Monthly Archives: July 2013

Has “King David’s Palace” been uncovered in the Judean Shephelah

Archaeological digs in Israel are winding down and the maximalists are having a great time. Today’s report comes from the excavation of Khirbet Qeiyafa which is conducted jointly by Professor Yossi Garfinkel of the Hebrew University and Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Aerial photo of Khirbet Qeiyafa. Photo: Sky View, courtesy of the Hebrew University and the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Aerial photo of Khirbet Qeiyafa. Photo: Sky View, courtesy of the Hebrew University and the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Here is today’s Press Release from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

King David’s Palace was Uncovered in the Judean Shephelah

Royal storerooms were also revealed in the joint archaeological excavation of the Hebrew University and the Israel Antiquities Authority at Khirbet Qeiyafa ***
These are the two largest buildings known to have existed in the
tenth century BCE in the Kingdom of Judah 

Two royal public buildings, the likes of which have not previously been found in the Kingdom of Judah of the tenth century BCE, were uncovered this past year by researchers of the Hebrew University and the Israel Antiquities Authority at Khirbet Qeiyafa – a fortified city in Judah dating to the time of King David and identified with the biblical city of Shaarayim.

One of the buildings is identified by the researchers, Professor Yossi Garfinkel of the Hebrew University and Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority, as David’s palace, and the other structure served as an enormous royal storeroom.

Today (Thursday) the excavation, which was conducted over the past seven years, is drawing to a close. According to Professor Yossi Garfinkel and Sa’ar Ganor, “Khirbet Qeiyafa is the best example exposed to date of a fortified city from the time of King David. The southern part of a large palace that extended across an area of c. 1,000 sq m was revealed at the top of the city. The wall enclosing the palace is c. 30 m long and an impressive entrance is fixed it through which one descended to the southern gate of the city, opposite the Valley of Elah.  Around the palace’s perimeter were rooms in which various installations were found – evidence of a metal industry, special pottery vessels and fragments of alabaster vessels that were imported from Egypt. The palace is located in the center of the site and controls all of the houses lower than it in the city. From here one has an excellent vantage looking out into the distance, from as far as the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Hebron Mountains and Jerusalem in the east. This is an ideal location from which to send messages by means of fire signals. Unfortunately, much of this palace was destroyed c. 1,400 years later when a fortified farmhouse was built there in the Byzantine period”.

A pillared building c. 15 m long by 6 m wide was exposed in the north of the city, which was used as an administrative storeroom. According to the researchers, “It was in this building the kingdom stored taxes it received in the form of agricultural produce collected from the residents of the different villages in the Judean Shephelah. Hundreds of large store jars were found at the site whose handles were stamped with an official seal as was customary in the Kingdom of Judah for centuries”.

An aerial picture of the "palace" and the Byzantine farmhouse. Photograph: Sky View, courtesy of the Hebrew University and the Israel Antiquities Authority.

An aerial picture of the “palace” and the Byzantine farmhouse. Photograph: Sky View, courtesy of the Hebrew University and the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The palace and storerooms are evidence of state sponsored construction and an administrative organization during King David’s reign. “This is unequivocal evidence of a kingdom’s existence, which knew to establish administrative centers at strategic points”, the archaeologists say. “To date no palaces have been found that can clearly be ascribed to the early tenth century BCE as we can do now. Khirbet Qeiyafa was probably destroyed in one of the battles that were fought against the Philistines circa 980 BCE. The palace that is now being revealed and the fortified city that was uncovered in recent years are another tier in understanding the beginning of the Kingdom of Judah”.

Finds from the site. Photographic Credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Finds from the site. Photo: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The exposure of the biblical city at Khirbet Qeiyafa and the importance of the finds discovered there have led the Israel Antiquities Authority to act together with the Nature and Parks Authority and the planning agencies to cancel the intended construction of a new neighborhood nearby and to promote declaring the area around the site a national park. This plan stems from the belief that the site will quickly become a place that will attract large numbers of visitors who will be greatly interested in it, and from it one will be able to learn about the culture of the country at the time of King David.

