Sunday, January 28, 2018

Ghost towns

Critics sometimes allege that some biblical place names are fictional or legendary. But this assumes that it should be easy for modern investigators to correlate literary notices with sites.

i) In the case of famous cities, their identity might be well-known. 

ii) Likewise, in the case of sites that have been continuously occupied over the millennia, although even in that case, they might have been renamed. 

iii) Also, because the Holy Land is a tourist trap and pilgrimage magnet, local traditions might invent identifications to feed pious curiosity.

iv) In the case of villages and hamlets from 2000-3000+ years ago, is there any expectation that they'd be easy to identify at our distance from events?

Nowadays, we have maps. Public records. Post office records. Libraries. Street signs. Some buildings are named after the locality. Official letterhead. 

But aside from inscriptions, I imagine most ancient villages and hamlets never had that kind of direct evidence to begin with, and even if they originally had evidence naming the locale, there's no presumption that would survive or be discovered (as of yet).

v) I've read that the state of Kanas has over 6000 ghost towns. Suppose that was 2000-3500 years ago. Even if these towns were named in historical records, how many sites would we be able to correlate with literary notices? It's not like they'd all have signs "Entering X". It's not like they'd all have artifacts that named the village or hamlet. For that matter, some artifacts with place names might be imported. 

vi) When I was a boy, back in the 60s, there were two rival towns side-by-side: Kirkland and Houghton. Eventually, Houghton was annexed by Kirkland. But even though the name "Houghton" is still attached to some local businesses, natives below a certain age don't remember Houghton as an independent municipality. And people who later moved into the area from out of state or out of town never knew the local history. Within my lifetime, that's vanished. There are historical records, if you wish to do research, but what would survive after 2000-3500 years? 

vii) What's remarkable is that we're able to identify so many place names in Scripture, and not that we're stumped by a few. 

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