While it is common to think that archaeologists have uncovered most of the remains from ancient Egypt and Canaan, that definitely is not the opinion of the experts who are involved in the search for hidden artifacts, tombs and even entire cities. In our ongoing investigation of biblical history, we have been surprised to hear how much material still lies waiting in the ground, waiting to be discovered. Scholar after scholar has informed us that we are just scratching the surface.
This new era of discovery may also impact the general attitude of mainstream academia which in recent decades has been widely skeptical about the early history found in the Bible. However, as more information pours in, it will be interesting to see how these new finds impact our understanding of the ancient world and its relation to the Bible. In fact, the rate of discovery is increasing rapidly as new technologies open up new possibilities never before dreamed of.
The dig site of Tel el-Dab’a is a good example of the effort it takes to uncover just a fraction of a single location. This site is at the location of Rameses, which is mentioned in the Bible as the city the Israelites built during their bondage in Egypt. Avaris lies under (and is therefore older than) the city of Rameses, and the fact that it was populated mainly by Semitic herdsmen who begin the history of the city as free people living by permission of the Egyptian state uniquely fits the Exodus account of the Israelites early history.
Egyptologist Charles Aling commented on the history of excavations at this important ancient city of Avaris in one of the bonus features on the Collector’s Edition Box Set of Patterns of Evidence. When asked about how much of ancient Avaris had been uncovered, Aling said, “Avaris itself, this is one of the most massive sites in all of the ancient Near Eastern world. And they have excavated there 60 seasons now. (A season lasts about two or three months, they do two seasons a year usually). And Professor Bietak, the excavator, said that that accounts for about 3% of the total site.”
It seems amazing that after digging for more than 30 years, the Austrians have only uncovered about 3% of the city. What other clues will be found as the excavation continues? Dr. Aling also said, “With Egypt, there are huge gaps… We have large gaps in our information.” He stated that most of the surviving material from ancient Egypt remains to be found and guessed that we know about 10-15 % of what there is to be known.
Egyptologist – University of Northwestern, St. Paul
Director General of Antiquities – Luxor
Tutor In Old Testament – Trinity College, Bristol
Mansour Boraik, the Director General of Antiquities at Luxor also emphasized that new finds are made every day. He estimates that more than 60% of Egypt’s monuments remain buried underneath the surface.
When speaking about Avaris, Professor John Bimson from Trinity University in Bristol, England mentioned that many other Semitic sites from the Middle Bronze Age also exist in the area nearby. Bimson noted that, “If we go back to the 18th-19th centuries BC, we’ve got settlements of Semitic groups, or what the Egyptians called Asiatics. We don’t know exactly when they started arriving or exactly when these settlements stopped, because many of these sites have not been fully excavated yet. You’ve got a good many settlements, twenty or more, which would fit the land of Goshen where the Bible says the Israelites were settled.
There are more than 20 Semitic settlements in Egypt’s Nile Delta waiting to be explored.
“The Avaris site of course, no one knew how big that was until excavation began. There’s some hope to investigating with ground penetrating radar like they’re doing with the Rameside section of Avaris. Have you seen the plans they’ve produced of Rameses by ground penetration radar? They’re showing stables and things on a huge scale.
“If those other cities all turn out to be as big as Tell el-Dab’a, then it would take hundreds of years to fully investigate. So there could be a lot of stuff in the ground waiting to be discovered and to throw a lot more light on this period of Asiatic settlement.”
Hundreds of years of excavating just to unearth the Semitic sites in the Nile Delta, and those are just the ones we are currently aware of. Will these sites and what is revealed help establish the presence of the early Israelites in Egypt?
It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. – Proverbs 25:2 (ESV)
Now consider the impact of another new technology. Over the last several years, Egyptologist Sarah Parcak of University of Alabama in Birmingham has used infrared satellite imaging to discover 17 lost pyramids in Egypt. She also claims to have found more than 1,000 tombs and 3,100 ancient settlements with this system. Her fascinating work is profiled in the BBC documentary, Egypt – What Lies Beneath.
An image of the ancient city of Tanis buried beneath sediment in the Nile Delta as seen in a typical satellite image (left) compared to the same area enhanced in an infrared image (right) showing a pattern of streets and houses
The buried city of Tanis revealed by satellite and using infrared technology
One of her most remarkable finds was the ancient city of Tanis that lay buried under the surface of the Delta to the northwest of Avaris. Parcak’s team used images from both NASA and commercial satellites along with an infrared technique that can differentiated between distinct materials existing beneath the surface. What emerged from the images was an ancient network of streets and houses, which are completely invisible from the ground.
“I couldn’t believe we could locate so many sites all over Egypt,” Dr. Parcak says in the film. “This hints at the possibilities of discoveries to come. I am excited for my generation and the generations to come. There is enough to be excavated for 50 generations.”
One of America’s top Egyptologists, Kent Weeks, spoke with filmmaker Timothy Mahoney at Karnak about the wealth of material still undiscovered: He said “there is enough material, new material in Egypt that archaeologists will be kept busy digging for centuries.”
Kent Weeks speaking about the amount of information waiting to be unearthed or interpreted. Taken from the Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus Collector’s Edition Box Set.
The film Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus has been part of an effort that counters the claim that there is no physical evidence for the the Bible’s Exodus account. A flood of new discoveries may add to that process. What else is waiting to be pulled up from under the sands of time, and what mysteries and misunderstandings about the Bible might be solved in the years ahead. Imagine how exciting it would be to dig up something that no one has seen for thousands of years. Perhaps you or someone you know will be caught up in this quest for knowledge and will be part of making discoveries that will define how the world views history and the Bible for centuries to come.