Comments: It is often true in the media that the headlines say more than the article. This seems to be the case here. I understand this Press Release to be saying that a large structure, called a palace (don’t think Buckingham!) has been found. There is evidence of “a metal industry, special pottery vessels and fragments of alabaster vessels that were imported from Egypt.” Whether these things are to be associated directly with the David (1010–970 B.C.) we read about in the Bible is a matter of interpretation.

I note that the aerial photo of the site is an older one; it does not show the structures we see in the recent closeup of the “palace” and Byzantine farmhouse. (Correction: See the correction by Luke Chandler in the comments below.)

Todd Bolen’s comment this morning is worth heeding.

To my conservative friends, I’d urge caution before making any bold claims based on Garfinkel’s work. Or any claims at all. Let’s wait and see how credible archaeologists evaluate his stratigraphy. If he’s correct, we’ve lost nothing by being patient.

I see that Todd has added several updates and links to the Israeli papers also. Take a look here.

Welcome back Todd. We have missed your posts and insightful comments.

Ninth century B.C. chalices uncovered at Gath

A few chalices dating to the time of the destruction of the Philistine city of Gath by Hazael, king of Aram (Syria), have been announced during the current excavation at Tel es-Safi/Gath. The most recent, larger than usual, chalice was announced by Prof. Aren Maeir on Monday and Tuesday. Follow the excavation reports here.

Jar and chalice in Area D at Tel es-Safi/Gath. Photo: Tell es-Safi/Gath Archeological Project.

Jar and chalice (upside down beside the balk) in Area D at Tel es-Safi/Gath. Photo: Tell es-Safi/Gath Archeological Project.

Prof. Maeir displays the large chalice after the stand was excavated. (I like the T-shirt. Maybe there is another step down — a human stooped over with a mobile phone.)

Prof. Aren Maeir displays the large chalice uncovered this week at Tel es-Safi/Gath. Jar and chalice in Area D at Tel es-Safi/Gath. Photo: Tell es-Safi/Gath Archeological Project.

Prof. Aren Maeir displays the large chalice uncovered this week at Tel es-Safi/Gath. Jar and chalice in Area D at Tel es-Safi/Gath. Photo: Tell es-Safi/Gath Archeological Project.

Vessels of this type were sometimes used for burning incense.

Gath was one of five cities of the Philistine Pentapolis (1 Samuel 6:17). The city was destroyed by the Aramean King Hazael shortly after the middle of the 9th century B.C.

At that time Hazael king of Syria went up and fought against Gath and took it. But when Hazael set his face to go up against Jerusalem, (2 Kings 12:17 ESV)

Joseph Lauer calls attention to a nice article about the find in The Jerusalem Post here. The author of the article is Joshua Lipson. Joshua volunteered at the Tel es-Safi/Gath excavation a few years ago.

And thanks to Prof. Maeir for posting the nice photos. No good reason to hide discoveries like this.

Friends traveling in Israel on the Sabbath

Luke Chandler recently returned from participating in the excavation at Khirbet Qeiyafa. Before leaving Israel he spent a few days with Trent and Rebekah who are excavating at Azekah. Luke reports on some of the fun the three Gentiles had on an Israeli Sabbath. See here.

Two observations

Safety. Constantly I am asked if it is safe to travel in Israel. Usually I respond by saying that I would rather be in Israel than downtown [name any town you wish]. Look at these young people. Do they look frightened? You have the answer.

There are some places one should not go, like a field in which the landmines have not been cleared. The sign below is on Highway 99 between Dan and Banias (Caesarea Philippi).

A sign along Hwy 99 between Dan and Banias. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A sign along Hwy 99 between Dan and Banias. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Israel on the Sabbath. From mid-afternoon on Friday until Saturday sundown many Israeli hotels are jam-packed with Israelis who are observing the sabbath and allowing others to do the work. Don’t get the wrong impression. Many secular Israelis are visiting the beaches and parks of the country. But, early on Saturday, until mid-afternoon, is a great time for those who are not observing the sabbath to travel on the highways and visit sites of interest.

