The archeological discovery of an ancient Egyptian scarab upholds the accuracy of the biblical book of Joshua.
Chapters 7 and 8 of Joshua tell the story of the Israelite conquest of the Canaanite city of Ai. For several decades, scholars have disputed the city's exact location.
Last summer at Khirbet el-Maqatir, 9 miles north of Jerusalem, Destry Jackson, a volunteer with the Association for Biblical Research, excavated the fire pit of a first-century house near the area of the city gate. Suddenly, a little blue stone embedded in the dirt popped to her attention. The archeologist to whom she handed it jumped up and down shouting, “It’s a scarab, it’s a scarab!” Why such excitement over a little stone no longer than three-quarters of an inch, carved to look like a beetle?
Many mainstream archeologists say the site of et-Tell is the location of the ancient Canaanite city of Ai. But archeological evidence indicates et-Tell was destroyed long before the time of Joshua, Jackson said. As a result, mainline scholars assert the conquest of Ai recorded in the Bible has no historical accuracy.
Bryant Wood, research director of Associates for Biblical Research (ABR) and director of excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir, believes the problem is not with the accuracy of the Bible but rather with misidentification of the site of Ai. Wood argues in a scholarly paper that Khirbet el-Maqatir, a site ABR has excavated since 1995, is the only site that meets all of the biblical and extra-biblical criteria for the location of Ai. Furthermore, Wood explains, prior to modern scholarship, local tradition placed the site of Ai at Khirbet el-Maqatir.
Mainline archeologists have not been convinced. Formerly, pottery dated roughly to the time of Joshua served as the only evidence that Khirbet el-Maqatir was inhabited during that time period. Discovery of the scarab gives irrefutable evidence of the city’s existence at the time of Joshua. The scarab is a rare type that was made only between the years of 1485 and 1418 B.C. According to the Bible, the Israelites left captivity in Egypt in 1446 B.C. and entered Canaan in 1406 B.C.
“This is a significant discovery since it provides an independent date for the fortress apart from pottery,” Wood said in a press release. Together, the pottery and scarab provide solid evidence for dating the site of Khirbet el-Maqatir to the time of the Exodus and the conquest of Canaan.
Scarab is a French word for beetle. Ancient Egyptians revered the dung beetle, associated with their sun god. They believed a sacred dung beetle rolled the sun across the sky each day. Carvings of scarabs were used mainly by kings as a signet, a seal used to authenticate an official document. Some experts think the scarab may have been used by the last king of Ai, the one Joshua defeated, Jackson said.