Stonehenge 2300 BC
The most recent set of bones discovered at Stonehenge were found in 1978 and research suggests they belonged to a neolithic man killed in a hail of flint-tipped arrows some 4,300 years ago in the late stone age, although the reason of his death is unknown it did happen at a time that stonhenge was in use , and that to be buried at this time within the monument suggests that he was buried there for a reason rather then just left where he fell.
Seahenge 2050 BC
Seahenge, the ring of Oak timbers with a centre altar of an upturned Oak stump was recently uncovered on the beach at Holme-next-the-sea Norfolk , Tests carried out on the centrepiece, a massive oak stump with the roots exposed, have revealed that it was felled sometime between April and June 2050 BC. The Oak stump was also found to have pieces of rope attached to the buried end made of woven Honeysuckle, this rope was probably used to drag the stump into place and left attached when the stump base was buried. Archaeologists often find items buried upside down at Bronze age sites and it's certain that the central stump was buried upside down for a symbolic reason. The 55 Oak trees in the ring around the central stump are believed to have been felled the following Spring, 2049 BC.
It is believed that these timber circles were used by our prehistoric ancestors in a practise known as excarnation - exposing the dead to the elements, birds and wild animals. The belief being that allowing the flesh to rot from the bone in the open air would enable the person's spirit to be liberated. The outer ring was built of split young oak trunks and were set up in the manner of a stockade, a small opening just large enough for a person to slip through was allowed by using a section of a tree which was forked, the outer ring was probabley 8 feet tall.
The lay out and sheer effort involved in moving the trees to this site all point to this being an extremely important ceremonial/religous site to our Bronze Age ancestors and many archeaologists consider this the Bronze Age discovery of the decade.
Stonehenge used as Saxon execution site
By David Keys
14 July 2000
Stonehenge was used as a public execution ground by the Anglo-Saxons, archaeologists have said. Radio carbon dating carried out by Oxford University and English Heritage on a victim from the prehistoric site shows that the execution took place in the 7th or 8th century.
The discovery follows the announcement last month that the skeleton, thought to have been lost, had been found in the Natural History Museum. Three other skeletons have been found at Stonehenge over the years, two of which may also now turn out to be execution victims.
Public execution was common in Anglo Saxon times. Recent analysis suggests up to 3 per cent of males ended their lives hanging from a rope or minus their heads.
About 20 Anglo-Saxon execution grounds have been excavated and hundreds of skeletons of executed Anglo- Saxon criminals have been studied. Archaeological and historical evidence shows most criminals were hanged or beheaded. Slaves were often stoned to death, while executed witches tended to be buried face down to prevent their ghosts re-emerging into the world of the living.
The Stonehenge decapitation victim was in his thirties. A study of the fourth neck vertebra indicates that a blow was delivered from behind with a sharp instrument, almost certainly a sword.
The victim was probably kneeling at the time. It is not known whether he was of peasant or upper-class origin or what his crime is likely to have been.
How a comet ended the Roman Empire
By Steve Connor
A close shave with a comet nearly 1,500 years ago caused a catastrophic change in the global climate, leading to famine, plague, the end of the Roman Empire, the birth of the Dark Ages and even the legend of King Arthur, a leading British scientist said at the British Association meeting in London yesterday.
Debris from the near miss bombarded the Earth with meteors, which threw enough dust and water vapour into the atmosphere to cut out sunlight and cool the planet to cause crop failure across the northern hemisphere. The cataclysmic famines weakened people's resistance to disease and led to the great plague of the emperor Justinian. It could also be responsible for the Arthurian stories about gods appearing in the sky followed by a fertile kingdom becoming a wasteland.
Mike Baillie, professor of palaeoecology at Queen's University in Belfast, said the central piece of evidence for a sudden global climate change about AD540 comes from the study of tree rings, which highlight the years when plant growth was poor or non-existent. "Oaks live for a long period and in order for a lot of them to show narrow rings at the same time it must have been a profoundly unpleasant event as far as the tree is concerned," Professor Baillie said.
"The event of AD540 is in or at the start of the Dark Ages and in my view probably caused the Dark Ages. It was a catastrophic environmental downturn which shows up in trees from Siberia, Scandinavia, northern Europe, north America and South America," he said. "The idea is that the Earth was hit by a 'cosmic swarm', a whole stack of cometary debris in a short period of time and that loaded the atmosphere with dust and debris and caused some sort of environmental downturn," Professor Baillie explained.
