The events depicted in religious texts are frequently the subject of debates by historians and theologians, especially in the last few hundred years. Some historical events that feature in these texts have been proven by science to have been false over the years.
This isn’t necessarily a deterrent for believers, as an increasing number of religious people don’t take every passage literally, preferring to view them as representative of a meaningful truth. But we all, believers and non-believers, can get a little curious about exactly how much fact has made it into these books. The primary difficulty that emerges from this quest for the truth is that most of the events covered by religious texts such as the Bible or the Quran are said to have occured over a thousand years ago. So when we want to confirm major events archaeologists need to be persistent, skilled, and very lucky. In a recent find, a group have been all three, finding confirmation that the burning of Jerusalem in 586 BC really did happen. Archaeologists who were excavating the City of David in Jerusalem have apparently found confirmation that Jerusalem really did suffer from a devastating blaze in 586 BC, an event that was referenced in the Bible. Burnt artefacts from 2,600 years ago have been found, suggesting that the Babylonians did actually set the city ablaze. The site, located in Jerusalem Walls National Park, has turned up pottery, wood, and bones that are dated to be thousands of years old. Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority discovered them beneath layers of rock in the eastern section of the City of David. They also found dozens of jars used to store grain and fluids. On many of these items were rosette seals and stamped handles, allowing the researches to date them. Dr. Joe Uziel, who led the excavation, explained: “These seals are characteristic of the end of the First Temple Period. [They] were used for the administrative system that developed towards the end of the Judean dynasty. It seems like not all of the buildings were destroyed in a single event. It seems that some were destroyed and others were abandoned and left.” The dig displayed signs that large parts of the city were destroyed quickly by an intense blaze, but also showed signs that some areas weren’t affected, suggesting that the fire wasn’t as widespread as the biblical passage implied. The first reference to the event appeared in the Book of Jeremiah, which read: “Now on the seventh day of the fifth month, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; even every great house he burned with fire.” While it’s unknown whether it happened in exactly this way, we at least know now that the fire did really happen, giving extra credence to the passage. If you want to see more impressive excavations, read about the time archaeologists unearthed a 2,300-year-old necropolis containing mummies lying catacombs.
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