When you’re looking for something that’s lost, it sometimes helps to look for the box it came in – the missing item might be inside or at least nearby. That was the strategy behind a recent new search for the biblical Ark of the Covenant. While fans of Raiders of the Lost Ark will immediately think of the wooden crate it was placed in at the end of the movie, these researchers were looking for the Tabernacle – the portable container used to protect the Ark. Does looking directly at the Tabernacle also cause a person to melt or just sweat profusely? Asking for a screenwriter friend.
According to the Times of Israel, the month-long excavation in Shiloh on the northern West Bank was conducted by Associates for Biblical Research, a group of archeologists and volunteers, and was intended to be the first of many annual digs at the location. Shiloh was chosen by the group because of biblical references to the Ark about the tabernacle being there for over 350 years. The Times of Israel notes that the group is using metal detectors, digital technology and other advanced archeological techniques not often seen in religious-oriented projects.
The first dig ended on June 17th. Did they find the tabernacle?
“We excavated through a tremendous amount of bone.”
Dr. Scott Stripling, director of the excavations, says the major discovery so far is a lot of bones. That makes sense to him.
“The Bible specifies which animals are sacrificial animals and it also says that they are young animals. If the bones match the animals of the Biblical sacrificial system and the type and age specified, then we may be looking at evidence that the tabernacle sat nearby.”
If the tabernacle and the space around it was a place of worship for 350 years, then finding 350 years worth of bones is definitely a clue. But it’s not the only one. The team also found objects used to make seals, tools, weapons, jewelry and “about 2,000 pieces of pottery a day.”
But no tabernacle.
That may not be a surprise to Israeli archaeologist Israel Finkelstein, who conducted an extensive study of the same site in the early 1980s and found the same bones but no tabernacle or Ark. That didn’t discourage him because what he found added to the historical record of Shiloh and the surrounding area.
Can faith and archeology work together? Finkelstein has moved on to other sites while Stripling plans to keep coming back to Shiloh.
Who will find the box?