Tree rings round the world clearly indicate a major climate change unprecedented in the past two millenniums. This could have cooled the Earth by a few degrees, enough to cause crops to fail for several years in succession.
"It only requires a few degrees cooler conditions across the year for a few years, wiping out several consecutive harvests, and you've got a serious problem for any agricultural society," Professor Baillie said.
"If you weaken a population through starvation and lack of sunlight, they are going to be susceptible to disease. It's a very unpleasant package of an environmental event, famines and plague all happening inside less than a decade. It's nearly impossible to get historians to take this seriously. When confronted with this event, which is clear in the tree records, their immediate reaction is that if something like this had happened, it would be written down. Hence they don't go and look in any real detail to see what is there," he said.
"I am calling for a debate by scientists and historians on how to approach the evidence for catastrophic events of this kind which were previously not known to have taken place. Hints of it appear in mythology, a subject normally taboo for scientists and historians."
Historians believe that King Arthur was a reference to the Irish sky god, Cuchulain. Professor Baillie told the BA meeting: "Clearly, there is some association between the death of Arthur, just around AD540, and a bright Celtic sky god who is described in terms reminiscent of a comet."
He said some authors suggested the AD540 event might be the eruption of a supervolcano. "I don't subscribe to that. I think if there had been one in the 6th century we'd know about it geologically," he said. "In my view we had some sort of interaction with a comet, a cometary bombardment, not a full-blown comet because we wouldn't be here if we'd had that."
Professor John Lowe, a climate scientist at Royal Holloway College, London, said: "It's entirely plausible. In the older geological records we have evidence of such tremendous climatic variability over short timescales and not all of it can be explained by the sort of cyclical phenomena that we know about."
Archaeologists working at a west Wales gold mine said they have made a discovery "as important as Stonehenge".
Leading archaeologists from The National Trust have hailed the discovery that Dolaucothi gold mine in Carmarthenshire could be as much as 3,000 years old.
Panning for gold at Dolaucothi
The evidence has been uncovered by French archaeologists, who have been working with The National Trust at the site to learn more about the history of gold mining.
The Roman associations at Dolaucothi are already known but this research has put the site in a historical context.
The National Trust's archaeology panel has reviewed the site.
They say that the discovery is as significant as Stonehenge.
In a Welsh context, it is the first clear indication of what the area's inhabitants were capable of achieving before they were first invaded by the Romans.
The site has not been extensively worked and reworked over.
This site had some archaeological work done on it in the 1960s but the French team involved on this new dig are world experts on ancient and Roman gold mines.
Iron age workings
They have concluded from primary observations that a major part of this site is pre-Roman in its origins.
There was evidence in the area that were consistent with Iron Age workings.
This now has to be confirmed by real digging and that excavation could take several years.
The aim of the research will be to help the National Trust decide how to manage and present the site to visitors in the future.
Prehistoric ceremonial site
Archaeologists have found the remains of a prehistoric ceremonial site which has been described as the biggest in Britain.
English Heritage officials say it is as old and comparable in significance to the megalith monument in Stonehenge, although twice as large.
Traces of the temple, in well-defined pits, were found in Stanton Drew, near Bristol.
Sir Stevens said the temple was used to worship the supernatural.The Chairman of English Heritage, Sir Jocelyn Stevens, suggested that the structure was built as a "symbol of power" by people seeking to control the supernatural.
Dr Geoffrey Wainwright, English Heritage's chief archaeologist, said the discovery was the most significant in British pre-history archaeology in 30 years. He explained: "We have about 3,000 stone circles in Britain but previously only seven timber temples."
The henge is thought to be the largest in Britain.
The Stanton Drew find is by far the largest, twice as big as anything previously discovered," he said.
The site was found by using ground scanning equipment to plot the extent of the buried structure.
Dr Wainwright said that previous excavations at sites such as Woodhenge and Durrington Walls, both near Stonehenge, had shown that the pits once held massive posts.
The stones stand above the site"It is a strong possibility that this was the case at Stanton Drew," said Dr Wainwright. "But here the circles are more numerous and their size is much greater than at the other sites."
The site will not be fully excavated because it conforms exactly with seven other sites within the UK.
Clothing on figurines may be record of Ice Age tribes' skills
By Byron Spice
Besides a woven hat and a pair of dainty bracelets, the voluptuous Venus of Willendorf doesn't wear so much as a smile. So perhaps it's not surprising that the exaggerated sexual features of this stone-cold babe -- a 4-inch-tall limestone figurine unearthed near Willendorf, Austria, in 1908 -- have mesmerized archaeologists and art historians much as the charms of Pamela Anderson Lee have distracted otherwise diligent Web surfers.
