The archaeological site at Mt. Ebal was discovered on April 6, 1980, during the course of the Manasseh Hill Country Survey headed by Professor Adam Zertal. The subsequent excavations there between 1982 and 1988, in which the author participated, present a picture that possibly alters commonly accepted concepts about early Israel.
Where did the Israelites Come from?
The high number of early Iron Age sites (circa 1200 BCE) in the survey of the Manasseh territory (close to 300, versus the 39 sites of the Late Bronze Age, circa 1400-1200 BCE, in the same area), indicates that a new population entered the area. This completely contradicts the most prominent conventional theory, (conceived by Mendenhall in 1958, supported by Gottwald, and by many scholars to this day) that the Israelites originated during the course of a peasant revolt against the ruling class of Canaanites.
Where did the Israelites enter the Land of Israel
The high concentration of settlements in this area mentioned above, points to the entrance of the Israelites to the land via Wadi Far’ah (Nahal Tirzah in Hebrew) the valley which leads from the Jordan River to Shechem, or Nablus of today. A hint of this entrance appears in the biblical text in Deuteronomy 11:30, which lists a number of geographic indicators. Professor Zertal has actually been able to identify them all quite clearly, including Gilgal and Elon Moreh.
These discoveries raise questions about the narrative in the Book of Joshua, which indicates an entrance opposite Jericho.
Ancient Population Figures
Also placed in question by the survey is the issue of population. It is commonly accepted among archaeologists that the Sinai Desert, whose ecological makeup is the same today as it was three millennia ago, cannot sustain more than three to five thousand people. This is irreconcilable with the 600,000 males plus an unknown number of females and children, which is the traditional biblical view. This is even more of an enigma when one considers that the estimated total population of the land of Israel (Israelite and non-Israelite) during the Settlement Period of Iron I (1300-1000 BCE) ranged from 25,000 to 40,000, by most estimates.
As you will see in the book, many questions will remain unanswered, waiting for another group of spades and shovels.