yielded 1 sherd that is definitely Late Bronze I (LB I).

1 site yielded 8 sherds that are either Late Bronze II or Iron Age I

(LB II/Iron I).

6 sites yielded sherds that are definitely Late Bronze II (LB II), each

site having between 1 and 46 sherds with this designation.




Even before the survey of Moab had been carried out, the

archaeological finds from Transjordan led scholars to question


45 For preliminary reports on the Emory University survey of Central and Southern

Moab, see J. M. Miller, "Archaeological Survey of Central Moab: 1978," BASOR 234

(1979) 43-52; idem, "Archaeological Survey South of Wadi Mujib," ADAJ 23 (1979)

79-92; idem, "Recent Archaeological Developments Relevant to Ancient Moab,"

Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordan I, ed. Adrian Hadidi (Amman:

Department of Antiquities. 1982) 169-73; J. M. Pinkerton, "An Examination of

Glueck's Conclusions Concerning Central Moab in the Light of the Miller-Pinkerton

1978 Archaeological Survey of Central Moab" (unpublished M.T.S. thesis, Candler

School of Theology, 1979); idem, "A Survey of Moab," Jordan 4 (1979) 4-7; J. R.

Kautz, "Tracking the Ancient Moabites," BA 44 (1981) 27-35.



Glueck's reconstruction. Three stances have emerged in the post-1934

evaluations of Glueck's gap hypothesis: (1) those who hold that

Glueck's theory is incorrect; (2) those who hold that Glueck's theory

is still correct; and (3) those who hold that Glueck's theory is in need

of slight modification. It may appear that the difference between (1)

and (3) is a matter of the degree of change that is sought, but there is,

in fact, a significant difference in the tone that is used to criticize

Glueck. Representatives of each of these positions are easily found;

with no attempt to be exhaustive, some of their arguments are

presented below. Since the dates of these evaluations are related to

the weight of the argument put forth, publication dates are enclosed

in parentheses following the scholars' names.

As expected, many scholars insist that Glueck's hypothesis is

wrong, including Harding (1953, 1958, 1967),46 Ma’ayeh (1960),47

Dajani (1964, 1966),48 Ward and Martin (1964)49 Kenyon (1966),50

Dornemann (1970),51 Franken (1970),52 Mittmann (1970),53 Franken

and Power (1971),54 Zayadine (1973),55 Thompson (1974a; 1974b),56

Dever and Clark (1977),57 and Bimson (1981).58


46 For Harding's objections to Glueck's theory, see G. L. Harding, "A Middle

Bronze Age Tomb at Amman," PEFA 6 (1953) 14; idem, "Recent Discoveries in

Jordan," PEQ 90 (1958) II, 12; idem, Antiquities, 32-34, 63.

47 F. S. Ma’ayeh, "Recent Archaeological Discoveries in Jordan," ADAJ 4-5

(1960) 115.

48 R. Dajani, "Iron Age Tombs from Irbed," ADAJ 8-9 (1964) 101; idem, "Jabal

Nuzha Tomb at Amman," ADAJ 11 (1966) 49.

49 W. A. Ward and M. F. Martin, "The Balu’a Stele: A New Transcription with

Palaeographical and Historical Notes," ADAJ 8-9 (1964) 19-20.

50 K. Kenyon, Amorites and Canaanites (London: British Academy, 1966) 64.

51 R. H. Dornemann, "The Cultural and Archaeological History of the Transjordan

in the Bronze and Iron Ages" (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago,

1970) 8, 48, 49.

52 H. J. Franken, "The Other Side of the Jordan," ADAJ 15 (1970) 7-9.

53 S. Mittmann, Beitrage zur Siedlungs- and Territorialgeschichte des nordlichen

Ostjordanlandes (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1970) 221, n. 32.

54 H. J. Franken and W. J. A. Power, "Glueck's Explorations in Eastern Palestine

in the light of recent evidence," VT 21 (1971) 119-23.