James Adovasio of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute in Erie, and his colleagues have put forth new theories about Venus figurines. (Robert J. Pavuchak, Post-Gazette)
But experts now are taking a second look at the scanty bits of apparel worn by Miss Willendorf and by some of the hundreds of other "Venus" figurines that have been preserved from Ice Age Europe. They say the necklaces, string skirts and other "Venus-wear" that do so little to hide the obvious are proving to be equally revealing about the hunter-gatherer societies that existed along the receding glaciers.
These odd and mysterious figurines suggest that people living 26,000 years ago possessed well-developed weaving skills that were at least as valuable to the community as the strength and prowess of male hunters. Even the head dress worn by the Venus of Willendorf arguably reflects social traditions still seen today in the babushkas worn by women in Eastern Europe or even the bonnets favored by Amish women in Pennsylvania.
These new insights, ironically, are derived from Venus-wear that has been in plain sight for decades.
"The vast majority of folks have simply ignored the fact that these are woven fabrics," said James Adovasio, director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute in Erie. It's an oversight he attributes to the mindset of archaeologists. Stone implements, not textiles, supposedly were state of the art during the Paleolithic period, the Stone Age.
"When you have these stereotypes, you don't look beyond the stereotype," he explained.
But those assumptions began to change a couple years ago, when Adovasio, his Mercyhurst colleague David Hyland and University of Illinois anthropologist Olga Soffer uncovered evidence that the Paleolithic people in what is now the Czech Republic were making twine, fashioning nets and even producing cloth.
The textiles themselves hadn't survived more than 20 millenia, but the cordage and woven articles had left impressions in the mud floors of huts. Those preserved impressions enabled Adovasio and Hyland to indirectly study the long-gone textiles, even allowing them to analyze types of knots.
"Simply having the ability to make string must have dramatically changed people's lives," said Elizabeth Barber, a linguist and archaeologist at Occidental College, near Los Angeles. String lets people haul things and catch things in nets. "I call it the string revolution. It must have been as powerful as the invention of writing and the wheel."
Archaeologists and scientists believe the sexual features of the Venus of Willendorf, a cast of which is at right, are exaggerated. (Robert J. Pavuchak, Post-Gazette)
Nets, in particular, suggest that hunter-gatherers need not have relied on hunting mammoths, deer and other big game. Women and even children likely would have been involved in hunting small game, constructing and hanging nets and then chasing varmints into the trap.
But studying Ice Age textiles is like chasing phantoms, so Soffer, Adovasio and Hyland are pursuing other lines of evidence in hopes of further bolstering their claims. The Venus figurines are one such effort.
In the case of the Venus of Willendorf, Adovasio said, they knew they were dealing with an icon. When he and Soffer went to examine the statuette at the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna, they found themselves escorted to an inner room with special lighting, where museum officials produced the figurine from a special leather case embossed in gold.
"I told them I needed to hold it to examine it," Adovasio said. "It was like I was asking to touch the Holy Grail." When given permission, he focused on the Venus' head, which has no facial features, but an intricately carved covering. "They thought it was an elaborate hairstyle," but it was unlike any hairdo he had ever seen. He came away convinced that it was a woven cap, not woven hair, with concentric rows of plaited material.
Only a minority of the Venus figurines have any apparel. Adovasio and his colleagues, however, have noted the presence of belts, bracelets, various headcoverings, string skirts and bandeaux, narrow strips of material worn on the torso. "Even the so-called naked ones often have necklaces and bandeaux, which are often written off as tattoos," he noted. "But tattoos with seams?"
A notable aspect of Venus-wear is the detail in which it is depicted. The figurines generally aren't very realistic -- the pear-shaped, disproportioned Venus of Willendorf likely had as much resemblance to women of the Paleolithic as she does to contemporary women. The Venus heads usually have no faces.
Yet the detail of the Venus-wear is tremendous. "You can tell which way the string was twisted," Adovasio said. "It's really kind of amazing."
At the simplest level, he said, the depiction of fabric provides evidence that Paleolithic people were familiar with cloth, which would suggest that weaving had been developing for hundreds of thousands of years before the figurines were carved or molded.
"This has been my argument for more than a quarter of a century," said Alexander Marshack, an image analyst for Harvard University's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. "The capacity was there. It is the human capacity. The basic skills are human and found all over the world.
