Mount Sinai in Israel, archaeologist claims
JERUSALEM (AP) The discovery of ancient shrines, altars and wall paintings at a dig in southern Israel were cited Monday by an Italian archaeologist to bolster his controversial claim that the mountain described as Mount Sinai in the Bible is in Israel, not Egypt.
Emanuel Anati said his latest finds at Mount Karkoum, a bare mountain in Israel's Negev Desert, include shrines, monuments and rock paintings from the early Bronze Age, 5,000 years ago.
"The shrines which line the trails show that the place was considered holy for thousands of years, and was always a place of pilgrimage," said Anati, who has been excavating the site for 19 years.
Anati said his comparison of the terrain with a description of the events in the book of Exodus led him to conclude Mount Karkoum is the mountain biblical writers referred to when they wrote of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.
His theories have been rejected by virtually every other authorized archaeologist in Israel.
The chairman of Israel's Archaeology Council, Moshe Kochavi, said there are at least 10 mountains which could have been Mount Sinai according to a geographic analysis of the scriptures and other data and "there is no real basis for the Mt. Karkoum hypothesis."
In any case, Kochavi said, the location of Mount Sinai is a theological, not an archaeological issue. Archaeologists cannot prove whether or not Moses received the Ten Commandments from God, he said.
Another Israeli archaeologist, Itzhaq Beit-Arieh, said there are more than 20 possibilities for the location of Mount Sinai.
According to Muslims and Christian tradition, the mountain is today's Jebel Moussa (Mount Moses) in the southern Sinai Peninsula, which is part of Egypt.
The paintings discovered by Anati in a survey completed this month show human figures engaged in worship, and animals such as the ibex - a desert mountain goat.
One of the shrines is a cairn with a black stone on which six circles were engraved, covering up an altar. Other shrines consist of raised platforms or stone circles.