"The connection between archaeology and the Bible has become very, very problematic in recent years," Reich said.
Critics say that some archaeologists are too eager to hold a spade in one hand and a Bible in the other in a quest to verify the biblical narrative — either due to religious beliefs or to prove the Jewish people's historic ties to the land. But other respected Israeli archaeologists say recent finds match the biblical account more than naysayers claim.
Shukron, a veteran archaeologist who has excavated a number of significant sites in Jerusalem, said he drew his conclusions after nearly two decades exploring the ancient city.
"I know every little thing in the City of David. I didn't see in any other place such a huge fortification as this," said Shukron.
The biblical connection to the site is emphasized at the City of David archaeological park, where the "Spring Citadel" — the excavation's official name — has been retrofitted for tourists, including a movie projected on a screen in front of the fortification to illustrate how it may have looked 3,800 years ago. The City of David — located in east Jerusalem — is one of the most popular tourist sites in the holy city, with 500,000 tourists visiting last year.
"We open the Bible and we see how the archaeology and the Bible actually come together in this place," said Doron Spielman, vice president of the nonprofit Elad Foundation, which oversees the archaeological park. He carried a softcover Bible in his hand as he ambled around the excavation.
The site has come under criticism because of the Elad Foundation's nationalistic agenda. Most of the foundation's funding comes from private donations from Jews in the U.S. and U.K., and its activities include purchasing Arab homes near the excavated areas and then helping Jews move in, sometimes under heavy guard.
Critics say this political agenda should not mix with archaeology.
Follow Daniel Estrin at twitter.com/danielestrin
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