"Weaving was just a way of problem solving," he continued. "They had no metal, but they used everything available in their ecology. They were just like us. We have become more technically advanced, not smarter."
His argument was based only on this rationale, rather than archaeological evidence, so many scientists dismissed it. Now that Soffer and Adovasio are finding textile artifacts, "I feel, perhaps, a little vindicated," he said.
But when trying to determine what these figurines meant to Paleolithic people, "you have to be careful about what you deduce from the evidence," he cautioned.
"It's hard to say what they mean," agreed Rosemary Joyce, an anthropologist at the University of California-Berkeley who studies South American figurines dating back 3,500 years. These sorts of figurines are found throughout the world and the ages and, like symbols today, they likely meant different things to different people.
It's probably safe to assume that the statuettes were a means of communication used by preliterate people, she said. Just as a newspaper focuses on things that are new, interesting or significant while ignoring everyday details, the people who made these clay or stone figurines weren't so much interested in reflecting society as they were in representing moments of importance.
So the fact that they expended so much energy on the details of apparel suggests there is something important about these items. Likewise, "the absence of skin [or fur] clothing thrusts the few woven objects into high relief," Joyce said. Perhaps the makers are commenting on the importance of textiles in their lives, or use the woven objects to identify people who are weavers, or the woven objects could simply be ceremonial clothing that denotes an individual's status.
Soffer and colleagues noted that some figurines have string skirts. Occidental's Barber has traced the use of string skirts from the late Stone Age through the Bronze Age to present day; consistently, string skirts have been a sign of fertility.
Even today, girls in Albania wear string skirts only after reaching puberty.
Likewise, if the Venus of Willendorf is indeed wearing a head covering, it too might be related to a present-day practice. Barber said women in some cultures, seeing the hair as an analogue for pubic hair, routinely cover their heads after marriage. It's a tradition still seen in Eastern Europe and one that has been taken a step further by the Amish, who cover the hair of girls and women alike.
"You have to take all this with a grain of salt," Barber added. "But the material all hangs together."
Symbolism aside, the evidence of Ice Age textiles continues to grow. Soffer, now on sabbatical, has been traveling across Russia, Germany and France, gathering photos and casts of woven clothing for Adovasio and Hyland to analyze.
She reports seeing what appear to be bone and ivory weaving tools, such as battens, and some impressions of what may be basketry. "This is all work very much in progress," she said in an e-mail message.
This week, Adovasio has joined her in France, where they hope to examine the only known examples of Ice Age fabrics -- stamp-size bits that, when excavated in the 1920s, were assumed to be more recent textiles that had somehow gotten mixed into an Ice Age site.
The Venus figurines not only reinforce the significance of these textile artifacts, but provide the "ideological overtones" of the Paleolithic peoples, Adovasio said. "They're expressing what society believes was important."
DNA study traces roots of Europeans Associated Press WASHINGTON — Four out of five men in Europe share a common male ancestor who lived as a primitive hunter on a wild continent some 40,000 years ago, researchers say. In a study which appeared Friday in the journal Science, researchers say that an analysis of a pattern found in the Y chromosome taken from 1,007 men from 25 places in Europe shows that about 80 percent of Europeans arose from the Paleolithic people who first migrated to Europe. Peter A. Underhill, a senior researcher at the Stanford Genome Technology Center in Palo Alto, Calif., and co-author of the study, said the research supports conclusions from archaeological, linguistic and other DNA evidence about the settlement of Europe by ancient peoples. "When we can get different lines of evidence that tell the same story, then we feel we are telling the true history of the species," said Underhill. Underhill said the researchers used the Y chromosome in the study because its rare changes establish a pattern that can be traced back hundreds of generations, thus helping to plot the movement of ancient humans. The Y chromosome is inherited only by sons from their fathers. When sperm carrying the Y chromosome fertilizes an egg it directs the resulting baby to be a male. An X chromosome from the father allows a fertilized egg to be female. The Y chromosome has about 60 million DNA base pairs. Changes in those base pairs happen infrequently, said Underhill, but they occur often enough to establish patterns that can be used to trace the ancestry of people. He said researchers looking at the 1,007 chromosome samples from Europe identified 22 specific markers that formed a specific pattern. Underhill said the researchers found that about 80 percent of all European males shared a single pattern, suggesting they had a common ancestor thousands of generations ago. The basic pattern had some changes that apparently developed among people who once shared a common ancestor and then were isolated for many generations, Underhill