Finkelstein, Israel

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FINKELSTEIN, ISRAEL (1949– ). Israeli archaeologist, specializing in the Bronze and Iron Ages. Born in Tel Aviv, Finkelstein received his high school education in Petaḥ Tikva, before serving in the army. He undertook his graduate studies at Tel Aviv University in Archaeology and Near Eastern Studies, and in Geography, completing his M.A. in 1978, and writing a Ph.D. on the Izbet Sartah excavations in 1983. Finkelstein began teaching in various institutions from the late 1970s, serving as an associate professor at Bar-Ilan University (1987–90) and at the University of Chicago (1987), before taking up a full-time position at Tel Aviv University in 1990 and as a full professor (from 1992), becoming the director of the Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology between 1996 and 2003 and the incumbent of the Jacob M. Alkow Chair in the Archaeology of Israel in the Bronze and Iron Ages from 2002. Finkelstein has been the mentor and guide for many of the younger generations of Israeli archaeologists.

Having participated from the early 1970s in major archaeological excavations at Tel Beer Sheva, Tel Aphek and in surveys in Sinai, Finkelstein became the field director of the Izbet Sartah excavations between 1976–78, and later the director of excavations at Shiloh (1981–84), the director of the Southern Samaria Survey (1980–87), and more recently a codirector (together with D. Ussishkin and B. Halpern) of the important excavations at Megiddo. Finkelstein is a prolific writer with more than 130 articles to his credit, and numerous books, notably The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement (1988) and Living on the Fringe: The Archaeology and History of the Negev, Sinai and Neighbouring Regions in the Bronze and Iron Ages (1995). In a key article published in 1996 titled "The Archaeology of the United Monarchy: An Alternative View" (Levant 28: 177–87), Finkelstein suggested lowering the conventional dates for the Early Iron Age by 75–100 years, thereby sparking off an important debate amongst scholars on matters relating to the absolute chronology of the Iron Age. Finkelstein's controversial views were summed up in his book The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of its Sacred Texts (2001; co-authored with N.A. Silberman).

In 2005 Finkelstein was made laureate of the prestigious Dan David Prize in the Past Dimension – Archaeology.

[Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]