After another perusal of a somewhat difficult to decipher précis of yesterday’s (May 8th) news conference, it may be that Garfinkel and Ganor are not arguing for two distinct Arks of God. Rather, they are probably claiming that there was just one Ark, with the boxes revealed yesterday being replicas in miniature. Even so, the connection between these two artefacts and the Ark is still quite tenuous in my opinion. I’m just not convinced.
Tom Verenna argues fairly convincingly against the theory put forward yesterday by Garfinkel and Ganor. He argues that the two boxes are not mini-replicas of the Ark, but rather represent a type of portable shrine that probably housed a small idol (eg. of Asherah). His blog post is well worth reading and includes images (excuse the pun) of comparable portable shrines discovered previously.
Aren Maeir, excavator at Tell es-Safi (Gath), also speaks some sense in an article by Times of Israel. To quote from the article:
Model shrines of the type presented Tuesday have been found at many other sites belonging to other local cultures, and their similarity to Temple architecture as described in the Bible has already been noted, said Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University, who leads a dig at the ruins of the nearby Philistine city of Gath. And the existence of lions and birds on the clay model undermine the claim that no figures of people or animals have been found at Qeiyafa, he said.
Qeiyafa indeed appears to have been inhabited by Israelites, Maeir said, but the cultural lines among the various peoples of the Land of Israel at that time, he said, were “fuzzier than the way they are often described.”
The new finds do not prove conclusively who residents were or provide dramatic new evidence for any side in the ongoing dispute among biblical archaeologists, he said.
“There’s no question that this is a very important site, but what exactly it was — there is still disagreement about that,” Maeir said.
Finally, here is a nice photo of all three artefacts presented publicly in Jerusalem yesterday.