said. This scenario, he said, supports other studies about the Paleolithic European groups. Those studies suggest that a primitive, stone-age human came to Europe, probably from Central Asia and the Middle East, in two waves of migration beginning about 40,000 years ago. Their numbers were small and they lived by hunting animals and gathering plant food. They used crudely sharpened stones and fire. About 24,000 years ago, the last ice age began, with mountain-sized glaciers moving across most of Europe. Underhill said the Paleolithic Europeans retreated before the ice, finding refuge for hundreds of generations in three areas: what is now Spain, the Balkans and the Ukraine. When the glaciers melted, about 16,000 years ago, the Paleolithic tribes resettled the rest of Europe. Y chromosome mutations occurred among people in each of the ice age refuges, said Underhill. He said the research shows a pattern that developed in Spain is now most common in northwest Europe, while the Ukraine pattern is mostly in Eastern Europe and the Balkan pattern is most common in Central Europe. About 8,000 years ago, said Underhill, a more advanced people, the Neolithic, migrated to Europe from the Middle East, bringing with them a new Y chromosome pattern and a new way of life: agriculture. About 20 percent of Europeans now have the Y chromosome pattern from this migration, he said. November 11, 2000
Sutton Hoo gives up a royal Dark Age secret
By David Keys
The grave of a 6th-century chieftain or minor king has been discovered 500 yards from Britain's most important Dark Age royal tomb, the ship burial of Sutton Hoo in Suffolk.
The grave – surrounded by four subsidiary burials – appears to contain the cremated remains of a high-status individual inside a magnificently decorated bronze bowl. Almost certainly a local ruler, he was laid to rest in a previously unknown cemetery, which over recent months has yielded 18 Anglo-Saxon cremation and five inhumation burials.
The discoveries, made by archaeologists from Suffolk County Council archaeological service and the National Trust, have disclosed for the firsttime that Sutton Hoo was an important Anglo-Saxon burial for several generations before the famous royal funeraryship was buried there around 625AD.
But the archaeological evidence suggests that the Anglo-Saxon people, including the cremated ruler buried in the 6th century, were not from the same ethnic background as the key early 7th-century individuals associated with the ship burial cemetery.
The earlier cemetery seems to have been created by Angles from central or north Germany. The royal ship burial cemetery appears to have included a potentially new element, the Wuffingas (the wolf people) from central Sweden.
This element became the ruling family, which helped to establish and rule the kingdom of East Anglia.
The 6th-century cemetery seems to represent a local Anglian population and its Anglian ruling element, which existed immediately before the final emergence of the East Anglian kingdom under ethnically Scandinavian auspices.
Among the graves are warriors interred with spears and shields, and a woman buried with two brooches and a bead necklace.
A National Trust spokes-man, Peter Battrick, said: "The grave-field was a place where high-ranking members of the Anglo-Saxon society were buried. It was customary at the time for people to be buried with items they would have used in their lives so it is suspected that the man buried with the ship and treasure was a king or chieftain.
"The latest finds are important because it shows that the area was used for burials of more ordinary people before the grave-field was established."
The high-status individual's bronze bowl, of north-west British Celtic origin, is being investigated by radiographers at the British Museum's department of scientific research.
It is highly decorated, designed to hang from a roof beam, and made of very thin beaten bronze marked with possible enamel motifs and three-dimensional heads of mythical birds.
The excavations have also revealed why the Anglo-Saxons seem to have chosen the site for a cemetery. The remains of a 3,500 year-old Bronze Age burial mound have been found, and the experts believe the Germanic Anglo-Saxons may have placed their burials there to symbolically inherit the traditions and powers of their newly-adopted land.
The hoard of treasure discovered with the remains of the ship is on display in the British Museum in London.
Remains found at bottom of the Black Sea indicate that Noah's Flood was real
By Steve Connor
The discovery of a manmade structure at the bottom of the Black Sea off northern Turkey has lent powerful support to a controversial theory suggesting Noah's Flood really happened.
Marine archaeologists have found the first evidence to suggest the floor of the Black Sea had been inhabited about 7,500 years ago, until it was inundated with a massive influx from the Mediterranean.
Stone tools, wooden branches and beams are among well-preserved remnants of the structure 300ft down on the muddy seabed 12 miles off the coast. An expedition funded by the National Geographic Society in America said first pictures indicated people lived around the fertile shores of an ancient freshwater lake before the area was transformed into the Black Sea.
Terry Garcia, head of mission programmes for National Geographic, said: "The significance of this find is that for the first time we will have established that human beings had settled in this area and were occupying this area at the time of this cataclysmic event."