55 F. Zayadine, "The Middle Bronze Age (c. 1900 to 1500 ax.)" and "The Late

Bronze Age (c. 1500 to 1200 n.c.)," The Archaeological Heritage of Jordan: The

Archaeological Periods and Sites (East Bank), Moawiyah Ibrahim, et al. (Amman:

Department of Antiquities, 1973) 18-21. Cf. A. Hadidi, "The Archaeology of Jordan:

Achievements and Objectives," Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordan I, ed.

A. Hadidi (Amman: Department of Antiquities, 1982) 16, 17.

56 T. L. Thompson, The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narrative (Berlin: de

Gruyter, 1974) 192-94; idem "Observations on the Bronze Age in Jordan," ADAJ 19

(1974) 63-70.

57 W. G. Dever and W. M. Clark, "The Patriarchal Traditions," Israelite and

Judaean History, ed. J. H. Hayes and J. M. Miller (OTL; Philadelphia: Westminster,

1977) 90.

58 Bimson, Redating, 64-68.



Beginning as early as 1953, Harding questioned the accuracy of

Glueck's hypothesis. While Harding had objections to the method-

ology that Glueck used in his survey, especially where Glueck's

methods influenced his pottery analyses, Harding's real objection to

the gap theory was based on the presence of Middle and Late Bronze

tomb deposits and other archaeological evidence in Amman and its

vicinity. Harding could not believe that these tombs, along with the

Amman Airport Temple, were isolated phenomena or the work of

tent-dwellers.59 Furthermore, since Harding assumed a 13th-century

date for the exodus-conquest, he contended that the biblical account

"requires a fully occupied Edom, Moab and Ammon, and this cannot

happen in a generation.”60

On the basis of their study of the Balu’a stele, Ward and Martin

concluded that there had to be a well-established sedentary population.

in Moab during the Late Bronze Age. They suggested that Glueck's

hypothetical "cultural hiatus" is being filled in with newly discovered

Middle and Late Bronze sites, and thus "our concept of this area

during this period will have to undergo a radical change.”61 In a later

publication, Ward softened his critique of Glueck and suggested that

"the scanty knowledge we now possess may require a reassessment, or

at least a modification, of the current view.”62

Thompson postulated a cultural continuity for Transjordan from

Late Chalcolithic through Late Bronze Age, a continuity perpetuated

by the "typical Bronze Age settlement," the small agricultural village.