The reforms of Hezekiah

After the death of Solomon, the nation of Israel divided into Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom). With the introduction of calf worship by Jeroboam, the kingdom of Israel never recovered. Eventually the kingdom fell to the Assyrians between 732 and 721 B.C.

In the southern kingdom of Judah (the House of David) it was different. From the time of king David onward (1110–970 B.C.) all of the kings of Judah were his descendants. Some of them were faithful to the LORD and others were not. There were departures from the way of the LORD into idolatry.

A visit to the Israel Museum, or to a variety of sites, will provide numerous illustrations of this idolatry. One example comes from Beersheba (Beer Sheva). The archaeological excavation at the site is well marked for the benefit of the visitor. Before entering the tel one passes through a square in which stands “a reconstructed replica of a large, sacrificial four-horned altar whose stones were discovered incorporated into a storehouse wall.” (This statement comes from a beautiful brochure provided for visitors by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

Reconstructed four-horned altar from Beersheva. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Reconstructed four-horned altar from Beersheva. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The brochure continues,

The altar shows that the city had a cultic structure, built in the framework of the religious administration of the Judean monarchy. Its dismantling and burial attest to a change in the kingdom’s ritual customs. Based on the dating of Stratum 2 at the end of the eighth century BCE, the abolishment of the cultic site was connected to the religious reform initiated by King Hezekiah of Judah according to the Bible. (The temple discovered at Tel Arad was also done away with in this reform.)

The original four-horned altar is now displayed in the Israel Museum.

The four-horned altar from Beersheba. Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The four-horned altar from Beersheba. Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The reforms of King Hezekiah of Judah (716/15–687/86 B.C.; Thiele) are described in 2 Kings 18.

He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan). He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.  (2 Kings 18:4-5 ESV)

The Hermon (Banias) River and Falls

Names changes are fairly common in modern Israel. Scholars in the recent past have referred to the river that flows from Banias as the Nahr (River) Banias (Nelson Glueck, The River Jordan, 1945, p. 17).

The Nahr (River) Banias is the easternmost source of the River Jordan. The source of the Banias is located at a site we know as Caesarea Philippi in the New Testament. It is well known to those who study the ministry of Jesus (Matthew 16:13-19). The earlier Greeks carved the name of Pan on the rock and called the place Paneas. Glueck says,

The latter is the name that has endured to this day. The Arabs call it Banias, because every p becomes a b in their pronunciation.

Here is one of the photos I made during a clearing on a rainy day in mid-April.

The site of Caesarea Philippi. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The site of Caesarea Philippi. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority now call this area the Hermon Stream Nature Reserve (Banias). At the point where the springs now emerges from the ground, this sign can be seen.

Sign at Banias denoting it as the Hermon River Springs. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sign at the source of the springs denoting them as the Hermon River Springs.

We shortly lose sight of the stream. About 2¼ miles southwest of the source, the stream emerges as the beautiful Banias (or Hermon) Waterfall.

The Banias (Hermon) Waterfall. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Banias (Hermon) Waterfall. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

As the river continues south, it soon merges with the other streams and becomes the famous Jordan River. I am rather certain in my mind that a decade or so ago this waterfall was identified as the Jordan River Fall. Technically, of course, it would still be the Banias or Hermon.

One can see why Israel would name the river the Hermon rather than call it by the Arab name Banias. But, it sometimes gets confusing — just like Bible translations of similar names.

Sunset on Lake Van in Eastern Turkey

Lake Van in eastern Turkey is a large inland body of water of about 1400 square miles at an elevation of 5737 feet. The lake is fed by a number of rivers and is highly alkaline. It is said that folks sometimes wash their clothes in the lake. Along the south side of the lake the elevation reaches 7324 feet at one point.

Sunset on Lake Van. Photo made June 5, 2007 by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sunset on Lake Van. Photo made June 5, 2007 by Ferrell Jenkins.

In Assyrian records this area was called Urartu. In the Bible it is called Ararat. The English term Ararat is a transliteration of the Hebrew term. The four references where the term appears are Genesis 8:4, 2 Kings 19:37 = Isaiah 37:38, and Jeremiah 51:27. The King James version uses the term Armenia in 2 Kings 19:37 and Isaiah 37:38 because that is what the territory was later called. The Septuagint uses Armenia only in Isaiah 37:38.

