Jerusalem has been excavated time and again—and with a particularly intense period of investigation of Bronze and Iron Age remains in the 1970’s and 1980’s under the direction of Yigal Shiloh, of the Hebrew University, at the city of David, the original urban core of Jerusalem. Surprisingly, as Tel Aviv University archaeologist David Ussishkin pointed out, fieldwork there and in other parts of biblical Jerusalem failed to provide significant evidence for a tenth century occupation (the time period of the great kingdoms of David and Solomon, as per the Bible). Not only was any sign of monumental architecture missing, but so were even pottery sherds (pottery fragments). The types that are so characteristic of the tenth century at other sites…are rare in Jerusalem. Some scholars have argued that later, massive building activities in Jerusalem wiped out all signs of the earlier city. Yet excavations in the city of David revealed impressive finds from the Middle Bronze Age and from later centuries of the Iron Age—just not from the tenth century BCE. The most optimistic assessment of this negative evidence is that tenth century Jerusalem was rather limited in extent, perhaps not more than a typical hill country village.
This modest appraisal meshes well with the rather meager settlement pattern of the rest of Judah in the same period, which was composed of only about twenty small villages and a few thousand inhabitants, many of them wandering pastoralists (sheep and goat herders). In fact, it is highly unlikely that this sparsely inhabited region of Judah and the small village of Jerusalem could have become the center of a great empire stretching from the Red Sea in the South to Syria in the north (as asserted in the Bible). Could even the most charismatic king have marshaled the men and arms needed to achieve and hold such vast territorial conquests? There is absolutely no archaeological indication of the wealth, manpower, and level of organization that would be required to support large armies—even for brief periods—in the field. Even if the relatively few inhabitants of Judah were able to mount swift attacks on neighboring regions, how would they have possibly been able to administer the vast and even more ambitious empire of David’s son…Solomon?
The Bible Unearthed