Following his treatment of the theories related to Bronze Age popula-

tion shifts, Thomson concluded that "the real curiosity is that Glueck's

hypothesis was ever taken so seriously-as literally true-in the first


After listing a few examples of Middle Bronze finds from the

area around Amman, Zayadine asserted that "the theory of Nelson

Glueck about a nomadic life in the Middle Bronze Age in East

Jordan can no longer be accepted."64 A similar conclusion was

reached with regard to the Late Bronze Age. In place of Glueck's gap

hypothesis, Zayadine made the reasonable suggestion that Trans-

jordan's Late Bronze Age culture was similar to the situation that

exists today with nomadism juxtaposed alongside urbanism.65


59 Harding, "A Middle Bronze Age Tomb from Amman," 14.

60 Harding, Antiquities, 35.

61 Ward and Martin, "Balu’a Stele," 19,   20.

62 Ward, "Shasu ‘Bedouin’," 55. 

63 Thompson, "Other Side," 66.  

64 Zayadine, "Middle Bronze Age," 19.   

65 Zayadine, "Late Bronze Age," 20.



Although it is difficult to find scholars who still adhere to

Glueck's original gap hypothesis, it is interesting to observe that the

early discoveries of Middle and Late Bronze evidence in central

Transjordan did not lead to an immediate and wholesale denial of

Glueck's historical reconstruction. While accepting the dates and

importance of the more recently recovered data, Albright (1937, 1957,

1960),66 Landes (1961),67 and Campbell and Wright (1969)68 continued

to hold the view that this period and region witnessed a decline in

sedentary occupation. They reasoned that the Middle and Late

Bronze tombs from the vicinity of Amman could have been the work

of nomadic or seminomadic tribes who lived in the area. Even the

discovery and excavation of the Amman Airport Temple did not

shake their confidence in Glueck, since it was proposed that this

sanctuary could have served as the focal point of a regional tribal

league. Following this same line of reasoning, Glueck reaffirmed a

strong belief in his gap hypothesis in 1967.69

Aside from the cautious statement of Bartlett, who in 1973

suggested that "it is as yet an open question how far these finds

modify Glueck's view,"70 there is still a third stance that can be taken

in evaluating Glueck's hypothesis and in reappraising the archaeo-

logical evidence from Transjordan. This third position, which calls

for only a slight modification of Glueck's theory, is best represented

by Glueck himself (1970),71 Kafafi (1977),72 and Aharoni (1979).73  In


66 For examples of Albright's continued support for Glueck's theory, see N. Glueck,

"Explorations in the Land of Ammon," BASOR 68 (1937) 21, n. 21; W. F. Albright,

From the Stone Age to Christianity: Monotheism and the Historical Process (2d ed.;

Garden City: Doubleday, 1957) 61, 62; idem, The Archaeology of Palestine (rev. ed.;

Baltimore: Penguin, 1960) 44; idem, "The Amarna Letters from Palestine," CAH

(3d ed.; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1975), 2/2. 107.

67 G. M. Landes, "The Material Civilization of the Ammonites," BA 24 (1961)

67, 68.

68 E. F. Campbell, Jr. and G. E. Wright, "Tribal League Shrines in Amman and

Shechem," BA 32 (1969) 116.

69 N. Glueck, "Transjordan," Archaeology and Old Testament Study, ed. D. W.

Thomas (Oxford: Clarendon, 1967) 443-45.

70 J. R. Bartlett, "The Moabites and Edomites," Peoples of Old Testament Times,

ed. D. J. Wiseman (Oxford: Clarendon, 1973) 231, 232.

71 N. Glueck, The Other Side of the Jordan (2d ed.; Cambridge, MA: American

Schools of Oriental Research, 1970) 139-42, 157.

72 Zeidan Abd El-Kafi Kafafi, "Late Bronze Age Pottery in Jordan (East Bank)

1575-1200 B.C." (unpublished M.A. thesis, University of Jordan, 1977) vii-x, 73, 464.

            73 Aharoni, Land of the Bible, 102. With regard to his assessment of Glueck's gap

hypothesis, it is difficult to discern Ahaoni's viewpoint. For example, on p. 102

Aharoni praises Glueck's survey and supports his reconstruction. On the other hand,

Aharoni suggested that Late Bronze Age Midian boasted a sophisticated culture, and

he suggested that "the establishment of well organized kingdoms in these areas [Edom

and Moab] during the thirteenth century B.C. is more and more attested by archaeology"



addition to these three, Pinkerton (1979),74 Miller (1979, 1982),75 and

Kautz (1981),76 all staff members of the Emory University Moab

Survey, agree that there was a decline in the sedentary population of

central Transjordan during part of Glueck's gap, but they feel that the

new data from Moab call for some modification of the original gap

hypothesis. I hold this same position.

Many scholars will be surprised to learn that Glueck himself

revised his original gap hypothesis in the second edition of The Other

Side of the Jordan (1970). Indeed, the changes are so substantial that

much of the current criticism of Glueck's reconstruction of Trans-

jordan's Middle and Late Bronze history is unnecessary. The pivotal

statement in this revision reads as follows:

     In much of Transjordan, especially in the areas some distance

south of the south side of the Wadi Zerqa (Biblical River Jabboq), the

Middle Bronze I period of the Age of Abraham seems to have been

followed by a considerable decline in sedentary settlement during the

Middle Bronze II and Late Bronze I-II periods, although not as

radically as we had once assumed.77


In presenting his revised hypothesis, Glueck not only listed the

recent Middle and Late Bronze finds from central Transjordan, but

he reminded his readers that he had also found some sites from this

period in his own survey. Glueck insisted, however, that such materials

were not found in sufficient quantities to prove the existence of

widespread urbanism.78 As always, Glueck made provision in his

reconstruction for sedentary occupation, a fact that is often overlooked.79

            If we examine Kafafi's comments on this issue, we notice that he

had two distinct advantages over Glueck: (1) Kafafi's study came out

seven years after the revised edition of The Other Side of the Jordan,

thus allowing time for additional archaeological reports to be pub-

lished; and (2) Kafafi did not have a vested interest in this subject, as

did Glueck. Nevertheless, Kafafi holds that attempts to alter Glueck's

hypothesis are unsuccessful, since most of these attempts are based on

tomb deposits, not the excavation of walled towns. Kafafi concludes


(pp. 204-6). D. Baly, (Review of Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible: A Historical