The ark of Noah is said to have “rested upon the mountains of Ararat” (Gen. 8:4). Note that it does not say “Mount Ararat” but the “mountains of Ararat.” The assassins of Sennacherib, after killing the king of Assyria at Nineveh in 681 B.C., escaped into “the land of Ararat” (2 Kings 19:37; Isaiah 37:38). Jeremiah called upon the kingdom of Ararat to fight against Babylon (Jeremiah 51:27).

Note: This post is a repeat from October 26, 2011.

Tenth century B.C. inscription found in Jerusalem

Hebrew University announces another significant archaeological discovery today. The entire press release is below.

 —• —

Jerusalem, July 10, 2013 — Working near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar has unearthed the earliest alphabetical written text ever uncovered in the city.

Dr. Eilat Mazar with Canaanite inscription.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar displays a jar fragment unearthed near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount bearing an inscription in the Canaanite language. Dated to the tenth century BCE, it is the earliest alphabetical written text ever uncovered in the city. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar; photographed by Oria Tadmor.)

The inscription is engraved on a large pithos, a neckless ceramic jar found with six others at the Ophel excavation site. According to Dr. Mazar, the inscription, in the Canaanite language, is the only one of its kind discovered in Jerusalem and an important addition to the city’s history.

Canaanite inscription excavated by Dr. Eilat Mazar.

This jar fragment bearing an inscription in the Canaanite language was unearthed near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount by Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar. Dated to the tenth century BCE, it is the earliest alphabetical written text ever uncovered in the city. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar; photographed by Noga Cohen-Aloro.)

Dated to the tenth century BCE, the artifact predates by two hundred and fifty years the earliest known Hebrew inscription from Jerusalem, which is from the period of King Hezekiah at the end of the eighth century BCE.

A third-generation archaeologist working at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, Dr. Mazar directs archaeological excavations on the summit of the City of David and at the southern wall of the Temple Mount.

The discovery will be announced in a paper by Dr. Mazar, Prof. Shmuel Ahituv of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and Dr. David Ben-Shlomo of the Hebrew University, following their extensive research on the artifact. Prof. Ahituv studied the inscription and Dr. Ben-Shlomo studied the composition of the ceramic materials. The paper, “An Inscribed Pithos From the Ophel,” appears in the Israel Exploration Journal 63/1 (2013).

The inscription was engraved near the edge of the jar before it was fired, and only a fragment of it has been found, along with fragments of six large jars of the same type. The fragments were used to stabilize the earth fill under the second floor of the building they were discovered in, which dates to the Early Iron IIA period (10th century BCE).  An analysis of the jars’ clay composition indicates that they are all of a similar make, and probably originate in the central hill country near Jerusalem.

According to Prof. Ahituv, the inscription is not complete and probably wound around the jar’s shoulder, while the remaining portion is just the end of the inscription and one letter from the beginning. The inscription is engraved in a proto-Canaanite / early Canaanite script of the eleventh-to-tenth centuries BCE, which pre-dates the Israelite rule and the prevalence of Hebrew script.

Reading from left to right, the text contains a combination of letters approximately 2.5 cm tall, which translate to m, q, p, h, n, (possibly) l, and n. Since this combination of letters has no meaning in known west-Semitic languages, the inscription’s meaning is unknown.

The archaeologists suspect the inscription specifies the jar’s contents or the name of its owner. Because the inscription is not in Hebrew, it is likely to have been written by one of the non-Israeli residents of Jerusalem, perhaps Jebusites, who were part of the city population in the time of Kings David and Solomon.

Excavations at the site are conducted in collaboration with the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the East Jerusalem Development Company. The site is in the national park surrounding the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, near the southern wall of the Temple Mount compound. The Israel Antiquities Authority maintains the excavation site as a national park open to the public.

The excavations are made possible through a generous donation by Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman of New York. Participants in the dig include Israeli students and workers, along with students or alumni of Herbert W. Armstrong College sent to Jerusalem from Edmond, Oklahoma to participate in the excavation.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer