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But after the 1967 war, criticism began building of the validity of both biblical and archaeological explanations of ancient Israel.

In the 1990s, historians and biblical scholars – concentrated mainly in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Sheffield, England – launched a frontal attack on the Bible as a legitimate historical source.

Two of the most prominent proponents of these theories were William Albright, a devout son of American missionaries, and Yigael Yadin, a former Israeli military chief of staff who became one of the country's most lionized archaeologists.

He grabs diagrams and maps from a trailer and barely settles in under a canopy when a coin specialist, Yoav Farhi, approaches him expectantly. Farhi extracts a tiny white envelope from his pocket and, with dirt-encrusted fingers, pries open the stiff paper to reveal the treasure inside – a coin from the era of Alexander the Great, imprinted with the visage of the Greek goddess Athena.(Editor's note: The original version misstated the date of the coin.)Mr.

Garfinkel, a professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, examines the coin, the size of a thick quarter. Each discovery delights Garfinkel, but it is more than ancient currency that has drawn the world's attention to this serene hilltop overlooking Israel's Valley of Elah, where David felled Goliath with a sling.

That opened the way for a new generation of Israeli archaeologists to dig into the history of ancient Israel for the first time.

Suddenly, the sojourns of Abraham, the kingdom of Saul, the escapades of David – all were encapsulated in a theater of history that their descendants rushed in to explore.

Finkelstein himself chose early on to dig at Shiloh, the ancient capital of Israel for more than 300 years before the Hebrew people built a temple in Jerusalem and enshrined it as the heart of their nation and religion.