THE TESTIMONY OF ARCHAEOLOGY
Historical reconstruction through physical evidence is one of the main goals of archaeology; chapters of unwritten history are revealed by archaeological remains. In the case of biblical archaeology, traditions conveyed by texts add another and dominant element to the field of study. The edge between history and myth, however, is never easy to delineate, and both archaeological findings and biblical texts should not be just read, but also deciphered.
The biblical story of Exodus may be considered as eternal truth dictated by God, as a fairy tale or as history. To us it appears as a synthesis of oral tales that, passed for years from storyteller to storyteller, probably underwent adaptations and modifications prior to being put into writing. We consider the biblical descriptions of sites, geography, and topography, with numerous specific details, to have derived from real memories of the terrain and landscape, despite opposed exegetic tendencies of today. Travellers and storytellers of the past transmitted ancient tradition in a similar manner as happens today among many tribal populations around the world, where each storyteller may have distinct versions of tales, deriving from main contextual cores. Many of Har Karkom's archaeological remains are not buried and they have been visible for ages. No doubt, 3000 years ago they were better preserved than today; they may have been read, interpreted, and deciphered by travellers, as Bedouins still do, well before present-day archaeologists. But every relic which does not have a clearly recorded history may generate myths, and archaeological remains may either be testimonies to the truth of epic tales, or inspirations for the creation of such tales.
Some biblical scholars consider the Pentateuch to be a group of texts with metaphoric meanings. Others consider it a collection of popular tales. For these people it may seem useless to look for topographical or historical data in the texts. Others consider the Bible as "the Word of God," and for them it is almost blasphemy to search for the described sites. The study of biblical archaeology, when the site involved concerns a place such as Mount Sinai, presents the difficulty of confronting attitudes and philosophies that discourage every attempt to reconstruct history in the modern sense of the word. The biblical narration is a story, but every type of reading and interpreting sees the story differently: from fantasy to history, from myth to revelation.