The excavation of the underwater site, once a fertile river valley running into the ancient lake, has not as yet shed light on whether the flood was instantaneous or a more gradual event that allowed people to evacuate the area gradually. The discovery supports the theory that the seabed was once populated with a prehistoric farming community who had to flee the rising waters, which could have prompted stories of a giant flood.
Historians have noticed similarities between the biblical account of Noah's Flood and the Epic of Gilgamesh, a Babylonian poem written in the third millennium BC, suggesting both may be based on the same historical event. Two American geologists, William Ryan and Walter Pitman, suggested four years ago that the floor of the Black Sea was once a freshwater lake surrounded by fertile valleys and plains inhabited by the world's first farmers.
They believe that as melting glaciers from the last Ice Age raised sea levels, the Mediterranean suddenly broke through the strip of land separating it from the lower freshwater lake.
Calculations suggested the inundation could have caused a giant waterfall many times bigger than Niagara Falls, pouring enough water into the freshwater lake to cause its surface to expand by more than a mile a day.
The marine archaeologists are trying to retrieve samples of the submerged structures for radiocarbon dating. Fredrik Hiebert, chief archaeologist on the project, said: "This is a major discovery that will begin to rewrite the history of cultures in this key area between Europe, Asia, and the ancient Middle East."
Bible's King David exposed as despot who did not kill Goliath
By Jonathan Thompson
He was the shepherd boy who slew Goliath and became king. He was the author of the Psalms, opposer of the tyrannical Saul and saviour of Israel. But now an American scholar has aimed his own slingshot at the giant reputation of King David.
David was certainly a real, historical figure, says Dr Steven L McKenzie, a professor of the Hebrew Bible at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. But he was also a tyrannical Middle Eastern despot who owed his crown to a campaign of terror, violence and mass murder.
After a reappraisal of biblical texts, Dr McKenzie is confident that he has reached the most accurate description of David yet in his new biography of the king, published by Oxford University Press.
Not only did the future king of Israel never tend to a flock of sheep, but also he was almost certainly not responsible for the death of Goliath.
"Basically, he killed everybody except Goliath," said Dr McKenzie yesterday. "David behaved exactly as a Middle Eastern king would have.
"The long and short of David's reign historically," he writes, "is that he retained power the same way he got it in the first place: by getting rid of any and all rivals – including his own sons."
Dr McKenzie argues in his book, King David: A Biography, that the Bible stories about David are misleading because they are essentially based upon an "apology" for the actions of the king, dreamed up by spin doctors in David's court, and then exaggerated and over-emphasised later when the royal propaganda was picked up and adopted as religious literature by subsequent generations.
"The biblical literature was originally written to cover up or obscure what David actually did, for political purposes," said Dr McKenzie.
"Other biblical writers further elaborated this image until David became nearly perfect. His major offences were omitted, as the chronicler did with the Bathsheba and Absalom episodes. Alternatively, David became the model of penitence.
"The Deuteronomistic historian [author of the book of Deuteronomy] believes that David is the elect of God," he continued, "and, accordingly, makes excuses for David's crimes."
Dr McKenzie believes that, to understand the true story of David, historical and theological scholars need to re-read the Bible, appreciating the contemporary motives behind the original accounts of his life.
"The key to historical reconstruction for the life of David lies in understanding that the Bible's story is an apology for him," he writes. "The apology worked. It altered David's historical image by legitimating his deeds. The Deuteronomist enhanced the apologetic material and used it to convey his own theological principles."
Dr McKenzie disagrees that his book contradicts the Bible, claiming the opposite is true. "In a sense, this biography is truer to the Bible than the more traditional images of David that have been formed along the trajectory begun by the apology," he writes. "The Bible never denies or downplays David's humanity."
Yesterday, British academics were keen to support Dr McKenzie's thesis.
"Just because David's nastier actions are not regularly read out in public, in church or chapel on Sundays, doesn't mean the evidence isn't there in the Bible," said Professor Michael Whitby, an expert in ancient history at Warwick University.
"David was no saint as a ruler. We don't have an awful lot of information to go on, but there is the Bathsheba business – killing a loyal officer for his wife is standard tyrannical stuff. It is perfectly plausible that sources about individuals in the ancient world were constantly rewritten and reshaped in accordance with the contemporary agenda."
"David has a powerful divine charge. He is the ancestor of Christ, which is another reason for his generally popular, if perhaps undeserved, positive image."