Geography, BA 44 [1981] 251) points out that such a statement is incorrect. To make

matters worse, Rainey (as, was pointed out in n. 24 above) points to the Amman

Airport Temple as proof of urbanism in central Transjordan.

74 Pinkerton, "Examination of Glueck's Conclusions," 70-73.

75 Miller, "Archaeological Survey of Central Moab," 51; idem, "Recent Archaeo-

logical Developments," 172.

76 Kautz, "Ancient Moabites," 31-34.

77 Glueck, Other Side (2d ed.), 140, 141.

78 Glueck, Other Side (2d ed.), 141-42.

79 Glueck (Other Side [2d ed.], 142) speaks about a "decline in sedentary settlement."



by saying that much archaeological work must be done before the

issue is settled, but the available data do not compel a major revision

of Glueck's theory.80

Miller's observations provide a summary of how the Moab

Survey data, which were presented above, bear upon the modification

of the gap hypothesis:


In short, while our findings agree with Glueck's findings in that we also

notice a sudden decline in the abundance of surface pottery representing

the Middle Bronze Age, ours do not confirm his conclusion that there

was a virtually complete occupational gap which extended throughout

the Late Bronze Age and ended specifically during the thirteenth

century. There is the prior question, of course, as to whether the

relative abundance of surface pottery from a given period is a safe

indicator of its degree of sedentary occupation. To the extent that it is,

our findings seems to indicate at least a scattering of settlements even

during the Middle Bronze Age which gradually increased in number

during the Late Bronze and Iron Ages.81




The presentation of the archaeological data from Transjordan

and the accompanying survey of scholarly opinions lead to at least

three conclusions.

First, it is obvious that there are Middle and Late Bronze Age

artifacts in central and southern Transjordan. It is true, however, that

finds from these periods are still not plentiful. For example, in Moab,

Middle and Late Bronze sherds are not found at as many sites or in

as great a quantity as pottery from other periods (e.g., Early Bronze

and Iron Ages and the Nabataean, Roman, and Byzantine periods).

In spite of the accelerated pace of archaeological research in central

and southern Transjordan, Glueck's gap has not been filled completely.

In other words, it still appears that social, political, or economic

factors led to a genuine population decline in Middle and Late

Bronze Age Transjordan.

Second, the recently recovered archaeological remains from Trans-

jordan, including the new data from Moab, demonstrate that Glueck's

original gap hypothesis must be abandoned. Glueck's 1934 theory is

still cited as an object of attack, even though Glueck himself revised

his position thirteen years ago. Glueck's new historical reconstruction

in the 1970 edition of  The Other Side of the Jordan seems to be in

harmony with the archaeological picture that is now emerging.


80 Kafafi, "Late Bronze Age Pottery," x.

81 Miller, "Recent Archaeological Developments," 172.



Third, while archaeologists have not recovered evidence of exten-

sive kingdoms in Late Bronze Age Edom, Moab, or Ammon, it can

no longer be said that these regions were devoid of a population that

could oppose the migrating Hebrews. This means that one of the four

main arguments used to support the late date of the exodus-conquest

is no longer valid. Those who appeal to an occupational gap in Late

Bronze Age Transjordan prove that they are unaware of the recently

recovered archaeological evidence, since the archaeological data from

this time and region appear to be neutral in the debate on the date of

the exodus-conquest. It should be noted, however, that the Late

Bronze material recovered in the territory to the north of Jalul

displays a continuity with the Canaanite culture on the west side of

the Jordan River.82



82 I am indebted to Dr. James Sauer for this final observation.



This material is cited with gracious permission from:

            Grace Theological Seminary

            200 Seminary Dr.

            Winona Lake,  IN   46590


Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu