Tuesday, December 17, 2013

More Masada revisionism

HAARETZ: No more heroes? Digging deeper into the Masada myth. 50 years after the first archaeological digs, mystery remains: Did any battle happen there at all? (Moshe Gilad). Excerpts:
According to Josephus, 967 people who fled the Romans to Masada committed suicide, choosing to die rather than be taken captive.

There are differences of opinion, however, about exactly what happened on the site overlooking the Dead Sea, and the controversy about what took place some 2,000 years ago still prompts heated debate among academics. Participants at a recent conference held in Jerusalem, Ein Gedi and at Masada itself, to mark the 50th anniversary of the excavations, spoke with movingly about their experiences at the time, which however shed little light on persisting mysteries.
Regarding the question of whether "any battle happened there at all" in the headline, the article says:
There are currently two researchers at the center of the archaeological controversy over Masada – Haim Goldfus and Benny Arubas, who have argued for years that the Masada story has been distorted. Many people, Goldfus maintains, “choose not to look reality in the eye.”

The Masada story as told by Josephus didn’t really happen that way, Goldfus insists, claiming that Josephus himself was in Rome when Masada fell.

“In reality, a different [series of] events took place at Masada, and apparently there was no war there at all,” says Goldfus. “There is no evidence at all at the site of blood being spilled in battle. The famous battery [at a site commonly referred to as the Roman ramp] couldn’t have fulfilled the role attributed to it in breaking through the wall, because it was too narrow and small and couldn’t have been used by the Roman army to position a battering ram. In light of the finds in the area where the [Romans] broke through, we understood that nothing happened there. There are no arrowheads, as one finds at other sites. There is no evidence of fires. The indications are that the battery structure was mostly naturally occurring.

“In addition,” he continues, “there are no mounds from walls that had been destroyed, or other evidence of a battle.”

Goldfus says he has no interest in either dispelling the Masada myth or confirming it. “I am also not claiming that [the Jews at the site] didn’t commit suicide. Maybe it did happen. Perhaps the Romans entered the site in a commando raid, but for 50 years they have been portraying a false picture of a heroic battle that didn’t take place. In reality, other things happened there, and I don’t know what they were.”
There's lots more, so read it all before it goes behind the pay wall.

Earlier posts dealing with post-Yadin revisionist interpretations of Masada etc. are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.