How the Excavation of Megiddo Found Evidence of a Biblical Episode

March 26, 2020 | Eric Cline
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First appearing in the New Testament book of Revelation, the word Armageddon derives from the Hebrew har megiddo, referring to the mound or tel of the ancient fortress-city of Megiddo. Eric Cline describes the story behind the excavation of the site:

James Henry Breasted, the founding director of the newly established Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, had been wanting to dig at Megiddo . . . ever since June 1920. It was Lord Edmund Allenby, hero of the Allied forces in the Middle East during World War I and victor of the battle fought at Megiddo in 1918, who convinced Breasted that he should begin a new series of excavations at the ancient site. “Allenby of Armageddon,” as he was frequently called (though his official title was “Viscount Allenby of Megiddo”), had won the 1918 battle at the ancient site in part because of Breasted’s multi-volume publication, Ancient Records of Egypt, which appeared in 1906. In one of those volumes, Breasted translated into English the account of Pharaoh Thutmose III’s battle at Megiddo in 1479 BCE. Breasted’s translation allowed Allenby to employ, successfully, the same tactics 3,400 years later.

Breasted was particularly interested in recovering the remains of two cities out of the many that lay, one on top of another, within the ancient mound. One was the city that had been captured by Thutmose III. The other was Solomon’s, which that ancient king had reportedly fortified during the 10th century BCE, according to the Hebrew Bible.

Breasted’s excavation began in 1925 and in 1926 made its first major discovery, one that had in fact been unearthed by a previous archaeologist whose team had discarded it: a stone fragment with a hieroglyphic inscription bearing the symbol of Pharaoh Sheshonq, who had ruled Egypt from 945 to 920 BCE. Cline explains its significance:

According to a very lengthy inscription that Pharaoh Sheshonq ordered to be carved onto a wall in a temple in Egypt, he had attacked and captured Megiddo among many other cities in the area. We know that this took place a few years before the end of his reign, about 930 BCE. Thus, the fragment . . . may corroborate Sheshonq’s boast that he had captured the city. In addition, to a number of scholars and members of the public it was even more important because of its biblical implications, for many today equate Sheshonq with Pharaoh Shishak, who the Bible says attacked Jerusalem and other cities soon after the death of King Solomon, i.e., also approximately 930 BCE.

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